Hello, this is a very personal list but I’ve got six here from six different countries.
Chungking Express (1994) (dir Wong Kar-wai) -
I first saw this in a class when I was 18 and it is the movie that got me into movies. The style is very poetic and full of energy, and it’s a touching meditation on love and attachment. I’m not much of a romantic, but this movie gets me every time. My personal greatest of all time. And really, everything Wong did up through 2046 is a classic worthy of your time.
Linda Linda Linda (2005) (dir Nobuhiro Yamashita) -
It’s a recent discovery, but I’ve seen this movie twice in the last year and it’s quickly become one of my favorites. Certainly my favorite high school movie at this point and also a great movie about being in a band. The story is simply about a group of high school girls forming a band to perform some cover songs for a school festival. The setting is very much foreign to me, but even then it feels universally relatable in its pitch-perfect depiction of that end of high school malaise. A very charming film.
Millenium Mambo (2001) (dir Hou Hsiao-hsien) -
This movie affected me in a way I hadn’t felt in a long time. I think it’s one of those moments where I saw it at just the right time in my life where I was doing a similar sort of reflection as the film. It’s framed simply with a little voice over as the main character reflecting on a chaotic period in her life ten years ago and is a brilliant expression of how we remember things. Nothing plays out linearly and there’s not really enough there to put a full timeline together. Small details stand out in memory, while big moments can’t quite be grasped. Everything in the film is as ephemeral as our own memories.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) (dir Luis Buñuel) -
Buñuel has been one of my favorite directors for a long time and this is the one I’ve most recently re-watched. He’s a Spanish surrealist who spent most of his life working outside Spain in exile once the fascists took over. His style is not a subtle one and his usual targets are the wealthy and the church. This film is about a group of wealthy couples attempting to have dinner while their plans are repeatedly ruined. The whole thing is surreal and filled with dream sequences and there’s not a lot of narrative to hold on to, but it is brilliant satire that even without a ton of specific context works very well today. See also The Exterminating Angel
Hellzapoppin’ (1941) (dir H. C. Potter) -
Hellzapoppin’ is a completely hilarious self-aware deconstruction of the studio musical of that era. It’s a lot like Airplane. Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson are a pair of vaudeville comedians making a movie and taking aim at anything and everything in the genre. There’s one brief moment in the middle where they take a break to appreciate some real athletic talent on-screen but otherwise it is non-stop gags from start to finish. Not all of them hit but the pace is dizzying and it’s a ton of fun all the way through.
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (1989) (dir Peter Greenaway) -
As brutal a takedown of Thatcher/Reagan style politics as anything on film. It can be a tough watch in places but totally worth it in my mind. I don’t want to just say the politics are newly relevant now because the nastiness on display has been here the whole time, it never went away. This is also a very good looking film (with some very ugly content). I love the theatrical presentation of the main set, with the camera moving left and right between the kitchen and restaurant. The different rooms come in and out of view like lighting different parts of a stage.
And I’ll second the previous mentions of Do the Right Thing, Hard Boiled, Ikiru, Dr. Strangelove,Seven Samurai, and F for Fake.
I saw a couple letterboxd links above so here’s mine if anyone cares. Not much of a writer but I’m trying to get my thoughts actually written down more.