For starters you could pick-up the Warner Bros. Alfred Hitchcock Signature Collection and the Universal Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection, thats if you do not already own them. Or you could use the AFI top 100 movies list as a starting point and work from there.
I don't think you're necessarily obligated to own certain films on DVD simply because you're a film student. You should own what you like.... if you aren't sure what that is, rent first. Get yourself a Netflix membership and go crazy.
Now, having said that, the following titles are absolute essentials in my collection:
Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious Casablanca To Kill a Mockingbird Double Indemnity Walt Disney's Fantasia Walt Disney's Bambi Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai The Third Man Citizen Kane (already mentioned) Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey The Bride of Frankenstein
I went to film school.. some of my favorites that aren't necessarily the typical "film student" viewing:
-Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, Curtiz/Keighley) -Apocalypse Now (see the original version before you see the "Redux") -Bringing Up Baby (Hawks) -Caligula (perhaps the worst movie ever made, I used to watch it whenever I felt bad about my own stuff, watching this would cheer me up because I couldn't make something this bad if I tried) -City Lights (Chaplin) -Don't Look Back (Pennebaker) -Duck Soup (Marx Bros/McCarey) -Gimme Shelter (Maysles Brothers) -The Gold Rush (Chaplin) -The Great Dictator (Chaplin) -It Happened One Night (Capra) -King Kong (1933 version) -Last Temptation of Christ (Scorsese) -The Last Waltz (Scorsese) -Lawrence Of Arabia (Lean) -The Limey (Soderbergh) -Lost Horizon (Capra) -The Maltese Falcon (Huston) -Metropolis (Lang; make sure you get the "restored authorized edition" by Kino) -Modern Times (Chaplin) -A Night at the Opera (Marx Bros/Wood) -The Philadelphia Story (Cukor) -Primer (Carruth; this came out when I was in film school and I really liked it) -Rashomon (Kurosawa) -Red Beard (Kurosawa) -Singin' in the Rain (Donen/Kelly) -Sunrise (Murnau) -Sunset Boulevard (Wilder) -Touch of Evil (Welles) -Wings of Desire (Wenders)
It kinda goes without saying that you should check out all of Stanley Kubrick's films as well.
All of Francis Coppola's 1970's work All of Wong Kar Wai's films Anything from the French New Wave (ie Breathless, Jule et Jim) Anything by Ingmar Bergman (Wild Strawberries and Persona are my favs) Anything by Akira Kurosawa (Ikiru, Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood probably being the most significant)
Probably would be good to also be familiar with some of John Ford (ie The Searchers, How Green Was My Valley), Hitchcock (ie Psycho, Rear Window), Murnau (ie Sunrise, Nosferatu) and Lang (ie Metropolis), Leone (ie The Good The Bad And The Ugly, Fistfull of Dollars), Chaplin (ie The Great Dictator, City Lights). The more 1970's material you can see, the better, ie all of Lucas', Scorsese's, Freidkin's, Coppola's early stuff, plus Easy Rider, Harold and Maud, Shampoo, Five Easy Pieces, etc.
Thats probably a good start. If you are ever curious about classic films just look up some AFI Top 100 list. Those type of lists however usually don't account for for foreign films, which are almost always better than anything produced in american with the one exception of the 1970's.
I would strongly dispute that statement. There are great foreign language films, and great English language films. Nor is the 70s the be all and end all of American films. Yes, many great films, but every other decade has plenty of great films also.
From a director point of view, I'd be familiar with at least some work by each of the following, along with a recommended classic:
Alfred Hitchcock (Rear Window) Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal) Billy Wilder (The Apartment) Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon) Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad & the Ugly) Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) Federico Fellini (8 1/2) Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) Jacques Tati (M. Hulot's Holiday) Stanley Kubrick (Dr. Strangelove) Fritz Lang (M) Roman Polanski (Chinatown) Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolique) Charlie Chaplin (The Gold Rush) Roberto Rossellini (Open City) Steven Spielberg (Jaws) Werner Herzog (Aguirre: The Wrath of God) Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein) Jiri Menzel (Closely Watched Trains) Leo McCarey (Duck Soup) Jules Dassin (Rififi) Frank Capra (It Happened One Night) Sergei Eisenstein (Alexander Nevsky) John Huston (The African Queen) Luis Bunuel (The Exterminating Angel) Howard Hawks (The Big Sleep) Woody Allen (Zelig) Preston Sturges (Sullivan's Travels)
Hell, that list leaves out so much, but still the key thing, IMO, is to see a wide variety, keep an open mind, and do not fall into the elitist trap that a film can't be good if it's a big blockbuster, or it must be great just because it's artsy-fartsy with subtitles.
