Artimidor's 111+ Movie Masterpieces, Reviews & Trailers

by Artimidor | created - 20 Aug 2011 | updated - 11 months ago | Public

Welcome to my personal list of pictures of all time greatest cinematic accomplishments, including films or - in rare cases - film series made for TV which are worth watching for everyone interested in great film making. The list of movies below demonstrates my genuine appreciation of the picture in motion as an art form, which is why the given examples need to excel in multiple fields to be worth recommending. I also try to provide short introductions to every film with my reasons for selecting them, and hope to expand and refine this list as I go along in order to make this an indispensable reference guide for every movie aficionado's perusal. I hope you enjoy the selection and it makes you want to set out on your personal journey and explore some perhaps still uncharted waters in the realm of cinema. Here's a map.

Latest additions/review updates: 2016/03/14 ~ #100 - The Naked Island (Shindô, 1960) 2015/08/24 ~ #041 - Once Upon a Time in America (Leone, 1984) [Updated] 2015/08/17 ~ #105 - Drifting Clouds (Kaurismäki, 1996) 2015/04/15 ~ #104 - Tarnation (Caouette, 2003) 2014/12/24 ~ #013 - Seven Up! (Apted, 1964-2012) [Updated]

Reviews coming up: My Life as a Dog (Hallström, 1985)

List Navigation: Movie Ranks 1-100, 101-200

Artimidor Webmaster of the Santharian Dream

P.S.: Feel free to make suggestions and recommendations or check out my other lists:

* Complete Film Ratings by Director * Essential TV series * Unforgettable Moments (cinema's finest scenes)

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1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

G | 149 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi

82 Metascore

A space-opera spanning the dawn of man to humanity reaching the stars, 2001: A Space Odyssey tells the story of the Black Monolith, humanity's evolution and the rise of A.I.'s ultimate supercomputer HAL 9000.

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

Votes: 520,460 | Gross: $56.95M

One of the brightest shining stars in movie history In hypothetical 2001 Stanley Kubrick takes you on a unique journey into the unknown, far out there in the vast reaches of our universe, where man is alone with himself - or is it? Paying close attention to scientific accuracy Kubrick's vision of the future feels so close to reality that it is still convincing many years after the year 2001 actually has passed, setting the benchmark way up for everyone else who should try to follow up with sci-fi approaches put to celluloid. But whoever might try their hands on a similar subject, the supreme beauty of what sprang from Kubrick's ingenuity will always be something to marvel at. Remember that the mother of all space operas was produced at a historic time shortly before man made his first step on the moon - and since then "2001" has remained the unparalleled sci-fi revelation not only due to its highly effective realism, but also its sophistication, depth and audio-visual magnificence, all rolled into one.

Yet undoubtedly "2001" is so much more than just a perfectly executed sci-fi picture. It's a voyage dealing not only with space exploration, but also with evolution, belief, artificial intelligence, alien life forms, metaphysics, philosophy, in short: man himself, his aspirations and challenges - and tries to point into what lies beyond. Or - if you want - one can still enjoy the picture just as the ultimate adventure. Take your pick! Feel free to draw your own conclusions, but there's a lot to get out of this multilayered film, providing you are ready to put your mind to it. "2001" is a movie for the ages, a sublime experience of transcendency, a film that represents the epitome of art in terms of film-making, best summarized with one single word: a masterpiece.

Watch trailer here: (Re-Release 2014)

2. Mulholland Dr. (2001)

R | 147 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

83 Metascore

After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Jeanne Bates

Votes: 281,991 | Gross: $7.22M

A deep dive into a dream world - David Lynch at his very best Hollywood, the city where dreams come true. Yet the realities of the dream world have the tendency to eventually turn into a nightmare, a nightmare which is too real to be lived in... Welcome to a David Lynch picture, where nothing is as it seems, and Lynchian logic reigns to leave you befuddled, mystified, mouth agape when the curtain falls and silence spreads. Mulholland Drive is a movie which engulfs the viewer in its intricate mystery plot like no other and leaves you with a load of memorable, haunting or outright shocking images you will never forget. You might be caught off guard by the true nature of the underlying mystery, and the denouement will keep you mesmerized for sure, making a re-watch essential, yet rewarding experience. As often with an excentric filmmaker's work, this is a movie to only get going in your head once it's already over, and if you're willing to get immersed in it.

Lynch's masterpiece invites to dig deeper, to uncover new layers, hidden references, multiple interpretations. The film is as psychologically profound as it is visually stunning and while it draws its fascination from what appears surreal at first glance, it is nevertheless firmly embedded in a reality that won't let us go, blood-curdling as it might turn out, a reality full of hopes, dreams, obsessions, fear, you name it. "Mulholland Drive" is packed with great imagery, dark humor, wonderful music and bizarre twists and turns and stars Naomi Watts in her most brilliant role. It's a blessing indeed that Mulholland Dr. as a TV series as Lynch original envisioned and pitched it, didn't happen and he had to rethink his ideas for a year - because that was when lightning struck. Pure movie magic. This one's a keeper.

Watch trailer here:

3. Werckmeister harmóniák (2000)

145 min | Drama, Mystery

92 Metascore

An innocent young man witnesses violence break out after an isolated village is inflamed by the arrival of a circus and its peculiar attractions: a giant whale and a mysterious man named "The Prince."

Directors: Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky | Stars: Lars Rudolph, Peter Fitz, Hanna Schygulla, János Derzsi

Votes: 10,750 | Gross: $0.03M

An intense look into the eye of the storm "Werckmeister Harmonies" tells a tale like no other in a way like no one else has ever done before. If you're ready for a very different kind of art, feel free to follow a humble paper boy with the sense for wonder on his rounds. He has a clear picture in mind of what makes the universe tick, a strong belief that everything follows its preordained order, is in eternal harmony, a concept the musicologist he's working for vehemently denies - or at least that man is capable to understand it. Signs and portents already make it clear that the times are achanging, and soon shadows engulf an unnamed town in the middle of nowhere, when a circus arrives with a monstrous fish to be exhibited. And thus the young János sets out to see a whale, but what he'll get is a glimpse of an alienating apocalyptical eclipse happening right before his eyes...

"Werckmeister Harmonies" is another highly politically, philosophically, existentially, even religiously charged work, depending which way you want to see it, made by the visionary Hungarian director Béla Tarr. Based on the novel "The Melancholy of Resistance" written by long-time collaborator László Krasznahorkai it is as uncompromising as the original text and Tarr's previous cinematic works, and will bring your attention span to its limits due to its extremely slow, yet sublimely otherworldly pace. As always when Krasznahorkai and Tarr set out on a new project, the action is of profound metaphysical relevance with cosmological principles at war, but nevertheless deeply rooted in social realism, in which one can read Hungarian disenchanted life before and/or after the fall of communism, references to wars and uprisings, to false prophets, fools and opportunists pulling the strings from behind the curtain. What is apparent from the get-go is that the film defies conventions. Stylistically it is nothing less than a revelation, even for Tarr adepts, provided you admit to the created mood. Photography is in striking black and white, all around aesthetically superb essays in motion - and above all perfectly timed, an essential key element in shots that last several minutes. Every scene forms a visual unit in itself, composed meticulously, executed flawlessly, enhanced either by absolute silence, precise sound or Mihály Vig's incomparable melancholic music on the soundtrack. "Werckmeister Harmonies" is much more than a movie, a unique work of art that delves deep and stirs profoundly. Essential viewing.

Watch trailer here:

4. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Not Rated | 114 min | Biography, Drama, History

In 1431, Jeanne d'Arc is placed on trial on charges of heresy. The ecclesiastical jurists attempt to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions.

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer | Stars: Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, André Berley, Maurice Schutz

Votes: 38,591 | Gross: $0.02M

Timeless mysticism founded in stark realism The saint Maid of Orléans' legend has been filmed many times, but no version can hold a candle to Dreyer's groundbreaking silent take on the subject matter. What the ingenious Dane himself dubbed "psychological realism" and "realized mysticism" is a masterfully shot close-up feast generating an overwhelming flood of imagery, a lead that Dreyer called the "martyr's reincarnation herself" (the incomparable Renee Falconetti) and powerful re-enactment of original dialog transcribed at the trial in 1431. But it's also a forthright picture sans make-up, sound, not even a backstory is there, but all of it is lacking for a reason. "The Passion of Joan of Arc" is completely focused film-making, minimalism in its purest form, centering entirely on a core theme and thus radically eliminating all other elements that hinder the primary endeavor. Even the sets only seem to exist merely on the fringe of the spiritual drama and tragedy, which unfolds through the eyes of the actors via glimmers, flickers and stares. Confronted with piercing questions again and again circling like vultures above the torn state of mind of the famous maid, Joan's soul is revealed to us. Enlightened or a lunatic is not for the film-maker to decide. However, simplicity elevated to a film-making method makes our own observations a devastating and spellbinding journey at the same time, a journey into another world from where there is no escape. What we witness is indeed timeless mysticism founded in stark reality, and that's why it shakes us to the bone.

Dreyer preferred the picture to be shown in dead silence, which makes "Joan of Arc" work as a highly contemplative, almost tangible spiritual experience of the first rank. Nevertheless several composers have tried to provide a score to this masterpiece, giving the scenes a completely new spin - all very diverse attempts, ranging from piano accompaniment to very modern interpretations. The definitive one of these is Richard Einhorn's orchestral choir supported "Voices of Light" soundtrack (1995), a masterpiece in itself, but together with Dreyer's intimate rendering of Joan of Arc's devotion to her belief an entirely new sublime work of art emerges. Completely silent or with the Einhorn score: there's no way around Falconetti's soulful portrayal in one of the greatest films of all time.

Scene from Joan of Arc (Einhorn score):

5. Amélie (2001)

R | 122 min | Comedy, Romance

69 Metascore

Amélie is an innocent and naive girl in Paris with her own sense of justice. She decides to help those around her and, along the way, discovers love.

