Can you believe it? Part twenty! At the end of this there will be 200 films in this countdown of my favourites. I was just looking through the list I’ve accumulated so far and was shocked to find a couple of absolute classics that I’ve missed! Don’t worry, that error has been rectified, so settle in for some more eclectic cinematic treats!
This is one of those curious films that nobody else seems to remember, and there’s probably a very good reason for that! It isn’t the greatest film ever made, nor is it the worst (I’ve seen plenty of those in my time!) but it is an interesting one. Teen heartthrob Christian Slater plays George Kuffs, a guy who isn’t really going anywhere in life, who loses his job and finds out his girlfriend (Milla Jovovich) is pregnant. He visits his older brother, Brad (Bruce Boxleitner) to ask for a loan but Brad is suddenly killed and Kuffs finds himself taking over Brad’s police patrol special district (Yeah, I know!. Ultimately, this film (which was written specifically for Slater) fails because it doesn’t really know what it’s trying to be. It’s funny, slightly irritating (Kuffs talks to camera a lot!) but it does have some great music on the soundtrack.
WATCH IT FOR: The trailer!
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)
Here’s a classic example of the power of home video sales turning a relatively disappointing run at the box office into a massive, global success. The Shawshank Redemption, while only doing modest business in cinemas became a phenomenon that saw it nominated for 7 Academy Awards (sadly, going home empty handed) and continually atop Greatest Film polls. Based on a short story by Stephen King and directed by Frank Darabont, it’s the tale of two men, imprisoned together for many years who find solace and hope in one another. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are on spectacular form as are the rest of the stunning cast. This film will uplift you, even though the subject matter might not. It really is a sensationally brilliant film.
WATCH IT FOR: Opera
WORKING GIRL (1988)
Melanie Griffith is frustrated secretary Tess McGill, struggling to find her way in the world of big business in New York. When her boss, played by Sigourney Weaver, breaks her leg on a skiing holiday, Tess gets her chance to shine. She teams up with investment broker Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) to reach a deal. But then her boss returns! This wonderful comedy from director Mike Nichols showcases Griffith’s hitherto unseen acting chops and gives us a chance to see Ford and Weaver in rare comedic roles. To top it off, there’s the best Oscar-winning song ever from Carly Simon!
WATCH IT FOR: “A head for business…”
BATMAN RETURNS (1992)
It was, perhaps, almost inevitable that Tim Burton would return to the dark streets of Gotham City following the huge success of Batman (1989). Michael Keaton returns as the Dark Knight and his alter ego Bruce Wayne, as does Michael Gough as his trusty butler, Alfred. This time around, though, there is more evil in the city in the shape of The Penguin (Danny DeVito), Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) and the delectable Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. It is an admirable sequel that sometimes falls apart trying to manage multiple villains (although not as bad as the later sequels) but on the whole it is just as enjoyable as the original.
WATCH IT FOR: Meow!
STEPPING OUT (1991)
Did somebody say “Curveball”? Well, I probably wouldn’t have given this film a chance had it not been for my sister and her love of all things Musicals. It’s a surprisingly delightful film that only gets better on repeat viewings. Liza Minnelli plays Mavis Turner, a former Broadway star who now provides tap dancing lessons to a group of misfit performers, including Julie Walters and Bill Irwin. As they dance together, they begin to realise that they’re not that bad and find themselves taking part in a charity dance recital. Stepping Out delivers everything you’d expect from a great underdog story and lifts the spirits.
WATCH IT FOR: The trailer
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)
The brilliant, and much missed, Gene Wilder plays the grandson of the infamous scientist, Dr Frankenstein. He is a neurosurgeon trying to put his family’s legacy behind him when he finds out that he has inherited his grandfather’s castle. Upon arrival he discovers his grandfather’s notes on reanimation and soon the family legacy is brought back to life. Wilder wrote the script and offered it to director Mel Brooks while the two were working on Blazing Saddles with the stipulation that Brooks not appear as it would distract the audience. It is, quite rightly, a classic comedy thanks, in part, to the fabulous cast. Marty Feldman as Igor (with his moveable hump!), Teri Garr as Inga and Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher, but it is Peter Boyle as The Monster who steals the show.
WATCH IT FOR: Puttin On The Ritz
What started out as a ride at Disneyland has turned into a leviathan of a movie franchise with a fifth entry due in cinemas any day now. This first film, though, is the best of the lot by far. Orlando Bloom plays Will Turner, a blacksmith who crosses swords with the eccentric pirate “Captain” Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and join forces to search for Will’s true love, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) who has been kidnapped by the feared Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush). This is swash-buckling at it’s best from director Gore Verbinksi and legendary producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The quality of the sequels diminished but this original, and best, shows what Hollywood can do when it cares about a subject.
WATCH IT FOR: The first appearance of Jack
FORREST GUMP (1994)
Ask most people and they would probably tell you that Forrest Gump shouldn’t have won the Best Picture Oscar in 1995. Popular opinion would suggest either Pulp Fiction or the aforementioned The Shawshank Redemption should have taken the prize. That’s how it goes sometimes, The Academy “makes mistakes”. I’m happy it won, to be honest, because it’s a beautiful film, if somewhat over sentimental. Tom Hanks plays the eponymous hero, a simple man with a low IQ who just happens to have participated in some iconic moments in history. Sentimentality aside, Forrest Gump is a beautifully imagined fable reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Director Robert Zemeckis uses every trick and technique in the book to bring Forrest’s stories to life while the supporting cast of Sally Field, Gary Sinise and Myketi Williamson add substance to his tales.
WATCH IT FOR: Forrest and Bubba talk shrimp!
THE EXPENDABLES (2010)
The Expendables is all-action, gung-ho, boys-own nonsense and I love it! Sylvester Stallone directs and leads an all-star cast of action superstars that cross the generations. The plot, inconsequential as it is, sees a CIA operative hire a group of mercenaries to eliminate a dictator and rogue CIA agent. The main draw, though, is the first time that Stallone share the screen with his 80s action contemporaries Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke are among the other iconic stars taking part in the action. The two sequels (so far!) take the numbers higher and the quality lower, but that’s beside the point. The point is action and fun, and this film has both!
WATCH IT FOR: Old friends!
SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)
Schindler’s List proved that director Steven Spielberg can do more than just fantasy and action adventure films. It’s a more personal film than anything he had made previously, focussing on the horrors of the Holocaust. Liam Neeson is Oskar Schindler, a usually greedy businessman who becomes an unlikely humanitarian when he discovers his Jewish workforce is being persecuted by the Nazis. Everything about this film is immense, from the black and white cinematography, the outstanding performances (Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley shine) to the heart-breaking John Williams score. The film garnered 7 Academy Awards, including the first for Spielberg, but it’s the film’s legacy – The Shoah Foundation – that is the true winner here.
WATCH IT FOR: The List Is Life… You need to watch it anyway as it stands as a learning tool for future generations…
And there you have it – 200 films! There are more but, for now, this is where the list ends. I will be returning to it at a later date once I’ve gathered a little more research and searched the memory banks! I’m also looking into doing a shorter list of films that I really don’t like that much. It seems only fair to share the yang to my ying (or vice versa!). Until we meet again I’m off to reanimate a few corpses, maybe!
“You poor guys. Always confusing your pistols with your privates”