Peter Machen

Writer and programmer

Voted for

2001: A Space Odyssey1968Stanley Kubrick
Distant Voices, Still Lives1988Terence Davies
Vertigo1958Alfred Hitchcock
Brokeback Mountain2005Ang Lee
HYÈNES1992Djibril Diop Mambéty
My Own Private Idaho1991Gus Van Sant
The Tree of Life2010Terrence Malick
Melancholia2011Lars von Trier
Carol2014Todd Haynes
A Separation2011Asghar Farhadi


2001: A Space Odyssey

1968 USA, United Kingdom

Simply one of the greatest achievements in cinema and art, 2001 is still astounding, putting most contemporary films to shame.

Distant Voices, Still Lives

1988 United Kingdom, Federal Republic of Germany

One of the most under-rated and underseen films in the canon, Distant Voices, Still Lives is a rare combination of emotional rawness and technical perfection. I am still haunted by it, more than 30 years later.


1958 USA

There are many reasons to love Vertigo but my key motivation for its inclusion here is not its seminal innovations but its remarkable beauty. Frame by frame, it is one of the most exquisitely beautiful creations in all of Western art.

Brokeback Mountain

2005 USA, Canada

Made with such crispness, honesty, compassion and love, few films have had such a personal impact on me - and the world too, I'm pretty sure. I strongly suspect that Brokeback Mountain, which pays so little attention to the sexual politics of its day, has had a strong but unheralded impact on those of our own time.


1992 Switzerland, France, Senegal, United Kingdom, Netherlands

Hyenas expands the boundaries and conceptions of cinema in a way that few films have done. I just wish more people, especially filmmakers, would watch it.

My Own Private Idaho

1991 USA

In technical terms, My Own Private Idaho is probably not even Gus Van Sant's best work. But it has an emotional urgency and cinematic power all of its own that easily makes it one of my favourite films and utterly transcends its limitations.

The Tree of Life

2010 USA

Terrence Malick’s transformation of pure human feeling into light and sound has come to reside in me more like memories of my own life than those of a film. Its strange combination of intimacy and alienation taps into something deeply human for those who are capable of the surrender that the film demands.


2011 Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, Italy

Painfully beautiful and utterly transcendent, when I watched Melancholia in a preview with a handful of other critics, I involuntary applauded as the credits rolled. The others in the audience, though, had fallen asleep.


2014 United Kingdom, USA

In some ways, Carol is a stand-in here for several others of Haynes' films. For me, he is easily one of the great masters of contemporary cinema, and Carol, with its devastating beauty and painful honesty, is an exquisite example of what he's capable of. Nearly all of his work is just as strong, though, so choosing Carol rather than, say, Far from Heaven, has a level of arbitrariness.

A Separation

2011 Iran

At a time when so much cinema is focused on empty spectacle, Farhadi's work is all the more powerful for being centred around the mundanity and complexity of day-to-day life.

Further remarks

These once-a-decade surveys/lists are wonderful things but I feel compelled to point out that they tend to create a notion of critical consensus that doesn't exist anywhere near the extent that the final voting results suggest to most people. Start looking at the numbers and it's likely clear that most voters did not actually vote for many films in the top 10 (I remember doing this exercise in 2012). Still, we all love lists and I loved submitting mine, even as I'm aware that I might be trying to cover bases rather than simply list my most-loved films. It's complicated.