20 films I’m glad I’ve seen

So Em Ledger wrote this really cool blog post about 20 films she loved in response to our conversation about Spike Lee’s films list. She asked for other folks to write about the films they loved and why they loved them, so I thought I’d give it a bash. It’s prob obvious from what yr about to read that unlike Em I’m no film studies graduate (though I once studied a module on post-war European cinema, oh yes)…

Annie Hall (Woodie Allen 1977)

This is one of those films that when I watched it I had to keep looking back to check when it was made. It’s so innovative in form, the way Alvy keeps breaking the fourth wall to address the camera and the wacky narrative structure. Annie Hall is full my kind of humour: intelligent, self-deprecating and neurotic. The dialogue between Alvy and Annie is a joy.

Pepi, Luci Y Bom (Almodovar, 1981)


When I was studying European cinema I remember being introduced to Almodovar and just being utterly blown away. He is so so great with female characters and he doesn’t shy away from the dark or depraved and yet his films always also show the crazy and beautiful side of Spanish society (and Spain in one of my favourite places ever so that makes this extra special). Pepi, Luci Y Bom is an amazing outrageous punk girl gang revenge comedy. It was also on Em’s list.

Pi (1998 Darren Aronofsky)

Seriously, this film, I have never seen anything like it, it totally messed with my brain. Surreal, beautiful, massively scary. I think this is how other people feel about Lynch (who aside from Twin Peaks I never really got). Imagine you dropped a shit tonne of acid and watched My Beautiful Mind.

BeetleJuice (Tim Burton, 1988)

Tim Burton in the glory years. This is a film which reminds me of hanging out with my dad (my dad had a habit of showing me films which were massively unsuitable for my age range, I reckon it’s part of the reason my head is so kooky). Yet another darkly funny outsider film. Winnona Ryder is amazing as Lydia (a character I really identified with) and the dance scene to Jump In The Line is one of my favourite ever cinema moments.

Fugazi – Instrument (Jem Cohen, 1999) Whenever I feel really low or burnt out or disillusioned with everything I put this film on and it’s like connecting myself to a power socket. Fugazi are one of my favourite bands, not just because of their music (which is rad) but also because of their DIY politics. Cohen has collected awesome live footage, candid interviews (where the band are actually *shock* really funny), and really sweet video of the audience at the shows. Cohen was obviously a collaborator who totally got it rather than someone just drafted in to do a band video (what else would you expect from fugazi?!) The icecream eating mother fucker line is pure beauty and every time I watch this film I’m reminded of all the best bits of DIY culture and want to get off my ass and GET SHIT DONE!

The Hours (Daldry, 2002)

I don’t normally like film adaptions of books or films about writers (get me started on Gwyneth Paltrow playing Sylvia Plath and you better put your tin hat on) but The Hours is different. Based on the book of the same name it is an intelligent and ambitious film which interweaves the story of three women from different eras. Paying homage to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, it looks at the minute detail of a single day in a story which has much wider resonances. Nicole Kidman nails it as Woolf and its one of the best portrayals of mental illness I’ve seen on screen.

The Lives of Others (Donnersmark, 2006)  The lives of others is up there at the top of my favourite film list. Set in East Germany in 1980’s it centres around a Stasi officer who is monitoring a playwright and his partner. Despite being based in a very specific period of history Donnersmark has commented that It is more an ‘a basic expression of the believe in humanity, than an account of what actually happened’.  I love it because of how powerfully moving it is about abuses of state power, bravery, redemption, standing up for what you know is right despite the threat of persecution. It also gets bonus points for its head nod to Brecht.

Buffalo 66 (Gallo 1998)

At some point there’s gonna be some dramatic revelation about how Gallo didn’t actually make Buffalo 66 and i’ll breathe a sigh of relief. Gallo is a complete objectionable tool, he has offensive views on pretty much everything – a history of racism and misogyny – (he called Ricci who is phenomenal here a ‘puppet’). And yet I love this film, I really really love it and I genuinely don’t know how this man managed to make something so beautiful. I love the dark humour, bleak sweeping cinematography, the dysfunctional but oddly endearing romantic relationship and the painfully uncomfortable family home. I just can’t believe it came from Vincent Gallo
Me without You (Goldbacher, 2001)


One of my main issues with Spike Lee’s film list was that it didn’t contain one film directed by a woman. Me Without You is a film which nails the madly intense love hate relationship between girl friends and in my opinion it couldn’t have been made by a man. Plus it’s all about me (bookish political lass who studies English at Sussex Uni who ends up dating her friend’s brother, it’s me, just, y’know, posh). It’s not a perfect film, there are some cringey moments but it’s so refreshing to see female friendships (rather than romantic relationships) being the focus.

Brassed Off (1996, Mark Herman)

Brassed Off was an important film for me because it’s one I watched with my parents and led to some really important conversations about who I am, where I come from and what happened to South Yorkshire (and other industrial towns in England and Wales) under Thatcher. In light of the white washing of history that happened with Thatcher’s death this is especially important. Danny’s speech makes my mum cry.

