30. M

As engaging as any psychological thriller today and perhaps better crafted, M tells the story of a serial killer (and implied pedophile) stalking the city of Berlin.  The film is about more than the horror of his crimes and the thrill of the chase, however.  It focuses, instead, on the impact these have on a fearful, paranoid city.  The police and a band of professional criminals work against each other to capture the murderer first, while citizens turn on each other with false accusations and mob mentality.  Most surprising is the ending, when Peter Lorre, as the killer, gives a remarkable performance that actually lends sympathy to his character and raises currently relevant questions about the nature of the justice system.  Actually, most everything about this film feels current.  Each shot and transition is expertly orchestrated, and the use of sound is so skilled that it’s difficult to believe this was Fritz Lang’s first “talkie.”

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