Dominique Nasta

Full Professor in Film Studies, University of Brussels, Belgium

Voted for

Andrei Rublev1966Andrei Tarkovsky
L' eclisse1962Michelangelo Antonioni
Citizen Kane1941Orson Welles
GERMINAL1913Albert Capellani
7th Heaven1927Frank Borzage
Charulata1964Satyajit Ray
Fanny and Alexander1982Ingmar Bergman
Rosetta1999Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne
The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu2010Andrei Ujica
The Power of the Dog2021Jane Campion


Andrei Rublev

1966 USSR

In his collection of essays Sculpting in Time, Tarkovsky explains that his goal as a filmmaker was to recreate the world through cinema: with the manifold set of narrative, textual and lyrical layers focusing on the medieval icon-painter Rublev, he managed to do so.

I have watched it at least 25 times and there is always some new and relevant detail asking for closer scrutiny and analysis: it is definitely a groundbreaking, timeless piece of filmmaking.

L' eclisse

1962 Italy, France

Modern cinema at its best, both in terms of visual design (Antonioni's consistently favours abstract editing and framing) and considering its unusually non-empathic soundtrack, which benefited from composer Giovanni Fusco's seminal scoring, L'eclisse also proves a powerful chronicle about a woman's craving for moral and sexual empowerment.

Though it's rarely presented as "an end of the world film", the storyline does bear a striking resemblance to the moments of threat we have experienced during pandemic times. Antonioni thus relentlessly questions cinematically the characters' – and implicitly the audience's – capacity to worship "being thereness".

Citizen Kane

1941 USA

Citizen Kane is the perfect synthesis of European film styles and technologies (the cinema of attraction, Soviet montage, German expressionism, realism that favours deep space and long shots, etc.) having preceded it, while managing in terms of an overtly polyphonic narrative 'tour de force' both to stick to and to break many of the norms and principles of classical Hollywood cinema.


1913 France

Far less acclaimed and studied than his contemporary D.W. Griffith, Capellani demonstrated, in adapting Zola's novel, that French cinema of the teens was obviously ahead of its time: filming on location, in a difficult mining area, editing and framing in unconventional ways and opting for highly realistic – hence non-theatrical performances from both experienced and non-professional actors, Germinal is most certainly a work of art that can still impress contemporary audiences.

7th Heaven

1927 USA

Borzage's splendidly acted melodrama about love's triumph over general adversity (social exploitation, war, physical handicap) is yet another "song of two humans". However, it in some ways surpasses Murnau's Sunrise, introducing a symbolic key derived from his Masonic background as a technical and textual innovation: the concerted inner (on the intimate plane) and outer (in external surroundings) ascension of the two main characters from the city gutters to their home in the "seventh heaven" of the attic, the heaven of eternal love.


1964 India

Indian cinema still resonates with mainstream Bollywood, hence its major auteur badly needs to be reintroduced in best film polls: Charulata is an undisputed masterwork, filmed, edited and scored by Ray himself, an audiovisual poem about unrequited love, shifting from reality to dream and mental spaces and shot mainly from a female character's point of view. It is inspired by a story written by India's major national thinker and poet Tagore, and by his magic realist and profoundly philosophical musings.

Fanny and Alexander

1982 Sweden, France, Federal Republic of Germany

A perfect synthesis of Bergman's widely discussed universe dominated by haunting images of existential angst, this family chronicle, conceived as a TV series, nonetheless marks a major turning point.

The reputedly subtle Swedish auteur manages to be entertaining, with light touches of humour, while going through all the stages of cinema as "cultural series": the sophisticated universes of Shakespeare and Strindberg and Magic Lantern performances designed for children go hand in hand, and suddenly seem all too familiar to audiences of all kinds.


1999 Belgium, France

The filming techniques and storytelling attitude of the Belgian brothers, twice awarded the Golden Palm in Cannes, mark cinema's entry into the new century with a bang. Sound and camera work, unlike in Robert Montgomery's radically subjective noir Lady in the Lake (1947), are not only meant to replace the main character's sinuous trajectory: they *are* Rosetta, and chronicle with every breath, every pain and every step Western society's neglect of basic moral norms.

A very demanding and uncompromising exercise which Robert Bresson, one of the Dardennes' masters, would certainly have approved of.

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu

2010 Romania

Romanian cinema's miraculous New Wave having unexpectedly shown that it was one of the world's most

innovative post-Communist film movements, also brought forth a new cinematic genre, epitomised by Ujica's contemporary film equivalent of a previously literary genre.

Entirely based on edited found footage, newsreel, home movies and archive material, and splendidly sound-designed with zeitgeisty music from all times, the ascent and violent decline of one of the world's most horrible dictators becomes an engaging scenario, intriguing and fascinating throughout.

The Power of the Dog

2021 United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA

Quod erat demonstrandum: the western, almost exclusively associated with masculine filmmakers, has changed gear thanks to Jane Campion's outstandingly dense study of male flaws, secret longings and mysteriously open-ended resolutions in a rude and uncompromising environment.

It reveals a reality the film milieu will have to cope with, a challenging yet highly exciting prospect for the second century of cinema, more alive and diverse than ever before, with or without backing from Netflix… §

Further remarks

Choosing and classifying the ten best films of all time is an impossible task, so that I chose one criterion among many: a film's capacity for innovation in terms of both content and style while still being able to move and stimulate reflection after a first or second viewing.

A list of 25 titles would certainly have been more appropriate as far as I'm concerned: it would have enabled me to add lots of crucial silent films from Europe and the USA, from the primitives to Keaton's late silents, comedies such as the sophisticated Lubitsch and Marx Brother vehicles and, last but not least, musicals and melodramas featuring unforgettable performances by Astaire and Dietrich.

It would also have given room for the 1970s – for Altman, Fassbinder, Kubrick, Wajda, Parajanov, Russell, etc – all missing from my final list, other priorities having emerged.

The top three in my list are non-chronological, but the seven following somehow demanded a chronological approach, though most of these films are pioneering to the point of defying chronology.