I thought that it might be fun to do a list of my top ten films as of now. Perhaps, when I’m 50 and remember writing a stupid movie review blog I can look back and laugh at my ridiculously poor taste in film back then. And that’s only if I ever make it to 50 of course! As of now I am a 19 year old male (you never know, I might have a sex change in the future) just months away from turning 20 (eek!) and have developed a love for directors such as: David Lynch, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky, Michael Haneke, Quentin Tarantino and Lars Von Trier. I’m also massively into horror and foreign films. Whilst compiling my top 10 list, I was happy with my top 5, but not so happy with 6-10. I’m still not sure about the order they should go in, and I have a horrible feeling that I’ve missed some gorgeous films out! But anywho, here is my ten list in 2014:
I can’t wait for the American remake of Martyrs to come out, just that I can spit on it. I first discovered Martyrs when I was going through my French horror new wave phase. I heard about three films in particular and they were: Inside, Martyrs and Frontiers. I saw Inside first and was totally blown away. It was the first foreign film I had ever seen and my obsession began! Since then I’ve seen pretty much every French horror film and I pretty much adore them all. I especially adore Martyrs though. Martyrs is a notoriously draining and disturbing experience. Many people, even the hardest horror nut, have admitted to having to pause the film to just give themselves a break from the unrelenting distress. I understand that this would be many people’s idea of a bad time, but I love gruelling films. Films that make you feel are the best for me and this one certainly does that.
Those who haven’t seen it should avoid any plot summaries and reviews at all costs. It’s a film best experienced with as little knowledge as possible. The plot twists and turns several times. It makes three major turns within the first 15 minutes! Just when you think it’s going one way, it surprises you and it doesn’t do it in a contrived way either. What starts out as a child’s ghost story in the style of The Orphanage turns into something very profound indeed. Many people attack the infamous final 30 minutes but I think it’s what makes Martyrs so special. It’s one of the most gruelling half an hours you’re likely to sit through and it never fails to almost move me to tears. The score over this part is also one of the best I’ve ever heard. Some people call it torture-porn, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Never does Martyrs glorify violence or make it look cool. It shows violence for what it is. Ugly. The acting is also sensational across the board. Horror is my favourite genre and I think that Martyrs is the very best that the genre has to offer. It’s brutal, but it’s worth it, and you come out slightly different somehow. If you don’t think that Martyrs is one of the greatest horror films of the past century then… Keep doubting.
9. The Dark Knight
I was actually quite late on the old Nolan Batman revamps. I first saw Batman Begins in 2011 and was bowled over by Christopher Nolan’s dark vision of the superhero. I’d never bothered with it before because I just expected some cheesy fan-boy fest in the vein of X-Men but what I actually got was something very mature, gothic and not entirely suitable for children. In 2012 I finally saw the much-hyped, The Dark Knight. I bought it nice and cheaply on eBay because I wanted to see it before The Dark Knight Rises hit our big silver screens. I slipped in the blu-ray and sat dumbfounded for pretty much the entire 150 minutes. The Dark Knight blows Batman Begins to pieces and in my opinion, completely deserves all of its overwhelming praise. Christopher Nolan has become the saviour of the blockbuster by adding his own intelligent, arthouse spin on big-budget action fests.
The Dark Knight is an enthralling crime epic. It’s far too dark and mature to be called a ‘comic book’ movie and feels more like a gadget-filled vigilante film with a psychopath who likes to dress up as a clown. Everyone goes on about Heath Ledger so I’ll just skim around him and say that he’s phenomenal, legendary and reminiscent of Daniel Day Lewis at his best. I’m skimming around Heath because there’s so much more about this film which makes it so great. The Nolan brother’s excellent writing skills are showcased here and what makes the joker so memorable is not just Heath’s performance, but because the character is so wonderfully written. The infamous interrogation scene is just so beautiful to behold. On top of that, Chris directs the action so that you’re not just watching it, but living it. During the exhilarating tunnel chase scene you can actually feel the chill of the breeze and heat of the explosions, capturing the intensity gorgeously. He also makes sure not to use lots of shaky cam and quick cuts which so many action films tend to do. The handheld camera also drops us right into the action, thus heightening the tension and intensity. It’s a truly gripping and exhilarating saga and scores top points on every level including: direction, screenplay, acting and score.
