Josh and Benny Safdie’s Top 10

Josh and Benny Safdie’s Top10

The New York–born–and–raised directors Josh and Benny Safdie’s films have earned them awards from around the world, including FIPRESCI prizes and Independent Spirit and Gotham awards. Their feature films include The Pleasure of Being Robbed (2008), Daddy Longlegs (2009), Lenny Cooke (2013), and Heaven Knows What (2014).

Photo by Myrna Suarez

May 29, 2015
  • 1

    Vittorio De Sica

    Bicycle Thieves

    Actually didn’t know this film was called Thieves till I bought the Criterion disc. It will always be The Bicycle Thief to me. This is the holy grail, the ultimate filmmaking bible. It maximizes its use of father/son dynamics and trying, real locations, all while its pure emotional current is completely understated yet very felt. This is one of those before and after films. —JS

  • 2 (tie)

    John Cassavetes


  • John Cassavetes


  • John Cassavetes

    A Woman Under the Influence

  • John Cassavetes

    The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

  • John Cassavetes

    Opening Night

    I remember when this came out; I was at a restaurant celebrating someone’s birthday, and I walked by a table that was talking about Mike Leigh, I forget what film exactly. But I chimed in and said something hyperbolic. The table remarked that they all worked for Criterion. I joked that I’d thought about tattooing a line across my chest with “Criterion Collection” underneath it (the old iconic Criterion logo design). I then explained our proximity to Ray Carney and our love for Cassavetes. This was the first time I heard that a big box set was coming soon. Cassavetes is a god and a hero. My introduction to his work as a director was A Woman Under the Influence, which I bought a single version of for our mother, who is petrified of the DVD and will never watch it. Bookie, Opening Night, Faces, Shadows, and the later-added Love Streams are film school for a hundred bucks. We watch the master turn actors into people and vice versa, and hold the feeling above anything else. In the words of JC (not a coincidence) in regards to Opening Night, about Hollywood: “It’s about time it took art and said, ‘C’mon, baby! Show me something!’” (Dear Criterion, please absorb Husbands, Minnie and Moskowitz, and Gloria as well.) —JS

  • 3 (tie)

    Abbas Kiarostami


  • Francesco Rosi

    The Moment of Truth

    Both films reinvent what movies can do. What Rosi and Kiarostami do with Miguelín and Sabzian is such higher-power filmmaking, so modern, so romantic, and so influential. I saw The Moment of Truth in the theater through one of Janus’s runs of restored films. I remember the feeling in my stomach, the horrific beauty and love affair Miguelín had with the bulls and life itself. I remember the devastation and the constant reminder that Miguelín was actually Miguelín. The triumph of both films rests in their cinematic qualities; of course, Rosi surpasses Close-up here in portraying the moments of truth in Techniscope. Close-up is an utter masterpiece, and I didn’t feel the need to even bother writing about it. Like God. —JS

  • 4

    François Truffaut

    The 400 Blows

    Few films are more important to us. Our Parisian cinephilic father gifted us this movie (not yet part of the Criterion Collection) as part of the mirror effect he bestowed upon us. Find answers in movies . . . This is another Criterion that can be watched hundreds of times. —JS

  • 5 (tie)

    John Lurie

    Fishing with John

  • Jacques Tati

    Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday

    Monsieur Hulot is clumsily precise; the silence and precision of the gags are avant-garde. When the vacation ends in this film, you’re left feeling like you’ve met a good friend. Fishing with John can be watched on so many levels at the same time. It avoids becoming too meta and relishes all of the facets of friendship, comedy, and good old-fashioned fishing. The soundtrack alone transports us back to the calming, hilarious alternate universe of John Lurie’s brain: “They woke up with sores and boners.” —BS

  • 6

    Robert Bresson

    A Man Escaped

    Not quite sure what to say about this movie other than it’s one of the top five movies ever made. When they touch the ground at the end, it’s like you’ve escaped with them. Never has a movie that gives away its ending in the title been more suspenseful. The spoon slot, the little broom, the handkerchief pulley system . . . Like Fontaine, Bresson is the master. —BS

  • 7

    Terry Zwigoff


    “Weird Sex. Obsession. Comic Books.” is how this film was billed. Each category alone is enough to put this on a top ten list. Crumb falls into a rare group of documentaries. A hero like R. Crumb is so reclusive and so fickle about who he allows to get close to him, but close they get. He’s a Slob over Snob for life. This film is more about Charles Crumb, the hidden master in the family, then it is about Robert. The art alone, like with many Criterions, is a reason to own this and present it on a shelf. Though here, there’s something very appropriate about having a DVD among your old issues of Weirdo or Zap. —JS

  • 8

    Robert Altman


    Nashville is so jam-packed with information, it is a pleasure to get lost in the people and music. I can’t help but think, How the hell did he do it? Altman creates so many real people with real emotional histories. You really feel like you experience everything with them. The “I’m Easy” scene says it all, and it’s one I rewatch over and over. But so does the striptease scene, the Barbara Jean nervous breakdown, the opening title song, Barbara Jean’s husband . . . Altman just nails it. —BS

  • 9

    Steve James

    Hoop Dreams

    This was the first film we saw that felt like it spanned a lifetime, and I mean that in the best way. It blurs the lines of documentary with total access and beauty. The experience of living these two kids’ lives with them is something that can’t be shaken. The memories are implanted in your brain, and you’ll be happy you can’t forget them. —BS

  • 10

    Roman Polanski


    We saw it in Venice for its world re-premiere, and it was nothing short of breathtaking. The cast of unknowns and the truth to the covalent bond of violence and romance make this a special film. What more could you ask for than Shakespeare presented by Roman Polanski and Playboy? —BS