|The word 'quintessential'
comes from an old medieval concept of a fifth element
beyond those four of the world we live in, earth,
air, fire, and water. The idea was that the fifth
element represented that of which the heavens were
constructed, a perfect substance, and one which
all things had at least a little bit of inside themselves.
It is especially appropriate to use the word in
conjunction with the art of cinema, because cinema
may in fact be the quintessential art form. It incorporates
so many facets of the other art forms that it can
be seen to celebrate them all, while still remaining
a vital aesthetic unto itself.
These pages contain a list of films from the
silent era up to the present time that represent
the paramount achievements in this most paramount
of mediums. It would be near impossible to list
all of the films that truly deserve recognition,
but we have done our best to pinpoint as many
works as possible that both allow us to see the
manner in which film has transformed itself over
the years and which epitomize the type of experience
a truly fine work of film can produce: the feeling
that we have witnessed something that transcends
the everyday; that we have been given a look at
something vital, something, perhaps, ethereal.