The Cinephile's Guide to Old and New Classic Movies on the Internet

Recommended Readings and Films and Where to Find Them

With at least three quarters of America under lockdown due to the coronavirus, many of people are desperately looking for ways to avoid going out of their minds. For me, film has always been a great comfort, an inexhaustible source of beauty and joy in a world that is anything but. We live in horrible times but one way to survive is through great art. And let’s face it, you probably have a lot of time on your hands these days.

With that in mind, I’ve written this post about great films you can find online. I’ve included reading recommendations plus an extensive list of viewing recommendations.

How You Can Learn About Classic Film

  • How can you learn more about film?A great place to start is by watching the documentary A Personal Journey Through American Movies, Martin Scorsese’s tribute to the American movies that he cherishes and has been most influenced by. Part of it is available for free on YouTube, here, but I strongly suggest you watch the complete (nearly four-hour) version, which you can rent here on Amazon Prime for two bucks (and where, for reasons that are unclear, it’s called History of American Cinema). Scorsese is the passionate, inspiring, deeply knowledgeble film professor of your dreams. Take notes on the films he discusses that intrigue you the most and try to track them down. Most of them are available via streaming, on YouTube, or on DVD.

  • Film lists are another great source. Here, for example, are the top 250 films of the most recent edition of the famous Sight and Sound critics’ poll of the greatest films ever made, which comes out every decade. And here’s another poll, this one consisting of the greatest films directed by women.

    Do I agree with all the results of these polls? Of course not. Many brilliant films and filmmakers have been left out, and some of the films that did make it onto these lists are distinctly underwhelming. Still, they are an extraordinary resource and you could do far worse than to scour these lists and use them as building blocks of your film education.

  • I also recommend checking out the writings of the great film critics. Among the books that, for me, were the greatest resources on classic films were 5001 Nights at the Movies, Pauline Kael’s collection of capsule reviews (some of which can be found here); Andrew Sarris’s classic book The American Cinema; Jonathan Rosenbaum’s Essential Cinema (the films he mentions in the book are listed here and his website is here); and the collected criticism of Manny Farber (especially his book Negative Space). Another invaluable resource is the program notes and capsule reviews by the late film scholar William K. Everson, which are available here.

    Also highly recommended: Roger Ebert’s Great Movies books (there are four of them). All the reviews collected in those books can be found online, here. It’s a fantastic resource, especially for classic film neophytes.

  • In addition, you can learn more about film by reading film-oriented magazines and websites like Film Comment, Sight and Sound, Criterion, and RogerEbert.com, and by following your favorite film writers on Twitter. I’ve created a list of my favorite film Twitter accounts here, which all are welcome to subscribe to.

Where You Can Find Classic Films

  • Last, and most importantly, where do you find these films? First, of course, there are the local arthouse, repertory, and university film theaters in a city near you. There is nothing like seeing films as they were made to be seen: on the big screen, in an immersive, distraction-free environment, and preferably on film rather than digital. And the comaraderie and sense of community that can develop seeing films with large numbers of other people, most of them strangers, is another, often overlooked benefit of seeing films theatrically.

    But unfortunately, seeing films in theaters is impossible for the time being. And even in normal times, many people live in places where arthouse and repertory theaters don’t exist. So what’s your next best bet?

  • One prime resource is the beloved classic Hollywood film channel, TCM. Personally I can’t live without it. But to access it you need cable or a live TV streaming service, which can be expensive.

  • Fortunately, you can find many films online for free, on sites like YouTube, The Moving Image Archive, RareFilmm, RareLust, and Ok.ru (to find films on this site, go to the google search bar and enter “site:ok.ru” plus the film’s title). In addition, there’s Kanopy, a wonderful streaming service that is available for free via some university and public libraries. You can watch these films on your TV screen by playing them on your laptop and plugging your laptop into your TV with an HDMI cable.

  • But if you ask me, the streaming service that gives you the best bang for your buck by far is the Criterion Channel. Director Wes Anderson has referred to it as “the Louvre of movies.” As film critic Alissa Wilkinson has written, “I tell anyone who bemoans the lack of ‘anything good to watch’ on Netflix or Hulu (which isn’t quite true, but I understand the sentiment) that Criterion Channel is the solution.”

    Subscriptions cost only $11 a month and free two-week trials are available. In return, you get unlimited access to a treasure trove of some 2,000 arthouse, independent, and classic films, old and new, from Hollywood and around the globe. The selection is vast and they do a solid job of spotlighting films by women and people of color. Many of the films are thoughtfully curated and include introductions and extras which are usually very good. When I recently rewatched The Passion of Joan of Arc, I got a lot more out of it by viewing all the accompanying commentaries, interviews, and documentaries.

