Space Odyssey, Ratcatcher, Sunset Boulevard, The Last Picture Show.
Second Sunrise Silla, great choice!
Why is film a medium which is so conducive to discussions of perfection? Could we talk about other forms of art in terms of a representative example that we hold to be perfect? Is there a perfect painting or a perfect song? Perfect sculpture or perfect meal? I don’t believe that we would be as tempted to engage with the idea of perfection in these other media. It seems immediately ridiculous to talk about a perfect song for example.
The idea of perfection, or near perfection, in cinema nevertheless holds some validity. Perhaps because cinema as an immersive experience, has to be excellent on so many different registers — sound, lighting, story, etc. When we say that a film is perfect, we really mean that it manages to excel in multiple categories and by multiple criteria — and not only excel, but innovate in surprising and necessary ways. There are two films that come to mind — that have not yet been mentioned — that I think of as near perfect:
A History of Violence
It makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you think, makes you aware. It just leaves you with a sense that you just watched something that a hundred years from now, people will still be watching it and having the same feelings.
Yojimbo – my favourite of Kurosawa as it is also one of his most enjoyable and constantly rewatchable. LA Confidential, Chinatown, Amoros Perros, Amelie & Lady Eve are also some of my favourites
Think of The Godfather I & II melded into one 5 1/2 hour epic. Thats THE perfect movie, no question.
“Magnolia” – PT Anderson
“Adaptation” – Spike Jonze
“Rushmore” – Wes Anderson
“I’m Not There” – Todd Haynes
“Ghost Busters” – Ivan Reitman
I think “Boogie Nights” is PT’s best work. It’s his magnum opus that is almost universally satisfying, disturbing, and challenging. Magnolia is a monumentally affective but cluttered.
M, Fritz Lang
The Godfather I & II, Singing in the Rain, The Third Man, Jules and Jim, Persona, Breathless, 81/2, Notorious, Rules of the Game, Grand Illusion, Children of Paradise, Seven Samurai, The Leopard, Battle of Algiers, The Children Are Watching, Murmur of the Heart, The Conformist, Woman in the Dunes, Beauty and the Beast, Forbidden Games, 39 Steps, Great Expectations, La Stada, Nights of Cabiria, Shoot the Piano Player, Masculine/Feminine, The Sevent Seal, The Lady Eve, All About Eve, Sunset Blvd., The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemity, Sunrise, City Lights, 3 Women, The Lady Vanishes, L’avventura, A Streetcar Named Desire, the Bicycle Thief. I’ll stop for now. But there are so many wonderful movies with some many perfect moments. Oh, before I sign off I have to include everything that Buster Keaton did.
Pickpocket – Bresson.
I find it extremely moving and true in its simplicity. And formally it seems there is not a word, not a movement, not a look, not a frame, not an edit extra or out of place.
The Third Man – Stunning integration of character, story telling, cinematography and music.
The Year of Living Dangerously – Beautifully filmed and told. One of the rare films that blends romance into the story without making it feel forced or fake.
Come And See – Unflinching and devastating story of Russia’s suffering at the hands of German troops in WWII.
Annie Hall (dir. Woody Allen) – charming, witty, self-deprecating, and sobering. A beautiful, resonant film.
Just saw Touch Of Evil in the new restoration dvd. It doesn’t get better than this.
Hard to go wrong with many of the films you fine people already suggested, but I’d have to add one to the mix:
1. Alien. Ahem, my personal favorite film. In terms of what it does both overtly and covertly, I really wouldn’t change a bloody thing about it.
And then agree with Jason, among others:
2. The Bicycle Thief. Simple yet absolutely devastating.
First we have to understand what we mean by the term “perfect”. When I think of it, the first thing that comes to mind is technical elements, and/or aesthetic ones. The first film the immediately comes to mind when I think “perfect” is…
“North by Northwest” by Hitchcock
annie hall, jules et jim, badlands, days of heaven, mccabe and mrs. miller, band a parte, il conformiste
Fritz Lang’s “M”. No filmmaker has done what he did almost 80 years ago.
Claire Dolan by Lodge Kerrigan is the first to spring to mind (though his Keane also springs to mind). The Pillow Book and Primer follow closely behind this evening. Ran, too springs to mind. I feel that with all of these films, every aspect of them are at the highest level that they can possibly be. They are true unfiltered representations of the filmmaker’s artistic vision.
Two pop in to my mind, Children of Men and Solaris. Just watching Children of Men was an extremely emotional watch. The music choice was fantastic, the cinematography was to die for and the actors really pulled off the acting.Solaris is perfect in the way that it presents its ideas. Its a really stunning mindbender.
2001 is the closest i’ve seen…
THE APARTMENT which dazzled me on its first release and has the same impact today
Pops into my head first? RWF’s Berlin Alexanderplatz. Whether or not it is perfect, I don’t know. But it was the first film to pop into my head. Then Tarr’s Satantango. Followed a close third by Maestro Bava’s Black Sunday. Not a ratings game, or who’s better than who, but just three perfect movies.
2001: a spcae odyssey
Those film have really rock my socks, 2001 more than anything.
I wanted to post without reading anyone else’s, so after going through I have to say that I can’t believe that I forgot about Mirror and Touch of Evil. Both favorites. Major props with The Brown Bunny! And of course I also forgot La Circle Rouge as well. I’m glad Tarr is on here as well as Malik—I am waiting for a blu-ray Thin Red Line (easily one of the best war films ever).
The Royal Tenenbaums for me. That movie is amazing.
‘Seven Samurai’ is that ONE