6. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)
Sergio Leone’s famous Spaghetti Western may seem like an obvious choice now, but that’s only because it changed the way we look at Westerns. When you watch the average Spaghetti Western film from the same era, you might find yourself surprised at the amount of films there are that don’t come anywhere near the level of artistry Leone is at in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Leone’s film is staged so beautifully it becomes operatic. In the stunning climax, the showdown becomes an epic, drawn-out event. Leone may have single-handedly popularized the close-up in the Western with this film.
7. Il Sorpasso (1962)
This is a perfect example of an intelligent comedy film. Il Sorpasso is disguised as a buddy comedy. The plot is rather simple: two men drive around Italy and hilarity ensues. But the real reason why Il Sorpasso has gained a considerable following (including filmmaker Alexander Payne) is because it also thoroughly explores the lives of its characters. The lighthearted road trip aspect of the movie is contrasted with all the dark things we see along the way.
For example, we never get the impression that the Italian locals we see in the background of the film serve the purpose of being mere props for advancing the main story. Dino Risi is interested in showing us three dimensional characters. This movie is essentially a comedy, but it has serious undertones.
8. Deep Red (1975)
This is being included in the list for serving as a stellar example of a film rising above the genre its filmmaker has chosen. With the right director (in this case Dario Argento) a film can be elevated beyond just another thriller film.
Deep Red is a hyper-stylized film; the average filmmaker would be more than happy to let the camera sit there, but Argento relishes in choreographing all the gruesome scenes. The content of the film is enough to disturb naturally, but here we get a director not shying away from making it even more shocking.
9. City of Women (1980)
Fellini’s City of Women is one of his best films visually speaking. It is basically about a man learning about himself and his relationship to women. But for a film like City of Women, the plot is almost secondary. The story of the movie is really just a decent excuse for Fellini to experiment with dreamlike imagery, and detailed set pieces.
The film is never boring to look at; even if you dislike the plot, you almost can’t look away from it. Compare this film to one of Fellini’s earlier more formal efforts, I Vitelloni, and we see a master at work. Fellini was capable of making a film lacking imaginative imagery if he wanted to, but he preferred the artifice of what we see in City of Women.
10. Seven Samurai (1954)
Seven Samurai is a classic that deserves every bit of praise it gets. When we discuss the film now, it’s easy to forget how influential it was at first. After all, its structure has led to several films (most notably in the Western genre) taking inspiration from Kurosawa. The distinction between an imitator of Seven Samurai, and the original film is the total commitment that is given to the story and world of the film.
Running at over 3.5 hours long, Seven Samurai benefits from being an “arthouse” action film. When we look at films inspired by Seven Samurai (the most recent example being 2016’s The Magnificent Seven), they may be enjoyable on an entertainment level, but they often lack the visual efforts taken by Kurosawa.
Author Bio: Dilair Singh is a film lover from Toronto. He particularly enjoys screenwriting, and hopes to sell a screenplay someday. You can find him on Twitter: @dilairsingh.