RONNY'S TOP 99 ARTHOUSE FILMS
(Posted: 15 January 2012)

IMPORTANT: READ THE FOLLOWING INTRODUCTION TEXT CAREFULLY. WHY? BECAUSE I DIDN'T WANT TO SPLIT THE LIST SO YOU HAVE TO MAKE SURE ALL IMAGES ARE LOADED BEFORE YOU SCROLL DOWN LIKE A PIG!

There are way too many arthouse / surreal / artistic films out there to know where the hell to start. Even if you've watched them for years you can still get lost in the searching. One of the reasons why we started Film Bizarro was to highlight the weird for the masses, and while I think we have done that, we've also gotten wider. That's why I wanted to make this list - to make a list that focuses on only the good of the weird. I decided to call it my "Favorite Arthouse Films" because I think "Arthouse" is a word that sums it up perfectly even though the origins of the word might not apply to 100%.

I've tried to write a good but short description for each film - it's just too much work to write a full review for each of these so bare with me. There are some fascinating films in this list and sometimes words just doesn't do it, at least not with my limited vocabulary, so don't judge them solely on what I have to say. If you find a film of interest: watch it!

I decided to only include 3 movies from the same director, otherwise some directors would take up too much space. This list consists of films that are my favorites, I'm not claiming they are the best. Simply being weird doesn't do it!! When I decided to make this list I took it upon myself to watch a few films I have missed out on - LOTS and LOTS of films didn't make it, but some of them did. This of course means that in 6 months maybe the list would've looked slightly different, as I watch movies all the time. This documents the time when it was made, and I assure you that's good enough!

I present to you my 99 (why 99? Because I can't think of anything specific that is great about that number, until now!) favorite arthouse films in the actual correct order!


#99. THE CREMASTER CYCLE 
 
 

1995 - 2002 (All parts)
Director: Matthew Barney

This is probably the only black sheep in my list as the only films I don't like. I don't really enjoy the "Cremaster" films, I think they are (to quote Preston) "textbook definition of pretentious" and not nearly as amazing as they are hailed. See if you can find a DVD (and I don't mean the cut version of the third part), and if you do, does it sound like a fair price? However, the films are something you should have seen if you are into art films. They're pretty to look at, basicly. The creativity managed to put this on my list, and the big scaled use of the set pieces. Remember, the list isn't "Best films", it's "Favorites". These films bore me but as art films I think they deserves to be on here.

 
#98. MARIA-CONCEPTION-ACTION
 
 

1969
Director: Hermann Nitsch

I'm not a huge fan of the Vienna Actionism movement. But some of the artists, like Rudolf Schwarzkogler, have managed to create some visually interesting performances. But the one performance that has always stuck with me is one by Hermann Nitsch. The best way to describe "Maria-Conception-Action" is sex and slaughter. Doesn't matter if what's done is "right" or not, I can't deny that this performance has fascinated me.

 
#97. SEDMIKRÁSKY (Daisies)

 

1966
Director: Vera Chytilová

This didn't make much sense to me. I don't get it. I don't even know if I like it. This film is for the true "art fags" (I'm partially part of that group) who finds interest in Dadaism and females ventures into new wave movements. Two girls go on a spoiled journey because if the world is spoiled then they can be too! It's funny yet you can't deny it its art. A psychadelic trip comedy from Czechoslovakia. Definitely not for everyone.

 
#96. BLACK NIGHT (Nuit noire)

 

2005
Director: Olivier Smolders

It's fine to not always know what the hell you are watching. Olivier Smolders' feature film is the proof. It's very Kafkaesque (which I'm sure is the main influence to begin with) and it focuses mainly on symbolism. Bugs and beatles are fascinating creatures and this movie highlights them with thought behind it. Do I have any idea what was suppose to be said? Not really, but I don't care! I'm sure another watch or two is needed for that. A bizarre nightmare that is just waiting to be dreamt!

 
#95. VASE DE NOCES (One Man and His Pig / The Pig Fucking Movie / Wedding Trough)

 

1975
Director: Thierry Zéno

I was against the release on DVD of this because the dirt and filth within this film needs to be experienced on a poor, gritty VHS bootleg. That's just how it is - that's how I watched it the first handful of times. But the DVD did help you make out what some things were, and DVD releases always help films to survive longer. The bootleg title of his film, "The Pig Fucking Movie", is exactly the reason why people know what it is, and the title rings very true. But it's not simply a story about fucking a pig, but one of loneliness, which means that it's not nearly as shocking as it could be but instead compelling in its characteristics.

 
#94. THUNDERCRACK!

 

1975
Director: Curt McDowell

Imagine a 50's horror movie in a Gothic mansion, then unload some of the horror and atmosphere, replace it with pornography and goofiness, then add every strange sexuality you can imagine. And a huge ape. This is just messed up in so many ways. I can almost guarantee that you haven't seen anything like this before. If you have then I wonder what the hell you have been watching, and where can I find it?

 
#93. NIGHTDREAMS

 

1981
Director: Francis Delia

My favorite porno. It's, to put it mildly, crazy! We have people dressed up as cereal boxes and sandwiches fucking, cowboy lesbians, Jack-in-the-box sex, the Devil making an appearance, and much more! All thrown in with the plot of doctors performing experiments on a woman to give her erotic dreams. You can't help but love a porno that manages to fuck you in the head as well. Yes, it's silly, but who cares? And I have to be honest, I think the cowboy lesbian scene is pretty damn hot! But be warn: That's probably the only hot scene. You don't need to watch this for a wank.

 
#92. JUNGFRAU AM ABGRUND (Mondo Weirdo / Virgin on the Edge)

 

1990
Director: Carl Andersen

Dirt and perversion can be art too. This film is a depressing trip into a young girl's sexuality. It's not pretty to look at, it's probably the opposite. Especially when it's only available in really bad quality in the deeper layers of the internet. Yes, illegal ways. But that's besides the point. Graphic and disgusting, but also absurdly appealing to my fascination of the bizarre.

