Below is my all time best ever movies i`ve ever watched, the best of what wowwed, moved or simply amazed me, This is harder than i thought, these films cover everything ive seen and it means all movies across all genres. Descriptions and reviews from amazon UK.
26 MAD MAX 1979 – The story of Mel Gibson’s stately anti-hero begins in Mad Max, George Miller’s low-budget debut, in which Max is a “Bronze” (cop) in an unspecified post-apocalyptic future with a buddy-partner and family. But, unlike most films set in the devastated future, Mad Max is notable because it is poised between our industrialised world and total regression to medieval conditions. The scale tips towards disintegration when the Glory Riders burn into town on their bikes like an overcharged cadre of Brando’s Wild Ones. Representing the active chaos that will eventually overwhelm the dying vestiges of civil society they take everything dear to Max, who then has to exact due revenge. His flight into the same wilds that created the villains artfully sets up the morally ambiguous character of the subsequent films.
25 LAYER CAKE 2004 – As its title suggests, Layer Cake is a crime thriller that cuts into several levels of its treacherous criminal underworld. The title is actually one character’s definition of the drug-trade hierarchy, but it’s also an apt metaphor for the separate layers of deception, death, and betrayal experienced by the film’s unnamed protagonist, a cocaine traffic middle-man played with smooth appeal by Daniel Craig (whom you probably don’t need reminding is the latest James Bond). Listed in the credits only as “XXXX,” the character is trapped into doing a favor for his volatile boss, only to have tables turned by his boss’s boss (Michael Gambon) in a twisting plot involving a stolen shipment of Ecstasy, a missing girl, duplicitous dealers, murderous Serbian gangsters, and a variety of lowlifes with their own deadly agendas. As adapted by J.J. Connolly (from his own novel) and directed by Matthew Vaughan (who earned his genre chops as producer of Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch), Layer Cake improves upon those earlier British gangland hits with assured pacing, intelligent plotting, and an admirable emphasis on plot-moving dialogue over routine action. Sure, it’s violent (that’s to be expected) and not always involving, but it’s smarter than most thrillers, and Vaughan’s directorial debut has a confident style that’s flashy without being flamboyant. This could be the start of an impressive career.
24 TRAINSPOTTING 1996 – The film that effectively launched the star careers of Robert Carlyle, Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller is a hard, barbed picaresque, culled from the bestseller by Irvine Welsh and thrown down against the heroin hinterlands of Edinburgh. Directed with abandon by Danny Boyle, Trainspotting conspires to be at once a hip youth flick and a grim cautionary fable. Released on an unsuspecting public in 1996, the picture struck a chord with audiences worldwide and became adopted as an instant symbol of a booming British rave culture (an irony, given the characters’ main drug of choice is heroin not ecstasy).
McGregor, Lee Miller and Ewen Bremner play a slouching trio of Scottish junkies; Carlyle their narcotic-eschewing but hard-drinking and generally psychotic mate Begbie. In Boyle’s hands, their lives unfold in a rush of euphoric highs, blow-out overdoses and agonising withdrawals (all cued to a vogueish pop soundtrack). Throughout it all, John Hodge’s screenplay strikes a delicate balance between acknowledging the inherent pleasures of drug use and spotlighting its eventual consequences. In Trainspotting‘s world view, it all comes down to a question of choices–between the dangerous Day-Glo highs of the addict and the grey, grinding consumerism of the everyday Joe. “Choose life”, quips the film’s narrator (McGregor) in a monologue that was to become a mantra. “Choose a job, choose a starter home… But why would anyone want to do a thing like that?” Ultimately, Trainspotting‘s wised-up, dead-beat inhabitants reject mainstream society in favour of a headlong rush to destruction. It makes for an exhilarating, energised and frequently terrifying trip that blazes with more energy and passion than a thousand more ostensibly life-embracing movies.
