World Cinema You Have To See

A selection of must see films of world-cinema that is essential for those looking to improve their knowledge of Film.


2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968) [DVD] BUY US

“An imposing black structure provides a connection between the past and the future in this enigmatic adaptation of a short story by revered sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke. When Dr. Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and other astronauts are sent on a mysterious mission, their ship’s computer system, HAL, begins to display increasingly strange behavior, leading up to a tense showdown between man and machine that results in a mind-bending trek through space and time.”

The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973) [Blu-ray] BUY US

“Through a grotesque scenario filled with sacrilegious imagery, a Christlike figure meets a mystical guide who introduces him to seven wealthy and powerful people, each representing a planet in the Solar system. These seven, along with the protagonist, the guide and the guide’s assistant, will divest themselves of their worldly goods and form a group of nine who will seek the Holy Mountain, in order to displace the gods who live there and become immortal.”

The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) BUY US

“Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), hoping to cure his writer’s block, becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado,. He settles in along with his wife, Wendy and his son, Danny, who is plagued by psychic premonitions. As Jack’s writing goes nowhere and Danny’s visions become more disturbing, Jack discovers the hotel’s dark secrets and begins to unravel into a homicidal maniac hell-bent on terrorizing his family.”

The Double Life of Veronique (Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1991) [DVD] BUY US

“Two parallel stories about two identical women; one living in Poland, the other in France. They don’t know each other, but their lives are nevertheless profoundly connected.”

Baraka (Ron Fricke, 1992) [Blu-ray] BUY US

“Featuring no conventional narrative, this film presents footage of people, places and things from around the world. From chaotic cities to barren wilderness, the movie takes viewers around the globe to witness a variety of spectacles in both natural and technological realms. Detouring into former concentration camps, the production doesn’t shy away from the dark side of humanity, and ultimately shows how much of the world is interconnected by both the tragedy and the vibrancy of life.”

Three Colors: Blue ( Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1993) [DVD] [1993] BUY US

This is the first of the three films that comprise The Three Colors Trilogy.

“Julie is haunted by her grief after living through a tragic auto wreck that claimed the life of her composer husband and young daughter. Her initial reaction is to withdraw from her relationships, lock herself in her apartment and suppress her pain. But avoiding human interactions on the bustling streets of Paris proves impossible, and she eventually meets up with Olivier, an old friend who harbors a secret love for her, and who could draw her back to reality.”

Three Colors: Red (1994) [DVD] [1994] BUY US

“Part-time model Valentine meets a retired judge who lives in her neighborhood after she runs over his dog; at first, the judge gifts Valentine with the dog, but her possessive boyfriend won’t allow her to keep it. When she returns with the dog to the judge’s house, she discovers him listening in on his neighbours’ phone conversations. At first Valentine is outraged, but her debates with the judge over his behavior soon leads them to form a strange bond.”

Three Colors: White (1994) [DVD] [1994] BUY US

“Karol Karol is a Polish immigrant that finds himself out of a marriage, a job and a country when his French wife divorces him after six months due to his impotence. Forced to leave the France after losing the business they jointly owned, Karol enlists fellow Polish expatriate Mikolah to smuggle him back to their homeland. After successfully returning, Karol begins to build his new life, while never forgetting his old one.”

Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999) BUY US

“In this quirky cult-favorite comedy, unemployed New York City puppeteer Craig Schwartz reluctantly takes a temp job as a filing clerk for the eccentric Dr. Lester. While at work, Craig discovers a portal that leads into the mind of renowned actor John Malkovich. When he lets his attractive co-worker Maxine in on the secret, they begin both an unusual business scheme and an odd relationship that involves Craig’s restless wife, Lotte.”

Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999) [DVD] BUY US

“On one random day in the San Fernando Valley, a dying father, a young wife, a male caretaker, a famous lost son, a police officer in love, a boy genius, an ex-boy genius, a game show host and an estranged daughter will each become part of a dazzling multiplicity of plots, but one story.”

Requiem for a Dream ( Darren Aronofsky, 2000) [DVD] BUY US

“Imaginatively evoking the inner landscape of human beings longing to connect, to love and feel loved, the film is a parable of happiness gloriously found and tragically lost. This film tells parallel stories that are linked by the relationship between the lonely, widowed Sara Goldfarb and her sweet but aimless son, Harry. The plump Sara, galvanized by the prospect of appearing on a TV game show, has started on a dangerous diet regimen to beautify herself for a national audience.”

