The 251 Best Damn Films of All-Time (Part Nine)

Part One |Part Two |Part Three |Part Four |Part Five |Part Six |Part Seven |Part Eight |Top 25

50. Belle de Jour (1967)

Director: Luis Buñuel (2)

Catherine Deneuve is a revelation and Belle de jour is pure cinema bliss. A provocative journey into the unnerving detachment from reality by feeling one’s way through the prickly brush into a place that is so seemingly inhumane and sideways from the rest of the world. Luis Buñel’s narrative choice is always compelling on a deeper philosophical and moral level and Belle de Jour is his crown jewel. 

Madame Anais: I have an idea. Would you like to be called “Belle de Jour”?

Séverine Serizy: Belle de Jour?

Madame Anais: Since you only come in the afternoons.

Séverine Serizy: If you wish.

49. Safe (1995)

Director: Todd Haynes (1)

Julianne Moore and Xander Berkeley in Safe (1995)

Disturbingly calculated in the approach from Todd Haynes. The result is a never-ending, pounding-headache of a film that is deeply unnerving and so incredibly uncomfortable. Julianne Moore’s detached, dead-eyed performance is truly an all-timer and her best role ever. It’s a unique film, to say the least. The compounding stress of Hayne’s direction with intense paranoia is grasping-for-air filmmaking I love. 

“We are one with the power that created us. We’re safe and all is well in our world.”

48 The Battle of Algiers (1966)

Director: Gillo Pontecorvo (1)

The Battle of Algiers is an extraordinary experience and the best depiction of the long, hard struggle towards freedom of an oppressed people. Shot in a found footage type of way that makes it almost hard to believe this was produced and not lived in. Told through the eyes of the rebels, it’s an intensely realized telling of the pressure conditions that this underground militia operates. It’s guerrilla warfare told with the scope of the entire city of Algiers and truly one of the greatest war films ever made. It also features arguably Ennio Morricone’s best work ever.

“It’s a faceless enemy, unrecognizable, blending in with hundreds of others. It is everywhere. In cafés, in the alleys of the Casbah, or in the very streets of the European quarter.”

47. Perfect Blue (1997)

Director: Satoshi Kon (1)

Pâfekuto burû (1997)

Satoshi Kon is a magnificent and visionary director. Famous for creating incredible dreamscapes and he hits the perfect note in Perfect Blue. In a visually stunning and corrupt world, Perfect Blue captures the heaviness of selling one’s image and the consequences of chasing fame. It’s beautifully surreal. Add in the harrowing score and this becomes an undeniable classic. A film that’s had a great influence on the industry and the second best-animated film of all-time.

“No, I’m the real thing.”

46. Citizen Kane (1941)

Director: Orson Welles (4)

Orson Welles in Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane is a flawless film on a technical level and tells a grand story of faux-importance. The Gregg Toland dramatically lit and deep focus cinematography mixed with the incredulous editing from Welles and Robert Wise gave the film a look and feel that was so monumental. But above all else, Orson Welles delivers an all-time great performance and carries this film. He was a magnificent actor and Citizen Kane is an incredible film. A magnificent directorial achievement. 

“You’re right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars *next* year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I’ll have to close this place in… 60 years.”

45. Ran (1985)

Director: Akira Kurosawa (9)

Tatsuya Nakadai and Pîtâ in Ran (1985)

In another flawless Shakespeare adaptation from Kurosawa, Ran is a hauntingly tragic tale of disobedience among brothers. Tatsuya Nakadai is an increasingly great figure in the long line of Kurosawa pictures in his filmography. His performance as Hidetora is phenomenal. A once prominent and proud figure in Japan quickly falls to the depths of feudal Japan, as his sons that he appointed to power tear themselves up during his downfall. Another example of Kurosawa’s flair for color and composition, some of the most vivid pictures in film history. A towering achievement on a visionary scale while being able to successfully adapt Shakespeare.

“Man is born crying. When he has cried enough, he dies.”

44. Rear Window (1954)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock (5)

Rear Window is a marvel achievement of tension. Hitchock, in the most simple way possible, gets genuine shock and horror through James Stewart’s voyeuristic nature. Only a few films have ever been as tense and it takes all the techniques Hitchock perfected and focuses them on this story. The moments his unruly neighbor peers towards his direction are true cinema bliss. It’s Hitchock’s unique style at its peak. Genuinely entertaining from start-to-finish.

“Intelligence. Nothing has caused the human race so much trouble as intelligence.”