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet | Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Lorella Cravotta

Votes: 631,397 | Gross: $33.23M

Angels have names too: this one's called Amélie Romantic comedies rarely make it to anyone's serious top ten list, as movies of that kind cater to specific expectations and do not attempt to be anything else. But of course there's the exception to the rule: Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Amélie". It's the movie about the search for happiness, about small things, about dreams tucked neatly under the surface of reality which want out, also a training video for wanna-be mortal angels: "Amélie" is the ultimate reminder of carpe diem, to seize the day and play an active role in the fortune of others and one's self, providing instructions on how to glue together broken personalities. Recounted in voice-overs, embedded in fantastic music that is as French as it can be, the movie is filmed with an incredible love for detail and quirkiness a viewer can handle in two hours: Learn fascinating facts about nothing particularly important, appreciate how different things happen at the same time all around Paris, meet traveling garden-gnomes, horses riding in the Tour de France.

Audrey Tautou was born for the role of jaunty Amélie, and she would work again with Jeunet in "Un long dimanche de fiançailles" - however, you cannot copy the magic of the first film. Jeunet always takes risks with ideas, sometimes going too far in a direction the audience isn't ready to go with him. He should receive his merits for trying, though. Because every now and then idea, story, actors, combined with the incomparable image laden style Jeunet puts on the screen, come together, and the result is a film as breathtaking as "Amélie".

Watch trailers here:

6. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

R | 136 min | Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi

80 Metascore

In the future, a sadistic gang leader is imprisoned and volunteers for a conduct-aversion experiment, but it doesn't go as planned.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke

Votes: 663,865

Controversial, essential, brilliantly scored, wonderfully shot - a must-see! "A Clockwork Orange" is an ingenious film-makers's masterclass. It's a captivating high-speed ultra-horror tour de force, a raw, grisly plunge into violence, in-out sex, rape and murder, a fall into nothingness, there and back again, accompanied by doom a-knocking with the sound of the Funeral Marsh of Queen Mary. There's also lots of Ludwig van in between in a central role, making "A Clockwork Orange" one of the best scored pictures of all time. The topic at hand is a sci-fi tale about gruesome violence based on Anthony Burgess' book, which director Stanley Kubrick made too frighteningly real for some, sugared by the film's aestheticism of violence, critics say he thus embellished despicable acts. This forced Kubrick to retract his own movie in the UK in order to prevent copycats from imitating the film - a circumstance, which of course only contributed to its undisputed cult status. "A Clockwork Orange" was a risky undertaking, a film that stirred, shocked, repelled or was loved all for the wrong reasons, but there is no way around it any way you look at it.

From the first hundred percent orange screen in movie history, to Malcolm McDowell's first shot revealing him sitting in the Korova Milk Bar with his droogies, to Jesus statues dancing thanks to changing camera angles and quick cuts and "Singing in the Rain" - in every little moment of the movie there's no doubt that a master is at work.

Watch trailer here:

7. Life Is Beautiful (1997)

PG-13 | 116 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

59 Metascore

When an open-minded Jewish librarian and his son become victims of the Holocaust, he uses a perfect mixture of will, humor, and imagination to protect his son from the dangers around their camp.

Director: Roberto Benigni | Stars: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini, Giustino Durano

Votes: 526,733 | Gross: $57.60M

Holocaust meets comedy and someone who can pull it off Question: Is there any conceivable way at all to combine the holocaust with comedy and get laughs out of it? Well, not really I'd say, not without completely sacrificing the unspeakable horrors the concept of organized mass murder stands for. One shouldn't even try. If you look closer at Roberto Benigni's "Life is Beautiful" you will see that such an attempt isn't actually made either in this film. It's not about ridiculing Nazis, confronting them with their own absurdities or pretend to go along with their ideas to make the underlying idiocy apparent. This is just a means. Rather the film creates a parallel, carefree world alongside the horrific reality of the Nazis, which is upheld by the central character Guido (played by Benigni himself), a clown at heart. All this in order to keep up the illusion of a perfect world for his son Giosué in the face of impending doom. "Ah, the train ride was no good," the father admits to his son when they arrive at the concentration camp. "When we go back we take the bus. I'll tell them!" And when young Giosué wants to quit what Guido has convinced him to be just a game, his father is the first one to head out: "We're in the lead now, but well, we won't get the big prize then. Too bad." And suddenly Giosué reconsiders.

Roberto Benigni undoubtedly is a brilliant comedian. He's unforgettable e.g. in Jim Jarmusch's "Night on Earth" as a crazy cab driver to name just one example, but unfortunately his talent is often wasted in various light comedies. Great opportunities arise rarely for comedians, but Benigni grabbed this one and put all his heart into it, as director and actor. Contrasting his slapstick humor with the stark, painful reality of the Nazi's final solution to the Jew problem is daring, risky and extremely difficult to pull off. Thanks, Roberto Benigni, for giving the impossible a try. Highest recommendations!

Watch trailer here:

8. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Not Rated | 129 min | Crime, Drama

87 Metascore

Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his children against prejudice.

Director: Robert Mulligan | Stars: Gregory Peck, John Megna, Frank Overton, Rosemary Murphy

Votes: 262,433

A masterpiece about childhood, racism, prejudice, integrity and love "To Kill a Mockingbird" is one of the few examples where novel and movie for one really have something to say and where both versions are outstanding achievements in their own right. Harper Lee's bestseller won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the movie - made with Lee's full support and produced with the same love for the material - received eight well deserved nominations for the Academy Award. The film won three, including Best Actor for Gregory Peck, a portrayal tailored so convincingly after Harper Lee's real life father that a lifelong friendship between actor and writer developed. Even Peck's granddaughter would bear the name "Harper", to appreciate the mutual appreciation. Family is also on the forefront of the film: Peck really epitomizes the role of the Southern lawyer Atticus Finch who is set to defend a black man accused of raping a while girl, convinced of his innocence. Finch has two children he needs to teach values of humanity, and these are based on compassion, courage and fighting for the right cause - against all odds. Actor and character shared these principles, and it shows.

What makes book and movie so special is that everything is seen through the eyes of the children rather than from a more objective perspective. That way the storytelling provides an unusual and fresh angle when we find ourselves stumbling into events more or less by accident and learn what's really at stake as the youngsters go along. Yet while Atticus' fight against prejudices may seem to be doomed, hope never dies - and it is a given that the viewer will walk away deeply moved by this picture. "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a masterpiece about childhood, racism, prejudice, integrity and love, and it excels in dealing with all of the mentioned categories. Whether in form of the novel or the film, "To Kill a Mockingbird" should be integral part of anyone's education.

Watch trailer here:

9. Dekalog (1989–1990)

TV-MA | 572 min | Drama

100 Metascore

Ten television drama films, each one based on one of the Ten Commandments.

Stars: Artur Barcis, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, Aleksander Bardini, Olaf Lubaszenko

Votes: 17,221 | Gross: $0.10M

At the very heart of the matter of moral dilemmas With "The Decalogue" former documentary filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski and writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz tried their hands on an innovative TV concept for Polish television with the main focus on addressing moral issues the individual is facing. The result is a seminal series of ten small films where the protagonists are confronted with various dilemmas, forced to make decisions with ramifications on their own lives and the lives of others. Each of these films is a little gem in itself, and the entire lot put together provides even more weight. The episodes don't necessarily represent each of the ten Christian commandments as the title of the series might suggest, but rather it's a healthy mixture of them all, of universal value and accessible to everyone. Made in Poland in the eighties, before the time Kieslowski became known to a broader audience, the films' strong point is to show the lives of ordinary people living in the same block of buildings, doing their everyday business. Add in a dramatic ingredient dished out by fate or caused by human nature - death, illness, tragedy, hope, love to name examples - and a person's life takes another turn, gets unhinged or shifts focus. Paths formerly unexplored need to be considered and taken, often by the individual alone.

One of the great things about these small films is that "The Decalogue" uses actors you'll probably never see anywhere else again (unless you explore Kieslowski's other works), a fact that makes all these stories look as if they are taken straight out of life, portrayed by and meant for actual living people. Also due to the more bleak East bloc environment where existence is at the forefront of people's concerns, the tales can actually focus on the people involved and their issues, they are down-to-earth, raw, gritty, sometimes quite simple, yet often deep and indefinitely thought-provoking. Thus "The Decalogue" contains everything that matters when it comes to moral decisions which Hollywood blockbusters with similar themes sorely lack.

Watch trailers here:

10. Tokyo Story (1953)

Not Rated | 136 min | Drama

An old couple visit their children and grandchildren in the city; but the children have little time for them.

Director: Yasujirô Ozu | Stars: Chishû Ryû, Chieko Higashiyama, Sô Yamamura, Setsuko Hara

Votes: 41,007

About things said and unsaid and everything in between - a story about life itself Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story is a very simple narration where nothing really spectacular happens that couldn't happen in anyone else's life. What takes place in the film is just life itself. It's about the not uncommon difficulties of generations that have to deal with each other, where natural gaps arise after the children have moved away from their parents and each family member is living a different life now - all things we might have experienced ourselves in a similar fashion from the one or the other side, or even from both. Everybody tries his/her best in their own kind of way when it comes to a visit. One means well, stays polite, but the lives the family members lead are their own now. While the parents don't want to impose on their children, the children are fine when their parents are on their way again so that things take their regular course to which they are used to. But in between many things are left unsaid. "Tokyo Story" shows us in its realistic depiction of a Japanese family that only when something major happens which stirs the daily routines and challenges our outlook we become aware of what's important and where our allegiances really lie.

Ozu's unobtrusive direction is what makes this film so touching and powerful. He stays true to life and just shows us what's happening, doesn't judge, and typical of Ozu decides to refrain from camera movements altogether throughout the film which strengthens the impression that this is just how things happen out there. "Tokyo Story" is a quiet and contemplative work and the actors seem to be taken right from reality. That's why this simple story has such an impact and ranks as one of the greatest - it hits close to home, where it resonates deeply.

Watch trailer here:

11. Come and See (1985)

Not Rated | 142 min | Drama, War

After finding an old rifle, a young boy joins the Soviet resistance movement against ruthless German forces and experiences the horrors of World War II.

Director: Elem Klimov | Stars: Aleksey Kravchenko, Olga Mironova, Liubomiras Laucevicius, Vladas Bagdonas

Votes: 40,431

Come and see... the horsemen of the apocalypse The horror first rears its ugly head only in the corner of an eye in Elem Klimov's shocking WW II masterpiece. Almost as if it isn't real, just an illusion, a dark thought, maybe an omen, but nothing more - how could years and years of family and village life be torn away in the maelstrom of one disturbing instance? This particular shot lasts only a moment, just one character observes the irrevocable truth and there are no words to describe it. By not talking about it maybe it will all be muted, made untrue forever - for that one person and for everyone. But the brutal war reality that strikes a young Belorussian boy and his girlfriend doesn't stop at that, it is merely beginning...

