Robin Baker

Head curator, BFI National Archive

Voted for

Earth1930Alexander Dovzhenko
I Know Where I’m Going!1945Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Journey to Italy1954Roberto Rossellini
Imitation of Life1959Douglas Sirk
Touki Bouki1973Djibril Diop Mambéty
Scener ur ett äktenskap1974Ingmar Bergman
Shatranj-e Baad1976Mohammad-Reza Aslani
Aruitemo aruitemo2008Hirokazu Koreeda



1930 USSR, Ukrainian SSR

Earth could not feel more potent than in 2022. Dovzhenko’s film is remarkable in many ways, but the close-ups on the faces of Ukrainian people now make me weep.

I Know Where I’m Going!

1945 United Kingdom

The votes for Powell and Pressburger will always be split - too many masterpieces of equal brilliance to land on a clear, single winner. So, I went with my heart: IKWIG delivers emotions that never fail to catch up on me by stealth; there’s British surrealism and Hebridean magic and the joy of cinema’s least stereotypical romantic couple.

Journey to Italy

1954 Italy, France

The ruins of a marriage among the ruins of Pompeii - surely one of cinema's greatest metaphors. As Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders watch the remains of a couple incinerated 2000 years ago you can almost feel the tectonic plates of cinema shifting.

Imitation of Life

1959 USA

Few Hollywood films are about as much or deliver their messages so entertainingly. Imitation of Life is the apotheosis of melodrama, but it’s also a guide to life (ie don’t do what they do) and one of cinema’s most extraordinary portraits of the impacts of racism.


1962 India

You'd sometimes think that Satyajit Ray only made one masterpiece: Pather Panchali. Kanchenjungha is one of a number of his other films that deserve to rival its primacy. It's the kind of film where nothing happens, but everything happens. It’s imperfect, elusive, mercurial and it's hard to track down a copy. But it’s the film that more than any other I try to coerce people to watch.

Touki Bouki

1973 Senegal

Anarchic, surreal, shocking, frenetic... Touki Bouki's visual and aural juxtapositions are simultaneously meditative and troubling. I love the film because it's simply not like anything else.

Scener ur ett äktenskap

1974 Sweden

Few films explore a relationship and intimacy more completely (and terrifyingly). It's like a mirror held up to all of us. The film's transition from a 6-part TV series to the big screen is wholly successful, unlike Fanny and Alexander that feels somewhat neutered in the process.

Shatranj-e Baad

1976 Iran

Thanks to recent rediscoveries and restorations, the story of Iranian cinema is changing at speed. Seeing 'lost' film Chess of the Wind floored me: it's rich, heady, preconception-busting and has a final shot that left me open-mouthed.


1989 Federal Republic of Germany, France

Any film with a title comprising three languages necessarily grabs your attention – a hint, perhaps, of the scale of Johanna d'Arc of Mongolia's ambition, knocking down genre (and gender) boundaries, melding the musical with ethnography. The most rewarding movie train ride since Shanghai Express. It’s ridiculous that in 2022 this film is so hard to track down.

Aruitemo aruitemo

2008 Japan

I know that I'll be tutted at for voting for Still Walking rather than Tokyo Story, but, dammit, I love the insight, universality and quiet power of Kore-eda’s film (the very things, of course, I love about Ozu). I don't think I have seen a 21st century film in a cinema more frequently: 4 times and counting.

Further remarks

I set myself a few rules since voting in 2012: a complete film refresh; a filmmaker refresh and no more than one film from any country. I failed on the filmmaker refresh: Satyajit Ray and Powell and Pressburger proved unnegotiable. My own measures of greatness seem to have shifted as I get older. Innovation and technical verve now impress me less, though I still have a taste for audacious cinematic one-offs. But it's those films that get to the soul of being human that tend to be the ones that resonate the deepest for me.

It pained me that I had no space for Murnau, musicals, early Asquith, short films, Hitchcock, pre-Code, Vigo, Jennings, De Sica, noir, Donen/Kelly, Mizoguchi, westerns, Dutt, Ghatak, sci-fi, Demy, documentaries, Sembène, Coppola, early Zhang, Denis, online films, McQueen, Almodóvar or VR. More choices in 2032, please. After 127 years of film, 10 titles is just not enough!