43. Parasite (2019)

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Woo-sik Choi and So-dam Park in Gisaengchung (2019)

Parasite is pure cinema bliss. A masterfully crafted film that is so precise, so ingenious, and so damn entertaining. It’s the edge of the seat pacing. The deceptive production design that feels like something is hiding behind every corner. The sharp wit of the writing and the unbelievable performances from the entire ensemble. One of those films that hits every high note and holds your attention there throughout. It’s essentially everything I want out of a film.  A Bong Joon-ho masterpiece.

“Jessica. Only child. Illinois, Chicago”

42. Seven Samurai (1954)

Director: Akira Kurosawa (10)

Kurosawa’s Samurai epic. A story of seven lone samurai, struggling to survive in a world at peace, come together for one last battle. It’s a phenomenal film and incredibly influential. Featuring an outstanding Toshiro Mifune performance and one of the best cast in Kurosawa’s filmography. It feels like Kurosawa’s most essential work.

“This is the nature of war: By protecting others, you save yourselves. If you only think of yourself, you’ll only destroy yourself”

41. 12 Angry Men (1957)

Director: Sidney Lumet (3)

Henry Fonda, Jack Klugman, Lee J. Cobb, Edward Binns, John Fiedler, E.G. Marshall, Joseph Sweeney, and George Voskovec in 12 Angry Men (1957)

Lumet’s direction, the editing from Carl Lerner, and the sensational ensemble cast led by one Henry Fonda make this one room deliberation towards a young man’s imprisonment make it impossible to look away. The room continually shrinks and gets hotter. The pressure is felt by all the characters as the script reaches a perfect boiling point. It’s an incredible film that’s so expertly made.

Juror #3:  Look, you voted guilty. What side are ya on?

Juror #11: I don’t believe I have to be loyal to one side or the other. I’m simply asking questions.

40. Drunken Angel (1948)

Director: Akira Kurosawa (11)

Image result for drunken angel cinematography

It’s about time Takashi Shimura gets the respect he deserves as a first-rate actor. His presence in Kurosawa films is always transcendent and heart breakingly human. He’s one of the few actors able to match Toshiro Mifune’s expressionist style of acting and deliver a fully fleshed out character. In Drunken Angel, Shimura is at his emotional peak matching a slowly dying Mifune character. It’s such a powerful bond that develops between them but an even more tragic conclusion. A poignant film on-class with two of the greatest performances in Kurosawa’s filmography.

“The Japanese love to sacrifice themselves for stupid things.”

39. The King of Comedy (1982)

Director: Martin Scorsese (8)

Martin Scorsese’s eighth entry and one of his most original and brilliant films he’s ever made. A narrative made for modern-day, a fascination and obsession with fame and fortune. In another incredible performance from Robert De Niro in a Scorsese film, his role as Rupert Pupkin is an all-time great. The way he plays off the famous Jerry Lewis and the lengths he’ll go to achieve his spotlight moment knows no bounds. He drives the story to the outermost rim of insanity while keeping grounded in reality. Hilarious and rich thematically.

“Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime.”

38. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Director: Roman Polanski (2)

Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Polanski mastered the form of unsettling cinema and few films will ever be as unsettling as Rosemary’s Baby. A transcendent horror film with an unnerving lead performance from Mia Farrow and the “friendly neighbor” performance from the indomitable Ruth Gordon. Arguably the best horror film in existence

“We’re your friends, Rosemary. There’s nothing to be scared about. Honest and truly, there isn’t!”

37. Princess Mononoke (1997)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki (4)

Mononoke-hime (1997)

Miyazaki is a master and Princess Mononoke is truly lasting cinema. The horror of the opening sequence will always stick with me as possibly the best opening scene ever. The message from the story is beyond meaningful and the way this is shown through the gorgeous character designs and the world is perfect. The deepest Miyazaki narrative and one that is incredibly impactful. An animated masterpiece that continually changes throughout the years.

“You cannot change fate. However, you can rise to meet it, if you so choose.”

36. Cure (1997)

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (2)

Image result for Cure 1997 cinematography

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s pulse-pounding atmospherics make the moments of true horror completely transfixing. The surrealism is alluring and deeply unsettling to a disturbing degree. The atmosphere is carved through the subtle nature of the narrative, bleakness of the world through abandoned, empty buildings, and the unbelievable mystery behind the antagonist Kunio Mamiya. Kiyoshi’s distinct style is beautifully utilized in Cure to pull out the sheer distress of this horrifyingly original picture. A unique gem of a film out of Kiyoshi’s amazing style.

35. The Godfather (1972)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola (3)

Al Pacino, Sterling Hayden, and Al Lettieri in The Godfather (1972)

It’s hard to find flaws in the production of this film. Each scene is layered with detail and drops consequential scenes one after another. It also provides one of the truly great endings to a film: otherwise known as the most ambitious and stylishly edited scene ever. The Italian countryside sequence with Al Pacino as Michael Corleone. The Sonny murder. Memorable scene after memorable scene. And let us never forget the brilliance of one Marlon Brando as the Don Corleone

“You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you? Or my boy to me?”

