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Watch: Trailers For Martin Scorsese’s List Of The 39 Foreign Films You Should See Before You Die

Watch: Trailers For Martin Scorsese’s List Of The 39 Foreign Films You Should See Before You Die

You may have heard this one before: several years ago a young filmmaker (Colin Levy) wrote to Martin Scorsese asking which films he should see in order to broaden his cinematic horizons. Much to his surprise, the director answered him and provided a list, through his assistant, of 39 essential foreign films to watch – or as many are calling it, the 39 films you should see before you die.

It’s been making the rounds over the last few years, but because it originated on Reddit, its authenticity was questioned. Well, Levy retweeted Cinephilia & Beyond, who reposted the list today, and that’s as good an excuse as any to share it as well. As you’d imagine, it’s a terrific list for cinephiles, or anyone looking to begin or broaden their film education. Naturally, many of these films are already part of The Criterion Collection, but there’s bound to be a few you’ve never seen (this writer’s never seen Abel Gance’s “Napoleon,” unfortunately). The list also acts as a potential nudge in the ribs to Criterion, because pretty much all of these movies should be in the collection, but for various reasons, a few are still not (one assumes that’ll eventually change). An early Wim Wenders set anyone? (Tipping their cap, a few of these films are already on Criterion’s Hulu channel).

Three personal favorites missing from the collection are Claude Chabrol’s chilling relationship/stalker drama “La Boucher” (which we wrote about in our Chabrol Essentials), Luchino Visconti’s super bleak and tragic neorealist picture “La Terra Trema” (which we gave props to on our 30 Essential Films Missing From The Sight & Sound Top 100 in 2012) and Wenders’ “The American Friend,” which is also on our Sight & Sound list (plus this more recent list of 10 Great Overlooked Films From The 1970s).

Below are trailers for all the films. It’s as good an excuse as any to bone up on these classics. And interesting to note, Rainer Werner Fassbinder gets the most mentions with three films. You can read our retrospective on that German filmmaker’s oeuvre here. Also, no Fellini? Not even "La Dolce Vita" or "La Strada"? Discuss.

1. Nosferatu (1922) – F.W. Murnau
2. Metropolis (1927)- Fritz Lang
3. Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler (1922) – Fritz Lang
4. Napoleon (1927) – Abel Gance
5. Grand Illusion (1937)– Jean Renoir
6. Rules Of The Game (1939) – Jean Renoir
7. Children Of Paradise (1945) – Marcel Carné
8. Rome, Open City (1945) – Roberto Rossellini
9. Paisà (Paisan) (1946) – Roberto Rossellini
10. La Terra Trema (1948) – Luchino Visconti
11. The Bicycle Thief (1948) – Vittorio De Sica
12. Umberto D. (1952) – Vittorio De Sica
13. Beauty & The Beast (1946) – Jean Cocteau
14. Tokyo Story (1953) – Yasujirō Ozu
15. Ikiru (1952) – Akira Kurosawa
16. Seven Samurai (1954) – Akira Kurosawa
17. Ugetsu (1953) – Kenji Mizoguchi
18. Sansho The Bailiff (1954) – Kenji Mizoguchi
19. High and Low (1963) – Akira Kurosawa
20. Big Deal On Madonna Street (1958) – Mario Monicelli
21. Rocco and His Brothers (1960) – Luchino Visconti
22. The 400 Blows (1959) – François Truffaut
23. Shoot the Piano Player (1960) – François Truffaut
24. Breathless (1960) – Jean-Luc Godard
25. Band of Outsiders (1964) – Jean-Luc Godard
26. Il Sorpasso (1962) – Dino Risi
27. L’avventura (1960) – Michelangelo Antonioni
28. Blow Up (1966) – Michelangelo Antonioni
29. Before the Revolution (1964) – Bernardo Bertolucci
30. Le boucher (1970) – Claude Chabrol
31. Weekend – (1967) Jean-Luc Godard
32. Death by Hanging (1968) – Nagisa Ôshima
33. The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971) – Rainer Werner Fassbinder
34. Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974) – Rainer Werner Fassbinder
35. The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) – Rainer Werner Fassbinder
36. Kings of the Road (1976) – Wim Wenders
37. The American Friend (1970) – Wim Wenders
38. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974) –Werner Herzog
39. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) –Werner Herzog


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David Heslin

Films don’t have a ‘gender’. If these are Scorsese’s favourite 39 ‘foreign’ films, then fair enough. But his interest doesn’t seem to extend very far beyond Italy, Japan, France and Germany. It would have been a much more interesting list if he’d added some of the (relatively) more obscure films he’s supported over the years, such as The Saragossa Manuscript (Poland) and Touki Bouki (Senegal).


