Following the publication this month of Empire magazine’s 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time I started thinking about my own personal favourites. It took a long time to narrow down my list to a top 5 for the Empire vote and realised just how many amazing films I had to omit in order to make my selection. So, I’ve decided to compile my own list. By no means will it be definitive as there will always be films that I’ll remember down the line but its a list of films that have influenced me, touched me, inspired me and just plain excited me. I’m not doing this to start a debate, I’m sure some, if not most, of my choices will be judged for their credibility to be in anyone’s Top list. I’m merely jotting down my favourites. Some are true classics, some are true stinkers but all of them are loved…mostly by me, and occasionally other people. So, in no particular order, I present my not-so-definitive Greatest Movies Of All Time List…
I’ll start with the film that, if a gun was held to my head, I’d probably declare to be my all time favourite.
THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen this film. There’s something so magical about the whole thing. Perhaps its the rousing music and songs; the technicolour photography or the perfect casting. Whatever it is, it works and it works every time.
The story of farmer’s daughter Dorothy Gale who gets swept up by a tornado and is transported to the magical land of Oz has delighted audiences for 75 years and its not hard to see why. Its a technicolour masterpiece of music, song and dance with added moments of terror and comedy and a strong, valuable message at the end.
The characters are also memorable for their kinetic energy, especially Ray Bolger as The Scarecrow who dances around as if he actually made from straw, a true vaudeville star and a magnificent song and dance man. Then you have another vaudeville star, Jack Haley as the Tin Man who’s only wish is to have a heart and Bert Lahr as The Cowardly Lion who are both simply wonderful. Add to the mix a cracking villain, flying monkeys and some delightful munchkins and you’ve got yourself an awesome spectacle.
WATCH IT FOR: The introduction of colour.
WATCH IT FOR: Tim Curry’s tour-de-force explanation of how it was all done!
THE PAPER (1994)
24 hours in the life of a New York newspaper as seen through the eyes of editor Henry Hackett. Michael Keaton plays Hackett, a workaholic who loves his job but hates the hours and the pay. Needing to support his pregnant wife, played by Marissa Tomei, he searches for a new job but a hot story breaks and you just can’t keep a good reporter down. Ron Howard directs an excellent ensemble cast that also includes Glenn Close, Robert Duvall and Randy Quaid.
WATCH IT FOR: Henry losing out on the top job
JURASSIC PARK (1993)
Every once in a while a film comes along that blows everything else out of the water. In 1993, Steven Spielberg did just that with Jurassic Park. Based on Michael Crichton‘s novel about a dinosaour theme park that breaks down on a preview tour, the movie is brilliant on many levels but the fact that it gets better with every viewing and, over twenty years since its release, the effects are still mind-blowing. Everything is spot-on in this classic Spielberg adventure, aside from Richard Attenborough‘s dodgy accent, there are thrills aplenty once the power goes down and the dinosaurs break out. The T-Rex attack is particularly Spielbergian, with the use of light and sound and the unmistakable soundtrack of John Williams. The whole ride is breathtaking from start to finish and spawned two sequels, with a third in production as we speak!
WATCH IT FOR: The T-Rex attack!
Another film that gets better with every viewing. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis co-wrote and star alongside Bill Murray as three parapyschology professors, newly unemployed, who start their own ghost removal business. Soon, the residents of New York are terrorised by spooks, spectres and ghosts of all shapes and sizes and there is only one team to call. Bursting with one-liners and set-pieces, Ghostbusters remains one of the best comedies of all time.
WATCH IT FOR: Bill Murray’s scene-stealing performance
HOME ALONE (1990)
I don’t care what you think, I love this film! I first saw it on VHS (remember them?!) and couldn’t stop watching it. I used to watch it at least once a week, often staying up late after everyone had gone to bed just so I could get my fix. I can quote it word for word, I know exactly what happens and when it happens yet I still watch it and I still love it. Perhaps its the sadistic side of me that likes Harry and Marv getting bashed up at the hands of a kid, but more than likely its because its sheer escapism and utter nonsense twinned with the cartoon violence and festive setting makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
WATCH IT FOR: The last twenty minutes of slapstick!
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)
The story goes that producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg were holidaying together in Hawaii after Star Wars was released. Spielberg confessed to Lucas that he wanted to make a James Bond picture to which Lucas told him he had a better idea. Indiana Jones is an archaeologist and part-time teacher who is approached to go in search of the legendary Lost Ark of the Covenant before the Nazi’s get their hands on it. From the very beginning, the film never lets up pace, switching from South America to Peru and beyond in a rip-roaring adventure in the style of the old serials from the 1920’s and 1930’s. Harrison Ford takes control of the bullwhip while Karen Allen plays his feisty love-interest who can take care of herself. From a Nazi-saluting monkey to melting faces and a whole load of snakes and fistfights, Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the best adventure movies ever made.
WATCH IT FOR: The opening scene; the truck chase; the fist-fight with Pat Roach; the melting faces…ah, hell, watch the whole damn thing!
PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES (1987)
It’s almost like The Odd Couple for a new generation. Steve Martin and John Candy are a mis-matched pair of travellers, one trying to get home for Thanksgiving, the other appearing to be just a hinderance. John Hughes writes and directs a funny, heartfelt story that plays on the frustration of travel and of being stuck with someone you wouldn’t normally find yourself with. In anybody else’s hands this would have been a disaster, but Hughes manages to get the best out of his two stars and creates a memorable partnership. If nothing else, watch it for Steve Martin’s brilliant foul-mouthed rant at the car rental desk!
WATCH IT FOR: “Those aren’t pillows!”
A made for TV movie starring William Devane, Lauren Hutton and the mad-as-a-box-of-frogs Klaus Kinski about a history professor who becomes involved with two time travellers from the year 2586 after making a discovery in an old photograph. I love a bit of cheesy time-travel!
WATCH IT FOR: Klaus Kinski
THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987)
When Roger Moore finally decided to hang up his Walther PPK after the disappointing A View To A Kill, there was really only one choice to play the next 007 – Pierce Brosnan. Everything was ready, but then, Brosnan got the call that his television show Remington Steele had been picked up for another series after being cancelled and he would no longer be able to take the role of the super spy. Enter Welshman Timothy Dalton, a classically trained actor who would bring a much-needed element of reality and grit to the role that had been lacking since Moore’s tenure began. Although Dalton would only make two films before the much publicised six year hiatus of the film series, he brought a closer version of Ian Fleming’s Bond to the screen than had previously been seen and, had he had the chance, would have made a much bigger impact on the franchise. As it is, The Living Daylights and to a lesser extent Licence To Kill, provide an adequate entry into the James Bond canon.
WATCH IT FOR: The opening sequence