It's a hard question to answer. I'm no film fanatic like my brother, but I do enjoy a wide range of films, and more recently I feel like I've watched a metric ton of them. This list isn't the be all end all of the films (they are in no particular order) I love, but its definitely a good indication of which ones I rate higher than all others. In the future, I'd like to do one of these for Music Albums, TV Shows and Video Games, being the all-media consuming millennial I am.
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen and Dylan Moran
Coming off the very entertaining film The Guard, Irish director John Michael McDonagh took a turn for the dark in Calvary. It's a beautifully shot, perfectly paced and impeccably acted by such names as Aiden Gillan (Littlefinger from Game of Thrones), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, Star Wars VII, and yes, son of Brendan), and even an out of place Chris O'Dowd (IT Crowd). Playing into the modern issues surrounding the Church and its image, I feel this is one of the more personal takes on the big screen, and definitely gets the viewer to think again about the establishment from the inside. There is so much I would love to write on this film (I've attempted three times to write a review on it, but to no avail), but I think you just need to watch it.
Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker
Starring: Robert Hayes, Julie Hagerty, Peter Graves, Leslie Nielsen and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
If I was ever asked to give a film that could surmise my sense of humour, then I think Airplane is perhaps the best example I could produce. Quotes like "Oh stewardess, I speak jive" from an elderly female passenger, and the frequent puns delivered by Neilsen such as his deadpan response to the line "Surely you can't be serious," "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley," are just some examples of the most fun I've had in a film ever. It's beyond ridiculous - no two seconds go by without another delivery of a pun or terrible joke, but its not the poor humour we are given in modern film such as anything Adam Sandler has released in the last 10 years. I think what really pleases me about this film is that none of the actors had done comedy before this film - Not even Nielsen who went on to do films such as the Naked Gun Series.
Director: Errol Morris
Starring: Robert McNamara
I love documentaries, I love them a lot. Hell, I could easily fill this list entirely with every documentary under the sun from Jiro Dreams of Sushi, David Gelb's wonderful film on legendary sushi maker Jiro Ono, to the arcade gaming documentary King of Kong - however there is always one that stands out for me, always asking for a rewatch at least once a year. Robert McNamara was the Secretary of Defence for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, overseeing the Vietnam War. Because of this he is generally vilified by many a critics for the part he played not only then, but also his role in World War II and the Cold War as a whole. This film doesn't provide counterpoints to that - there are plenty of times he comes across as that villain so many people make him out to be, but at the same time, Morris (Thin Blue Line) has structure and questions laid out such that you find it very hard to damn McNamara for his actions. On one hand you respect the man, but on the other (as he mentions in the film) if the Allies had lost no doubt he would have been tried for War Crimes. Truly a pinnacle of not only documentaries, but also journalism at its finest.
Director: John Woo
Starring Tony Chiu Wai Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Fengyi Zhang, Chen Chang and Wei Zhao.
Before I start, the Red Cliff I'm talking about here is the 5 hour version. Yup, 5 hours (There is a smaller, 148 minute version that was released for Western audiences). Set in the Three Kingdoms period China (~220 AD), it centers around Cao Cao on a warpath to eliminate the remaining southern War Lords Sun Quan and Liu Bei. I haven't been able to watch it for a couple years (5 hours is a long time to put aside for a film), but the epic scale of this film reminds me of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, if you just tripled the number of actors, removed the fantasy elements, and concentrated on raw combat a little more on the side. I find it really hard to sell this film to others. Not only is it entirely Chinese (the largest Chinese film to date), it's overly long running time puts off even the most avid film viewers - Which is a shame, I feel. Woo has always been plagued by the lack of movement in the mainstream Western audiences, with his take on the Mission Impossible franchise, M:i 2 bombing, I feel this film redeems him somewhat. So, yeah, if you ever have a rainy day, like a whole day, I recommend this one.
PS. You'll recognise a lot of the characters if you've ever played a Dynasty Warriors game (screw you Lu Bu.)
Director David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara and Armie Hammer.
