Vanguard Movies: Premiere Magazine List of Significant Innovative Films

Premiere Magazine’s Vanguard Movies (A to Z)

AIRPLANE! (1980, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker)

We have clearance, Clarence. Catering to an increasingly movie-literate audience, the ZAZ boys took aim at Airport and the ripe-for-parody disaster genre with this relentlessly hilarious sketch comedy. Quick wit and shameless gags have maintained its crusing altitude and quotability.

AKIRA (1989, Katsuhiro Otomo)

With its sprawling apocalyptic landscapes, harrowing violence, and didturing images of man’s melding with machine, this could have been any number of post-Blade Runner sci-fi epics. Except that this one is a cartoon. A landmark that spread the gospel of Japanese anime worldwide, Akira still stuns.

ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930, Victor Heerman)

“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas,” says Groucho, at the mansion of wonderfully curvy straight woman Margaret Dumont. “How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know.” Encumbered by only a few of the song-and-dance numbers that hobbled the Marx Brothers’ screen debut (The Cocoa-nuts), Animal Crackers fully unleashes their sophisticated brand of comic absurdity.

BADLANDS (1973, Terrence Malick)

The alienation of youth finds a rigorously poetic movie voice. From the crystalline beauty of the prairie landscapes to Sissy Spacek’s affectless narration to the offhand way in which she and boyfriend Martin Sheen go on a murder spree, Badlands gives the rage and despair of the young an ethereal grace.

BANANAS (1971, Woody Allen) Allen took a giant step beyond the parameters of his stand-up act with these riotous sketches about a hypereurotic product tester who winds up as a Latin-American dictator. A polished mix of low- and highbrow satire, Bananas proved what a unique and ambitious comic talent Allen is.

BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (1925, Sergei Eisenstein) A double-barreled Soviet calssic: Once revolutionary propaganda (tsarist oppressors shoot brave peasants!), it remains a timeless blueprint for modern technique, such as Einstien’s concept of “montage,” which articulated the very process of editing images together.

BELLE DE JOUR (1967, Luis Bunuel) The greatest artists never take themselves too seriously or have to show off. To wit, Bunuel’s masterpiece of perverse erotica, about a repressed housewife cum prostitute (Catherine Denevue, at the peak of her ice-cold appeal), weaves together dreams and reality with an effortlessness that makes the distinction between them seem positively bourgeois.

THE BIRDS (1963, Alfred Hitchcock) Hitchcock says he especially enjoyed focusing on the “ordinary, everyday birds” that terrorize a California town. And, yes, for all of the film’s brilliant use of synthesized sound and subtext (the butch-femme interplay between Suzanne Pleshette and Tippi Hedren is a hoot), it’s the banal nature of the predators that gives the film its edge.

BLADE RUNNER (1982, Ridley Scott) What makes this existentialist sci-fi noir great is less a function of its plot than of the way it’s shot: Scott and cinematographer Jordan Croenweth give us rainslicked streets that stir the libido, and a vision of the future that’s so dead-on, the rock videos, commercial, and features in its wake look silly for trying to improve upon it.

BLAZING SADDLES (1974, Mel Brooks) An equal-opportunity offencer, Brooks pokes fun at Jews, blacks, hicks, gays, and, of course Hollywood itself, in this western parody about a black sheriff (CLeavon Little) and his alcoholic sidekick (Gene Wilder). From interracial sex to campfire flatulence, Brooks’s trailblazing genre send-up broke taboos as brazenly as it did the fourth wall.

BLOW-UP (1966, Michelangelo Antonioni) Timothy Leary was giving acid tests, accepted truths were being questioned, and Antonioni posited this story, such as it is: A jaded photographer (David Hemmings) in swinging London believes he has filmed a murder and becomes intent on proving it. Then the evidence slips away, and he and the viewer are left with the eternal question: What is reality Indeed.

BLUE VELVET (1986, David Lynch) Look closely: Amid the chirping bird of picket fence America you’ll find…a severed ear! There’s Isabella Rossellini, naked and covered with cigarette burns. And inhaling drugs through a gas mask, it’s the fabulously demented Dennis Hopper. Lynch’s best film is a big lipsticky kiss for anyone who watched Leave It to Beaver and wondered why it seemed bizarre.

BOB LE FLAMBEUR (1955, Jean-Pierre Melville) One of the great, underappreciated shaggy-dog stories of the century, in which the eponymous boulevardier, anaging gambler, engineers daring casino robbery. Melville immediately makes the viewer feel at hove in the film’s seedy Paris locations; by the end, you share his blithe affection for both crime and criminals.

