20. Mont Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Terry Gilliam
– “We are the Knights who say… NI.“
19. The Dark Knight (2008), Christopher Nolan
– “Oh, you. You just couldn’t let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.”
18. Jaws (1975), Steven Spielberg
– “I think you’ll need a bigger boat”
17. À bout de soufflé (1960), Jean Luc Godard
– “New York Herald Tribune! New York Herald Tribune!”
16. 3-Iron|Bin Jip (2004), Kim Ki-Duk
– “It’s hard to tell whether the world we live in is a reality or a dream.”
15. Zelig (1983), Woody Allen
– “The Ku Klux Klan, who saw Zelig as a Jew, that could turn himself into a Negro and a Chinaman, saw him as a triple threat.”
14. Apocalypse Now (1979), Francis Ford Copolla
– “You can either surf or you can fight!”
13. Dr. Strangelove (1964), Stanley Kubrick
– “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War room.”
12. Singing in the Rain (1952), Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
– “What’s wrong with the way I talk? What’s the big idea? Am I dumb or something?”
11. All the President’s Men (1976), Alan J. Pakula
– “I don’t mind what you did. I mind the way you did it.”
10. There Will be Blood (2007), Paul Thomas Anderson
– “Drainaaaaaage! Drainage, Eli, you boy. Drained dry. I’m so sorry. Here, if you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. There it is, that’s a straw, you see? You watching? And my straw reaches acroooooooss the room, and starts to drink your milkshake… I… drink… your… milkshake!”
Just like in The Master, There Will Be Blood also suggests a pre-American-history and just as in this, or any other Anderson’s film, the quasi-father-son or surrogate-father-son relationship becomes the core of the story. I will dare to say that The Master can be seen as some sort of non-canonical sequel of There Will Be Blood. Both films gave us a vivid portrayal of the other, darker side of what it means to be the American or what the American dream, as such, is all about. And if The Master is about entrepreneurial religion then There Will Be Blood is about entrepreneurial capitalism. Plainview, like Dodd, is first and foremost an entrepreneur, whose aim is prospecting and only prospecting, by the means of “preaching”. Events in both of these films are told from the perspective of an antihero. Crimes go unpunished. Criminals and murderers are portrayed as likeable villains. For example, to show the unbeliever embodied in unscrupulous oilman, a plain-speaking prophet after profit, aptly named Daniel Plainview, who after deliverance of his now famous speech: “I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!” brutally kills a priest with a bowling pin, some fifty years ago would be, at best, inconceivable. There Will Be Blood has even been compared to Citizen Kane, but Plainview is too mad to have anything in common with the breezy Kane. All in all, this is a dark, uncompromising film with a clear passionate vision.
09. Holy Motors (2012), Leos Carax
– “What makes you carry on Oscar?”
– “What made me start: The beauty of the act.”
A celebration of cinema, the manifesto, a realization that cinema is, for those of us who still care, yet another good or valid reason for living. We go on, despite the size of the cameras, the shift to digital, the loss of artistic aspect to it, the emerging formalism; we go on for the sake of ‘yesterday’s cinephilia today’; we go on for the beauty of the act.
08. Psycho (1960), Alfred Hitchcock
– “We all go a little mad sometimes.”
Psycho is a precedent, in more ways than one, and all of these ways are contained within one single scene 24 seconds long – the Shower Scene. A naked, beautiful blond woman steps into a motel shower. The warm water sprays down, washing away dirt, washing away her sin. Janet Leigh in an interval of her unawareness, Janet Leigh in the process of not knowing what is about to happen to her. Suddenly, a silhouette appears. The shower curtain is savagely ripped open. Janet Leigh screams as the knife descends. And with it, the cinema, and the audiences, were never the same.
A star is killed halfway through the film; a naked woman appeared on the screen; a murder was fully shown; each (flash) cut simulated the actual (knife) cut; shift in narrative; … just to name few, which clustered together made this film a landmark.
07. Punch Drunk Love (2002), Paul Thomas Anderson
– “I am looking at your face and I just wanna smash it. I just wanna fuckin’ smash it with a sledgehammer and squeeze it you’re so pretty.”
