Robert Greene’s Top 10

Robert Greene’s Top10

These are “ten movies that taught me about movies,” writes filmmaker Robert Greene, director of the documentary features Owning the Weather (2009), Kati with an I (2010), Fake It So Real (2012), and Actress (2014), and editor of Listen Up Philip and Approaching the Elephant (both 2014).

Nov 6, 2014
  • 1

    John Cassavetes

    Love Streams

    A film that rhythmically moves like its characters: fractured, expressive, grown-up. Its emotional hues are completely original, yet it feels like a friend. This was Rowlands and Cassavetes at their most developed, and the ending is something like pure expression. I try to understand its structural and performative mysteries every time I sit down to edit something.

  • 2

    Chantal Akerman

    News from Home

    This is a film of few elements and infinite layers, a structural, poetic, and observant masterpiece. Primarily, this is just a great idea for how to reveal the excitement and loneliness of a place. Its radical style slowly reveals itself to be expressive and deeply meaningful.

  • 3

    Douglas Sirk

    Written on the Wind

    Maximum emotional output: pushes past irony, through the screen, through your heart and your head to show you the seductive power of images and empathy, while always forcing you to think about what you’re watching and how you’re seeing. Melodrama is a self-revealing organism. Every time I’m taking half measures with my work, I call on Father Sirk. Honorable mention goes to Todd Haynes’s Safe, a glorious Sirkian melodrama.

  • 4

    David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin


    Nothing can prepare a young cinephile for the thrill of Direct Cinema. What you’re expecting to see (voice-over, explanation, facts, message) is replaced with plain-note observation of the human creature, which is the most dramatic and psychologically charged thing. Salesman is the uncle who gave me my first baseball mitt.

  • 5

    Abbas Kiarostami

    Taste of Cherry

    The ending takes a concern at the heart of cinema—the relationship between the real world and the director impulse—and turns it into a self-aware narrative climax, which opens the iris of the film dramatically. This is moving, strange, captivating stuff. Like an old friend once told me, in order for an organism to grow, it must be aware that it is alive.

  • 6

    Jean-Luc Godard

    A Woman Is a Woman

    When Godard stopped the music on the soundtrack as the scene continued, I learned about editing, and when he put colors on-screen, I learned about creating images. If we can ball up the intellectual with the emotional, we can stir people.

  • 7

    Allan King

    A Married Couple

    All documentary is exploitative, collaborative, idealistic, and desperate. Few films capture this full range like A Married Couple. My job is to put this film on and realize I’m never going to rewrite the Bible.

  • 8

    Robert Altman

    3 Women

    The moment Sissy Spacek transforms taught me about the illogical purity of cinema. All is possible, and a filmmaker isn’t worth anything if he or she isn’t willing to dive deep into the emotional possibilities of contradiction.

  • 9

    Dušan Makavejev

    WR: Mysteries of the Organism

    Gonzo formal freedom never dies. This is a beast that keeps turning to reveal new faces. Reality/fiction isn’t an on-off switch. Until you watch Makavejev, you don’t understand evolution.

  • 10

    Kon Ichikawa

    Tokyo Olympiad

    Formally precise, emotionally full—this is a film about everything, all humans, all physical possibilities and limitations, all of it. If I’m ever unsure about what a movie frame can potentially be, I watch any random part of this. A total experience.