In 2015, I embarked on the challenge of watching the top 1000 films of all time. Six years later, I am sadly only 318 films into my quest, but I’ve watched enough to films to form my top ten list.
Most of these films I’ve only watched because of this list, but one or two of my all-time favourites have also slipped in. Apart from my number one film, which I’ll save until last, this list is in no particular order.
The top ten list
City of God (2002)
One thing that I’ve loved about this challenge is that I’ve been able to witness the best that World Cinema has to offer. And City of God is undoubtedly the best. It tells the unflinching story of two boys growing up in the drug-fuelled favelas of Rio De Janerio. It is a brutal and painfully realistic look of how drugs can destroy somebody’s life. Expect a roller-coaster that doesn’t slow up for a minute.
Another classic of World Cinema. This Korean film is a revenge thriller focussing on Dae-su Oh who seeks vengeance on the man who locked him up for fifteen years. Brimming with gorgeous Korean proverbs, this film will keep you guessing all the way to the shock ending which is one of the biggest twists in movie history.
We’ve come to the realm of Indian cinema. 3 Idiots was a close second but Rang De Basanti edges it for the sheer power of its narrative. Following the story of a British film maker who is producing a documentary about early leaders of Indian independence, this film will have you laughing, crying and everything in between. Sure there are a lot of musical numbers, but what else can you expect from Indian cinema?
Onto an absolutely fantastic Danish film. Lukas (Mads Mikkleson) is a school teacher falsely accused of sexually abusing one of his students. A witch-hunt ensues and the whole town turns against him. In a film where truth and lies merge into one, you’ll be on the edge of your seat. This outstanding film blew me away.
Forget The Deer Hunter or Apocalypse Now, Stanley Kubrick blew every other war film out the water with his brutal portrayal of the Vietnam War. Full Metal Jacket left me in absolute awe. From Vincent D’Onofrio to Lee R Ermey to Adam Baldwin, this film is littered with acting talent. Some might say that the film is unbalanced and mismatched, but I think the two halves compliment each other beautifully. A must-see.
Finally we’re onto a film with slightly more happy subject matter. I say slightly as Her will still be tugging at your heart strings. Rom-coms aren’t my thing which is why Her surprised me so much. Subverting the genre with a science-fiction twist, Her tells the story of lonely divorcee Theodore Thwombly (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with an operating system voiced by Scarlett Johanson. With much to say about the importance of human connection, Her is a very underrated film.
Speaking of underrated, we come to the Indie British black comedy Three and Out. Panned by audiences and critics alike, I must be the only person in the world who would put Three and Out, on a top ten list, but I am. Paul Callow is a train driver/writer who wants nothing more than to leave the hustle-bustle of London and write on an island. When he runs two people over with his train, his colleagues tell him that if he runs over a third person, TFL will pay him off with ten years wages. Ensue hilarity and heartbreak as Paul tries to find his third victim. Mackenzie Crook, Colm Meaney, Imelda Staunton and Gemma Arteton all turn in winning performances. But perhaps this film is an acquired taste.
The Full Monty (1997)
I have never officially reviewed this film as I watched it long before I started this challenge. However, it remains one of my favourite films ever. Having won the Bafta for the best film in 1997, this movie was adored by many. We follow a bunch of former steel workers and layabouts becoming strippers in the hopes of improving their lives. While the premise might sound spurious, the execution is anything but. The Full Monty tackles themes like masculinity, father-son relationships and suicide in powerful ways. Tom Wilkinson and Mark Addy are great in supporting roles, but can we all agree that Robert Carlyle is one of the best actors that Scotland has ever produced?
Out of all these films, Snatch is the one film I could watch over and over again. A fantastic crime-caper, Snatch will have you laughing in the aisles. We see two interlinking narratives: one follows boxing promoter Turkish (Jason Statham) as he navigates the criminal underworld, but we also see every gangster in London trying to get their hands on a rare diamond. Snatch is one of the most quotable films ever with brad Pitt offering his most unlike-Brad Pitt performance ever, as the Gypsy bareknuckle boxer Mickey O’Neil. Bloody hell, does he do that Irish accent well?
Finally, we have reached my number one film of all time. What can I say about this film which hasn’t been said already? Everybody knows Nino Rota’s magnificent score, they know Marlon Brando as mafia don Vito Corleone, his son Michael as his reluctant protege, played by Al Pacino. This film reignited Hollywood’s fascination with the mafia. At three hours long it is paced brilliantly with every shot pushing forward the narrative. It is not just the best gangster movie of all time, but the best film of all time. After all, it was the subject of my ten-thousand word dissertation. Let’s just not talk about the Godfather part three.
I’ve watched too many great films to not include at least a few honourable mentions. These are all great films in their own right, but not quite good enough to scratch the top ten.
Originally RFAD was in my top ten but I demoted it because it’s too upsetting to watch again. Amazing for sure, but too heartbreaking for repeat viewings. Charting the self-destruction of four drug addicts in New York, RFAD is the best anti-drug PSA you’ll ever see with a killer theme tune and fast-paced editing. Watching this film gave me the best high but with an absolutely awful come down.
This subversion of the traditional fairy-tale still stands up even after thirty years. with so many quotable scenes and iconic characters, the Princess Bride will have you rolling in the aisles and reaching for the tissues. Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Andre the Giant…the amazing cast goes on and on. And who can forget one of the most quoted film lines ever: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
This Australian stop-motion, claymation dramatic comedy absolutely blew me away. I’ve never heard of it before, but it was simply fantastic. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. Following the unlikely relationship of the two titular characters, this film is pure arthouse. If you’re looking for something completely different, a movie with offbeat humour, a unique visual style and the most haunting rendition of Que Sera Sera, Mary and Max is the film for you.
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
I watched this film once many years ago and it was too upsetting to watch again, hence why there is no review. I’ve grown up on Studio Ghibli, so one of their films had to make an appearance on this list. Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro were also in the mix, but Grave of the Fireflies is undoubtedly the best. Set in the twilight days of WW2 Japan, we watch a teenage boy and his little sister desperately try to survive the war. When you watch this, make sure you have the tissue box handy.
This French feel-good comedy drama rounds off my list nicely. I rewatched it the other day and it was still as magical as ever. Following the story of quadraplegic billionare Philippe and his unconventional carer Driss, this film holds a special place in my heart because of my own work as a carer. The anti-climactic ending is the only thing that stops it from going on my top ten.
So there we have it. My top ten films with a few HMs. But with 782 films left to watch, this list is far from being set in stone. Watch this space.