Kaleem Aftab

Critic / Programmer

Voted for

The Apartment1960Billy Wilder
Bamboozled2000Spike Lee
La Haine1995Mathieu Kassovitz
Get Out2017Jordan Peele
GEGEN DIE WAND2003Fatih Akin
Mandabi1968Ousmane Sembène
Pretty in Pink1986Howard Deutch
Wajib2017Annemarie Jacir
Zabriskie Point1970Michelangelo Antonioni
No2012Pablo Larraín


The Apartment

1960 USA

The Apartment is the only film that I allow myself to watch on a plane. Usually on a plane I think I'll watch something see that the frame size has been adjusted to fit the screen and then listen to the horrible sound and then the interuption for an announcement, it's like going up in an elevator fulls of stops before you get to your floor. This film has got such a brilliant but simple premise: finding love in a world of sleaze bags and cheating scoundrels, perfect dialogue and a heart as big as the Empire State building. It's impossible not to love. Oh and what great commentary on work and class!


2000 USA

I saw this in the Brixton Ritzy and it blew my mind. When during the negotiations to write a book on Lee, Spike asked me what my favourite one of his movies was back in 2003, I decided to not give him the rote Do The Right Thing reply, and his eyes lit up. I think that was the moment we bonded. This is a film that tells us everything we need to know about historical racism in movies, entertainment, America and the world. The film was unfairly dismissed at the time of the release. It's a well known fact that the man is a master of distraction and here the critics suddenly started decrying the quality of the digital image, rather than the quality of the images being projected. It's also a homage to Face in the Crowd and Network mixed with film essay. It's quite remarkably - a true hybrid movie and original.

La Haine

1995 France

La Haine came out just before I moved to Paris as a student. It helped me understand that Paris may not be all about the left bank, cinema and drinking coffee (of course that’s what it turned out to be for me). The film showed three great friends, who reminded me of my best friends growing up, all from different backgrounds with parents from different parts of the world, all connected by growing up on housing estates and shared cultural heritage. Yes it's a film about the media, class and race, but mostly it's a story of good friends dealing with boredom at a time when France's hip hop scene was exploding. This was a milestone in French cinema in black and white.

Get Out

2017 USA, Japan

Daniel Kaluuya’s performance is one of the best turns on screen in recent memory. A genre movie that looks at the complexity of race with humour and grace. It brought the sunken place into the universal lexicon (or at least mine) and announced Peele as a major new American talent. This is America, and it hasn't changed much, but the white liberals now know how to be a bit more savvy in their language and behaviour so that they seem inoffensive... It's also a movie so aware of the cinema that has gone before it. I keep fighting myself over which ending I prefer, indeed there are two films on the list that test screenings led to the directors changing the ending from "real" to "happy"


2003 Germany

By far and away the best film to win the Golden Bear at Berlinale since I’ve been covering cinema. When it came out it was described as "Romeo and Juliet on Speed, but it’s better than that. A film about the struggle and the problems that come from feeling displaced in the modern world, characters looking for a meaning to be on planet Earth, who are on a journey that takes in addiction, twisted romances and travelling between Germany and Turkey. It's a film that gets better and better with each viewing. It has aged so well and is criminally underseen. It is by far the best European film of this century.


1968 Senegal, France

There are so many films I could have chosen from African cinema. But this one is one of the first movies made on the continent by an African and not a coloniser and is a sly and accurate look at how colonialism exists and continues even when the colonisers apparently leave. This is the legacy of what happens when rules are made and institutions are created by people whose interest lies in keeping the status quo and the internatioanal order. This is a film about institutional racism before the term became a way of describing so much in today's society, including the British film industry. All told as the simple story of one man trying and failing to cash a check that has been sent from someone struggling to find a better life for himself in Paris while not forgetting his roots.

Pretty in Pink

1986 USA

Isn’t she? I’m a sucker for these John Hughes penned teen movies from the 80s in a way that only someone who saw these films as a teenager could be. It was the late 80s, when I was 14 that I watched many of these movies all in one week on my VCR and they got played to death. This one contains so many of my favourite movie lines, "I won't ride my bike outside your house anymore" being one I said on many occassions to the very confused. It has Ducky, Molly Ringwald on top form and Harry Dean Stanton as a struggling father. The ending is perfect. Here the test audience is right. Although as a teenager I did not think this way. And it has a perfect rendition of Otis Redding. The fact that I chose this instead of Wild At Heart speaks volumes.


