The Most Pretentious Films Of All Time

Not Available Lead
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

Not Available Lead

Do you feel like you’re a profound visionary? Do you roll your eyes at the “cute” remarks from your simp-minded friends? Do you watch French New Wave porn? If you said “yes” to any one of these questions, you might be a suffering from what’s called “Being A Pretentious, Condescending Asshole.”

But it’s okay, you’re not alone. One in every ten Americans is a pretentious, condescending asshole, including many acclaimed dignitaries of film. In this very article, you will find some of the most painfully self-indulgent entries to the cinematic canon. Some of these films I love, and some of these films I hate, but all of them carry a false sense of profundity so great, they put Bono to shame.

Matt Rimer is a writer living in Boston. Follow him on Twitter here.

1. pretentiousfilmslead

Not Available Interstitial

2. thetreeoflife2011

Not Available Interstitial

The Tree Of Life (2011)

“Hey, Terrence Malick, what’s your film about?”

“Everything in existence, past and present, the human condition, the cosmos and Brad Pitt's beautiful face.”

Don’t get me wrong, I like Terrence Malick as much as the next guy, but this film was a bit too much. One minute, a little boy is stealing his mother’s bra and the next, a couple of dinosaurs are going Steven Seagal on each other, snapping necks and shit. Hey man, you want to make a movie about the solar system? Baller. You want to make Jurassic Park IV? Cool beans. You want to make a film about Sean Penn being depressed and not saying anything? You had me at "hello." Just don’t jam them all into one movie from now on, okay? Cool.

3. helvetica2007

Not Available Interstitial

Helvetica (2007)

Oh my god, no way! An hour and a half documentary about typeface? Just what I always wanted!

If you’re not familiar, Helvetica is perhaps the most common font in the entire world. You can find it everywhere you look, from the text set over a grainy, sepia toned hipster photo you saw on Tumblr this morning, to the bus stop sign that a homeless person just pooped under.

The poster for the film reads: “Meet the cast: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ.” But don’t worry, I think the deluxe collector’s edition DVD comes with a free razor blade so you can slit your wrists. Oh, it doesn’t? Well, then you’re fucked.

4. requiemforadream2000

Not Available Interstitial

Requiem For A Dream (2000)

Darren Aronofsky is famous for his pretentiousness—he’s the Lebron James of the pretentious game, if you will—and no film of his articulates his inflated ego more than Requiem For A Dream. Even if you’d never seen this movie, the title alone suggests that you’re in for something obnoxious. I don’t hate this movie at all, but I just can’t help to think that Darren Aronofsky believes that he truly is the savior of modern cinema or something equally as lofty. Like, say, Jesus Christ.

5. cosmopolis2012

Not Available Interstitial

Cosmopolis (2012)

Following the Occupy Wall Street movement, David Cronenberg decided to give his two cents regarding corporate greed and rebellion. This film centers on investment prodigy Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) as he cruises around future Manhattan in his limo in hopes that everyone will forget about the Twilight movies. He’s joined by a bunch of friends, colleagues and lovers who each give him their own views on calculated risk, economics and human nature. The film carries out like a statistics book being interpreted by a robot and none of the actors understand the meaning of the lines that they are reading. Also, Jay Baruchel (the skinny dude with the stupid haircut from Knocked Up is in it for some reason.

6. eltopo1970

Not Available Interstitial

El Topo (1970)

While most directors on this list are completely full of themselves, none compare to Alejandro Jodorowsky and his psychedelic 1970 classic. In the film, Jodorowsky himself even plays the titular character. El Topo travels through the desert of the mysterious neo-western world having threesomes and killing everything he sees. He then becomes a god-like figure, then Jesus and, finally, the famous Burning Monk (any Rage Against The Machine fans in the house?).

Even El Topo’s son is played by Jodorowsky’s real son, Brontis. The little boy is, for some unexplained reason, naked the entire time while he rides a horse with his pops.

After the filming was complete, Jodorowsky returned to his old life, where he could masturbate to pictures of himself in the comfort of his own home.

