Andy's Film Picks


What follows is my personal list of great movies.  I have always been a movie fan, and did a film course for three years, so have seen more films than I care to admit.  Clearly such a list is immensely subjective; in general film critics agree on the merits of movies in the way that Irish Catholics and Protestants agree on religious matters.  I have grouped things by film genre.  In general my own preferences compared with full time critics tend towards the modern.  The critic Leslie Halliwell believes that there hasn't been a really good movie made since 1948, which to me is a clear demonstration of how much he lives in the real world; he is the sort of person that would have classified the Renaissance as a vulgar departure from good taste.  Personally, while I am aware of the significance of, say, "the Battleship Potemkin" for film theory, this doesn't mean that you might actually want to watch it.  Many of the movies critics’ all-time greats are littered with films which pioneered various techniques, or were remarkable films for their time; they are not all fun to watch. 


So, without further ado, here they are. 




Science Fiction


Action Films


Film Noir



Significant Films


Foodie Films




Silence Of The Lambs (1991)


Directed by: Jonathon Demme

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jodi Foster, Scott Glenn

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


For me, one of the most striking crime films ever made, based on a Thomas Harris novel of the same name, and possessing a towering performance by Anthony Hopkins as the serial killer Hannibal Lecter.  The taut direction treads keeps the gore at bay and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.


Body Heat (1981)


Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan

Starring: William Hurt, Kathleen Turner

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Wonderfully atmospheric film and a remarkable debut by any standards.  Borrowing heavily from the classic "Double Indemnity” (see later) Kasdan creates a world of intrigue and murder one hot summer in Florida.  The James M. Cain story really comes to life as the heat and tension mounts.  This launched the film careers of Kathleen Turner, William Hurt and Mickey Rourke.


Blood Simple (1983)


Directed by: Joel Coen

Starring:  John Getz, J. Emmet Walsh

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


In this stunning debut (the film cost just $1.5 million) by the Coen brothers, the twisting plot is secondary to the tremendously atmospheric photography.  This conjures up the world of small town Texas and brings it to life.  For me the thriller of the decade. 



Fargo (1996)


Directed by: Joel Coen

Starring:  William Macy, Steve Buscemi, Frances McDormand

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


The Coen Brothers return to their roots in the cold, cold North of the United States with their best film since Blood Simple.  Frnaces McDormand gives a fine performance, while Willaim Macy acts out of his skin. 



Rear Window (1954)


Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Raymond Burr

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Intensely gripping suspense film from Hitchcock at his best.  James Stewart and Grace Kelly sizzle on screen, and the tension never lets up.  Remarkably, virtually every scene in the film is contained to the view from Stewart's flat, but this exercise in film technique does not detract one iota from the enjoyment.  The moment when Grace Kelly shows her nightie to the wheelchair-bound Stewart with the line “preview of things to come” shows how a scene does not have to be explicit to be erotic. 


Vertigo (1958)


Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Frequently quoted as Hitchcock's finest achievement (though I prefer Psycho and Rear Window), this is another great vehicle for the talents of James Stewart, entranced by the mysterious Kim Novak and forced to confront his darkest fears.  Hitchcock adopted a very unusual narrative structure (as he did in Psycho, Rope, Marnie and others) but manages to do this while still creating a gripping film.


Manhunter (1986)


Directed by: Michael Mann

Starring: William Petersen, Brian Cox, Tom Noonan

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


One of my favourite thrillers, this film is based on the Thomas Harris book Red Dragon (he also wrote "The Silence OF The Lambs").  This is a much lower budget film, and it shows in the wooden acting of Petersen, but Brian Cox is tremendous as Lecter and Tim Noonan manages to add the touch of sympathy to the killer that Silence OF The Lambs failed to deliver in the Buffalo Bill character.  A fine soundtrack by Shriekback and some truly amazing scenes, such as the one with the tiger.  A must.        




The Searchers (1956)


Directed by: John Ford

Starring: John Wayne, Natalie Wood, Vera Miles

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Without doubt one of the great westerns, as remarkable for the dramatic photography and unusual story line as for Ford's ability to conjure a good performance out of John Wayne.


