After the death of her mother, Tristana goes to live with her guardian Don Lope, who seduces her. She runs away from Lope with a young artist named Horacio. Unable to commit to Horacio and in need of health care due to her growing cancer, Tristana returns to Don Lope. Watch
Decisively breaking away from the Japanese studios ‘Hollywood’ narrative model, Rashomon is set in feudal Japan and depicts the rape of a woman and the apparent murder of her samurai husband, through the widely differing accounts of four witnesses. By presenting these conflicting views of the same event, the film explores the imperfections of humanity and was probably the first in Japanese cinema that featured such ambiguity, allowing the audience to make their own judgements rather than being provided with a single truth. The film is also notable for the emotive acting, Kurosawa’s mastery of mise-en-scene and the sentimental but compelling ending. Winner of the grand prize at Venice and best foreign film at the Academy awards, Rashomon helped propel Japanese film toward world recognition and is now widely regarded as one of the premiere works of art cinema. More…
19. There Will Blood (2007) Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 158 mins.
Inspired by Upton Sinclair’s novel ‘Oil!’ There Will Be Blood tells the story of a silver miner-turned-oilman, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) on a ruthless quest for wealth during Southern California’s oil boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s a real work of art with Anderson managing to bring to life a lost era with a staggering aesthetic clarity. Day-Lewis’s relentlessly focused portrayal of the often unfathomable and greedy oil man saw him rightly awarded with a Best Actor Oscar. While the final scene and confrontation between Plainview and his nemesis Eli (Paul Dano) polarised critics, like it or loathe it, it provides one of most memorable moments of 21st century cinema. More…
18. Bicycle Thieves (1948) Dir. Vittorio De Sica, 93 mins.
One of the major achievements of neo-realism and the film that convinced Satyajit Ray to become a filmmaker, Bicycle Thieves sees De Sica using a non-professional cast to tell the story of a poor father searching post-World War II Rome for his stolen bicycle, without which he will lose the job which was to be the salvation of his young family. It touches broadly on Italy’s institutions and cultures but at its centre is always the grinding poverty of the family, exemplified in the relationship between the well meaning father and the young plucky son who helps him look for the bicycle. It’s the balance between the careful direction with its intricate mise-en-scene, the use of the inexperienced actors, and the input of writing collaborator Cesare Zavattini, who championed the poetics of everyday life and the normal man, that makes Bicycle Thieves the most well known and successful work of De Sica’s long and varied career. More…
17. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) Dir. Werner Herzog, 93 mins.
One of the great haunting visions of world cinema and the first collaboration between Herzog and star Klaus Kinski, the story follows the mostly fictionalised travels of sixteenth century Spanish soldier Lope de Aguirre, who, in open and irrational defiance of nature and God, leads a group of conquistadors down the Orinoco and Amazon River in South America in search of the legendary city of gold, El Dorado. With its incongruous adherence to courtly grandeur in the midst of the jungle, the film is both a parody and criticism of colonialism. By means of extreme camera angles and long shots, Herzog visualises primordial nature as an antagonistic and terrifying force that dwarfs and eventually destroys the coloniser. The film is also notable for the infamous production incidents such as Herzog (who was unarmed at the time) threatening to shoot the unpredictable and difficult Kinski if he left the set. More…
16. Pulp Fiction (1994) Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 154 mins.
Directed in a highly stylised manner and drawing on a mixture of cinematic sources (such as American B pictures and the French New Wave), Pulp Fiction joins the intersecting storylines of Los Angeles mobsters, fringe players, small-time criminals and a mysterious briefcase. The film reinvigorated the career of John Travolta and features a brilliant ensemble cast, particularly Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis. Tarantino confidently deploys an ingenious structure, rapid fire rhetoric and graphic violence with a surprising playfullness and exceptional intelligence. More…
15. Taxi Driver (1976) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 113 mins.
Leading on from the critical acclaim of Mean Streets, Martin Scorsese continued further into the darker side of New York City with a film set soon after the Vietnam War. Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is a lonely and depressed young man and former Marine living in Manhattan who becomes a night time taxi driver in order to cope with his chronic insomnia. Bickle becomes attracted to a young woman (Cybill Shepherd), shows concern for a child prostitute (a disturbingly precocious turn from Jodie Foster), and becomes progressively more troubled over what he sees as the city’s filth and human scum. His compressed anger finally erupts into a rage focused simultaneously on Foster’s pimp and Shepherd’s boss, a political candidate. Brilliant and controversially violent, the film features an alarming psychological atmosphere (enhanced by a jazzy and eerie music score by Bernard Hermann), a remarkable central performance from De Niro and established Scorsese as one of the great talents of the New Hollywood era. More…
14. Seven Samurai (1954) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 207 mins.
Deeply influenced by Hollywood and particularly the westerns of John Ford, Kurosawa’s epic samurai adventure takes place in Warring States Period Japan. It follows the story of a village of farmers that hire seven masterless samurai (including the terrific Toshiro Mifune) to combat bandits who will return after the harvest to steal their crops. One of the most influential films of all time, evidenced by the breakthrough films of directors such as Spielberg, Lucas and Sergio Leone, it was remade by Sturges as the western The Magnificent Seven six years later. With its memorable characters and stunning action sequences Seven Samurai is as much a thrilling and engrossing form of entertainment as it is art and, probably, the most beloved of Japan’s jidaigeki masterpieces. More…
13. Andrei Rublev (1966) Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 205 mins.
Loosely based on the life of Andrei Rublev, the monk and great 15th century Russian icon painter, Tarkovsky’s historical epic concerns the relationship between man and God, man and nature, the artist and the people, the artist and the art form. It was banned by the authorities, largely because of its portrayal of the conflict between the artist and the political powered structure, and not released in the Soviet Union until 1971. Deeply moving and mysterious the film is rich in symbolism and full of remarkable imagery. More…
12. The Conformist (1970) Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci, 107 mins.
Adapted from the novel by Alberto Moravia and set initially in 1930s Italy, Bertolucci’s poetic expressionist art film explores the bourgeois roots of fascism by following Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who is so eager to fit in and find normality, that he agrees to a traditional marriage (despite having little regard for his fiance) and joins the Fascist secret police, finding himself ordered to assassinate his old friend and teacher, Professor Quadri, an outspoken anti-Fascist intellectual now living in exile in France. Propelled to greatness by Trintignant’s superb and compelling performance, a clever narrative structure (with memorable flashback sequences) and the remarkable use of Fascist era art and decor, The Conformist is a masterpiece of stunning cinematography (featuring the brilliant use of lighting and warm colours from Vittorio Storaro and art director Ferdinando Scarfiotti) and relaxed rhythm interrupted by explosions of violent intensity. The film was also a huge influence on New Hollywood film makers such as Francis Ford Coppola. More…
11. 8½ (1963) Dir. Federico Fellini, 138 mins.
Made when neo-realism was still the reigning orthodoxy, Fellini’s surrealist avant-garde masterpiece is a portrait of a famous Italian film director, Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni), who is suffering from “director’s block”. Stalled on his new science fiction film that includes veiled autobiographical references, he loses interest amid artistic and marital difficulties. Fellini delivers a highly influential and inventive spectacle of imagery that’s helped along by a funny and thought provoking script, Mastroianni’s terrific performance and Nino Rota’s unique musical style. While the director’s own autobiographical tendencies became more accentuated with 8½, it’s his ability to draw from other people’s recollections and fantasies as well as his own, that made it his most representative film and one of the greatest ever. More…
10. The Rules of the Game (1939) Dir. Jean Renoir, 110 mins.
Ending a decade of great artistic achievement for French cinema, Renoir’s masterpiece marked a striking departure in filming technique, (particularly from Hollywood norms) with its long takes, constantly moving camera and use of deep focus. Looking at French society just before the start of World War II, the film is principally set in the country estate of the Marquis de la Chesnaye (Marcel Dalio) and shows the collapse of a frivolous, static and corrupt aristocratic society. This image of France, as well as the film’s elaborate structure and the ambiguity of the characters, confused critics, provoked hostility from the public and was banned as demoralising by the French government after the outbreak of war. Renoir never recovered from the negative reaction but despite this and the lack of commercial success, the director’s filming style, that brought out a complex mise-en-scene, the rich and varied array of characters and the 1959 restoration version helped to grow its reputation as one of the greatest films of all time. More…
9. Raging Bull (1980) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 129 mins.
One of a string of early 1980s box office disappointments for Martin Scorsese, the film is a hugely ambitious and superbly edited biography of Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro), an Italian American middleweight boxer whose sadomasochistic rage, sexual jealousy and animalistic appetite destroys his relationship with his wife and family. Scorsese gives De Niro the freedom to truly transform into the unsympathetic working class boxer and he’s got strong support from relative newcomers Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty (as LaMotta’s brother and wife). It received mixed reviews and criticism for its violent content on release, but De Niro’s explosive and absorbing performance, the brutal yet poetic fight scenes and the bleakly beautiful black and white cinematography make Raging Bull not only Scorsese’s finest film but also one of cinema’s best ever. More…
8. Blade Runner (1982) Dir. Ridley Scott, 117 mins.
Loosely adapted from Philip K. Dick’s novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ the film depicts a dystopian Los Angeles in November 2019 in which genetically engineered beings called replicants are manufactured by the all-powerful Tyrell Corporation to work on off-world colonies. When a fugitive group of replicants led by Roy Batty (Ruger Hauer) escapes back to Earth, burnt-out cop Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) reluctantly agrees to hunt them down. On release it struggled at the box office and turned off critics with its unconventional pacing and plot, but still grew a reputation as cult sci-fi. After a director’s cut and The Final Cut (just two of seven versions) and helped by an outstanding cast, particularly Ford and an iconic turn from Hauer (who wrote the famous ‘Tears in the Rain’ speech himself), and the music of Vangelis, Blade Runner is now considered one of the most thematically complex and aesthetically stunning films ever made. More…