Go through the AFI list and the Sight and Sound list (extensive threads for each are on this forum). Those'll give you exposure to many filmmaking ideas and help you find your own direction. And, I can't stress this enough- watch old movies. Many film people are over 50, simply because of the nature of the industry, and they definitely appreciate when newbies actually know a thing or two about the classics. It also deepens your appreciation of new films. As far as new stuff that's worth investigating from a filmmaking point of view, I recommend Terrence Malick (structure), every Scorsese film (editing), Peckinpah (also editing), the last 2 Tony Scott films (creativity, organic aesthetics), Michael Bay (composition, sustained rhythm), the "Mexican" new wave (Meirelles, Inarritu, Cauron), and in my opinion most importantly, films approaching the concept of Pure Cinema- 2001, Thin Red Line, Passion of the Christ, and, by the looks of it, Apocalypto. I feel that Pure Cinema is the ultimate realization of the cinematic form. Of course, none of this new stuff is anywhere near as important as watching the old stuff- Welles, Fellini, Hitchcock, Lang, Kurosawa, Griffith, Chaplin. Learn the rules, then break them. Go get the new Seven Samurai dvd!
what films have you seen, what films do you like and from analyzing yourself what do you think you are least familiar with in film history out of the following eras of american film.
early silent shorts
silent feature comedies
silent feature dramas
classic pre WWII hollywood (sound films)
post WWII hollywood until the end of the production code and industry wide studio restructuring in the 50s and 60s
50s-60s until Star Wars, Jaws, Exorcist, Godfather reignited the failing film industry
post Star Wars until Lord of the Rings blockbuster era (includes indy upswing in the 90s)
current film popular and independent and documentary
let us know what you know about these american eras and I'll work up some recommendations. If you want I can also do foreign film recommendations. I just graduated from USC film school so I've a fair idea of what sort of films you'll be expected to watch or know.
Are you actually in film school now, or planning on it? Either way, when you're in class the professors there will expose you to a great deal of classic films as well as talk you through their context and what makes them great. That's what's important: the actual class discussions with your fellow students and professors that will deepen your understanding and appreciation of great films.
It wasn't until film school that I was exposed to films such as "The Bicycle Thief" and "Rules of the Game", which I thought were interesting, but the class discussion really widened my eyes and cemented an understanding of why they are great.
The AFI Top 100 and BFI Sight and Sound lists are great places to start. If you don't have the money, don't purchase a bunch of stuff yet. If you don't know what you like, don't purchase a bunch of stuff yet.
Get a few good film books, and then sit down and watch as much as possible. You'll hear a lot about different films in your classes, which i assume mean a weekly screening if its anything ilke the few film classes I took in college.
I didn't understand some of my favorite films until someone told me that I should watch them or i read that i should. After a few viewings, I fell in love with Vertigo, Seven Samurai, Lawrence of Arabia, and The Third Man.
This may sound like a useless cliché, but: "Everything". There's insight to be found even in dreadful films, even if it's only a long list of devices and techniques to avoid. Watch everything you can, and learn from it all.
I always get a chuckle out of people speaking of "foreign films" as if they all came from the same magical place. Sorta like "world music"
There's a couple hundred countries in the world, most of which are home to several different cultures, which in turn are host to endless sub-cultures, so it's a little odd to have everything outside the USA lumped into one big uniform category.
Ever stop to consider the possibility that maybe "foreign films" are perceived as being superior to the Hollywood mainstream because only the best of the best are hyped beyond the film's country of origin? There's just as much crap to be found in European cinema, and in Asian cinema, and ESPECIALLY in the burgeoning Latin American cinema world. You just don't hear about it
moreso than just picking movies to watch....choose dvds with tons of commentaries and extra features...this will help you percieve and understand things better.
I would grab both of Scorcese's documentaries on cinema...A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies, and My Voyage to Italy. It's like cliff notes really. After watching that, and getting an appreciation for whats out there choose some of those titles that intrigued you.
I also really like the documentary on editing on disc 2 of the Bullit Special Edition.
I think the Classical Hollywood cinema (~1930 - ~1960) wins for having the highest average quailty of any cinema industry. But in the contemporary setting, if you are interested in seeing innovative use of the film medium, then you have to look to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, some South Korea, or the middle East, especially the Iranian new wave.