|The Spirit of the Beehive||1973||Víctor Erice|
|The Texas Chain Saw Massacre||1974||Tobe Hooper|
|Mulholland Dr.||2001||David Lynch|
|Menace II Society||1993||Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes|
|Taxi Driver||1976||Martin Scorsese|
|Good Will Hunting||1997||Gus Van Sant|
|Das weisse Band Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte||2009||Michael Haneke|
|Bicycle Thieves||1948||Vittorio De Sica|
The Spirit of the Beehive
Few films have come as close to capturing the mysterious and delicate inner life of childhood as this film. It's like opening and peering into a rosebud before it has flowered and finding something you couldn't have anticipated and cannot unfind. Never has a film broken my heart so subtly; it haunts me.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Not only one of the two best horror films ever made (the other being The Exorcist), but one of the great independent films in all of American cinema. The frenzied and demented images are somehow offset by the subtle and suggestive beauty of the compositions and mobile camera work. The film's final image is one of the great final images in all of cinema.
A genius filmmaker at the height of his powers. The full culmination of Lynch's thematic obsessions expressed in their crystalline form. A film that unironically embraces its arthouse pretenses and goes about exceeding them. Probably the best film made since the turn of the millennium.
Menace II Society
Alongside Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies, this is the most devastating film I have seen. The best movie ever made on the adversities of growing up Black in an American inner city where crime and drugs are the only readily available options for survival.
Uncompromising in every way. Looks unflinchingly at New York's 90s street skate culture with overproof courage. A film like this could never again be made and theatrically distributed in America. Perfectly shot, perfectly executed; supreme cinéma vérité.
The modern template for postwar disillusionment and the brittle masculinities it produced. Setting the film in New York was a masterstroke on the part of its writer (Paul Schrader) and Scorsese. Watching Travis Bickle struggle to reintegrate into a city that seems itself in moral and spiritual free fall only makes his own predicaments all the sadder. The residual heartbreak in Travis' last glance in his rearview mirror is unforgettable.
Good Will Hunting
A genuine three-hanky melodrama. Flawless filmmaking at every level of execution. But beyond its formal excellence, this film speaks to me in ways other films simply cannot.
Das weisse Band Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte
Haneke is cinema's great philosopher on the question of violence. This is his masterpiece.
A film with a protagonist whose heartbreak and melancholy seem to transcend space and time. Hitchcock's masterwork on obsession and the ineradicable desire for lost love objects all caught in a finely spun web of crime and deceit is flawless.
The gold standard of neorealist filmmaking, devastating in the simplicity of the story it tells and in its execution with an ending that is almost unbearably sad.
Looking at this list I have composed it would seem that the history of fine cinematic achievement is rather young and somewhat geographically limited. This, of course, is not the case. There are many very great films I regret excluding, such as Kubrick's Space Odyssey, Okamoto's The Sword of Doom, Sembene's Black Girl, Kurosawa's Ikiru, Grandrieux's La vie nouvelle, and many, many more. I believe the films I have selected here are not only objectively superb, but, more importantly (and what is the purpose of cinema if not this), each of these films changed me after watching them for the first time and the aftershocks of those first screenings still reverberate today.