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Films to watch as film students

Well I did this for my Tumblr as a series as film students will have the problem of watching films everyday once you enter here. So here are my suggestions

Films to watch for Directing

  • rear window-one of my favourite hitchcock films,the humor was fantastic and the way he conveyed that story was fantastic. it seriously needed multiple viewings here
  • vertigo-then again,it show hitchcock’s visual storytelling well. not one of my big favourites,but commendable for showing scottie’s fear of heights nicely and oh the camera movement is nicw
  • north by northwest-omg such a great film,i like the way he convey the sex scenes without being too trashy. this is a nice example on how to direct actors.
  • 12 angry men (sideny lument)-ok you have to convey a story within one setting,like all struggling film students without budget. watch 12 angry men throughout the film these guys do not move out from their set but the way lument direct the actors (including a great performance by fonda here) and the compostion. here is another example for budding directors to watch.

Films for Cinematography (Here I split it to Black and White and Color)

Black and White

  • Fellini-8 1/2 (otto e mezzo):It was instantly one of my favourite opening sequences from any film-who can’t forget that image of Guido getting out of his car and float up?
  • Steven spilberg-schindler’s list:Beautiful use of B+W and it added so much poignancy especially on the little girl’s coat as a contrast.
  • Wim wenders-wings of desire:Henri Alekan? Who cannot ask for more for filming gritty Berlin in a fairy-tale like story
  • Mizoguchi-Ugestu Montogari:The tracking shots are amazing. Period
  • Ingmar Bergman-Wild strawberries:beautiful shots by Gunman Fischer (The same guy for The Seventh Seal),I love the dream sequence and the lighting!


  • Akira Kurosawa-dreams:Every sequence of Dreams are lovely and extremely mind-blowing
  • Jean paul jenut-a very long engagement: I love his cross-processed look as it added that nostagia
  • wim wenders-paris,texas:I love the way he used red which is very Ozu-like
  • david lean-lawrence of arabia: Do yourself a favour by having a big TV and watch it or even better in original 70mm (Which I will never accomplished)

Films for Production Design

  • metropolis-fritz lang: my friends…this is the granddaddy of sci-fi. most of the sci-fi films that you love borrow their set designs from this film. it is super epic in scale and it’s perhaps a miracle to see that it is still timeless to today’s generation. for watching reasons i suggest you watch kino’s 2010 restoration edition-here you could feel the almost complete vision of fritz lang here.
  • blade runner-ridley scott:i love the clever fusion of the 40’s with sci-fi elements here. it’s damn amazing to create such a scale of 2046 los angeles
  • dr zhivago-david lean: look at the ice palace design,it’s magical and funny enough they used lots of beeswax to create the ice!
  • amadeus-milos forman: i have so many feelings for this film. this film was shown by my lecturer,and i managed to catch that flick. in the end i was cacbsdiobvcdsoyvasdvbdsvbsdvbsdyvsdtvsvayuv7atsv~ during the whole time. absolutely gorgeous set design and costumes. it really shows how mozart is different from the cold salleri. it really helps that it won an oscar for best production design and of course a well-deserved oscar for best supporting actor for f.juarry abraham for his strong performance here.
  • marie anionette-sofia coppola:yes there are very different opinions for this film,yes it’s terrible in story-wise. however i feel that the production design here is pretty gorgeous here especially refreshing the old genre of historical epic. i love the idea for the “sherbet” colours for showing that young girl’s mind.
  • the wizard of oz and gone with the wind-victor fleming: absolutely jaw-dropping sets and you could see how color film was stretched out in the beginning of “technicolour”. though gone with the wind was fantastic with the recreation of the south,i prefer oz for its fantasy surroundings especially munchkin land and emerald city.
  • edward scissorhands-tim burton: anything goes for a tim burton film,with his unique style for the macebre and gothic. i particularly loved edward scissorhands for the way how the production design helps with the humor especially that gaudy pastel houses of the normal and the gothic castle! it’s pretty cheeky here.
  • beauty and the beast (la belle et la bête)-jean cocteau-absolute beauty in the set design and costumes here,i like that almost surrealistic yet gothic feel for that tale. it helps that alekian composed such beautiful shots here!

