I was recently asked by a friend to come up with what I saw as the 30 best movies of all time, now normally i suck at doing lists of this nature, but seeing as I work in film, I had no real choice but to do as asked of me, so here we go, this is my list of what I see as the top 30 movies of all time.
Number 30: Watership Down
when I was a child I saw this movie for the first time, and I have to tell you it scared the crap out of me. See, Watership Down is a kids movie, from an era when they weren't really all that worried about the "mental trauma" that dark and violent images put on screen animated or not, would really do to kids, now that might seem horrific by today's standards, in the late 1970s it wasn't an issue. Which is good, because I gotta tell you, this movie might be about cute fuzzy rabbits all living in a field in England, but a cute and fuzzy tale this is NOT. With out going too much into detail its a dark and at times frightening allegory for human society as told through the world of rabbits. Its dark and haunting and just insanely brilliant. Its based on the book of the same name, and though there are some key changes, they aren't enough to really make the movie unwatchable, infact if anything they make the story more robust and meaningful, even if somewhere in the area of 5 rabbits were dropped from the film adaption. There is also a very rare canadian made animated series that was based on this, it took elements of the book and the movie and fused them all together, and is truly as dark as one can get with out making it horror.
Number 29: It Happened Here
Loosely based on the book "The Man In The High Castle", this 1966 British film which holds the record for the longest production in history (taking 8 years to make). It tells what would happen if we had lost World War 2. Its a tale of how England, and by proxy the world, were betrayed by the British Nazi sympathizers which, well, judging by the outcry of the people of england at the time of the film's release, were still a pretty dark and forgotten part of their past. Kind of like this film in alot of ways, its only real mention in a vague reference in "A Day In The Life" by The Beatles. Given the nature of how the film progresses and the matter of it in general, the whole underground working with the enemy to instill their being able to rule things for them after they take over, that whole thing, it didn't sit well with the people of the world, and among the many controverial films of that time period, "It Happened Here" was saddly and quietly pushed into a dark little corner and forgotten about by most. Which is a shame, its lack of any actual actors, aside from Sebastian Shaw (who later played a young Anakin Skywalker in the original Star Wars Trilogy) and Reginald Marsh (who was well known for many of his television teledrams and sci fi work), makes the film have a sort of film school feel to it, its truly a forgotten gem that should be brought back to life.
Number 28: Doctor Strangelove
In the 1960s Cinema kind of went through this world wide artistic revolution, you had the foundations of modern film making starting to rise up from the teachings of the masters of the golden age, it was a beautiful thing. When it comes down to the argument of the greatest of that era though, many names come up, one of the strong contenders for the title has always been the brilliantly comical cold war allegory "Doctor Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb", a brilliant dark comedy about how the world is always on the every edge for nuclear holocaust, now this probably doesn't found like the kind of thing one should laugh at really, but you need to understand that time of the world, the second world war is far in the rearview mirror, and communism spreading like a rampant paranoia agent across the country, it was the perfect time. It also helps that this movie perfectly showcased Peter Sellers genius, and also made anyone thats ever seen it wanna ride an atomic bomb. Just amazing.
Number 27: Thriller: A Cruel Picture
I should warn you readers now, if you are offended by movies that have unsettlingly graphic violence or brief unsimulated sexual imagery (I'll explain in a minute), then please don't go and find this film, yes its one of the best I've ever seen, but well some just can't get past just how dark it is. See, Thriller falls into two catagories; Sexplotation and Revenge, both staples of the Grindhouse era of movies. What makes it stand out though, is the fact that Thriller basically punches you in the face from start to end, it starts with a young beautiful girl named Frigga/Madeleine, she was raped as a child, which leaves her traumatized and mute. She ends up with a man who gets her addicted to heroin, and then later forces her to prostitute for him, she at one point refuses a client and is stabbed in the eye for it. From this point she snaps inside, she starts to stockpile money, learning how to drive for herself and how to properly shoot the guns she's buying unknown to her pimp, once she feels she's ready, she starts to hunt down and kill every man who's ever harmed her. She leaves a bloody trail all the way to the men that raped her when she was younger. This movie is the main inspiration for the movie Kill Bill, and has never really seen a proper release here in many countries given that the sex scenes are not simulated as in most movies, though a body double was used for the few on screen genitalia images, film people still argue if the movie actually crosses the line into pornography, much like brilliant and important movies David and Lisa, I'm Curious (blue/Yellow), Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, Baise-Moi and Shortbus, so the debate goes on, personally, I don't care, brilliant, even if dark and twisted is brilliant still, just ben an adult about it.. lol
Number 26: Carnival of Souls
There are plenty of movies that one could argue define horror, infact there are three others on this list, but for me, the definite of old hollywood horrors hs to be Carnival of Souls. There is just something magical about it, how it was filmed, how it was acted, how it was written, all of it, down to every detail makes this a classic for me, every shot could be seen as a picture, and i love that. Sure the plot is abit on the spooky side, an organist survives a car crash that kills her friends, she becomes emotionally and mentally distant to the world and only shows emotion to her organ. Her depression and loneliness drive her to slowly crack and she finally does, outside of Salt Lake City where she becomes entangled with a mysterious Carnival set up on the banks of a river long outside of town which speeds her decent into madness, and eventually gives you the twist ending that knocks you for a loop if you don't see it coming. Oh sure, by today's standards it might not be much, but the twist ending of this film inspired directors like Hitchcock among others to do it too, all the way up to today with directors like M. Knight Shamalah and Steven Black to name afew. Also, if you can, forget the remake in 1998, it was a horrible film and should be forgotten.