Human Traffic (Justin Kerrigan, 2000) [DVD] BUY US

“For Jip, Lulu, Koop, Nina and Moff, the dead-end jobs they endure during the week just kill the time until Friday night. That’s when they cut very loose and get on the crazy roller coaster ride that takes them right through to Monday morning. An adrenaline-pumped comedy, “Human Traffic” chronicles the ups and downs – both chemical and emotional -of five friends whose weekends are filled with endless clubbing, pubbing and partying where there are no rules, no limits and no saying no.”

Snatch (Guy Ritchie, 2000) [Blu-ray] BUY US

“Illegal boxing promoter Turkish convinces gangster Brick Top to offer bets on bare-knuckle boxer Mickey at his bookie business. When Mickey does not throw his first fight as agreed, an infuriated Brick Top demands another match. Meanwhile, gangster Frankie Four Fingers comes to place a bet for a friend with Brick Top’s bookies, as multiple criminals converge on a stolen diamond that Frankie has come to London to sell.”

Amelie ( Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001) [DVD] BUY US

“This is a fanciful comedy about Amelie, a young woman who discretely orchestrates the lives of the people around her, creating a world exclusively of her own making. Shot in over 80 Parisian locations, the Director here invokes his incomparable visionary style to capture the exquisite charm and mystery of modern-day Paris through the eyes of a beautiful ingenue.”

Vanilla Sky (Cameron Crowe, 2001) BUY US

” This is the story of a young New York City publishing magnate who finds himself on an unexpected roller-coaster ride of romance, comedy, suspicion, love, sex and dreams in a mind-bending search for his soul.”

Y Tu Mamá También ( Alfonso Cuaron, 2002) [DVD]

“The lives of Julio and Tenoch, like those of 17-year old boys everywhere, are ruled by raging hormones, intense friendships, and a headlong rush into adulthood. Over the course of a summer, the two best friends, while living out a carefree cross-country escapade with a gorgeous older woman, also find connection with each other, themselves and the world around them.”

Waking Life (Richard Linklater, 2002) [DVD] BUY US

“Transcending the boundaries of technology and imagination, “Waking Life” is a revolutionary breakthrough in film animation. Wiley Wiggins (“Dazed and Confused”) travels through a series of encounters and observations in a world that may or may not be reality. It is this surreal existence, flourishing with endless ideas and possibilities, that ultimately leads to the question — Are we sleep-walking through our waking state or wake-walking through our dreams?”

The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci, 2003) BUY US (Original Uncut NC-17 Version)

“In May 1968, the student riots in Paris only exacerbate the isolation felt by three youths: an American exchange student named Matthew and twins Théo and Isabelle. Having bonded over their mutual love of cinema, Matthew is fascinated by the sense of intimacy shared by Isabelle and Theo, who were born conjoined. When the twins’ bohemian parents go away for a month, they ask Matthew to stay at their place, and the three lose themselves in fantasy and sexual experimentation”

Punch Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2003) [DVD] BUY US

“Although susceptible to violent outbursts, bathroom supply business owner Barry Egan is a timid and shy man by disposition, leading a lonely, uneventful life – partly due to the constant berating he suffers from his seven sisters. However, several events transpire that shake up Egan’s mundane existence, one of which is falling in love with one sister’s co-worker, Lena Leonard. But the romance is threatened when Egan falls victim to an extortionist.”

The Consequences of Love (Paolo Sorrentino, 2004) [DVD] BUY US

“In a Swiss hotel, Titta di Girolamo lives a rigid and tedious life, sitting by a lake day after day. After ten years of waiting for something, although he doesn’t know what, he begins to talk to Sophia, the hotel’s barmaid, and as he tells his story, everything changes.”

The Edukators (Hans Weingartner, 2004) [DVD] BUY US

“Peter and Jan are “edukators,” anarchists who break into wealthy people’s homes -never stealing, but serving notice to fatcats that their days are numbered. Along comes Jule, a poor student and Peter’s girlfriend, who convinces Jan to help her edukate a businessman she owes money to. When Jule mistakenly leaves evidence behind, they must go back to the crime scene, where they are surprised and events quickly get out of hand.”

