The Lady in the Lake (1947): Forcing audiences to see through a character’s eyes, the point-of-view shot is a neat trick—and usually used sparingly. Before he settled on Citizen Kane, Orson Welles at one point wanted to make his first film all-POV. It’s clear how wise he was to abandon the idea in another actor’s big directing debut, Robert Montgomery’s The Lady in the Lake, which puts us into the eyes of Phillip Marlowe (Montgomery, off-screen) as he converses, kisses, slaps and blows smoke onto an uncomfortable-looking supporting cast. Only once, during an underlit car-crash sequence, is it more than a cheap gimmick, or less than giggle-worthy.
Dark Passage (1947): Something was in the air in 1947. For the first third of this noir, based on the David Goodis novel, we see through the eyes of someone with the voice of Humphrey Bogart. On the lam, he eventually has his face surgically altered, at which point we can finally confirm that our lead truly is Humphrey Bogart.
Robocop (1987): The hard-earned apex of Paul Verhoeven’s hyperviolent satire locks us into the unblinking gaze of our not-quite-dead hero as scientists heartlessly dehumanize him and make him into the titular cyborg, treating him humanely only when liquored up.
Strange Days (1995): Kathryn Bigelow’s hyperbolic dystopia, written by ex James Cameron, predicted a 1999 where people can record what they see with a device plugged into their brain, allowing them to relive precious (or not-so-precious) moments. This means POV interludes of people falling to their deaths, having sex or cupping Juliette Lewis’ breasts.
Doom (2005): To answer the question “Why else would it exist?” this take on the first-person shooter actually becomes a first-person shooter for a couple minutes. It’s just like the real deal, only you’re watching someone else play! Awesome!
Enter the Void (2009): In which art-house maximalist Gaspar Noé solves Lady in the Lake’s problem: use POV to induce a trance. Our hero (who blinks!) is killed, then hovers around a neon-drenched Tokyo. Two and a half hours of subjective cinema later, we’ve finally seen something that uses this trick for good.