Tag Archives: favourite

My Favourite Films…

9 Aug

Film websites and magazines love lists – so do most websites and magazines, they also come in handy when doing a grocery shop – and whilst lists can be a handy way of organizing things, or ranking them, I’ve found myself having the same ol’ issues with specific film lists…

I’m talking about the “Best Movies Of All Time” lists.

Now, I get that if we’re taking the votes of the billions of people across this planet in order to figure out what’s the “best” then something that’s going to be broadly satisfying is more likely to rise to the top of the pile than something unique.


Though it does make for rather dull and predictable reading looking through the Top 10 reader’s favourite film countdowns and seeing the usual suspects – though not always The Usual Suspects – standing shoulder to shoulder with, ordinarily, one wild card that’s a recent, hugely popular flick that will find its way rapidly sinking down the list over the next few years.

What has irked me more is when people have been asked to submit their individual “favourite” films and those same movies that are – don’t get me wrong – good movies crop up, and there’s little in the way of individual, distinctive choices that might reflect someone’s personality a little better.

Additionally, when these aforementioned websites and magazines have asked film-makers to contribute their personal favourite lists, and the film-makers have stepped up and chosen stuff that’s a little “out there”, the comments section is usually full of people bemoaning a lack of more formally regarded “better” films.

People have chastised Quentin Tarantino over the years for some of his choices when he chooses to share his “Films Of The Year” list, but I’ve always admired his willingness to admit that sometimes he really gets a kick out of a film that might not seem “worthy” enough for the end of year back-slapping, or, in some cases, might have been generally thought of as “not that good” by the critical consensus.


For example, in November 2013 Tarantino put Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger on his best of the year (so far) list, and whilst it’s a messy film it’s not as without merit as critics suggested and it’s full of very interesting, very subversive ideas especially for a huge tentpole release and – in my opinion – a lot better than the film that sat near the top of most 2013 end-of-year lists; Gravity*.

So, what I was wondering is we need to make a distinction between films that are broadly speaking “The Best” and films that are our “Favourites”.

If I was to try and compile a list of films that I thought were the best films ever made this list would probably include a fair few films I don’t watch all that often, films that maybe I’ve only seen a couple of times at most.

For instance, Paddy Considine’s incredible 2011 film Tyrannosaur is a startling piece of work but not exactly a film you might want to watch all that often.

Anyway, in no particular order here are 25 films I plucked from my personal DVD and Blu-Ray collection that I consider to be some of my favourite films of all time.


Song Of The Sea (2014) Director: Tomm Moore
Animation is super important to me, and I also think it gets overlooked a great deal in people’s recollection of “great” films, sure we might all have that personal Disney film that we adored as a child, but a lot of people seem to put these things aside as they get older and forget about their power to move us in ways that live-action cinema often cannot.
Here Tomm Moore followed up his excellent The Secret Of Kells (2009) with this truly enchanting tale of the importance of folklore and storytelling, and that’s a theme that will crop up a few times in these favourite films of mine, and is definitely a shortcut to pulling my heartstrings if your film is about the wonder of story.


Top Secret! (1984) Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
One of the funniest films I’ve ever seen, and one that always continues to delight and tickle me in its absolute absurdity. It takes the spoof foundations set by the directors’ previous feature Airplane! and seems to leap in even more ridiculous, surreal directions, with inspired visual gags piled on top of one another, and Val Kilmer delivering a truly under-rated comedic performance as a WWII teen-pop heart-throb.
I think, for me, it also helped that this film was regarded as a flop and one of the “lesser” films in the Abrahams / Zucker / Zucker canon, and I seem to be drawn towards underdogs.


Ed Wood (1994) Director: Tim Burton
There’s something so beautifully sad and hopeful in this biography of Edward D. Wood Jr., regarded as the director of some of the worst films ever made – though I’d argue his work has a lot more charm than some of the worst films I’ve seen, or even some of the most average ones.
More than that, there’s something so relatable about Ed and his boundless enthusiasm and optimism in the face of relentless disparagement and disaster that just resonates with me. I think he would have been an easy man to mock, as would the rogue’s gallery of misfits he assembled around him, but this film has such love for the people in his life – and for the man himself – it’s a celebration of failure, which, as a result of that, turns these follies into soaring successes.


