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From Alfred Hitchcock to Orson Welles: Jean-Luc Godard picked 10 best American films of all time


Jean-Luc Godard, widely regarded as one of the greatest film directors of all time, began life as cinema critic as a prerequisite to the forming of his eventual New Wave ideas.

As part of his contribution to film writing, a young Godard provided a list of what he considered to be the 10 best American films of all time as part of an article which was published in 1964, a fascinating insight into the mindset of a filmmaker forming his early impression of the art form.

Godard, who has been heavily critical of mainstream French cinema in the past, once said that its sense of tradition only “emphasised craft over innovation, privileged established directors over new directors, and preferred the great works of the past to experimentation.”

While Godard’s films have influenced some of the greats such as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders and more, the French-Swiss film director has never been afraid to show his admiration for some of cinema’s finest work.

Having established himself as a pioneer of the 1960s French New Wave film movement, Godard’s unrelenting approach to being a film critic prior to moving on set has been lauded in equal measure to some of his most creative works. While most of his filmography remained exclusive to Europe, his extensive back catalogue of work was given a US release in due time and the filmmaker received worldwide acclaim.

“The cinema is not a craft. It is an art,” Godard once said. “It does not mean teamwork. One is always alone on the set as before the blank page. And to be alone… means to ask questions. And to make films means to answer them.”

While French cinema took most of Godard’s attention, he did reference a list of his favourite American films when contributing to the critics section of Cahiers du cinema, a publication for New-Wave critics who turned their words into films in later years.

Despite famously stating: “I pity the French cinema because it has no money. I pity the American cinema because it has no ideas” Godard has always been willing to celebrate some of the finest cinematic creations. The list includes some expected names such as Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles in reference to some of film’s most pioneering figures.

See the full list, below.

Jean-Luc Godard’s favourite films:

  1. ScarfaceHoward Hawks, 1932.
  2. The Great DictatorCharlie Chaplin, 1940.
  3. VertigoAlfred Hitchcock, 1958.
  4. The SearchersJohn Ford, 1956.
  5. Singin’ in the RainKelly-Donen, 1952.
  6. The Lady from ShanghaiOrson Welles, 1947.
  7. Bigger Than LifeNicholas Ray, 1956.
  8. Angel Face Otto Preminger, 1953.
  9. To Be or Not To BeErnst Lubitsch, 1942.
  10. DishonoredJosef von Sternberg, 1931.

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