 
#91. DANDY DUST

 

1998
Director: A. Hans Scheirl

Insane, ridiculous, amazing, disgusting, entertaining, surreal, messy, repulsive, silly, hyperactive, ugly, pretty, bizarre, obscene, absurd, unbelievable, experimental, abstract, pornographic, lesbian, low-budget, art, trash. These are just some of the words that describe this. The craziest movie I have ever seen. It's absolutely ridiculous, but I can't help but admire it.

 
#90. THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari)

 

1920
Director: Robert Wiene

When I think of expressionism, I think of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". The movie that I think is the reason to why Tim Burton does what he does today. It's not a great story, though entertaining, but the style is so remarkable that it holds itself up simply by being "expressionism on film". Aside from the style, it has a fever-dream touch to it that makes it a memorable movie, whether you cared for the story or not. It's an important part of art history and more importantly film history.

 
#89. SCHRAMM

 

1994
Director: Jörg Buttgereit

Okay, "Schramm" is a little strange for a serial killer film. It's not as straight-forward and realistic as "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer". But that's part of the charm here! It's not chronological and not very emotionally investing, but Jörg Buttgereit finds a way to make it just sleazy and weird enough to interest me. Yet again Buttgereit mixes disgusting trash with art and gets something of worth out of it.

 
#88. SZAMANKA (Chamanka)

 

1996
Director: Andrzej Zulawski

Few people manage to create as insane characters as Zulawski, and "Szamanka" is no different. It might not be his most crazy characters to date but I think it's one of the films to highlight that specific subject the most. It's most easily described as a film about obsession but that wouldn't nearly cover it all. You'd need to watch it.

 
#87. LATE BLOOMER (Osoi Hito)

 

2004
Director: Go Shibata

Who would've thought that a film about a serial killer suffering with cerebral palsy would fit perfectly on a list of artistic films? The film would belong because of the murder sequences alone but that's just part of what seperates this film from usual serial killer films. I honestly believe that such a film could only be made in Japan.

 
#86. ETT HÅL I MITT HJÄRTA (A Hole in My Heart)

 

2004
Director: Lukas Moodysson

Who knew that the very popular (and rightfully so) director of such films as "Tillsammans" and "Fucking Åmål" would make one of the most disgusting films in Swedish history? "Ett Hål I Mitt Hjärta" is set in a tiny, everyday-apartment, where a father is filming a porno with his friend and a woman, while his son is home. A very strange movie, and pretty silly at times, but I was surprised by how much enjoyed it. Gross and pretty straight-forward, and ultimately a challenge to the audience. Not as solid as some of his earlier works, but definitely worth checking out.

 
#85. SUBCONSCIOUS CRUELTY

 

2000
Director: Karim Hussain

This was one of my earliest ventures into truly bizarre art films and it will remain close to heart because of it. It is quite brilliant in its creativity, even though it's sometimes very disturbing. What sort of things am I talking about? Two examples describes it pretty well: Women that are pissing on Jesus while eating him, and the brother who cuts the throat of his sister's baby as it's coming out of her. It's a fairly pretentious and sometimes silly film, and I don't know if I would praise it as much if I saw it for the first time now but I can't deny how unique it is and how it changed my interest into the more disturbing art.

 
#84. THE EXTERMINATING ANGELS (Les anges exterminateurs)

 

2006
Director: Jean-Claude Brisseau

An extremely erotic drama movie giving us lots of juicy scenes of woman-on-woman. I'd lie if I said that isn't a strong point for the movie, but the story is actually not too shabby either! It's about a director wanting to break some boundaries by filming women living out their own fantasies. The more women he brings into it, the bigger of a mess it becomes when people fall for each other. Voyeuristic and sexy, and it might not deliver more than an alright story and great erotica. But that's enough. Sometimes you just want to watch some classy and artsy lesbian sex scenes! Hey, that's art too!

 
#83. GO, GO, SECOND TIME VIRGIN (Yuke yuke nidome no shojo)

 

1969
Director: Kôji Wakamatsu

A story about a young girl's second rape where she is left on a rooftop. She meets another young, miserable man and together they build a rage that ends up in a killing spree. In typical Wakamatsu fashion the movie has a bleak ending that somehow feels like the perfect ending for our story. This early rape/revenge film is a fine addition to Japanese pinku-genre, but at the same time it belongs in the arthouse/experimental/underground category. Simply stunning, gorgeous film through-and-through. Once you go Wakamatsu, you never go back!

 
#82. L'ANGE (The Angel)

 

1983
Director: Patrick Bokanowski

"L'ange" is one of those films that makes the term "moving pictures" really ring true. In this case I'd say it's even "moving paintings". Patrick Bokanowski has constructed sets, dressed up people, and experimented with the footage in ways that creates some extraordinary painting-like images. There's no need to ponder the usual "What does it mean?" thoughts, think of this as a series of paintings or poems: If they speak to you on a deeper level, fucking fantastic, but they can still be seen as "shallow" beauty and that's okay too.

 
#81. ADORATION

 

1996
Director: Olivier Smolders

Without really taking a side of the events, the film shows us a man who kills and eats a woman, and finally commits suicide. It's done handheld, and it's a lot more tasteful than the description makes it out to be. But it is still raw. Olivier Smolders is far from an explotation director so the material does come out on the other side as art.

 
#80. ANATOMY OF HELL (Anatomie de l'enfer)

 

2004
Director: Catherine Breillat

A movie about a woman's desires to be watched by a gay man when she's "unwatchable". Dialog-heavy it is, but people remember the movie for being erotic, nasty and shocking in it's graphic details. A great exploration of sexuality that doesn't appeal to everyone (check the IMDb rating!)

 
#79. CRIMEWAVE (The XYZ Murders)

 

1985
Director: Sam Raimi

My favorite of the Coen brother's work (writers on this) and one of my favorites of Sam Raimi is a very twisted cartoon-like comedy that is so over-the-top and silly that it'll keep you hooked on that reason alone. An absolute rollercoaster with a surreal touch making you question if you're in fact actually reading a comic book. A nerd is being chased by hitmen disguised as exterminators, and he tells the unbelievable story from the electric chair to save his life.

 
#78. TEPHRASECT

 

2004
Director: Justin Curfman

Even though I am good friends with Justin Curfman, "Tephrasect" isn't on this list because of it. No, I adored this stop-motion film before I even knew who he was. The reason it is on here is because it is completely fucking crazy and I love it for it. Where else are you gonna see a mother sewing a blanket with cockroaches for her son? Justin Curfman has the gift of doing extremely random, over-the-top things without making them seem forced.

