I started a list of my top five films. It got a bit out of hand.

I don’t think anyone actually cares which movies I like. But I do, so here goes…

Favourite Movies of All Time

These are some of the movies I can watch over and over. It’s not a definitive list.

  • Back to the Future
  • Heat
  • The Incredibles
  • How To Train Your Dragon
  • The Matrix

Recently I listened to the director commentary on Back to the Future. It interested me that they nearly cut the big guitar solo scene because it doesn’t advance the plot. And the time machine in their first draft was a fridge, not a car. So many creative decisions that turned out exactly right in that film.

Even if you aren’t aware that the coffee shop scene in Heat is Pacino and De Niro’s historic first screen together, it totally crackles with perfection. Dramas and thrillers don’t really top my list of films but Heat is a solid favourite. And that gun battle…

I can’t decide whether The Incredibles is a grown up movie for kids or a children’s film for grown ups. I’ve watched it way too many times. Having said that, I suspect that in a final battle for cartoon supremacy it will be knocked down by the glorious How To Train Your Dragon. Screw Avatar; Hiccup’s flight with Toothless is way cooler.

I had the benefit of not knowing a single thing about The Matrix before I saw it at the movies. That scene where he “wakes up” in the real world is the biggest “Wooah!” moment I’ve ever experienced while watching a film. Every shot in The Matrix is perfectly framed. Now that the SFX groundbreaking buzz is passed, it’s still a magnificent film. Only marginally spoiled by association with the sequels which got all bloated like Morpheus in his cardigan.

Favourite comedies
  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Anchorman
  • Galaxy Quest
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou
  • Zombieland

These are in no particular order, by the way. And yes, I love a movie that stars Tim Allen.

Favourite dramas
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • Secrets & Lies
  • Dead Poets Society
  • Apollo 13
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

I haven’t seen Dead Poets Society for many years so perhaps it won’t survive a repeat viewing. But it sticks in my mind as the first film that I ever cried watching. It taught me about the emotive power of the symbolic action: a boy stands on his desk and says “O Captain, my captain.” That’s all it takes.

Guilty pleasures

These films are utter, utter crap. But they are simply too much fun to avoid.

  • 2012
  • Con Air
  • Deep Blue Sea
  • Point Break

This is the sort of list you end up with when you’re married to an action girl.

If you haven’t yet seen 2012 then this is the obvious year to watch it. All of the biggest, dumbest disaster movies rolled into one glorious serving of excessive special effects and outrageous narrow escapes. So terribly, terribly bad that it is wonderfully, wonderfully good. I’d put it on my list of favourite movies of all time if I wasn’t so embarrassed.

Films that make me go, “woah, artistry!”
  • Amelie
  • The Triplets of Bellevue
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • Wall-E
  • Rango

These are the kind of films that propel me into my own creativity. All of these films blew my mind in one way or another. Maybe you have to have been a 9 year old boy to get Where The Wild Things Are. I totally got it. I saw the wild things as different aspects of Max’s personality. He’s essentially at war with himself. I found the film to be heartbreaking, beautiful and joyous. It connected with the lost little boy in me. A strange, quiet film that evoked emotion without spelling it out. I think this is what art is supposed to do.

Favourite movies: the early years…
  • The Muppet Movie
  • The Dark Crystal
  • Labyrinth
  • Willow
  • Ghostbusters

You can tell from the above list I had quite a fantasy bent as a kid. My dream job would have been working with Jim Henson. The Muppet Movie is the first film I ever saw on the big screen. That guy who kept threatening to turn Kermit into frogs legs freaked me out. The movie is still wonderful. Can’t say the same for Willow, unfortunately. But Ghostbusters continues to be awesome. (For a text-book lesson in how not to copy & paste a sequel see Ghostbusters 2.)

Favourite movies: the teenage years…
  • Young Einstein
  • Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
  • Hudson Hawk
  • Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Hudson Hawk bombed, apparently, but for me and my brother as teens it was Bruce Willis does Monty Python. In this list Monty Python and the Holy Grail is doubling for The Life of Brian.

