IMO the REAL best moment is the bit where he’s dropping the daughter off at a party or whatever and you faintly hear Can’t Get You Out of My Head in the background, knowing that Kylie’s in the film
Disclaimer: I hate Hollywood-centrism when talking about films so my list pushes international cinema throughout time pretty hard.
If I were designing a film studies 101 class, my shortlist, in no particular order, would probably be:
La Grande Illusion directed by Jean Renoir, 1937. Amazing French, black and white sound film, about prisoners of war in WWI made only 18 years later.
All About Eve directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950. Excellent “talkie” with an outrageously witty script plus a very interesting scene with a very young Marilyn Monroe.
Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang, 1927. Probably my go-to silent film choice (and trust me, you really owe it to yourself to watch some silent films). Amazing sets, very interesting sequences, and a really valuable insight into early 1900’s sci-fi.
Ikiru directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1952. Honestly hard to narrow down just one film of his to show and this pick is definitely a personal preference. A great showing of Kurosawa’s craft, but this one specifically has a story with serious resonance with contemporary issues.
Rome, Open City directed by Roberto Rossellini, 1945. Incredible movie about life in Fascist Italy in 1944, finished literally in the same year WW2 ended. A half step between being a conventional film and a “Neorealist” film, where direction and casting aims for realism over drama (e.g. people who really are something are cast to represent those people in the film,a preference for casting people who have no training in acting, using lower quality film stock that resembles news or documentary footage more than looking like a movie).
Tokyo Story directed by Yazujirou Ozu, 1953. Painfully human story about generational divides, urban-suburban-rural divides, and family. Accompanied with Kurosawa, really helps paint a picture of the foundation of Japanese cinema, and honestly, a lot of cinema all over the world.
Singin’ in the Rain directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, 1952. A musical about the film celebrity world and the transition from silent films to sound films. It’s kind of “bad” to recommend without a reference for all the musicals it is referencing and nodding to but I think it stands up and is a lot of fun even without a background in other musicals before it.
The General directed by Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton, 1926. Silent comedy film about a reluctant hero of the American Civil War, featuring TRAIN CHASES. It’s hilarious and a great entry point into silent comedy.
Modern Times directed by Charlie Chaplin, 1936. Feels a bit gratuitous to have 2 silent comedies, but this is just so good, and has so much “industrial prole of late capitalism feels” that’s honestly just getting more and more relateable. Now that I think of it, The Great Dictator is awfully relevant nowadays too
Shadow of a Doubt directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1943. Hitchcock doesn’t really need introduction, and his whole catalogue is really rich. I pull this one just because the villain in this one is SOOOOOO monstrous and hateable.
The Maltese Falcon directed by John Huston, 1941. Noir films are really intense, and here’s arguably where it starts. With this movie, you kind of have the rosetta stone for reflecting on everything else noir or pulling inspiration from noir.
Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott, 1982. Helps understand why neon lights are just so damn cool.
Alien directed by Ridley Scott, 1979. I’m not really a horror buff, even if I enjoy suspense a lot. Alien’s got hella suspense and it is just such a triumph of relatively recent, analog special effects and costuming.
Un Chien Andalou directed by Salvador Dali, 1929. I just like making people watch this to have a point of reference that like… yo… art can be real weird and that’s awesome. And it’s only 21 minutes so it PROBABLY won’t bore you to death.
Mulholland Dr directed by David Lynch, 2001. Great way to follow up on Un Chien Andalou, to show how the fruits of surrealism can be made entertaining and appetizing to the larger public. Lynch’s whole catalogue is great in general.
The Killer directed by John Woo, 1989. John Woo’s Chinese-language catalogue is generally really great. The Killer’s probably the one of those most accessible in English. Great look at HK Cinema at its height and for reflecting its end getting swallowed up by the PRC. Lots of fun.
The God of Cookery directed by Stephen Chow, 1996. Kind of a personal pick, but great showing of the comedy half of HK Cinema in its hey day. Content Warning though, has a male actor crossdressing = ugly girl gag. Sigh, 90’s.
Some Like It Hot directed by Billy Wilder, 1959. CW men in drag. Ridiculously funny romantic sex comedy about a couple of guys joining an all women music troupe to hide from the mafia. Really great performances by Marilyn Monroe in this one. Good point of reference for how being horny and comedy have had a long history together.