 
#77. VIVA LA MUERTE (Long Live Death)

 

1971
Director: Fernando Arrabal

You'll never forget the scene towards the end where a marching band is playing in a slaughterhouse during the slaughtering of a cow, and when a girl starts crawling around in its blood and carcass. Not a pretty sight. I'm not a huge fan of the Panic movement, but for some reason I always enjoyed Arrabal's films. They seemed different to me. I think "Viva la muerte" and "I'll Walk Like a Crazy Horse" are equally good but this one is a winner for this list. It's hard to go into details about the story, and that's not what the list is for either, but it's about a young boy during the Spanish civil war as he is trying to understand his surroundings. Some amazing scenes, even the opening credits with the bizarre painting and creepy children's song.

 
#76. CLEAN, SHAVEN

 

1993
Director: Lodge Kerrigan

It's always amazing when a film manages to capture a disease or illness so well that the people who actually suffer from it can sit down and say "That's what it's like!". This is one of those cases. It's slow but disturbing story about a man who suffers from schizophrenia. He just came out of the mental hospital and wants to get his daughter back from the adoptive family. The movie has some unsettling moments but it's Peter Greene's acting that makes it such a great portrayal.

 
#75. VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS (Valerie a týden divu)

 

1970
Director: Jaromil Jires

An "Alice in Wonderland"-inspired fairytale about Valerie's step into adulthood after her first menstruation. It throws her into a dream where she has to face adult things, or rather representations of adult things in shape of vampires, religion, sex and death. A very interesting coming-of-age story for our more mature readers.

 
#74. SINGAPORE SLING (Singapore sling: O anthropos pou agapise ena ptoma)

 

1990
Director: Nikos Nikolaidis

A demented ride into a deranged mother-daughter relationship and the man they kidnap. Sick and disturbing, yes, but what a joy! With a noir-ish style and enough bizarrities to go around, this unique adult/thriller/comedy/fetish film will call out to the most wicked of us.

 
#73. VISITOR TO A MUSEUM (Posetitel muzeya)

 

1989
Director: Konstantin Lopushansky

The world's population consists mostly of degenerates after a terrible catastrophe. In this run-down world, a man wants to visit an infamous museum. A lot of people have lost their lives trying to reach it, but with perfect planning it's possible. A very "Stalker"-esque story that is both gripping and stylistically engaging, whatever you think of the end part in all its spirituality.

 
#72. PHILOSOPHY OF A KNIFE

 

2008
Director: Andrey Iskanov

"Nails" and "Visions of Suffering" in all honor, with "Philosophy of a Knife" Iskanov become something very unique. He went from simply being a creative filmmaker making surreal movies to making a mix of his intense style and historic terrors in a 4 hour epic. When a filmmaker can make something like that work, and can have me interested in one sitting, it's a piece of art worth supporting. The effects are borderline-silly but to me it just adds to making this real story completely bizarre, and almost more frightening.

 
#71. DANS MA PEAU (In My Skin)

 

2002
Director: Marina de Van

David Cronenberg probably perfected the body horror subgenre with his filmography, but managed to put a female perspective on the idea. And instead of being a full-blown horror, she made a body horror drama. The story of a woman who falls victim of an obsession of eating herself. It's a great little movie with some big ideas behind it, inspired by female's position in the world, but works just as well as an obscene drama if all you can see if a girl eating herself. That it's done very realisticly is a great advantage for the film. In reality a little goes a long way.

 
#70. A ZED & TWO NOUGHTS (ZOO)

 

1986
Director: Peter Greenaway

I'm a stranger to Peter Greenaway but that didn't keep me from enjoying this one. It's strange how a film can make you so obsessed with symmetry for about 2 hours. The story itself is about, well, decomposing. The movie is so much more than the story - you'll be looking for symmetry in every shot, and you're likely to find it. I've rarely felt so occupied with details like I did with this one, and after talking to Preston about it he said something that really is true: after having seen "A Zed & Two Noughts" whenever someone says a film they watched is detailed we both think that it probably doesn't have this one beaten. My mind didn't rest for a second and that's fascinating to me.

 
#69. KITCHEN SINK

 

1989
Director: Alison Maclean

The bizarre story of a woman who finds hair in her kitchen sink. She starts pulling it and what comes out is a fetus. And the fetus grows. Very surreal and reminiscent of "L'ange et la femme". It's almost a shame that the director went on to direct lots of television as she clearly has/had an eye for the artistic.

 
#68. ASS

 

2001
Director: Usama Alshaibi

Probably the most simple film on this list is "Ass". It consists of a woman pleasuring herself and the camera cuts back and forth from a front view and a rear view. That's all there is to it but it had me like hypnotized. I don't know if I should categorize it as pornography but art it most definitely counts as. Don't watch it if you have epilepsy!

 
#67. LE NÉCROPHILE

 

2004
Director: Philippe Barassat

When people think about films with necrophilia, they think "Nekromantik". This is far from that. "Le Nécrophile" is quite the hidden gem in the arthouse world. A drama for most part, but mixing that with the excellent style of expressionism and a plot necrophilia, then you have a pretty messed up yet beautiful little film.

 
#66. MÉCANIX

 

2003
Director: Rémy M. Larochelle

No matter what meaning you find in this movie it will yet again be those god damn visuals that get to you. This is a really surreal stop-motion film with some grade-A bizarre creatures, and each creature is more creepy than the last. A well-recommended stop-motion nightmare that you shouldn't show to your kids!

 
#65. VIY

 

1967
Director: Georgi Kropachyov & Konstantin Yershov

This could be the only classic Russian horror film I have seen, but what a film! It's about a young priest and the three nights he has to spend in a church to "preside over the wake of a witch" (to quote IMDb, my Swedish didn't manage to make a good sentence out of it). He is visited by corpses, demons, goblins and ghouls, and he has to protect himself with his faith. Not much in terms of a plot in this movie, but this is a twisted folk story horror with Harryhausen-esque monsters. Very impressive effects and just a good twisted horror. Pretty trippy film!

