“Give them pleasure. The same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.” – Alfred Hitchcock
So, today I decided I’d release what I call my ‘top ten films’. Now, let me get something straight – these aren’t what I’d call the top ten greatest films ever released (otherwise you’d see entries like Citizen Kane and Apocalypse Now in here) – these are merely the films that I enjoy the most, and that had the most profound effect on me growing up. I’ve taken the time to explain why each film means so much to me.
Before I get started on the top ten itself, here’s some honourable mentions to have a quick look through.
TEN HONOURABLE MENTIONS
– Mary & Max (Elliot, 2009) – A delightful stop-motion comedy/drama, it concerns the pen pal relationship between an eight-year-old from a sepia-toned Australia, and a forty-something man with autism from a grayscale Manhattan. Just wait for the sucker punch at the end – I weep. – 6.5/10
– Nosferatu (Murnau, 1922) – It might not have any spoken word (having been released in the silent era of cinema) but the sheer palpable menace that exudes from this film is unquestionable. The iconic shot of Count Orlok’s shadow climbing the stairs still terrifies me to this very day. – 5.5/10
– Predator (McTiernan, 1987) – Many people look to the first two Terminator films when they consider Schwarzenegger’s iconic film. I disagree, however, claiming that his turn as Dutch is far superior. His howling war cry as the last man standing against the titular Predator is one of cinema’s most iconic moments. – 6/10
– Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960) – An absolute masterclass in film-making and film marketing, Hitchcock is widely considered as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, film directors of all time, largely down to films such as North By Northwest, The Birds, Vertigo and, of course, Psycho. – 6.5/10
– The Avengers (Whedon, 2012) – The Marvel fanboy in me cried with giddy excitement at the end of the first Iron Man film, in which Nick Fury showed up to explain the ‘Avengers Initiative’. The culmination of four years and five movies’ worth of set up, we finally saw Marvel’s most popular superheroes together for the first time! – 6.5/10
– The Damned United (Hooper, 2009) – A dramatisation of the career of local legend Brian Clough’s tenure as manager of both Derby County and arch-rivals Leeds United, Michael Sheen’s performance as the controversial football manager is undoubtedly one of his best. A film that shows the man behind the bravado. – 5/10
– The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973) – When I was studying Film at college, the tutor played this film for us. Just as it began, unexplained noises began to happen around the room. The paranormal aspect to this film didn’t help with that. Controversial due to the lack of a ratings system upon release, this film had audiences puking in their seats. – 6/10
– The Simpsons Movie (Silverman, 2007) – Okay, The Simpsons is one of my favourite TV shows of all time. I remember walking into a cinema to see a film (I think it was Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith) and seeing a teaser for this on the screens. I had to take five minutes to calm down. Some of the best Simpsons gags ever are here. – 5/10
– The Woman In Black (Watkins, 2012) – The only reason this film isn’t in my top ten is because of the liberty taken with the end – as a fan of the original novel and the stage show, the ending seems a bit too happy for me. But aside from that, this film proves that the less you see, the scarier it can be. – 5/10
– This Is Spinal Tap (Reiner, 1984) – Being a musician myself, this is a laugh-a-minute riot perfectly parodying the experience of being in a band. The ever-rotating lineup of drummers, stage set-ups that aren’t exactly to plan, and of course – the guitar amps that ‘go to ELEVEN’. Absolutely brilliant. – 5.5/10
10 – AMERICAN HISTORY X (Kaye, 1998) – 7/10
A very difficult film to watch, I consider this film to be Edward Norton’s finest performance. Tackling the difficult subject matters of racism and Neo-Nazism in modern America, it is told partly through flashback via the narration of Ed Furlong’s Danny (writing his extra-time assignment for high school, titled ‘American History X’) and follows the rise and fall of his Neo-Nazi brother, Derek. It eventually transpires that through his time in prison (due to a vicious attack on some home invaders), Derek changed his ways and attempted to come clean, only to learn that Danny is starting down the same route. A powerful and dramatic film with a gut-punch of an ending, the cinematography used adds to the immense scale drawn from what is really a very small cast. I implore you to watch this film – just do so with a clear head as it’s very heavy!
