GIANT (1956)

This sweeping story of a huge Texas cattle ranch over several decades lives up to its name, but I think falls short of its clear ambition to be “Gone With the Wind, but as a Western.”

SOLARIS (1972)

A heavily influential Soviet sci-fi epic that takes a lot of patience from the viewer to get to its basic message: no matter how far we go, we’ll never be able to escape our own humanity.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915)

It’s the very first blockbuster, but unfortunately I can’t emphasize enough how racist it is. However racist you think it is, it is way more racist than that.

AGUIRRE, DER ZORN GOTTES (1972)

A descent into madness with conquistadors searching fruitlessly for El Dorado, that Werner Herzog dragged a full movie crew down the Amazon to shoot.

APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)

A movie that looks deep into its own soul and finds only horror.

BEN-HUR (1959)

The biggest hit of its day has a supreme technical achievement slung over a story that feels to me like middling Bible fanfic.

OUR 100th MOVIE: SEVEN SAMURAI (1954)

Akira Kurosawa invented many of the tropes of the modern action movie in this great Japanese epic.

THE SEARCHERS (1956)

John Wayne drags a handsome guy around the American West because he is so racist. It’s kind of like the Odyssey.

BRAVEHEART (1995)

This epic basically invented modern Scottish nationalism despite a total lack of both subtlety and interest in actual history.