Annie Berke

Editor, Critic at the Los Angeles Review of Books

Voted for

The Apartment1960Billy Wilder
Bicycle Thieves1948Vittorio De Sica
Persona1966Ingmar Bergman
Phoenix2014Christian Petzold
Daisies1966Věra Chytilová
Casablanca1942Michael Curtiz
Close-up1989Abbas Kiarostami
In the Mood for Love2000Wong Kar Wai
Singin' in the Rain1951Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen
A Face in the Crowd1957Elia Kazan


The Apartment

1960 USA

Wilder is on this list; Hitchcock is not. This is *my* top ten greatest films of all time. Hitchcock supposedly said "Shoot your murders like love scenes and your love scenes like murders.” But he never managed to shoot love scenes that just murder you like the ones in The Apartment. Wilder mixes the light and the dark – aesthetically and narratively – like no one else.

This is the movie that made me want to study movies for a living. Like I said, *my* top ten.

Bicycle Thieves

1948 Italy

Is it Thief or is it Thieves? I used to teach this film, and I always discovered something new and charming and devastating in it. Last time, it was how Bruno's mother wraps up the bedsheets for sale.

It's not the cinephile's choice for best Italian neorealist film, but the heart wants what it wants.


1966 Sweden

Cinematic Ayahuasca.


2014 Germany, Poland

I know Vertigo topped the list ten years ago... Counterpoint: Phoenix is better than Vertigo. Just as dark, just as thrilling, with an ending I'll probably never recover from.


1966 Czechoslovakia

Another movie about two dangerous women from 1966! Do I have a type or what? I don't think there's a movie that better showcases cinema's unique political playfulness than DAISIES.


1942 USA

It's Hollywood at its absolute Hollywoodiest: beautiful, stirring, and cool. The only problem in this movie is the flashback, because, c'mon, no one wants to see Humphrey 'Rick' Bogart SMILE! The sole sour note in a movie that knows what it is about.


1989 Iran

The Apartment made me want to study film, and Close-Up inspired me to pursue a PhD in the field. By that logic, I should hate it (ho ho ho), but it's brilliant. It captures something "real" while interrogating what that even means, and the ending leaves me breathless.

P.S. Please, Nathan Fielder has nothing on Kiarostami (if that means anything to anyone).

In the Mood for Love

2000 Hong Kong, France

No one looks (or looks at the world) quite like Wong Kar-Wai, and though I've seen Chungking Express more times overall, I have to hand it to In the Mood for Love. Is there a better cinematic evocation of longing?! (Not that we should forget that Splendor in the Grass exists) It's gorgeous and magical, so transcendent that it's hard to imagine it was made by human beings.

Singin' in the Rain

1951 USA

I've seen this movie a zillion times... for teaching purposes, and any time it's on television. Is it my favourite musical? No. Is it the romantic comedy that makes me swoon? No. Why is this on my list then?

Because it is has been engineered to spark joy, and boy does it, but it also has this strand of acridness and self-parody that just reels me in. I can't decide if it's a gentle watch or a parade of cruelty, and I love that about it. With some of my favourites, I find fault or flatness with repeated viewing, but, with this one, there's always more, often contradictory, threads to untangle.

Is this because the film is great or because we have some pretty nifty cultural studies tools to apply to it? I don't have enough space to figure that out here.

A Face in the Crowd

1957 USA

Kazan didn't even like this film, but this is honest-to-goodness my favourite movie. It's a funny, dark, mean, wide-reaching examination of the obscene American imagination. I love it for all the reasons people hate it: it's loud, preachy, and ugly.

And why not end this list on an entirely cynical vision of the cultural-artistic enterprise, just to keep me humble?

Further remarks

I recognize what a deeply subjective process this has been, and that had you given me 100 spots, I would still fear I'd left some out. (And I can only say that, while Hitchcock, Godard, and Welles don't appear here, I am confident they will find their champions elsewhere.)

I hope that I am able to participate again in ten years and that, in the interim, I will have seen so many beautiful and life-altering films that all of these will be shoved to the wayside. Well, maybe not all, but possibly a few.