The King Of Comedy (1982) Director: Martin Scorcese
I remember watching this quite late at night on BBC2 I think, I’m not entirely sure when, but I had no expectations and I was blown away by this film. It was a different kind of comedy to anything I’d seen at that point in my life, it was a startlingly unnerving depiction of obsession and celebrity, and that – worryingly relatable at times – question that looms over some of our heads; “Why not me?”
Rupert Pupkin, for me, is without question Robert De Niro’s greatest performance, and this is one of the finest dark comedies that has ever been made, and one that was surprisingly prescient in how celebrity culture would begin to erupt in the 21st century.


Cloud Atlas (2012) Directors: Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Ambition and folly are two words that have haunted the Wachowskis post-Matrix trilogy, though even the latter two installments weren’t free from those accusations, however that’s what makes them such treasures in the film-making world, alongside their abundant optimism and humanism. Here, working alongside Tom Tykwer who directed Run Lola Run and Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer, both of which I love.
This film is masterful in so many ways, purely as an exercise in editing this films warrants study and adoration, but, at its core, what this story boldly attempts to say – in occasionally slightly wobbly fashion – is something that resonates with me so fundamentally that I remember feeling so flabbergasted in the cinema, like me and the film were sharing some sort of personal conversation with one another.
It’s a feeling that echoes on in their Netflix series Sense8, and, in short part of the reason why I will watch absolutely everything the Wachowskis put their names to.
As a side note, Speed Racer is a hugely under-rated masterpiece as well, but that’s another conversation.


Galaxy Quest (1999) Director: Dean Parisot
Fans at a Star Trek convention once ranked this movie as the seventh best Star Trek film, I also think it’s one of the most precisely made, perfectly cast, utterly delightful comedies of all time.
I’m kind of a sucker for things that are built around an imagined TV show or movie, e.g. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace or Soapdish, so this scored points there, but there’s some much warmth and depth to the layering of the worlds here, it’s operating on multiple levels at once; the TV show as a show, the actors relationships to one another, the aliens treatment of the show and the cast as real, the way the fans treats the actors and the show, it’s all so perfectly balanced and every little joke, every little set-up pays off so beautifully.
It also features some genuinely thrilling action set-pieces and some heart wrenchingly emotional moments with only the slightest set-up to get you there, and yet, I well up every time…


The Truman Show (1998) Director: Peter Weir
Peter Weir is responsible for another film that could easily have been on this list – and is definitely included on the extended director’s cut unrated edition – Dead Poets Society, a film that spoke to me as a young boy and has undoubtedly informed who I am on some completely fundamental level ever since.
The Truman Show as well caught me at the tail end of being a huge Jim Carrey fan and pushed my respect for him into a different direction – I don’t look back on much of his comedy work with a lot of fondness now to be honest, but his dramatic output is incredible.
This is a film that takes an incredibly lofty, almost – at the time – unbelievable concept and just makes it so real, so note perfect, without compromising any of that slightly implausible scope (but, again, if you’re wondering about the logistics of how this show would actually work then you’re kind of missing the point).
It’s a touching and – much like The King Of Comedy – prescient look at the world we were about to enter, and beyond that has so much depth and meaning as to how we live our lives, and how we choose – or not – to experience the world.


Noah (2014) Director: Darren Aronofsky
I saw this at the cinema because I had some time to kill and there was nothing else I fancied seeing. Noah had been out for a few weeks by this point and I hadn’t heard much in the way of high praise. However, I’m a huge fan of Aronofsky’s The Fountain (again, that’s on my extended list), so I figured I’d take a punt on this.
There are two sequences in this film in particular that blew me away, they are sequences that somehow seemed to reach into my brain and pluck out a little nugget of my personal philosophy and depict them in a stunning, startling and visual way. They articulated how I felt in ways I would struggle to articulate.
Around that there’s a dark, terrifying, complex drama about responsibility, violence, purpose, family. A film that boldly transformed what – on paper – might seem like a piece of magical realism into a weird sci-fi spectacle, and, even more startling for me, it made a film featuring Emma Watson one of my favourites.


