Arts & Faith’s Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films


Loading.... (view fulltext now)





Full text


Arts & Faith’s Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films

1 Ordet (aka The Word)

1954, Carl Theodor Dreyer

Dreyer’s film, which must be one of the most beautifully photographed films ever made, explores the gulf between religious orthodoxy and true faith. The simplicity and luminescence of the rural setting only adds to the power of the understated drama, in which son Johannes believes he is the reincarnated Christ. Questioning where truth, miracles and madness overlap, this is film as a true art form. It’s also one of the Vatican’s top 10 recommended films and features what Paul Schrader describes as “one of the greatest moments in film history.”

2 Le Fils (aka The Son)

2002, Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne

Carpenter Olivier teaches his craft to teenagers and becomes obsessed with a new student, Francis. An ambiguous relationship develops between them until a

revelation shows the past that binds them together. A film of profound emotional and moral complexity and a subtle and disquieting study of a man devastated by tragedy.

3 The Miracle Maker (aka The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus)

2000, Derek Hayes & Stanislav Sokolov

A mother and father in search of help for their sick daughter cross paths with an extraordinary carpenter named Jesus, who has devoted his life to spreading God’s word. An amazing miracle brings to light the true meaning of Christ, and the sacrifices he endured for the deliverance of mankind. A compelling story of faith, trust, and devotion. A full-length feature delivering stunning state-of-the-art 3D claymation and a star-studded cast of voice talents including Ralph Fiennes as Jesus, William Hurt and Julie Christie. Originally broadcast on ABC television.

4 The Gospel According To St. Matthew (aka Il Vangelo Secondo


1964, Pier Paolo Pasolini

A strikingly visual rendering of the biblical text. Imagine a skilled and respectful documentary crew had followed Jesus in his wanderings. This is a passionate,

moving depiction, and if it took a gay, pagan communist to bring the story so vividly to life, then so be it.

5 Diary of a Country Priest (aka Le Journal D’un Cure De Campagne)

1950, Robert Bresson

A young priest arrives in the country village of Ambricourt to attend to his first parish posting, but he is immediately rejected by the apathetic and hostile congregation. Through his diary entries, the young priest communicates his suffering and the crisis of faith that threatens to drive him away from the village.


Diary of a Country Priest was the film that saw Bresson beginning to implement his style of stripping away all but the very essentials of dialogue, image and music from his work.

6 The Passion of Joan of Arc (aka La Passion De Jeanne D’arc)

1927, Carl Theodor Dreyer

Some films have their own mythology - none more so than this. An intensely

powerful depiction of spiritual grace and suffering, this is a truly astounding film. It was Falconetti’s only screen role and was enough to make her one of the great ‘faces’ of cinematic history. No film has ever scrutinised a human face with such electrifying intensity. One of the great works of art in whatever form.

7 Decalogue (aka Dekalog)

1988, Krzysztof Kieslowski

Kieslowski’s series of hour-long films originally conceived for Polish TV, loosely based on the Ten Commandments and exploring the lives of ordinary people living in the same modern Warsaw apartment block. The themes are universal – love, marriage, infidelity, parenthood, guilt, faith and compassion, some are profoundly moving, others delicately shaded; all touched by Kieslowski’s masterly direction and resonant imagery.

8 Babette’s Feast (aka Babettes Gæstebud)

1987, Gabriel Axel

In the wild Jutland peninsula of 1870s Denmark, a servant who was once a renowned Parisian chef surprises her austerely religious friends with the gift of a sumptuous feast. Joyous and heartwarming, as sensitively crafted as the exquisite culinary fare - whose essential, magical ingredients are generosity and love. An Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film.

9 A Man Escaped (aka Un condamné à mort s’est échappé ou Le

vent souffle où il veut)

1956, Robert Bresson

Based on the real-life escape of French Resistance fighter from the Gestapo’s Fort Montluc prison in 1943, A Man Escaped depicts the protracted, painstaking escape with riveting minimalism. With a hypnotic, concentrated purity verging on the spiritual, this is an unquestioned masterpiece of world cinema.

10Andrei Rublev (aka Andrey Rublyov)

1966, Andrei Tarkovsky

Charting the life of the great icon painter through a turbulent period of 15th century Russian history, this is widely regarded as Tarkovsky’s finest film. It’s also justifiably the Vatican’s No. 1, and is among the most awesome and profound artistic


11Au Hasard Balthazar (aka Balthazar)

1966, Robert Bresson

Unadorned, unassuming, unsentimental, Bresson’s masterpiece puts a donkey centre stage and through him we see all humanity. Never was an animal treated with such respect by a filmmaker; never were we viewed, in all our stupidity and transcendence, with such unrelenting compassion. ‘Everyone who sees this film will be absolutely astonished, because this film is really the world in an hour and a half’ - Jean-Luc Godard.

12The Seventh Seal (aka Det Sjunde Inseglet)

1957, Ingmar Bergman

Bergman’s allegory of Man’s search for meaning in which a knight, after returning home from the Crusades, plays a game of chess with Death while the plague ravages medieval Europe. Containing some of the most iconic images ever filmed, this is the epitome of 1950s European art cinema.

13Ikiru (aka To Live)

1952, Akira Kurosawa

A powerful story of one man’s struggle to do something worthwhile in the last six months of his life. A clerical worker with stomach cancer discovers a new zest for life and plans to turn a city waste dump into a children’s playground.

