- Our list is composed and ranked by movies that are worthy of being on the Criterion Collection, fit in with the aesthetic and styles of what the collection displays, and their availability in the United States (where we are located). The last point will inevitably play a big role as movies that are difficult to get ones hands on are naturally more sought after. Whether or not a movie needs a proper restoration could also play a role in our choosing, however.
- Like usual, 1965 is our cut-off, although there are certainly movies that came out post-1965 that are well deserved of being on the Criterion Collection and would be definitely picked up by us if they were to be released.
The Servant (1963)
Doesn’t The Servant seem right up the alley of a Criterion Collection release? This Joseph Losey drama plays on the roles of the British class hierarchy of having the title role (Dirk Bogarde) slowly overtake the position of master from James Fox. The acting by the two British gents is fantastic (Bogarde is a true powerhouse, as usual), the film’s psychological dive into economic status is still relevant, and the film also contains some ahead-of-their-time sexual moments particularly between Fox and hired servant Sarah Miles (the two dated in real-life at the time which is rather unsurprising to anyone familiar with this film).
The Murderers Are Among Us (1946)
This is one of those movies you watch and think: How is this not on the Criterion Collection? This movie is a perfect time capsule for how Germany viewed its ability to move on after the horrors of WWII. The film has two main characters: a former Nazi surgeon who detests his former peers as well as a concentration camp survivor reentering the world. The movie is able to be both idealistic and realistic as it portrays both characters learning how to overcome their pasts even if they never really go away. While there are some Hollywood films available that deal with post-war tensions in Europe, there is something undeniably real about seeing it shown in German cinema.
City Girl (1930)
Criterion, I love you, but y’all need to get some Murnau. Particularly City Girl which is ripe for rediscovery and needs to become more widely available. Not only is City Girl a gorgeous movie, but it is a late silent feature that shows how artistic the medium still was even if it was out-of-date by 1930 standards. Murnau also does what he does best as he brings a simple story into a world of imagination, beauty, and cinematic pleasures. While there are copies of City Girl on home video, it would be nice to see it displayed across the world in a form of packaging that could do it complete justice.
The Mark (1961)
This is a movie that will undoubtedly bring forward many feelings across the board. This is one of the reasons why it needs to become available as conversations about it should be had. The Mark deals with the demons of a former pedophile (Stuart Whitman) who tries to readjust to a normal life after being sentenced to prison for kidnapping a girl child (although he is unable to touch or harm her in any way). This very ahead-of-its-time movie also garnered Whitman an Oscar-nomination which should have also gotten him an Oscar damn it! Yes, he should have won.
I have mixed feelings about Greed although most of my unhappy feelings about it could be easily solved if I were to see the Thalberg cut of the movie. While the longer cut with still pictures intact to showcase director Erich von Stroheim’s original vision is informative, it is just too long for a movie with a rather simple moral message. I think if the Criterion Collection were to release a copy of this silent classic with both the rediscovered cut and the Thalberg cut available for viewing, I would have a much more positive experience with this movie. This is because what Thalberg included were the important parts, particularly the lengthy but knockout climax in Death Valley. It is such a strong finale that it made me glad I sat through such a long film.
The Wind (1928)
The Wind is a goddamn masterpiece! So why isn’t it higher on my list? Well, simply because I have a DVD recording of this movie from an old seller that I can pop-in if I get a strong desire to watch this film (which can happen quite frequently as it is a favorite of mine). So, I feel less pressured to get it on DVD as I do with other classics. Naturally, this DVD copy of mine isn’t restored as it comes from a TV recording, but it is better than nothing. If there can be a restored, crisp copy of this movie from Criterion, I will buy it on day one. Lillian Gish gives what may be her greatest performance here (which is saying something) and is perfectly complimented by Lars Hanson as her co-star and Victor Sjostrom as her director. Can we all agree that Gish, Hanson, and Sjostrom should have made a million movies together?
Girl with a Suitcase (1960)
Claudia Cardinale and Jacques Perrin are perfectly cast in this Italian drama with a coming-of-age plot as well as an interesting view of romance. Writer/director Valerio Zurlini makes this film both fit in with 1960s Italian cinema and suitable for the modern world of film as well as youth. It is a drama that I saw a few years ago back in college and I haven’t forgotten it since. I wish it were easier for people to see it, so they can experience it as well. For a movie with a common theme (one that we’ve all seen a lot especially from this time period) it manages to stick out and remain compelling all these years since it first hit the screen. A movie that can stand-out like that with such a frequent plot and idea deserves to be restored and remembered properly.
Shoeshine was such a hit when it came out it won an honorary Oscar before there was a competitive category for foreign films at the Academy Awards. It remains an emotional, unapologetic film on juvenile delinquency that approaches the topic in such a hard-hitting way it makes most Hollywood films of its type fade in comparison. It does this all without being too exploitative as this movie’s main objective is not to shock or make the viewer cringe in disgust. Still, it has one of the most haunting endings I’ve ever seen to a movie. This also won’t be the last film to deal with youthful delinquents that I have on my list.