    I’m listing some of my favorite films on the Criterion Channel below. The films I’ve singled out barely scratch the surface the amazing things that are available, but hopefully it will give you some ideas about where to start. The list is divided into seven parts:

  • World Cinema Classics

  • Hollywood and British Cinema in the Classic Film Era (1920s - mid-1960s)

  • Horror Films and Documentaries

  • 21st Century Cinema

  • Women Directors

  • Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project

  • And Now For Something Completely Different: Seijun Suzuki and Herschell Gordon Lewis

  • My Top Ten Favorite Films Currently Available on the Criterion Channel

    I love all the films I mention below, but the ones that are especially near to my heart are indicated with asterisks (*).

Great Films You Can Find on the Criterion Channel

I. World Cinema Classics

Satyajit Ray — *The Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito, Apur Sansar), *Charulata, *The Big City, *Devi, The Music Room
I’m starting this off by singling out the work of the great of Indian director Satyajit Ray, whose films I have a special affinity for. Ray was a humanist master who made beautiful, lyrical, deeply empathetic films about the struggles of ordinary people in India, many of them women and the poor. The stories he tells are rooted in a particular time and place (most of them take place in Bengal in the 20th century) but the themes are universal. If, as Roger Ebert famously wrote, film is an “empathy machine” (which it certainly can be, although it’s not only that), the works of Satyajit Ray are among the greatest examples of this.

Ray made many amazing movies; I will touch on just a few them. The Apu Trilogy, the first three films he made, tell the coming of age story of a young Indian boy living in poverty in rural India. These films, especially the first one, Pather Panchali, are the ones he’s best known for and have won worldwide acclaim as among the greatest films ever made. Seriously, if there’s a greater film in the history of movies than Pather Panchali, I don’t know what it is.

But the Apu films were just the beginning of his brilliant career. He made at least a dozen other extraordinary films. One thing I find fascinating is how many of them deal with feminist themes. Three of his best films are female-centric: Charulata, about a sensitive, artistic but oppressed and unfulfilled young wife; The Big City, which tells the story of a Kolkata housewife who does the unthinkable — she takes a job; and Devi, which tells a fascinating story about a young woman whose father-in-law believes she is the incarnation of the goddess Devi, and worships her as such.

In addition to Satyajit Ray, here are some great other directors whose work you can find on Criterion:

Chantal Akerman (Belgium) — *Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles; Les Rendez-Vous d’Anna
The late Chantal Akerman was an iconic feminist filmmaker and Jeanne Dielman, her rigorous 3-hour film about housework and sex work, is her incendiary masterpiece.

Michelangelo Antonioni (Italy) - L’Avventura, L’Eclisse, La Notte, Red Desert

Jacques Becker (France) - Casque d’Or, Le Trou

Ingmar Bergman (Sweden) — Smiles of a Summer Night, *Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal, Hour of the Wolf, many more

Robert Bresson (France) — *Au Hasard Balthazar, A Man Escaped, Pickpocket
Bresson’s rigorous, minimalist films have an extraordinary power and style all their own. Bresson was a serious Catholic and most of his films deal with spiritual themes. The greatest of these is Au Hasard Balthazar, his film about the life and sufferings of an ordinary donkey. When I saw it for the first time it electrified me; it was one of my most unforgettable cinematic experiences. It remains one of my top five all-time films.

Luis Bunuel (Spain/France/Mexico) — *Viridiana, *The Exterminating Angel, Belle de Jour, Simon of the Desert, L’Age d’Or, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Tristana
Bunuel was one of the world’s greatest filmmakers, an iconoclast and an original with a surrealist touch whose scathing films often take aim at the rich and religious hypocrisy.
-Viridiana, his ferociously anti-clerical film about a young nun’s loss of innocence, may be his best work.
-The Exterminating Angel, about a dinner party for the rich that the guests are mysteriously unable to leave, is also wildly original and amazing.

Claude Chabrol (France) — *Les Cousins, *La Ceremonie, Story of Women, Le Beau Serge
Chabrol was a master of the thriller genre who was frequently called the French Hitchcock. He made many outstanding films but sadly, very few of them have gotten decent DVD releases in the country. These films, however, are among his best. Les Cousins is one of the most important (and entertaining!) films of the French New Wave and La Ceremonie (starring Isabelle Huppert) is a dark, late-career masterpiece.

