My All Time Top Ten… Movies


1. The Insider (Michael Mann)

michael-mann-the-insider

Why? Well because of everything. This is the movie that it is hard to find fault with anywhere. Michael Mann’s directing style is unique and this is the best in his repertoire. His use of low level lighting and tight angles is used to best effect here.

This is also arguably Russel Crowe’s best movie. Bulking up to play the character of Jeffrey Wigand  alongside Al Pacino he has the conviction to pull off the role of whistle blower for big tobacco firm Brown & Williamson. Pacino too is full of verve, exploring the character of CBS news journalist Lowell Bergman with real depth and passion.

They are supported by a number of great cameo’s from the likes of Christopher Plummer (who’s brilliant monologue during the threat of legal action is award winning), Gina Gershon as Mrs Wigand struggling with the pressure put on their family, Bruce McGill and Colm Feore as the law team set up to defend the Wigand’s, against Michael Gambon‘s prosecution.

The fantastic script (of which I have a copy) keeps the 2 hours of the film moving right along. The soundtrack is also exceptional (Pieter Biourke and Lisa Gerard also did the soundtrack for Gladiator). The closing version of Massive Attack’s Safe From Harm (Perfecto Mix) is perfect justice at the end of the perfect movie.

2. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott)

Title - Bladerunner

For all it’s flaws this movie is still the most long-standing over-watched classic escapist sci fi epic there is! Ridley Scott’s greatest cinematic triumph. An awesome cast, beautifully lit and shot, fantastic visual effects, classic acting, an awesome soundtrack, a beautiful heroine – what more do you need!

There’s a good ‘making of’ story to boot in the form of Channel 4’s On The Edge of Darkness, presented By Mark Kermode, in which hero Harrison Ford (who plays troubled cop Deckard) and villain Rutger Hauer (Roy Batty – a Nexus 6 ‘Replicant’ android) battle it out for lead role.

But it’s the escapist fantasy of Los Angeles in 2039 (God is it only that far away!), the grainy reality of a dystopian future, and the empathy you develop for the replicant heroine who doesn’t even know she’s a replicant that seals it for me.

Watch for similarities between the terrific ‘patricide’ scene (when Roy Batty meets and kills his maker, Dr Elden Tyrrell) and the same scene in Galdiator when Joaquim Phoenix takes Cesars life – the two are almost interchangeable!

3. Gladiator (Ridley Scott)

ridley-scott-gladiator

The second Ridley Scott film here this epic has everything: cast (Russel Crowe, Oliver Reed, Joaquim Phoenix, Connie Neilson etc), script, special effects, DTS surround soundtrack, lighting.

Gladiator for me is all about space: the space between scenes, people, the Roman Empire itself, the lighting, music, etc – it has such an aura of impressive scale it draws you in with a story that everyone has some accord with.

It’s an emotional epic that will stand the test of time.

4. Avatar (James Cameron)

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This went straight in at 2 when i saw it, but retrospectively has slipped down to 4 for the simple reason that I need to see it again to cement it firmly in above Blade Runner and Gladiator!

This movie represents the singularly most amazing cinematic movie experience I have ever had. Indeed it comes high up on the list of life experiences. I left the cinema on an absolute high, feeling not unlike the last time I did LSD (some 20 years ago).

A lot has been said about the withdrawal symptoms that this film has left a lot of people with. I agree with the fact that the emersion experience is immense, and the fact that the subtle use of 3D tops it, but for me it was the affinity with our hero. When he is plugged in to his avatar and gets the use of his legs bak it is such an intense empathetic moment it is only when you are ‘unplugged’ at the end of the film that you feel like you are left with some part of you missing. It’s just genius!

Perhaps unlike Blade Runner there is something here for everyone. Indeed it is Titanic in space! A good love story, and a traditional good vs evil plot line is all it takes, but my God the way Cameron has used cinematic effect to bridge the usual audience/screen experience was worth all the effort, has cemented a milestone in cinema, and will be emulated for years to come.

