Category Archives: Favourite Film Lists

Les Bernstien’s Favourite Films

night trainDirector of Night Train Les Bernstien graciously agreed to writing a list of his favourite films for the blog. For a review of the film and an interview with Les go to noir of the week at:


Ten best list…with an addendum.

Though far from complete, this list is close to what I consider “marker” films, or movies that had some sort of influence and change in the way we perceive story and character. Many happen to be films noir, though that was not my intent. Except for three, they are all Hollywood films.

 1) Citizen Kane. One of the first Hollywood films to consciously use European influences. Though not the first to use a fragmented story structure, it was a bold change for Tinseltown. Moguls would do their best to make sure a mistake like this would never happen again. Hell, every sane studio boss wanted to burn the negative.

2)  Maltese Falcon (1941 vers). Arguably the film that began “film noir,” though this would be forever disputed (with films like Citizen Kane, for example).

3)  Shadow of a Doubt. Influential Hitchcock. All is not right with post-war America. Something’s a little off with the apple pie and Uncle Charlie. Would later influence films like Blue Velvet. Terrific Thornton Wilder script.

4)  Black Narcissus. An amazing use of color cinematography for such a dark film, a kind of “color noir” like Leave Her to Heaven. The sexual tension between Nuns in the Himalayas is palpable – unusual for a film of the forties.

5)  He Walked By Night. A great example of perfect low-budget noir. Very little dialogue and an important model for “policiers,” notably Dragnet.

6)  Wages of Fear. The perfect plot device. Simple, inescapable: drive nitroglycerin over rough terrain – a perfect metaphor.

7)  D.O.A. A classic noir device: find your own murderer because you’re dead. Better than Sunset Boulevard. 

8)  Kiss Me Deadly. Nothing is more important in the late 50s than this noir, because it is about the end of the world. Better than sci-fi.

9)  The Searchers. Westerns would never be the same after this one, made by the man who pretty much invented them. Erased the concept of “good vs. evil” and influenced across genre lines.

10) Point Blank. “Old-school” noir is now officially over. This film was the dividing line into modernism and no one could play a Donald Westlake character better than Lee Marvin.


 11)  North By Northwest. Perhaps one of the most perfect screenplays. Ernest Lehman’s script is a textbook for great plotting and dialogue. And in the hands of a visual maestro like Hitchcock, proves again that it’s a Director’s medium!

12) Rashomon. Another game-changer in the story structure department. Japanese critics thought its popularity outside of Asia made it too Western. Copied by everyone from Kubrick to Tarantino.

13)  2001: A Space Odyssey. Why a major studio made this film will forever be as mysterious as the elliptical plot. Like Citizen Kane, studios will work overtime to make sure this never happens again. One of the great films of all time and another marker of modernism in cinema.

14) Apocalypse Now. What I consider the last of the great Hollywood movies. End of the last great decade of virtuoso filmmaking, this allegory about the violent soul of man plays near perfect, and is a great adaptation of Conrad. Hollywood should have shut its doors after this one.

 Leslie Bernstien

2009 Los Angeles, California

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Megan Abbott’s Favourite Noir Film List

 Megan Abbott, author of Die a Little, The Song is You, Queenpin and Bury Me Deep graciously sent me a list of her all-time favourite noir films, and here they are:

 1. In a Lonely Place

2. Kiss Me Deadly

3. Sweet Smell of Success

4. Naked Kiss

5. Double Indemnity

6. Sunset Boulevard

7. Laura

8. The Killing

9. Fallen Angel

10. DOA

11. The Locket

12. Phantom Lady


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Steve Erickson’s Favourite Film List

If you haven’t read Steve Erickson’s book ZEROVILLE, and if you are a film lover (must be because you are reading this), then I urge you to grab a copy and read it. It’s the story of a young drifter named Vikar Jerome who arrives in Hollywood the day the Charles Manson family rampaged through the home of actress Sharon Tate. Ex-seminarian Vikar, a cinema savant eventually rises through the ranks of the Hollywood film industry. If you love film, you will love Zeroville.

Anyway, this is author and film critic Steve Erickson’s film list:  

The Third Man



The Godfather, part II

Double Indemnity

Lawrence of Arabia

The Lady Eve

The Passion of Joan of Arc

2001: A Space Odyssey

My Darling Clementine

Jules and Jim

A Place in the Sun

The Shop Around the Corner

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Here’s my top ten (not including my own – which I liked quite a bit, I’ll admit)

BOB LE FLAMBEUR – Jean Pierre Melville does a French gangster film based on American gangster films – and it’s amazing.

MODERN ROMANCE – Albert Brooks is in my top 3 favorite directors – this is probably his best.