A Fistful Of Dollars (1964)


Directed by: Sergio Leone

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volonte, Marianne Koch

Web link: Link to internet movie database


This movie launched the "spaghetti westerns" (made in Italy) and established the supercool persona of Clint Eastwood.  Hardly great cinema in itself, but a landmark in the western; it has some wonderful lines. 


Once Upon A Time In The West (1969)


Directed by: Sergio Leone

Starring: Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson

Web link: Link to internet movie database


A true epic (even the credits last twelve minutes), this is Sergio Leone's finest western.  A sprawling story is held together by fine acting, great atmosphere and a wonderful eye for the beautiful scenery in which the story unfolds.  Written by horror film director Dario Argento


High Noon (1952)


Directed by: Fred Zinnemann

Starring: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly

Web link: Link to internet movie database


As the clock ticks away in a small town Gary Cooper has to come to terms with his own fears and beliefs.  Universally accepted as one of the great westerns.  As a bonus, you get Grace Kelly too. 




Others include "Stagecoach" (John Ford, 1939), "Red River" (Howard Hawks, 1948), "Shane" (George Stevens, 1953) and, a personal favourite, "Silverado" (Lawrence Kasdan, 1985), which has the unforgettable sight of John Cleese as a sheriff.








Science Fiction


2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Gary Lockwood, Keir Dullea

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Stanley Kubrick is without doubt one of the great directors, and in this movie he turns his attention to the area of science fiction.  While overlong and lacking in tension in many places, this is a remarkable film visually.  The special effects still look remarkable today (this is really only appreciated on the big screen), and Kubrick is daring in his rejection of normal cinematic form in producing a truly epic film.   


The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)


Directed by: Robert Wise

Starring: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal

Web link Link to internet movie database


Perhaps the best of a clutch of SF movies in this period.  Nothing political about this; just a well-written, gripping story.  And can you remember the phrase that will save the earth?


Forbidden Planet (1956)


Directed by: Fred Wilcox

Starring: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis Leslie Nielsen

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Fred Wilcox, whose most signifcant previous credit was "Lassie Come Home", managed to create what is arguably the greatest science fiction film of all time.  Based on "The Tempest", the film manages to combine genuine tension, unsettling music, fine special effects and memorable characters, despite some variable acting.  The best lines are stolen by Robbie the Robot, who was so popular he turned up in two separate TV series in years to come.  If you only watch one science fiction film, this should be the one.


Blade Runner (1982)


Directed by: Ridley Scott

Starring: Harrison Ford , Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Memorable for the nightmare world of Los Angles in the next century, the visual creations of this film have been copied shamelessly ever since.  Based loosely on a well-known Philip K. Dick story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, Ridley Scott uses his remarkable visual sense to great effect, transcending the basic plot into a series of extraordinary images.   


Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956)


Directed by: Don Siegel

Starring: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


The all-time great conspiracy film.  This low budget movie is gripping and intelligent, managing to make a virulent attack on McCarthyism while remaining true to its genre roots.  As the true paranoid knows only too well, they really are out to get you.    


The 1978 Lawrence Kasdan version is also remarkable, lacking in paranoia but gaining in fine acting from Donald Sutherland.  A rare example of a remake being almost as interesting as the original. 



Pitch Black (2000)


Directed by: David Twohy 

Starring: Radha Mitchell, Vin Diesel

Web Link: Link  to internet movie database


Low budget Australia sci-fi/horror, performing way beyond its budget.  One moment (I won’t spoil it for you) in the film is one of the most perfect examples of a single dramatic shot in the whole of cinema, n my opinion.




Other SF films of great merit include "The Stepford Wives” (Bryan Forbes 1974), "Planet Of The Apes" (Franklin Schaffner, 1958 - but none of the ghastly sequels), "Scanners" (David Cronenberg 1981), "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (Jack Arnold 1957), "Them" (Gordon Douglas, 1954), “Gattaca” (Andrew Niccol 1997).