Henri-Georges Clouzot (France) - Le Corbeau, Diabolique, L’assassin habite au 21

Jean Cocteau (France) - Beauty and the Beast, Orpheus

Vittorio de Sica (Italy) — The Bicycle Thieves, *Umberto D.
If there is a better or more moving film about old age than Umberto D., I don’t know it.

Jacques Demy (France) — *The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, *Bay of Angels, Donkey Skin, Lola

Carl Theodor Dreyer (Denmark) — *The Passion of Joan of Arc, Day of Wrath, Vampyr, *Gertrud

Sergei Eisenstein - The Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, Strike, Ivan the Terrible Parts 1 and II

R.W. Fassbinder (Germany) — *The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, *Fox and His Friends, *Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, *Martha, In the Year of 13 Moons, The Marriage of Maria Braun, Berlin Alexanderplatz, many others
Fassbinder’s cynical, savagely satirical melodramas hold up extremely well and very much speak to our times. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and Fox and His Friends are queer masterpieces. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, about the romance between an older working class German women and young male Moroccan immigrant, may be his greatest film and is surprisingly tender.

Federico Fellini (Italy) — *I Vitelloni, *Nights of Cabiria, 8 1/2

Pietro Germi (Italy) — *Divorce Italian Style, *Seduced and Abandoned
Both of these are absolutely hilarious comedies that are scathing satires of Italian patriarchy and sexual hypocrisy.

Ritwik Ghatak (India) - The Cloud-Capped Star

Jean-Luc Godard (France) — *Vivre Sa Vie, *Pierrot La Fou, *Weekend, Breathless, A Woman is a Woman, La Chinoise, Band of Outsiders, Alphaville, plus tons more

Jia Zhang-ke (China) - The World, Unknown Pleasures

Abbas Kiarostami (Iran) — *Homework, *Close-Up, Where is the Friend’s House?, And Life Goes On, Through the Olive Trees, Taste of Cherry, Certified Copy

Akira Kurosawa (Japan) — *Ikiru, *Stray Dog, *Drunken Angel, *The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Rashomon, The Hidden Fortress, plus tons more

Fritz Lang (Germany, USA) - *M, Metropolis, *Scarlet Street, *Testament of Dr. Mabuse, The Big Heat, and more

Chris Marker (France) — *La Jetee (short), Sans Soleil
La Jetee is stunning — the greatest short film (it’s only 28 minutes long) I have ever seen.

Jean-Pierre Melville (France) — Le Samourai, Les Enfants Terribles

Kenji Mizoguchi (Japan) — *Sansho the Bailiff, Ugetsu, Street of Shame, Story of the Last Chrysanthemum, Life of Oharu, Sisters of the Gion, Osaka Elegy
Mizoguchi is one of the greatest of all filmmakers. His great subject was the oppression of women and he is one of the few male directors to look unsparingly and with deep empathy on women’s suffering. Sansho the Bailiff is a profoundly moving film that teaches a powerful spiritual lesson. It’s one of my top five favorite films of all time.

Mikio Naruse (Japan) — When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, Floating Clouds, *Sound of the Mountain, A Wife, *Yearning, plus tons more
The extensive Naruse catalog on Criterion is a prime example of why Criterion is such an amazing resource. Naruse is a director much beloved by cinephiles, but for many years his films were all but impossible to see in this country. Even now, only a handful have been released on DVD. Yet Criterion has 16 of his films, including several titles that have never been released on DVD and that were never shown in the most recent Naruse retrospectives here in the mid-2000s. It’s an embarrassment of riches!

Ermanno Olmi (Italy) — Il Posto, *The Tree of Wooden Clogs, I Fidanzati
Olmi is one of my favorite filmmakers though he is still relatively little known in this country. He was a Marxist as well as a Catholic, and you can see both of those worldviews in his films. But above all he was a humanist and a neorealist. The Tree of Wooden Clogs, his deeply moving 3-hour film about a peasant life in a turn of the century Italian village, is his masterpiece.

