Even though Hollywood is the most well-known film industry in the world, European films will always be at the top of the list when viewed from the perspective of art rather than commerce. Fellini, Bergman, Tarkovsky, Godard, and many more legendary filmmakers were all born in Europe, as were major cinematic movements including German expressionism, Italian Neo-Realism, the French New Wave, and the DOGME95.
Whether it’s the surrealistic imagery of German expressionism, the low-budget Italian films that represent the chaos and beauty of daily life, or the pure cinema as envisaged by the French, Europe has a lot to offer in terms of cinematic creativity and artistic worth. Cinema as we know it now was born out of these various movements.
A new era of cinematic genius was inaugurated by each European cinematic movement, which was rich in symbolism and depth. It’s impossible to choose only ten of the best films made by any one particular movement or great filmmaker, but here are my picks for the ten best European films of all time:
1. 400 BLOWS (1959)
Delinquent youngster’s journey as he tries to avoid being caught and punished at home by lying about his behavior at school. Even his own parents appear to have given up on him now. He is stranded and has nowhere else to go. Since then, a slew of films, including Capernaum and Loveless, have explored the experiences of a young child who is shunned at home. However, none of them accurately depicted despondency. After a while, he comes to the realization that there is no way out. This terrible image of thousands of teenage delinquents with no future is depicted in the camera’s viewfinder.
2. THREE COLOURS TRILOGY (1993-94)
Each component is a work of art in and of itself. Blue is also lyrical and allegorical. This trio comes to an end with a bang with White and Red. The information regarding this film has already been widely disseminated, therefore I recommend checking it out on MUBI.
3. STALKER (1979)
The 2001 Space Odyssey and this sci-fi fantasy are two of the best. A Stalker, a kind of prophet who unselfishly guides you around the “Zone,” a deserted, lonely, and inaccessible area full with perils at every turn, was invented by this game. When you’re in the “Room,” a wish-fulfilling utopia that knows exactly what you want, you’ll get it.
In this spiritual picture, religious concepts and modern science are blended together to produce a morally enticing narrative about the pursuit of happiness. In order for a want to be granted, it must come from within the individual. The contrast between selfless service and self-serving egotism is one of the most striking aspects of this life-changing experience.
4. UNDERGROUND (1995)
While a group of revolutionaries living in the shadows for decades doesn’t sound like a plot for a dark comedy with political undertones, this crazy, eccentric, and wild ride about a group of revolutionaries living in the dark, being fooled by their very own comrade is an exhilarating socio-political commentary on the lust for power and the horrors of war. When the hero uses a black cat to polish his shoes in one part of the film, another scene shows him biting an electrical line. An outrageously great comedy about what all males do for power – “We are all mad; we haven’t just been diagnosed” – it’s original, psychedelic, crazy.
5. 8½ (1963)
If you were to compile a list of all of Fellini’s greatest works, they would all be considered cult classics. Structured like a semi-autobiographical novel. Movie about prominent filmmaker who becomes stuck in his own head. He attempts to find inspiration and peace in his own experiences. When he can’t come up with a piece of art, he relies on his recollections and nostalgia for inspiration. Reconciliation is a long-term goal for him, and so far it hasn’t worked out. For example, the protagonist struggles with his self-image, and how filmmakers/writers tend to explicitly sympathize with themselves when doing personal work in this film. I really appreciate the scene where he imagines himself as the ruler of the world’s ladies while acting like royalty and ignoring one of his muses. As the protagonist “who doesn’t know how to love” is brought to the fore in this scene, the narcissism is brought out in full force. If you’re going to make amazing movies, you don’t necessarily need a plot; sometimes, your best work is deeply personal and expresses your inner problems. As well as the newly released Pain and Glory, several other films have drawn inspiration from this 1980s cult movie.
6. BREATHLESS (1960)
Both Pierrot Le Fou and Breathless would be included in any list of great films that transformed the way movies were created because of Godard’s revolutionary approach. Godard’s films, unlike many of his contemporaries, were more concerned with the visuals than the script. All of the fast-paced camera angles and vibrant color schemes combined with the calm narcissism of adolescent egotists make this film stand out. It was not like they were on a big mission for him. Hedonistic teenagers who fell in love, got caught cheating, and then moved on to the next thing.
Breathless, as a movie, spoke to the apathy and self-centeredness of today’s youth. A notoriously cool and arrogant felon who smoked constantly and spoke in flowery, pretentious dialects, he was this person. As a monk striving for Nirvana, the girl is irreverent and charming, but she is also searching for happiness like a thief. Much like its director, the picture depicts a group of disenfranchised young people who have little respect for authority or norms.