"Come and see", a passage from the "Book of Revelations", is indeed an apt title for a film that makes it clear that the end of the world as we know it has come upon us: Welcome to the theater of war, to the shocking and unremitting images of the horsemen of the apocalypse sweeping over Belarus as if there is no tomorrow. "If we show the brutal truth, people won't see the film," Klimov warned his writer Ales Adamovich, but got countered with: "This is something we must leave after us. As evidence of war, and as a plea for peace." Klimov himself didn't make another film after this one. He said it all here. Right. As this is not a film about soldiers fighting bravely and earning their medals, a tragic story with an optional melancholic undertone to it that makes you sigh and move on. This picture is about the innocent victims, the shameless atrocities committed to them, the dilemma of the few survivors who are forced to fight for their mere existence. This is the unvarnished documentation of a nightmare, shot in earthy tones between beautiful idyll and the grisly aesthetics of war. It is merciless, haunting, traumatizing, not to be forgotten. With non-professionals in the lead Klimov uses close-ups upon close-ups to get in their eyes, the mirrors of their souls, where unparalleled devastation lingers. Come and see the raw cataclysm of a doomed generation living not too long ago, back then when the unspeakable happened, still present in the corner of your eye. Be prepared.

Watch trailer here:

12. Vertigo (1958)

PG | 128 min | Mystery, Romance, Thriller

100 Metascore

A former police detective juggles wrestling with his personal demons and becoming obsessed with a hauntingly beautiful woman.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore

Votes: 307,132 | Gross: $3.20M

A killer combination - Stewart, Novak, Herrmann, Hitchcock and the perfect script "Vertigo" is one of those killer combinations where just about everything fits like a glove. For one there's the ingenious screenplay by Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor based on the French novel "D'Entre les Morts"(usually translated as "From the Realm of the Dead"). It's a spellbinding narration of a retired San Francisco police detective who gets caught up in mysterious events with supernatural undertones, peppered by deception, betrayal, crime and obsession. Then there's the cast: John "Scottie" Ferguson is played in understated fashion by James Stewart, the epitome of the humble, humane gentleman and good friend who cannot deny a favor. Confronting him with mystifying blond sexbomb Kim Novak really gets things rolling and is electrifying to see. Every moment of the main characters' difficult relationship throughout the film is absolutely believable and their chemistry on screen evident and riveting. In the music department Bernard Herrmann once again outdoes himself with an engrossing score, which will make you hold your breath in anticipation of what lies ahead - or hit you right in the face whenever necessary, and that's a good thing. The cinematography? Pitch perfect. Locations like the Golden Gate Bridge shine in all their Technicolor glory as do striking camera shots like the one from the roof at the very beginning or those from the Old Mission San Juan Bautista bell tower.

All the brilliance is carefully constructed and well held together by master director Alfred Hitchcock himself, who knows how to pull one into the film, how to get into the characters, how to make one dizzy (with style!) - and how to zoom in while at the same time physically pulling the camera back, the astonishing trademark shot of "Vertigo". A film to be watched again and again, practically flawless and all the way masterfully executed.

Watch trailer here:

13. Seven Up! (1964 TV Movie)

40 min | Documentary, Biography

A group of seven-year-old British children from widely ranging backgrounds are interviewed about a range of subjects. Director Michael Apted plans to reinterview them at seven-year ... See full summary »

Director: Paul Almond | Stars: Douglas Keay, Bruce Balden, Jacqueline Bassett, Symon Basterfield

Votes: 2,959

Groundbreaking ongoing one of a kind documentary about life as it happens In 1964 Michael Apted filmed a documentary on a couple of seven year olds for a British television studio from various backgrounds. The idea was to see what the generation heading into the next millennium looked like at that early age, what their hopes were, their dreams, their aspirations. It was an interesting snap-shot for sure back in these days, but then again, who knew what would really become of those kids? Well, someone clever got the idea to revisit them at age 14 - and thus made another documentary. Seven years later they did it again, and more and more things began to shape and what at this time could be seen as an experiment became really extraordinarily interesting.

So it went on, a documentary on the lives of people like you and me. Today, a couple of dozen years later, we've got several more installments and have gained insight on what has really become of those children of the sixties. The series as a whole is simply the most outstanding and longest running reality documentary ever filmed, it's all about life as close as it can get, and due to its unique circumstances the feat is impossible to copy. There are twists and turns in the lives that we are allowed to follow, sometimes of course also influenced by the fact that they are shown on screen, in a positive or a negative way. However, in general we get a good portion of real life experience handed out via the Seven Up! series in a way we never would be able to experience otherwise, apart from our own lives. Groundbreaking indeed, must see. Should be compulsory viewing for anyone in the process of growing up...

Additional notes: The Seven Up! series has sparked various imitators all over the world, ranging from similar approaches made in the USSR, Germany, Australia and South Africa, thus honoring the original. All these attempts put together provide a kaleidoscope of developing lives around the planet in different times and places. They have their own merits, but owe much to Apted's pioneering spirit. Even Robert Linklater's "Boyhood" (2014), where a young actor is being followed playing a fictional character over twelve years while he's growing up, apparently was heavily inspired by the "Seven Up!" series. Linklater's hybrid film that tries to merge fiction and documentary however ultimately falls somewhat flat, as it is neither the one nor the other. Better stick with the real thing, and it all started here.

Watch trailer here:

14. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

PG-13 | 165 min | Western

80 Metascore

A mysterious stranger with a harmonica joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad.

Director: Sergio Leone | Stars: Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards

Votes: 261,016 | Gross: $5.32M

Cinematic paradise, made for the history books "Here's looking at you" might be Humphrey Bogart's trademark slogan, but eyes in a Leone Spaghetti Western reveal much more emotions and even plot than Bogey ever could convey with his. Sergio Leone made extreme close-ups the dominant shots to explain character - and a look into Frank's eyes (played by Henry Fonda), who was deliberately cast against his usual character in "Once Upon a Time in the Wild West", makes it perfectly clear why. There's no need for lengthy dialog if a capable director can do so much more with style alone. And of all around brilliant visuals in Leone's Westerns there is no shortage, no doubt about that. If the widescreen scenery is as grand, deep and epic a director can even deliberately allow the weight of silence to descend on the viewer and let the image speak for itself.

Once sound effects are added to compositions like these they become more than nice enhancements or mere fillers, they turn into characters themselves of a total work of art. An art that reaches even higher levels if you take Ennio Morricone's melancholic score into account which rounds off this rare masterpiece. Morricone delves deep into the souls of characters, makes whole landscapes tangible, even develops plot of the powerful story. Add to that a flawless cast (aside from Fonda Jason Robards, Claudia Cardinale, Charles Bronson and others star) and every lover of the moving picture is likely to be seriously moved. Or blown away if you haven't seen anything like this before. There are so many memorable shots in "Once Upon a Time in the Wild West" that one can stop counting them early on and take the whole thing as the ultimate template on how a great film should look like. Films like these are cinematic paradise, made for the history books, and every moment of it should be savored. Definitely one of the greatest.

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15. Sunrise (1927)

Passed | 94 min | Drama, Romance

An allegorical tale about a man fighting the good and evil within him. Both sides are made flesh - one a sophisticated woman he is attracted to and the other his wife.

Director: F.W. Murnau | Stars: George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston, Bodil Rosing

Votes: 41,223

A chock-full treasure-trove for film aficionados Without question F.W. Murnau's "Sunrise" is a solid milestone in cinema history. Made in 1927 it is the epitome of technical and creative ingenuity, unsurpassed at its time and still mesmerizing when seen today. Coming from German expressionism à la "Nosferatu" Murnau went several steps beyond his roots and thus brings silent film making to perfection. Silent film making? Well, here we already have an asset, which isn't even Murnau's merit: Hugo Riesenfeld's score is fully synchronized with the action on the silver screen thanks to the Movietone sound-on-film method, used for the very first time here. The score thus forms a wonderfully dynamic symphony that lasts the whole length of the movie and never lets up in its intensity. Breathtaking as the music is there's also additional effective sound, e.g. church bells tolling and the like, all in masterful combination with top-drawer imagery photographed mainly by Karl Struss.

But let's dig deeper in the treasure chest - you might be surprised what a 1927 movie has to offer! For instance Murnau taught the camera to move freely and seemingly without effort, he uses multiple exposures and super impositions in his montages, optical effects which are all done in camera. There are forced perspective shots with miniatures, even with midgets to give the street scenes on the backlot more depth. How about deep focus and compositions inspired by the beauty of 18th century paintings, high angles to express confined space, dream sequences with effective fades and overlays - like the one where the protagonist literally drowns in guilt? Apropos drowning: Ever seen a title card drown or emerge with the sunrise? And as far as intertitles are concerned: They are intentionally kept at an absolute minimum in "Sunrise", even the characters remain unnamed. Murnau doesn't make just a story, but a universal one. Oh, I forgot the plot: Well, it's about a man, his wife and a seductress and dark clouds brewing over the horizon. Sounds conventional? Definitely not in the Murnau version. There's no better picture that could have earned the Academy's "best unique and artistic picture" award, which would never be awarded again. The silent era was over, and there was that one picture that rose and shone in all its silent glory. You now know its name.

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16. The Tree of Life (2011)

PG-13 | 139 min | Drama, Fantasy

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: 153,131 | Gross: $13.30M

Picture in search of a viewer - are you the one? Terrence Malick never made it easy for anyone when shooting a film - not for himself, not for his investors, and rarely for the viewers of his work. "The Tree of Life", which Malick also wrote, is his most personal and uncompromising picture to date, his grand oeuvre, with key elements of his biography woven into the plot (his brother e.g. committed suicide at the age of 19). Malick doesn't shun from re-discovering cinema as an art form, go for a meditative slow pace, deal with universe deep issues centering around spirituality and put a popular actor like Brad Pitt in it - with predictable results. Audiences are either alienated by the result or call it pretentious, yet for the group that remains a movie like this is a true gift. Count me in the latter category: "The Tree of Life" is an all time classic, and will have a long life on the shelves of cinephiles.

