Day Two of this mammoth, self-indulgent countdown and I’d like to address a fair criticism of both Empire’s list and certainly of mine. Both sets of films lean heavily on recent releases. It’d be nice to be fair, give equal share to decades past. Have as many movies from the 30’s as from the 00’s. But the truth is, living when I do, I can’t help but see more movies from the recent past than from the more distant. Seeing old movies requires a greater degree of effort, of seeking out. I try to make this effort, but still, the present is always right here.
Also, simply, what’s been recently seen lives most strongly in the mind. Putting together a list like this, one of the first things you’ll ask yourself is, “What have I recently seen?” One of the things you’ll do is catalogue cinema visits. Turning your eye to the past involves pushing harder. I’ve pushed, but the results are what they are. The flipside is that the movies remembered from the furthest distance shine all the stronger for their indelible highlights.
Anyway, let us continue…
200. Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy (2004, Adam McKay) – The top 200 begins in absolutely daft fashion with Will Ferrell’s groundswelling quote vehicle. Even the belated sequel didn’t suck. Whammy!
199. Away We Go (2009, Sam Mendes) – A couple expecting their first child go on a road trip of possible places to call home. Mendes’ freest and most charming film. Also his best.
198. Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011, Sean Durkin) – Enigmatic examination of cult indoctrination and PTSD centred by an extraordinary performance from Elizabeth Olsen.
197. The Killing (1956, Stanley Kubrick) – Hugely influential crime yarn that mixes up chronology as a disparate gang of undesirables hold up a racetrack.
196. Blood Simple (1984, Joel Coen) – The Coen Brothers burst onto the scene with this deep-fried Texan noir. Disposing of a body is no easy task.
195. Manhunter (1986, Michael Mann) – Hannibal Lecter makes his screen debut in the guise of the terrific Brian Cox for Michael Mann’s none-more-80’s serial killer investigation. Influential.
194. Total Recall (1990, Paul Verhoeven) – Thrilling excess? Rip-roaring action? It must be Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger. The last hurrah of the 80’s’ R-rated sci-fi trend.
193. The Princess Bride (1987, Rob Reiner) – Fantasy cult favourite, stuffed to the rafters with classic lines and crazy set-ups. And that sword-fight, of course.
192. Wake In Fright (1971, Ted Kotcheff) – Australian obscurity recently given a revival thanks to a blistering restoration. How to get lost in the outback. Thirsty, thirsty viewing.
191. Barry Lyndon (1975, Stanley Kubrick) – How to spend a Sunday afternoon. Kubrick’s luxurious period drama unfolds glacially over 3 sumptuous hours.
190. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry) – What if you could have hurtful relationships wiped from your mind? Jim Carey and Kate Winslet swap acting notes for this delirious comedy sci-fi from the mind of Charlie Kaufman.
189. Grizzly Man (2006, Werner Herzog) – Using the dead man’s own footage, Herzog tries to get inside the mind of doomed naturalistic Timothy Treadwell in this fascinating documentary.
188. Whisper Of The Heart (1995, Yoshifumi Kondo) – Underrated entry in the Ghibli canon, spotlighting a schoolgirl’s search for inspiration and the flush of first love.
187. The Graduate (1967, Mike Nichols) – Dustin Hoffman became a screen icon as disaffected youth Benjamin Braddock. A subversive phenomena, which continues to reward newcomers.
186. Paris, Texas (1984, Wim Wenders) – Ry Cooder’s languid score, Robby Muller’s superb cinematography and Harry Dean Stanton carrying the pain of the world on his shoulders. A slow-burning gem.
185. Scream (1995, Wes Craven) – Kicking up the dust and energising the horror genre, Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s post-modern skewering of slasher cliché is still great fun.
184. Alien3 (1992, David Fincher) – …Yes, really. Fincher’s dour third entry in the Alien franchise deserves reassessment. Amid all the profanity and loathsome prison inmates is a sombre drama about accepting mortality, with probably Sigourney Weaver’s best work of the series.
