My Top 10 Criterion Films

by nicc

Created 09/26/12

Edit List

I'm some high school kid who always had a love for films, but only recently truly watching movies. I found a love for Japanese cinema, which started with Kurosawa's Yojimbo, then more Kurosawa, then as I started expanding my horizon, I found Kobayashi's The Human Condition. The Human Condition is truly the most beautiful, stunning, and most amazing film I've ever seen. I also started watching some other directors, like Bergman, Fellini, Tarkovsky (yes all the obvious ones), and I finally found out what I wanted to do for a living. I want to make films. I know that the chances are very low, and I'm not going to put my life on the line to try to complete that goal, but it is something I hope to accomplish one day. I'll love to here your recommendations on films!
(I want to re watch all of these films so I can give a better assessment of my personal opinion, which is why only a couple have them. Still have to find time to re watch The Human Condition in one watching!)
For this list, I'm going to limit it to one film per director, so it is missing some of my favorites (for example Harakiri).
I am always updating this list, so expect films to come and films to go.
24/07/14: Wow, I can't believe that Criterion put this on Facebook and put this as a featured list. Thank you all so much for all the movie recommendations and advice, I take it all to heart. I'll try and respond to each of the comments. I am truly grateful that so many people are willing to share some of their favorite films with me, I now have quite the watch-list for the rest of summer! I also hope that Criterion does this with more top 10 lists (and maybe complete ones unlike mine...), as I would like to see what other peoples favorite films are also.

16/09/14: I'm not the cover list anymore, and I am perfectly fine with that. I got so many movie recommendations, and great words of advice that it made my Summer. I'm still one of the featured lists, which is why I'm updating this list again. First of all, to respond to some criticism on Facebook about having mostly Japanese movies. I am at the moment learning Japanese, and I watch movies to help me learn the language, which is why the majority of the list is Japanese movies, not other countries. But it is understandable.
Sadly over the Summer, I didn't get a chance to re-watch The Human Condition like I originally planned. However, I did find some new movies that I have fallen in love with, some Criterion, some not. I heard of it before the list, but it was also the first recommendation that someone gave me; Funeral Parade of Roses by Toshio Matsumoto, recommended by Matt K. has become one of my favorite movies ever. Simply stunning, I've actually watched three times in the past two months, and I still find it one of the most interesting watches.
I've watched Mizoguchi's Ugetsu and The Life of Oharu, which were both recommended to me multiple times; love them both. I'm excited to watch more of his works.
I still have not seen Woman in the Dunes. The book finally got here, and after I finish Spring Snow, I'm going to read it and watch the movie.
I've actually saw quite a few of the recommendations, but my primary goal this summer was to work, and I didn't get to see all of them. Now that school has started, I expected that to get even harder, but I am looking forward to viewing all that I have yet to see.

Well, it's been a while! What should I say? Well firstly, sorry for never getting around to finishing this list, I got busy with work and school that I never really had time to finish this list; I usually don't even have time to watch movies anymore... Looking back on this list, I see not how my taste in movies has changed (The Human Condition is still my favorite Criterion release, and I still have a deep love for Japanese and French cinema), I see how I have changed. It's weird to think back to what, just over a year ago, and see how much I wanted to be a movie director; but now my dreams have changed to something more realistic in my eyes. My goal is now to become a teacher in Japan then a translator, and now instead of being a brokeass High School student, I am a really brokeass university student. But what hasn't changed as I said is my love for movies. Thank you all once again for all the recommendations and support, it has all been wonderfully appreciated. I also made some changes in the list, and with the recent release of Valerie, I can now add one of my favorite movies of all time to this list.

Changes to the list: I changed out Close-Up for Taste of Cherry. I love Close-Up and find it to be an incredible documentary, but I have a one director rule, and Taste of Cherry is an incredible film. I removed Pigs and Battleships as I found that the more I thought about it, the worse it got. I love the movie, but I think that it didn't fit into the list. Instead, I added The Marriage of Maria Braun, but the whole BRD trilogy would take that spot.
I removed Maria Braun and Double Suicide in place of Valerie and Love Affair.

