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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.
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.
Period drama 1971 94 mins Director: Walerian Borowczyk
Borowczyk's visually stunning historical drama, which presents the story of a young woman's hypnotic beauty in the style of a moving medieval fresco.
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
Comedy 2015 86 mins Director: Desiree Akhavan
Desiree Akhavan directs and stars in this witty, razor-sharp and fearless comedy following the sexual misadventures of a bisexual Brooklynite.
Drama 2013 108 mins Director: Diego Quemada
Diego Quemada-Diez’s astounding debut feature follows four Guatemalan teenagers as they attempt to escape from the slums of Guatemala City to the bright lights of Los Angeles.
Drama 1987 140 mins Director: James Ivory
Merchant Ivory’s landmark adaptation of E M Forster’s classic LGBTQ+ novel and a precursor to the James Ivory-scripted Call Me By Your Name, starring Hugh Grant, James Wilby and Rupert Graves.
Drama 1950 96 mins Director: Jean Cocteau
Magical retelling of the Orpheus myth by poet, playwright, artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau.
Drama 1975 71 mins Director: Miklós Jancsó
Miklós Jancsó's beautifully shot, intricately choreographed reworking of the ancient Greek myth is a searing exposé of oppression and the abuse of power.
Documentary 2018 96 mins Director: Ashley Joiner
Celebratory yet reflective documentary charting the LGBTQ+ movement's momentous journey towards equality.