James Schamus


Voted for

Vertigo1958Alfred Hitchcock
The Searchers1956John Ford
The Ascent1976Larissa Shepitko
Vivre sa vie1962Jean-Luc Godard
Double Indemnity1944Billy Wilder
Ordet1955Carl Th. Dreyer
Tokyo Story1953Yasujirō Ozu
Bicycle Thieves1948Vittorio De Sica
Persona1966Ingmar Bergman
La Jetée1962Chris Marker



1958 USA

Because it's the best.

The Searchers

1956 USA

In The Searchers, Ford not only achieves the pinnacle of the western – the most influential and exemplary movie genre in history, to which no other director contributed nearly as many canonical texts – but also inscribes within the film an astonishing critique of his own life's work up until that point. A grand, brutal and fearless work.

The Ascent

1976 USSR

I have no doubt that had Shepitko not died tragically at an early age she would have continued to make masterpiece after masterpiece and be considered today one of cinema's greatest artists. Watching The Ascent – her searing study of wartime heroism – is a devastating, transcendent experience.

Vivre sa vie

1962 France

Deep human emotion and empathy plus Godardian formal/political play.


1955 Denmark

Two hours of farmers and villagers bickering over religion (plus some other stuff), ending with six minutes that will have you on your knees in wonder. A miracle.

Further remarks

I'm surprised at how 'conservative' my choices ended up being, but my past decade of viewing hasn't dislodged many of my canonical favourites after all.