Who would you have been when, at crucial moments in your life, you chose to walk a different path? That thought experiment is explored brilliantly by this amazing science-fiction movie as we follow Nemo(s) for 118 years. Set in the past, the now and in the future, we follow different branches of his life through time, covering the topics of technology, love, human fragility and how decisions shape who we will end up being. Spectacular.
You haven’t seen a romance story like this before, and you don’t have to like them to fall deeply in love with this one. While most movies about unlikely couples end up in lame cliches, this one lifts the hearts and makes an impression that will last a lifetime. ‘Me, Too’ is about Daniel, a young guy who is born with down-syndrome yet finished university, and Laura, who spends her life getting cheap attention at nightclubs. What makes this movie unforgettable is not just the superb humor that catches you off guard, but the story itself — a pureness rarely encountered. It truly makes you feel that, on a deeper level, we all long for love, warmth and connection.
A Scanner Darkly
Based on the book by Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly perfectly captures the dark and mind-bending tones written herein. This comes as no surprise because it is made by the same director as Waking Life. We follow an undercover cop who gets hooked on a new designer drug that slowly starts to take make serious changes in its user. All lines between reality and fiction start to blur when he doesn’t know who he is anymore.
This 1988 Hollywood movie is counter-culture classic. John Nada goes to LA in search of a job. But what he finds are special sunglasses that reveal the hidden structure of the social order. Everywhere he looks, he finds subliminal messages that are used to control the masses. I am not going to spoil it by telling who does the controlling, but the metaphor is all too real. Don’t watch this movie if you expect the best acting or the coolest special effects. But certainly watch it if you are looking for the same sunglasses!
Un prophète (A Prophet)
Gritty, raw, dark. We follow a young boy who has been dealt the worst cards all his life. In prison, he belongs to no group, and just wants to be left alone. However, others have different plans. Slowly, they push him to the edge, but they will not like what kind of man he becomes. Very powerful movie, one of the best in its genre.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring
This is perhaps my favorite movie of all time. Set in the Korean wilderness lives a Buddhist master in the middle of a lake. One day a little boy is left behind at his door, which he attempts to raise. We follow them through the seasons and the different cyclical phases of life, learning amazing lessons on the way. This is a profound movie, one you can watch multiple times, each time deepening your insight. Or rather, peel away another layer of illusion. Watch it, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
The Act of Killing
This is a deeply disturbing movie that has to be seen by everyone. This documentary has former Indonesian death squad leaders create reenactments of mass murders in different film genres. The way it is carried out and rationalised is perhaps the deepest tragedy the world is facing. I don’t think I will ever forget this film, nor the line “War crimes are defined by the winners”.
A Single Man
You can watch this movie just for the cinematic beauty alone. A Single Man is about a man who lost the love of his life in a car accident and is left with no reason to continue his existence. As he prepares his suicide, he finds he is not alone in his despair. Watching this movie can be likened to an existential guided meditation on love, death and deep moments of reflection. The perspective we, as the viewers, inhabit is that of a cold distance, which heats up once we connect with it.
This is a surprisingly interesting movie with some strong dialogues and a very gripping message about the fate of the hippie generation. We follow a young trio as they break into rich people’s homes to leave behind obscure messages (Die fette Jahre sind vorbei!) It quickly turns into something more personal as they kidnap a man without knowing what to do with him. When everything seems to unravel we learn about love, friendship and the price you must pay for your ideals.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
There is something about this movie that is deeply upsetting, yet it is so mesmerizing that you can not help but to watch it till the end. Perhaps it is the recognition of the almost psychotic dark side of love, the fact that we are capable of doing anything in order to attain that idealistic perfection. Perfume is about an almost mythical story of a boy, a perfume maker, who has the finest smell on the planet. But soon he becomes obsessed by finding the ultimate smell, sacrificing everything that stands in the way.
This is probably the most beautifully shot movie of this century. An elegant mixture of wild science fiction and powerful love story we are invited into the life of a single writer, Theodore, who purchases the newest operating system, Samantha. The emotional and intelligence development of both, with beautiful philosophical remarks make for an extremely funny, emotionally spellbinding and all around feel good story that also begs the question of what makes us human. Watch this on a rainy day with someone you love.
Le Grande Bellezza
Absolutely jaw-dropping. We follow italian writer Jep Gambardella who lives a life of the elite in Rome. We observe him as he is mesmerised by both the beauty and the absurdity of his world, a world filled with post-modern art performances, a growing decadence and a taste for extravagant parties. The well-timed pacing of the movie draws the viewer in and makes the one shot lingering in the next, blending these together in a beautifully captivating dream. Watch this movie if you want an experience – not an answer.
2001: A Space Odyssey
I know everyone has seen 2001, but I couldn’t help myself to include it anyway. (Go watch it now if you haven’t, ksst!) This is one of my favorite Kubrick movies ever. While it is clear that it comes from a different age, and perhaps our fast paced minds have to do our best to tune in, it hasn’t lost one fragment of its brilliance and beauty. If this movie doesn’t make you think about life, the universe and everything in between, I don’t know what does.