Favourite documentaries
  • Man On Wire
  • Trekkies
  • Capturing the Friedmans
  • Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster
  • Young at Heart

Man On Wire is a documentary that looks like it should be straight forward and boring. It isn’t.

I don’t much want to revisit Capturing the Friedmans but it fascinated me as a demonstration of how media and selective editing can bias your assumptions as a viewer. If you watch it, make sure you follow up with some of the special features that shed a different angle all over again on the subject matter.

Deaths I hated
  • American History X – teeth, curb, boot.
  • Saving Private Ryan – stabbed, slowly
  • The Neverending Story – the horse dies in the swamp. Artax! Noooo!!
  • Shutter Island – finds his children in the river
  • Apocalypto – pretty much the whole film
Best uses for Jim Carrey
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Man on the Moon
  • The Truman Show
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • Horton Hears a Who

I used to quip that the world only needed one Jim Carrey movie, but then he broke out beyond his idiot roles and started appearing in films that are still my favourites.

Films that were better than other films
  • What Dreams May Come – was better than The Lovely Bones
  • Zathura – was better than Jumanji
  • Cliffhanger – was better than The Vertical Limit
  • Cloverfield – was better than Super 8
Excellent moments worth the price of admission in otherwise non-essential movies
  • Superman Returns – Supes saves the aeroplane
  • The Host – the monster’s first rampage along the river bed
  • The Matrix Reloaded – motorway chase
  • The Simpsons Movie – Bart skateboards naked
Favourite big dumb action films
  • Die Hard
  • Speed
  • Terminator 2
  • True Lies
  • Gladiator
Favourite intelligent action films
  • Children of Men
  • The Dark Knight
  • The Bourne Supremacy
  • District 9
  • Blood Diamond
Bittersweet films that put a smile on my face
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • Juno
  • Up
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Little Miss Sunshine

The opening scenes of Up. Just how moving is a cartoon allowed to be?

Most horrible Tarantino moments of cruelty
  • Reservoir Dogs – the ear
  • Kill Bill Vol 1 – the anime killing of Lucy Liu’s mother
  • Inglourious Basterds – death by baseball bat
  • Desperado – Tarantino tells a joke
  • Death Proof – the whole movie
Films that I didn’t enjoy as much as I was apparently supposed to
  • There Will Be Blood
  • The Godfather
  • No Country For Old Men
  • Atonement
  • Pan’s Labyrinth

Appreciate? Yes, definitely. Enjoy? Not really.

The most compelling boring film ever
  • Elephant

 Worth watching at least once. It’s not much fun though.

Things I can’t believe I just saw
  • There’s Something About Mary – the zipper
  • Borat – wrestling
  • City of God – a little kid gets his foot shot
  • A History of Violence – most uncomfortable looking sex scene ever
  • Team America – puppets go wild
Almost classics … but not quite
  • Walk Hard
  • Shoot ‘Em Up
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles
  • Thank You For Smoking
  • Babe

I raved about these the first time I saw them. Then on subsequent viewings they didn’t quite stack up as well as I had first assumed. But they’re all still pretty good.

Movies that aren’t what they seem
  • Up In the Air – is not a feel good comedy
  • Buried – is not a cut’n’paste Hollywood thriller
  • Bridge to Terabithia – is not a children’s fantasy film
  • Million Dollar Baby – is not an inspirational sports film
Best uses for Tom Cruise
  • Tropic Thunder
  • Magnolia
  • Minority Report
  • Mission: Impossible 3
  • Collateral

Whatever you think about his loopy Scientology antics, you’ve got to respect what he can bring to a film like Tropic Thunder. I tried to make this list 5 films long, but the two most essential entries here are Tropic Thunder and Magnolia. Mission Impossible included for the opening scene with Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Movies that made me feel what the character is feeling
  • The King’s Speech
  • 127 Hours
  • Insomnia
  • Touching the Void
  • Shine – the Rachmaninov concerto scene
Wastes of everybody’s time
  • City of Angels
  • Miami Vice
  • Ocean’s 12
  • The Expendables
  • Batman and Robin

Loving Heat as much as I do and knowing it was the same director, I actually went to the movies to see Miami Vice. Enough said.

That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.