Nightman’s Favourite Films Of The 2000s

If you’ve been reading my yearly lists, then you probably noticed that the 2000s was when I parted ways with mainstream Hollywood Cinema. This wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision – it’s just simply that better, much better, films were being made elsewhere. My favourite genres of horror, action, sci-fi, still had considerable output but the gluttony of remakes and the lack of risks being taken in the US led to the rest of the world picking up the slack. That boils down to more than half my twenty films being either completely foreign films, or joint productions between the US and (an)other nation(s). This is going to be my final yearly post for a while, maybe ever, as I’m so slow at catching up on modern releases – off the top of my head there aren’t that many films released between 2010 and today that I can say I truly love. It will be some time before I have seen enough of those, and seen them enough times to make a genuine attempt at a list beyond simply calling out random films I enjoyed.

21: Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (2002)

Chan Wook Park burst onto the scene in the early nineties, but it wasn’t until 10 years later that Sympathy For Mr Vengeance saw him making waves worldwide. Having already seen and enjoyed JSA, this revenge thriller was a step up in all departments. Bringing powerhouse actors Kang-ho Song and Shin Ha-kyun with him from JSA, the film follows the two men in an interweaving tail of tragedy and violence – hence the name. Saying much more would land us in spoiler territory – the story following a deaf mute factory worker who has just lost his job and goes to the black market to try to get a kidney for his dying sister. This is a film where people have the right intentions, kind of, but everything goes wrong. In the hands of anyone else, with a different cast, this would be lackluster B-movie fare, but with this team we have an extraordinary, bleak, piece of grim drama. The South Korean movie revolution didn’t start here, but this is where it started to wipe the floor with Hollywood.

20: Orphan (2009)

Horror hit a bit of a renaissance in the 2000s. First with Asia, kicking off a hole host of remakes and imitators in the west, followed by the new wave of extreme horror with Torture Porn sagas and French and Spanish extremism leading the way. Branching off this success we were treated to more adventurous indie or smaller scale efforts. Director Jaume Collet Cera ticks the Spanish and remake boxes and before he struck up a partnership with Liam Neeson he unleashed this neat little original on us. The director is assured, but the film succeeds because of the cast – Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, and a stunning performance in the title role by Isabelle Fuhrman. Following the death of their unborn child, a married couple decide to adopt, bringing in Fuhrman before things get weird. Then things get much weirder. There’s a certain element of sleaze as the film progresses, and some uncomfortable racial issues which almost feel self aware, but there is enough intrigue and enjoyable tension to raise this higher than most ‘bad seed’ movies. You’ve heard me drop my Oscar nods in these lists before – Fuhrman was snubbed here.

19: Batman Begins (2005)

Everyone’s going to have this on their list, right? There are a tonne of films which most people will have – There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men – neither of which are anywhere near my list, but most people will have this and/or The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan was already a successful, highly regarded director before this, but this is the film which gave him superstardom. He became a household name, a director that your average film-goer will seek out, a director who could pretty much do whatever he wanted from this point on.

Fans of the Burton movies will be at home here – visually, Nolan has is own style but as an origin story all of the boxes are checked. What truly holds it together is its scope and ambition, and its cast – Christian Bale the perfect choice and ably backed up by Oscar winners and nominees and that pedigree left right and center – Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer, Cillian Murphy. There has yet to be a Marvel film which comes close to matching this in terms of quality – the film transcends the comic book genre and becomes something all of its own. It’s not even the best of the trilogy.

18: Rec (2007)

I mentioned New Wave European extreme horror earlier. While this doesn’t exactly fit in that ultraviolent category, it’s certainly one of the super successful breed or Euro Horror which got fans so excited. Capitalizing on the cheap to make found footage style, Rec instantly became the benchmark. Its sense of claustrophobia, mystery, tension, terror, and its sudden explosive violence is the closest we’ve come to a true Resident Evil movie. The shot for shot US remake was watchable, but there’s something special at devilish work here. In your perfect horror movie scenario, the almost perfect Rec follows a journalist and her team making a documentary about a fire crew – following them around on a typical day. The crew is called to an apartment building due to a report about an old woman trapped and screaming in her room. This being a horror movie, the old woman isn’t exactly screaming because she’s fallen over…

There is a lot of wild innovation on display here – those moments that make you think why no-one else had done it before. The apartment building almost becomes a character in itself, its rooms and corridors closing in on the inhabitants like a fist. 28 Days Later and its sequel raised the bar for what fast moving ‘zombies’ could do and Rec sticks you right in the middle of an unwinnable situation. Most horror movies fall because of lack of character – Rec realises this and cleverly builds a world where each person feels real and in danger, forcing you to see things from their POV even if most only get a few minutes screen time. The film builds tension in the classic sense but then decides to unleash all out war, rarely giving the viewer time to breathe before cranking up the nerves once more in the convoluted wtf finale.

17: Mulholland Drive (2001)

Here’s another which most will have on their list. David Lynch had been on a bit of a downturn in fortunes for ten years – at least that’s what They’d lead you to believe. Framing this as a pilot for a new TV show a la Twin Peaks, once Lynch heard that the show was never going to be made he spliced his footage together and released it as a standalone – a standalone which many believe to be his best work. Hypnotic, non-linear, packed with mystery and few answers, it’s a film which people are still dissecting now, connecting dots to find a bigger picture which may not even exist. Attempting to assign a synopsis may be futile, but on the surface it’s the neo-noir story of a hopeful aspiring actress who comes to Hollywood and meets an amnesiac woman who is recovering from a car crash. Interspersed are both random and connecting vignettes about other characters who would have presumably found greater meaning if the series had been realized – bumbling hitmen, ghostly totemic producers, actors, cowboys. Where most films start out fractured and end with a whole, Lynch’s film starts out broken, pieces form and seem to fit, before becoming shattered and pulped. Everything a Lynch fan loves about Lynch is here, including his underrated talent for colour and sound. Watts and Harring are superb ably backed by Melissa George, Justin Theroux, Robert Forster, and a host of cameos. The film’s greatest mystery may be why it was only nominated for a single Oscar in a year where fluff like A Beautiful Mind and Moulin Rouge were so successful.

16: Departures (2008)

While we’re talking about movie mysteries – how is it that Japan has only ever won a single Oscar for Best Foreign Picture? I think we all know that this category is complete nonsense anyway, but that’s another story. Before 2008 the number of wins for Japan was zero, Departures the shock winner this year. It’s the perfect film about life and death, a film inherently Japanese and which may give other viewers some culture shock, but underneath the customs it’s a film that we can all understand and relate to as human. As Jim Morrison once warbled – no-one here gets out alive. Joe Hisaishi crafts one of his finest scores – probably the best score of the decade – and the cast includes ex idol Masahiro Motoki, Kurosawa stalwart Tsutomu Yamazaki, and Ryoko Hirosue who I had been a fan of since her days as a Nintendo model (I’m weird like that).

The film a cellist who is forced to move back to his childhood home with his wife, after his orchestra falls apart. Out of work and with no valuable skills he takes the first job he can get – assisting departures, which he assumes is some sort of travel work. What he soon finds out is that he is assisting the departure of a soul from this world to the next – basically helping in old funeral rituals such as washing and dressing the corpse. Horrified and embarrassed initially, as this is seen as a ‘low’ or ‘defiled’ position, he quickly comes to see the the dignity and beauty in this work, and its importance to those left behind. All this plays out against his guilt over not spending more time with his now deceased mother and his anger towards the father who abandoned him as a child. I know what that sounds like, but trust me – you’ll love it. It’s one of the most moving, heartfelt, and poignant films I’ve ever seen and it had me moved to tears at several points. Those weren’t merely tears of emotion – the film had me laughing my ass off too, a strange combination of humour and drama that I haven’t really encountered to this degree of success before.

