(In Chronological Order)
Pandora’s Box (1929)
Louise Brooks embodies the “flapper” spirit of her Lost Generation in this sexually charged and erotic silent melodrama ahead of its time in its depiction of the divide between men and the feminine psyche. It tragically ends in the Depression setting winter slums of Soho during Christmas time.
The Idiot (1951)
Kurosawa’s forgotten film—an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s novel of spiritual crisis set during a windswept city winter in postwar Japan involving a destructive love triangle that ends in the abyss of insanity. Haunting….
On Dangerous Ground (1952)
This melancholy winter mood piece showcases Robert Ryan’s finest performance as a bitter, cynical cop, Ida Lupino’s touching portrayal of a lonely blind woman, and Bernard Herrmann’s passionate score (his own personal favorite of his career.) Easily Nick Ray’s greatest film.
Track of the Cat (1954)
Just right for a cold winter’s night—stately and luminous Cinemascope photography of the snowy mountain wilderness, tangled family tale off the ancestral tree, moments of absurd and unexpected humor (such as Mitchum’s readings of Keats’ line “When I have fears that I may cease to be.”) Forgotten American gem.
Day of the Outlaw (1959)
Classic Western tale of Robert Ryan and the citizens of a small, isolated, snowed-in mountain town surrounded by Burl Ives and his gang of outlaws. Underrated gem.
Letter Never Sent (1959)
Struggle for survival on the Siberian frontier, directed with searing intensity by Mikhail Kalatozov and featuring the dynamic, visceral cinematography of Sergei Urusevsky, gripping score, startling spatial sound effects, and another heartfelt, impassioned performance from Tatyana Samojlova.
Shoot the Piano Player (1960)
The crown jewel of the French New Wave and Truffaut’s underrated masterpiece—this bittersweet, melancholy film is a comic gangster B-movie, a tragic romance, an innocent drama of the human condition which the absurd hero Charlie can only make sense of through the music of his piano. The heartbreaking ending occurs at the family home in snowy southern France.
Blast of Silence (1961)
One of the greatest independent films—set the stage for the new age of film noir and gangster films and heavily influenced Martin Scorsese. Perfect movie to watch during the Christmas season when you’re in a lonely place.
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964)
This is a vividly visual and visceral film from a brilliantly unique and visionary director. It remains one-of-a-kind with its dazzling, colorful cinematography and its almost ethnographic depiction of ancient agrarian life and rituals in a community of the Carpathian mountains. It is a tragic love story and a story of the earth, which is like a forgotten folk song of intoxicating wonder.
Andrei Rublev (1966)
Tarkovsky digs deep into history itself and reveals hidden truths about religious experience and the mind of the artist in this epic struggle through the wintry wastelands of medieval Russia. A profound, mystical journey of enlightenment which remains perhaps the most spiritual film ever made.
The Great Silence (1968)
A mute gunslinger seeking justice for his scarred past gets mired in the corruption of an isolated mountain town in the dead of winter. My favorite Spaghetti Western, deeply touching and echoing with a mysterious sense of existential dread, and my favorite Morricone score (his most celestial compositions.) Hauntingly beautiful.
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Altman’s masterpiece might be the greatest Western ever made. The drunken dreamer McCabe is a pioneer thwarted by cruel corporate cold blood, and the detached hooker Mrs. Miller escapes from the harsh frontier life through her opium pipe. The most lyrical, poignant, and atmospheric tale of the American dream gone awry—it ends unforgettably in the winter wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.
Dersu Uzala (1974)
Kurosawa’s underrated masterpiece—the hidden gem of his career. What you remember is the sublime musical score which embodies both the young explorer’s memories of the old man and the vastness of the Siberian wilderness, photographed with breathtaking imagery. What you remember is Dersu, a symbol of humanity’s lost connection to nature, and the smallness of humanity in the face of nature.
The Ascent (1976)
Set in perhaps the bleakest wintry landscape in the history of cinema, this is a harrowing, haunting, and heart-wrenching exploration of war, impending death, and the meaning of conscience. Stunningly powerful and overwhelmingly intense experience—left me speechless.
The Ice Storm (1997)
This is easily the greatest American film of the 1990s (perhaps the best film of the decade) which is a coming-of-age winter’s tale and a tale of generation gaps and family angst during the nervous breakdown of 1973—a pivot point in modern American history. The symbolic ice storm changes the lives of these dysfunctional suburban families in a sad loss of life that reckless night.