Chris’ follow-up to The Dark Knight had big shoes to fill but he filled them in every way. Anyone who sees it for the first time is guaranteed to be utterly bemused by the too-clever-for-its-own-good plot which features dreams within dreams and spinney tops, but you can’t help but be floored by the rich world that Chris has created! Some people attack it because they say it has no heart but I beg to differ. Any scene that features Cobb and Mal never fails to move me and the reason we’re so involved is because of Cobb’s tragic story. We want to see him get back home to his children. It’s definitely the best screenplay Christopher has ever written, even though some people call it a simple heist movie. Erm… What?
It’s beautifully made and I love the build-up to the actual heist itself. We get to know all about the world of dreams and learn all about Cobb and his past before delving into the thrilling heist. Once it starts it’s pretty much 90 minutes of non-stop thrills. Even after seeing it for a fourth time recently, it’s still as thrilling and intense to watch as ever. The way Chris handles each level of the dream is also brilliant and a masterclass in editing. The film also looks amazing too from the hotel halls to the snowy wilderness! On top of it all is an incredible score by Hans Zimmer which heightens the action to monumental heights. The ending is chills-inducing and when it’s all over you feel like you’ve just been on a massive adventure and struggle to catch your breath. Inception isn’t just a film; it’s an experience, and what an experience it is!
7. The Dark Knight Rises
It’s suddenly become cool to spit hate on The Dark Knight Rises which saddens me because when it first hit our screens, it was smothered by sensational reviews and quite rightly so! I’m in the rare camp that thinks that The Dark Knight Rises is even better than The Dark Knight and possibly even Inception. Everyone points to the plot holes such as, how did Bruce travel manage to travel so far? But whatever happened to good old imagination? Perhaps he never even made it back, Bane blew up Gotham and the rest of the film is fantastical dream by the dead citizens. People get so hung up on plot holes that don’t really matter, that they fail to see everything that makes the film so insanely great! People also say the film lacks Heath Ledger, but I think Tom Hardy’s, Bane is more than enough compensation. It’s a stroke of genius to have a baddie completely different to the frenetic and borderline schizophrenic Joker. Bane is a cold, calculating Marxist who not only matches Bruce’s intellect but is also superior in physical strength and Tom Hardy plays the character with such a wonderful presence, that you can’t help but feel intense threat whenever he’s on the screen.
I’ll never forget the feeling of intensity I felt seeing the film on the big screen for the first time. It’s the second best cinematic experience I’ve had, and it hasn’t faltered since. The Dark Knight Rises is a remarkable achievement and a perfect closing to a near-perfect trilogy. You can’t help but in awe of the sheer scale of the film. Christopher Nolan’s come so far since the shaky close-up fights in Batman Begins. He’s now able to direct a heist in mid-air with spectacular flair. The Dark Knight Rises is jam-packed with breath-taking moments from the incredible stadium demolition to the thrilling finale. It’s also beautifully written and largely unpredictable. I’ve never seen a superhero film where the villain actually wins! There’s a persistent atmosphere of dread and hopelessness throughout the film and it completely sucks me in to its world every time. It’s a hefty film, but at almost three hours in length it’s never boring and is practically perfectly paced! Hans Zimmer’s score is also sensational. It’s a spectacular film which not only looks good, but has plenty of heart and intelligence too. You can call me an idiot if you like, but I bloody love The Dark Knight Rises!
6. Requiem for a Dream
Darren Aronofsky made a striking, if shaky, debut with Pi which revealed his incredible talent behind the camera in creating a disorientating vision of paranoia. All the promise Darren showed in Pi was completely and utterly polished in Requiem for a Dream, an adaption of Hubert Selby’s heroin-fuelled novel. In the running for the title of the most depressing film of all time, Requiem for a Dream is a soul-crushing masterpiece with some incredible performances by Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and especially Ellen Burstyn. Ellen Burstyn pretty much steals the entire show as Sarah Goldfarb, a TV addict desperate to fit into a red dress for her TV appearance on some crummy ‘Bid TV’-styled show where the arrogant host tells everyone to “be excited, be, be excited!” Unfortunately, this leads her to become severely addicted to slimming pills whilst her son, his girlfriend and friend all spiral into an uncontrollable heroin addiction.
