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What ho? An alien wants to see some movies?
Well, I think we can avoid showing him Predator, Alien, Aliensand John Carpenter's The Thing, lest we scare him off, and perhaps go straight to the nice, deeper movies about humanity's place in the universe and their relations with life outside their world with the wonderful Close Encounters of the Third King, or E.T. Wall-E, too. Or Contact, as much as people deride it. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Show him Sunshine, but turn it off at the third act - it goes off the rails. If the little alien liked Wall-E, show him Silent Running, one of the most influential sci-fi films of the 70s.
Perhaps he wants a film about mankind. Maybe about their unfailing ability to turn upon one another for gold or money, like Treasure of the Sierra Madre, There Will Be Blood, Black Narcissus or perhaps if he has some 4 hours to spare, he could watch Von Stroheim's silent masterpiece Greed? A lot of people dismiss silent films, but I'm sure our new alien friend would enjoy the visual imagery and find the themes universal and easy to understand. Who knows? Maybe he'll like the silent comedy of Keaton, or Chaplin. Sherlock Jr would be my personal recommendation from Keaton. If he wants a feature, try The General, featuring some of the greatest train stunts in all of cinema (if he likes trains, how about The First Great Train Robbery, Emperor of the North Pole, Runaway Train, or the great The Train, by Frankenheimer?) Back to comedy, City Lights by Chaplin, or The Gold Rush but there's so many wonderful shorts, like The Immigrant, or Keaton's One Week, I'm sure our alien friend will be in his element with silent comedy, and since they're in the public domain, are all over YouTube and Google. One Week is a must for those who have ever dwelled in the hallowed bowels of an Ikea store.
War? I suppose it's inevitable and a big part of what makes us human. There's the early films, like All Quiet on the Western Front, or Wings, as melodramatic as it is. Saving Private Ryan is a fine starting point for World War 2, sure, but there are other films that are less often thought of - like Samuel Fuller's The Big Red One, providing it's the restored edition that is, or The Thin Red Line. Full Metal Jacket or Apocalypse Now for the Vietnam conflict. The Deer Hunter too, which deals more with the struggle of reintegration of a returning war veteran. To jump back to World War One, Paths of Glory, by Stanley Kubrick. I'd be foolhardy not to mention the powerful Grave of the Fireflies, depicting a teenager and his sister's struggle to survive in Japan towards the end of the Second World War, and would be a fine introduction to the unique stylings of anime, but we'll save anime as a whole until later. Das Boot if you want the German side of war in a U-boat. I'd also throw in The Enemy Below - lighter, but a fascinating film as a chess battle is played between the captains of a destroyer and U-boat, and is one of the first "Good German" pictures made. For two other films from the German side, there's Stalingrad, or my personal pick: Cross of Iron, by Sam Peckinpah - it's opening is a masterclass in juxtaposition editing, and is a picture that depicts the senseless slaughter of war from its very first frame.
Maybe after all that war he'd like to be entertained. Goldfinger being Bond's greatest, most exciting adventure, albeit From Russia with Love being the best of the Bonds. First Blood is a bit violent, but still a highly entertaining psychological action movie. First Blood Part 2 is yet more violent still, but a cartoon of an action film that's still enjoyable. For sheer joy, try The Sting. A beautiful, fun and funny film - represents the greatest of escapist cinema. Well, minus The Great Escape, or The Magnificent Seven, which has some immensely quotable dialogue for your alien friend to recite. For another fun western, and one that matches The Sting would be Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - same director and cast. North by Northwest - the proto-Bond film with the world's greatest action shot involving a chase with a bi-plane - it's long, but it's a joy from start 'til finish. Die Hard, being the best action movie ever made, would be a fine choice. The sequels decline in quality, but are no less enjoyable. I'd be remiss if I did not mention one of the greatest directors, not only working today, but of all time; Guiellermo Del Toro, director of the magnificent Spanish Pan's Labyrinth. It is a testament to his skill that he can go from directing that picture and go straight to Hellboy II: The Golden Army - a film I'd rush in to save if it were in a burning building. I'd recommend it for your alien - it's a lot of fun, and maybe he can identify with the main character's struggle with being an outsider in a human world.