Do the Right Thing directed by Spike Lee, 1989. Black film is so, so important and I must admit I haven’t watched nearly enough. There are some ummmm things about contemporary Spike Lee, but Do the Right Thing is fucking fire.
Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back directed by Irvin Kershner, 1980. Pretty much THE example of how extremely talented creators can turn a forgettable story into something great. Also the example for how Lucas sucks and how the best SW film had like, no input from him, lol.
Aguirre, the Wrath of God directed by Werner Herzog, 1972. Herzog’s better known for his documentaries, but in this he applies his incredible acumen for doing filming on-location to make this intense movie starring an awful, awful Spanish conquistador.
Bonnie and Clyde directed by Arthur Penn, 1967. The titular characters are awful but also great, and their ending is ignoble and intense. This movie really pushed the boundaries for what was acceptable in hollywood when it came out and even now, to me, feels grimy in a very special way.
Battleship Potemkin directed by Sergei Eisenstein, 1927. Soviet film was super interesting because there was an intense interest in applying Marxist thought to the artform of film. “Montage”, the film technique inspired by Hegellian dialectics, is used in a very elemental, basic way in this film. But the impact is intense and really, we could all be a bit more communist. Soviet art in general is incredibly interesting and here is a vector for approaching it within film.
Reservoir Dogs directed by Quentin Tarantino, 1992. Ah, Tarantino, the movie nerd that makes movies. His movies are always dynamic and fun, and this one in particular has a scene about tipping that’s just timeless. At least, if you live somewhere with tipping.
Citizen Kane directed by Orson Welles, 1941. Citizen Kane is an absolute meme but god, it rules. Not only is it incredibly entertaining, with a sharp script and precise cinematography, but it really is a very broad catalogue of many filming styles and techniques at the time, and effortlessly weaves them all together in a single movie. The breakfast scene is unforgettable.
I’d gladly write an extensive list of films, but I think it might be better to focus on 2.
In the Mood for Love (2000) is a Hong Kong film directed by Wong Kar Wai, and it tackles issues of romance, infidelity, and societal expectations in the context of 1960’s Hong Kong culture. I really don’t want to say too much about the story, but it is a visually gorgeous film with an especially affecting score. If this song appeals to you, you should probably watch this film:
I’ve never met anyone else irl who has watched this film, and that’s a shame cause I think it should be considered a classic.
Oldboy (2003) is certainly a much better-known film, but nobody has mentioned it yet and it is certainly a modern classic. I’ve heard it described by multiple people as a modern Greek tragedy disguised as a revenge flick, and I’m inclined to agree with that assessment. The basic premise is that a man is imprisoned in a secret facility for 15 years without knowing why, and he seeks revenge when he gets out. It’s way more than that but, again, the rest should really be discovered for oneself.
I’d rank it my 3rd favorite film of all time behind 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining. Do NOT under any circumstances watch the 2013 Spike Lee “reinterpretation.” You are looking for the 2003 South Korean original directed by Park Chan-wook.
Oldboy also has incredible music. (And it’s on Netflix)
Yeah, I can definitely agree with that. A few tech-noir neologisms would’ve gone a long way with Looper. Otherwise it’s so so good at worldbuilding. I always loved the fact the telekinesis is not just an accepted skill someone could have, it’s become mundane.
This is definitely a classic and it is so great. One of the best ever. But, and I’m so sorry, I need to nitpick one point here: it’s not a Chinese movie. It’s from Hong Kong and takes place in early 60s Hong Kong which was definitely not China.
Throne of Blood is the classic movie I’d recommend. It’s not like a forgotten movie or anything but I don’t see it brought up as much when Kurosawa’s stuff is discussed. He’s done a few movies that, honestly, are better than it but it’s my favorite one of his. The same way his Ran is an adaptation of King Leer, it’s an adaptation of MacBeth.
