Now, these are not my “Top 5 Of All Time.” This is more like the “Top 5 Films You Might Not Have Heard of That Will Surprise and Possibly Shock You.” When I was younger, my favorite thing to do was go to the Film Forum, a repertory theatre in New York, and see a film without knowing anything about it. Sometimes the movie was part of a series like “B-Noir” or a Bergman retrospective. I’d sit down with this great peach cake they sold there, a ginger ale, and wait for the lights to go down. There were times where the best part of the screening was the peach cake, but then there were times where I saw something that totally blew me away. There were even times where I saw something that changed the way I thought about movies. As a filmmaker, I’ve been committed to creating surprising experiences that defied conventions. These are some of the films that instilled this desire and passion in me.
Antonio Campos has directed films including Simon Killer, Christine, and his latest, The Devil All the Time. He has also produced titles like Martha Marcy May Marlene.
Come and See
By far the most affecting and shocking war film ever made. It places you in the mind of a young Belarusian boy who joins the resistance army to fight the Nazis towards the end of World War II. It’s a visceral experience that will shake you to your core.
Murder by Contract
An under appreciated noir, Murder by Contract tells the story of an assassin’s whose morals are put to the test. Vince Edwards (who you might know as the lover from The Killing) leans in hard as a hired gun who likes everything just so, and delivers one of my favorite monologues of all time when a busboy at a hotel brings him a cup of coffee with a lipstick stain on the rim. The simple plucky guitar score is brilliant and somehow gives the story a light touch while also still maintaining the suspense. (Fun Fact: Martin Scorsese referenced this score in The Departed.)
An under-seen Ingmar Bergman film, The Rite tells the story of an acting troupe that must wait for the minister of culture of a made-up foreign country to review and approve of their performance, that has been deemed obscene. Why the performance is so controversial is kept a mystery until the shocking last sequence.
Sean Durkin and I saw The Conformist together when we were students at NYU, and it’s a film that left its mark on both of us and our work. It’s a movie that’s beautiful to look at throughout but the film is haunting and leaves in a state of unease.
The follow-up to Michael Cimino’s acclaimed The Deer Hunter, this film has only in the last decade started to be seen for the masterpiece that it is. I love films that transport me to another time and place, and with this one, Cimino brings you to Wyoming in the 1890s for a shocking story inspired by the Johnson County War where land barons were given permission by the U.S. government to kill anyone stealing their cattle, primarily Eastern European immigrants. Do not be scared of the film’s 219 minute runtime. It’s worth every minute.