183. For A Few Dollars More (1965, Sergio Leone) – Lee Van Cleef commands equal billing with Clint Eastwood in the second of the Dollars trilogy, as Leone noticably grows more ambitious.
182. The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976, Nicolas Roeg) – David Bowie nails the persona of the ultimate outsider; an alien figure building a business empire on Earth… and succumbing to our every vice.
181. Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz) – Endlessly revered and adored, Bogart and Bergman are two of cinema’s most cheered for lovers separated by circumstance.
180. The Burmese Harp (1956, Kon Ichikawa) – A Japanese soldier trades in his uniform for the robes of a Buddhist monk at the end of World War 2 while his platoon search for him.
179. Videodrome (1983, David Cronenberg) – Cronenberg addresses concerns of censorship, exploitation and pornography in this psycho-sexual surreal nightmare. With Debbie Harry.
178. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003, Quentin Tarantino) – Vol. 2 might have seen the story stumble, but this first half sees its director having as much fun as he ever has behind the camera. An infectiously playful blood-splattered attack.
177. Breathless / ABout de Souffle (1960, Jean-Luc Godard) – Belted the French New Wave into public consciousness and ensured Godard was a name on everyone’s lips. The age of cinema made by cinephiles was under way.
176. Let The Right On In (2008, Tomas Alfredson) – The vampire film gets a fresh spin in this Swedish coming of age tale that features stunning performances from its young leads.
175. Capturing The Friedmans (2003, Andrew Jarecki) – Are you sitting comfortably? You won’t be by the end of this fascinating documentary into claims of paedophilia in a seemingly sleepy American suburb.
174. Indian Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984, Steven Spielberg) – Problematic in the middle? Sure. But the second Indiana Jones film is bracketed by some of the most thrilling action sequences shown in cinemas.
173. Magnolia (1999, Paul Thomas Anderson) – P. T. Anderson’s gigantic, melodramatic homage to Robert Altman sees a vast array of interconnected characters dealing with personal dramas over the course of a single Californian day.
172. Clerks II (2006, Kevin Smith) – Ranked for being a perfect hangover film. Funny, occasionally wise and refreshingly free of pretension, this sequel may not have the original’s cult status, but it is, for me, the more enjoyable movie.
171. Fantastic Mr Fox (2009, Wes Anderson) – Wes plunges into stop-motion animation to adapt Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book and produces one of his very best films.
170. Predator (1987, John McTiernan) – Arnie in the jungle versus a seemingly unstoppable, cloaked alien killer. The franchise has floundered at repeating this kind of glory.
169. Rififi (1955, Jules Dassin) – Classic French crime thriller, the central set-piece of which is a super-suspenseful silent break-in.
168. Metropolis (1927, Fritz Lang) – Immeasurably influential sci-fi spectacle. This silent stunner continues to impress even as it’s centennial starts to appear on the distant horizon.
167. Black Swan (2010, Darren Aronofsky) – A histrionic psychological horror which masqueraded as a saucy romantic drama in order to crash awards season. Natalie Portman has never seemed more electric.
166. Irreversible (2002, Gaspar Noe) – As confrontational and as upsetting as cinema gets, Noe’s sordid revenge horror show corkscrews backwards in time toward innocence; its final moments filled with grace.
165. Jurassic Park (1993, Steven Spielberg) – FRICKIN’ DINOSAURS!!!
164. Badlands (1973, Terrence Malick) – Martin Sheen is a bad boy binman, who goes on the run with Sissy Spacek, building forts in the woods. That. But much better than that.
163. The Lost Weekend (1945, Billy Wilder) – Ray Milland drowns his sorrows in this heavy-handed but – for the time – extremely brave essay on alcoholism. With Wilder behind the camera everything lands with crowd-pleasing class.
162. Take Shelter (2011, Jeff Nichols) – “THERE’S A STORRRRRM COMIN’…” Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Michael Shannon.