Max Ophuls (France) — *The Earrings of Madame de, *Lola Montes

Yasujiro Ozu (Japan) — Tokyo Story, *Tokyo Twilight, *Record of a Tenement Gentleman, I Was Born But . . ., Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice

G.W. Pabst (Germany) - Pandora’s Box, Threepenny Opera

Jean Renoir (France) — La Chienne, *Boudu Saved from Drowning, *A Day in the Country, Rules of the Game, The River

Jacques Rivette (France) — *Celine and Julie Go Boating, *The Nun, La Belle Noiseuse, Paris Belongs to Us

Eric Rohmer (France) — My Night a Maud’s, *The Green Ray

Roberto Rossellini (Italy) — Rome: Open City, *Flowers of St. Francis, *L’Amore, Voyage to Italy, Stromboli
-Flowers of St. Francis, about St. Francis of Assissi, is one of the greatest religious films ever made.
-L’Amore consists of two riveting short films, both of them featuring extraordinary performances by the great Anna Magnani.

Victor Sjöström (Sweden/US) - *The Wind (silent), The Scarlet Letter (silent)

Jacques Tati (France) - Mon Oncle, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, *PlayTime

Francois Truffaut (France) — *Shoot the Piano Player, The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, Day for Night

Agnes Varda (France) — *Cleo from 5 to 7, Le Bonheur, *Vagabond, *Documenteur
Cleo from 5 to 7 is Varda’s New Wave feminist masterpiece. Vagabond (1985), about a young homeless woman hellbent on self-destruction, is also extraordinary.

Jean Vigo (France) — *L’Atalante, *Zero de Conduite (short)

Classic French films of the 1930s and 1940s: Un Carnet du Bal, Carnival in Flanders, Children of Paradise, Le Million, *Pepe Le Moko, *The Story of a Cheat

Classic Italian cinema: *I Knew Her Well, *The Organizer, *Senso
-I Knew Her Well (1965, Antonion Pietrangeli) is amazing — basically the feminist version of La Dolce Vita.
-The Organizer (1963, Mario Monicelli), about an union organizing drive in a northern Italian industrial town in the late 19th century, is probably my all-time favorite political film. Marcello Mastroianni gives one of his most compelling performances.
-Senso (1954, Luchino Visconti) — Melodrama with a capital M about a society woman’s affair with a caddish lover. Absolutely gorgeou and one of Visconti’s greatest films.

II. Hollywood and British Cinema in the Classic Film Era (1920s - early 1960s)

Bittersweet comedy/drama — Last Holiday (1950, UK), The Strawberry Blonde (1941, Raoul Walsh)
- Last Holiday is a wonderfully dark British comedy starring Alec Guinness. It’s about a repressed salesman who is diagnosed with a fatal illness and decides to make the most of his remaining time on earth. I give it bonus points for the class consciousness but even without that subtext it still would be a lovely little film.

Comedy — Ball of Fire (1941, Howard Hawks), The Devil and Miss Jones (1941, Sam Wood), Dinner at Eight (1933, George Cukor), *His Girl Friday (1940, Howard Hawks), The More the Merrier (1943, George Stevens), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936, Frank Capra), Some Like It Hot (1959, Billy Wilder), *To Be or Not To Be (1942, Ernst Lubitsch), The Whole Town’s Talking (1935, John Ford)
-To Be or Not to Be, about a Polish theatrical company during the Nazi occupation, is a Lubitsch black comedy classic and the final film of the great Carole Lombard

Melodrama — The Bad and the Beautiful (1952, Vincent Minnelli), A Farewell to Arms (1932, Frank Borzage), *History is Made At Night (1937, Frank Borzage), Lydia (1941, Julien Duvivier), Of Human Bondage (1934, John Cromwell, Bette Davis!), The Saga of Gosta Berling (1924, Mauritz Stiller, Garbo!, silent), Stella Dallas (1937, King Vidor, starring Barbara Stanwyck), Sunset Boulevard (1950, Billy Wilder)
-I adore History Is Made at Night. It features wonderful performances by two of my favorite actors (Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer) and is directed by Hollywood’s truest romantic, the glorious Frank Borzage.

Musicals — Evergreen (1934, UK, starring Jessie Matthews), Footlight Parade (1933, Busby Berkeley! James Cagney! Joan Blondell!)

Noir — The Big Heat, Bunny Lake Is Missing, *Detour, Gilda, In a Lonely Place, Lady from Shanghai, *Murder by Contract, My Name Is Julia Ross, Nightfall, *Obsession, Odd Man Out, Pushover, *Scarlet Street, The Stranger, Sweet Smell of Success
-The Poverty Row minimalist masterpiece Detour (1945, Edgar G. Ulmer) is imo the greatest noir ever made.
-Murder by Contract (1959) is a chilling, ahead-of-its time B movie about a hit man for hire. Much admired by Martin Scorsese and a big influence on Taxi Driver
-Obsession (1949, Edward Dmytryk) is a British noir that is ultra-nasty, just like I like ’em. Deserves to be much better known. And without giving too much away, if you see it while under lockdown it has, shall we say, certain resonances.
-Scarlet Street (1945) is one of Fritz Lang’s greatest films.

