Thursday 12 January 2012

My Top 50 Personal Favourite Films of All-Time (2012) - part 1 of 3...

Go to: Part Two or Part Three

In May 2009 I compiled a list of my Top 50 All-TimeFavourite Movies, but then in 2012 I updated it, and now here we have the list updated for 2013 with a handful of tweaks.

Note: Each ‘ten slot’ is ordered alphabetically – it was hard enough compiling a list of 50 films out of the thousands I’ve seen during my life, nevermind ordering them all numerically!

Top 50: #1-10

Aliens (1986):
When I was a kid – long before I ever saw the it – I knew this was a seriously cool movie. My friends and I would frequently play Terminator or Aliens, and we’d bicker over who got to pretend to be Hicks (played in the movie by Michael Biehn), one of the coolest badass good guys committed to film. The first battle with the titular Xenomorphs and the operations room siege, are two key sequences for me – even after repeated viewings over many years they still get my adrenaline pumping; they are perfect examples of how to do action cinema correctly.

Back to the Future (1985):
The script is text book perfection – no scene is wasted, back story is constantly imparted, and the plot is tight and controlled. Seeing the third film in the trilogy was one of my earliest cinema-going memories, and indeed I can never watch the first film without following it up with the second two. Smart, witty, filled with mind-bending time travel technicalities, and endlessly quotable dialogue, Back To The Future is a true classic. My love for this film was further strengthened during its 25th Anniversary theatrical re-release – it was a joy to finally see it on the big screen, but even greater was seeing young parents bringing their children to share in their long-standing enjoyment of this fantastic film.

Blade Runner (1982):
The very first time I saw Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece (the 1992 Director’s Cut on a fuzzy Channel 5), it decidedly passed over my head. The special effects impressed me, but that was about it – it was most definitely beyond my years at that stage. A few years later I re-discovered it and began to appreciate it much more, and over the years that trend has continued. I now adore it as a visionary treat for the senses – a combination of classic film noir with a future dystopia. It might depict an over-crowded, smog-choked metropolis that seems to exist in a permanent state of neon-mottled darkness, but it’s simply beautiful and breathtaking to behold.

Dawn of the Dead (1978):
This is one of the movies that made me want to get into filmmaking. In 1997 I bought an issue of SFX which featured an article, and review, about George A. Romero and the release of the “Director’s Cut” (actually the Extended Cannes Cut) in the UK. I read and re-read this article, and from that point on it was my mission to see the movie. I fondly recall how I was so utterly gripped during my first viewing – for the entire 139 minute running time – that after the credits finished I just sat there with my open-mouthed in awe. Since then I’ve seen the film dozens of times and to me it’s simply the absolute best thing to happen in the zombie genre.

The Evil Dead (1981):
Bought for a fiver from the local post office bargain bin of videos, my first viewing of Sam Raimi’s grue-filled shocker was one of the most memorable viewing experiences of my life. It may have been a version that was cut-to-ribbons (it was released in the UK fully uncut a few years later), but there at 14 years old I was transfixed. The sheer inventiveness of how Raimi and his merry band of indie filmmakers put the flick together has been a constant inspiration to me over the years, and its reputation as Mary Whitehouse’s “number one nasty” just makes it all-the-more appealing.

Fight Club (1999):
Visually arresting and so well crafted, this is the ideal male movie for the modern era. It successfully combines a searing style with an acerbic wit that tempts the rebellious part inside all of us. Closely followed by Zodiac, it’s perhaps David Fincher’s finest outing as director.

Ghostbusters (1984):
During my childhood this was what it was all about – the movies, the cartoon, the action figures – this was (and still is) my Star Wars. As a child it inspired awe for its fantastic special effects and family friendly frights, but as an adult I was finally able to fully recognise and appreciate just how well written and downright hilarious the script is. This is one of those films that was seemingly on endless repeat on the VCR when I was a kid, and as such it’s utterly imprinted on my memory. Utterly, utterly, utterly superb.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (1966):
Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” was what got me into westerns during my mid-teens, but it was the grand and sweeping scale of this epic ‘spaghetti western’ that proved most enduring in my memory. The score is fantastic, the editing is brilliant, the cinematography is lush, and the central trio of Eastwood/van Cleef/Wallach make this a perfect bloke’s movie.

The Maltese Falcon (1941):
During the first semester of the first year of my film degree at UEA, we saw a restored print of this iconic film noir for the Key Issues in Film Studies course. Before this point I had never really appreciated classic black and white movies, but a switch was flicked inside my mind during that screening – my first introduction to Bogart – and I’ve never looked back. Not only is it a very fine film indeed, but on a personal level it really blew the doors open in terms of the scope of my cinematic appreciation.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991):
I first saw this (in a heavily censored version) on BBC1 at just the right time – I was a young kid just getting into action films such as this, and it left a mighty impression. Pioneering in its use of CGI, T2 is one of the finest examples of action filmmaking. Like Aliens, the busted blocks come with intelligence, but also impressive skill when it comes to crafting adrenaline-fuelled sequences to drop your jaw.

