Ari Aster


Voted for

Vertigo1958Alfred Hitchcock
1963Federico Fellini
Barry Lyndon1975Stanley Kubrick
Raging Bull1980Martin Scorsese
Playtime1967Jacques Tati
Sansho the Bailiff1954Kenji Mizoguchi
Persona1966Ingmar Bergman
A Serious Man2009Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Shoah1985Claude Lanzmann



1958 USA

Hitchcock's most personal and perverse investigation into his own obsessions - with women (that is, with a specific type of woman - elegant and cold and always unknowable), with artifice, with control... In its way, it might be the most beautiful and disturbing movie ever made about the sickness inherent in 'directing'. Swooningly romantic, gloriously nihilistic, and as close to a dream (ghostly and ethereal and perfectly elusive) as the movies have ever gotten.

1963 Italy, France

A work of total formal authority and absolute freedom. Fellini's camera - always dancing deliriously, always restless to top itself - was never more fluid or agile or attentive, his blocking of actors never more acrobatic. A work of supreme, swirling inspiration.

Barry Lyndon

1975 USA, United Kingdom

The funniest, the most stately, and at once the loveliest and most alienating of Kubrick's films. Everything here feels perfectly judged - from the ultra-deliberate tempo of its scenes to the uncannily measured line readings to the famously immaculate slow zooms to that sudden, hilarious shift to handheld when cool heads finally cease to prevail. Also, Leon Vitali as Lord Bullingdon!

Raging Bull

1980 USA

Made after Scorsese hit rock bottom, RAGING BULL sprang from what he called "a kamikaze way of making movies" and it feels like one of the most nakedly confessional and least compromised American films ever made at a studio. Scorsese's ode to the wretch is a mammoth wail of anguish and impotence, and a work of radical compassion. A portrait of an emotional illiterate that carries overwhelming emotional power.


1967 France

One of the colossal achievements in world-building, comic or otherwise, and the most generous celebration/lampooning of human civilization I know. Shot in 70 mm - with every plane inventively utilized in any given shot - PLAYTIME is a grand-scaled panoramic gag machine of peerless grace and precision. Its benevolent, godlike gaze could almost be described as entomological. From set piece to dazzling set piece, the vast breadth of visual and aural detail - always organized to an inch of its life, even when the action is thrown into carnivalesque chaos - is a marvel to behold.

Sansho the Bailiff

1954 Japan

"A man is not a human being without mercy. Even if you are hard on yourself, be merciful to others. Men are created equal. Everyone is entitled to their happiness." These words might strike one as platitudes when they're first spoken in Kenji Mizoguchi's staggeringly great SANSHO THE BAILIFF. By the time the film is over, the urgency of those words couldn't be more deeply impressed upon the viewer. A work of perfect simplicity and immense compassion, its ending - a mother and son finally reunited, but how to feel?? - is as unshakeable as any I've seen.


1966 Sweden

The monolithic dividing line between Ingmar Bergman's early and late periods, and the film that is perhaps the most densely packed with all his greatest gifts - his hypnotic dream sequences (sometimes impossible to distinguish from the waking lives of the identity-smearing women), his pummelling, literary dialogue (his love for Strindberg always evident), his genius for composition (arguably the best close-ups in all of cinema), and his formal and narrative daring (see the film's eternally shocking prologue, whose editing seems inspired - and freed from convention - by the recent experiments of Resnais). A liberating film!

A Serious Man

2009 United Kingdom, USA, France

The prologue alone gets it on this list!

No movie has ever gotten at Jewishness - or Jewish anxieties, Jewish pessimism, Jewish interior design - in the way that A SERIOUS MAN does. Profoundly funny and profoundly serious. "What's going on?!"


1985 France

Among the catalog of unforgettable moments in SHOAH, one of the most devastating and revelatory is that in which Simon Srebnik, a survivor of the Chelmno extermination camp, returns to the Polish village of his upbringing. In one sustained, stomach-turning scene - serving as a document of a homecoming (both honestly captured and all-but-choreographed by the purpose-driven Claude Lanzmann) and a portrait of a community's ingrained, barely concealed bigotry - a queasy answer to the question "how could the Holocaust have ever happened?" gradually dawns on the spectator, as the casual antisemitism of Srebnik's neighbours is too-easily coaxed out by Lanzmann, with Srebnik standing miserably amid the oblivious horde. Earlier in the film, when one survivor breaks down, pleading with the unflappable Lanzmann to stop the interview ("it's too horrible"), the master interrogator insists, "You have to do it." With Lanzmann, a ruthless, single-minded gatherer of testimonies, the moral imperative always wins out. But SHOAH is more than a necessity; it is a work of exquisite poetry.