Down By Law 1986 Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch is one of my favourite film directors, he has massive crazy hair and that’s how you know he’s gonna be a good director. He has this really dark sense of humour which I love and a really interesting approach to narrative structure. His films look stunning and the dialogue is always so carefully written and pitch perfect. Down By law is an unusual take on the jailbreak film which had me laughing so hard, Tom Waits is hysterical in it.

La Haine, (1995, Mathieu Kassovitz)

Whilst not exactly a laugh a minute, this film shaped my perception of what cinema could be (it was one of the first indies I watched). Beautifully shot and with a bad ass sound track It focuses on the darker side of Paris; racial prejudice, violence, hate and exclusion. These are stories that need to be told

Never Sorry: Ai Wei Wei (2012, Alison Klayman)

I love biopic films especially those that teach me about inspiring places and people I’ve never heard of. I wasn’t familiar with Ai Wei Wei before watching the film but I’d heard a lot of people talking about him. Ai Wei Wei is a massively celebrated Chinese artist, but his art is provocative and often critical of the Chinese government (one of his projects involved collecting the names of all the students who died in the Sichuan earthquake, the tragedy of which was made worse by the shoddy building work in schools in the region). Ai Wei Wei has been beaten up and inprisoned for his work and I really loved how close to him this documentary got and the way it looked at what made him do the things he does. This is an awesome film.

Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee 1989)

I’ve only recently been getting to grips with Spike Lee but he’s awesome and a massively important director. This is a film which looks the racial tension in America full in the face, but somehow manages to alternate blistering humour and tragedy to awesome effect (I think this is a common characteristic of films I love). I totally buzz on all the Public Enemy references plus when I watched it I’d just got back from New York and was totally in love with the place.

We are poets, (Daniel Lucchesi, Alex Ramseyer-Bache 2012)


I’ve actually already written a blog post about this film it’s so great! Set in LEEDS We Are Poets follows the journey of Leeds Young Authors to compete in the International Poetry Slam in Washington DC. You should watch this if you think you hate poetry.

Pump Up the Volume (1990 Allen Moyle)

I love teen flicks and this one is set in the 90’s, focuses on punk outsiders and is chock full of black humour. Plus the sound track has Bad Brains, The Pixies, The MC5s and Leonard Cohen which is basically like crawling inside my teenage skull and rolling around. This film is about Mark who is a straight laced high school kid who secretly runs a pirate radio station using his bad boy alter ego ‘Hard Harry’. He uses this as a way to connect to other freaks who don’t fit in and TALK REAL. When I first watched this film I was miserable as hell in a straight laced college where I was expected to be proper and academically excellent. I also had a secret life as a zine writer, hanging out a gay clubs, squat parties and DIY punk gigs. The notion of pseudonyms and alter egos still obsesses me today. Also the Eat Me Beat Me lady is my role model.

Persepolis (2007 Vincent Parronaud )

An animated coming of age story set in Iran. I love that Persepolis is written from real experience rather than just being a story about the ‘marginalised other’ written from a position of privilege. Persepolis is really funny and i can identify with so many of the internal clashes that Marjane goes through as an outsider upon going to University in Austria (along with her battles with depression). This film taught me a hell of a lot about Iranian history and changed my perceptions (I have to admit I rocked up knowing jack). If you haven’t watched this yet promise you’ll watch the subtitled version, the dubbed version is bobbins.

I’m no Angel (Wesley Ruggles 1933)

Mae West was such a bad ass. Funny, filthy, fierce: it blows my mind that she wrote and starred in this in 1933. I’m no angel is west at her wise cracking, screen grabbing best, this is one of the few films of hers the censors didn’t get hold of so you get bawdiness a plenty.

Everything is Illuminated (2005, Liev Schreiber)

Another film based on a book! This is about the awesomely geeky Jonathan and his journey to the Ukraine to discover the history of his family. It juxtaposes really funny moments with heartbreak, tragedy and stunning cinematography and this mixture is such a sucker punch. I’m really interested in memory, history and obsessively collecting momentos from your life so this film is like a dream for me. Also as a vegetarian who has been to Eastern Europe the potato scene had me rolling round with laughter.

Your Sister’s Sister (2011 Lynn Shelton)

Em got me started on Mumblecore and I’ve loved finding out about the Duplass brothers and co! My Sister’s Sister is probably my favourite film of the genre I’ve seen so far because it’s so funny and it really gets the complicated nature of modern relationships. I think in truth I massively identify with the bumbling emotionally messy Jack. Oh and Mark Duplass is totally cute in it.

Anyway that’s a wrap. If you read this far you deserve a sticker…Now tell me yours!

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About Rachel

zinester/diy-til-i-die/love hate relationship with arts admin/girlpunkfeminist/geek
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