A German high school teacher has a class on autocracy and starts an experiment of his own. Soon the class turns into a fascist group that is no longer under control. A great movie for everyone who would like to feel and understand how such an order can arise and how it functions. Together with Das Experiment it forms the two great German movies about social structures.
The Gods Must Be Crazy
Truly one of its kind. An African bushman finds an empty coke bottle that has been thrown out of an airplane. Xi, having never encountered such an object before, soon discovers that such a weird artifact upsets the whole typical order. Of course this is all a big metaphor for the birth of a society. Combined with the different stories, the social and political critique, the beautiful landscapes and the often hilarious moments make this movie a brilliant master piece.
This amazing science-fiction movie depicts a society in the future where people get classified and ranked by their genes. If you are sub-optimal and your parents didn’t pre-screen you, you will never be able to hold any important job. In a fascinating plot one untermensch defies such genetic determinism and proves that discrimination based on genes holds no ground. Very thought-provoking.
The sequel of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, it is probably the best of the series. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to watch the first two to appreciate and understand Before Midnight). Life is fragile, and so are relationships. This is the background of a movie which only features lengthy dialogues, philosophical reflections on being-together, sharp insights of a world that can’t be controlled. What I loved most about this movie is the fact that you can feel the rawness of the characters. It is genuine. It is real.
Ladri di biciclette (The Bicycle Thief)
It is a rare occurrence that a simple story can capture the hearts of all its viewers. Perhaps it is impossible to make such movies anymore and that they are just fleeting remembrances of a time long past. Perhaps the poetic love depicted in this Italian masterpiece needs a slower pace of life than we currently experience. Either way, it is not a surprise that all the great Italian actors and directors point to this movie as the birth of Italian cinema, which is just about a man, his son and a stolen bicycle.
Not to be confused with the documentary of the same name, this movie is about a young Buddhist monk that flees his monastery to pursue his wildest fantasies. Besides the beautiful settings and the depiction of rural Tibetan life it has some unexpected dialogues that has got me thinking to this day. Especially the ending is one of the most emancipatory perspective on Buddhism and enlightenment I have ever seen. Must watch.
If anything, this movie captures the idea of a mind-stuff the best. Crazy, cold, absurd, yet extremely captivating and beautiful. A psychologist ventures into space to look for a crew that has gone crazy. Some say this is one of the worst Tarkovsky’s movies, but I disagree. As one IMDB commenter puts it “Watch it at night, alone, when everything out of your home is dark, silent, and cold.” I promise you, do this and you will wake up as a different person.
Yes, you have probably seen this one too. But I think this movie is such a spot on reflection of our time, an almost religious movement that consists of self-help books, designer smart drugs and quick ‘get genius’ schemes, with the ultimate goal being limitless as a kind salvation. Nietzsche would be proud. Boosting your capabilities to extraordinary heights, such a science fiction pill is quickly becoming a science fact. What would you do if you became limitless?
Batoru Rowaiaru (Battle Royale)
What happens when you put 42 9th grade students on a deserted island, give them some random weapons, and let them know only 1 may live after 3 days pass, or they will all die? This is what the brilliant Japanese movie batoru rowaiaru explores while giving a subtle critique on a society with extreme childish values on the one hand and demanding utter discipline on the other. This is an extremely violent movie which raises some disturbing questions like ‘could you kill your best friend?’.
The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology
If you want a thought provoking movie, then this one tops the list. Philosopher Slavoj Žižek, neurotic yet brilliant, psycho-analyses the hidden subliminal messages Hollywood movies convey to us. From the titanic to batman, Žižek never fails to deliver a devastating critique of our current capitalistic ideology, implying that changing just ourselves is not enough if we want to overcome global destruction. Difficult, witty and sometimes outright hilarious, this is a movie to watch twice.
Das Leben Der Anderen (The Lives of Others)
A deeply touching movie set in 1986 on the east side of the Berlin Wall. We follow the liberal couple Georg and Christa, who, almost by accident, get 24/7 surveillance by the Stasi (the east-german secret police). In what follows we see how a paranoid state creates a claustrophobic environment that alienates its citizens and smothers the life and creativity out of its inhabitants. But what the state couldn’t foresee is the effect this couple has on the police agent who is able to hear everything they do. It is impossible to say more without spoilers, all I can say is that it is a beautiful gripping tale that is highly relevant today.
This is perhaps one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. Perhaps because the humor is so unsuspecting and disturbing at the same time. Or perhaps it is because Danes just know exactly what social situations are so absurd that we can not help but laugh. We follow Adam, a brilliantly played neo-Nazi, who after committing a crime has to learn how reintegrate into society. He joins the parish of pastor Ivan who believes he is at war with Satan and that every event is to test his faith. Utter hilarity ensues.