7. The Godfather Part II (1974) Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 200 mins.
While Coppola had no initial interest in making a follow up to The Godfather, Part II became one of the most commercially and critically successful sequels of all time. The film is actually both a sequel and prequel, with the tale of a young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) and his ascent into criminality paralleling the continuing story of Vito’s youngest son, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), who is now in charge of the criminal family enterprise. While some were quick to declare it greater than the original and few could argue against the outstanding performances and stunning cinematography, there were notable critics who attacked the non-linear narrative and the pacing. However, the film was soon reevaluated with many previous detractors changing their minds and it is now seen as one of the great creative triumphs of American cinema. More…
6. Vertigo (1958) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 129 mins.
Alfred Hitchcock was at the peak of his powers when he made Vertigo, a psychological thriller, based on the French novel D’entre les morts (From Among the Dead) by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, that follows a retired police detective, Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart), who has acrophobia, and is hired as a private investigator to follow the wife of an acquaintance to uncover the mystery of her peculiar behaviour. Focusing on the romantic obsession that Scottie develops for the enigmatic woman (Kim Novak), Vertigo received mixed reviews upon release, particularly in Hitchcock’s native England, with some fans disappointed at the director departing from his earlier lighter romantic thrillers and a number of critics dismissing it as nothing more than a slowly paced murder mystery. However, it’s re-evaluation began in the following decade, when writers at the influential French magazine Cahiers du cinéma began to view Hitchcock as a serious cinematic artist rather than just a slick crowd pleaser and soon film scholars were singling the movie out as a work of hypnotic visual beauty and a profound meditation on love, loss and identity. Over sixty years on, Vertigo continues to fascinate and is now heralded, by many, as Hitchock’s most important contribution to cinema. More…
5. Apocalypse Now (1979) Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 153 mins.
Drawing from war correspondent Michael Herr’s dispatches and Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God, John Milius adapted the story of Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, changing its setting from late nineteenth-century Congo to the Vietnam War. The plot revolves around two US Army special operations officers Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) and Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Willard is sent to assassinate the rogue and insane Kurtz in what becomes a nightmarish journey into the darkness of war and the monsters who inhabit it. The film is also notable as one of cinema’s most troubled productions (as documented in Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse) with sets destroyed by severe weather, Sheen having a near fatal heart attack and the release being postponed while Coppola edited thousands of feet of film. Apocalypse Now received mixed reviews on release and while Brando’s bravura turn (much of it improvised) threatened to unbalance the film, (and he arrived on set overweight and unprepared), the brilliant direction of Coppola, inspired writing by Milius and Vittorio Storaro’s acclaimed cinematography has seen it reevaluated to now be considered one of the greatest films ever made. More…
4. Tokyo Story (1953) Dir. Yasujiro Ozu, 136 mins.
With his masterful ability for understanding the human condition, Yasujiro Ozu, by the time of his death in 1963 (aged just 60), had become, by common consent, Japan’s greatest director and his most famous and acclaimed film remains Tokyo monogatari (Tokyo Story), the poignant tale of a couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their grown children. The elderly grandparents find their offspring too preoccupied with their jobs and families to spend much time with them. In fact, the only affection and kindness comes from their daughter-in-law Noriko, widow of a son they lost to war. Ozu combines his seemingly simple but distinctive minimalist filming techniques, (placing the camera, which rarely moves, at a low height as well as intricate cutting), with brilliant narrative control to deliver an emotionally rich yet subtle family drama that’s as close to everyday life as any the cinema has given us. More…
3. Citizen Kane (1941) Dir. Orson Welles, 119 mins.
Considered by some as overly self-conscious, artificial and even baroque, Orson Welles’s sensational first studio film examines the life and legacy of the fictional Charles Foster Kane (Welles himself) who rises from obscurity to become a publishing tycoon. Coming off the back of Welles’s infamous 1938 ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast, RKO gave him full creative freedom and let him loose on the studio’s latest technology. While his role as the ‘auteur’ has been questioned (Pauline Kael argued Herman J. Mankiewicz was the sole scriptwriter) it was his revolutionary approach to the film medium that encouraged large scale experimentation on existing techniques, particularly the complex narrative structure, cinematographer Greg Toland’s rule breaking use of lighting and deep focus and the innovative use of the music of composer Bernard Herrmann (his first film score), that helped make Citizen Kane a technical and stylistic triumph. Despite a campaign by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst that delayed the release (Hearst thought the portrayal of Kane to be too close to his own megalomaniac personality), the film received rave reviews and has gone on to be acclaimed as a landmark achievement in cinema. More…
2. The Godfather (1972) Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 175 mins.
Brilliantly combining the temperament of European art cinema with the Hollywood gangster genre of the past, Francis Ford Coppola’s epic mafia saga chronicles ten years (1945-55) in the lives of a fictional Italian American crime family. The film focuses most on the ageing patriarch Vito Corleone (a come back for Marlon Brando), and his youngest son, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), whose transformation from war hero and reluctant family outsider to ruthless mafia boss propels much of the narrative. Coppola had to fight to cast Brando (and also Pacino), who gives a performance of immense authority among a magnificent cast of what were then mainly unknown actors. With a success that marked the transition from Classic Hollywood to New American Cinema and revitalised Paramount, The Godfather is a masterpiece of stunning artistry and masterful story telling that is continually lauded as one of the greatest and most influential films in world cinema. More…
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969) Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 141 mins.
Remarkably once labelled as dull, unimaginative and lacking dramatic appeal, Kubrick’s grand science fiction spectacle took four years to prepare and used special effects, particularly in depicting space flight, that were without precedent in the industry. The film, which follows a voyage to Jupiter with the sentient computer HAL after the discovery of a mysterious black monolith, deals with themes of existentialism, human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence, and the existence of extraterrestrial life. With the hypnotic imagery, scientific realism and Kubrick’s elaborate use of music, 2001 is now acclaimed as visionary cinema. Even watching it fifty years after its original release, you are provided with a visual and technical quality that’s still without equal in the history of film. More…
40. Breathless (1960) Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 90 mins.
Made with a cinema-verite style consciously opposed to the aesthetic of traditional French cinema, Breathless was one of the work’s that signalled the arrival of the New Wave and became the movement’s emblematic film. It is an anarchic and freewheeling story of a young petty criminal Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who, while searching for purpose in life, guns down a policeman and goes on the run with his seemingly naive American girlfriend, Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg), until she betrays him. Godard’s debut feature managed to capture the cultural mood of the time and, as well as its intellectual and aesthetic resonances, it’s the radical challenge to conventional narrative, using jump cuts and extended long takes shot with hand held cameras, that make it one of the medium’s great artistic creations, able to be derivative of commercial cinema and yet, at the same time, truly original. Watch
39. Blue Velvet (1986) Dir. David Lynch, 120 mins.
Lynch’s unsettling and provocative drama centres around a college student, Jeffrey Beaumont, who, upon returning from visiting his ill father in hospital, comes across a human ear in a field in his idealised hometown of Lumberton. Intrigued by what he’s found, Jeffrey journeys behind the facade of a supposedly normal small town into the terrifying criminal world of the malevolent Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). Initially disliked for the level of violence, the film has grown from a cult following to be considered one of the best films of the 1980s. Watch
38. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) Dir. Sergio Leone, 161 mins.
The third of Leone’s ‘dollar’ films centres around three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in Confederate gold during the American Civil War. A successful combination of Clint Eastwood’s acting style and Leone’s brilliant direction. Watch
37. Fanny and Alexander (1982) Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 188 mins.
Bergman made a triumphant return to form, and to his roots, with this colourful, expansive family saga, that follows the well-to-do Ekdahls, and is set in turn of the century Uppsala. With a surprising amount of warmth and generosity, it’s Bergman at his most visually ambitious. Watch
36. L’avventura (1960) Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni, 141 mins.
Helping to signal both the definitive demise of neo-realism and the arrival of new art cinema, L’Avventura was developed from a story by Antonioni about a young woman’s disappearance during a boating trip in the Mediterranean. During the subsequent search for her an attraction grows between her lover (Gabriele Ferzetti) and her best friend (Monica Vitti). Shot entirely on location and beset by constant logistical and financial problems, the film was greeted with catcalls from sections of the audience at Cannes, but was passionately defended by a handful of critics and, with its innovative aesthetics, has gone on to be seen as one of the most influential films ever made. The appeal of the film was also enhanced, no doubt, by the dazzling performance of the then unknown Vitti. Watch
35. The Seventh Seal (1957) Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 96 mins.
A film that came to epitomise not just Scandinavian cinema but the European art movie in general, The Seventh Seal is a metaphysical allegory that follows a medieval knight (Max von Sydow), who, having returned from the Crusades, journeys across a plague-ridden landscape, and plays a game of chess with the personification of Death (Bengt Ekerot). One of the film’s that shifted Bergman’s focus from comedy to more serious themes, and elevated his status to preeminent cinematic artist. Watch
34. Alien (1979) Dir. Ridley Scott, 117 mins.
The crew of the commercial towing spaceship Nostromo are stalked and killed by a highly aggressive extraterrestrial creature while on a return trip from Thedus to Earth. Acclaimed for its brilliant aesthetic work that adds to the realism. Watch
33. The 400 Blows (1959) Dir. Francois Truffaut, 99 mins.
Reacting against the supposed formulaic and studio controlled mainstream films of the 1950s, outspoken Cahiers du Cinema critic, Francois Truffaut helped trigger the New Wave with a film revolving around an ordinary adolescent in Paris, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) who is thought by his parents and teachers to be a trouble maker. His teacher singles him out for criticism and punishment, while his mother is cold and demanding, and frequently argues with her husband (Antoine’s stepfather). The 400 Blows has elements of autobiography as the precocious Truffaut was incarcerated as a teenager for failing to pay debts while in the film the young protagonist is jailed for stealing a typewriter. Showing an allegiance to the visual style of filmmakers such Renoir and Welles, Truffaut uses moving camera shots and long takes to create an open fluid mise-en-scene. However, it’s the performance of Leaud, who provides an intelligent yet innocent portrayal of the troubled but often humorous youth during his initiation into a callous adult world, that gives the film its brilliant pathos and is ultimately the key to its success. More…
