When aspiring musicians want to learn a new song, magicians want to learn a new trick, or gamers want to learn a new tip, what is the first thing they do? Get on YouTube and watch other people do it, of course.
So when aspiring filmmakers want to fill their brains with knowledge on how to make a film, what do they do? Watch films.
We’re talking every kind of movie on the spectrum too, enlightening themselves one scene at a time.
From comic farce to heavyweight drama, we’ve delved into the worlds and minds of acclaimed directors from every genre, to bring you this list of films every aspiring filmmaker should watch.
Directors: David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker
Quick-witted, straight-faced and full of hilarious puns and one-liners, this parody of a disaster movie has one of the best comedic scripts ever written. Welcome on-board the most surreal flight you’re going to take, where the crew and actors take the viewer on a journey through the evolution of slapstick comedy, visual gags and ridiculous flash-backs.
American Psycho (2000)
Director: Mary Harron
A brilliant and surprisingly terrifying adaptation of a notorious book. American Psycho is an extremely clever satire of the ‘American Dream’, warped by the immodest and immoral behaviour of the upper-classes in the 1980’s. Shot with an eye for horror but with an edge of gangster glamour too, the film offers fascination behind the twisted mind of an egotistical yet anxious psychopath.
Blue Valentine (2010)
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Laced with a beautiful and powerful soundtrack, Blue Valentine follows an unconventional yet more-realistic-than-most romance story, with two wonderfully played characters. Gorgeously shooting the toxic truth behind broken marriage, Cianfrance uses music and lighting perfectly to portray such raw emotion.
Cape Fear (1991)
Director: Martin Scorsese
De Niro and Scorsese: the dream duo to have you gripping your seat and holding your breath. This psychological thriller (and remake no less) seeks to send shivers down the spines of anyone watching, and does just that with a fantastic build up of tension through climatic music and looming performance by De Niro.
City Lights (1931)
Director: Charlie Chaplin
What filmmakers list would be complete without the monochrome-master himself? Charlie Chaplin owns any screen with his ingenious slapstick humour, and absurdly simplistic yet wildly entertaining cinematography.
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Wonderfully creative, yet unusually disturbing, Dogtooth follows the controlled world of a family under their father’s unconventional ‘protection’. Questioning honesty, loyalty and general common sense this cinematographic masterpiece re-moulds the social conventions of everyday life.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Director: Michel Gondry
This sublime, futuristic romantic science-fiction film delves inside the minds and memories of the characters’ past. With unexpected turns at every corner, lighting, visual artistry and flashbacks create a beautiful display of age, recognition and self-awareness in this fabulous, touching drama that everyone should see.
Director: Jon S. Baird
Perverse and scary yet somehow funny and downright bonkers, James McAvoy unleashes a powerful performance onto our screens, expressing every emotion through an impressive and authoritative framework of scenes. The colour, lighting and music drags you into the atmosphere and doesn’t let you relax for one second.
Fish Tank (2009)
Director: Andrea Arnold
A film that is incredibly expressive and profound in the most unexpected way. Ferocious and rebellious the whole way through, Fish Tank has a way of moving its viewers through the smooth filming that captures life, beautifully and curiously.
Life is Beautiful (1997)
Director: Roberto Benigni
To begin with, when watching this clever and fast-paced witty film you’d have no idea it is actually about the holocaust. Yet, somehow, Life is Beautiful becomes a heart-wrenchingly wonderful display of family affection achieved through the innocence of children and the bravery of one man. A real rollercoaster ride of emotions, Benigini has created a masterpiece in the cinema world – telling a tale of philosophy, history and love.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Director: Miloš Forman
Character development at its best, and intense moments of silence speaking louder than words. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest explores the line between sanity and madness, expertly adapting the 1962 novel by Ken Kesey. Transferring the raw emotion from written word to the big screen, Forman has managed to capture life behind psychological and physical bars like we’ve never seen it before.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Does this even need an explanation? The shrilling music. The swooping camera angles. The frame by frame shots that build tension in the most simplistic way. Hitchcock had an eye that kept you glued to the screen; suspense, twisted characters and a fascination in the horror searing his work in the history books.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
With a soundtrack that could kill and quotes that will live forever, this plot-blender of a film follows the gripping character tales of various crooks and criminals, and takes us on a journey of the good, the bad and the …gimpish? Tarantino makes our heads explode with the pure intensity of talent crammed into one motion-picture. Uncomfortable silences, absorbing eye-contact and influential characters have all been mustered to create this masterpiece.
