Vivre sa Vie: One of the great existential films of all time. After all, the title translates to “My Life to Live.” It’s my personal favorite from filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. Godard brings a lot of his typical sixties- style to this film. He brings the same Brechtian distancing to the film through the use of intertitles describing what the “chapter” of the film is about, and jump cuts. Characters are shot from behind when they are talking, are strongly backlit, and talk into the camera sometimes. Anna Karina gives one of her best performances in this film and it has one of my favorite film scenes of all time in it– the “shootout scene.” Don’t miss it!
Tokyo Story: When it comes to family-drama, can you think of one film even close to this? From the master of the family-drama, Yasujirô Ozu, we get a tour de force Japanese masterpiece that never leaves us. Ozu shows us the depth of simplicity through both story and style. He breaks our hearts with the simple plot of parents who come to visit their kids and end up connecting with their daughter in-law instead. With the frequent breaking of the 180 degree rule and the camera only moving once the whole movie, we are totally sucked into such a simple plot.
A Clockwork Orange: Who hasn’t seen this Stanley Kubrick classic? It is Kubrick’s finest, in my opinion. Every time I watch this film, I think about it for days afterwards. It’s the best critique of utilitarian philosophy to date. Kubrick creates a science fiction world like no other, and it is arguably the most well directed film of all time. Malcolm McDowell brings one of the greatest film characters of all time to life in an unforgettable way. My favorite film narration ever. A must see!
Taxi Driver: The best character study of all time. Martin Scorsese makes us see the world through the lens of Travis Bickle. He forces us to relate with this crazy man until the very end when we are deceived by his actions. Robert De Niro brings this character to life with his best performance to date and one of the best acting performances ever, in general. Between the brilliant character study, Robert De Niro’s performance, Bernard Herrmann’s brilliant score, and Martin Scorsese’s brilliant directing, this film is a classic that is surely never to be forgotten.
The 400 Blows: Without hesitation the best coming of age film of all time. This is really the film that launched the French New Wave. François Truffaut changed the face of cinema over the corse of his career but this is really the one that changed it the most. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the movie is that it predicted the May 1968 student riots in France. In the beginning of the film the teacher explodes at the kids because of all the graffiti on the walls, their disruptive behavior, etc. He yells, “What will France be like in 10 years!?” It is a largely autobiographical account of Truffaut’s childhood. From the masterful camerawork inspired by Jean Renoir, to the location shooting inspired by Italian Neorealism, to Jean-Pierre Leaud’s magnificent performance, this film is absolutely beautiful and unforgettable. A universally relatable classic that should be seen by everyone.
8 ½: The film that solidified Federico Fellini’s break from the Italian neorealist movement. The film the began Fellini’s surrealist phase. This phase notoriously began because Fellini had done LSD, which completely changed his life, while shooting La Dolce Vita. Fellini develops the main character through showing us his dreams. This is one of Fellini’s most autobiographical films, and it is his masterpiece. My second favorite Nina Rota score after The Godfather and my favorite film from my favorite director!
La Dolce Vita: Fellini’s critique of celebrity life and the press. The word “paparazzi” actually comes from this movie. The title translates to “The Sweet Life.” It also is a commentary on the seven deadly sins. The movie takes place over seven days in the seven hills of Rome. It is the first collaboration between Fellini and Marcello Mastroianni, one of the great actor-director partnerships of all time. It has one of the best film scenes of all time in it: the “Trevi Fountain scene”. Yet another timeless score from Nina Rota, one of the best performances ever from one of the best actors ever; Marcello Mastroianni, and one of the most well directed films ever from Federico Fellini.
The Seventh Seal: One of the masterpieces of foreign cinema. From one of my favorite directors of all time: Ingmar Bergman. The best existential film of all time in my opinion. The best words to describe this film would be slow, monochrome, and mystical. Legendary actor Max von Sydow brings one of the best movie characters ever alive in his best performance to date. Ingmar Bergman is the best director to ever deal with existential themes.
There Will Be Blood: My favorite film of the 21st century. Daniel Day-Lewis gives the best acting performance of all time in this film, and it stands as Paul Thomas Anderson’s best film. You can tell that he is aging from watching this and his older films. He keeps some stylistic trademarks such as the constantly moving camera, the extremely loud music, and exploring themes of family. What changes is that rather than the very fast camera, the camera rather moves much slower and the shots are very carefully composed, and the pacing is slower and is much more detailed. The film is an examination of capitalism and greed that came out at the perfect time- the beginning of the Great Recession. Surely to be a classic in the future.
Apocalypse Now: Francis Ford Coppolas best film, even better than The Godfather. He shows us the horrors of war in a way that no film has before and no film ever will again. My favorite film opening of all time. The film features some of the best editing I have ever seen. It is edited so that it will show our main character and what he is looking at, at the same time. Shots will open with what he is looking at and half of the screen will dim and we will see our lead character’s reaction. Starring Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford and more, it has one of the greatest casts of all time.