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!