Amelie is one of the finest films of modern French cinema. In large part due to Audrey Tautou’s lovely and likeable heroine. The texture of this film is so wonderfully original and whimsical, and Amelie manages to be a feel-good movie without ever being sentimental or anything like that.
This is a movie that indulges in the surreal and absurd, and Bruno Delbonnel’s green and red tinted cinematography really brings out the mood of the film and quaint flavors of Paris life. Amelie takes you to indescribably wonderful places and is a movie that could never be recreated.
7. Pan’s Labyrinth
Guillermo del Toro makes movies like no other director. His films range from big-budget monster vs. robot spectacle to more beautiful and meaningful fantasies. All of his films are distinctly del Toro though, and his work is permeated with imagination and a sense of wonder.
Pan’s Labyrinth is the director’s masterpiece. It’s an elegant fantasy that blends the scary and beautiful at once, and every frame is packed with creativity and fascinating visuals. The bizarre creatures and backdrop of the Spanish civil war makes for a powerful and moving allegory, and in any other director’s hands, this material just wouldn’t feel right.
6. Big Trouble in Little China
John Carpenter is mostly known for his contributions to the horror genre such as masterpieces Halloween and The Thing, but he’s also a better comedy director than given credit for. His 1986 Big Trouble in Little China is a pure-80’s comedy-adventure-action extravaganza with monsters, magic, fighting and the Pork Chop Express. It seriously must be seen to be believed.
Kurt Russell’s performance is a great satire of the American action hero, and the off-the-wall set pieces and practical effects make this an ever-watchable, and hilarious flick for the ages. I can’t even imagine what Big Trouble in Little China would look like if made today – but I have a bad feeling that it would include way too much CGI, and of course lack the charm and genuine spirit of the original.
5. Naked Lunch
David Cronenberg was the perfect filmmaker to adapt William S. Burroughs’ hallucinatory novel to film. It fit his directorial sensibilities perfectly, and the result is reliably abstract and bizarre beyond belief. Naked Lunch is an indescribable film in almost every way.
Peter Weller’s monotone performance and the hilariously weird Mugwumps, not to mention the sound effects and aesthetic – I’m getting lost just trying to explain it. Just imagine Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but with giant type-writer bugs and even weirder drugs. Cronenberg created an unforgettable cinematic trip with Naked Lunch, and I definitely don’t see it being remade any time soon.
4. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is one of Wes Anderson’s more uneven and bloated films, but it’s also one of his most original and interesting. The film has a wonderful concept, and more than any other Anderson picture, it intentionally takes pleasure in its fake-looking effects and unrealistic sets.
Bill Murray stars in the title role, and his character is both unlikeable and likable at once. He’s backed up with a phenomenal supporting cast, and of course Anderson’s ever-colorful and quirky backdrop. This odd and peculiar movie would just feel very wrong in the hands of another filmmaker, and I definitely can’t see it being pulled off.
This pretty much goes for any David Lynch movie. His style could never be replicated, and his stories are told so uniquely and with a voice of ambiguity and mystery. His debut film Eraserhead really set the stage for what was to come, and remains a fascinating and enigmatic tale.
The mutant baby at the center of the story is a repulsive effect; David Lynch will not reveal how they did this effect, and watching the movie today I still have no idea how they pulled it off. The industrial backdrop and screeching sound-effects make Eraserhead a joyously weird, abstract and thoroughly unduplicable act of genius and bizarre perfection.
2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
This 1970’s musical is quite possibly the biggest cult phenomenon of all time. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a science-fiction-musical-horror film, and though it’s intentionally silly beyond belief, you can never really tell if it’s all-out spoof or actually taking itself seriously to some degree.
Tim Curry’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter is a hilarious creation, and the musical numbers are weird and often truly catchy. The ridiculous design of the film and over-the-top vibe is the reason it is so iconic – the intentional over-design of everything gives it all such a tacky and utterly one-of-a-kind feel. This is one film that no director will ever be bold enough to attempt to replicate.
1. The Big Lebowski
Joel and Ethan Coens’ most popular film is also their funniest, and possibly best. The Big Lebowski is everything you expect from a Coen bros flick, but even more amped up for maximum hilarity and weirdness. And despite the surreal elements of this film, it’s kind of realistic too – the characters’ plights ring true, and the dialog is some of the funniest ever written.
The texture and aesthetics of the film, as well of the soundtrack, acting and directorial style has never come close to being replicated. Everything about this movie is so unique and conceived with such originality and absurdity, and The Big Lebowski truly does endure.
Bio: Gavin Miller is a cinephile who keeps up his blog cinefreakdude.tumblr.com as well as a YouTube channel – both dedicated to film criticism and discussion. He is an ardent Blu-ray collector as well as the director of two short films – “A Chupacabra Afternoon” and “Coffea arabica” – the latter of which is in competition at the Johnson County Community College Film Fest. this year. Gavin models his lifestyle after The Dude from The Big Lebowski.