The Motorcycle Diaries (Walter Salles, 2004) [Blu-ray] BUY US

“On a break before his last semester of medical school, Ernesto “Che” Guevara travels with his friend Alberto Granado from Brazil to Peru by motorcycle. The two men soon witness the great disparities in South America, encountering poor peasants and observing the exploitation of labor by wealthy industrialists. When they reach a leper colony in Peru, Ernesto’s values have changed so much that he sides with the sufferers, forgetting his own comfort.”

Priceless (Pierre Salvadori, 2006)[DVD] BUY US

“Irène loves nice things and loves to have wealthy men pay for them. One night, she mistakes Jean, a poor bartender, for a potential client and spends the night with him. The next morning, Irène realizes her mistake and leaves, but poor Jean is smitten with her. Later, when a rich dowager mistakes Jean for a veteran gigolo, Irène agrees to tutor him in the art of fleecing wealthy lovers.”

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Tom Tykwer, 2006)[DVD] BUY US

“With his incredible talent for discerning scents, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is one of 18th-century France’s finest perfumers. He becomes obsessed with capturing an elusive aroma: the scent of young womanhood. His search takes a deadly turn, and when the bodies of 12 young females are found, panic breaks out, with families rushing to lock up their daughters.”

Brick (Ryan Johnson, 2006) [Blu-ray] BUY US

“After receiving a frantic phone call from his ex-girlfriend, teenage loner Brendan Frye learns that her dead body has been found. Vowing to solve her murder himself, he must infiltrate high-school cliques that he previously avoided. His search for the truth places him before some of the school’s roughest characters, leading to a confrontation with a drug dealer known as “the Pin.”

Cash Back (Sean Ellis, 2006) [DVD] BUY US

“Would-be artist Ben realizes he has an extraordinary way of dealing with the tedium of his dead-end job stocking shelves at a store -he has acquired the ability to halt time and explore the world while the rest of the earth’s population remains frozen in place. Ben’s unusual talent helps him forget about a nasty breakup with his ex-girlfriend Suzy, but he begins to stop time so often that he may miss out on a new romance with his coworker Sharon.”

The Science of Sleep (Michel Gondry, 2007) [DVD] BUY US

“Soon after the death of his father, a distraught young man begins a job as a graphic designer, but has little chance to create. His intense dreams begin to overtake his waking life and he becomes increasingly caught up in flights of fancy. His hyperactive imagination then begins to interfere with his courtship of a pretty neighbor.”

The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2007) [Blu-ray] BUY US

“In 1983 East Berlin, dedicated Stasi officer Gerd Wiesler, doubting that a famous playwright (Sebastian Koch) is loyal to the Communist Party, receives approval to spy on the man and his actress-lover Christa-Maria. Wiesler becomes unexpectedly sympathetic to the couple, then faces conflicting loyalties when his superior takes a liking to Christa-Maria and orders Wiesler to get the playwright out of the way.”

Man From Earth (Richard Schenkman, 2007) [DVD] BUY US

“An impromptu goodbye party for Professor John Oldman becomes a mysterious interrogation after the retiring scholar reveals to his colleagues he never ages and has walked the earth for 14,000 years.”

Chapter 27 (Jarrett Schaefer, 2007)[DVD] BUY US

“In this dramatization, mentally disturbed Mark David Chapman arrives in 1980 New York City to stalk his idol, John Lennon. Standing outside Lennon’s apartment building every day, Chapman encounters fan Jude Hanson and photographer Paul Goresh, as well as the famous musician’s son, Sean. While waiting for an autograph, Chapman grows increasingly unbalanced, leading to his infamous assassination of Lennon.”

La Vie en Rose (Olivier Dahan, 2007) [DVD] BUY US

“Born into poverty and raised in a brothel, Édith Piaf manages to achieve worldwide fame. Though her extraordinary voice and charisma open many doors that lead to friendships and romances, she experiences great personal loss, drug addiction and an early death.”

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007) [DVD] BUY US

“Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of French fashion bible Elle magazine, has a devastating stroke at age 43. The damage to his brain stem results in locked-in syndrome, with which he is almost completely paralyzed and only able to communicate by blinking an eye. Bauby painstakingly dictates his memoir via the only means of expression left to him.”

The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2007) [DVD] BUY US

“A man travels through time on a quest for immortality and to save the woman he loves. As a 16th-century conquistador, Tomas searches for the legendary Fountain of Youth. As a present-day scientist, he desperately struggles to cure the cancer that is killing his wife. Finally, as a 26th-century astronaut in deep space, Tom begins to grasp the mysteries of life, love and death.”

