The Lists :: Movies

The inaugural List was an easy call.


[Please Note: There is no particular order. Asking me to rank stuff never happens, because this assumes that there are favourites. Mostly, I’ll watch anything, assuming that there’s half an interest in the subject matter. The exceptions are Horror movies, which my brain simply cannot adequately cope with and therefore everything shuts down, or anything with excessive violence. This is not a choice, in some cases: if something is simply too uncomfortable to cope with, I’ll get up and leave, which has happened in cinemas before.]


The birth of Science Fiction was, let’s face facts here, Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon in 1902, but this comes a close second. The film is also notable for lots of things that then end up littering the cinematic landscape for decades to come. It could also be said to be way ahead of its time with the female protagonist… what draws me to this piece of German expressionism is a view of the Future that was so far ahead of its time as to be almost prophetic. I own this on DVD and urge anyone who’s not seen it to at least go do some research, because the significance Metropolis holds on so much of film-making’s future is… well, vast.

ARRIVAL [2016]

Almost a century on from that starting point, Sci-Fi is the genre that will always be defaulted with in terms of entertainment. The real world is what I want to escape from after all, and this is a future where alien arrival’s dealt with far more sensibly than Independence Day but with no less political drama. What makes this most satisfying isn’t the plot, or the aliens themselves, it is the sheer credibility of the narrative. Amy Adams’ performance is so utterly solid as a grieving mother given the ultimate shot at redemption: everything else just slots perfectly around this concept.


The subject of mental health is seldom dealt with sympathetically on film: mostly, the nutter’s wheeled in for comic relief or to destroy the teen swim party at the lake. Gilliam throws together multiple fractured people in a movie that asks the viewer to consider what redemption really means, and then sticks a good old slab of Monty Python surrealism into the plot without even batting an eyelid. This was the moment Robin Williams became a personal hero, and the song ‘Lydia the Tattooed Lady’ reduced me to tears.


It’s a constant battle as to whether this Daniel Craig film or Skyfall are on the List. Today, 007’s origin story gets the nod because this is where the narrative should have remained. This is as near to perfect a Bond movie as it is possible to make with the source material: only one dalliance with another woman, which is hardly exploitative considering the circumstances. Eva Green pretty much makes the second half from acceptable into brilliant, right up to the point where the plot twist happens and everybody remembers that betrayal is all part of the 007 ethos. Also, nobody wears a waistcoat as well as Crag in anything, except maybe him in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I digress…


If you are to know me well, then you will grasp how important Jane Austin is to my existence. I lived and breathed the 1995 TV adaptation for both male and female leads, and the same is true for the 2005 ‘distillation’ which is still as perfect a compaction of narrative as you are ever likely to see. The Bennet sisters are all impeccably served, Donald Sutherland knocks it out of Netherfield as the Bennet patriarch and this is also where a long-term appreciation of Matt McFadyen began. Quick, let me hide these Ripper Street DVD’s…

BRAZIL [1984]

This movie literally altered my life. It was only years later I discovered the fight to get it cut with an unhappy ending and that Gilliam’s vision and my own were quite scarily similar. It remains a beautiful pastiche of the future taking the worst of the past as influence, and is unerringly relevant over thirty years after release. You think that knowledge can set you free, until it becomes apparent that freedom’s as much to do with mental restriction as the restrictions thrown on us by the World. Mostly, this is the movie that made me think anything clean and shiny is the work of the enemy and must be shunned at all costs…

APOLLO 13 [1995]

Look, there’s some (almost) factual stuff on my list! Arriving well before the whole ‘based on true events’ trope got cool, you’d be hard pressed to ever find fault with a movie where Tom Hanks is an astronaut. This story’s so unbelievable that you’d never get away writing it as fiction: the brilliance of three blokes in a tin can in a vacuum goes without saying. This is also the first time a movie soundtrack reduced me to racking sobs of grief, even though I was well aware they made it in the end. Music matters as much in most cases as the visual, in this case transforming a brilliant film into utterly superlative.

CONTACT [1997]

Again, we’re back in Arrival territory: credible narrative about alien contact with an absolutely stonking female lead in Jodie Foster. The narrative in this is so cleverly wound and released over time, using faith and belief as mantras for not simply the existence of alien life but the ability as individuals to overcome human resistance to change. Watching Foster evolve whist doggedly sticking to a belief she is then incapable of explaining is in turns brilliant and desperately painful, which what makes multiple watching of this all the more satisfying. Even the bad guys are credible, the villains scarily real. There’s not a thing wrong with this movie at all.


I can’t in good conscience do any list without this story making it into the reckoning. Kevin Cosner’s portrayal of the farmer who risks life and farm to build a baseball field in his corn might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but the introduction of Burt Lancaster and James Earl Jones into the mix transform what could be sentimentality into something almost mystical. It is a film for anyone who truly understands the importance of sport and supporting a team, that you sometimes don’t understand why stuff just happens, but it does. In fact, this is the narrative for the obsessives in the room, and that’s a church I certainly exist in.


Four blokes from a pop group become cartoon characters and help beat off an invasion of lunatic creatures who hate pop music. It’s a classic tale, and so utterly not a Disney movie. I love animation, but given a choice between the perfect and flawed, I’ll always look to the exception. This was a pivotal film in personal development too, so we stick it at the bottom because, frankly, it props up an awful lot of what now exists above.

Please feel free to leave your top 10 movies for discussion in the comments 😀


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