Essential Watching for the Film Buff

If you want to call yourself a film buff there are some certain films that you should have seen in each genre. We at LondonCityGirl have put together a definitive list of films we consider musts if you want to consider yourself worthy of the film buff identity.


Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane tops nearly every “All time Greatest Movie” list and with good reason. Orson Welles’ feature length directorial debut - which tells the story of the rise and fall of a newspaper magnate - made great strides in cinematography and showed other filmmakers how music and narrative structure could be played around with to give a story added depth and dimension.

Citizen Kane emerged with much hype, controversy and fanfare but in spite of glowing reviews the film disappeared at the box office and it only emerged as the classic it is regarded to be today around the late 40s when a number of French critics took to championing it.

Other notable drama films the film buff should see: On the Waterfront, Rebel Without a Cause, The Shawshank Redemption.



The Godfather

The Godfather is the ultimate mafia movie with no other film in that genre making its presence felt in the popular conscious like the Godfather films.

Coppola essentially tells the story of a family set in the violent world of the Italian mob in America and his sympathetic treatment of the main characters enthralled a world which rarely, if ever, got a glimpse into the workings of the criminal underworld.

Other notable crime films the film buff should see: Goodfellas, Chinatown, Scarface, Mean Streets, The Usual Suspects.



Before Sunrise

Before Sunrise taps into the grown up fantasy of finding another person of the opposite sex where the connection and the chemistry is instant and left uncomplicated by previous baggage.

Jesse and Céline meet on a train in Austria, both are bound for different parts of the world but they decide to spend the day together. Knowing that they have only a limited amount of time they explore the city and more importantly explore themselves and each other unfettered by the fear of tomorrow.

Romance is a difficult genre to crack as critics are often resistant to it and it is frequently regarded as a subsection of film solely targeted to females. Director Richard Linklater - who was a young man at the time of making the movie - managed to make a film that spoke to both sexes.

Other notable romance films the film buff should see: Dirty Dancing, Brief Encounter, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.



This is Spinal Tap

This is Spinal Tap is a mockumentary of the fictional rock band Spinal Tap.

Every scene is gut wrenchingly funny as the story unfolds and the situations become more and more outlandish with the rock stars apparently having no awareness of how absurd they are.

Who can forget Tufnell sincerely introducing an amplifier which goes up to 11 rather than 10 and the gig where a collection of midgets are hired to dance around a replica 18 inch Stonehenge?

The film is satire at its absolute best and although it the initial reception was luke warm audiences quickly made sense of the joke and the movie cemented its position in film history.

Other notable comedy films the film buff should see: Anchorman, Dr Strangelove, Blazing Saddles.


Science Fiction

2001: Space Odyssey

After more than 40 years since its release 2001 still remains head and shoulders above any other science fiction film ever made.

Stanley Kubrick’s genius for film making is laid out in every moment of this visual masterpiece which has barely 20 minutes of dialogue. The film deals with ideas of human evolution and purpose, it examines the technological leaps mankind is making and what that may entail for our future and it wonders if we are alone in the Universe.

2001 is a film that offers no answers but one that makes the viewer confront all the questions we all secretly ask ourselves when looking up into the night sky.

Other notable science fiction films the film buff should see: District 9, Soylent Green, Moon, The Matrix, Primer.


Romantic Comedy

When Harry Met Sally

Razor sharp dialogue all wrapped up in a beautiful Hollywood bow.

When Harry Met Sally is an example of what glossy romantic comedies could be if Hollywood deigned to take more care over the genre rather than sticking the likes of Kate Hudson and Jennifer Lopez with Matthew McConaughey in a contrived-to-the-very-limits-of-disbelief scenario.

Other notable rom com films the film buff should see: The Truth about Cats & Dogs, Pretty Woman and The Matchmaker (an undiscovered gem set in rural Ireland).



Beauty and the Beast

This current period is undoubtedly a golden age for Japanese animation with Hayao Miyazaki the Godfather of the moment while Disney animation has definitely fallen out of favour but we shouldn’t be too ready to diss Disney just yet.