15: Oldboy (2003)

It’s that man Chan Wook Park again, back with the second part of his vengeance trilogy (the films’ characters and stories are unrelated – the only link being the theme of revenge). If you thought Sympathy For Mr Vengeance was dark, and enjoyed it, then you’ll love Oldboy. This time bringing on board the masterful Choi Min Sik, the film again merges overlapping stories of revenge where no-one is wrong and no-one is right – mistakes and terrible decisions ripple outwards, infecting everyone in the vicinity and ensuring that even greater mistakes and tragedy results. Oldboy is brutal in every sense – on screen violence reaching new heights without being sickening or voyeuristic, and with each new twist bringing a new level of depravity and head-shaking awe. The film has of course been remade… I’ve not convinced myself to watch it yet and I doubt that I ever will. Maybe it’s okay, maybe it’s even good, but I doubt it will come close to reaching the glory of the original. I’d advice everyone to do the same and only watch this.

14: Borat (2006)

I was never a fan of the Ali G movie, seeming like it was too much on the side of supporting what the TV persona was lampooning. I was a fan of Cohen in his early days on Channel 4, always tuning in for The 11 O’Clock show and later the Ali G show. The former was more of a cult show that only a select group of friends was aware of, while Da Ali G show was one that had everyone talking in school. Borat was my favourite character, seeming much more sympathetic and Mr Bean – like. I never thought a film featuring any of Cohen’s main character’s could be a success, but I am very glad I was proven wrong, because Borat is easily the funniest film of the decade, and one of the funniest of all time. Prepare to be offended. Borat exposes the racism and fear and paranoia which is all too prevalent in some parts of the world – specifically in the USA here, leading to many absolutely bewildering encounters with politicians and regular people all loosely wrapped around the story of Borat coming to the US and A to learn about its people and possibly meet Pamela Anderson. It’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes, but in the good old tradition of rubbing the human face in its own vomit and then forcing it to look in the mirror (sic) it’s a vital piece of art which should be seen by all.

13: Martyrs (2008)

The zenith and nadir of French Extremity. Martyrs is torture to watch, a grueling experience which will pummel you and leave you exhausted, this is film-making at its most visceral and powerful. Pascal Laugier’s debut was standard horror fare, a Virginie Ledoyan vehicle which suggested the director wouldn’t be anything more than someone who rode on the coattails of Christopher Gans by association. His follow-up, Martyrs, is a work of undiluted force, a shotgun blast to your sensibilities, and makes Hostel and pals look like Sesame Street. Starting out with the escape of a young girl – Lucie – who has been held captive and tortured for unknown reasons, Martyrs shows how haunted she has become, believing she is being stalked by some demonic creature. At an orphanage, she befriends another girl, Anna, who acts like a bigger sister. Once more, I don’t want to give away any further details because this is a film which takes some decidedly sudden shifts in narrative – it’s enough to say that the torture Lucie suffered has scarred her for life and into adulthood she and Anna continue to deal with its fallout – even as answers slowly drip through.

This is maybe the only film on the list that I’d only recommend to horror fans. I don’t mean people who enjoy a horror movie every so often – I mean hardcore horror fans who watch more from this genre than anything else. If you don’t do horror, stay well well away in your land of sunshine and rainbows. This is not a pleasant watch and at times it feels like an endurance test. It’s not merely violence glammed up in a neat budget or gore for the sake of gore. I wouldn’t go so far as examining it from every philosophical angle either, but it is a movie with brains for the viewer with brains, and regardless of the conclusions you choose to draw it is a movie that will stay with you for a very long time. This one has been remade too and no, I haven’t seen it.

12. A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)

Another entry and another film which would be remade later in the States. This one features an Oscar snub too. Snub isn’t the right word as they would never nominate something like this in the first place, but supporting actress Yum Jung-ah gives the performance of a lifetime, full-blooded and horrifying. Director Kim Jee Won may be the best shot framer in the business. He may be the best since Kurosawa or Kubrick. Every. Single. Shot. Is set up like a painting, the camera a paying customer to the greatest gallery in the world. In fact, his only rival currently may be Chan Wook Park. A Tale Of Two Sisters is simply gorgeous, a joy to behold, almost beautiful to the extent that you forget the horror bubbling underneath.

The film is basically a twist on the wicked stepmother story – a teenage girl has been institutionalized but at the start of the movie is released back home to her father’s mansion where her distant father and loving sister wait. Also living there is the father’s new wife who he married after the death of his first wife. There is a lot of tension in the house, with the father not engaging with his new wife while the relationship between the sisters and the stepmother starts out uneasy and grows violent before long. Secrets and twists abound.

The film isn’t happy merely to offer the tried and tested Asian long-haired ghost girl tropes although it does present several chillings scenes of this nature. There is a more dream-like quality akin to something like Audition and the undercurrents of abuse – physical and psychological – create a murky atmosphere of unknown depth. This is a film that you’ll want to watch as soon as possible again after finishing to see how the puzzle pieces revealed in the final moments all fit together with foreknowledge. It’s a film which will leave you uneasy during and after, as mentioned it looks stunning, and the performances are all top-notch.

11: Dawn Of The Dead (2004)

In the pantheon of great remakes, only a handful are ever mentioned and agreed upon – Cronenberg’s The Fly, John Carpenter’s The Thing… The Departed. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead is one of my favourite films of all time so Snyder’s remake marked one of the only times I really, truly loved the remake. This also marked the start of the zombie’s return to popularity, along with Shaun Of The Dead and 28 Days Later. This film was insanely successful and was one of those films which was a hell of a lot of fun at the screening, yet translated just as well to the small screen. The consumerism of Romero’s is replaced by a general end of the world paranoia, with a collection of interesting characters led by a great cast all with their own issues and presenting a view of the new millennium that doesn’t leave a sweet taste in the mouth.

The story isn’t all too different from the original, the difference being that we are launched straight into Dawn without knowing the night. It gets off to a rip-roaring start and barely lets up, introducing us to a nurse who wakes up one morning to find a zombie child chomping on her husband. Her frantic escape through suburbia is pulsating and she eventually makes it to a shopping mall where she meets a bunch of other survivors – teens, gun fiends, old couples, security staff etc. There they spend their days waiting for rescue, waiting for the world to revert to normal, talking, shagging, killing, but it becomes increasingly clear that the world is not going to get better. The fast zombies here add so much more threat, the movie frequently ‘goes there’, and it’s simply a lot of fun with a high rewatch factor. It remains Snyder’s best film, by quite some distance.

10: Final Destination (2000)

If the Nineties saw a renaissance in teen horror towards smarter, or at least more self-aware movies, then with Final Destination it looked like the new millennium was going to take things further. What better movie villain could there possibly be than Death? In spite of the quality of the various sequels, I still contend that this is one of the best ideas in the history of movies – a bunch of people, according to fate, are supposed to die in an accident but manage to cheat death, leading death to stalk them one by one so that fate’s course is corrected. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I have a thing about inevitability – it creates an inescapable sense of dread and it reminds us of our own lives, situations, and mortality. Final Destination works on so many levels – as a thrill ride, as a perfect teen date movie, perfect popcorn fodder, as a grim comedy, as a visceral catalogue of memorable movie kills, and on all of those deeper levels. You can choose to watch it as you see fit. It features some great performances – Devon Sawa should be a much bigger star by now. James Wong directs with style, squeezing out every drop of tension from the kill scenes, adding plenty of fake-outs and establishing the tone of the series. This one equals of fun factor of Dawn of The Dead, but adds the depth missing from Snyder’s effort.

9: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)

By the time this came out I’d never read any of the Tolkein books in total. I’d tried Fellowship and given up and I think I read most of The Hobbit as a kid. This is weird because the books should have been right up my alley. As I saw the trailers and began reading the reviews of the movie I knew I had to see it and knew I had to read them. And so, I read the trilogy in a short space of time before seeing this. I’ll go there – the movies are better than the books. I mean, not really, but I do much prefer the movies. This is my generation’s Star Wars – an epic introduction to an epic saga featuring a massive ensemble cast fighting a classic battle of good and evil. I don’t think I need to say much more about it – you’ve seen it and you love it.

