Kicking the Canon


I. The Value of a Canon

When it comes to cataloging the most significant films and albums of the last half century-plus, there is no shortage of lists to consult, canons cobbled together out of bits of received wisdom and an idiosyncratic smattering of personal favorites. But tastes come and go and many of yesterday’s lists creak under the weight of too many once-favored entries which have failed to transcend their particular moment in time. Similarly, too many attempts at canon-making seem rooted in the prejudices of another era (many of which, sadly, linger on today), privileging the works of white, straight, Western men. And yet, every such list offers us something, a catalogue of many fine works which are justifiably regarded as classics even today, and so these rankings retain their value for helping us organize our thoughts and feelings about which artworks matter.

II. Something a Bit Different

So what we propose here is something a bit different; a meta-list, if you like. Drawing on a vast number of previously proposed canons and the expertise of an array of critics, we’ve assembled a list of 25 albums and 25 films from every year between 1960 and 1999; from, in a sense, the era that birthed modern pop culture to the end of the last century**. These lists are meant to represent not necessarily the best works, but a selection of the most important ones, based on either critical regard, subject matter, historical relevance, or popularity. And because canons inevitably reflect the biases of their compilers, we’ve tried to use our own subjectivity to go some way towards correcting the monolithic nature of previous such lists, branching out to include underrepresented genres and works of diverse geographic origin. After all, this project isn’t called Kicking the Canon for nothing.

**UPDATE: The film canon has been updated to include the 1950s.

III. An Ongoing Interrogation

But KtC, as we’ve affectionately referred to it throughout its development, is not simply a list — it’s an ongoing interrogation. To that effect, we’ve called on a host of knowledgable writers in both the film and music fields to contribute a series of short pieces in which they make their own case for the various works from our canon. We’ve made our share of bold choices in our list-making and we aim to back those up the only way we know how, through careful, enthusiastic critical analysis.