When you make your living as a film critic, it tends to raise questions.
"How did you get that job?!" is a popular one.
"Do you get to see movies for free?" is another.
But without question, the most commonly asked question for any film critic is, "What's the best movie ever made?" I've been asked this question more times than I could possibly count, and it's a rare occasion indeed that someone will receive a film's title from me by way of an answer. The truth is, it's impossible to pick one film as 'the best movie ever made', primarily because choosing such a thing isn't a scientific process. If one answers this questions based solely on their opinion, their answer is informed almost entirely by the mood and disposition of that person in that moment. And-- as we all know-- things like 'mood' and 'disposition' can change from moment to moment.
And so, I might tell you that 'Casablanca' is the best film ever made if I'm feeling particularly romantic, but I'm just as likely to tell you that 'Pulp Fiction' is the greatest film ever made if I've recently watched Quentin Tarantino's 1994 masterpiece. If I've just seen a film with an unusually effective twist ending, I might be more inclined to place that film high atop my list of 'favorites'...but if I've rewatched that same movie and discovered that the ending is more of a cop-out than it initially seemed, I might tell you it's one of the worst (as would have been the case if you'd asked me about M. Night Shyamalan's 'The Village' on opening night...and then again six months later, after I'd seen the film a second time). It's been said that the movies we digest as a people are reflections of who we are during the period in which those films were made: the gritty exploitation films of the 70's reflect the end of the free-love era of the 60's, while the excessive violence in action and horror films of the 80's reflect the excesses (drugs, money, sex, and so on) of that same decade. It would also be fair to say that our 'favorite' movies-- or the ones we might each consider 'the best'-- are reflections of who we are as viewers.
As such, whenever I'm asked what the 'best movie ever made' was or what my 'favorite movie' is, I have gotten in the habit of offering to list my top ten favorite movies. These films reflect both my interests as a viewer and a more well-rounded selection of recommendations for the person who's asked the question. I might add or subtract a film from that lineup every so often, but-- for the most part-- my top ten list rarely changes. It covers the spectrum, including films that are funny, frightening, romantic, silly, and even a few that the casual filmgoer might consider "weird".
If more film critics (and, why not: film geeks) adopted this practice when answering that age-old question, I think everyone would find themselves having a far more productive conversation about film. The only downside, of course, is that listing out ten films (rather than one) is somewhat time intensive. And so, whenever one is pressed for time and has this question gets put to them, I recommend that they do what I always do: just say 'Raiders of The Lost Ark', because everyone loves Indiana Jones.