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Woody Allen, 2008) [DVD] BUY US

“Americans Vicky and Cristina arrive in Spain for a summer vacation at a friend’s Barcelona home. Visiting an art gallery, they meet seductive painter Juan Antonio, who invites them for a weekend of food, art and sex. Sparks really ignite when his fiery former lover arrives on the scene, making for a very crowded house.”

There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2008) [DVD] BUY US

“Silver miner Daniel Plainview leads a hardscrabble life with his son, H.W. When he hears about oil oozing from the ground near the Western town of Little Boston, Daniel takes his son on a mission to find their fortune. Daniel makes his lucky strike and becomes a self-made tycoon but, as his fortune grows, he deviates into moral bankruptcy.”

Mr. Nobody (Jaco Van Dormael, 2009) [DVD] BUY US

“In the year 2092, one hundred eighteen year old Nemo is recounting his life story to a reporter. He is less than clear, often times thinking that he is only thirty-four years of age. But his story becomes more confusing after he does focus on the fact of his current real age. He tells of his life at three primary points in his life: at age nine (when his parents divorced), age sixteen and age thirty-four. The confusing aspect of the story is that he tells of alternate life paths, often changing course with the flick of a decision at each of those ages. One life path has him ultimately married to Elise, a depressed woman who never got over the unrequited love she had for a guy named Stefano when she was a teenager and who asked Nemo to swear that when she died he would sprinkle her ashes on Mars. A second life path has him married to Jean. Their life is one of luxury but one also of utter boredom. And a third life path has him in a torrid romance with his step-sister Anna, the two who, as adults, would search for each other after having been torn apart as teenagers. These life paths also intersect, with the three women sometimes entering the alternate life in some other aspect. Are any of these lives real or are they all a figment of his imagination?”

Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009) [DVD] BUY US

“While a married couple is having sex, their infant son in a nearby room falls out a window to his death. She becomes distraught and is hospitalized, but her husband, who is a psychiatrist, attempts to treat her. Deciding that she needs to face her fears, he takes her to a cabin in the woods where she spent a previous summer with the boy. Once they are there, she becomes more unhinged and starts perpetrating sexual violence on her husband and herself.”

Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, 2009) [DVD] BUY US

“This psychedelic tour of life after death is seen entirely from the point of view of Oscar,a young American drug dealer and addict living in Tokyo with his prostitute sister, Linda. When Oscar is killed by police during a bust gone bad, his spirit journeys from the past – where he sees his parents before their deaths – to the present – where he witnesses his own autopsy – and then to the future, where he looks out for his sister from beyond the grave.”

Sin Nombre (CaryFukunaga, 2009) [DVD] BUY US

“Sayra, a Honduran teen, hungers for a better life. Her chance for one comes when she is reunited with her long-estranged father, who intends to emigrate to Mexico and then enter the United States. Sayra’s life collides with a pair of Mexican gangmembers who have boarded the same American-bound train.”

A Prophet (Jacquies Audard, 2009) (English Subtitled) BUY US

“This acclaimed crime drama follows Malik El Djebena, a delinquent young Muslim man, who is struggling to get by in a French prison. When he is taken under the wing of powerful Corsican mob boss Cesar Luciani, he begins performing regular assignments for him, proving himself invaluable to the imposing criminal. As Malik rises in the mob ranks, he gains more power, but also more enemies, a situation that eventually brings conflict with his mentor.”

Little White Lies (Guillame Canet, 2010) [DVD] BUY US

“After a traumatic event, friends go on a beach vacation where their relationships are sorely tested as they are forced to admit the little lies they have been telling one another.”

Biutiful (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2010)[DVD] BUY US

“Uxbal, a career criminal, plies his trade in Barcelona’s underground sweatshops and back alleys. Unlike his associates, he has some respect for the poor workers under his thumb and is a devoted father. Told that he is ill and has just a few months to live, Uxbal tries to get his affairs in order before the spirits, with whom he communes, come to claim him.”

Delicacy (David Foenkinos and Stéphane Foenkinos 2011) [DVD] BUY US

“The beautiful Nathalie throws herself into her work after her husband of just three years unexpectedly passes away. One day, she fixates on Markus , an unremarkable underling of hers at the office. The two begin a relationship that everyone who knows Nathalie firmly believes will not last, but it’s not other people’s perceptions as much as their own self-doubt that threatens to split apart this seemingly odd pairing.”