Number 25: Five Came Back
I've always loved the old hollywood style, the big lavish productions, the whole feel of it, that magic that any dream or story can become reality, its just such a lovely thing, and is why I became a movie critic infact. One of the films I feel defines that concept best, is 1939's Five Came Back. This film, a disaster film before there was such a term, is possibly one of the greatest studies in human culture and behavior, atleast in context of being played out as a story. A small plane clashes over the Amazon Jungle during a powerful storm, its knocked so far off its target path there is no real chance of a rescue plane finding them, the only option is to repair the engines and get it in the air, while the two surviving members of the flight crew do that, the passengers clear a runway for the plane. Its in doing this that you learn each of them and their backstories, each different and from different walks of life. Judson and Alice, the rich couple eloping because their families don't approve of their love, Henry and Martha, an older couple who seem to be slowly distancing themselves from each other, Pete, the mob gunman who's escorting Timmy, the son of his boss on the flight, Peggy, a "woman of ill repute" (played by a very young Lucille Ball), Vasquez the anarchist and Mr. Crimp, his jailer. With Bill and Joe, the surviving members of the flight crew, this makes 11 total. As the film goes along, you see each of them change in some dramatic ways, some are killed by villagers, villagers who in the end cause an oil leak that will cause the plane to only fly on one engine a short time after it gets in the air, this means that only 5 of them will be able to make it out alive, the rest will be left to die. Truly a beautiful film, plus, it was the inspiration for the 1967 episode of Star Trek "The Galileo Seven", which is, pretty cool i think.
Number 24: And Soon The Darkness
I've always loved a good mental thriller, just something about them I just love, And Soon The Darkness is probably one of the best films that optimizes the genre, its a nice pre-slasher horror film that leaves you guessing till the very end as to the real evil in the film. Its about two british girls biking across France for a summer, and how one day, it all comes crashing down around them in the most horrible way. The poster as you can see makes reference to it being hitchcock like in its delivery, and I gotta say thats not too far off, sure its not on part with most of hitchcock's work, but, well, it doesn't need to be, I love it all the same, I find myself just being drawn into the world the film creates and feeling actual fear and panic, and I just love that, remember thats the goal of a movie, to draw you into the story and make you feel apart of it.
Number 23: if....
As you can probably tell by now, I am a fan of the more expressive and not cookie cutter style of film making, I love brash in your face films which leave a mark on you that stays there your whole life, and stay, to some extent culturally relevant in some way for all of time. The brilliant "If...." is one of those films. It takes place in a british boarding school and deals with the hierarchy of the student body and the social order. The film is infact a 1960s radical allegory for life in the United Kingdom, with the higher level students taking the place of the aristocracy and royal family, and the lower level students taking the role of the working class it shows how the two upper level classes treat the lower level students like slaves, or any other term for unpaid servents. What makes this so interesting is, depending on the boarding school to this day these traditions still live on in the UK. Anyway, the movie follows around a group of underclassmen, or "Scum" as they're called by the upperclassmen who are given police like rule over the student body going by the rules of the school, after what seems like a constant unyielding amount of abuse and humiliation; canings for talking back, and at one point one of the upperclassmen demanding one of the main characters warm a toilet seat for him before he sit on it, the main characters can't take it anymore, and decide to rebel, and they do, in a very violent and chaotic way, which, is very relevant in its own way, you'll understand if you see the film, I'm trying to not give away to much of the plot, its really something you have to see to understand.
Number 22: Wings of Desire
Even though its a German film, and I'm not exactly a fan of German films, I can not help but love Wings of Desire. Wings of Desire is one of those films that when you see it, you know you've seen the tragically beautiful. Because it asks the question that kind of burns inside us all, if we had too, would we choose to give up everything for love. Wings of Desire, much like its later remake City of Angels, follows the story of an angel who falls in love with a human and has to decide, does he want to continue to live forever as an invisible observer of humans and their world, or does he want to give it up and become one, in a way its kind of the choice we all make in life, do we live to live, every day unseen and unnoticed, or do we put our faith in love and truly become extraordinary? Wings of Desire differs from its american remake in the fact that it doesn't have the same ending, where city of angels condensed Wings Of Desire and its sequel Farway So Close! into one film, Wings takes its time and doesn't rush things, and truly makes you believe there are angels among us, even for those who don't believe in such things. Just beautiful.
Number 21: Picnic At Hanging Rock
Picnic At Hanging Rock was one of the first films made by Australian film makers to garner any international attention, and for me its probably one of the best of the early Aussie film ventures, save for afew detective tv shows they had in the 60s, but thats a whole other matter. Picnic At Hanging Rock is a mystery set at the end of the Victorian era at a girl's finishing school Hanging Rock in Victoria Australia, the students take a valentine's day picnic out to hanging rock to enjoy the outdoors, as their picnic goes on, four of the girls and one of the teachers disappear, never to be seen again. The film follows the investigation of what could have happened and the impact it has on those at the school and surrounding area, its a great little murder mystery that leaves you stunned and confused and wondering what the hell has happened at the very end, like a true open ended movie should. Its so beautifully filmed and acted that I just had to add it to my list.
END PART ONE