This list consists of some of the best art house movies of all time, from thought-provoking dramas to unsettling life tragedies. Art house movies aren’t meant for commercial entertainment purposes but for those looking for symbolic contents, beautifully intricated with non-linear narratives and poignant storylines, giving it an overall aesthetic appeal.
We’ve always opted for silly commercial entertainment, completely sideling content-driven movies. But if we truly realize the power and the potential of art house movies, there’s no going back. These movies are a must-see for all those seeking innovative cinematic experiences and a love for non-linear storytelling and entertainment.
Choosing the best art house movies isn’t an easy task, with so many amazing works. But we have made this daunting task easy for you by curating a list of the top 15 art house movies of all time. Each of these handpicked movies is sure to give you a life-changing experience.
Tokyo Story (1953) is a classic masterpiece that tells the story of an aging couple, Shukishi and Tomi, who decide to visit their busy grown-up children in Tokyo. The film offers a poignant reflection on the generational gap between parents and children, a theme that resonates with audiences to this day. The beauty of the film lies in its simplicity: it portrays the universal struggles of family life with a quiet honesty that is both heartbreaking and uplifting.
Unfolding at a leisurely pace, the film invites viewers to savor every moment, becoming intimately acquainted with the characters and their experiences along the way. Directed by Yasujiro Ozu, one of the most celebrated Japanese filmmakers of all time, Tokyo Story is a true cinematic treasure that has stood the test of time.
2 – A Clockwork orange (1971)
A Clockwork Orange is a cult classic that showcases the dark and violent side of human nature that can leave its audience in shock and awe. Released in 1971, it tells the story of a charismatic young man, Alex, who leads a gang of street thugs and indulges in ultra-violence and debauchery. However, his life takes a dramatic turn when he is arrested and subjected to a controversial psychological experiment that promises to cure him of his violent tendencies, but at what cost?
This film is not for the faint-hearted, but for those brave enough to delve into the twisted mind of Alex and the societal commentary it spirals into. A Clockwork Orange will have you on the edge of your seat, questioning the nature of free will and the morality of seeking control over human behavior.
3 – Days of heaven (1978)
Days of Heaven (1978) is a breathtaking masterpiece that transports viewers to a world of beauty and awe. Set in the early 20th century, the film tells the story of a young couple who leave Chicago to work on a farm in Texas. As they struggle to adjust to their new surroundings, they become entangled in a love triangle that threatens to tear their lives apart. Director Terrence Malick creates a cinematic experience unlike any other, using stunning vistas and poetic language to weave a tale that is both rustic and hauntingly beautiful.
The film is a visual feast, with every frame capturing the essence of the American heartland in a way that is both nostalgic and timeless. Days of Heaven (1978) is a must-see for any lover of great cinema.
4 – Citizen Kane (1941)
Citizen Kane is arguably one of the most iconic films of all time. Directed, co-written, produced, and starring Orson Welles, the movie follows the life and times of Charles Foster Kane, a wealthy media mogul who seemingly has it all. But, as the plot unfolds, the audience begins to see the cracks in Kane’s facade and the emptiness that consumes him. Filled with memorable lines, breathtaking cinematography, and a nonlinear story structure, Citizen Kane revolutionized the film industry and forever cemented itself as a classic.
Even after almost eighty years since its release, the movie’s commentary on power, greed, and the human condition is just as relevant today as it was in 1941.
5 – Birdman (2014)
The 2014 film Birdman captured the attention of audiences and critics alike with its unique approach to storytelling. Set almost entirely within the walls of a Broadway theater, the film follows washed-up actor Riggan Thomson (played brilliantly by Michael Keaton) as he attempts to revive his career by staging a play. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s decision to film in long, continuous shots serves to intensify the sense of claustrophobia and heightened emotions throughout.
Birdman also boasts an exceptional supporting cast, including Emma Stone, Edward Norton, and Naomi Watts. The film’s exploration of the nature of celebrity and art has earned it multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. If you haven’t yet experienced the gripping drama of Birdman, it’s a movie you won’t want to miss.
5 – Godfather (1972)
The Godfather is a cinematic masterpiece that continues to captivate audiences even decades after its initial release in 1972. The story of the Corleone family, a powerful Italian-American mafia clan, is a richly layered exploration of loyalty, power, and the lengths people will go to protect those they love. From its iconic opening scene to its devastating finale, The Godfather is a triumph of filmmaking that showcases the talents of director Francis Ford Coppola and an all-star cast led by Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and James Caan.
Even today, its influence can be seen in countless films and TV shows, making it clear that The Godfather is not just a movie, but a cultural touchstone that will continue to endure for generations to come.
Ikiru (1952) is a timeless masterpiece that delves deep into the human condition. Directed by Akira Kurosawa, this Japanese classic tells the story of Kanji Watanabe, a middle-aged bureaucrat who discovers he has terminal stomach cancer and realizes he has not really lived his life to the fullest. Through his quest to find meaning and purpose in his remaining time, we are reminded of the fragility of life and the importance of taking risks and pursuing our passions.