8: Ju On (2003)

This is the last horror film on my list, which surprised me more than you should be. I will say that this top ten, like all my lists, is pretty interchangeable. I will say that I love the entire series, and there’s a lot of entries. Takashi Shimizu is the maestro behind the series, directing the TV movie originals, then this main big screen effort and sequel, then the US remakes. They’re all good, and they’re all pretty similar, and yet they all have this weird interweaving timeline that you can lose yourself in. In the end it doesn’t matter, this is Ringu with jumpscares, played at a hundred miles per hour. This features some of the most innovative scares you’ll ever see, a non-linear plot which ends up feeling almost like an anthology movie, but isn’t merely a series of loud noises. It’s a film which instills a sense of dread with the slightest effort, giving some early scares in the first moments which set the tone and set you on the edge of your seat for the remainder of the movie. Sound design, atmosphere, directing, acting are all great here and the finale is a breathless, unsettling, hate-to-use-the-term-but-fuck-it-rollercoaster ride.

7: The Dark Knight (2008)

This is the one. The one everyone is going to have, right? Unless the film has aged to the point now that hipsters look down upon it, but who the hell listens to them. This is everything you want in a Batman movie (The Joker), everything you want in a comic book movie, everything you want in a movie full stop. The surviving cast carry over from Batman Begins, but this is Heath Ledger’s movie, a final hurrah to an actor on the cusp of greatness. Unlike The Crow, where the real life tragedy seeps through to every aspect of the film, this feels like a celebration. Nolan here does begin to direct his movies a little too close to being like a trailer – something which he has only done more with each subsequent film – where scenes don’t seem to connect, where the music continues through scenes without cutting or fading to another track… but that’s another point for another day. For my money this is still Nolan’s best film and like several others on the list I’m fairly confident you include it on your list, so I won’t say any more about it.

6: The Return Of The King (2003)

The epic to end all epics, this massive curtain call to Jackson’s saga is gigantic in every sense. Thankfully, it’s also excellent, giving closure to all of the characters and the story (perhaps too much closure) and featuring battles on a scale which haven’t been equaled yet. It feels wrong splitting the trilogy into three parts as they are not as distinct as say, the original Star Wars Trilogy, but feel more like one continuous story. Nevertheless, you can put this or any of them on, and lose yourself in one of the finest, fully realised fictional worlds ever committed to paper and screen.

5: Casino Royale (2006)

How on Earth do you follow-up the worst entry in your franchise? With one of the best, of course. Blonde and Buff, Craig takes the series into new levels of realism with his emotive portrayal further showcasing what I have always loved about the character – he is a broken man – everything he touches dies, and yet he keeps fighting for the cause. Team Craig and Campbell up with surviving cast members from previous entries, throw in a creepy villain, and add probably the best Bond girl there has been in Eva Green, and you’re onto a winner; the action, the plot, and the visuals are merely the icing on a very sweet cake.

4: X2 (2003)

Remember when there used to be good superhero movies? You know, instead of the twelve which come out each month now? Yeah. Yeah, those ones. This puts all the current MCU fluff to shame and it’s much better than any of the other X-Men movies. Alright, I haven’t seen most of the MCU, and I haven’t seen Logan yet, but give me a chance – I only have two eyes. Unlike several of the X-Men I imagine. Great action, effects, emotional resonance, interesting characters and story, rather than big ego A-Listers getting 20 million each for four minutes screen time.

3: Amelie (2001)

I don’t do romantic comedies and generally those quirky type Indie movies don’t work for me. The latter tries too hard and the former feel insincere and end up neither making me laugh or giving me whatever it is romances are supposed to give you. What a surprise then that Amelie is at once a quirky romantic comedy, but one which is entirely sincere and effortless. It’s also absolutely gorgeous, has Jeunet’s style down to a T, and features a career defining performance from Audrey Tautou who melts the hearts of every viewer. It’s one of the most beautiful films of the decade and one which never fails to put a smile on my face and think that maybe the world ain’t such a bad place. Just what we needed in 2001 and just what we need now.

2: Love Exposure (2008)

This came from nowhere and absolutely floored me. I hadn’t laughed so much at a single new movie in years and it came when the Japanese market wasn’t pushing out so many classics. I had already seen some Sion Sono films and I was concerned when I heard he had made a 4 hour religious drama, but this so far surpasses anything else in 2008 its ridiculous. In fact, it would be number 1 except for that film being a once in a lifetime masterpiece and a piece of vitally important work. Love Exposure isn’t important, it’s simply amazing, and I guarantee you won’t have seen anything like it. Religious monologues on an abandoned beach, ninja camera pantyshots, budgie worshipping cults, priests who resort to whipping their children, and love eternal. It also has the best soundtrack of the year, some of the best performances of 2008, an outrageous script, and Sion Sono directs like there’s a nuke down his pants. If there’s any film on the list most people won’t have seen it is this, and it is an absolute must-see.

1: Battle Royale (2000)

I knew the first time I saw this that it was going to be one of my all time favourites and that my mission for the next month was to make sure as many people as possible saw it. I held screenings in my house almost every day and forced everyone I knew to watch it. I argued that it should be shown in every school in the country. And then The Hunger Games came along, diluted and for the masses, and became a huge hit. I like The Hunger Games and as bloated as it became it remained sort of entertaining. Much of that was down to Jennifer Lawrence – take her out and it’s just forgettable popcorn YA fluff. Battle Royale is seminal in every way and every frame oozes a vitality which most films can’t achieve in their entire running time. It has over the top violence, it has anger, it has heart, action, comedy, scares, it’s heart-breaking, and it has a fantastic cast. I can’t gush too much about it and I find it a shame that so many people either haven’t seen it or will go into it having already seen The Hunger Games. Battle Royale is Buffy, The Hunger Games is Twilight – BR is The Godfather, THG is Mickey Blues Eyes. There isn’t a single better movie in the last twenty years than Battle Royale.

Let us know in the comments what your favourite movies of the 2000s are!

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2009

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!

There were a lot of films I liked this year, but few, if any, I truly loved. This top ten then – not much differentiation in the ranking. Here are the almosts: Avatar. Harry Brown. Moon. District 13 Ultimatum. Up. Bruno. District 9. The Road.

10: Dead Snow (Norway) Tommy Wirkola

9: The Princess And The Frog (US) Disney

8: Micmacs (France) Jean Pierre Jeunet

7: Jennifer’s Body (US) Karyn Kusama

6: Antichrist (Denmark/France/Germany/Italy/Poland/Sweden) Lars Von Trier

5: Trick R Treat (US/Canada) Michael Dougherty

4: Triangle (UK/OZ) Christopher Smith

3: Inglourious Basterds (US/Germany) Quentin Tarantino

2: Drag Me To Hell (US) Sam Raimi

1: Orphan (US/Canada/Germany/France) Jaume Collet Serra

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: None

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

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2008

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!

First, so close, so sad: Son Of Rambow. Wall-E. Ponyo. The Informers.

10: Johnny Mad Dog (France/Liberia) Jean-Stephane Sauvaire

9: Pontypool (Canada) Bruce McDonald

8: Cloverfield (US) Matt Reeves

7: Rambo (US/Thailand) Sylvester Stallone

6: Ip Man (HK) Wilson Yip

5: Let The Right One In (Sweden) Tomas Alfredson

4: Departures (Japan) Yojiro Takita

3: Martyrs (France) Pascal Laugier

2: The Dark Knight (US/UK) Christopher Nolan

1: Love Exposure (Japan) Sion Sono

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

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: None

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2007

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!

2007 is a year which people frequently mention as one of the best ever, with critics and audience favourites being highly popular and significant. Naturally, I say balls to that, with none of the Best Picture Nominees or top ten grossing films appearing in my personal top ten. It was a great year alright, just not for the reasons you think.

So close, so sorry: 300. No Country For Old Men. Eastern Promises. Inside. Superbad.

