Nightman’s Updated Top 17 Movies Of 1993!

17: Falling Down (US/France/UK) Joel Schumacher

Schumacher continued the 80s success of the likes of The Lost Boys and St Elmo’s Fire into the 90s, with Falling Down probably his best film of the decade. It reinvented Michael Douglas, casting him as a classic anti-hero and the sort of bloke we have all wished we would like to be at some point. Maybe that’s a tad too far, but which of us have not wanted to just say ‘fuck it’ and go on a rampage around the city? Schumacher nails the atmosphere of sweaty 90s LA, a boiling pot of race, pressure, and violence, and manages to make the film action packed, violent, funny, and smart all at once.

16: Mrs Doubtfire (US) Chris Columbus

It’s a family film with its fair share of risque humour thanks to a tour de force performance from Robin Williams. Not all of the jokes land, as it always the case when Williams was given free reign, but when there are so many and when they are delivered with such pace, you barely notice. It’s also another charming watch and kids and older members will find plenty to enjoy.

15: Schindler’s List (US) Steven Spielberg

A contender for the finest war movie ever made, and for the best movie of the decade, Schindler’s List is obviously an exhausting, difficult, but important watch. There are two must watches for everyone on my list today – both are by Spielberg, and this is one of them.

14: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (US) Lasse Hallstrom

Johnny Depp’s star was on the rise, and this was another notch on his bedpost. Lasse Hallstrom was looking for a US hit while Juliette Lewis was another hot property. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was not the sort of film which was ever going to be a hit, but even before it took on a cult status it was clear to any viewer that it was a powerful and humble and perfectly well made and well acted drama. Naturally it was the film which broke DiCaprio, his film stealing performance earning an Oscar nomination. People have maybe forgotten this one now, but with the star power involved its a hidden gem which will continue to be discovered.

13: Cliffhanger (US/France/Italy) Renny Harlin

Arnie had exploded into the new decade making sure that the 80s action hero still had a place in the new, more self aware era. His 90s exploits had not been successful so he found a new action vehicle with up and coming director Renny Harlin. It’s basically Die Hard on a mountain, but it has plenty of action, plenty of violence, a classic batch of hammy villains, and lots of one-liners – in short, everything you want in an action movie, with the added bonus of great scenery and spectacle.

12: Benny And Joon (US) Jeremiah S Chechik

Another offbeat character for Depp to tackle, this is the less mainstream version of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? It’s one of a select few romances or Rom Coms that I hold dear, and another film for people who have maybe forgotten what a great actor Depp is should check out.

11: Dazed And Confused (US) Richard Linklater

Linklater always makes watchable movies, regardless of genre, but his best movies are those which feel like a group of best mates hanging out – with Dazed And Confused being the prime example. Like the movie itself, you can stick it on and just chill. The various characters, the various groups all somehow feel like personal friends and Linklater has a way of making you feel like part of the gang, even as a guy from Northern Ireland who wasn’t alive in the time period predicted. You don’t even need the performances to be good – they are – but you do need the soundtrack and the setting to echo the vibe – it does.

10: The Vanishing (US) George Sluizer

Frequently named as one of the, if not worst, but least most unnecessary and least interesting remakes of all time, The Vanishing still remains for me a gripping and eerie watch. Sure, it’s not as powerful as the original but I saw this one first and those first impressions are hard to shake. Remember, this is a favourites list, not what I think is the best. What I still love about this remake is the cast – Bridges, Sutherland, Bullock, and Travis are all committed and Sluzier does a great job of maintaining the mystery and tension of the original. While the ending is a prime example of Americanisation, I don’t necessarily mind. Sure it would have been cool if they’d shot alternative endings or went with something similar to the original, but the original is still there to enjoy in all its bleak glory.

9: Carlito’s Way (US) Brian De Palma

Carlito’s Way is one of those latter day Mafia movies which was still flying the flag for the sort of violent stylized thriller which would become out of vogue once Pulp Fiction came along. It’s not as good as Goodfellas, and not as memorable as Scarface, but it’s just as engaging with the benefit of being more underseen – get ahead of your mates and stick this one on your movie night list once Lockdown is over and enjoy Pacino, Sean Penn and Leguizamo, acting to Eleven while De Palma cranks up the tension.

8: The Nightmare Before Christmas (US) Henry Selick

I’ve spoken about this movie plenty of times on other lists on this site; it’s great.

7: A Perfect World (US) Clint Eastwood

Clint had been directing for about 80 years by the time he made A Perfect World, and had been acting for roughly 300 years on top of that. His follow up to the universally acclaimed Unforgiven is a light crime drama which I prefer to his masterful Western. I’ve always suspected the light tone came from Kevin Costner’s involvement and that another actor may have brought a more cynical vibe, but Costner and Eastwood were a perfect match and foil for one another, and created one of the least seen finest movies of the 90s. Assuming most reading this list may not be familiar with this movie – it follows two escaped convicts in early 60s Texas who pick up a hostage in the form of a young Jehovah’s Witness boy completely innocent of the ways of the world. What begins is a road movie mixed with coming of age mixed with buddy comedy mixed with violent thriller as Costner learns responsibility from the boy and the boy learns right and wrong from the criminal, all while Texas Ranger Eastwood and criminologist Laura Dern chase them down. It’s an incredibly, unforgivingly (ha) underrated film with a terrific cast, nuanced, funny, touching, and never bogged down by its 2 hour plus running time.

6: Demolition Man (US) Marco Brambilla

I’ve spoken plenty about this one on the blog before – it features in my Top Ten Stallone movies.

5: Last Action Hero (US) John McTiernan

I’ve spoken plenty about this one on the blog before – it features in my Top Ten Arnie movies.

4: Body Snatchers (US) Abel Ferrara

It gets undue hate for not being as good as the 70s or 50s version. Don’t sleep on it. It’s in my favourite movies of the decade list… I think. If it’s not, it’s fantastically grim vision of the famous story with a more claustrophobic setting.

3: True Romance (US) Tony Scott

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

2: Tombstone (US) George P Cosmatos

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

1: Jurassic Park (US) Steven Spielberg

It’s in my top movies of the decade.

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 1994!

 

Here is my updated list of favourite films of 1994 – there aren’t actually any new entries, I’m simply adding a few blurbs on each film. First, the few which missed out on my Top 20 – Heavenly Creatures which saw Peter ‘I kick ass for The Lord’ Jackson, branching out from his shlock horror comedies and making something more emotionally substantial and mainstream. The Last Seduction aimed to single-handedly bring the noir genre kicking and screaming back to life, with a great performance by Linda Fiorentino, while The River Wild is Die Hard in a dinghy.

And now, the Top Twenty:

20: Little Women (US) Gilliam Armstrong

I don’t know why, but I generally enjoy the Little Women movies. That’s not strange in and of itself – what’s strange is that I can’t stand the original novel. This movie is gorgeously shot and has all of the hair and clothing and all of that crap that people seem to love, but more importantly it has a badass cast of people just coming into their own or at the top of their game – Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale, Samantha Mathis, Gabriel Byrne, Trini Alvarado, Eric Stoltz and more. As acclaimed as this one was at the time, it’s a bit sad that it will now be overlooked by the overblown success of the 2019 version.

19: Ace Ventura (US) Tom Shadyac

Jim Carrey was maybe on the greatest sequence of starring roles in history in 1994, with a trio of all time classics. All three are on my list, this one and the next one are interchangeable in their quality and my enjoyment of them. This and The Mask are great fun. Pity the sequel is balls.

18: The Mask (US) Charles Russell

See above.

17: Stargate (US/France) Roland Emmerich

I loved Stargate when it was released – it was such a spectacle, plus it dealt with a period of history I have always been curious about, and it was done in a cool 90s way. AND you get Kurt Russell. It has since been overshadowed by the epic TV spin-offs but this was the starting point of one of the greatest, most underrated expanded universes in fiction.

16: Forrest Gump (US) Robert Zemeckis

It’s one of those films which I never feel like I need to revisit. It was fun, heartwarming, sure a little saccharine, but features one of the most iconic performances of the decade, one of the most recognisable characters in movie history, and some memorable one-liners. It’s an all round good film which hasn’t lost any of its potency.

15: The Lion King (US Disney)

It’s The Lion King. People love this a lot more than I do, and while I agree it is massively overrated, it’s still wonderful. Superb anmiation, great songs, amusing characters – classic Disney – before they sold out.

14: Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (US/Japan) Kenneth Branagh

Lets face it, the 90s produced arguably the best movie version of Dracula and almost certainly the best movie version of Frankenstein – coming from a big fan of both Universal and Hammer. It’s not without its problems, much of that is simply to do with bringing the story to the screen in the first place, but it gets the pathos and the monstrosity of the original text correct, and offers Robert De Niro the chance to portray the sort of character A-listers wouldn’t usually come within 50 miles of.

13: Timecop (US) Peter Hyams

Did I ever do a TTT for Jean Claude Van Damme? I don’t know man, I’ve been doing this blog for generations. Timecop is the movie Looper wishes it was, with added mullets.

12: The Shawshank Redemption (US) Frank Darabont

Frequently listed as the greatest movie of the decade, and often as the greatest movie of all time, it still gives me great pleasure when ardent anti-horror or anti-Stephen King fans begrudgingly admit how good this is. Sure the movie succeeds based on Darabont’s direction and the terrific cast, but it all comes down to the story by King – a story of hope and of crawling through all of the shit life pours on you. It’s another fine example of The Academy completely ignoring Horror – or even anything with the stench of Horror attached to it – as the film was overlooked in every category it was nominated in (though fair enough, there were some excellent movies and winners this year).

11: Ed Wood (US) Tim Burton

Ed Wood is Tim Burton Oscar bait… I think. It’s one of those movies about movies, about the love of making them, about the whole system and the business. While movies like this have always been critical darlings, Burton decided to flip the whole shtick and make the focus one of the most notoriously ‘bad’ filmmakers in history. Wood is presented as an exuberant guy with a dream, a man who refuses to allow reality to crush his pursuit of making his dream come true or dull his love of the movies. Depp and Landau are on top form here, and it’s another Horror adjacent movie which The Academy couldn’t avoid.

10: Natural Born Killers (US) Oliver Stone

One of the most controversial movies of the 90s, this was certainly ahead of its time with its protagonists/antagonists taking their murder and mayhem to the road accompanied by an orgasmic media. Lewis and Harrelson have a natural born chemistry and whip out career best manic performances, ably backed up by a ‘remember me, everybody’ Robert Downey Jr, Rodney Dangerfield, Tom Sizemore, and Tommy Lee Jones. Few films whip up such controversy in their wake and few films have such a unique mish mash of styles and genres, creating an orgiastic fever-dream of drama, comedy, and violence.