The film is about a Texan family who has to cope with the loss of a family member, and the questions why and how to deal with it. From there we zoom out from the microcosm of rural family life to the birth of the universe and back again to change perspectives and put things in relation. At the heart of it all is the conflict between grace, the life of love and acceptance and the way of nature which only pleases itself. In that sense Malick's work as a whole is desperately in search of a viewer who joins him on the journey to find identity and meaning, just like the characters themselves.

Back in the days, in 1968 to be precise, when someone else tried a philosophical approach in a movie, it was not received well at all, resulting in walkouts and complaints about a lacking narrative structure and no entertainment value whatsoever. That movie was "2001" - now considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. Douglas Trumbull once was mastermind of the visual effects that made "2001" an unforgettable experience, and in 2011 he joined Malick's endeavor. Well, the beauty of these shots shows. And as far as I'm concerned, history may as well repeat itself.

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17. Satantango (1994)

450 min | Drama

Plotting on a payment they are about to receive, residents of a collapsing collective farm see their plans turn into desolation when they discover that Irimiás, a former co-worker who they thought was dead, is coming back to the village.

Director: Béla Tarr | Stars: Mihály Vig, Putyi Horváth, László feLugossy, Éva Almássy Albert

Votes: 7,457

Unconventional, unique, devastating, beautiful - an enthralling dance with the devil The dance with the devil based on novelist László Krasznahorkai's novel about the aftermath of the fall of communism for sure has to rank very high up when it gets to unconventional motion pictures. Filmed in beautiful black and white by Hungarian director Béla Tarr in the early Nineties, the movie consists of twelve parts and lasts seven and a half hours with single tracking shots up to ten minutes, often with very little or only repetitive action on screen. And it rains and rains and rains. Make no mistake: Despite its length Satantango is not an epic narration, but rather achieves long lasting impressions by pointing the camera on banalities inspired by the bleakness of the scenery, perfectly enhanced by the director's choices what to show and how to show it in order to induce a trance-like reaction in the viewer. And while doing so Satantango mesmerizes, shocks, devastates, enthralls.

The time line is a bit unclear and episodes overlap or could have happened the same way at another time. Yet there is a main thread of story about a con-man in the messiah's disguise, a seemingly eternally lasting dance in the very middle, and an essential episode about a little girl representing the core of the film - a symbol of the disillusionment and victim of betrayal, desperately searching for ways to exert some power herself in her forlorn reality. Not that much is happening in Satantango, and some things remain vague, but reality is also transcended at key points adding to the allegorical impact. The aesthetics of the experience and its ultimate conclusion will remain with those who are open for it.

Watch excerpt here:

18. Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Not Rated | 110 min | Drama, Film-Noir

A screenwriter is hired to rework a faded silent film star's script, only to find himself developing a dangerous relationship.

Director: Billy Wilder | Stars: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson

Votes: 171,642

An audacious look into Hollywood film making and its victims "Sunset Blvd." is a film about obsession, opportunism and the rise and fall of stars and writers as cogs in the remorseless movie making machine of the Hollywood dream factory. The great Billy Wilder as the director, William Holden, Gloria Swanson and Erich von Stroheim as the principal actors, get their point across so brilliantly in a movie about movie making that it hurts. One of the reasons why it works so well is that "Sunset Blvd." is fiction placed in the real Hollywood, where references are explicitly sought, not hidden: Star director Cecil B. DeMille plays himself, "movie zombies" of times past like Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner and Anna Q. Nilsson have roles equivalent to their importance as movie stars at the time the film was shot, even former celebrated actor/director Erich von Stroheim pretty much plays himself. This lends the film authenticity and weight, sometimes a comedic or an unabashedly cynical touch, but more often revealing shockingly tragic insights in an all too common parallel universe celebrities use to live in - insights that have not lost any relevance to this day: Once caught in a dream world it's difficult to see through the haze of glory and notice that impending doom is just a step away...

It was an audacious concept of Billy Wilder to target the film industry within its own medium, right there at those very sound stages where usually the blockbusters were made to rake in the big money and produce celebrities on conveyor belts. The direct assault that "Sunset Blvd." represents for sure did NOT get Wilder the Oscar for Best Picture of 1951. Well, this one has survived them all nevertheless and turned into a timeless classic. It's a film that transcended the Hollywood machinery - well informed, impeccably written by Charles Brackett and Wilder himself, full of verve, innuendo and dark humor, directed with technical proficiency and sense of great storytelling. An ultimate film-experience in the literal sense.

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19. Cinema Paradiso (1988)

R | 155 min | Drama

80 Metascore

A filmmaker recalls his childhood when falling in love with the pictures at the cinema of his home village and forms a deep friendship with the cinema's projectionist.

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore | Stars: Philippe Noiret, Enzo Cannavale, Antonella Attili, Isa Danieli

Votes: 191,746 | Gross: $11.99M

Paradisiacal cinema? - Tornatore did it! If you love movies you owe it yourself to see "Cinema Paradiso" made by the Sicilian director Giuseppe Tornatore. It contains about everything that the cinema is about (or maybe better: once was), and more. Tornatore also wrote the screenplay for this film and it can be felt throughout that the material comes from his heart, drawing from own experiences and those related to him - the director even has a cameo appearance as a projectionist in the final minutes. "Cinema Paradiso" is as powerful as it is not only because of its topic, the direction and the screenplay, but also because of its scope - spanning the whole lifetime of the main character -, its memorable imagery, Ennio Morricone's brilliant score and of course the carefully chosen cast headed by Philippe Noiret. By the way: Even grandmaster Fellini might have made it into the movie, intended for the role of the mentioned projectionist at the very end. But he replied to the director's request: "At such an important part of the movie putting a face so bulky like mine could be distracting to the audience. I suggest an unknown person instead: Let Tornatore do it!" Well, so we've still got a master of cinema up there at least - the one who made "Cinema Paradiso".

To sum it up: Here we have not just any film about the cinema, it's the definitive one - and in the 50 minutes longer director's cut an already great experience becomes perfect. If you are reading reviews like this and still haven't seen it, you better finish this sentence and then be off to get it. Quick!

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20. Stalker (1979)

Not Rated | 162 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

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: 92,856 | Gross: $0.23M

Approach with care... don't forget your bolts! Tarkovsky's second science fiction entry after "Solaris" needs to be approached with a good deal of caution - just like the protagonist navigating the zone with his metal bolts in order to reach his goal, that fabled room which grants your innermost wish. There's danger lurking everywhere, but in the zone's inner sanctum there is bliss waiting - or not, depending on what you want to get out of it. For sure "Stalker" is not the regular sci-fi tale, even though it was inspired by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky's novel "Roadside Picnic", who also co-wrote the film's script. Yet Tarkovsky made something entirely different out of the material: a slow, contemplative, philosophical excursion of almost religious proportions consisting of extremely long takes. "Stalker" is a mood piece as if it had descended from another world, the zone we enter is shot in lush colors, life outside in drab black and white. In this spellbinding composition an enigma is wrapped which has prevailed until this very day...

So what exactly is "Stalker" all about? Some might say: Clearly an allegory about life in the USSR. An interpretation which Tarkovsky vehemently denied, even though there's strong subtext one can hardly ignore. On the other hand the zone of "Roadside Picnic" was inspired by the nuclear disaster in Chelyabinsk of 1957 - and after Chernobyl Tarkovsky's 1979 film feels like a foreshadowing and a déjà vu at the same time. And due to its unique place between history and fiction "Stalker" sparkles with a rare kind of magic. Aside from references to nuclear catastrophes there are also numerous religious allusions put in the film, most dominant being the repeated hints at the stalker's messianic role, even though he's just a human like everyone else, who refuses to walk the path. Discussions between the main characters circle around belief and hope, freedom and purpose in life, and poetry and metaphysics wait just around the corner to knock on your door and haunt or enlighten your dreams. Well, say, what do you believe in? Approach with care... and don't forget your bolts!

Watch trailer here:

21. Apur Sansar (1959)

Not Rated | 105 min | Drama

This final installment in Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy follows Apu's life as an orphaned adult aspiring to be a writer.

Director: Satyajit Ray | Stars: Soumitra Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore, Alok Chakravarty, Swapan Mukherjee

Votes: 9,300 | Gross: $0.02M

Roads go ever, ever on Bringing the lessons learned from Italian neo-realism to Indian filmmaking, Satyajit Ray's first project was part one of what would become the famous "Apu" trilogy, "Pather Panchali" ("Song of the Little Road", 1955). Undoubtedly it laid the foundation of Ray's status as a cultural Indian icon. In neo-realistic fashion the three films were made on actual locations using an amateur cast, shot as close to reality as possible, and due to this approach they show all the unvarnished truths but also the charms found only on the street, addressing life itself. Direct, plain and simple the contained episodes shed light on poverty, anguish, loss and the unending struggle of man to justify his very own existence, the trials and tribulations to transcend one's self and the world one was born in. Central to the continuing story of all films is Apu, a coming of age Bengali boy with the bleakest imaginable prospects. His long journey takes him to many different places, nowhere he is truly at home except in books, and yet despite all that he's contended with the simplest things. But in all the ordeals he has to suffer from there's always a glimpse of hope, an impulse to go on. Until he reaches a dead end...

Years after "Pather Panchali" and part two "Aparajito" ("The Unvanquished") Ray's conclusion of the series via "Apur Sansar" ("The World of Apu") is emotionally the strongest of the three installments. It already starts off with the weight of the first two films on the protagonist's shoulders, lets the now mature Apu question everything he has come to believe in and steers inevitably towards his destiny. Ray has also perfected his directorial techniques in the meantime, and the choices of actors to play an older and finally adult Apu are spot on. Rarely before has poetical realism been so devastatingly beautiful than in this jewel of Indian filmmaking, the pictures often speak for themselves. Like the recurring symbolic image of a train that accompanies us throughout the trilogy: first as something magical, then adventurous, even deadly. And it's there in the very last scene as well - as a reminder that roads go ever, ever on. And all a road requires is a first step.

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22. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

R | 133 min | Drama

80 Metascore

A criminal pleads insanity after getting into trouble again and once in the mental institution rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients.

