Sidney Lumet’s 5 Best Films

By
Apr 16th, 2011

Peter Finch in "Network"

#5. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
Lumet’s last film was also one of his best. Following a pair of troublesome brothers who plot to rob their parents’ jewelry store, “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” refuses to flinch in the face of the humanity’s darkest inclinations. Lumet catalogued the basest of human urges with both uncompromising realism and inspiring empathy.

#4. The Verdict (1982)
How did Paul Newman not win an Oscar for this movie? If we try to answer that I suppose we’ll have to wonder why Sidney Lumet never won a Best Director Oscar for any of his films. David Mamet’s masterful script leads disgraced Boston lawyer Frank Galvin (Newman) on a stirring fight against the odds in his quest for justice and redemption.

#3. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
A bank heist goes horribly wrong when Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) bungle through through the ill-planned robbery. Billed as a gritty thriller, “Dog Day Afternoon” is also laugh out loud funny and socially ahead of its time. Al Pacino has never been better and John Cazale (Fredo in “The Godfather”) is tragically brilliant.

#2. 12 Angry Men (1957)
The quintessential American movie. Lumet shared his vision of an uneasy America, on the precipice of chaos, through sharp dialogue and the electrifying presence of star Henry Fonda. An intimate, low-budget triumph of reason and courage.

#1. Network (1976)
An prophetic marvel of a film that predicts the present day media circus with chilling precision. Lumet commands one of the greatest scripts ever written (Paddy Chayefsky) with virtuoso skill. Peter Finch won history’s first posthumous Best Actor Oscar and Ned Beatty’s hilarious and prescient monologue stands as one of the five greatest diatribes in all of cinema.

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72 comments
Joseph Alexander II
Joseph Alexander II

Great list. Only one especially egregious omission IMO - Blade Runner. Glad to see such a proliferation of Tarkovsky films near the top of the list!

Andrew2015
Andrew2015

This is a great list for the most part, but Vertov's 'Man with a Movie Camera' and Spielberg's 'Schindler's List' are two glaring omissions.

Glad to see 2001 and Citizen Kane as the top two spots, however. I would switch them, but nonetheless, they're my two favorites.

Jingle
Jingle

FINALLY, yes. 2001.

Campocampana
Campocampana

I like much of this list, although I'm always a bit leery of the utility of ranked film lists. I'm glad to see Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc placed, but I'm chagrined that his somewhat lesser-known Ordet ("The Word"; 1955) did not. Many critics, including those of Faith and Image, believe it to be the better film. Worth some consideration, at least.

Another Mark
Another Mark

One I think should make the list is Blow Up (Antonioni)

Nrwweeeed
Nrwweeeed

A list that celebrates Yi Yi but omits WALL-E, Slumdog Millionaire, The Shawshank Redemption, Schindler's List and the like has no actual meaning. u00a0Yes, these lists are subjective, but it reads as though you don't feel modern films have sufficient credibility to merit a placing.u00a0

Eric
Eric

Sure, anything you don't agree with automatically has no meaning. Excellent philosophy. And movies from the 1990s and 2000s make up exactly 12% of the list, which is a pretty big chunk of "modern" films. Not sure which list you're reading.

guest
guest

I feel that this list confuses "influential movies" with good movies.u00a0 Birth of a Nation was a terrible piece of rasist propaganda which granted legitimacy to the KKK.u00a0 Yes, it had groundbreaking cinematography for its time...yes it is a part of history... yes it was representative of a certain group of people and a way of life...nnbut out of ALL the movies of ALL time, this is the 26th best movie ever made? Seriously, not making me proud...

Zacherywolf
Zacherywolf

I always love to see the classic comment of where are my newer films.nWhy does the year it was made matter?

Trodiem
Trodiem

Where's the Fassbinder?????????

Scott MacKeen
Scott MacKeen

"Children of Paradise," "Grande Illusion," and "The Seventh Seal" should be in the top 25 or so. And "The Curse of the Cat People" at No. 35?? Shouldn't even be in the top 200!