Hudson Hawk (1991) Director: Michael Lehmann
I think I remember seeing the name “Hudson Hawk” on both a worst films of all time list and in an issue of a video games magazine regarding a Commodore 64 tie-in.
I caught this film late at night on TV and I loved it, it made me laugh, it had ridiculous over-the-top characters, it had a warped internal logic that made as much sense as it needed to at any given moment, and it was just anarchic fun.
It’s one of those films where you’re kind of amazed that people threw money at this, but at the same time you’re so grateful that they did, because it’s kind of a miracle that something this bonkers got through the studio system – thanks to Bruce Willis’ clout at the time – and, if you’ve read Richard E. Grant’s film diaries With Nails, even more of a miracle that the film made it through the production process at all with the amount of ego and such like swirling around.
Sure, Die Hard is brilliant, it’s definitely a “Best Film”, but the Bruce Willis films that I enjoy the most are the ones where he goofs about a bit more or gets pushed outside of his comfort zone, such as this, 12 Monkeys, Death Becomes Her and Moonrise Kingdom – though he’s also great when he’s himself and “awake”.


The Science Of Sleep (2006) Director: Michel Gondry
This felt like a film I was going to love even before I saw it, I adored Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and I even enjoyed Human Nature (and beyond this film I’ll maintain that The Green Hornet is a fun romp), added to that Gael Garcia Bernal will always be one of my favourite actors primarily for The Motorcycle Diaries.
Here was a film full of invention and imagination, dream sequences realised in DIY stop-motion, and a lead character who I found worryingly relatable. Stephane Mioux is definitely someone who I have behaved like, and that is not a positive and I am no Gael Garcia Bernal so I can’t get away with it as easily.
If anything, upon rewatching this film, it has helped me to sort of reflect on myself – or my perception of myself – and how I do and don’t deal with the things that might be happening in my life that might require something other than whimsy, quirkiness and play. It’s a nice contradiction in that regard, a film that acts as an argument kind of against the very behaviors it seems to celebrate, a film that knows that boundless imagination has its place, but can be a dangerous, lonely thing as well.


Dark City (1998) Director: Alex Proyas
I was a huge fan of The Crow, so four years later was super excited to see Proyas’ follow-up, and my first viewing was sort of overwhelming in a way. Sometimes there are films that bombard you – Terry Gilliam is often guilty of this – and it can be a little difficult under the wrong circumstances to quite enjoy what you’re watching, or even take in the subtleties of it, in that first viewing.
Dark City is definitely an overwhelming film, not only is Graeme Revell’s score bombastic in the extreme, but the imagery is dark and Gothic, the editing fast and relentless, the story-telling hurried and dense, however at the same time it’s engrossing in a way unlike so many other films, its sensory overload is entirely appropriate, you feel like Rufus Sewell’s John Murdoch suddenly plunged into this baffling, unexplained world that doesn’t quite adhere to anything you might assume, and as the story unfolds you find yourself increasingly bowled over by the film’s ambition and intrigue.
I’ve enjoyed unpacking this film over and over again, it’s full of ideas and it’s led me on to other writers and ideas that inspired this one, it’s one of those films I love to show people who haven’t seen it before and try and vicariously rekindle some of that experience of seeing it for the first time.


The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen (1988) Director: Terry Gilliam
They had to be a Terry Gilliam on this list, and it’s sometimes a difficult choice, but, for me, this is the most easy to rewatch and it ticks that box of films about the power of storytelling, though, to be honest, that’s a recurrent theme in Gilliam’s work so that might be why so many of his films vie for attention in my list of favourites.
Here his visual invention is at its peak, and the episodic adventure structure works well considering editing and pacing have never quite been his strong points – though at the same time if I was creating worlds as stunning as these, peopled with actors as brilliant, I wouldn’t give a hoot about keeping things moving, I mean, it’s a treat to get to spend time here in this imagination.