Director: Milos Forman | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson, Michael Berryman

Votes: 800,456 | Gross: $112.00M

Rebel with a cause - McMurphy vs. Nurse Ratched Very few great films are just simple and straightforward, require no brain-twisting abilities from the viewer, can be enjoyed by practically anyone and have an inevitable impact that resonates deeply. Also one rarely finds films that are entertaining, dramatic, humorous, tragic and poetic all at the same time and on top of that have something to say which doesn't sound moralising. If you're looking for a picture which meets all those requirements "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" fits the bill.

Awarded in 1975 with the magic five oscars covering all main categories (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay) it is one of the most effective antiestablishment parables which takes place in a mental hospital, where sane but rebellious Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy fights Nurse Ratched's (Louise Fletcher) authoritarian regime. The two main characters play so well off each other that one almost forgets the rest of the brilliant cast, among them Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito or the young Brad Dourif, but also not to forget the Native American Will Sampson. All of these inmates work well, because the actors were cast to play roles cut out for them. A flawless screenplay guarantees to be instantly drawn into the world created by Czech born director Milos Forman, and our sympathies soon lie with these characters, especially free spirit McMurphy. Yet sometimes the fight for the right thing is a lost cause from the get-go. We might even be aware of it. However, we learn from characters like McMurphy that - flawed as we are - we can have the heart at the right place, even against the odds. And that there's hope in every failure.

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23. Le Samouraï (1967)

GP | 101 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

After professional hitman Jef Costello is seen by witnesses his efforts to provide himself an alibi drive him further into a corner.

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville | Stars: Alain Delon, François Périer, Nathalie Delon, Cathy Rosier

Votes: 37,758 | Gross: $0.04M

The samurai - the way of Alain Delon Who is he? It doesn't matter. What does he want? To kill someone. Enough said. A man, a mission, few words. That's the way of the samurai. One downside only: There is no greater solitude than that of the samurai. Unless it is that of the tiger in the jungle. Perhaps. - Scenes and impressions from a piece of film history that spells cool, en français. The part of the eponymous "Samourai" is played by Alain Delon, born with stoicism in his blood, directed and written by Jean-Pierre Melville, who sucked in American film noir to live and breathe it as a person and to be creative with it as a true auteur. He shot noirs in color in French that made the archetype look old. A loner, a man with a mission, a samurai in a way.

One could describe "Le Samourai", a 1967 picture, perhaps as the exact antithesis of the films we are used to see from video generation directors that emerged in full in the late eighties. What you won't experience here is adrenaline pumping fast pace, flashy quick cuts, slow motion sequences, car chases, spectacular stunts, explosions, yes, even blood is rather scarce in a film about a hitman. Frankly, all of that is superfluous if the filmmaker knows his craft on how to get the viewer involved in his picture. Contrary to the constant pay-offs as part of a kaleidoscopic spectacle of action that dominate the screens at the latest from the nineties, the secrets of "Le Samourai" are simple, but effective: Delon's iconic screen presence, a uniquely created mood based on existential fatalism, a lot of build-up and perfect timing to release tension. In short: What we have here is an epitome of minimalistic suspense cinema. The assassin himself, Jef Costello, despite the fact that Delon plays him straight and stone-faced is no invulnerable killer machine, quite the opposite. And that's also where the story lies - that something goes terribly wrong, but somehow someone helps. Quite unexpectedly actually. On the other hand: There is no greater solitude than that of the samurai...

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24. Brazil (1985)

R | 132 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

88 Metascore

A bureaucrat, in a retro-future world, tries to correct an administrative error and becomes an enemy of the state.

Director: Terry Gilliam | Stars: Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond

Votes: 171,055 | Gross: $9.93M

Dystopic retro-future with a message: Tomorrow was another day Despite shot in 1985 this is definitely a 1984 film. But you probably know that already. Actually - to be precise - it's quite a timeless movie well worth watching a century later as well, as it aims to mix things from past, present and future, or you might even call it an alternate reality piece - as according to the first shot this film takes place "somewhere in the 20th century"... And thus it might be closer to reality than you initially thought!

Be it as it may: The look of the strange retro-future world we're allowed to discover in "Brazil" is truly something else. Gilliam's dystopic vision combines dead serious elements from Orwell and Kafka and lets it all clash with a heavy dose of Monty Python humor, sometimes satirical, sometimes anarchically absurd, deep black or just outright laugh out loud slapstick. The story at times might surprise you, irritate you, make you laugh, dream, root for Sam Lowry, then again it also does shock and terrify, it lets you think and re-think. "Brazil" has depth, is allegorical and complex, and could therefore have too much of an impact on first viewing for its own good - or it perhaps touches you not at all if you're not into cerebral stuff. If you like a challenge, this one's a treat - just make sure to watch the Director's cut and not the butchered version released for syndicated television, which is a travesty of the movie's original intent.

Watch trailer here:

25. Synecdoche, New York (2008)

R | 124 min | Comedy, Drama

67 Metascore

A theatre director struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as he creates a life-size replica of New York City inside a warehouse as part of his new play.

Director: Charlie Kaufman | Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener

Votes: 69,056 | Gross: $3.08M

Trapped in the simulacrum between life and death One thing right ahead: Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut is an extremely uncomfortable film. It is likely not to make much sense the first time around, that you are too busy taking it all in and your efforts to understand it get derailed. Many will end up repelled by the experience and don't feel the desire to return to it. Subsequent viewings however should help to value the gargantuan task Kaufman has undertaken and to look forward to further visits to that strange place called "Synecdoche". Make no mistake: This is no love story, much less a happy one, not a tale about someone succeeding or get rewarded by any kind of redemption. There are images which seem too trivial to be part of a cinematic masterpiece, and you'll wonder about the surreality of some scenes and the layers upon layers that stack up. But getting into the film and getting out of it again only can be accomplished with difficulty. And that's a good thing.

On the surface "Synecdoche" is about theater director Caden Cotard (understatedly played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) whose life more and more slips out of his hands and literally rushes by in the film's narrative. An unexpected award gives him the chance to attempt something big, and so he builds a simulacrum, a life-size replica of New York, casting people to play roles in it in order to replace the persons of his life. But the simulacrum is not enough, and while he tries everything and then some in his struggle to find a sure footing, a proof of his existence between life and death, he turns out to be nothing else than the ultimate victim of his limitations. Caden's story is about the loss of himself in the imitations he created, yet miraculously this sad life eventually becomes part of something larger by just fading away. For watchers will notice a deliberately designed circular structure of the film... One could even argue that Caden might just be a character in a film, and longing for a life outside. Up to you! Make sure to watch "Synecdoche" more than once. And maybe at some point you'll learn to smile along with this postmodern masterpiece.

Watch trailer here:

26. Don't Look Now (1973)

R | 110 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

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: 40,898

Brilliant horror from left field With "Don't Look Now", the filmed version of Daphne Du Maurier's short story, Nicolas Roeg delivers a horror movie of the very different kind. It's also one of the very best, even though or maybe exactly because Roeg stirred quite a controversy with his approach to tell the tale. What you get for sure is not the typical horror genre piece. Roeg weaves in supernatural elements, psychological drama, a crime/detective story, a famous love making scene and above all lots of realism and mood he draws directly from shooting on location. In all that a masterful play with expectations of characters as well as the viewers takes place, letting essential and unrelated random elements of the story stand side by side, adding more and more to the escalating confusion. Strange premonitions, painful memories, eerie visions and a multitude of sub-plots - all are packed into an actually highly cross-referencing movie with dominant psychological overtones. With all those threads going on at the same time the viewer is likely to get lost, just like John Baxter (Donald Sutherland), the film's protagonist. Noteable assets are also a carefully plotted colors scheme, intelligent cinematography and groundbreaking scenes that show what exemplary editing and cutting can do to elevate a film way above its competitors.

"Don't Look Now" leads up to one of the most shocking climaxes in horror film history and will catch you most likely coming from left field. And if it does, the director has done his job. At any rate, the dark haunting alleys and mysterious canals of Venice are the perfect environment for a bone-chilling tale which keeps its suspense ominously simmering until the inevitable happens. Recommendable for those who like their mysteries slow, enjoy to (re-)discover how the mind works and still know why horror films of the olden days are the better choice.

Watch trailer here:

27. Night on Earth (1991)

R | 129 min | Comedy, Drama

68 Metascore

An anthology of 5 different cab drivers in 5 American and European cities and their remarkable fares on the same eventful night.

Director: Jim Jarmusch | Stars: Winona Ryder, Gena Rowlands, Lisanne Falk, Alan Randolph Scott

Votes: 48,204 | Gross: $2.02M

Episodic glimpses at lives uncovered by the night... The nights in the big cities have their very own mysterious and incomparable aura. Only the cab drivers who are circling the blocks after midnight and pick up ever changing passengers really have a sense of such a feeling, that strange kind of reality that engulfs them when everyone else is sleeping. You get a glimpse of the dark side of the aura if you follow De Niro's Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver", and for the rest feel free to join independent film-maker Jim Jarmusch on five rides through L.A., New York, Paris, Rome and Helsinki and see what the night has to offer.

Writer/director Jarmusch celebrates the synchrony of events happening in various cabs all over the globe, where drama, fun and tragedy all take place at the same time while the earth takes another turn around its axis. All shot on location of the actual cities this episodic masterpiece was photographed excellently, there are some wonderful performances, lots of poignant moments and hilarious laugh-out-loud comedy. Armin Müller-Stahl for example as German ex-clown "Helmet" going to "Brookland" clashing with NY culture is side-splittingly funny right from his greeting "Hello! How are YOU?" Then of course there is Roberto Benigni's wild confessional ride through Rome with a padre on the back seat, which has become an instant classic. Incredibly touching is also the final chapter in Helsinki with some drunkards exchanging tragic stories only to arrive at sunrise to catch some sleep. Or the one with the black cabbie, who learns to respect a blind woman and makes one wonder: Who's really the blind one? Ok, ok, with all those overwhelmingly brilliant snapshots there's one obvious downside - which is the first tale, starring Wyona Rider as a small, but tough cookie: "I want to become a mechanic!" But after all taxi driving wasn't for her and she did eventually become an actress, didn't she?

