The top 13 intense and powerful films that will linger with you forever

Poetry and music from the film 'Wings of Desire' (Der Himmel uber Berlin)



The Wings of Desire (1987)


(Der Himmel über Berlin, 1987)  Is a Wim Wenders cult film that follows invisible, immortal angels who populate Berlin and listen to the thoughts of the human inhabitants and comfort those who are in distress. Immensely moving it delves into the human condition and all of the pain, memory and love that this entails. Shot in both black-and-white and color. The film featured cult musician Nick Cave.


Orlando (1992)


A 1992 film directed by Sally Potter and based on Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando: A Biography. The film stars a young Tilda Swinton as Orlando, Billy Zane as Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine, and Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth I. It’s lush, erotic, erudite and as one of the more notable examples of a trans main character, it’s wonderfully liberated from the gender binaries of the norm. It’s beautifully and shot and the acting, as with anything with Swinton – is powerful.


Under the Skin (2013)


Originally a book by the always compelling and electrifying writer Michel Faber, Under the Skin charts the exploits of a mysterious protagonist Laura played by Scarlett Johansson, who is always on the prowl for men in a dark and gothic looking Glasgow.The reason for her need for men isn’t apparent until later in this twisted and deeply disturbing thriller. It’s inhumane, dark and totally electrifying in its scope, be prepared to be freaked out, but not in the way you expected.


The Piano (1993)


A New Zealand historical drama directed by Jane Campion about a mute piano player and her daughter. Set during the mid-19th century in a rainy, muddy frontier backwater town on the west coast of New Zealand. It recounts the piano player’s passion for her piano and her romantic entanglement with  local landowner. What could have been a beaten up cliche of historical romance ends up being a gothic, incredibly dark an intense story of erotic love, pain and sacrifice and the colonial experience. Michael Nyman’s classical score became a bestseller and Anna Paquin gained an Oscar for her performance.



Secrets & Lies (1996)


is a very effecting and powerful British drama film written and directed by Mike Leigh. Led by an ensemble cast consisting of many Leigh regulars,such as Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Brenda Blethyn, Claire Rushbrook and Timothy Spall. It’s the airing of history and secrets that makes this once rock-solid family begin to unravel. The performances are breathtaking.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)


Is a psychological thriller directed by Lynne Ramsay, and adapted from Lionel Shriver’s novel of the same name. The always engimatic and intense Tilda Swinton plays the mother of Kevin, a boy who shows disturbing signs of behavioural difficulties but the exact extend of Kevin’s psychosis only becomes apparent when it’s too late.



Dancer in the Dark (2000)


 Is a Danish musical drama film directed by Lars von Trier. It features Icelandic icon Björk as a daydreaming immigrant factory worker who suffers from a degenerative eye condition and is saving up to pay for an operation to prevent her young son from suffering the same fate. It’s by turns whimsical and sweet, dark and deeply disturbing and also powerfully raw. All of these emotions are given to the film by the undoubtable star – Björk. This was her first acting role and not only was she completely believable she was just as capitvating and powerful as she is as a musician. She also penned and performed the soundtrack to the film – also a classic.

Mulholland Drive (2001)


Directed by the legendary David Lynch the story centres on Betty a young actress who moves to Hollywood only to find confusion, nightmares, death, and a complete loss of self. It’s completely atypical and shows a far more sinister id of Hollywood with lesbian sex scenes, enigmatic cowboy messengers, inexplicable Spanish opera and more.

Blade Runner (1982)


Ridley Scott’s cult masterpiece, based on the science fiction novel by Philip K Dick. Do Androids Dreams of Electric Sheep? Harrison Ford plays a Blade Runner hired to ‘Terminate’ or put into retirement the ‘Replicants’, an enslaved human-engineered robot created by Tyrell Corporation’s genetic engineers. They were designed to serve as slave labor for exploring and colonizing other planets.  Like all great SciFi,  the film explores what it means to be human by comparing and contrasting with AI. These themes have never been more relevant than right now, as humans are perched on the pinnacle of the AI/robotics era.



Being John Malkovich (1999)


Directed by Spike Jonze and starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener and John Malkovich. In terms of plot this film is as weird as it gets. A broke puppeteer (John Cusack) starts working as a file clerk, and one day, while poking around the office, he discovers that one of its smaller doors leads directly into the mind of eccentric actor John Malkovich. It’s wonderfully made and plays with psychoanalytical ideas of how people always feel incomplete, wish to become someone else, the idea of the human soul and reincarnation.


Dead Man (1995)


Jim Jarmunsch director of other wandering epics like Ghost Dog, Coffee and Cigarettes has created this legendary cult film starring Johnn Depp who delves into a frontier land of the Wild West and what’s on the other side of death. It’s a mordant, deeply spiritual journey through an Native American mythological realm where nothing seems real and what’s real ceases to matter.


The White Ribbon (2009)


Directed by Michael Haneke. Strange events happen in a small village in the north of Germany during the years just before World War One, which seem to be ritual punishment. As suspicion mounts, a wave of terrible accidents threaten to destroy the moral fabric of the small peasant village. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Watch on SBS 


The Diving Bell and Butterfly (2007)

A 2007 biographical drama film directed by Julian Schnabel and based on the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby. He suffered a massive stroke that left him with a condition known as locked-in syndrome. The acting here and emotional register of the film is incredibly moving and intense.

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Māori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Māori culture and loads more.

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