 
#64. VIRIDIANA

 

1961
Director: Luis Buñuel

Often mentioned as Buñuel's cinematic attack on religion, which is true (the excellent "The Last Supper" scene is all you need to grasp that), but it's not just a film made to provoke. It's a story of a naive young nun who is visiting her uncle because Mother Superior told her to. The uncle dies and Viridiana lets homeless people live in his mansion. That's where the movie really kicks it up a notch. It has its funny moments but it's above all a jarring story of Viridiana's meeting with the real world.

 
#63. POSSESSION

 

1981
Director: Andrzej Zulawski

Zulawski's most popular movie is very similar to some of his other work in that it is about completely fucked up characters. You don't need to understand surrealism and that's good because "Possession" is a mind-fuck even if you follow the plot carefully. It's a trip to hell but never back and that's the only way this film could work. Far from an unknown movie but still somehow overlooked. Probably a good way to enter Zulawski's filmography, too.

 
#62. THE AMERICAN ASTRONAUT

 

2001
Director: Cory McAbee

Sci-fi isn't my area of expertise, but when a movie blends genres like this one: sci-fi, comedy, musical, western and art. Then sign me up! This movie delivers on most aspects as the jokes are funny, the musical numbers are great and the visuals are quite stunning. It's hard not to fall for this movie and I can't wait to see what else this director has in store for us. This is one of those films that anyone could enjoy, no matter what you look for in a film.

 
#61. I NEVER LEFT THE WHITE ROOM

 

2007
Director: Michael Todd Schneider

Low-budget, filthy and completely fucked up. "I Never Left the White Room" started as a film school project and became a solid start for filmmaker Michael Todd Schneider. A surreal dose of rape, death, demons and insanity. An important film to me because it made me realize I too could attempt creating surreal/artsy films even though I didn't have a budget or much support. It's not great, but psychotic and creative enough to stimulate my mind.

 
#60. SOLARIS (Solyaris)

 

1972
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

You could watch "Solaris" and just watch it as a sci-fi movie, but that wouldn't be respectful to the movie. I did, at first. The longer into it you get, though, the more you see a bigger idea behind it. And the more it alters reality. By the end of the film you realize it's not just a movie about space exploration. And who could possibly make the journey more stimulating than Tarkovsky?

 
#59. ON THE SILVER GLOBE (Na srebrnym globie)

 

1988
Director: Andrzej Zulawski

The film took 10 years to make because they closed down the production on Zulawski, and the state it is in isn't the finished one (and you can tell by some narration, etc. that was added). But in my opinion the first half of this film is one of the most visually impressive achievements in film history. It's up there with the amazing "Stalker" and (even though I'm not a big fan) "2001: A Space Odyssey". Honestly, I love it. The problem with this film is that it sort of steers away from that in the second half, but there is not a doubt an unusual film that belongs on this list. Probably Zulawski's most interesting film.

 
#58. ALICE (Neco z Alenky)

 

1988
Director: Jan Švankmajer

Most films on the "Alice In Wonderland" story are boring. Švankmajer's version is not. It's a surrealist's finest moments. Quite a bizarre film but it's not without having a few silly elements that all add up to making this film a memorable experience, and not just something pretty to look at. Slow, yes, but that's just Švankmajer being Švankmajer.

 
#57. STRANGE CIRCUS (Kimyô na sâkasu)

 

2005
Director: Shion Sono

Shion Sono has came out with some talked-about films, like the recent "Cold Fish", or the 9-10 years older "Suicide Club". Somewhere in the middle we have "Strange Circus". It belongs on this list because of the fine mix of the typically violent Asian thriller mysteries and its artsy ways. Some scenes in particular made this a worthy addition to my list but quite honestly I think it's a great story overall. It's erotic, violent, depraved and avante-garde, which is exactly what we want out of this director. It helps that it's about a writer as I'm usually drawn to stories about artists of any kind.

 
#56. LA JETÉE

 

1962
Director: Chris Marker

Made entirely using only still photographes except for one shot. This is not just a good and romantic post-apocalyptic story of time traveling, but a wonderfully constructed experiment. It's a story that nowadays is everyday stuff, but being from the early 60's it's fantastic to see how well it works. The shots are incredible and the fact that it's made using still photography, the shot that is a moving picture becomes so striking and more important than it otherwise would.

 
#55. SEEKING WELLNESS

 

2010
Director: Daniel Schneidkraut

A first look at this film might make it seem like a pretentious attempt to get away with just making a shock film, but it's not. It actually feels like the ritual it wanted to be. And its most disturbing segment isn't even graphic. Hell, the movie overall isn't very graphic except for a few moments. But that doesn't make it any less disturbing to watch. Daniel Schneidkraut is a very interesting director to look out for in the future. The best anthology in many years, no doubt!

 
#54. 22 MEI (22nd of May)

 

2010
Director: Koen Mortier

Quite possibly the most beautiful movie about a bomb going off. It's about a security guard and the people he wasn't able to save in the explosion as we get to see their final hours. The explosion itself is pure art - so intense. And oddly enough it's fine that the main attraction is that explosion, it's enough and that's what makes this so different from a lot of films.

 
#53. MONSTERS

 

2004
Director: Robert Morgan

I was having a hard time deciding which Robert Morgan films to include on this list, so I settled with two. "Monsters" is without a doubt a favorite by him, but I'm not sure it's his best. The reason "Monsters" gets an advantage is because it's live-action, which I usually prefer. But it's also a very chilling and twisted tale. If I were to have nightmares about creepy figures (my nightmares seem to consist of much more realistic fears nowadays) then I think the freak from this one would definitely pay me a visit. "Monsters" plays with the idea of being a child in an adult world.

 
#52. DRAWING FLIES

 

1996
Director: Matthew Gissing & Malcolm Ingram

Oddly enough a View Askew movie worked it's way into this list. But it's not your typical Kevin Smith stoner comedy, it's a strange drama adventure of a man's quest to find bigfoot. It becomes an obsession. Often marked as a comedy but I can't say it is. Some small bits are, maybe, but the movie is more a surreal drama than anything else. Between the borderline silly plotline (which works great within the movie) and the black and white photography, this was an instant winner upon first watch for me. Possibly the best movie View Askew Productions has ever produced.

