A film which blends genres and emotions, Leon became one of the the most highly rated and loved cult hits of the 90s, thanks in no small part to the talented cast and director. Luc Besson’s film concerns a quiet and solitary hit-man who befriends a young girl after her family is slaughtered by a local crooked cop. Jean Reno stars as Leon, in his best performance, the professional hit-man with 100% success rate, solitary yet lonely. Gary Oldman is the crooked cop, stealing almost every scene he is in while Natalie Portman plays Mathilda, in one of the best child performances ever, conveying sadness and loneliness with hope and innocence, and anger and pain.
We are introduced to Leon, we see his mundane life, occasionally interspersed with acts of violence necessary for his career. His only friend is a pot plant, though he does have a relationship with his boss – a man who has a lot of respect for Leon, yet exploits him regardless. He lives alone in a flat. A few doors down is Mathilda who lives with her abusive father, alcoholic mother, and innocent younger brother. They have seen each other occasionally in the corridor. Mathilda’s father is in trouble with Oldman’s character, and he is killed along with his wife and son when Mathilda is shopping. She arrives home in the middle of the massacre, but saves herself by pleading that Leon lets her in. Leon’s life is turned upside down, torn between knowing he shouldn’t interfere but can’t let an innocent get hurt. Soon the two strike up an interesting friendship, each learning from the other and quickly becoming dependent on one another.
The film’s direction is often beautiful, and it complements the story perfectly, meaning that the tear-jerking scenes, action scenes, and everything else are all the more potent. Although the action is brilliant, it is the scenes between Leon and Mathilda which linger in the memory and raise the film into the top tier. There are many funny parts, most involving the fact that Leon has been outside of society for his entire life. Many critics mention a potential sexual relationship between the two, admittedly this could have occurred in the future, but by the end the most important thing is that they have found a special person who can give them hope. Although this is growing and reaching a wider audience it is still relatively little known, but it is a startling film which everyone should see.
Let us know in the comments what you thought of Leon/The Professional!
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21. Jaws. (1975, Spielberg): Everyone’s favourite film about sharks eating children, Jaws is undoubtedly timeless. Everyone has their favourite moment, and everyone has their favourite piece of dialogue. For such a momentous film, the dialogue is not something which gets a lot of respect, aside from the famous ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’. Much of the dialogue is delivered in such a way that it doesn’t sound scripted, which may be reason enough for why there aren’t many memorable one-liners. My personal favourite then will likely be a favourite of others, and due to its length, I won’t re-post it here; Quint’s Indianapolis speech is flawless – stunningly delivered, powerfully written, and the most chilling moment in the film, all the more so as it doesn’t really have a lot to do with the plot.
22. Assault on Precinct 13. (1976, Carpenter): It took quite some time for this film to get the recognition it deserves. Even after the recent John Carpenter resurgence, thanks to a raft of remakes (including one for this), Carpenter’s second film is still something of a cult gem. Brimming with pulp dialogue, the focus is most definitely on cool, on making a memorable impact with each word. Each character is almost defined entirely by their one-liners meaning that the almost mute father character fades into the background, but opposingly, the voiceless bad guys lack of speech makes them all the more menacing. The main group each have their moments, but the best bits go to one of the greatest anti-heroes of them all – Napoleon Wilson. Even his simple refrain ‘Got a smoke?’ becomes gold, but I’m especially partial to his ‘I was born out of time’ line. For such a tense film, Wells provides some brilliant comedy moment, particularly with his save-ass plan: ‘I got this plan. It’s called “Save Ass”. And the way it works is this – I slip outta one of these windows and I run like a bastard!’
23. Big Trouble in Little China. (1986, Carpenter): From one Carpenter classic to another, and from one anti-hero to another. Jack Burton is the 80s Napoleon Wilson, born out of time, always in the wrong place at the wrong time, always ready with a bullet and a quip. This movie has more quips than a stand-up comedian forced to make a deaf, dumb, and blind man laugh or be killed, whatever that means, and the dialogue comes thick, fast, and hammy. It also has a guy with the best/worst sunglasses ever (insert pic) but then again, it also has this (insert freak monster pic). While Wilson was born out of time, Burton was ‘born ready’ and has plenty of inspirational sayings like ‘it’s all in the reflexes’, whatever that means, but it’s when he is panicking that the real gold bubbles to the surface: ‘Tall guy, weird clothes. First you see him, then you don’t.
