The Golden Bear, presented each year at the Berlinale to the best film shown, is, along with the Palme D’or at Cannes and Venice’s Golden Lion, one of the highest accolades on the film festival circuit. Since its inception in 1951, the trophy has been given to some classic and near-classic films: here are Berlin & I’s pick of some of the best.
The Wages of Fear (1953)
French director Henri-Georges Clouzot’s nerve-wracking thriller tells the story of a band of desperadoes enlisted on a suicide mission to drive trucks packed with nitro-glycerine across a hazardous South American terrain. One false move and they’re dead. At 150 minutes, you’ll have no fingernails left by the end.
12 Angry Men (1957)
Sidney Lumet’s adaptation of the 1954 television play is one of the great courtroom drama’s ever put on film. Henry Fonda plays a juryman attempting to sway the opinions of eleven others, convinced of the guilt of a teenager accused of murder. It’s fraught, brilliant, and timeless.
Jean-Luc Godard’s bizarre sci-fi thriller is everything good cinema should be – playful, surreal, unexpected, frightening and funny. Subtitled ‘The Strange Adventure of Lemmy Caution’, Eddie Constantine plays a private eye adrift in the titular futuristic city.
Rain Man (1989)
After a troubled production history – with countless directors and actors attached to the stop-start project – when it was finally released, this touching and funny story, about two brothers on a turbulent road trip, was a box office and critical smash. Tom Cruise, as a flash hustler, got to show he could really act, and Dustin Hoffman, as his autistic savant brother, took a difficult role and turned it into a truly iconic cinema performance.
The Thin Red Line (1999)
The enigmatic American director Terrence Malick (whose Badlands is a truly marvellous one-off) came out of the wilderness with this, his first film in twenty years, a Second World War epic set during the conflict in the pacific. The film isn’t perfect – it is cluttered with celebrity cameos and some of the scenes are clunky and unconvincing. But when it is good – a spectacular hill assault on an enemy compound led by Nick Nolte, for example – it is very, very good indeed.
– by David Hayles