Hi, I’m Olwethu Ndaba, and I’m a 20 year old South African literature and film student. For me, trying to write a top five list of favourite films is an incredibly excruciating experience. How does one pick their TOP FIVE favourite films, especially when one such as myself has such an expansive and varied taste in genre and style of films. I could write an entire essay on why Park Chan-wook is one of the best directors working today, but in the exact same vein I could easily write about why the Bridget Jones trilogy is one of the best ever. My love for cinema and filmmaking knows no bounds. Therefore, I will give you five of my favourite films that have greatly affected me in some way, films that entertain, captivate and leave me emotional in some way—essentially, films that make me want to make films and inform the types of films I want to make one day. Honorable mentions are:
The entire Harry Potter franchise
Almost everything directed by Park Chan-wook not mentioned, namely Stoker, Oldboy and Thirst
Moonlight directed by Barry Jenkins
Chungking Express directed by Wong Kar-Wai
Arrival, Incendies and Blade Runner 2049 directed by Denis Villeneuve
All of Edgar Wright’s films
Atonement and Pride & Prejudice directed by Joe Wright
A Separation and About Elly directed by Asghar Farhadi
The Witch directed by Robert Eggers
La La Land directed by Damian Chazelle
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)
Directed by Park Chan-wook
As eluded to above, Park Chan-wook is probably my all-time favourite director. Almost every film he has ever made has struck me in some way; I have been left in awe at the brilliance and mastery of his films. Very few films have affected me in the way Sympathy for Lady Vengeance has. It is one of the most stylish and beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen, every shot framed like a painting. It is filled with so much heart and emotional depth, with themes of love, tragedy and loss at its core. I love the depiction of the strength and weakness in the main character, Lee Geum-ja, as well as her journey of reclaiming her agency and getting the vengeance she truly deserves. It is one of Park’s most underrated films and deserves so much more recognition as it is one of his masterpieces. There is so much more I could write but all I’ll say is that I will never tire of seeing this.
The Handmaiden (2016)
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Similarly to Lady Vengeance, this is about women breaking away from an oppressive, misogynistic and patriarchal environment and finding strength in themselves to regain their own agency. The women in this also explore their sexuality and are liberated from the sexual exploitation of their bodies in a way that is pure and beautiful to watch. This film incorporates so many genres. It is a romance, a thriller, and a period drama—all at once—and does this masterfully. It is an extraordinary piece of filmmaking, and every scene is so wonderfully crafted. It is, without a doubt, Park’s best film, and I just love it so much.
Anna Karenina (2012)
Directed by Joe Wright
One of the things I love about cinema is being able to escape my own reality; that was particularly important for me growing up. Naturally, as a literature nerd, I was obsessed with period dramas all throughout my childhood. Keira Knightley is my all-time favourite actress, and this film—along my other favourites: Atonement and Pride & Prejudice, directed by another favourite director Joe Wright—shows why. This film, while not being a technically perfect film, is one of the best period dramas I’ve ever seen. I love everything about it; the cinematography, the screenplay, the costumes, the choreography of the scenes, the performances, the direction as though it is a play, and the score. A great adaptation, it is beautifully shot, with breathtaking scenes, like the dance scene or the more quieter scenes between the lovers played by Knightley and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
Phantom Thread (2017)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
This is the best film of 2018 so far and certainly my favourite of 2018. It is one of my new all-time favourites by one of my favourite directors. I love every single aspect of this, every frame, every bit of dialogue. The cinematography is gorgeous, the costumes are beautiful, and the direction is perfect. It has some of the best performances by its two leads—Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps—and a supporting role by Lesley Manville. It is a truly incredible piece of cinema, and it leaves me in awe every time I watch it.
In The Mood For Love (2000)
Directed by Wong Kar-Wai
This has everything I love: gorgeous cinematography, a forbidden romance, beautiful fashion and cinematic style. It has probably the most real and heartbreaking portrayal of love and longing I have ever seen on screen. The way Wong Kar-Wai frames people in his films is so beautiful to behold. This and my other favourite, Chungking Express, are perfect depictions of love and loneliness in a modern world.