The Tower of Film: My Top 25 of 1964

For those who might think it is in poor taste for me to use the word "tower" so blithely in an article title on September 11, my answer to anything negative you might have to say about it is a deeply cold "Fuck you, it's my goddamned birthday."

Also, this tower is still standing. (And please don't cue the Elton song...) This tower stands as long as I do (or at least as long as I can breathe, if in fact standing ever becomes a true difficulty, then I shall watch sitting down). The Tower of Film is my term for the figurative monstrosity that has arisen out of the 12,000-plus feature films that I have watched in my now fifty-two years on this spheroid, with the very cream of the crop occupying the higher, more exalted positions on that tower.

The Tower of Film started out a few years ago as a different project which slowly evolved into its current state, once I realized the enormous breadth of the project and just how much I had underestimated its original potential. That first intent was merely to make sure that I watched the most important films that had been released within each year of my lifespan, but then went far beyond that I started accumulating an enormous database of films, which ultimately spanned over 6,000 films before I stopped pulling it together about three years back. (I have yet to update it to account for those last three years.)

Early on in the project, I decided to start going through the list and concentrated on the very first year within it, that naturally being 1964, the year of my birth. Using the website Flickchart to rank all of my films (to date, I have ranked 12,040 feature films – that I have views from start to finish, a prime criteria for candidacy on my part – on that site), I've discovered that I have watched 164 films from 1964. (Not every film that I have seen is on Flickchart yet, so there are some titles left out each year.)

After several years of ranking my films one against the other on Flickchart (I highly recommend it for movie buffs if you are at all interested in determining your favorite films of all time), I present now on this celebration of my 52nd year my Top 25 films of 1964:

[# | title | director | my ranking overall on Flickchart out of 12,040 films as of 9/11/2016]

#25The PawnbrokerSidney Lumet Flickchart: 1,447
#24Nothing but a ManMichael Roemer | Flickchart: 1,340
#23Fail-SafeDir.: Sidney Lumet | Flickchart: 1,336
#22World without Sun | Jacques-Yves CousteauFlickchart: 1,306
#21The Gospel According to St. Matthew Pier Paolo PasoliniFlickchart: 1,300

#20Ghidrah, the Three-Headed MonsterIshirô HondaFlickchart: 1,299
Some of you might be surprised that I am able to have a big, stupid, Japanese monster film appear on the list slightly higher than a far more sober and intellectually demanding Pasolini film (as well as a trio of steady, sharp dramas). I have two answers to that: 1) I am an atheist, and if I do have a god, it is only Godzilla, not the Jesus (though he seemed like such a nice boy...); and 2) Welcome to the world as occupied by my brothers and I, the world of Silly and Serious, where equal weight is given to items in both camps at the same time. I am deathly serious about my silliness, and can be most silly when it comes to matters of great seriousness. For me, Pasolini sits alongside Toho quite easily, and I can jump from one to the other in seconds. And my love for the Ghidrah film (though I prefer it to be spelled Ghidorah) is high enough where I could have placed this even further up on the list given my druthers. However, no one has given me any druthers in a good while, so the film sits in the list where it is for the moment.

#19Seance on a Wet AfternoonBryan Forbes | Flickchart: 1,162
#18The Masque of the Red DeathRoger CormanFlickchart: 1,033

#17The TrainJohn FrankenheimerFlickchart: 1,032
If I had been exposed to this Burt Lancaster film a few years earlier than I actually was it would probably rank even higher on this list than it does. I have always been a sucker for Lancaster, and this would have made me crazy had I seen it at twelve or thirteen.

#16Une femme mariéeJean-Luc GodardFlickchart: 1,004
#15Seven Faces of Dr. LaoGeorge PalFlickchart: 1,003
#14 | Gate of FleshSeijun SuzukiFlickchart: 961

#13The Umbrellas of Cherbourg | Jacques Demy | Flickchart: 927
This might as well be called The Umbrellas of Charm-bourg, because once I saw it a few years ago, I knew that it was just so perfect. Where had it been all my life? (Though it is likely I would have hated it as a child...) This film has the greatest chance of moving straight up the charts for me on subsequent showings. It already has a tad.

