Manish M's Top 12 Criterion Releases

by Manish M.

Created 07/16/12

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12 Criterion films that make you believe in the magic of cinema. I apologize for that extremely pretentious description.

  • A beautiful, romantic, haunting film about passion, love, ballet, sex, ego. Moira Shearer, with that glorious red hair, dances into our hearts and her performance both on and off the stage is terrific. Powell & Pressburger's images are lovingly composed and that central ballet is horrifying and gorgeous. A nice ancestor to Black Swan, which plays as the sex thriller younger sister to The Red Shoes

  • I love this movie for its repressed eroticism, its hint at surreal absurdism and its gentle sense of melodrama. Catherine D's performance is revolutionary in its refusal to bend to convention. She gives away nothing and I love her for it. The supporting cast is bizarre and sinister but also humorous. The movie looks like a French pastry, so soft you can barely feel it. And yet feel it you do completely.

  • No one did elegant melodrama like Sirk but this film is the pinnacle of his illustrious career. On one hand, it is a tender but barrier-breaking romance; on another, a scathing satire of 1950s society. Beautifully pro-feminist and sweetly romantic, this film offers Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson as defiant star-crossed lovers. But you have to appreciate the art direction and the cinematography also.

  • Oscar winner Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins and Helena Bonham Carter lead a spectacular cast in this gentle satire of class relations. I've never had the pleasure of reading the novel upon which this film is based. But Howards End unfolds like a novel, blissfully moving the plot along while offering plenty of rich character moments.

  • This bizarre, nightmarish film noir sparkles with hints of horror and ends in a delightfully off-kilter finale. While the whole cast shines, star Ralph Meeker is just a little off and the movie succeeds for it. The script is stylized and cloudy, the cinematography is frank and the plot is so uninviting, it's addictive. That opening scene is one of cinema's best.

  • One of the sharpest screenplays ever. A story of jealousy, greed and selfishness, Sweet Smell of Success is a scathing satire of NYC elite, one that still resonates today. The nocturnal jazz score and the frenetic cinematography really add to the claustrophobic feel to this. And then there's Tony Curtis who does astounding work.

  • This witty sex comedy is akin to spending a few days with wild and frivolous people that you cannot help but fall in love with. This movie is especially magical and uniquely erotic. It's also raunchy but without being over the top and a sophisticated and funny movie about some very adult things.

  • Hitch's train-set thiller/comedy is so funny in some very absurd ways but also mysterious. Only Hitch can blend those two genres together so seamlessly. While Lady isn't the best of the director (it doesn't reach the emotional heights of Vertigo, Rear Window or Psycho), it is very pleasurable.

  • Another P&P movie; it's hard to resist their films because they are so colorful and haunting. This movie is brimming with erotic intrigue and Kerr's central performance is so stirring and painful. This film really uses exotic India well; it's an ideal location for a psychodrama about nuns questioning their faith and commitments.

  • This tragic and lovely father-daughter tale is rather very simple. But in its simplicity lies its power. Instead of dressing his film with lots of dramatic confrontations, Ozu lets the film unfold naturally. Of course, this is Ozu so that should be expected. Late Spring is my favorite of the "Noriko Trilogy" and Setsuko Hara is quite ethereal in this incarnation of her famous persona.

  • It's not hard to be enchanted by this gorgeous fairy tale but it is also not hard to be a little scared by it too. This is the first Cocteau film I've ever seen (well, to be honest, the only one) but I just fell in love with it. I like when fairy tales are told this way, with the magical romance mixed in with a dash or horror. It provides for a rather exhilarating experience.

  • This comedy is so elegant and so modern that it could have been made today and no one would have noticed the difference. It's hard to believe this movie came out 80 years ago. The jokes feel timeless, the plot is delightful and the performances are fresh and spontaneous. A total treat for all film fans.


  • By Craig J. Clark
    August 07, 2012
    10:37 AM

    I've seen nearly all of these (save for Trouble in Paradise) and I can't argue with a single one of them. If you're looking for a good next Cocteau, I can't recommend Orpheus highly enough.
    • By Manish M.
      August 07, 2012
      10:35 PM

      since I made this list, I watched Orpheus and then bought it immediately. It was beautiful and romantic. glad you liked my list!
  • By David MacDonald
    October 22, 2012
    10:09 AM

    Great list, dude. Nice to see someone loves the script for Sweet Smell of Success as much as I do, and the ensemble cast is just the cherry on top. Two Criterion directors I would suggest you check (in case you haven't yet) are Terrence Malick (Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line) and Wong Kar-Wai (Chungking Express, In the Mood For Love). Their movies are indescribably beautiful, and some of my favorites in the collection.