Honorable Mentions: Close-Up; Pigs and Battleships; In the Mood for Love; HaraKiri; Rashomon; Tokyo Olympiad; Ugetsu

  • Choosing a single Ozu film to add to this list is one of the hardest things to do. If I didn't limit it to one movie per director, this list would be 60% just Ozu, (while the other 40% would feature Kobayashi and Kurosawa).
    There is something unique about the movies Ozu made, and nothing else can really compare.
    After giving it some thought however, my choice was evident, it was Equinox Flower. It was hard to not choose Tokyo Story, Late Spring, An Autumn Afternoon, the list goes on, but Equinox Flower had the greatest impact on me.
    The reason why Equinox Flower had the greatest impact is because of what seems to be its target audience. I am still young, and I feel as if Ozu made this movie for the youth, for young adults, for young lovers, and for being being against your parents. Something that I, and so many other young people can relate too.
    The movie was beautiful, even for Ozu's standard; and it being Ozu's first colour picture, he used colours beautifully. There is something about an Ozu movie, where every frame looks absolutely incredible, it's like a moving piece of art.
    Shin Saburi does an incredible job as the lead, and considering most of the screen time follows him, he makes every scene entertaining.
    Equinox Flower is a truly special movie, and I feel it surpasses other Ozu movies; but I feel as if the more you grow up, the more you will relate to a specific Ozu film; so I expect this one to change in a couple of years.

  • Ever since the first time I saw House, I loved it; but with more viewings, the more and more my thoughts on the movie has changed, and with more viewings, it went from my favorite horror movie, to easily one of the best movies I've ever seen.
    The odd part about Obayashi's House is how hard it hit me when I re-watched it.
    I usually don't talk about this to people, but considering that I'll most likely never meet any of you, oddly I'm more comfortable talking about this; when I was really young, my mother passed away from cancer, and from then on I grew up with my Dad, and my two older brothers (2 and 11 years apart from me). Of course this had a large impact on my life, but I grew up, and for better or worse it doesn't affect my day to day life.
    The first time I saw House, I found it too be an extremely silly, funny, B-movie with over the top acting; which is why I originally loved it, and it is still all of those things; but with the second viewing, it was hard to watch it. It was hard watching Gorgeous look at pictures of her family before her mother's death; and it was easy to relate to how she reacted when her father told her he was marrying another woman. And the last shot of the movie before the credits rolled was heart breaking. But the scene that hit me the hardest was when Gorgeous was putting on the makeup and started to resemble her mother (who was after all played by the same actress). I'm not sure the exact reason why this scene was the hardest to watch.
    But in between all of that, we do have that silly horror movie that I loved the first time I watched it. House is a movie that doesn't answer too many questions, a lot of it you have to interpret yourself. Did what happen really happen? Was it all just Fanta's Fantasy? Or was there really a witch traumatizing these seven girls?
    The movie is really funny, anytime I now see a banana, I think of this movie. The movie's special effects are goofy, but are pulled off so well, and generally match the movie. The seven girls are all a lot of fun to watch, even though most of them aren't that good at acting (after all, Obayashi didn't cast regular actresses to play the girls). One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Kung-fu just states "this is getting ridiculous" after almost being killed by flying pieces of wood, then she just says "it was probably just an illusion." To me, this is Obayashi stating that he knew that the movie he was making was ridiculous.
    But behind all the silliness, there is a truly great story about two sisters, war time, dealing with grief, friendship, and love; a lot of which I can relate too.
    Some of the best movies that you see are the ones you can personally relate too, and that is why I love House so much.

  • Yukio Mishima was one of the most interesting writers to ever live, and Paul Schrader did an incredible job showing this.
    Before seeing this movie, I've only read a single Mishima book (The Sailor who Fell Grace with the Sea), not knowing about the life the writer lived. I ended up watching this movie by just browsing this site, and was so intrigued I rented it the following day.
    I loved it. So many things were done incredibly well, from the depictions of some of his works, too his real life, and his jaw dropping final day. Everything seemed to be done right, the casting, the at direction, even the use of black and white and colour was smartly used.
    The movie does a great job of showing how his life influenced his works, and reading through his works (which I am now currently doing) you can see how accurate Paul Schrader was to the source materials.
    One of the greatest bio-pics ever made; clever, entertaining, and at times horrific, a movie that is unlike any other.
    (Side note, Yukio Mishima's Patirotism is an incredible short film, I highly recommend it.)


  • By Stephanie
    October 16, 2014
    02:04 PM

    Its awesome to see another high school student appreciate criterion films too! Great List! :D
  • By miszczimarian
    December 18, 2014
    07:23 AM

    very good movies
  • By Adam Joseph Cloutier
    January 16, 2015
    04:41 AM

    I meant to say this when I saw the list months ago, but you need need need to see Seijun Suzuki's films (I saw you mentioned you saw Tokyo Drifter): his collaborations with Jo Shishido (Gate of Flesh, Branded to Kill, Youth of the Beast, and (non-Criterion unfortunately) Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell, Bastards!) are tied with the greatest films ever made (only Antonioni;Vitti, Refn;Gosling, Gian-Maria Volonté;Elio Petri, Welles;Welles, and Tsai Ming-Liang;Lee Kang-Sheng can come close).
  • By Stephen H. Painter
    January 24, 2015
    05:16 PM

