Mark Kermode: 50 films every film fan should watch

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

The UK’s best-known film critic, Mark Kermode offers up 50 personal viewing recommendations, from great classics to overlooked gems.

The Arbor (2010)

Director Clio Barnard

The Arbor (2010)

Artist Clio Barnard’s moving film about the late Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar (Rita, Sue and Bob Too) is no ordinary documentary. Mixing interviews with Dunbar’s family and friends (seen lip-synched by actors), scenes from her plays performed on the estate where she lived, and TV footage of her in the 1980s, the film makes intriguing, inventive play with fact, fiction and reminiscence.

Mark Kermode says: “Somehow the disparate elements form a strikingly cohesive whole, conjuring a portrait of the artist and her offspring that is both emotionally engaging, stylistically radical and utterly unforgettable.”

Bad Timing (1980)

Director Nicolas Roeg

Bad Timing (1980)

Seen in flashback through the prism of a woman’s attempted suicide, this fragmented portrait of a love affair expands into a labyrinthine enquiry into memory and guilt. One of director Nic Roeg’s finest films, starring Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell and Harvey Keitel.

Mark Kermode says: “Roeg himself reported that a friend refused to talk to him for three years after seeing the film. Today, Bad Timing still divides audiences: monstrosity or masterpiece? Well, watch it and decide for yourself.”

La Belle et la Bête (1946)

Director Jean Cocteau

La Belle et la Bête (1946)

With its enchanted castle, home to fantastic living statuary, and director Jean Cocteau’s lover Jean Marais starring as a Beast who is at once brutal and gentle, rapacious and vulnerable, shamed and repelled by his own bloodlust, this remains a high point of the cinematic gothic imagination.

Mark Kermode says: “Personally I think Mexican filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro, the maestro of the modern screen fairytale, said it best when he declared La Belle et la Bête simply to be the most perfect cinematic fable ever told.”

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Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late ’40s and ’50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Boring British Movies

Growing up as a callow nascent film buff, lost in the candy store of VHS tapes and TV Guide, I gathered that British films were mostly dull old things. With a few exceptions, they were talky sub-Hollywood productions, at best well-acted but lacking oomph and pizzazz and élan and je ne sais quoi. I partly got this impression from English critics, and some of the tatty VHS and TV prints I saw reinforced this idea.

As the years passed, I had to note more and more exceptions until the old canard became festooned with mental asterisks and parentheses. Today, with so many classic British films that haven’t circulated in the US finally hitting Region 1 in sparkling restorations on Blu-ray, I’m officially concluding that the spotty dismissal of British cinema is what deserves to be dismissed.

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