10: Black Snake Moan (US) Craig Brewer

9: Sweeny Todd (US/UK) Tim Burton

8: Grindhouse (US) Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino

7: Angel-A (France) Luc Besson

6: 30 Days Of Night (US) David Slade

5: Paranormal Activity (US) Oren Peli

4: 28 Weeks Later (UK/Spain) Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

3: The Mist (US) Frank Darabont

2: Enchanted (US) Kevin Lima

1: Rec (Spain) Jaume Balaguero/Paco Plaza

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: None

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: None

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2006

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!

This is where it starts getting difficult… from here to 2010 I still saw plenty of movies but fewer and fewer truly grabbed me or made much of an impact, and then from 2010 onwards I watched less of the current releases. Those lists won’t be great as there are probably a tonne of great movies out there that I simply haven’t seen yet, while the next few lists don’t have many movies I outright love. I think these ten in 2006 are very solid though, and quite a few I do hold dear.

10: Paprika (Japan) Satoshi Kon

9: The Host (SK) Joon-ho Bong

8: Death Note (Japan) Shusuke Kaneko

7: Idiocracy (US) Mike Judge

6: Children Of Men (US/UK) Alfonso Cuaron/Pan’s Labyrinth Guillermo Del Toro.

5: The Hills Have Eyes (US) Alexandre Aja

4: The Departed (US) Martin Scorsese

3: Apocalypto (US/Mexico) Mel Gibson

2: Borat (US/UK) Larry Charles

1: Casino Royale (US/UK/Czech/Germany) Martin Campbell

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

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One (The Winner)

Note: It has come to my attention that I somehow missed Pan’s Labyrinth from this year, which is of course one of my favourites, so I’m adding it back on to the list.

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2005

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!

Close, but you’re way off: Corpse Bride. The Devil’s Rejects. A History Of Violence. Serenity.

10: Land Of The Dead (US) George A Romero

9: Hostel (US) Eli Roth

8: A Bittersweet Life (SK) Kim Jee Woon

7: Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (SK) Chan Wook Park

6: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (US) Shane Black

5: The Descent (UK) Neil Marshall

4: The 40 Year Old Virgin (US) Judd Apatow

3: Revenge Of The Sith (US) George Lucas

2: Sin City (US) Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino

1: Batman Begins (US/UK) Christopher Nolan

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: None

*Update – I forgot Noroi from Japan was released in 2005 and that would have made my list, knocking off Land Of The Dead. 

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2004

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, here is the group which didn’t quite cut it: Napoleon Dynamite. The Passion Of The Christ. Team America. The Terminal. Dead Man’s Shoes. Hellboy.

r-point

10: District 13 (France) Pierre Morel

9: A Very Long Engagement (France) Jean Pierre Jeunet

8: R-Point (SK) Kong Su Chang

7: Shaun Of The Dead (UK/US/France) Edgar Wright

6: Spider-Man 2 (US) Sam Raimi

5: House Of Flying Daggers (China/HK) Zhang Yimou

4: Saw (US) James Wan

3: The Grudge (US) Takashi Shimizu

2: Kill Bill Volume 2 (US) Quentin Tarantino

1: Dawn Of The Dead (US) Zach Snyder

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

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: None

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2003

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, the not quites: Big Fish. Freddy Vs Jason. House Of 1000 Corpses. Dogville. The Last Samurai. School Of Rock.

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

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

8: Kill Bill Vol 1 (US) Quentin Tarantino

7: A Mighty Wind (US) Christopher Guest

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

5: Zatoichi (Japan) Takeshi Kitano

5. Oldboy (SK) Chan Wook Park

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

3: Ju On (Japan) Takashi Shimizu

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

1: X2 (US) Bryan Singer

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Three (Including the top grosser)

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

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2002

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!

Lets get the almosts done first: Dog Soldiers. Bubba Ho-Tep.

10: City Of God (Brazil) Fernando Meirelles

9: Equilibrium (US) Kurt Wimmer

8: Hero (China) Zhang Yimou

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

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

5: Dark Water (Japan) Hideo Nakata

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

3: The Twilight Samurai (Japan) Yoji Yamada

2: 28 Days Later (UK) Danny Boyle

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

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 Favourite Films Of The 1990s

I continue my summary of my favourite films by year and by decade with this, my favourite films of the 1990s. Although I spent seven years in the 1980s, it’s really the 90s that most of my ‘growing up’ took place. It’s when I changed schools, became a teen, and all those important things. In terms of my love of film, it’s the decade that I started realizing that films were actually pieces of work that took years of planning and work to create – from the money men to the writers to the director and everyone else involved, while previously I only recognised a film by who starred in it. My tastes continued to be a love of action and horror and as the decade came to a close I was looking further afield for the sort of kicks that Hollywood could no longer provide. Regardless, this list will likely contain mostly American films, though the explosion of indie talent means that even those won’t necessarily be ‘Hollywood’. This could be a long post too, as many of my all time favourites came out in this decade. Essentially everything outside of the top seven can be in any order. Enough balls, lets do this.

21: The Blair Witch Project (1991)

Lets kick things off with a film that received a lot of hate from the horror community. It still divides horror fans with little middle ground – you either love it, or see it as boring, scare-free, and the main reason we have so many terrible shaky cam movies now. If there is any middle ground, it’s those people who say that the film is 95% walking around a forest, and the last 5% of the movie being genuinely terrifying. Obviously I love it, and a large part of that is due to the last 10 minutes or so – what makes the ending so chilling though is everything that comes before it. The three characters here, while they have their moments, are less annoying and more human than most you’ll find in this type of film and make less dubious decisions. The mythology of the film is interesting too, not least because it has basis in historical fact – I’m talking about the whole Witch Trials and Puritan fear-mongering of previous centuries here. Secondly, witches are a type of supernatural creature sorely underrepresented in movies, even in horror fiction as a whole. There are a few standout movies of course.

Obviously not the first found footage movie, The Blair With Project is nevertheless the most influential – it’s still the poster boy for the sub-genre. I remember the hysteria when this was released and I saw it as soon as I could. I watched the related documentary and I bought a related book detailing the history of the township. I love how the movie built up this little universe all of its own. I was mystified though by the people who actually bought into the advertising, believing the film to be real – I’m still not sure how people were fooled by this. The film has such a simple set up – a trio of students are making a documentary about a small town and the mythology surrounding it. They travel to the town, meet a few locals, and head out into the massive woods where evil is meant to lurk. They go missing and a few years later their video footage is found – the film is that footage. In the footage we see them getting stalked by something unseen – the group believe it could be locals having fun but they quickly become disoriented, paranoid, and fight among themselves. They get lost, they see and hear stranger things, and… well, you either know the rest or should watch yourself. I’ve never been scared of camping, or woods, or isolation, or anything like that – in fact I find such things comforting. I’ve no idea why the film creeps me out so much – I can only assume it’s the idea of a witch, some ancient evil lurking which can control time and space apparently, which gets to me but even that sounds stupid. Whatever it is, it works, and I love it.

20: The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Even after other movies from the same era have achieved cult status, this one still flies mainly under the radar and I’ve still no idea why. Look – it has like 40% on Rotten Tomatoes. Idiots. I mean, its treatment of women is dubious at times as I  believe I covered in my review post, but in terms of pure action and entertainment there are few better.

The film opens with some American Football player going for a touchdown or a home run or some sports shit but rather than some last minute glory win like Teenwolf, he whips out a gun and starts shooting the opposition before killing himself. Nice. Elsewhere, we meet a washed up ex Secret Service Agent who is now the disgruntled father of a bratty daughter, husband of a cheating wife, and a boozy PI. He gets a job to bodyguard a stripper, who just happens to be the boyfriend of an ex NFL star. The stripper is promptly killed and the boyfriend and the bodyguard team up to find out who put out the hit, unraveling a plot of corruption in the world of sports and politics. Directed by Tony Scott and starring Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans, this also features Danielle Harris, Halle Berry, Kim Coates, Taylor Negron. The script by Shane Black, which was sold for a record 1.75 million, is superb – filled with great self-aware 90s humour, Scott directs with his usual visual flair, and the cast are all good – Willis especially delivering one of his most sardonic performances. There are some great action set-pieces while remaining grounded, and yet both Scott and Black have stated that the end product was not what the script deserved. If that’s true then I can’t imagine how good the end product should have been.

