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100 Greatest Jewish Films

Schindler’s List is astoundingly stupid, Inglourious Basterds is cartoonishly potent, and more in our list of the greatest Jewish movies of all time

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(Schindler's List: Imdb.com, Sleeper: Corbis, The Wedding Singer: New Line Cinemas, X-Men: 20th Century Fox; Dirty Dancing: DirtyDancing.com)
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Visionaries

What makes a Jewish film? To open our 100 Greatest Jewish Films week, critics A.O. Scott and Jody Rosen talk about movies from Abie’s Irish Rose to Zelig.

From as early as 1918, when Lazar Meir moved to California and changed his name to Louis B. Mayer, the Jewish contribution to cinema has been broad and deep, with Jewish directors, writers, producers, and actors helping to invent the nascent art form and create some of its most memorable milestones. Our definitive if subjective list of the 100 Greatest Jewish Films of all time celebrates many of these titans, but it is also far from predictable.

Click here to see the first installment of the list, starting with No. 100.

So, what is a Jewish film?

There’s no scientific algorithm by which to arrive at this answer, and we did not pretend to invent one. Instead, we—the Tablet Magazine staff, along with our pal and contributing editor Jody Rosen—brought to the table our individual notions of Jewishness (and film-ishness). Some choices were based on the identity of their creators, others for their themes, quite a few for their sheer influence on pop culture, and others because of some elusive sensibility that is impossible to define and yet feels instantly familiar. Our answers cut across genre lines: Some stories of robots or ghosts or spies had as much of a Jewish heart as movies focused on more solemn, obvious subject matters. Also, while many of our selections come from Hollywood, others don’t. From neo-realist Italy to postmodern Israel, we did our best to look at filmmaking across nations and across time.

Today we reveal the bottom 25 on our list, Nos. 100 to 76. Over the next four days, we’ll present the rest, and we hope that you’ll share yours, as well. We hope you’ll be delighted, and we trust you’ll be infuriated. This swirl of conflicting emotions is what we have in mind; it’s what makes movies great and, as we found, often what makes them Jewish.

Today’s installment spans from helpless Jews and their Christ-like gentile saviors in Nazi-occupied Warsaw to a magical land somewhere over the rainbow, and includes a classic of Israeli cinema as well as a classic of 1980s New Jersey glam. Here, then, are numbers 100 to 76.

Click here to start Tablet Magazine’s list of 100 greatest Jewish films.

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I thoroughly disagree with your choice of Schindler’s List at the bottom of the heap. But you’ll no doubt hear much about that.

For now, my real gribe is that you have chosen to parcel out the selections in pieces rather than release the names of all 100 at once.

What does “of a Jewish heart” mean?

That is the crux of the question. Of course, Jews – Orthodox and Reform, Traditional and secular, those on the political left and right, communists and revisionists, etc., have been debating that over many years.

Larry Gold says:

Don’t understand why you did not accept my
comment. No filthy language or personal attacks on anyone Just a critique of your first installment 76-100. Please reply with reasons for not accepting my comments

All the best L. Gold

From the criteria I have read and the selections made, just about any film can be classified as Jewish. As the list is completed and the films become better they will be evermore more Jewish. How Wonderful!

Barbara says:

I too disagree that you say “Schindler’s List” was a stupid movie. I do agree with you that people were educated about the Holocaust who needed to be. I hope someone in cyberland can articulate how important this film really was.

Jewish or not this are really great films to watch. I only watch a few of them but they are really great.

It would be fair to call “Schindler’s List” depressing, but “stupid” it is not.

I wonder if “La Rafle”, a French movie about the July 1942 roundup of Paris Jews will make the list. It is too bad the film has not been released for general distribution, but only confined to the Jewish Film Festival circuit. I would rank up it there with “Europa, Europa”.

Given that the “Wizard of Oz” made the list (wrongly in my opinion), I hope that “Cabaret” makes it as well.

artcohn says:

Years before Lazar Meir moved to California and changed his name to Louis B. Mayer, Mack Sennet and Bronco Billy Anderson, bolth Jews, were the leading comedy director and western star, respectively.

Isnt Superman Jewish too? Because he can pass by putting on a pair of glasses?

http://mincingword.blogspot.com/2010/12/jewish-origins-of-superman.html

This list is as stupid a one I’ve ever seen.

Lawrence Baron says:

As the editor of a new anthology, The Modern Jewish Experience in World, which was just published by Brandeis University Press, I realize that will always be an element of subjectivity in selecting what films are the best, but what can one say about your list when Schindler’s List ranks behind Wet Hot American Summer at the end of the list on the grounds that Schindler’s List “is “stupid.”? It is like Twinkies beating out Tiramisu on a best dessert list because the later is “cheesy.”

While I know there will never be a consensus over even the top ten Jewish films, here are a few that I think the majority of Jewish scholars would agree belonged on your list of the top 100 Jewish films:

The Golem (1920)
The Dybbuk (1937)
The Grand Illusion (1937)
Crossfire (1947)
The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
Sallah (1964)
The Shop on Main Street (1965)
The Pawnbroker (1965)
Goodbye Columbus (1969)
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974
Hester Street(1975)
The Chosen (1981)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
Summer of Aviyah (1989)
The Quarrel (1991)
Sunshine (1999)
Kadosh (1999)
Ushpizin (2004)
The Band’s Visit (2007)

Alan Luria says:

It surprised me not to see “Hester Street” on your list of 100 Jewish films. It was a terrific film, instructive about our immigration experience, and authentically Jewish.

judy Weinberger says:

what kind of stupid statement is that you made about
schlinder’s List. That was the best picture and I think you comment is horrible.

Maiz Lulkin says:

This list is complete and well displayed http://www.jewish-movies.com Good resource.

Bryan Glovetsy says:

Dissing Schindler’s List doesn’t speak well for the article. Maybe that’s some kind of postmodern hipster aesthetic. You can keep it.

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100 Greatest Jewish Films

Schindler’s List is astoundingly stupid, Inglourious Basterds is cartoonishly potent, and more in our list of the greatest Jewish movies of all time

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