BRAZIL (1985, Terry Gilliam) In the dreary, disorganized, and totally duct-up future, a young romantic (Jonathan Pryce) ignores his face-lift-happy mother and seeks out the woman of his dreams, aided by renegade handyman (Robert De Niro). Monty Python alum Gilliam stuffed this Orwellian nightmare full of eerily prescient satire (think HMO’s Dilbert, and Joan Rivers). No wonder the studio didn’t get it.

BREATHLESS (1959, Jeanluc Godard) With this a snotty Swiss cineaste showed audiences the would over exactly what vanguard means. The plot is hardly an earth shaker: A petty Parisian thief (Jean-Paul Blemondo) pursues a deeply shallow American student (Jean Seberg). But the attitude and innovative style (long, improvised takes; jump cuts; undressed location shooting) of Breathless made everything before it look old.

BRIDE OF FRANKENSTIEN (1935, James Whale) Whale turned up the juice (check out all those electrical arcs in the birth-of-the-bride scene) for the sequel to his Frankenstein, introducing wickedly witty new characters to concoct a mate for Boris Karloff’s monster. Imbued with an emotional resonance and crackpot humor that the first film only hinted at, Bride is the true classic.

CAT PEOPLE (1942, Jacques Tourneur) Movies show-they don’t tell. But how glorious it is when they merely imply. Here tourneur masters the impossible: the subtle horror movie. A Serian woman (Simone Simon) fears she is transforming into a deadly cat. Is it all in her head Tourneur turns the terrifying screws until they pop-and even then, mystery lingers in the shimmery air.

UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1928, Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali) Art, shmart: How often it’s forgotten that this is a comedy. A string of surrealist images (the opener, a woman’s eyeball being slit with a razor wieled by Bunuel, can still make the heartiest soul queasy) that mock the church, romance, conventional storytelling, and just about everything else (in under a half hour), it is one mad dog indeed.

THE CONFORMIST (1971, Bernardo Bertolucci) Not since silent movies jas decadence been so lavishly and alluringly embodied onscreen. In telling the story of how a sexualy thwarted, upper-class young man joins Mussolini’s fascists, Bertolucci applied his own, resolutely Italian craftsmanship and poetic sensibility to the innovations of the French New Wave.

THE CONVERSATION (1974, Francis Ford Coppola) This disturbing metaphor for the Watergate era examines the notion of privacy from an unusual vantage point: that of a professional wiretapper (Gene Hackman) who insists on knowing nothing about his subjects and who guards his own privacy with an irrational zeal. Post-Godfather, Coppola used this much smaller canvas to explore some creepily intimate terrain.

CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989, Woody Allen) With this masterful inquisition into the nature of evil, Allen silenced the fans who wished he would return to outright comedy. Martin Landau plays an ophthalmologist who arranges to have his troublesome mistress (Anjelica Huston) bumped off. Insted of taking a casually brutal approach, Allen obsesses on the consequences of sin.

THE CROWD (1928, King Vidor) In Vidor’s innovative and subversive film, an arrogant proto-yuppie who has lost his job and young child is forced acknowlede that his life is no more important than anyone else’s. The famous closeing shot, in which the camera pulls up and we lose our hero in a sea of laughing moviegoers, perfectly externalizes his inner turmoil. It’s German Expressionism, Hollywood-style.

DEAD RINGERS (1988, David Cronenberg) With his portraits of man wrestling with technology, disease, and emotional and sexual sterility, the Canadian director established himself as the most provocative and thoughtful new movie voice of the ’80s (The Fly, Scanners, Videodrome). Exploring the perverse bond between twin-brother gynecologists (wittily played by Jeremy Irons), Dead Ringers is bloody, disturbing, and almost unbearalby cold- even for a horror movie.

DETOUR (1945, Edgar G. Ulmer) Forty years before Blood Simple, Ulmer threw together this gritty, unrefined, ultra-low-budget film noir. Telling the tale of a spurned lover who takes on the identity of a man he has accidentally killed, and the femme fatale who blackmails him, the movie maintains a high level of suspense without the studio gloss of a Double Indemnity.

