Films that Stand the Test of Time

by Miladymell

Created 07/17/12

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Scorcese, Eastwood, Tarantino, Lee and many of today's finest filmmakers will attest to the fact that they learned a great deal of their craft and became inspired by some (if not most) of the films on this list:

  • This was the film that has been modeled and imitated by everyone from Ron Howard to Wes Anderson. It is an intimate, unscathing portrait of a childhood lost and not likely to be found.

  • Scorsese said that the opening sequence of this film was so jubilant and unique, that he realized Truffaut was not only breaking existing rules, but creating a whole new language. This is a film about idealism, romance, disappointments and dedication. Moreau and Werner add so much dimension to their characters, that you forget you are watching two actors performing and instead get drawn into two loving and flawed human beings' lives.

  • The last film (and only one in color) made by the late, great Max Ophuls. This story about a woman who became famous because of the men in her lives resonates today as much as ever. Pick a Kardashian - any Kardashian - fame is a circus and Ophuls weaves this metaphor throughout the film to get this point across.

  • This is "Spy Noir" at its best. John Le Carre's novels were the antidote for the gadget-heavy, special effects laden James Bond. Le Carre lived in the real world of spies and it shows. The black and white photography adds to the general bleakness of this tale of a burnt out spy (Richard Burton as Alex Leamas) who needs to get out of the spying trade. His last mission, however, proves to be his most difficult - repleat with double crosses and triple betrayals. The scenes with Burton and Oskar Werner (as Fiedler - the East German counterpart) are the stuff that film legend is made of. Their on screen chemistry adds extra sizzle to a movie filled with an exemplary cast of great character actors.

  • There was a horrible remake of this film called "City of Angels" with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan. Watch this movie and decide for yourself whether or not Hollywood should have even bothered trying to tackle a remake. Berlin is as much a character in this movie as any of the actors are. Wenders tackles the problems of trying to find the soul of this post-war metropolis. Wenders also gets a performance out of Peter Falk in this picture that is one of his best.

  • Tarantino took a lot of his character ideas from this film when he made Inglorious Bastards. Post War Vienna (with its caved in buildings and shadow-laden cobblestone streets evokes another world where cynicism and corruption have taken hold (in the character of Harry Lyme - beautifully portrayed by Orson Welles). Joseph Cotten is wonderful as a hapless American writer who comes to Vienna to work for Lyme. Alida Valli is transcendent as the beautiful, loyal and spirited refuge who refuses to compromise her love for Lyme.

  • This was the film Hitchcock used to help create the mood and style he wanted for Psycho. Simone Signoret stands out as the mistress of a cold, manipulative school master who is trying to drive his wife insane. The acting is not over the top or sentimental. The plot twist at the end makes this thriller pitch perfect.

  • This war trilogy is a must see for anyone who wants to see what Italy and Germany looked like after World War II. Rossellini took his cameras in to post war Rome and Berlin and used local actors (who were actually still suffering from the deprivations of war) to tell their stories. It is sobering to see people living in apartment buildings where one whole side of it has been blown off and so their lives are visible for any passer by to see. Rossellini is unflinching in showing what defeat and despair does to the gradually unraveling family lives and neighborhoods.

  • A documentary on the chaotic production of Werner Herzog's epic Fitzcarraldo (1982), showing how the film managed to get made despite problems that would have floored a less obsessively driven director. Not only does he have major casting problems, losing both Jason Robards (health) and Mick Jagger (other commitments) halfway through shooting, but the crew gets caught up in a war between Peru and Ecuador, there are problems with the weather and the morale of cast and crew is falling rapidly

  • It's a masterpiece of unsentimental, yet genteel, humor, and features performances by some extraordinary actors. Sir Alec Guiness's eight different turns deserve every superlative they've received. Dennis Price is too little recognized--in the US, at least--for his gifts, as his work here proves. Valerie Hobson is wonderful, and Joyce Greenwood is...I would happily buy a recording of her reading the OED, just to hear that astonishing voice. If you have not seen this film, it's readily available. Give yourself a treat. None genuine without the Ealing Label.


  • By obscuredbyclouds
    March 21, 2014
    06:00 PM

    Great list! How about some Jean Vigo in there?
  • By Steve
    April 01, 2014
    11:49 PM

    A wonderful list. I'm sure you could add ten more. Glad that Truffaut heads your list. "Jules and Jim" and "400 Blows" changed my life.
  • By Eric Pomert
    April 04, 2014
    04:48 PM

    Lina Wertmuller's "Seven Beauties" opened a world for me when I was 12 years old. The dark, the absurd, and the hilarious all meeting is a space with no defined edges.
  • By Alderspring
    May 02, 2014
    01:24 PM

    You're forgetting Powell and Pressburger's work. Scorcese loves them.
  • By Sam Hamer
    April 06, 2015
    07:41 PM

    No Kurosawa?
  • By P_D_Green
    January 07, 2016
    07:52 PM

    Fascinating list. I will have to add these films to my essential viewing catalog. So many films... so little time.
  • By David J. Cowen
    February 27, 2017
    10:35 PM

    I clicked on this list because films that are able to "stand the test of time" are very important & even for many great films (One example Scarface) become cheese or cliché over time. Personally I thought the list was made up of films to make oneself seem artistic, but really just ending up looking pretentious. Not saying you are. I read it and interpret that you're listing films that Directors you enjoy, such as, Marty & Tarantino etc. have commented on or influenced by. That's totally cool. I respect your choices (even if I disagree) my only issue is that you talk about Director's & Films that have been inspired by films on your list & state things w/out properly referencing the statements. I also would say that every Artist finds inspiration from historical works. I think the best example is all the film stories that are directly or indirectly taken from Kurosawa's Yojimbo like A Fistfull of Dollars, Last Man Standing. My point being that a film being "timeless" doesn't mean that it's just influential. A timeless film is all about relevance regardless of age & if it remains"fresh" no matter how old it is. Take the film True Romance. It is a timeless masterpiece. I have seen it thousands of times over the years and it never gets old. A film like The Jerk is another great example, but even more of an accomplishment because it's a comedy. I watched The Jerk on a date w/ a girl who had never heard of it before and she laughed & loved it. Tonnes of Comedies have been influenced by The Jerk, but after all this time it still stands on its own as funny. That is an example of what makes a film "stand the test of time" Your list is of films a film buff should see before they die. They aren't Timeless. The Third Man for example is a bore. I'm glad I've seen it and took away a lot from it but I also can count on 1hand how many times I've seen it & would never show it to someone else, because most people would hate it. The things one enjoys is the history, cultural significance, the sets/locations, score & aspects of the storyline. The same goes for the rest of your list. What's worst is that you limited yourself to Titles in Criterion. Unfortunately Criterion is doing a horrible job adding timeless works to the collection and instead adds films like Armageddon. I think we might agree on that.
    • By JeffK.
      July 11, 2017
      11:24 AM

      I have to agree. Yojimbo needs to be on any most influential list.