 
#51. THE TOURIST

 

2009
Director: Andrey Iskanov

Is it even fair to include this film when you consider the fact that it might not REALLY exist? Director Andrey Iskanov decided to make several movies out of this film, so the scenes will be spread out through titles like "Ingression" instead. But fact remains that the film "The Tourist" that I saw is one of his very best and has some extremely intense scenes. A real nightmare on screen, and even though it was well over 2 hours long it never dragged, even though I'm sure a few minutes could've been cut.

 
#50. THE OTHER AMERICAN DREAM (El otro sueño americano)

 

2004
Director: Enrique Arroyo

All filmed on a stationary camera from the inside of a car yet it manages to show the worst in humans. It's a story of human trafficking and it's a truly horrific short film. The dialogue, especially, feels like a punch in the gut. Another great film that disturbs completely without actually showing anything disturbing.

 
#49. VARGTIMMEN (Hour of the Wolf)

 

1968
Director: Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman's attempt at the horror genre is exactly as odd as you'd imagine it would be. With Max von Sydow in the lead as Johan Borg, we follow him as he faces his nightmares in the hour of the wolf - the hour between night and dawn. The most surreal horror film Sweden has ever produced, and it's a shame that Bergman didn't make more than one horror film in his career as he clearly had a sense for it. Simply haunting.

 
#48. LITTLE OTIK (Otesánek / Greedy Guts)

 

2000
Director: Jan Švankmajer

Švankmajer's adaption of the old Czech folktale about Otesánek, the tree baby. When a couple finds out they can't have kids the husband digs up and shapes the roots of a tree in the form of a baby (a highly disfigured one, I guess) and gives it to his wife. To his surprise she is over the moon with it and starts treating it like a real child. It's good to see a director who can do a folktale right - Švankmajer surely has the creativity, bizarre humour and guts to do it right. A sort of family drama / fantasy / horror film with a healthy dose of surrealism.

 
#47. EX DRUMMER

 

2007
Director: Koen Mortier

A famous writer joins the band of three handicapped men after being asked to do so. The reason he accepts is to manipulate them. Fun plot, but it doesn't do the film justice. It's amazingly thought-out and experimental, for one. Things like having a long biking scene in reverse is one of the more normal experiments the filmmakers attempted within the film, but I think it describes pretty well what sort of experiments they pull. It's a funny but fucked up and trashy music film ending in a violent mess. It's fantastic, and between this and "22 mei", Koen Mortier is a name to look out for.

 
#46. NEKROMANTIK

 

1987
Director: Jörg Buttgereit

The mother of all necrophile movies. I don't need to introduce this one to a single person here. I don't have to write a description that will get you to check it out, since you already have seen it. That's fantastic! So I'm just gonna say that this trashy art film deserves to be on my list and you know why. Thank you for making a part of this list easy to write!

 
#45. JUNGFRUKÄLLAN (The Virgin Spring)

 

1960
Director: Ingmar Bergman

Often mentioned as the original rape/revenge film and while I can't guarantee that it's still easy to see that it broke some barriers and inspired other filmmakers to create films of this kind. "Left House on the Left" is the first movie to mention as it's basicly "Jungfrukällan" remade as exploitation. But "Jungfrukällan" isn't exploitive, it's a harrowing story of young girl being raped and killed and how her father seeks out revenge. Some shots being true testament to what a great filmmaker Ingmar Bergman really was.

 
#44. IN A GLASS CAGE (Tras el cristal)

 

1987
Director: Agustí Villaronga

A Nazi doctor who used to sexually abuse and torture children is now paralyzed after a suicide attempt. A young man who witnessed what this Nazi doctor had done to a boy is now applying to take care of the man. As you can imagine, this is not a feel-good film. There are no signs of hope in this one and it could possibly be one of the darkest films on my list. So, an excellent film for that gloomy Sunday afternoon!

 
#43. THE NOISY REQUIEM (Tsuitô no zawameki)

 

1988
Director: Yoshihiko Matsui

A thought-provoking story about outcasts whose lives have already gone too far beyond repair. A long, slow but almost epic take on social abnormalies. It's equally as thought-provoking in story, as it is in style and how it was created by a true Japanese New Wave director. Forgotten by the masses but I hope that me shedding some light on it will at least give it one or two more fans, that's the least it deserves.

 
#42. THE CEMENT GARDEN

 

1993
Director: Andrew Birkin

The setting of this film is a huge brick-like house in the middle of a big cement garden. Picture it in your head. The setting is a very important part of the movie as it sets the mood and overall tone of the movie. It's a dark drama about a dying mother and her three children. When she finally dies they don't want anyone to find out so they hide her body. But these three kids, not normal from the start, start to lose it more and more. It has some fun moments which comes as a surprise in such a bleak drama that contains some off-beat themes such as incest.

 
#41. FESTEN (The Celebration / The Celebration: Dogme #1)

 

1998
Director: Thomas Vinterberg

The first film to come out of the Danish Dogme movement in the late 90's was "Festen". I won't go over the rules of the Dogme movement here, but "Festen" uses every restriction to its advantage. Dark family secrets are revealed at a huge family gathering. This was the first Dogme film, and also one of the best.

 
#40. BÆNKEN (The Bench / Bänken)

 

2000
Director: Per Fly

We see them every day: the homeless alcoholics that we always try to ignore on the streets. This movie takes a closer look at them, one in particular, and it's spot-on. It's such a well-crafted little film that we quickly forget that the premise not always be that exciting. The acting alone is amazing and makes the movie worth watching. But it's not a feel-good film in any way - take a look at your local homless and imagine what their day is like. That's what this movie is like. It's surprisingly heartfelt, though.

 
#39. EXTASE DE CHAIR BRISÉE (Broken Flesh Ecstasy)

 

2005
Director: Frédérick Maheux & Pierre-Luc Vaillancourt

If you love sleazy 70's exploitation like "I Spit on Your Grave", but also enjoy some fine (albeit dirty) black and white industrial art then this is the film you want. It's a rape/revenge short film with an arthouse twist to it. A very independent film with obvious flaws, yes, but with such a spot-on delivery of each important aspect. Clearly made by pure film enthusiasts.