THE DEVIL IN MISS JONES (1973, Gerard Damiano) The “porno chic” movement that began when Damiano’s Deep Throat was found to be not obscene reached an aesthetic crest with this lavishly produced, woman-centered fantasy of hard-core sex. Georgina Spelvin’s Miss Jones introduced many an innocent American to oily massages, snake-swallowing, multiple partners, and bisexuality.

DIRTY HARRY (1971, Don Siegel) This devious policier, starring Clint Eastwood as the up-your-Miranda detective Harry Callahan, has an antiauthoritarian streak that was misinterpreted by such critics as Pauline Kael, who called the movie “fascist.” Siegel’s clean, no-nonsense style and the brutality of the crimes depicted were bracing.

DON’T LOOK BACK (1967, D.A. Pennerbaker) Pennerbaker, in this acerbic documentary, gets the camera so far up Bob Dylan’s nose that you’d swear you could see his brain pulsate. It turned out that the oft-arrogant Dylan-just as he’d always said-was all too human. Thus was born a new generaton of rock docs, in which the real action is backstage.

DO THE RIGHT THING (1989, Spike Lee) The most explosive summer movie ever, but all that burns is a pizza parlor. In Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant, the veneer of racial harmony cracks on the hottest day of the year. Lee acquits no one’s narrow-mindedness, but frames his American snapshot in a fmilial manner-complete with the Greek chorus of Smauel L. Jackson’s deejay, Mister Senor Love Daddy.

DRUGSTORE COWBOY (1989, Gus Van Sant) Van Sant’s shoestring-budget breakthrough snached Matt Dillon from the clutches of Brat Pack-dom and offered a morality tale without the moralizing. This story of a quartet of cowboy junkies mixes gritty realism with psychedelic flourish, and approriately throws in a bit of Beat wisdom from William S. Burroughs.

DUMBO (1941, Ben Sharpsteen) Because of its highbrow musical premise, Fantasia is often considered to be the height of Disney animation-and a great date movie for stoners. But Fantasia looks almost elephantine next to this surreal, 64-minute cartoon classic, the coming-of-age of a pachyderm with massive ears. And stoners beware: It also features the eerily inebriated “Pink Elephants on Parade.”

81/2 (1963, Federico Fellini) In the end it’s all just a great big dance, but even before the carnival music reaches its crescendo, Fellini’s dervish of an autobiography has debunked all the beautiful myths of inspiration. Fellini stand-in Marcello Mastronianni heads to a spa to unwind and comes face-to-face with his entire life. A landmark of personal – to the point of being exhibitionsitic-cinema

EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1959, Georges Franju) With its clinically explicit scenes of surgery (a woman’s face is literally carved off), the story of a mad doctor’s misguided attempts to restore his disfigured daughter’s beauty raised the bar for shock cinema. Indeed, no one since has matched the film’s cool intelligence and goose-pimply lyricism.

FACES (1968, John Cassavetes) Cassavetes, working with a minuscule budget and a small circle of actor-friends (including his wife, Gena Rowlands, and Seymour Cassel), helped lay the foundation for the U.S. independent-film scene with Faces, which probes a businessman’s souring marriage. His idiosyncratic vision – middle-class, middle-aged characters, unable to connect in any meaningful way – struck a nerve with the moviegoing public.

FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (1965, Russ Meyer) Three buxom (to put it mildly) go-go dancers murder an innocent race-car enthusiast and then scheme to dupe a handicapped sugar daddy out of his fortune. With appropriate pauses for catfighting and cleavage-ogling, Meyer’s trashfest curiously predicted two (seemingly opposed) ’70 phenomena: feminism (or at least a weird, badass strain of it) and the mainstreaming of porn.

FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982, Amy Hecklering) Masturbation, abortion, and pizza diliveries in class: Teen comedy grows up. Heckerling flawlessly adapted Cameron Crowe’s observations about California high schoolers into feature form and helped launch the careers of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whitaker, and Sean Penn, whose Spicoli contiues to spawn dude-clones, from Bill and Ted to Beavis and Butt-head.

FLESH (1968, Paul Morrissey) Why does Joe Dallesandro ask his girlfriend for fresh underwear ‘Cause the johns like it that way. The petty hassles of a teen hustler might seem like strange fodder for an art film, but Morrissey emerging from Andy Warhol’s anti-art Factory, turned the film’s unabashedly amateurish acting, lighting, and editing into the very defintion of low-budget cool.

THE 400 BLOWS (1959, Francois Truffaut) Twelve-year-old Antonine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is a somber boy who’s always running away – but what he’s running from he never truly knows. More than a sentimental coming-of-age story, Truffaut’s debut feature is a harsh, often sad tale that, along with Breathless, marked the arrival of the French New Wave and its fresh, treetwise style.

