Douglas Gordon shares his top 101 films

17 April 2020

One week ago today we were meant to open a new exhibition in our galleries by artist Douglas Gordon, but as we're currently closed it has sadly had to be postponed until next year. Back at the start of the year, when we still thought we'd be welcoming you into the galleries as usual, we started a conversation with Gordon about the films he might want to screen in our cinema to accompany the exhibition. Instead of the usual selection of three or four films to choose from, he provided us with a wonderful list of his favourite 101 films. 

We can’t wait to share the exhibition with you, but in the meantime, we thought sharing the list with you might provide inspiration for your to-watch list, or offer some interesting insight into Douglas Gordon’s practice. And who better to introduce the list and tell us more about his top two picks than the artist himself: 

I had such fun putting this list together. I went through my film books and all of my DVDs, and you look at the title of something, and you know immediately if you’ve seen it or not. It’s not just sitting in a black space watching something - you remember the exact cinema, who you were with... You almost always do it with other people; it’s one of the most sociable things we do.

"You almost always do it with other people; it’s one of the most sociable things we do."

If I can come up with 100 films easily - and I’m not even a film buff - you have to think, that’s quite a long chunk of life. How can you even process that? 

When we watch films now, as opposed to when moving images started, we’re drawn into a net of meanings and references. Take Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, somehow, in your brain, you are pulling everything you know in. You think of Polanski, of Sharon Tate, then of Rosemary’s Baby, then Mia Farrow. Then Brad Pitt walks in, so you think of Jennifer Aniston... The actors are carrying more than simply what they look like. This was a phenomenon that started in the 1940s when the celebrity was invented. 

I have also included every film that I’ve used as a reference in my work. I sent this list to my sister who hasn’t seen half of the films here, so I set about describing a scene from each one, to explain why she had to see it. There’s a probably a work in that...

  • 1. The Swimmer (Frank Perry, 1968)  it’s a mad mad mad mad film about madness! Burt Lancaster plays an advertising executive who simply decides to see if he can swim home, from pool to pool, in garden after garden, drink after drink.

The colours in the film were astonishing to me when I saw it for the first time, on our NEW colour tv, probably in 1973/4. Life, until then, had been three channels of black and white. And that’s only when there was electricity to connect to – this was during the S.O.S campaign in Britain. Switch Off Something, NOW ! I remember it as 1974 – strikes, flying pickets, the ‘three-day week’, just three years before Punk Rock(ed) the nation.

The film is set in wealthy Connecticut, with its vibrant colours and warm weather – quite the opposite picture to what we had in Britain, a monotonous monochrome land, where the sun refused to shine, and the unrest was palpable on virtually every street. The Swimmer is a story of a man breaking down in an extremely short period of time – only 95 minutes! It’s a portrait of a society with carefully manicured lawns, big oil-guzzling cars yet unable to notice the swimmer's rapid descent to occupy a mere shadow of the character that we met only a short while before.


  • 2.The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955) If you only have time to see one film in this wee selection box of my choices I would recommend this one! It’s the purple wrapped chocolate in the box of Roses that I used to sneak into the GFT in Glasgow when I was a student at GSA. It’s the sweet not to be missed.

Robert Mitchum, the preacher with ‘love’ and ‘hate’ tattooed on his fingers, is just very very frightening; well, maybe he’s more ‘menacing’ – pretending to be a religious zealot – a lay preacher even. He is a charming serpent, able to convince and seduce Willa, played by the wonderfully believable Shelley Winters. How she could hold her breath so long, for the scene… ach now I’m spoiling it for y’all.

"If you only have time to see one film in this wee selectionbox of my choices I would recommend this one!"

When I saw it for the first time, I couldn’t throw the melody out of my head for days after – it’s the melody to these words: 

“Leaning… leaning… safe and secure from all alarm. Leaning… leaning… leaning on the everlasting arms”

If you think these words are a hymn of comfort and security, think again chilllllll – dren ! Lock the doors and windows when you get home, I pray.

