Over the years I have seen some incredible films so thought I would share some of them with you, so you can enjoy them too if you haven’t seen any of them. I will also include a few that I think belong in the ‘most overrated’ and ‘worst films I’ve ever seen” categories, if you love Demolition Man‘then you better look away now!
MY TOP FIVE FAVOURITE FILMS
1. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL(LA VITA E BELLA) (1997 – Directed by Roberto Benigni).
Although somewhat controversial because in genre terms you could describe it as a black comedy about the holocaust, do not let this put you off because IT IS AN AMAZING FILM. I love this film that much that I often describe it to people as being’magical’. I mean magical in terms of it being so special. You will not be able to help yourself from both laughing and crying many times throughout this cinematic masterpiece. You could also describe it as a melodrama I guess. The first part of the film focuses on the relationship between Guido(Roberto Benigni) and Dora(Nicola Braschi) and the late 1930s changing political climate in Italy. The second part is where the film takes off and is focused on life within a Concentration Camp. In order to protect his son Joshua(Giorgio Cantarini) from the true situation they are in, Guido makes him believe they are playing a game. It is this loving interplay between Guido and Joshua which makes the film so outstanding. 5/5.
2. TALK TO HER(HABLE CON ELLA) (2002- Directed by Pedro Almodovar).
Pedro Almodovar is a genius in my eyes and buy far my favourite Film Director. This is his finest work in my opinion and again like with ‘Life is Beautiful’, I think this is a magical cinematic masterpiece. Talk to Her is also a black comedy/melodrama about the tale of two men who find friendship over caring for two women who end up in comas. One is a journalist called Marco(Dario Grandinetti) who loves a gorged bullfighter named Lydia(Rosario Flores), and the other is an unhinged nurse called Benigno(Javier Camera) who cares for a ballet dancer called Alicia(Leonor Watling). I guess you could say in the case of Benigno, this is a film about unrequited love. It is funny in parts and yet also incredibly moving at times. I was crying like a baby by the end. A brilliant original story with an amazing soundtrack and brilliant cinematography. 5/5.
3. THE ENGLISH PATIENT (1996 – Directed by Anthony Minghella).
Fell utterly in love this film via having to study it once for a first year exam at University. Oh and I nearly swallowed by veggie burger on a date one time when my date told me she was the niece of the director….ha ha I had no idea. Back to the film, this again is a film that moved me right to my core. Set towards the end of World War II, this is essentially a forbidden love story told through a series of flashbacks. Severely burned due to crashing his plane and now being looked after by a nurse(Juliette Binoche), the story is retold by the man who was in this relationship, namely Count Laszio Almasy(Ralph Fiennes). Ralph Fiennes gives an incredible performance and for the life of me I can not believe he did not win an Oscar for it(albeit the film itself did). Juliette Binoche is also brilliant. It contains the best cinematography that I have ever seen in a film. 5/5.
4. CASABLANCA (1943- Directed by Michael Curtiz).
An old Hollywood Studios classic and is my favourite film from that era. Features some the greatest lines in movie history such has “play it again Sam”(although Rick/Humphrey Bogart never actually said it). My favourite one though that he does indeed say is, “of all the gin joints, in all towns, in all the world, she walks into mine”. I also studied this at Uni and for a month went around everywhere doing Humphrey Bogart impressions, made me laugh if nobody else. A great ill fated love story set against the back-drop of World War II. 5/5.
5. ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER'(‘TODO SOMBRE MI MADRE) (1999 – Directed by Pedro Almodovar).
Another masterpiece of storytelling by Almodovar and the colours on the screen nearly jump out at you they are that vibrant. Similar to ‘Talk to Her’ in many ways, this again is a very moving melodrama that made me both cry with tears of laughter and sadness. Topics Almodovar focuses on here are transvestites, fame, parenthood and the HIV virus. Most of all though this film is about women. 5/5.
OTHER FILMS I LOVE, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER.
DANCER IN THE DARK (2000 – Directed by Lars von Trier).
I am not really that into musicals, however this is a brilliant one with with a dark storyline. Music star Bjork plays the lead role superbly as a Mother suffering with a hereditary degenerative disease causing her to go blind. Her quest in the story is to save up enough money so that her son can have an operation to save him from suffering from the same plight. It is a really well made film and one that profoundly moved me. 4/5.
DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990 – Directed by Kevin Costner).
For many years I stated this as my favourite film, I think it’s a simply stunning piece film making. The story, the cinematography and most all the marvellous film score by composer John Barry are all what make it so great. I even bought the soundtrack after I had seen it and I always listened to it to get me in the right frame of mind before doing my A-level revision. I know Kevin Costner gets some stick in some quarters for his acting ability but in this I think he gives a near faultless performance. The film is an epic western and Costner plays the role of American Army First Lieutenant John Dunbar. He befriends a local Indian Sioux tribe and the story in the second half details the problems this causes both for him and them. I can not find any fault to this film. 5
THE LIVES OF OTHERS(DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN) (2006 – Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmack)
Brilliant Spy thriller that focuses on the strict Communist politics of East Germany in the early 1980s. It won the 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. 4.5/5.
