Dario Argento has to be one of my top favourite directors of all time. His blending of the horror, fantasy, mystery and thriller genres is exactly what I love.
In the month of May, the BFI has been screening Dario Argento’s films. I’d seen quite a few of his films in cinemas before, but this was a great chance for me to see some more of his films on the big screen. What made this season particularly exciting was that they included some of his movies that usually don’t get the same amount of love as his classics.
I’ve not seen all of the maestro’s work. He’s consistently worked for much of his life. Though I now feel like I’ve seen enough of them for a ranked list. Because who doesn’t love a good list? I look forward to revisiting this list in a couple years’ time and being embarrassed by it.
13 Due occhi diabolic (Two Evil Eyes) (1990) co. directed by George Romero
It seems wrong to list a film made by two of my favourite directors so low, but Two Evil Eyes doesn’t work for me. I love Poe deeply and have watched many adaptations of his stories. Roger Corman’s Poe Cycle is near perfect to me, so I’m biased here. While this might not technically be the worst film on the list, it didn’t make me feel anything. That’s a pretty big sin if you ask me.
George Romero and Argento collaborated before on Dawn of the Dead. That is easily the much better project.
12 Occhiali Neri (Dark Glasses) (2022)
An alright entry. The cinematography is so close, dark and claustrophobic, I couldn’t enjoy it. However, I saw this at FrightFest and got free sunglasses. So that’s a bonus. The excellent soundtrack from French musician Arnaud Rebotini gives it the edge over Due occhi.
Also, what’s with the Italians and eyes?
11 Phenomena (1985)
I know, I know. A controversial placing. The Jennifer Connelly-led supernatural horror is a hit amongst a majority of fans. However, I struggled to “get” this one. Hopefully one that I will come to understand in the future with repeated viewings.
10 La Sindrome di Stendhal (The Stendhal Syndrome) (1996)
For years, bad reviews made me reluctant to watch Argento’s later work. I took a gamble and bought tickets at the BFI to watch this. What I saw was both a pleasant surprise and a bit of a mess.
The film begins with a young police officer who suffers from Stendhal Syndrome, a disorder where a person experiences intense symptoms while looking at a piece of art. Following an assault, the officer’s personality begins to change, and she becomes determined to find her attacker.
It’s a very solid film in the first two acts (very dated CGI aside). However, it begins to feel long towards the end, which makes the reveals less surprising and impactful. The viewer has too much time to figure out where we’re going.
9 Non ho sonno (Sleepless) (2001)
As with The Stendhal Syndrome, I was cautious to watch this turn-of-the-millenium giallo. I was pleasantly surprised at how solid it is. It certainly doesn’t do anything new, and some of the reveals feel a little too familiar, but for anyone not overly-familiar with Argento’s work, there’s no way you could tell.
Call me a sucker for good set pieces, but his one has some of Argento’s best. It’s worth turning this one on just to watch the opening sequence involving a train. Goblin’s soundtrack is also VERY, very good.
9 Il gatto a nove code (The Cat o’ Nine Tails) (1971)
This is one of Argento’s messier gialli. The mystery isn’t my particular favourite. But it does have my favourite character.
PROTECT COOKIE AT ALL COSTS!
7 Inferno (1980)
I really enjoy this weird little film. Visually and thematically, this is the follow-up to Suspiria in the director’s Mother of Tears trilogy. They’re some of his most mystical films, and I love them for that.
The scene where she’s in the water looking for her keys? Will haunt me for life.
6 Opera (1987)
Opera is a stunning film. The sets used in the opera are fantastic. Apparently Argento was meant to be directing his own version of the Macbeth opera in real life, but it never came to fruition. This is clearly where he got to live out his dreams.
The film is tense and wicked. If you’d have asked me a month ago, I’d have listed this in my top four. However, having watched it at the BFI, I found issues with it that I hadn’t before. The ending is surreal, but it’s another where I feel like it goes on for a little bit too long.
Those death scenes though…utter perfection.
5 4 mosche di velluto grigio (Four Flies on Grey Velvet) (1971)
A very solid giallo, but one that doesn’t stick with me as much as Argento’s other masterpieces. There’s a great cast of characters here, though, which I think is one of its strengths.
4 Tenebrae (1982)
A bananas, bananas film. This is maybe the third most rewatched out of his films, and I continue to be thrilled by it. The ending is the most iconic out of any film on this list.
3 L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage) (1970)
Dario’s directorial debut would introduce viewers to what would become some of his signature themes: forgotten memories, trauma, and madness. There are hints of Mario Bava in it, which helps elevate it to a stylish level. The fact that this was his first film is astounding. Perfection.
2 Suspiria (1977)
There’s nothing I can add to the discussion around this film. It’s stunning, surreal, evil, magic, THE ABSOLUTE BEST (well, minus my number 1 pick). I’ve seen this movie about half a million times, and I could never tire of it. A dance school with witches? The best idea Daria and Dario could have come up with.
Goblin’s score is God’s greatest gift to this earth.
1 Profundo Rosso (Deep Red) (1975)
The obvious choice. But I’m a girl who loves mystery, crazy reveals, hidden clues and blood. Sue me. And while Suspiria‘s soundtrack is perfect, I think some of Goblin’s pieces here beat it.
It lacks the technicolour magic of Suspiria, but it does have Daria Nicoldi. She and David Hemmings have charming chemistry on camera, and that shouldn’t be overlooked. When I first saw this movie, I couldn’t stop talking about it for days.
And when I say days, I mean years. I still can’t stop talking about it.