There is a plethora of greatest films lists out there, all of which are inherently subjective. But this list is different, because I have a degree in Film Studies.
Now, in my experience, studying film was a total waste of time, but beyond that, it permanently rewired my brain in such a way that films cannot simply be enjoyed anymore; they must be analysed, critiqued, dissected, intellectualised. Sure, this can be a blessing — passionate discourse on Neoformalism, Auteur Theory and The Male Gaze will liven up any dinner party and can imbue a certain sexual magnetism when deployed at the supermarket checkout — but it is also a curse which renders the act of watching a film akin to mental and sometimes physical self-flagellation. In relation to this list however, it means that these choices, backed by the weight of academia, are elevated from ‘opinions’ to ‘facts’.
Despite this burden of specialist knowledge, I do recognise the necessity to marry instinct with intellect, so I will ensure this list isn’t swamped with impenetrable dialectic and instead strikes a balance between movie populism as we all know it and film elitism as we should all aspire to.
20. Big Trouble In Little China
It’s really good.
19. Any Mission Impossible
18. The Terminator
17. Groundhog Day
A bit repetitive but overall really good.
16. Being John Malkovich
A masterpiece. Why? Have you seen it? If you have, you know why. If you haven’t, you should, it’s a masterpiece.
15. Die Hard
One of my teachers at university once mocked me in front of the whole class because I was wearing white socks.
Not only the first blockbuster, but also the first blockbuster to feature a shark. What are the chances? Groundbreaking.
Jesus Christ, He would’ve loved that film.
12. Jurassic Park
This film teaches a simple lesson, one which you won’t learn at university: to make a good film, get some dinosaurs, set them loose, film them. It’s not difficult. Also, did you know that in France it was released without age restrictions? Which means that a group of responsible French adults witnessed those horrific raptors hunting kids in a kitchen and decided, "Yes, this is absolutely fine for young children. They’ll love it." And they were right.
11. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Holy Mother Hen, this is a great film. That said, I watched it again the other day for the first time in 20 years, and noticed how it’s shoddily filmed, roughly edited, badly acted, and poorly written in parts. Honestly, it felt a bit rushed. Quite disappointing. Maybe The Last Crusade is better on the whole, or even Temple Of Doom, but definitely not Crystal Skull. Either way this list is nonsense isn’t it.
This is a very moving film. Personally, as a young father and semi-professional astronaut, I find that the events experienced by Matthew McConaughey are profoundly confusing but also resonate deep within me.
This film is even more moving that ‘Interstellar’, if you can believe it. From about three minutes in, and right up until the very end, and for several days afterwards, this film made me cry like a baby abandoned in a cinema. I went to see it on my own, which was probably for the best. I’m quite macho in real life, but I’m not afraid to let a good film make me cry — it it’s good enough, that is, and this film really is.
Sure, it’s no Citizen Kane, but arguably Citizen Kane is no Commando. Plus, I haven’t seen Citizen Kane, yet I’ve seen Commando, which says it all really. In any case, I was very impressed with every part of this film. The beginning, the middle, the end — you name it. I don’t wear white socks anymore, even though part of me still believes white is the only colour a sock should be.
7. Citizen Kane
Perhaps the most ‘film’ film ever made. On the morning it was screened at university, I slept in. To this day I still haven’t seen it. It’s too late for me now, but all those who’ve seen it agree it’s a solid film. Highly recommended.
A classic. Haven’t seen it.
5. Paths Of Glory
I love Kubrick. He was really good at making films. Haven’t seen this one though. It’s about war and it’s in black and white, just so you know.
4. Back To The Future
This film is pure, unbridled fun. It makes you laugh, keeps you entertained pretty much all the way through, involves time travel, and creates moments of lighthearted comedy from an unwitting incestuous attraction. These are all the hallmarks of a great film.
3. There Will Be Blood
Let’s not overthink this one: ‘I drink your milkshake’ is a great line, and the acting is pretty good too. I bet Daniel Day Lewis can cobble a good shoe, but in all likelihood he’s better at acting, so let’s hope he never retires again.
2. Point Break
This could’ve been the greatest film of all time, if it weren’t at number two on this list.
1. No Country For Old Men
The scene at the gas station where Javier Bardem tosses a coin and says ‘call it’ is pretty good, but the rest is even better. That’s how good this film is. When I saw it at the cinema, the fade-to-black near the end plunged the room in total darkness, and my pupils dilated wider than I thought possible. This film speaks to everyone, because deep down we’re all old men in countries where we shouldn’t be, even women of all ages, I suspect, and Josh Brolin’s character makes a point of only wearing white socks, which goes some way towards validating the choices I made while navigating the ups and downs of an existence rendered meaningless by the eternity of time and the vastness of the universe. Josh Brolin dies off-screen. I mean, one moment he’s alive, the next he’s dead, and you don’t even get to see it happen, which is how most people die in real life, if you think about it.
Do you agree with this list? Do you disagree? By all means go ahead and make your own. It’s demanding work, but the rewards are there for you to reap, and you might well discover a thing or two about yourself in the process — maybe things you don’t like, but rest assured all the people who know you best have probably discovered them already, so at least now you‘re all on the same page.