Top Ten Visual Masterpieces (Number One!)


Ingmar Bergman

Ok, so my number one is a director, not a movie. I guess that’s cheating, but it’s my blog so, neener-neener, I can do whatever I want. The fact of the matter is that Bergman’s filmography is so visually impressive it requires a list all to itself. In fact, if I was being honest with myself, the rest of the top ten list would have included more of his films. Bergman is a rarity in that he made brilliant movies throughout his career with only a few near misses. His first movie, Crisis made it clear that his career would be one filled with poetry and beauty and wonder. In the early fifties his works began garnering international acclaim and soon he was a superstar of cinema. If you’ve never heard of Ingmar Bergman, I suggest you step out of your tiny Hollywood box and see what film is really about. No offense. It’s a sincere suggestion.

Bergman and his go-to cinematographer Sven Nykvist--a match made in movie heaven.

Bergman and his go-to cinematographer Sven Nykvist–a match made in movie heaven.

Bergman had a special way with movies. He would make one or more a year, just moving from one project to the next. But these were more than just dime-a-dozen projects. They were extra special. Maybe he sold his soul to the devil, maybe he was just imbued with some magic at birth, but somehow he was churning out masterpiece after masterpiece. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen all of his films…yet. But I’ve seen enough to know that Bergman was the greatest filmmaker in Western cinema history. Disagree? I will fight you.

The first Ingmar Bergman movie I ever saw was The Seventh Seal, and it’s still my favorite movie ever. I remember how powerful the images were, how they sunk deep in and lingered in my thoughts. They’re still there, nagging at my soul. I probably sound ridiculous saying that, but again…it’s my blog.

The Seventh Seal

There are some other films that stand out as well. In a sea of diamonds they are, well, bigger diamonds.

Persona is a masterpiece of psychological drama–a film about human identity and the hidden emotions of the subconscious. Bergman and Nykvist paid homage Dreyer’s Joan of Arc with a character study in close-ups. Then they blended those identities with groundbreaking effects, coupled with an excellent script of course. The effect is mesmerizing to say the least.



Bergman made his best color statement with Cries and Whispers a film about family, heartache, and buried resentment. The film alternates between a motif of red to represent anger and bitterness, and one of blues and greens which recall sweet memories of youth. Cries and Whispers is harsh and surreal, but there is a deep truth in the images that captures the nature of human suffering.

Cries and Whispers

Cries and Whispers

In the eighties, Bergman gave us Fanny and Alexander, originally aired as a four-part TV series. The use natural light in this film is so perfectly executed that you could pause it at any moment and be struck by its beauty. Every frame is a Rembrandt.

Fanny and Alexander

Fanny and Alexander

Every entry in the Bergman filmography has something to offer visually, and lucky for us there is a wide selection available to stream:

All of these titles are available on HuluPlus

Crisis (1946)

Thirst (1949)

To Joy (1949)

Secrets of Women (1949)

Summer Interlude (1951)

Summer With Monika (1953)

Sawdust and Tinsel (1953)

A Lesson in Love (1954)

Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)

Wild Strawberries (1957)

The Seventh Seal (1957)

The Magician (1958)

The Virgin Spring (1960)

Through a Glass Darkly (1961)

The Silence (1963)

Winter Light (1963)

All These Women (1964)

Hour of the Wolf (1968)

Passion of Anna (1969)

Cries and Whispers (1972)

Scenes from a Marriage (1973)

Fårö Dokument 1979 (1979)

From the Life of the Marionettes (1980)

Fanny and Alexander (1982)


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