Melancholia (LarsVon Trier, 2011) [DVD] BUY US

“As a planet hurtles toward a collision course with Earth, two sisters cope with the approaching doomsday in different ways.”

The Intouchables (Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano, 2011) (English Subtitled) BUY US

“An unlikely friendship develops between a wealthy quadriplegic and his caretaker, just released from prison.”

The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011) [DVD] BUY US

“In the 1920s, actor George Valentin is a bona fide matinee idol with many adoring fans. While working on his latest film, George finds himself falling in love with an ingenue named Peppy Miller and, what’s more, it seems Peppy feels the same way. But George is reluctant to cheat on his wife with the beautiful young actress. The growing popularity of sound in movies further separates the potential lovers, as George’s career begins to fade while Peppy’s star rises.”

Tree Of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011) [DVD] BUY US

“In this highly philosophical film by acclaimed director Terrence Malick, young Jack is one of three brothers growing up as part of the O’Brien family in small-town Texas. Jack has a contentious relationship with his father, but gets along well with his beautiful mother. As an adult, Jack struggles with his past and tries to make sense of his childhood, while also grappling with bigger existential issues.”

The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodovar, 2011) [DVD] BUY US

“Ever since his beloved wife was horribly burned in an auto accident, Dr. Robert Ledgard, a skilled plastic surgeon, has tried to develop a new skin that could save the lives of burn victims. Finally, after 12 years, Ledgard has created a skin that guards the body, but is still sensitive to touch. With the aid of his faithful housekeeper, Ledgard tests his creation on Vera, who is held prisoner against her will in the doctor’s mansion”.

Samsara (Ron Fricke, 2012) [DVD] BUY US

“A spiritual love-story set in the majestic landscape of Ladakh, Himalayas. Samsara is a quest; one man’s struggle to find spiritual Enlightenment by renouncing the world. And one woman’s struggle to keep her enlightened love and life in the world. But their destiny turns, twists and comes to a surprise ending…”

The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013) [DVD] BUY US

“After his 65th birthday, Jep Gambardella, an aging intellectual and one-time writer, decides to dedicate his life to the search of a meaning. On the background of a mysterious and wonderful Rome, our main character slowly rediscovers beauty under the monotonous, empty shell of a lifetime between sinners. Following a boring night spent between the sheets of a boring and egocentric rich woman from Milan, Jep decides to stick on a quieter quality of life, but several, casual, meetings will force him to reconsider his priorities. A stripper on the verge of breakdown, the ex-husband of his first love, a bizarre magician and a living Saint from a far away reality, will soon allow Jep to discover his own, personal, Great Beauty.”

Jeune & Jolie; Young & Beautiful (François Ozon, 2013) [Blu-ray] BUY US

“Isabelle, a 17-year-old student, loses her virginity during a quick holiday romance. When she returns home, she begins a secret life as a prostitute for a year.”

Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013) [DVD] BUY US

“A French teen forms a deep emotional and sexual connection with an older art student she met in a lesbian bar.”

Nymphomaniac (Lars von Trier, 2013) [DVD] [Blu-ray] BUY US

“A man named Seligman finds a fainted wounded woman in an alley and he brings her home. She tells him that her name is Joe and that she is nymphomaniac. Joe tells her life and sexual experiences with hundreds of men since she was a young teenager while Seligman tells about his hobbies, such as fly fishing, reading about Fibonacci numbers or listening to organ music.”

Jodorowsky’s Dune (Frank Pavich, 2013) BUY US

“The story of cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ambitious but ultimately doomed film adaptation of the seminal science fiction novel.”

Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, 2013) [DVD] BUY US

“This is the last of the trilogy following Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. It has been nine years since we last met Jesse and Celine, the French-American couple who once met on a train in Vienna. They now live in Paris with twin daughters, but have spent a summer in Greece on the invitation of an author colleague of Jesse’s. When the vacation is over and Jesse must send his teenage son off to the States, he begins to question his life decisions, and his relationship with Celine is at risk.”

Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014) [DVD] BUY US

“The joys and pitfalls of growing up are seen through the eyes of a child named Mason, his parents and his sister. Vignettes, filmed with the same cast over the course of 12 years, capture family meals, road trips, birthday parties, graduations and other important milestones. Songs from Coldplay, Arcade Fire and other artists capture the time period.”

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