Rear Window (1954)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
This brilliant mystery thriller shot through one man’s eyes, through one window, is an excellent display of suspense – and confusion twisted with truth. Clever camera angles and slow-burning tension make this film one of Hitchcock’s best, and one of the greatest films of all time.
Seven Psychopaths (2012)
Director: Martin McDonagh
This dark comedy follows a screen-writer running out of ideas, looking for some inspiration in the real world and luckily (or unluckily) for him, he manages to stumble face-first into trouble. A clever, twisted film with a brilliantly imaginative ending that’ll leave you grinning at the screen, and off to write your own screenplay.
Shutter Island (2010)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Scorsese does it again, and blows our minds with the most ridiculously well-played out plot twist in this intense psychological thriller. Leonardo DiCaprio is fighting for an Oscar and fighting for his life. The brilliant cinematography behind the whole film captivates the audience, and even if you have to watch it a few times to fully understand, it only gets better every time.
Spirited Away (2001)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
An animated film? You’re damn right. Spirited Away is a fantastical exploration of madness and chaos as viewed through one child’s surreal journey. With enchanting creatures and vibrant colour alongside the most wonderful, even eerie, adventure – it begins with a sulky tweenage girl and goes further and further down the rabbit hole.
Taxi Driver (1976)
Director: Martin Scorsese
This neo-noir, villigante classic is another of Scorsese and De Niro’s successful missions to create a masterpiece. With stomach-churning camera swoops, captivating monologues into the mirror and tensions rising constantly, this hauntingly wonderful psychological thriller will stay with you long after the TV is turned off.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Director: Wes Anderson
With a cast this powerful and Wes Anderson’s eccentric eye for detail, this film is an absolute must-watch. The symmetrical and sliding shots used throughout the film to piece the broken family back together served up a splendid rendition of tangled relationships and life.
The Shining (1980)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Bone-tremblingly terrifying and yet so beautifully pieced together, Kubrick has managed to create a timeless horror movie that ticks every box. Scenes of innocence are underlined with pure fear throughout the whole film, before the extraordinary, iconic finale.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Director: Jonathon Demme
A psychological thriller at its very best. A horror story brought to Oscar-winning life through fantastic, elaborate performances and grand staging. Demme plays with the transformation of man into monster alongside obsession and fascination so beautifully, it’s almost too scarily vivid to watch.
The Truman Show (1998)
Director: Peter Weir
A film way ahead of its time, scarily predicting the voyeuristic society that we live in today, this reality TV show taken too far quirkily plays with the natural fascination everybody has with watching how the other half live. Shot with the retrospective inside knowledge of the film’s outcome, Weir has placed the most magnificently hidden clues to spot while watching.
Toy Story (1995)
Director: John Lesseter
Every child’s dream brought to life in the world’s most loved animated film. Packed with memories of every adults’ past and excitement for any child’s eyes, the film follows a gripping plot with excellently defined characters, and bags of humour.
We Are The Best (2013)
Director: Lukas Moodysson
A sweet, innocent and charming film exploring the troubles of adolescence through three teenage girls in a punk band. Shot with empathetic eyes, We Are The Best is a bittersweet example of real-life emotions and a heart-wrenching yet encouranging display of friends and individuality.
Wild Tales (2014)
Director: Damián Szifron
Deranged and mischievous, yet satisfyingly hilarious, this satire about inequality and injustice in everyday life is so wonderfully captivating it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry. Shot through the eyes of the beholder you can’t help but laugh at the characters’ wicked actions or misfortune in each of these short, twisted tales.