9: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (US) Wes Craven

If you want to breath life back into a dying series, you can do worse than handing back the reins to its creator a decade later. In a precursor to his meta mega-hit Scream, New Nightmare upends series and genre tropes as it peels back the curtain and blurs the increasingly more fragile walls between the real and fictional world. Wes brings back original cast members to tell the story of Heather Langenkamp – actress most famous for her performances in the Elm Street series – whose fictional arch enemy Fred Krueger has somehow found a way into the real world. The movie dispenses with much of the humour of the popular sequels, instead posing questions about fandom and the impact of fame and exposure to violent material on those who are both part of these worlds and help to create it. The film doesn’t scrimp on the gore even as it dispenses with many of the creative setpieces and kills which the series had become known for, but ends up being all the more nasty and interesting for it.

8: Clerks (US) Kevin Smith

There have been few better or equivalent Indie first times movies than Clerks – a movie of its time which capitalized upon the torchlight being shone on Indie film at the time, but which nevertheless remains fresh, vital, and hilarious even decades later. Smith would hone his writing and directing skills over the years, but this may be his most pure effort, pulling together friends and familiars and shooting on a shoestring, yet managing to create a much funnier, much stronger product than almost any other studio comedy of the decade.

7: True Lies (US) James Cameron

James Cameron doesn’t make many films, but when he does they’re either record-breakers, masterpieces, or at worst perfectly entertaining B genre fare. True Lies is neither a record breaker nor a masterpiece, but he did release it in between T2 and Titanic, so it can be viewed as a palette cleanser. More than that, it’s a send up of the spy/secret agent/Bond genre as Arnie leads a double life as a boring family man and a world-saving action hero. It’s the lightest, funniest film in the Cameron-verse, bolstered by an amusing trope-twisting script and fun takes by Jamie Lee Curtis and Bill Paxton.

6: Speed (US) Jan de Bont

The undisputed action movie event of the year, and one of the best of the decade. While the 80s featured muscle-bound bullet dodgers mowing down hordes of faceless bad dudes, the enlightened audiences of the 90s needed something more. Something like a bad dude who used to be a good dude, and a good dude who is flawed and hasn’t experienced the bicep sprouting pleasures of steroids, and a story more inventive than ‘bad dude kidnaps x and good dude must destroy everything’. Speed is one of the finest examples of the 90s take on the genre – reckless rookie Keanu Reeves comes up against crazed ex good guy Dennis Hopper and has to stop him blowing people up. The bulk of the movie takes place on a bus – a bus filled with passengers and Sandra Bullock – a bus armed with explosives which will go off if the bus goes under 50MPH, but there’s also a gripping climax involving a subway. Like its central plot device, the thrills, action, and tension never let up once they start, and the cast have a whale of a time.

5: Pulp Fiction (US) Quentin Tarantino

See my favourite movies of decade post.

4: Interview With The Vampire (US) Neil Jordan

See my favourite movies of decade post.

3: Leon (France) Luc Besson

See my favourite movies of decade post.

2: The Crow (US) Alex Proyas

See my favourite movies of decade post.

1: Dumb And Dumber (Top Ten Of All Time) (US) Peter Farrelly

See my favourite movies of decade post.

Let us know your favourites in the comments!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 1995!

Lordy lordy, this is going to be a long one (that’s what she said etc). 1995 is just one of those years, both formative and just simply a bad-ass year for movies. As usual, my list is eclectic with both critical darlings, commercial hits, and lesser known or foreign curios. Enjoy!

20: Braveheart (US) Mel Gibson

This was the biggie of 1995, and a bit of a surprise, lifting Mel Gibson into the pantheon of Great Directors and showcasing his skills as a leading man. It’s not my favourite Gibson movie but it’s a sublime achievement with great, epic action scenes and famous speeches.

19: Casino (US) Martin Scorsese

Casino always felt like a lesser Scorsese movie to me, the less popular younger brother to Goodfellas. As unfair as that is, I feel like it’s true. But it’s still Scorsese, and he’s still on fire, so there are very few other directors who can touch him when he’s delivering.

18: Casper (US) Brad Silberling

Casper is better than Casino! Well no, but I enjoy it more. It’s a great lead in to Horror for kids, it feels like a mini Tim Burton movie – with a little more darkness and satire this could have been a bona fide classic. It’s Christina Ricci, so I’m in regardless, but you also get Bill Pullman and Eric Idle for some reason.

17: Jumanji (US) Joe Johnston

Jumanji is that bona fide classic family movie blockbuster – the effects for the time were great, the idea was fun, and Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst are on top form. I’m not a Joe Johnston fan – three of his movies appear on my Least Favourites lists – but this is his finest moment, mixing the story, characters, and effects seamlessly. In truth, I was always a bigger fan of the Animated TV show, but the movie is a lot of fun.

16: Dangerous Minds (US) John N Smith

It’s a stereotype now – the teacher coming in to some tough inner-city school, and turning them around thanks to a passion for (literature/art/music/dance/anything) some subject. Variants of this had been going on for decades, but this really perfected the thing. It didn’t hurt that Gangsta’s Paradise was released alongside the movie and became a worldwide smash. Great cast, great energy, and while these types of movie feel a little White Saviour-ish, I can’t help but enjoy these types of film.

15: Strange Days (US) Kathryn Bigelow

Before Bigelow became a genuine A-Lister with The Hurt Locker, she was making much more interesting high (or low) concept movies like this. This was quite revelatory in 1995 and quite a lot of the ideas and technology displayed are in regular use today. Like Near Dark, this is a gorgeous night time shot movie, albeit this one is much more focused on the indoors rather than the outdoors. Out of all of the movies on my list, this is maybe the least seen (it was a massive bomb); it stars Ralph Fiennes as a former cop/now criminal in a futuristic end of the century LA who buys and sells people’s memories (there’s a device which can record these) and who gets pulled into a wider story of love, crime, and murder. Throw in an archetypal Juliette Lewis performance, Angela Bassett, Tom Sizemore, and the always great Michael Wincott, a great mid-nineties indie/rock/techno, and at the very least you have an interesting (if cold) movie well deserving of re-evaluation.

14: In The Mouth Of Madness (US) John Carpenter

One of the last John Carpenter movies I ever got to because it’s so damn hard to find a physical copy of, In The Mouth Of Madness is one of the last great Carpenter movies. I don’t love it as much as some, but that may just be because I’m not as familiar with it. It’s unusual for Carpenter in that it’s not so straightforward – it’s a natural thematic successor to Prince Of Darkness and features a deliciously madcap Sam Neill performance as an Insurance Investigator sucked into, well, the mouth of madness. Charlton Heston pops up too. It’s very strange – there are good effects, good ideas, and Carpenter is as assured as ever, but it doesn’t always flow in a pleasing way (which may be deliberate) and the script feels lacking. But it’s still Carpenter doing Horror, and that will always be a good thing.

13: The Last Supper (US) Stacy Title

Most people have likely not seen or heard of this one, given that it is an India release with a religious sounding name. Plus, it’s a bit of a single location, very talky movie. It’s also smart, funny, and has a cool cast and even better cameos. It follows a dinner party with a group of liberal arts students whose night of privilege and culture is interrupted by the arrival of a Right Wing Desert Storm Vet with plenty of strong opinions. It amusingly breaks down barriers of class and stereotype and gets quite dark, while never losing its comedy core. Annabeth Gish and Cameron Diaz are the big names of the main players, but it’s Bill Paxton and Ron Perlman who steal the show.

12: Kids (US) Larry Clark

I don’t know many people who enjoy Kids or any of Larry Clark’s movies. I don’t know what it is – the faux realism, the dialogue, the Mean Streets style shooting, but there’s something so watchable about them to me. I appreciate that most people are going to be offended by them, and that many are going to find Kids problematic – as they should. It’s not an easy movie, dealing with a bunch of, well, scumbags, underage sex, drugs, abuse, AIDS, and other antics we don’t associate with people under 16. When’s it coming to Disney+?

11: Pocahontas (US) Disney

Pocahontas for me was a slight turning point for Disney, towards a downward turn. We’d had the second Golden Age with three legit bangers in a row. Pocahontas is not up to the same level as The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty And The Beast, but is at least the equal to The Little Mermaid. While it was a smash, that little dip in quality continued through the rest of the decade (outside of Pixar) and not really picking up again until Princess And The Frog and Tangled. Still, Pocahontas is light years ahead of most other animated movies and always charming even if it’s not one I revisit often.

10: Mortal Kombat (US) Paul W S Anderson

Do do- do do-do do-do do do do – MORTAL KOMBAT! I was obsessed with the games at the time, so an actual big budget martial arts movie on the big screen with people shooting fireballs and spears towards four armed monsters…what more could a twelve year old boy want? Plus, I was already the biggest Bruce Lee fan in the world. It’s not the best movie in the world, or of the year, but it’s such a lot of fun and remains one of the best videogame adaptations.

9: Now And Then (US) Lesli Linka Glatter

I never understood why this one isn’t as heralded as Stand By Me and other coming of age movies. This is a near perfect movie, with a terrific cast (the kids moreso than the adults), a great soundtrack, and a funny script. It’s gentle, heartwarming, and remains a neat little secret to whip out of the back-pocket every so often and show to someone who’s never heard of it. The film follows four long-term friends who meet up to support one of the group who is about to have her first baby. The group reminisce about their childhood in 1970, with the film flipping back between both eras as they talk about life from the perspective of coming in to adolescence and approaching middle age/middle adulthood. It’s great, it’s lovely, and it stars Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, Rosie O’Donnell, Rita Wilson, Gaby Hoffman, Thora Birch, Christina Ricci, the late Ashleigh Aston Moore, Cloris Leachman, Bonnie Hunt, Brendan Fraser, Janeane Garofalo, Devon Sawa, and Rumer Willis.

8: The Doom Generation (US/France) Gregg Araki

Now that I think about it, there’s quite a few movies on my list that many people won’t have seen or heard of. This is another example. Gregg Araki is a bit of a powerhouse in the Indie world, with The Doom Generation probably being my favourite movie of his. It’s one of those movies which gets thrown in with the post-Tarantino world thanks to a post-modern approach, lots of style, lots of violence, cool dialogue, foul language, gore, and bizarre bits and bops. Oh, and lots of sex. It follows two teenagers (Rose McGowan and James Duval) who are driving through the night and decide to pick up a drifter. There’s an accidental murder which leads to increasingly bizarre and violent encounters as the film turns into a road-movie-fever-dream-with-boobs. McGowan gives her best performance, Duval and Schaech are excellent, and there are plenty of weird cameos as every person in the film claims that McGowan’s character is some ex-girlfriend/wife/friend and it all ends in a massacre.