With its powerful performances, poignant themes, and stunning cinematography, Ikiru continues to resonate with audiences around the world to this day.
7 – Parasite (2019)
“Parasite” is a cinematic masterpiece that has captured the hearts of moviegoers around the world. From the awe-inspiring cinematography to the riveting storyline, this film stands out as a true reflection of the human condition. As we follow the struggles of the underprivileged Kim family, we are forced to confront the harsh realities of class inequality. Director Bong Joon-ho’s intelligent portrayal of societal divides is both thought-provoking and captivating.
It’s no wonder “Parasite” became the first non-English language film to win best picture at the Oscars – it’s a must-see for anyone who loves thoughtful, impactful cinema.
8 – Breathless (1960)
Breathless (1960) is a groundbreaking film that revolutionized French cinema. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard and starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, it tells the story of a young, impulsive criminal who is on the run after killing a cop. Breathless is known for its innovative use of jump cuts, naturalistic dialogue, and long tracking shots, which break away from the conventions of Hollywood filmmaking.
The film’s frank portrayal of sexuality and violence sparked controversy upon its release, but its influence on cinema cannot be ignored. Breathless is a must-see for anyone interested in film history and the art of filmmaking.
9 – La Dolce Vita (1960):
La Dolce Vita is a classic Italian film that captures the essence of post-war Rome. Directed by Federico Fellini, the film follows a journalist who is on the hunt for meaning and beauty in a world that has seemingly lost its way. The title, which translates to “the sweet life,” perfectly encapsulates the film’s tone and themes. With stunning cinematography and a captivating score, La Dolce Vita has become a timeless masterpiece that continues to inspire and captivate audiences today.
Whether you’re a fan of classic cinema or simply looking for a beautiful and thought-provoking film, La Dolce Vita is a must-watch for any lover of the art form.
10 – Moonlight (2016)
Moonlight (2016) is a captivating film that explores the complex journey of a young black man named Chiron as he navigates his identity, sexuality, and relationships in a tough Miami neighborhood. The film features an outstanding cast, including Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, and Janelle Monáe, who deliver powerful performances that will leave you moved.
Director Barry Jenkins skillfully crafts a story that is both honest and universal, drawing audiences into the emotional depths of its characters. Moonlight is a thought-provoking masterpiece that tackles themes of masculinity, race, and love, making it a must-see film for anyone searching for a powerful and poignant cinematic experience.
Bicycle Thieves, a timeless classic, is a gripping and heart-wrenching tale of a father and son in post-war Rome. The film tells the story of Antonio, an unemployed man who finally lands a job as a poster-hanger, but there’s one problem: he needs a bicycle to perform his new job. Unable to afford one on his own, his wife pawns their bedsheets to purchase a bicycle, which Antonio carefully watches over. Unfortunately, his bicycle is stolen, leading him on a desperate journey throughout the city with his young son to retrieve it.
The film showcases the struggle of the working class and the lengths they go to earn a living, while also highlighting the importance of family and the bond between a father and son. Bicycle Thieves is a cinematic masterpiece that continues to resonate with audiences to this day.
12 – The Turin Horse (2011)
The Turin Horse, a film directed by Béla Tarr, is a haunting and contemplative masterpiece that delves into the mundanity of life as it is slowly stripped away from its protagonists. Set against the bleak backdrop of a desolate Hungarian farmstead, the film tells the story of an aged carriage driver and his daughter, as they go about their daily routine with utter resignation. From the opening scenes, it is clear that Tarr is not trying to tell a straightforward narrative, but instead, he opts to present a more reflective and introspective portrayal of the human condition. Every shot feels meticulously crafted and imbued with a sense of heaviness that lingers long after the end credits have rolled.
The Turin Horse is undoubtedly a challenging film, one that requires your full attention and a healthy dose of patience. Nonetheless, for those willing to give it the time it deserves, it is a profound and deeply moving experience that will stay with you long after you’ve seen it.
13 – Shoplifters (2018)
The film “Shoplifters” is a heart-wrenching exploration of familial love and the struggle for survival in Japan’s lower class, where the line between right and wrong is often blurred. At the center of the story are Osamu and Shota, a father and son duo who make a living by stealing from supermarkets and convenience stores. Their unorthodox way of life takes a turn when they stumble upon a young girl on the streets and decide to take her in.
As the family’s secrets are slowly uncovered, viewers are left to question the morality of their actions and ultimately, what it truly means to be a family. With captivating performances and a gripping storyline, “Shoplifters” is a must-watch for anyone looking for a thought-provoking cinematic experience.
14 – The White Ribbon (2009)
The White Ribbon (2009) is a haunting yet beautiful masterpiece that captures the essence of life in a small German village during the years leading up to World War I. The black and white cinematography adds to the eerie atmosphere, making the audience feel as though they are peering into a forgotten era. The story follows a series of disturbing events that seem to be interconnected, each one leaving more questions than answers.
As the tension builds, viewers are left questioning the motives and intentions of each character. This film is not for the faint of heart, but for those who appreciate complex storytelling and a deep exploration of the human psyche, The White Ribbon is a must-see.
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