The atmosphere of the movie is incredible because it’s theatrical, the production is built around Noh theater stylings which makes everyone look slightly off. Everyone has makeup built around different Noh masks that are sort of just makeup but sort of go into the uncanny valley just a little bit, it’s intentionally reserved and more awesome because of it. So normally in Noh theater everyone wears masks of different deities and legendary figures and the performances are stoic, like in a lot of traditional storytelling way back the idea was that the people were vessels for some aspect of the gods literally entering their bodies and reenacting these events. And the script does a great job placing all of the same themes into this grim, more horror-like atmosphere compared to any other version of MacBeth. Criterion offers two different subtitle tracks for it too that are both really good. One is more immediately accurate, the other is more flowery and “Shakespearean,” and it’s worth seeing it with both.
Anyway I love this movie because it’s super claustrophobic and isolating. Isuzu Yamada’s Lady MacBeth is awesome and commands by just shifting her eyes slightly. She’s often clad in super light clothing that, combined with her makeup and her ability to basically be completely still makes her almost supernatural even before the point in the story where characters become paranoid.
When Toshiro Mifune is killed at the end (it’s MacBeth this doesn’t get spoiler tags sorry folks ), those are real arrows being fired around and at him, he’s wearing real armor and heavy padding under that, it’s crazy. He said later his iconic death scene was barely acting because there were dudes standing just off camera blasting him for real but I think he sells him self short, it’s awesome.
Anyway this is an awesome black and white gothic feudal Japan proto-horror movie and is amazing and I love it so it’s the classic I recommend you all see.
To see the movie, one can rent it off Amazon, or buy the DVD/Blu-Ray for what is usually $19.99 when it’s on sale. It can also be streamed on on a few other services.
The Third Man is just a remarkable film, it’s well respected but it deserves to be every bit as iconic as Casablanca.
Another great one is The Philadelphia Story Katherine Hepburn, Carey Grant, Jimmy Stewart. and it is still eminently watchable today.
No worries, I appreciate the correction. I’ll edit the original post.
Hey, I’m doing the inadvisable and adding every movie mentioned in this thread to a Letterboxd list so that if people actually want to watch all of these, they can sign up for the service and use this as a neat visual checklist. @robowitch, this will help you out if you go on your blogging journey!
I tried to put on every movie that it seemed like people were putting forward, but it got a little confusing sometimes.
Don’t worry, all three Spy Kids movies mentioned made it onto the list.
Love you all! Think of me before you make 30-movie posts
This is awesome! And inspired a few more, probably my last:
Night of the Hunter (1955) - THE WEDDING NIGHT, THE ANTICIPATION, THE KISS, THE KNIFE, BUT ABOVE ALL…THE SUSPENSE! In the Deep South, a serial-killing preacher hunts two young children who know the whereabouts of a stash of money.
Hero (2002) - Gorgeous, almost impressionistic, wire fu masterpiece
For the record I don’t think theres any one movie anyone has to see. Like I tend to think that line of thinking can lead to people being kind of shitty about stuff, and ultimately turn people off of things they might otherwise enjoy.
That said: If someone were to ask me for a good horror movie ('tis the season) I would recommend the first Halloween 10 times out of 10. I think that movie is absolutely fantastic. Tense as hell, beautifully shot, the score is incredible. It doesn’t have anything overtly supernatural. It has one of my favourite endings of any horror movie that, for me, asks the right questions but didn’t really make me want to watch a sequel (though of course there are several).
Yeah, it’s definitely worth seeing something by Peter Greenaway. For the uninitiated, he came from a fine art background, and he frequently treats the image like a painting, with extremely deliberate composition, to the point of being quite contrived from a real world perspective. He’s long criticized cinema as still being a textual medium, consisting more-or-less of books on screen. In another of his films, A Zed & Two Noughts, he goes as far as recreating several Vermeer paintings in the frame. Don’t expect naturalism or strong empathy with the characters; do expect Brechtian alienation.
His early films are set to music by Michael Nyman that I greatly enjoy. I’ve not seen any of his more recent stuff (nothing newer than 8½ Women), but it sounds like he’s getting tired of the cinematic form, and is becoming more interested in some sort of art installation stuff (though I’m mainly basing that on reading about the outrageously ambitious Tulse Luper Suitcases project about fifteen years ago).
(I’m just mentioning these in passing – they don’t have to go on the list, @2Mello.)