Second Paul Thomas Anderson on this list. And definitely my second favorite Paul Thomas Anderson, its majesty, Punch Drunk Love. I don’t remember if I have ever seen a film more honest than this one. At all. And after re-watching it (over and over again), it is safe to say that Barry Eagan is my ultimate dream man; or to paraphrase Rosie Greatorex, I too would like to end up with a guy as much like Adam Sandler’s character as possible. This is a wonderfully weird (anti) romantic comedy that is both romantic and funny, unlike all the others we have seen before or after this little gem. The music; The rhythm; The crazy combination of Adam Sandler and Emily Watson as the ultimate romantic couple; The crazy discovery that Adam Sandler can actually act; Piano; Pudding; Dialogue; And of course, The Mattress Man. That’s that. Pretty much.
06. Se7en (1995), David Fincher
– “David, if you kill him, he will win.”
There are at least two things we should know about Se7en in order to understand its genius. For one this is not just another thriller movie. What Fincher did here was actually breaking the pattern of a genre, something that many people overlooked. What does it mean? Fincher went through hell with the producers in order to get the final cut and if it weren’t for Brad Pitt who strongly believed in his director’s vision, we would be deprived of such a thrilling experience. (see Se7en on Criterion Collection) What producers wanted was the classical ending of just another thriller movie – towards the end it is Mills and Somerset who find the serial killer and Tracy (with her unborn child) is saved in the nick of time; everyone lives happily ever after. If you have seen Se7en you know this is not how the story goes.
05. Space Odyssey (1968), Stanley Kubrick
– “I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. My mind is going. I can feel it.”
After it’s 1968 USA premier Hollywood was very quick in judging Kubrick for his obsession with effects and set pieces blaming him of failing to make a movie. What he actually made was a philosophical statement instead – about man’s place in the universe – using only images and music. This is film art at its purest. He forced us to contemplate, offering us no entertainment in the conventional sense of SF films, but a focus and time to process and think. What I like about Space Odyssey so much is that essentially it can be rendered as a silent film. The dialogue is so scarce and the irony lies in the fact that most of the emotions we get, we get from a computer HAL 9000, as it pleads for its life and sings Daisy.
04. Det Perfekte Menneske (1967), Jørgen Leth
– “Look at him. Look at him now. And now. Look at him all the time. Now the music is gone. There is no music anymore. The Perfect Human in a room with no boundaries and with nothing. And a voice, saying a few words. This voice, saying a few words.”
“From perfect to human,” these are the words of Lars Von Trier to his former professor Jørgen Leth. Leth was a precise, high modernist filmmaker whose masterpiece is Det Perfekte Menneske (The Perfect Human), a film set in a white room with a man and a woman portraying the actions of daily life. The Perfect Human is a stylish but ironic, poetic film about human behavior, inspired by the world of advertising. The man wears a tuxedo and the girl is in a white A-line dress. The couple is the perfect couple, each perfect samples of their gender, attractive and anonymous. And to demonstrate that they are perfectly controlled modern human units, the film has an instructional voice. The voice is Leth who explains how the man participates in fine dining and dancing. Is this the voice of God? Is he demonstrating his finest design? Is it an anthropological experiment? Perfect humans are being examined like a pair of two rats locked in a cage. The woman shows how to lie down on a bed. The man is clipping his nails. The film – black and white and only 13 minutes long – is the message of modern living and it’s safe to say that this film serves as a statement about 20th century standardization.
All in all, I wish I made this film.
03. The Master (2012), Paul Thomas Anderson
– “If you figure a way to live without serving a master, any master, then let the rest of us know, will you? For you’d be the first person in the history of the world.”
