Here at FilmJuice we are all a little obsessed with movies and if there’s one question we get asked a lot it’s: “What is your favourite movie?” – seeing as that would be like choosing a favourite child, or Ghostbuster (okay Venkmen, but Egon comes in a close second), we thought it would be a good idea to put together the FilmJuice writer’s Top Ten Favourite Movies. So over the coming weeks a host of FilmJuice writers will indulge, and no doubt stress about the films they’ve left out, in ten of their favourite all time movies and why they love them. This week we dip into the mind of Editor Alex Moss who makes no apologies for his list. Please note: this list is not one of which we think are the greatest films ever made but rather films that mean the most to the writer in question.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark
This was the film that categorically turned me on to the concept of films. It was the day of my youngest brother’s christening, I was about 6, and in order to keep us kids quiet whilst the adults partied downstairs my dad set-up a VCR (yes I’m that old) in my room. I was less than impressed by Black Beauty but once all the other kids had left my dad popped in Raiders and told me not to tell my mother. From that opening scene through to the melting faces at the end I was captivated. The brilliance of Raiders lies in its ability to sustain the blistering action while never letting one of cinema’s most iconic characters, Indiana Jones played with dry brilliance by Harrison Ford, be anything less than a magnetic screen presence.
Favourite Moment: Escaping the tomb at the beginning still has me jumping up and down in my seat with over-excitement. I still marvel as Indy grabs his whip as the door closes and then, just as you think he’s safe… that boulder comes-a-tumbling.
Read my biog, I saw this film far too young. And while I was utterly terrified by it, to the point that I had a stomach-ache that night and was convinced I had an alien inside me, I was transported to The Nostromo and became part of that crew. Ridley Scott is one of the most wonderful film directors of all time, he’s a world-builder, able to capture in a single shot something ultimately alien but also familiar. It remains to this day one of the most atmospheric and terrifying films I’ve ever seen and the late HR Giger’s Xenomorph design remains the pinnacle of screen creatures over 35 years after its gestation.
Favourite Moment: Round the dinner table, everything seems hunky-dory and then John Hurt begins to convulse. Listen to that scene again; the sound design alone is a master class in suspension building.
It might not be Hitchcock’s most celebrated film, it might not be his directorial best, but for me it captures everything great about cinema. The limited location never feels constrictive, the characters always larger than life and with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly flirting better than anyone else I care to think of on screen it’s seriously sexy. It’s a film that manages to play to all of Hitch’s strengths; the tension, the chill factor and, crucially, the sense of humour. For even while the drama is racked up Hitch finds time to let us laugh thanks to the character interaction. Pure genius.
Favourite Moment: Grace Kelly enters the story, angelic, sexy and utterly beautiful and to top it all off; she lights herself. Be still my beating heart.
I’m not entirely sure if a film can ever be perfect but if it can then The Godfather is as close to perfection as is humanly possible. Everything about this film is the finest example of what cinema can be; great script, stunning direction, jaw-dropping performances and cinematography that makes you swoon. For some The Godfather Part II is a superior film but for me, watching Michael Corleone’s slow descent into evil is as darkly thrilling as it comes. Every scene manages to make you want more and at over two hours long it still feels short.
Favourite Moment: The final moment, Michael has risen to power, killed off all his enemies, crowned as the new Godfather, and, having just lied to her, his wife looks in to see evil personified as the door is closed. Chilling.
Like The Godfather, for me, Seven is as close to perfection as film gets. Andrew Kevin Walker’s script is revolutionary in the way it first unfolds and then pulls the rug not just from under our feet but also the characters’. Throw in David Fincher’s scintillating visuals, enough rain to worry Noah, atmosphere you can smell and Seven is a film that every time I watch it I spot something new. And let’s not even start on one of the greatest endings in movie history. Make no mistake, that ending, for a mainstream film with a cast headlined with one of Hollywood’s biggest actors is brave, seriously, darkly and boldly brave.
Favourite Moment: It’s the smallest of things, it’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment that you almost have to re-watch to spot but it happens in that famous car ride to the final two ‘victims’ of John Doe. While arguing with Brad Pitt’s Detective Mills, Kevin Spacey looks in the rear view mirror catching the eye of Morgan Freeman’s Somerset. It’s fleeting but in that single moment David Fincher captures three characters integral to the film to perfection. Doe and Somerset have the same outlook on the world but polar opposite ways of addressing it, Mills meanwhile is oblivious to it all, just another lamb that Doe must slaughter.
