Mark Cousins’s Top 10

Mark Cousins’s Top10

Mark Cousins is a critic and filmmaker based in Edinburgh. He is the writer and director of the fifteen-hour documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011).

Apr 29, 2015
  • 1 (tie)

    Pier Paolo Pasolini

    The Decameron

  • Pier Paolo Pasolini

    The Canterbury Tales

  • Pier Paolo Pasolini

    Arabian Nights

    I saw these in my twenties, and loved their vulgarity, their escapism, and Pasolini’s belief that in former times, people were freer about their bodies and life was more fun. They are illicit travelogues, joyous and, probably, wrong.

  • 2

    Nicolas Roeg

    Bad Timing

    Love, according to this film, is close to death. Theresa Russell is raw and beautiful, and the film is full of symbols, of heartaches, of obsessions—Harvey Keitel’s, Art Garfunkel’s. Like a Schiele painting, which is high praise.

  • 3

    Agnès Varda

    Le bonheur

    Not Agnès Varda’s best-known film but her most visually beautiful one. Erotic, sunny, bleak, and bold.

  • 4 (tie)

    Rainer Werner Fassbinder

    The Marriage of Maria Braun

  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder


  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder

    Veronika Voss

    What a troika of women Maria Braun, Lola, and Veronika Voss are! Willful, performing, fascinating, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s women are versions of himself, his languor and despair. Wow.

  • 5

    Abbas Kiarostami


    A film about pretending to be someone, so inventive that your head aches. Abbas Kiarostami is the Galileo of cinema; he rethinks it, repositions us within it.

  • 6

    Akira Kurosawa

    High and Low

    Akira Kurosawa is best known for Seven Samurai, but this is more fun. Hitchcockian and full of dread and gorgeous widescreen imagery.

  • 7

    Shohei Imamura

    The Insect Woman

    One of the glories of Criterion is that it has so many films by Shohei Imamura. I’ve long said that this is the best film ever made. Maybe one day I’ll stop saying it, or stop believing it, but until then it will, for me, show everything—the reason for living and the reason for making movies.

  • 8

    Haskell Wexler

    Medium Cool

    I saw this when I was a teenager, and was struck by the nudity and atmosphere. Then I met Haskell Wexler and watched his film again, and realized that it is Godard in America—fragmented, passionately political, inventive, and seductive.

  • 9

    Ritwik Ghatak

    A River Called Titas

    Ritwik Ghatak was India’s Sam Peckinpah: drunk, bellicose, brilliant. He brought a Bengali sense of literature and sadness to his work. You’ll maybe only understand half this film at first (certainly the case for me), but its richness overwhelms.

  • 10

    Billy Wilder

    Ace in the Hole

    My taste usually runs to loosely structured films, but this one is as taut as a drum. Kirk Douglas is as snappy as Edward G. Robinson, and the story—about the press exploiting tragedy—is Rupert Murdoch–ian. A film that seems to get younger as time goes on.