    You are well on the way to being a serious Kinophile, Nic. I very much approve of your initial list. I don't see any Mizoguchi on your list--watch Sansho the Bailiff as soon as you can. It will alter your heart and soul. Aesthetics and humanity of the highest possible quality.
  • By C L.
    March 10, 2015
    02:15 PM

    Nic, I totally understand. I love House and have no one to talk to about this gem of a movie.
  • By Joe H.
    March 12, 2015
    09:07 PM

    Nice to see Godard's under-appreciated Vivre sa vie in this list.
    July 04, 2015
    04:49 PM

    Fires on the plain is very similar to the human condition. you my also like Jigoku
  • By Sam
    October 20, 2015
    09:23 PM

    This is a fine list. I'm glad to see somebody talking about Love Affair, which is an incredible film. I share your affection for Equinox Flower, too. For me, it's second only to The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice among Ozu movies. If you have Hulu I would recommend (in addition to Flavor...), Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees, The Housemaid (1960 version), Daisies, and if you like slightly weepier fare, 24 Eyes, Garden of Women, Sincere Heart, and any Naruse film starring Hideko Takamine. Also, based on your interest in Ozu, Fassbinder, and Tarkovsky, you might check out Kaurismaki and Bresson, who overlap with all three. I would also check out Oshima (Death by Hanging is good) though he has more in common with European new wavers than with his compatriots. And, yes, Woman of the Dunes is a must.
  • By bugzone2019
    November 26, 2015
    03:48 PM

    If you haven't already seen it, Five Easy Pieces is one of the most complex and subtle films and has some of the greatest characters. It's fantastic and uniquely American.
  • By Jake W.
    November 29, 2015
    10:29 PM

    I'm 19 and and I wish I knew people who were into stuff like this without being all in your face about it, but I'll never meet someone like that. Not only that but your descriptions remind me of how terrible some of mine on my top ten list are (that I'm going to have to change someday) but I think I'm figuring out how to do those as well as the notes better.
  • By rybacki
    November 30, 2015
    06:03 AM

    very interesting story
  • By SilentAssasin23
    January 08, 2016
    12:42 AM

    House is so awesome :D Glad that you and I both love it so much. True definition of a cult classic kind of film, its truly grown from a little discovered film from the 70s to a phenomenon thanks to Criterion giving it the attention it deserves. The extras were fantastic as well, especially the interview with the director giving us a little insight into the making of the film, complete with him showing us the script. A proud part of my collection and one I'm glad to put on and watch every so often late at night, its that fun kind of film
  • By P_D_Green
    January 10, 2016
    10:37 AM

    Thank you for sharing your journey, nicc. You opened your heart to people who barely know you and for it I applaud your bravery. I'm delighted to read that film has guided your dreams and your aspirations. I hope that the career you follow will bring you happiness and satisfaction.
  • By ScorpioVelvet
    January 22, 2016
    04:39 PM

    Great list and presentation, I have only seen some from this list but also love (Valerie And Her Week of Wonders, The Human Condition, Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters, Fanny And Alexander, & Taste of Cherry). Keep up that good work and keep on watching more great films by Criterion.
  • By andrew j joseph
    June 01, 2016
    05:20 PM

    Nice list, it is nice to see such a wide array of different tastes on the list. Some of these I haven't seen, but now that I am just getting back into watching films, I will check out some on your list. Also, some of my favorites that you may not have seen are, The Passion of Joan of Arc (probably one of my two favorites of all time) and Raise the Red Lantern (not a Criterion and a little difficult to find, but a visually stunning Chinese film worth multiple viewings.
  • By Origin
    July 10, 2016
    11:04 AM

    This list is perfect. Never change it. If you determine you like another movie more than any of these, you are wrong. In fact, it's possible you are being controlled by aliens. In all seriousness, fantastic list. For a few laughs, check out my lists.
  • By duke_mccloud
    August 06, 2016
    01:45 AM

    I have a one director rule too haha
  • By Federico F.
    October 12, 2016
    12:38 AM

    Bunuel-That Obscure Object of Desire, not on Criterion sadly. But watch Bunuel, his films are not all great, but his later period is filled with masterpieces. Agree about Ozu, like Bunuel his last period is his greatest.
  • By AnarkEnigmA
    October 29, 2017
    04:59 PM

    If you enjoy Kurosawa you should watch the Bad Sleep Well. It is one of least well-know but IMHO greatest films. It is a corporate revenge thriller noire. Check it out.
  • By Daniel Elf
    December 09, 2017
    08:55 PM

    This list kinda made me puke.