People don’t really seem to like The Master because according to them nothing really happens. I am really not sure if I am able to follow this. Maybe the reason lies in the fact that PTA is not assuming a role of all-wise-storyteller who has masterfully figured it all out and just for us as a good Samaritan. No. He doesn’t assume any position. He doesn’t tell us what to think or how to think. What he does is asking questions. And the questions he asks are all the right ones. Can we live without a master? Any master? Be it God or Father, Wife, Religion, country and so forth. What is the essence of friendship? Any friendship? How do we chose? How do we resist and are we able to do so? And this is just one of the reasons why The Master came out as such a refreshment in the series of some bad movies we have seen last year. It is bold. It is weird. It is beautiful. It is smart. It is bizarre. It is curious. It is funny. It is disturbing. But above all, it seeks mature film audience. It is designed to challenge and frustrate. There is no simple answer. There are only questions… You are taken on Freddie Quell’s Odyssey through what we have come to know as 21st century America. An odyssey of a man, a hero or better yet an antihero abandoned by his society and accepted by the master, who never quite assumes that position. Bizarre speeches continue in Andersonesque way and the ending, or better yet the very last line uttered by erratic Freddie is perhaps one of my favorite lines in the history of cinema.
After having 3/6 PTA’s films on this list it is safe to say that Paul Thomas Anderson is doing something new with cinema; in the words of Peter Bradshaw, “you can hardly ask for more than that”. Needless to say, PTA is my favorite contemporary film director whose films I wait with the outmost excitement.
02. Thin Red Line (1998), Terence Malick
– “I might be your best friend and you don’t even know it.”
Thin Red Line is my favorite Malick film. There is no question about it and despite the fact Days of Heaven (1978) and Badlands (1973) are perhaps two of the best films I have ever seen, I would always opt for Thin Red Line instead. Like the book on which it was based, the film itself is a place of imagination. And this is the key. Instead of focusing on war and soldiers who fight it, Malick is more interested in the flora and fauna and the effects war has on it. So we see American soldiers trying to take a hill, but we see more of the long grass in the wind than we do of the soldiers, not to mention the enemy. Many critics found this film to be either too artsy or overly misbalanced. I must admit I do not share their worry. This is a breathtaking film, so beautifully done, all the more that when the sudden appearance of bodies and damage actually happens it comes as a surprise, despite the fact that we are watching a war movie and that Terrence Malick pushes the terror to its limits, not letting us forget, for a single moment.
01. Rear Window (1954), Alfred Hitchcock
– “We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change.”
I placed Rear Window as my no. 1 for three reasons: the concept, the execution of it and the fact that I can watch it over and over again without ever getting bored and more importantly for always discovering something new with every next watch.
There is something pleasingly ascetic in the concept, in the way Hitchcock allows us no soundtrack other than music Stewart actually hears or, no images but those Stewart actually sees. With this constraint the audience becomes a moral extension of voyeurism, unable to participate in the dreadful event unfolding in front of us—Jeff cannot help Lisa because we cannot help Lisa. Furthermore, the audience, embodied by Jeff, is placed at a voyeuristic distance and can unashamedly satisfy its curiosity. “Immobility, a play with (self) identifications and a consumption-oriented attitude are the conditions that constitute the movie watchers’ position” (Peyer 02). And to say that Jeff’s position in Rear Window is a movie-watcher’s position (in cinema auditorium) is a tautology for he is an “immobilized man looking out. That’s one part of the story. The second part shows what he sees and the third how he reacts. This is actually the purest expression of a cinematic idea” (Hitchcock/Truffaut 319-320).
Some might find my choice in films too boring or even declare this list a cliche…I’ll admit, it was very hard to narrow the list down to 20, but these are the 20 that challenged my views, even changing them at times..these are the 20 that made me fall in love with cinema. Therefore, these are the favorite 20 of my choice.
Honorable mentions: La Haine (1995), Barton Fink (1991), El Topo (1970), Beau Travail (1999), Social Network (2010), The Player (1992), Persona (1966), Full Metal Jacket (1985), Badlands (1973), Boogie Nights (1995), Biutiful (2010), Dancer in the Dark (2000), Breaking the Waves (1995), The King of Comedy (1983), Tokyo Story (1953), 400 Blows (1959), The Act of Killing (2012), The White Ribbon (2009), Festen (1998), Pulp Ficition (1994)
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