Do the Right Thing
Heat rises off this film. Everything about it is hot: the iconic eye-searing color palette, the characters’ respective tempers, and, of course, Lee’s hyperstylized, sweltering Bed-Stuy simulacrum. But there ain’t nothing sluggish about it.
Written on the Wind
An oily, sexy, ridiculous melodrama that once seen is never forgotten. Lauren Bacall seethes, and Dorothy Malone is scrumptious as a platinum-haired nympho who just wants to get out of Hadley.
Steven Soderbergh’s most personal—and certainly most eccentric—film. Totally balls-out and unapologetic. This kind of movie is really, really hard to get made these days.
Sid & Nancy
I first saw this in 1995, when I was seventeen. My boyfriend actually left the room because it was too intense; he apparently couldn’t stomach the potent cocktail of Chloe Webb’s screeching and Gary Oldman’s rheumy-eyed menace. Even though the movie was set in a time we couldn’t remember, it mirrored our teen zeitgeist in a lot of ways. We’d just made it through the second wave of punk.
David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin
This is documentary in the purest sense: a document. It’s real and sickening, and it feels dirty to watch. And yet there’s something weirdly redemptive about the fact that the Maysles were there. They caught it, they bronzed it like a shoe, and it can’t ever be diminished.
David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer
Maysles double feature! I was reminded of this one the other day when I encountered a large female raccoon in the middle of Los Angeles. As she licked her paws with urbane nonchalance, I thought to myself, “Holy crap, Big Edie and Little Edie had one of those living in their wall. Hard-core.” I love how ceaselessly imaginative Little Edie is. “Staunch character” indeed. She’s like a fabulous nun in a one-woman order. And Big Edie is dry-as-a-bone hilarious. I don’t view this as a tragedy. There’s probably a Grey Gardens on every street in America.
Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.
Run! Don’t walk! I enjoy horror movies that involve fog, ooze, or anything nonhumanoid consuming humanity. You can choose to interpret them through a scholarly lens or simply enjoy the spectacle of blobitude.
G. W. Pabst
Whoever it was who said “There is only Louise Brooks” was right on. With those sad manga-heroine eyes and immaculate bob haircut, she’s become like Marilyn Monroe for nerds. This film is as full of dread and emotion as any modern-day thriller—and all without the benefit of, y’know, audible dialogue. Spectacular.
Dazed and Confused
A film that seems to get more important every year, and I don’t mean that facetiously. I don’t think it’s actually possible to make a flick about high school in the 1970s that surpasses Linklater’s. He did it. It’s done. We all got served. The characters have perfect names too: Pink, Mitch, O’Banion, etc.
The Royal Tenenbaums
This entire movie could have been about the friction between Danny Glover and Gene Hackman and it still would have been amazing. Look past the production design and darling costumes if you can; the story is oak solid behind those oxblood walls.
Tracy Letts’s Top 10
Tracy Letts is an American playwright, screenwriter, and actor. He received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for drama for August: Osage County and a Tony Award for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Richard Ayoade’s Top 10
The British comedian, actor, writer, and director Richard Ayoade is best known for his starring role on the UK television series The IT Crowd and his successful directorial debut Submarine, which was released in the U.S. in 2011.