FREAKS (1932, Tod Browning) Great Britain banned it until 1963, and even today its images of Siamese twins, pinheads, midgets, and who-knows-what are not easy to take. The sensitive yet shamelessly exploitative story of a group of sideshow freaks who take revenge on “normal” woman after she attempts to murder one of them, Freaks is the visionary precursor to the works of David Lynch and David Cronenberg.

THE GANG’S ALL HERE (1943, Busby Berleley) The marriage of Berkeley’s choregrphy and Technicolor is the ultimte trip, predating 2001: A Space Odyssey by 25 years. Here is a musical that’s impossibly bizarre: obscenely giant bananas; purple neon hula hoops; the disembodied head of portly character actor Eugene Pallette floating in a field of azure; Carmen Miranda going tutti-frutti; Benny Goodman singing; and much, much more.

THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT (1956, Frank Tashlin) A live-action Looney Tune from former animator Tashlin – although it’s open to debate whether bombshell Jayne Mansfield was not, in fact, a cartoon. The silly plot is merely the springboard for sight gags in widescreen and brilliant color, set to great ’50s rock n’ roll. Nobokov once said that nothing’s more exhilarating than philisitne vulgarity; here is exquisite proof.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (1966, Sergio Leone) Leone invigorated the ailing western – the province of aging icons – with stylish nihilism and operatic mayhem. ;In his third and last collaboration with Clint Eastwood (here playing “the Good”), Leone built the action to a vertiginous climax, intercutting vivid panoramas with jarring close-ups, all accented by Ennio Morricone’s throbbing, wahwah-like score.

HALLOWEEN (1978, John Carpenter) The first and best of the slash-the-sexually-active-teenager films. In an innovatve twist (that would be copied ad infiniteum), Carpenter shoots the oening sequence almost entirely from the psycho killer’s point of view–even through the eye slits of his Holloween mask.

A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1965, Richard Lester) The musical sequences are like fever dreams of sheer bliss–rhythmic jump cuts, trick photography, and some of the Fab Four’s choicest pop confections. And not only did A Hard Day’s Night invent the music-video form, it also gave us four classic celebrity performances. You say you want a revolution…. Here it is.

THE HARDER THEY COME (1961, Perry Henzell) It’s hard to decide what about this Jamaican crime drama is most impressive: the lilting, wonderfully seductive soundtrack that introduced reggae to the world, or the film’s prescient vision of crime and fame. How prescient Jimmy Cliff stars as a struggling musician sho tops the charts only after becoming a fugitive from the law.

THE HUSTLER (1961, Robert Rossen), “I’m the best you’ve ever seen,” Paul Newman’s pool shark, Fast Eddie Felson, says to Jackie Gleason’s legendard Minnesota Fats. “Even if you beat me, I’m still the best.” The Hustler codes of behavior were models of cool, but in the end, Eddie’s aggressive pride is the tragic source of his undoing.

IF… (1968, Lindsay Anderson) The title is both provocation (what if….) and lament (if only…), and the film itself is at once a call-to-arms and a romance. Set in a bleak English boarding school, if…focuses on three unruly seniors and the ghastly revenge they enact upon their oppressors. Anderson, one of Britain’s “Angry Young Men” of the ’60s, created the era’s most stridently anarchic work.

IN THE COMPANY OF MEN (1997, Neil LaBute) With no maony and nary a trace of music-video sizzle, LaBute gives the PC morals of big-budget Hollywood a painful kick in the private parts. Two executives, bitter over their relations with women, decide to date a vulnerable deaf temp, get her to fall in love, and drop her, just to see her suffer. Revenge was never this sour.

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956, Don Siegel) An odd affliction has hit Santa Mira, California — and it’s spreading fast. Siegel’s tightly wound, low-budget classic packs a double punch. As a paranoid scarefest, it’s a model of taut B-movie economy. As a portrait of towns-people being infiltrated by pernicious (i.e., Commie) aliens, it set the standard for political allegory in ’50s sci-fi.

JOHNNY GUITAR (1954, Nicholas Ray) Melancholy giant Sterling Hayden has nver been more gently affecting than in this weird western, in which he plays the reluctant mediator in a fever-pitch battle between hardheaded women Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge. In announcing “I’m a stranger here myself, ” he provided a more complex motto of alienation than Brando’s sneering “What’ve ya got” in The Wild One.