Alien (1979)


Directed by: Ridley Scott

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Ian Holm

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Landmark film, which first illustrated Ridley Scott's tremendous visual eye.  Instead of the usual Start Trek vision of the future, the cargo vessel "Nostromo" is all dark corridors and dripping pipes.  The film cleverly spends ages exploring the characters of the victims before any of the pyrotechnics begin, this ensuring that you identify with individuals rather than ciphers when the Alien begins its carnage.  Remarkable.    



Psycho (1960)


Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles

Web link: Link to internet Movie Database


Many people's favourite Hitchcock, this is now acknowledged as one of the great horror films.  A great deal has been written of the Freudian symbolism in the movie, a film where Anthony Perkins peeks at Janet Leigh through a pinhole behind a picture "Susannah & The Elders", which portrays the classical story of the rape of the Sabine women.  The many bird symbols associated with Perkins also can be read in fairly obvious ways, as well as the relentless downward camera angles, from the opening shot to the blood in the plughole to the car in the swamp.  But above all this the film is gripping and has a genuinely shocking and surprising script.  Great camera work by Saul Bass, and Hitch at his best.  Hitchcock financed this himself; a wise investment.   


Night Of The Demon (1957)


Directed by: Jacques Tourneur

Starring: Dan Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Truly chilling suspense film, well before the era when special effects allowed mediocre directors to rely on gore for their thrills.  The duff American lead aside, the film bristles with tension; one of the all time greats.


Halloween 1978)


Directed by: John Carpenter

Starring: Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Loomis

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Low budget early film from John carpenter which spawned dozens of imitators.  Pure relentless terror with little respite.  Incredible opening sequence which stuns the audience, and the film never lets up from there.  Carpenter never really bettered this early shocker.


The Exorcist (1973)


Directed by: William Friedkin

Starring: Linda Blair, Ellen Burnstyn, Max von Sydow

Web link: Link to internet movie database


A classic which made national headlines due to its controversial subject matter and the violent objections of the moral majority.  This aside, it is a genuinely scary movie, building William Blatty's novel into a truly disturbing supernatural tale.  This was the writer William Peter Blatty’s first attempt at writing outside the comedy genre! 


Rosemary's Baby (1968)


Directed by: Roman Polanski

Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavettes

Web link: Link to Internet movie database


Almost flawless horror flick.  Great performances are elicited from the cast as Polanski's imagination takes root in our dreams and nightmares..  Does for childbirth what "The Hand That Rocked The Cradle" did for the nanny profession.     


A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)


Directed by: Wes Craven

Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Arguably one of the first mainstream feminst films of the 80s; as so often horror has tackled subject matter which the Hollywood big pictures would rather leave untouched.  Imaginative and genuinely scary film, with some nice humorous touches to relieve the tension.           


Dead Of Night (1945)


Directed by: Various

Starring: Mervyn Johns, Roland Culver

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


An architect's recurring dreams lead to a compendium of supernatural short stories, and finally to murder.  Tremendous script, with the director managing to generate genuine tension. 





Other fine horror films include "Night Of The Living Dead" (George Romero, 1968), "The Fog" (John Carpenter, 1980), "Monkey Shines" (George Romero, 1988), "An American Werewolf In London" (John Landis, 1981)., "Coma" (Michael Crichton, 1978), "The Shining" (Stanley Kubrick, 1980), "Frankenstein" (James Whale, 1931), "Cat People" (both the 1942 Jacques Tourneur version and the very different, but also interesting, Paul Schrader 1982 remake).  Of special interest, though not a great film, is "The Slumber Party Massacre" (Amy Jones, 1982), the first (only?) truly feminist slasher movie. ...



Action Films


Aliens (1986)


Directed by: James Cameron

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


My favourite action film ever.  Cameron chooses not to just recycle the successful Alien formula but instead moves to epic territory.  He balances militaristic imagery with wonderfully strong female characters.  The film was shot entirely in London, and the remarkable Vasquez character was actually a Hackney housewife.  Like the best films of this type, great care is taken in building characterisation before the adventures begin.  When they do, Cameron displays a genius for handling fast moving adventure.  A film to be watched at the cinema; you will be riveted to your seat.  Try and see the Special Edition, wich has over twenty minutes oif restored footage.     


