We all have those movies we accidentally stumbled upon which changed our lives but no one else has seen. You may have been in a video store, a film class, flipping channels, when a hidden cinematic gem stopped you in your tracks.
These are the top 10 movies I consistently plead with friends and family to watch. Comments are open and I’d love to hear some of yours!
10. The Skin I Live In, 2011, Pedro Almodovar
There was zero way to write this without including an Almodovar film. Almodovar films are as disturbing as they are funny. He’s the king of things you can’t unsee. Picking just one of his films was as daunting as picking this entire list.
The Skin I Live In combines torture, confusion, kidnapping and intrigue as the story unfolds in a delightfully horrid way. Who is this woman? What happened to her? How can Antonio Banderas possibly be evil?
9. Europa, Europa, 1990, Agnieszka Holland
I do not watch war movies ever, so you know this must be something different if it’s on my list. Europa, Europa is the true store of Solomon Perel, a German Jewish boy who was mistaken for an Aryan by German soldiers and sent to the Nazi Youth instead of a concentration camp with the rest of his neighbors and family. It is a remarkably human story where there is no clear line between who is “good” and who is “bad”; they are all people with strengths and faults.
8.The Manchurian Candidate, 1962, John Frankenheimer
You know how the book is always better? This is one is the exception. I was assigned an essay for film class comparing a book to its film so I picked Manchurian Candidate as I love the film. While the book gave away what was happening in the first chapter, the movie has you questioning dream from hallucination trying to form reality.
The performances by Laurence Harvey and Frank Sinatra completely sell this movie; but it is the stand-out performance by Angela Lansbury that will leave you remembering this film for years to come.
Note: There is one particular scene where crew moved sets around as the camera pans in order to show a distorted reality. There was no trick editing at the time, and Frankenheimer brilliantly shoots around the era’s limitations.
7. M, 1931, Fritz Lang
PETER LORRE IS AMAZING! Someone in Hollywood saw M and decided Lorre needed to be the bad guy in every film ever, and he/she was right. I am partial to German Expressionism, and M tells a great story of crime and punishment as it relates to individuals and society with amazing, lingering camera shots before amazing, lingering camera shots were cool. You all know Fritz Lang is a master, so watch it now. The end is jaw-dropping. I won’t spoil it. Did I mention Peter Lorre is amazing?
Note: Apologies to Grieg, but you will never hear “The Hall of the Mountain King” the same way again.
6. Rare Exports, 2010, Jalmari Helander
This movie is fairly inexplicable without spoiling something, so best to go into it unknowing of the delightful darkness you are about to watch. Mine collapses, weird shit happens, kid sees creepy stuff. That’s all you’re getting.
5. Delicatessen, 1991, Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Jeunet’s City of Lost Children appears on many lists as it’s more of a scifi genre flick than Delicatessen, but Delicatessen should not be overlooked. It’s weird, funny and dark. I make everyone I know watch it for me love of the one-off sequences edited so splendidly. It’s also fairly difficult to not love Dominique Pinon’s adorable quirkiness.
4. Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, 1998, Guy Ritchie
This probably would be number one on the list; however, I concede that a lot of people have actually seen this one. I first saw this at a time I did not know who Vinnie Jones or Jason Statham were, but they are just 2 of the actors who make this ensemble cast work so well for the movie. Guy Ritchie seriously weaves interlocking stories together in a brilliant way.
Describing the plot is fairly useless as it’s the in-betweens, humor and violence that makes this film a gem. Here’s a try: Eddy owes a lot of money, Sting gets mad, theft plan unfurls, people die, hatchets are wielded, pot is smoked.
Note: I assume that everyone on Earth has seen Snatch. If not, watch these 2 films now.
3. I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK, 2006, Chan-wook Park
Have you ever said “I don’t know what I just watched but I loved it”? Look no further than I’m A Cyborg. This is a wonderful, wacky and charming love story inside a mental institution revolving around a woman who believes she’s a cyborg. It is not what you’re thinking. There are no sappy “his love will pull me through” or “oh how tragic mental illness is” moments. It is more of a “this is who I am, come follow me” story. Su-jeong Lim is an amazing actress who really makes you believe this character is real. Rain (Speed Racer, Ninja Assassin) is a talented and adorable Korean pop star. I can’t believe he never made it bigger in America.
Note: In researching this, I came across of Park’s movies called “Thirst”which I am putting on the top of my must watch list.
2. Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 1920, Robert Weine
Wait…not Metropolis? Nope. I am unnaturally obsessed with German Expressionism and this is absolutely my top pick of films from that genre. I have never seen a film as visually striking as this. Watch it for the set design if nothing else.
Caligari tells the story of a mysterious stranger presenting his somnabalist (sleepwalker) at a public fairground, which erupts into murder, mystery and mass hysteria. There are many fantastic articles written about the symbolism of each character if you care to delve further.
Note: the famous twist ending was ordered by the government in fear that the movie was too anti-establishment. Ignore it.
- The Midnight Meat Train, 2008, Ryuhei Kitamura
I appear to have another unnatural obsession: Vinnie Jones. There is something so brilliant about his presence. If I don’t have you at Vinnie Jones, then how about Bradley Cooper? This bizarre pairing works so well in this Clive Barker story (in case I still didn’t have you at Vinnie Jones & Bradley Cooper) about a photographer following a serial killer. This movie is not for the faint of heart. It is brutal, tense and just plain weird. Gore galore.
I love this film too much. I’m anxious to hear everyone’s thoughts on it!