There are a number of reasons why the 2011 list may be the best Top 100 A&F has yet produced. For one thing, this year saw far and away the highest voter turnout, making for a more representative list. Last year’s turnout, 44 voters, was a new high, but this year’s turnout climbed to 65 — an increase of nearly 50 percent. A&F voters include professional film writers and lecturers, lifelong cinephiles and ordinary movie fans, seminary-trained students of religion, believers of various stripes, and individuals of no particular faith.
For another, ongoing discussion at A&F and revised ranking procedures have contributed to a list that is more diverse and interesting. Consider the top five titles — and then take one more step, and you’ll see what I mean.
The top five on this year’s list are all universally hailed classics with clear spiritual resonances, and not one has ever failed to show up on any A&F Top 100 to date. Carl Dreyer’s silent 1927 classic The Passion of Joan of Arc takes the top place occupied last year by the same director’s Ordet, which is now in third place, after Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev. Rounding out the top five are Kieślowski’s Dekalog and Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar.
No surprises so far. But then comes #6: Leo McCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow (1937), a little-known gem from a neglected Hollywood master best known for light comedies like Duck Soup and Bing Crosby’s iconic Father O’Malley films.
Here are the top ten films in the list: