Babak Payami


Voted for

Citizen Kane1941Orson Welles
Seven Samurai1954Akira Kurosawa
2001: A Space Odyssey1968Stanley Kubrick
Last Year at Marienbad1961Alain Resnais
Blowup1966Michelangelo Antonioni
Nashville1975Robert Altman
1963Federico Fellini
Wind, Water, Dust1989Amir Naderi
Leviathan2014Andrey Zvyagintsev
Ashes and Diamonds1958Andrzej Wajda


Citizen Kane

1941 USA

Ground breaking, genius, the mother of all films... there are countless ways of describing this important part of film history. The underlying importance of Citizen Kane, however, is that it remains an inspiration for every filmmaker to reach for the clouds and defy all odds.

I believe that Citizen Kane did not define Orson Welles' character as an artist, it was his character that made his films what they were.

Seven Samurai

1954 Japan

Cinema is a universal language that can be deeply rooted in a specific culture, ethnicity or period in history. It is the only means of communication that can reach beyond boundaries with such ease and effect. Kurosawa exploited the potential of cinema to its fullest, with mastery. Seven Samurai is one such example in his rich body of work.

2001: A Space Odyssey

1968 USA, United Kingdom

Every potential kind of cinema explored in one film.

Last Year at Marienbad

1961 France, Italy

The very essence of cinema is instilled in this film. I feel lucky that the first time I saw this film, it was in a real theatre on the big screen. Resnais demonstrates how, in any given work, the artist brings their own conventions to cinema.


1966 USA, United Kingdom, Italy

Predictability is every artist's worst nightmare. There is nothing predictable in this film and by the last sequence, the viewer realizes that there is yet more to this film than meets the eye.


1975 USA

America, and American cinema, masterfully and effortlessly wrapped into one cinematic package.

1963 Italy, France

I believe that the best films are those that cannot be described to someone. 8½ is one such example. Just watch it if you haven't – and if you have, watch it again every chance you get.

Wind, Water, Dust


Amir Naderi's command of the universal language of cinema gives him the ability to arrive at profound sophistication with the purest simplicity; as if there was not other form of communication in the world.


2014 Russian Federation

Russian/Soviet Cinema has offered so much since the very advent of cinema – I won't repeat the obvious examples. In Leviathan, lead actor Aleksey Serebryakov sits within a rich tradition with confidence and passion. In this film, the plight of ordinary people is the beginning, middle and end.

Ashes and Diamonds

1958 Poland

Wajda's love for, and mastery of, cinema made his films stand out like diamonds in the rough of a highly politicized, ideological environment – a plight that many filmmakers in countries under totalitarian rule faced and few survived. I identify with this plight and admire the greatness of this filmmaker and his work.

Further remarks

The greatest films are often made by filmmakers who cannot be defined by only one of their works. This list becomes more meaningful when considering each filmmaker's entire body of work. They are among the many that have been instrumental in driving my passion for filmmaking.