JULES ET JIM (1961, Francois Truffaut) Who knew a simple traiangle could yield such gorgeously complex geometry A French enchantress (Jeanne Moreau), longing for freedom from bourgeois values, finds it, for a time, in a three-way love affair with two best friends. Even a tragic encind cannot undo the thrill of liberation conveyed by Truffaut’s New Wave romance.

THE KILLER (1989, John Woo) What do you get when you cress Roger Corman with the ballet A film heavy on bullet casings that tumble in sumptuous slow motion. A dapper, reticent hit man in a flowing overcoat who makes Eastwood’s Man With No Name Look lik Man With ADD. Woo’s frenetic action has been imitated by many, but few have matched his poetic grace.

THE KILLING (1956, Stanley Kubrick) Before tackling the universe, Kubrick set his sights on more earthbound concerns – such as rethinking the crime movie. The Killing’s cast (Sterling Hayden, Timothy Carey) is cultishly cool, the tough-guy talk bitterly noir, and (foreshadowing Reservoir Dogs) the plot cleverly convolted – jumping back and forth in time to reveal a racetrack heist as each participant saw it go down.

KISS ME DEADLY (1955, Robert Aldrich) Thick-headed detective Mike Hammer (a too-perfect Ralph Meeker), accustomed to peeping in bedroom windows, here stumbles into a front-row seat at the apocalypse. This delirious noir is unrepentantly sleazy and nihilistic. Aldrich achieves his tone with a cool detachment that latter-day acolytes visibly strain to mimic. Number of likable characters: one. And he gets killed off early.

THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971, Peter Bogdanovich) Shooting in black and white and rendering a small-town Texas location as if it were an old movie set, Bogdanovich (and an outstanding ensemble, including Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, and Oscar winner Cloris Leachman) euogized Hollywood’s golden age, even as he signaled a new era of cinematic honesty.

LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1973, Bernardo Bertolucci) “Go to the movies to see love,” a woman instructs Paul (Marlon Brando), a widowed American expatriate who falls into the ultimate rebound relationship. But do “the movies” show us love that’s filled with raw desire and crippling emptiness Directing Brando to his greatest performance, Bertolucci drenched Last Tango in psychosexual realism never before – and rarely since – captured on film.

THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962, John Ford) As close as Ford ever came to making a revisionist western. Scrapping the Monument Valley vistas and grand battles that established his reputation, he here exposes the lies behind the taming of the West: The civilized yet defenseless James Stewart must rely on John Wayne’s rugged strength to prevail against sadistic outlaw Lee Marvin.

MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (1929, Dziga Vertov) Radical filmmakers of the ’60s worshiped Vertov for his “agitprop” newsreels, but this day-in-the-life-of-a-city documentary is his true legacy. Using the camera like a jazz instrument – tilting it every which way, even, splitting the screen into kaleidoscopic parts – Vertov constructed a new reality out of workday Moscow.

THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN (1978, Rainer Werner Fassbinder) The brief ’70s creative explosion known as the New German Cinema reached it molten core with this Fassbinder masterpiece. A simple love story told with dizzying complexity, it was meant as an allegory of Germany’s economic miracle – and spiritual emptiness.

MEAN STREETS (1973, Martin Scorsese) Scorsese comes into his own. Baby gangsters Havrvey Keitel and Robert De Niro slowly drown in insular Little Italy – a location that the director, a native, understands only too well. Though the interiors were shot in Hollywood, the plucked-from-life characters evoked the streets of New York with unprecedented passion.

MEDIUM COOL (1969, Haskell Wexler) How long can one watch before getting involved That is the question posed by this deft piece of docu-fiction. Robert Forester plays an ambulance-chasing Chicago cameranman who discovers love and the relavnace of protest at thwe 1968 Democratic Convention. The footage of the riots Wexler shot with his actors is chilling – enough to actually shake today’s audiences out of political apathy.

METROPOLIS (1926, Fritz Lang) Lang’s vision of the year 2000 retains its power evem as we approach the millennium. One of the earliest films to pit the individual against totalitarian conformity, Metropolis, with its images of spired skyscrapers and synchronous lines of blue-collar drones, defined a new type of futuristic-nightmare art, the influence of which can be seen in such films as Brazil and Gattaca.

MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1974, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones) Using pastiche, anachronism, gore (“Look, you stupid bastard, you’ve got no arms left!”), even an appearance by (an animatied) God – in the service of a raucous romp through (on) the King Arthur legend – England’s Monty Python troupe brilliantly married the sensibilities of Tom Stoppard and Mel Brooks. Inspired anarchy for the U.K. – and everybody else.

MY BRILLIANT CAREER (1979, Gillian Armstrong) This turn-of-the-century feminist fairy tale heralded the arrival not only of Austraalian cinema but of a mojor directing talent. With unusual assurance, Armstrong chronicles the struggle of a young writer, played by Judy Davis, in a star-making performance. Much to the surprise of the audiences, she spurs her handsome lover (Sam Neill) in order to focus on her life’s work.

NASHVILLE (1975, Robert Altman) Perfecting the techniques he pioneered in M*A*S*H (overlapping dialogue; improvistaional ensemble acting) and introducing a few new ones (actors singing their own, live-sync songs), Altman seres up a 159-minute pageant of sex, violence, music, religion, fame, and politics. There’s never been anything quite like it: an epic of ironic Americana.

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955, Charles Laughton) Robert Mitchum was playing charismatic psychopaths before De Niro or Walken entered high school. As a murderous preacher who’s convinced he’s carrying out the Lord’s wishes (he has the words LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles), Mitchum stands for all things evil. It was – and is – a shocking depiction of a man of God.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968, Gorge A. Romero) Transplanting the horror movie from the supernatural to the eveyday, Romero’s shoestring production conjures up flesh-chewing zombies in the boondocks outside Pittsburgh. Starks and bitter, it has served as a classy model for the countless gorefests that have followed.

NNSFERATU (1922, F.W. Murnau) The crowning achievement of German Expressionism: a silent horror film that actually looks and feels like a nightmare. Max Schreck plays the Prince of Darkness with an unflinching ugliness: pointy, asymmetrical ears; morphine eyes; and skin that looks like daubed with stale Oreo filling. The benchmark of bloodsuckers.

OLYMPIA (1938, Leni Riefenstahl) This epic account of the 1963 Berlin games gave Hitler’s deadly myth of Aryan superiority an aesthetic gloss. It established Riefenstahl as one of the century’s best documentarians and most morally compromised artists. And it stands as a stinging rebuke to the argument that beauty is truth.

OPEN CITY (1946, Roberto Rossellini) With Cinecitta studios in ruins after the war, Rossellini took to the streets of Rome – and invented neo-realist style. Using both actors and nonprofessionals, eschewing artificial lighting and sets, and telling the tragic tale of a Communist Resistance leader’s vain attempt to elude the Nazis, Rossellini rewrote the rules of filmmaking.

PANDORA’S BOX (1928, G.W. Pabst) Fed up with Hollywood, Louise Brooks landed in Pabst’s silent German classic as Lulu, the foozy with a hard-driving lifestyle (sex, booze, and befriending Jack the Ripper) that leads to her downfall. Her luminous bad-girl persona still feels modern, as does her black-tressed bob, which continues to reappear in movies such as Something Wild and Pulp Fiction.

PEEPING TOM (1960, Michael Powell) Taking Hitchcock’s Rear Window to its logical conclusion, Powell shows us that voyeurism (moviegoing) is more than just a turn-on: It has moral consequences. This utterly disturbing and honest horror movie puts you in the shoes of a psychotic camera nut who films women as he’s killing them. Viewing will never seem innovient again.

PERSONA (1966, Igmar Bergman) No wonder Ingmar Bergman is Woody Allen’s hero: He turns psychoanalysis into movies — literally. When a hospitalized actress (Liv Ullmann) breaks down, so does the film, sprockets and all. Later, when the personalities of Ullmann and her nurse (Bibi Anderson) start to merge, their images are shockingly joined. Hypnotic and incisive, Persona is also Bergman’s most self-consciously cinematic work.

THE PIANO (1993, Jane Campion) An idiosyncratic drama from Down Under that became an international sensation. Holly Hunter’s mute Englishwoman arrives in nineteenth-century New Zealand with her daughter (Anna Paquin) and beloved piano; before long, her prearranged groom (Sam Neill) finds her making music with a local nativist (Harvey Keitel). The movie’s startling eroticism is matched by its glittering score and lush cinematography.