2000 Sweden, France, Denmark, Norway, Germany

If one is to argue the supremacy of the image in cinema, Roy Andersson's work represents a sort of dazzling apogee. No filmmaker has come closer to literalizing the analogy of a movie's images being "like paintings." Everything is built from scratch on a sound stage (even those outdoor scenes!), no detail left to accident. His humour is sublime - informed by a very Swedish pessimism (see his brilliant short WORLD OF GLORY for the grimmest example) - and his vignettes (Buñuel by way of Tati by way of Kafka in aphoristic mode) are among the great gifts in modern movies.

Further remarks

The ranking of art is a fool's errand.

How to not include Sunrise, Tokyo Story, The Decalogue, Starship Troopers, Naked, L'Argent, The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, Andrei Rublev, Mulhollland Drive, Dodsworth, That Obscure Object Of Desire, The Bridge On The River Kwai, L'Atalante, Ordet, Citizen Kane, The Godfather Part 2, Nashville, Airplane!, The Wages Of Fear, Dogville, The Third Man, Do The Right Thing, In The Realm Of The Senses, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Harakiri, Hannah And Her Sisters, A Woman Under The Influence, Johnny Guitar, The New World, Seven Samurai, Kind Hearts And Coronets, Cure, A City Of Sadness, The Crowd, Celine And Julie Go Boating, Happiness, Kiss Me Deadly, Defending Your Life, City Lights, Being There, Caché, Chinatown, Devils On The Doorstep, Kao, Come And See, Crumb, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Safe, Dimensions Of Dialogue, Where Is The Friend's Home?, Distant Voices, Still Lives, Cowards Bend The Knee, The Color Of Pomegranates, Imitation Of Life, Hukkle, Raise The Red Lantern, Tropical Malady, To Sleep With Anger, Punishment Park, L'Aventurra, Greed, Margaret, The Conformist, The Manchurian Candidate, Don't Look Now, The Saragossa Manuscript, Phantom Thread, The Baker's Wife, All About My Mother, The Spirit Of The Beehive, News From Home, Visitor Q, Oasis, Daisies, Marketa Lazarova, Vengeance Is Mine, Carrie, La Jetee, Bicycle Thieves, Baby Of Macon, Crimson Gold, A Brighter Summer Day, Hard To Be A God, The Red And The White, To Be Or Not To Be, Rocco And His Brothers, A Touch Of Zen, Phoenix, Floating Clouds, 400 Blows, Memories Of Underdevelopment, Nostalgia For The Light, Che, The Headless Woman, M, The Apu Trilogy, Grave Of The Fireflies, Ashes And Diamonds, Singin' In The Rain, My Night At Maud's, Mr Klein, Young Mr Lincoln, Wake In Fright, The Rules Of The Game, Onibaba, Steamboat Bill Jr., West Side Story, The Ascent, Paper Moon, Pandora's Box, Save The Green Planet, The Cremator, Earth, Under The Skin, Battleship Potemkin, The Wild Pear Tree, Hud, Wizard Of Oz, Il Sorpasso, Sweet Smell Of Success, Obaltan, 45 Years, Fires On The Plain, The Tree Of Wooden Clogs, One Flew Over The Cuckoo Nest, Jackie Brown, Duck Soup, JFK, Sunset Blvd, The Land Of Silence And Darkness, Fox And His Friends, I Am Cuba, Vievre Sa Vie, The Innocents, The Housemaid, Vagabond, Zodiac, Winchester '73, Parasite, Titticut Follies, Underground, Mikey And Nicky, Woman In The Dunes, Dog Day Afternoon, Shock Corridor, Batman Returns, A Nos Amours, WR: Mysteries of the Organism, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, To Be And To Have, The Silence Of The Lambs, If..., Rififi, Revanche, Sideways, Murmur Of The Heart, Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, Panique, Withnail & I, Burden Of Dreams, Beyond The Hills, the Before Trilogy, Mishima, Remorques, It's Such A Beautiful Day, Wanda, A Married Couple, In The Mood For Love, The Handmaiden, Brazil, Play, Two-Lane Blacktop, The Death of Mr Lazarescu, La Poison, A Report On The Party And Guests, Tampopo, Nobody Knows, La Ceremonie, The Red Balloon, La Casa Lobo, Platform, Tsai Ming-Liang's The River, David Cronenberg's Crash, The Earrings Of Madame de, or Blazing Saddles?

On another day, ten of these (and many others I can't remember, or haven't yet seen) could happily replace the ten films on my present list.