#12Topkapi | Dir.: Jules Dassin | Flickchart: 883

#11Goldfinger | Dir.: Guy HamiltonFlickchart: 645
I am going to admit here and now that as they age and as I do too, some of the older Bond films are slipping for me. Maybe it is because I am becoming ever more progressive in my attitudes with each passing year, but attitudes that I once either accepted, shrugged off, or embraced are harder for me to simply let pass. Still, I love the early Bond thug as portrayed by Connery (and still the best Bond for my money) and it is hard to ignore the famous set pieces, villains, punchlines, and hardware that have been ingrained in my head since youth. It has come down my list a bit in recent years, but it is still hanging in there. I do not expect Mr. Bond to die.

#10Zulu | Cy EndfieldFlickchart: 618
#9Becket Peter Glenville | Flickchart: 542

#8 | Band of Outsiders aka Bande à part | Jean-Luc GodardFlickchart: 370 
Only the second director to land on the 1964 list twice (the other being Lumet), I expect this Godard classic will bring the most debate from my fellow film buffs for being this far down in my Top 10. My defense is simple: I did not see it until after the age of thirty, I like other Godard films of that era better (Contempt, Week-End), and my Top 3, maybe 5 are almost impossible to surpass in my mind on a nostalgic level, being a child of 1964 (though, of course, I did not see any of them until I was a good bit older than a mere baby).

#7 | Woman in the DunesHiroshi TeshigaharaFlickchart: 338
I bought the Criterion triple-movie box set of Teshigahara's films sight unseen just because Woman in the Dunes came highly recommended to me from about four thousand different corners, and the substandard print I found on YouTube was too fuzzy to understand. A most stunning film, though I liked his film The Face of Another even more. Just discovering Teshigahara for myself made the entire effort of spending months creating my database entirely worth it. If all of this had only brought me to discover his films, I would have been content. But I have found so much more.

#6KwaidanMasaki Kobayashi | Flickchart: 311
#5 | Mary PoppinsRobert Stevenson | Flickchart: 261
#4A Fistful of Dollars | Sergio LeoneFlickchart: 195

#3 | A Shot in the DarkBlake EdwardsFlickchart: 136
While my love for Blake Edwards comes down to The Great Race from 1965, my esteem for Peter Sellers is built initially from my early exposure to this quite silly Inspector Clouseau film, the best of The Pink Panther series. It is only in the #3 spot for 1964 because two greater comedies were released in the same exact year...

#2A Hard Day's NightRichard Lester | Flickchart: 15
I will never get this film out of my system, no matter what I do. Richard Lester is absolutely underestimated as a director and needs a serious career reevaluation. Entirely too influential, sometimes in ways that people who have never even seen this film will never know. Plus, the Beatles were great natural actors, and hilarious as well. That it is all wrapped about live (though staged) footage of the boys in their prime makes it even better, giving us a real time capsule glimpse of history in the making, while also making us laugh with pre-MTV video antics and trademark Lester wackiness.

And for me, though it is sometimes a close swap with the #2 in the list, there really is only one film that could possibly top my Top Films of 1964 list:

#1Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the BombStanley Kubrick | Flickchart: 8
The film that I watch on my birthday more than any other (probably about twenty times or so, though I am skipping it this time). In my all-time Top Ten, my favorite Kubrick film, and my favorite Sellers film. Eminently quotable, endlessly ridiculous, and ultimately vital in the times in which we find ourselves. Quite simply the sharpest, wittiest, most dead on satire ever created.

Well, that's it. I am sure many of you will have disputes about favorite films left off MY list. See, that the gist of it... this is MY list. These are films that have either influenced me quite young, as many of the movies higher up on the list did, or that have come into my life later of which I have grown an abiding fondness. However they got there, they are my treasures, and on this birthday, it is likely that I will choose at least one or two of them to revisit to make my day brighter. I hope you do the same, especially if there are films that you haven't seen yet on here. You could do far worse (and probably will at some point, just as I do...)

Hell, I started the day watching The Crawling Eye...


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