34. The Big Lebowski (1998)

Director: Joel and Ethan Coen (5)

Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski (1998)

I love everything about this film and it never disappoints each time I see it. The Coen’s understand character writing and nothing shows that off more than in The Big Lebowski. The Dude and Walter are all-time great characters, but the strength of the film is that every character works brilliantly inside this story. It’s constantly laughing from start-to-finish. 

“Walter, I love you, but sooner or later, you’re going to have to face the fact you’re a goddamn moron.”

33. Happiness (1998)

Director: Todd Solondz (2)

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Camryn Manheim in Happiness (1998)

Todd Solondz Happiness is not an easy film to come to terms with and perplexes in its approach to both the alarming and natural behavior introduced in this picture. It’s darkly funny in a way that makes you question why you’re laughing and presents fairly obvious morality questions that are so unfamiliar and alien that it’s hard to cope with these characters, but at the same time, we relate to them. Solondz reaches into our collective fears and the idea of living an unhappy, lonely life because we’re too afraid of the consequence. It puts the void of an empty life through different perspectives showing the full range of human suffering in a modern context. It’s brilliant in this regard and more importantly, soul-crushing.

“I wake up happy, feeling good… but then I get very depressed, because I’m living in reality.”

32. A Brighter Summer Day (1991)

Director: Edward Yang (2) 

Image result for A Brighter Summer Day cinematography

Edward Yang’s four-hour immersive epic that tells a broad story of the slow spiral towards tragedy is a process that happens carefully over time. Yang shows the transformation of character in no uncertain terms to show how the environment cultivates individuals. The cinematography is a painting on every frame and some of the most inspired works of all-time. The details of this film are remarkable

31. The Pianist (2002)

Director: Roman Polanski (3)

Image result for the pianist cinematography

The craft from Polanski is a masterclass. No film in history has replicated the claustrophobia of the Holocaust as The Pianist.The devastation is neverending and brought to life through Adrian Brody’s distraught performance. The ending is a testament to the survivors, including Polanski himself. The production design feels like a real place. It’s a memory rather than a film. 

“2,000 and my advice is to take it. What will you do when you’re hungry? Eat the piano?”

30. Fight Club (1999)

Director: David Fincher (3)

Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in Fight Club (1999)

One of the first films in my life to completely blow me away in every facet. It’s Fincher’s masterpiece, a film ripe with isolated imagery and solitary ideology. It’s an angry film and the characters represent the individual problems that represent aspects of our society. It also features Brad Pitt at his absolute best; Tyler Durden is mayhem personified and Pitt understands the idea of Tyler Durden. The screenplay and Palahniuk’s original story are discretely detailed and overflowing with relevant commentary. 

“The things you own end up owning you.”

29. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Director: Michael Gondry (1)

Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Charlie Kaufman’s scripts are the eighth wonder of the world and none of his scripts are better than this uniquely structured and deeply personal depiction of a relationship. The concept and execution of the writing is so mind-blowingly good. The cast is great, but Jim Carey and Kate Winslet really get lost in their characters. It’s heartbreak shown in a different sense and I love it every moment. A special film.

“Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.”

28. Chinatown (1974)

Director: Roman Polanski (4)

Jack Nicholson in Chinatown (1974)

The quintessential neo-noir genre film. The craft from Polanski is essentially flawless. Showing the showy-ness and charm of Hollywood while hiding the shady underbelly of crime and deceit. The blasting trumpet score matches the tone of the narrative while Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway deliver world-class performances in unbelievably dirty and complex roles. A must-watch for anyone interested in the art of storytelling.

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

27. Dogville (2003)

Director: Lars von Trier (2)

Dogville (2003)

Dogville takes all the very best aspects of Lars Von Trier: his inventiveness, his fetish for overbearing violence, his untimely visual style that bends time and space to his will, and his distrust of society that leads to the incredibly overwhelming tension in the film. Led by Nicole Kidman’s provocative and daring depiction of lust and hate intermingling to bring out the devil in this small town, the literal lack of walls tells this story is such a unique way that is responsible for the specific feeling this film conjures up. A great ensemble in an all-time great film, showing how vast cinema can be.

“All I see is a beautiful little town in the midst of magnificent mountains. A place where people have hopes and dreams even under the hardest conditions.”

26. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Director: Frank Darabont (1)

Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

One of the best stories ever put on film. A wrongful conviction starts a lifelong friendship brought to life through Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. The two-pack an unbelievably emotional punch. From the best Thomas Newman score to the stunning work from Roger Deakins, this film is a cinematic marvel. It’s the most satisfying end to a film ever.

“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

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