7: La Haine (France) Mathieu Kassovitz

Speaking of massacres, La Haine is a film constantly at boiling point, just waiting for something unspeakable and ferocious to happen. Another underseen classic, this is perhaps the one most deserving of an audience given its relevance, potency, and power, and simply because it is undeniably brilliant. A French film starring Vincent Cassel, Said Taghmaoui, and Hubert Kounde as three friends in an inner city crime-filled Parisian district who find a Police Officer’s gun in the aftermath of a riot in which a fourth friend was seriously injured. The three friends debate what they should do with the gun – one vows to kill a cop if the fourth friend dies, one disagrees, and one is a mediator. The three travel around the city talking, plotting, dealing with gangs and cops and the city is presented as a melting pot of violence ready to erupt at any moment. It’s super tense, shot in beautiful black and white, and features great performances across the board.

6: Die Hard With A Vengeance (US) John McTiernan

I’m getting to the point where these are the movies which probably made my favourites of the decade post. As I can’t recall which ones made it, I’m going to be brief on each of these – you should know them all anyway. This is the third Die Hard, the second best in the the series and almost on par with the original. It’s great, though the final act doesn’t live up to the rest.

5: Heat (US) Michael Mann

It’s Heat… it’s one of the best casts of all time, and with some terrific set pieces.

4: Mallrats (US) Kevin Smith

My favourite Kevin Smith movie, and a great, aimless hangout movie.

3: Desperado (US) Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez’s best movie. It’s perfect.

2: Goldeneye (UK) Martin Campbell

One of my favourite Bond movies, one of the best Bond movies.

1: Things To In Denver When You’re Dead (US) Gary Fleder

Another underseen classic, another fantastic cast, one of the finest movies of the decade.

Let us know your favourites in the comments!

Nightman’s Favourite Movies Of 1997!

As mentioned in my original 1997 post, this is one of the few years I had to upgrade from 10 to 20 movies. So this is a bumper edition – hope you’re sitting comfortably… and I somehow forgot to include my beloved Perfect Blue, unless I’ve slipped it accidentally under some other year.

20: The Ice Storm (US) Ang Lee

Ang Lee was never a filmmaker I paid attention too, aware that he was known for romantic comedies and costume pieces. I only came to The Ice Storm because of its cast, but it is Lee’s command of the material and the story which elevates what would normally be a bland drama to one of the best films of the year. From that point on, Lee has been on my radar. The cast is strong – I’d switch out Kevin Kline and Joan Allen most days of the week, but they are good here rounding out a star-studded list – Christina Ricci, Sigourney Weaver, Elijah Wood, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes, Allison Janney, Jamey Sheridan. Set in the 1970s, it deals with two variously snobby US families who are struggling to come to terms with the changes of the new generation. The parents are bored with life and experimenting with sex, the kids are bored with life and experimenting with sex… basically everyone is shagging everyone else, getting drunk, getting stoned, but it’s all a big secret bubbling under the surface of the happy families dinner party facade. Of course the latest dinner party is a wife-swapping one. It’s all played against an Ice Storm brewing outside which ECHOES THE ENCROACHING STORM IN THEIR OWN LIVES. Yes, it’s a little on the nose, but I love how there are no easy answers, how some of the characters seem to have given up long before the opening credits, and how there doesn’t seem to be a happy ending in store for anyone.

19: Boogie Nights (US) Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson is someone who seems to be incapable of making bad movies. And yet, it’s Boogie Nights which remains my favourite of his – it’s the most lively, the most honest, and possibly the most straightforward. It’s just a smart, funny, touching, shocking time.

18:  LA Confidential (US) Curtis Hanson

I didn’t see this when it was originally released, assuming it was Oscar bait rather than something worthy of my time. Sometimes you get these things wrong. LA Confidential is sure overrated – it was then and it is now, but it’s definitely worth your time. As a big Neighbours fan, I knew Guy Pearce going in to it, and I knew Russel Crowe from the little seen No Way Back. Plus it brought Kim Basinger back to the limelight, which is always a good thing. Like all of James Ellroy’s books, it’s a sprawling crime thriller as eager and quick to violence as it is to inverting noir caricatures. Ellroy’s books are not easy to adapt (as seen by the disastrous Black Dahlia) but this is a perfect blend of what makes his novels work and what makes film special.

17: Cube (Canada) Vincenzo Natali

Some of the best horror movies ever made are basically Westerns. I’d go further and say that they are siege movies at their core, and that the genre has its roots as far back as Homer. The Western genre simply brought the formula to a modern white audience terrified by the threat of ‘the other’ and the American gung ho solution of shooting everything without question to protect your precious ‘things’. Calling Cube a Western, or a siege movie, is a stretch, but that’s what it is at it’s core. It just throws in a high concept, a futuristic slant, and an unknown ‘other’. It’s a great idea for a film, pulled off wonderfully on a non-existent budget, and which managed to influence a host of pretenders over the next twenty years and counting. 

Cube follows a group of people – strangers – who wake up in barren cube shaped rooms with no memory of how they got there. They quickly meet up and realize they are in some sort of terrible life size puzzle, surrounded by cube rooms each with their puzzle to solve, each with their own deadly threat. The team have to work together to try to escape and survive, but of course they all have different ideas, approaches, and motives. 

Aside from how effective the movie is on such a small budget, I love how the film constantly surprises. Not huge reveal surprises, but in taking character tropes and both living into them but twisting the standard outcomes so that you don’t know how is going to come out unscathed – if anyone. I also appreciate the world building and the ultimate lack of answers provided. It’s not perfect, and you can pick apart some of the performances, some of the dialogue, but that would be missing the good stuff, and the point.

16: Princess Mononoke (Japan) Hiyao Miyazaki

Some would call this Miyazaki’s masterpiece, though such trivialities are near impossible when you have at least five to your name. It’s certainly the first which truly broke through and impacted Western audiences, which is interesting because it’s such a native Asian story. Not for the first time, the film deals with humanity’s interaction with nature, nature personified and mystified, but here is one of the most overt central themes. The film follows a young Prince who is poisoned while protecting his town from a demon – the poison gives him superhuman strength, but it will also kill him as it spreads in his body. As he travels West in search of a cure, he becomes embroiled in a War between another town and the spirits of the surrounding forest land which humans have been stripping and destroying for resources.

You’re not going to get this level of gore and complexity in your standard Disney or Pixar fare. While this is still ostensibly a family film, it’s much more suited to older kids and adults due to some of the violence and twists of the plot. Japanese animation often does go one or two steps beyond what Western tastes would be used to, whether it be in films meant for all ages or adults. It goes without saying that the whole thing is stunningly beautiful, but it’s also epic, emotional, and of course has a memorable Joe Hisaishi soundtrack.

15: Grosse Point Blank (US) George Armitage

Say what you will about hitman/assassin movies – making trained contract killers the good guys in films is morally problematic at the best of times, but the best of these films at least challenges that morality. In any case, they’re always enjoyable even when played for dumb fun and action. Gross Point Blank doesn’t give any shits about serious discussion on morality, instead treating the subject matter with dark humour – quips that John Cusack’s lead character’s profiling indicated an ambiguity that would make him a perfect killer, and the reveals that he left his town behind to protect the people he tolerated from his murderous ways. It’s played for jokes, like much of the film, but it’s done in the best dark taste. Beyond the usual trappings of hitman movies, the story is framed around the dreaded high school reunion. Cusack’s character returns to his home town for the reunion, bringing his work with him and followed by rival assassin Dan Aykroyd. 

It’s a caper movie brought right up to date, with both assassins getting in to various scrapes and pissing each other off, all while Cusack is trying to catch up with old friends and flames. It zips along, the action is amusing, the dialogue has the self aware smarts of the 90s, and the cast seem to be having fun. It’s a neat little, little known comedy action drama mash up thing.

14: The Postman (US) Kevin Costner

I wasn’t sure why this was butchered at release, and I’m not sure why it hasn’t been positively re-evaluated since. Sure it’s very long, sure it’s a very personal passion project in a long list of such for Costner, but it’s very good. It’s also more relevant now than ever – get this – in the aftermath of some sort of apocalyptic event centred on the breakdown of the USA as instigated by racist attacks and a rising right wing militia – the population is scattered and reminiscent of how the Country looked in the Wild West. There are parallels which are more obvious now even than they were in 1997 thanks to a bunch of morons in the USA (and elsewhere), but I can only assume that one of the main reasons this failed is because North America does not like to be confronted with its own truths.

This being a Costner movie though, it’s still very patriotic and hopeful and cheesy. But in the shitty times we live in now, a big sentimental feel good movie is what we need. Costner is your atypical post-apocalyptic nameless roamer – he passes his time by acting, panto style, to small crowds but encounter a group of militaristic fascists who want to own the Country. Escaping and hiding out in a Postman’s van, he makes the decision to assume the character of a Postman and tell the people he meets that the US Government has been restored and that good times will be coming back. Yay! It’s a fairly unique film – it feels like a Western, but it’s not. It moves like a drama, but it’s more than that. It’s complex and sparse, well-directed and frequently rather nice to look at. It’s an apocalyptic movie, but without the white boy fanaticism of Ramboing shit up. It’s not as bad, not nearly as bad, as people have said. 

13: Con Air (US) Simon West

A lot of people love Con Air more than me. I think it’s great fun – perfectly blending the insanity of 80s action movies, with the high concept meta style of the 90s. Simon West knows action, he knows how to give characters cool names and one liners, and sometimes he gets interesting performances out of interesting actors. He also directed Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. This is probably his best film – a kind of Die Hard on a plane (Die Hard 2?) but it’s more than that. Mostly it’s an excuse for badasses with badass names to slap and shoot each other. Which is always fun.

12: The Game (US) David Fincher

I’ve never been one of those David Fincher fanboys who worships everything he does – I’ve liked all of his films, but each one has plenty of faults which the fanboys tend to gloss over, ignore, or completely miss. The Game is about as straightforward a Fincher film as you’ll get, even with its outlandish plot and twists, plus it continued the interesting mid-90s Michael Douglas run. 

The Game sees Michael Douglas, a wealthy middle-aged bank dude, receiving a mysterious gift from his brother – a gift from some sort of shady shadowy corporate interactive party business. Things quick go array and escalate and Douglas is doing the whole Hitchcock man on the run bit while double-crosses and bluffs abound. 