Requiem for a Dream is a full-on assault on the senses. Most movies contain 600 to 700 cuts. Requiem for a Dream contains over 2,000! It’s full of frantic editing, inventive camera angles and intense dream-like sequences. The entire final third of the film is almost as dizzyingly intense as Darren’s later offering, Black Swan. It leaves me feeling completely exhausted every time I see it which is why it often appears on people’s lists of films they can only watch once. However, when something physically and emotionally moves you like this, it leaves me wanting to revisit it again and again. It’s unbelievably draining and depressing and I believe that by law, it should be viewed by every 13 year-old. For this film is far more powerful than any policeman dropping in to give you a patronising lecture about drug abuse. Ellen Burstyn’s fate never fails to almost move me to tears. It also features my favourite movie score of all time by Clint Mansell which has often been cheapened by being over-featured in slaggy programmes such as Britain’s Got Talent. Those who complain about Hollywood happy endings will certainly be more than pleased with this one. Fun fact: The word heroin is never actually used by any of the characters!
5. Kill Bill Vol.1
Kill Bill was my first ever taste of Quentin and it left me desperately hungry for more. I wasn’t sure if I’d actually like the film because I’m not too big on martial arts and this looked like martial arts, kung-fuey to the extreme! However, as soon as I heard that siren playing over Vernita Green’s face I knew that I was in safe hands. Kill Bill is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. It doesn’t take itself seriously so neither should you! Volume one flies by at a breathless pace and the super stylish directing makes it endlessly re-watchable. At one point it drops its cartoonish tone and becomes an actual cartoon! It’s a film full of life which most films are lacking. It’s not afraid to turn black and white, randomly use a split-screen or have gallons of blood spurting from limbs.
The film culminates into the most spectacular finale you can imagine. It’s an epic kind of ‘boss fight’ where The Bride battles kung-fu master, O-Ren Ishii. She sends in her side-kicks including psycho school girl, Gogo. The film reaches its peak once the crazy 88 are sent in. An epic, expertly shot fight sequence with blood bursting up from limbs like Coke mixed with Mentos! It’s terrific fun to watch and you can’t help but be in awe at the faultless choreography. Kill Bill Vol.1 is a masterpiece and a film I can watch time and time again. Some find it shallow, but I love everything about it, including the gripping revenge plot. Whilst most people prefer Volume 2 thanks to the return of Quentin’s usual snappy dialogue, I find Volume 1 more re-playable and fun. However, if Quentin Tarantino decided to make The Whole Bloody Affair, then Kill Bill might’ve found its way even higher up on my list of favourites.
4. There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson is a filmmaker I greatly look forward to discovering more of. Up until a few weeks ago There Will Be Blood was the only Paul Thomas Anderson film I had seen (I saw Punch-Drunk Love which I thought was great) and I’ve heard great things about Magnolia, The Master and especially Boogie Nights; and if any of them are half as good as There Will Be Blood then I’ll be in for something special. I was very ill-prepared for the greatness of There Will Be Blood. I only discovered it last year when it popped onto BBC2. When it was over I was pretty astonished by the final thirty minutes. I was especially astounded by the bowling alley scene where Daniel Day Lewis turns into a monstrous mass of unpredictable energy. It was a haunting ending and a lot to take in. Initially, I didn’t think the film was the total masterpiece that I think it now is. I remember my sister coming down when it had finished, saying sarcastically, “was it the best film ever?” to which I said “No.” If she asked me that now I’d say, “Yes, one of!”
That night all I could think of was that third act and since then, I swear that I’ve thought about There Will Be Blood every single day since. Including today… Obviously. After about a week I realised that the film was an extraordinary, sprawling epic which featured the greatest acting performance I have ever seen. I came to realise that There Will Be Blood is a powerfully ironic rags-to-riches tale in the vein of Citizen Kane. It’s about a man who has it all and looks largely aspirational on the surface, however if you dig deep enough you’ll find a monstrous human being who’s full of greed and contempt. Daniel Plainview is one of the most interesting characters to be put onto screen and only Daniel Day Lewis could breathe such life into the complex character. It’s also beautifully made and features probably the most beautiful cinematography I’ve ever seen. Every shot has a meaning behind it too. It’s a wonderfully rich film and features some scenes of extraordinary power and intensity. The baptism and bowling alley scenes being the absolute highlights.