Velvet Goldmine (1998) Director: Todd Haynes
I distinctly remember this film being torn apart by critics when it came out, it was in the same issue of Empire and Total Film as Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas I think, and both were getting pretty poor reviews and both were films I absolutely adored at the time, and still do.
Here is a film that started to change my perception of the world, that started to redefine who I was and who I have become, which is apt considering for Christian Bale’s character that’s what his dual journeys through the film are also about.
For one thing this film has an absolutely incredible soundtrack, but Todd Haynes’ visuals here are just awe-inspiring, they’re kitschy and magical all at once, creating a time and place that has only ever existed in a sort of nostalgic collective unconsciousness.
Additionally it’s about how we piece together stories in a variety of different ways, how we never stop reinventing ourselves or reassessing who we were and what we’ve become, and why. It’s a romantic film, but in a sort of sad, lost kind of way. It also inspired me to buy Lou Reed’s album Transformer, which is one of my favourite records of all time now.


The City Of Lost Children (1995) Directors: Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
I bought this film on VHS because I liked the cover art of a row-boat sailing through a mine-field towards a distant oil rig.
Immediately, upon viewing it, I was enraptured, it’s undoubtedly visually beautiful with its Gilliam-esque visuals, coupled with a surreal plot and odd ball characters. It was the first film that got me into watching films that weren’t British or American, and means I’ll always take a chance on work that Jeunet and Caro have their names attached to, and, probably, why I’m quite forgiving of Alien: Ressurection.


The Thing (1982) Director: John Carpenter
My first exposure to the work of John Carpenter was a junior school friend’s VHS copy of Big Trouble In Little China, which I remember being utterly engrossed by – especially the scene where Thunder inflates with rage.
The Thing is just a wonderfully constructed film that leaves the viewer with so much to ponder, it’s been the subject of so much analysis and disection in the decades since it was released. Alongside that it’s one of the most brilliantly paranoid thrills coupled with some of the most spectacular and playful visual effects work ever put to film.


The Illusionist (2010) Director: Sylvain Chomet
I saw Belleville Rendezvous whilst I was at University and it was somehow simultaneously different from anything else I’d seen in feature film animation and also strangely familiar and nostalgic, it also had such a strange sense of humour, and I fell in love with it immediately.
Chomet’s follow-up is a very different film, more restrained and emotional, it’s also both somehow magical and yet devastatingly sad all at once.
It also captures landscapes and environment in one of the most eye-wateringly stunning ways without being “flashy” about it, the simple, perfect look of the film’s depiction of Scotland is so gorgeous, alongside Chomet’s delightful character design and the script is impressive in the complexities of action and emotion that it manages to convey in its practically silent delivery.
Chomet’s animations are some of the purest expressions of cinema, they are life affirmingly good.


Hedwig And The Angry Inch (2001) Director: John Cameron Mitchell
My favourite musical of all time, it just features amazing song after song, songs that have soundtracked my own life at times, songs that have encouraged me to try and learn how to play a few chords a bit better (still trying there).
It was one of those films I stumbled upon and, in a weird way, it felt like it was a private film, like it was just made for me to enjoy, and I had no idea about the wider story and phenomenom of the stage show and it being a Sundance smash. It’s a film I’ve shared with friends who haven’t heard of it either hoping that they’d respond to it in the same way I did, or, at least rush out and buy the soundtrack (I’ve definitely succeeded on that point at least one that I’m aware of).
It’s a very thoughtful, clever and introspective film for all its glam rock dazzle, and whilst not many of know what it’s like to have an ex-lover become the world’s biggest rock star it does speak to a very human and petty part of us all, how we deal with love, how we deal with our own identity, and how we learn to move on and love, and create, again.


Starship Troopers (1997) Director: Paul Verhoeven
I’d say that 1997 was the year that cinema really became a “big thing” for me, I was 14/15 years old and writing a film review column for my school paper. The cinema that year felt like it was full of really great, fun movies (though there’s obviously a whiff of rose-tinted nostalgia to my enjoyment of such fare as Air Force One and Volcano), it was a nostalgic, backwards looking year as well what with the Star Wars Special Editions – and maybe, in a way – it was the dawn of the modern blockbuster era that has led us to things like Cinematic Universes and such like, but that’s a whole other thesis.
Starship Troopers – which I saw in the cinema – was a film with a dual personality, it was both a excessive Hollywood blockbuster but also a pitch dark satire of how we great these grand romantic soap operas out of war, alongside its eviscerating take on fascism, the miltary, and propaganda (confused by some for being in support of fascism).
It’s a film that is just an utter delight on every level that it’s operating, it can be enjoyed as a straight-forward gung-ho sci-fi action flick, a B-Movie with a Triple A budget, but also as one of the most expensive, anarchistic films ever lensed. In many ways it’s the collision between pre-Hollywood Verhoven and his bombastic 1980s heyday, and, for me, it’s his towering achievement. The very fact it got made is testament enough to the man’s power and vision as a director.


