The website was founded in 2002 by Australian film enthusiast, Bill Georgaris. He uses a clever formula and sorting algorithm to determine the critics’ consensus picks for the greatest films of all-time, and has to update yearly to accommodate for changing tastes.
The site’s main list currently features 1000 entrants. Citizen Kane is the #1 film overall, as it has been since the site’s inception, with Vertigo holding strong at second place. If one wants to start out contemporary, there is a 21st Century List also. The Chinese film In the Mood for Love is on top of that list. This list updates with the best films from the past year with the annual update—Mad Max: Fury Road holds the title for last year. Ironically, the site’s namesake—1969’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?—is not ranked as of this writing.
At the present moment, I have seen all of the Top 100, and 290 of the current Top 1000. Not terrible, but I still have a ways to go.
A variety of films make their home on this website.
It may surprise some to see Jean-Luc Godard with 8 films be the most represented director on the list, but film fans will be introduced to him as well as contemporaries Besson and Bunuel.
There are many ways to watch each film.Satantango (97), the seven-hour depiction of post-Cold War Hungary done as a set of vignettes in black and white with no Background Music, is not exactly a party movie–but Pulp Fiction (88) probably has that one covered.
There’s a mix of all genres from all countries, and classic and contemporary releases across the Top 100. Even films like Avatar (950) and Moulin Rouge (904), which were praised for technical achievements but dismissed by many as not being good for much else, have a place here.
The most baffling film on here, and the most difficult to sit through, is Andy Warhol’s Empire (768). If an 8-hour real-time shoot of the Empire State Building sounds like your thing, go ahead. I won’t judge. Most people just don’t have that kind of patience and stick to the one-minute trailer. With the updates rarely changing too much, especially at the top, a viewer is free to move at their own pace when watching these films.
And no, I am not too salty about my personal favorite WALL-E at #597. On a site like this comparing films holistically, that seems about right.
If the Top 1000 seems too daunting, one can peruse the Top 100 as a warm-up.
Several public domain films like Battleship Potemkin and The Gold Rush are in higher places, so one could make quick work in the higher settings. Of course, many of the films, despite being acclaimed, are difficult to find.
A Brighter Summer Day has proven the most challenging for any film-lover to track down. Though it did recently get a Criterion release, one would still have to break the bank to get a quality copy. Another challenging film to acquire is The Mother and the Whore, which is partially on YouTube with poor subtitles.
I was fortunate enough to reach Bill through his public email address. He told me all about his inspiration for creating this website.
“TSPDT began as an outlet for my film addiction,” Bill tells me.
“At that point in time (2002) I was so obsessed with cinema that it spilled over into the http world without any particular rhyme or reason. It wasn’t enough for me to watch films or read about them. I still had some spare minutes in the day to do more, and thus TSPDT hit the road.”
But Bill didn’t always want this to be a repository for general filmgoers.
“Since I was (and still am not) a writer, I envisaged TSPDT as primarily a film resource, not as a magazine-style or blog-style offering. I decided upon two content themes for the website. The first was to provide a definitive film list. A canon, if you like. And the second was to provide some director profiles in a similar manner to many of the great director-related books I had read over the years, e.g. The Film Handbook by Geoff Andrew. This is pretty much the format of TSPDT to this day.”
He is happy to have created this repository for filmgoers, and thinks there will be a little something for everyone on the list.
Whatever the event or occasion, there is a film for every time on this massive list.