Though it seems to be many a cinephile’s favorite pastime, I find the concept of naming a “best film” tricky. Usually the word “best” is meant to denote something that’s at the top of its class, an unparalleled component among other, lesser components. But sometimes, “best” can mean “most beneficial,” as in, “We’re your parents—we know what’s best for you.” It’s one thing to label a film as the “best” in terms of its supposed quality, though quite another to label a film the “best” in terms of its usefulness.
While I won’t dole out the entire list, the prospect of naming the film I consider the most useful is an intriguing task. I’ve long considered the practice of cinephilia—and, by extension, film criticism—to be a sort of ongoing conversation between oneself and the form. Any criticism worth reading is, in essence, an elaboration of that unique relationship. Consequently, certain films one person finds useful may very well be the exact opposite for someone else. It’s within this framework that one can truly learn about another’s relationship with cinema, more so than the nebulous basis of labeling a film the so-called “best.”