Lo-fi sci-fi detective noir from 1965. Special agent Lemmy Caution is sent on a secret mission to Alphaville, a city run by an evil professor who’s built a supercomputer that specializes in mind control and strips the city’s inhabitants of all real emotion. No real special effects or futuristic props. So lean. So clean. Also, any time someone can potentially destroy a supercomputer with a poem, I’m down.
Beastie Boys Video Anthology
The videos are fantastic. Groundbreaking, even. Soundtrack is pretty good too. Astonishing work from Nathaniel Hornblower, who I’m told helped invent almost everything we now refer to as “primitive, modern and future cinema.”
The Greek legend, updated to take place in a favela in Rio during Carnival. Beautiful. The soundtrack by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfá is incredible. Good for the eyes and ears and soul. Any time someone goes into the underworld to get a dead lover back to the tune of a samba, I’m at least a little interested.
Do the Right Thing
One of Earth’s best. Classic New York movie. Holds up. Makes me miss New York. It made me miss New York even when I lived there. It’s a masterpiece, and due to its depiction of race relations and police brutality in the U.S., the paint is still very warm and wet on it.
Beautiful and brilliant. One of my all-time favorites. Do not watch if you’re expecting a child or are opposed to the low, ever-present hum of nonspecific industrial machinery. Or do. It’s your life. Live it.
Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams
Most people don’t want to hear about the weird dream you had. It may be interesting or bewildering to you, but really no one else cares. I would say that unless you’re Akira Kurosawa and can get Martin Scorsese to play van Gogh in the weird dream you had about van Gogh, you should knock it off because you’re only losing friends. This whole list could have been Kurosawa films.
Tied with (in preferential order): Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Rashomon, High and Low, Throne of Blood, Ran, Stray Dog, Yojimbo, Red Beard
Les Blank: Always for Pleasure
Great collection of Blank’s films. I love them all. His deep love and respect for people, their lives and their art (whether it’s music, cooking, living, whatever), shine through in these portraits. Pure eye/ear/time machine.
Terry Zwigoff’s movie about blues musician and visual artist Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong. Just like Blank, Zwigoff simply lets you spend a lot of time with a truly unique artist.
In fourteenth-century Japan, amid a civil war, a mother and daughter trap and kill soldiers, steal their possessions, and trade them for food. Then it gets weird. Hikaru Hayashi’s sparse soundtrack is all taiko drums, horn blasts, and guttural yelling. Perfect.
Djibril Diop Mambéty
Senegalese director Djibril Diop Mambéty’s 1973 film about a young man and woman in a modern African city who don’t fit in. So they get out. They get far out. The raw energy and often hyper-experimental nature of the music, visuals, and editing make this a favorite. Beautiful. Fully punk.
Steve Buscemi’s Top 10
Steve Buscemi is an actor who has appeared in such films as Mystery Train, Fargo, Reservoir Dogs, and Armageddon. He also also directed such films as Trees Lounge, Animal Factory, and Interview.
Rian Johnson’s Top 10
We asked director Rian Johnson, whose “high school noir” Brick was one of the most acclaimed films of 2006, what his favorite Criterion releases were. Johnson said: “I'm a huge Criterion fan. My first exposure to many of my favorite films came…
Robert Ben Garant and Tom Lennon’s Top 10
Comedians, writers, and producers Tom Lennon and Robert Ben Garant split their duties in selecting their favorite titles from the collection: the first five are from Lennon, the last are from Garant.
Megan Abbott’s Top 10
Megan Abbott is the award-winning author of seven novels, including Dare Me and The Fever. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Wall Street Journal.
Kelly Reichardt’s Top 10
On the occasion of the release of her latest film, First Cow, the acclaimed director shares a list of masterpieces that have been touchstones for her throughout her moviegoing life.