A list comprised solely of works that I consider both masterpieces and personal favorites.
It’s a selection that formed over many years, a fifty-fifty deal between variety and sincere judgment.
My reasons (first the obvious ones, then the idiosyncratic):
Persona: pure cinema. I watched it once late at night and then again first thing in the morning, and it was like seeing another film because I felt I had grown substantially as a human in the meantime. | Andrei Rublev: among other things, it is the cinema’s most sublime epic masterpiece; there never was and never will be anything like it. | The Passion of Joan of Arc: Dreyer’s shattering magnum opus, the first truly great movie in history, refuses to be surpassed by anything that followed it in the next nine decades. Its greatness is independent of cultural, theoretical and historical contexts: it might be the most purely human film in existence. | Children of Paradise: Marcel Carne’s lush extravaganza, which has all the attributes of a grand epic, is an old-fashioned kind of fun that seems to be dust-proof, just like much of French literature written by long-dead authors. | Godfather: I guess nobody can be blamed for loving it more than a couple of other classics. It’s shamelessly good. | M: among the German master’s works that do not suffer from the ‘failed masterpiece’ syndrome, “M” counts as the most powerful and the most disturbing.
Amarcord: the first time I wanted to declare love to a movie director. | Ugetsu: no other film succeeded in transporting me so wholesomely into another realm, an act of magic even more wonderful if one considers the criminally poor viewing conditions I had no other choice but to embrace. | Eraserhead: the most unforgettable nightmare I’ve ever dreamed: the combined impact of all the things it did to me outgrows my vast appreciation of such classics as “Citizen Kane”, “The Third Man” or “The Seven Samurai”. | My Neighbor Totoro: Hayao Miyazaki is the most consistently brilliant director active today, hence picking just one of his films for this (or any other) list has to be, at least in part, just a way of expressing gratitude for his entire body of work. | The Saragossa Manuscript: the best Polish film, as well the best best non-Russian non-new wave film from the Eastern bloc. Of course, there’s a whole lot of other reasons why it should probably make it to anyone’s top 20, not only Martin Scorsese’s. | Alphaville: some movies listed here occupy a special place in my heart and some made my soul grow a bit. Godard’s frenetic film essay, which manages to be several other things as well, was above all a feast for my brain, the most memorable instance of a cinephiliac close-reading fun I’ve ever had.Read less