1. I was Born, but…

Ozu Yasujiro, Japan 1932

I Was Born, But… (1932)

Ozu’s beautiful wee silent masterpiece about childhood, brotherhood and learning about how to negotiate fathers and learn the rules of the game.

TS

2. Journey to Italy

Roberto Rossellini, Italy 1954

Journey to Italy (1954)

One of the most elliptical and mesmerising films I know. George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman caught in a landscape of alienation – from each other, from southern Italy: a study in inarticulacy, loneliness and longing, built on a radiant belief in miracles.

TS

3. La Belle et la Bête

Jean Cocteau, France 1946

La Belle et la Bête (1946)

Cocteau’s resplendent fairy tale. Images you will never forget. The chandelier arms, the transcendent beauty of Jean Marais, the pearl of a drop of dew on a rose. Pure magic.

TS

4. M

Fritz Lang, Germany 1931

M (1931)

Fritz Lang’s first sound film. The German Expressionist cine-temple. Peter Lorre as a child-murderer, Berlin 1931. A chase. A capture. Maybe the original psychological thriller: it implicates us all. Mercilessly tough and unforgettably wise.

TS

5. Medea

Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy 1970

Medea (1970)

For Pasolini’s monumental/barbaric/visionary touch, for Cappadocia’s timelessly savage landscape, for Piero Tosi’s jaw-dropping primeval costumes, for Maria Callas’s profile. A film inspired by Euripides that feels like it was dug up from inside an ancient tomb, shot in 1968. Wild.

TS

6. My Childhood / My Ain Folk / My Way Home

Bill Douglas, UK 1973 / 1974 / 1979

My Childhood (1972)

The masterpiece that is Bill Douglas’s autobiographical trilogy – a proper Scottish cultural treasure.

I once heard that Scots politicians took it abroad with them as their diplomatic gift. If that’s not true, it’s certainly an idea.

TS

  • Two / one / one votes in our 2012 Greatest Films of All Time poll

7. Stranger by the Lake

Alain Guiraudie, France 2013

Stranger by the Lake (2013)

Exquisitely atmospheric summer cruising. Boys looking for boys and the idyll of abandon. A breathtakingly swoony study in wicked tension, the romance of danger and real erotic yearning.

TS

8. Tokyo Story

Ozu Yasujiro, Japan 1953

Tokyo Story (1953)

Possibly Ozu’s most famous work. Magisterial. The final journey of elderly parents to each of their grown children in turn. The heartbreak of generational disconnection and the inescapable tenderness of familial bonds, the comfort of human ritual and the inevitable turn of the Great Wheel. Profoundly moving.

TS

9. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand et al 2010

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

Apichatpong’s Palme d’Or-winning dream of ghosts and monkey spirits in the Thai jungle. Slow cinema at its most immersive, lateral and resonant. It’s possible to believe you dreamed Apichatpong’s films after you see them… they certainly take you somewhere you’ve never been before on this earth. Don’t hurry back!

TS

Further reading

The View from Here, by Tilda Swinton

By Tilda Swinton

The View from Here, by Tilda Swinton

Tug of love: a cinema pilgrimage with Tilda Swinton and Mark Cousins

By Nick James

Tug of love: a cinema pilgrimage with Tilda Swinton and Mark Cousins

Sign up for Sight & Sound’s Weekly Film Bulletin and more

News, reviews and archive features every Friday, and information about our latest magazine once a month.

Originally published: 6 March 2020