Next up; social dramas. Sidney Lumet films rule the roost here - Dog Day Afternoon is his best work, but then there's Serpico and 12 Angry Men. Network is a must-watch, especially considering television today. Maybe sneak in The Truman Show as a double-feature with Network - the uplifting ending of Truman should raise the alien's spirits. For a triple feature The King of Comedy - a trifecta of celebrity/television culture. Other social dramas from different periods; On the Waterfront for American dockworkers, The Bicycle Thieves for post-war Italian poverty (the scene at the pawn shop is saddening, and it gets sadder from there), Do the Right Thing is great for a look at race relations in the blaze of a New York heatwave. Glengarry Glen Ross is a joy not only to watch, but to listen to - Mamet is the world's greatest dialogue writer. Seek out the rest of his stuff. Your alien friend would be amazed at the mastery of language. I'd throw in The Conversation, and as a double-bill, The Lives of Others. Mean Streets fits in nicely with Serpico, in terms of period and mood, same with The French Connection - I'd also throw out Coonskin by Ralph Bakshi, a film nobody in the world talks about, but will stick with you - mostly due to its unique animation, editing, and examination of race.
Not all of those films are happy, uplifting films, so how about a little romantic escape for our visiting friend. There's quite a lot to choose from, but I'd select some of the more modern, or maybe post-modern, films which explores romance, some from a modern male perspective - Lost in Translation is beautiful, if you ignore any trailers for it that pretend its a straight comedy. Punch Drunk Love is my personal pick - Adam Sandler's best (only?) acting role, and ties in nicely to watch back-to-back with Translation. Groundhog Day is a more straight-lace Bill Murray comedy if you'd prefer, but it's a great film, and is universally popular among both genders. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and (500) Days of Summer work as a great double feature, and despite sadness, finds deeper happiness by their conclusion. Brazil is more of a science fiction film, but Sam Lowrey's dreams of flying, escape and finding his unrequited love make it a beautifully romantic film. Cinema Paradiso is another beautiful film about life, love and cinema. It's a weepy. It's Italian, and would make a nice double bill with Malèna, with the beautiful Monica Bellucci for your alien friend to be smitten with. Brief Encounter. Jules et Jim, possibly. It's a tough call if an alien may enjoy it. It's French New Wave - if he does like it, try A Bout De Souffle. It may help seeing some Bogart noir films first, so Maltese Falcon, or The Big Sleep. Noir is one of the world's best genres, and it's full of rich films - Touch of Evil, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, The Killing... Night of the Hunter is beyond amazing - it's so creepy it gets under your skin and refuses to leave.
Post-modern films? Aside from some of the ones mentioned above in the romance section, Memento is a fine choice, dealing with memories and the distorted passage of time as an amnesiac insurance investigator looks for the man who killed his wife. Inception is worth a watch if you want a Nolan double feature. Donnie Darko and Brick go together quite nicely. Fight Club is one I need not mention - it's the go-to film that appears in any forum asking for movies. 12 Monkeys is a nice mind-bending sci-fi film that goes well with Brazil - influenced a lot by Hitchcock's Vertigo, a must-see film that is the highlight of his career - Rear Window, Psycho, 39 Steps, Notorious, Strangers on a Train, Dial M For Murder... The alien may never leave a TV screen for the rest of his life just for Hitchcock films. Talking of Hitchcock, an under admired director in America, but adored in Europe is Brian de Palma - Blow-Out is possibly his best work. Snake Eyes may be the weakest picture of this entire post, but is a fine tribute to Hitchcock's Rope and tropes. The Untouchables would have your alien friend standing on his seat and cheering the screen. Plus it's written by Mamet, so a lot of great scenes and dialogue to be had.
Now to keep the British end up, I'll mention a few pictures from our little island. I've already mentioned Hitchcock, but he made a slew of pictures before moving to the US, like The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage and The Lady Vanishes, so don't forget those. If you want a double-bill with Lady, watch Night Train to Munich. It's a fine bridge to get your alien friend into Carol Reed's films. Odd Man Out is a fantastically dark "Irish-noir" (and I'm told it features in LA Noire), and is best followed up with The Fallen Idol. Reed also directed Oliver!, the musical, but that's a whole other kettle of fish. To jump forward twenty years, to when Michael Caine was the king of cool, there's Zulu, a rousing war picture based on the impossible victory at Rorke's Drift. The Italian Job for a classy British heist film. Avoid it's odeous remake. Alfie. Again, dodge the remake. If there's one thing that Hollywood never fails at, it's turning original Michael Caine movies, like the cool gangster film Get Carter, into garbage like Stallone's remake. To complete the Caine set, The Ipcress File, which is a fine counter-point to the Bond series, even if it has a lot of the same crew and talent behind it. If your alien wants to sample some British comedy, there's the output of Ealing Studios: Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Ladykillers (remake is a no-no), The Man in the White Suit, or the rather wonderful The Lavender Hill Mob, a film which even made it on the Vatican's recommended films list. Aside from Ealing, there were the Carry On films, but since there are too many to list, and not all of them great, I'd go with Carry On Up The Khyber - their best film, both comedically and technically. To slip away from comedy to the other British staple; the gangster film. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch are obvious choices, so I won't dwell on them, but there's The Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa - both with Bob Hoskins giving some of his best acting work, and sadly, both are in talks of being remade at the moment. Le sigh.
