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Cybel The DP’s ’85 Essential Films You Must See to Know Anything About Why She Loves Film’

Cybel The DP’s '85 Essential Films You Must See to Know Anything About Why She Loves Film'

Spike had a list. Scorsese had his. But when can we talk about the films that make a female filmmaker tick?!! And that’s when I remembered I’m also a writer. We’ll start with my list.

When Fast Company posted Scorsese’s list, it immediately went viral. It’s a great list and I committed to seeing every film on there. However, I was a little perturbed by the title: “85 Films You Need to See to Know Anything About Film”. Sounded a little harsh and sensationalistic. If you scroll down, you’ll see “list of 85 films that the director said most influenced him.” That’s an entirely different reason you should watch these films. It’s not to know everything about film but to appreciate what gave birth to his personal aesthetic. Equally important, but different.

Recently, I read Spike Lee’s List of Films Every Filmmaker Should See. I had already seen every film and did a quick victory lap in my apartment.

Since film school, I’ve kept a list of all the films that had a notable impact on me. There are over 400 titles. As many of you know, I watch at least one film/day (#nfotd) that I’ve never seen before. Because I watch so many films and am nerdy enough to compile a list, fellow film friends have bugged me to share it. When Scorsese’s was published, I decided to whittle mine down to 85 and share that. Not an easy task. At all.

My criteria: must be a film that influenced the type of DP/Artist I’ve become, opened me to a new visual way to express a narrative or a visual representation of my philosophy on life. A few had to be included simply because I could not live without them. They are not necessarily my favorite films, the most important in film history nor the ones I find most entertaining.

This list is “as of March 2012” (when I first saw Scorsese’s). Since then, I’ve seen “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman”, “Holy Motors” and “Mishima”; three films that might have more of a right to be on my list than others. I also included 4 documentaries (thus 89 titles).

After much agony, I chose not to include the film I’m named after. I still wonder if I should have swapped “The Birds” or “Monty Python” for “Hannah and Her Sisters” or “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”. And I still can’t commit to which Ophuls belongs. All of them?

Before we begin, this is what I’d like you to remember: these are 85 films that influenced me. See them. Don’t. Agree. Throw tomatoes at the computer screen. But more satisfyingly, I encourage you to write up your own list of 85 films that influenced you as an artist, that influenced you as a bank teller. Whatever. Post the list. If you’re on Twitter, cc me @CybelDP, include hashtag #My85 and I promise to retweet them.

Title Director / Director of Photography Year

”12″ – Nikita Mikhalkov / Vladislav Opelyants (2007)              

“12 Angry Men” – Sidney Lumet / Boris Kaufman (1957)               

“400 Blows” – Francois Truffaut / Henri Decae (1959)              

“After Life” – Hirokazu Koreeda / Masayoshi Sukita & Yutaka Yamasaki (1998)               

“Ali : Fear Eats the Soul” – Rainer Fassbinder / Jurgen Jurges (1974)               

“Aliens” – James Cameron / Adrian Biddle (1986)               

“All About Eve” – Joseph Mankiewicz / Milton Krasner (1950)               

“All the President’s Men” – Alan Pakula / Gordon Willis (1976)               

“Amelie” – Jean Pierre  Jeunet / Bruno Delbonnel (2001)               

“Apostle, The” – Robert Duvall / Barry Markowitz (1997)               

“Bad Day at Black Rock” – John Sturges / William Mellor (1955)               

“Belle De Jour” – Luis Bunuel / Sacha Vierny (1967)               

“Big Combo, The” – Joseph Lewis / John Alton (1955)               

“Birds, The” – Alfred Hitchcock / Robert Burks (1963)               

“Black Girl” – Sembene Ousmane / Christian Lacoste (1966)               

“Black Narcissus” – Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger / Jack Cardiff (1947)               

“Blade Runner” – Ridley Scott / Jordan Cronenweth (1982)               

“Bonnie and Clyde” – Arthur Penn / Burnett Guffey (1967)               