2017 State of Palestine, France, Germany, Colombia, Norway, Denmark, Lebanon, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Qatar, Australia, Republic of Korea, Turkey, USA

I’m often asked what my favourite xmas movie is, and now I don’t have to dumbly answer Die Hard, ho ho ho (Now I’ve got a gun). But instead can talk about Annemarie Jacir’s immaculate film set in Bethlehem that is the story of a son who returns from abroad to get married. It's a story about tradition, family and renewed connections. It’s a wedding and xmas movie all rolled into one as a father and son go through the dusty streets (and past xmas trees) to deliver wedding invitations and meet a series of strange and beautiful characters. As a writer and now programmer at Red Sea International Film Festival, I'm exposed to a lot of great Arab films, and really I shouldn't have a favourite, but this is first amongst equals (just as some kids are to their parents)

Zabriskie Point

1970 USA

Yes, this should probably have been on my list in 2012. With every passing year as Hyper-Capitalism sadly becomes more and more a feature of our lives, this film gets better and better. I love the pace, the landscape and also it's a perfect example of a European director giving his view on America, and so often when outsiders look in (Paris, Texas comes to mind) there is an authenticity and an analysis that natives sometime miss. Or maybe, its just what I see as an outsider looking into America all the time. The ending is the greatest ending to a movie ever (I'm sorry Butch Cassidy)


2012 Chile, France, USA, Mexico

I love movies that have a good technical story about how they were made (this one used VCR cameras adapted with digital cards to record), that have superstar actors on the top of their game (Gael Garcia Bernal on a skateboard people) and tell stories that are meaningful and tell us about the world that we live in, both good and bad. This one is almost absurd. Set in Chile in the only recorded instance of a dictator being voted out of power, it is a reminder (and we sure need reminding) that democracy can be the voice of the people, it's also a reminder (and this is bad) that the way the message is presented is often more important than the message (which might explain some of the politicians today). I could easily have put I, Daniel Blake for many of these reasons cited, and Ken Loach's film is definitely up there as one of my favourites of the past 20 years from Britain, with only Steve McQueen's ouevre comparable. But I went for No, because of all the ingredients and somehow it feels less celebrated than the works of McQueen and Loach (a bad rationale i know).

Further remarks

My first rule of completing this list was that I would not include any films from my previous list. I’m not saying that none of those films would make my top 10 today, just that I’m taking the opportunity to show my love for other films.

On this 10 I really had a fight with myself over the final film. I was really weighing up putting Kurdwin Ayub’s masterful Sonne on the list, which I have seen 3 times since it debuted at the Berlin Film Festival this year, where it desvedly won the Best First Film. For my money it’s the best film at capturing what it means to be a young muslim growing up in the West today, and the nature of understandings and misunderstandings between friends and the humour that can be found in inter-cultural clashes. It made me laugh and cry.

Then I thought about putting my favourite one-shot film in, I even put Victoria onto the computer. But ultimately I decided that for all it's technical brilliance and fun, I didn't know if I was prepared to stand by it on my list forever.

Then we have the Ruben Ostlund question. My favourite director working today. The youngest winner of two Palme d'Or's, surely I should add The Square, which for my money (and controversial to the many fans of Force majeure) is my favourite of his films. And as I thought about The Square, I was made to think about Toni Erdmann a Cannes film that got the plaudits but not the recognition it deserved.

Then I was wondering about y tu mama tambien, but I realised I have only watched it a couple of times when it came out, and would need to give it another viewing before throwing it onto this list.

Then I thought go back into those films you love from the past. His Girl Friday jumped out at me. But I already had The Apartment on the list.

Should I have a doc, Man on Wire? Leni Riefenstahl - but could I be bothered with the kickback when I comment on the nice uniforms and buildings. I'm in Locarno now, and watching some good movies by a Detlef Serck. I have a signed poster of Man of Wire, and of Anti-Christ - oh that should be on my list. This list is so dumb, even 10 above the 10 I did previously. Ah all these filmmakers, Coppola has about 6 films that would probably make my 10 argh. I'm just going to hide.

Then I thought of the regions where I hadn't put films. Asian cinema such as Happy Together by Wong Kar Wai, Takeshi Kitano's Violent Cop, or Studio Ghibli Films. Then I thought about masala movies and Monsson Wedding, Mira Nair's perfect film about getting married, but I have Wajib. Argh. Do I like Wajib more than Monsoon Wedding? Questions Questions. Then off to Latin America, the films of Lucrecia Martel, Pablo Larrain, and it was then when I wrote Larrain down, that I knew my tenth film would be No. I remember the screening so well in Cannes, and in our torrid times in 2022, a film about marketing good over evil and winning by using capitalist strategies of a soda company, just seems to capture all the intricacies good and bad of modern politics.

All this to say, is that this is a list of 10, but it's all so dumb, and Greatest Films ever made, or just the movies that suited my mood as I sit here one morning after deadline.

After I went and typed No in as my tenth film, i started thinking about all the British films that made an impact on me by Loach and McQueen. It's hard to pick a favourite from them. What doing this list reminded me is that there are so many great films out there, and that cinema is still the most magnifident art form in my book. I can't wait for another 10 years, when I write another list, and I've changed so much that the films I've given honorable mentions here get shunted because I'm on another whim.

Cinema is dead, Long Live Cinema.