7 Essential Films for Aspiring Filmmakers

As the great Martin Scorsese once said, movies are life. It’s a way to flee whatever is going on in reality, be it a medium for influence, perspective, relief, or escape. Besides viewing films for any of those particular reasons, there are also plenty of essential films for aspiring filmmakers.

Nevertheless, below will highlight seven films I feel every aspiring filmmaker should view at least once. Keep in mind, there are plenty of films that could fall on this list. These are just some of the best examples to consider, with each of them offering a specific reason why. Let’s take a look!

La Haine (1995)

Logline – 24 hours in the lives of three young men in the French suburbs the day after a violent riot.

La Haine is a masterpiece in more ways than one. Whether it’s the superb performances from the entire cast, its breathtaking cinematography, or Mathieu Kassovitz’s excellent directing, you’ll learn something new with every viewing of the film. It’s painfully honest and filled with sympathetic characters combined with stunning filmmaking.

Chungking Express (1994)

Logline – Two melancholy Hong Kong policemen fall in love: one with a mysterious female underworld figure, the other with a beautiful and ethereal waitress at a late-night restaurant he frequents.

Wong Kar-wai’s entire filmography is worth watching from an aspiring filmmaker’s perspective, with Chungking Express being his most acclaimed. The story is a perfect representation of how you can present a non-traditional story structure without losing the audience.

No Country For Old Men (2007)

Logline – Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a bad drug deal and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.

Few directors have made as many great films as the Coens have had, with their work dating back to 1984 with Blood Simple. 20-plus years later, we have No Country For Old Men, a film riddled with motifs of aging, free will, morality, justice, and greed. Then you have Javier Bardem’s performance as Anton Chigurh—who could forget that?

Eraserhead (1977)

Logline – Henry Spencer tries to survive his industrial environment, his angry girlfriend, and the unbearable screams of his newly born mutant child.

Few films are as whacked out as Eraserhead, and David Lynch is no stranger to odd filmmaking. Underneath the eerie and disturbing nature of the film lays an unsettling story of truth, illusion, and the fear of fatherhood.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Logline – The Monoliths push humanity to reach for the stars; after their discovery in Africa generations ago, the mysterious objects lead humankind on an extraordinary journey to Jupiter, with the help of H.A.L. 9000: the world’s most incredible supercomputer.

Practically every list like this has 2001 on it, and it makes sense why. Kubrick’s Sci-Fi epic is highly influential in the genre, demonstrating that not every film needs to have a literal ending to appeal to mass audiences.

Ikiru (1952)

Logline – A bureaucrat tries to find meaning in his life after discovering he has terminal cancer.

The meaning of life is a common concept touched upon since the dawn of cinema. Ikiru is one of the best examples of what it means to live and the notion of our memory living past our body’s end.

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Logline – In post-war Italy, a working-class man’s bicycle is stolen, endangering his efforts to find work. He and his son set out to find it.

Bicycle Thieves highlights the idea of desperation and how it can change a familiar individual when they’re in a dire circumstance. Even with it being 70-plus years since its release, Bicycle Thieves is a staple of Italian Neorealism and will continue to be a landmark in cinema for years to come.



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