14Winter Light (aka Nattvardsgasterna)

1963, Ingmar Bergman

Bergman’s stark look at faith and its loss is the second part of a trilogy with ‘Through a Glass Darkly’ (1961) and ‘The Silence’ (1963). A pastor (Gunnar Bjornstrand) who seems to have lost his faith after his wife’s death finds himself unable to give spiritual reassurance to a local fisherman (Max von Sydow), whose wife Marta (Ingrid Thulin) has long been in love with the pastor.

15The Mission

1986, Roland Joffe

Two men, one of the sword and one of the cloth, join together and risk everything against the colonial forces of the two empires of Spain and Portugal in order to save the lives of an endangered Indian tribe in mid-18th Century South America.

16The Apostle

1998, Robert Duvall

Duvall directs, and plays a southern preacher who commits a crime and is forced to travel the road to redemption. Duvall had to use $4m of his own money to complete the film but was reimbursed on its critical and financial success.


17Three Colors Trilogy (aka Trois couleurs)

1993-94, Krzysztof Kieslowski

Kieslowski’s superb and universally acclaimed meditations on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

18Jesus Of Nazareth

1977, Franco Zeffirelli

Franco Zeffirelli’s four part television production of ‘Jesus Of Nazareth’ featuring an international all-star cast.

19Jesus of Montreal

1989, Denys Arcand

The priest in charge of the Passion Play in the Montreal Basilica decides on an update to keep the interest of a modern audience. The new director, cast and lead gradually and inevitably find that the story of the life of Christ has a powerful impact on their own lives.

20Francesco, giullare di Dio (aka The Flowers of St. Francis [USA];

Saint Francis, God’s Jester [UK])

1950, Roberto Rossellini

Presented as a tableau of episodes from the life of ‘the people’s saint,’ this offers a compelling vision of life that rejects materialism and violence. Shot in a neorealist manner with non-professional actors it avoids the pious clichés of haloed movie saints with an economy of expression and a touching, human quality. Fresh and simple, it was unappreciated at the time of its release, but is now regarded as one of Rossellini’s best films.

21Dead Man Walking

1995, Tim Robbins

Oscar Winner Sarandon excels in Robbins’ gripping and admirably austere and direct true-life death row drama. Penn is also on top form in a difficult and

ultimately unsympathetic role. After this and the quirky Bob Roberts, there can only be more directorial goodies to come from one of America’s most interesting stars.


1979, Andrei Tarkovsky

‘Beware of your dreams for you may become them,’ warned Vonnegut. The battle between science, faith and art is played out in the Zone, a mysterious, forbidden wasteland where, as in Solaris, dreams become flesh. Tarkovsky creates his most disturbing vision of a dislocated world where the atmosphere of anxious uncertainty becomes almost another character. Haunting and possessed of a desolate beauty, the film poses the seductive question of whether the dreaming of dreams or the attaining of them is better. Black-and-white and colour.



1999, Paul Thomas Anderson

Orchestrating tremendous, unexpected performances from a sublime cast

(including Jason Robards, Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Cruise), Paul Thomas Anderson stitches together an astonishing compendium of personal histories during one San Fernando Valley day in which the lives of its various

inhabitants intersect when dying television producer Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) seeks a reconciliation with his womanising son, Frank T.J. Mackey.

24La Promesse

1999, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

The Dardennes’ first major success. Tells the story of Roger, who operates a tenement that he rents out to immigrant workers with the help of his fifteen year old son Igor. When a labourer from Burkina Faso dies as a direct result of Roger’s unscrupulousness, Igor takes responsibility for the man’s wife and baby.


1927, F.W. Murnau

A landmark of silent cinema and one of the finest films of any era. A woman from the city dazzles a married farmer in a small community and plots to rid him of his wife.

Addressing themes of temptation, reconciliation and redemption, it’s a tale told with lyrical simplicity and was named by Cahiers du Cinema in 1967 as ‘the single

greatest masterwork in the history of the cinema.’ You can see why. Although it borrows its language from Dutch genre painting, expressionism and theatre among others, it is in the end a purely cinematic spectacle.

26Tender Mercies

1983, Bruce Beresford

A compassionate love story tracing the relationship between a burnt-out Country and Western star and the young widow he meets in a Texas motel.

27A Man For All Seasons

1966, Fred Zinnemann

Tudor England. Henry VIII seeks aristocratic approval for his divorce. Sir Thomas More (an Oscar-winning Paul Scofield) is a man of principle and is forced to decide whether to risk standing up to him and face possible execution, or allow the tyrant to continue making up laws to suit himself. A magnificent cast play out the story, which Robert Bolt adapted from his own screenplay.

28Wings of Desire (aka Der Himmel uber Berlin)

1987, Wim Wenders

A wonderful, spellbinding film about two angels moving invisibly in the world of mortals, listening to their thoughts and fears and offering heavenly solace. Peter


Falk is simply sublime as himself, a Hollywood star, in Berlin for a film based on the city’s Nazi past. He is of particular interest to the watching angels being an ex-angel who has traded his immortality to become a human actor, as has Marion, a circus trapeze artist with whom one of the angels falls in love.

29Day of Wrath (aka Vredens dag)

1943, Carl Theodor Dreyer

Set in 17th century Denmark, this is a dark and powerful tale of love and betrayal within a community gripped by an obsessive fear of witchcraft. A priest tortures a confession out of an old woman, while his young wife meets and falls in love with the priest’s son by an earlier marriage. It’s seen by some as an allegory of the Nazi occupation of Denmark, while others read it it an indictment of male suppression of strong women. Undeniable though is the extraordinary emotional intensity achieved by superb performances and Dreyer’s restrained and spare style.

