20: A Chinese Ghost Story (HK)
Regular Glancers will know I grew up with Bruce Lee movies, and as such I would hunt out anything which sounded like it would have people knocking seven Tibetan shades of shite out of each other. If it had a Horror element – even better! I didn’t know what to make of A Chinese Ghost Story when I first watched it – was it going to be a straight horror movie, was it going to feature zany kung fu masters tackling creatures from Chinese folklore I had zero experience of? It’s all of those things, none of those things, and more. It’s weird. It’s funny. It has a love story. It has trees. It features the gorgeous Joey Wong and the legendary Leslie Cheung in some of their most famous work. It’s one of Tsui Hark’s best movies. It stars Cheung as a nobody, a debt collector who happens to stumble into a rural temple to find somewhere to sleep, falls in love with a tortured ghost, and tried to rescue her soul from Hell. It’s not the first movie to start with in your Hong Kong Cinema journey, but it should be one of the first ten.
19: Withnail And I (UK)
You’ll have seen from my Least Favourite Movies posts, that I’m not a fan of British Comedies. TV shows – absolutely – we’re the best in the world in that regard, but when it comes to movies the reliance on self-titled quirky characters and romance leaves me cold. As with anything there are exceptions – Withnail And I being a prime example. There’s no attempt to hold a sign over a character’s head to scream ‘I’m the quirky one’, there’s no romance in the traditional sense. It’s just two blokes heading away for a weekend in the country so they can get drunk and moan about being actors. Japes occur. It’s all about the performances and the dialogue. It looks (purposefully) shit, the soundtrack is great, and it barely has an ending or a plot, but it’s brilliant.
18: City On Fire (HK)
There was a decided turn in the 1980s away from period action movies, costume and history oriented martial arts fare, towards contemporary, gun based action. Tarantino famously borrowed several scenes and pieces of dialogue from City On Fire, a Ringo Lam movie starring Chow Yun Fat as an undercover cop who infiltrates a gang of robbers and ends up in a Mexican Standoff in a warehouse, with police surrounding them outside. Sound familiar? It doesn’t have the quirks and cools and non-linear framing of Reservoir Dogs, but it has Chow Yun Fat and a tonne of action and energy. It was one of a series of the heroic bloodshed type movies which came out of HK in this era, and is one of the best.
17: Planes, Trains, And Automobiles (US)
Likely to be the only Steve Martin vehicle to grace any of my Favourites lists, this one succeeds because of John Hughes, John Candy, and in spite of Martin. Who, to his credit, is fine but plays the same plain white bread guy he always does. Thanksgiving doesn’t mean shit to anyone outside of the US, so I always viewed this as a Christmas movie. Chicago in November looks like Christmas anyway. As its John Candy you can expect lots of zany laughs, and as it’s Hughes you know you’re in for an offbeat heart-warming tale.
16: Good Morning, Vietnam (US)
Robin Williams, letting rip, completely off the leash.
15: The Princess Bride (US)
I always start any conversation about The Princess Bride by saying I’m not its biggest fan – mainly because there are those who worship the thing. I like it, it’s great, but there are better movies, and I have more favourites – many more this year alone. I love the story in a story nature of it, and it’s another in a line of excellent fantasy oriented kids movies which don’t feel like they are patronising its intended audience. While much of the humour also suits adults, it’s still not a movie for that age range. It’s strong enough, funny enough, well acted and written enough to be enjoyed by all ages, but at its heart it’s an escapist adventure movie for lonely kids.
14: The Living Daylights (UK)
A lesser loved Bond movie, Dalton led the series into its grittiest, darkest period, many years before Zack Snyder misinterpreted overlong running times and blue tints for emotion. Dalton’s Bond may have still quipped, may have still got the ladies, but he was doing a job for Queen and Country, his humour of the gallows, a defence mechanism of being exposed to death and mayhem in all its ugly forms. In The Living Daylights, Bond is embroiled in a Soviet Tug of War, and ends up faffing about in a Cargo plane in Afghanistan. It’s not the most exciting story in the series and it’s unlikely to be anyone’s favourite, but it sets the darker tone, re-establishes the formula, and gives Dalton a chance to shine.
13: Lethal Weapon (US)
A number of genres, in their own way, signify the 1980s. The Buddy Cop movie is one of those, and Lethal Weapon is probably the most famous of the genre, establishing and cementing cliches, the laughs, the action, and the ‘buddiness’. Gibson is the unhinged wildcard set alongside Glover’s close to retirement, by the book veteran. Together, they investigate the apparent suicide of one of Glover’s friend’s daughters. Initially wary of each other, their respect and relationship grows, and jokes and action, and a fair amount of introspection and darkness pours out. It’s one of those movies which epitomises the decade – over the top, big budget thrills, violent, fun, stylized, but it’s the script and the cast which make it memorable above the pretenders.