32. Barry Lyndon (1975) Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 184 mins.
The film follows the exploits of an 18th century Irish adventurer, Barry Lyndon (Ryan O’Neal). Kubrick turns Thackeray’s novel into a chilling theorem on the illusions of the Enlightenment and the ontological limits of the human condition. Watch
31. Persona (1966) Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 85 mins.
The story revolves around a young nurse named Alma (Bibi Andersson) and her patient, well-known stage actress Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann), who has suddenly stopped speaking. They move to a cottage, where Alma cares for the traumatised Elisabet, confides in her and begins having trouble distinguishing herself from her patient. One of the most analysed films of all time, some will find it dated and others too ambiguous, but Bergman’s use of close-ups helps to exert a hypnotic intensity that along with the superb performances of the two female leads, propels Persona into the realm of cinematic genius. Watch
30. A Clockwork Orange (1971) Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 136 mins.
Set in the future, the film concerns Alex (Malcolm McDowell), a charismatic, psychopathic delinquent whose pleasures are classical music, rape, and what he refers to as ‘the ultra-violence’. He spends his nights as the leader of a youth gang, that speaks an argot combining Russian and English word forms, and, as well fighting amongst themselves, commit robberies, assaulting anyone they find in the vicinity. Captured after a murder, the hooligan undergoes behavioural modification treatment designed to make him sick at the idea of violence. Managing, once again, to bring to life a world of ambiguity, Kubrick brilliantly combines flamboyant and inventive visuals with the choreography of violence to create a grotesque attack on utopian beliefs. Buy
29. Goodfellas (1990) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 146 mins.
The satirical film follows the rise and fall of three gangsters, spanning three decades. The protagonist Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) admits, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” Outstanding story telling from Scorsese and a great performance from Liotta that became something of an albatross for his career. Watch
28. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) Dir. Sergio Leone, 165 mins.
To get his hands on prime railroad land in Sweetwater, crippled railroad baron Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti) hires killers, led by blue-eyed sadist Frank (Henry Fonda), who wipe out property owner Brett McBain (Frank Wolff) and his family. McBain’s newly arrived bride, Jill (Claudia Cardinale), however, inherits it instead. Both outlaw Cheyenne (Jason Robards) and lethally mysterious Harmonica (Charles Bronson) take it upon themselves to look after Jill and thwart Frank’s plans to seize her land. With Ennio Morricone’s notable melodic score, that’s in stark contrast to the brutality of the action, as well as great performances and masterful visual detail, Once Upon a Time in the West is an epic western masterpiece. More…
27. Ran (1985) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 162 mins.
Made possible by more of the overseas funding that helped reignite Kurosawa’s career in the 1970s and 80s, Ran tells the story of the ageing Warlord Hidetora Ichimonji who makes the decision to retire from his position as head of his family faction and split his kingdom between his three sons. Tragedy follows amid a visual splendour that helped to reinforce Kurosawa’s reputation as one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of the 20th century.More…
26. Chinatown (1974) Dir. Roman Polanski, 131 mins.
Having left Poland and then made several quirky horror films for the European and U.S. markets, Polanski took a large stride forward with this revisionist work, set in Los Angeles in 1937, and inspired by the historical disputes over land and water rights that had raged in southern California during the 1910s and 20s. The film stars Jack Nicholson, in one of his finest roles as cynical private investigator J.J. “Jake” Gittes, who is out of his depth in a world of politics, sexual power and corruption. Watch
25. La Dolce Vita (1960) Dir. Federico Fellini, 180 mins.
Marking a watershed moment in the history of Italian cinema as neo-realism moved to a new art cinema, La dolce vita is the three hour epic story of a passive journalist’s week in a morally decaying Rome, and his search for both happiness and love that will never come as he declines into decadent sexual play. Also seen as a crucial turning point in the battle for freedom of expression against censorship, the film’s sexual candor helped make it a sensation, La Dolce Vita depicts an absurdist spectacle of contemporary life and is deemed one of the great triumphs of post war art cinema. Buy
24. Come and See (1985) Dir. Elem Klimov, 140 mins.
Set in 1943, during the Nazi German occupation of the Byelorussian SSR, Klimov’s anti-war psychological horror follows a young peasant boy (Alexei Kravchenko), who, having defied his parents by joining the resistance movement, witnesses the atrocities committed on the populace. Although it went on to be a large box office hit in the Soviet Union, Klimov had had to wait 8 years before he was given approval by the authorities to produce it. Unrelenting in its brutal realism, Come and See combines disorienting camera work, extreme facial close-ups and a brilliant use of sound to enhance some of the most harrowing imagery ever seen on film. There was much speculation as to why Klimov had made no more films after this. In 2001 he provided an answer, “I lost interest in making films…Everything that was possible I felt I had already done.” For those who have seen Klimov’s lyrical and nightmarish masterpiece, this seems like no idle boast. Buy
23. Once Upon a Time in America (1984) Dir. Sergio Leone, 229 mins.
Sergio Leone was by far the most talented director of spaghetti westerns, but arguably his best film is this gangster epic that he made having earlier turned down the chance to direct The Godfather. The long but always fascinating story chronicles the lives of Jewish ghetto youths who rise to prominence in New York City’s world of organised crime, particularly David “Noodles” Aaronson, initially a poor street kid struggling to survive in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the early 1920s. One of the few great Italian films of the 1980s and featuring a remarkable reproduction of New York’s Lower East Side, Once Upon a Time in America is visually stunning, violent and desperately sad. More…
22. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer, 110 mins.
Dreyer’s last silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc was shot in France with massive technical and financial resources and in conditions of great creative freedom. Having spent over a year researching Joan of Arc (played here by stage actress Renée Jeanne Falconetti), Dreyer forgoes medieval pageantry or Joan’s military exploits, instead using the records of the Rouen trial to focus on the spiritual and political conflicts of her last day as a captive of England. Instantly acclaimed by critics as a masterpiece (although it was a commercial failure), the film is probably most notable for the symbolic progression of close-up faces that reaches an apotheosis in the long sustained sequence of Joan’s interrogation against a menacing architectural backdrop. Despite French nationalists’ scepticism about whether a Danish person could be in charge of a film that centred on one of France’s most revered historical icons, it’s Dreyer’s brilliant direction, particularly the unconventional emphasis on the actors’ facial features, that along with Falconetti’s unforgettable performance, gives the film its immense emotional power. More…
21. The Mirror (1975) Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 106 mins.
Propelled by autobiographical reflections on Tarkovsky’s own childhood trauma, The Mirror unfolds as an organic flow of memories recalled by a dying poet (based on Tarkovsky’s absent father Arseny, who in reality outlived his son by three years) of key moments in his life both with respect to his immediate family as well as that of the Russian people as a whole during the tumultuous events of the twentieth century. Extremely experimental, the film uses an unconventional nonlinear structure featuring contemporary scenes combined with childhood memories and dreams that have a hallucinatory and rhythmic quality that speaks directly to the subconscious of the viewer. Although when released the film was considered an unfocused failure by some critics and the narrative incomprehensible by many cinema-goers, The Mirror has grown in reputation since to now be considered one of the most beautiful and poetic films ever made. More…
60. Battleship Potemkin (1925) Dir. Sergei M. Eisenstein, 75 mins.
Throughout the silent era Sergei Eisenstein attempted to harmonise his experiments with film aesthetic with the propaganda dictates of the Russian state. By presenting a dramatised version of the mutiny that occurred in 1905 when the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin rebelled against their officers, particularly the moving and shocking portrayal of the tsarist troops massacring innocents on the Odessa steps, he won sympathy and respect for the regime. Watch
59. Schindler’s List (1993) Dir. Steven Spielberg, 195 mins.
The film that finally earned Spielberg an Academy Award for best director, follows Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German entrepreneur, who, during the Holocaust, finds himself developing a moral conscience while running an operation to supply the Nazi war effort. This leads to him unexpectedly saving the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees. The film features stunning black and white photography, an emotive score and an almost unbearably brutal realism. Although accused by some as turning one of the most horrific episodes in human history into entertainment, the film also brought commercial titan Spielberg huge critical recognition and perhaps even helped to reconcile the long struggle between Hollywood’s artistic and moral aspirations and the need for box office success. It’s also notable for the tremendous and charismatic performance of Neeson that’s maybe even bettered by Ralph Fiennes’s chilling portrayal of the inhuman German camp commandant, Amon Goeth. More…
58. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) Dir. Milos Forman, 133 mins.
Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a recidivist criminal serving a short sentence for statutory rape is transferred to a mental institution for evaluation. Buy
57. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) Dir. Peter Jackson, 178 mins.
