September 17, 2019

The 7 Greatest Films (According to First Year Film School Students)

boondock saints
Have you seen Martin Scorsese's "Boondock Saints"? It’s a classic!

Okay, let’s get this out of the way up front. I have to disclose the shameful truth that, at one point, I myself was a film school student. And even worse, at one point I was even a first-year film school student. I was in that exact, awful first class that every film school student had to sit through.

The one where all your bright-eyed peers are lined up in desks and the professor makes you introduce yourself one by one. Each of us is supposed to say who we are, where we’re from and…what our favorite movies and directors are. 

It’s an odd experience. Because it quickly morphs from an innocent way to share something about yourself and your passions into a contest to see who can name drop the socially correct film knowledge. It also showcases film students at their worst. Because pretty much every answer will always be the same.

So, for those who didn’t have to endure the responses in real life (or for those sadists who want to sit through them again), we have the 7 greatest movies in the great history of film cinema…according to first-year film school students. 

1) Wes Anderson’s Royal Tenenbaums

This was answer number one. Across the board it seemed. I went to film school in Texas (Wes Anderson and the Wilson brothers’ home state, so there were a few cinephiles who knew of Bottle Rocket), but almost like it was the correct answer to the goddamn test it was nearly a unanimous selection.

royal tennebaums

2) Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas

Probably the second most popular choice after Wes Anderson was anything by Martin Scorsese. Goodfellas would be tops for most guys who seemed to think of it more as an aspirational documentary than an actual mafia crime tragedy.

3) Boondock Saints (director unknown)

Was mentioned more than a few times, but unfortunately, writer and director Troy Duffy’s name seemed to be mostly unknown, and largely unimportant to how “classic” of a film it was.

4) Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings

Even though The Return of the King had only come out a few years prior, apparently the buzz on it was still riding high off of its Oscar’s success.

lord of the rings

5) Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane

These kids were suckups.

6) Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides

I don’t know for sure how diverse the gender equality is at other film schools, but for some reasons the one I attend definitely skewed predominantly male. The Virgin Suicides was a top pick for many of the women, and to further spite the Goodfellas guys, we ended up being assigned to watch and write a paper on it in the first week.

7) Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break
point break

This was my answer ten years ago and I still stick by it today. I don't care how embarrassing or ridiculous it might seem, but when in retrospect when to the rest of the top film picks from my classmates, I actually feel pretty good about it. 

What was your pick for favorite cinema classic when you were just starting off as a bright-eyed freshman? Is it embarrassing to admit now, or does it show how woke of an 18-year-old you were? Let us know in the comments below!     

Your Comment


Off the bat, I'd say Bergman Tarkovsky Fellini Antonioni Polanski Kieslowski Truffaut Godard Rohmer... but of course, I went to film schools in France and Poland, both in Europe, so I hope I'm excused :)

September 17, 2019 at 1:10PM


I feel like No Film School should talk about artists like these as well. I've personally never seen any article on here mentioning Tarkovsky, Bergman, Fellini, etc...It seems so obvious but they tend to stick to Hollywood cliches and blockbusters. Ignoring the greats really affects the next generation of filmmakers in an extremely negative way.

September 18, 2019 at 8:39AM

Sam Mizrahi-Powell
Writer / Director

What about:
Garden state
Donnie Darko
Pulp Fiction

September 17, 2019 at 2:44PM

Ryan McCurdy
Commercial Video Producer/ Filmmaker

classic halloween horror flick "Scareface"

September 18, 2019 at 1:40AM


Point Break is 100% pure adrenaline

September 17, 2019 at 3:41PM

Rick Caplan

Back off Warchild, seriously.

September 17, 2019 at 5:42PM


greatest movie every filmmaker should watch specially if you are in filmschool is LIVING IN OBLIVION!!!!

September 17, 2019 at 9:24PM


The Seven Samurai -Akira Kurosawa

...was my pick as a freshman in Utah.

September 18, 2019 at 3:53PM, Edited September 18, 3:53PM

John M.
Filmaker, Location Sound Mixer, Boom Op, Actor

Requiem for a Dream and Memento really knocked me on my ass at the time.

September 18, 2019 at 4:57PM

Ian Mora
Writer, Director, Editor, Camera Operator

Oh I will second Point Break without hesitation, only to add that there is nothing embarrassing or ridiculous about it. The surf photography is some of the best ever shot, and the movie managed to be mainstream while also authentically capturing the zeitgeist of male youth intensity from the early 90s that spoke to me and all my friends. We saw it several times in the theater that year, it meant a lot to us. And all through a female director, which only makes it 100 times cooler. I will watch it to the end any time it's on. Via con Dios.

September 19, 2019 at 1:16PM


I won't comment on the movie as a whole, but the surf shots in Point Break are nowhere near being the best ever. They barely even surf a wave over head high. Putting aside the terrible CGI face-swaps, even Blue Crush had much better surfing sequences. If we're talking about feature films, "Breath" is probably the one that delivers the best.

If you want to see really stunning surf cinematography check out "View From A Blue Moon" or Anything by Bali Strickland, Rick Rifiki or Chris Bryan.

September 20, 2019 at 12:10AM


Gumo, The Rivers Edge, The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen, The Professional (Leon).

September 20, 2019 at 12:14AM