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