- Hot Fuzz (2007, Edgar Wright)
Though some may prefer Wright’s first major hit, Shaun of the Dead or his great, later hit Baby Driver, nothing is more timeless and quotable for me than Hot Fuzz. It’s both a satire of police drama and a genius comedy within its own right. The fast-paced editing is a trademark of Wright, working beautifully here to keep a fast pace that builds to an thrilling climax simultaneously referencing foreshadowed jokes and it’s just fantastic. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost obviously put their usual great work in here, but are just the icing on the cake for an all-star British cast.
- The Disaster Artist (2017, James Franco)
The newest film on my list is an example of one of my favourite genres: the biopic. Adapting the equally incredible book of the same name by Greg Sestero, Franco tells the strange tale of Tommy Wiseau himself with equal parts respect and mockery. While liberties may be taken with the plot, the spirit of the novel is portrayed fantastically and it soars above being the tale of ‘the worst movie ever made,’ becoming instead an inspiring work that urges the audience to follow their dreams with passion and tenacity, no matter how bizarre and unrealistic they seem.
- The Wonderboys (2000, Curtis Hanson)
I only saw this picture for the first time a few weeks ago, but have since fallen in love, watching it several more times and reading the novel on which it’s based. Many of my favourite flics revolve around filmmaking or creative writing (go figure), so I connected with this movie. The style, the acting, the pace, all works perfectly together. Michael Douglas is likeable and empathetic as the burnt out and depressed writer and Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey Jr, both early into their careers provide a stellar supporting cast. It leaves you with an uplifting feeling and demonstrates themes of the worry of stagnation, misunderstanding and rejection of help, perfectly.
- Drive (2011, Nicolas Winding-Refn)
Though I’m not such a fan of Winding-Refn’s other work, in particular the ultra-stylised, Only God Forgives, Drive perfectly balances style and substance. Don’t let the deceptive marketing of the film fool you; it’s no action summer blockbuster. The narrative may seem slow at first, but it builds tension with a combination of phenomenal cinematography and sound editing that netted it an Oscar. Pair this with a ‘show, don’t tell’ attitude to filmmaking and an understated lead performance from Ryan Gosling and you have one of the best films ever made. The soundtrack is also awesome. Check it out.
- Back to the Future (1985, Robert Zemeckis)
There is so much I love about Back to the Future, that it’s difficult to explain it succinctly. The Alan Silvestri soundtrack, the performances from Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd and the iconic moments including supporting characters are all highlights. But if there’s one thing that works best; it’s the script. The juggling of time travel alongside tight dialogue with quick witted jokes and memorable lines make it funny as well as dramatic. As the situation becomes increasingly stressful for Marty, we too feel the tension build as everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. Then, just as we all breathe a sigh of relief with him, we’re left with one of the best cliff-hangers in modern cinema. Sensational.
- Whiplash (2014, Damien Chazelle)
I watched this for the first time with a dreadful hangover and it still managed to keep me thoroughly engaged and invested. At first glance it seems low-stakes. A story of a music student who wants to impress an overbearing conductor with his jazz drum proficiency, battling his obscene temper and need for perfection within his pupils. The investment into character and incredible use of cinematography to build tension is what makes this film a winner, paired with a sensational lead performance from J.K Simmons who is simply electrifying in this role.
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986, John Hughes)
Hands down, the definitive teen coming-of-age story, ever put to film. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off can only be described in one word: fun. It’s a thrill ride that takes the audience on the same journey as the reluctant friend, Cameron and keeps getting crazier and crazier as the plot moves on. The ‘voice of God’ narration style, the tight humour and the incredibly iconic and memorable scenes make this the absolute definitive comedy from the 80s. For me, anyway. It’s not all just comedy though, as its exploration of the themes of growing up, confronting parents and finding your own identity are all explored beautifully here.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001, Peter Jackson)
Easily the best of the trilogy in my opinion. The Return of the King is sensational, obviously, but it was clear by then that Jackson was already showing his newfound preference for CGI, becoming reliant on it. Part of what makes Fellowship so incredible for me is the amazing blend of CGI and practical effects. The use of forced perspective, the extreme close ups and slow motion in action scenes are all very indicative of Jackson’s early horror work and are used wonderfully here. Other than that, I doubt I need to explain why this film is so incredible. A flawless adaption of the source material that actually trims the fat where necessary, a truly moving soundtrack and the absolute best casting for an ensemble cast, ever. Fight me on that if you like.
- Ed Wood (1995, Tim Burton)
Before Burton was intent on senselessly remaking childhood classics with an overabundance of computer effects, he created some great lower budget films in the early 90s. Ed Wood is one of these and my is my absolute favourite. A pre-fame Johnny Depp is the lead (shocker) and is, for my money, acting at his absolute best here. The story tells the tale of Edward. D Wood Jr, who you might consider the ‘Tommy Wiseau of the 50s.’ He’s infamous for crafting some of the worst movies ever made, but in the same vein as ‘The Disaster Artist’, Burton makes every character so likeable, relatable or sympathetic that you can’t help but get on board with this band of miscreants. It also has a similar message about following your passion and never letting someone corrupt your ideas. As Orson Wells tells Ed; ‘visions are worth fighting for.’ Inspiring stuff not only for filmmakers, but for anyone who wants to pursue a creative endeavour.
- The Dark Knight (2008, Christopher Nolan)
Predictable and commercial? Perhaps. But I adored this film the first time I watched it and it has only become more compelling with each viewing. In my humble opinion, it’s not only the best superhero film ever made, but is one of the greatest films ever made, period. Everything here is working simultaneously to bring the character of Batman, to a mature, mainstream audience. The themes of heroism, madness, good vs evil, tragedy and vigilante justice are presented in a film that takes a gritty, yet realistic approach to Gotham City. The action is a thousand times more coherent without the choppy editing of Batman Begins and the pace is much more methodical. The returning cast are sensational, in particular Gary Oldman and Michael Caine. But everybody knows what truly elevates this picture to legendary status; Heath Ledger as The Joker. Never had there been such a disturbed yet fresh interpretation of the character and I doubt there ever will be again. Ledger’s performance was jaw dropping and deserving of his posthumous Oscar for best supporting actor. I’ve seen this movie near a hundred times and I’ll never get bored of it. For me, it is cinematic perfection.