It’s not the most amazing film you’ll ever see, it’s not Fincher’s best, it’s just a lot of fun.

11: I Know What You Did Last Summer (US) Jim Gillespie

Scream is one of my all time favourite movies. I Know What You Did Last Summer – owner of one of the most ridiculous names in movie history – is nowhere near on the same level, but it’s probably the best of all of the post-Scream copycats. It’s essentially no different from any of the thousand of slashers which stank up the 80s, except it’s smarter, has a bigger budget, better actors, but all the tropes are there – boobies, mysterious masked killer, pretty people with boobies being killed by mysterious masked killer. 

Any time there’s a thing with Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar in it, I’ll be there front row centre. There’s a chance you haven’t seen the movie, but there’s also a chance you know the plot; two couples are out driving at night, knock some dude over, argue over what to do, and decide to not tell anyone and get on with their lives. They’re young, affluent, white Americans – how dare some random hobo try to to die under their wheels and mess up their promising futures? Flashforward and oopsy doo – they get notes proclaiming ‘I know what you did last summer’. Oh no! Then people begin being picked off.

It’s not a patch on Scream but it’s easily a step up from most of the higher grade slashers of the 80s. The four central performances – decent – the twists – fine, the kills… okay. It’s not amazing but I have a lot of fondness for it.

10: Face/Off (US) John Woo

This was John Woo’s biggest hit in the US. I don’t think it’s anywhere near as good as Broken Arrow, though it’s leaps and bounds ahead in terms of spectacle and how silly it is. It’s certainly not on a par with his best HK work. But that simply serves to show how strong his other work is, as Face/Off is ludicrous. It’s so much fun, watching Travolta and Cage but ripping out their inner demons and slapping them about for our entertainment. Silly fun character names, silly fun slow mo, ludicrous action, dialogue – everything is over the top, maniacal, silly, fun, and it’s difficult to think of a reason not to watch it.

9: Liar Liar (US) Tom Shadyac

As the 90s drew to a close, Jim Carrey was branching out into more legitimate roles, straighter roles. Liar Liar is a halfway house between his physical comedy and his more sentimental acting chops. It’s very much a comedy above and beyond anything else, but there’s a little more to it than his previous hits. He plays a lawyer who is more focused on his work that his family, frequently breaking promises to his son. It is partly this which eroded his relationship with his wife, meaning they are now separated and she is getting it on with Cary Elwes. His son is sick of all of these lies and makes a Birthday wish that his dad cannot lie for 24 hours. The wish comes true, and Carrey romps from scene to scene unable to lie to clients, rivals, judges, leading to much hilarity.

Carrey is unleashed at various points in the film and these are the best moments – elsewhere there’s a really strong cast including Maura Tierney, Jennifer Tilly, Amanda Donohoe, Jason Bernard, Tex Cobb (!), and Anne Haney. It’s just an all round feel good, warm, funny family film. 

8: Life Is Beautiful (Italy) Robert Benigni

Life Is Beautiful has divided fans and critics over the years. I get that some people are pissed off that the film plays for a comedy at points… but for me that only heightens the tragedy. It’s a love story, it has some wonderful comedic moments, but it’s utterly gut-wrenching. It’s another instance of people being pissed off that their favourite film and actor didn’t win an Award because this one did. Of course we know that a character like Guido would not have survived very long in a concentration camp, and certainly would not have got away with most of the antics he does in the movie. But that’s not the point. Do we need another Concentration Camp movie which only shows the horror of the reality? Well, yes, but we don’t only need that. This is one of the best Holocaust movies I’ve ever seen and is all the more brutal and overwhelming because of those scattered soft moments of hope and joy.

7: The Devil’s Advocate (US) Taylor Hackford

I’ve covered this before in my favourite Al Pacino movies, so go read that wherever it is.

6: Donnie Brasco (US) Mike Newell

I’ve covered this before in my favourite Al Pacino and Johnny Depp movies, so go read those wherever they are.

5: Chasing Amy (US) Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith’s early run is pretty flawless. I’ve enjoyed everything he’s done since. But there’s a spirit and an energy to his early movies which is accentuated by the indie nature and intellect pervading those movies. Chasing Amy is my sort of Rom Com, which is to say, it’s not shit like the majority of Rom Coms are. It’s a comedy centred on a romance, but there’s no bullshit. I could have down with someone other than Affleck in the lead role, but fine. Everyone is good, the script is as strong as expected, and it’s genuinely emotional. It hurts. See, it is possible to make a good Rom Com.

4: Lost Highway (US/France) David Lynch

I’ve covered this before in my favourite David Lynch movies, so go read that wherever it is.

3: Cop Land (US) James Mangold

I’ve covered this before in my favourite Stallone movies, so go read that wherever it is.

2: Starship Troopers (US) Paul Verhoeven

I’ve covered this before in my favourite Verhoeven movies, so go read that wherever it is.

1: The Fifth Element (France) Luc Besson

I’ve covered this before in my favourite Besson movies, so go read that wherever it is.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Two

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One

Nightman’s Updated Top Ten Movies Of 1998!

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

As always, I look at the films which narrowly missed out on my Top Ten. American History X  is a film which sadly has become increasingly relevant since its release, rather than less so. While recent cultural events have seen – not a rise in racism, but an increase in the number of existing racists feeling like they have a voice in society and that their sad little opinions deserve to be heard. Even if its events had become a relic of a less enlightened past, it would still remain a powerful, flawlessly written, directed, and performed film. 

Apt Pupil makes for the perfect partner if you’re looking for a seriously depressing double bill. Based on the riveting Stephen King Novella, it follows a deranged youth with a fasciation for Nazism realizing that a friendly old man in his town is actually a former Concentration Camp monster hiding in the US. Featuring career bests from Ian McKellan and Brad Renfro, it’s one of the most underseen movies of the year.

The Big Lebowski is just a lot of fun, a lazy laidback movie which it is deliciously easy to slip on in the background and find your happy place – and I’m nowhere near the biggest fan of it, while The Idiots is Lars Von Trier hitting his stride and entering the ‘I will offend everyone’ stage of his career.

Mulan is a late in the day hand drawn classic by Disney which was overlooked somewhat at release, and has been somewhat re-evaluated in the aftermath of it being remade, while Run Lola Run was a film like no other at the time, a film told from different angles in a looping Quantum Leap manner while we hope for a happy ending. 

10: Wild Things (US) John McNaughton

A dirty, perverted, hilarious thriller by the man who brought us Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, this is a teenage boy’s dream. Certainly for me, the idea of another Neve Campbell movie was more than enough to get my attention, but throw in the odd sweaty boob shenanigans with her and Denise Richards and a cast featuring Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, and Bill Murray, tied around a script which twists and upends Noir tropes, and you have a wonderful little film which people only remember for its threesome – it’s certainly a lot more. 

9: The Truman Show (US) Peter Weir

I always championed Jim Carrey as a great actor, seeing behind his slapstick japes and face-pulling, but he never got the material to prove himself to Critics until The Truman Show came along. He’s the lynchpin which holds this high-concept drama together, and the focal point for the world wide reality show hit he is the star of. He lives in your typical ideal Good Old USA town, has the perfect job, perfect wife, and yet yearns for me – triggered by memories of lost love. Turns out his entire life has been designed for our entertainment and everyone he has ever known is an actor – his town a giant set, and every action he performs nothing more than the latest episode of a long running TV show. Slowly he begins to realise that something isn’t right and he tests the boundaries of his neighbours, friends, and family unsure if he is having a breakdown or if he is part of some big conspiracy. It’s charming, the perfect fuzzy comfort movie, and everyone is on hot form – Carrey, Ed Harris, Natasha McElhone, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich.

8: Dark City (US/OZ) Alex Proyas

I’m probably one of the few people who saw this before seeing The Matrix. Due to my love of The Crow, I wanted to see what else Proyas had up his sleeve – while this isn’t on the same level as The Crow, it is another twisted dark fantasy with signature cinematography and some bamboozling ideas. While it has plenty in common with The Matrix it equally draws comparisons to The Truman Show, Memento, Inception, and any number of European movies of the 60s and 70s, yet the same acclaim and fame has so far eluded it. It stars Rufus Sewell as a man who wakes in a bathroom with no memory, a corpse in the next room, and a group of trenchcoated freaks in hot pursuit. As the film progresses, he picks up clues about his life and surroundings including the fact that he can manipulate his surroundings with the power of his mind, and yet he seems to be the only person questioning the world’s perpetual darkness. It’s one of those films who have to see for yourself, and descriptions don’t do it justice. If the idea doesn’t pull you in, the shifting Expressionist city visuals should, but if those aren’t enough to entice you, the cast also includes Keifer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, Melissa George, William Hurt, and the great Richard O’Brien. 

7: Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (US) Terry Gilliam

Speaking of films which should be experienced rather than trying to explain, Terry Gilliam’s take on Hunter S Thompson’s Gonzo classic is the perfect example. Avoiding such niceties and narrative and plot, it loosely follows Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro’s drugged up shenanigans in Las Vegas as they encounter bats, giant lizards, motorcycles, rotating floors, horrendous casinos, and familiar faces such as Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Gary Busey, Flea, Cameron Diaz, Ellen Barkin, Verne Troyer, Jenette Goldstein, Harry Dean Stanton and others. It’s a complete mess, but in the best possible way. 

6: Saving Private Ryan (US) Steven Spielberg

There’s surely a case to be made for Saving Private Ryan being the best War movie ever made. Some War movies focus on character with the violence and brutality in the background, while others may wallow in violence or patriotism or dubious political asides. Saving Private Ryan is very much an American take on WWII, but it takes the best of the best war movies, showing as a range of characters and the impact of War on them, all without shying away from the visceral realism of the battlefield. This being Spielberg, there are heavy doses of sentiment and the film feels like it plays out like a sequence of iconic scenes – but I’d prefer that over a sequence of forgettable ones. It’s also as star-studded as the epics of the past, but focuses on familiar faces if not huge A Listers in minimal roles – Tom Hanks and Matt Damon are the big hitters, but you also have Tom Sizemore, Ted Danson, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg, Paul Giamatti, Nathan Fillion, Dennis Farina, Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel, Edward Burns etc etc. When first watching this, you got the sense that it was creating a new world for War movies and opening the eyes and doors for the next generation of Directors.

