Since 1984, the Criterion Collection has been dedicated to publishing important classic and contemporary films from around the world in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements.
Criterion has maintained its pioneering commitment to presenting each film as its maker would want it seen, in state-of-the-art restorations with special features designed to encourage repeated watching and deepen the viewer’s appreciation of the art of film.
To date, more than 150 filmmakers have contributed to make Criterion’s library of director-approved DVD and Blu-ray discs the most significant archive of contemporary filmmaking available to the home viewer.
We asked our friends at Criterion to curate a list of essential films that everybody should watch in their lifetime. They selected the following 10 films as the must-watch films of the Criterion Collection. Add them to your cinematic bucket list and your queue:
Directed by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Starring Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron, Flora Robson
This explosive work about the conflict between the spirit and the flesh is the epitome of the sensuous style of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. A darkly grand film that won Oscars for Alfred Junge's art direction and Jack Cardiff's cinematography, Black Narcissus is one of the greatest achievements by two of cinema’s true visionaries.
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg
There was before Breathless, and there was after Breathless. Jean-Luc Godard burst onto the film scene in 1960 with this jazzy, free-form, and sexy homage to the American film genres that inspired him as a writer for Cahiers du cinéma. Breathless helped launch the French New Wave and ensured that cinema would never be the same.
FOR ALL MANKIND
Directed by Al Reinert
Starring Jim Lovell, Kenneth Mattingly, Russell Schweickart
Al Reinert’s documentary For All Mankind is the story of the 24 men who traveled to the moon, told in their words, in their voices, using the images of their experiences. 40 years after the first moon landing, it remains the most radical, visually dazzling work of cinema yet made about this earthshaking event.
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Starring Gabriele Ferzetti, Monica Vitti
Michelangelo Antonioni invented a new film grammar with this masterwork. An iconic piece of challenging 1960s cinema and a gripping narrative on its own terms.
LA DOLCE VITA
Directed by Federico Fellini
Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg
The biggest hit from the most popular Italian filmmaker of all time, La Dolce Vita rocketed Federico Fellini to international mainstream success—ironically, by offering a damning critique of the culture of stardom. This mordant picture was an incisive commentary on the deepening decadence of contemporary Europe, and it provided a prescient glimpse of just how gossip- and fame-obsessed our society would become.
Directed by Fred Newmeyer & Sam Taylor
Starring Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis
The comic genius of silent star Harold Lloyd is eternal. Laugh-out-loud funny and jaw-dropping in equal measure, Safety Last! is a movie experience par excellence, anchored by a genuine legend.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Starring Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura
One of the most thrilling movie epics of all time, Seven Samurai tells the story of a sixteenth-century village whose desperate inhabitants hire the eponymous warriors to protect them from invading bandits. This three-hour ride seamlessly weaves philosophy and entertainment, delicate human emotions and relentless action, into a rich, evocative, and unforgettable tale of courage and hope.
THE 39 STEPS
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll
This classic wrong-man thriller from master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock anticipates the director’s most famous works (especially North by Northwest), and remains one of his cleverest and most entertaining films.
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
Starring Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori
Moving between the terrestrial and the otherworldly, Ugetsu reveals essential truths about the ravages of war, the plight of women, and the pride of men.
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Starring Victor Sjöström, Bibi Andersson, Gunnar Björnstrand, Max Von Sydow
Wild Strawberries dramatizes one man’s remarkable voyage of self-discovery. This richly humane masterpiece, full of iconic imagery, is one of Ingmar Bergman’s most widely acclaimed and influential films.