9 – FIGHT CLUB (Fincher, 1996) – 7.5/10
A portrayal of masculinity and what it means to be ‘the middle children of history’. An intense examination of the consumerism perpetuating the First World. A commentary on escalation and involvement. Fight Club has so many themes going on within the film, you’d be a fool if you thought the film was simply about grown men beating the living s*** out of each other for laughs. Our boy Edward Norton stars once again (I’m noticing a theme here!) as the unnamed narrator, commenting on the Ikea furniture he buys and the dead-end office job he works at, until Brad Pitt’s charismatic Tyler Durden arrives and changes his life. With an all-star cast that also includes Helena Bonham Carter, and the musicians Jared Leto and Meat Loaf, in feature roles, this film is hugely entertaining and eye-opening. Also, the twist – if you don’t know what it is already – is spectacular!
8 – ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (Gondry, 2004) – 7.5/10
Let me get on the level here – I like films that make me cry. And Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind makes me cry. Widely known as a rubber-faced clown, Jim Carrey turns in a surprisingly straight-laced performance as everyman Joel Barish – who undertakes a procedure many of us would at least consider if we were in his shoes. If you could erase all memory of an ex-relationship, would you? Carrey’s opposite in this case is a colourful Kate Winslet, completely unrestrained as free spirit Clementine. This film is beautifully shot and is a wonderfully simple story, as we learn about the two characters in reverse as the memories are slowly erased from Joel’s mind. With a lot of heart and humour thrown in, this film showed that Carrey could do drama, Winslet could do crazy, and Michel Gondry could tell an amazing story.
7 – STAR WARS (Lucas, 1977) – 8/10
Many people look to The Empire Strikes Back as the pinnacle of the Star Wars franchise. Whilst I agree that it probably is a better film, thematically and narratively, I’m going with the one that started it all – Star Wars (also known as Ep IV: A New Hope). A combination of sci-fi, cowboy Westerns, samurai movies and fantasy, this is truly a film for the ages. The characters are perfectly cast – Mark Hamill as the youthful and open-eyed Luke Skywalker, Han Solo as the grizzled and swashbuckling space smuggler Han Solo, the late Carrie Fisher as the fierce Princess Leia, and acting veteran Alec Guinness as the wise old Ben Kenobi. And who can forget Darth Vader, the ultimate on-screen villain – a being of pure evil with a faceless death mask and badass cloak.
6 – NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (Romero, 1968) – 8/10
The film that gave Hollywood its first ‘true’ zombies, George A Romero’s 1968 masterpiece Night Of The Living Dead is a masterpiece in suspense. In fact, I wouldn’t even call this a horror film – more a satire of the horrors that humanity can cause. It’s a simple enough story – the dead return to life and begin to attack the living, some survivors hole up in a house and try to stay alive till help can arrive. Controversial for its time by casting a black actor in the lead role (in the aftermath of legal segregation in the United States), the film was seen as a commentary on the raging Vietnam War and the horrors it caused. The mindless violence seen within the film shocked audiences and gave them food for thought. The film also inspired numerous sequels – including the just-as-revered Dawn Of The Dead – and multiple remakes and spin-offs.
5 – GOODFELLAS (Scorsese, 1990) 8.5/10
Many people look to The Godfather (or its sequel) as the pinnacle of film concerning the Mafia movement. I instead look to Scorsese’s classic, Goodfellas. Based on a true story, it features outstanding performances from genre favourites Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci and, of course, Robert de Niro. Look to the iconic scene in which Pesci’s Tommy challenges Liotta’s Henry over his reasons for laughing at Tommy’s story in the restaurant – the entire exchange between them, fraught with tension, is entirely improvised. Narrated by Henry, the film chronicles his rise from working odd jobs for the Lucchese crime family to becoming a fully-fledged ‘made man’ within their ranks. One of Scorsese’s finest films (I think the only ones that surpass it technically are Gangs Of New York and The Departed), it is definitely up among my personal favourites.