The Terminator (1984)


Directed by: James Cameron

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


The film which launched James Cameron's career.  For ages I avoided this film because it starred Arnie, but this is irrelevant, especially as he plays a robot ("Just be yourself, Arnie").  Immense energy pervades this fairly low budget movie, transcending its modest expectations.    


Robocop (1987)


Directed by: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Another film which many people avoid because of the title and publicity.  The studio took an inspired gamble in giving this big-budget film not to a rock video brat, but to a Dutch art film director (Verhoeven has made "The Fourth Man", "Spetters" etc).  He responded by producing a film which works at the basic level, but is also a vicious critique of values in Reagan America.  A remarkable combination of gripping action with political satire.   


Total Recall (1990)


Directed by: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenneger, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside

Web link: Link to internet movie database


One of the cleverest plots I can recall seeing in any movie.  Even at the end the ambiguity is left, but by that time you are out of breath, caught up on a roller-coaster of wild action.  Vastly better than it sounds.    


Die Hard (1988)


Directed by: John McTiernan

Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman

Web link: Link to internet movie database


No pretensions about this film, just straight entertainment.  I went to see this film against my better judgement, but my low expectations were greatly exceeded.  A taut plot and fine direction lift this a cut above the usual blood and guts adventure.  Any director that can make a fine movie while having to contend with Bruce Willis as the star is all right in my book.  Great entertainment.   


The Matrix (1999)


Directed by: Wachowski Brothers (Andy & Larry)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie Ann Moss

Web link: Link to Internet Movie Database


So remarkable directed that even Keanu Reeves appears to be acting.  Genuinely inventive writing from Andy Wachowski, and all the money is up there on the screen.  The betrayal with the agents dinner was filmed at Level 41 restaurant in Sydney, which you can read about in a different part of tis site.  If you liked this you may want to look up the Wachowski Brother interesting crime movie Bound, with Meg Tilly, which is a lot better than its budget. 





Other rip-roaring action films include "Predator" (John McTiernan, 1987) and "Assault On Precinct 13" (John Carpenter, 1976).     




Taxi Driver (1976)


Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Robert De Niro, Cybil Shepherd, Albert Brooks

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Definitive Scorsese exploration of the male psyche, aided by a towering performance by De Niro as the ex-Vietnam vet who lets the squalor and violence of New York take him over.


The Parallax View (1974)


Directed by: Alan Pakula

Starring: Warren Beatty, Hume Cronyn

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Containing one of the most remarkable sequences I have seen on film (the video clip Beatty watches when being tested for the Parallax corporation), the much underrated Alan Pakula pulls of a triumph of a political thriller.  Great camera work from Pakula's long time partner in photography, Gordon Willis. 


Stand By Me (1986)


Directed by: Rob Reiner

Starring: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Richard Dreyfuss

Web link: Link to internet movie database


If the prospect of some American kids growing up doesn't sound appealing, then you are right, but watch this film anyway.  Truly enchanting tale of young angst.   


The Last Picture Show (1971)


Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Cybill Shepherd

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Small town life has never been more acutely observed. It only won two Oscars out of the eight it was nominated for, but could have scooped the lot. 


One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)


Directed by: Milos Forman

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Not promising subject matter, but Nicholson's performance towers over this study of life in a metal institution.  It won all five big Oscars (film, director, script, leading actor, leading actress).


The French Connection (1971)


Directed by: William Friedkin

Starring: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Remembered for the great car chase, but this is a cut above the usual cop thriller.  An excellent script as well as fine performances.   


From Here To Eternity (1953)


Directed by: Fred Zinneman

Starring: Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Remembered for the much copied scene of Kerr and Lancaster making love on the beach, the movie was in fact a great success in all departments.  Clift oozes sexual tension (all the more intriguing as in real life he was gay) with his saxophone playing, and even Frank Sinatra has a go at acting.  


