Top 10s

Meg Baird’s Top 10

Meg Baird’s Top 10

Meg Baird is a founding member of the experimental folk collective Espers (Drag City). She continues to perform and produce solo work under her own name, and she is the vocalist and drummer in Heron Oblivion (Sub Pop). Her most recent solo record, Don’t Weigh Down the Light, is currently available through Drag City. “I hope that my work as a musician hasn’t made me focus on sound in film too much, but it’s really hard for me not to think with my ears,” she wrote about her compiling her list. “Selecting just ten films was even more impossible—if it had been ten films for each letter of the alphabet, that would still be as hard.” Photo courtesy of Amy Harrity.

  • Pather Panchali

    1.
    Pather Panchali

    Satyajit Ray

  • Aparajito

    (tie)
    Aparajito

    Satyajit Ray

  • Apur Sansar

    (tie)
    Apur Sansar

    Satyajit Ray

    I was so excited by the news of this incredible release and restoration. Every moment is beautiful—as, of course, is the soundtrack by Ravi Shankar. Some scenes even seem to be able to penetrate the boundary of your own personal memory. Electrifying but peaceful. Throughout the entire trilogy, everything is leaving Apu behind, but the final scene shows all currents flooding home to him.

  • Picnic at Hanging Rock

    2.
    Picnic at Hanging Rock

    Peter Weir

    Agoraphobia, colonialism, trespass and gravity of sacred spaces, and a haunting portrayal of institutionalized abuse. I truly love how this film has become such a potent part of the fashion canon, via those pretty white dresses in afternoon sunlight. That golden light! And the subterranean hum in the sound design is perfect.

  • Fishing with John

    3.
    Fishing with John

    John Lurie

    A late-night friend right up there with Cosmos and Hearts of Space. I’m sure I wouldn’t like this series as much without the Matt Dillon segment (episode three). The camaraderie in the other pieces is great, but the tension of that segment is built in real-time improvisation. The story unfolds right before you—one of the coolest, most magical feelings you can get. I still get really uncomfortable at the fish/trousers part in the Tom Waits episode, though.

  • Dazed and Confused

    4.
    Dazed and Confused

    Richard Linklater

    Such a deceptively complex “teen film.” The incredible tableau of people in trees, in fields, and at crossroads can make you feel like you’re watching a dreamlike, heady laboratory study of the art of human scale. And an amazing depiction of classic American cars! If we all get to a point sometime in the future where seeing fossil fuels being guzzled by the gallon becomes grotesque and hard to watch, I’m sure that Dazed and Confused will still look incredible.

  • Monterey Pop

    5.
    Monterey Pop

    D. A. Pennebaker

  • Gimme Shelter

    (tie)
    Gimme Shelter

    David Maysles, Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin

    I had the chance to see Pennebaker give a talk before a screening of Monterey Pop. The audience got incredibly rowdy during his discussion of his short film Daybreak Express and interrupted Pennebaker’s remarks, chanting “Let’s rock!” Pennebaker gave up and rolled the film. Really lousy, but fitting. Watching Pennebaker and the Maysles’ incredible documentaries in tandem give me those same raw and complex feelings about rock ‘n’ roll as an art and a primal force.

  • Days of Heaven

    6.
    Days of Heaven

    Terrence Malick

    I occasionally have to coax myself out of watching only Terrence Malick films.

  • Alexander Nevsky

    7.
    Alexander Nevsky

    Sergei Eisenstein

    You see this film underneath so many other films—it’s incredible to see it just by itself, with that Prokofiev score (and those battle helmets)! Current events have really been making me feel that it’s time to revisit World War II with fresh, even more unflinching eyes. This is a great film to watch from that headspace.

  • Chungking Express

    8.
    Chungking Express

    Wong Kar-wai

    Intense soundtracks can feel intrusive and distracting, but these feel like perfect uses of (nice ‘n’ loud!) familiar songs in film. I’m so moved to happiness by the way the characters’ boiling-over thoughts, hopes, and dreams seem to be broadcast out of their internal lives and into this remarkable world created by Wong Kar-wai.

  • Rebecca

    9.
    Rebecca

    Alfred Hitchcock

  • L’avventura

    (tie)
    L’avventura

    Michelangelo Antonioni

    I never took any film classes back in college, but these are two that I saw by sneaking into different post-lecture screenings. A fascination with the power of the missing person has stayed with me.


    The dizzying number of overlapping layers—worlds, eras, sympathies, and attachments—has kept Rebecca one of my all time favorites. Joan Fontaine’s nameless character can seem pathetic at times—overwhelmed by an insane situation in her austere, claustrophobic, itchy wool outfits. But she can also feel as powerful as a five-alarm wake-up call from the present tense. (Yikes, especially if the present tense is 1940.)

  • A Room with a View

    10.
    A Room with a View

    James Ivory

    I can’t wait to see this new release! I have such incredible memories of watching this (probably just on a VHS borrowed from the library) and gushing over it with my mom and sister. All that gorgeousness, safe harbor from stupid rules, humor, light and landscape, and Kiri Te Kanawa blasting your heart out—such a welcome alternative for a young teenager into year six of the Reagan era.


    I am such a fan of how E. M. Forster’s novel engenders hope and the promise of a sane and healthy relationship between humans, love, and nature and themselves. This film is so fun, and feels like everything is coming from such a knowing, good, and caring place. It supports you! Be true to yourself, do the right thing!

  • La promesse

    11.
    La promesse

    Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne

    I think I may have counted wrong! I love this film far too much to talk about it anyway.