Watched for the first time in 2015. All rated 4.5/5 or 5/5 on letterboxd. In case you’re wondering, I’m counting films that are before the 2010s. In random order:
Ride the High Country (1962) (Sam Peckinpah)
The best western I watched in 2015. It is Peckinpah so there is some violence. Captivating story with danger lurking around every corner.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) (David Hand) (review)
Beautifully animated considering it was made in 1937. Memorable songs and characters. Charming and warm, I had a smile on my face for most of the movie.
Abigail’s Party (1977) (Mike Leigh) (review)
Possibly the best of the TV movies directed by Mike Leigh. Essentially a play about a husband and wife who don’t get along, and have a few guests over. During the film, themes such as divorce, marriage, raising kids are talked about in conversations.
The Driver (1978) (Walter Hill)
Crime thriller neo noir with car chases. Although what I most enjoyed were the unpredictable cat and mouse games between the characters.
A Day at the Races (1937) (Sam Wood) (review)
Entertaining Marx Brothers comedy, considered among their finest. So many great one-liners. Highlights are the “tutsi-fruitsi” ice cream sales man scene, the background verification telephone call of Dr. Hackenbush, and of course the ending by the race track.
Black Narcissus (1947) (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger) (review)
I will never think of nuns the same way again. Among other things, about repressed emotion. Every frame is beautiful on the eye.
The Sound of Music (1965) (Robert Wise) (review)
The songs are classics, and Julie Andrews is unforgettable. A great ad for visiting the Austrian countryside.
The Thorn Birds (1983) (Daryl Duke) (TV Mini-Series) (review)
Great story that captivated me from start to finish. Especially the “soul mate” relationship between Meggie and father Ralph is memorable and timeless. The series was enormously successful, and became the United States’ second highest rated mini-series of all time behind Roots.
Moonlighting (1982) (Jerzy Skolimowski) (review)
Set during the years of the Iron Curtain in Europe. A Polish builder travels to London with a group of workmen. They provide cheap labor for a government official based there. Even today, Eastern Europeans travel to other countries for higher pay. On paper, the story sounds dull, but was surprisingly enthralling, with amusing moments.
Il Sorpasso (1962) (Dino Risi) (review)
During 2015, I reviewed On The Road (1957) by Jack Kerouac, the influence is obvious, but this Italian road movie is a classic in its own right, with a great screenplay and fine performances. If you are a fan of Sideways (2004), you should check this out.
A Swedish Love Story (1970) (Roy Andersson) (review)
Authentically depicting first love, the boy and girl exchanging glances is very cinematic. Especially the girl gives a good performance, you can tell what she is feeling by looking at her face. Andersson juxtapositions this with the world-weary adults. Rare to watch a film which is sweet one moment, and bleak the next moment. It’s powerful yet also slow-paced, so will not appeal to everyone.
New York Doll (2005) (Greg Whiteley) (documentary) (review)
A moving and unforgettable tribute to Arthur “Killer” Kane, the bass guitarist of the pioneering 70s glam rock band The New York Dolls. Following him in the 2000s, the documentary paints him as a flawed but likable musician. A touching story, even if you have no interest in The New York Dolls.
Bus 174 (2002) (José Padilha & Felipe Lacerda) (documentary) (review)
If you’ve seen City of God (2002), this documentary is a good companion piece, which goes deeper and attempts to analyze what’s wrong in contemporary Brazil. How the homeless kids feel like they are invisible and looked upon as trash. It’s easy to empathize with their struggles, yet we also see the harmful things the kids do, so they are not just portrayed as victims.
The War Game (1965) (Peter Watkins) (short) (review)
Won Oscar for Best Documentary and several other awards. Uncomfortable, yet essential viewing.
A fictional nuclear war, told in a realistic way with handheld cameras and interviews, so you feel you are watching real events.
The House Is Black (1963) (Forugh Farrokhzad) (short)
Set in a leper colony in the north of Iran, the short documentary is not afraid to bring us the ugliness and also provides insight into the lepers and humanizes their way of life. They are looked after though getting better can take years. It’s not incurable. The suffering definitely pulls at the heartstrings. Against the odds, trying to remain hopeful. Quite poetic too.
Angst (1983) (Gerald Kargl) (review)
Horror film. The chilling realism and creepy soundtrack haunted me for days afterwards. We are basically inside his warped mind and along for the ride. It’s also an indictment of the legal system in that despite murdering in the past, he is set free with no supervision. Serves as a warning that damaged people exist with no empathy for others. An important film about why monsters become monsters.
The Brood (1979) (David Cronenberg) (review)
Incredibly tense and genuinely scary. The subtext about the damage a divorce, experimental drugs and therapy sessions can cause is equally as disturbing as the visuals.
By withholding information until the horrifying climax, the film keeps you on edge. Contains one of the most horrifying break-up scenes of all-time. Written during Cronenberg’s own divorce and custody battle.
Rabid Dogs (1974) (Mario Bava) (review)
Italian grindhouse thriller. A riveting story so I couldn’t stop watching. Much of the running time, close-ups are used inside a getaway car. The confined location makes the viewers feel they are passengers being kidnapped.
Café Paradis (1950) (Bodil Ipsen & Lau Lauritzen Jr.) (review)
A Danish classic. Fine performances and I cared about their fate. I think it ranks up there with the best films about alcoholism, and delves into the shame, addiction and temptation linked to the condition. Has aged remarkably well, and you still see Danes today who are not aware they are alcoholics or on the verge of becoming so.
Pretty in Pink (1986) (written by John Hughes) (review)
I love the sincerity of the characters. These are teenagers and parents you can root for, who have real feelings. The viewer can have an emotional connection and mirror themselves in the story. The soundtrack is great too. John Hughes was a genius and I can understand why he is loved.
A Christmas Story (1983) (Bob Clark)
The quintessential American Christmas movie. From the perspective of a young boy, we’ve all been kids who wanted something desperately for Christmas. Very quotable and rewatchable. With relatable childhood moments at school and with the family at home.
The Ten Commandments (1956) (Cecil B. DeMille) (review)
An epic. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive film ever made. I knew the mythical story but had forgotten how it all fits together, so it was a reminder of The Book of Exodus. In most films grandiose dialogue would fall flat but here it feels justified because of the biblical proportions. The parting of the sea is unforgettable.
In the Heat of the Night (1967) (Norman Jewison) (review)
I think I saw it when I was 14 but consider it unwatched because I had completely forgotten the plot. Still packs a punch and feels eerily relevant today. Shining a light on how dangerous it was to arrive as a black in a racist southern town. Memorable performances and also a well-told murder mystery. A film that potentially could change your life. Should be shown in schools and hopefully prevent kids from becoming racists. On face value the film looks one-dimensional, but if you look closely the racism works in both directions.
Christine (1983) (John Carpenter) (review)
Coming of age horror/drama. Based on a book by Stephen King. Takes a car having a personality to a whole new level. The book was perfect for adaptation because it’s so visual. I enjoyed ths one a lot more than I thought I would. Has a novelistic approach to storytelling. The director expressed he was a director for hire and it’s among his least personal projects, but I think it’s actually as good as his best work. The lead performance by Keith Gordon is superb and stayed with me.
Seen any of these? Agree or disagree they are great? Have I tempted you to watch any? Thoughts are welcome in the comments.