David Lynch isn’t to everyone’s taste but when I saw Mulholland Drive I became obsessed with his work. Many have tried to emulate his unique style and failed. If there is evidence that the auteur theory exists then Lynch is the prime candidate. Mulholland Drive is like a waking nightmare, nothing is what it seems, it’s deeply oppressive and one of the most wonderfully surreal films I’ve ever seen. But more than anything it is one of the most terrifying movies ever made and yet it’s not considered a horror film. If you manage to sit through the whole film without having a chill run down your spine at least once you may want to check your pulse.
Favourite Moment: It’s typically Lynch to let the power of cinema, sound and what we think we know to be true mislead and manipulate us so perfectly in the Club Silencio scene. It’s deeply immersive and wonderfully creepy.
The fact it’s been over 25 years since I first saw Jaws and am still terrified of swimming in the sea tells you everything you need to know about Spielberg’s masterpiece. It’s the way John Williams’ score manages to conjure that dread beneath the surface. Throw in three hugely engaging yet totally different protagonists and Jaws has it all. I can’t think of many other films that have spawned a universal fear of anything and yet most people share my fear of the sea thanks to that damned shark.
Favourite Moment: It’s the ultimate in playing with audience preconception; Hooper goes into the water, at NIGHT, we’re expecting the shark to attack, he finds a tooth and just as we know it’s coming… that head pops out. It’s that rare breed of scares that no matter how much you know it’s coming it still makes you leap.
The Social Network
I know what you’re thinking; another Fincher movie? Well yes, I love his work (it took a great deal of restraint not to include Fight Club on this list) but when you learn that I’m also horribly obsessed by the writing of Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network is essentially my porn. There isn’t a single thing about this film I’d change, I’ve probably watched it more times than is healthy in the short four years since its release and every time I watch it I sit there in awe of what Fincher and Sorkin have achieved. Sorkin’s script is the finest script of the last decade, it manages to capture everything dark and terrifying about the socially networked world we live in. Add to that Fincher’s ability to conjure a sense of dark comedy lurking beneath the tragedy of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and this film deserves to go down as a bonafide classic in years to come.
Favourite Moment: The opening scene is what all great films should aspire to. It tells you everything you need to know about the protagonist and the world we’re about to enter. For the life of me I still don’t get how Tom Hooper beat Fincher to the Best Director Oscar that year.
Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid
Whenever I think of this film I smile. And that’s despite the ending, or perhaps because of it? William Goldman’s script is pretty much perfect, the kind of perfectly plotted character driven story that Hollywood doesn’t do nearly enough of anymore. It’s the quintessential buddy movie with two of the biggest stars of all time genuinely sharing, rather than battling each other for, the centre stage. It’s to director George Roy Hill’s credit that Butch and Sundance are two sides of a perfect coin. Newman and Redford are simply electric together and despite the threat of Katharine Ross’ girl coming between them they remain brothers in gun belts till the bitter end. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen this film I still believe that the end freeze frame is actually just saving us from watching our heroes slaughter their foes before riding off into the sunset and heading to Australia. Don’t ruin the dream.
Favourite Moment: So many to choose from. The obvious one is the ravine jump but to truly get beneath the surface of Butch and Sundance’s friendship look no further than the moment when Butch is about to lose a fight and yet Sundance’s unbridled loyalty to his buddy remains strong.
Okay this is likely to get me in trouble I’ve always thought Quentin Tarantino was a better writer than he is director. That’s not to say his directorial efforts aren’t great, but they sometimes scream of indulgence, that if someone else was directing his words would create a tighter, tauter and ultimately more engaging product. That’s no clearer than in Tony Scott’s brilliant True Romance. It’s got all the great characters, all the great speeches and geek-references you’d expect from a Tarantino script but Scott keeps it going at a hell of a pace without ever lagging behind the break-neck dialogue. For me Tony Scott is probably one of, if not the best, action filmmaker of all time, here he manages to reign it in, letting Tarantino’s words do much of the legwork for him. It’s also got one hell of a cast, in fact I can’t think of many better; from Oldman’s Drexl, the brilliance of Hopper Vs. Walken in THAT scene right through to Brad Pitt’s scene-stealing Floyd True Romance is a delight. And have Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette ever been better? Or ever come close to even reaching the heights they reach here? Nope.
Favourite Moment: The scene between Hopper and Walken is stunning but for me there is one that usurps it for sheer breathless brilliance. Arquette returns to the motel room only to find the devil personified in James Gandolfini. It’s dark, it’s terrifying, it’s funny, it’s ultimately adorable and has me on the edge of my seat every time. God bless Gandolfini, God bless Tony Scott. God Bless True Romance.