 
#38. CRIMINAL LOVERS (Les amants criminels)

 

1999
Director: François Ozon

A dark psycho-sexual drama that also works as a sort of fairy-tale, but instead of being sprinkled with fairy dust it's sprayed with kidnappings and man-on-man rape. François Ozon is responsible for lots of movies and I haven't seen many of them yet. But "Criminal Lovers" is proof of what a great filmmaker he is. There's so much more in this film than just exploitation, it's a fairy-tale set in the real world about two teenage criminals who find themselves locked up in an old house with a perverted man.

 
#37. VIDEODROME

 

1983
Director: David Cronenberg

Out of all of Cronenberg's films, I believe this is the only one that belongs here. Not because I don't like the other films - I actually like some of them more than this one. But I'd class them as more standard horror usually, where "Videodrome" is a surrealistic horror experience. "Long live the new flesh!" sums it up perfectly. Cronenberg's body horror has never felt more important, creative and mind-bending than in this film.

 
#36. WINDOW WATER BABY MOVING

 

1962
Director: Stan Brakhage

I don't know how a film only about the birth of a child can be so great, but Brakhage does it again: another achievement in film experiments. A study in both life and film. It's gross and graphic, but also so warm and love-filled. He usually works with silent films, but I think this is the one that made the silence most powerful. Brakhage was a remarkable experimentalist and this personal film might not be his most interesting experiment, but it's one for the history books.

 
#35. INK

 

2009
Director: Jamin Winans

A heartfelt and sad story of love and parenthood disguised as a sci-fi/fantasy film. The cheap looking CGI effects are actually fantastic and fit the film so perfectly that I'm not sure if it was a conscious decision or a very lucky must to have it look this way. I had a hard time not dropping a tear towards the end of the film and that speaks volumes. Well, maybe not since I can get teary eyes in quite a lot of films, but I don't think there are many films on this list that bring them out.

 
#34. DOGTOOTH

 

2009
Director: Giorgos Lanthimos

Three teenagers are living isolated from the outside world. Their parents don't want them to go outside until they've dropped their "dogteeth". This is to protect them from the bad, but it ends up doing more harm then good when one of the girls realize there is an outside world and it's very different from what she is living now. One of my favorites of last year and a solid off-beat drama altogether. It beautifully mixes humorous charm with anxiety and sadness.

 
#33. APAN (The Ape)

 

2009
Director: Jesper Ganslandt

A Swedish drama that goes beyond being just another Swedish drama. We're following a character who wakes up bloody and he has no idea what has happened to him. The character has no idea what will happen next, the lead actor had no idea what would happen next when he filmed it, and we have no idea what will happen next. It's slow and not much actually happens, but I think this is one of the strongest Swedish efforts in many years.

 
#32. MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON

 

1943
Director: Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid

An early movie that is very inspired by an even earlier one - "Un Chien Andalou". Deren and Hammid's "Mashes of the Afternoon" is a prime example of how amazing a piece of pure surrealism can be. Not up there with the excellence that is "Un Chien Andalou" but I think this is one of very, very few films to ever manage to create the same sort of atmosphere as that one did back in the 20's.

 
#31. OROZCO THE EMBALMER (Orozco el embalsamador)

 

2001
Director: Tsurisaki Kiyotaka

Most people go into this documentary to face the ultra-realism. The sight of the dead bodies is a hard one to melt. But it's the embalmer, Orozco, that will make you remember this one. A hard-working embalmer in one of the grittiest places you can imagine. A place where a dead body on the street is part of the everyday. Orozco has embalmed over 50,000 bodies in his career, and it's amazing to study his work and personality through this film.

 
#30. ...AND THEN I HELPED

 

2010
Director: Michael Todd Schneider

Most movies trying to be set in the 70's and look the part become boring homages. "...And Then I Helped" is spawned purely out of the love for the 70's exploitation genre - that it looks the part just came out of that. A regular horror movie in many ways but which manages to show us that horror can be art too. Unlike in most films the gritty 70's look actually makes the movie feel more experimental than the plot might actually be.

 
#29. LETTERS FROM A DEAD MAN (Pisma myortvogo cheloveka / Dead Man's Letters)

 

1986
Director: Konstantin Lopushansky

This isn't the first time Russia makes a depressing post-apocalyptic film. I don't know why they manage to create these bleak, sad films with such astounding style and atmosphere. "Letters From a Dead Man" is, simply put, haunting. It's amazingly beautiful in all its claustrophobic gloom and sadness. Few films have painted up such stunning images of a post-nuclear world. Obviously influenced by his mentor, Andrei Tarkovsky, but Lopushansky manages to do it in his own way.

 
#28. THE CAT WITH HANDS

 

2001
Director: Robert Morgan

A short film of 4 minutes can easily leave your mind seconds after it's finished, but not "The Cat With Hands", the story of a cat who wants to be human. The wonderful stop-motion effects, the details and the overall surrealist style makes these minutes some of the best spent 4 minutes in a movie enthusiasts life. Had it worked if it was longer? Probably not as great, and that's what's so great - Robert Morgan could easily have made something bigger out of it but he decided not to.

 
#27. SÅNGER FRÅN ANDRA VÅNINGEN (Songs From the Second Floor)

 

2000
Director: Roy Andersson

With "Sånger från andra våningen", Roy Andersson presents to us our every day issues. Stuff we wouldn't want to watch a movie about, at all. It's a movie about life but even more the confusions that comes with hit, the sacrifices we have to do for it. What makes this film something different than what you are used to is that it's a modernist film to every degree. It doesn't have a standard narrative structure, every scene is filmed with a stationary camera (there's only one camera movement in the movie!), has really long takes and it's filled with absurdist comedy but at the same time it manages to captivate the audience to no end.

 
#26. VIOLATED ANGELS (Okasareta hakui)

 

1967
Director: Kôji Wakamatsu

"Violated Angels" is the first film by Wakamatsu that I saw and I was instantly hooked. It's as straight-forward as he'll get, but the unapologetic sex and violence makes this a film to remember. Not to mention that Wakamatsu is a master of adding scenes of color in black and white films to make them more powerful, and this film contains the best example of it. I have had a couple of pinku films on this list that I ended up removing because they didn't really fit. "Violated Angels" fits perfectly, without a doubt.