PINK FLAMINGOS (1972, John Waters)

Bad taste is just like good tast, only gross. Or so Waters and his freaky cast (particularly Divine, his dragqueen muse) set out ot prove, exploring the extremes of ick (eating dog poop, copulating with chickens) in utterly banal Baltimore. To some, Water’s epic first feature was just gross, but others saw inventiveness, hilarity, and the zeal of a pioneer.

RAISING ARIZONA (1987, Joel Coen)

This sophomore effort by the Coen brothers (Ethan was cowriter-producer) was persuasive evidence of their talents. Shot by Barry Sonnenfelf, it’s an offbeat screwball cartoon with a skillful cast (Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, John Goodman) that milks laughs from such unexpected gags as a baby flying off a car’s roof.

RASHOMON (1950, Akira Kurosawa)

When a Japanese warrior is killed, the police interrogate witnesses, only to find in each retelling of the event that there is no one true version. The first major postwar Japanese film to be released stateside, Rashomon emerged as the definitive cinematic treatment of point of view.

REPULSION (1965, Roman Polanski)

The undercurrent of most horror movies is the fear of sex. Polanski’s hat trick was to make that fear explicit–yet even more seductively terrifying. Slowly, inevitably, he creates madness out of everyday life–in this case, that of a quiet young manicurist (Catherine Deneuve) who, repelled by intimacy, blossoms into a delusional murderer.

RESERVOIR DOGS (1992, Quentin Tarantino) Imagine Luca Brasi and Tony Montana debating Madonna’s early work over coffee…and you’ll have a rough idea of how Tarantino turned the gangster movie upside down. The film’s nonlinear retelling of a botched robbery–and its ultracool, pop-culture-spouting characters–connects with the viewer on a magically clever artifical plane.

RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962, Sam Peckinpah) Before Peckinpah could let loose with The Wild Bunch, he had to bury the Old West for good. Here, the cowboys and Indians and endless panoramas of Ford and Hawks are gond, replaced by colorful memories exchanged between Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott’s aging former lawmen as they transport gold.

THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981, George Miller) Refining and expanding his Mad Max concept (brave loner outwits **ubs in a feral future out-**ack), Miller came up with the best non-American action-adventure movie ever made. His relentless narrative thrust and stylish barbarity anticipates Cameron’s Terminator. Mel Gibson-still padded with baby fat–first demonstrated here the mythic lethal weapon he could be.

THE RULES OF THE GAME (1939, Jean Renoir) A love roundelay involving an aviator, his dream girl, and her rich husband (among others), Rules is Renoir’s masterpiece. What’s so great about it The fluid, deep-focus photopraphy; the script’s heady mix of humor, pathos, and tragedy; and most of all, the sense that we are witnessing the boundraies of an art form becoming limitless.

SCARFACE (1932, Howard Hawks) “Screw the Hays office,” producer Howard Hughes wrote to Hawks. “Start the picture, and make it as realistic, as exciting, and grisly as possible.” Hawks did exactly that, recruiting theater star Paul Muni to play a Chicago gangster closely modeled on Al Capone. Six decases laer, Scarface still explodes on the screen with bold, cynical brutality.

SCARFACE (1983, Brian De Palma) An operatic exercise in excess, De Palma and screenwriter Oliver Stone’s epic remake of the 1932 Hawks classic is almost twice as long, more opulently produced, and far more graphically violent. It’s also the sourse for much of ’90s gangsta style. As a Cuban drug kingpin in Miami, Al Pacino gives a deliriously crude, over-the-top performance.

SECONDS (1966, John Frankenheimer) A stuningly inventive mix of Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling, and John Cheever, Seconds offers one suburban banker the chance to be “reborn” as the artist he’d always dreamed of being. Frankenheimer borrowed ’50s paranoid sci-fi style to create a personal, instead of political, allegory.

THE SEVEN SAMURAI (1954, Akira Kurosawa)

See the audience squirm in anticipation of another subtitled, black-and-white yawner. Now see Toshiro Mifune. See the swordplay. See the audience enthralled: They now know that it’s not just white men who can stage action with panache. See white men copy Kurosawa–to lesser effect.

SHAFT (1971, Gordon Parks)

Ushering in the era of blaxploitation films, Richard Roundtree’s Shaft was a black riff on Bogart: a hip private dick as adept at shutting down black or white criminals as he is at seducing black or white women. Superfly is a drug dealer; Black Caesar, a cold-blooded gangster; but Shaft is a bad mother on the right side of the law.


