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I rank Jack Nicholson as one of my two or three favorite actors, and his performance as Bobby Dupea in "Five Easy Pieces" (an excellent drama and character study, in it's own right) is, in my opinion, his best. His finest moment may be the scene near the end, where Bobby has a highly emotional talk with his invalid father. The vulnerabily that Nicholson displays is endlessly moving.
My personal favorite film of the silent era, "The Passion of Joan of Arc" is one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking films ever made. Dreyer's brilliant use of close-ups creates an emotional experience I've felt with no other film. And, if your soul isn't moved by Maria Falconetti's performance as Joan, I question if you actually have one.
Of course, I have to include a Hitchcock or two. Truffaut once confessed that he'd tried numerous times to focus on the technical aspects of "The Lady Vanishes", only to get entraced by the plot every time. That, to me, is the great strength of the picture. I've seen the film numerous times myself, and I still get caught up in the plot, the mystery, and the characters. It is still as fresh, as funny, and as suspenseful for me as it was the first time.
"This is Spinal Tap" was not the first mockumentary ever made, but it is, easily, the best. It captures the form of documentaries, while seamlessly mixing in the silliness. Strangest thing of all is how accurately it depicts where rock and roll was, at that time.
"Rosemary's Baby" is more of a supernatural drama than an out-and-out horror film, but that does not make it any less engaging. Polanski is a proven master of placing his audience in the shoes of his protaganist: what they feel, we feel. It's that ability that makes the film the classic that it is.
Another Hitchcock! Like "The Lady Vanishes", it's a twisting and engaging mystery, but not without various degrees of humor. This one also has Hitchcock's signature "wrong man" plot, as well a variety of locales and mysterious characters.
It's maddening that Charles Laughton never directed another film beyond "The Night of the Hunter." It is directed with such vision, imagination and craft, that you would not believe it was made by a first-time film director. Plus, it contains one of the all-time great screen villians, in the form of Harry Powell (perfectly played by Robert Mitchum).