Top 50: #11-20

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007):
Director Andrew Dominik went in a very different direction after his debut film Chopper with this meandering, wistful, hypnotically poetic western. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is sumptuous, the central performances are astounding (particularly Casey Affleck as the eponymous coward), the score is wonderful, and while it can very easily divide an audience (if your attention span is short, don’t even bother) I found it to be nothing short of spell-binding.

Blue Velvet (1986):
During my teens I struggled with David Lynch’s work (it took me the best part of a year to gradually work through all of Eraserhead, the director’s debut) and this was one of his films I didn’t ‘get’ at the time. Fast forward the best part of a decade and I came to appreciate it immensely after another two viewings. It’s perhaps Lynch’s most distilled and chilling examination of the seedy underbelly of a community that looks idyllic on the surface (a theme which he would then go on to explore further in the wonderful Twin Peaks television series). It’s horrifyingly beautiful to look at, entrancing to listen to (thanks to Angelo Badalamenti’s brooding-then-soaring score), and is one of Lynch’s most hauntingly memorable films.

Casablanca (1942):
My time at university studying film broadened my cinematic horizons and appreciation of film immensely, and initially this came in the discovery of the work of Humphrey Bogart. I found Bogart’s Rick – a booze-soaked, cigarette-choked, club owner hiding out in the eponymous town – to be unreservedly compelling. It almost goes without saying, but the writing, direction, cinematography, and acting all demonstrate great talent. You won’t find Citizen Kane on this list (although it too is an impressive and extremely important film), but here in its place is one of its most widely acknowledged contenders for the best film of all time.

A Clockwork Orange (1971):
In the UK, Stanley Kubrick’s self-banned ‘unofficial video nasty’, had quite the fearsome reputation – and its 1999 re-release (after the director’s death, and during an era of new-found liberalisation at the BBFC) coincided perfectly with my formative years. I was discovering a whole host of newly un-banned (and uncut) ‘video nasties’ (along with countless other films by the hundreds), but it was this one that become the poster child for me during my GCSE years. The book, the film, and the soundtrack proved to be quite inspirational to me at the time (don’t worry, not in the “ultra violence” way) during my 2-D Art GCSE. Of all the films on this list, it’s one of the ones that had the most tangible impact upon me.

The Dark Knight (2008):
Christopher Nolan has crafted himself a career filled with brilliant filmmaking. He so skilfully combines blockbuster action with intelligence and ideas, and The Dark Knight is a shining example of that. On the one hand you’ve got a long-standing and well-recognised superhero yomping around fighting crime with marvellous gadgets, and on the other you’ve got moral dilemmas aplenty for the characters to battle against in their hearts and minds. Richly textured, densely scripted, packed with pounding action, and a terrific penultimate performance from Heath Ledger as The Joker, make this downright superb … and then Nolan followed up with the equally brilliant Inception. Finally, I’ll always remember how – when the truck flipped end-over-end – a kid far back in the audience was so impressed that he screamed out “WOWEE!” – and I think that sense of awe and enjoyment sums it up nicely.

Goodfellas (1990):
My favourite Scorsese film, and aside from Scarface, my favourite gangster movie. In all facets – from the soundtrack to the script to the performances to the cinematography – it’s nothing short of enduringly memorable.

Rocky (1976):
Who isn’t inspired by the fictional underdog boxing hero of Rocky Balboa? The character is an icon for anyone who is downtrodden and looking for something better in life. It’s an inspiration to keep pushing forward, but above all that, it’s just an exceptional film made all the greater by the simple fact that Stallone really earned it.

Scarface (1983):
One of the very best rise-and-fall tales, and one of the finest gangster pictures ever made. Pacino, DePalma, Stone – a bravura creative team give us a stylish crime drama that draws you into all the murkiness and temptations of a cocaine-addled Miami in the 1980s. A grand, sweeping epic for the decade of excess.

The Thing (1982):
There are few films capable of scaring me, and not least by penetrating my mind with extremely potent themes of isolation and paranoia. John Carpenter was at the height of his talent and passion – indeed the same can be said of many of those involved. Just thinking about the movie gives me the creeps. Terror perfected.

Zodiac (2007):
David Fincher’s methodical examination of what happened to those who tried to solve the crime of 1970s America is like the antithesis to his previous serial killer thriller Se7en. Both films are excellent, but for different reasons. While Se7en is brutal and immediate and darkly stylish, Zodiac is subtle and slow-burn and almost nostalgic. With an extreme attention to detail, Fincher’s never been more precise.

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