30Yi yi (aka Yi yi: A One and a Two)

2000, Edward Yang

This multi-award winning film offers, through a turbulent couple of weeks in the life of the Jian family, a detailed and very moving account of the ways people cope with crises and emotional setbacks. The problems, it humorously suggests, may change, but the means of coping remain the same.

31The Hiding Place

1975, James F Collier

Produced by Billy Graham’s Evangelistic Association and based on an

autobiographical novel by Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place is a beautiful story about a Dutch family who risk their lives by offering a safe haven for Jews during World War II. This film is a true testament to the power of faith and how God keeps those who trust in him.

32Wild Strawberries (aka Smultronstallet)

1957, Ingmar Bergman

An elderly, introverted academic makes a journey to collect a university award and en route relives his past through nightmares, dreams and memories as space and time are broken apart to reveal the various levels of his inner life. Filled with richly observed characters and a real feeling for the joys of nature and youth, this is one of Bergman’s warmest and finest films.


1999, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

A grim, realist tale of a young teenager living with her alcoholic mother in a trailer park. Sparse dialogue and a restless, hand held camera aptly reflect the inner turmoil of the eponymous heroine. A powerful, heart-rending portrait of hope and experience and the winner of the 1999 Palme d’Or at Cannes.


34After Life (aka Wandafuru raifu)

1998, Hirokazu Koreeda

At a way station somewhere between heaven and earth, (and resembling a dilapidated school), the newly deceased are greeted by spiritual guides who help them sift through their memories to find the one really precious moment of their lives. The chosen moment is recreated and filmed, and they take this with them when they pass on to Heaven. Quiet, discursive, thoughtful and very lovely. What would you choose?

35The Sacrifice (aka Offret)

1986, Andrei Tarkovsky

Hours before a nuclear holocaust a retired actor is celebrating his birthday when an imminent nuclear catastrophe is announced. He promises God that he will sacrifice all he holds dear including his young son in order to save the world. The next day dawns and everything is restored to normality. Tarkovsky’s final film.

36To End All Wars

2001, David L Cunningham

This World War II drama is based on Ernest Gordon’s book Through the Valley of the Kwai. This was also the inspiration behind The Bridge Over The River Kwai. To End All Wars is a film that shows how Patience, determination and hope can bring you through the most brutal and harsh times.

37Chariots Of Fire

1981, Hugh Hudson

The film that prompted Oscar-winning scriptwriter Colin Welland to acclaim at the awards that ‘The British are Coming’ proved something of another false dawn for Brit cinema in Hollywood, but nevertheless it remains an absorbing achievement that tackles many issues amidst the true story of two men who strive and train to compete in the 1924 Olympics. Produced by David Puttnam, with cinematography by David Watkins and a memorable, Oscar-winning score from Vangelis.


1993, Richard Attenborough

Writer and university don C.S Lewis leads a quiet life until vivacious American divorcee Joy Gresham arrives in Oxford. Now life seems unthinkable without her. Continuing that very British tradition made distinctive by Brief Encounter, this is one of the most moving love stories of recent release.

39The Big Kahuna

1999, John Swanbeck

Three lubricant salesmen gather in a Kansas hotel room in order to throw a cocktail party for prospective buyers, and specifically for ‘The Big Kahuna,’ a man so


They are dumbfounded to learn that their naive new recruit actually spoke to him, but their conversation was solely about religion, so they send him in search of the man with the order that he discuss business if he wants to remain employed.

40Not of This World (aka Fuori dal mondo)

1999, Giuseppe Piccioni

Caterina is a novice Nun who has just taken her vows. She wanders through the park one day finding a newborn baby wrapped in a sweater. She takes the baby to the authorities and visits the baby regularly, while trying to find the parents. Her only lead is a dry cleaning tag, which leads her to Ernesto the owner of the dry cleaners and possible father. What follows is a story that questions her place in the world, and a relationship that could change their paths forever.

41Schindler’s List

1993, Steven Spielberg

One of the few really great films about the Holocaust, Spielberg’s treatment of Keneally’s novel is masterful. Splendidly directed, compellingly acted, superbly shot in black and white and colour, this really is an epic for our time and an essential watch.


2004, Danny Boyle

A fantastical tale of two British brothers and a large sack of cash that has literally dropped onto them from the sky. Young brothers Anthony and Damian Cunningham, whose initial response to their unexpected fortune is a Robin Hood-esque spree of charity, have only one week to spend their 265,000 pounds before the nation

switches over to the Euro. Though the premise is trite, unexpected details - such as Damian’s ability to see visions of saints and the recent death of the boys’ beloved mother - add complexity to the story. The 7 and 9 year-old lead actors are

appealing without being precious and their understated, mature performances add gravity to a largely whimsical film.

43The Straight Story

1999, David Lynch

The true story of how 73 year-old Alvin Straight travels the three hundred miles on a 1966 John Dere lawnmower across Iowa and Wisconsin to visit his ailing brother. The brilliant, leisurely opening camera pan around suburban lawns and houses is reminiscent of Blue Velvet, but this is a much lighter, less weird yet still

unmistakably Lynchian film.

44Taste of Cherry (Ta’m e guilass)

1997, Abbas Kiarostami

a poetic, serene and meditative film about a man trying to find someone to throw earth on him after he has committed suicide.