7. snyecdoche2008

Not Available Interstitial

Synecdoche New York (2008)

Seriously, fuck you, Charlie Kaufman. I liked Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as much as the next guy, but this movie is just straight-up nauseating. Like, he turned up the mind fuck to eleven with this one.

The film stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the rat king of smug actors, as Caden Cotard, an artist who has a perpetual fear of death. To conquer this fear, he decides to spend the rest of his life building a replica of New York City inside a warehouse, and having actors live out fakes lives, as a performance piece. Spoiler alert: Then he dies. The end.

8. antichrist2009

Not Available Interstitial

Anti-Christ (2009)

The film opens with a close up of Willem Dafoe’s penis penetrating Charlotte Gainsbourg’s vagina, set to opera music. You know, standard Lars Von Trier stuff.

Other hallmark moments from the highlight reel include Charlotte crushing Willem’s balls with a block of wood and jerking him off until he cums blood, then diddling her lady-business with a pair of scissors. Oh, and a friendly fox gains the ability to talk and promptly announces, “Chaos reigns!”

So to reiterate—this is pretty much your run-of-the-mill Lars Von Trier flick. Nothing to see here. Move along.

9. acrosstheuniverse2007

Not Available Interstitial

Across The Universe (2007)

Everybody likes the Beatles. It’s a fact. If you say you don’t, you’re either a liar or you’ve never heard a Beatles song. I’m a grown man and I’m not ashamed to say that I cry every time I hear “You've Got to Hide Your Love Away”.

That’s just the influence that the Beatles have. They’re the biggest band of all time and John Lennon was pretty spot-on when he said that the Beatles were, more popular than the Son of God.

Then in 2007, someone thought, “You know who’s better than the Beatles and Jesus Christ? Jim Sturgess!"

Everyone thought it was a great idea to make a movie that watered down all of the greatest songs ever. Then they probably burned the American flag and drowned a bunch of puppies.

10. saloor120daysofsodom1975

Not Available Interstitial

Salo, Or The 120 Days Of Sodom (1975)

Do you think poop and torture is art? Me too. See this movie.

11. aseriousman2009

Not Available Interstitial

A Serious Man (2009)

The Coen Brothers are the only people in the world that can get away with building up a movie for two hours only to spring the credits on you right at the climax. It’s like when a dog jumps into the bed with you and your girl right before you’re about to go Jackson Pollock.

A Serious Man is no exception. Everything is coming to a head when suddenly a fucking tornado shows up to the party when… *roll credits*.

12. deadpoetssocity1989

Not Available Interstitial

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Ah, Dead Poets Society , the film that inspired young men and women across the country to stand on their desks and yell, “Look at me! My parents have never told me I’m wrong! Please punch me in the face!”

You want to be an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer? Fuck you. You’re a transcendental poet. A cave painter. A philosopher. A master of your own domain. Carpe Diem! Now rip all the pages out of your books or I’ll cut you.

Hey, maybe we shouldn’t let a coked-out '80s Robin Williams teach our kids life lessons. Just a thought.

13. somwhere2010

Not Available Interstitial

Somewhere (2010)

Do you like Ewan McGregor? Well, sorry, he’s not in this film. But Stephen Dorff is and he’s pretty much the same person if you disregard acting talent.

Somewhere is Sophia Coppola’s tribute to the Hollywood lifestyle and it’s ability to destroy relationships. Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning spend the majority of the film shooting the shit at the Chateau Marmont and not really doing much of anything.

P.S. Nobody wants to buy your goddamn electronic cigarettes, Stephen Dorff.

14. magnolia1999

Not Available Interstitial

Magnolia (1999)

Any movie with a third act deus ex machina featuring frogs falling from the sky and magically solving everyone’s problems must inherently be labeled as pretentious.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson really tests the faith of his audience by casting funny man/ horrible monster person John C. Reilly as the serious love interest.

Also, Phillip Seymour Hoffman makes his second appearance on this list, making him the village whore of faux highbrow films.