4 – THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (Sharman, 1975) 9/10
Okay, I NEED to be in a musical production of this on stage. A fantastic blend of B-movie horror, musical campiness, 60’s rock n’ roll cheese and a touching tribute to cinema, The Rocky Horror Picture Show gave us so much. From iconic songs such as Sweet Transvestite and Science Fiction / Double Feature (oh, and of course the Time Warp!), to iconic characters such as Tim Curry’s famed turn as transvestite scientist Frank N Furter to writer Richard O’Brien’s turn as manservant Riff Raff (and a cameo from Meat Loaf – remember him? – as punk delivery boy Eddie), this film is just so fresh. I remember watching this for the first time when I was roughly eight years old, with my mum – who is a super-glam rocker. Obviously I didn’t fully understand it at the time – but that’s the beauty of it, you can rewatch it over and over and always notice new things.
3 – PULP FICTION (Tarantino, 1994) – 9/10
Ahhhh, Tarantino. The Marmite-Man of Hollywood film directors. Love him or hate him, you’d be a fool to disregard Pulp Fiction entirely. Many different stories intertwine in this film about loyalty, respect, revenge and Royales with cheese. Pulp Fiction is a recipe for success. An all-star cast, including; Samuel L Jackson, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, John Travolta, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel and Christopher Walken. Throw in a superb soundtrack – including Dick Dale’s Misirlou, which many people now know simply as the Pulp Fiction theme. Lastly, mix in a variety of stories ranging from the day in the life of a pair of hitmen to a boxer on the run from a powerful businessman – with plenty of room for conversation and exploring character. This is one of those films you HAVE to watch growing up.
2 – THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN (Donaldson, 2005) – 9.5/10
This film was SO close to getting my number one award. I don’t care, it’s Anthony Hopkins’ best film. It tells the true story of sixty-three-year-old Burt Munro, a man from New Zealand with a passion for speed. Burt decides to travel to the other side of the world, to the Bonneville Salt Flats, with his 1920’s Indian motorcycle to see how fast it can go, encountering many problems and meeting people along the way. It’s just such a feel-good movie, with some moments of real drama due to Burt’s age and deteriorating health and – apologies for spoiling the film – the climax in which he sets a speed record on a 40-year-old motorcycle is punch-the-air triumphant. The record in particular still stands to today. It was an incredible achievement and this film pays tribute to this in such a touching way. I went to the cinema to see this with my dad, too. So ya’ know.
1 – BACK TO THE FUTURE (Zemeckis, 1985) – 10/10
And so we come to our number one. My all-time favourite film, it’s just perfect. The story hits all the right beats, the characters are cast to perfection – to the extent that the film is STILL referenced today – and it was completely original. The story was simple – a boy, Marty McFly, is sent back in time by a madcap professor to the week of the big dance where his parents first meet. There’s just one problem – upon arrival, his mother in her high-school years falls in love with Marty instead! With so many iconic scenes, such as the DeLorean’s first voyage (still the most awesome vehicle in the history of cinema), or Marty’s triumphant rendition of Johnny B Goode at the dance, to simply anything that Christopher Lloyd’s madcap professor, Doc Brown’s mouth, this film is just so watchable and rewatchable – and most importantly, I have never enjoyed a film as much as this!
And there you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed my list – feel free to leave a comment below if you have any suggestions as to films I should check out, what your favourites are, etc.! Whatever your favourite films are, don’t ever let anyone tell you what’s good to watch and what isn’t – these are just my own opinions, there is no ‘right or wrong’ movie to watch! Keep your eyes peeled for my next post!