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Film School Confidential: The Essential Films

Film School Confidential is a new series about films, what they’ve taught me, and why I love them. As a student studying film production at New York University, I spend almost all my time talking about movies, watching movies, or dissecting movies. I’ve noticed that a few films come up in almost every conversation. Sometimes a professor is bashing a director, or a peer is analyzing the sound of a scene; either way, these films have some notable importance in the industry. This is a list of films that every film student knows (and has strong opinions about):

Spirited Away

Film School Confidential (Spirited Away)

This might be the most popular anime film in Western culture and it’s a great film to introduce you to the Studio Ghibli world. It is a story about ghosts, adventure, and a strong female lead; what’s not to like? It is a beautiful, introspective film and you notice something new every time you watch it. Let this be your sign to either watch or rewatch this story.

GoodfellasFilm School Confidential (Goodfellas)

I love this film. Usually, I avoid violent, gangster movies, but this one is simply iconic. It is renowned for its characters and camerawork. My favorite scene is when Henry asks Karen how much money she needs for shopping and she holds up her hands to indicate the width of the stack of cash she wants. Iconic. Amazing. Watch it.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Film School Confidential (2001: A Space Odyssey)

Almost any Kubrick film could suffice for a right answer in film school, but this film is especially important. It is a complex film that questions technology, human origin, and our need for answers. If you’re not into questioning your entire existence, you can just watch it for the amazing sets and camera tricks. After you watch this, I recommend watching the interviews of Kubrick talking about the making of.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Film School Confidential (Grand Budapest Hotel)

Many of my professors give mixed reviews on Wes Anderson, but most students love him. This is considered his best film yet for its insane production and attention to detail. Visually, this film is stunning. Every frame is calculated to perfection. It is both a classic love story and an epic adventure. If you want more Wes, check out Rushmore.

Donnie Darko

Film School Confidential (Donnie Darko)

This one is especially popular among film students. It’s a bit hard to find but it is worth the hunt. Jake Gyllenhaal is simply a genius. The story revolves around time travel, giant bunnies, and more existential questions like 2001. You definitely have to watch it more than once, but you’ll want to watch it over and over again.

Star Wars

Film School Confidential (Star Wars)

You can’t talk about great films without mentioning George Lucas. The score, the story, the innovative visuals; it is a film student’s dream. The franchise serves as a benchmark for many directors and writers. If you want to be a part of the many heated debates, watch them all in the correct order.

Taxi Driver

Film School Confidential (Taxi Driver)

This one is usually studied when we are talking about characters and character development. Travis’ drives a taxi by day and cleans up the streets by night. The plot moves a bit slow, but De Niro is brilliant. Also, stayed tuned for 12-year-old Jodie Foster’s performance as a loveable prostitute.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Film School Confidential (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

We often talk about movies that are real and show real people. John Hughes is the master of this. He shows that teenagers are real, complex people on screen. I chose this one because it’s the perfect balance of happy and sad; of fantasy and reality. It also has a great soundtrack.


+Meet Megan
Megan is studying film at New York University and is planning on going into screenwriting. She is a big believer in dessert, 80s movies, the Beatles, and naps. She spends most of her time seeking out vegan cafes, thrift shopping, and taking photos.

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