Top 10s

Jonathan Lethem’s Top 10

Jonathan Lethem’s Top 10

Winner of a 2005 MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program genius grant, Jonathan Lethem is one of America’s premier contemporary writers. His works include the novels The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn, as well as a vast array of short stories and essays. He has also contributed essays to the Criterion releases of Robert Siodmak’s The Killers, Preston Sturges’s Unfaithfully Yours, and the John Cassavetes: Five Films box set. Author illustration by Paul Hornschemeier.

  • F for Fake

    1.
    F for Fake

    Orson Welles

    It’s truly astounding to consider that Orson Welles invented the postmodern-appropriationist-essay film, along with so much else.

  • Red Beard

    2.
    Red Beard

    Akira Kurosawa

    Kurosawa’s secret Dickensian masterpiece: sprawling, sentimental, and encompassingly humane.

  • I Know Where I’m Going!

    3.
    I Know Where I’m Going!

    Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

    Powell and Pressburger’s most enchanted and fresh film, storm-tossed and full of gothic romance.

  • Le trou

    4.
    Le trou

    Jacques Becker

    An absolutely riveting prison-breakout story. Becker is the bridge between Renoir and the new wave.

  • Videodrome

    5.
    Videodrome

    David Cronenberg

    Still Cronenberg’s most nerve-racking, efficient, and, ah, penetrating realization of his vision.

  • 3 Women

    6.
    3 Women

    Robert Altman

    A comic-surrealist fugue from the social satirist—one that deepens with each viewing.

  • Really, the whole box set. But let me draw your attention to this remarkably plainspoken and demystifying self-portrait of the artist.

  • Slacker

    8.
    Slacker

    Richard Linklater

    If this dry, hilarious, spooky existential vision had been subtitled in, let’s say, Iranian, would it have been better recognized for the masterpiece it is? Linklate’s sensibility is not so far from Kiarostami’s.

  • The Sword of Doom

    9.
    The Sword of Doom

    Kihachi Okamoto

    I’m still recovering from the out-of-kilter intensity of this film, which feels like some interior journey into darkness rendered as a samurai allegory.

  • The Man Who Fell to Earth

    10.
    The Man Who Fell to Earth

    Nicolas Roeg

    In Walter Tevis’s novel Roeg found material absolutely suited to his hallucinatory, prophetic style. Mutilated on first release, eternally underrated, this is one of the great films of the seventies.