Steven Jay Schneider (ed.), 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (Barron’s, 2005)
I have no idea how I didn’t review this the first time around, but it seems I didn’t, so here we are close to three years later; according to my spreadsheet, I finished this up on January 31, 2010.
Schneider’s book is different than a number of others of this ilk I have reviewed, and loved, in the past in that Schneider is acting as editor here; the 1001 pieces are collected from a number of film critics, rather than this being a personal selection of Schneider’s. As such, you’re not going to find many surprises here (only eighty of the films listed are unique to this thousand-best collection from among the eleven thousand-best collections I have data on); this in itself is no surprise, given Ebert’s Rules of Best-of Lists (basically, the more cooks you have contributing to the soup, the more generic that soup is likely to be).
And yet I certainly don’t mean to imply that this isn’t a worthwhile reference; far from it. There’s a lot of overlap with other thousand-best lists, but if you’re not a collector, that’s not going to mater a whit to you. Any single thousand-best list is going to give you a wealth of places to turn the next time you’re looking for a good movie. Schneider’s doesn’t have the quirkiness of, say, David Thomson’s list in Have You Seen…?, or the canonical feel of Jonathan Rosenbaum’s list (which can be found online as well as in one of his books), but it’s not like sticking a dart in and picking the movie it stops at is going to steer you wrong. If you’re a neophyte film buff, someone who’s just starting to get into the classics, or someone who wants to expand your film horizons, Schneider’s tome will do just as well as any of the others. When you’ve got some miles under your belt and you want to wander off the beaten path some, then it’s time to pursue Thomson, Rosenbaum, or the ultimate canonical list at They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?. Until then, this will work fine. ***