5: What Dreams May Come (US) Vincent Ward

I don’t think I’ve made such a list yet, but if I did so this film would likely be my Number One Robin Williams movie. The great man’s comedies could be sometimes hit and miss for me, but maybe because he made so many, but often his more dramatic moments are those which stick in the memory. What Dreams May Come is a tough one to watch in the aftermath of Williams’ death, dealing as it does with notions of suicide and the afterlife. But it’s a uniquely beautiful movie, a love story which transcends life, death, and religion, and features some visuals you’ll never forget. Based on the novel by the great Richard Matheson, the movie was always going to be a hard sell with its philosophical leanings, the tragic story of a man who dies and leaves his wife alone, having lost their children a few years earlier in a car crash. The man goes to Heaven but travels to Hell when his wife kills herself wracked with guilt over the deaths of her husband and children. It sounds rough, and it is utterly heart-breaking, but it is also a lovely film which ultimately ends up in a place of hope.  

4: Fallen (US) Gregory Hoblit

I’m still mystified that nobody has seen Fallen. It’s a police procedural which deals with demonic activity – it’s hardly the first time these lines have been blurred – but it does so in a fun, classy, sardonic way. Denzel Washington stars as a Detective hot on the tail of a serial killer who he just happened to have already caught, sent to death row, and watched die. Yet the guy seems to be back, knowing intimate details that a copycat or accomplice couldn’t. The film didn’t make back its budget, possibly because it simply dropped in the wrong month, the wrong year, the wrong climate. Or maybe I’m elevating it to a point it doesn’t deserve to be on – I’ll let you decide – but any film featuring Washington, John Goodman, Donald Sutherland, Embeth Davidtz, James Gandolfini, and Elias Koteas is likely always going to get three thumbs up in my book. 

3: Blade (US) Stephen Norrington

I’ve gone on record multiple time on this blog bemoaning the cookie cutter nature of both Marvel and DC’s recent movies. They’re absolutely huge blockbusters, but I just don’t care about any of it. I don’t find anything unique or engaging about any of them, and they end up being about as exciting as jogging down some steps and as memorable as whatever I had for lunch three weeks ago. Comic book movies were a rarity in the 90s, and possibly because of this the movies we did get seemed fresh. Blade is one such example, seeing Wesley Snipes as the half-vampire half-human renegade working and quipping and killing his way to block a demonic apocalypse. It’s cool, it’s violent and bloody, it’s stylish, and Blade is a more interesting character to me than most of the other hundred thousand superheroes out there.

2: Ronin (US) John Frankenheimer

Another film which is rarely spoken of when discussing the great films of 1998 or the Nineties in general, Ronin is a perfect blend of action, drama, and crime thriller, directed by someone who had more than a little experience of each. John Frankenheimer’s penultimate movie features one of the best car chases of all time and brings together a fantastic international cast – De Niro, Sean Bean, Jean Reno, Natasha McElone, Jonathan Pryce, Stelland Skarsgard, and Michael Lonsdale. It’s like watching Reservoir Dogs unfold in the correct order but with twists and double-crosses peaking out from every frame. 

1: Ringu (Japan) Hideo Nakata (Top Ten Of All Time)

Check my Top Movies Of The Decade post.

Let us know yur thoughts in the comments!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Movies Of 1999!

We’re into a new (old) millennium in our trawl back through my yearly lists, and this time we’ve stumbled upon our first mega-list. Twenty movies! This might take a while…

20: The Sixth Sense (US) M Night Shyamalan

I get pissed off quite easily by hype, or by acclaim – or at least I used to. Maybe being such an outsider led me down the narrow vine-choked path of assuming that anything popular is crap. There is a lot of truth in that line of thinking, but it’s also misguided. In the end, you have to view things for yourself and be aware of your biases so that they don’t influence your opinion. In other words, it took me a while to come around to The Sixth Sense. Everyone loved it, from horror fans to serious critics – as a horror fan we tend to become sceptical when one of our dirty brethren becomes accepted by the establishment. I can’t say I ever fell truly into that category of fan, but I understand the sentiment – especially when so many wonderful horror films have been overlooked. I tend to feel like the movie isn’t as powerful with repeat viewings – most will say the opposite is true. Once the film has revealed its secrets, there isn’t a lot for me to enjoy here. Naturally the twist is one I guessed fairly early on, but with all round decent plotting, a heady atmosphere, and strong performances, it remains a seminal and entertaining horror movie.

19: Girl, Interrupted (US) James Mangold

It’s the film which catapulted Angelina Jolie into the A Listers, but I was always more invested in this because of Winona Ryder and Brittany Murphy. Mangold was fresh off Cop Land which was one of my favourites of 97 so I was keen to see what we could do with a mostly female cast. There are all round great performances here, a timely soundtrack, and even though it’s a period piece it feels very modern – there are problems here which society hasn’t adequately solved yet. It’s not a film I revisit often, over most of the others on this list, but it packed a punch first time round.

18: The Green Mile (US) Frank Darabont

It’s not every day that you take a Stephen King novel and adapt it into one of the most well-loved films of all time. Frank Darabont did it twice. While The Green Mile isn’t as acclaimed as Shawshank, it is an equally epic character journey set in a hopeless world and is one of those rare occasions where the director successfully understands the core of the King’s work and is able to translate it. It is a little more sentimental than his earlier feature, but lets not forget it’s a film about the rape and murder of two young girls and a man suffering the torment of life on Death Row. Similar to Shawshank we have a terrific cast knocking it out of the park, and a story which reminds you that sometimes there is light at the end of the tunnel.

17: Shiri (SK) Kang je Gyu

I can’t say for sure, but Shiri was the the first film I saw from South Korea that I understood was a South Korean film. Growing up, I knew my martial arts movies from China, my action movies from Hong Kong, and my horror movies from Japan – but South Korea was some other strange entity. Turns out they could do the aforementioned genres as well as anyone else. Shiri is a crime thriller which is likely the least seen movie on this list. It’s also a fish – which may be important. There is a fast pace with the stylish direction of much of 90s HK action – fans of those movies should be at home here – and while it does often feel like a homage, there’s enough cultural nuance to make it fresh, at least for someone like me.

The film starts out with a group of North Korean soldiers – best of the best types – who are sent to South Korea to commit acts of terror, espionage, and murder. We then follow the South Korean forces in charge of hunting down these spies, leading to plenty of gunplay and startling revelations. Those unfamiliar with SK Cinema will recognise a few of the performers – namely Yunjin Kim (Sun from Lost), and Song Kang-Ho (Parasite, Snowpiercer) so it is a good place to start if you’re interested in exploring movies from this region.

16: The Iron Giant (US) Brad Bird

In all honesty – The Iron Giant is a badly written story by Ted Hughes. Seriously, it does read like it was written by an illiterate child. Create to Brad Bird then for scrapping the bullshit and getting to the emotional core of the story – the fear and paranoia and friendship. WB really dropped the ball on this one, as it is easily one of the best animated movies of the decade, and if you want to go up against Disney you need to market correctly. No-one saw it at the time, but it has since gained a new audience and respect, and it’s every bit as essential at the best output of the year, animated or otherwise.

15: American Pie (US) Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz

I shouldn’t really like American Pie, but I suppose it is my Porkies. Or my Dazed And Confused. Every generation has their balls-out teen oriented movie which caters towards those of that age at that point in time, and that just happened to be me in 1999 or thereabouts. It’s the age old story of a bunch of horny teens trying to bust a nut before Prom, whether that be with a girlfriend, a model, a milf, or indeed – a pie. It’s somehow charming and helped launch a lot of careers, many of which didn’t go anywhere, and launched a franchise with rapidly diminished returns, and launched a series of clones none of which were very good. So it’s all the more remarkable that this one is still fairly funny and works as a snapshot of what teen life was like at the end of the 90s.

14: Existenz (Canada/UK/France) David Cronenberg

While David Cronenberg had continued to make interesting films through the 90s, I felt his movies, if not his subject matter, had become a little too…. tame? Mainstream? While the budgets were higher and I think he clearly grew as a Director, the films didn’t mean as much to me when compared with his 80s work. Existenz is a nice merging of his big ideas, his mainstream flirting, and his body horror, exploring humanity’s leap forwards into software, videogame technology, escapism, and reality. It’s like a pseudo-sequel to Videodrome and every bit as captivating, even as it keeps you at arm’s length. Suffering a little from going up alongside The Matrix, the film follows a game designer who is stalked by assassins in a world where two major competing companies look to design the most realistic virtual reality experience. As you would expect, there’s a lot of bizarre visuals and ‘nothing is at is seems’ shenanigans, but the stellar cast including Sarah Polley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Willem Defoe, Jude Law, and Ian Holm keep matters as grounded as is possible.

13: Ghost Dog (US/France/Germany/Japan) Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch has always been one of ‘those’ directors. People know him and either love or hate his work, but he does whatever the hell he wants. I think Ghost Dog is my favourite movie by him, and it may be his most accessible film. Essentially, Forest Whitaker is a hitman of the Leon variety – quiet, solitary, and lives by a code – specifically an ancient Samurai code and book called the Hagakure. He works for the Mafia but finds himself conflicted and hunted after a hit early in the movie. The film is him processing his thoughts and morals and methodically going about the business of killing, but it’s done in a fairly stylish way with an air of detached cool. It’s probably the first Jarmusch film I would recommend to newbs.

12: Music Of The Heart (US) Wes Craven

What the hell is this doing here? There’s no reason I should enjoy this, but I do. It’s the same old story you’ve seen before – a passionate teacher goes to a ‘dangerous’ school, and teaches them about art/music/life/literature/love instead of guns and drugs and sex. It’s that film, but for whatever reason I always enjoy these.

11: Office Space (US) Mike Judge

Mike Judge always makes watchable, addictive stuff. He has had a fairly sizeable influence on my life, or my entertainment preferences, with Beavis And Butthead and King Of The Hill being two of my favourite formative TV shows. It took me a while to get on board with his movie work, but they’re all gold. This is the most meme heavy work – there are images from this film I’d wager most people have seen without knowing the origin. Even twenty years on, the film is still the most accurate depiction of office life I’ve ever seen – nailing the dialogue, the malaise, and the characters to a T. All that would be great, but it’s stupidly funny too.

10: The Mummy (US) Stephen Sommers

The Mummy is just one of those pure popcorn entertainment films which ticks all my boxes for a good Cinema time. The effects were excellent at the time, the cast were great fun and you could tell they enjoyed every moment of making it, and it remains an excellent throwback to Indiana Jones escapades of my youth.

9: Fight Club (US/Germany) David Fincher

In all honesty, it took me a while to come around on Fight Club. It pissed me off that the film was revered so highly as this huge game-changing, life-changing thing, and it pissed me off that it seemed to be creating a cult of disciples too dim to realise that the very film they worshipped was mocking them. Taken purely on its own merits, it’s a dark and dirty treat which questions aspects of masculinity and 20th Century vice, and it’s shot with Fincher’s trademark gloom as if every camera is a recovering addict just emerging from a pit of toilet filth. Plenty of good performances abound, lots of one-liners – I just don’t buy the whole life-changing aspect.