15. eyeswideshut1999

Not Available Interstitial

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

For a movie about a wild underground orgy masquerade club, Eyes Wide Shut is pretty fucking boring. I suppose once you reach the top with films like A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket and 2001: A Space Odyssey, the only way left to go is down. Casting Tom Cruise as the lead for a Kubrick flick is the equivalent of a lonely middle aged person giving up and deciding, “Well, I guess I’m just gonna wear sweats the rest of my life.” Without Kubrick’s usual creative spirit, and completed after his death, Eyes Wide Shut is simply an artsy, trivial waste of time.

16. mullholanddrive2001

Not Available Interstitial

Mulholland Drive (2001)

For whatever reason, all David Lynch films seem to have the miraculous ability to put me to sleep. They’re each like a glass of warm milk and the glow of late night penis enlargement pill infomercials all rolled into one. I’ve probably fallen asleep to Mulholland Dr., at the very least, four times. Each time I am wooed towards slumber's warm embrace by the lullaby of an incoherent storyline and the unapologetic use of jazz. To be perfectly honest, I still don’t know what happens at the very end—I’ve never made it that far. So, if anyone wants to tell me what happens in the comments, that’d be killer.

17. breathless1960

Not Available Interstitial

Breathless (1960)

I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t include a French new wave film on this list. And what better movie than the king of La Nouvelle Vague Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless?

Breathless has all of the new wave staples, including, but not limited to: copius amounts of cigarette smoking, coffee, sweet sunglasses, chicks with short haircuts, striped shirts and sex scenes that are borderline rape.

18. lastdays2005

Not Available Interstitial

Last Days (2005)

Gus Van Sant is notorious for his controversial, avant garde works and none speak louder and more pompously than his semi autobiographical film based on Kurt Cobain, Last Days.

This movie could have been incredible, but instead, Van Sant decides to show the character walking around aimlessly and barely saying a word. Literally, the most memorable scene was when he watches the entire music video to the Boys II Men song, “On Bended Knee.”

Another scene takes place twenty feet from his living room window, distantly watching as he jams on his guitar for ten minutes straight.

I don’t want to give away the ending to this Kurt Cobain tragedy, but let's just say it goes out with a bang. Okay fine, I'll spill—Bruce Willis was dead the whole time.

19. thedeerhunter(1978)

Not Available Interstitial

The Deer Hunter (1978)

The Deer Hunter is a marathon of a movie. It’s over three hours long and there are probably only ten scenes in total. One of those scenes is a wedding that lasts 51 minutes and adds absolutely nothing to the plot or character development in any way.

The film follows three friends from Pennsylvania as they join the army and are deployed into Vietnam. They somehow all wind up as prisoners in the same Viet Cong POW camp where they are forced to compete against each other in Russian roulette. In fact, the whole second half of the movie is pretty much just Russian roulette over and over again.

After watching this film, I think developed PTSD. I saw things that can’t be unseen. Real shit, man. Not all wounds are visible.

20. avatar(2009)

Not Available Interstitial

Avatar (2009)

I suppose I could slander this movie by pointing out how it's a blatant rip-off of Pocahontas and Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest, but I’m not going to. Instead, let’s talk about how James Cameron’s Avatar was exactly one Jeremy Renner away from winning Best Picture. James Cameron not only forgot about subtlety when making his film, he left subtlety scared and alone for two hours when he forgot to pick it up after soccer practice. He legit named the unobtainable mineral that the humans are hoping to extract “Unobtainium." If you have the balls to think you should win Best Picture when you use the word “Unobtainium” in the script, you are undoubtedly a narcissistic tool.

21. triptomoon

Not Available Interstitial

A Trip To The Moon (1902)

Who the hell do you think you are, Georges Méliès? Two accent marks in your name? What are you trying to prove? Do you think you’re better than me? Oh, so you think that just because you “invented narrative film” you can be a total doucher? Not on my watch.

A Trip To The Moon is the first pretentious film ever. Scientists dressed like wizards, the moon grows a face and becomes anthropomorphic and, of course, it’s shot in black and white. Hey Méliès, have fun at your next Vampire Weekend show, you fucking hipster motherfucker. Directors, amiright?!

Latest in Style