Before he got too carried away with CGI, New Zealander Peter Jackson got the balance just right in the first of his epic fantasy trilogy set in Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The film tells of the Dark Lord Sauron, who is seeking the One Ring, but its found its way to the young hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). To defeat Sauron, Frodo must leave his simple life in the shire and join a quest with a fellowship that includes the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), his faithful friend Sam (Sean Astin) and the mysterious Strider (Viggo Mortenson). Remarkably well crafted and imagined, Jackson and his team create a visually rich mythical universe that’s on a scale that seemed impossible only a few years earlier. The film’s grandeur is enhanced by the sort of powerful emotional intensity and complex characterisation that is perhaps lost behind the ever growing story strands and huge effects in the follow up films. More…
56. The Third Man (1949) Dir. Carol Reed, 93 mins.
Reed’s visually striking film noir follows American pulp Western writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), who arrives in Vienna seeking an old friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles), who has offered him the opportunity to work with him after World War II. Watch
55. Mulholland Dr. (2001) Dir. David Lynch, 147 mins.
The film tells the story of an aspiring actress named Betty Elms (Naomi Watts), newly arrived in Los Angeles, who meets and befriends an amnesiac hiding in her aunt’s apartment. Watch
54. Paris, Texas (1984) Dir. Wim Wenders, 147 mins.
The plot focuses on an amnesiac named Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) who, after mysteriously wandering out of the desert, attempts to reunite with his brother (Dean Stockwell) and seven-year-old son. After reconnecting with the son, Travis and the boy end up embarking on a voyage through the American Southwest to track down Travis’ long-missing wife (Kinski). Stanton excels in his first real lead role. Watch
53. Touch of Evil (1958) Dir. Orson Welles, 95 mins.
With a screenplay loosely based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson, writer/director Orson Welles’s only studio film of the 1950s follows Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston), a drug enforcement official in the Mexican government. While on honeymoon on the US side of the border a Mexican car bomb explodes and he takes an interest in the investigation. However, he is soon at odds with American police captain Hank Quinlan (Welles) and his shady partner, Menzies (Joseph Calleia) who are attempting to frame an innocent man. Released with four different running times, the original version having been brutally cut by the studio, Welles’s brilliant noir masterpiece was restored to the filmmaker’s true vision in 1998 and its reputation has grown to be deemed not only one of the genre’s best but also one of the greatest films of the 1950s. More…
52. A Brighter Summer Day (1991) Dir. Edward Yang, 237 mins.
Set in Taiwan during the year 1960, a talented but self-centred student refuses to compromise his moral standards with anyone, teachers, friends, parents or girlfriend. Watch
51. Singin’ in the Rain (1952) Dir. Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly, 103 mins.
The film offers a comic depiction of Hollywood, and its transition from silent films to “talkies” and stars Gene Kelly as a popular silent film star. Watch
50. The Decalogue (1989) Dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski, 550 mins.
It consists of ten one-hour films, each of which represents one of the Ten Commandments and explores possible meanings of the commandment within a fictional story set in modern Poland. Buy
49. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Dir. David Lean, 227 mins.
Winner of seven Oscars, Lean’s four hour epic depicts T. E. Lawrence’s experiences in Arabia during World War I, in particular his attacks on Aqaba and Damascus and his involvement in the Arab National Council. Propelled by a stunning central performance from Peter O’Toole (a virtual unknown at the time), the film shows Lawrence’s internal struggles with the violence of war and his divided allegiances between Britain and the Arabian desert tribes. With its mammoth scope, stunning cinematography and intelligent screenplay, Lawrence of Arabia remains one of the greatest and most influential films in the history of cinema. More…
48. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) Dir. F.W. Murnau, 94 mins.
Thanks to the phenomenal success of German director Murnau’s The Last Laugh, he was invited to Hollywood by William Fox to make an expressionist film and given complete control on Sunrise. While the film is invariably described as silent cinema it was one of the first to be released and widely seen with a Fox Movietone sound-on-film music and effects track. Based on the Hermann Sudermann novel A Trip to Tilsit, it takes place in a colourful farming community, where people from the city regularly take their weekend holidays. Local farmer George O’Brien, happily married to Janet Gaynor, falls under the seductive spell of Margaret Livingston, a femme fatale from The City. He callously ignores his wife and child and strips his farm of its wealth on behalf of Livingston, but even this fails to satisfy her. Shot in Murnau’s accustomed manner, with elaborate stylised sets, complicated location shooting and experimental visual effects, the film’s costs far exceeded its earnings, but the poetic tale of sin and redemption overwhelmed critics with its beautiful visual aesthetics and continues to be regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. More…
47. In the Mood for Love (2000) Dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 98 mins.
Sensual and mood driven, the second part of Wong Kar-Wai’s informal trilogy (the others being Days of Being Wild and 2046), vividly recreates a Shanghaiese enclave in Hong Kong in 1962 and centres on two young couples who rent adjacent rooms in a cramped and crowded tenement. It’s a hypnotically beautiful and moving period peace exploring memory, tradition and the loneliness that comes from unrequited love and features a notably sympathetic performance from Tony Leung (who won best actor at Cannes). More…
46. Satantango (1994) Dir. Bela Tarr, 450 mins.
This seven-hour European epic takes place in an abandoned Hungarian farm machinery plant. There live a small band of hobos who will do anything they can to leave the place. A series of events occurs, but the story presents those events from each of the different character’s viewpoints. Buy
45. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 93 mins.
Showcasing Kubrick’s uncanny ability to mix drama and the grotesque, Dr. Strangelove is a sharp satire on Cold War paranoia and the pathology of sexual frustration. The story concerns an unhinged US Air Force general (Sterling Hayden) who orders a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. It also follows the President of the United States, his advisers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a Royal Air Force (RAF) officer as they try to recall the bombers to prevent a nuclear apocalypse. It separately follows the crew of one B-52 bomber as they try to deliver their payload. Along with Hayden the film also features great work from George C. Scott and Peter Sellers, who plays three pivotal parts. A radical and provocative gamble, the film is one of Kubrick’s most brilliantly realised productions and still considered one of the greatest comedies ever made. More…
44. City of God (2002) Dir. Fernando Meirelles, 130 mins.
With a plot loosely based on real events, the film depicts the growth of the slum gangs in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio, with the closure of the film depicting the war between the drug dealer Li’l Zé and bus driver turned criminal Knockout Ned. With an authentically gritty feel, helped by the use of a mainly amateur cast from local favelas, and brilliant energised story telling, City of God is one of the most compelling studies of the irresistibility of criminality and violence for youths who have little in the way of life choices. While some critics denounced the visceral and shocking violence for being shot with entertainment in mind, it is never without purpose and few could argue that the film is not a remarkable technical achievement. More…
43. Psycho (1960) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 109 mins.
Having just enjoyed spectacular success with the lavishly scaled North by Northwest, with Psycho, Hitchcock surprisingly turned to a shooting schedule and black and white photography that was more commonly used in television. The grisly horror/thriller follows Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who, while hiding at a motel after embezzling from her employer, encounters the the initially mild mannered motel owner, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Unsettling and strange when compared to the director’s earlier romantic adventures, the film features a mix of brilliant montage, long mobile camera shots, complex characterisation and dramatic narrative shifts that play with the audience’s expectations. It’s here that Hitchcock’s collaboration with composer Bernard Herrmann arguably reaches its peak, particularly with one of cinema’s most acclaimed sequences, the famous shower scene. Derided at the time of release by critics who deemed it to have too much focus on the sort of seedy subject matter they thought was more at home in cheap horror, the film is now seen as one of Hithcock’s major works. Ultimately, while it’s sex and violence may seem tame and even predictable by 21st century standards, the film represents an important turning point in American film history as it brought such excesses into mainstream cinema but it was also such content, and particularly an increased tendency from Hitchcock towards violence against women, that would later cause a decline in his popularity. Watch
42. Stalker (1979) Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 163 mins.
The film depicts an expedition led by a figure known as the “Stalker” (Aleksandr Kaidanovsky) to take his two clients, a melancholic writer (Anatoli Solonitsyn) seeking inspiration, and a professor (Nikolai Grinko) seeking scientific discovery, to a mysterious restricted site known simply as the “Zone,” where there is a room which supposedly has the ability to fulfill a person’s innermost desires. Watch
41. Harakiri (1962) Dir. Masaki Kobayashi, 133 mins.
Kobayshi’s remarkable Japanese drama, set in the 17th century, explores the cult of the samurai as warriors fight each other in their search for a master in the wake of a Shogun-mandated decentralisation. When a young Samurai is forced to perform ritual suicide using a bamboo sword (a scene that brought some notoriety on release), his family tries to cover up his degrading demise. Shot in black and white widescreen, Harakiri is a criminally overlooked epic that’s darker than much of Kurosawa’s work of this period and unflinching in its brilliantly choreographed violence. Watch
The film is set in the massive, sprawling futuristic mega-city Metropolis, whose society is divided into two classes, one of planners and management, who live high above the Earth in luxurious skyscrapers, and one of workers, who live and toil underground. Watch
79. Jaws (1975) Dir. Steven Spielberg, 124 mins.
In the story, a giant man-eating great white shark attacks beachgoers on Amity Island, a fictional New England summer resort town, prompting the local police chief (Roy Scheider) to hunt it with the help of a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and a professional shark hunter (Robert Shaw). Watch
78. Pather Panchali (1955) Dir. Satyajit Ray, 122 mins.
The first film in the Apu trilogy, Pather Panchali depicts the childhood of the protagonist Apu (Subir Banerjee) and his elder sister Durga (Uma Dasgupta) and the harsh village life of their poor family. Watch
77. Annie Hall (1977) Dir. Woody Allen, 93 mins.
A romantic comedy classic from a screenplay Allen co-wrote with Marshall Brickman. Produced by Allen’s manager, Charles H. Joffe, the film stars Allen as Alvy “Max” Singer, who tries to figure out the reasons for the failure of his relationship with the film’s eponymous female lead, played by Diane Keaton in a role written specifically for her. Watch
76. M (1931) Dir. Fritz Lang, 111 mins.
Fritz Lang’s first talkie, which was shot in just six weeks, is set in 1930’s Berlin and revolves around the actions of a serial killer (Peter Lorre), who preys on children. As mass hysteria mounts among the public, a manhunt begins, conducted by both the police and the criminal underworld. Propelled by Lorre’s career best performance (that caused an international sensation) and the fresh use of shadowy imagery and sound, M is both a high point in German expressionism and a huge influence on what would later be called film noir. It’s a visionary masterpiece that even ninety years on still has the power to astound first time viewers. More…
75. Miller’s Crossing (1990) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 120 mins.
The plot concerns a power struggle between two rival gangs (led by Albert Finney and Jon Polito) and how the protagonist, Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne), plays both sides off against each other. Watch
