Top 10 Highlights
A list of the Best Movies Of All Time will always offend the majority of people who read it. We’re not sure why that’s the case, something about the number of movies made, the number of people who have watched them and a statistical algorithm that tries to fit everything into 10.
Nevertheless, it’s a starting point for using the comments section to vocalize your dismay at what movie missed out.
Snarglies, human authority figures, parental units, slar pad…, the Conehead vernacular is dispensed with wonderful understatement by Dan Aykroyd (Beldar Conehead/Donald R. DiCicco) and Jane Curtin (Prymatt Conehead/Mary Margaret Conehead) – two aliens stranded on Earth. As Beldar brings in a wage working as an illegal alien, Prymatt becomes pregnant (with Cone).
Their efforts to stay one step ahead of the Immigration authorities pay dividends and they build a text book suburban life complete with raising a teenage daughter, getting on with the neighbours, playing golf and inventing a European ancestry.
The film is full of absolutely classic one liners and comic cameos by Michael Richards, Adam Sandler, Jason Alexander, Drew Carey and Ellen Degeneres.
An understated gem of a film that has received unfair criticism in the past. Its time is here. Watch it.
9. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is a small time criminal in 1960’s America who feigns insanity to avoid another stint in prison, not realising that getting out of a mental institution can be a lot more difficult than getting in.
Nicholson brings McMurphy to life like no other actor could have done and the film left a deep imprint on all who saw it in the early ’70’s. The rough diamond vs the cold hearted institutions of the day shone a light on the rapid institutionalisation that was occurring across all aspects of life at that time.
Great casting with Louise Fletcher, Sydney Lassick, Danny DiVito, Michael Berryman and Brad Dourif playing the stuttering Billy Bibbit makes this movie something special.
Part comedy, part drama, part tragedy, the film has an underlying tension that builds to a climatic finale that will stay with you for days, weeks and months. Wonderful stuff.
8. The Shawshank Redemption
There are few films that manage to convey what it would be like to be sentenced to life in prison as well as The Shawshank Redemption. Brutality and hopelessness are the stock-in-trade tools used by the vicious Warden Norton but we witness courage and ultimately redemption as two of the prisoners, Andy and Ellis (played by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman respectively) survive decades in incarceration.
While Ellis has forged his own safe place inside the prison walls, Andy shows us what it takes to never give up and never lose humanity in the face of overwhelming odds. His patience, grace and cunning ingenuity brings a smile to our face.
An uplifting tale of the human spirit.
What starts as something of a sci-fi mystery quickly develops into a richly textured tale of the family unit, a slow rediscovering of what truly matters in life and unimaginable loss.
Prot (Kevin Spacey) claims to be from the planet K-Pax but quickly ends up in a mental hospital after appearing alone in New York’s Grand Central Station. Dr Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges) is assigned this rather unusual patient and slowly falls under Prots spell. Who was treating who?
Kevin Spacey brilliantly combines a quirky attraction to the delights of earthly fruits with deep insights into the make up of the human species and hope for our innate ability to heal ourselves. But it’s the K-Paxian aversion to close family ties that hints at what’s really going on in the film.
Dr Powell counterpoints Prot beautifully and Jeff Bridges gives a great performance as the professional everyman.
What ultimately lifts this film into greatness is the direction and cinematography that intertwine with the powerful and at times, stunning performances from Spacey and Bridges. There are moments when the combination of these elements are simply breathtaking.
6. Leon: The Professional
Jean Reno is totally loveable as the loner hit man, Gary Oldman awesome as the demented, psychotic and evil DEA Agent, but it’s the irrepressible young Natalie Portman that makes this film explode across our screens.
This is an action movie that delivers plenty of blood and shoot ups. But it’s the relationship between Reno and Portman that we watch developing like a rising tide through the film, ultimately flooding good and evil as Leon gives in to love and Mathilda finds someone who truly cares for her.
Perhaps it’s the peace and solace they find in the face of violence and evil that engenders this film to us.
5. The Matrix
What’s real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.
This brilliantly conceived story takes our protagonist from a dreary reality working for the ‘corporation’ into a world where anything is possible. Or is that from a world where anything is possible into a dreary reality?
Incredible special effects, in particular, the fight sequences, are executed brilliantly. It remains the benchmark for slo-mo/normal-mo mixing.
Keanu Reeves, Lawrence Fishbourne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving all play their roles wonderfully well. The first three are the epitome of cool and Hugo Weaving is bone crunchingly menacing as Agent Smith.
What makes The Matrix so special is that it is entirely, eerily possible. Still the benchmark action sci-fi. Multiple viewings highly recommended.