23 TWIN TOWN 1997 – Producer Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) is behind this decadent comedy about a pair of lowlife but oddly intelligent Welsh brothers who generally make a pain of themselves in their small community, but who get serious about exacting revenge for a family tragedy. Director Kevin Allen succeeds at turning the entire film into a jacked-up freak show, with petty terrorism, cops on the take, a young virgin getting it on with a middle-aged creep and a male choir inexplicably singing Mungo Jerry’s ancient hit “In the Summertime”. Twin Town is loony, nasty stuff all around, but the only good laughs in the movie are top loaded into the first few minutes. After that, it’s sheer tedium.
22 ROCKNROLLA 2008 – The film career of Guy Ritchie has endured a few bumps in recent years, with a collection of generally forgettable films from a man clearly capable of so much more. Thank goodness then for RocknRolla, which marks a smashing return to form, as he heads once more to the criminal underworld of London. This time, Ritchie is playing far closer to the likes of Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and while RocknRolla may see the director playing on safer ground than of late, it doesn’t take long for the decision to be vindicated. The plot surrounds a real-estate job with millions at stake, and it gives ample excuse to unleash a collection of raw gangsters and tough guys into the mix, who each fancy a bit of the action.
Thus, RocknRolla brings together Gerard Butler’s Scottish gangster, Tom Wilkinson’s London crime lord, Toby Kebbell’s drug-addicted musician and the likes of Thandie Newton, Mark Strong and Jeremy Piven too. And Ritchie’s cast serve him really well, making ample mileage out of the lines they’re given. Granted, all of this is hardly fresh territory for the director, but RocknRolla is nonetheless funny, action-packed and a good British mob film to while away an evening with. Welcome back, Mr Ritchie…
21 RISE OF THE FOOTSOLDIER 2009 – Action drama offering a gritty portrayal of the life of Carlton Leach (Ricci Harnett), football hooligan, whose innate ferocity propels him into an escalating life of serious crime. Over the course of three decades, Leach ‘progresses’ from attack-dog hooligan to nightclub bouncer, before becoming involved with the ever-expanding drug scene – his passport into the criminal elite.
20 MISSISSIPPI BURNING 1988 – Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe star in Mississippi Burning, a well-intentioned and largely successful civil-rights-era thriller. Using the real-life 1964 disappearance of three civil rights workers as its inspiration, the film tells the story of two FBI men (Hackman and Dafoe, entertainingly called “Hoover Boys” by the locals) who come in to try to solve the crime. Hackman is a former small-town Mississippi sheriff himself, while Dafoe is a by-the-numbers young hotshot. (Yes, there is some tension between the two.) The movie has an interesting fatalism, as all the FBI’s best efforts simply incite more and more violence–the film’s message, perhaps inadvertently, seems to be that vigilantism is the only real way to get things done. The brilliant Frances McDormand, here early in her career, is not given enough to do but still does it well enough to have racked up an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. (Hackman also received a nomination for Best Actor, and the film won an Academy Award for Cinematography). Mississippi Burning is ultimately unsatisfying–it is, after all, the story of white men coming in to rescue poor blacks–but it is beautifully shot and very watchable, featuring a terrific cast playing at the top of their games.
19 SUNSHINE 2007 – You can never accuse director Danny Boyle of lacking ambition. Sunshine sees one of Britain’s most successful directors switching genre once more, as he tackles this gripping science fiction flick about a quest to re-ignite the dying sun. And he nails it, too, adding another plus to a CV that’s already covered a kids’ film (Millions), a big Hollywood blockbuster (The Beach), horror (28 Days Later), and a pair of British classics (Trainspotting and Shallow Grave).
Bursting out of the gate at a terrific pace, Sunshine then doesn’t take its foot off the accelerator for much of its near-two hour running time. Set around the crew of the Icarus II who find themselves on a life-saving mission, things soon start going awry, and while you’ll find no plot spoilers here, Boyle proves a dab hand at ratcheting up tension on the way to the big finale.
