Ian Nathan

film historian, critic and presenter

Voted for

The Third Man1949Carol Reed
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly1966Sergio Leone
Rear Window1954Alfred Hitchcock
Seven Samurai1954Akira Kurosawa
The Spirit of the Beehive1973Víctor Erice
Paris, Texas1984Wim Wenders
Blade Runner1982Ridley Scott
Sherlock Jr.1924Buster Keaton
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp1943Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
The Apartment1960Billy Wilder


The Third Man

1949 United Kingdom

Because it is the greatest of all noirs, and for Welles's entrance and Alida Valli's exit.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

1966 Italy

It was the first time I realised films could have such personality: Eastwood’s drawling amusement, Wallach’s manic improv in the gun shop, Van Cleef’s lowered brim, the wounded heart beneath the cool veneer, and Morricone’s Ecstasy of Gold...

Rear Window

1954 USA

The confounding twists and multiple readings of Vertigo took it number one a decade ago, but this is the Hitchcock that fixed in my head and heart (Truffaut thought it perfect too): Jimmy Stewart (immobile), Grace Kelly (divine), murder most local, set as theme, cinema as voyeurism.

Seven Samurai

1954 Japan

Because Kurosawa transcended action cinema even as he invented it. Because he made it rain and rain. And because of his gaggle of oh-so human heroes: Shimura, Inaba, Katō, Miyaguchi, Chiaki, Kimura and Toshiro Mifune like a cat on a hotplate.

The Spirit of the Beehive

1973 Spain

Because it might be the most beautiful film ever made.

Paris, Texas

1984 Federal Republic of Germany, France, United Kingdom

Wenders’ spectral America of echoing deserts and radioactive nightscapes, Sam Shepard’s aching romanticism and Harry Dean Stanton’s monument to loneliness forever speak to me.

Blade Runner

1982 USA, Hong Kong

I still find Ridley Scott’s peerless vision of a dystopian future impossibly, cinematically romantic. That cut into the great ‘Hades’ cityscape to the tingling glissando of Vangelis score is like entering a dream. Director’s Cut over the original, the rest is polishing.

Sherlock Jr.

1924 USA

There might be an argument that Buster Keaton is cinema's only true genius - he never intellectualised his brilliance, it was instinct. But in Sherlock Jr. he pondered the medium he was transforming. Nothing seemed beyond him.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

1943 United Kingdom

Because Powell's (and Pressburger's) vibrant portrait of the bumptious yet winning British officer through the furies of the early 20th century not only lives up to its standing as the British Citizen Kane, but might well be the better film.

The Apartment

1960 USA

One from the heart. Plus, it's Wilder's finest film, which had to mean something. It's romcom, I suppose, but with a breath-catchingly cynical view of the rom and a razor-edge to the com. Corporate America as Orwellian snake-pit, Lemmon the sucker with a heart, MacLaine glowing with luminous sorrow.

Further remarks

This was agony - and I can only look back over my choices and think of hundreds of others. But I led with the films that shaped me. Films I constantly return to for nourishment.