5. The Godfather Trilogy (Francis Ford Coppola)

coppola-the-godfather

OK, OK, I know I can’t have all three, but this is my list right, so tough luck. In fact if I compare it to other trilogies it still deserves to be up there.

6. Heat (Michael Mann)

michael-mann-heat

The second Michael Mann film of three in my top ten, and the one released prior to my number one – The Insider. It’s a bit of a love hate with Heat. It’s a long film and it always absolutely grips me – I can also watch it time and time again, but there’s something stopping me from liking it more.

It certainly deserves to be up there though, if only (as any cinema buff should know) because it marks the first (and only) cinematic moment where the two greats of their generation — Robert De Niro and Al Pacino – come together on screen in the epic ending to the movie.

Great plot, good cameo’s, but specifically Al Pacino is on fire here.

7. Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg)

spielberg-saving-private-ryan

When documentary type movies are done well they always appeal to me, and like The Insider Saving Private Ryan is brilliantly and accurately portrayed.

Here Spielberg spends top dollar on recreating (in the opening scenes) the terror of the Normandy landings to most dramatic effect. But it’s the way that the characters are built up through the course of the movie that really appeals. There are beautiful scenes between teh main action pieces when the great cameo actors are given the time and the chance to develop their personas and convey characters with alot of inner turmoil. Hell even Vin Diesel does well.

Amongst the cameo’s are some of my favourite actors: Tom Sizemore, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, and Giovanni Ribisi.

However it is of course the fantastic finale that wins the ultimate vote. The amazing production during the imminent and inevitable last stand scores a huge win on the home cinema :)

8. Miami Vice (Michael Mann)

michal-mann-miami-vice

The final Michael Mann film in the top ten and amongst the three the one that is most reflective of my blokey, gadget led lifestyle in that it is the most stylised and dynamic of all three. By this I mean that (even more than Collateral) Mann pushes the boundary of the capabilities of the boundaries of the capabilities of film itself, using extreme dark scenes with great over exposure of darkness and colour, without degradation, and a cracking soundtrack to boot.

In fact I could have listed all of his filmography (maybe apart from his pre-’83 stuff, oh and the Last of the Mohicans!)

Highlights: Ferrari’s, night clubs, music, speedboats, mojito’s, guns, grenades, hispanic accents… low lights – why Colin Farrel of course, but this is his best role.

More on Michael Mann on IMDB – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000520/

9. Alien (Ridley Scott)

ridley-scott-alien

Need I say more… expect maybe that I shouldda included Aliens too! But this film was made when I was 12 – that’s 1979 – and it is still an awesome testament, not only to science fiction, but to cinema as a whole.

The effects, atmosphere, time, space, all of it, are unfaultable.

10. Star Wars Sextology (George Lucas)

george-lucas-star-wars

Every boys dream, and now becoming my boys dream, the best of escapist cinema (apart from episode 2 which is schlock).

Just off the list:

  • Caddyshack (Harold Ramis) – and top of the list for best film quotes
  • Freebie and The Bean (Richard Rush) – James Caan and Alan Arkin have their finest moments in this classic cop caper
  • The Matrix (Wachowski brothers) – a great trilogy, but this first movie is an absolute classic, and should be remade exactly the same but without Keanu Reeves
  • 2001 (Stanly Kubrick) – at least one Kubrick film should have been in there, but alas no. This is still a miracle of cinema – made in 1968, and featuring that wonderful Strauss waltz.

Other classics (and this list could go on a while):

  • Withnail & I – Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann in their finest moments, and don’t forget Jimmy Hendrix, Uncle Monty (the “terrible cunt”), and Presuming Ed’s Camberwell Carrot!
  • Duel (Steven Spielberg) – did you know that Spielberg used the sound of the truck going over the edge of the cliff at the end of the movie for the scene in Jaws where the shark gets blown up?!
  • Blues Brothers (John Landis) – has to be in there somewhere as I’ve watched it more tan any other movie ever, as should Beverley Hills Cop, from the same director and Trading Places (Tony Scott) …all three of these for some fantastic quotes: “I ain’t gonna fall for the banana in the tail pipe”.

Less common gems:

Best car chases:

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