45The Passion Of The Christ

2004, Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson’s hugely controversial film detailing the last twelve hours of Christ’s life, from his betrayal at the hands of Judas to his crucifixion and resurrection. With strong performances and impressive visuals, this is an incredibly passionate and ambitious work that succeeds in re-inventing the biblical epic.


1964, Peter Glenville

One of cinema’s legendary pairings - Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole - plays out the story of the tempestuous friendship between King Henry II and Thomas a Becket. The King appoints his trusted companion to the esteemed position of

Archbishop of Canterbury, believing his loyalty will give him control over the church. However Becket takes his new duties seriously and his devotion to God soon brings him into direct conflict with both the State and his lifelong friend.


2001, Mike Nichols

Based on the Margaret Edson play, Vivian Bearing is a hardnosed English professor who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Wit tells the tale of how she treats this news firstly in a pure matter of fact way and goes it alone through the new experimental treatment offered. But as her treatment progresses, she wishes she had some more truly caring human interaction from people who see her as a person and not just a research experiment

48Roma, città aperta (aka Open City [USA]; Rome, Open City [UK])

1945, Roberto Rossellini

Often seen as the true beginning of neo-realism with its documentary-style imagery and the authenticity of its performances, Rossellini’s classic film tells the story of resistance under German occupation. Based in part on the real-life account of a priest’s heroic involvement in the struggle, the film was shot under difficult circumstances on the war-torn streets of Rome.


1959, Luis Bunuel

Bunuel’s subtle parable about a Catholic priest who attempts to live by Christian principles, but finds himself despised for his efforts and confounded at every turn, is one of his most tender and ambiguous films. Much to his exasperation, Bunuel almost won a prize for the film from the Catholic church! They should have known better - ‘Viridiana’ was to follow - but you can see how they might have persuaded themselves that the famous atheist might have seen the light.


50Secrets and Lies

1996, Mike Leigh

A north London family, atomised by history, plans to meet up for Roxanne’s 21st. Meanwhile, Hortense searches the public records for her mother’s identity. Now and again a British film comes along which speaks to its generation in terms clear and urgent.


1989, John Duigan

This a powerful account of a savage dictatorship that massacred and tortured hundreds of thousands of people. Throughout the regime, one man spoke the truth in a country torn apart by social injustice. He stood for human rights during an era of shocking violence and torture, but he was assassinated for his beliefs. His name was Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, and this is his courageous, and true, story.

52Places In The Heart

1984, Robert Benton

The film set in 1930s America, Sally Field won an Oscar for her role as the widowed smallholder trying to keep her cotton farm going with the help of a blind veteran and an itinerant black farmhand.

53It’s a Wonderful Life

1946, Frank Capra

Facing bankruptcy, George Bailey (James Stewart) wants to end it all. But his personal angel, Clarence (Henry Travers), will never get his wings if Bailey ends up in the drink, so he shows him the impact he has made on the lives of the people around him to prove that his life, is, in fact, Wonderful. This heart-warming, spirited Christmas tale is probably the best feel-good movie ever made.


1996, Jacques Doillon

Sad but oddly happy, Ponette is a little girl whose Mummy has died while she awaits her return. Built around the performance of a four-year-old and wilfully siding with her blurring of the true and the make-believe, Ponette puts the easy conceits of most films to shame. Unutterably moving.

55Les Miserables

2000, Josee Dayan

Set against the background of the French Revolution and based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, this is the story of Jean Valjean - sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread and released nineteen years later. He meets and cares for a beautiful but poverty-stricken young girl named Fantine and her daughter Cosette. After


Fantine’s death Valjean brings Cosette up but he is haunted by Javert - a policeman whose search for Valjean has become an obsession.


1973, Guy Green

American Film Theatre adaptation of John Osborne’s play about the controversial 17th century revolutionary, with an intense central performance by Keach.

57Tokyo Story (aka Tokyo Monogatari)

1953, Yasujiro Ozu

Voted one of the ten best films of all time, Ozu’s masterpiece is an emotionally breathtaking and poignant portrayal of the frailty of family ties, telling of an elderly couple who visit their grown-up son and daughter in Tokyo. The children see them as an unwelcome interruption of their busy lives and only their widowed daughter-in-law treats them with kindness and respect. Truly a five-star film.

58Hell House

2001, George Ratliff

Hell House centres around one Church’s unique method of spreading the gospel. It is not, as the title suggests, a horror film. It is a challenging documentary that is starting debates among viewers. In the film we see the organization and planning of an exhibition. The Exhibition put on by the Trinity Church (Assemblies of God) wants to “encourage” visitors to turn to Jesus by showing them nightmarish spectacles of sinful behaviours like suicide, abortion and domestic violence.

59Breaking The Waves

1996, Lars von Trier

Von Trier’s intense latter-day religious parable takes several laudable (and award-winning) risks in telling the tale of Bess (Emily Watson), a young woman having ‘conversations with God’ and continuing to marvel at the world even as her tight-knit Highland community takes sides against her.

60Crimes And Misdemeanors

1989, Woody Allen

Nominated for three Academy Awards, in retrospect this superbly balanced

tragicomedy seems darker than ever. Deconstructing the “Greed is Good” era, Allen charts the dilemma of a successful family man as he contemplates destroying his mistress.