Not only is this one of my favourite films of all time, it's probably in the running for my most viewed film of all time. Coming out around the time I was beginning my NCEA (kinda like GCSE's or SAT's, but for New Zealand), and around the time I was deciding that I wanted a job in IT, it's hard to deny this movie pushed me to make the next Facebook -as cliche as that sounds. Obviously, I'll never do that, but it's that frustration, that annoyance that I could never do what these guys did (despite being hyper-fictionalised) that kept me going with my ambitions of working in the software industry. Five years on, every watch of this film just has the same effect on me - start a company, see how it goes, make money along the way. It's kinda hard to explain, actually. In a filmic sense, The Social Network is phenomenal - David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, House of Cards), Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame) become a cohesive trifector of filming, story writing and composition respectively to form perhaps one of the greatest tellings of a modern phenomenon, no matter how fictionalised it may be.
Directors: George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Richard Marquand, JJ Abrams
I don't really need to say much here. While my brother was the bigger fan, I can never deny how much the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy has had on my pop culture image. When the Force Awakens was released, I was there for the premiere and I loved every minute of it. I've loved these films more than any other, and I know I'm going to love them forever, no matter what they become under the lead of Disney.
Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haasm, Emilie de Ravin and Noah Fliess
Johnson's (Looper, Star Wars VIII) film debut, this neo-noir is a slow moving nod to classic noir films like Double Indemnity, Maltese Falcon and Chinatown. Although on first watch, it's an odd thing to see what are meant to be high-school aged actors playing the weary, street-wise elders as seen in many other noir films - its as if kids don't yet have the right to be noir characters. However, Johnson cleanly executes a modern take on the genre, adhering to the all important stereotypes that made noir one of the most stylistic genres in film history - femme fetales, a kingpin and hell, the Principal of the school is more of a Police Chief than the man in charge of a school. I'll say it now, this film is not the easiest film to watch the first time, a lot of what happens will go over your head, meaning that the second and third time you watch it a lot more will present itself. As daunting as this sounds, I don't think there is a better film to enjoy the third or fifth time like Brick.
Director: Sergio Leone
Starring: Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson and Gabriele Ferzetti
When asked to name a Western, most people will probably straight out say The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Not me - Once Upon a Time in the West is perhaps one of the greatest films ever made, and far and beyond my favourite western film ever made. Leone (The Good the Bad and the Ugly, and every other Spaghetti Western) creates an Opera of Silence in this two-and-a-half hour epic, where the opening scene is a long period of just waiting for a shootout, where the only sounds you hear is the squeak of a rusty windmill and a drip of the railroad water tower. Thats what is perhaps the most brilliant thing about Leone in this film - he could have edited this in a way to make it a quick, 80 minute film, but instead he breaks down each shot into its basic components, allowing the viewer to take in the small details, to understand the small dramas that go on in this greatest of westerns.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine and David Bowie
It's not the highest rated Nolan (Inception, Interstellar, The Dark Knight Trilogy) film, but I think its my favourite. Jackman (X-Men and Wolverine) and Bale (American Psycho, Dark Knight Trilogy) play two English magicians, which after an-even-that-shall-not-be-spoilt go to great lengths to not only ruin each others career, but also their lives as well. It deals greatly in the themes of sacrifice and the cost of being great, as well as structuring itself much like the magic tricks portrayed in the film; "The Pledge, the Turn and the Prestige." How that is done, I'll leave to you to interpret. I enjoyed this film so much, that in my final year of high school, in my English exam, I wrote my film essay on The Prestige, rather than the assigned Corialanus, a decision I made an hour before the exam, and I managed to get high marks. Whether or not that a testament to the NCEA system, or that The Prestige is just a multi layered cinematic experience is a question for another day.
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Starring: Sandra Bullock, and George Clooney.
Long story short, if you didn't see this in theatres, you've missed out. I recommend not seeing this if you don't have the best home theatre system you can buy, because this has to be one of the greatest cinematic experiences I've ever had, and probably one of the best of the last decade. Watching it on your home computer will not do it justice enough, so you're just going to have to hope that it is re-released sometime in the future.
- John Wick (2014)
- Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)
- Toy Story 1, 2 and 3 (1995, 1999 and 2010)
- The Good, The Bad and the Weird (2008)
- Schindlers List (1993)
- American Psycho (2000)
- What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
- Inception (2010)
- Memento (2000)
- Seven Psychopaths (2012)
- The Raid 1 and 2 (2011 and 2014)
- Oceans 11, 12 and 13 (2001, 2004 and 2007)
- Lord of the Rings 1, 2 and 3 (2001, 2002 and 2003)
- The Harry Potter Films - 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7/8 (2001 through to 2011)
- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)