I’ve read quite a few film blogs and have seen them feature at some point a ‘top 10’. I thought I would give it a go – wow. This was so difficult! I challenge anyone to sit down and make their own list and have it take them less than an hour. The problem I have is I love all films from all ages and genres, so narrowing it down was not an easy task. It was fun though – it took me back to my childhood, and reminded me why I love film so much. Many of the films I have chosen struck a chord with me for one reason or another, and serve as an excuse to keep going back to them over and over. The following list is by no means in order, that’s just asking way too much of me. I changed my mind and changed it again, but I need to write it down before I make it a hat-trick of indecisiveness. Also, it might be a top 11. I couldn’t trim it down any more!! Sue me.
I owe an explanation to my faves Swayze, Leo, Gosling. Sorry you only feature a few times or not at all (sorry Patrick). It’s not that I don’t love you; it’s just you deserve a list allllll to yourselves.
Hopefully they serve as recommendations to you, or just make you want to re-watch some classics. See if you can think of your own top 10 – it’s annoyingly enjoyable. Please let me know your top 10, would love to feature it as a guest post.
- The Wickerman (1973 – directed by Robin Hardy)
I was introduced to this film when I decided to take an AS level in Film Studies. I remember being assigned to watch it, and feeling less than impressed at the idea of it. However, within minutes I was hooked. From the outset, it is CREEPY. Things are eery, quiet, unnerving and uncomfortable. In brief, the plot involves Sgt. Howie, who travels to Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. He discovers that the locals are weird and unhelpful, and becomes determined to get to the bottom of the disappearance. I don’t want to give too much away, but it is for sure British psychological horror at its best. The final sequence, in which the swaying islanders sing their pagan hymn to the gods of the sea and the earth while inside the burning man Howie hysterically appeals to his own, remains one of the most disturbing in cinema. And the final shot, of the Wicker Man’s head tumbling off to reveal the setting sun offers no relief. The Wicker Man is, more than anything else, a film about what people can do in the name of religion or, more generally, belief. Its power comes not from appeals to the supernatural but from a deep understanding of our own undeniable nature. Horror doesn’t get much closer to home than that.
On a side note – be sure to watch the original and not the remake starring Nicholas Cage. That one is a good two hours of your life you’ll never get back.
10. Dead Man’s Shoes (2004 – directed by Shane Meadows)
Despite not being a huge film fan himself, credit is due to George for showing me this one. If you are a fan of British cinema, give this one a go. You absolutely won’t be disappointed. It is totally engaging right from the start, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Despite now knowing the huge twist, I still watch it with just as much enjoyment all the time.
Army-trained Richard (Paddy Considine) returns to his hometown with his mentally challenged younger brother, Anthony (Toby Kebbell), in tow. Anthony has been used and abused by a raggedy bunch of local drug dealers, and Richard plans to teach the bullies a deadly lesson. The acting for me makes the film what it is. I know he had featured in some quite big pictures before this, but Considine is unnerving, intimidating but strangely loveable. He truly establishes himself as one of the key actors in British independent cinema as an edgy, unpredictable presence. Here, he switches in an instant from seductive friendliness to blood-freezing menace, determining the movie’s tone and focusing its moral thrust. His younger brother played by Kebbel is equally endearing. His performance is nothing short of special, and it definitely encouraged me to watch more of Kebbel’s films after this.
It’s violent and uncomfortable to watch, and it will make you nervous. It’s more proof you don’t need mass amounts in the budget if you have the casting and scriptwriting perfected. Oh, and a strong and energetic Director.
- Toy Story (1995 – directed by John Lasseter)
Now, to lighten the mood. How could I not include this in my top 10! Directed by the Godfather of Pixar John Lasseter, Toy Story defines what it was to be a kid in the 90s. Kids these days have crazy amounts of choice, but us 90s kids are so lucky to have lived through the Toy Story era. I remember having it on videotape! A story we all secretly wished would happen to us, Woody and Buzz took friendship to new heights, and invited us into an animated world that was only just beginning. If you read deeper into the making of the film, it will soon dawn on you how privileged we were to be the first audience to witness and spectate this new era of animation. The sheer craft and work that went into it is something else. Furthermore, it is still my all time favourite Disney Pixar film. I read somewhere that of all the films Tom Hanks has made, the Toy Story franchise is the project that has made him the most money. It comes as no surprise!