61To Kill a Mockingbird

1962, Robert Mulligan

A story of prejudice and injustice set in a racially-intolerant Alabama of the 1930s. Peck plays the lawyer who stirs up hostility when he agrees to defend a black man accused of rape. Based on the book by Harper Lee.


62The Mirror (aka Zerkalo)

1974, Andrei Tarkovsky

Seamlessly blending past and present, dreams and memory, art, levitation and a wider overview of 20th Century Russian history, Tarkovsky’s enigmatic account of childhood (and simultaneous expression of faith) is one of cinema’s unique personal statements. Underpinned by spellbinding, almost rapturous, visual imagery -

elements take on miraculous properties - this is film as poetry.

63The Last Temptation Of Christ

1988, Martin Scorsese

Scorsese’s adaptation of Kazantzakis’ book is a dusty, evocative portrait of a soul torn between divinity and worldly pain and sexuality.

64The Gospel of John

2003, Philip Saville

The Gospel of John is just as it states, an energetic adaptation of the Gospel precisely Word for Word based on the Good News Translation Bible. Henry Ian Cusick’s compelling performance as Jesus is core the success of the film. Christopher Plummer’s narration moves things on nicely. This is a realistic representation of the life of Jesus Christ, according to the disciple John.

65Hotel Rwanda

2004, Terry George

A film based on the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, the man who refused to ignore the atrocities suffered by the people of Rwanda. As the violence escalated and innocent people were slaughtered, Paul opened up his hotel to offer shelter to the thousands in need.


1993, Peter Weir

Jeff Bridges stars as architect Max Klein in this drama about the survivor of a plane crash who, in the aftermath, loses all sense of fear. Max strikes up a friendship with another survivor (Rosie Perez), who lost her son in the crash, and tries to convince her, through her grief, of the value of life.

67Solaris (aka Solyaris)

1972, Andrei Tarkovsky

Mind-bending, metaphysical sci-fi about a psychologist who is sent to a space station to investigate mysterious deaths and discovers supernatural phenomena. Slow-moving and elegaic, hypnotic once one adjusts, an undoubted tour de force by Tarkovsky, who also co-wrote the screenplay.


68The Night of the Hunter

1955, Charles Laughton

Mitchum gives his most memorable performance as the evil preacher, in a once-neglected suspense thriller now rightly accepted as a brilliantly photographed, lyrical and unique masterpiece. The children’s moonlit river journey in particular is a high point of cinema.

69Cries And Whispers (aka Viskningar och rop)

1972, Ingmar Bergman

A tense psychodrama, set in the 19th century and focussing on a group of women, one of whom is on the brink of death due to the psychological torment, suffering and neglect of a marriage that is ‘a tissue of lies.’ Bergman avoids period

‘prettiness’; instead colour is used expressively and symbolically to suggest the tormented characters’ troubled states of mind. A stunning film, one of Bergman’s most formally controlled and interesting works.


1949, Roberto Rossellini

Filmed with unforgettable images and a fishing scene that ranks as one of cinemas greatest ever sequences, Stromboli has been hailed as one of the greatest films ever made.


2002, Steve James

Stevie is a work of compassion and conscience. It leads us into the lives of people we would normally avoid and shows us how important it is that we show them love, and the transforming power of God’s love in a way few films ever have.


2003, Lars Von Trier

Von Trier’s powerfully bleak vision of small-town America has the strength of

parable. The director is playful as well though, with storytelling conventions applied to the tale of Grace, who arrives in a small Rocky Mountains community in

Depression-era USA. They agree to hide her in return for performing certain duties. The duties however, get ever more demanding.

73My Night at Maud’s (aka Ma nuit chez Maud)

1969, Eric Rohmer

Highlight of Rohmer’s six famous moral tales. Both a serious study of moral dilemmas and a delightful, delicately performed comedy of manners.


74Black Robe

1991, Bruce Beresford

1634. In Quebec a fervent young French priest is setting out on an expedition upriver to convert the Huron Indians. He is accompanied by an ambivalent tribe of Algonquins and a carpenter acting as an interpreter. Armed with more faith than sense, the priest subjects his own beliefs to trials of a forbidding and godless terrain.


1990, Abbas Kiarostami

Kiarostami’s masterpiece, depicting in documentary fashion an unemployed man’s attempt to impersonate the director Mohsen Makhmalbaf and the court proceedings which result. This is a brilliant, multi-layered exploration of illusion and reality, infused with its creator’s humanity and wisdom.

76The Apu Trilogy: Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road),

Aparajito (The Unvanquished), and Apur Sansar (The World of


1955, 1956, 1959, Satyajit Ray

The three films, each a masterpiece in its own right, are enormously touching in their simplicity, emotional sweep and visual beauty. In Ray’s extraordinarily

accomplished debut Pather Panchal (1955), he begins the story of Apu, a boy born into a poor but loving family in rural Bengal. He continues into adolescence in Aparajito (1956), while The World of Apu (1959) concludes the trilogy with a move to the city where the extremes of joy and despair play out to an uplifting, life-affirming conclusion. The Apu Trilogy is legendary Indian director Satyajit Ray’s finest achievement. Music from Ravi Shankar.

77Werckmeister Harmonies (aka Werckmeister harmoniak)

2000, Bela Tarr

Bela Tarr’s extraordinary and original film takes place in the bitter cold of the Hungarian plains, where the population of a provincial town awaits the arrival of a circus that features the stuffed carcass of a whale and a mysterious prince. Its appearance disturbs the order of the small town and unleashes a torrent of violence and beauty. A haunting, metaphysical exploration of chaos and harmony.

