20 utterly superb movies every cinema-lover should see

2 years ago

A few years ago, Martin Scorsese put together a list of European and Asian movies which he believed all directors should watch at the start of their career.

We think Scorsese’s list is the perfect opportunity to offer up a few recommendations for you. As you might expect, these 20 films — each of them utterly superb — are for the real cinema-lovers out there.


The city of the future, named Metropolis, is ruled by the magnate Joh Fredersen and is divided into two parts — the working class lives and works under the Earth, whilst the well-to-do live up above. The good-hearted son of the city’s ruler one day descends into the world below and sees something terrible. As a result, he begins a battle against evil.

Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens

A young clerk intends to help Count Orlok, a famous nobleman known also by the name

Nosferatu, move to the city. He discovers that the latter is a vampire, and tries to save the life of his dearly beloved wife Ellen, who was the first person to understand the Count’s terrible secret.

Napoléon vu par Abel Gance

This four-hour biography of Napoleon is a historical blockbuster from the silent era, complete with impressive battle sequences and special effects, and fantastic, literally breath-taking performances.

La grande illusion

The First World War. After the Allies victory on the Western Front, two French pilots, imprisoned in a prisoner of war camp, are moved to a different prison. There, the commandant turns out to be the very German flying ace who shot them down.

Les enfants du paradis

This film tells the story of the theatre scene on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris in the 1800s. It’s characters become witnesses to one of the most memorable depictions of unrequited love in the history of cinema.

Roma città aperta

This film shows Rome in the final months of wartime occupation. The end of the war is near, but the retreating German forces still desperately cling on to their remaining fortresses — and deal ruthlessly with their opponents. But there is nothing they can do to stop the rising tide of resistance.

La terra trema

It is the mid-1940s, and all the inhabitants of the coast of Sicily are held by the throat by monstrously inflated fish prices. Tired of the situation, one family tries to start its own business, but it seems that life itself is against them.

Umberto D.

Having retired, an old man named Umberto has nothing to live on. He is kicked out of his apartment and has nothing left to do except find a way to die peacefully. But there are good people everywhere in the world, and he receives the help from the young pregnant maid of his former landlady.

Tôkyô monogatari

An incredibly sad yet truthful tale about how the links between children and their parents can be severed if they are not given due attention and care. An old couple living in the provinces of Japan head out to visit their children in Tokyo, but the latter have no time for them. Soon however, these children have a reason to regret their disregard of their own parents.

Shichinin no samurai

Civil war rages across Japan. This was a golden opportunity for all sorts of marauders and thugs. Despairing of the destruction such criminals have reaped on their communities, poor peasants hire seven samurai to defend them. The latter unite with the simple people in a battle for their lives.

Sanshô dayû

This plot of this movie unfolds in Japan of the Middle Ages. It tells the story of the difficult fate of a woman and her two children who fall into the hands of slave owners.

Tengoku to jigoku

The son of a successful businessman’s driver is kidnapped, having been mistaken for the heir of the businessman himself. The kidnappers nevertheless demand a ransom, and the businessman is faced with the dilemma of paying to save the life of another man’s son.

Les quatre cents coups

Antoine Doinel is a twelve-year-old ’problem child’ whom no one understands. His mother has no particular desire to understand his problems; his stepfather is not tough enough to raise him with the discipline he requires, and at school he only get punishment. He stops going to school and runs away from home with a friend. And this is just the start.

À bout de souffle

Virtuoso and con-man Michel Poiccard makes a living by stealing cars. He is young, confident, and lives as he pleases, not dependent on anyone. But on one occasion he is forced to kill a policeman, and from that moment on his life is ruined.

Il sorpasso

A shy man named Roberto finds himself drawn into a road trip with Bruno, a wayward rich man. After spending just two days with Bruno, Roberto’s view of life is completely changed, and he realises that the outwardly successful Bruno is far from happy.


Once, whilst working in a city park, a talented young photographer by chances takes a photo of a strange young couple who intrigue him. He later notices that behind a veil of romance, the picture appears to show a crime. Or does it just seem that way?


A Korean student is accused of the rape and murder of two girls. Awaiting trial in prison, he corresponds with a journalist who has an intense interest in his case.

Die Ehe der Maria Braun

Having seen away her husband to the Eastern Front, a determined young woman named Maria Braun decides to seek self-enrichment by any means possible. Can anything stop her?

Der amerikanische Freund

Tom Ripley uses deception to convince a craftsman from Hamburg, Jonathan Zimmermann, that he will soon die of leukaemia, and suggests that he become a hit man, promising a large amount of money for his family. Having been fooled by a fake medical test, Zimmerman agrees, and becomes a pawn in Riley’s game.

Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes

After conquering the Inca nation, Spanish Conquistadors heard the tale of a fabulously rich country named El Dorado, lost somewhere amid the innumerable swamps of the Amazon basin. The film follows their search for this mythical land.


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