74. Children of Paradise (1945) Dir. Marcel Carne, 190 mins.
Set against the Parisian theatre scene of the 1820s and 1830s, it tells the story of a beautiful courtesan, Garance, and the four men who love her in their own ways, a mime artist, an actor, a criminal and an aristocrat. Francois Truffaut stated that he would have given up all his films to have directed this one. Watch
73. The Dark Knight (2008) Dir. Christopher Nolan, 152 mins.
The second of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, that redefined the comic book movie, sees Batman (Christian Bale) joining forces with Police Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to combat a new criminal threat from the sinister Joker (Heath Ledger), a criminal mastermind who seeks to undermine the caped crusader and cause chaos in the city of Gotham. Influenced more by crime dramas, such as Michael Mann’s Heat, rather than superhero movies of the past, the film features a terrific ensemble cast and a particularly outstanding performance by Ledger (who sadly died of a drugs overdose just months after filming was completed and won a posthumous Academy Award). While there are hugely entertaining and technically impressive action sequences, its the bold narrative, complex characterisation and stunning visual work that moves the film far beyond its comic book origins into the darker territory of haunting, tragic and sometimes even poetic art. More…
72. The Searchers (1956) Dir. John Ford, 119 mins.
After a break from the genre which had lasted six years, John Ford returned to the western with what many consider to be his masterpiece. The Searchers is Ford’s most psychological film and stars John Wayne, eliciting a monumental performance, as Ethan Edwards, a bitter middle-aged Civil War veteran, who spends seven years obsessively roaming the West, with Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), his adoptive nephew, to find his niece, who was abducted by Comanches. Achingly poignant, it’s a film where Ford shows off his great skill for humanising the epic and finds a perfection in his measured and assured shooting style and his command of landscape as realised in his extraordinary vistas of his beloved Monument Valley. While reaction was a little muted on release, The Searchers has gone on to be acclaimed as Ford’s most important and influential film. More…
71. Gladiator (2000) Dir. Ridley Scott, 155 mins.
Having redefined a number of genres (Horror – Alien, Sci-fi – Blade Runner and the road movie – Thelma and Louise) Ridley Scott turned his hand to reinvigorating the sword and sandal epic with a partial remake of 1964s The Fall of the Roman Empire. Russell Crowe stars as Hispano-Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed when Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), the ambitious son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), murders his father and seizes the throne. Reduced to slavery, Maximus rises through the ranks of the gladiatorial arena to avenge the murders of his family and his emperor. Scott used the latest in computer-generated imagery to deliver a technical masterclass (particularly the visceral battle sequence in Germania) which not only won 5 Oscars but also helped rekindled interest in Roman and classical history. Among an excellent cast are terrific swansongs for Harris and Oliver Reed (who passed away before filming was complete). The level of violence and the historical anachronisms will annoy some but the striking imagery, Crowe’s powerful but yet soulful performance and a superb soundtrack from Hans Zimmer make Gladiator a monumental and thrillingly entertaining epic. More…
70. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) Dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 94 mins.
The film revolves around an unlikely relationship which develops between an elderly woman and a Moroccan migrant worker in post-war Germany. Watch
69. Rear Window (1954) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 112 mins.
Laid up with a broken leg, photojournalist L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart) is confined to his tiny, sweltering courtyard apartment. To pass the time between visits from his nurse (Thelma Ritter) and his fashion model girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly), the binocular-wielding Jeffries stares through the rear window of his apartment at the goings-on in the other apartments around his courtyard. Watch
68. Sunset Blvd. (1950) Dir. Billy Wilder, 110 mins.
The film stars William Holden as an unsuccessful screenwriter and Gloria Swanson as a faded movie star who draws him into her fantasy world, in which she dreams of making a return to the screen. Watch
67. Spirited Away (2001) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 125 mins.
The film follows a sullen ten-year-old girl who is in the process of moving to a new town, and chronicles her adventures in a world of spirits and monsters. Buy
66. City Lights (1931) Dir. Charles Chaplin, 87 mins.
The story follows the misadventures of Chaplin’s Tramp as he falls in love with a blind girl (Virginia Cherrill) and develops a turbulent friendship with an alcoholic millionaire (Harry Myers). Watch
65. The Shining (1980) Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 142 mins.
The Shining is about Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic, who accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of the isolated historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. Wintering over with Jack is his wife Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd), who possesses “the shining”, an array of psychic abilities that allow Danny to see the hotel’s horrific past. Watch
64. The Night of the Hunter (1955) Dir. Charles Laughton, 92 mins.
The plot focuses on a corrupt minister-turned-serial killer (Robert Mitchum) who attempts to charm an unsuspecting widow and steal $10,000 hidden by her executed husband. Watch
63. Solaris (1972) Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 169 mins.
The film is a meditative psychological drama occurring mostly aboard a space station orbiting the fictional planet Solaris. The scientific mission has stalled because the skeleton crew of three scientists have fallen into separate emotional crises. Psychologist Kris Kelvin travels to the Solaris space station to evaluate the situation only to encounter the same mysterious phenomena as the others.
62. Casablanca (1942) Dir. Michael Curtiz, 102 mins.
Set during World War II, it focuses on Rick (Humphrey Bogart), a mysterious embittered man leading a lone existence who is confronted by his lost love, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and finds his priorities starting to change. He becomes torn between his love for Ilsa and helping her and her Czech Resistance leader husband escape the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city. While Bogart, with his sardonic style and ambiguous screen image, is very much the hero of the piece, the film was Swedish actress Bergman’s first major Hollywood success and she provides probably her most memorable performance. The sustained close ups of her face, that show her striking beauty and fundamental nobility, explain what the narrative cannot, that she is virtuous in a way that the cynical Rick had not previously considered. An unlikely adaptation of a play never made, the production struggled through frequent script changes and an unknown ending until it was time to shoot the final scenes. Yet, by utilising familiar patterns in Hollywood narrative, an all-star supporting cast of European performers and the two compelling leads, Casablanca became the most popular of World War II movies and a romantically poignant classic. Watch
61. Reservoir Dogs (1992) Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 99 mins.
It features Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Lawrence Tierney, Tim Roth, Tarantino, and criminal-turned-author Edward Bunker as members of a botched diamond heist. The film depicts the events before and after the attempted robbery. Watch
100. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) Dir. Andrew Dominik, 160 mins.
An adaptation of Ron Hansen’s 1983 novel of the same name, Dominik’s ambitious revisionist western dramatises the relationship between James and Ford through the series of events that led up to the shooting of the legendary outlaw. Edited by Dominik to be “a dark, contemplative examination of fame and infamy,” the studio was initially opposed to his approach as they wanted more action. The writer/director had his way, backed by producers Brad Pitt and Ridley Scott. The film is full of fine performances, particularly by Pitt, who fits the bill as the charismatic and dangerous James but is just about overshadowed by an outstanding portrayal of Robert Ford by Casey Affleck. Along with the two brilliant lead performances, it’s the stunning visuals helped by Roger Deakins’s inventive cinematographic techniques, an emotive soundtrack from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis and a bold script from Dominik that come together to create a stylish mood piece with an epic sweep that explores the casual violence and harsh loneliness of the 19th century American west and the links between criminality and fame. More…
99. Ugetsu (1953) Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi, 94 mins.
It is about a peasant farmer and potter who leaves his wife and young son during civil war, and is seduced by a spirit that threatens his life. A subplot involves his friend, who dreams of becoming a great samurai and achieves this at the unintended expense of his wife. Watch
98. The Right Stuff (1983) Dir. Philip Kaufman, 193 mins.
Adapted from Tom Wolfe’s best-selling 1979 book of the same name the film follows the Navy, Marine and Air Force test pilots who were involved in aeronautical research at Edwards Air Force Base, California, as well as the Mercury Seven, the military pilots who were selected to be the astronauts for Project Mercury, the first manned spaceflight by the United States. Sam Shepherd gives an iconic performance as Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to officially break the sound barrier. Watch
97. Late Spring (1949) Dir. Yasujiro Ozu, 108 mins.
Chisu Ryu plays a middle-class widower with a marriageable daughter. Not wishing to see the girl resign herself to spinsterhood, Ryu pretends that he himself is about to be married. The game plan is to convince the daughter that they’ll be no room for her at home, thus forcing her to seek comfort and joy elsewhere. Watch
96. L’atalante (1934) Dir. Jean Vigo, 89 mins.
Jean Dasté stars as Jean, the captain of a river barge who lives with his new wife Juliette (Dita Parlo) on the boat, along with first mate Père Jules (Michel Simon) and the cabin boy (Louis Lefebvre). Watch
95. Brazil (1985) Dir. Terry Gilliam, 94 mins.
Influenced by the surrealism of Fellini, Gilliam’s Orwellian sci-fi is set in a consumer driven dystopian world, in which there is an over reliance on whimsical and poorly maintained machines. It centres on Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), who lives in a small apartment and works in a mind numbing job while trying to find a woman who appears in his dreams. Watch
94. Paths of Glory (1957) Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 87 mins.
Set during World War I, the film stars Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of French soldiers who refuse to continue a suicidal attack. Dax attempts to defend them against a charge of cowardice in a court-martial. Watch
93. Trainspotting (1996) Dir. Danny Boyle, 94 mins.
An adaptation of the novel by Irving Welsh, the film follows Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewan Bremner) and other heroin addicts in the late 1980s economically depressed area of Edinburgh. After quitting heroin, Renton struggles to adjust to the sober lifestyle he no longer remembers. Watch
92. Pickpocket (1959) Dir. Robert Bresson, 75 mins.
A pickpocket, Kamal, is blamed by his wife for bringing misery to other families as well as to their own home. Although, he has promised to reform himself, he cannot find another line of work which would bring him a living wage. One day, after a morning of picking pockets, Kamal finds a photograph of his wife in a man’s purse he had just stolen. Watch
91. The Deer Hunter (1978) Dir. Michael Cimino, 182 mins.
Co-written and directed by Mchael Cimino, The Deer Hunter is about a trio of Russian American steelworkers whose lives are changed forever after they fight in the Vietnam War. Features arresting and harrowing scenes. Watch