3. Mulholland Dr.
David Lynch is my favourite director of all time now and Mulholland Dr. was the third film of his I had seen at the time (I’ve now seen everything he’s done apart from Lost Highway and Dune) the other two being The Elephant Man and Wild at Heart. I wanted to get more into his weirder stuff (although Wild at Heart is pretty weird) and decided to begin with his most acclaimed work, Mulholland Dr. I was utterly bemused when I saw it. I had absolutely no idea what the heck was going on, but something about it sucked me in like Winnie sucking the youth out of Max Dennison. I never thought that it was one of the best films I’d ever seen. I even remember giving it a 9/10 on IMDb. However, I was intrigued to find out what it all meant. I was so fascinated by all the theories behind it and the main theory (the dream one, which I believe) was utterly mesmerising and astoundingly clever and profound.
I soon realised that the film was a masterpiece. It grew on me massively and is my favourite Lynch film. The dreamlike power which the film possesses is just extraordinary. The scene in the Club Silencio is classic David Lynch and I regard it as the best scene he has ever crafted. The film is beautifully layered, with a sensational lead performance from Naomi Watts. Mulholland Dr. is a film like no other and it’s filled to the brim with unforgettable moments. Just check out my list of the 10 greatest moments and see for yourself!
2. Black Swan
I will never forget the first time that I saw Black Swan. I was so, so excited because my favourite film critic (Chris Tookey- now retired boo hoo) had said that it was the greatest film of the last two decades. Tookey is wrong a lot of the time, but when he loves something (which is rarely) I tend to love it too. I had also heard a lot of rave reviews and it looked fanastic. I must’ve been about 15 or 16, sitting in the cinema at Nottingham with my Mum and sister (because I was that cool) completely unprepared for the total mind blast that I was about to receive. Black Swan is the greatest experience I’ve ever had in the cinema. I’ve never experienced intensity quite like it. I was totally captivated by the hypnotic camerawork, stellar performances and the mad mad world of Nina Sayers. When the film faded to white after that rollercoaster ending with the crowd hauntingly chanting I was convinced that I had seen the greatest film ever made.
I’ve now seen the film about 5 times and each time has still been exhausting. Despite what Nina may think, the film is pretty much perfect. Nina is an absolutely fascinating character and the amount of layers there is to the film is just sublime. Some people get frustrated with the fact that you don’t know what’s real and what’s in Nina’s head, but I adore that aspect of it. The best thing to do is to just sit back and embrace the surrealism, just as Nina does in the unforgettable third act of the film. I would later go on to discover other Aronofsky masterpieces, although none have quite reached the heights of Black Swan… Yet.
1. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sweeney is the first film I fell properly in love with. I still remember the day me and my twin sister watched the film for the first time at the tender age of 13. We did two things I would never do now. We watched it on some putlocker-esque website and also saw it in two parts. I’m sure it was around Christmas too because we stopped it halfway to watch one of our DVD’s of The Catherine Tate Show, only to return later to Sweeney Todd and be astounded by the twist. Much like Mulholland Dr. and There Will Be Blood when Sweeney finished I never thought “Oh em gee that is the best movie ever!” I thought that it was quite something, but not the best ever.
However, the film started to grow on us. The parasite wormed its way into our little noggins and we had a sudden urge to see it again… And again… And again! Before we knew it we were pretty much listening to the soundtrack 24/7 and singing all the songs. We had to watch the film at least once a month and we never grew tired of it! We always wanted more and more. I’ve lost count now, the amount of times we’ve seen it (I stopped counting once we got into the twenties) but it’s certainly the film I’ve seen the most… Even more than Mrs. Doubtfire! These days we’re not quite as obsessive, but we can pretty much quote every word and lyric and at least watch it every year. It’s as close to perfect as a film can be in my eyes. The acting is sublime all-round, the directing is the best Tim Burton has ever been, the songs are all musical masterpieces and the central story of revenge is utterly absorbing. You can’t help but be sucked into the dark world of the film.
Sweeney Todd is a film I know every inch of, and whilst it probably isn’t the greatest film of all time, it is my favourite.