10. La Jetée (The Jetty) (Chris Marker, 1962)
Rarely, if ever, has one river (and its two banks) produced so many great filmmakers as Paris’s River Seine in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The right, or northern, bank of the river is the side most closely associated with the nouvelle vague filmmakers (partly because the office of Cahiers du Cinema was located on that side), whereas the left, or southern, bank (the rive gauche) became synonymous with other, largely older filmmakers including Alain Resnais, Jean-Pierre Melville and Chris Marker.
At less than half an hour long, Marker’s La Jetée remains perhaps the most extraordinary, and influential, short film ever made. It was effectively expanded and remade in America as 12 Monkeys (first the superb Bruce Willis-starring 1995 feature, and now the TV series of the same name), and has been a major influence on other time-travel movies such as Looper. However, nothing quite matches the head-spinning nature of the original.
The “jetty” in question does not straddle water but air: it is actually an observation platform at an airport, from which a young boy witnesses a bizarre and, yes, vague incident. It is only years later, after he has been used as a time-traveller by a post-apocalyptic present to journey into both the deep past and the far future, that he realises he has witnessed his own death.