161. Killer Joe (2011, William Friedkin) – The official jump-start to the Matthew McConnaughey resurgence. You might not touch fried chicken for a while…
160. Harold And Maude (1971, Hal Ashby) – Perennially adored ‘odd couple’ tale of friendship and the celebration – and wry derision – of life and all its foibles.
159. The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans (2009, Werner Herzog) – Nic Cage makes some effort, contorting himself into a monster for Herzog’s fable on the U.S.’s failure of New Orleans. With drugs. Lots of drugs. And iguanas.
158. The Straight Story (1999, David Lynch) – Lynch makes a child-friendly Disney movie about an elderly man riding his lawnmower across states to see his dying brother. And it’s wonderful.
157. The Breakfast Club (1985, John Hughes) – I genuinely don’t feel like I have to write anything to describe, explain or justify this. Next!
156. Dog Day Afternoon (1975, Sidney Lumet) – Al Pacino owns Lumet’s thrilling depiction of a bank robbery gone wrong. A brilliant watch based on a true story.
155. Frances Ha (2012, Noah Baumbach) – Greta Gerwig charms thoroughly in this recent indie gem as a New York dancer fighting off responsibility while living at no fixed address.
154. Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki) – Brought Studio Ghibli universal acclaim, Mayazaki’s absorbing fantasy piece boasts triumphant set pieces and moments of tender quietude.
153. Carrie (1976, Brian De Palma) – Stephen King’s debut novel crackles in De Palma’s hands. He may not have had the budget to set the town on fire, but Sissy Spacek’s prom night pyrotechnics live long in the memory.
152. From Dusk Til Dawn (1996, Robert Rodriguez) – Santanico Pandemonium. Not just her, but, y’know… mostly.
151. Dancer In The Dark (2000, Lars Von Trier) – It takes a lot to make me cry at the movies (so jaded)… unless you’re Lars Von Trier tearing the wings from Bjork’s life in the most heartbreaking, depressing musical of all time. Buckets. Every time.
150. The Warriors (1979, Walter Hill) – One of the great nighttime movies. Been out? Stayed in? Not quite ready to call it yet? Put The Warriors on. Watch a world without sleep.
149. The Terminator (1984, James Cameron) – …and riding in on its heals another classic. Cameron’s lean, propulsive cyberpunk chase film is its own unique experience.
148. Before Midnight (2013, Richard Linklater) – The third part in Linklater’s continuing relationship drama sees Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy struggling like never before to exist as a couple, yet it is still beautiful, light as air, easy and natural as anything.
147. Kill List (2011, Ben Wheatley) – Domestic drama turns hitman movie turns 70’s tinged folk-horror in Ben Wheatley’s exposition-free nightmare. Brutal.
146. Like Someone In Love (2012, Abbas Kiarostami) – The Iranian director shifts focus to Japan, with this exquisitely shot, beguiling tale of changing identities between a young prostitute and an elderly professor.
145. Pulp Fiction (1994, Quentin Tarantino) – Chronology twerking crime drama divided into three stories. Received some notoriety.
144. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975, Milos Foreman) – Jack Nicholson may never have been better than in this fine drama set inside a prison mental institution.
143. The Deer Hunter (1978, Michael Cimino) – The irrevocable consequences of war; the cost to the individual, how you can never leave it behind. De Niro heads a powerhouse cast in Cimino’s haunting, unforgettable Vietnam drama.
142. The LEGO Movie (2014, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller) – Hell, yes. Everything, everything is awesome.
141. Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 (2013, Lars Von Trier) – Von Trier’s Kill Bill. No really. Vol. 1 displays a director at his most playful and the results are wholly engaging. The second half may slow things down, work harder, but part one is, for the most part, a quirky breeze.
140. Her (2013, Spike Jonze) – Jonze works from his own pen for the first time and the results are quietly magical. Scarlett Johansson leaves a lasting impression for her disembodied A.I.