Registeredhypnotist
Registeredhypnotist

All lists of "greatest movies," especially ordered ones, are absurd. At the same time, this one feels to me like one of the best I've ever seen. I've seen about half of the films on the list, and all of them but one strike me as worthy inclusions. I think what I like most about the list is its inclusion of "Synecdoche, New York," which I believe is an overlooked masterpiece.

Rishi851
Rishi851

Like the list except for the fact that you missednna.) Satyajit Raynnb.) Ridley Scott- Alien and especially Blade Runner deserves to be up there.nnc.)The Terminator could be in the bottom end

Eric
Eric

Satyajit Ray is at #50

hesam
hesam

i think maybe accidentally, name of CRASH or MAGNOLIA was omitted !!!!!!

Jon
Jon

Thank you for making 2001 #1. That is as it should be.

Ana Carina
Ana Carina

Me and a couple of more friends are going to see every movie of this list, in 100 weeks, starting with #100 Japu00f3n and ending with #1 Space Odissey.nI just saw Japu00f3n... I must say, although I understand with some people would find it brilliant... I did not like it at all.nMost of my favorite movies are on this list though, so.. well done (so far). I must say though, I miss Kusturica on this list. White Cat, Black Cat is one of the best movies ever. And Cidade de Deus too :)

Andrew Slaughter
Andrew Slaughter

Why is Days of Heaven on this list??? One of the worst movies ever made. Sure it looks great and the cinematography is some of the best you will ever see. But the characters are selfish and annoying. The story (what little is there) is predictable and the final monologue of the movie makes no sense and has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. nBut besides that I really have no qualms with this list. It's actually quite accurate. I love the fact that Synecdoche, NY is on here. One of the best movies ever made.

Brent
Brent

I would have added Children of Men and The Royal Tenanbaums to this list. WALL-E and the Coen Brothers should also get a little more love. I'm thoroughly convinced the Inglorious Basterds will make lists like this as it ages. Otherwise, this is a wonderful. 2001 is absolutely the greatest film ever made and I'm really excited to see a member of the Apu trilogy make an appearance.

Giriayush
Giriayush

Gone with the wind????????it has to be #1 you missed it man:(

Hani
Hani

This is a pretty bang-up list through and through. However, I'm saddened by the lack of The Bridge on the River Kwai, Paths of Glory, and Amadeus. To name a few, anyway.

yermar
yermar

Battleship Potemkin was made in 1925, not 1915

Metuga
Metuga

And what about "Cinema Paradiso"? Allways refered as one of the best film ever made.

Erichomer03
Erichomer03

This list is amazing; and while I disagree with some things on this list, I do not think that you could create a top 100 without angering some one. I have problems with Goodfellas, Barry Lyndon, and Fargo but for the most part I think it does a very good job of creating an average list.

Xs10chill
Xs10chill

The fact that you totally ignored The Wild Bunch is not just an insult to Sam Peckinpah, it seems to be a bias against other great westerns by George Stevens, John Sturges, Clint Eastwood, Marty Ritt, and even Costner. But besides westerns I don't understand why two of the finest filmmakers in the world: Yimou Zhang and Kaige Chen would also be absent, oh why do I bother, you obviously just wanted to rattle a few cages and get a thrill.

m0zart
m0zart

Well... I'll try to be polite, though my heart is seething. You have fluff movies like Goodfellas on there, and critical disappointments like Barry Lyndon, but are missing significant films like Amadeus and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It's probably the best list I've seen so far, but it's still lacking in so many important ways.

