The 15 Greatest Arthouse Films of all Time

by tom314 | created - 20 Oct 2012 | updated - 28 Oct 2012 | Public

Arthouse is probably the most difficult genre to define. Each person sees it differently depending on various reasons. For this list I have chosen films which I consider to be 'arthouse' mainly due to the cinematography or near poetic nature.

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1. The Tree of Life (2011)

PG-13 | 139 min | Drama, Fantasy

6.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
85 Metascore

The story of a family in Waco, Texas in 1956. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence and struggles with his parents' conflicting teachings.

Director: Terrence Malick | Stars: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken

Votes: 148,376 | Gross: $13.30M

Terrence Malicks Palme d'Or winner is by far the most beautifully captured story of life. Sean Penn plays a man wandering for something which takes him back to childhood in Waco, Texas during the 1950's. The contrast between his mother and father is captured magnificently with his mother captured in an almost angelic light. The film is filled with stunning imagery, including a the origin of the cosmos and shot almost through a child's eyes, whilst we are left to ponder the greatest questions on existence.

2. Three Colors: Blue (1993)

R | 98 min | Drama, Music, Mystery

8.0
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85 Metascore

A woman struggles to find a way to live her life after the death of her husband and child.

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski | Stars: Juliette Binoche, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Benoît Régent

Votes: 70,211 | Gross: $1.32M

The Three Colours Trilogy is one the defining arthouse moments. Blue's artist style is the stand out of the three, due to its cinematography and a beautifully told story of a woman's depression along with that incredible soundtrack.

3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

G | 149 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi

8.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
86 Metascore

Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter

Votes: 485,804 | Gross: $56.95M

4. Melancholia (2011)

R | 135 min | Drama

7.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
80 Metascore

Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide with Earth.

Director: Lars von Trier | Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgård

Votes: 142,661 | Gross: $3.03M

After my first viewing of this film I hated it, yet I also loved it. The films opening scene is shown in an extreme slow-motion and captured beautifully, from then on its hand held work, yet still just as incredible to look at with the ending scene being something truly magnificent! What I hated about it was just how empty and depressed I was left feeling. Despite that, it's Von Trier's most beautiful and heartbreaking masterpiece.

5. Antichrist (2009)

Not Rated | 108 min | Drama, Horror

6.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
49 Metascore

A grieving couple retreat to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse.

Director: Lars von Trier | Stars: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm

Votes: 98,217 | Gross: $0.40M

Loved by some, detested by others. Similar to Roeg's Don't Look Now, Von Trier's story of a couple's grief is dark, depressing, twisted, bizarre and Freudien. The couple, known as 'he' and 'she', He, being a therapist, takes her to the woods, almost ironically named 'Eden', to repair her grief, whilst she is writting a thesis on gynocide. The film becomes darker and more depressing whilst offering sick or fascinating theories (depending on how you choose to look at it) on women and on reality. Sick, misogynistic or genius, regardless of what you think of it, it's certainly a brilliant arthouse film.

6. The 400 Blows (1959)

Not Rated | 99 min | Crime, Drama

8.1
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Moving story of a young boy who, left without attention, delves into a life of petty crime.

Director: François Truffaut | Stars: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Albert Rémy, Claire Maurier, Guy Decomble

Votes: 80,408

7. The Seventh Seal (1957)

Not Rated | 96 min | Drama, Fantasy

8.2
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A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.

Director: Ingmar Bergman | Stars: Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Nils Poppe

Votes: 126,750

8. Stalker (1979)

Not Rated | 162 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

8.1
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A guide leads two men through an area known as the Zone to find a room that grants wishes.

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky | Stars: Alisa Freyndlikh, Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy, Anatoliy Solonitsyn, Nikolay Grinko

Votes: 81,922 | Gross: $0.23M

9. Andrei Rublev (1966)

Not Rated | 205 min | Biography, Drama, History

8.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

The life, times and afflictions of the fifteenth-century Russian iconographer.

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky | Stars: Anatoliy Solonitsyn, Ivan Lapikov, Nikolay Grinko, Nikolay Sergeev

Votes: 29,494

10. Breaking the Waves (1996)

R | 159 min | Drama

7.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
76 Metascore

Oilman Jan is paralyzed in an accident. His wife, who prayed for his return, feels guilty; even more, when Jan urges her to have sex with another.

Director: Lars von Trier | Stars: Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgård, Katrin Cartlidge, Jean-Marc Barr

Votes: 53,251 | Gross: $4.04M

11. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

R | 102 min | Drama

8.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
68 Metascore

The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island people are shattered when their addictions run deep.

Director: Darren Aronofsky | Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans

Votes: 644,236 | Gross: $3.64M

12. Don't Look Now (1973)

R | 110 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

7.3
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A married couple grieving the recent death of their young daughter are in Venice when they encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom is psychic and brings a warning from beyond.

Director: Nicolas Roeg | Stars: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason, Clelia Matania

Votes: 38,592

13. Three Colors: Red (1994)

R | 99 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance

8.1
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100 Metascore

A model discovers her neighbor is keen on invading people's privacy.

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski | Stars: Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder, Jean-Pierre Lorit

Votes: 70,584 | Gross: $4.04M

14. Seven Samurai (1954)

Not Rated | 207 min | Adventure, Drama

8.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
98 Metascore

A poor village under attack by bandits recruits seven unemployed samurai to help them defend themselves.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima, Yukiko Shimazaki

Votes: 256,188 | Gross: $0.27M

15. Rashômon (1950)

Not Rated | 88 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

8.3
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A heinous crime and its aftermath are recalled from differing points of view.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura

Votes: 117,494