What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?

12 for 2013


There are an awful lot of Absolute Classic movies that I’ve never seen. I think that’s true of many of us, but I write a film blog where I try to see quite a lot of films every year, and I’ve been doing it for six whole years now — I have fewer excuses than most.

So this year I’m setting myself a little challenge. Within my regular challenge, that is. I’ve compiled a list of must-see movies that I haven’t actually seen, and this year I’m going to try to watch them all. I’m going to aim for the not-insurmountable (I hope) target of one each month, hence the “12 for 2013” thing. (Yes, this would’ve worked better last year. Hush you.)

To help govern this process (because there really are an awful lot of films I could choose from here), I’ve made up a few, fairly arbitrary, rules:

  1. I must own it on DVD or Blu-ray. If I care enough to have paid money for it without seeing it, I really should’ve watched it. And I own enough unseen stuff that I don’t want to complicate this with buying more (which I’ll inevitably do anyway) or downloading stuff (or whatever) just to see it.
  2. It must appear on both the IMDb Top 250, for regular-people-voted popularity (especially after the change on vote limits last year), and the top 250 of They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?’s The 1,000 Greatest Films, for critic-approved quality (and 250 rather than the full list for equality with IMDb). (Both lists were taken from their position last Sunday, not that much/anything will have changed since.)
  3. Major stars or directors will only be represented once. After I did my comparison for rule two, I noticed that Kubrick, Hitchcock, Chaplin and Bergman factored heavily. To prevent undue dominance, then, each is locked to one film.
  4. Blu-ray beats DVD. Rear Window comes out of the comparison higher than North by Northwest (indeed, it’s higher on both IMDb and TSPDT), but I only own the latter on BD, so it wins the Hitchcock slot.
  5. Recommendations from others. Provided they comply with the first two rules (primarily) and the next two (to a lesser extent), anything that someone has recommended gets a little boost.

The method for executing said rules was to compile a long list of unseen-but-owned films from each list (total: 91), see how many were on both (total: 25; if you allow the full TSPDT 1000, another 20), then split the difference between their places on each to see which came on top overall. Then I eliminated those that fell under rule 3 until I had the top 12 films.

In that ranked order, then (we got here in the end!), my “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?” 12 for 2013 are…


Seven Samurai
IMDb #17 / TSPDT #7

City Lights
IMDb #41 / TSPDT #26

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
IMDb #39 / TSPDT #29

Lawrence of Arabia
IMDb #67 / TSDPT #13

North by Northwest
IMDb #42 / TSDPT #57

Bicycle Thieves
IMDb #92 / TSDPT #14

Raging Bull
IMDb #100 / TSDPT #18

Touch of Evil
IMDb #131 / TSDPT #21

The Seventh Seal
IMDb #119 / TSDPT #53

On the Waterfront
IMDb #116 / TSDPT #91

The Night of the Hunter
IMDb #175 / TSDPT #40

Once Upon a Time in America
IMDb #78 / TSDPT #147


Interesting that exactly half hail from the ’50s. Don’t know if that says more about the lists or the gaps in my viewing.

For the curious, I had to skip six films under rule 3 to make that final 12, and those were: Rear Window, Modern Times, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, The Gold Rush, and Wild Strawberries. That doesn’t mean I won’t watch them (or indeed any others from the longer list) this year, but it does mean they’re not part of my ‘official’ aim. (In related trivia, high-ranked omissions via this method include 12 Angry Men (6th on IMDb, only 475th on TSPDT); City of God (21st on IMDb, only 592nd on TSPDT); The Searchers (8th on TSPDT, not on IMDb); and The Passion of Joan of Arc (20th on TSPDT, not on IMDb). Plus, It Happened One Night, which I happened to watch earlier in January, would come 16th on my list.)

I considered assigning each a specific month, but that’s counterproductive — what if I fancy November’s film in February, or can’t be doing with March’s film until June? So I’ll just select one per month as I feel like it. Who knows, maybe I’ll even end up watching them faster. Stranger things have happened.

And I’m only posting this now because I’ve actually seen one for January. What is it? Well, in an attempt at eliciting some form of (fake) tension, you’ll have to wait until Friday morning’s January update to find out! Gasp!

And on that bombshell…

6 thoughts on “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?

    • Thanks Colin. I’ve owned many of these for quite some time, and their Important status (plus, in some cases, sheer length — three are well over 3 hours long!) has often stood in the way of actually watching them. Hopefully ‘forcing’ it like this will do me some good.

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    • Spoiler: it’s not January’s.

      It was actually going to be, but even giving up the notion of watching it in one sitting, I couldn’t find two consecutive days to watch both halves before the end of the month. Shame in a way, because it’s exactly two years since it first got mentioned. (It’s realisations like that which prompted this whole idea!)

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  1. Oh dear, I’m still to sit through The Seven Samurai as well. I’ve even fewer excuses, having rented it before and then sent it back in shame, and worse still I know it’ll be bloody brilliant and I’ll really enjoy it!

    I think I’ve now seen the rest you mention and must give a shout for City Lights, which I know as a fan of silent cinema you’ll love, not least for one of the most knockout endings committed to celluloid. Good luck with the quest!

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    • Thanks Mike. I think a major problem with the Seven Samurai (for me, anyway) is its length. Apparently that flies by when you watch it, and I’m sure it does, but finding that amount of time to set aside…!

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