vincent
vincent

You seem to confuse the critical and the commercial sucess. Barry Lyndon was acclaim by critque and won several award for best movie and direction but have been indeed a flop in theater because common people are moron and unable to appreciate the art behind cinema such as wonderful compilation setting and the most realistic and beautiful reconstruction of all time

fastback
fastback

Fully agree with Btcoach420. So much modern film is based on stories, characters, plot-lines and the cinematic art found in older movies; so little is original nowadays. It naturally becomes increasingly hard for modern film makers to make new, innovative, entertaining, ground breaking movies that inspire new and interesting emotion, that captivate, that make you think and argue, especially with the pressure that each new film's goal is simply to make as much box office and merchandising mula as possible. nnYou dissenters of the list whom argue that Lord of the Rings should have been listed fail to realise that, yes, good movies that they are, they have scant regard for soul, they have moribund spirit, they have _no_ originality (and I personally think the casting was as poor as it gets). Those films are a tour de force of labour, of work effort, of expenditure and nothing more. Where is the art-form? Where is the interpretation and language? Where's the originality? Lord of the Rings is nothing more than a well made facsimile of a marvellous original world. It is a long way from being a great movie, it is the story and the intricacy with which Tolkein built it that is great and the movie does nothing more than tell that story, in a highly sanitised, formulaic and anodyne manner, whilst managing to lose much of the original story experience. But that, of course, is my own humble opinion. Making the LotR trilogy was always going to be a thankless task given the nature of the original material. They are brave attempts at making films that would always have been difficult to make, and nothing more.nnI think Inception is an excellent movie but I would argue that it may be too new for this list. You need to watch a movie several times to 'get it', and I don't know whether I will watch Inception more than a couple of times. Whereas I can watch many of the films on this list time and again (but not all of them - of course, I haven't seen them all). That said, Chris Nolan may well be represented in the not too distant. One of the few truly original directors of today that really practises 'film making'.nnWhoever mentioned Gladiator in a discussion about all time top films should ensure that they return to their doctor to have their medication adjusted for a stronger dose. Please go away. Really, just go away. A great movie is not one that has been played in front of a test audience prior to release to ensure 'customer satisfaction' with the ending. And as for the cartoons people are complaining are missing, the less said the better.

Mark
Mark

Of course, because animation is lesser cinema.

Frankenscene
Frankenscene

This list is excellent and I sincerely doubt the haters have seen most of these films.

Cal
Cal

You said, "Most people haven't seen it and wouldn't watch it through to the end if given the chance. Get a room full of average people to watch it and then ask if they liked it at the end. Most will say no. It's not a "great" film, despite the masterpiece it clearly is."nnThat statement undercuts your entire argument. You have no idea what you're talking about.

Mark
Mark

Sorry for the typos. artist = artistic. rn(and it is, just enough) = (and it is, just not enough).

Mark
Mark

Of course, because any one with an opinion different from yours must be ignorant, right? I've seen at least 65-70 of the films on this list. It's not that good. When a list excludes the an entire medium's contribution to the art form, then clearly the makers of the list have blinkers on. More than 60% of the items on the list are extremely similar tonally. This isn't a list of the 100 Greatest Movies, it's a list of what an academic minority think should be the 100 Greatest Movies, but aren't and think by making a list they'll somehow fix that.rnrnI love 2001 Space Odyssey. Its contribution to cinema is undeniable, but most of my friends don't like it. In fact I can't seem to get any of them to sit past the first twenty minutes. Most people haven't seen it and wouldn't watch it through to the end if given the chance. Get a room full of average people to watch it and then ask if they liked it at the end. Most will say no. It's not a "great" film, despite the masterpiece it clearly is.rnrnFilms are made for an audience first. Everything else is just a bonus. If your audience doesn't like the film, it can never be truly great.rnrnAnyhow, I've gone off-topic. The point is the writer's of this list should've tried to be a little more objective. They need to add at least one animated film to this list, and don't go with the easy Snow White or Fantasia options. Both choices only further highlight indifference for such a diverse medium.