139. A Serious Man (2009, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) – The Coens reach into their own past for this strangely comedic 60’s-set existential crisis. Great seeing Michael Stuhlbarg in a leading role.
138. Before Sunrise (1995, Richard Linklater) – Where it all began. Jesse and Celine’s first day together is a simply beautiful experience. A love letter to love.
137. Miller’s Crossing (1990, Joel Coen) – The Coens’ gangster yarn boasts staggering dialogue, great performances and a corkscrewing storyline. Engages and rewards on all levels.
136. Kiss Me Deadly (1955, Robert Aldrich) – Bizarre, murky film noir that came late in the cycle. Late enough to feel the imprint of 50’s nuclear fear.
135. The Wind Rises (2013, Hayao Miyazaki) – Miyazaki’s swansong is one of the best biopics ever made and a more than adequate end to an extraordinary career.
134. Paths Of Glory (1957, Stanley Kubrick) – Kubrick’s anti-war address dispels the myth that the man worked without emotion. That last bar scene makes grown men weep.
133. Battle Royale (2000, Kinji Fukasaku) – Blistering adaptation of Koushun Takami’s pulp sci-fi novel.
132. Cloud Atlas (2012, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski) – As impressive as it is maddening, with enough bizarre tics to turn off viewers as to turn others on. As interesting for what succeeds as what fails, that a film like this even gets made in modern Hollywood is a reason for optimism.
131. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946, Frank Capra) – Funny it’s considered the ultimate Christmas movie now, as so much of it is a downward spiral… the key is the spine-tingling, joyous upswing at the end. You have to see the bottom before you can get to the top.
130. French Connection 2 (1975, John Frankenheimer) – Oft unjustly forgotten sequel featuring some incredible work from Gene Hackman. The sequence in which he is weened from an imposed heroin addiction is incredible.
129. Avatar (2009, James Cameron) – It may hurt the list’s credibility… but fuck it. Derivative? Maybe. Littered with clunking dialogue? Sure. A wholly immersive fantasy adventure? Definitely…
128. Aliens (1986, James Cameron) – …But it still ain’t better than this. Cameron reconfigures Scott’s haunted-house-in-space into a rip-roaring blast ’em up.
127. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, Wes Anderson) – Still Wes’ finest work. The tale of a dysfunctional family of gifted failures you’d still do anything to be part of.
126. Double Indemnity (1944, Billy Wilder) – Film noir’s trump card for many. The best film about insurance, and one which ends on a declaration of love between men no less.
125. Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock) – James Stewart and Grace Kelly are exceptional to watch in Hitch’s voyeuristic apartment-based thriller.
124. You’re Next (2011, Adam Wingard) – A surprising choice? Maybe. But truth be told horror hasn’t been this much fun in years. Clever, well thought out and, in Sharni Vinson, a candidate for a great many further ass-kicking lead roles.
123. M (1931, Fritz Lang) – Woah, shit just got reverential. Lang’s meditation on mob mentality and vigilante justice is one of the all-time classics.
122. Stand By Me (1986, Rob Reiner) – Captures childhood nostalgia like lightning in a bottle. The 50’s time period is incidental; this is youth, right here.
121. Full Metal Jacket (1987, Stanley Kubrick) – Unconventionally structured but executed with razor-sharp vision, there’s more to Kubrick’s Vietnam movie than R Lee Ermy’s wicked put downs. The sniper sequence is a masterclass of suspense and spacial awareness.
120. The French Connection (1971, William Friedkin) – Flip back through this list afterward and you’ll note what an exceptional year 1971 was. This Oscar-winning crime thriller lives on it’s documentary-like energy and Gene Hackman’s full-throated performance.
119. Judex (1963, Georges Franju) – I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with Franju if this is the normal level he operated at. A quixotic mix of the surreal and the deliriously entertaining.
118. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg) – Temple of Doom may technically be my favourite 90% of the time, but there’s no denying the maths here; for Indy’s first adventure, Spielberg and Lucas got the formula just right from start to finish. For that, this gets the higher placing.