8: Man On The Moon (US) Milos Forman

Growing up far from the US in a post 1970s world, I didn’t have any idea who Andy Kaufman was. Over time, as I got more into comedy and film, I learned about Taxi and heard Kaufman’s name, but I wasn’t aware he was such a big deal, and suh a fascinating character until this film was released. I was miffed that this flew so far under the radar at the time, and I tried telling people that it was Carrey’s best performance. It’s only in recent years that the film is now being re-evaluated, especially in the aftermath of that Jim Carrey Documentary. In any case, this is a comedy fan’s masterclass, a film with laughs, absurdity, and pathos in equal measure, with an Oscar worthy Carrey performance and great support.

7: Dogma (US) Kevin Smith

I’m not Catholic, but I did grow up never far from Church, Bible, Preacher, and Verse. If there’s any connective tissue between most religions of this world, it’s their attempts to make you feel inferior, guilty, and to keep you under control – like a virus, they do these things to give themselves meaning. Or do they make you a more positive, caring person? Bottom line – we’re all different, religious or not, dicks or not. Kevin Smith takes aim at, well, dogma, with his simple plot probing more questions than you would expect in a film which features a giant turd monster. The film follows Affleck and Damon as two Angels who find a loophole which allows them to get back into Heaven, having been expelled by The Lord. Unfortunately, we learn that if they succeed then that would prove that God is fallible, and the world, the universe would crumble and cease to exist. Along for the ride are plenty of View Askew familiars, Alan Rickman, Alanis Morissette, Chris Rock, Linda Fiorentino, and Salma Hayek in a bikini – which is of critical import. Like Smith’s best work, it’s funny, provocative, challenging, and stupid in equal measure.

6: End Of Days (US) Peter Hyams

1999 was a strange time. I was there to see it, to laugh at the paranoia, to get drunk at all the best parties, and to consume all of the cultural oddities from film to music which cropped up. Thankfully, humanity at large took it all in the best of spirits, whereas I feel like if 1999 was more like today’s culture – we’d all be fucked by Right Wing Crazed extremists preaching censorship and control, and using the End Of Days as another tool to make themselves the big boys of the yard. In 1999, we were all a little more innocent, hopeful, but that didn’t stop Arnie adorning a sidearm or two and going to war with Rapey little Gabey Byrne’s Satan. Byrne’s Satan is a lovely malevolent creature, fucking your wife right in front of you, then asking you to pay him for the pleasure, hunting for babies to munch on, and patting his lips with glee at carnage created or witnessed. The tail end of the 90s wasn’t the most impressive for Arnie – his star was on the wane and his political ambitions were at the fore – yet he still had enough clout to take on the Dark One and save us all from eternal damnation. Or allow us all to live long enough to see a different sort of demon expose the failings of humanity from atop perch bought with ignorance and hate.

5: Audition (Japan) Takashi Miike

Miike makes a dozen films each year, but perhaps none have had the impact of Audition, culturally and critically, and commercially. This is the Miike film that people who haven’t heard of the man know. This is also a film which can make a grown man wince and cry and look sidelong at the woman sitting beside him and wonder internally why she wears a wry smile during the film’s final ten minutes. It’s gloriously shot, a film of two halves tied together by two captivating leads and an unnerving sense of dread, of something being not quite right. It’s one of those films which makes Hollywood Only fans reconsider their short-sighted fandom and dare to peer beyond their sunny but bland shores.

4: South Park (US) Trey Parker

I watched this as a double header with American Pie at a friend’s 17th Birthday. Both accompanied each other well, but this got the most laughs, and the least uncomfortable boners. It’s one of the very few select instances of a TV show making a good movie. It’s not just good – it’s fantastic. Plus it does the near impossible, and makes a Musical…not shit. The songs are funny, you’ll laugh till your tears turn red, and you’ll wonder why the hell else other great shows can’t match the feat.

3: The Matrix (US/OZ) The Wachowski Brothers

If you were to choose maybe ten movies which defined the 90s, there’s a strong possibility that The Matrix would appear on that list. And on most people’s lists. It’s one of the most influential movies of the era, one of the most visually striking, but it’s also simply a fun and action packed ride, delivering blockbuster thrills, and engaging story, and plenty of dialogue which every dick has been misquoting or mismeme-ing since. It’s a pity the sequels were what they wore, but for a few years this was the peak and the future of action. It made or re-made stars of Keanu Reeves, Fisbourne, and Hugo Weaving, and made it cool (apparently) to strut around in long black coats and shades in the Summer Sun, or at pitch black night. I did this before it was cool, and when people began calling me Neo, I would state plainly that I was mimicking a Terminator – the philistines.

2: The Blair Witch Project (US) Daniel Myrick Eduardo Sanchez

Covered in my Top Movies Of The Decade, so check it out.

1: Bangkok Dangerous (Thailand) The Pang Brothers

Covered in my Top Movies Of The Decade, so check it out.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Four

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2000!

It’s 2000! Sure it took until 2020 for The Great Plague to come and strike us all down, but for a while in 2000 people were freaking out. Also – there were movies. Here are some of my favourites. Brother was Takeshi Kitano testing his toes again in the US – it’s fun, mainstream. American Psycho is all chainsaws and suits and nudity. Amores Perros is another classic of South American cinema which still feels fresh, while Baise Moi has nothing ‘fresh’ about – it’s scary, filthy, and unmissable. Erin Brockovich is one of the rare Oscar bait movies which I enjoy. In The Mood For Love is trippy, sexy goodness. Memento is trippy trippy goodness. MI 2 is probably my favourite in the series, though everyone else says it is the weakest.

10: Almost Famous. (USA) Cameron Crowe.

Almost Famous dropped at the right time for people like me, of my generation. I was 16/17, ready to set off in the world and make an impact,brimming with dreams and wonder and a desire for experience. Plus I was already a big fan of a lot of the rock music of the 1960s and 70s. Almost Famous has that hopeful, free vibe flowing through – a great cast, terrific soundtrack, and hits my personal sweet spot as a coming of age story too following a kid trying to break into a world of writing, music, heroes, and rock and roll excess.

9: Gladiator (USA/UK). Ridley Scott.

Regular readers will already know this, but it’s worth calling out here for those of you who only read the list posts. From a very early age, I had an obsession with Greek and Roman myths and legends which eventually became intertwined with the genuine history of those countries. I studied Latin in school for 7 years, and part of my University Studies was in ‘Classics’ – the literature, language, and philosophy of Greece and Rome. My Latin class in School (there only was eight of us) actually went on a School trip to see Gladiator after the rave reviews one of my classmates was giving it. Aside from finally getting a decent version of the Trojan Epics, this is the best film someone like me could have hoped for. It’s an epic without all the faff which came later to the ‘genre’, a story of personal grief, struggle, and justice, a remarkable depiction of Rome with bloody battles and at least a couple of great leading performances. Super soundtrack too.

8: Best In Show (USA). Christopher Guest.

Just a quick update since I originally wrote this post – after the great Fred Willard sadly passed away. What a massive loss to the comedy world it is.

I went through a Christopher Guest phase in the early 2000s, repeatedly watching this, A Mighty Wind, and Waiting For Guffman while laughing my ass off and gobbling down illegitimate muffins. This one is a large step up in laughs from Waiting For Guffman and is just as strong a movie as This Is Spinal Tap. Set in the, already laughable, world of Dog Shows it follows various hopeful Dog Owners as they prepare their pooches, in often surreal situations, for a chance at stardom at the prestigious Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. All of the usual Guest favourites are out in force – Eugene Levy (who literally has two left feet), Catherine O’Hara (whose promiscuous past keeps catching up with her), Fred Willard (as the scene stealing over exuberant co-host of the event), and John Michael Higgins and Michael McKean (as the bitchy gay couple).

Like the best mockumentaries, this has a fair level of understanding of the subject matter meaning the satire and detail hit the mark more often than not. The cast are all comedy veterans and are both at ease and having great fun with the material, so it makes for comfortable viewing – there are no try-hards and the jokes range from dialogue based to slapstick, from visual to surreal, all with a light-hearted sprinkle of vignette silliness.

7: Dancer in The Dark (Denmark). Lars Von Trier

There’s a strong case for Dancer In The Dark being Von Trier’s best movie. It works on a number of levels, but most crucially it doesn’t feel like either exploitation or experimentation – it works as a brutal and downbeat drama with less of a focus on the director’s quirks and ego, and more on the character and plot. Bjork is spellbinding, the soundtrack features a few great songs, and the rest of the cast give notable performances. Is it manipulative? Sure – it’s a Lars Von Trier movie so that is part of the package, but it asks a lot of questions of the viewer and wrenches its answers unflinchingly.

6: Unbreakable (USA). M Night Shyamalan

Unbreakable remains Shyamalan’s best work – The Sixth Sense continues to get the plaudits, namely because it was first and people were so taken in by the twist, but Unbreakble is more accomplished in almost every level – a gloomy take on the comic book genre which you don’t even realize is a comic book movie until the final scenes, unless you’ve been paying attention closely or reading these spoilers.

5: Pitch Black (USA). David Twohy

I’m probably remembering this wrong, but I’m almost certain I saw the trailer for this a solid year before it was actually released. I remember catching the trailer and thinking ‘what the hell was that, that looked epic’. But nobody else mentioned it afterwards and I began to think it was all a dream. Then a year later it returned and I grabbed a couple of people and raced to the Cinema shouting ‘this is that trailer I told you all about’! What was even better was that Aeryn from Farscape was in it – of course nobody in the screening knew what the hell Farscape was and told me to shut the hell up. Plus you have Keith David in a legit big screen outing! But the film is all about Vin Diesel and his Riddick character – one that would become less interesting with each sequel, but here he has just the right amount of mystery to make him an enigma. Oh yes, it’s also set on a planet filled with near-unstoppable monsters in near-unstoppable numbers which only come out in the dark, and it just so happens that the planet is entering it’s ‘Winter’ Season when all light is extinguished. It was the best pure alien creature feature since Aliens. 

4: X-Men (USA). Bryan Singer

The only reason I really wanted to watch X-Men was because I loved the 90s cartoon. I’vev never been a big comic book fan and the comic movies I’ve enjoyed are few and far between, given how many there have been. When I like them, I love them and X-Men seemed more interesting given the cast and director. It was better than I expected and while it lacks much of an emotional core, it is more clever and socially relevant than whatever passes for superhero entertainment these days. Plus there’s a tonne of kick-ass action and the cast are committed.