- Fracture (2007 – directed by Gregory Hoblit)
I’m not the biggest fan of crime/courtroom-based films, mainly because I struggle to keep up! The minute I lose track, my attention is elsewhere and I might as well turn off. However, anything with Anthony Hopkins playing his usual crazy, mind-messing self is worth a watch. Oh, it also happens to star Gosling too. What a coincidence! Released 10 years ago, Fracture tells the story of a meticulous structural engineer (Anthony Hopkins), who is found innocent of the attempted murder of his wife (Embeth Davidtz). It then falls to young District Attorney (Ryan Gosling) to prove otherwise. I don’t know why but clearly I’m drawn to films that mess with your head. It is oddly entertaining! This film certainly does that, and it is so well written it keeps you hooked throughout. It’s not as satisfying to watch a second and third time round as you know the outcome, but the cat and mouse chases throughout make you want to watch over and over. Fracture is packed with twists and turns that weave in and out of the courtroom as the pair tries to outwit each other. You carry Gosling’s character’s frustrations with you, desperate for him to find a way to outwit Hopkins eventually, but he is always one step ahead. It’s easy to follow (a pro for me) and doesn’t hide away from raw, sensitive themes.
- Catch Me If You Can (2002 – directed by Steven Spielberg)
It’s impossible for me to leave this film out when it has Leo, Tom Hanks and Spielberg all rolled into one. As if this film was released that long ago! I remember going to see it at the cinema, still very much holding a torch for a young Dicaprio. I’m sure many of you have seen it so I won’t bore you with a plot breakdown, but everything about this film just works. The soundtrack, casting, scriptwriting and direction work together like a well oiled machine, and it’s hard to determine which bit is my favourite. It’s considerably darker than you would think – abortion and infidelity simmer under deceptively happy faces. The film requires the highest calibre of acting talent, and in his casting Steven Spielberg delivers an unprecedented ensemble. For Leo fans, it was one of the best reasons to watch him again since Titanic. Hanks devotees also love yet another subtly distinct performance. As for Walken, if you make it through his performance without shedding a tear, you are made of stronger stuff than I am.
- Philadelphia (1993 – directed by Jonathan Demme)
While on the subject of Hanks, this is arguably one of my favourite films he has starred in to date. Denzel Washington too for that matter. Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, a lawyer with a prestigious, conservative law firm. He is fired after developing AIDS, with the company fearing he would be a health risk. Angry and wanting some justice before he dies, he hires a homophobic former adversary, to sue his firm for unfair dismissal. Talking of striking a cord, I came away from this film feeling melancholy, despite his victory in the courtroom. Hanks performance is simply majestic, played with such grace and dignity. A firm pillar of representation for all those who lived through the stigma and injustice attached to an AIDS diagnosis in those days. Denzel Washington warms the heart with his change of heart, and really invites you to challenge your own interpretation and opinions surrounding this difficult subject. I found the whole film so moving, but so sad owing to the fact this was an all too real situation for many gay men living with HIV/AIDS. I really recommend you watch it, and allow yourself to feel as emotional as the film invites you to feel.
5. 28 Days Later (2002 – directed by Danny Boyle)
Chris I know you are reading this, this film always reminds me of you. Don’t worry, not because of the frenzied rage virus outbreak, just simply because you introduced me to it. As far as ‘zombie flicks’ go, for me nothing has come close to this. Raw and stripped back in true British style, it is just really terrifying. Even if you haven’t seen it, I’m sure you associate it with Boyle’s sheer audacity to shut down central London to film his post-apocalyptic world. Is it the best scene in the film though? Hell yes. After animal rights activists release a chimp infected with a virulent genetically engineered plague, we meet Jim, a comatosed courier who wakes up 28 days later in a London hospital and discovers the city abandoned by people, but not by vicious bands of ‘the infected’.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but after Trainspotting, this was a weird film for Danny Boyle to make. I only say that because he hasn’t made anything like it since – or has he? I imagine the budget for the film was bigger than it looked, but the low-resolution camerawork throughout just adds more to the horror that unfolds. On a quick note – I also feel slightly smug that I ‘knew of’ Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris before Hollywood snapped them up. Despite it being such a long time ago, I bet neither of them would look back on their performances with embarrassment – I reckon it is still firmly on their CV. Not least because they starred in one of the most iconic horror films to date.