Films for Screenwriting

  • taxi driver-martin scorsese: it’s a great example to look for character study especially if you are doing the theme of “portrait” for your short film projects. my class even studied the opening scene of travis for class on how paul schrader writes his experiences into travis. apparently paul actually observed real taxi drivers in ny,in order to build up that character. it helps that robert de niro even spent a year becoming a taxi driver in order to get him to that role! this film is also fantastic for its cinematography too.
  • the graduate-nichols:everyone knows that line-“mrs robinson are you trying to seduce me?” i feel that film is a classic not only for its fantastic soundtrack with simon and garfunkel,the script is pretty awesome. it is so relatable as calder and henry wrote it based on their experiences in life on how we college students feel about deciding what to do in the future and of course capture the essence of the generation gap in the 60’s. look how the audience become emphatic to ben’s situation. look he is not a handsome cali guy,he is pretty directionless and of course he often kept his thoughts to himself. however we could see the ben inside of us because we could relate it so well. i feel that the speech for the graduate feels ‘natural’ as it is not awkward nor dramatic.
  • great expectations-david lean: if you want to adapt a novel to screen,please do watch this version. i love the character development of pip here. this is how you adapt a novel-keeping true to the novel yet making your characters relatable.
  • brief encounter-david lean: yes another lean film. usually we always associate david lean with big-scale epics like kwai,lawrence of arabia or zhivago. when i watched brief encounter-i did not know that he could make a story of an illicit affair very entertaining. i like the use of flashbacks here,as we emphasize over the housewife’s choices to break away from her boring life. of course great use of v.o here.
  • butch cassidy and the sundance kid-george roy hill: yes this is an unexpected client for screenwriting. everything of this film is pretty radical for this genre: the western. apparently i expected it to have that “dun-dun” ennio morricone style music,lots of gunfights and bad guys getting killed. my mind was blown-away by this film. everything you expect from a western film was destroyed by butch and sundance,great chemistry between butch and sundance (look what paul newman and robert reford’s acting here). you can almost compare it as a bromance version of bonnie and clyde. and it was great that goldman did his research for the old west and make it relevant for us. i believe that george made a right choice by minimizing the musical cues and instead let the dialogue shine here. oh the cinematography is absolutely lovely here especially the opening. unf~~~

animation films as writing case studies: ok i know it was unconventional for a film student to watch animation films. but there are some that are included into many lists as a must-watch. i watched it because of the story reasons,sometimes when you left only with people could draw and lots of voice-acting. i think it’s difficult and plus few film directors directed animated films before live-action films (or vice-versa) for instance eric khoo (tatsumi) and andrew anderson (director of the first two narnia series before that he directed shrek). here are some examples that deserved to be watched for story reasons

  • most pixar films: you know that pixar films are extremely well-known for their films with heart. i bet you remember sully,woody and of course carl (the grumpy old man) because they really did damn well in making the characters memorable with quotes like “i can’t help it,it’s so beautiful” with the murder of the mosquitos or twisting conventional characters-dug from up was a twist from the stereotypical talking animal by making his collar talk and perhaps giving the audience empathy to them so well,for instance the short film “the birds” where the big guy was made fun by the little ones because of his size. so dig out your little child and watch these films again.
  • hayao miyasaki films (notably spirited away,totoro,ponyo,princess momokoko and howl’s moving castle) : for film students who are otakus like me,you are not alone. you think that anime films never fulfill the levels which film critics like,nope miyasaki-san did conquer the world that he have so many admirable fans like pixar’s john lassiter. i am really happy that my lecturer loved miyasaki-san’s works! anyway why i chose his works because he have a way to humanize bad guys which is pretty difficult as we often place the bad guys in one-dimessional manners.

For instance i will give the example of our david bowie-clone fujimoto. yes you could see him as a baddie because he restricted his wild-child daughter ponyo from entering the world and he flood the world. in reality we could easily emphasized for why he could not let go of his daughter,because he is afraid of humans because they polluted his place. or perhaps lady eboshi,yes she is pretty much a bastard for destroying san’s forest for building her factories,however he helped to give poor people better lives by giving jobs. of course he is the king of visual storytelling,look at how he conveyed emotion in his films without dialogue. it is absolutely magical to watch a miyasaki film and become a child again.

