The Haunting: Shown this to a few people lately who had not seen it before who were suitably impressed by its energy and economy of affect. Simple, elegant power. Creepy and heart rending.
2001 A Space Odyssey: I don't admire Kubrick's work across the board but there is something about every one of them that can stop me in my tracks. This one does that for its entire length. Every good thing said of Mr K applies to this.
Kairo/Pulse: Apocalypse by loneliness. My favourite description of this is The Omega Man as directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.
The Innocents: Like The Haunting this one from a few years before remains a powerful ghost tale including the possession of children. The question of the appearance of the ghosts is solved simply through the notion of figures appearing where they shouldn't be. One shot goes straight through me, no matter how many times I see it.
Peeping Tom: Michael Powell masterpiece that nearly annihilated his career as it was savaged by an outraged press as amoral. World War II codebreaker Leo Marks came up with the story of a man whose compulsion for violent murder is literally the stuff of cinema verite, having come from a family life that was indistinguishable from a biology lab. Extraordinary piece is both retro and timeless. Clever can be powerful.
Newsfront: 70s epic of Australian news gatherers moves at a clip and fuelled by good dialogue and substantial characters. Helmsman Phil Noyce went on to make other, similarly impressive things before moving o'er the Pacific and getting less and less signature the more his career progressed (never terrible, apart from The Bone Collector but increasingly unremarkable, see also Peter Weir).
Wake in Fright: The ugly Australian as seen by a Canadian. Anyone from the city who's been out bush will recognise a lot of this don't-count-your-chickens fable and be further compelled by the force of the culture shock. Great old and changing guard Australian talent create an outback that Hieronymous Bosch might have imagined. Recently resurrected from obscurity in a great new package. Get the blu-ray if you can.
Stalker: I wonder if I've just naturalised Tarkovsky so completely that his work has not appeared in any of these so far. I don't dislike a frame of any of his otherworldly epics. As he himself pointed out in a lecture that while most filmmakers put a controlled version of the world on the screen he brings one of his own imagining there. That wasn't arrogance of him to say that, it was simple description. Stalker is a wish tale and is mostly a group of middle aged men in strolling through the countryside talking. But you know the countryside is potentially lethal or even worse and what they have come to do will be concussively serious. The final images of a wish come true are absorbing and terrible. Context is EVERYTHING.
Mouchette: I came home late one night about ten years ago, tanked and ready only for the sleep of oblivion when I flicked the teev on and watched a few minutes of this on SBS and then sat down, watched the rest in increasing sobriety. I had never seen a film like this before and very few as powerful since. It's rustic, verite and highly mannered all at once and none of those elements ever obscures another. Incredible ending seems scarcely believable in the same way that seeing real life violence or tragedy does. Bresson was included by Tarkovsky in his talk about the worlds of filmmakers as being on the same side. he was right.