Buster, the stone-faced projectionist, dreams of stepping inside the movies he projects. Keaton, the director, then plays with film languagae, orchestrating a mind-bending array of acrobatic, screen-within-the-screen stunts. All of this is unpretentiously designed to keep you laughing, entertined, and involved. Hail, Buster. Hail, Keaton. And hail, and again.

SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963, Sam Fuller) An ambitious reporter fakes mental illness to gain entry into an insane asylum; there he meets a black patient who’s businly orgainzing a K.K.K. chapter, and a group of women who ravage him in the “nympho ward.” Fuller’s still-provocative shock tactics pushed the crime drama onto a higher plane–one where satire and exploitation turn film noir pitch black.

STRANGER THAN PARADISE (1984, Jim Jarmusch) Indie elder statesman Jarmusch confounded and delighted audiences with thie simple-on-the-surface gem. Shot in black-and-white, Stranger consists of a series of static long shots, in which characters carry on their sparse dialogue. It’s a triumph of style over substance, much imitated but rarely duplicated.

SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941, Preston Sturges) Sturges slaps Hollywood silly. His sly, Mobius strip of a comedy offers this message: Message movies are self-righteous pap. A rich, knee-jerk Hollywood director (Joel McCrea) goes undercover as a hobo to research Depression woes and winds up in prison, howling at a Mickey Mouse cartoon.

SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957, Alexander Mackendrick)

With it’s sharp dialogue, jazzy score, and compassionless characters, Sweet Smell revealed the smarmy underbelly of urban life as the movies never had. Tony Curtis is a small time flack trying to squirm his way out of the grip of a tyrannical columnist (Burt Lancaster). Little hope is offered by the film’s uncompromising ending.


A wealthy Northern Italian woman is stranded on a deserted island with her coarse Sicilan servant. But servant soon becomes master–and our heroine soon finds rapture. Wertmuller’s audaciously ribald brand of feminism set an exaple for Jan Campion and Kathryn Bigelow to leave PC on the cutting-room floor.

THE TERMINATOR (1984, James Cameron)

Forget Raider of the Lost Ark: Instead of a glossy, Spielbergian veneer, Cameron gave B-movie adventure a rough-edged, high-tech feel. Essentially one long chase sequence (and a proto-video game), the movie, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a lethal robot from the future, has the ruthless simplicity of high-speed haiku.


A few salient facts about this low-budget horror classic: 1) It’s considerably less gory than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; 2) its depraved humor is no less funny for being so thoroughly, well, depraved; 3) the fact that the characters that are killed off are so unlikable in no way diminishes the horror of thier deaths; 4) however bad its influence, the film itself it is truly great.

THE THIN BLUE LINE (1988, Errol Morris)

An eerily confident loser on death on death row named Randell Adams proclaims his innocence in the murder of a Dallas cop–and convinces. (Adams was later retired and freed.) In this documentary mix of reenactments and interviews with shady Texans, Morris comes closer than any current filmmakers to capturing the essence of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

TOUCH OF EVIL (1958, Orson Welles)

Welles’s last Hollywood film, a south-of-the border cop melodrama, is remarkably idiosyncratic, from its legendary opening crane shot to the strangely angled set-ups and crosscut plotlines. Luckily, the director’s preferred version of the film has been assembled for fall 1998 release.

TRAINSPOTTING (1996, Danny Boyle)

Tracking a pack of Scottish junkies through the eyes of a conscientious addict (Ewan McGregor), this delightfully scatological romp blends tragic illness, goofy hallucinations, and violent crime into a surprisingly upbeat worldview. It hit the somnolent British movie scene like a 10cc shot of speed.

28-UP (1985, Michael Apted)

Imagine a less intrusive version of The Truman Show: A documentarian films British children, revisiting them once every seven years and producing a group of features (starting with 7-Up) about their lives. A fascinating study of development, 28-Up was also the first to realize the full potential of this groundbreaking series.

WALKABOUT (1971, Nicolas Roeg)

An Australian teen (Jenny Agutter) and her little brother, abandoned in the outback, are saved by an aboriginal boy and find paradise in the wilderness. Thought the fim glorifies the natural world, Roeg’s ultra-hip, rapid-fire cutting owes more to French filmmaker Godard than to American Thoreau.

ZERO CONDUCT (1933, Jean Vigo)

This 44-minute fantasy about a boarding-school revolt gorgeously blends surrealism (a book featuring animated pictures) and satire (the school inspector is a bearded midget). Vigo foresaw the French New Wave and molded a century’s worth of upstart schoolboy sagas.

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