78Waking Life (Animated)

2001, Richard Linklater

Wiley Wiggins tries to find the difference between waking life and dreaming, always questioning and learning from those he encounters.


79Koyaanisqatsi (aka Koyaanisqatsi - Life Out of Balance)

1982, Godfrey Reggio

Visually stunning examinations of the impact of technological progress on the earth and its peoples. Created alongside scores from Philip Glass, these are mesmerising and innovative cinematic essays that grow in stature with each watch. Reggio is documenting a major change in human society - our shift from living in nature to living in technology. The films have no words because as he says, ‘our language no longer describes the world in which we live.’

80Peter and Paul

1981, Robert Day

This television mini-series is about the early church’s two best known leaders.

Showing their struggle against violent opposition to the teachings of Christ and their own personal conflicts.

8113 Conversations About One Thing

2001, Jill Sprecher

Five distinct tales of New Yorkers are interwoven to create a charming look at the invisible workings of ‘fate’ in everyday life. The release of this film was delayed by the events of 9/11.

82The Sweet Hereafter

1997, Atom Egoyan

The Grand Jury prize-winner at Cannes, but it’s in the pairing of emotional precision with stunning snowscapes that the film really hits home. Ian Holm’s tightly coiled lawyer tries to bring order to a town mourning the deaths of its children in a school bus accident. Egoyan traces the chilly territory of family trauma with an expert hand.

83Dersu Uzala

1975, Akira Kurosawa

Filmed in 70mm on location in the peaceful vastnesss of the Siberian ice desert, this is one of Kurosawa’s most beautiful films as well as a tale of great humanity. It is based on the turn of the century journals of Tsarist officer, Vladimir Arseniev who meets and befriends the hunter Dersu Uzala, who in turn teaches him to survive in the wilderness. An academy award winner from 1975.

84The Trial of Joan of Arc (aka Proces de Jeanne d’Arc)

1962, Robert Bresson

Based on the transcripts of the actual trial of Joan of Arc, Bresson’s film is austere and methodical, balancing Joan’s humiliation with her spiritual redemption.

Featuring a remarkable cast of non-professional actors, the film portrays Joan’s relentless interrogation and persecution by her captors in an almost documentary


manner. Bresson transforms her oppression and suffering into a testament to her purity and spiritual liberation.

85Le rayon vert (aka Summer [USA], The Green Ray [UK] )

1994, Eric Rohmer

A sensitive young woman searches for companionship and her ideal man on her summer holiday. Perfectly capturing the season - charming, intelligent and finally, hugely romantic, this winner of the Golden Lion at Venice is simply wonderful. Like the green ray of a sunset at sea, rare, precious and unforgettable!

86Fiddler On The Roof

1971, Norman Jewison

‘If I were a rich man’ and ‘Tradition’ are the highlights of this Broadway musical full of mud and melancholy. In a story of Jewish family values, community spirit,

friendship and trust, Topol bellows through pre-Revolution Russia with an infectious verve that leaves you with a warm glow and a tune lodged in your head long after the final frame.

87Ladri di biciclette (aka The Bicycle Thief [US], The Bicycle Thieves


1948, Vittorio De Sica

A simple yet profoundly moving story of one man’s struggle for employment and self-respect. The raw and frequently heart-wrenching performances from amateurs Maggiorani and Staiola give the film a natural quality which, along with the

underlying social criticism, resulted in an unforgettable milestone film that won an Academy Award for ‘most outstanding foreign film’ in 1948.

88The Year of Living Dangerously

1982, Peter Weir

This film is about a journalist on his first job as a foreign correspondent. Working in Indonesia he must face some major moral choices and the relationship between Billy (his photographer, half- Chinese dwarf) and him reaches a crisis at the same time the politics of Indonesia does.

89L’Argent (aka Money)

1983, Robert Bresson

A typically uncompromising film, adapted from a story by Tolstoy, in which the passing of a forged banknote leads to theft, corruption and murder. Here, money truly is the root of all evil.

90The Elephant Man

1980, David Lynch

The story of John Merrick, grossly deformed and exploited as a fairground freak until rescued by a compassionate doctor who treats him with kindness and intelligence.


Powerful and moving, Lynch raises the veil on human brutality and voyeurism in his multiple Oscar-nominated film.


1926, F.W. Murnau

Murnau’s version of the Faust legend was incredibly the cinema’s 26th shot at the story, and the director extends his art with epic scene following magnificent epic scene. The film stands at the pinnacle of the silent era, with its barrage of visceral imagery contrasting with the simplicity and directness of its spiritual theme. It features Emil Jannings as truly horrendous Mephistopheles, Gosta Ekman as a somewhat feeble Faust and a young heroine to wrench our hearts.

92Molokai: The Story of Father Damien

1999, Paul Cox

The true story of the 19th century priest who went to the island of Molokai, to console and care for the lepers. Father Damien risked his life and health to reach out to the suffering, putting his trust in God.

93A Moment of Innocence

1996, Mohsen Makhmalbaf

At the age of 17, Makhmalbaf was convicted of attacking a policeman and tortured. Twenty years on, he and the policeman met and talked. Makhmalbaf’s film is a uniquely personal take on a fiercely political moment in his country’s history.

94Jean de Florette / Manon of the Spring (aka Jean de Florette /

Manon des Sources)

1986, Claude Berri

A pairing of Claude Berri’s two famed adaptations from Marcel Pagnol’s story of greed, betrayal and revenge. Soaked in the sights and sounds of the Provencal countryside, you can watch these time and again.