Fail Safe (1964)


Directed by: Sidney Lumet

Starring: Henry Fonda, Walter Mathau

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Greatly underrated political thriller (it suffered from being released at the same time as Dr Strangelove; Fail Safe covers similar material but plays it straight).  Wonderful performances and a razor-sharp script that keeps you on the edge of your seat.    


Touch Of Evil (1958)


Directed by: Orson Welles

Starring: Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Marlene Dietrich

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Not Welles' most famous film but still fascinating.  It features an extremely famous long opening tracking shot (lovingly referenced and mimicked in Robert Altman's "The Player".  Great atmosphere.


Peeping Tom (1960)


Directed by: Michael Powell

Starring: Carl Boehm, Anna Massey

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


A film years ahead of its time, made by one of England's greatest film-makers (Powell and Pressburger filmed "The Red Shoes, "Black Narcissus" and many more).  A shocking study of a psychopath; genuinely chilling, it horrified audiences at the time, but can now be seen as a remarkable, if gruelling examination of madness.   


Bonnie & Clyde (1967)


Directed by: Arthur Penn

Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman

Web link: Link to internet movie database


A film which captured the rebellious spirit of the times and which received a critical panning until they noticed the length of the queues outside the cinemas.  Warren Beatty had to put up $90,000 of his own money in order to get the film financed (a smart move indeed). 


Manchurian Candidate (1962)


Directed by: John Frankenheimer

Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Classic cold war spy thriller, with fine performances and a superb script.  


It's A Wonderful Life (1946)


Directed by: Frank Capra

Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Henry Travers

Web link: Link to internet movie database


This film is just so nice that you secretly yearn for a mad axe murderer to appear. James Stewart turns in a sterling performance in what is certainly a classic; as likely to appear at Christmas as Santa.  


The Big Chill (1983)


Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan

Starring: William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Tom Berenger

Web link: Link to internet movie database


A funeral brings together a group of friends who have lost touch.  Much soul-searching about lost youth follows, but this unpromising material is woven into a genuinely fascinating film by Kasdan.


Diner (1982)


Directed by: Barry Levinson

Starring: Steve Guttenberg, Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin

Web link: Link to internet movie database


A well-observed story of a group of students trying to work out the answer to life the universe and everything.  This is the kind of material that could send you rushing for the exit if badly handled, but instead it is brought together into a fine movie.     


The Shawshank Redemption (1994)


Directed by: Frank Darabont

Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Delightful and uplifting prison drama. 



Pulp Fiction (1994)


Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L Jackson, Uma Thurman

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Tarantino’s masterpiece, surpassing the fine Reservoir Dogs, has one of the best scripts to grace a movie in many years.  Sparkling dialogue, clever narrative structure and, above all, style.



American Beauty (1999)


Directed by: Sam Mendes

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning, Mena Suvari

Web link: Link to internet movie database


It took a Brit to completely debunk the American dream.  It needed that cold cynicism to cut through the optimism that is America, just as it took Kashio Ishaguro to get under the skin of the Britsih class system in Remains of the Day.  Fine acting and a razor sharp dialogue.



The Usual Suspects (1995)


Directed by: Bryan Singer

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne 

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Gripping crime movie, with a superb twisting plot about hapless gangsters caught up with the legendary criminal Keyser Soze.  Pete Pothelswaite gets a fine cameo as Soze’s agent, but Kevin Spacey steals the show.



Leon (1994


Directed by: Luc Besson

Starring: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Fine quirky movie carried along by great acting from Jean Reno and the remarkable child actress Natalie Portman, and ven Gary Oldman only oeracts a bit.  Make sure you get the European cut, and notthe hacked Amercian Cut, which butchers 24 minutes and reduces a beautiful film to a low-budget action movie. 




Film Noir


Double Indemnity (1944)

Directed by: Billy Wilder

Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Fred McMurray, Edward G. Robinson

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Arguably the best film noir, this movie has it all.  Fine performances, great plot, excellent direction.  The definitive exploration of the dark side of the American dream.  Remade as “Body Heat” by Lawrence Kasdan. 