The Crowd (1928)
Out of all the films on this list, The Crowd may be the movie I most want to be released on DVD/Blu-Ray. It has never gotten proper home video treatment despite being widely and rightfully considered to be one of the greatest silent film masterpieces. This is a movie that inspired many filmmakers to come including Vittorio De Sica who directed the previous movie on this list. King Vidor crafted a movie about real people and real situations to the point where it is actually painfully relatable. The film’s message strikes a cord with our inner fears of inadequacy like few movies have been able to do since. Plus, it is very important the whole world learns the lifestory of actor James Murray and a Criterion treatment of this movie would be a good start of that.
Los Olvidados (1950)
This is number one simply because it makes the most sense. I also really want this movie to be part of the Criterion Collection because damn it’s great! There are copies of it you can get on home video (I saw it thanks to a DVD copy of it from my university library a few years back), but this movie deserves the whole Criterion treatment and a proper translation. Criterion certainly isn’t shy about giving Luis Bunuel some love, so why not keep the love going? Unlike Bunuel’s surrealist takes on society, this movie focuses on youths in Mexico who are dirt poor and prone to crime. It dwarfs most Hollywood takes on the juvie issue as the kids here appear more realistic than many of their Hollywood counterparts. While this take on realistic social issues is offbeat for Bunuel, there is still some of that surreal pleasure from the master director intact with a brilliantly creepy dream sequence. Seriously… why… is… this… one… taking… so… long?
Honorable Mentions: The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927), History Is Made at Night (1937), and Salt of the Earth (1954)
One Night of Love (1934)
Done in a fun, frivolous style similar to the early talkie Lubitsch era, One Night of Love was a critical darling when it was first released and is considered to be the best film of operatic star Grace Moore. While pretty much all of her films need to be released, this one stands on the top of the list and is an acclaimed musical that manages to have a realistic, romantic plotline and opera music intertwined.
Zoo in Budapest (1933)
Filmed so luminously and beautifully, Zoo in Budapest looks as though it could have been done in France at the time by someone like Duvivier. The film gives a sensitive and telling look at innocent love and isolation with Loretta Young and Gene Raymond playing two lonely souls who find each other and look out for each other. Why this isn’t better known remains unfair to the artistry of the movie.
Cluny Brown (1946)
While this Lubitsch comedy was done during the code, there remain the classic Lubitsch touch of sexual innuendo and saucy characterizations that make it a delightful watch. The film also has an underlying theme of WWII as Charles Boyer plays a refugee. Plus, the supporting cast of characters remains effective and cleverly funny caricatures similar to a Sturges film.
The Scarlet Letter (1926)
The romantic novel of lust and desire has never been better served by cinema than the 1926 version. Lillian Gish remains the perfect casting choice of Hester as her innocent looks and youthful naivete make her incredibly likeable and believable as a woman who experiences true romance for the first time. The camerawork by Seastrom also proves that the late silent period was one for art rather than spectacle.
Hold Back the Dawn (1941)
Another engrossing film starring Charles Boyer, this film is once again a supreme example of romance done subtly and endearingly in the classic era. Boyer’s character is revealed as flawed and selfish as he is willing to feign emotion and love in order to get into the United States. The film is reflective of how America was viewed during wartime, but it also remains timeless in its theme of romantic feelings worthy of an Italian film of the ‘50s.
The Student Prince of Old Heidelberg (1927)
Yet another reigning example of the Lubitsch touch, this one is unaffected by a censor code, but still has innocence abound in the perfect telling of the classic operetta story. Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer are both adorable in the leads and Lubitsch utilizes his scenery and makes it look as if it were taking place in a dream.
The Stranger’s Return (1933)
The direction of King Vidor deserves much more praise, especially his often-overlooked talkies. If there was ever an example that Hollywood films aren’t as precocious and glamorous as they’re often made out to be, then The Stranger’s Return is it. It shows that the idealized small-town America is full of hypocrisy and sneers while also delving deep into familial and romantic relationships.
The Story of Temple Drake (1933)
Why hasn’t this been released yet? This film remains one of the essential examples of pre-code cinema as it shows a disturbing relationship between a victim and her assaulter while being heartbreakingly realistic. The Temple Drake we witness is also not a wide-eyed naïve girl, making her a most unique sympathetic character of the time.
The Wind (1928)
One of the finest psychological films of the time is the late silent era at its absolute best. Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson, and Victor Seastrom reunite from The Scarlet Letter and manage to outdo themselves in a filmed version of a novel that actually works cinematically due to its showing rather than telling nature and stark performances oozing with credibility.
The Crowd (1928)
Finally, we get to another one of the prime examples of the artistic final years of the silent era. The Crowd remains one of the essential films dealing with human nature with a man who believes he was destined for great things but is unable to work for them. The film is ahead of its time in its neorealism approach to life and disappointments.
Honorable Mentions: Arise, My Love (1940), City Girl (1930), and Death of a Salesman (1951)