My Top 10 Favourite Films

August 9, 2012 by Simon Kinnear in Opinion with 1 Comment

Chungking Express 1994 Wong Kar-Wai

A week on, and I still haven’t grabbed a copy of this month’s Sight &Sound. No matter: I have a decade to read the Critics’ Best Films Of All Time.

Until then, my interest has been diverted by a Twitter poll run by HeyUGuys contributor Adam Lowes (@adlow76).  He spent most of last week collating around 140 Top Tens from bloggers, producing a very different list to the art-house critics’ choices.

Sight & Sound                              HeyUGuys
1. Vertigo                                       1. Jaws
2. Citizen Kane                               2. Back To The Future
3. Tokyo Story                                3= The Dark Knight
4. La Regle Du Jeu                         3= Blade Runner
5. Sunrise                                      5= 2001: A Space Odyssey
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey              5= There Will Be Blood
7. The Searchers                            5= Psycho
8. Man With A Movie Camera           5= Citizen Kane
9. The Passion Of Joan Of Arc        9. Pulp Fiction
10. 8 1/2                                        10= The Thing
.                                                    10= Alien

Only two films made the Sight & Sound list, and the bloggers’ choices: Citizen Kane and 2001: A Space Odyssey – the latter far more representative of a sci-fi lover’s dream that also included Blade Runner, Back To The Future and The Thing.

Typically, none of my choices made either Top 10.  What were my choices? I wasn’t going to publish my list but since HeyUGuys already has, I may as well rationalise my choices.  In chronological order…

The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell / Emeric Pressburger, 1943) – the British Citizen Kane and, much as I adore Welles’ classic, this one strikes more of a chord with me.  It’s a properly swashbuckling piece of cinema: consistently inventive in technique and warm in its emotion.  Read my full review.

It’s A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) – most people vote for Jimmy Stewart’s Yuletide classic because of its alleged feelgood charms. But really, it’s a far more downbeat, ambiguous affair and that’s why I adore it. The storytelling is phenomenal.

A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson, 1956)Shawshank for adults; an austere (but no less gripping) prison escape drama from Robert Bresson.  When I first saw this, I didn’t know what it was called and spent years trying to track it down again (this was before IMDb was well known).   When I finally caught up with it, I was delighted to realise it was even better than I’d remembered.

The Hill (Sidney Lumet, 1965) – A second WWII prison camp drama, but with a twist: British guards, British prisoners. A searingly intense piece of work from Sidney Lumet and one of Sean Connery’s best ever performances.  I will never understand why this remains so underrated.

Bonnie And Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967) – my number one.  Here’s why.  (And yet this was only one of my choices – the other being The Hill – that no other blogger picked. Harumph.)

Weekend (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967) – One of the most significant viewing experiences in my life.  There are Jean-Luc Godard films I’ve watched more (on another day, Breathless or Le Mepris might have made the cut) but I’ve chosen Weekend because it was the first time I was really blown away by a foreign language film.  It remains an authentically bonkers, deeply challenging piece of work.

Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975) – the most recent addition to my Top 10, after seeing it on the big-screen earlier this year.  Kubrick’s masterpiece, and the finest period film of the lot, like a painting come to life. Read my introduction to Barrry Lyndon.

Chungking Express (Wong Kar-Wai, 1994) – a love letter to fast food, pop music, neon lights and romance that simply wouldn’t work in any other medium.

Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002) – Anderson’s playful palette cleanser, made between official classics Magnolia and There Will Be Blood, exemplifies why I go to the cinema – to be surprised and enchanted by things I’ve never seen before.  Like a brilliant Adam Sandler performance.

Children Of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006) – the most audacious film of recent years, a neo-realist action movie fuelled by impossible long takes, British hangdog wit and a blistering anger at the state of the world.  I loved it on first viewing; now I’m a father it’s even deeper and richer. Read my introduction to Children Of Men.

So there you have it.

Four British films! The Hill and Children Of Men have been mainstays in my top 10 for years; Blimp and Barry Lyndon just edged in over old favourites Midnight Run and La Haine. Why? Perhaps it’s Olympic fever; maybe it’s the fact that the Sight & Sound critics passed over British cinema.  Or it could just be that they’re all amazing films.

Three Moviedrome films!  I first caught A Man Escaped, The Hill and Weekend on Alex Cox’s Sunday night series.  In fact, I saw them over the same season in the Summer of 1993, at the age of 18.  It’s pretty much Year Zero for my cinema tastes.

Two films from the past decade! The hope of adding a third is what keeps me going back to the cinema.

One list… but sadly not long enough to add Dazed And Confused, The Empire Strikes Back, Die Hard, Love Me Tonight or The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.  Maybe in 2022.

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One Comment

  1. AaronAug 27, 2012 at 4:30 pmReply

    It’s so great to see Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” get some love for once! You hardly ever see that on any list, any blog, ANYWHERE!

    And yet, it’s probably one of the most amazing and beautiful cinematic experiences one could ever take part in. You are literally transported back in time in as dynamic a way as Kubrick takes you across the solar system in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It has always been my favorite film and my favorite Kubrick film since I rented it when I was 14 years Old! Glad to see it get some love!

    Since everyone is doing it…I want to leave a top 10 list myself….

    1. Barry Lyndon {as per mentioned above}

    2. CHINATOWN {The perfect Script, Perfect Cast, Perfect Film, PERFECT EVERYTHING}

    3. The Piano {haunting, poetic, and truly unique to itself}

    4. Blue Velvet {had to have Lynch! Must have Lynch!}

    5. 8 1/2 {This is like winning a cinematic lottery – so many magic moments unlike any other film}

    6. Badlands {Changed entirely how I looked at movies}

    7. Cries and Whispers {The power of Cinematography, a good script, and thoughtful direction – Bergman is a master}

    8. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial {Classic, Timeless, Magical….}

    9. 2046 {Artful, Interpretive, and Full of Emotion}

    10. West Side Story {Dynamic film making at its finest}

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