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List: Top 50 Criterion Channel Films

List: Top 50 Criterion Channel Films

As the year 2020 begins, I have to call it the best things I invested in for movies. The fall of FilmStruck led to the rise of the Criterion Channel and the reason I have written multiple volumes of some of the best (and worst) works I’ve seen is that to spread the gospel of cinema. Now, I just came off like a snob, kind of like Scorsese’s “Marvel is not cinema” comment, but as I approach my 30th year on the Earth, I feel that my engagement with the type of cinema he and the old-timers grew up with is how I feel more connected to that the modern works of the money grab for cheap laughs and jokes that all fall flat. There is a world outside Hollywood that is more appealing and more daring in its work that the Criterion Channel has opened up a vault full of these masterworks. Here are the best of them.

Top 10

  1. The Color of Pomegranates
  2. Dreams
  3. The Virgin Spring
  4. The Times Of Harvey Milk
  5. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, And 2 Days
  6. Yi Yi
  7. Monterrey Pop
  8. Amarcord
  9. Army Of Shadows
  10. Tokyo Story

Pomegranates take the top spot because it is a dive into a culture I am blind to, a style not really seen anymore, a language of cinema that we speak of but never really hear and see, and yet a movie that sings (literally) out the beauty of an era once censored by the anti-religious Soviet machine. Sergei Parajanov’s masterpiece, loosely based on the life and poems of Armenia’s Sayat-Nova, puts together a string of chapters from the past, not to give a background on the subject, but a portrait of Armenian life, far from the politics and romanticizing the devout religion they have always been attached to. Parajanov ran afoul of the system, was imprisoned for being a homosexual, and died when the censorship that had repressed his works was finally coming out again – just like Sayat-Nova, who was executed for refusing to conform.


11. Panter Panchali
12. Yojimbo
13. The Fog Of War
14. Persepolis
15. Le Trou
16. The Night Of The Hunter
17. Hopscotch
18. Kapo
19. A Matter Of Life And Death
20. Alambrista!
21. Letter Never Sent
22. White Material
23. Kind Hearts And Coronets
24. The Bridge
25. Ace In The Hole

The film here that really surprised me was Alambrista! This film was a PBS movie, starring mostly nonprofessional actors – Edward James Olores and Ned Beatty were the main exceptions –  and it gives a direct line into the lives of the migrant worker trying to survive and not get caught by law enforcement. It is the social realism that Ken Loach, another critic of superhero movies, would widely approve of.


26. Time Bandits
27. Bob le flambeur
28. The Bad Sleep Well
29. A Room With A View
30. The Magic Flute
31. La Haine
32. The Red Shoes
33. Scanners
34. Dheepan
35. To Be Or Not To Be
36. Autumn Sonata
37. Judex
38. Police Story
39. War And Peace
40. Drunken Angel

The film I finally got to really see that I was excited about was War And Peace, produced by the Soviet Union in four parts compared to the shortened American version which doesn’t really hold up in comparison. The accomplishment it received around the world was a form of true acceptance after the years of social stagnation from the government. Even when reforms were trampled through the tank in Prague and Budapest, there was one shining hope that allowed the West to see behind the Iron Curtain and their fascinating culture.


41. Top Hat
42. Fiddler On The Roof
43. Welcome, Mr. Marshall!
44. Veronika Voss
45. Dry Summer
46. La Ronde
47. Darling
48. Billy Liar
49. Memories Of Underdevelopment
50. Cache

It’s always something different in a Fassbinder film as I wrote as my second piece on this website (link). With one of his last pictures before his early death, Fassbinder creates his own Sunset Boulevard was an aging actress, Veronika Voss, who was part of the Nazi propaganda machine and a sportswriter who befriends her. When the writer suspects a nurse is taking advantage of Voss, he goes undercover with another woman to help and discovers Voss’ nurse scamming the actress on overpriced medicine. It is inspired by an actual actress named Sybille Schmitz, who committed suicide in 1955, but her physician was charged for selling painkillers to Schmitz at a rate more than the actual rate. Schmitz’s family accused the doctor of doing this to take all of her money and help provide all the medicine needed for Schmitz to overdose on.

Follow me on Twitter: @brian_cine (Cine-A-Man)

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