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Mark Kermode recommends 50 essential masterpieces for film fans

English writer Mark Kermode is undoubtedly one of the most recognisable film critics in the world, known for his BBC show Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review where he discusses the latest art films from Thailand as well as the big-budget cash grabs. Over the course of his career, Kermode has established himself as a trusted voice whose knowledge of cinema and film history is overwhelmingly extensive.

In an interview, Kermode said: “I tend to have a very, perhaps foolishly positive opinion of the way in which people think about cinema, people who actually like cinema. My feeling is that what’s happening is the essence of cinema has kind of been forgotten in the slew of product that’s been driving the multiplexes and been driving the studios. I think there is a hard core of people, and this is a smaller number than are actually going to the cinema at the moment, there is a hard core of people that want to go to the cinema as a cinema experience.”

Adding, “Cinema’s had a century of doing it, but the century of cinema was not created on the basis of just packing them in and churning them out and giving them a substandard product. It never worked like that. I grew up in the cinema. I grew up going to movies, that’s why I like it to watch movies. It’s fundamentally different to me to see things on DVD and Blu-Ray. It’s a different experience. It demonstrably is. But I think that what’s important is that the next generation of people have that same thing and understand that there is a choice.”

As a BFI feature, Kermode was invited to select some films that are close to his heart and he ended up producing a fantastic list of 50 masterpieces that every film fan should watch. These include early classics from Alfred Hitchcock as well as recent masterpieces like Dogtooth which is indicative of Kermode’s versatile taste in cinema.

While praising Yorgos Lanthimos’ modern gem Dogtooth, Kermode said: “Balancing astute social commentary with absurd tragi-comedy, Dogtooth has been read as a dissection of Greek society, both personal and political. Lanthimos retains a Lynchian quality of refusing to discuss his work, saying that, ‘If I wanted to discuss social problems I would have become a writer, but I am a filmmaker it is all I can do.’”

He also hailed the 1984 British horror classic The Company of Wolves: “Pitched somewhere between arthouse tract and exploitation horror movie, The Company of Wolves drew mixed responses from some baffled critics, but proved an enduring audience favourite. Today, it has become a timeless classic, which is studied by film scholars and adored by film fans alike. If you like your fairy tales to have teeth, this is the film for you.”

If you are an avid fan of world cinema and film history, check out Mark Kermode’s full list of recommendations for everyone who is interested in the subject.

See the entire collection of picks below.

Mark Kermode names 50 essential masterpieces:

  • The Arbor (Clio Barnard, 2010)
  • Bad Timing (Nicolas Roeg, 1980)
  • La Belle et la Bête (Jean Cocteau, 1946)
  • Black Narcissus (Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell, 1947)
  • Blithe Spirit (David Lean, 1945)
  • Bullet Boy (Saul Dibb, 2004)
  • Capricorn One (Peter Hyams, 1977)
  • Céline and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette, 1974)
  • Un chien andalou (Luis Buñuel, 1928)
  • The Company of Wolves (Neil Jordan, 1984)
  • Countess Dracula (Peter Sasdy, 1971)
  • The Day the Earth Caught Fire (Val Guest, 1961)
  • Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg, 1988)
  • Distant Voices Still Lives (Terence Davies, 1988)
  • Dogtooth (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2009)
  • The Draughtsman’s Contract (Peter Greenaway, 1982)
  • The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1980)
  • Face (Antonia Bird, 1997)
  • Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974)
  • Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog, 1981)
  • Godzilla (Ishiro Honda, 1954)
  • Hadewijch (Bruno Dumont, 2009)
  • Hands of the Ripper (Peter Sasdy, 1971)
  • Highway Patrolman (Alex Cox, 1991)
  • Immoral Tales (Walerian Borowczyk, 1974)
  • Interior. Leather Bar. (James Franco and Travis Mathews, 2013)
  • The Ipcress File (Sidney J. Furie, 1965)
  • The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938)
  • The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcock, 1927)
  • Maîtresse (Barbet Schroeder, 1976)
  • A Matter of Life and Death (Powell and Pressburger, 1946)
  • Le Mépris (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
  • Mother (Bong Joon-ho, 2009)
  • Nosferatu (Werner Herzog, 1979)
  • Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955)
  • Pasolini (Abel Ferrara, 2014)
  • Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960)
  • Prick Up Your Ears (Stephen Frears, 1987)
  • Radio On (Chris Petit, 1979)
  • Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
  • Red Desert (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1964)
  • Red Road (Andrea Arnold, 2006)
  • The Red Shoes (Powell and Pressburger, 1948)
  • Rome Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945)
  • Symptoms (José R. Larraz, 1974)
  • That Sinking Feeling (Bill Forsyth, 1979)
  • This Filthy Earth (Andrew Kötting, 2001)
  • Underground (Anthony Asquith, 1928)
  • Unrelated (Joanna Hogg, 2007)
  • Obscured by Clouds (Barbet Schroeder, 1972)

Although there are many noteworthy selections, Kermode highlights the original Godzilla film as one to remember: “While the scenes of destruction viscerally recall the destruction of America’s nuclear strikes, the dialogue offers a surprisingly thoughtful meditation on the guilty responsibilities of scientific advancements… reveal in the mastery of this superb creature feature.”

Kermode also ventures into foreign masterpieces, notably a French New Wave classic by Jean-Luc Godard called Contempt: “A tale of artistic compromise and marital strife, [Contempt] is a playfully self-reflexive affair, the poster of which focused on the pillowy charms of Brigitte Bardot, but which in fact offered something altogether edgier, more angular and anarchic.”

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