19: Starship Troopers (1997)

The middle of the Nineties saw Paul Verhoeven moving away from the violent action movies that had earned him worldwide fame a decade earlier. His previous two films were sex-based thrillers – a massive success in Basic Instinct and a massive failure in Showgirls (I like both). Starship Troopers is a glorious return to the likes of Total Recall and Robocop – big, brash, loud mouth action, ultra violence, and more satirical than a liberal talk show host. Adapted from Heinlein’s classic sci-fi novel, Verhoeven’s take clearly mocks the celebration of war and its associated propaganda machine although it’s easy to see why many completely miss the fascist satire and take it on face value as movie where guys with guns triumph over some faceless drone enemy.

The film follows Johnny Rico – a student in his final year of a very patriotic, militaristic school – and a small group of friends. Earth is attached by an alien race, kicking off an all out intergalactic war. Rico signs up in the hope of revenge, guts, and glory, and his band of friends all get recruited into different sections of the army – pilots, intelligence, grunts etc. Rico is a grunt and goes off for training to be cannon fodder – the scenes of training taking those of Full Metal Jacket to ridiculous new heights. Once training is complete, Rico heads off to war – that’s pretty much it. The special effects were state of the art for the time, and I still enjoy them now. The action is top rate, futuristic gun battles with ugly arachnid and alien creatures, and a cast featuring Dean Norris, Brenda Strong, Marshall Bell, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, Neil Patrick Harris, Jake Busey, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, and Casper Van Dien. Like in Robocop, Verhoeven fills this with media interludes – news snippets, adverts, info nuggets, all catered to a bloodthirsty flag-waving audience all to willing to sacrifice body and soul for a worthless cause. The dialogue doesn’t quite reach the heights of Robocop (what does?) but the film reunites the director, screenwriter, and musical composer meaning it’s a close cousin. Balls to the wall violent action movies were on the wane in the late 90s, and this is one of the genre’s finest swansongs.

18: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

I’ve argued before how this is a horror film. I’ve argued how Sheryl Lee deserved and Oscar nomination, if not a win for her performance here. David Lynch has quite a few masterpieces in his resume, but Twin Peaks – the series and the movie – are by far his most beloved work. The movie departs tonally, bravely, from the original series and instead offers a harrowing, terrifying glimpse into the last week of Laura Palmer’s tortured life. There are no characters offering quaint small-town wisdom, there is no offbeat humour, and there is almost no hope or light. This is the darkest quivering heart of The Black Lodge, a place of obsession, madness, and death, and its pulsating ripples envelope and suck in any innocence there may be in the unfortunate surroundings. If you haven’t seen the movie, then I won’t say anymore about it – all I can say is that it certainly helps to know the series before watching the movie, and to not expect the movie to be an extension of the show’s charms. This is your favourite town and everyone in it being burned to the ground, and its horrific and glorious.

17: Tombstone (1993)

True Romance and Heat narrowly missed out on making this best of Nineties list. Those films and Tombstone share the honours of having some of the most amazing casts in single films. There are a few films like this in the Nineties where you look at the cast and already know the film is going to be wonderful – doesn’t matter what the thing is about – it could be a discussion of the correlation between paint drying and algebra, it could be one of those terrible singing talent shows, hell – it could even be a musical and the cast alone would make it unmissable. Luckily Tombstone is none of those shitty things, instead being a stylish version of events from the life of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday with all manner of guns and moustaches.

Look at these names: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Michael Biehn, Sam Elliot, Powers Boothe. That’s a strong enough cast to sell any movie, but then you check out the support – Jason Priestly, Thomas Haden Church, Stephen Lang, Dana Delaney, Paula Malcomson. Fine, some decent names there, hardly stars though. Okay, why don’t we throw in Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum, Billy Bob Thornton? That’s without even mentioning Billy Zane, Michael Rooker, Terry O’Quinn, John Corbett and many others. That’s like a 70s disaster movie epic, or a Cecil B De Mille cast – in some respects literally.

The story is fairly streamlined and straightforward – A gang of outlaws has been shooting up various towns and they descend upon the town of Tombstone. Noted lawman Wyatt Earp and his brothers have decided to settle down there for a quiet life, meeting up with old friend Doc Holliday. The two groups, and assorted others, clash. There’s more to it than that, a lot of character building and inter-relations stuff, but at its core it’s the story of these groups coming together in a bloody conclusion. I’d spoken in another post about not liking many Westerns when I was young, but this is definitely one of the few which appealed to me and has only grown in my estimation over time.

16: Desperado (1995)

Robert Rodriguez burst onto the scene with this 1995 marvel of low budget film-making, essentially remaking his even lower budget El Mariachi. That previous film gained Rodriguez attention from the likes of Quentin Tarantino (who guest stars here) and whose influence no doubt aided in this getting made. The film also brought Salma Hayak and Danny Trejo into the limelight and launched Antonio Banderas into action hero status. Like Tarantino’s films, Desperado is marked by stylish action, quotable cool dialogue, and a variety unique grindhouse type characters.

Following the events of El Mariachi (no need to see that movie first though), the Mariachi with a guitar case full of guns has become something of a legend or folklore hero. El Mariachi is looking for the man called Bucho who killed his girlfriend and blew a hole in his hand. His travels take him to a small Mexican town where he encounters a new lover, a guitar playing boy, Bucho and his goons, and a variety of assassins and scoundrels looking for bounty. Beyond that, it’s guns guns guns. The principle cast are all gorgeous, cool, and the cameos from the likes of Steve Buscemi, Tarantino, Cheech and others are fun. The action set-pieces are fantastic, more in common with John Woo’s antics than the Hollywood blockbuster. For balls to the wall energy and creativity you won’t get many better.

15: Leon (1994)

Luc Besson had been making films for a while before he struck gold with Leon. His previous feature film Nikita had established him as one of the more interesting and diverse directors of action movies, but it’s Leon where he builds upon many of those ideas – isolation, moral ambiguity, control, and does it with a world-renowned cast and the sure touch of a director and writer on a creative roll. The film follows Jean Reno, a deadly assassin who stays away from all human contact and social interaction, who gets embroiled in saving a young girl’s life and trains her to follow in his footsteps. The film also features Natalie Portman’s star-making turn and Gary Oldman being epic, plenty of stylish action and a rather sweet/disturbing relationship depending on how you view it. The action movie moved away from the muscle bound superstars who owned the genre in the 80s and for a few years it struggled to find a new identity – the reluctant or anti-hero would take the place of Arnie and Sly as symbolized by films such as this.

14: Problem Child (1990)

This one was love at first sight and I still remember explaining the film in detail to my friends and a cousin the following week in school. Scene by scene, quote by quote I must have memorized the whole thing and then reenacted it to my class till they knew it by heart without having seen it. I probably contributed a hefty percentage to the amount of money the film made after making sure everyone else went out and saw it. Back when you rented VHS tapes, we generally kept them for a weekend. In most case we probably only watched them once, but I think Problem Child got a few watches and rewinds before getting returned. We probably rented it again before I eventually bought the tape myself.

It’s the story of a boy, Junior, who has been passed from family to family, adopted and sent back, and who ends up in an orphanage for kids no-one wants – hilarious! No-one wants him because he’s, well, a dick. He breaks stuff, steals, swears, plays pranks, and is probably violent. He’s clearly a future serial killer (his hero is in fact a serial killer), but maybe all he needs is the attention of a loving family. Enter John Ritter and Amy Yasbeck – a couple who insides are not compatible. They’re your perfect white American suburban family – all they’re missing is a kid – and they are coerced into adopting Junior. It’s not long before he begins wreaking havoc with his new family, destroying bullies at a baseball game, at a snooty birthday party, and inviting a certain Bow Tie Killer to rescue him.