4. The Exorcist (1974 – directed by William Friedkin)
I feel there is a theme developing here! I evidently love a good horror, but I’m aware this is an odd one to have as a favourite. It is however, not only a first of its kind, but also still the best. I’ve lost count on how many exorcism films have followed since, but this ’74 classic still sets the standard stupidly high. You would think with all the modern technology and access to visual effects there would be one better but sadly not. I don’t know about you, but I grew up with horror stories about this film. Dad told me he had to leave the cinema when Regan’s head did a 360 turn. There were reports audience members believed they too were possessed after watching this film, and the film was eventually banned in the majority of cinemas across the world.
My natural reaction of course was to watch it!! I won’t lie, I struggled afterwards. I didn’t regret it, but it was like nothing I had ever seen before. The strange thing is, watching it now is somewhat comical – they even made a ‘Scary Movie’ based on it. It is what you make it though – watch it with a popcorn audience raised on a rollercoaster ride like Scream and people will laugh. Sneak into a quiet, late night screening, give yourself over to it, believe, and you will be terrified.
3. Misery (1990 – directed by Rob Reiner)
Don’t judge her for it but it was actually my mum who told me to watch this. Don’t worry, I was well into my teens and could handle anything after The Exorcist. Plus, it was evidently clear I was looking for my next thrilling psycho horror. Misery well and truly satisfied that itch. After watching this film, you’ll never trust anyone who tells you they are your number 1 fan.
I chose this film to study both at AS level and at university. There is so much to talk about and even now, I would watch it over and over despite dissecting it to pieces. It tells the story of bed-ridden author Paul Sheldon (James Caan), who is tortured by cock-a-doody number one fan (and Oscar winner) Kathy Bates, in a taut and often blackly comic watershed moment for Stephen King adaptations. Minimal cast and visual effects, it’s made even scarier as the roles are reversed in what would be a typical ‘man keeping woman’ locked up. So much to talk about, but please just watch it. Your skin will crawl from start to finish. The juxtaposition throughout is unbelievable.
2. Titanic (1997 – directed by James Cameron)
Ah, don’t judge me for including this in my top 10. Believe me, I could have easily made a list consisting of Titanic, The Notebook, Ghost, Dirty Dancing etc. but this film most definitely has special meaning to me beyond the typical girly love story. Although, it does massage that built-in girly fan-girl ego too.
Titanic was a film that made me realise I love film (and Leo of course). I joke with my friends that this is the film that made me realise I like boys – Jack Dawson was for sure my first love. I remember walking into Tesco with Mum and Chris and there was a neat display of the film on videotape stacked right by the entrance to the toilet. We bought it, and I must have watched it hundreds of times since. I will admit though, I don’t remember the last time I didn’t forward wind Jack’s death. Sorry but there was plenty of room on that door for both.
Aside from all that, this film is simply one of the best. It didn’t clear up at the Academy Awards for nothing, and James Cameron’s courage and commitment to the authenticity of the story makes the film what it is. You will have all seen it (apparently not George though!), but it is and will always be a firm favourite.
1. Billy Elliot (2000 – directed by Stephen Daldry)
And finally, I come to Billy Elliot. EVERYTHING about this film is divine. Its roughness around the edges, the core British values, I could go on. It’s a feel good film for sure. Every single performance will speak to you in more ways than one, and if ever you wanted a film to break all stereotypes, look no further. The narrative has so much depth – there is so much going on.
Where this really scores and tugs the emotions for me though is in the dance sequences themselves, set largely to a medley of ’80s hits and comprising unorthodox moves guaranteed to blow away the stereotypes of ballet. Billy’s speech at the end of his audition will soften even the hardest of hearts, and his relationship with everyone around him is just, ahhh, it warms the soul. Dare I say it is my actual favourite? Maybe. I just feel happier after watching it. I struggle to pick faults with it so maybe that’s my answer. I fell in love with Julie Walters long before this film (Educating Rita was a classic), but this film just confirmed everything I already knew about her – she is a master class in acting.
I think I’m happy with that? Even writing it, more films were coming into my head and tempting me to knock a few off their spot. I’m sticking with this though, until next week!