Frankenscene
Frankenscene

Nah, I don't agree. Populism is hardly a foundation for film criticism. Is it the fault of Stanley Kubrick if your friends have a limited-attention span? In most cases, great works of art initially lack an audience. (case in point, Citizen Kane) And similar tonally? Dude, this list is diverse. (Goodfellas, Ugetsu, L'Atlante, Fargo, Tokyo Story...etc) The mere fact that Andrei Rublev cracked the top-5 makes the list worthwhile. nThat's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

Mark
Mark

Yeah, I should reword that. And just to be clear, 2001 would definitely be on my own personal list. But this list above isn't a personal list. This list is supposed to represent what the human race (or at least, the American public) should be able to recognise as great films. And I don't think most people would recognise that in 2001. Maybe in inidividual scenes, or on a technical level, but not as a film overall. But that's only my opinion anyway.rnI think other choices on the list are far stronger. No one in their right mind could argue with The Wizard of Oz for example. And though not many people have seen The Appartment, they have no doubt seen some incarnation of it in other movies. With both, if you showed them to a modern audience, I'm pretty sure they'd get the thumbs up.rn"Populism is hardly a foundation for film criticism", yet for this list it's core. What do you think makes a film great? Personally, I don't think it's popularity, but I do think the average person on the street needs to find the film worth watching from beginning to end, not just cinema buffs. That is, for me, the most important factor. Everything else, the technical and artist brilliance, are just pluses that elevate the film to greatness, but without that central core, it can never truly be great.rnrnAs for this list being diverse (and it is, just enough) you said, "Dude, this list is diverse. (Goodfellas, Ugetsu, L'Atlante, Fargo, Tokyo Story...etc) The mere fact that Andrei Rublev cracked the top-5 makes the list worthwhile. " yet every single film you listed could be described as sombre. That's what I meant about most of the list being too similar tonally.rnrnBut anyway, all that was a detour I somehow took that I never meant to. To be honest, it's not what's on the list the really bothers me, it's the glaring oversights that aren't on it. It's the animation thing I was really worked up about.

Mark
Mark

A film can be brilliant and not great. It is the audience's reaction to the masterpiece that elevates it to greatness. Yet, it can still be a masterpiece without being appreciated by the masses, as long as it is recognised as so by fellow filmmakers and critics.

Brent
Brent

Cinema is art. The filmmakers behind these films are auteurs. You are completely wrong to assert that they are "made for an audience first." These films are made for expression and should be judged by the success of their expression in the context of film history. nUnder this criteria, 2001 absolutely deserves to be #1.

Rasho-Man
Rasho-Man

Still waiting for all the complainers personal lists so they can be criticized too.

Mark
Mark

Actually is this list ranked by the film's contribution to the genre, and the cinematic art, or is it just good films? There are several films on this list that made a huge impact on cinema in their time, and will always be remembered, but for modern viewing audiences they would be considered boring, verging on the anti-entertainment.rnrnLet me take an example from a film that's not on the list, Disney's Snow White, just because it almost always creeps into these top 100 lists. The film is a milestone, an absolutely stunning achievement, but I don't know of a single child that could watch it for more than twenty minutes. Even most adults are bored by it. As a film, and just a film, it simply doesn't stand up.rnrnWhen ranking films, we shouldn't have to make excuses for them. The film should still be entertaining and relevant today. Those are the truly great films.

Mark
Mark

Not a single animated film on the list. That's just pathetic.

Btcoach420
Btcoach420

As lists go this is wonderful. I don't agree with it all but a very good list. I often wonder how new art will fit into a "GOAT" list. Essentially a "GOAT" list includes a selection that changed the way many (but not all) view the genre or view the subject matter of the genre. I think it becomes increrasingly difficult for newer art to slide into a list because so much has been done already. Think about pop music in this regard. There have been great albums made in last 20 years but what has really shook the walls of genre. Nevermind? Kid A? That's about it. How about movies? Well, some of the newer movies did change the genre a bit or changed the way we look at love, death, greed, etc. Still, so much has already been done and like music there are so many relevant subgenres that cater to specific fans that it is hard to find one work of art that speaks to the masses as a whole or changes the direction of the conversation completely. The same is true in TV. Since Seinfeld, The Simpsons, and the Sopranos nothing has really shaken the TV world because almost every other show after, excellent or not, is deritative. I will say that I don't think one of the LOTR movies could make this list but as a trilogy it does seem like a significant piece of movie making. Also, while I would have a hard time picking one it does seem like one of the Pixar movies deserves a nod. Again, these movies brought something new to the conversation. I'm partial to Ratatouille but Toy Story 1 probably deserves the nod here. Either way, I love lists because it gives me a chance watch a good movie I haven't seen. I've seen most of the movies on this list but not all. Cool.