90. Some Like it Hot (1959) Dir. Billy Wilder, 120 mins.
Wilder’s classic comedy follows two musicians (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) who dress in drag in order to escape from mafia gangsters whom they witnessed commit a crime inspired by the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Watch
89. The Lives of Others (2006) Dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 137 mins.
After a series of German comedies about the end of the East German socialist state, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (who was only 16 when the Berlin Wall fell) delivers a deeply unsettling thriller with a remarkably authentic feel. The film involves the monitoring of the cultural scene of East Berlin by agents of the Stasi, particularly Captain Wiesler (the outstanding Ulrich Mühe) who listens in to the lives of a playwright and his prominent actress lover. While the decision to make Wiesler the hero of the piece was criticised by some the film was mostly applauded in Germany and with its clever narrative, build up of suspense and emotional intensity it’s not hard to see why many believe it’s one of the very best films to come out of the country. More…
88. Wild Strawberries (1957) Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 91 mins.
This profound character study chronicles an automobile trip taken by an elderly medical professor (Victor Sjostrom) to accept an honorary degree. Incidents and conversations occurring during the journey are intermixed with dreams and memories as the old man comes to terms with the life he has lived. Acclaimed Swedish silent film director, Sjostrom gives a moving performance as the reflective old man. Watch
87. No Country For Old Men (2007) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 122 mins.
Faithfully adapted from the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, No Country for Old Men tells the story of an ordinary man (Josh Brolin) who, while out hunting, stumbles across the aftermath a drug deal gone awry and walks away with two million dollars in a briefcase. Soon he is being pursued by those who want the money back, including psychopathic hitman Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). While exploring similar ground, such as fate versus self determination, to their earlier crime films Blood Simple and particularly Fargo, the Coen Brothers move into even darker territory to deliver a landscaped based modern western with minimal dialogue and plenty of remorseless killing. Bardem’s chilling performance, the clever build up of suspense, stunning visual sequences and the serious tone (even with the marvellous deadpan humour) help make No Country for Old Men arguably the best of the Coens career so far. More…
86. The Leopard (1963) Dir. Luchino Visconti, 187 mins.
The Leopard chronicles the fortunes of Prince Fabrizio Salina and his family during the unification of Italy in the 1860s. Watch
85. Wings of Desire (1987) Dir. Wim Wenders, 128 mins.
The film is about invisible, immortal angels who populate Berlin and listen to the thoughts of its human inhabitants, comforting those who are in distress. One of the angels (Bruno Ganz), falls in love with a beautiful, lonely trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin). The angel chooses to become mortal so that he can experience human sensory pleasures and discover human love with the trapeze artist. Watch
84. Ikiru (1952) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 143 mins.
The film examines the struggles of a terminally ill Tokyo bureaucrat and his final quest for meaning. Watch
83. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Dir. Frank Darabont, 142 mins.
An adaptation of Stephen King’s prison drama that follows banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murder of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence. Over the following two decades, he befriends a fellow prisoner, Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman), and becomes instrumental in a money laundering operation led by the prison warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton). A film that struggled at the box office but grew in reputation thanks to word of mouth. Particularly notable are Freeman’s superb narration and Robbins compelling performance. Watch
82. Modern Times (1936) Dir. Charles Chaplin, 87 mins.
Modern Times is a silent comedy written and directed by Charlie Chaplin in which his iconic Little Tramp character struggles to survive in the modern, industrialised world. Watch
81. Days of Heaven (1978) Dir. Terrence Malick, 94 mins.
Remarkably immersive and visually stunning, Days of Heaven is set in 1916 and tells the story of Bill and Abby, lovers who travel to the Texas Panhandle to harvest crops for a wealthy farmer. Bill encourages Abby to claim the fortune of the dying farmer by tricking him into a false marriage. Watch
120. The Gold Rush (1925) Dir. Charles Chaplin, 96 mins.
The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) travels to Alaska to take part in the Gold Rush, but bad weather strands him in a remote cabin with a prospector who has found a large gold deposit.
119. Throne of Blood (1957) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 109 mins.
The film transposes the plot of William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth from Medieval Scotland to feudal Japan, with stylistic elements drawn from Noh drama. As with the play, the film tells the story of a warrior who assassinates his sovereign at the urging of his ambitious wife.
118. Fight Club (1999) Dir. David Fincher, 139 mins.
Edward Norton plays the unnamed protagonist, referred to as the narrator, who is discontented with his white-collar job. He forms a “fight club” with soap maker Tyler Durden, (Brad Pitt), and they are joined by men who also want to fight. The narrator becomes embroiled in a relationship with Durden and a dissolute woman, Marla Singer, (Helena Bonham Carter).
117. The Apartment (1960) Dir. Billy Wilder, 125 mins.
The film follows C. C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon), an insurance company clerk who permits his bosses to use his Upper West Side apartment to conduct extramarital affairs in hope of gaining a promotion. Simultaneously Bud pursues a relationship with elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), unaware she is having an affair with one of the apartment’s users (Fred MacMurray).
116. Aparajito (1956) Dir. Satyajit Ray, 110 mins.
It starts off where the previous film Pather Panchali ended, with Apu’s family moving to Varanasi, and chronicles Apu’s life from childhood to adolescence in college, right up to his mother’s death, when he is left all alone.
115. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) Dir. Robert Bresson, 95 mins.
Believed to be inspired by a passage from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot, the film follows a donkey as he is given to various owners, most of whom treat him callously.
114. The General (1926) Dir. Clyde Bruckman, Buster Keaton, 103 mins.
Buster Keaton plays Johnnie Gray, a locomotive engineer. He returns to his hometown in Confederate Georgia to visit his fiance Annabelle Lee when the American Civil War breaks out.
113. The Battle of Algiers (1966) Dir. Gillo Pontecorvo, 121 mins.
The bulk of the film is shot in flashback, presented as the memories of Ali (Brahim Haggiag), a leading member of the Algerian Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN), when finally captured by the French in 1957.
112. The World of Apu (1959) Dir. Satyajit Ray, 105 mins.
It is the third part of The Apu Trilogy, about the childhood and early adulthood of a young Bengali named Apu in the early twentieth century Indian subcontinent.
111. Ordet (1955) Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer, 126 mins.
Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer examines the conflict between internalised personal faith and organised religion. Dreyer sets the drama in a conservative, super-pious Danish town, where widower Morten Borgen (Henrik Malberg), the father of three boys, cuts against the grain of the community with his constant heretical doubt.
110. Chungking Express (1994) Dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 98 mins.
The film consists of two stories told in sequence, each about a lovesick Hong Kong policeman mulling over his relationship with a woman. The first story stars Takeshi Kaneshiro as a cop obsessed with his breakup with a woman named May, and his encounter with a mysterious drug smuggler (Brigitte Lin). The second stars Tony Leung as a police officer roused from his gloom over the loss of his flight attendant girlfriend (Valerie Chow) by the attentions of a quirky snack bar worker (Faye Wong). It’s the relationship between Leung and Wong that really makes the film.
109. Grave of the Fireflies (1988) Dir. Isao Takahata, 89 mins.
Set in the city of Kobe, Japan, the film tells the story of two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, and their desperate struggle to survive during the final months of the Second World War. Harrowing animated drama from Studio Ghibli. Buy
108. The Red Shoes (1948) Dir. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 133 mins.
The film is about a ballerina who joins an established ballet company and becomes the lead dancer in a new ballet called The Red Shoes, itself based on the fairy tale “The Red Shoes” by Hans Christian Andersen.
107. Grand Illusion (1937) Dir. Jean Renoir, 114 mins.
The story concerns class relationships among a small group of French officers who are prisoners of war during World War I and are plotting an escape.
106. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) Dir. Chantal Akerman, 201 mins.
In this experimental film about a middle-aged widow driven to desperation by the crushing boredom of making beds, cleaning bathtubs, cooking, dusting, and even just eating, the real-life time needed to make that bed or to cook is exactly the time used in the film, an effect which makes some viewers just as bored and restless as the widow, and which brings home the point of the film quite well.
105. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) Dir. John Cassavetes, 155 mins.
After an uncomfortable and generally unsuccessful period of directing Hollywood films in the early 70s, Cassavattes returned to his unorthodox mode of independent production and self distribution with the challenging, A Woman Under the Influence. It focuses on a housewife (Cassavetes’s wife Gena Rowlands) who is misunderstood, finds life difficult and is heading for a nervous breakdown. Her seemingly unusual and unpredictable behaviour leads her husband (Peter Falk) to commit her for psychiatric treatment putting much strain on him and their three children. Cassavetes’s keeps things ambiguous and it’s often oddly moving but it’s still Rowland who makes the biggest impression, improvising much of her characters descent into madness and earning herself an Oscar nomination.
104. Man With a Movie Camera (1929) Dir. Dziga Vertov, 68 mins.
Vertov’s filmic manifesto, produced by the studio VUFKU, presents a utopian image of urban life in the Soviet cities of Kiev, Kharkov, Moscow and Odessa. Vertov proclaimed the film an experiment, and it is made without actors, intertitles, a script or sets, showing from dawn to dusk, Soviet citizens at work and at play, and interacting with the machinery of modern life. A tour de force in theoretical cinema, the film is only a documentary by material and more a summary of the themes of the ‘kinoki’ movement, the image of the worker perfect as the machine and that of the filmmaker as socially as useful as the factory worker. The culmination of a decade of audacious and controversial work in non fiction filmmaking for Vertov, The Man With the Movie Camera is one of the of the most unusual works in cinema history and was seen as hopelessly out of date on release thanks to its utopian ideals around city living, but for those with an open mind to different filmmaking techniques it can be a memorable viewing experience. For all the criticism and its avant-garde ambitions, it is one of the few silent films that strongly conveys a sense of everyday life in Soviet Russia. More…
103. The Mother and the Whore (1973) Dir. Jean Eustache, 217 mins.
In this intense character study, irresponsible Parisian Jean-Pierre Leaud decides that he desperately needs a wife and so leaves his lover to propose to his ex-girlfriend. His self-absorbed pseudo-intellectual ramblings turn her off, and she turns him down. He meets a nurse who later involves herself with Leaud and his lover. One of just two feature film’s made by Eustache before his untimely death, The Mother and the Whore has real bite.