Watch trailer here:

28. Apocalypse Now (1979)

R | 147 min | Drama, War

94 Metascore

During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade Colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Stars: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest

Votes: 528,366 | Gross: $83.47M

Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen between animal and god With "Apocalypse Now" Francis Ford Coppola transfers Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" tale into the 20th century and makes it part of the horrors of the Vietnam war. The result is a beautifully shot, highly suspenseful and entertaining movie, which can be labelled THE war movie with all bells and whistles in a scope rarely seen before in similar productions. Staggering cinematography, an excellent script, a crisp and vivid tapestry of sound and musical ambience, the perfect use of location and of course the cast - with bit players like Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne or Harrison Ford -, all contribute to a cinematic event of the grand scale.

Most remarkable of course are the performances of the two main characters - for one protagonist Martin Sheen (who plays Captain Willard) and the one he's searching for deep in the Cambodian jungles, the decorated US commander gone mad, Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando). The build-up to the encounter alone already keeps the viewer on the edge of the seat, and the pay-off is condensed in the intense and unnerving final minutes of the film. While we get there more and more questions are raised about the nature of the war that is being fought, as madness isn't only waiting on that other end of the journey, but becomes a principle in itself on the way - thus questioning the mission, the causes and the means: Man's position between animal and god is uncertain, but as self-assigned master over life and death his decline into madness only seems like a natural reaction...

Watch trailer here:

29. Paths of Glory (1957)

Not Rated | 88 min | Drama, War

After refusing to attack an enemy position, a general accuses the soldiers of cowardice and their commanding officer must defend them.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready

Votes: 149,201

A pearl washed ashore by the tide of war There are lots of so-called anti-war films out there, which focus on showing the inhumanity of war by pointing the camera at soldiers who are shot, blown up, mutilated, that sort of thing. Often these movies lack the necessary reflection related to the shown violence, and assume that this already takes care of itself, and this is a really sad story. The result may lead the phenomenon that some people enjoy such movies because of what they see, not what the film is meant to be about. And thus it might be safer to call such movies "war films" rather than "anti-war". Well, "Paths of Glory" is different. It focuses on the individuals, the executors in the command chain, on those, who are forced to make decisions about life and death, those, who have to survive or make achievements against all odds, who therefore use others to save face.

Kubrick's film is short, but very intense and poignant and goes far beyond the regular motion picture which just happens to be about war. It forces the main dilemmas of a stone-cold war machinery to the surface, where everyone has to play their role and humanity has no place in it, where absurdity is method. "Path of Glory" is a benchmark as far as anti-war movies are concerned, and this also has to be said about one of the most touching final scenes ever. In it Kubrick immortalized his later wife, whose performance gets under one's skin and suggests to us that there are also humans fighting on the other side, caught in the very same inhuman war machinery. There are films that last more than three hours and fail to make a point about war - Kubrick only needs his German wife and three minutes to make this point.

Watch trailer here:

30. La Strada (1954)

Not Rated | 108 min | Drama

A care-free girl is sold to a traveling entertainer, consequently enduring physical and emotional pain along the way.

Director: Federico Fellini | Stars: Anthony Quinn, Giulietta Masina, Richard Basehart, Aldo Silvani

Votes: 51,863

Delves deep into paths of human existence "La Strada" is one of the films Fellini made in his neo-realistic period, and it's an absolute highlight at that. The picture depicts the complex relationship between Gelsomina, a naive girl, and Zampanò, a traveling entertainer, to whom she is sold by her own mother. When Gelsomina is just about to discover the wonders of the big wide world, she finds out that she's only used as a mere tool by her companion, but there's more to it than that. "La Strada" is a movie with a soul. It's a realistically portrayed, highly emotional journey, which constantly oscillates from Gelsomina's good-hearted innocence to her master's brute force, and in between there seems to be no compromise. To Zampanò the road just goes on and on, aimlessly, as if that's all there is to life, it's reduced to his own basic needs, and everyone else just fills out a replaceable role. There couldn't exist a stronger contrast to his strong masculine presence than Gelsomina and her innocuous self, smiling in the face of insults and persistent hardship, devoid of any prospects, but her joy lies in the very moment - or the next, as she easily forgets. The unlikely pair however in a way needs each other, even gives their lives meaning, though realization of this fact might happen too late...

Plot, screen play, black/white photography, Nino Rota's score and the main cast of this touching human story are all top-notch. Anthony Quinn plays the stone-hearted Zampanò to the T and Giulietta Masina, Fellini's highly talented wife, makes a supremely memorable impression as the simple-minded, but endlessly endearing Gelsomina. "La Strada", which one might translate with "The Street", or maybe more poetically and philosophically inspired with "The Path". It's the road that the two characters walk, everyone for himself or both together, and by accompanying these characters the picture delves deep into human existence, holding the viewer tight in its grip. A prime example of film-making at its very best..

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31. Rashômon (1950)

Not Rated | 88 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

The rape of a bride and the murder of her samurai husband are recalled from the perspectives of a bandit, the bride, the samurai's ghost and a woodcutter.

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

Votes: 128,131 | Gross: $0.10M

What is truth? Rainy day? Need something to ponder upon? Then take a seat at one of the stairs of the Rashomon gate and listen to a particularly strange murder mystery. But be aware upfront that this is not about the culprit, as you'll hear several confessions, but all won't match. Who's lying? Why? Is it all intentional? Or due to different perceptions? Are people cheating on themselves as well? For their own good, for the sake of accepting reality, or because they are adhering to a principle they consider superior? What is real? What is true? Is it possible at all to understand? Thus are the questions posed under the Rashomon. But that we cannot grasp it is exactly the point.

Kurosawa's version of Akutagawa's tale "In a Bomboo Grove" doesn't shun from irritating the audience by presenting various accounts of the same story without providing a satisfying resolution. With the abandoning of the conventional, objective narrative form he opened the door to distortions of reality shown on screen, broadening the horizons of what a camera can convey, adding another level of sophistication to the medium. Dismissed by the studio he was working for as incomprehensible, Kurosawa's "Rashomon" however hit the western film world like a bomb. With the prizes it won it would become the gateway that opened Japanese cinema to the rest of the world and establish Kurosawa as a director to reckon with. Yet it is not only the fresh idea that makes "Rashomon" different - music and sound undoubtedly are highly effective, but the exceptionally strong point of the film is that it offers flawless cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa, who would later also shoot Mizogushi's appraised pearls "Sansho the Bailiff" and "Ugetsu". And of course "Rashomon" already has Kurosawa's future key player Toshiro Mifune as the bandit, who borrows with his extreme expressions from the silent era, and this intensity of acting makes a film about reality in question even more stirring. Good cinema should ask questions, and rarely it is done as masterful as here.

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32. The Nights of Cabiria (1957)

Not Rated | 110 min | Drama

A waifish prostitute wanders the streets of Rome looking for true love but finds only heartbreak.

Director: Federico Fellini | Stars: Giulietta Masina, François Périer, Franca Marzi, Dorian Gray

Votes: 37,150 | Gross: $0.75M

A prostitute that gets under your skin... In a way "Nights of Cabiria" is the companion piece to "La Strada", both directed by Federico Fellini, both starring his wife and muse Giulietta Masina and both dealing with a woman and her struggle with life. And yet the movies conclude quite differently. Cabiria is one of those characters that really get under your skin in the progression of the film - it's a woman who seems difficult to understand at the beginning when she's saved from drowning, yet doesn't even have a word of thanks for her saviours and heads off ranting. What follows is grand character development. Episode by episode we get deeper in Cabiria's heart and mind, her hopes and dreams, see her praying for a miracle, but again and again she fails, is used, ridiculed, ignored. Cabiria is not just a naive girl stumbling into her doom, she rather seeks salvation in simplicity and belief when everything else shatters to pieces. She's actually quite a complex character - emotional, earthy and proud in her own way, yet vulnerable and always on the brink. And we are swept away with her when eventually that turn in her fate is actually happening, the change for which we've all been rooting by then.

It all leads up to one of the most striking final scenes in cinema history - Fellini's camera work and Masina's performance invoke pure movie magic: Never before is a greeting from a total stranger as heart-warming as here, never again will a well-timed nod into the camera be so electrifying as Cabiria's. Maybe you already know what I mean. In any case I conclude with: Buona sera!

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33. Ikiru (1952)

Not Rated | 143 min | Drama

A bureaucrat tries to find a meaning in his life after he discovers he has terminal cancer.

Director: Akira Kurosawa | Stars: Takashi Shimura, Nobuo Kaneko, Shin'ichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka

Votes: 55,813 | Gross: $0.06M

Live - for there will be no tomorrow... Akira Kurosawa's "Ikiru" ("to live") is a film - you might have guessed it - about life, or more precisely: about the absence of life. It's about that hole that suddenly emerges when our time inevitably draws to an end, that hole that we couldn't fill with meaning. For the old civil servant Kanji Watanabe (played by one of Kurosawa's favorites, Takashi Shimura) it's a pretty big hole. He moved papers around for years and years in his stuffy office, got awards for the monotony he got used to, never questioned what he did and why, was satisfied with what he was and never got the idea to change. But he is ultimately alone when he understands that he will die soon. And as moments of his past flash before his eyes, the value of life hits Watanabe, and he needs to make a decision what to do with the little time he still got left...

"Ikiru" shows us a struggle to escape the ways we are used to and to make the difference. Sounds familiar, right? But if it is kept real and is shot with less sentimental bombast than western productions unashamedly throw at us, then a downtrodden bureaucrat with a sudden fate inspired verve to make something happen turns into a hero. For Kurosawa this film was also a plead for individualism, especially when seen in the face of the Japanese society he lived in, where everybody played his role and life of the single man and woman became just inconveniences. Watanabe represents that flickering of hope, nothing more, but also nothing less, and his key moment occurs when he walks off with a plan, while teenagers celebrate one of their own with singing "Happy Birthday" in the background. But well, a single man won't change the world, and to fully appreciate life one needs to be almost dead. One can get a slight advantage by watching "Ikiru" though...

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34. Woman in the Dunes (1964)

Not Rated | 123 min | Drama, Thriller

An entomologist on vacation is trapped by local villagers into living with a woman whose life task is shoveling sand for them.

