9. The 400 Blows (1959)
Director: Francois Truffaut
Stars: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Albert Remy, Claire Maurier
After spending nearly a decade working as a film critic, Francois Truffaut knew what made film work, and when it came to sit down and write his feature debut, The 400 Blows, the auteur kept things personal. A key piece of the Nouvelle Vague, Truffaut's best known film treats adolescence with a respect and restraint.
The film's preteen protagonist, Antoine (Jean-Pierre Leaud), is a deeply unhappy kid who, following accusations of plagiarism at school, gets sent by his asshole father to live behind bars. Thanks to Leaud's controlled performance, The 400 Blows never descends into the goofiness you've come to associate with movies about precocious youngsters. —MB