Over the years Disney too has produced some of the finest pieces of animation in the form of Snow White, The Jungle Book,Dumbo etc but the best example of what Disney is capable of comes in the form of Beauty and the Beast.

The animation is breathtaking, the musical numbers flawless, that coupled with a strong script made Beauty and the Beast one of Disney’s greatest moments.

Other notable animation films the film buff should see: Toy Story 1, 2 & 3, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, Up, Aladdin, The Jungle Book and Snow White.



Singin’ in the Rain

The 50s was the era of musicals with the likes of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire lighting up our screens. Unfortunately no contemporary actors seem to be able to master the art of dance like the stars of yesterday and musicals have died a death with the odd modern reprising popping up here and there.

Singin' in the Rain is essentially a love story but that takes a back seat to the spectacular musical numbers as Gene Kelly dazzles us. Kelly was a notoriously hard task master reducing many of his leading ladies to tears as they were simply not equipped to keep up with his extraordinary talent.

Other notable musicals the film buff should see: An American in Paris, The Red Shoes, Guys & Dolls, My Fair Lady, Grease.



The Exorcist

The story of the demonic possession of a little girl scared middle America to its very core in the early 70s. The shock and outrage mainly focussed on 13 year old Linda Blair’s swearing and blasphemy but the Catholic church on the whole welcomed the film which was said to be responsible for the reaffirming of the faith of a number of lapsed individuals.

Other notable horror films the film buff should see: The Orphanage, Ringu, The Wicker Man, Let the Right One In.




Richard Attenborough’s ode to his hero Gandhi was a labour of love that took twenty years to bear fruition and when it finally arrived it received almost universal praise.

Ben Kingsley's remarkable performance as the Father of the Nation was uncanny and it won him the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Other notable historical films the film buff should see: Schindler’s List, Hotel Rwanda.



Being John Malkovich

Dreaming up a completely original screenplay with an idea that nobody in the world could come up with is no mean feat and Being John Malkovich and only a handful of other films can claim to have achieved just that.

Being John Malkovich is the story of a puppeteer who finds a portal into John Malkovich’s mind and resulting from that discovery a whole host of twists and turns take place.

Other notable unusual films the film buff should see: The Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Memento, Inception.



Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola has a talent for epic film making. Only at the hands of a select few Hollywood directors could Apocalypse Now have emerged as the brilliant piece of work it is today. The difficulties of shooting the film were legendary, Brando was overweight and moody, extreme storms destroyed sets and Coppola’s protagonist Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack.

But in spite of it all the film set during the Vietnam war managed to portray all the confusion and dirt of modern warfare making it arguably the best war film ever made.

Other notable unusual films the film buff should see: The Deer Hunter, The Killing Fields, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Jarhead.



The Thin Blue Line

The Thin Blue Line investigates the murder of a Texan police officer and the resulting conviction of Randall Dale Adams for his murder.

Errol Morris explored the case and highlighted several discrepancies in the case against Adams and bought attention to the fact that five witnesses had committed perjury during the conviction. As a result of the film Adams’ conviction was overturned and he was free to go however Adams wasn’t grateful to Morris for his endeavours and instead sued the film maker for the rights to his story.

After the dispute was settled Adams said: "Mr. Morris felt he had the exclusive rights to my life story. ... I did not sue Errol Morris for any money or any percentages of The Thin Blue Line, though the media portrayed it that way."

And Morris himself said of the dispute: "When he got out, he became very angry at the fact that he had signed a release giving me rights to his life story. And he felt as though I had stolen something from him. Maybe I had, maybe I just don't understand what it's like to be in prison for that long, for a crime you hadn't committed. In a certain sense, the whole crazy deal with the release was fueled by my relationship with his attorney. And it's a long, complicated story, but I guess when people are involved, there's always a mess somewhere."

Other notable documentary films the film buff should see: Spellbound, Bowling for Columbine, The Triumph of the Will, Grizzly Man.

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