Seven Samurai is one of the only three-hour movies that I couldn’t imagine cutting a single frame from.
Bonus props for essentially inventing about half the language of action cinema.
My five favorite movies in no particular order:
Mad Max: Fury Road
Solaris (the tarkovsky one)
The way past generations talk about Dirty Harry, Commando, etc. I think our generation will talk about John Wick. At this point, it’s easy to make a simple, brutal action film because moviegoers understand revenge plots, mythically badass characters and criminal underworlds to the point where you don’t really have to explain why they exist in movies, and John Wick certainly barely wastes any time doing that. (Chapter II is also really good but the original is my personal fave, anyone who wants to add Chapter II as well, let me know)
- Easily sympathizable lead played by Keanu Reeves, who needed a big win and got it
- low-budget smash hit that shows (and maintains over its sequel) all the charm and neat ideas that we love smaller movies for
- satisfyingly violent in a primal way that slightly concerns me
- the height of guns + martial arts
- GREAT freaking music cues that are the main reason I take I over II
- Game of Thrones’ Alfie Allen (Theon) being super sniveling and hateable
- Assassin who seems like a sweet, dorky older guy that just happens to be EXTREMELY good at killing people. Barely believable as an assassin but that just makes it better somehow.
Also absolutely PACKED with symbolism and hidden themes in a way that elevates it from the “dumb action” genre it gets unfairly lumped in with. Good-Ass Film, Yo.
Taxi Driver has had a lasting impact on me.
I really want to say Taxi Driver because it is still my favorite film but I cannot in good consciousness say everyone has to see it. I think it’s somewhat of an important cultural touchstone but not all of the things that came out of it are great.
Despite coming from a family of actors & film buffs I’ve missed probably most of the “classics” but here are a handful of “must watch” films IMO.
Spirited Away I think this is probably the most accessible Ghibli film & changed a lot of peoples perception on animation outside of the United States.
Grave of the Fireflies This movie is too good.
Mad Max: Fury Road Should be the standard for action film honestly.
10 Cloverfield Lane Hey, psychological thrillers can make a cult franchise really interesting also you only need three great actors to tell a compelling story.
The Right Stuff Sometimes people aren’t bad or extraordinary they just are people & we don’t need to see them have a mental/emotional breakdown on screen. Sometimes a likable character is racist & gets his just deserts & I’d like to imagine learns that shit doesn’t fly. Sometimes a film is just about people who want to do something they think is really great & that’s really it.
The experience of returning to the world after a really good long movie is one of my favorite feelings. Unfortunately it can be hard to block out so many uninterrupted hours to watch something but I’d still rather watch all four hours of A Brighter Summer Day or 5+ for Fanny and Alexander at once rather than break them up.
Peppermint Candy has been the movie I’ve been recommending my friends to watch, and I think everyone should see.
It’s a South Korean movie that does things quite differently, it’s in reverse chronology, which means it starts from the end of the main character’s life and goes back to his twenties. The interesting thing is that it allows to understand the rapid changes in society and how this man was progressively put on the sideline. Through this character, you see all the rabid masculinity that was expected of him and subsequently ruined him, both as a soldier in the military and as a cop during the uprising that has cost the life of thousands of students in the eighties.
It is a country that hugely suffered at the hands of american imperialism and the communist witch-hunting, lots of coup, lots of lives lost trying to upheld democracy. The man seen is one of these people who lived through it, but never managed to recover. What I like most is that the movie doesn’t try to excuse him, as he is truly despicable, it just depicts him, like a scientific showing the results of his findings, but poetically.
A masterpiece at a time where South Korea were undoubtedly at the forefront of cinema. If you want to see SK movies, there is no better filmmaker than Lee Chang-dong: Oasis, Secret Sunshine, Poetry are all classics.
A few favs have already been mentioned, but special shoutout to Wong Kar-Wai, probably my favourite director. Dying what he has coming up.
One very overlooked film I always like to bring up is Memories of Murder/Salinui chueok (2003). Director Joon-ho Bong is more known for every movie he made after, like Snowpiercer, The Host and Okja. But he won’t be able to top this. Me describing it won’t make it seem very special. It’s a crime mystery drama, but so incredibly tense, focused and real. Please watch it. A modern classic for me.