95Sanshô dayû (aka The Bailiff [USA], Sansho the Bailiff [UK])

1954, Kenji Mizoguchi

Famed for its period reconstructions and powerful imagery, often through the

director’s trademark long takes, Sansho Dayu is one of the most critically revered of all of Mizoguchi’s films, and a classic of world cinema, often cropping up in lists of the greatest films ever made. It is a landmark film of exquisite tone and purity of emotion.

Based on an ancient legend, as recounted by celebrated author Mori Ogai (in his short story of the same name, written in 1915), and adapted by Japanese director Mizoguchi Kenji, Sansho Dayu is both distinctively Japanese and as deeply affecting as a Greek tragedy. Described in its opening title as “one of the oldest and most tragic in Japan’s history,” Mizoguchi depicts an unforgettably sad story of social injustice, family love, personal sacrifice, and fateful tragedy.


Set in Heian era (11th century) Japan, it follows an aristocratic woman, Tamaki (played by Tanaka Kinuyo, who also stars in Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari), and her two children, Zushio (Hanayagi Yoshiaki) and Anju (Kagawa Kyoko), who are separated by feudal tyranny from Tamaki’s husband. When the children are kidnapped and sold into slavery to the eponymous “Sansho” (Shindo Eitaro), the lives of each of the family members follow very different paths – each course uniquely, and insufferably, tragic.

96Lilies of the Field

1963, Ralph Nelson

Sidney Poitier became the first black performer to win a Best Actor Oscar for his role as a handyman helping German nuns build a chapel in Arizona. One of the key Hollywood films of the sixties to deal with race relations, these lilies are kept fresh by a welcome splash of humour.

97The Wind Will Carry Us (aka Bad ma ra khahad bord)

1999, Abbas Kiarostami

A traditional village with its old rituals is visited by two strangers whose intentions are obscure and who interfere into the mundane routines of the people’s secluded lives. Winner of the Grand Special Jury Prize at Venice, this is a poetic interpretation of complex issues of life and death, tradition and modernity.

98The Addiction

1995, Abel Ferrara

Ferrara’s off-beat vampire movie tracks the moral dilemmas of a philosophy student who becomes an unwilling new recruit into the ancient society.

99The Song of Bernadette

1943, Henry King

The story of peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous, a poverty-stricken adolescent, who saw a vision of a ‘beautiful lady’ near her home town of Lourdes in 1858.

100 Tales of Ugetsu (aka Ugetsu Monogatari)

1951, Kenji Mizoguchi

Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari (Tales of the Rain and Moon) is a masterwork of Japanese cinema. Based on a pair of 18th century ghost stories by Ueda Akinari, the film’s release continued Mizoguchi’s introduction to the West, where it was

nominated for an Oscar (for Best Costume Design) and won the Venice Film Festival Silver Lion award (for Best Direction).

In 16th century Japan, amidst the pandemonium of civil war, potter Genjuro and samurai-aspirant Tobei set out with their wives in search of wealth and military glory, respectively. Two parallel tales ensue when the men are lured from their wives: Genjuro by the ghostly charm of Lady Wakasa, Tobei by the dream of military glory.


Famed for its meticulously orchestrated long takes and its subtle blending of

realistic period reconstruction and lyrical supernaturalism, Ugetsu Monogatari is an intensely poetic tragedy that consistently features on polls of the best films ever made.


13 Conversations About One Thing -

#81 2001 Jill Sprecher

A Man Escaped (aka Un condamné à mort s’est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut) - #9

1956 Robert Bresson

A Man For All Seasons - #27 1966 Fred Zinnemann

A Moment of Innocence - #93 1996 Mohsen Makhmalbaf

After Life (aka Wandafuru raifu) - #34 1998 Hirokazu Koreeda Andrei Rublev (aka Andrey Rublyov) -

#10 1966 Andrei Tarkovsky

Au Hasard Balthazar (aka Balthazar) -

#11 1966 Robert Bresson

Babette’s Feast (aka Babettes Gæstebud) - #8

1987 Gabriel Axel

Becket - #46 1964 Peter Glenville

Black Robe - #74 1991 Bruce Beresford

Breaking The Waves - #59 1996 Lars von Trier

Chariots Of Fire - #37 1981 Hugh Hudson

Close-Up - #75 1990 Abbas Kiarostami

Cries And Whispers (aka Viskningar och

rop) - #69 1972 Ingmar Bergman

Crimes And Misdemeanors - #60 1989 Woody Allen

Day of Wrath (aka Vredens dag) - #29 1943 Carl Theodor Dreyer

Dead Man Walking - #21 1995 Tim Robbins

Decalogue (aka Dekalog) - #7 1988 Krzysztof Kieslowski

Dersu Uzala - #83 1975 Akira Kurosawa

Diary of a Country Priest (aka Le Journal D’un Cure De Campagne) - #5

1950 Robert Bresson

Dogville - #72 2003 Lars Von Trier

Faust - #91 1926 F.W. Murnau

Fearless - #66 1993 Peter Weir

Fiddler On The Roof - #86 1971 Norman Jewison

Francesco, giullare di Dio (aka The Flowers of St. Francis [USA]; Saint Francis, God’s Jester [UK]) - #20

