This Palme d’or-winner, about the hardships faced by peasants in late 19th-century Lombardy, is a masterpiece of neorealism. Ermanno Olmi’s film chronicles a year in the everyday struggles of several families living on the farmstead of an aloof, exploitative landlord. To make ends meet, the farmers feel the need to compete against each other even as they partake together in working the cornfields, slaughtering animals, sharing stories, marking births and weddings, and attending mass.
Making superb use of its non-professional cast, Olmi’s vast, meticulously detailed fresco is a magisterial, unusually convincing recreation of a feudal rural world barely touched by modernity or political progress, where the only succour derives from human charity or the Church. Deeply engrossing, compassionate and quietly moving.
Science Fiction 1988 91 mins Director: Vincent Ward
A group of medieval English villagers find themselves transported to '80s New Zealand, in Vincent Ward's startling fusion of period fantasy and time-travel science fiction.
Period drama 1976 130 mins Director: Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti's final film is a brilliant and disturbing drama set against the opulent backdrop of decadent, late 19th-century aristocracy.
Comedy 1926 79 mins Silent Director: Buster Keaton
Buster Keaton's masterpiece is widely and rightly regarded as one of the greatest comedies ever made.
Period drama 1964 102 mins Director: Kaneto Shindo
Stylish, symbolic and erotically charged Japanese horror in which the fortunes of a murderous mother-and-daughter team are upended by a strangely masked samurai.
Fantasy 1957 96 mins Director: Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman’s best-known film is a brilliant allegorical drama starring Max von Sydow as a knight trying to elude his own death.
Comedy 1955 109 mins Director: Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman’s Cannes prize-winning comedy assembles various couples in a country house in 1900.
Crime 1926 91 mins Silent Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Ivor Novello plays a strange lodger who may be behind a number of Jack the Ripper-style killings in Alfred Hitchcock’s silent thriller.
Drama 2007 96 mins Director: Joanna Hogg
On a Tuscan break a fortysomething woman finds herself drawn to the company of a group of partying teens, including a young Tom Hiddleston (in one of his earliest roles).
Drama 2013 92 mins Director: Paul Wright
An intense and mysterious drama about the lone survivor of a strange fishing accident who’s outcast and persecuted by his fellow villagers.
Biopic 1988 84 mins Director: Terence Davies
Terence Davies' debut feature is a remarkable evocation of working-class family life in the 40s and 50s and a visionary exploration of memory.
Drama 1919 74 mins Silent Director: Oscar Micheaux
Oscar Micheaux’s startling silent classic – the earliest surviving feature from an African-American director – presents a fascinating black counterpoint to Griffith’s Birth of a Nation.
Drama 2012 107 mins Director: Sally El Hosaini
Sally El Hosaini's feature debut tells of the love and disenchantment of two British-Egyptian brothers. Gangs, drugs and sexuality come between them
Drama 2014 92 mins Director: Daniel Ribeiro
A blind student’s relationship with his best friend is tested when he falls for the new boy in school, in Daniel Ribeiro’s beautifully realised romance.
Animation & Artists Moving Image 2010 94 mins Director: Fernando Trueba
An evocative animated love story set in the jazz nightclubs of Havana and New York.
Fantasy 2010 83 mins Director: Jalmari Helander
Part children's adventure, part macabre seasonal shocker, this darkly humorous concoction defies categorisation.
Historical drama 1976 85 mins Director: Paul Humfress
A distinctly bold and sensual reclaiming of gay history, Jarman here tells the sexually intense story of the 4th-century martyr.
Comedy 1969 92 mins Director: Brian De Palma
Robert De Niro stars in the early, indie comedy from Brian De Palma, co-directed by Wilford Leach and Cynthia Munroe.
Comedy 1968 87 mins Director: Brian De Palma
Robert De Niro stars in Brian De Palma's anti-war satire about three friends trying to avoid the Vietnam War draft.