12: Full Metal Jacket (US/UK)
Stanley Kubrick takes on War again, and again crafts a seminal piece of Cinema. Similar to Westerns, I wasn’t into War movies in my youth, feeling too stilted and macho but lacking any flair or action. Full Metal Jacket was one of those movies, along with The Great Escape and Platoon, to wise me up. It would become the archetype of many movies to come – not merely in the War genre – dividing into two distinct parts with a bootcamp/training section, and a battle/War section. There’s more to it, but that’s one of the most famous aspects of the film which people continue to bring up. The Dirty Dozen had done something similar two decades earlier, but Kubrick uses both to show the horror of the institution over and above the horrors of war. Supremely acted, written, and directed, it’s one of the most must see movies of the decade.
11: Evil Dead 2 (US)
A sequel, remake, and one of those in-betweeny things, Raimi, Campbell, and fans return to up the ante and double down on the slapstick humour of the first movie. What it loses in scares, it makes up for gore effects, and Raimi continues with his inventive camera techniques and visceral insanity. One of the great ‘modern’ horror movies.
10: The Untouchables (US)
Somehow such an underrated film, especially when weighed up alongside the big boys like Goodfellas and The Godfather, which I have always felt deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those. De Niro is hamming it up and having the time of his life, Kevin Costner is melting hearts as a moral, upstanding husband, daddy, and good guy, Sssshean Connery is the grandad, and Andy Garcia is fucking awesome as always. Charles Martin Smith is at his best, Billy Drago is one of Cinema’s finest henchmen, the soundtrack is excellent, the suits are on point, but it’s DePalma’s movie; he cranks up the tension, controls the mood and tempo, and ensures that it’s a film about family as much as, but in a vastly different way from, The Godfather and Goodfellas are.
9: Hellraiser (UK)
Arguably the film which has come closest to showing us what a nightmare looks and feels like. Hellraiser, like much of Barker’s work, is about ideas; Barker’s worlds and words are brimming with ideas, invention, puzzles, and dubious morality – a constant ebb and flow between opposing, looping factions. Hellraiser concerns a family moving into a new home and resurrecting the bloody corpse of a murderous relative who wishes to continue from where he left off, exploring the darkest desires of humanity for his own enjoyment. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for us, there are others beyond our world who enjoy pleasure and pain more than he, and take great delight at dragging it out of his flesh. It’s such a grime and dirt ridden, low-budget film that it’s extraordinary just how extraordinary it looks. The cast look like they’ve survived a Tim Burton dream he was too scared to finish, the Cenobites are a fantastic inclusion to the Horror world, and it’s bloody, bleak, and beautiful in its own horrific way.
8: The Running Man (US)
One of Arnie’s more maligned movies – it’s neither the big action smash of Predator nor the family friendly fun of Twins, but it’s somewhere in between, a loose adaptation of Stephen King’s nihilistic tale of a broken society, interspersed by James Bond one-liners. An early Battle Royale. It’s a future where gameshows and TV are still the primary form of entertainment, but rather than winning a million quid by answering questions (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire), or gaining adoration for being a racist sex hungry asshole (Big Brother), society has regressed to a more bloodthirsty, gladiatorial time. Criminals (guilty or otherwise) are thrown into an expansive game arena and pitted against a variety of games and fan-favourite warriors in a literal game to the death.
It’s such a lot of fun – the one-liners, the costumes, the cast, the idea of all these muscle-bound boyos duking it out for freedom or the adoration of the baying crowd. There’s an epic head explosion in the early moments, there’s Richard Dawson hamming it up, and there’s such an ugly 80s coke-fuelled haze over it – wonderful stuff. You just know when they remake it, they’re going to take all of the fun out.
7: Dream Warriors (US)
Speaking of fun, Dream Warriors is the most entertaining film in the Elm Street franchise. We largely ignore the events of the second movie, and instead re-unite cast members from the original with a new breed of tormented kids. Freddy is back, and he’s stalking the kids of some kind of medical/psychiatric institution. Nancy learns of this and comes back to finish off Krueger once and for all. While the first movie introduced the idea of a killer attacking you in your sleep, Dream Warriors doubles down on the dream logic of fighting back – in your dreams you can be a super-powered version of yourself and therefore the kids each use their own strengths and character traits to go on the offensive. Patricia Arquette and Lawrence Fishbourne appear, Langenkamp and Saxon return, and of course Englund is on top form. It’s inventive in its look and effects, is peppered with one-liners and interesting ideas, and it moves it a rip-roaring pace. It’s not exactly haunting or scary in the same way as the first movie was, but what it lacks in scares it makes up for in action.
6: Citizens On Patrol (US)
I’m an unashamed Police Academy fan. As a Cinema fan, they’re not exactly high art, and outside of the first film they’re barely coherent entertainment. But I love them. COP is my favourite sequel, giving us more of the original bunch, the return of Harris, more Zed, and fun new characters. It’s ridiculously silly, but there are more laugh out loud moments here for me, than probably every comedy released in the last ten years. It’s a capsule to my childhood, it’s nostalgic outside of my own experiences, and it’s good old fashioned summery, carefree Hollywood escapism.
5: Prince Of Darkness (US)
It’s in my TTT John Carpenter’s post
4: Near Dark (US)
TT Of The Decade.
3: The Lost Boys (US)
TT Of The Decade.
2: Predator (Top Ten Of All Time) (US)
TT Of The Decade.
1: Robocop (Top Ten Of All Time) (US)
TT Of The Decade.
Let us know your favourites in the comments!