Rocketeer (1991) Director: Joe Johnston
One of the most under-rated popcorn films of all time, a neat gee shucks adventure that has charm in spades, but also I think my love for it comes for a yearning to own the jet-pack that grants Cliff Secord flight. I also really wanted his haircut, but don’t quite think I could get away with it.
Joe Johnston has helmed a surprising number of absolutely brilliant films – though they’ve also been films that I’ve grown-up with so I may, once again, be enjoying them with a heavy dose of rose-tint – but both Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and Jumanji are films I love and revisit often, especially the latter which – on recent viewings – has grown with a depth and poignancy I hadn’t noticed before.
But, yeah, Rocketeer is just pure cornball fun, and a film I can watch over and over again.


I Heart Huckabees (2004) Director: David O. Russell
David O. Russell was, for a while, one of my favourite directors. I loved Flirting With Disaster loads, and couldn’t wait for his next film, which was Three Kings – one of the best war films ever made – and so I was there for Huckabees on opening day.
Huckabees is one of those films that has either become part of my philosophy or was always part of it, it’s a stream-of-consciousness, free-wheeling exploration of the myriad conflicts of modern life both internally and externally. It’s whimsical, thoughtful, outspoken and daring, charming and ludicrous, with a cast all doing some of their best work – next to The Talented Mr. Ripley this may be the greatest Jude Law has ever been, and Mark Wahlberg is just phenomenally good in this.
It’s the kind of film where you watch it and want to smack yourself in the face with a giant inflatable ball afterwards, where you want to dive into the messy methods of unpacking existence in order to understand it, where its ideas will linger with you and – hopefully – fill your life with a curious, positive and joyful appreciation for all that is around you. It’s, without being too over-the-top here, transcendental.


Freaked (1993) DIrectors: Tom Stern, Alex Winter
For years I thought this was a film I’d obsess over and yet never get to see. I remembered Alex Winter appearing on the early morning television chat show The Big Breakfast promoting this ages before it was due to come out, and in the end it didn’t come out over here (I think?).
The clip he showed (the Celebrity Squares bit) lingered in my head, and – as I was a big Bill & Ted fan – I would keep wondering what Alex Winter was up to now and remember Freaked.
I finally wound up randomly finding it on DVD, its release had totally passed me by, and I was giddy with excitement to see it sat there on a shelf – it was one of those films that I would look for every time I was browsing a shop convinced it’d never be there, so this was my equivalent of a succulent mirage that turns out to be an actual oasis.
Later I picked up the American Anchor Bay two disc set as well.
It’s such a unique, bold, disgusting and silly film, that deserved much better treatment than it got from its studio, though I can also understand why they might have been a bit tentative at handling a film this out-there. However, it’s a film that definitely has found an audience over time, and one that never ceases to entertain me, I find myself quoting Sockhead all the time.


The Fall (2006) Director: Tarsem Singh
It’s about the power of storytelling, so of course I was going to like it, but how much I liked it came as a surprise to me. I was excited to see following reading about its production history online, but I could not prepare myself for how bowled over I’d be sitting in Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff watching this film.
Tarsem’s imagery – though a lot of it borrowed from Ron Fricke – is startling, but the way he uses these wonders of the world to weave this magical realist story within a story is just fantastic, and how that interplays with the tale of an injured stuntman and a little girl who bond whilst hospitalised is heartbreaking.
All of the real praise for how great this film is rests upon the relationship between Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru, it is such a joy to spend time in the company of these two actors, their performances are so naturalistic, and the friendship they create on screen so lived and real that as the film grows darker it’s all the more powerful and emotional.
It’s a film that fills you with soaring happiness at the same time as it’s causing you to sob uncontrollably, it’s pure magic.