Films for Editing

  • wings of desire-wim wenders: absolute beautiful cinematography by alekain (yes he did the cinematography for jean cocteau-la belle et la bete) is weaved extremely well. i particularly loved the opening sequence here ugh~
  • goodfellas-martin scorsese:the editing in goodfellas is pretty excellent here. i especially loved the scenes how they cut the murders of their close relatives and of course tommy’s death. i called it godfather in steroids,look at the editing here and great music choices from scorsese here!
  • a bout a souffle (breathless)-jean-luc godard: this guy along with the rest of so many started their mark in french new wave and this is that film that started it all. it’s crazy,it’s reckless and yet beautiful like the french new wave directors in the 50’s and 60’s. it’s way off from the usaul hollywood mould by their small homages to other cultures and yet they make it on their own. it was indeed one of my favourite foreign films.
  • rashomon-akira kurosawa: given you have a pretty complicated story,they did a great job especially the opening scene of the woodsman’s journey with its thunderous music. absolute perfection.
  • lawrence of arabia-david lean: yes i need to mention that film again,you gotta kudos to anne v. coates for that absolute beautiful cut of the match blowing. it’s absolutely magical here.btw i should learn how to edit because apparently lean started as an editor before he become a director himself.
  • honorable mention: ryan’s daughter-david lean;not my absolute favourite from lean’s works but you got to give him credit for the best edit for an imitate scene in a film that i absolutely agreed with my directing lecturer. as george roy hill once commented in his documentary of butch cassidy and the sundance kid: “it’s better to see a woman being veiled,than showing her a**”. less is more guys for imitate scenes like that.

Films for Film History (Very Important as you have to have some background on it)

  • hugo-martin scorsese: originally i am going to put these original bad boys which are the silent films. however from my classmates’ reactions grew bored and they slept during the screening. i thought maybe it would be a good alternative to introduce us to the silent film era. i really enjoyed that film because of its awesome homages to melies and so many silent films. it helps that marty is keen in film preservation,so it is a great way to show the plight of silent films
  • singin’ in the rain-gene kelly and stanley dolen: i know it is a little unconventional,i heard that they studied it for film studies in the states. i feel that it is interesting as they do talk about the transition phase of the silent films to the “talkies” it really helps that they do have catchy songs here
  • modern times-charlie chaplin: if you need to watch one chaplin film-try modern times,it’s super hilarious and yet it’s pretty deep as chaplin questioned about urbanization.
  •  400 blows-francois truffaut-another grandaddy of the french new wave era,i feel that it was underrated as the pinnacle of fnw as we recognized more of this famous example a bout de souffle. it’s a beautiful imitate portrait of adolescence and of course if its ending did not pull any heartstrings,then you have some problems
  • easy rider-dennis hopper: dat film! this is the film that paved the way to my favourite film era “new hollywood”,it looks like an arthouse film but it is for the masses. a great film to study of the youth in the 60’s. of course great 60’ music!
  • tokyo story-yasujiro ozu:well-known for his tatami shot,this film is definitely quiet but it define the golden age of japanese cinema. so many directors loved his works like wim wenders,jim jarmasuach and hou hsiao-hisen. go watch this to see why.
  • raise the red lantern (dà hóng dēnglóng gāogāo guà)-zhang yimou: not my favourite film,despite watching this twice due to plot reasons (i have extreme hatred over the guy). however it is an interesting study for those who are interested in 5th to 6th generation chinese cinema.
  • nosferatu-f.w muramu: the mother of all horror vampire films before the most famous reincarnation of that sparkly bishie. it was scary for me,but it is a great film to see german expressionism at work.
  • rashomon-akira kurosawa: then again,an interesting film to study especially the arrangement for the plot.
  • bicycle theives-vittro de sica: a beautiful example of italian neo-realism. worth studying
  • the rules of the game-jean renoir: i know of his more famous example: le grande illusion,but this film is a great study for french poetic realism especially it talks about the rich people’s mindsets and of course jean played his own film here.

As I say feel free to add your suggestions!


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