Must-see films from across the world that are essential viewing for any self-respecting cineaste.
THE GRADUATE (12A)
★★★★★ – Empire. With names like Scorsese, Spielberg and Coppola the 1970s is celebrated as the great reinvention of American cinema, but, a few years older, Mike Nichols was in the vanguard of this new generation and his 1967 black comedy The Graduate remains one of the great American films. Disillusioned college graduate Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) embarks on an affair with one of his parents’ married friends.
“★★★★★ – A perfect dark comedy” – Empire. Bruce Robinson’s essential cult classic is an immortal piece of British cinema. Two out-of-work actors, Withnail and Marwood, embark on a chaotic holiday “by mistake” in this joyously original comedy, featuring one of the most quotable scripts ever and a career-defining performance from Richard E Grant.
“★★★★★ – teeming with sorrow, yet strewn with diamond-shards of beauty, wit and hope” – Telegraph. Unflinching and compassionate in equal measure, Nadine Labaki’s award-winning film tells the story of Zain, a young Lebanese boy surviving on the streets of Beruit, who comes to sue his parents for the “crime” of having brought him into such an unjust world. A powerful and essential addition to the already rich ranks of films about childhood.
★★★★★ – Guardian. With the death of its star Jean-Paul Belmondo announced on 6 September, we revisit this masterpiece of the French New Wave. Having stolen a car, petty thief Michel (Belmondo) impulsively murders a policeman and ends up on the run, taking his student girlfriend Patricia (Jeam Seberg) with him.
“★★★★★ – compelling” – Guardian. Winner of the 2015 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Pawel Pawlikowski’s drama is essential viewing. Poland, 1962, and Ida – a novice nun about to take her vows – learns of her last living relative and her Jewish heritage. Reunited with her previously unknown aunt, the pair begin to uncover their past, leaving Ida with a choice between her heritage and the religion that saved her from the Holocaust.
“★★★★★ – a masterpiece of dramatic naturalism” – Empire. Scooping the ‘big five’ awards at the 1976 Oscars – including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Leading Actor – Miloš Forman’s adaptation of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel features an electrifying performance from Jack Nicholson. Set in a 1960s mental institution, the film is a powerful and moving study of the moral battle between the ‘system’ and the individual.
★★★★ – Empire. Antonio Banderas delivers a career-best performance as an ageing film director, wrestling with his mortality and confronting the ghosts of his life. Pedro Almodóvar’s deeply personal, semi-autobiographical drama is “bittersweet perfection” (The Guardian).
★★★★ – Empire. Master-chef Chu is semi-retired and lives in Taiwan with his three unmarried daughters, where life at home revolves heavily around preparing and eating an elaborate dinner every Sunday. Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s (Life of Pi; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) delicious family drama is a masterful study of family dynamics and how food can connect generations.
★★★★★ – Independent. Not just one of last year’s best films, but one of the best films you’re ever likely to see, period. This masterfully told story of forbidden love between a painter and her subject – the betrothed daughter of a countess – is utterly compelling, with what is sure to be considered one of the greatest final shots in the history of cinema.
★★★★★ – Guardian. Marina (Daniela Vega), a young trans woman in Santiago, has her life thrown into turmoil by the sudden death of her boyfriend, who is twenty years her senior. Grieving for her lover, she finds herself shunned by his family and under intense scrutiny from those with no regard for her privacy. Sebastián Lelio’s Oscar-winning drama is a sublime study of love and loss.
“★★★★ – masterful” – Guardian. Christian Petzold’s (Barbara) suspenseful study of identity, betrayal and survival is an outright masterpiece. Former cabaret singer and Auschwitz survivor Nelly (Nina Hoss) – her face disfigured and reconstructed – returns to Berlin. When her estranged husband fails to recognise her, she becomes embroiled in his plot to claim his wife’s inheritance. Could he be the one who betrayed her to the Nazis?
★★★★★ – Guardian. South Carolina, 1902. Three generations of women from the same family grapple with the decision to migrate north, leaving behind the Gullah culture they inherited from their West African slave ancestors. An avowed influence on Beyoncé’s album ‘Lemonade’, Julie Dash’s masterpiece broke new ground in its representation of black women on screen, and is a luminous, vital portrait of black life.
★★★★★ – Guardian. Gorgeous and heart-breaking, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight scooped the Oscar for Best Picture against the odds, and should be regarded for its beauty and power rather than that La La Land blunder. Split into three chapters, the film follows the life of Chiron – a young black man growing up in Miami – through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood as he struggles with his sexuality.