Labyrinth (1986) Director: Jim Henson
This is undoubtedly one of the most important films in my life.
It was a film that always seemed to be on television whenever I was being babysat as a young boy growing up in Cornwall, and it scared me so much! The first appearance of the goblins I still find to be a very effective and haunting moment, even though they – thankfully – punctuate it with comedy moments later. However that first “Listen” never ceases to make my spine tingle.
I was already a fan of The Muppets, and the spell that Jim Henson could cast over you with the most simplistic piece of puppetry was incredible, and has effected me deeply ever since I saw this film and then The Dark Crystal, not to mention the Storyteller TV series.
This was also my first exposure – that I was aware of – to the music of David Bowie, and he has definitely become a staple in my musical tastes most likely due to this early influence.
There’s just a sense of play and imaginations run wild to the work Jim Henson did – and was able to encourage others to do – that is bottled so perfectly within this film, it’s kind of infectious in that regard, and that’s why I think so many people have cherished this film from their childhoods and kept its legacy going to this day.
Also, I think there’s a surprising amount of subtext to Sarah’s journey through the labyrinth, and I’ve attempted on a number of occasions to write that up; but again, I’ll save that for another day.


Children Of Men (2006) Director: Alfonso Cuaron
I went to see this film with no expectations, I’d seen the posters and the use of Sigur Ros in the trailer was very powerful, however I didn’t have much of a clue of what the film was going to be like or what exactly it was about.
I was sat in the front row, I was staring up at the screen in awe.
There’s a strange low-key epicness to this film, it’s summed up by one of my very favourite sequences from the film which is the escape from the farmhouse at sunrise, it’s both a nail-biting action sequence yet it’s so quiet and subdued, it’s filled with moments of near comedic failure and blunder, it’s muddy and squelchy and there’s something about the feel of the scene that emphasizes the “Britishness” of the production – even though it’s directed by a Mexican.
People, at the time, talked endlessly about the technical achievements of the film, but I think those are its least interesting aspects, and fortunately the film is never showy about its wizardry really. Instead it’s one of the most harrowing, grim, realistic, miserable films that Hollywood has ever produced, yet it’s so vital, important and ultimately full of love for life, of hope for humanity, of belief in the innate decency of people – though not afraid to satirically explore the conflicted nature of us as a species in regard to that.
I think it will stand up as an era defining film.


The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (1984) Director: W.D. Richter
I got a copy of the Time Out Film Guide book for Christmas one year (I believe, coincidentally, it was the 8th edition published in 1999 or 2000?), and I remember flicking it through it and the title of this film stood out because it was just so long! It was also really strange sounding and that also appealed to me, so I resolved it was film I had to see.
I wound up purchasing it sight unseen when it came out on DVD in America, and I adored its sensibility, it’s almost an anti-film it’s so laidback in its storytelling, it’s so casual in how the potential threat of alien invasion is dealt with, it’s so flippant in how it dishes out its plot to the viewers, and it’s almost dismissive in that it builds this world and doesn’t really explain it to the viewer.
All of that is, of course, what makes it excellent, because it knows people are smart enough to go with a film if the film remains true to the world it presents, if it sticks to its rules, and this film is never anything less than everything it sets out to be (I’m trying to write about it in the same kind of cyclical, cod-philosophical way that Buckaroo might).
It’s endlessly quotable, full of wonderful characters played by an amazing cast, and it has a strange charm that – to paraphrase someone talking about Plan 9 From Outer Space – no matter what time you watch it it always feels like it’s 3am.


So, that’s 25 of my favourite films.

That’s not all my favourite films, this list could go on forever really, and these aren’t my 25 favouritest favourite films (though I don’t really believe in ranking things I like).
I’m curious as to whether these distinctions between “best” and “favourite” really resonate with anyone else?

I know sometimes people might lump these sort of films into a “guilty pleasures” kind of list, but I think if you enjoy something there’s nothing really to be guilty about, unless you enjoy it despite believing it to be genuinely pretty bad, e.g. I watched the 1998 Godzilla film again recently despite not liking it at all, and probably having seen it 3 or 4 times before.

Thanks for reading this rather epic blog post.


*I was perhaps too hyped for this film, being an absolutely massive fan of Alfonso Cuaron’s previous feature; Children Of Men – see above.