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” – Blake Edwards / Franz Planer (1961)               

“Carrie” – Brian De Palma / Mario Tosi (1976)               

“Citizen Kane” – Orson Welles / John Toland (1941)                             

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” – Steven Spielberg / Vilmos Zsigmond (1977)               

“Color of Pomegranates, The” – Sergie Parajanov / Suren Shakbazyan (1968)               

“Conformist, The” – Bernardo  Bertolucci / Vittorio Storaro (1970)               

“Conversation, The” – Francis Ford Coppola / Bill Butler & Haskell Wexler (1974)               

“Corner, The” – Charles S Dutton / Ivan Strasburg (2000)               

“Cranes are Flying, The” – Mikhail Kalatozov / Sergei Urusevsky (1957)               

“Daughters of the Dust” – Julie Dash / Arthur Jafa (1991)               

“Do the Right Thing” – Spike Lee / Ernest Dickerson (1989)               

“Dogville” – Lars Von Trier / Anthony Dod Mantle (2003)               

“Double Life of Veronique” – Krzysztof  Kieslowski / Slawomir Idziak (1991)               

“Dresser, The” – Peter Yates / Kevin Pike (1983)               

“End of the Century (The Story of the Ramones)” – Jim Fields & Michael Gramaglia (2003)               

“Enter The Void” – Gaspar Noe / Benoit Debie (2009)               

“Exterminating Angel” – Luis Bunuel / Gabriel Figueroa (1962)               

“French Connection, The” – William Friedkin / Owen Roizman (1971)              

“Fresh” – Boaz Yakin / Adam Holender (1994)               

“George Washington” – David Gordon Green / Tim Orr (2000)               

“Gone with the Wind” – Victor Fleming / Ernest Haller & Lee Garmes (1939)               

“Grey Gardens” – The Great Maysles (1975)               

“Heat” – Michael  Mann / Dante Spinotti (1995)               

“Honeymoon Killers, The” – Leonard Kastle & Donald Volkman / Oliver Wood (1969)               

“Human Condition, The” – Masaki Kobayashi / Yoshio  Miyajima (1959)               

“Hunger” – Steve McQueen / Sean Bobbitt (2008)               

“I Am Love” – Luca Guadagnino / Yorick Le Saux (2009)               

“In Cold Blood” – Richard Brooks / Conrad Hall (1967)               

“In the Mood for Love” – Wong Kar Wai / Christopher Doyle, Pung-Leung Kwan & Ping Bin Lee (2000)              

“Inception” – Christopher Nolan / Wally Pfister (2010)               

“Intentions of Murder” – Shohei Imamurai / Shinsaku Himeda (1964)               

“Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” – Chantal Akerman / Babette Mangolte (1975)               

“Juliet of the Spirits” – Federico Fellini / Gianni Di Venanzo (1965)              

“Kaagaz Ke Phool” – Guru Dutt / V K Murthy (1959)               

“La Jetee” – Chris Marker / Jean Chiabau Jean & Chris Marker (1962)               

“La Ronde” – Max Ophuls / Christian Matras (1950)               

“Last Time I Saw Paris” – Richard Brooks / Joseph Ruttenberg (1954)               

“Le Mepris” – Jean Luc Godard / Raoul Coutard (1963)               

“Les Bonnes Femmes” – Claude Chabrol / Henri Decae (1960)               

“Limey, The” – Steven Soderbergh / Edward Lachman (1999)               

“Lost Highway” – David Lynch / Peter Deming (1997)               

“Marnie” –  Alfred Hitchcock / Robert Burks (1964)               

“Medea” – Lars Von Trier / Sejr Brockmann (1988)               

“Medicine for Melancholy” – Barry Jenkins / James Laxton (2008)               

“Medium Cool” – Haskell Wexler (1969)               

“Midnight Cowboy” – John Schlesinger / Adam Holender (1969)               

“Mildred Pierce” – Michael Curtiz / Ernest Haller (1945)               

