Through Bergman's Past, Brightly

RT Staffers Select Their Favorite Works from the Great Director

by | July 30, 2007 | Comments

With the passing of Ingmar Bergman Monday, the world of cinema lost one of its most unique and important voices. Thus, we at Rotten Tomatoes decided to pick our favorite Bergman films as a tribute to the man who contributed so much to the art of movies.

From dark allegory (The Seventh Seal) to light(er) comedy (Smiles of a Summer Night), from emotionally wrenching period drama (Sawdust and Tinsel, Cries and Whispers) to musical theater (The Magic Flute), Bergman contributed a depth of feeling and intelligence to the cinema seldom seen before. The great Swedish director confronted the mysteries of human existence head-on, and, in doing so, carved out a niche that casts a long shadow over the medium.

Bergman’s work has influenced everything from The Break-Up to Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey; Wes Craven utilized The Virgin Spring as the basis for Last House on the Left, while Woody Allen and Robert Altman cited him as a key influence.

With a filmography as rich and potent as Bergman’s, it’s hard to know where to start. If you’re a beginner to Bergman’s oeuvre, here are some of our favorites.

Wild Strawberries

A lyrical and sometimes surreal film about a man in the twilight of his life, Wild Strawberries explores Bergman’s recurrent themes of innocent children subjected to dishonorable elders. The old man in Wild Strawberries realizes too late that he’s failed to create meaningful relationships with those near to him and remembers, with some dishonesty, his often painful past.

Fanny and Alexander

A broadly autobiographical film about Bergman’s own upbringing, Fanny and Alexander was made for Swedish TV and re-edited from 300 minutes down to 168 for release in American theaters. Bergman’s most popular film in the states, Fanny and Alexander deals again with Bergman’s issues of innocence and knowledge and displays in, sometimes depraved ways, how children don’t lose their innocence so much as have it stolen from them.

— Sara Schieron

Winter Light

Best known as the middle entry of Bergman’s “faith trilogy,” Winter Light revolves around a pastor’s crisis of faith after he’s unable to console one of his congregation. It’s an emotionally direct film — no dream sequences, no parlor games with Death — and Bergman skillfully draws tension from this simplicity. The film essentially ends the same way it begins, but everything that transpires in between gives the film’s final moment a shot of existential horror Bergman is legendary for.

— Alex Vo


A deeply unsettling, hypnotic work, Persona explores the fluidity of human existence. Liv Ullman plays Elizabeth, an actress who has suffered an onstage breakdown; she refuses to speak, and is cared for by Alma (Bibi Andersson). What follows is a disquieting journey into the depths of the soul; as Alma reveals her deepest secrets to Elizabeth, she finds herself in an emotional tug-of-war with her patient. Persona is Bergman at his most formally experimental, and his obsession with the poetry of the human face is at its apex in this mysterious, rewarding film.


One of Bergman’s earliest films, Monika is about the fleeting nature and naiveté of youthful passions. A free-spirited teenager named Monika (Harriet Andersson) and her reserved boyfriend Harry (Lars Ekborg) spend an idyllic summer on a remote island — before reality and responsibility set in. Monika may lack the existential probing and Big Questions of Bergman’s later films, but as an examination of the messiness of teenage emotions, it has a delicate beauty all its own.

— Tim Ryan

Tag Cloud

Syfy Nat Geo APB Star Wars Interview MCU Starz GLAAD Emmy Nominations richard e. Grant zombies psychological thriller streaming Adult Swim boxoffice Musical SundanceTV Spectrum Originals Sundance Chilling Adventures of Sabrina aliens romance dc zero dark thirty GoT BET thriller Amazon Podcast cults Mary poppins USA Network green book binge theme song Premiere Dates Opinion period drama Cartoon Network Drama Paramount anime Stephen King adventure Trivia Bravo CMT USA WGN LGBT 2016 OWN spy thriller DirecTV Cosplay Watching Series TCA Spike 2017 IFC Films TruTV ABC Family dragons Rocky ABC Ghostbusters cooking Martial Arts golden globes 007 Valentine's Day Lucasfilm VH1 History Song of Ice and Fire Epix finale VICE natural history Superheroes Sci-Fi Writers Guild of America game show 2019 Super Bowl Tomatazos docudrama Winter TV ITV Shondaland Comic Book GIFs historical drama crossover diversity crime Sneak Peek miniseries serial killer transformers Black Mirror Star Trek elevated horror composers SXSW Mystery jamie lee curtis Trophy Talk The Witch Tumblr Schedule toy story CBS Horror Comics on TV dramedy Certified Fresh Trailer Polls and Games Lifetime Sony Pictures American Society of Cinematographers Ellie Kemper Disney First Look Lionsgate singing competition witnail Comedy Film Festival strong female leads Pride Month Year in Review Fall TV YouTube Premium TV Land A&E CW Seed talk show politics 2018 Mary Tyler Moore Hulu Marvel sitcom Cannes comiccon blaxploitation Calendar TIFF nature Sundance Now Walt Disney Pictures TNT DC Universe Dark Horse Comics MSNBC cinemax Elton John true crime E3 television crime thriller psycho sports Action YouTube Red CBS All Access X-Men Apple Nominations The CW supernatural Captain marvel Amazon Prime Video Games zombie Rock ratings Kids & Family MTV Rocketman Disney Channel comic Country Grammys vampires Red Carpet DC streaming service festivals technology robots Oscars HBO Character Guide El Rey mutant Acorn TV NBC WarnerMedia IFC facebook SDCC Animation Mary Poppins Returns Election Heroines Awards Tour teaser Mindy Kaling Showtime Tarantino crime drama Christmas 45 Winners Chernobyl FX Marathons Vudu Anna Paquin discovery San Diego Comic-Con Biopics 24 frames Mudbound Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Musicals disaster biography Quiz award winner justice league TCM TLC science fiction New York Comic Con doctor who DGA Fantasy Pirates YA Fox News Brie Larson 21st Century Fox Music Pop police drama 2015 sequel dceu Western Set visit Food Network TV Infographic FXX Warner Bros. spider-man animated TBS political drama Women's History Month cats Ovation Pixar ESPN Spring TV Countdown Columbia Pictures Crackle Superheroe See It Skip It Toys unscripted The Arrangement Logo AMC mockumentary RT History Best and Worst harry potter BBC Masterpiece PaleyFest Britbox Emmys Universal Comedy Central cops NYCC Photos Nickelodeon based on movie Shudder President DC Comics hist Box Office FOX Reality anthology Teen Esquire TCA 2017 space Extras Freeform Pet Sematary HBO Max PBS travel spinoff RT21 Summer Netflix Creative Arts Emmys LGBTQ Thanksgiving National Geographic Reality Competition what to watch BBC America Rom-Com casting war social media Awards 20th Century Fox E! medical drama Paramount Network Holidays CNN adaptation