Spritied Away, My Neighbour Tortoro, Hal's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo... - Hayao Miyazaki is a master story-teller. Not all of them are as good as one another, but there's not been a Miyazaki not worth watching. Not matter what language your alien speaks, the visuals alone are universal, and each frame is a work of art that could be hung in a gallery. If you want more of an action (but no less imaginative) anime, try Akira, or Ghost in the Shell. Blade Runner isn't anime, but makes a nice cyber-punk double feature with Ghost.
Silence of the Lambs is a menacing horror film, but the crown would probably go to The Exorcist. Providing it's projected on the largest screen, in the dark, and with no distractions, your alien friend may never wish to return to earth again he'll be so scared. The scene in the attic with the candle stick, or simpler scenes, like the close-up of Reagan after the spider-walk, are horrifying. To go from studio-produced horror to the low budget end, try The Witchfinder General for Vincent Price's best role - it's more of a revenge western than a horror, but it's considered the best horror film England ever made, along with The Wicker Man. To squeeze in just one more British (and wildly influential) horror, Don't Look Now. Derided as trash, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a masterpiece, and genuinely is one of the best pictures of all time - it's opening credits are a movie unto themselves. Se7en for an American serial killer police procedural, and Memories of Murder for a South Korean one. If he wants more horror from Korea, give him a taste of The Host - it's deeper than it appears, and is well directed.
If he wants a strange, but wonderful oddity of cinema - Spaghetti Westerns, one of my favourite genres. Sergio Leone, being the world's greatest filmmaker bar none, has Fistful of Dollars (not a great film, but a stepping stone that makes the rest of his films perfect creatures - also a remake of Yojimbo, by Kurosawa), For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and The Ugly that make up the loose "Dollars" trilogy. Your alien would love them. Leone's next picture, Once Upon a time in the West is probably the world's greatest motion picture of all time. If not, it's at the very least, my favourite film of all time. It may require some light screenings of earlier Westerns, as it's a 2 and a half hour love letter to the myth of the west, - John Ford's The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford's best work) or earlier still, with his 1925 silent film The Iron Horse, or Hawk's Rio Bravo. It's the richest film I know, and is one of the only pictures to make me weep, not only for the story, but for its technical achievements. His next picture, Duck, You Sucker, is a little uneven, and the alien won't like it at first, but a second viewing will entice him in, and he'll find it's an amazing critique upon the nature of revolution. It's also an amazing film in its confidence in story telling - the first scene alone is 40 minutes long. Finally, his last film, Once Upon a Time in America may be his best work - it's another film that deserves repeat viewings. It's long at 227 minutes, but is achingly beautiful, and is a film I would happily sacrifice myself for - an epic poem of the American dream, love, friendship, memories, death, loyalty... Your alien will cry his giant eyes out. Other Spaghetti Westerns may include Django, or The Great Silence, a great revenge Western, influential and a lot of fun...minus it's bleak ending. It has a great villainous turn from Klaus Kinski - the man who made some of Herzog's best films - Fitzcarraldo, Aguirre: the Wrath of God, and Nosferatu. The original Nosferatu is worth watching as a great example of German expressionist horror, along with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Other early German must-sees include The Last Laugh (perhaps your alien can ignore its tacked-on ending) and M, maybe the most important German film. The Third Man is a great film that fits nicely with M, and is possibly the best film Britain ever made. If the alien liked it, try Brighton Rock.
To follow on from Leone, perhaps David Lean will excite your alien - Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Great Expectations.... Each film is a joy to watch. Leone and Lean are fine cinematic companions. Talking of cinematic companions, how about double bills? The Shawshank Redemption/The Green Mile for uplifting prison dramas. The Godfather/The Godfather Part II for two of the most finely crafted films in the history of cinema and like Once Upon a Time in America, an exhaustive pastiche and document of the underworld of American enterprise. Rocky/Raging Bull are fine films - one an uplifting tale of a no-name boxer's personal goal to go the distance, the other a sad depiction of a bloated, washed up boxer. I'd also throw in The Set-Up, but that's an optional extra. The Red Shoes/Black Swan are pictures of the mad passions of dance and insanity that go hand in hand. A double bill of photography and an inescapable world of violence would be City of God and Salvador.
I'm sure your alien film has a lot to be getting on with, and, despite not being wholly finished (another 20-30 names, like Citizen Kane, Dr Strangelove, Fargo and Tree of Wooden Clogs), I'll end with a film that must be seen by your alien friend, and everybody else upon this earth - The Battle of Algiers.