RAINING STONES (1993 – Directed by Ken Loach).
My favourite film from award winning British Film Director Ken Loach. This essentially is a British working-class comedy drama about the tale of a man who goes about trying to raise enough money in order to buy his daughter’s First Communion dress. The comedy being in the disastrous choices he makes in trying to get this money. Coronation Street’s Les Battersby(Bruce Jones) stars in the lead role and is brilliant in it. Ricky Tomlinson also stars as one of his mates. My favourite Brit flick and definately worth watching if you have never seen it. 4.5/5.
GARDEN STATE (2004 – Directed by Zach Braff).
Brilliant quirky comedy drama starring Zach Braff(Scrubs) and the gorgeous Natalie Portman. A really original film which is so sweet to watch and it has this amazing soundtrack, for which it won a Grammy Award. The tune at the end is sooooooooooo good at the end, namely ‘Let Go’ by electro pop duo Frou Frou. It is such an emotive love song and it is due to this film that I became such a massive fan of musician Imogen Heap. 4/5.
DEAD MAN WALKING (1995 – Directed by Tim Robbins).
Not one to watch in front of the children nor if you fancy a laugh, nevertheless this in an exceptional film in my opinion. It is tough to watch at times but it is worth it because it is such a moving and thought provoking film. Sean Penn plays a character called Matthew Poncelet, who is awaiting his execution by lethal injection due to killing a teenage couple. Susan Sarandon plays Sister Helen Prejean who counsels Poncelet and tries to get him to finally accept responsibility for his actions. The rights and wrongs of Capital Punishment is ultimately what the film is about, with the film/director firmly in the camp that is against it. Penn gives one of the best acting performances that I have ever seen in a film. 4.5/5.
ON THE WATERFRONT (1954 – Directed by Elia Kazan).
The film that has Marlon Brando utter those famous movie words, “I coulda been a contender…”. This is Marlon Brando at his best, great old film. 4/5.
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES AT THE WHISTLE STOP CAFE (1991 – Directed by John Avnet).
I saw this film about twenty years ago so can not remember a great deal about it if I’m completely honest, apart from absolutely loving it. It is a sweet yet moving comedy drama starring the brilliant Jessica Tandy and equally good Kathy Bates. I love the Deep South Great Depression era subject matter and via a series of flashbacks from the present day, a lovely life affirming story is told. If I could use just one word to best describe this film then it would have to be without doubt, ‘GORGEOUS’! 4.5/5.
EDUCATING RITA (1980 – Directed by Willy Russell).
I absolutely adore this film and given my own personal circumstances(graduated as a mature student), I used to regular joke to people that I’ll soon be appearing in ‘Educating Rita 2’….although I guess then it would be then ‘Educating Andy’ ha ha. It stars Julie Walters as a Working-Class Liverpudlian woman who seeks to better herself by doing an Open University course in English Literature. Michael Caine is her alcoholic tutor and the film shows on they each have a positive effect on one another. It is a funny, moving and very inspirational film to watch in my opinion. I love the emotive tune at the end, still gives me goosebumps whenever I hear it. 4.5/5.
CHINATOWN(1974 – Directed by Roman Polanski).
Brilliant American Neo-Noir film staring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. Full of mystery and intrigue I think this is Jack Nicholson’s greatest performance in a movie, he’s fantastic in it. If you’ve never heard of this then definitely see it. 4.5/5.
MRS DOUBTFIRE (1993 – Directed by Chris Columbus).
Not sure why but as a rule I seem to prefer movies that move me rather than make me laugh. That said, this is my favourite comedy film by far. It stars the late great Robin Williams who had me in tears with laughter in a scene towards the end of the film(where he administers the Heimlich maneuver). The well known story is all about a Father who has spilt up from his wife, and as a way to get to see his kids more he dresses up and impersonates being a Nanny. Brilliant family film which shows us how much of a great actor and performer Robin Williams indeed was. 4/5.
REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955 – Directed by Nicholas Ray).
An all-time cinema classic. Great film about the American Youth of the 1950s and marvel at the wonderfully talented actor that is James Dean. 4/5.
V FOR VENDETTA (2006 – Directed by James McTeigue).
A great political action thriller film which sees an anarchist freedom fighter in the form of ‘V'(Hugo Weaving), try to overthrow the fascist regime that has took hold of the UK. Hugo Weaving is brilliant in the lead role, like a musketeer version(he wears such a mask) of The Incredible Hulk. Natalie Portman as his friend Evelyn is superb and I was unexpectedly moved by the story. If you liked The Matrix then you will love this. 3.5/5.
SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993 – Directed by Steven Spielberg).
A very hard film to watch in places but at the same time what a wonderful film. This is an historical based drama about the holocaust, and one that details the heart rendering true story of Oscar Shindler. Oscar was a German businessman and invented a cover story where many Polish Jews came to work for him, thus saving their lives. I remember watching this film for the first time in my University Campus bedroom and I sobbed like a baby when watching one particular scene. It is when Oscar(Liam Neeson) collapses to his knees in floods of tears shouting out that he could have saved more(Jewish lives). The most moving scene I have ever seen in a movie without doubt. Liam Neeson givces a breathtaking performance as Oscar Shindler and Ralph Fiennes is equally as good as the psychotic, murderous German SS Officer Amon Goeth. 5/5.
SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (1960 – Directed by Karel Reisz).
Great gritty old UK film starring Albert Finney at his finest. It focuses on the drudgery of everyday life and how Albert Finney’s character, Arthur Seaton, rebels against this. Features the famous line, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”. 3.5/5.
UNFORGIVEN (1992 – Directed by Clint Eastwood).
Brilliant Western starring Clint Eastwood in the lead role. I think what I remember most from watching this is how much it moved me. It won 4 Oscars which included Best Picture and Best Director. 4/5.
THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998 – Directed by Peter Weir).
In the main I am not that big of a Jim Carrey fan, however I love this film even though I must have seen it about 20 million times. Jim Carrey’s character Truman Burbank is a star of a reality TV show yet through much of the film he is unaware of this. As the story progresses he eventually becomes aware of this construction and thus leaves the set and film now feeling a Tru-man. This film is thus a commentary and critique about the voyeurism and false constructedness of reality TV. I think it’s a great watch. 3.5/5.
CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981 – Directed by Hugh Hudson).
If you are sports mad like me then you will love this film. It is based on a true story about the 1924 Olympics in Paris where Scot runner Eric Liddell runs for the pleasure of God and runner Harold Abrahams(an English Jew), runs to challenge prejudice. It is a marvellous feel good story and the famous theme tune by Vangelis is awe inspiring. Up there with some of best British films ever made in my opinion. 4/5.
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER (1993 – Directed by Jim Sheridan).
Brilliant true story about four people wrongly convicted of the 1974 IRA’s Guildford pub bombings. Daniel Day-Lewis is fantastic in the lead role as Gerry Conlon, and so too is the late Pete Postlethwaite as is Father, Giuseppe Conlon. 4/5.
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994 – Directed by Frank Darabont).
Must have seen this film about ten ot twelve times, it’s that good and always seem to be on TV. Starring Tim Robbins as Andy Defrusne, this tells the story of a banker who gets wrongly sent to jail for supposedly killing his wife and her lover. He befriends a guy called Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding(Morgan Freeman) and they develop this great lasting friendship, both actors they are great on screen together. The Prison Governor uses Andy’s banking skills to launder money from the prison. In return Andy is allowed to set up a library in the prison, as well as being protected from beatings from other inmates. It is moving, sad and has a brilliant happy ending. If you have never seen this movie then you must, another all-time cinema classic! 4.5/5.
MY LEFT FOOT (1989 – Directed by Jim Sheridan).
The moving true story of writer and artist Chrissy Brown, who suffered with cerebral palsy from birth(he can only use his left foot). Daniel Day-Lewis delivers another stellar performance as Chrissy, duly winning a 1990 Oscar for Best Actor. 3.5/5.
GOODFELLAS (1990 – Directed by Martin Scorsese).
Brilliant Mafia film based on a true story, De Niro and Joe Pesci scare the hell out of me.4/5.
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005 – Directed by Ang Lee).
This is the somewhat controversial gay Cowboy film and I absolutely loved it. It really moved me via a brilliant script, film score and super acting. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger were soooooo good in it, so convincing. The only thing that really saddens me when I think about the film is that the late Heath Ledger is no longer with us, what a tragedy! 4/5.
FILMS I HAVE SEEN THAT BELONG IN THE MOST UNDERRATED CATEGORY!
LADYBIRD, LADYBIRD (1994 – Directed by Ken Loach).
Although very tough at times to watch(upsetting), this is a brilliant film by Ken Loach. Based on a true story, this is about a woman who keeps getting her children taken off her and taken into care. It is moving, it is heartfelt and I thought Crissy Rock in the lead role was amazing(as Maggie Conlan). If you’re a fan of British Film then you must see this…..just don’t expect many laughs. 4/5.
A PERFECT WORLD (1993 – Directed by Clint Eastwood).
