Top 10s

Donald Fagen’s Top 10

Donald Fagen’s Top 10

“It’s silly to choose ten, but okay!” wrote Donald Fagen, the American songwriter and musician best known as the cofounder and lead singer of Steely Dan, when presented with the task of picking his favorite titles in the Criterion Collection. The results reveal Fagen as a major fan of art-house classics, especially ones by Fellini (who takes his top two slots). And we’re not surprised he relates to a tale of musical creation like Topsy-Turvy.

  • 8½

    1.

    Federico Fellini

    Mastroianni’s midlife crisis is used to explore the complex interior life of man. Fellini’s masterpiece is effervescent, scary, and profound, transcending film itself.

  • Juliet of the Spirits

    2.
    Juliet of the Spirits

    Federico Fellini

    Same idea from a woman’s point of view, but created in the wake of the maestro’s LSD experience. It’s magical, and he gets the colors right.

  • My Man Godfrey

    3.
    My Man Godfrey

    Gregory La Cava

    A rich guy pretending to be a butler during the Great Depression, the great William Powell’s best part. Plus Carole Lombard. It’s a thoughtful riot.

  • Billy Liar

    4.
    Billy Liar

    John Schlesinger

    In the early sixties, young Tom Courtenay knows he’s got to leave soul-killing Yorkshire and escape to London, where it’s all about to happen. Awesome Julie Christie tries to help, but can Tom get it together?

  • All the depth of Bergman’s earlier work plus youth and joy.

  • Day of Wrath

    6.
    Day of Wrath

    Carl Th. Dreyer

    Carl Dreyer loved women, and understood their sociosexual dilemma. This glowing 1943 film about a witch hunt in seventeenth-century Denmark is still a shocker.

  • On the Waterfront

    7.
    On the Waterfront

    Elia Kazan

    It was you, Charlie.

  • The Third Man

    8.
    The Third Man

    Carol Reed

    I’ve seen this picture a zillion times but always find something new to wonder about. Graham Greene, Carol Reed, Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Nazis, gangsters, Hitchcockian surrealism, innovative cinematography, a moody babe, Vienna, a zither for ear candy: it’s all here.

  • Topsy-Turvy

    9.
    Topsy-Turvy

    Mike Leigh

    About the working life of Gilbert and Sullivan and what it takes to create a work of art. Jim Broadbent and the rest of the cast nail it down. Original, moving, but never sentimental.

  • Withnail and I

    10.
    Withnail and I

    Bruce Robinson

    Among other things, the best film about the demise of the sixties counterculture. With iconic performances by Richard E. Grant, Richard Griffiths, and the unbelievable Ralph Brown. Stupidly funny.