SLEEPER – you gotta have a Woody Allen movie. Sorry but his earlier funnier movies were better IMO.

THE GRAND ILLUSION – one of the greatest…. It’s always great to watch prisoners trying to escape.

WAGES OF FEAR – the greatest idea for a movie ever made: driving nitroglycerine over a mountain in a crappy old truck. Genius. Remade as Sorcerer and it still worked, even though it bombed.

BLUES BROTHERS – John Landis is the perfect comedy/music film director. This is a work of pure genius mostly written by Dan Aykroyd. “I hate Illinois state Nazis.”

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT – The Who at their finest. Again, cinema and music go together so darn well. I can watch Keith Moon drum for hours.

TAXI DRIVER – I built a shrine to Scorsese during film school. I wish I still had it.

TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE – I should have also built a shrine to John Huston. He directs his dad to an Oscar and solidifies an already brilliant career.

MAGNUM FORCE – and to Clint Eastwood, who’s got a really dark sense of humor. He and Don Siegel outdid Dirty Harry and got laughs in some very subtle places.

And three recent titles:

BONUS: THERE WILL BE BLOOD – PTA did a brilliant job of writing such an incredible character. DD Lewis is really darkly funny in the way he deals with religious nuts… Channeling John Huston, but it works.

IDIOCRACY – sadly overlooked Mike Judge. But it’s something to show your kids!

JACKASS – have you ever laughed harder in a movie? Then it’s a great comedy.

(I asked writer/director Michael Addis if he’d contribute a list of his favourite films to the blog, and here they are. If you are one of the few people on the planet who has not seen POOR WHITE TRASH, then do yourself a favour and watch it. For more information about Michael Addis and his films, visit

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Favorite Documentaries from Director Brian Standing

Director Brian Standing (War is Sell, Pedalphiles), and founder of Prolefeed Studios kindly sent a list of his 12 favorite documentaries. And here they are–along with Brian’s comments on the films:

1. Gap-Toothed Women (Les Blank, 1987)
Les Blank is a huge influence for me, not just for his joyous documentary style, but also for the way he has successfully remained completely independent of the Hollywood/television system. I love all of his films,
 but this curious exploration of the nature of beauty is the one that sticks with me the most.

2. Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (Errol Morris, 1997)
Another huge influence on my work. Morris is best known for the Thin Blue Line, and of course for The
Fog of War
, which won an Academy Award. This film, however, for me completely redefines how a documentary
can look. Masterful storytelling that starts simply and gradually ventures into more and more metaphysical

3. Lessons of Darkness (Werner Herzog, 1992)
Together with Blank and Morris, Herzog completes my holy trinity of documentary filmmakers. (The three of
them, by the way, are close friends. Their film lives intersect in Les Blank’s Werner Herzog Eats His
, in which Herzog settles a bet that Morris would never complete his first film, Gates of Heaven.) In
Lessons of Darkness, Herzog recasts the Kuwait oil fires left behind by the retreating Iraqi army as a
science fiction movie. Hypnotic, disturbing and occasionally very funny.

4. Six O’ Clock News (Ross McElwee, 1994)
I usually don’t care for the “video diary” school of filmmaking. I prefer filmmakers to stay in the
background. I make an exception for Ross McElwee, because he’s such a weird, obsessive personality. 6
O’Clock News
finds McElwee trying to discover what happened to people after their 15 minutes of fame.

5. Salesman (Albert & David Maysles, 1968)
Together with Primary, this film cemented the Maysles brothers as the American masters of documentary cinema. Brilliant editing, intimate cinematography and a deeply cynical worldview make this one of the few acknowledged “classics” that really deserve the term.

6. Rainbow Man/John 3:16 (Sam Green, 1997)
Sam Green was nominated for an Academy Award for The Weather Underground, but for my money, this is his
masterpiece. Rollen Stewart, the omnipresent Rainbow Man who showed up in the stands in nearly every
sporting event was eventually arrested on federal kidnapping charges. His rise, decline and fall serves
as a cautionary tale for anyone who’s ever watched too much T.V.

7. This is Nowhere (Douglas Hawes-Davies, 2002)
Doug Hawes-Davies’ High Plain Films has established a reputation for lyric, beautifully photographed odes to
the natural environment. In This is Nowhere, Davies breaks with his usual subject matter to interview the
drivers of recreational vehicles (A.K.A. “land yachts”) who travel the country, from WalMart to WalMart, to sleep in the parking lots of Sam Walton’s retail empire.

8. Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (Steven M. Martin,
One 1995)
The great appeal of documentaries for me is the process of discovery. You never know where the story is going to take you. In Theremin, it’s easy to imagine the filmmakers nudging each other, saying “Can you believe this?” as the story unfolds before their camera. It starts out as a simple historical documentary about the creation of the world’s firstelectronic instrument, but quickly turns into a first-class cold-war thriller.

9. Harlan County, USA (Barbara Koppel, 1976)
Another direct-cinema “classic” that deserves all the praise that has been heaped upon it. Koppel’s fly-on-the-wall view of a 1974 West Virginia coal miner’s strike set the vocabulary for activist movies, but still manages to surprise.

10. Time and Tides (Julie Bayer & Josh Salzman, 2006)
I saw this film when I served as a juror for the 28th Big Muddy Film Festival, where we unanimously voted it
the best documentary feature. Lyrical cinematography, themes of globalization, cultural preservation, the
internet economy and global warming, all wrapped up in a multi-layered, well-told story, with rich
compassionate characters. Absolutely stunning.

11. The Last Cowboy (John Alpert, 2005)
This was the runner-up for best documentary at the 28th Big Muddy Film Festival. Alpert, an award-winning war correspondent, spent 24 years turning his camera on Vern Sager, one of the last to make a living herding cattle in the American West.

12. Through the Wire (Pip Starr, 2002)

Pip’s a filmmaker from Melbourne Australia, whom I met several years ago when he was filming a documentary
about coffee. Through the Wire is a short piece that had its North American premiere at my now-defunct
monthly film screening Electric Eye Cinema (also one of the first practical uses of video on demand over
the internet, many years before YouTube). Through the Wire is the best example of an activist film I’ve
ever seen, a brilliant use of imagery and voiceover.

One other thought on the topic of documentaries.  My favorite book on the topic is “Documentary” by Eric
Barnouw. A great summary.


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Cineaste’s Ten Best Political Films 1967-2007

The Battle of Algiers–Gillo Pontecorvo, 1967

Memories of Underdevelopment–Tomas Gutierrez Alea, 1973

The Rise of Louis XIV–Robert Rossellini, 1967

The Sorrow and the Pity–Marcel Ophuls, 1969

The Battle of Chile–Patricio Guzman, 1973-77

Missing–Costas-Gavras, 1982

Man of Marble–Andrzej Wajda, 1979

The Hour of the Furnaces–Octavio Getino and Fernando Solanas, 1968

A Grin Without a Cat–Chris Marker, 1977

Z–Costa-Gavras, 1969

From Cineaste, Fall 2007 page 33

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Catherine Breillat’s Top Film List

In the Realm of the Senses (Oshima)

Sawdust and Tinsel (Bergman)

Baby Doll (Kazan)

Lost Highway (Lynch)

Vertigo (Hitchcock)

Salo (Pasolini)

L’Avventura (Antonioni)

Ordet (Dreyer)

Lancelot of the Lake (Bresson)

Ten (Kiarostami)

From Facets Movielovers DVD Guide  9/07 p18

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Top Film List from John Waters

All That Heaven Allows (Sirk)

Baby Doll (Kazan)

Boom! (Losey)

Brink of Life (Bergman)

Chelsea Girls (Warhol)

8 1/2 (Fellini)

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Meyer)

The Mother and the Whore (Eustache)

The Tingler (Castle)

The Wizard of Oz (Fleming)

From Facets Movie Lovers DVD Guide 9/07

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Peter Greenaway’s Top Film List

Peter Greenaway is one of my all-time favourite directors. Brilliant and strange, his films by their very nature do not appeal to all. Oh well… anyway, I was delighted to discover this list of Greenaway’s favourite films, and I was curious to see what films he considered the best ever:

Last Year at Marienbad (Resnais)

Breathless (Godard)

La Notte (Antonioni)

The Rules of the Game (Renoir)

The Seventh Seal (Bergman)

Strike (Eisenstein)

Throne of Blood (Kurosawa)

Fellini’s Casanova (Fellini)

8 1/2 (Fellini)

The Marquise of O (Rohmer)

This list appeared in Facets Movie Lovers DVD guide 9/07 p19

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Pedro Almodovar’s Top Ten Film List

The Night of the Hunter (Laughton 1955)

The Rules of the Game (Renoir 1939)

All About Eve (Mankiewicz 1950)

Leave Her to Heaven (Stahl 1945)

North by Northwest (Hitchcock 1959)

Out of the Past (Tourneur 1947)

Midnight (Leisen 1939)

Some Like it Hot (Wilder 1959)

Touch of Evil (Welles 1958)

Senso (Visconti 1954)

 From Facets Movie Lovers DVD Guide 9/07, p. 17

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