3: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China/HK/Taiwan/USA). Ang Lee

By 2000, I was already well versed in Asian Cinema, particularly Kung fu movies. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Wuxia type movies, preferring realism in my tales of revenge. Ang Lee brought a heightened sense of realism to the genre, removing much of the magic but keeping the romance and string-work, bringing the beauty of the best of Hong Kong and Chinese Cinema in a more palatable way to Western audiences – without the flag waving patriotism in other words. Established stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat give a sense of familiarity and credibility, while Zhang Ziyi became a household name thanks to her blend of teeth shattering beauty and baddassery.

2: Final Destination (USA). James Wong

It’s in my best of the decade, so check for more info there.

1: Battle Royale (Japan). Kinji Fukasaku

It’s my favourite film of the decade. It’s also the best film since 2000.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Two

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two (including the winner)

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2001!

2001, Baybee! I had left school and started University and the world was my oyster – sitting mouth agape and waiting to be scraped asunder. As always, lets get the almosts out of the way: Brotherhood of The Wolf was the first Christophe Gans movie I ever saw. On my way to and from University in those days, the city centre HMV would always have 2 DVDs for 10 or 20 pounds and every so often they would include movies from the foreign section. I think that’s where I first picked this up and saw it. It’s one of those rare movies which mixes horror and martial arts action – but it’s also a serious historical drama too. Plus you get Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Philipe Nahon, and Mark Dacascos. Enemy At The Gates is just  great WWII movie which I came to quite late, one with a more unique premise which pits a couple of snipers against each other in Stalingrad, and the various interactions and relationships involved. It has a terrific cast too – Jude Law, Ed Harris, Rachel Weisz,  Joseph Fiennes, Ron Perlman, and Bob Hoskins.

Spirited Away is another one I came to late – it took me a while to catch up to most of the Ghibli movies as I stopped caring about any animated stuff towards the end of the 90s. It’s one of Miyazaki’s best – of which he has a bunch of classics – and it has plenty of unique stuff you don’t usually see. Donnie Darko I got to see very early on some sort of screener, but I just thought it was an interesting, quirky movie. Once it became this ig cult hit I had to revisit it to see what I was missing. I still don’t rate it as highly as the superfans, but it’s undoubtedly a cool and interesting movie. Y Tu Mama Tambien is another example of me watching as much foreign cinema as I could at the time – sure, part of it was an excuse to get some non-porn sex all up in my eyes without feeling guilty about it, but I also discovered plenty of legitimate gems. At its heart it’s a coming of age film, set in Mexico, as well as being a road movie – two of my favourite sub genres, and has a fantastic trio of performances in Diego Luna, Gael Gabriel Garcia, and Maribel Verdu.

Monster’s Ball is not a good time. It’s grim, downbeat, and is one of those non-horror movies which I relate to Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer in look and tone. It is ugly and the colour is drained, and there are no easy answers or happy endings – it also has some career best performances featuring the likes of Halle Berry, Billy Bob Thornton, Heath Ledger, and Peter Boyle. The Happiness Of The Katakuris was Takashi Miike at his peak of weirdness and output. It’s a zombie musical, sort of, with Miike merging the likes of The Sound Of Music, with something like Fawlty Towers. It is completely bizarre and you won’t have seen anything like it. Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back is Kevin Smith attempting to close out his View Askew Universe by throwing as much fan service at the screen as possible – and as a fan, I am thankful.

10: The Majestic (US) Frank Darabont

I’m not sure what I was expecting of The Majestic. By the time I saw it, Carrey had been through a few flops or hits which I didn’t care for. The Majestic instantly appealed to me as it felt like a Twilight Zone episode, but one of the less horror focused ones. He stars as a man who has lost his memory and who stumbles into an all American patriotic town only for the residents there to recognise him as a lost, presumed dead, war hero. In actual fact, he was a jaded Hollywood writer up for Communism charges and it isn’t until he has become a part of this new town and helped restore their Ye Olde Cinema that his memories come back – all the while the Feds are looking for him since his disappearance. Normally, I shouldn’t like something like this due to the overt political nature of the film and the fact that it all drives towards an ‘America, fuck yeah’ climax, but it is so sweet and wholesome and charming, with all the 1950s ideals and Americana that I can’t help but enjoy it. Frank Darabont is a master at this stuff, and aside from sterling work from Carrey, Darabont brings his usual pals along for the ride – Laure Holden, James Whitmore, Jeffrey DeMunn, Bob Balaban, Martin Landau. I think I can ignore both my own cynicism and the sentimentality  is due to the fact that the politics here is not so gung-ho, but almost more Humanist in that it supports those small town, hard-working, respectful ideals which seem a million miles away now regardless of where you sit on a political spectrum.

9: Ichi The Killer (Japan) Takashi Miike

Another Miike film, and one of his most violent. Dispensing with such niceties as subtlty, as exemplified in Audition, Ichi The Killer is a balls out Yakuza WTF-fest as it follows a crying mummy’s boy assassin slicing and dicing his way through ranks of bad guys all while a Yakuza tough guy with a sad0-masochistic love for pain hopes to meet the guy so he can get his rocks off. The violence here ranges from Kill Bill levels of gushing to more extreme and stomach-churning skin torture which Miike would return to in his infamous Masters Of Horror episode Imprint. As with most of Miike’s work, you’ll be chuckling, gagging, and wondering what the hell is going on for most of it, but it’s all shot with such confidence and style that you charge along with it.

8: Session 9 (US) Brad Anderson

Session 9 is one of the most atmospheric horror movies, or any genre actually, ever. On top of that, it is an exercise in dread and mystery – two tools which so many films strive for but never get close to achieving. Much of this is down to sound work, to Anderson’s direction, and to the setting. It’s a shame still that this is not as widely known or acclaimed as the more well known and critically received horror movies, but it’s right up there with the best.

7: The Mummy Returns (US) Stephen Sommers

If I’m right, I saw this before I saw the first Mummy. I saw this at release with one of my besties from School (‘sup Leone), and she enjoyed it as much as I did. It was just an old fashioned Indiana Jones style adventure, fast moving, nifty effects for the time, and a likeable cast uttering plenty of quips. On the plus side, the villain of the piece is fairly sympathetic too. The effects don’t hold up as well today, but it’s still a fun, rip-roaring watch that I would choose over most big budget comic fare nowadays.

6: Frailty (US/Germany/Italy) Bill Paxton

A terrific performance as actor and director by the late great Bill Paxton. Frailty is a mood piece with a lot in common with Session 9. It’s another film which presents its tone and atmosphere early, and nails it throughout. It’s a story told in flashback, as Matthew McConaughey relates to Powers Boothe his and his brother’s involvement in a serial killer case. Through flashbacks we see the boys’ childhood until the strict religious rule of their father, Bill Paxton, who thinks God has given him the power to kill demons (who happen to be disguised as humans). It twists and turns all over the place and even though it feels procedural at points, it remains swift and stylish and engaging similar to something like Zodiac. It’s another underseen film deserving of credit, made by a Hollywood legend who left us before his time.

5: Bully (US) Larry Clark

I’m not sure what it is about Clark’s movies that make them so damn watchable, when they always deal with thoroughly ugly characters in a grim, hopeless world. I’d go as far as saying Bully is his best film, and I think a large part of this is down to the excellent young cast who have rarely been better. In fact, it may be the performers in Clark’s movies, who give a realism to the sordid stories which make his films the sort of thing you can’t look away from even though you know you probably shouldn’t be bearing witness. Bully depicts the real life murder of Bobby Kent by his best friend and associates. Kent is played by Nick Stahl, and is portrayed as a gruesome, preppy, charming bully. He frequently abuses his best friend Marty (Brad Renfro) physically and mentally, while also indulging in a bit of the old rape with his girlfriend (Bijou Phillips). After years of this abuse, Marty is prompted by his girlfriend (Rachel Miner) to murder Bobby, an act which the group are ill-prepared for. The actual murder is a shambles – a literal bloody mess, and the group struggle to keep their lips shut. It’s not an easy watch – it takes no delight in showing how messy killing someone can be, and yet there are plenty of absurdly and darkly funny moments – maybe that’s just me. Michael Pitt and Leo Fitzpatrick show up, Clark once again has no issue showing the debauchery of criminal, forgotten youth, and he perfects the mindset of this hopeless teenage world which I saw plenty of around the same time. It’s a truly wonderful film, but absolutely not for everyone.

4: Visitor Q (Japan) Takashi Miike

From a film which isn’t for everyone, to a film which isn’t for anyone. Visitor Q is the film which the word ‘masterpiece’ was designed for, at least to the extent that people like me should use it. I think this is Miike’s best film – in a year which saw three of his movies make it onto my list post. I’m not sure who I can recommend it to – it begins with a man having sex with his own prostitute daughter as he attempts to make a documentary about modern Japanese youth. The film, literally, asks a number of questions – not the sort of questions anyone has ever asked of course, and then proceeds to answer them. We meet a rather dysfunctional family with a wild set of problems, and then they are infiltrated by a mysterious stranger – Q – who acts as observer and instigator. What follows are handheld digi-cam scenes of murder, sex with corpses, self harm, physical abuse, and lots of lactating. It’s a film unlike any other, and yet it’s ultimately hilarious, and oddly beautiful and affecting. I have no idea how Miike does these things so well, and why I love them so much.

3: Mulholland Drive (US/France) David Lynch

Is it David Lynch’s best film? There’s certainly an argument for that, but then he also has Blue Velvet and The Elephant Man. In any case, it’s a near flawless film and hits that neat blend of Lynch weirdness and accessibility. It’s a twisting journey which ends up feeling more like an experience and once it takes its 2001 turn you’re already sold on the Naomi Watts character that you can’t help but go wherever Lynch takes you. It’s on my Decade list, so read more there.

2: The Fellowship Of The Ring (NZ/US): Peter Jackson

Again, it’s on my decade favourites list – check there for more.

1: Amelie (France/Germany) Jean Pierre Jeunet

And once again, it’s in my decade list.

Let us know your thoughts and favourites in the comments!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2002!

So I thought I had written this post and was ready to submit before the Least Favourites Of 2002. But I had not, so I’m blasting this one out quickly. Dog Soldiers is one of those rare good Werewolf movies, one which is filled with action, humour, and plenty of bloody violence. It also established Neil Marshall as a new and exciting director. Bubba Ho-Tep reminded horror fans that yes, Bruce Campbell was still alive and yes, Don Coscarelli was still making movies, and yes both were still capable of making a hit. It has cult written all over it, what with its unique cast and story by Joe Lansdale – an ancient Mummy attacks an old peoples’ home and only a pair of residents, who claim to be Elvis and JFK, can save the world. It never quite reaches the heights I hoped it would, but it’s still a fun, silly, and sometimes poignant ride.