Another way in which a film’s legacy is related to its impact in the future. Wong Kar Wai or Refn or Noe wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for Godard and Breathless. Nothing since Citizen Kane has shaken the foundation of filmmaking like Breathless, according to Roger Ebert.
7. SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE (1974)
Bergman is the greatest dramatist of all time. All of his films are cinematic orgasms, from the theoretically dense Seventh Seal to Wild Strawberries, Persona, and Fanny Alexander. Scenes from a Marriage, on the other hand, is my particular favorite. A film’s influence should be measured by the number of other films that have attempted to replicate its aesthetic. It’s a challenge to make a movie about simply two people and their unstable relationship. The film relies on character growth and the performances to go forward, rather than on a plot or action sequences.
In this film, directed by Ingmar Bergman, he explores the monotony of everyday life and the hypocrisy of the ideal family and the citizenry. There is a lot of satire in this movie, starting with the first scene where his character and his co-star talk about their “perfect” marriage. It’s heartbreaking and cathartic all at the same time to watch the facade of idealism crumble. The fight sequence between the woman and husband, in which each phrase is like a piercing bullet, is reason enough to include this film on this list in its own right. Relationship problems and their final resolution have been the subject of numerous films, such as Kramer vs. Kramer, Marriage Story, Phantom Thread, and Blue Valentine. Even so, this magnificent classic still has the potential to reverberate in our minds.
8. BLOW-UP (1966)
This film is the most difficult to connect with emotionally of the ones on this list. A suspense/thriller about a wealthy, pompous, and often distracted photographer who accidently takes photos of a possible murder sounds like a wonderful story.
However, the murder mystery is of secondary importance to this picture. There are no answers to any of the questions it raises because it defies all logic and logic is subverted by it. In the film, ephemeral pleasures are explored. Despite the protagonist’s need for thrills, he tends to lose interest in the story before he can catch himself staring at anything else completely unrelated. To him, the instant that he thinks his gun has accidently killed someone, it becomes imperative to decipher the riddle. While it may be pure fantasy, the scene in which he manages to somehow fight thousands of people catch a broken guitar from rock star and runs away with it as though his life depended on it best explains his fleeting interest in a particular activity. However, once the excitement of winning it from the crowd fades, he throws the guitar away.
9. THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (1972)
Choosing between this and The Exterminating Angel was a difficult decision for me. Social comedies that lampoon authority, the bourgeoisie, the army, and religion are among the best. A wealthy, prosperous family of six upper-class bureaucrats who are unable to leave their house because of a mystery even they cannot understand is the focus of Exterminating Angel.
Despite the fact that each episode begins with dinner arrangements, something always interrupts it. The supper that was supposed to happen never did. I think the episodes have been well-selected. In each scenario, upper-class behavior is lampooned in a snarky way. You can see it in everything from your haughty attitude toward the poor to your perverse sexual activity and your attempt to present yourself as a well-adjusted person despite your questionable moral character: Everybody is mocked, even a priest who forgives sins yet is vengeful when he is implicated in the sins of others. Even those tasked with protecting the affluent bourgeois, such as the military, police, and ministries, come under attack. For whatever reason, while they’re settling down to eat, they suddenly find themselves on stage as if they were joking about their life as actors.
10. DOGTOOTH (2009)
Unlike the other films on my list, it may have had a less cultural impact and be viewed by some as premature, but for me, there is no other picture that has had a greater impact. It’s not simply that Yargos is satirizing authority and discipline with this picture; he’s also making a dark comedy about them as well. His tirade against capitalism was particularly relevant in light of Greece’s current plight due to the country’s acceptance of austerity measures as a condition of receiving a bailout.
Exaggeration and practiced monotony were two of his preferred rhetorical tools for driving home his thesis about life under authoritarian rule. Political and religious leaders are also depicted as parents in the film. Weasel stories about a dangerous world beyond the limit are sold to naïve children, and they assume they know more than they do. Monosyllabic language is used by every character, and every action appears to have been rehearsed and taught. Even having sex appears to be a duty (again mocking religion). Their movements and speech have a robotic feel to them. The harsh sound of emotional violence is made all the more potent by the absence of a background score.
Those who lack independence of mind and creativity are depicted as robots with no feelings. Even if they are persuaded an innocent cat is the enemy, these individuals are capable of the most inhumane acts.