A little while ago someone asked me what my top ten movies of all time ever were. After my brain had stopped boiling, I decided there was no way that I’d ever be able to come up with a definitive list… But, like the best memes, the question buried into my brain and stayed there, percolating. This is the result. Two months rumination removed all the kneejerk choices – the arty films that make me look smart(er), the easy classics everyone picks – leaving a list that contains ten films I absolutely and unpretentiously love. Ten rainy day movies that I can watch over and over and over…
This is such an 80s boy choice. I am the cliche; the pre-Internet sci-fi geek. And, yet, this is the only sci-fi movie on my list. I first watched this movie on VHS, three years after its 1982 release. Since then I’ve sat through it two or three dozen times; stoned and straight, on TV, at the cinema, in lecture halls and through shop windows. I’ve written and read essays about it. The last time I watched it was just a few days ago, on my brand new Sony Bravia HD TV, with the sound pounding through 50 watt speakers. It was like watching it for the first time.
A movie made of brilliant moments – with a message that, forgive me for this, is the very essence of Taoism. Bill Murray’s Phil Connors rails against the fates to get his own way. It’s only when he surrenders himself to the situation that things turn around. His salvation is acceptance. Here, have a crystal, grasshopper.
Hitchcock’s purple patch, from Spellbound to Marnie has several list-worthy entries. Vertigo, Psycho, North by Northwest, Rope… I choose Rear Window for its claustrophobia, technical brilliance, traditional yet twisty narrative and career best performances from Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly.
I love Terry Gilliam. Even bad Terry Gilliam is better than most directors worst (though Jabberwocky takes some watching). Brazil would be the grown-up choice here, but Time Bandits makes me happy – and that’s the best reason there is to adore a film.
The Godfather (Pt 1 and 2)
Pity about Sofia Coppola in part 3.
Punch Drunk Love
The only Adam Sandler comedy I ever paid money to go and see. Not a penny of it wasted.
Amelie de Montmartre
My only foreign language film – and another where reality is subverted by the magical. There’s a pattern emerging here…
Oh yeah. There’s a pattern. This is the definitive Tim Burton outing, isn’t it? The teen-angst handbook for sensitive, gothic boys and girls.
The 7 Faces of Dr Lau
Every birthday during childhood my two brothers and I were offered a choice of treats. We could either go for a slap-up feed at the Elite fish and chip restaurant or go to the “pictures”. I always chose the movie, safe in the knowledge that my brothers would pick food. One year we went to see Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, which was terrible, but in those days you got two pictures for the price of entry (with an interval for ice cream). The supporting flick was The 7 Faces of Dr Lau, a redemptive 60s fantasy about a mysterious carnival that rolls into a mid-western town. It frightened and fascinated me – and still does to this day.
A Matter of Life and Death
Powell and Pressburger’s after-life fantasy; all clipped and barely post-war British. Stunning and effortlessly funny in a way that “Here Comes Mr Jordan” wishes it could have been.
Wings of Desire
Charade (the Audrey Hepburn/Cary Grant original)
Arsenic and Old Lace
Moulin Rouge (no, really)
House of Games