David Flint

Editor, Strange Things Are Happening

UK

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

Apocalypse Now

1979

Francis Ford Coppola

Exterminating Angel, The

1962

Luis Buñuel

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

1966

Russ Meyer

Killing of America, The

1982

Sheldon Renan/Leonard Schrader

Last Year At Marienbad

1961

Alain Resnais

mépris, Le

1963

Jean-Luc Godard

Paris, Texas

1984

Wim Wenders

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The

1974

Tobe Hooper

Valerie and her Week of Wonders

1970

Jaromil Jires

Woman of the Dunes

1964

Teshigahara Hiroshi

Comments

From the opening shot to the bad trip climax, Apocalypse Now is the war film for people who hate war films, and a fitting cinematic end to a decade when the rulebook was torn up and wild excess encouraged. Everything else seems a little flat after you see this. Meyer’s no-nonsense exploitation classic Faster, Pussycat, Kill! Kill! is near flawless: every line of dialogue (and voiceover) a snappy, quotable snarl of contempt; MTV-editing before MTV was ever conceived of; and a truly remarkable cast – has any film had a better antihero than Tura Satana? Despite Meyer’s rep, no nudity is involved – instead, it’s Girl Power run rampant. One of the few cult classics to be even better than the fans suggest. Made in the wake of Faces of Death, the documentary The Killing of America should be equally throwaway. Instead it’s a devastating, compulsive and apocalyptic look at American gun culture that unsurprisingly never saw release in the US. Cynical, angry and often quite disturbing, the film mixes news footage, interviews and powerful narration (written by Leonard and Chieko Schrader and voiced by Chuck Riley) to devastating effect. A masterclass in documentary making and a fascinating historical study of American life and death in the second half of the 20th century. Alain Renais’ fascinating, ambiguous puzzle of a film, Last Year At Marienbad is one of those that lodges itself into your mind and refuses to budge. It’s a work of beauty that transcends genre and reveals something new every time. Godard’s cynical study of marital collapse and artistic integrity – or the loss of it – Contempt is a deliciously multi-layered tale, loosely confessional and clearly personal. Brigitte Bardot is made into an object of desire, albeit an increasingly unobtainable one, while Jack Palance plays every Hollywood producer stereotype with relish. All Godard’s films of this era are great, but this is the essential one. In Paris, Texas, Wenders and screenwriters Sam Shepard and L.M. Kit Carson created a film that blatantly tears at the heartstrings but does so within the context of a somewhat leftfield story of madness and separation – the final revelations are hardly the stuff of romantic drama. Beautiful to look at, with a perfect score by Ry Cooder and with career-best performances by Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski, it’s a film that will have the hardest-hearted viewers blubbing unashamedly more than once. Buñuel’s biting social satire The Exterminating Angel is as pertinent as ever, losing none of its edge as it portrays how quickly civilisations collapse under pressure and how we are all trapped by social convention. It’s both terrifying and hilarious. A masterclass in horror film making, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre spends its first half building tension and the second half piling on the madness in a way that no other movie has ever come close to matching. You can almost taste the heat and the decay, and there isn’t a second that isn’t perfect. One of a handful of ‘horror’ films that deal with a young girl’s loss of innocence and transition into womanhood (The Company of Wolves, Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural), Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders is a strange, subversive, joyful, earthy fantasy with a remarkable dreamlike quality. A delight. Woman In The Dunes is a gorgeous, unsettling tale of obsession – sexual and otherwise. Minimalist in approach but utterly absorbing, this is one of those films that burns itself into your mind on first viewing and quietly alters the way you view the art of cinema. Narrowing down a list of the greatest films to just ten is tough – my original shortlist came to 23, and I could mount a passionate argument in favour of each title. But ten it is. And then the question is: do you choose the most important, the most artistically valid or the films you love? In the end, I’ve gone with the latter, because surely cinema should speak to us on a personal level – although I would argue that all the above films have both artistic and historical value too. These are all films I can watch continually, spotting new things and appreciating them every bit as much as I did the first time – films that I will passionately defend against detractors (and some of these films have plenty of those!) and will regularly force on to partners, houseguests and work colleagues. And, in one way or another, these are all films that changed how I saw cinema – as an artform, as a unique viewing experience, as a taboo-confronting medium and as an emotional outlet. I’m sorry to see certain directors I love (David Cronenberg, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch) not represented, and I’m resigned to the fact that some people will look at this list and slowly shake their heads, appalled at my taste in film. No matter, I’ll probably do the same with theirs.

Latest from the BFI

  • Latest from the BFI

    Latest news, features and opinion.

More information

Films, TV and people

  • Films, TV and people

    Film lists and highlights from BFI Player.

More information

Sight & Sound magazine

  • Sight & Sound magazine

    Reviews, interviews and features from the international film magazine.

More information

Back to the top