1950 Roberto Rossellini

Hell House - #58 2001 George Ratliff

Hotel Rwanda - #65 2004 Terry George

Ikiru (aka To Live) - #13 1952 Akira Kurosawa

It’s a Wonderful Life - #53 1946 Frank Capra

Jean de Florette / Manon of the Spring (aka Jean de Florette / Manon des Sources) - #94

1986 Claude Berri

Jesus of Montreal - #19 1989 Denys Arcand

Jesus Of Nazareth - #18 1977 Franco Zeffirelli

Koyaanisqatsi (aka Koyaanisqatsi - Life

Out of Balance) - #79 1982 Godfrey Reggio


La Promesse - #24 1999 Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Ladri di biciclette (aka The Bicycle Thief [US], The Bicycle Thieves [UK]) - #87

1948 Vittorio De Sica

Le Fils (aka The Son) - #2 2002 Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc

Dardenne Le rayon vert (aka Summer [USA], The

Green Ray [UK] ) - #85

1994 Eric Rohmer

Les Miserables - #55 2000 Josee Dayan

Lilies of the Field - #96 1963 Ralph Nelson

Luther - #56 1973 Guy Green

Magnolia - #23 1999 Paul Thomas Anderson

Millions - #42 2004 Danny Boyle

Molokai: The Story of Father Damien -

#92 1999 Paul Cox

My Night at Maud’s (aka Ma nuit chez Maud) - #73

1969 Eric Rohmer

Nazarin - #49 1959 Luis Bunuel

Not of This World (aka Fuori dal

mondo) - #40 1999 Giuseppe Piccioni

Ordet (aka The Word) - #1 1954 Carl Theodor Dreyer

Peter and Paul - #80 1981 Robert Day

Places In The Heart - #52 1984 Robert Benton

Ponette - #54 1996 Jacques Doillon

Roma, città aperta (aka Open City [USA]; Rome, Open City [UK]) - #48

1945 Roberto Rossellini

Romero - #51 1989 John Duigan

Rosetta - #33 1999 Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc

Dardenne Sanshô dayû (aka The Bailiff [USA],

Sansho the Bailiff [UK]) - #95 1954 Kenji Mizoguchi

Schindler’s List - #41 1993 Steven Spielberg

Secrets and Lies - #50 1996 Mike Leigh

Shadowlands - #38 1993 Richard Attenborough

Solaris (aka Solyaris) - #67 1972 Andrei Tarkovsky

Stalker - #22 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky

Stevie - #71 2002 Steve James

Stromboli - #70 1949 Roberto Rossellini

Sunrise - #25 1927 F.W. Murnau

Tales of Ugetsu (aka Ugetsu

Monogatari) - #100 1951 Kenji Mizoguchi

Taste of Cherry (Ta’m e guilass) - #44 1997 Abbas Kiarostami

Tender Mercies - #26 1983 Bruce Beresford

The Addiction - #98 1995 Abel Ferrara


The Apu Trilogy: Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road), Aparajito (The Unvanquished), and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) - #76

1955, Satyajit Ray

The Big Kahuna - #39 1999 John Swanbeck

The Elephant Man - #90 1980 David Lynch

The Gospel According To St. Matthew (aka Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo) - #4

1964 Pier Paolo Pasolini

The Gospel of John - #64 2003 Philip Saville

The Hiding Place - #31 1975 James F Collier

The Last Temptation Of Christ - #63 1988 Martin Scorsese The Miracle Maker (aka The Miracle

Maker: The Story of Jesus) - #3 2000 Derek Hayes & Stanislav Sokolov

The Mirror (aka Zerkalo) - #62 1974 Andrei Tarkovsky

The Mission - #15 1986 Roland Joffe

The Night of the Hunter - #68 1955 Charles Laughton

The Passion of Joan of Arc (aka La

Passion De Jeanne D’arc) - #6 1927 Carl Theodor Dreyer

The Passion Of The Christ - #45 2004 Mel Gibson

The Sacrifice (aka Offret) - #35 1986 Andrei Tarkovsky

The Seventh Seal (aka Det Sjunde

Inseglet) - #12 1957 Ingmar Bergman

The Song of Bernadette - #99 1943 Henry King

The Straight Story - #43 1999 David Lynch

The Sweet Hereafter - #82 1997 Atom Egoyan

The Trial of Joan of Arc (aka Proces de

Jeanne d’Arc) - #84 1962 Robert Bresson

The Wind Will Carry Us (aka Bad ma ra

khahad bord) - #97 1999 Abbas Kiarostami

The Year of Living Dangerously - #88 1982 Peter Weir Three Colors Trilogy (aka Trois

couleurs) - #17 1993- Krzysztof Kieslowski

To End All Wars - #36 2001 David L Cunningham

To Kill a Mockingbird - #61 1962 Robert Mulligan

Tokyo Story (aka Tokyo Monogatari) - #57

1953 Yasujiro Ozu

Waking Life (Animated) - #78 2001 Richard Linklater

Werckmeister Harmonies (aka Werckmeister harmoniak) - #77


Wild Strawberries (aka Smultronstallet)

- #32 1957 Ingmar Bergman

Wings of Desire (aka Der Himmel uber

Berlin) - #28 1987 Wim Wenders

Winter Light (aka Nattvardsgasterna) -

#14 1963 Ingmar Bergman

Wit - #47 2001 Mike Nichols

Yi yi (aka Yi yi: A One and a Two) - #30 2000 Edward Yang

Original list published in 2008/2009 on

Descriptions from;part=films . Used with permission.



Related subjects :