Bullroa
Bullroa

Shawshank Redemption...? All of these movies are overrated...."There will be Blood" was horrible...I can assume that nearly all of these listed are the same.

Corey
Corey

The fact that you included Synecdoche, New York, The 400 Blows, There Will Be Blood, and 8 1/2 is enough for me to respect this list. Anyone complaining about Lord of the Rings not making the list needs to go back to the AFI lists. Those snoozefests (yeah, I said it) don't belong here.

Charto
Charto

Look again. il Gattopardo (The Leopard) is #72

One
One

Although I do not agree with James Cameron, the fact of the matter is he has two of the highest grossing movies of all time, neither of which are on this list. No Lord of the Rings? No Inception, Gladiator, Alien, The Departed, Cool Hand Luke, ANYTHING by Pixar. Yes they are more recent movies, but no one can deny they are amazing films. What the heck was this list based on?

JT
JT

1. Box office has nothing to do with the quality of a film and everything to do with how much money a studio poured into marketing. It should completely disregarded when making a list like this. n2. Lord of the Rings were cheesy and overlong.n3. Inception is riddled with plot holes and is way too exposition heavyn4. Gladiator is decent, but is ultimately just a solid action movien5. Alien is a very good thriller, but not worthy of exalted statusn6. The Departed is good, but isn't even in Scorsese's top 5n7. Cool Hand Luke is great, and may be your only legitimate complaint.n8. Pixar films are excellent, but they're formulaic and broad. Not worthy of a list like this.

Shero
Shero

TJ ... nnI agree with you for the first point ... But there is another side of it too !!! ... if a movie is not great then it will not make a lot of money too !!!nnAnd you are wrong for all the other stuff you explain because it can goes for Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz , Pulp Fiction ,Jaws, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind , Do the Right Thing even Goodfellas ... nnAgain you are standing against your own opinion : nn*Lord of the Rings was no cheesy ... you think it was cheesy !n*Inception has no plot holes and of course it is heavy ... they almost said the same to Godfather when first time comes out !n*Gladiator is decent but solid action !!??? then action movies can't enter this list ??? what about Pulp Fiction !!??? it was not action ? and why Training day is not in the list too ?n*Departed is in Scorsese's top 5 movies and you can make a research for it ... !n*And in the end having no animated movie in the list just show hwo much those who made this list are against Animation , CGI , 3D movies ! and again it is a prove they are still living in their old time movies because they belong for that time !! ;-)n

Philipbutinspanish
Philipbutinspanish

"if a movie is not great then it will not make a lot of money too nThere is no direct relation between quality and how much money a film has made. Film market strategy is now designed to get as much money in the shortest time possible to beat the speed of word-of-mouth recommendation Proof: Transformers 2.nnPulp fiction was an incredibly well structured storytelling, to the point where the action is part of the story, not what the story gravitates around.n"Training day " is a good thriller, but there are many more like it.nI believe the first requisite of this list is that it has to be unique in meaningful ways, whether story telling, vision or introspection, or reflexion of society. Not just good entertaining films alone. Perhaps Nolan's Memento was missing IMO, but I cam't see any I would take out of the list in in order to get it in.nn

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  3. […] list of the 100 films he thinks every film fan should see. I have a jolly time reading a list like The Moving Art’s 100 Greatest Movies. I am a member of and love the discoveries that can come about from the website ICheckMovies. […]

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