A great drama that sees Kevin Costner playing a baddie, kind of. He has escaped from prison and befriends a young boy who he then takes as hostage and they go on a road trip together. Costner’s character Butch Haynes is a good guy deep down however and he plays like a Father figure role to this young boy Phillip(T.J.Lowther). The interplay between these two characters is endearing and is both really well acted and written. Clint Eastwood is great as always, this time playing Texas Ranger Red Garnett who seeks to rescue the boy. A really great film in my opinion. 4/5.
QUIZ SHOW (1994 – Directed by Robert Redford).
This apparently flopped at the box office upon release but it got nominated for an Oscar and I think it’s a hiddem gem. It tells the true story in the 1950s of the Twenty One quiz show scandals, a popular NBC Television Network quiz show. The shows are being deliberately rigged by the producers to maintain high ratings. When they seek to oust one champion and replace him with another(to boost ratings), the deposed champion does not take it very well thus leading him eventually to report the scandal to the authorities. I love Ralph Fiennes as an actor and he is again brilliant in this as cheating contestant Charles Van Doren. I love watching films based on true stories and thought this was a really enjoyable watch. 4/5.
COP LAND (1997 – Directed by James Mangold).
Exclude his Rocky films and I think this is Sylvester Stallone’s greatest piece of work. Rather than his usual larger-than-life action film stuff, here he gives a more understated type of performance. This as a consequence shows off his acting skills more. I never had him down as that decent of an actor until I saw him in this. Here he plays the role of local Sheriff Freddy Heflin, unable to join the NYPD due to being deaf in one ear. The story is about Police corruption within the NYPD and finally Freddy takes a stand against it. The rest of the cast is great and includes the likes of Robert De Niro(as Lt Moe Tilden), Harvey Keitel(as Lt.Ray Donlan), and Ray Liotta(as Officer Gary “Figgsy” Figgis). If you are into American Crime Drama films then you will definitely like this. 3.5/5.
JACKIE BROWN (1997 – Directed by Quentin Tarantino).
Quentin Taratino is probably most famous for making the outstanding Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs films, however a big shout out needs to go to this film. I love the blaxploitation feel/homage he pays with this film. Pam Grier and Robert Forster are brilliant in it, particularly the latter who brings an old fashioned sense of charm to the role. The plot is a bit tricky to follow in places but this is only a very small criticism of mine. Really great film and what an amazing tune we hear at the end of it by Bobby Womack, namely “Across 110th Street”.4/5.
FILMS I HAVE SEEN THAT I THINK BELONG IN THE MOST OVERRATED CATEGORY!
GLADIATOR (2000 – Directed by Ridley Scott).
A surprise maybe to some that I have listed this film as overrated. Do not get me wrong though I liked and enjoyed it, I guess I was just expecting more from it after the all the hype there had been about it. It reminded me of Braveheart in some ways, but was a weaker version of it. I know both are completely different stories but I mean in terms narrative structure and development(both of their lovers die in them if memory serves me correctly)? Good film but it didn’t blow me away! 3.5/5.
THE FULL MONTY (1997 – Directed by Peter Cantaneo).
I didn’t mind this comedy about six working-class male strippers from Sheffield, but again my enjoyment of it didn’t match with the mass hysteria about it at the time. Just an OK film for me, nothing more. 3/5.
TITANIC (1997 – Directed by James Cameron).
Perfectly enjoyable film but too overacted in most of it for me and knowing what was coming(them hitting the iceberg), this kept distracting me from concentrating on the present tense dialogue. I remember sitting there in the cinema watching it and just waiting for the sinking bit too start. 3/5.
TRAINSPOTTING (1996 – Directed by Danny Boyle).
Not my type of film, thought the story was shite but I have to acknowledge the great soundtrack. 2.5/5.
TWO OF THE WORST FILMS I HAVE EVER SEEN!
1. DEMOLITION MAN (1993 – Directed by Marco Brambilla).
This is officially the worst film I have ever seen. I wanted to watch Wyatt Earp but instead got outvoted by my mates who wanted to watch this. It is around twenty years ago that I saw this so my recollection of it isn’t that fresh in the memory banks, however I just remember how absolute dire I thought it was. I do remember though losing interest half way through it as I watched it, no it was probably more more like just after ten minutes if I’m being completely honest. Just a crap action film with diabolical acting and the token fittie in it in the form of a very young Sandra Bullock. The two main leads played very badly were by Sylvester Stallone(as Sergeant John Spartan) and Wesley Snipes(as Simon Phoenix). 0/5.
2. BLAME IT ON THE BELLBOY (1992 – Directed by Mark Herman).
This is a diabolical British-American comedy starring Dudley Moore, Patsy Kensit and Richard Griffiths. It’s about as funny as a large dose of piles. 1/5.
There we have it then, hope you fancy the sound of some these films that I have listed here. Furthermore, I hope you enjoy the ones I praised as much as I did. Watching a great film and being moved by it is such a wonderful thing. Some of these I have listed here have definitely helped to enrich my life for the better and I hope they do the same to you too!