The internet is awash with nerdy lists of favourite films, we really don’t need any more. However, as you can imagine I get asked this one a lot, so forgive me a rare moment of self indulgence and let me tell you.
At the very least it might save some time as I can point interrogators in the direction of this blog.
Of course, given the number of films I’ve seen it’s impossible to pick an outright favourite, so I have a list in my head that I tend to wheel out when needed. I’m not suggesting for a moment my opinion is particularly important, but people seem curious. The list is not especially difficult and frankly if you’ve lived long enough you really should have seen most of them already.
I’m often surprised by how many of the films people haven’t seen, which means as the list progresses the questioner generally starts to have the look of someone wishing they’d never asked.
That’s not my fault is it? You asked, so I’m telling you.
So in no particular order:
Five Easy Pieces
USA 1970 Dir: Bob Rafelson
Made at the vanguard of that brief shining moment in the seventies when Hollywood gatekeepers let their guard down and allowed new talent to make intelligent , provocative cinema.
A rare American film that deals with class, featuring Jack Nicholson at his best, before he became too showy. All involved operating at the top of their game.
2001: A Space Odyssey
UK/USA 1968 Dir: Stanley Kubrick
2001 is an enormous film, taking man from ape to beyond human. There’s a theory this film had it’s most profound impact on children simply because they weren’t fighting Kubrick’s refusal to make concessions to the audience and actually explain what was going on. Much has been written but if you’re feeling hardcore, this analysis by the then 15 year old Margaret Stackhouse which Kubrick himself considered among the most intelligent remarks about his film is very much worth reading.
USA 1979 Dir: Francis Ford Coppola
A film whose process of creation was as insane as the war it portrays. Produced on a scale both large and small that would be inconceivable in today’s Hollywood.
USA 1999 Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
A precocious dazzling piece of showing off from Anderson. A film that fires on all cylinders from the start and becomes an utterly irresistible force. Inferior copies of its multi layered story lines now abound.
Hable con Ella (Talk to Her)
Spanish director Almodovar’s film is more controlled than those that came before. Full of longing and humanity.
USA 1968 Dir: Mel Brooks
This just shades Blazing Saddles for sheer delightful absurdity. The opening exchange between Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder remains one of the funniest sequences ever filmed, driven by its own twisted internal logic the characters come to life brilliantly. Still has the power to make you marvel at it’s glorious lack of taste.
UK 1970 Dir: Donald Cammell Nicholas Roeg
Mind bending, free wheeling and completely bonkers. Somehow its meaning always feels just out of reach and each time you see it more of it’s layers are revealed. Only cinema could come up with something like this.
USA 1977 Dir: Woody Allen
The perfect balance between funny Woody and intellectual Woody. It’s shifting narrative line is a joy and the comedy is still painfully true.
All About Eve
USA 1950 Dir: Joseph L Mankiewicz
We can only dream of seeing something this sharp and acidic today. A perfect script performed by a perfect cast.
All That Jazz
USA 1979 Dir: Bob Fosse
Probably narcissistic, but a thrilling insight into Fosse’s mind. Plays like a self fulfilling prophecy.
UK 1985 Dir: Terry Gilliam
For years it held the record for the lowest take in a week at Uckfield. Shame on you all. Gilliam’s imagination given free reign is a wonder to behold.
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
UK 1943 Dir: Michael Powell Emeric Pressburger
Towering film from a golden age of British cinema. Roger Livesey is brilliant as the eponymous Colonel, but Anton Walbrook steals the film from under him as the German whose world is turned upside down. A film about the whole of life.
The Sheltering Sky
Not everyone’s cup of tea I know, but it’s my list after all. Never tire of watching the marvelous Debra Winger and Vittorio Storaro’s breathtaking images. Characters adrift in an alien landscape.
Trois Couleurs: Bleu (Three Colours: Blue)
France 1993 Dir: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Heartbreaking and honest film about grief. Full of Kieslowski’s trademark moments that you may not notice the first time.
The Ice Storm
US 1997 Dir: Ang Lee
Beautifully paced and ultimately very moving tale of desperate suburban lives. Sigourney Weaver stands out and Mychael Danna’s haunting score stays with you long after it finishes.
Harold and Maude
US 1971 Dir: Hal Ashby
Pretty much any Hal Ashby is fine by me, but I come back to this one most often. A film about life and death and great songs by Cat Stevens.
To be honest, I hated writing this list because I left so many out. Proving what a daft idea the notion of a favourite film is.
Mind you the list of bad films would be even longer.