10 Best Films of All Time: Emily Nighman

5. Parasite (2019)

10 Best Parasite Moments

Lauded internationally for making history as the first film not in the English language to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, Parasite is a stunning portrait of the human struggle for power, money, and survival.

The movie tells the story of the poor Kim family, headed by patriarch Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), who infiltrate the lives of the wealthy Park family when they are hired by the father, Dong-ik (Lee Sun-kyun), and his wife, Yeon-gyo (Cho Yeo-jeong). With its gripping plot and symbolic cinematography, Parasite is a modern masterpiece that proves that, to paraphrase the director, Bong Joon-ho, there is an entire world of powerful cinema beyond the inch of subtitles at the bottom of the screen.

Parasite is only the third film in history to win both the Palme d’Or and Best Picture, taking home three more Oscars that year. Though the film was heavily influenced by the 1960 South Korean domestic thriller The Housemaid, which also features staircases prominently as a symbol for social and class mobility (or the lack thereof), Bong’s homage also takes a more modern approach and establishes its own message about inequality, wealth disparity, and survival.

Beyond the film’s wide critical and public acclaim, it is, for me, one of few films to leave me genuinely speechless in the end.

Recommended for you: Bong Joon-ho Films Ranked

4. Casablanca (1942)

Casablanca Review

Casablanca is a timeless classic that has captured the hearts of audiences for decades and is a masterclass in golden age Hollywood cinema.

Directed by Michael Curtiz, the World War II-era film stars Humphrey Bogart as world-weary bar owner Rick and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa, former lovers who reunite in Casablanca as the anti-Nazi resistance brews in Europe and abroad. The cast also boasts Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Dooley Wilson as Sam, the piano player. This beautiful film is overflowing with memorable lines and unforgettable performances, easily making it one of the greatest films ever made.

With its all-star cast, melancholy theme song, and sensitive storytelling, the film went on to win three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. The film weaves a complex narrative that combines romance, suspense, and political intrigue, and captivates audiences with Bogart and Bergman’s palpable chemistry. Curtiz also beautifully integrates elements of film noir style with chiaroscuro lighting, flashbacks, and existential themes.

Casablanca truly endures, however, due to its depiction of moral dilemmas, personal sacrifice, and impossible love, all of which have left us saying “Here’s looking at you, kid,” for more than eight decades since.

3. Do the Right Thing (1989)

Often considered one of auteur Spike Lee’s best films, Do the Right Thing is a powerful drama that explores the complexities and intricacies of race relations in the United States of America.

The 1989 film takes place on a sweltering summer day in Brooklyn and follows the lives of several characters as tensions rise and come to a violent head between the different communities sharing the same street. The talented ensemble cast features Lee himself, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, Rosie Perez, and Samuel L. Jackson. Though some critics have found the sensitive subject matter controversial, most critics, filmmakers and audiences have lauded Lee for confronting harsh realities that many people are afraid to discuss head-on.

Like many of Lee’s films, Do the Right Thing is particularly notable for fearlessly tackling important social issues including racial tension, police brutality, and community violence, making clear the tragic consequences of systemic racism and unchecked prejudice.

The film further illustrates these themes through a vibrant, colourful production design by Wynn Thomas, extreme camera angles, and distorted lens choices by cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, and culturally significant costumes by Academy Award-winner Ruth E. Carter. The creative team’s artistic craftsmanship, paired with Lee’s provocative, thoughtful directorial style and timely message, make the film a must-see that remains relevant today.

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