“Monty Python and the Holy Grail” – Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones / Terry Bedford (1975)               

“Nashville” – Robert  Altman / Paul Lohmann (1975)               

“Opening Night” – John Cassavetes / Al Ruban (1977)               

“Paris Blues” – Martin Ritt / Christian Matras (1961)               

“Picnic at Hanging Rock” – Peter Weir / Russell Boyd (1975)

“Pina” – Wim Wender / Helene Louvart (2011)               

“Pink Floyd The Wall” – Alan Parker / Peter Biziou (1982)               

“Primer” – Shane Carruth (2004)               

“Ran” – Akira Kurosawa / Asakazu Nakai  & Takao Saito & Shoji Ueda (1985)               

“Seventh Continent, The” – Michael Haneke / Peschke Anton (1989)               

“Shining, The” – Stanley Kubrick / John Alcott (1980)               

“Sorrow and the Pity, The” – Marcel Ophuls / Andre Gazut & Jurgen Thieme (1969)

“Sounder” – Martin Ritt / John Alonzo (1972)               

“Stalker” – Andrey Tarkovsky / Aleksandr Knyazhinsky, Georgi Rerberg & Leonid Kalashnikov (1979)               

“Sunrise” – F W  Murnau / Charles Rosher & Karl Struss (1927)              

“Taxi Driver” – Martin Scorsese / Michael Chapman (1976)               

“There Will Be Blood” – PT  Anderson / Robert Elswit (2007)               

“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” – Sydney Pollack / Philip Lathrop (1969)         

“Thin Red Line” -Terrence Malick / John Toll (1998)                            

“Touch of Evil” – Orson Welles / Russell  Metty (1958)               

“Wages of Fear” – Georges Henri Clouzot / Armand Thirard (1953)               

“War Game, The” – Peter Watkins / Peter Bartlett & Peter Suschitzky (1965)               

“Wings of Desire” – Wim Wenders / Henri Alekan (1987)

“Yo Soy Cuba” – Mikhail Kalatozov / Sergei Urusevsky (1964)

Visual Inspiration from the Archives:

A Cinematographer’s Plea to the Budding Film Auteur : Move Your Camera

One Cinematographer’s Obsession with Color

See my DP work at

Chat film at @CybelDP and read my film live tweets @CybelNfotd

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Hey Cybel, Great list. I'll say that I saw about little more than half the films. Some films I saw because I like to watch movies others with a more critical eye. However for me "The Conversation" is for the late great John Cazale. He was only in 5 films, and all five films are on my essential film list just because of him. They are "The Conversation", "Godfather", "Godfather Part II", "Dog Day Afternoon", and "The Deer Hunter". Because I am a writer/director –story, dialogue, character arc and performance are what I look for. I saw Dog Day Afternoon and both Godfather films as a kid. Greatly impacted me. Thanks


Everybody Loves Cybel Martin or Shadow and Act has lost that loving feeling? Well, in a not too distant past S&A's comment section was akin to a beautiful, bustling New York street corner. Every walk of life was there, debating, discussing, pointing out directions to what's happening in the world of black cinema. Film directors, producers and actors alike stopped through peddling their wares and giving updates on pending projects, right here in S & A's comment section. And the inhabitants, oh boy, they were a sight to behold. Of course there was the proverbial angry black woman and her counterpart the angry black man to add "controversy" to any discussion. There was intellectuals and the bourgeoisie talking in a prose only they understood but kept others glued to their seats as if they were listening to E.F Hutton, trying to pickup a tip or two. And every day there sat Sergio Mims dropping the latest gossip as only a true do-or-die old school gossip hound could. And then of course there was the drive-by sh*t starters and mess stirrers who didn't have a peaceful sleep unless they created an atmosphere of confusion, chaos and havoc, by any means necessary. And, in another corner the "critical film watchers" could be found slamming Tyler's crowd. I'm telling you, by the way the festival crowd was landing blows upon the church-goers saintly heads, one would have thought they'd slapped their mommas, not that they simply laughed at Madea and supported Tyler's works. And who can forget the heated debates on dark skin vs. light skin actors "Paula Patton can't act, she (and those in her ilk) only gets parts because…". And the discussions on yak-hair, bad hair, black hair and all it's implications? Yep, those were the days.

