Sonic Youth’s Top 10

Sonic Youth’s Top10

Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, and Steve Shelley ganged up for this Criterion top ten—or twelve, as it turned out. The New York–based no wavers have been making music together since 1981. Their albums include Daydream Nation, Goo, Dirty, Rather Ripped, and this year’s The Eternal, their first not on a major label in more than twenty years.

Nov 11, 2009
  • 1

    Yasujiro Ozu

    Floating Weeds

    A couple of years ago, I finally discovered Ozu’s work, starting with this film. The stories are beautiful, yes, and the filmmaking is exquisite. I’d recommend any/all of the late films and will use this one as an example. Many of the actors and crew worked with Ozu on many of these late films, so they all feel interrelated, small stories of intimate life in Japan in the fifies and sixties. Also recommended: Early Spring, Late Autumn, The End of Summer. —Lee Ranaldo

  • 2

    Chantal Akerman

    Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

    This amazing, epic film put the Belgian director Akerman on the map. Three hours of static shots and Robbe-Grillet-style repetitive minimalism, revolving around a middle-aged prostitute in a suburban house. This amazing film is a landmark of seventies art cinema. 

  • 3

    Rainer Werner Fassbinder

    Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

    An homage to Douglas Sirk, among so many great films, this is one of Fassbinder’s most moving and near-perfect films. Starring the great Brigitte Mira, who appeared in many of his movies. —LR

  • 4

    Jean-Luc Godard

    Masculin féminin

    Godard’s films are the ultimate (even when I have a hard time sitting through one). They are among the greatest works in cinema, and he continues to turn out provocative and amazing films. All are worth seeing; this is one of my favorites from his early years—radical filmmaking, pop culture, politics: the children of Marx and Coca-Cola, indeed. 

  • 5

    Masahiro Shinoda

    Double Suicide

    One of Shinoda’s most beautiful epics—desire, obsession, love, and death—heavy, emotional, all-or-nothing melodrama made propulsive by the amazing musical genius of Toru Takemitsu. All of Shinoda’s films are essential viewing (Pale Flower, Silence, The Assassination, Owl’s Castle). —Thurston Moore

  • 6

    George Sluizer

    The Vanishing

    Totally unnerving psychodrama where a man’s girlfriend is abducted and, after searching for her for three years, he begins to receive messages from the abductor. And then it gets veeerrry weird. Sluizer also directed a film called Dark Blood, which would be interesting to find. —TM

  • 7

    Pier Paolo Pasolini

    Mamma Roma

    Anna Magnani is one of the great actresses of the twentieth century, and this 1962 Pasolini film exhibits her talent in its most sophisticated beauty. 

  • 8

    Marcel Camus

    Black Orpheus

    Set in the favela during Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, Black Orpheus is based on a play by Vinícius de Moraes (one of the cowriters, along with Baden Powell, of one of my favorite Brazilian LPs, Os Afro-Sambas) and adapted from the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, featuring a continuous musical and percussive soundtrack by Antonio Carlos Jobim—music flows with the story and Carnival clatters and bumps along as this tragedy unfolds. This beautifully colorful masterpiece won the 1959 Academy Award for best foreign language film. —Steve Shelley

  • 9

    Billy Wilder

    Ace in the Hole

    Billy Wilder’s first film after Sunset Boulevard possibly seems more relevant in today’s tabloid news world than when it was released in 1951. Starring Kirk Douglas, the film takes place in New Mexico as a three-ring media circus develops while a man is trapped helplessly in a cave. 

  • 10

    Jim Jarmusch

    Night on Earth

    One of my favorite films by one of my favorite directors. My list could just as easily include Down by Law or Stranger Than Paradise. The soundtrack is by Tom Waits. You’ve seen it already, right? 

  • 11

    Catherine Breillat

    Fat Girl

    I haven’t seen this, but I really liked A Very Young Girl and The Last Mistress, with Asia Argento, which I thought was brilliant and hilarious. —Kim Gordon

  • 12

    Terrence Malick

    Days of Heaven

    This is one of the most beautifully filmed movies ever and maybe Haskell Wexler’s best work as a cinematographer. [Nestor Almendros was credited as Days of Heaven’s cinematographer; Wexler provided additional photography.] —KG