Plato Was Right

The readers of Empire magazine have chosen the ten best movies of all time. Here they are:

1. The Godfather
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark
3. The Empire Strikes Back
4. The Shawshank Redemption
5. Jaws
scene from a movie that didn't make it onto the list 6. Goodfellas
7. Apocalypse Now
8. Singin’ in the Rain
9. Pulp Fiction
10. Fight Club

Now I will grant that all the movies on the list are good movies. But the top ten of all time?? Clearly this list was compiled by people who only watch American movies, indeed big-budget American blockbuster movies, and (with one exception) only post-1970 movies. (And even subject to those constraints the choices are not exactly unproblematic.) In other words, they sat down in a five-star restaurant, ate the free rolls, and then left to write their review of the restaurant.

I also remember that back in 2000, hosted a poll on the top ten books of the past millennium, and one popular contender was the first Harry Potter novel.

Rothbard famously wrote:

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a “dismal science.” But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.

The moral generalizes.

3 Responses to Plato Was Right

  1. Fester November 23, 2008 at 12:18 pm #

    The readers of Empire are not as a whole a widely varied group.I would expect this kind of list if you asked American men between the ages of 25-45. I fit that profile and I like all of these movies, but I wouldn’t say these are the best movies of all time.

    It may depend on criteria, but as far as groundbreaking films that have proven themselves over time, I cannot imagine not having anything by Charlie Chaplin on the list, or Alfred Hitchcock, or the movie Citizen Kane.

    Singin’ in the rain, was a surprise on this list.

  2. b-psycho November 23, 2008 at 1:16 pm #

    Godfather & Pulp Fiction are arguable at least. The rest…no.

  3. Joel Schlosberg November 24, 2008 at 9:19 pm #

    Well first of all, it’s not as if libertarians are immune to this sort of thing; consider the Modern Library’s reader-chosen lists of the top 100 books of the 20th century, where Ayn Rand (and hagiographic material on Rand by her followers) and L. Ron Hubbard mingle together at the top of the lists (yeah, anybody who wants to view Rand followers as a Scientology-like cult can make the obvious observation here), and half of the nonfiction list are random libertarian books (and I mean random, it’s not the more well-known ones; I forget who said that people must have been voting for everything they saw in the Laissez Faire Books catalog):

    And reader polls *always* tend to be like this, just due to the law of averages; and I’m with the school of opinion that any group-selected top list (whether via polls or by groups like the AFI) is an inherently useless endeavor, since only individual taste means anything.

    Of course, the granddaddy of all movie lists (at least online) is the IMDB top 100:
    In fact, every single one of the movies on the Empire poll is on the IMDB list, and mostly very high up:

    The Shawshank Redemption — #1
    The Godfather — #2
    Pulp Fiction — #6
    The Empire Strikes Back — #9
    Goodfellas — #15
    Raiders of the Lost Ark — #17
    Fight Club — #23
    Apocalypse Now — #36
    Singin’ in the Rain — #77
    Jaws — #100

    Although the IMDB list is a bit better than you’d think. Yes, it has the usual fanboy choices, and it’s particularly annoying to see recent popular movies near the top, such as currently The Dark Knight at #4 and WALL-E at #33, but on the other hand, if you ignore the fanboy choices, it becomes a pretty good list, with a decent amount of foreign movies (although they tend to be the ones that are most well-known in the USA) and older movies (for instance, no less than 7 from the 1920s).

    As for lists by an individual, I like online critic James Berardinelli’s top 100:
    Not only because it has a decent amount of older and foreign films (although light on silent movies, with only 2 listed), with a very small seasoning of blockbuster-type films (Aliens, Die Hard, Halloween) among the critic-y stuff, but mainly because he’s honest about it reflecting his personal tastes.

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