24. Jurassic Park. (1993, Spielberg): You would think a film about dinosaurs wouldn’t have all that much dialogue in it betwixt all the ROOARRGGHHs and SKKKEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAARRKs and chewing of flesh, but you’d be wrong. Jurassic Park contains several hundred words, and an all-round dialogue filled script, although clearly the focus was on the thunder lizards at release. This was one of the last old-school Spielberg romps and as such we can expect a particular eye for detail and script flourishes. Much of the dialogue does not feel rehearsed, seeming improvised instead, and most of the best moments fall on Jeff Goldblum’s leather clad shoulders. Actually, now that I think about it, this movie would have been so much better if the dinosaurs had had all the lines. Just imagine it from their perspective – Violently ripped from the eternal peace of extinction, a collection of dinosaurs must face off against a horde or white Americans, Santa Claus, and Samuel L Jackson. Classic moments include a husband and wife tag team of raptors attempting to snare a meal of snivelling kids to stave off starvation; a single, sexually tormented T-Rex must resort to eating from a toilet in order to survive; a spittysaurus tries to make friends with an obese man but instead tries to romance him in the back of a jeep. As for dialogue, I find myself shouting ‘Hold onto your butts’ at inappropriate, non-dinosaur related social events.
25. Leon. (1994, Besson): Luc Besson is a French guy who looked at Hollywood and thought ‘Hmm, ze films are not bon anymore, ze need some le garlic, le baguette, and le Johavich’ and lo, Leon was born. Besson already had made a decent career back in gay Paris with a string of hits, including the excellent Subway (which tells of Christoper Lambert’s immortal quest to find the perfect sandwich) and the breakthrough smash Nikita. Leon is an almost perfect movie, with career best performances from all the main stars. Gary Oldman is a baddie, Jean Reno is a baddie too, but because he’s nice and cuddly we’ll forgive him for being a cold-blooeded killer, and Natalie Portman is a little girl whose hateful parents are blasted into oblivion. It’s a thinking man’s action movie, which is unfortunate as thinking men do not typically watch action movies. The film has rightly earned a following over the years, and will soon be remade as ‘Cody’ starring Bieber as the lovable rapist/killer Cody, Emma Whatersface as Natalie Portman, and Ben Kingsly as Baddie, the bad man who wants revenge on Bieber for being the little freak that he is. I’ll let young Miss Portman get the final say here, with a child’s apt view of revenge: ‘Forget? After I’ve seen the outline of my brother’s body on the floor, you expect me to forget? I wanna kill those sons of bitches, and blow their fucking heads off!’
26. Commando. (1985, Lester): Growing up in the 80s and 90s was a wonderful time for movie geeks and those who lurk in everyday water-cooler conversations, waiting for the perfect moment to inexplicably drop a one-liner from a movie no-one else involved in the conversation has seen. If you grew up in the 80s you are action an action movie fan, or a woman. And for action movie fans who love to mix up their mundane daily speech routines with some spicy zingers, you need look no further than any Arnie movie. Commando is probably the most genuine cult movie of his repertoire, as most of his other films from that era are no regarded as classics or worse than drunken sex in a toilet with what you assumed to be a superstar but turned out to be a mushed collection of soiled bog roll. Camp characters with names better than Biceps McTouchem and Napoleon Bonerhard, approximately 14 thousand on screens kills, (and a zinger for each), actors and actresses with either past or future soft-core porn careers, guns, knifes, bombs, and the single greatest ‘preparing for war’ moment in movie history, Commando could be a contender for best movie ever. Roll a few of these around your laughing gear – ‘I eat Green Beret’s for breakfast’, ‘He’s dead tired’, ‘I lied’, ‘Let off some steam, Bennett’, ‘Wrong!’, ‘I’m not going to shoot you between the eyes, I’m going to shoot you between the balls’, and my personal favourite – ‘Fuck you, asshole….Fuck YOU, asshole!’