The Woman In The Window (1944)


Directed by: Fritz Lang

Starring: Edward G Robinson, Raymond Massey, Joan Bennett

Web link: Link to internet movie database


It is a curious thing that many of the very best film noir movies were made by Fritz Lang, and starred Edward G Robinson.  This is one of the greats, and offers agonising suspense at times, as well as a balancing light touch.


The Big Sleep (1946)


Directed by: Howard Hawks

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Malone

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Under no circumstances mix this up with the ghastly Michael Winner 1978 remake; Michael Winner is to directing what Eddie The Eagle is to ski-jumping.  The masterful original follows the Bogart incarnation of Philip Marlowe through a maze of intrigue, with a fine script and cast.  A classic.   


The Big Heat (1953)


Directed by: Fritz Lang

Starring: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Brutally violent for its day, the film has a lot of virtues, and was a significant departure from the candy floss image Hollywood of American life likes to project.  This movie is realistic and quite gripping.


Gilda (1946)


Directed by: Charles Vidor

Starring: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Memorable for the famous one glove striptease of Rita Hayworth (and for her singing), but also a fine noir, full of betrayal, blackmail and murder.    



Kiss Me Deadly (1955)


Directed by: Robert Aldrich

Starring: Ralph Meeker

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


The ultimate paranoia film from the depths of the McCarthy era.  Just what is in the mysterious suitcase, and why are so many people after it?  Quite brutal for its day; if you can, get the restored version,which has a significantly extended ending from the theatrical release.


The Last Seduction (1994)


Directed by: John Dahl

Starring: Linda Fiorentino, Bill Pullman

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Amazing acting from Linda Fiorentino in thei modern day film-noir that stays true to its rules: a femme fatale, murder, betrayal, and as a bonus it has a lovely dig at small town America.


Others include "The Maltese Falcon" (John Huston, 1941) and "Scarlet Street" (Fritz Lang, 1945).




Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)


Directed by: Carl Reiner

Starring: Steve Martin, Rachel Ward

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


A movie which spawned endless imitators (e.g. the Holsten ads).  We see modern shots of Martin and Ward seamlessly interwoven with original footage of many film noir classics.  Incredibly funny; it must have taken years to find all the scenes and stitch them together.  


To Be Or Not To Be (1942)


Directed by: Ernst Lubitsch

Starring: Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, Robert Stack

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Acknowledged as one of the great comedies, this film pastiche on Nazis and Jews in Poland is all the more poignant bearing in mind when it was made.  Wonderfully funny, despite the subject matter.    


Airplane! (1980)


Directed by: David Zucker, Jerry Zucker & Jim Abrahams

Starring: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


There are so many gags happening in the background that even after several viewings you still spot new things.  It took me ten viewings before I noticed that the jet airliner was making a propeller engine noise.  Laugh a minute stuff.        


Some Like It Hot (1959)


Directed by: Billy Wilder

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe

Web Link: Link to internet database


Commonly regarded as the best comedy ever, Lemmon and Curtis make the most of a wonderful script, and Marilyn's talents are well utilised.  Delightful.


Bringing Up Baby (1938)


Directed by: Howard Hawks

Starring: Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


"Baby" is a pet leopard which Katherine Hepburn introduces to zoology professor Grant.  Although bordering on farce, it is magnificently handled, and Hawks' direction never loses its touch.


The General (1927)


Directed by: Buster Keaton

Starring: Buster Keaton

Web link: Link to internet movie database


If you decide to just see just one silent film, let this be it.  Keaton is a comic genius, and here his talents are fully used.  Hysterically funny (and by the way, the train is real; this was the most expensive sequence ever filmed at the time).       