102. Sansho the Bailiff (1954) Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi, 124 mins.
Based on a short story of the same name by Mori Ōgai, it follows two aristocratic children who are sold into slavery. Watch
101. Shoah (1985) Dir. Claude Lanzmann, 503 mins.
Shoah is a French documentary about the Holocaust, directed by Claude Lanzmann. Over nine hours long and 11 years in the making, the film presents Lanzmann’s interviews with survivors, witnesses and perpetrators during visits to German Holocaust sites across Poland, including extermination camps.
A woman visits her rich uncle before taking her vows as a nun. When he dies, he leaves his estate to her and his son. She becomes a nun and opens up the estate to house some wretched derelicts. Watch
139. Hiroshima mon amour (1959) Dir. Alain Resnais, 90 mins.
An extramarital affair between a Japanese architect and a French film maker recalls the horrors of the atomic bomb and the prospects for world peace.
138. Yojimbo (1961) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 110 mins.
It tells the story of a rōnin, portrayed by Toshiro Mifune, who arrives in a small town where competing crime lords vie for supremacy. The two bosses each try to hire the newcomer as a bodyguard.
137. Gone with the Wind (1939) Dir. Victor Fleming, 238 mins.
Set in the American South against the backdrop of the American Civil War and the Reconstruction era, the film tells the story of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), the strong-willed daughter of a Georgia plantation owner, from her romantic pursuit of Ashley Wilkes, who is married to his cousin, Melanie Hamilton, to her marriage to Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).
136. The Big Lebowski (1998) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 117 mins.
It stars Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, a Los Angeles slacker and avid bowler. He is assaulted as a result of mistaken identity, after which The Dude learns that a millionaire also named Jeffrey Lebowski was the intended victim. The millionaire Lebowski’s trophy wife is kidnapped, and he commissions The Dude to deliver the ransom to secure her release.
135. Playtime (1967) Dir. Jacques Tati, 155 mins.
Mr. Hulot tries to function in an unrecognisable Paris of modernistic glass-and-steel skyscrapers.
134. La jetee (1962) Dir. Chris Marker, 28 mins.
Constructed almost entirely from still photos, it tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel. Watch
133. Nights of Cabiria (1957) Dir. Federico Fellini, 117 mins.
Based on a story by Fellini, the film is about a prostitute in Rome who searches for true love in vain.
132. Night and Fog (1956) Dir. Alain Resnais, 32 mins.
The documentary features the abandoned grounds of Auschwitz and Majdanek while describing the lives of prisoners in the camps.
131. Sherlock Jr. (1924) Dir. Buster Keaton, 45 mins.
Keaton plays the floor sweeper and projectionist of a small-town movie theatre, who in his free time studies to be a detective.
130. The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) Dir. Marcel Ophuls, 251 mins.
Shown in two parts, the documentary The Sorrow and the Pity was the first film to examine the collaboration between the Vichy government and Nazi Germany during World War II, and the French resistance. It focuses on the town of Clermont-Ferrand, part of Vichy France until the Germans occupied it in 1942. Intercutting between interviews and newsreels, Ophuls creates a remarkable and moving account looking at a highly controversial topic. So explosive, in fact, that French TV stations avoided showing the film until the early 80s, despite its success in cinemas.
129. The Music Room (1958) Dir. Satyajit Ray, 100 mins.
Based on a novel by Tarashankar Banerjee, it is the story of the decline of the aristocracy by following a wealthy man who slowly loses his wealth, his position, his family and his sanity while he watches life go on as normal for all of his friends and neighbours.
128. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Dir. Irvin Kershner, 127 mins.
Set three years after Star Wars, the Galactic Empire, under the leadership of the villainous Darth Vader and the Emperor, is in pursuit of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and the rest of the Rebel Alliance. While Vader relentlessly pursues Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and otheir companions, Luke studies the Force under Jedi Master Yoda preparing to go to aide of his friends. Arguably the best of the Star Wars franchise and featuring one of cinema’s most famous plot twists. Watch
127. The Wizard of Oz (1939) Dir. Victor Fleming, 101 mins.
The Wizard of Oz stars the legendary Judy Garland as Dorothy, an innocent farm girl whisked out of her mundane earthbound existence into a land of pure imagination. Dorothy’s journey in Oz will take her through emerald forests, yellow brick roads, and creepy castles, all with the help of some unusual but earnest song-happy friends.
126. The Conversation (1974) Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 113 mins.
The plot revolves around a surveillance expert and the moral dilemma he faces when his recordings reveal a potential murder.
125. Parasite (2019) Dir. Bong Joon-ho, 132 mins.
The first non-English language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, it follows the members of a poor family who scheme to become employed by a wealthy family by infiltrating their household and posing as unrelated, highly qualified individuals.
124. The Great Dictator (1940) Dir. Charles Chaplin, 125 mins.
During World War I, a Jewish barber (Chaplin) in the army of Tomania saves the life of high-ranking officer Schultz (Reginald Gardiner). While Schultz survives the conflict unscathed, the barber is stricken with amnesia and bundled off to a hospital. Twenty years pass and Tomania has been taken over by dictator Adenoid Hynkel (Chaplin again) and his stooges Garbitsch (Henry Daniell) and Herring (Billy Gilbert).
123. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) Dir. Victor Erice, 97 mins.
The film focuses on a young girl Ana and her fascination with the 1931 American horror film Frankenstein, as well as exploring her family life and schooling.
122. Hoop Dreams (1994) Dir. Steve James, 170 mins.
It follows the story of two African-American high school students in Chicago and their dream of becoming professional basketball players. Watch
121. A Man Escaped (1956) Dir. Robert Bresson, 99 mins.
It is based on the memoirs of André Devigny, a member of the French Resistance held in Montluc prison by the occupying Germans during World War II.
160. I Am Cuba (1964) Dir. Mikhail Kalatozov, 141 mins.
Hidden away in the Soviet archives for three decades, “I Am Cuba” is a wildly schizophrenic celebration of Communist kitsch, mixing Slavic solemnity with Latin sensuality to create a whirling, feverish dance through both the sensuous decadence of Batista’s Havana and the grinding poverty and oppression of the Cuban people. In four stories of the revolution, Mikhail Kalatov’s astonishingly acrobatic camera takes the viewer on a rapturous roller-coaster ride of bathing beauties, landless peasants, fascist police and student revolutionaries.
159. Nashville (1975) Dir. Robert Altman, 159 mins.
The film takes a snapshot of people involved in the country music and gospel music businesses in Nashville, Tennessee. The characters’ efforts to succeed or hold on to their success are interwoven with the efforts of a political operative and a local businessman to stage a concert rally before the state’s presidential primary for a populist outsider running for President of the United States on the Replacement Party ticket. Watch
158. My Life to Live (1962) Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 85 mins.
Nana (Anna Karina), a beautiful Parisian in her early twenties, leaves her husband and infant son hoping to become an actress. Without money, beyond what she earns as a shopgirl, and unable to enter acting, she elects to earn better money as a prostitute. Buy
157. Beauty and the Beast (1946) Dir. Jean Cocteau, 96 mins.
The plot of Cocteau’s film revolves around Belle’s father who is sentenced to death for picking a rose from Beast’s garden. Belle offers to go back to the Beast in her father’s place and Beast falls in love with her and proposes marriage on a nightly basis which she refuses. Belle eventually becomes more drawn to Beast, who tests her by letting her return home to her family and telling her that if she doesn’t return to him within a week, he will die of grief.
156. The Turin Horse (2011) Dir. Bela Tarr, Agnes Hranitzky, 146 mins.
It recalls the whipping of a horse in the Italian city of Turin which is rumoured to have caused the mental breakdown of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
155. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) Dir. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 163 mins.
General Candy (Roger Livesey), who’s overseeing an English squad in 1943, is a veteran leader who doesn’t have the respect of the men he’s training and is considered out-of-touch with what’s needed to win the war. But it wasn’t always this way. Flashing back to his early career in the Boer War and World War I, we see a dashing young officer whose life has been shaped by three different women (all played by Deborah Kerr), and by a lasting friendship with a German soldier.
154. Contempt (1963) Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 103 mins.
Contempt is the story of the end of a marriage. Camille (Brigitte Bardot) falls out of love with her husband Paul (Michel Piccoli) while he is rewriting the screenplay Odyssey by American producer Jeremiah Prokosch (Jack Palance). Just as the director of Prokosch’s film, Fritz Lang, says that The Odyssey is the story of individuals confronting their situations in a real world, Contempt itself is an examination of the position of the filmmaker in the commercial cinema.
153. Pierrot le fou (1965) Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 110 mins.
After abandoning his wife and infant daughter for the new babysitter, a woman he’d loved and lost several years earlier, an errant husband embarks on a haphazard road to tragedy. Right up there with Godard’s best work.
152. The Human Condition III: A Soldier’s Prayer (1961) Dir. Masaki Kobayashi, 190 mins.
After the Japanese defeat to the Russians in the last episode, Kaji, the Japanese soldier and humanist protagonist, leads the last remaining men through Manchuria. Intent on returning to his dear wife and his old life, Kaji faces great odds as he and his fellow men sneak behind enemy lines. It’s an often harrowing drama but still essential viewing.
151. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) Dir. Céline Sciamma, 120 mins.
Set in France in the late 18th century, the film tells the story of a forbidden affair between an aristocrat and a painter commissioned to paint her portrait.