- Douglas Gordon, 2020

  • 3.  Shadow of A Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock,1943)
  • 4.  The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
  • 5.  Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, 1955)
  • 6.  High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)
  • 7.  Once Upon A Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
  • 8.  Rififi (Jules Dassin, 1955)
  • 9.  The Vanishing (George Sluizer, 1988)
  • 10. The Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963)
  • 11. Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (Jacques Tati, 1953)
  • 12. Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001)
  • 13. Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford, 2016)
  • 14. The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcock, 1927)
  • 15. The Red Balloon (Albert Lamorisse, 1956)
  • 16. Laurel and Hardy selection (various)
  • 17. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
  • 18. Triumph of the Will (Leni Riefenstahl, 1935)
  • 19. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
  • 20. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
  • 21. Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
  • 22. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
  • 23. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
  • 24. Soldier Blue (Ralph Nelson, 1970)
  • 25. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
  • 26. The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)
  • 27. The Song of Bernadette (Henry King, 1943)
  • 28. Emmanuelle (Just Jaeckin, 1974)
  • 29. Mandingo (Richard Fleischer, 1975)
  • 30. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
  • 31. D.O.A. (Rudolph Mate, 1949)
  • 32. Whirlpool (Otto Preminger, 1949)
  • 33. Realm of the Senses (Nagisa Oshima, 1976)
  • 34. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
  • 35. The Magnificent Seven (John Sturges, 1960)
  • 36. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
  • 37. Querelle (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982)
  • 38. Jeanne d’Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928)
  • 39. Un Chant d’Amour (Jean Genet, 1950)
  • 40. Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922)
  • 41. La Traversée de Paris (Claude Autant-Lara, 1956)
  • 42. Les Mistons (François Truffaut, 1957)
  • 43. The Devils (Ken Russel, 1971)
  • 44. Amarcord (Federico Fellini, 1973)
  • 45. 8 ½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)
  • 46. Teorema (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1968)
  • 47. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959)
  • 48. Shoot the Pianist (François Truffaut,1960)
  • 49. Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987)
  • 50. The Damned (Lunchino Visconti, 1969)
  • 51. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes, 1976)
  • 52. The Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957)
  • 53. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996)
  • 54. The 39 Steps (Alfred Hitchcock, 1935)
  • 55. Leave Her to Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945)
  • 56. All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)
  • 57. Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960)
  • 58. The Fall of the Roman Empire (Anthony Man, 1964)
  • 59. Ben Hur (William Wyler, 1959)
  • 60. The Robe (Henry Koster, 1953)
  • 61. King of Kings (Nicholas Ray, 1961)
  • 62. Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg, 1967)
  • 63. The Deerhunter (Michael Cimino, 1978)
  • 64. Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967)
  • 65. Le Corbeau (Henri-George Clouzot, 1943)
  • 66. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
  • 67. The Man Between (Carol Reed, 1953)
  • 68. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)
  • 69. Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
  • 70. Aniki Bobo (Manoel de Oliveira, 1942)
  • 71. D’Est From the East (Chantal Akerman, 1993)
  • 72. 12 Angry Men (Sidney  Lumnet, 1957)
  • 73. The Loveless (Kathryn Bigelow, Monty Montgomery, 1981)
  • 74. The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcok, 1927)
  • 75. Fox and his Friends (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1975)
  • 76. The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1979)
  • 77. Le Meprís (Jean-Luc Goddard, 1967)
  • 78. The Killing (Stanley Kubrick, 1956)
  • 79. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (and the whole series) (David Lynch, 1992)
  • 80. Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)
  • 81. Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
  • 82. Pickpocket (Robert Bresson, 1959)
  • 83. The Enigma of Kasper Hauser (Werner Herzog, 1974)
  • 84. Duel (Steven Spielberg, 1971)
  • 85. SatánTángo (Béla Tarr, 1994)
  • 86. Andrei Rublyev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)
  • 87. Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti, 1971)
  • 88. Cape Fear (J.Lee Thompson, 1962))
  • 89. The Crying Game (Neil Jordan, 1992)
  • 90. The Friends of Eddie Coyle (Peter Yates, 1973)
  • 91. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
  • 92. Les Diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955)
  • 93. Doctor No (Terence Young, 1962)
  • 94. Sleeping Beauty (Clyde Geronimi, 1959)
  • 95. The Hustler (Robert Rossen, 1961)
  • 96. The Sting (George Roy Hill, 1973)
  • 97. Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, 1983)
  • 98. Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet, 1975)
  • 99. One-Eyed Jacks (Marlon Brando, 1961)
  • 100.A Shot in the Dark (Blake Edwards, 1964)
  • 101.One Hundred and One Dalmatians (Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton S Luske, 1961)

Our building is closed and we're missing you all so much, but we're not going to let lockdown stop us from bringing you art, culture and creativity - we're just taking it online. Visit here to see what's happening!  If you enjoy any of the activities and you’re able to we’d be so grateful if you’d consider donating £1 to help us keep enriching people’s lives through art, culture and creativity. Thank you! 

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