Other favourites of mine include "Manhattan" (Woody Allen, 1979), "Stardust Memories" (Woody Allen, 1980), "The Man With Two Brains" (Carl Reiner, 1983), "All Of Me" (Carl Reiner, 1984), "Lost In America" (Albert Brooks, 1985), "A Night At the Opera" (Sam Wood, 1935 - Marx Brothers), "National Lampoon's Animal House" (John Landis, 1978), "Dark Star" (John Carpenter, 1974) and "Naked Gun" (David Zucker, 1988). 


Midnight Run (1988)


Directed by: Martin Brest

Starring: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto

Wev link: Link to internet movie database


A rare outing for Robert De Niro in comedy, proving that a great actor can shine in just about any role.  Fast paced story, bolstered by excellent performances.    


The Princess Bride (1987)


Directed by: Rob Reiner

Starring: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


One of my absolute favourites, this is an adult-oriented fairy tale with a sizzling script by William Goldman and lovely cameos from the likes of Billy Crystal and Mel Smith.  Some tremendous lines; a joy to watch.  Amazingly, Florin and Guilder are real places in Italy, apparently with a steady tourist trade looking for the Fire Swamp and the Cliffs of Despair.




Casablanca (1942)


Directed by: Michael Curtiz

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Difficult to add anything to what has already been written.  For a change you can concentrate on the length of Bogarts's cigarette (the continuity not being what it could have been).


The Graduate (1967)


Directed by: Mike Nichols

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katherine Ross

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Hoffman received just $17,000 for his performance in the movie (which made a cool $300 million dollars for a $3 million outlay).  Nichols seems to capture the spirit of the times, and Simon & Garfunkel cleaned up with the sound track.  Includes some memorable scenes.       


Dr Zhivago (1965)


Directed by: David Lean

Starring: Julie Christie, Omar Sharif, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


One of the great epic romances, set in the First World War, we have plenty of love, passion, danger and scenery.  Keep the Kleenex handy.    


Now Voyager (1942)


Directed by: Irving Rapper

Starring: Bette Davis, Claude Rains

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Stunning performance from Davis as the ugly duckling who turns into a swan with a  little help from Claude Rains.  One of the great weepies.


Stella Dallas (1937)


Directed by: King Vidor

Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, John Boles, Anne Shirley

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


If you don't cry when watching this you have no soul.  Stanwyck sacrifices all for her daughter in this remake of a less successful 1927 version.  


The English Patient (1996)


Directed by: Anthony Minghella

Starring: Ray Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Juliette Bincoche

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


Epic love story with cut-above acting.  The studio almost forced Mighella to cast Demi Moore instead of Kristin Scott Thomas.


 "Significant" Films


In this section I have included films which repeatedly appear in "All Time top 10" listings of critics and directors.  Of the above films, "The Searchers", "Vertigo", "The General" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" often appear.  The ones below also do, but many are for their artistic contribution or innovation rather than because they are necessarily enjoyable to watch.  


The Bicycle Thieves (1948)


Directed by: Vittorio de Sica

Starring: Lamberto Maggioriani

Web link: Link to internet movie database


The classic example of "Italian Neo-Realism", the movie is a tale of human suffering amongst biting poverty.  As was the manner of this period, most of the actors are non-professionals, and the director makes the most of his limited material.           


Citizen Kane (1941)


Directed by: Orson Welles

Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Although this always comes top of any critics' top ten, it rather leaves me cold.  It was certainly tremendously influential, Welles inventing the "deep -focus" technique and setting new standards in set building.  This was Welles' first film at the age of 25.  He never again achieved such critical success; as he himself put it "I started at the top and worked down".   


Others include "The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942), "Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957), "The Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925), "Eight and a Half (Frederico Fellini, 1963), "The Seven Samurai” (Kurosawa, 1957), "L'Atalante” (Vigo, 1934), and "La Regle du Jeu” (Jean Renoir, 1939). 




Spartacus (1960)


Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Lawrence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


There are precious few epics worth watching, even on a quiet Sunday afternoon, but Kubrick's genius moves this a notch up from the usual fare.  Tremendous set-pieces and a fine cast.  The gay scene between Olivier and Tony Curtsi managed to squeeze past the censors as they completely missed the allegory.