And what is the name of Scorsese´s career-long editor, Gross?

It´s not ´stupid´.

Thelma Schoonmaker.


Or change that for Ran.


And Davis, Kurosawa has three mentions, also. At 15, 16 and 19. Can´t count unless they´re listed three in a row?

Kagemusha is missing.


No wonder Scorsese´s films have an oblique dullness about them.

The Jagernaut

Godard is mentioned 3 times also. How do I apply to write for Indiewire?


Fellini? Buñuel?


Hmmm Would say I'm surprised to not see infernal affairs on here, the film that got him an Oscar but then I'd be being sarcastic.

The Dark Knight

Sad,very sad to see he did not mention any Satyajit Ray films. He is a one of the great director in cinema. Widely called one of the very few master filmmaker in cinema. There is very few directors exist who called 'master filmmaker'. He also won Academy award. Scorsese also mention Satyajit Ray his inspiration. And said his work influenced him. But i don't know why he forget that great man here. May be he is from 3rd world contry that is why. There is lots of great filmmaker. But very few in them are 'a great human being' also. Scorsese also my one of the favorite filmmaker. His The Departed is my most favorite. But today he first time give pain.

Lutz Bacher

Scorsese has often spoken highly of Max Ophuls's work. It's surprising, then, that he fails to include even one of his great and influential German, French, or Italian films here.


Not surprisingly , these are the films HE watched when he was young. Nothing good was made after 1979.

CNN hay sun shines

Beauty & The Beast
Seven Samurai
Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Gerard Kennelly

Polanski petition signatories as of September 29th 2009

Woody Allen
Pedro Almodovar
Wes Anderson
Asia Argento
Darren Aronofsky
Monica Bellucci
Alfonso Cuaron
Luc et Jean-Pierre Dardenne
Jonathan Demme
Alexandre Desplat
Stephen Frears
Costa Gavras
Terry Gilliam
David Heyman
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Harmony Korine
John Landis
David Lynch
Michael Mann
Jeanne Moreau
Alexander Payne
Walter Salles
Jerry Schatzberg
Julian Schnabel
Barbet Schroeder
Martin Scorcese
Paolo Sorrentino
Tilda Swinton
Bertrand Tavernier
Giuseppe Tornatore
Wim Wenders


such an odd list. no Bergman?


Just go to the Criterion Collection.

Enough said.


It's been noted that Fassbinder got the most mentions with three films on the list.
It seems you haven't noticed that Godard has three as well.

dennis morris

Martin Scorcese proves himself not only a brilliant and influential cinematic director, but also, as he has in the past with Italian film, a brilliant and influential teacher and promoter of the cinematic arts. How generous he is to share his passions with us.

Daniella Isaacs

I suppose Jo wouldn't find a problem with someone hiring 39 men out of 39 open positions for jobs, and never bothering to hire one of the women who applied, as long as those 39 men were all qualified. It just shows a regrettable lack when someone seems to value only male perspectives (even Fassbinder was pretty much a dude). Of course, I wouldn't fault Scorsese as a person, considering how closely he does work with female collaborators. Still, it's a kind of blindness on his part in terms of cinematic vision.

Adam Scott Thompson

I was able to watch several of these for the first time while the Story of Film series was running on TCM. I nearly wept after "Bicycle Thieves."

Ernests Gulbis

I would add the Leopard by Visconti and 81/2 by Fellini.



…should be The 400 Blows


Shame. Scorsese clearly cares more about film preservation than about female directors. One more notch on the "disgusted by Scorsese" belt.

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