I know, I know, I am leaving out more than a few examples/ways/reasons why Shadow and Act's comment section was the place to be (the good and positive stuff), but without a doubt it's safe to say, those days are slipping away, and I don't know why…. which leads me back to my opening sentence "Everybody Loves Cybel Martin or Shadow and Act has lost that loving feeling".

Well, posts of this nature (best of, essential films list, etc) are generally magnets for discussion, but today, not so much.

If Sergio had penned this post would the number of comments hit double digits? In my not so humble opinion I think the feedback would have a different "flavor" (but er'body loves Cybel). Well, take for instance the following films that were on Cybel's list.

The French Connection
George Washington
Lost Highway
Medicine For Melancholy

WHAT?! Medicine For Melancholy… but NO…. no-no-no Eve's Bayou (the best indie black film of all time (imo)?

George Washington… but NO Malcolm X.??!! (Btw, only 1 Spike Joint and his DP (Ernest Dickerson. Give the black American some, over Tim Orr… why not?

The French Connection… but no New Jack City, Heat, The God father or even Training Day?!

The Apostle… but no The Passion of Christ, Open Range (for a Robert Duval fix) or The Undershepherd (for the church theme and church crowd) Well, I'm kidding about The Undershepherd being on the list, but The Apostle?! Don't get me wrong, I love just about everything Robert Duvall and I enjoyed the movie, but for it to appear in a top 85 list has me scratching my head?

And lastly, Lost Highway…. and NOT Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive or Pulp Fiction or anything from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez?!

Yep, needless to say this list had me scratching my head until I read the following:

"My criteria: must be a film that influenced the type of DP/Artist I’ve become, opened me to a new visual way to express a narrative or a visual representation of my philosophy on life. They are not necessarily my favorite films, the most important in film history nor the ones I find most entertaining" ~ Cybel Martin

OPPS UPSIDE MY HEAD! there it is, it's her list and thus essential to her. And she did close by saying " I encourage you to write up your own list of 85 films that influenced you as an artist, that influenced you as a bank teller. Whatever."

YEAH, I can do that. I can start by saying my first introduction to films started as a young kid (8-9) putting up bingo numbers at the Rialto Theater, affectionately known in our community as The Rat Hole (don't ask me why, you already know :-(). Anyway, the theater doubled as a gambling hall on Bingo Night. So that's where I found my love of movies.

But I'd sure love to sit down with Cybel and ask her, why? Why this film and that film over other films? That would be a wonderful evening and a memorable experience. In the interim I'd love to see Sergio's list of "essentials" or favorites. I believe we have much in common so that would ALSO be a thrill, and very informative.

Thanks Cybel. I'm off to find some of your selections (I've only seen about 2/3).


Thanks everyone for the film recommendations.

Just as an aside: I'm sick to my stomach that "Days of Heaven" is not on here. It's painful to make a list.


Now this is definitely WORLD CLASS CINEMA!..Cybel;-)


Good list Cybel. I have seen 95 percent of the films on the list and they are great films. I will check out the one s that I haven't had a chance to see. This is what being a person who love films is about sharing great films with everybody and keeping the spirit of great films alive.


I have to tell you that my critical eye opens wide when I see lists like this, but you selected a lot of my favorite and most inspirational films. Particular love on selecting STALKER, which is one of my all time favorite movies and the film which along with APOCALYPSE NOW, MAN BITES DOG and the USUAL SUSPECTS as well as an experimental animated film called STREET FIGHT are the small group of films which opened me up to the realization that there was this thing called CINEMA which I needed to understand better and led to my obsession with filmmaking.

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