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara | Stars: Eiji Okada, Kyôko Kishida, Hiroko Itô, Kôji Mitsui

Votes: 14,125

With and against the sands of time Early on in Hiroshi Teshigahara's "Woman in the Dunes" we see entomologist Niki Jumpei lying in a broken boat which is entirely covered by sand. He looks forlorn there in the desert, lost on his search for new specimens of beetles that would bring him forward in life, or so he hopes. But what's for sure is only that he'll miss the last bus home. Niki looks stranded, physically and metaphorically. And yet, among the dunes, he has visions of the past - of a woman, of a relationship that went awry, now covered by the sands of time. Maybe nobody tried to uncover what has always been there between these two, maybe it's in the nature of things that everything will eventually be covered by dust and just has to be accepted the way it is. Later in the film we would see Niki dream of the sea, symbol of his freedom, of escape, of leaving the dunes behind forever. Ah, how he would long for the sea! But will he ever reach it? Because the time has come for a haunting reevaluation of life and the relationship with a woman - in a prison made of sand...

Teshigahara's film, based on Kôbô Abe's novel and screenplay, is a realistic story, however parable and philosophical exposition of the human condition at the same time. It's rare that a picture can be read multiple ways without losing its power when seen from different angles, but Teshigahara's film meets this criterion with ease. As minimalistic as its basic idea might sound, it literally entraps its viewer in its claustrophobic environment, consisting of just two people, and sand, sand, sand, the puzzle of human existence buried with it, hopelessness written all over it. In his philosophical essay "Le Mythe de Sisyphe" existentialist Albert Camus concludes that one must imagine Sisyphus to be happy. Sisyphus, the man condemned by the Gods to roll up a rock on top of a mountain, watch it roll down again and start over, again and again. Sisyphus, a happy man? A contradiction? Not really. Man needs to find reasons to justify his own existence in the absurdity that surrounds him, Camus would argue. One of the reasons might be found in Teshigahara's masterpiece: There's someone who shares Sisyphus' predicament: the one suffering on his side, also known as "The Woman in the Dunes".

Watch excerpt here:

35. Soy Cuba (1964)

108 min | Drama, History, War

Four vignettes about the lives of the Cuban people set during the pre-revolutionary era.

Director: Mikhail Kalatozov | Stars: Sergio Corrieri, Salvador Wood, José Gallardo, Raúl García

Votes: 6,951 | Gross: $0.16M

The sublime beauty of propaganda The critic's dilemma with propaganda films lies in the controversial subject matter and the fact that they are generally made by the crème de la crème of directors - a blessing and a curse. All these films are supposed to convey is a certain political mind-set, the glorification of a person, revolution or regime - in impressive imagery that is, the rest is artistic license. The latter is why directors are carefully chosen for these projects in the first place - their unique style should warrant the film's success. This was the case with Eisenstein's and Dovzhenko's masterpieces in the 1920s/1930s or Riefenstahl's infamous "Triumph of the Will" aestheticising Nazis, and it also applies to Mikhail Kalatozov's "I am Cuba" retracing the Cuban revolution. Interestingly however Kalatozov, whose breathtaking "Cranes are Flying" took the Cannes Grand Prize in 1958, failed in the eyes of the Cubans and the Soviets, who didn't consider it revolutionary enough, too naïve, too stereotypical. Its rediscovery however is well deserved, and it's due to its sublime beauty.

More than half a century on much more has remained from "I Am Cuba" than just a historic document tinged by communistic propaganda. Above all it is a poetic portrayal with incredible visuals, a riveting collage of very different lives on the same soil, connected by their love for their country. "I Am Cuba" is a feeling. It comprises the Cuban homeland and a time of upheaval, strong emotions that have bottled up for years and years to finally come to the forefront leading up to inevitable confrontations. The film's perspective still comes across as powerful and relevant, story-wise and camera-wise. Kalatozov films in long takes which are often choreographed with absolute precision, uses stylized high contrast black and white cinematography, extraordinary crane and tracking shots, tilted camera angles and seemingly even moves freely through Havana in one of the most famous continuous camera shots in film history. With his superb technical and cinematic artistry Kalatozov transcends the moment and while his approach wasn't appreciated back in the days, his rediscovery in the 1990s prompted an array of quotes from this work. Indicator enough that Cuba is worth a visit, at least on the silver screen.

Watch trailer here:

36. The Thin Red Line (1998)

R | 170 min | Drama, War

78 Metascore

Adaptation of James Jones' autobiographical 1962 novel, focusing on the conflict at Guadalcanal during the second World War.

Director: Terrence Malick | Stars: Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Kirk Acevedo

Votes: 156,816 | Gross: $36.40M

A breathtaking, different kind of war movie Released in 1998, the same year as blockbuster "Saving Private Ryan", "The Thin Red Line" was doomed from the get-go. If you're looking for the bigger names, be it actors or director, or want to see fast paced action, or even just the plain old high budget Hollywood war movie, this is not it. Everyone else is welcomed into this different kind of film, which some say isn't even a proper war movie. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is true that "The Thin Red Line" approaches the topic from an entirely different angle, or from multiple angles to be precise. Malick highlights lives, struggles, hopes and dreams of various people, helps us look through their eyes of what transpires on the battlefield and how it reflects on them and their relationships to those who share their unreal experiences.

But it's not just the soldiers who play major roles in what transpires on screen, it's nature itself which is there and prominently so, it is always there, regardless of what gruesome deeds man decides to commit in its very heart. Sky, clouds, winds, grasses, animals, plants, man, the latter is just one of those things, a part of it, a necessity or a burden, judge yourself. Maybe there is even a subtle point somewhere as well when we see big names like Travolta and Clooney cast yet appearing only for one or two minutes or so. They are not important. But this film is.

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37. Forbidden Games (1952)

Not Rated | 86 min | Drama, War

A young French girl orphaned in a Nazi air attack is befriended by the son of a poor farmer, and together they try to come to terms with the realities of death.

Director: René Clément | Stars: Georges Poujouly, Brigitte Fossey, Amédée, Laurence Badie

Votes: 9,639 | Gross: $0.01M

Pet cemetery en français René Clément's "Jeux Interdits" is one of those movies which are as profound as they are simple, and it couldn't work any other way. It is also one of the few films which don't shun away from letting children be children in traumatic circumstances, and their innocence determines their actions - thus bringing a shocking realization home to us. Attacked initially for all the wrong reasons and rehabilitated by now as a masterpiece, "Jeux Interdits" is a small, albeit unmissable film about the lives of small people in World War II France, searching for a thing to cling to that gives their lives meaning - and be it only the celebration of death. But how could adults even begin to understand what goes through their little heads when kids start to bury a mole, a cockroach, even the odd worm, always on the lookout for a few more extra crucifixes? Clément's portrayal of war reality is close to social realism, tragedy and even humor are all part of the film's tapestry, but the picture doesn't set out to be a sentimental tear-jerker. However, the luminous five year old Brigitte Fossey combined with Narciso Yepes' low key piano score and the deep existential themes that permeate the film make it impossible not to be affected by the pet cemetery undertaking. It's a story that owes itself to a horror premise, but it's not a Stephen King fantasy -the stakes are borrowed from a reality. Many a war film has shown us the casualties, but never in this unique form, and that's just one of the many reasons why it gets under your skin.

To be avoided: The "extended" version meant for TV which embeds the happenings in a sugar sweet fairy tale frame. Luckily the alternate version remains a footnote only as the new releases respect what has been buried there in that curious French pet cemetery.

Watch impressions here:

38. The Battle of Algiers (1966)

Not Rated | 121 min | Drama, War

95 Metascore

In the 1950s, fear and violence escalate as the people of Algiers fight for independence from the French government.

Director: Gillo Pontecorvo | Stars: Brahim Hadjadj, Jean Martin, Yacef Saadi, Tommaso Neri

Votes: 46,036 | Gross: $0.06M

The price of freedom "The Battle of Algiers" undoubtedly ranks among the most unique, innovative and essential war films to date. Especially because it comes entirely without the pathos, glorification, special effects and artificially created drama that crowds want to see to get some entertainment out of war. Instead the viewer gets a fresh historical scenario - the 1956/57 Algerian insurrection of the National Liberation Front (FLN) against the French colonists. Following the events laid out in the "Souvenirs de la Bataille d'Alger", a book written in prison by of one of the former FLN leaders, Yacef Saadi, it is an unvarnished account of a brutal reality that emerged as a natural consequence of colonial oppression. To add to the realism Yacef Saadi - now an Algerian senator - even plays a key part in the production.

Outstanding feature of the film is that director Gillo Pontecorvo opts for a breathtakingly dramatized documentary style, a genre where he came from and clearly feels at home. The result is very close to newsreel footage, which makes it look like no other comparable war picture: Executions, demonstrations, strikes, bombings, interrogations, the house-to-house guerilla warfare look so real that Pontecorvo had to point out explicitly that not a single frame of actual documentary or news footage was used in the film. Furthermore the film stays as unbiased as possible and portrays both sides of the conflict: the rebels with the few, risky and desperate means they are capable of organizing to hurt the enemy, and the French paratroopers under Col. Mathieu striking back with unrelenting force in order to crush the FLN's backbone. The picture hasn't lost any of its relevance since the day it was made, as an uncomfortable question on both sides of a conflict arises again and again: Do the ends justify the means?

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39. 12 Angry Men (1957)

Not Rated | 96 min | Crime, Drama

96 Metascore

A jury holdout attempts to prevent a miscarriage of justice by forcing his colleagues to reconsider the evidence.

Director: Sidney Lumet | Stars: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler

Votes: 565,105 | Gross: $4.36M

Fonda casts a contagious shadow of a doubt One room, twelve men and talk, talk, talk. Ninety minutes of film. Sounds like a bore, but turns out to be quite the opposite. The back room of a courthouse where a jury of ordinary men has to decide upon life and death becomes the place of first rate drama, where a seemingly insignificant shadow of a doubt makes people talk at least once more about what at first appeared to be a clear cut case. Henry Fonda with his understated play is in the lead of the doubters, supported by strong character actors like Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden or Martin Balsam.

The reluctant, some even clearly prejudiced members of the motley jury all look at the case from very different angles, but they are made real by distinguished acting and screenwriter Reginald Rose's crispy dialog, which never misses the mark. Also remarkable is the fact that the battle of the jurors is embedded in a highly believable environment - a hot day, people sweating, emotions getting the better of them, then a downpour outside, there are casual conversations about what's on people's minds in the breaks, restroom scenes which serve further character elaboration. Director Sidney Lumet on his part focuses on making the film as claustrophobic as he possibly can. He uses subtle camera tricks to gradually make the confined space even seem closer to the actors as the film progresses to add to the mounting intensity and the final shots are made from below eye level to reflect the change that has taken place. "12 Angry Men" above all is a captivating character study. It is not about solving a crime, but characters confronted with decision making and how they approach it. Exceptional film-making.