150. The Crowd (1928) Dir. King Vidor, 104 mins.
The story concentrates on John Sims, (brilliantly played by James Murray, an extra boosted to stardom by Vidor). Born on the fourth of July in the year 1900, John is convinced that he’s destined to be a man of importance. Twenty Seven years later, however, Sims is merely one of the faceless crowd, an underpaid clerk in a huge New York office building. On a blind date, John meets Mary (Eleanor Boardman), a likeable if not overly attractive young lady (Boardman, the wife of director Vidor, balked at the notion of departing from her usual glamorous roles; Vidor prevailed, and as a result the actress delivered what is now considered her finest performance). John and Mary are eventually married, raising two children in their tiny New York tenement (complete with a balky toilet-the first time that this particular bathroom fixture ever appeared in an American film). As John’s dreams of glory go unfulfilled, he becomes bitter and argumentative, while Mary grows old before her time.
149. Histoire(s) du cinéma (1998) Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 266 mins.
An 8-part video project begun by Godard in the late 1980s and completed in 1998, Histoire(s) du cinéma is an examination of the history of the concept of cinema and how it relates to the 20th century.
148. Napoleon (1927) Dir. Abel Gance, 330 mins.
The film begins in Brienne-le-Château with youthful Napoleon attending military school where he manages a snowball fight like a military campaign, yet he suffers the insults of other boys. It continues a decade later with scenes of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s presence at the periphery as a young army lieutenant. He returns to visit his family home in Corsica but politics shift against him and put him in mortal danger. He flees, taking his family to France. Serving as an officer of artillery in the Siege of Toulon, Napoleon’s genius for leadership is rewarded with a promotion to brigadier general. Jealous revolutionaries imprison Napoleon but then the political tide turns against the Revolution’s own leaders. Napoleon leaves prison, forming plans to invade Italy. He falls in love with the beautiful Joséphine de Beauharnais. The emergency government charges him with the task of protecting the National Assembly. Succeeding in this he is promoted to Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the Interior, and he marries Joséphine. He takes control of the army which protects the French–Italian border, and propels it to victory in an invasion of Italy. Buy
147. Fargo (1996) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 98 mins.
Featuring some terrific dark humour, Fargo stars Frances McDormand as a pregnant Minnesota police chief investigating roadside homicides that ensue after a desperate car salesman (William H. Macy) hires two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife in order to extort a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law (Harve Presnell).
146. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum (1939) Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi, 148 mins.
The film follows a male actor specialising in playing female roles in late 19th century Japan. Buy
145. Badlands (1973) Dir. Terrence Malick, 95 mins.
Martin Sheen does his best James Dean as a young man who feeling disenfranchised and having lost his job, takes up with a fifteen year old girl (Sissy Spacek) and they go on a Midwest crime spree in Terrence Malick’s hypnotically assured debut feature, based on the 1950s Starkweather-Fugate murders.
144. The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (1959) Dir. Masaki Kobayashi, 208 mins.
Drawing from his own experiences, Kobayashi weaves the tale of a Japanese pacifist, trying to get by as best he can during World War II. Buy
143. Stop Making Sense (1984) Dir. Jonathan Demme, 88 mins.
Bank rolled by Talking Heads themselves, Jonathan Demme’s concert film was shot over the course of three nights at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater in December 1983, as the American rock band were touring to promote their new album ‘Speaking in Tongues.’ Notable as the first movie made using entirely digital audio techniques, it’s also been lauded for the brilliant direction, editing and the energy and general performance of the band.
142. Close-Up (1990) Dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 90 mins.
The film tells the story of the real-life trial of a man who impersonated film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, conning a family into believing they would star in his new film. Watch
141. Woman in the Dunes (1964) Dir. Hiroshi Teshigahara, 123 mins.
When entomologist Jumpei (Eiji Okada) travels to sand dunes on an expedition, he is met by a group of people who offer him a place to spend the night. They soon lead him to a house at the bottom of a sandpit. Upon climbing into the pit, he finds a young widow (Kyoko Kishida) living alone. Placed there by the villagers, her task is to dig sand out of the pit, not only so that they can avoid getting buried, but so that the locals can use it for construction.
180. Double Indemnity (1944) Dir. Billy Wilder, 107 mins.
The film stars Fred MacMurray as an insurance salesman, Barbara Stanwyck as a provocative housewife who wishes her husband were dead, and Edward G. Robinson as a claims adjuster whose job is to find phony claims.
179. On the Waterfront (1954) Dir. Elia Kazan, 108 mins.
The film focuses on union violence and corruption amongst longshoremen on the waterfronts of Hoboken, New Jersey. Marlon Brando makes a huge impact as a dockworker and once promising boxer whose brother is the right hand man of a mob connected union boss.
178. Nosferatu (1922) Dir. F.W. Murnau, 81 mins.
F. W. Murnau’s landmark vampire film begins in the Carpathian mountains, where real estate agent Hutter has arrived to close a sale with the reclusive Herr Orlok. Despite the feverish warnings of the local peasants, Hutter journeys to Orlok’s sinister castle and soon discovers that Orlok is no ordinary mortal.
177. Scenes From a Marriage (1973) Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 169 mins.
Spanning a period of 10 years, the story explores the disintegration of a marriage between Marianne, a family lawyer specialising in divorce, and Johan, a college professor. Buy
176. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) Dir. Robert Altman, 120 mins.
In a small American frontier village, a stranger named McCabe (Warren Beatty) builds a brothel with the help of experienced madame Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie). The town soon prospers, and success brings the jealous, and potentially deadly, attentions of a wealthy mining company.
175. Fitzcarraldo (1982) Dir. Werner Herzog, 158 mins.
It portrays would-be rubber baron Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald (Klaus Kinski), who has to pull a steamship over a steep hill in order to access a rich rubber territory.
174. High and Low (1963) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 142 mins.
Toshirô Mifune is unforgettable as Kingo Gondo, a wealthy industrialist whose family becomes the target of a cold-blooded kidnapper in Akira Kurosawa’s highly influential crime drama.
173. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (2000) Dir. Edward Yang, 173 mins.
The film’s theme centres around the emotional struggles of an engineer named NJ (Wu Nien-jen) and three generations of his middle-class Taiwanese family who reside in Taipei.
172. Manhattan (1979) Dir. Woody Allen, 96 mins.
Woody Allen’s love letter to cinema, Manhattan sees him co-star as a twice-divorced 42-year-old comedy writer who dates a 17-year-old girl (Mariel Hemingway) but falls in love with his best friend’s mistress (Diane Keaton). Watch
171. Le trou (1960) Dir. Jacques Becker, 132 mins.
The film is based on a true event concerning five inmates in La Santé Prison in France in 1947.
170. A Separation (2011) Dir. Asghar Farhadi, 123 mins.
It focuses on an Iranian middle-class couple who separate, the disappointment and desperation suffered by their daughter due to the egotistical disputes and separation of her parents, and the conflicts that arise when the husband hires a lower-class caregiver for his elderly father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
169. Memories of Underdevelopment (1968) Dir. Tomas Gutierrez Alea, 97 mins.
With international revolutionary fervour at its height, Alea made this subtle and complex political drama that looks at the alienation of a bourgeois intellectual within the revolution. It follows the indecisive Sergio (Sergio Correri) who even though he refuses to flee Cuba in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion, is seemingly happy to see his wife, parents and friends leave for Miami. He is sceptical of the ability of the Revolution to make a real change to Cuban life, observing that it is only the latest passion for an ever-changing society. Teeming with originality, Memories of Underdevelopment intelligently portrays the end of an old Cuba and the struggle to bring in a new one.
168. Jules and Jim (1962) Dir. Francois Truffaut, 105 mins.
Set around the time of World War I, it describes a tragic love triangle involving French Bohemian Jim (Henri Serre), his shy Austrian friend Jules (Oskar Werner), and Jules’s girlfriend and later wife Catherine (Jeanne Moreau).
167. The Forgotten Ones (1950) Dir. Luis Bunuel, 85 mins.
The story concerns a gang of juvenile delinquents, whose sole redeeming quality is their apparent devotion to one another. Watch
166. Cinema Paradiso (1988) Dir. Giuseppe Tornatore, 155 mins.
The story begins in the present as a Sicilian mother pines for her estranged son, Salvatore, who left many years ago and has since become a prominent Roman film director who has taken the advice of his mentor too literally. He finally returns to his home village to attend the funeral of the town’s former film projectionist, Alfredo, and, in so doing, embarks upon a journey into his boyhood just after WWII when he became the man’s official son.
165. Full Metal Jacket (1987) Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 116 mins.
Its storyline follows a platoon of U.S. Marines through their training, primarily focusing on two privates, Joker and Pyle, who struggle to get through camp under their foul-mouthed drill instructor, Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, and the experiences of two of the platoon’s Marines in the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. Becomes somewhat disjointed when it reaches Vietnam but that’s probably to do with war being just that.
164. Day of Wrath (1943) Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer, 97 mins.
After his previous film, Vampyr was badly received, Dreyer spent a decade on failed projects and had even returned to his former career as a journalist before he was able to direct Day of Wrath. The film tells the story of a young woman who is forced into a marriage with an elderly pastor after her late mother was accused of witchcraft. She falls in love with the pastor’s son and also comes under suspicion of the dark arts. Stark and restrained, its style pushing towards abstraction and enhanced by high contrast photography, Day of Wrath is a powerful statement on faith, superstition and religious intolerance.
163. The Sacrifice (1986) Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 149 mins.
Starring Erland Josephson, it centres on a middle-aged intellectual who attempts to bargain with God to stop an impending nuclear holocaust.
162. Sans Soleil (1983) Dir. Chris Marker, 100 mins.
Recognised as one of the major films of the 1980s, Chris Marker’s documentary, with a narrative concerning time travel, is a meditation on the nature of human memory, showing the inability to recall the context and nuances of memory, and how, as a result, the perception of personal and global histories is affected. With haunting images from Tokyo and Guinea Bissau, Sans Soleil is an eloquent melancholic take on the perishable ideological certainties of the 1960s.
161. Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980) Dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 894 mins.
Originally broadcast in 1980, as a 14-part West German television miniseries, Berlin Alexanderplatz was adapted and directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder from the Alfred Döblin novel of the same name.