Theater into film — Pygmalion (1938, starring Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller); The Importance of Being Earnest (1952, starring Michael Redgrave); Orson Welles’ masterful and elegaic Falstaff film, *Chimes at Midnight (1965); plus three of Laurence Oliver’s Shakespeare films: Henry V, Hamlet, and Richard III

Westerns— Man of the West (1959, Anthony Mann, w/Gary Cooper), Stagecoach (1939, John Ford, w/John Wayne)

Charlie Chaplin — *The Kid, *The Gold Rush, City Lights, *Modern Times, The Great Dictator, Monsieur Verdoux, Limelight, A Woman of Paris, various shorts

Samuel Fuller — *The Naked Kiss, *Shock Corridor, The Steel Helmet, I Shot Jesse James, The Crimson Kimono
-Fuller was a one-of-a-kind independent spirit who made films that audaciously challenged Hollywood convention. His late masterpieces The Naked Kiss (1964) and Shock Corridor (1963) are hard-boiled melodramas that mount potent social/political critiques, with the former focusing on sexism and the latter focusing on racism.

Cary Grant and Howard Hawks - *His Girl Friday, Only Angels Have Wings

primo early Hitchcock — *The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, *Foreign Correspondent, Sabotage

David Lean (UK) — *Brief Encounter, *Summertime, Madeleine, The Passionate Friends
-Brief Encounter is one of the all-time greatest romantic films.
-Summertime is a touching women’s picture that features one of Katharine Hepburn’s loveliest performances.

Harold Lloyd — The Freshman, Safety Last
-Like Chaplin and Keaton, Lloyd was one of the great silent comedian-auteurs. Criterion has many more excellent Lloyd titles in addition to these, and as noted above, it also has plenty of Chaplins. But unfortunately they don’t have any titles by the greatest silent film comedian of them all, Buster Keaton.

Michael Powell (UK) — The Thief of Bagdad, *I Know Where I’m Going, *The Red Shoes, *Black Narcissus, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, The Small Back Room
Michael Powell was a very great and versatile director, an exuberant, experssionist original who pushed the boundaries of cinema to its limits.
-I Know Where I’m Going is an incredibly charming romantic comedy that seems to be loved by everyone who’s seen it.
-The Red Shoes is a brilliant musical that features perhaps the most stunning use of color ever in a film.
-Black Narcissus is a gorgeous, highly sensual melodrama/women’s picture about a group of nuns in the Himalayas.

Orson Welles — *Chimes at Midnight, The Stranger, Lady from Shanghai, *F for Fake, The Immortal Story
-Chimes at Midnight, Welles’ beautiful and deeply felt Falstaff adaptation, may be the greatest film he ever made.

III. Horror Films and Documentaries

Horror: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, *Carnival of Souls, *Cure, *Eraserhead, Eyes without a Face, God Told Me To, Haxan, La Main du Diable, Night of the Living Dead, *Nosferatu, *Onibaba, *The Phantom Carriage, Sisters, Vampyr; also the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (see below)

Documentary: Antonio Gaudi, *Chronicle of a Summer, Don’t Look Back, *F for Fake, Grey Gardens, *Harlan County USA, *Homework, Nanook of the North, Night and Fog, Sans Soleil, Stop Making Sense, The Thin Blue Line

IV. 21st Century Cinema

An Elephant Sitting Still (2018, China) — Brutal, noirish Chinese epic about the hell on earth that is late capitalism

*Four Months, Three Weeks, and Two Days (2007, Romania) — Harrowing film about a woman trying to get an abortion in Ceaușescu-era Romania

*In the Mood for Love (2000, Hong Kong) — Wong Kar-Wai’s exquisite romantic melodrama

*Secret Sunshine (2010, South Korea) — Devastating film about loss and grief by one of Korea’s finest filmmakers, Lee Chang-dong (Poetry, Burning)

Taxi (2015, Iran) — Brilliant social protest film made clandestinely by the great Jafar Panahi (The Circle, Crimson Gold, The White Balloon), who’s been banned from making films in Iran.

*Wendy and Lucy (2008, US) — Kelly Reichardt’s quietly heartbreaking drama about a homeless woman (Michelle Williams) and her dog. I love this one.

