21. Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009)
Male directors make almost all classic romantic films in history; therefore the psychology and behavior of women are ultimately depicted from the viewpoint of men. Thus, film history lacks the films that show us the world depicted from the viewpoint of women. Women have stronger intuition than men and they are very careful in very little things that can affect a relationship to a great extent. And when it comes to love, they are even more meticulous.
“Bright Star” is an immensely beautiful and touching romantic film that reveals the romantic relationship of the famous poet John Keats with his girlfriend, Fanny Brawne. Jane Campion, a woman, made this film that revolves around Fanny, a woman. Love is shown from the viewpoint of Fanny, an unfortunate girlfriend of Keats. And Keats himself was unfortunate as he died at the age of 25.
You’ll recall Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” while watching “Bright Star”, which is even more beautiful. Jane Campion is one of the greatest directors of our time who generally makes romantic films, especially with a female lead. It is a great opportunity to watch a romantic film made by a woman and this film is the best name for it. Don’t miss it.
22. Faust (Alexandar Sokurov, 2011)
This film may not be Sokurov’s best, but it is undoubtedly his most beautiful film. Sokurov always made visually great films. He is best known for his famous film “Russian Ark”, which has only one long shot. This ambitious and great visual artist has taken Faust as his protagonist, but not necessarily the Faust of Goethe.
It has taken ideas from Goethe and Thomas Mann but this film is a free interpretation of Faust. Sokurov has made biographical films of people like Hitler, Lenin and Hirohito in his previous films, not depicting the war but their personal lives. “Faust” is the last installment of this unannounced series.
This film especially shows the beauty of Gretchen (played by Isolda Dychauk), who is Faust’s crush. Faust actually has a deep longing for enlightenment and searches for it, but he ends up falling in love with Gretchen. This brings a very deep emotional and philosophical change in Faust.
23. Gloria (Sebastian Lelio, 2013)
You’ll see the beauty of an aging woman, Gloria (played by Paulina Garcia), who has married offspring. She ends up falling in love with another aging man who isn’t very dedicated to the relationship. Although they spend time romancing with each other, that man betrays Gloria.
What is more interesting about this film is that this aging woman is shown in a style as if she is a very wild and romantic adult girl. Even the sex scenes of this aging couple are very sexy and beautiful. Audiences may fall in love with this gorgeous woman whose beauty, character, behavior and struggle are the main part of this film. From last 10 to 15 years, Latin America has made many great films, and “Gloria” is a remarkable one.
24. Melancholia (Lars Von Trier, 2011)
Lars Von Trier’s direction and Manuel Alberto Claro’s cinematography have intensified Kirsten Dunst’s beauty, even though she is a depressive girl. The whole film, like many of Von Trier’s films, is depressive as well. The very casting shows Dunst in a wedding dress; it is a very beautiful scene. But she is beautiful in the whole film as well.
Von Trier has made many depressive films, where shaking camera movements perfectly match the depressive characters’ mentality in his films and affect audiences deeply. This film is bit different from his previous films since it has many scenes that play in slow motion, like in “Anti-Christ”. Apart from being depressed while watching it, you’ll also be astonished by its stunningly beautiful cinematography.
25. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)
This film is an important exception in this list since almost all the characters are male, conversing with each other. They may be police, murderers, detectives, prosecutors, gravediggers or doctors. If you’ve seen it, you know which scene I’m referring to. All these male characters get tired at work. They go to a liquor store in that rural village. They are waiting for liquor in a room.
Then a girl comes and she has wine in her hands. All the men are astonished, stunned and perplexed by her beauty. And not only those male characters, but audiences also experience the same feeling. You must have realized how beautiful and powerful that scene is.
That scene is one of the greatest depictions of women’s beauty in film history. Just recall that moment and how stylistically and powerfully Ceylan has depicted that girl’s beauty. And at what time and circumstance has he chose?