You wonder what events conspired to ever see a story like this make it to screen. It’s a film you certainly wouldn’t see getting made in today’s more tame climate. The film was touted as a horror – inviting a child in to your home who happens to be violent or have other dark secrets (Orphan), then as a satire of all of the child-centric family hits of the 80s where grown ups overcome their issues thanks to the innocence of a child, eventually settling on this where the morale appears to be that… everyone deserves a chance, but most people are dicks? See, aside from being really funny – for kids and adults – Problem Child is dark as sin. I’ve always appreciated dark humour and I don’t know if that comes from years of violent slapstick cartoons or elsewhere, but I’m sure this film was a part of influencing my tastes. I’m not sure my wife would allow my kids to watch this if she really knew what it was about, but luckily for them I’ve already let them watch it so the joke’s on…. I actually don’t know who.

13: GoldenEye (1995)

I’ve always been a Bond fan. As a red blooded British bloke, of course I am. As with most successful franchises, sooner or later the money men come in and fuck everything up, and that’s exactly what happened with Bond. For years, various owners and companies and twats fought over the rights to the series and in the meantime the world moved on. By the time 1995 rolled around the Cold War was in the past and The West’s old enemies had been defeated or put into hiding. Luckily, evil and greed never dies, so the new world had a bunch of new outlets for ideas. A new Bond, a new M, new writers, directors, a new style, a new world – but still the same old sexy antics of a globe-trotting super spy who can’t resist dipping his PPK in the moist schemes of the world’s Vs (villains). Like most Bond films, the plot is either over-complex or a maguffin – here there’s stuff about Russians and hackers and satellites and financial ruin, but really it’s about a rogue MI6 agent and old friend of 007 getting up to badness, and Bond having to go kill him. On the way he leaps off a Dam, drives a tank, shoots up a train, kills a Boris, and stays Onatopp of his womanizing ways.

I’ll call it out here for full transparency – I love the N64 game and it’s one of my all time favourites. I played the game before I watched the film, but I don’t think this has had a huge impact on my love for the film Sure, being familiar with the game and then watching those scenes and locations on screen was cool and probably gave me some initial lols and hearts. As time went on though the film never fell out of favour with me – it has some of the best performances of any Bond movie, Brosnan is perfect, Bean is a great bad guy, and both Scorupco and Jansenn rank highly in my list of Bond girls. I love how personal and emotional the story becomes – it’s not just a job for Bond – and it has some of the most memorable action and stunts of the series. You’ll see that my favourite Bond films are those which I find the most emotional or have the most interesting story – that’s why the likes of this, For Your Eyes Only, Casino Royale, Live And Let Die rank higher for me over the more obvious Connery stalwarts – Bond as a flawed human or unique stories over your standard spy malarkey. I even like the music in this one – the one thing all critics point to as a major miss.

12: Jurassic Park (1993)

This was always going to be included on my list of favourite 90s movies – I imagine it would be on most people’s top tens/twenties, especially those who grew up with it. I’m annoyed I never caught this at the cinema when it was released. I’m not sure why, given that I saw some other weird ones on the big screen this year – The Nightmare Before Christmas and Super Mario Bros for example. I’ll assume you know the story – rich guy and a bunch of scientists find a way to create dinosaurs, they decide to breed them in a special zoo, but before opening to the public they invite a bunch of experts to inspect. The dinosaurs escape and everyone freaks out.

Like Jaws is to shark movies, Jurassic Park is the daddy of dinosaur movies. I don’t see it ever being topped even though I would happily watch any number of imitators. It’s the perfect film for the kid in us – for those of us who used to look at dinosaur books and be filled with awe and wonder that such things ever walked the earth. There’s no other director in the world at his peak that you’d want working on this film than Spielberg – you just know he shares that awe and wonder. Add to this Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Samuel L Jackson, and non-annoying kids, and a bunch of iconic images, great score, memorable set pieces, and you have an all time classic. All I’d love now is a genuine, genuinely good dinosaur-based horror movie.

11: Hard Boiled (1992)

People forget that John Woo has been involved in movies since the late 1960s. He directed his first film in the early 70s. There has always been something ultra modern about his films – when something like Hard-Boiled or Face-Off came out you’d assume it was made by some alarmingly talented new voice, not someone who had been doing it for three decades already. He had already made your standard Golden Harvest wuxia type film, then movies with Jackie Chan, and didn’t really get to assert his own true vision until Heroes Shed No Tears and (more accurately) the superb A Better Tomorrow. Those films unleashed his personal style and as his films progressed we got more of his traditional ‘heroic bloodshed’ movies – films with a (then) unique look and fell – very stylized, killers in suits and shades, lots of slow motion gun play, slow motion everything really, and uber-cool actors and characters. There was usually a lot of male bonding/conflict. Hard Boiled is his crowning achievement – a film that laughs at how small and tame the action of Die Hard is, and a film which both is the hallmark for Hong Kong action, and revolutionized the genre as a whole. Yet so few people have seen it.

Chow Yun Fat stars as the renegade cop Tequila, a man who plays by his own rules in the typical 80s archetype. After his partner his killed during a raid, Tequila is taken off the case. Elsewhere, an undercover super-cop is trying to infiltrate a ruthless Triad gang. The two team up and play an uneasy game where the violence rapidly escalates until the final stunning shootout in a hospital. The action man…. there was a point in the nineties when action was becoming stale – there were disaster type epics, there were meta movies, but the genre seemed to be moving away from the one man army movies I grew up with. Then I happened upon Hard Boiled and was in love instantly. The action here is ridiculous, set-pieces going on for thirty minutes rather than three. There are crazy shots here that boggle the mind – the amount of preparation which must have gone into them, especially those one-shot scenes, is still mind-blowing and they were done with no digital trickery. The plot does become overblown and there are some sentimental scenes which will seem odd to Western audiences, but in Fat, Leung, Kwok, and Wong we have some good guys and bad guys to rank alongside the Rambos and Hans Grubers of the world. This is one of those films to show people who think foreign movies are boring. Two hours later they’ll be saying Hollywood movies are boring.

10: The Fifth Element (1997)

Milla Jovovich had already appeared in a number of great films, but this was her star-making turn. For my money, she should have received an Oscar nomination here, as the pure and innocent Fifth Element taking human form. If you don’t fall in love with her here, you have no soul. This is a madcap comic book action movie – over the top in all the right ways, and with a unique look thanks to Besson’s vision and Gaultier’s ‘fashions’. Check out the rest of the cast too – Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, with Luke Perry, Brion James, and Lee Evans in smaller roles. It’s the age old story of the destruction of Earth by an unnamed space evil, and the human and alien representatives on the sides of good and evil trying to save/destroy everything. Bruce Willis is back to his wise-cracking, fatigued best as an ex-military, now cabbie who accidentally meets The Fifth Element and must protect her from those who would use her for their wicked purposes. There’s a lot of plot and history here, but in the end it boils down to a simple kill the bad guys synopsis, with ridiculous guns, wacky characters, and some of the best actors in the world having the most fun they’ve ever had. The fun is infectious and the execution of the youthful ideas will keep you guessing and smiling.

9: Bangkok Dangerous (1999)

I’ve talked on the blog before about how I’ve always enjoyed foreign cinema – especially Asian films as they offer their own twists on my favourite genres of action and horror. I can’t recall exactly, but I think this was either the second or third Pang Brothers film I saw – the first being Bangkok Haunted. The first thing I would say about this – and the rule typically applies for any remakes of foreign movies – is see the original first. Nic Cage’s remake is an average thriller which takes some of the loose ideas here, but sucks the emotion out. It also lacks the vibrant style which the Pang Brothers showcases, especially in their early days. The weird thing is – the remake was also directed by the Pang Brothers, so I’m not sure where things went sour. It’s a decent movie, but very straight to DVD, and not a patch on the original.