 
#25. THE BUNNY GAME

 

2010
Director: Adam Rehmeier

"The Bunny Game" is something unique. It's a modern extreme film but it doesn't need lots of gore, poop, puke, incest or even baby-rape to be extreme. You know some of the films I am hinting at - "The Bunny Game" has them beat, and it looks better than them doing it too. You'd have to watch "The Bunny Game" to understand that it's more than just extremities for extremities sake. This is up there with Kôji Wakamatsu because it mixes the nasty exploitation genre with arthouse and expermental films flawlessly.

 
#24. PIG

 

1998
Director: Nico B. & Rozz Williams

The final creation from Christian Death frontman Rozz Williams. I don't care about his music, I'm not a fan of it, but this short film is one of the films that have haunted my mind the most. From the unforgettable front cover of the skeleton hanging in a tree to the sadistic story within, this was an instant favorite. There are no other torture films like this one. None as poetic and artistic. If that puts you off then you're better off not watching it.

 
#23. BLOOD OF THE BEASTS (Le sang des bêtes)

 

1949
Director: Georges Franju

"Slaughtering animals is not art!" you say. You're right, but Georges Franju filming it is. I have never been so amazed by documented footage of a slaughterhouse. But this movie is something out of the ordinary. It's a movie everyone should see, whether they want to or not. Show it in schools, even! It's interesting because it makes you realize that these horrible events before us is work to some people. It didn't turn me into a vegetarian, but it did something to me!

 
#22. TOKYO FIST

 

1995
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

It's hard for me to pick between this and "A Snake of June", but at the end of the day I went with the film that entertained me the most. "A Snake of June" is a great erotic film but what makes "Tokyo Fist" so great is its director. Shinya Tsukamoto's trademarks are hard at work here, with several twists in the story, over-the-top effects (that work!) and intense editing.

 
#21. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG (Zivot i smrt porno bande)

 

2009
Director: Mladen Djordjevic

This Serbian mockumentary-styled, snuff-themed drama took me be surprise last year. It's a great depiction of social outcasts as they go out to tour with their sex shows. They all have their reasons of doing it, and it's a fascinating ride that shows us all aspects of living the life they have chosen. Shocking at times, always captivating, and one of the best mockumentaries out there. This is so much more than a lot of people give it credit for, I think.

 
#20. I STAND ALONE (Seul contre tous)

 

1998
Director: Gaspar Noé

Hands down my favorite of Gaspar Noé's features. It's dirty as fuck and with a story of murder and pedophilia. It's rare to care for a man like this in a film, but the story is just so realistic that you can't help but wonder how he will get through it all. No matter what happens to Gaspar Noé in the future, no matter what he creates, I will always admire him for having made this movie. A recommendation is to also check out his short "Carne", which is a prequel to this film.

 
#19. LOOP

 

2007
Director: Pericles Lewnes

"LOOP" is an extremely independent and cheap art film that I absolutely love. I don't know if it will ever see the light of day but it deserves a release. It's a film anyone can relate to and take something useful out of. Even if it's just a pleasant thought, it does more than many of the independent films out there that are screaming for attention. Somewhere, in a quiet room, in the corner, "LOOP" is waiting to be discovered. I wasn't expecting such a powerful movie.

 
#18. DOG STAR MAN

 

1962 - 1964 (All parts)
Director: Stan Brakhage

Stan Brakhage was a great man, and a great film experimentalist. His "Dog Star Man" films are, in my opinion, his masterpieces. Of his nearly 400 titles long filmography (I haven't seen them all, of course) this is a film that most people talk about. It's hard to put a finger on what makes this so special, and whether or not an actual story is to be found I don't know. I do believe he wanted to say something, though. Is it a depiction of a memory? Of a man's life? Of a mind? Of life itself? Certainly there are endless of ways to interpret the film and that speaks volumes of it. Even seen as just a technical achievement it is still a masterpiece.

 
#17. AFTERMATH

 

1994
Director: Nacho Cerdà

Few people will argue when I say that this is the most beautiful fictional autopsy ever made. But the movie is much more than that, it goes into darker areas - such as what happens after you die? Nacho Cerdà put himself on the map with this one as it's an amazing piece of work that most of you already have seen, but should still revisit many times!

 
#16. L'ANGE ET LA FEMME (The Angel and the Woman)

 

1977
Director: Gilles Carle

One of my biggest movie revelations in recent history was finding this amazing arthouse rarity about an angel bringing a woman back to life. Beauty is the keyword in this film: the woman has lost her memory, and the angel wants to keep her away from everything bad and only focus on beauty. The movie is visually fantastic and if any movie deserves a DVD release, this is it.

 
#15. CONVULSION EXPULSION

 

2003
Director: Usama Alshaibi

One of the most bizarre erotic short films ever made. The contrasts of the white room, the white woman in bandages and the blood that pours out of her anus is amazing. I was obsessed after seeing this, I had to look up more of Usama Alshaibi's work. But even though he has lots of films, this is the most impressive one. It's daring, repulsive, fascinating and strangely erotic.

 
#14. VAXDOCKAN (The Doll)

 

1962
Director: Arne Mattsson

Oh man, what a joy it was to find something like this. Again a Swedish movie that people have forgotten all about. Everyone knows how much I love European dark/psychosexual dramas, and this is a very, very early example of that. Per Oscarsson is brilliant as the night watchman who falls in love with a mannequin. Swedish arthouse cinema has really gone downhill nowadays - there is more arthouse excellence in our history than most people, me included, know.

 
#13. KÖRKARLEN (The Phantom Carriage)

 

1921
Director: Victor Sjöström

In my opinion one of the most important Swedish films of all time, and one of the most important 20's films worldwide. The very Dickens-esque story originally written by famous writer Selma Lagerlöf is here translated wonderfully onto the screen by Victor Sjöström. Technically impressive and with a great story to tell. Inspiring on so many levels and deserves so much more recognition.