Ceylan has made such visually stunning films, like “Climates” where there is a female lead and her beauty is brilliantly portrayed. But this very scene of “Anatolia” is greater than any of his films with a female lead. This list is incomplete without mentioning Ceylan’s greatest masterpiece.
26. My Summer of Love (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2004)
This hauntingly beautiful film is very under-seen and overlooked, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, who is famous for his latest film “Ida”. “My Summer of Love” is his best film so far, which tells a story about two lesbian girls.
They may not be lesbians, though. One girl (whose brother is a sanctimonious Christian) falls in love with a mysterious, sexy and ingratiating girl (who has some knowledge of philosophy and doesn’t believe in god). But how does their love go? That’s the very interesting story. The whole film revolves around these beautiful characters and their relationship.
Generally, Pawlikowski’s films have touched on subjects like religion, philosophy and music, but story shows otherwise. He delves into human’s nature and shows the emptiness and hypocrisy of religion and philosophy. Don’t miss this, as it’s one of the greatest films of the 21st century.
27. Eros Plus Massacre (Yoshishige Yoshida, 1969)
There are some very radical filmmakers related with Japanese New Wave, such as Nagisa Oshima, Akio Jissoji and Shuji Terayama. Yoshishige Yoshida is another name that isn’t very well known outside Japan. This visual master has made some of the greatest films of Japanese film history. “Eros Plus Massacre” is his masterpiece. This film is mainly remembered for its immense visual beauty in black and white, and the anarchist characters.
This film is based on the biography of anarchist Sakae Osugi, who was assassinated by Japanese authority, because many believed he spoke about free love. As the title suggests, characters don’t hesitate to speak about free love, sex and anarchism. It has a lot of philosophical dialogues that are intriguing. But its main charm is the visual beauty, which is hard to find even in Japanese films.
28. Siddheshwari (Mani Kaul, 1989)
Mani Kaul is an Indian Robert Bresson, since his Bressonian style can be clearly seen in his two beautiful films “Duvidha” and “Uski Roti”. In this hypnotic docudrama, Kaul used his own style and even mastered it to a higher extent. This film isn’t very well known outside India. Generally, “Satyajit Roy” is a synonym of Indian Cinema. There are very few directors who have made very few great films in India and Kaul is one of them.
This film tells the biography of the well-known classical singer Siddheshwari, in documentary-like style. The whole film is full of Siddheshwori’s classical songs and music, but Kaul has used stunningly beautiful imageries, ancient literature, Hinduism and theatre. It became a very strange type of film, like an abstract painting. You can say it is a poetic docudrama. It is a lost gem of Indian cinema. Don’t miss it.
29. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Jaromil Jires, 1970)
Another gem of Czech New Wave on this list, audiences may recall “Daisies” and “Hausu” while watching it. This surreal film is also impenetrable and farce-like, like many classics of Czech New Wave films. But there are many horror and fantasy elements as well, which makes this film very different.
You’ll see the exquisite beauty of Valerie (played by Jaraslova Schallerova who was just 13 at that time) and her friends. Jaromil Jires, who is a prominent filmmaker related with Czech New Wave, has made such classics like “The Joke” and “The Cry”. “Valerie” is his finest work.
It tells the story of a 13-year-old Valerie, who sees strange dreams related with a certain reality. Then very weird, horrific, farce-like events start to happen that are difficult to interpret. Leaving interpretations to one side, it is one of the most beautiful films ever made.
30. Vanishing Waves (Kristina Buozyte & Bruno Samper, 2012)
The sad thing is that this recent great film is very overlooked and underappreciated. If you love the films of Stanley Kubrick, Leos Carax and Gasper Noe, then you must watch it since you can see some of their certain influences. They may not exactly influence it, but you’ll certainly find some typical visual traits from their films.
This science fiction romantic film shows the unprecedented and uncanny love story of a man and a woman who fall in love—in a dream. There come many romantic dream sequences where they spend time doing everything that a lovely couple does. If you want to watch artistically and aesthetically great sexual and romantic scenes, then don’t miss this stunningly beautiful masterpiece.