Yi Yi (2000, Taiwan) — Epic yet intimate drama about a Taipei family in the age of late capitalism.

V. Women Directors

*Angel at My Table (1990, Jane Campion, New Zealand) — My favorite Jane Campion movie is this gorgeous, moving biopic about Janet Frame, a woman who battled poverty, loneliness, and mental illness and went on to become one of New Zealand’s most celebrated writers.

*The Ascent (1977, Larisa Shepitko, USSR) — If Dostoevsky made a World War II movie, it would look something like this. Shepitko was a giant talent who left us way too early (she died in an automobile accident at age 41).

*Daisies (1966, Věra Chytilová, Czechoslovakia) — Exhilarating, incendiary Czech New Wave masterpiece. One of my all-time favorite films.

Daughters of the Dust (1991, Julie Dash) — A lyrical modern-day classic about a Gullah community of former slaves in South Carolina in the early 20th century.

*Harlan County, USA (1976, Barbara Kopple) - The classic labor documentary.

Juniper Tree (1990, Nietzchka Keene, Iceland) — A haunting feminst re-imagining of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, starring a very young (pre-Sugar Cubes) Bjork.

Losing Ground (1982, Kathleen Collins) — This compelling drama about black female academic experiencing a mid-life crisis is believed to be the first feature-length film directed by an African-American woman.

Lovely and Amazing (2001, Nicole Holfcener) - Rueful, funny, female-centered comedy/drama about a dysfunctional family.

My Brilliant Career (1979, Gillian Armstrong, Australia) - Judy Davis made her film debut in this buoyant drama about an independent-minded young woman in turn-of-the-century Australia who dreams of becoming a writer.

Smithereens (1982, Susan Siedelman) — Gritty, noirish drama set in the NYC punk scene of the late 70s/early 80s.

Wadjda (2012, Haifaa al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia) - Eye-opening neo-realist drama about a rebellious young girl coming of age in contemporary Saudi Arabia.

*Wanda (1970, Barbara Loden) — Loden’s bleak feminist road movie is one of the finest films of its era and one of the very few New Hollywood films directed by a woman.

VI. Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project

Black Girl, The Housemaid, Touki Bouki

If you ask me, Martin Scorsese is a saint of cinema. I can’t think of another director who has done more on behalf of the preservation of film. One of his most important contributions has been the World Cinema Project, which preserves neglected classics from all over the world, especially from poorer, nonwhite countries.
-Black Girl, by Senegal’s great Ousmane Sembene, is an anti-colonialist classic about a young Senegalese woman who works as a servant for an exploitative French family.
-The Housemaid is a wildly entertaining, truly batshit Korean melodrama about a young woman’s revenge against the family of a man who has done her wrong. It’s one of Bong Joon-ho’s favorite films and was clearly a major influence on his recent Oscar-winner Parasite.
-Touki Bouki - Stunningly filmed in dazzling color and heavily influenced by the French new wave, this drama tells the story of two young lovers on the run.

VII. And Now For Something Completely Different: Seijun Suzuki and Herschell Gordon Lewis

Interested in something completely off the beaten track? Then check out Criterion’s extensive catalogue of films by these two great oddball originals.

Seijun Suzuki was a Japanese director who made specialized in genre films (crime and gangster films, mostly), which he made with audacious wit, style, and imagination. Tokyo Drifter is the most famous of these. I also recommend Youth of the Beast and Take Aim at the Police Van. And for something really rad and wild even for him, check out Branded to Kill.

The films of Herschell Gordon Lewis are the purest grindhouse experience I know. They are ultra-trashy, hilarious, competely over the top horror films, definitely not for everyone but the best of them are an exhilarating experience and just a huge amount of fun. My favorites are The Gruesome Twosome, Blood Feast, and (especially) The Gore Gore Girls.

VIII. My Top Ten Favorite Films Currently Available on the Criterion Channel
Just for the heck of it, here is my personal top ten:

The Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito, Apur Sansar; 1955/1956/1959; Satyajit Ray, India)
Au Hasard Balthazar (1966, Robert Bresson, France)
Chimes at Midnight (1965, Orson Welles)
Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962, Agnes Varda, France)
Daisies (1966, Věra Chytilová, Czechoslovakia)
Detour (1945, Edgar G. Ulmer)
His Girl Friday (1940, Howard Hawks)
The Organizer (1963, Mario Monicelli, Italy)
Sansho the Bailiff (1954, Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan)
Viridiana (1961, Luis Bunuel, Spain/Mexico)