“They don’t make movies like this anymore!” How many times do we think like this deep in our heart when watching classics? Classics never let us down, but you need to find them first. That’s why we have such a list on such a website.
When is the last time you discovered a film so good that you try to track down every one of the director’s other works? The ecstasy of discovering is one of the greatest enjoyments of any cinephile. And we are living in a world where so many great home entertainment companies are doing their best to restore film classics, which made it much easier for us to get hold of a copy of some film from the last century.
Without further ado, here’s a list of movie classics from all kinds of genres. Hopefully one or several of them will meet your eclectic taste.
1. Violent Cop (1989, Takeshi Kitano)
This movie is the birth of Takeshi Kitano, also known as “Beat” Takeshi, one of the greatest auteurs of current Japanese cinema and an important figure in the Yakuza genre. This project was initially given to Kinji Fukasaku, and Kitano would star in it. Due to scheduling problems, the famous director had to leave the film. Inspired by a trend of people from other media turning into directors, Kitano took over and made his debut.
The film is full of signs of Kitano’s raw talent, especially how he handles violence in a unique way. His other trademarks, like black humor and human warmth, are also on display here. If you are into violent crime movies with dark themes, or you are particularly interested in violence in cinema, you should give it a try. It’s his first, and also one of his best.
2. The Driver (1978, Walter Hill)
Fans of recent popular driver movies like Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” and Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” should really see this one. This is the one that started it all, and is arguably the best.
Walter Hill, the director of this crime caper, is responsible for some of the greatest cult films in the ‘70s and ‘80s, including “Streets of Fire,” “Southern Comfort” and “The Warriors.” This film is no exception. It features some of the greatest car chase scenes in cinema history, and when there are no big action sequences, the cat-and-mouse game between the police officer (Bruce Dern) and the driver (Ryan O’Neal) is also full of tension. Did I mention that Isabelle Adjani played the femme fatale here?
3. Stalag 17 (1953, Billy Wilder)
For anyone who would like to appreciate the charm of the Hollywood cinema of the Golden Age, Billy Wilder’s movies always feel like the perfect examples. Even his minor works are better than most of the movies made today. And “Stalag 17,” often overlooked, is among his top-tier efforts.
Unlike most of the war camp movies made before and after, “Stalag 17” is actually a suspenseful undercover movie, with more comic elements than you would imagine in these type of films. William Holden, who had worked with Wilder in his noir masterpiece “Sunset Boulevard,” is perfect as the anti-hero here. If you are looking for an intense movie with great plot and characters, this is your best choice.
4. Sisters (1973, Brian de Palma)
Often misunderstood as poor man’s Hitchcock, Brian De Palma is now celebrated as one of the greatest auteurs in the New Hollywood era. “Sisters” is a cornerstone of his prolific yet controversial career as it marks his departure from political comedies and his first foray into a long list of masterful psychological thrillers.
While the concept of the story is reminiscent of Hitchcock classics like “Psycho” and “Rear Window,” the technique of telling the story is pure de Palmian. No one has used split-screen to pack information and tension more effectively than De Palma; the nightmare scene at the end is both chilling and surreal, and the ending is just brilliant black humor. Anyone who’s interested in twisted thrillers should not miss this one.
5. Ashik Kerib (1988, Sergei Parajanov & Dodo Abashidze)
There are filmmakers who are great at storytelling, like Billy Wilder or Brian De Palma mentioned above. There are also filmmakers who made movies that do not rely on traditional narrative, like Andrei Tarkovsky and Terrence Malick. Soviet director Sergei Parajanov belongs to the latter group.
When you watch a Sergei Parajanov film, it’s like entering a completely different world. The music score, the costume, the art direction, and the symbols dominate his films instead of plot and character. You will be so absorbed in his cinematic world that you won’t care about stories anymore.
“Ashik Kerib” is probably his most accessible film because it does have a plot, unlike his masterpiece “The Color of Pomegranates,” which is hard to follow if you’re a regular movie watcher. If you are a brave cinephile who’s willing to try anything good cinema can offer, give this film a chance.
6. The Driller Killer (1979, Abel Ferrara)
There is this mainstream image of the Big Apple in the cinema of Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese, and there’s also this underground image of the city in the cinema of Abel Ferrara. The truth is, you should not miss any of them.
Notorious for its inclusion in the infamous Video Nasty list, “The Driller Killer” is Abel Ferrara’s first film, and probably his most fearless work. It’s a film full of anxiety and anger, where the action is brutal and the music is loud.
You can feel what the painter (played by Ferrara himself) feels toward life and society, as the director was able to deliver that kind of emotion to the audiences. If you like gritty films with excessive violence, or if you are a fan of “Taxi Driver,” try Abel Ferrara’s version of New York.
7. The Addiction (1995, Abel Ferrara)
Made at the height of vampire moviemaking, “The Addiction” in a unique addition to this beloved subgenre of horror.
Shot in gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, the film is more about the philosophical side of the vampirism than the horror aspect of it. Are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners? If you are interested in profound and intelligent horror movies, this movie can offer you a special taste.