27. Beauty And The Beast. (1991, Trousdale, Wise): I was an ugly child. I am an ugly man. It is no wonder that this is one of my favourite movies ever, as it speaks to the beautiful, tortured romantic inside me, and the hairy, fanged creature on the outside. Actually, that’s not true, I was a cute kid, and I’m currently sexier than Liz Vicious wrestling with Ivana Fukalot in a giant tub of Hoi Sin sauce (which needs to be a scene in the next Bond movie. Or else). I was, and still am to an extent, a socially awkward buffoon who resorted to fantasy, movies, books, games, music, writing, anything that would shatter the reality of me being a hopeless-with-women bloke. Like all kids I liked a good Disney animation, but it wasn’t until I saw Beauty And The Beast that I truly appreciated the art, and uncovered the truth and cliché that sometimes the underdog can find love – you just need to kidnap a woman and/or her father to get it. Unfortunately, ladies, countless rewatches has turned me into a weirdo as I hold Belle up as the most perfect figure of womanhood who ever had life breathed into her, and you just can’t live up to her. Contemplate that before sending me a sexy Private Message. As for lovely dialogue, hows about the one that most frequently slips from my lips as I hide outside toilets – ‘Zut Alors! She has emerged!’
28. Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s dead. (1991, Herek): If you know anything worth knowing (and the fact that you’re reading this tells me that, sadly, you don’t), you’ll know that 1991 messers Cobain,Grohl, and Novelisc made a wee album called Nevermind, which is named by man as single-handedly putting the 80s to bed, and gently placing a pillow over its face. Music was changed forever, almost overnight it now seems. Movies changed too, but at a more leisurely pace, and in 1991 we got one of the last great cheesy rock movies. The touch of Geffin is all over it, reeking of MTV, 80s cool, and a mix of heavy metal, cock, rock, and cheese. I loved this at the time, but it wasn’t until much later when I revisited it again, and realised what a great script it has, filled with unexpectedly strong humour, one-liners, and satirical twists on The American Dream. So, as much as I like to say ‘The dishes are DONE!’ after cleaning up, and shouting about the ‘buttcrack of dawn’ when I get up, and although Kenny gets the best lines, my favourite line, and joke, in the movie is ”No, I’ve never been to Santa Barbara’.
29. Night of the Living Dead. (1968, Romero): The original modern indie, made by a bunch of amateurs, friends, and family, and going on to being one of the most well-renowned horror movies ever made. The strength of the dialogue is in its realism – everyone is on guard, everyone is constantly in a panic, nobody trusts anyone, and the words coming out of mouths are exactly what I would expect people to say in such a dire situation. I love that it is so cold and, like this article, contains zero humour. Although there are few typical one-liners aside from the obvious ‘Hey Barbara, I’m gonna get ye!’ you would be hard pushed to find a stronger realistic script in the decade. We have to go to the Sheriff to get my favourite lines, classics such as ‘They’re dead, they’re all messed up’ and ‘Beat ’em or burn ’em, they go up pretty easy’.
30. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. (1984, Spielberg): Until Spielberg and Lucas decide to resurrect Dr Jones in the ill-fated ‘Indiana Jones and the Magical Fridge’ (alternative title – Indiana Jones and the load of shite), Temple Of Doom was the least liked in the series. Naturally, this means it has always been my favourite. Sure Raiders has melting Nazis and Crusade has….I can’t remember, but Doom has Short-Round, cliffhanging fights, rope-bridge stand-offs, booby traps, Donkey Kong inspiring races, lava pits, blood drinking, heart-ripping – everything that every kids movie should have. As someone who loved those type of Haggard/Doyle/Verne/Burroughs movies which always featured sinking sand, giant spiders, and always ended with a volcano erupting, this was the epitome. It was a fantasy, but set in a realistic world. It was just real enough to make me think that some wacky priest could crawl out of my toilet and whisk me away to some underground slave trade, but thanks to short-round made me think that I could probably beat my way through thousands of baddies and get home safe. My most quoted line – especially when I run out of ANYTHING? ‘No more parachutes!’
Please share your pearls of wise-assdom in the comments!
As a fan of the more extreme side of cinema, I ask you to join me, as I explore the history of Cinema's most extreme movies with all the sex, violence and symbolism intact. I'm here to reflect on the extreme movies that have come and gone to see what they mean, see what makes them so extreme, and of course, see if they're any good.