Spare 2 minutes to watch this trailer and be reminded why this movie is so incredible.
4. Burn After Reading
Brilliantly written and directed by the Coen Brothers, this film delivers a non-stop stream of witty dialogue and one-liners, characters that jump from the screen and a story-line that sees two clueless fitness trainers turn up at the Russian embassy trying to sell what they think is CIA intelligence.
Burn After Reading runs a riotous ring around Washington as standout performances from John Malcovich, Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Francis McDormand and Richard Jenkins intertwine in a colossal melange of intrigue and subterfuge. Watch out for a couple of hilarious cameos by J.K. Simmons and David Rasche.
Also be ready for some totally unexpected, though not gratuitous violence.
3. Michael Clayton
Big businesses massage the ecosystem of supporting legal structures that enable their strategic aspirations, dishing out tidbits of money and power along the way. Some people float across the top of it all untouched, protecting their positions of privilege with ease and using those who aspire to rise above the maelstrom (Tilda Swinton) to do their dirty work.
Occasionally the system throws up a renegade (Arthur Edens played by Tom Wilkinson) who has the inside knowledge needed to damage, if not destroy those in power and who actively seeks to bring down the system in favour of the ordinary citizen.
Then there is Michael Clayton (George Clooney). Clayton is a lawyer at a powerful New York law firm who is so good at cleaning up other people’s messes that he effectively works covertly outside the normal humdrum of the legal machinery. When the system needs him to clean up the enormous mess being created by Edens he is faced with choosing a side. Does he follow his moral compass or succumb to the system and his own personal problems?
Tony Gilroy gives us a brilliant screenplay and backs it up with beautiful direction. The scene where Clayton approaches three horses in a field borders on hypnotic. Quite stunning.
This is an exceptional thriller that relies on plot and narrative rather than car chases and special effects. Engrossing, totally realistic and filled with wonderful character studies. Not to be missed.
2. No Country For Old Men
This is a violent, roller coaster ride from start to finish with barely a pause in the suspense and tension. Javier Bardem plays Anton Chigurh, a psychopathic paid assassin who lives by a set of rules that tempt us to believe are principled. One of the most disturbing bad guys of all time.
Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a welder in rural Texas who hunts in his spare time, happens upon a drug deal gone wrong and ends up with $2 million in cold, hard cash. Moss is smart, street wise and no ones fool, but he suffers a momentary case of humanity that provides Anton with a sniff of a lead to the money. A pity because we desperately want Moss and his girlfriend to escape to a tropical paradise and live happily ever after.
The local sheriff, Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), follows the ensuing trail of bodies and mayhem without ever really getting close to stopping the carnage.
Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) is a second assassin hired by those who hired Chigurh to put an end to the carnage, which is getting a bit embarrassing. Chigurh doesn’t take this very well.
The performances are all superb. The suspense is at times unbearable and, on one occasion, pure Hitchcock as Moss sits in a hotel room waiting to see if Chigurh will find him.
In the end we have no choice but to accept that those fighting for the good have to be as dedicated to the task as those they are combatting. If they aren’t they will lose.
This film probably should have got top spot but the plot rests too heavily on Moss’ momentary case of humanity and his girlfriends mothers disclosure of their destination as they seek to hide interstate.
1. The Big Blue (Le Grand Bleu)
Across the expanse of the big, blue sea, this epic masterpiece is based on the lives of Jacques Mayol (Jean-Marc Barr) and Enzo Molinari (Jean Reno), two of the real world’s greatest free divers who regularly competed against each other in the 1960’s, ’70’s and ’80’s.
While many elements of the film are fictional, Mayol’s involvement in writing the screenplay ensures that the characterisations are rich and textured and it’s the way the film draws us into their lives that makes it so powerful.
Enzo is larger than life; a big, generous, rambunctious and competitive man who lets nothing stand between him, family and friends, winning and living like tomorrow will never come. Jacques is quite the opposite, preferring solitude and haunted by the deeper mysteries in life.
Their friendship grows from mutual respect and an understanding of what each other experiences below the surface. We follow them around the globe, loving, partying and growing.
The direction by Besson is inspired, as is the cinematography. A slo-mo of Mayol walking out a door in his wetsuit and goggles, Enzo playing the piano by a stunning pool then drinking a bottle of Champagne with Mayol and his girlfriend Johana (Rosanna Arquette) underwater!, Enzo planning how to spend $1,000 he charged for a simple rescue, Mayol swimming with dolphins in moonlight, not to mention the diving scenes.
Absolutely incredible stuff.
Make sure you get the long version of the film and immerse yourself in it.