117. It Happened One Night (1934, Frank Capra) – One of only a handful of movies to catch the coveted ‘top five’ statues at the Oscars, Capra’s odd-couple on the road romance has lost none of its power to charm. Seek it.
116. Drive (2011, Nicolas Winding Refn) – Stop! Hammer time.
115. Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (2002, Park Chan-Wook) – There’s a cruel inevitability to the first installment of the Vengeance trilogy. Chan-Wook’s tale of misguided abduction and black market surgeries winds in like a watch.
114. Short Term 12 (2013, Destin Daniel Cretton) – A superb, tear-jerking depiction of life in a temporary foster home that walks a high wire between the humdrum and the sentimental. The performances are what linger, chiefly Brie Larson’s sensational Grace.
113. Synecdoche, New York (2008, Charlie Kaufman) – Pretty much too much for one viewing, deconstructing Charlie Kaufman’s opus on neuroses and accepting death benefits massively from repeat viewings, if you can draw yourself back to its bruised soulful heart.
112. A Clockwork Orange (1971, Stanley Kubrick) – Strange, perverse, entirely distinctive, Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ dystopian social comment excels for all it’s pop art quirks. That opening! That score! That menacing grin…
111. The Elephant Man (1980, David Lynch) – Mel Brooks approached Lynch for the project following a screening of Eraserhead. The dream weaver tones down his own oddness to provide a film from the heart, albeit one infused with industrial disquiet.
110. Contempt / Le Mépris (1963, Jean-Luc Godard) – Godard continued his assault on cinematic conventions with this attack on the medium itself. The collapse of the central relationship between Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli feels like a bookend to the conversation started in Breathless.
109. Nebraska (2013, Alexander Payne) – Payne returned to the road movie in elegiac black and white for this tale of an old man’s stubborn belief that he’s won the lottery, and his son’s compassionate discovery that family really matters.
108. Shame (2011, Steve McQueen) – Michael Fassbender is on a career-best here in Steve McQueen’s precision drama about sex addiction and the loneliness of inner city living.
107. Don’t Look Now (1973, Nicolas Roeg) – Roeg turns to horror with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, delivering a chilling mystery amid the labyrinthine waterways of Venice.
106. Lolita (1962, Stanley Kubrick) – Adrian Lyne’s soft-focus adaptation in 1997 may have been more faithful to Nabokov’s novel, but Kubrick’s is the better film. Peter Sellers dazzles as the multifaced Quilty while James Mason is the perfect pervert to keep an audience on the hook.
105. The Act Of Killing (2013, Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, Anonymous) – I bought a copy of The Act Of Killing when it came out on home release over 6 months ago. I still haven’t brought myself to watch it again, so powerful, so shattering was the experience in the cinema. A must-see documentary which will simply change you.
104. La Dolce Vita (1960, Federico Fellini) – Fellini ruffles feathers, invents the term ‘paparazzi’ and casts Rome’s culture of decadence out for the world to see, warts, hypocrisy and all. And with Anita Ekberg’s saunter in Trevi Fountain, played Hollywood at their own glamorous game.
103. Punch-Drunk Love (2002, Paul Thomas Anderson) – Adam Sandler (yes, Adam Sandler!) gives an award-worthy performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s twitchy romantic comedy that vaults over the genre’s usual expectations into a bizarre, volatile world. Bubbly, quixotic and entirely its own entity.
102. Belle De Jour (1967, Luis Bunuel) – Catherine Deneuve’s icy beauty thaws in this dreamlike tale of a repressed middle class housewife who is drawn to a life of prostitution.
101. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965, Russ Meyer) – A cult classic. Russ Meyer’s best film is this salacious, pulpy thriller as three buxom go-go dancers dabble in reckless driving, kidnapping, murder and an innuendo-strewn chicken dinner.
Into the top 100 tomorrow…