If you’ve ever found yourself the target of judgemental glares from your friends after quoting a line from Zoolander, or a strange look from your date after asking who Tarantino is, you may be looking for a crash course in cinema history.
For the mediocre, or even the slightly above-average cinemagoer, here are five films to add to the top of your IMDB watchlist to whip yourself into a cinema aficionado before the weekend:
- Sunrise (1927)
The main rule of any discussion where you’re trying to convince someone you know things about things is to use buzzwords wherever possible. For cinema, remember this one: German Expressionism. This haunting movie by F W Murnau is the embodiment of German expressionistic distortions of light and shade. Think Tim Burton, but creepier.
- The Merry Widow (1934)
This film, from the Hollywood Golden Age era of cinema, is exactly as the age suggests it will be. Among endearingly corny plotlines about love, there are hypnotising group dance shots and even better melodramatic acting. The director, Ernst Lubitsch, is a master of the Golden era, and the lead, Maurice Chevalier, is worth a watch on his own.
- The 400 Blows (1959)
If you’re going to pick at least one movie from this list, make it one from the French New Wave. This was the period in French cinema when there were basically a lot of low-budget sets, jump cuts, and on-location shooting. François Truffaut was a key player in the movement, and his film The 400 Blows is among the best of the bunch. The closing shot of this film is one of the most famous of all time – it’s breathtaking, and even worth waiting for in the unlikely event you weren’t enjoying the former part of the film.
- Taxi Driver (1976)
When impressing any fellow cinema-lovers, you can’t go wrong mentioning Scorsese. Unfortunately, Wolf of Wall Street will only get you halfway there, or at least, you can’t say you’re a true fan until you’ve seen Taxi Driver. This movie about violent urges, with a psychopathic Robert De Niro is one of Scorsese’s best.
- This is Not a Film (2011)
Forget the ‘this is not a pipe’ painting, this documentary from Jafar Panahi about contemporary Iranian cinema is the next best thing to pull up in a circle of cinema savants. If it doesn’t at least inspire you to watch the rest of the movies on this list, it might just inspire you to get started making your own feature-length film using only your phone.