The 400 Blows
Truffaut reportedly said his film was to be judged on its sincerity rather than its technical merit. The film is beautifully made, but Truffaut’s sincerity confirmed my path as a filmmaker. The 400 Blows strongly influenced my films Mini and Quadrophenia.
Vittorio De Sica
Set in postwar Italy, this film brings a beautiful, brutal honesty to the plight of the have-nots. This is a fight for survival and dignity in an uncaring world.
I loved this film before I knew who Stanley Kubrick was. Sterling Hayden’s portrayal of the ill-fated criminal is majestic and psychopathic. The mechanics of the heist are brilliant, but Kubrick lets us see how it’s only the flaws in the characters that bring it down.
Seduced and Abandoned
If I had to describe this film in three words, I would say: “Charm, charm, charm.” The beautiful Stefania Sandrelli is seduced by her sister’s fiancé, who then refuses to marry her because she’s no longer a virgin. The moral logic of the Italian family is hilarious.
This is the template for many films, including The Magnificent Seven. The story is a brilliant construction, and the path of the heroes is eternally inspiring. Kurosawa directs action like no other. It’s an awe-inspiring film.
The Spirit of the Beehive
This film is an epicurean delight: subtle, sensitive, and truly moving. This is a director in love with cinema.
Sweet Smell of Success
It’s a bold film, made by a bold filmmaker. Director Mackendrick’s defense of the artist and the individual against a corrupt and malevolent press and its metaphor for corrupt government remains ever pertinent. The dialogue, written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, is exceptional.
The Third Man
I defy anyone seeing this film for the first time not to gasp when Orson Welles suddenly appears in that doorway about a third of the way through. Directed by Carol Reed, screenplay by Graham Greene, this is top-drawer.
The Wages of Fear
Clouzot’s version is a cinema tour de force. Tense from beginning to end, perfectly framed and edited, brilliantly acted. A must-see.
Wings of Desire
Wings of Desire celebrates the joy and pathos of being human. It’s down-to-earth and magical at the same time. It’s conceptually a breakthrough film, and no one interested in storytelling and the human condition should miss seeing it.
Jonathan Caouette’s Top 10
Jonathan Caouette is the director of several feature-length documentaries: the award-winning personal diary film Tarnation (2004), produced by John Cameron Mitchell and Gus Van Sant; All Tomorrow’s Parties (2009), about the music festival; and Walk…