The film follows Kong, an archetypal sympathetic hitman, bullied as a child for being deaf, but whose disability and bullying makes him a flawless killer. He ends up working for the mob, he is friends with a stripper and her boyfriend, and he falls in love with a pharmacist. That’s… pretty much it. The story is one you’ve seen a million times before – you know that things will go wrong and revenge will be served cold, but it’s done with such flair, and done with such conviction, with emotion, with humour, that it stands tall as one of the finest examples of the sub-genre. Pawalit Mongkolpisit is a great choice as the lead – you can’t help but feel for him and side with him in spite of the terrible work he does, and Premsinee Ratanasopha as Fon is a revelation. It’s a massive pity that these guys haven’t really done any other work – their relationship here feels both cute and honest without being cutesy. I don’t want to say too much else about it – seek it out for yourself, and enjoy one of the finest slices of 90s action you’ll ever see.

8: Things To In Denver When You’re Dead (1995)

In the post Pulp Fiction world, every young director wanted to make their crime masterpiece. We had British efforts from Guy Ritchie and his clones, Eastern attempts, and endless Hollywood versions. I’ve never felt that Things To In Denver When You’re Dead fit this mold – but that’s how it was reviewed and marketed. It’s a shame this never got to stand on its own as it is a unique film, miles apart in tone and style from Tarantino’s work – a much more sombre affair and a film that I would probably choose to watch over Pulp Fiction any day of the week – and I’m a huge fan of Pulp Fiction. 

There are a number of films this decade which have truly unbelievable casts – Tombstone, Heat, Pulp Fiction, Cop Land, True Romance, Glengarry Glen Ross – and this. Lets see – Andy Garcia, Christopher Lloyd, Christopher Walken, Steve Buscemi, Gabrielle Anwar, Treat Williams, Fairuza Balk, Jack Warden, Bill Nunn, Don Cheadle, William Forsythe. I realize that not all of those names may be A-Listers or household names, but film fans will recognize and respect them – and that’s not to mention the host of regognizable faces who also pop up, even if you don’t know the names – Jenny McCarthy, Willie Garson, Tiny Lister, Buddy Guy, Bill Cobbs, Marshall Bell, and others. You’ll spend the movie going ‘where do I know that guy from?’

It’s not merely a who’s who guessing game – the characters they play you will want to hang out and have boat drinks with, and the story they find themselves in is tinged with regret, heroism, futility, fatalism, honour… Garcia stars as ex-gangster Jimmy The Saint. He has been legit for a while, with a bizarre business where people (generally the elderly or those with an incurable illness) record a video for their loved ones to be given once they pass – I’m not sure such a business model would survive today, but it works as a nice plot device. Christopher Walken (should have grabbed an Oscar nomination) is his terrifying ex-boss, and he calls a favour from Jimmy to help get his pedophile son and ex-girlfriend back together. For some reason Jimmy recruits his old pals to run an intimidation job on the ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend (rather than just roughing him up one to one), and it all goes badly wrong. Buckwheats for all, as they say.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I love the film so much – it’s undoubtedly cool, having a style that sticks with me for whatever reason, and it features some of my favourite performers in iconic ways. Balk is terrific, Garcia and Lloyd give some of their best, understated work, and Anwar proves again that she should have been a much bigger star. I love the dialogue, I love Steve Buscemi’s Mr Sssh, and I love the inevitability of Mr Sssh’s pursuit and the overall vibe of death and honour – doing what you can with the time you have. This made around half a million bucks at the box office, which is a crime. You owe it to yourself, and to the film itself, to go watch this now – yes you, reading this list, watch it now and then tell your friends.

7: Beauty And The Beast (1991)

What can I say – I’m a sucker for schmaltz, when it’s done right. My favourite Disney movie ever, my favourite animated movie ever, for me nothing else comes close to its majesty. The tale as old as time has never been told better, in such vibrant colours and with such lovable and dastardly characters.  I talked about the film in more detail in my Top Ten Disney films post – TLDR version – awesome heroine, great songs, wonderful heartfelt story acted out by great characters and cast.

6: Scream (1996)

By the time 1996 rolled around (I probably actually saw this first in 97, but who’s counting) I was already a hardcore horror fan, with the Elm Street series being my favourite. I was also already head over heels in love with Neve Campbell, thanks to Party Of Five. When I first heard about Scream – merging Wes Craven with Campbell in a new slasher movie which just happened to be getting rave reviews from everyone – I knew I would love it. What I didn’t know was just how much. I remember renting the VHS and watching two or three times that day. There was something so callous and wicked and ingenious about that opening sequence – not just the dialogue, or the scenario, or the whole ‘killing off our big name actress’ thing but how the killer kills Casey such footsteps away from her parents, stabbing her as she reached out for their help in the safety of her own front lawn. I’m not sure there have been many more brutal or poignant horror movie deaths than that – certainly not many have affected me so much. Although I always had an inkling, it was that moment which cemented my understanding of Craven’s over-arcing theme – that theme which runs through all of his work – that kids are never safe, and that your parents can’t help you. As would be revealed, and much like Nightmare, Hills, and other Craven hits – the sins of the parents will come back ten-fold upon the children.

The film doesn’t hold back on the blood and guts either, being fairly graphic given the target audience. There are your standard stabbings and slicings, but also gun shots and the odd ceiling decapitation/chokehold. What about that dialogue? Williamson and Craven collaborate wonderfully, bringing that meta mid-90s speak to a peak, the characters smart, aware, cool, but still falling into the same traps that they mock fictional characters for falling into. As iconic horror dialogue goes, ‘What’s your favourite scary movie’ is right up there with the best, but it’s the discussion of movies and of tropes that really won the fans over – this was, finally, a horror movie made by and for horror movie fans – one which understood us and the fiction we love.

What’s it all about though? A small town is being ravaged by a number of brutal killings and the ultimate target appears to be one Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell in her star-making performance). Who is the killer – it could be anyone – an absent parent, a school faculty member, a reporter, a boyfriend, a friend – part of the fun is that the film keeps you guessing right up until its final reveal and twist. It wouldn’t be a slasher movie without a twist. We have this gorgeous young cast fighting for their lives all while trying to get on with the mundane stuff like school and sex and movies and parties, we have a kick ass soundtrack, both instrumental and the songs, and it’s all pulled together with a taut nod and wink by Craven – one of the best, at his best. All that said, and I didn’t even mention Ghostface – how iconic is that mask?

5: The Crow (1994)

If the 80s was the decade when the most wacky ideas seemed to get a greenlight, then the 90s saw the darker material rising to the top. What Scream is to the horror genre, The Crow is to the comic book genre. The Crow is, without a doubt, the finest comic book movie ever made. I love Batman, Superman, Nolan’s trilogy – but they all pale in comparison to this. Look at how expansive the world Marvel has created – not just as a whole, but in each individual entry – everything is MASSIVE and yet, they’re all so bland. I’ve yet to see a single drop of anything resembling emotion in a single MCU movie – granted I’ve only seen a handful so far, but it’s their generic, stale, lets blow up another city feel which leaves me cold. They’re popcorn movies for sure, but like popcorn which has been lifted off the ground after a double bill of Fifty Shades and Indecent Behaviour. 

Why am I moaning about Marvel? I feel like The Crow doesn’t get it’s due credit. I want as many people to see it, and to honour it, before another inevitable remake comes along – it is a case of the stars at night aligning and making something so perfect that it couldn’t possibly have been made by anyone else at any other time. Before it, very few comic movies were daring, or felt independent, or seemed unique. The Crow takes chances – it’s dark as Witch’s muff, and it casts the untested son of a martial artist as its lead. It’s a film about a man coming back from the dead to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancee and it’s loosely based on the writer’s own, similar, true story. It has a look unlike most other films – rain drenched, always night, always smokey, with crime and debauchery everywhere. Alex Proyas had this and Dark City in the 90s – what a combo – and then he seemed to lose his mind and make fluff. The talent shown in these two movies, the look and tone, is unparalleled.

