Five films that aspiring filmmakers should watch

By Mike Rengifo

Immersing yourself in the world of filmmaking isn’t just about grabbing an expensive camera, assembling a crew, and hitting the record button.

Aspiring filmmakers need to begin creating projects to hone their skills, express their creativity, refine their craft, and continually learn from the masters who have already paved the way.

Filmmaking involves a synthesis of elements such as good storytelling, direction, production, writing, cinematography, casting and editing, among others.

Over the years, the world has witnessed the creation of real cinematic masterpieces by talented filmmakers which serve as a significant source of inspiration for those embarking on this beautiful journey.

In this list, I present five cinematic gems that every aspiring filmmaker should have on their watchlist.

These films offer invaluable lessons in storytelling, cinematography, and more. They are sure to ignite your creativity and propel you forward on your cinematic journey.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

This movie, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is largely considered one of the greatest films of all time due to its exceptional visual storytelling.

A dystopian crime film, set in a bleak futuristic society, it tells the story of a young delinquent Alex DeLarge. He and his gang participate in acts of vandalism, violence and ultra chaos.

The movie explores themes of free will, morality and the consequences of state control. After being arrested, Alex agrees to be a subject in an experimental program aimed at rehabilitating criminals.

The movie explores his experience with this ultra-controversial treatment, prompting questions about what it means to be evil, how society punishes individuals and the role of the individual in a repressive society.

The movie also provides insights into filmmaking techniques and artistry.

The usage of different camera angles, composition and colour to convey mood and meaning enhance their narratives.

Also its soundtrack and sound design is well utilised here, as it aids the image to impact its narrative. The emotion and atmosphere generated by the sound design is key to keep the viewer engaged with the movie.

A Clockwork Orange has had an important influence on cinema.

This film is crucial to gain a better understanding of how certain movies become iconic and how they shape the industry. It has been a subject of analysis and discussion, so it can help to upskill aspiring Kubricks with critical thinking and inquiry which are key for filmmaking.

Fight Club (1999)

This movie, directed by David Fincher and based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, offers a wealth of lessons and inspirations for those searching to excel in the filmmaking field.

The story of the film is based on the life of an insomniac individual who meets Tyler, a soap salesman. Together they form an underground fight club for men who are tired of their daily routine.

However, their relationship starts going downhill when Maria captures Tyler’s interest.

The film explores themes of masculinity, identity and extreme rebellion. This is key for budding Spielbergs as they may explore how to incorporate social commentary into their work, using film as a medium for deeper exploration of societal issues.

The utilisation of music and sound is crucial for the storytelling. The dark tones to the unpleasant sounds during the fight scenes played a crucial part in the film’s rough and disturbing environment. It also intensified the audience’s emotional connection to the story and characters.

Fight Club is a prime example of a successful novel adaptation. Aspiring filmmakers can gain valuable insights into the challenges involved in translating written material into visual form.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Directed by the popular filmmaker, producer and actor Quentin Tarantino, this film is ranked 10th on The Greatest Films.

This movie is crucial for any filmmaker’s education due to its cultural impact, innovative narrative structure, character depth and influential style.

The story consists of interconnected, non-linear narratives involving three characters engaged in extreme violence and crime events that lead to an unforgettable and unexpected end.

Tarantino challenges traditional storytelling as the film is known for its non-linear storytelling, where multiple interconnected storylines unfold in a non-sequential manner.

Also, Pulp Fiction is recognized for the sharp, clever and dark humour dialogue used. Would-be Tarantinos can learn about the importance of strong, character-driven dialogue by watching this film.

Ace in the Hole (1951)

Ace in the Hole, directed by Billy Wilder, is a classic drama about a morally compromised newspaper reporter who exploits a story about a man trapped in a collapsed mine to boost his own career.

However, the situation promptly escalates into an out-of-control circus.

Aspiring filmmakers can learn to analyse the various shot-composition techniques, pacing and character development to gain understanding and knowledge of cinematic craftsmanship.

This film criticises sensationalism in the media and showcases the tough choices journalists face when chasing sensational stories at the expense of human lives. The mixed morals portrayed by the characters are key for character complexity, especially the ambiguous protagonist Chuck Tatum who starts as a selfish and
manipulative individual and goes through a change to become more morally aware.

Time manipulation employed in Ace in the Hole is key to contributing a captivating narrative and viewer interest.

City of God (2002)

City of God is not just a great film but also a valuable learning resource for moviemakers targeting a career in film. It teaches them how to depict real-life situations, craft engaging stories in tough settings, and embraces important social issues.

This Brazilian film is based on real events and depicts life in the slums (favelas) of Rio de Janeiro.

City of God, directed by Fernando Meirelles and co-directed by Katia Lund, is about Rocket, a young man with the ambition to become a photographer, and Lil’ Ze, a ruthless drug lord.

The film delves into the brutal and chaotic world of the favela, depicting themes of poverty, crime, violence and drug trafficking.

This film utilises a non-linear narrative structure that weaves multiple character storylines and spans several decades. This structure allows the film to explore the lives of different characters and the evolution of this community.

The film’s visual style, which includes the use of handheld camera work and kinetic cinematography, immerses the audience in the chaotic world of the favelas, conveying a sense of realism that captures the viewer’s interest.

Featured image: Budding movie makers have a lot to learn. Photo: AiClassEland/CC/Wikimedia Commons

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