Side note: "12 Angry Men" was remade in 1997 with another outstanding ensemble cast headed by Jack Lemmon. A decent film, but no reason to miss the original.

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40. Planet of the Apes (1968)

G | 112 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi

79 Metascore

An astronaut crew crash-lands on a planet in the distant future where intelligent talking apes are the dominant species, and humans are the oppressed and enslaved.

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner | Stars: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans

Votes: 153,055 | Gross: $33.40M

A one of a kind sci-fi masterpiece, creative and ingenious It was Rod Serling of "Twilight Zone" fame, who initially penned the screen version of Pierre Boulle's not particularly successful novel "La planète des singes" and was responsible for preparing it to eventually become a cult movie. While rewritten several times later on it was the genius of Serling who was attracted by the potential of the material, laying out timeline and rules already in a first draft. These guidelines would also be followed in the four sequels of the Ape films of the seventies to eventually form a whole cohesive unit. The initial movie of course is the great one, the one with the most powerful impact, the shocker, the one that irritates, disturbs and asks all the questions. The rest of the movies in the series for sure is inferior and more pedestrian than revolutionary, yet they are all part of one great sci-fi idea and therefore should be treated as such.

As for the first "Planet of the Apes": The picture has all good science fiction needs and more - it deals with the consequences of evolution, mankind reaching its final frontier, the ultimate philosophical questions about existence and becoming. The scenery is great and believable, Charlton Heston and recurring ape performers Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter are standouts, Jerry Goldsmith hits the right chords with his avant-garde compositional techniques producing an innovative off-beat score and the make-up achievement was phenomenal for its time. At the bottom of it all lie the thoughts of creative minds, and we should be thankful that "Planet of the Apes" made it on screen pretty much unharmed in its ingenuity.

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41. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

R | 229 min | Crime, Drama

A former Prohibition-era Jewish gangster returns to the Lower East Side of Manhattan over thirty years later, where he once again must confront the ghosts and regrets of his old life.

Director: Sergio Leone | Stars: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Treat Williams

Votes: 266,016 | Gross: $5.32M

Once upon a time there was Sergio Leone Sergio Leone's life-long struggle to make the perfect picture would eventually culminate in a crime fairy-tale on Jewish mobsters, aptly titled "Once Upon a Time in America" (1984). And it would hold its ground despite heavy competition of Coppola's well received "Godfather" films and the critically acclaimed Scorsese's gangster epics. Made 13 years after his previous picture, Leone's interlude as a producer didn't take away his passion to get the "America" project that was in the pipeline finally going. Eventually it bore fruit and would also turn out to be his ultimate one, and maybe his best. In it the former master of spaghetti westerns takes the time to tell a multifaceted story and crams several whole gangster lives into a nearly four hour long epic, still complaining about essential 45 minutes that he was forced to cut. Well, that's Leone for you...

At any rate the result is an operatic classic based on the quasi-autobiography of a gangster turned informant, packed with period details of the 1910s, 30s and 60s. It's a nostalgic trip through half a century with time as the key player that washes over the viewer like a mesmerizing, beautiful dream in an opium den, however at the same time feels like a violent nightmare commenting on themes of past vs. present, memory vs. dream, love vs. desire and above all betrayal vs. friendship. Add to the extensive script that was honed for years an array of beautifully photographed scenes, breathtaking Technicolor cinematography and a truly numinous score, and you've got yourself a masterpiece. For it all is married with such a tremendous amount of meticulousness for details that one can't help but get lost in the gangster world of Lower East Side of Manhattan. Aside from Leone's superb visuals, the accompanying music that links times and suggests themes needs special mention as it single-handedly raises the aesthetic level of the whole production by another notch. Created by Ennio Morricone, the famous memories evoking melancholic pan pipes not only fit the film's emotional ride through passing time, but also help to transcend it.

The flashback story, with bits and pieces falling into place like in a jigsaw puzzle, is what makes the films so overwhelming, so emotionally intense. This time around a Leone picture however is not so much about landscape and close-ups, but about characters and their environment, the area they live in and their history. De Niro, James Woods, Joe Pesci, Danny Aiello let it all come alive. And at the side of the young Jennifer Connelly the 13 year old unknown Scott Schutzman Tiler plays the young version of the protagonist Noodles and nearly steals the older one's thunder, which is no other than De Niro. On the one hand the street urchin's light-heartedness shines in the character's youth while the veteran actor immerses himself so completely in the aging gangster that the weight of his past becomes almost palpable.

Sergio Leone not only made Henry Grey - the man on which the story is loosely based - a larger-than-life monument, but also himself as a grand narrator of adult fairy-tales. Actually, "Once Upon a Time in America" is two movies in one, and the overarching flashback structure makes it an unforgettable experience. All that of course was butchered on US release that sank the picture - even more reason to re-discover it as it was intended to be seen, in all its nostalgic glory.

Watch trailer here:

42. Psycho (1960)

R | 109 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

97 Metascore

A Phoenix secretary embezzles forty thousand dollars from her employer's client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin

Votes: 514,173 | Gross: $32.00M

"Psycho" spells the ABC of horror The face of Anthony Perkins aka Norman Bates as the psycho has burned itself deep into the mindset of moviegoers since Hitchcock's horror thriller hit the silver screens in 1960. It's essential for a whole genre, as iconic and unmistakable as Boris Karloff's Frankenstein monster in Jack Pierce's make-up and will be for many more generations to come. As far as horror movies go it can't get any better than this. Anthony Perkins remains stuck in your mind due to his nervously shy performance throughout most of the film, likeable and odd at the same time, and the ice cold twist at the end makes perfect sense.

But the film is much more than Perkins. It's Robert Bloch's excellent script, Bernard Herrmann outstanding score, and then there's the director. Hitch shows his handwriting as the master of suspense in every detail. The black and white cinematography of course is crucial and used to perfection in "Psycho", the shadows and tilted angles contribute to an unnerving atmosphere. And who else would get rid of someone introduced as the protagonist after a third of the film? Or take the famous shower scene, where the master demonstrates his cutting edge editing abilities, literally. It's reduced to the necessary minimum, artistically composed for maximum effect. And the mise en scène of the final revelation, the secret that awaits in the basement? Heart-stopping. In short: "Psycho" spells the ABC of horror, and rightfully so.

Watch trailer here:

43. Double Indemnity (1944)

Passed | 107 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

95 Metascore

An insurance representative lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses the suspicion of an insurance investigator.

Director: Billy Wilder | Stars: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Byron Barr

Votes: 121,782 | Gross: $5.72M

Classic touchstone of film noir experience In order to begin a story with the ending and still maintain suspense throughout the movie a film-maker needs to be quite sure of his skills to capture the attention of his audience. Director/writer Billy Wilder, assisted by established novelist Raymond Chandler with the screenplay, knows how to do it. He presents his film noir entirely in flashbacks, narrated in atmospheric voice-overs leading eventually to what we've already seen in the introduction. And despite the fact that we know where it's all heading we're still glued to our seats. New at the time and often copied ever since, but rarely done that well.

Central point is the mutual plan of an insurance rep and the wife of a rich husband to commit the perfect crime and literally get away with murder. Said salesman Walter Neff (Fred McMurray) not only commits the crime, but is also supposed to investigate it along with insurance inspector and friend Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson). Reluctantly but inevitably he stumbles into his own demise, which he is unfortunate to experience from either side of the law. What makes this dark existential dilemma so exciting is not so much what happens but how it is presented to the viewer and how the components fit together to form a supreme whole. Thanks primarily to an amazing script and aided by Wilder's flawless direction that leaves nothing to desire for a film noir devotee the film indeed lives up to the expectations of its promise and has since become an invaluable reference. Aside from McMurray and the terrific Robinson there's also Barbara Stanwyck playing the ensnaring femme fatale, and all of them deliver sharp dialog. Add to that high-contrast black and white cinematography, effective lighting, multiple oscars winner Miklós Rózsa's score - all the best ingredients for a touchstone of film noir experience, complete with fatality drive. Classic.

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44. You, the Living (2007)

Not Rated | 95 min | Comedy, Drama, Music

81 Metascore

You, the Living is a film about humankind, its greatness and its baseness, joy and sorrow, its self-confidence and anxiety, its desire to love and be loved.

Director: Roy Andersson | Stars: Elisabeth Helander, Jörgen Nohall, Jan Wikbladh, Björn Englund

Votes: 12,403 | Gross: $0.02M

Something about us, the living Ah yes, Roy Andersson. That humble, down-to-earth guy, famous creator of oodles of award winning commercials with a Scandinavian sense of super dry dead-pan humor peppered with a touch of surrealism and the absurd. He's also undisputed champ of static shots and builder of pitch-perfect studio sets, a director who prefers vignettes over a consistent story to make a picture, and quite an essential (post-)modern film-maker. Located somewhere between Bergman, Fellini, Buñuel, some say even Monty Python, he draws from all of them in a way, and yet is entirely unique by doing his own thing - filming losers, life, people caught in the clutches of capitalism, haunted by guilt, with death, destruction and the dark cloud of the apocalypse always hanging over life, the universe and everything. "Songs from the Second Floor" (2000) marks part one of his still unfinished trilogy. "Songs" is bleak, depressing, revealing, thought-provoking with dark comedy mixed in it, and, naturally, a must-see.

"You, the Living" (2007) returns to the same world in a comedic way, sort of. "Sort of" because among other things there's of course that streetcar named "Lethe", the name of one of the rivers of death in ancient Greek myth, and people stream out into their lives from it, zombie-like blocking its path... Fitting to the river of forgetfulness a bartender regularly reminds us again and again: "Last drink!" Other people have little to remember, but dream their lives away, in romantic fashion far removed from reality, feel nightmarish bombers looming or embarrass themselves by trying to impress others, and get the death penalty before they wake up. At least they finally provided entertainment that way, as popcorn is handed out at the electric chair. Between dreams, hopes and impending doom life has to be