Brandon Lee stars as Eric Draven – a man brought back for revenge. Over the course of a night he hunts down the men who killed him and his fiancee, all the while hounded by a cop (Ernie Hudson) and a child he once knew (Rochelle Davis) and under the watchful eye of a mysterious crow. That’s all there is to it, but it’s haunted by sadness both real and fictional – writer James O Barr’s real life tragedy all to plain to feel, and Brandon Lee was accidentally killed during filming, ensuring that he would never see the final product. All that takes the darkness on show to higher levels of tragedy but even without the real life stuff, it’s a film oozing with emotion. There is a dizzying visual flare, some of the finest one-line dialogue of the decade, and another brilliant dual soundtrack – instrumental and songs – I bought both shortly after seeing the movie. Lee should have been up for an Oscar here, and the rest of the cast feature standout performances from Michael Wincott, Tony Todd, and David Patrick Kelly. Even though the movie was a hit, even though it spawned a TV series and many sequels, even though Sting based his most popular persona off it, even though I feel like it has its own cult of fans who hold it dearly – it deserves more recognition.

4: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

A number of films just miss out on my Top Ten Of All Time – a few of which are definitely better films than some which are in my Top Ten – Dawn Of The Dead, The Thing, Battle Royale, and this – Edward Scissorhands being some of those. This movie is perfect – there is literally nothing I would change about it, my only problem with it being that it is so short. It cemented Tim Burton as a God in my world, cemented my adoration for Winona Ryder, and made the world take notice of a young fella called Johnny Depp – how he didn’t get an Oscar nomination here is ridiculous. Depp lost a Golden Globe to Depardieu in Green Card – seriously. Danny Elfman didn’t get nominated, Burton was passed over for Best Director, nothing for him or Thompson in the writing categories. 1990 was actually a good year for The Oscars too, but still.

If you’ve seen the film then you already love it for the same reasons I do – as I’ve said, it’s perfect. All I will add is that it has always appealed to the outsider in me, that sad que cera ceraness of it all striking a personal chord.

3: Ringu (Top Ten Of All Time) (1998)

There are a number of horror films which changed my life and which I never shut up about once I saw them – if I knew you at the time, you can be sure I made you, or tried to make you watch them. They had to be films which either came out around that time – not something from decades earlier, or foreign/one I knew most people wouldn’t have seen. Scream was one, Bodysnatchers was another. Maybe I was most vocal about Ringu – it’s one of those films where seeing and feeling people’s reactions was almost as fun as watching the film itself. As those final scenes begin you can feel the oxygen get sucked out of the room, in fact the room itself seems to grow smaller, walls pressing in and the viewer slowly folds their limbs into a crab-like foetal position. This is the pinnacle of the J-Horror movement and of Asian Horror in general, a slow burning masterpiece of dread and outright shivering terror.

You probably know the story by now – there are whispers of an urban legend about a videotape (such things once existed, kids). When you watch the tape, your phone rings and a voice tells you that you have exactly seven days to live. There is only one way to save yourself from the curse, and that is to make it go viral – make a copy and make someone else watch it and the curse is passed on to them. Bodies begin to pile up and it seems there may be some truth or hysteria attached to the legend. Enter journalist Reiko who wants to write a story about the whole thing – her niece apparently a victim of the curse. Upon investigating, Reiko finds what appears to be the videotape of legend. Naturally, she watches it, but oops – so does her ex-husband and son. They have seven days to try to uncover and prevent the curse, looking into the history of the mysterious Sadako Yamamura.

I love this film so much – to the point that I see many many parallels between it and The Terminator series, thematically, stylistically… but I won’t go into those. If you like both series, you’ll see what I mean. Once again, I love the inevitability of it – basically, if you watch the tape you’re fucked, and you can’t really avoid it. Nanako Matsushima and Hiroyuki Sanada are excellent leads and the story merges old world superstition with new age techno-fears. The whole thing is fundamentally routed in Japanese fear and culture, yet it’s intrinsically universal. I bought the sequels, love them too, and I bought the books – very different beasts from the movies, but genuinely brilliant too. Hell, I even bought Rasen – the other sequel which tries to be more like the book, but without the genius of Nakata at the helm it’s not great. Nakata’s best film, his work here made me seek out all of his other stuff with increasingly diminishing returns.

I love me some gore, and I love a good effective jump-scare, but fear works best for me when it creeps upon me and of course, when I actually care about the story and the characters. The story and characters here suit me perfectly – a mystery based on whispered myths and tragedy, bullying, psychic power, intelligent, strong men and women – and while the scares here are actually quite minimal, it’s the way it builds and builds unrelentingly to that climax – you won’t realize that you’ve pulled out your own nails while watching. I had great fun doing prank calls on people after making them watch the movie. We created memes of certain moments before internet memes were a thing. Just one final word – I despise the remake. It is utter shite. Utter, complete shite. Yet most horror fans, most film fans prefer it. It turns this masterpiece of dread into generic, glossy, noisy jump-scare bollocks and even commits the cardinal sin of cutting away during the climax. Stick with the original.

2: Dumb And Dumber (Top Ten Of All Time) (1994)

The only comedy which I have marathoned – watched many times in a short space of days. Probably the comedy I quote the most, and another film where I went out and bought the soundtrack shortly after seeing it, and got annoyed that half the songs were missing. The Farrelly Brothers have never bettered this, and I wish wish wish they had done a sequel in the same decade instead of waiting until the performers were depressingly old and made me too aware of the ravages of time. No matter which version you see, Dumb And Dumber is a perfect comedy, though I am inclined towards the juvenile – again, as long as I actually care about what’s going on.

The film is all about Harry and Lloyd, two loser, less than intelligent friends who scrape by with dead end jobs. During a chance encounter/intervention during a blackmailing deal, the pair end up with a mysterious maguffin (suitcase) and decide to go on a cross country journey to Assssspenn and deliver it to its rightful owner. Along the way they meet a variety of weird and wonderful characters, have a number of adventures, and learn absolutely nothing. It you’re not laughing at least once every thirty seconds while watching this, I don’t want to know you. Naturally, it’s the little things that most people don’t notice that stick with me the most – the things Lloyd buys after being instructed only to purchase the bare essentials, the force with which Lloyd cane-whacks Harry’s legs with… I could go on. It was always my plan to go to my school Formal (for any US readers, it’s our equivalent of Prom) with one of my friends, dressed in the same suits Harry and Lloyd wear to the fundraiser later in the film, but we chickened out and he ended up not going at all. To make up for this, I got drunk and threw pint and shot glasses from one of the hotel rooms into the car park below. Side note – as I checked Wikipedia for box office returns on a number of these films, I keep seeing them being listed in various magazine’s 500 films of all time – I must do some sort of post covering those 500 films and a few words on what I think of each. You’ll love that.

1: Terminator 2 (Top Ten Of All Time) (1991)

Naturally. Like I said in my 80s run down, it’s this or The Terminator which top my all time list. What is there to say about it? It’s groundbreaking in every sense – everyone involved deserves a statue in their honour, and it’s a film which has influenced me deeply. Some films go beyond just being films – fans hold conventions, fans dress up and have regular screenings, fans make life decisions based on their love of these films. I think the film and me were intertwined before I even saw it – it’s almost like it was made just for me, but clearly it was made for millions of others just like me. I don’t even know what I’m talking about any more but as a boy, seeing this for the first time, a little younger than John Connor is in the story, it was about me. I loved Guns N Roses, I loved Public Enemy, I loved Motorbikes – hell, I even had a friend with a ginger mullet. I may not, as far as I’m aware, be the future saviour of the human race, but if such a burden was thrust upon me I’d suck it up, shine that bitch on and snarl an Hasta La Vista, Baby at the enemy. This film is everything I want in a film from top to bottom – story, cast, characters, director, music, dialogue, action, emotion, scares, laughs, tears, the way it looks… I don’t think any other film will ever speak to me the way this one did and has. In a way that’s a thought tinged with sadness, but in another way I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it and be alive when it was released. Thanks to everyone for making it, it means a lot. My only regret is not being in it myself.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of my list and what your favourite films of the 1990s are!