10: City Of God (Brazil) Fernando Meirelles

I didn’t know much about South American cinema but by the time 2002 had rolled around I had expanded into modern Spanish territory and was beginning to pick up the odd cheap South American DVD wherever I could. City Of God came with a tonne of acclaim and by the time I saw it I understood why – I’ve never been a fan of conventional crime or gang based movies – British stuff particularly winds me up, but when the film has a fresh setting or a take I’m unfamiliar with then it’s all the more likely to win me over. Add to the fact that this doubles as a coming of age story and it has a foot and leg over most films in this genre. Meirelles hasn’t been able to replicate this for me, even with his later critical darlings, and he doesn’t make a lot of movies – but this is still an early 2000s classic.

9: Equilibrium (US) Kurt Wimmer

Speaking of people who don’t make a lot of movies, Kurt Wimmer bowed out after the disaster that was Ultraviolet. It’s a shame, because Equilibrium is probably the best of the post Matrix action movies before superheroes came and blandly stomped all over everything else. It’s stylish and detached and has a more interesting visual approach and message than something more popular like V For Vendetta has. Plus there’s a  lot of guns and Christian Bale.

8: Hero (China) Zhang Yimou

I had been a fan of Zhang Yimou for a while, but it wasn’t until Hero that he became a more familiar name in the West. Hero ticks plenty of boxes for me, and for being a worldwide hit – but maybe the most important and long-lasting factor is simply how beautiful, stunning it all is. In a time when much of Hollywood’s output could be bland visually, Hero was a revelation, bursting with colour and creativity. On top of that there are wonderfully choreographed fight scenes and a rousing score.

7: Infernal Affairs (HK) Andrew Lau/Alan Mak

I mentioned crime thrillers at the top – Infernal Affairs isn’t exactly outlandish or particularly unique – but it does have a twisting narrative and focus on character and world building without relying on the usual quirks and beats police procedural movies do. It’s also a who’s who of Hong Kong/Chinese cinema with many familiar faces putting out stellar work – Andy Lau and Tony Leung, along with Eric Tsang and Anthony Wong are the most notable figures. Even if you’ve seen The Departed, it’s worth going back to catch this.

6: The Pianist (France/Germany/Poland/UK) Roman Polanski

Say what you will about Polanski the person, there’s no doubting the power and skill possessed in his movies. The Pianist sees Adrian Brody as the title character as WWII erupts in Warsaw – his transformation over the years as the city becomes increasingly devastated, and his part in various uprising and survival attempts. There’s no obvious, visual, big bad to get behind here, only a city becoming a ruin and the exterior sights and sounds of war, Brody gives a once in a lifetime performance, and Polanski relays perhaps parts of his own childhood into scenes of sadness, degradation, and hope.

5: Dark Water (Japan) Hideo Nakata

I didn’t immediately love Dark Water – at least not in the same way I did Ringu. Although it feels inaccurate to use the term action packed when it comes to Dark Water, it definitely moves a notch or two faster than Nakata’s breakout masterpiece. It still has a greater focus on introspection and atmosphere than noisy jump-scares and it still has an abundance of creepy long-haired shenanigans, and it’s another movie based on a Koji Suziki piece – it should feel familiar to Ringu fans. Overall it’s a story of motherhood, guilt, protection, wrapped up in a supernatural mystery as a young mother and her child in the midst of a divorce move into a low rent apartment block with various… plumbing issues. It’s an unexpectedly moving story with a drip drip drip of scares before a brief flood towards the end. See, I can do cheap metaphors too!

4: The Eye (HK/Singapore) The Pang Brothers

The Pang Brothers, for a while, were among the most exciting filmmakers on the planet. I loved everything they did and this early foray into horror took the influence of Ringu and added(literal) explosive elements to make a more rollercoaster type horror movie. Scares come from any and all directions here, and the use of audio is second to none in setting up many of the film’s most tense moments. The film has some of my favourite scares to date and retains a creepy power even after all these years and viewings. For anyone not in the know – it’s a film about a young woman who has an eye operation to regain her sight. This being a horror movie, it’s more of an eye transplant.. and oh the things the previous owner must have seen. Blind from an early age, the operation is apparently successful as she begins to pick up shapes and objects -even if some are a little odd and disorienting. Dismissing these as a natural side effect, her sight soon returns, along with the bonus gift of being able to see ghosts. And the ghosts know she can see them. It’s a fun, B-movie idea explored before, but to the film’s credit it doubles down in the first half on the scares before delving into an interesting quest for the second half – it never feels boring or routine.

3: The Twilight Samurai (Japan) Yoji Yamada

I’ll be honest – in 2002 I was picking up any old Asian film which sounded like it might be interesting (which of course led to me seeing plenty of rubbish). I didn’t know who Yoji Yamada was back then, and I got this because it starred Hiroyuki Sanada and had a cool name. The Twilight Samurai may be ‘the best’ movie released in 2002. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, and absolutely should have won. Sanada is a poor Samurai working in a small town in, basically, an office job. Times are tough and the world seems to be moving ahead without him and his skills, yet his honour and family give him a sort of contentment. The opening of the movie sees the death of his wife, leaving him as the patriarch and matriarch of his household, much to the dismay of the townspeople. He does not have time for frivolities with his co-workers, instead spending his time looking after his daughters and elderly mother. It’s a very – pro traditional Japanese values type of film, one which honours the sacrifices made by the main character and treats him as the everyday hero he is. Don’t worry – there’s plenty of sword swinging too. Sanada deserved an Oscar nod here too.

2: 28 Days Later (UK) Danny Boyle

It’s 28 Days Later – of course it’s going to be here. It’s also in my Favourite movies of the decade post, so go read that.

1: Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (SK) Chan Wook Park

This brutal, gut-wrenching classic also made my Favourite movies of the decade post – so go read that.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: One (The Winner)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2003!

As always, the not quites: Big Fish is that increasingly rare Tim Burton film where he seems to be free of studio influence to do whatever he wants and tell a sweet, offbeat story. Freddy Vs Jason takes one great horror franchise, and one pretty crap franchise, and smashes them together in a funny, bloody fan’s dream. House Of 1000 Corpses is probably Rob Zombie’s best movie to date, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to recapture what makes it so fun again. Dogville is Lars Von Trier doing what he does best – pissing people off, experimenting with Cinema, and creating something unique. It’s bizarrely engaging and while it shouldn’t work, it really really does. The Last Samurai dropped at jsut the right time, as my love for Japanese cinema was at its peak. Ignoring all the White Guy Saviour stuff, and all of the wonderful hair, it’s a gorgeous movie and features a couple of great performances in Cruise and Watanabe. School Of Rock is quotable, fun, and reminds me of a lot of my the favourite movies of my youth – Bill And Ted, Kindergarten Cop, Wayne’s World etc. Jack Black is at his best, and it’s one of those movies you get sucked into watching every time it’s on.

10: The Dreamers (UK/US/France/Italy) Bernardo Bertolucci

Bertolucci should be enough to grab any movie fan’s attention, but through in Michael Pitt and Eva Green, and this seemed like it was made just for me. Naturally there’s a lot of nudity and sex here which may put some off and likewise invite a lot of idiots to watch it for the wrong reasons. There’s a lot of callbacks – to classic New Wave Cinema, to cultural shifts in the 60s, to Bertolucci’s life and career, but in essence it’s a captivating story with a great central trio.

9: Underworld (US/UK/Hungary/Germany) Len Wiseman

As Buffy was ending I needed a new sexy vampire heroine. Kate Beckinsale steps in, all leathered up and guns firing to save the world from a deadly vampire/Lycan war. It’s all very silly and serious, it’s all very stylish, but in terms of post-Matrix action movies it’s one of the best.

8: Kill Bill Vol 1 (US) Quentin Tarantino

This was the first Tarantino movie I ever saw on the big screen, and it felt like a big event. It had been half a decade since his previous film and it was a packed screening. Most of those there didn’t seem to ‘get’ the movie, but I enjoyed every second, spotting a myriad of Easter Eggs and enjoying the onslaught of violence and visuals. It might be his most straightforward, enjoyable movie.

7: A Mighty Wind (US) Christopher Guest

It honestly took me a while to come around to This Is Spinal Tap. I’d always liked it, but it took me longer to love it than most. A Mighty Wind I loved immediately – perhaps because I was more used to the format, perhaps because it wasn’t lampooning anything I cared about. There are some great songs and performances here from Guest regulars, and it’s an easy going movie which continues to unwrap subtle jokes with each viewing – sometimes a visual gag, sometimes a single line or word of dialogue you missed before, or sometimes an actor’s reaction. All of Guest’s movies are gold.

6: The Curse of The Black Pearl (US) Gore Verbinski

Is there a better example of a Theme Park attraction being turned into a movie than this? Depp should have received his Oscar, and it’s the closest we’ve come to a rip-roaring Indiana Jones style romp since The Mummy. It’s funny, rattling along like raft cutting through the waves, and everyone involved seems to be having the times of their lives. It’s such a shame the sequels are trash.

5: Zatoichi (Japan) Takeshi Kitano

Kitano had been steadily pumping out underrated film after underrated film – an amazing accomplishment for the quirky funny man best known in the west for Takeshi’s Castle. While many of his films dealt with common themes – masculinity, violence, inner turmoil, they were typically set in a modern, Yakuza setting. With Zatoichi he goes back to the legend of the blind Samurai to make the best film version of the character, starring as the title character himself. He does things with sound and editing in this film I’d never seen before, and uses the story to showcase those common themes with a keener eye for detail while not letting up on humour and action. Like many Asian movies of this era, it’s a travesty this saw zero interest by The Academy.

5. Oldboy (SK) Chan Wook Park

Each of the remaining films on my list are covered in more detail in my favourite films of the 2000s post. Check it. Suffice it to say, this is essential viewing.

4: A Tale Of Two Sisters (SK) Kim Jee Woon

Gorgeous. Haunting. Should have had a Best Actress Oscar nod.

3: Ju On (Japan) Takashi Shimizu

Wonderfully creepy J-Horror classic

2: The Return Of The King (NZ/US) Peter Jackson

The excellent climax to maybe Cinema’s greatest trilogy.

1: X2 (US) Bryan Singer

Probably the greatest comic book sequel of all time.

Let us know in the comments which films of 2003 make your list!