 
#12. PERSONA

 

1966
Director: Ingmar Bergman

A lot of people say that if "Persona" is your favorite Bergman movie then it's likely that he isn't you cup of tea. I understand what they mean - "Persona" is different to much of his work. I definitely think this is his best out of the ones I have seen, but I am a fan of his other work as well (as this list will prove). "Persona" is simply one of the best Swedish movies ever. It's surrealistic, psychological and experimental, but the most captivating aspect is the acting by our two lead women. People tend to stay away from Ingmar Bergman because he is often called pretentious. I don't think he is half as pretentious as some current mainstream filmmakers.

 
#11. MAN BITES DOG (C'est arrivé près de chez vous)

 

1992
Director: Rémy Belvaux & André Bonzel

The mockumentary that's always a bit smarter, a bit more artistic, a bit more entertaining and a bit more superb than all other mockumentaries. Living proof that amateurs can create excellent movies (it's not a secret anymore, anyway). This mockumentary about a documentary crew following a serial killer will remain the best of its kind for many years to come.

 
#10. BULLET BALLET

 

1998
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

A revenge film with a gun in focus. A man becomes obsessed with finding a gun of the same kind as the one his fiancee killed herself with, but ends up having to deal with gangs. I don't know what makes the movie so great, it's not your typical revenge film in any way, but there's something in the atmosphere that is so interesting that you just can't turn it off. Not to mention that Shinya Tsukamoto manages to bring out the real power of a gun, which is a rare thing in the midst of Hollywood action.

 
#9. ANTICHRIST

 

2009
Director: Lars von Trier

Hailed by some, hated by others. Both Trier and "Antichrist", that is. This depressing film took a lesson from Tarkovsky and made the amazing nature one of the strongest parts of the film. But "Antichrist" isn't just a pretty thing to look at, it's a dark portrayal of depression that is set off by the loss of a child. The movie has its graphic and messy moments but these are just icing on the cake. The real terror is in the psychological aspects of the film.

 
#8. BREAKING THE WAVES

 

1996
Director: Lars von Trier

The greatest love story ever told on film, "Breaking the Waves", is not just wonderful in its humanity, but in its simple style and look. Rarely have I been so captivated by a love story, and always on the verge of wanting to turn it off because I needed a break. Emotionally challenging and so extraordinary. Even down to its somewhat surprising final shot. This movie is proof of what Lars von Trier can do. It's 159 minutes long but not once did I want it to end. That should say it all, really.

 
#7. LA FEMME QUI SE POUDRE (The Woman Who Powders Herself)

 

1972
Director: Patrick Bokanowski

How the hell do you describe something like this? There's certainly no plot to go through just a strikingly gorgeous look with an equally important soundtrack. Black and white, strange masks, the usual Bokanowski experiments (done best in this one, to be honest). So creepy it has given me chills. One of his earliest films and it shows what an artist he is.

 
#6. GENESIS

 

1998
Director: Nacho Cerdà

Nacho Cerdà tops his own "Aftermath" with this one. This movie is a thing of beauty and quite frankly one of the most haunting art films out there. A sculptor makes a statue of his dead wife, and the sculpture slowly becomes a human. But the more human the sculpture becomes, the more stone/sculpture the sculptor becomes. Few art films manage to be as solid through-out as this one and I honestly can't find anything wrong about it.

 
#5. STALKER

 

1979
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

The most beautiful film ever made. I say that not having seen all of Tarkovsky's work, but I say it with confident. "Stalker" is simply amazing. Yes, it is long and it is very slow, but this is something everyone should see. It changed my look at my own filmmaking and it made me look at nature in a different way. Seriously, it's that extraordinary. I like the plot as well, it manages to build up a sci-fi/post-apocalyptic world without ever showing anything too sci-fi/post-apo. Them talking about the dangers out in the zone make us believe they exist, yet we never witness them first hand.

 
#4. RIGET

 

1994 - 1997 (Part I & II)
Director: Lars von Trier

Note that this means both seasons of the show (or film, either is fine). Lars von Trier's best work to date is this fantastic mix of horror, comedy and surrealism within the world of a soap opera drama. Only a master could make this work as well, while also being so experimental with the cinematography and overall production of it. You've seen horror movies set in hospitals before. You've seen comedy shows set in hospitals. But you've never seen anything as entertaining as this set in a hospital.

 
#3. UN CHIEN ANDALOU (An Andalusian Dog)

 

1929
Director: Luis Buñuel

Perhaps one of the most important titles on this list. For me at least. "Un Chien Andalou" is the perfect surrealist film and I find myself constantly going back to this one, in everything I do. From the opening scene of the eye being cut open, to the ants crawling out of the hand, there's just so much incredible imagery in these 16 minutes. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí did a lot for the art world, but to me this is what made them important. This film is proof that art doesn't need to have a specific meaning behind it for it to actually work to perfection.

 
#2. DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (Cemetery Man)

 

1994
Director: Michele Soavi

"Dellamorte Dellamore" is quite possible the best zombie movie ever made, but it's so much more than that. I usually don't even want to call it a zombie movie and thus I always say "Night of the Living Dead" is the best strict zombie movie. But it is a zombie movie mixing elements of horror, romance, comedy, surrealism and drama in a gothic setting of an old cemetery. Words can't describe how unique this movie is, it's one of my all-time favorite movies. I find myself in awe every time I watch it.

 
#1. TETSUO: THE IRON MAN

 

1989
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

I don't know where to start. Probably one of the best movies ever made. This is pure fucking insanity from start to finish. A hyperactive surreal cyberpunk/body horror film about a man who turns into metal, and his opposite who is sticking scrap metal into his body but only ends up as the rusty version. The first time I watched this I watched it three times in a row, that's how impressive this movie is. If you somehow have missed this then you need to do yourself a favor. Words can't describe it.

 

There you have it, my 99 favorite arthouse films. Or strange films. Or whatever you want to call it. Please don't mail me to complain about something not being arthouse, I don't care. The word fits whatever the real meaning is. Now, if you want to ask why a title isn't on here then go ahead! I hope you found a few good titles in here as I put a lot of time and effort into making it, if not... well, why are you even on our site?

 




 

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TOP 10 OF LAST YEAR:
1. Fires on the Plain
2. What We Do in the Shadows
3. We Are Still Here
4. Spring
5. Makeup Room
6. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
7. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
8. Shadow Zombie
9. Honeymoon
10. Nina Forever
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