Last time anyone checked -- which was in 2015, by the way -- Europe was home to 50 countries and 508.5 million people. Basically, asking for a list of the best European-directed movies is like going on Yelp and searching for the best restaurants in the third-most populous continent on earth: You're going to get a whole lot of options.
The good news is, you can start with a top-rated tasting platter. Like a tapas plate of some of Europe's finest cinema, this movie tour lets you take in France, Sweden, Russia, England, and Italy from the coziness of your couch over the course of a weekend.
You can't talk about Euro cinema without talking about the French New Wave. Throughout the 1950s and '60s, directors like Jean-Luc Godard radicalized movie making with flicks that were equal parts real and surreal, socially relevant, and akin to good jazz music in their freewheeling style.
You could melt a hole through your couch while you binge on French New Wave movies, but if you've got to pick only one, pick "Breathless." It not only sums up the movement, it sums up everything great about French filmmaking -- the passion, the naturalistic dialogue and performances, the chain smoking, the style, and the danger. Plus, romantic leads Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg are so timelessly cool, they'll make you want to become either a criminal or an or expat. Pick your poison.
'The Seventh Seal' (1957)
If you actually went to Sweden, chances are you'd see some wonderful castles. Alternatively, you can see a wonderful castle, plus a chess-playing incarnation of death, plus some of the most striking black-and-white visuals of all time if you just watch Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal." It's tough to pin down the best of Bergman, but it's easy to argue that this surreal morality tale -- in which Max Von Sydow's stone-faced knight buys more time from the Grim Reaper by outwitting him in a board game -- is his most iconic movie.
Not only does the game-obsessed Death in "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" pay homage to its greatness, Stanley Kubrick called Bergman "the best filmmaker at work today" back in 1960. And Kubrick probably knew some stuff about movies.
Poor Russia -- sometimes it seems like its cinematic claim to fame is limited to providing action-movie bad guys when Nazis aren't available. Good thing legendary Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky was here to clear that up for you.
You could spend the weekend in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, or you could just watch Tarkovsky's "Stalker" instead. Either way, you're in for a long, strange trip of mind-bending visuals and hypnotic vibes. "Stalker," though, will also give you a deeply symbolic story about a writer and a scientist on a quest through a dreamy wasteland in search of a room that can fulfill wishes. So it's best to do the movie instead of the illegal thing.
In 2013, more than 40,000 U.K. film fans voted in a Telegraph poll for the best movie of all time. Their top choice? "Trainspotting."
"Trainspotting" put Scottish star Ewan McGregor and English director Danny Boyle -- who'd go on to helm modern classics like "28 Days Later" and "Slumdog Millionaire" -- on the radar, for good reason. Its visually insanity and laser-beam pace are absolutely necessary to contain this punk rock tale of heroin addiction, underage girlfriends, and the most unreliable bunch of reject friends ever. It's a trip worth taking -- from the safe distance of your futon, that is.
'8 1/2' (1963)
No Euro trip is complete without a stop in Italy. You've got your pizza, your gondoliers and their funny hats, and you've got your Federico Fellini movies. His '63 classic "8 1/2" -- a rambling, raucous, and reality-altering steamroller about a frustrated director, his producer, his wife, and his mistress -- has more verve and fire than the biggest Italian family reunion Nonna can cook up.
And, really, what better way to cap off your European movie tour than with a movie about movies? Sometimes, it's okay to get a little meta.
- Europe in Figures
- 10 Great French New Wave Films
- Stanley Kubrick to Ingmar Bergman: 'You Are the Best Filmmaker at Work Today' (1960)
- 10 Essential Russian Films
- The Best Films of All Time: What You Voted For
- 10 Great Italian Films of the 1960s