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The 75 best-edited movies of all time

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 09, 2015

From the Motion Picture Editors Guild, a list of the 75 best-edited movies of all time.

As for directors, Alfred Hitchcock is the most often cited, making the list 5 times (although not placing in the top 10), and spanning 3 decades. Right behind him are Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, both of whom made the list 4 times. Like Hitchcock, Spielberg’s pictures were released over 3 decades. Coppola’s pictures, however, were all released in the 1970s - with 2 in 1974 (the only director with 2 films in a single year). All of his pictures placed in the top 22 films, with 3 of them in the top 11. At the other end of the continuum, there were 33 years between Terrence Malick’s 2 films on the list.

Directors Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese follow, with 3 films each making the cut. Tied with Malick for 2 pictures are Bob Fosse, William Friedkin, Akira Kurosawa, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Steven Soderbergh, Orson Welles and Bob Wise; all others received 1 mention.

The top ten:

1. “Raging Bull” (Thelma Schoonmaker, 1980)
2. “Citizen Kane” (Robert Wise, 1941)
3. “Apocalypse Now” (Lisa Fruchtman, Gerald B. Greenberg, Walter Murch, 1979)
4. “All That Jazz” (Alan Heim, 1979)
5. “Bonnie And Clyde” (Dede Allen, 1967)
6. “The Godfather” (William H. Reynolds, Peter Zinner, 1972)
7. “Lawrence of Arabia” (Anne V. Coates, 1962)
8. “Jaws” (Verna Fields, 1975)
9. “JFK” (Pietro Scalia, Joe Hutshing, 1991)
10. “The French Connection” (Gerald B. Greenberg, 1971)

You think of filmmaking as male dominated, but one thing I noticed about that top 10 right away: five women in the list, including three in the top five. (via hitfix)

Update: Women have been well-represented in film editing in part because the job began as menial labor.

For much of Hollywood history, there were virtually no filmmaking opportunities available to women other than screenwriting and acting — with one major exception. Women have always been welcomed — and in many quarters preferred by male directors — as film editors, or “cutters,” as they were originally known. In the early days, the job was regarded as menial labor, and it largely was. Cutters worked by hand, running film on reels with hand cranks and manually cutting and gluing together strips of it. (Moreover, they almost never received screen credit.) After the advent of the Moviola editing machine in 1924, the process became faster and easier, but was still tedious and low paying, which is why most cutters remained young, working-class women.

It was around this time that the job of cutting films became less about just maintaining proper continuity and more about being creative. The Russian films of Sergei Eisenstein introduced the concept of montage — how “colliding” separate pieces of film together could advance a storyline and manipulate viewers’ emotions — and this approach became widely discussed and imitated the world over, not least of all by some of the more enterprising female cutters in America, some of whom, like Margaret Booth, began to experiment with leftover footage on the cutting room floor and proved to be quite inventive.

More on the early history here. (via @ironicsans)