6. I Stand Alone (1998), directed by Gaspar Noé
Following The Butcher (Philippe Nahon), who appeared before in Gaspar Noé’s short film “Carne” (1991), “I Stand Alone” is a disturbing film about a horse meat butcher who, after getting out of jail for beating up a man who tried to seduce his mentally-handicapped daughter, tries to start a new life. Leaving his daughter at an institution, The Butcher moves with a woman to the suburbs with the promise of a new life.
As we were able to see in “Carne”, this very disturbing environment leads us to a dreadful ending while facing the somber and violent background of The Butcher’s life with great directing by Noé. “I Stand Alone” is another grim film in his filmography. From the moment the projection starts to the last second, this film takes the audience on a very unique and distressing journey through this character’s life.
Fairly quoted among Noé’s best works, “I Stand Alone” is a difficult film to watch, but leaves us on the edge of our seat while exploring some of the darkest aspects of the human mind.
7. Death Wish (1974), directed by Michael Winner
Michael Winner’s film from 1974 that set up a franchise of five films – and a 2017 remake with Bruce Willis – follows the story of Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson), a liberal architect who becomes a vigilante after his wife is killed and his daughter is raped in his own apartment. After this horrible incident, he travels to Arizona for work and when he comes back, he fights crime on his own at night in New York.
This classical crime film based on the novel by Brian Garfield is a mark on Bronson’s career, who starred in the next four films of the franchise. From 1974 to “Death Wish V: The Face of Death” in 1994, Bronson’s Paul Kersey was a reference character in the crime genre.
With some good moments of dialogue (and some not so great), fine directing and setting, “Death Wish” is a film for any fan of the action/crime genre and has a great character arc that would continue to be explored in the next films of the franchise.
8. The Virgin Spring (1960), directed by Ingmar Bergman
Adapted from a famous 13th century ballad from Sweden, “The Virgin Spring” is one of the most acclaimed movies in Ingmar Bergman’s career. Written by Ulla Isaksson, the film follows the story of a prosperous family whose daughter is brutally raped and murdered on her way to church. When the criminals seek shelter in the girl’s family house, we see that the truth will appear at any moment.
With an amazing mise en scène, “The Virgin Spring” is a somber tale about faith. The somber themes approached in this story and the great acting make it a must see film in Bergman’s career and a gem of world cinema. Max von Sydow’s performance as the girl’s father is also noteworthy.
Very few filmmakers can build atmosphere as Bergman does. “The Virgin Spring” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1961 and for the great setting, acting and directing, it’s a movie that should definitely be watched by any film fan.
9. The Body (2012), directed by Orion Paulo
“The Body” is a Spanish thriller that follows a detective’s search for the body of a woman that disappeared from the morgue with the help of a widower. Written and directed by Orion Paulo, this is one of the most intriguing thrillers of this decade so far.
The amazing cinematography of Óscar Faura sets the tone for this thriller where every bit of dialogue and any situation might be another turning point of this story. Scene after scene and line after line, we start to see that things might not be as they appear at first.
Leading to an unexpected ending, “The Body” is surely among the best films Spain has made this decade and, after this film, Paulo went on to make the good 2016 film “The Invisible Guest”, which has similar traces with his previous film.
10. John Wick (2014) and John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), directed by Chad Stahelski
Alright, we have to say this: In a world with a hyper population of superheroes, this is by far the best action franchise we have today. Keanu Reeves is John Wick, an ex-hitman who comes out of retirement for revenge when a group of gangsters take the last things he has in life.
In a quick analysis, “John Wick” and “John Wick: Chapter 2” are films where everything is so serious that we start to see that in some of the moments, they are not taking it as seriously as we imagined at first. Despite the blockbuster formula overused in the superhero genre where there is a gag every couple of minutes, trying to make it more entertaining, “John Wick” makes entertainment by making the action never stop.
If you watch both of the movies, you see the perfect long shots and, especially in the second chapter, the great scene with the mirrors beautifully conducted by cinematographer Dan Laustsen and director Chad Stahelski that leaves no doubt that this is pure action genre gold.
Although with some problems with the narrative and, again especially in the second chapter, the narrative, the John Wick franchise promises to get better and better from the point of view of being a new fresh voice in action films.
Author bio: Vítor Guima is a filmmaker, writer and musician from São Paulo, Brazil. Every day he watches a movie, reads a few pages from a book, listens to an album and freaks out with the feeling of not having enough time to see everything. You can follow him on Instagram on @ovitorguima.