The Wicker Man (1973)


Directed by: Robin Hardy

Starring: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


A film that is completely impossible to classify.  It is not often that you see Britt Ekland as a Scottish landlord's daughter, or Christopher Lee out of his fangs.  Quirky photography and a fine soundtrack lift this thriller out of the ordinary into a cult classic, though it may not be to everyone's taste.   The theatrical release was butchered, but a restored version was broadcast by the BBC.  Thi is very hard to get hold of, unfortunately. 


Straw Dogs (1971)


Directed by: Sam Peckinpah

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughn

Web link: Link to internet movie database


I guess this particularly appeals to me as the story is oen of a mathematician having problems in a rural country village.  Quite violent (especially for the time) but Peckinpah shows his talent for action and suspense.      


Lawrence Of Arabia (1962)


Directed by: David Lean

Starring: Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Beautifully restored by the director in 1989, the movie was a triumph of dedication (one year's shooting in the desert) and determination of the young Peter O'Toole, who gives one of cinema's great performances. 


Easy Rider (1969)


Directed by: Dennis Hopper

Starring: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson

Web link: Link to internet movie database


The definitive "road movie".  Fonda and Hopper throw away their watches and drive across America.  Incoherent in places, but some magnificent scenery, and a strong performance from a young Jack Nicholson.


Apocalypse Now (1979)


Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall

Web link: Link to internet movie database


An extraordinary film.  While almost unwatchable in places, this re-working of Conrad's "A Heart Of Darkness" (updated to Vietnam) features some of the most memorable scenes in cinema, and includes the underrated Martin Sheen's best screen performance.  The opening ten minutes are my favourite of any movie.   


Dr Strangelove (1963)


Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Peter Sellers, George C Scott, Sterling Hayden

Web link: Link to internet movie database


There are not many films which enter the common vocabulary.  The movie has lots of classic scenes and lines; and George C Scott is particularly good as the numbskull general.        



Foodie Films


Not a well recognised genre, but given my other interests please indulge me.


Babette’s Feast (1987)


Directed by: Gabriel Axel

Starring: Asta Esper Andersen

Web Link: Link to internet movie database


A charming film about a fine French chef forced into exile in Denmark who has to work as a housekeeper and cook vile Scandinavian food.  Then, by a chance, she has the opportunity to cook one truly fine meal, and about half of the film lovingly explores the preparation of a truly stunning French meal.  Gentle humour, but the star is the food.


Tampopo (1986)


Directed by: Juzo Itami

Starring: Tsutomo Yamakazi, Mario Abe

Web link: Link to internet movie database


A Japanese comedy?  Yep, this is genuinely hilarious and a glorious debunking of foodie habits; the film draws heavily on the film “Seven Samurai” to describe the quest for the perfect noodle.  Fabulous.


The Big Night (1979)


Directed by: Campbell Scott & Stanley Tucci

Starring: Marc Anthony

Web link: Link to internet movie database


Low key tale of two brothers in 1950s New York trying to keep together a struggling restaurant.  The chef is an idealist, and a large part of the film is the preparation of a special meal.  You are guaranteed to want pasta after watching this film.




Other fine movies include: "Sleuth (Joseph Mankiewicz, 1973), "Broadcast News" (James Brooks, 1987), "Night Of The Hunter" (Charles Laughton, 1955), "Night Of The Iguana" (John Huston 1964), "North By Northwest" (Hitchcock, 1959), "Jaws" (Spielberg, 1975), "Saturday Night & Sunday Morning (Karl Reisz, 1960), "Full Metal Jacket" (Stanley Kubrick, 1987), "Twelve Angry Men" (Sidney Lumet, 1957), "Salvador" (Oliver Stone, 1986), "Walkabout (Nicholas Roeg, 1970), "Women In Love" (Ken Russell, 1969), "Lianna" (John Sayles, 1983), "The Player" (Robert Altman, 1992), "The Third Man" (Carol Reed, 1949), "M*A*S*H" (Robert Altman, 1970) and "Bad Day At Black Rock" (John Sturges, 1954).  




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