It is hard work being a cinephile. There are just so many great movies out there. Even if you watch everything under the sun on TCM, there will still be the odd classic of French cinema you haven’t seen and once that is complete, do not forget about contemporary Iranian cinema. Pretentiousness comes at a cost.
As with any lists, there is no definitive list to what is necessary to watch. In a span of over a 100 years of movie making, from the Lumiere Brothers to Christopher Nolan, there has to be roughly a million films that have been released and thousands of classics among the bunch. To include them all is a pointless endeavor. Here is a short list of directors that were not included on the list based solely on no real criteria other than preference; Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Vigo, Fritz Lang, Francis Ford Coppola, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa etc etc. A separate “Top Ten” could have been easily made using the films of these directors alone.
But, the films on the list are all influential on its own right. Each one provides a seminal moment in the art of cinema in which it changed the landscape and the way people looked at films. In order not to incite a heated debate in the comment section about the ordering, these films appear in chronological order by release date.
10. Battleship Potemkin
Joseph Goebbels once called Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 film, “The greatest propaganda film of all time.” And indeed it is. Having started out as a film theorist, Eisenstein’s use of editing garnered as much sympathy for the plight of “the people” against the Tsarist by depicting the mutiny on the Battleship Potemkin in 1905. Here, he innovated the montage in which images are shown by cutting from one image to another successively. The Odessa Staircase scene, in particular, is still widely regarded as one of the most dramatic and pivotal sequence in the history of cinema and has influenced films such as Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables”.
The film, itself, still holds up to contemporary standards as the images such as the maggots on bread can still garner a visceral reaction. It moves like a symphony of images, flowing frame by frame. Eisenstein’s editing techniques accomplishes the job as I challenge anyone to watch the Odessa Staircase sequence and not be enthralled by it.
This article was first posted on December 31, 2012