Hope Dickson Leach

Screenwriter & Director

Voted for

Under the Skin2013Jonathan Glazer
Das weisse Band Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte2009Michael Haneke
Blue Velvet1986David Lynch
The Night of the Hunter1955Charles Laughton
An Angel at My Table1990Jane Campion
2001: A Space Odyssey1968Stanley Kubrick
The Red Shoes1948Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Fanny and Alexander1982Ingmar Bergman
Spirited Away2001Hayao Miyazaki
Nantes Triptych1968Bill Viola


Under the Skin

2013 United Kingdom, USA, Switzerland

The first time I saw this film I was so transfixed I kept forgetting to breathe. The ideas, the images, the sound, the pure vision burnt into my brain. There were moments I wanted to walk out but I couldn't leave. This film is unlike anything I had seen before.

The very specific tension between machinery and emotion in filmmaking makes it an art form that is peculiarly well-suited to science fiction's interrogation of who we are. Glazer's particular palette of humanoids have found their narrative home in this story of breathtaking humanity about an alien.

Das weisse Band Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte

2009 Germany, Austria, France, Italy

Haneke's investigation into the origins of evil is so much richer because he has long been unafraid to force you to confront it. Where Funny Games and Benny's Video paralysed me with the casual horror of psychopathy, in this film the complexity of human behaviour and the question of consequences are more intricately drawn.

The children's performances and the black and white photography are so precise that innocence underlies every moment, allowing the haunting knowledge of what lies ahead to be even more sinister.

Blue Velvet

1986 USA

There are few things I hate more in the world of cinema than when people describe things as Lynchian as a shorthand for weird, confusing, mysterious etc etc. The truth is every moment in a Lynch film is meaningful, every story he tells has its own language and its own logic. I cannot tell you why I love his work, precisely because his work exists in images and sound and gains nothing from description and analysis. So I will say nothing except there were five Lynch films on the first draft of my list - choosing one was not easy. (Fire Walk With Me would have got top spot but for the clunky opening; Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks: The Return and The Elephant Man were the others in case you are curious, with a special mention for Wild At Heart which was my favourite film for years).

The Night of the Hunter

1955 USA

It's not a black and white film, it's a silver film, mercurial, shiny and slippery. A film where a face is a landscape, rivers and rocks and hair and grass. A film of innocence and vile intentions, a story of love. A fairytale.

An Angel at My Table

1990 New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom

Like Raging Bull, this is an anti-biopic: as a piece of art it stands alone in the world alongside its subject. This is a portrait of an artist as a human being, struggling not just with the challenges of making art, but also of being a woman whose freedom is stolen from her in so many ways. Formally unusual, Campion feels interested in the journey, the emotion, and the many faces of this poet rather than in complying with the narrative expectations, and in so doing has made a devastating and beautiful poem of her own.

2001: A Space Odyssey

1968 USA, United Kingdom

Growing up in Hong Kong we didn't have English language television and only a handful of Betamax video tapes that I watched on repeat. One of them was 2001. I watched it in stages. Sections. I thought the beginning was missing. I thought the beginning was a different film. I was scared and didn't want to get to the end. It made me believe cinema was otherworldly and science fiction was the best of all of it.

The Red Shoes

1948 United Kingdom

While I was at film school in New York I saw this film being introduced by Thelma Schoonmaker at the Lincoln Centre (speaking as Michael Powell's widow). It wasn't the first time I had seen the film, so when she mentioned the ending I was fine, but some in the audience gasped. Sighed. Groaned. She stuttered and had to finish up and get off the stage quickly. I don't blame her assuming everyone has seen it - it feels like a film that has always existed and always will.

Fanny and Alexander

1982 Sweden, France, Federal Republic of Germany

There are so few films that feel like an entire feast, after which you leave fulfilled and convinced of the world you have just witnessed - whilst at the same time thinking about what it means to have witnessed it. The longer TV series is also excellent, but in the film we are watching more than a story play out, we are invited into it.

Spirited Away

2001 Japan

Every character in this strange world is both familiar and extraordinary. You feel like you must have met them somewhere else, in another fairytale or nursery rhyme. The drawing captures scale both of landscape and characters, and you can smell almost every scene of this film. We must celebrate its emotional and narrative ambition, for it is unmatched by almost everything else made for our screens.

Also: I've never seen a film depict my experience of boarding school better.

Nantes Triptych


Birth and death happen in front of your eyes - simultaneously - while in between we watch a body submerged in water. To see each of the extremes on their own is uncommon, to see them together is a rare thing, a piece of magic only possible with a camera. This piece of work is striking not only because of what we are seeing, and how rare and precious it is, and how we are forced to wait for it to happen in real time, but also because by putting these pictures together, we are given space to consider the meaning of them without being told what to think. This is not simply moving images, this is a story that can only be told with moving images. This is film.

Further remarks

There's nothing like a list of this ambition to make you question what cinema is to you - an endeavour which is simultaneously energising and overwhelming. Ultimately I gave up trying to curate a list that cared about cinema's history and form, and chose instead ten films that bewitch me with their vision and power. I notice that many of my choices are about making art, something I hadn't considered until I wrote them down, and I found myself articulating my choices as deserving of a spot due to their discussion of humanity - is that what means most to me? Perhaps. I haven't included some I feel I ought to have done, and I know will end up at the top of the final list, but if this is a survey of the films influencing and inspiring filmmakers across time (which it might or might not be, who knows), maybe we should be making room for the canon to evolve.

Finally I think this is the place where I'm allowed to talk about the films that didn't make my cut - noticing the shameful and uncharacteristic absence of comedies in particular. So here are some of my other favourites that would all deserve a spot in my top 100 - Lovers Rock, Groundhog Day, Ladybird, Ladybird, E.T., The 400 Blows, Tootsie, Do The Right Thing, Okja, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, You Can Count on Me, L'Humanite, The Truman Show, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Gleaners and I, Rosemary's Baby, Election, The Ice Storm, Walkabout, Vagabond, Raging Bull, Late Spring, The Silence of the Lambs, Umberto D, The School of Rock, Raise the Red Lantern, Tokyo Story, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, The Night of the Hunter, Mildred Pierce, The Son, Time Bandits, Brazil, Zodiac, The Thin Blue Line, Etre et Avoir, Rushmore, Kes, This is Spinal Tap, Some Like It Hot...