If anything, it’s the finale to Sunshine that does let the side down, not quite living up to the standard of what preceded it. But such is the strength of the ride to that point that it’s hard to complain. Especially when the cast, led by the always-magnetic Cillian Murphy, put in believable performances and get heavily into the spirit of the film.Topped off with cracking effects that belie its modest budget, Sunshine is a real treat, not just for sci-fi fans, but for anyone who likes a strong, tense, thrilling night in front of a movie
18 THE FOURTH KIND 2009 – Sci-fi thriller starring Mila Jovovich. The remote small town of Nome in Alaska has, since the 1960s, seen a disproportionate number of the population being reported missing every year. Despite multiple FBI investigations, the truth has never been discovered. When recently-widowed psychologist Dr Abigail Tyler (Jovovich) arrives in the town to interview people affected by the disappearances, she gradually uncovers evidence that points to the possibility of alien abduction on a mass scale. Even more disturbing are the accusations of a federal cover-up…
17 CRASH 2004 – Movie studios, by and large, avoid controversial subjects like race the way you might avoid a hive of angry bees. So it’s remarkable that Crash even got made; that it’s a rich, intelligent, and moving exploration of the interlocking lives of a dozen Los Angeles residents–black, white, latino, Asian, and Persian–is downright amazing.
A politically nervous district attorney (Brendan Fraser) and his high-strung wife (Sandra Bullock, biting into a welcome change of pace from Miss Congeniality) get car-jacked by an oddly sociological pair of young black men (Larenz Tate and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges); a rich black T.V. director (Terrence Howard) and his wife (Thandie Newton) get pulled over by a white racist cop (Matt Dillon) and his reluctant partner (Ryan Phillipe); a detective (Don Cheadle) and his Latina partner and lover (Jennifer Esposito) investigate a white cop who shot a black cop–these are only three of the interlocking stories that reach up and down class lines.
Writer/director Paul Haggis (who wrote the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby) spins every character in unpredictable directions, refusing to let anyone sink into a stereotype. The cast–ranging from the famous names above to lesser-known but just as capable actors like Michael Pena (Buffalo Soldiers) and Loretta Devine (Woman Thou Art Loosed)–meets the strong script head-on, delivering galvanizing performances in short vignettes, brief glimpses that build with gut-wrenching force. This sort of multi-character mosaic is hard to pull off; Crash rivals such classics as Nashville and Short Cuts. A knockout.
16 AMERICAN BEAUTY 1999 – From its first gliding aerial shot of a generic suburban street, American Beauty moves with a mesmerising confidence and acuity epitomised by Kevin Spacey’s calm narration. Spacey is Lester Burnham, a harried Everyman whose midlife awakening is the spine of the story, and his very first lines hook us with their teasing fatalism–like Sunset Boulevard‘s Joe Gillis, Burnham tells us his story from beyond the grave. It’s an audacious start for a film that justifies that audacity. Weaving social satire, domestic tragedy and whodunit into a single package, Alan Ball’s first theatrical script dares to blur generic lines and keep us off balance, winking seamlessly from dark, scabrous comedy to deeply moving drama. The Burnham family joins the cinematic short-list of great dysfunctional American families, as Lester is pitted against his manic, materialistic realtor wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening, making the most of a mostly unsympathetic role) and his sullen, contemptuous teenaged daughter, Jane (Thora Birch, utterly convincing in her edgy balance of self-absorption and wistful longing). Into their lives come two catalytic outsiders. A young cheerleader (Mena Suvari) jolts Lester into a sexual epiphany that blooms into a second adolescence. And an eerily calm young neighbour (Wes Bentley) transforms both Lester and Jane with his canny influence. Credit another big-screen newcomer, English theatrical director Sam Mendes, with expertly juggling these potentially disjunctive elements into a superb ensemble piece that achieves a stylised pace without lapsing into transparent self-indulgence. Mendes has shrewdly insured his success with a solid crew of stage veterans, yet he has also made an inspired discovery in Bentley, whose Ricky Fitts becomes a fulcrum for both plot and theme. Cinematographer Conrad Hall’s sumptuous visual design further elevates the film, infusing the beige interiors of the Burnhams’ lives with vivid bursts of deep crimson, the colour of roses–and of blood.
15 SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING 1960 – In the industrial streets and factories of Nottingham, Arthur Seaton (Albert Finney) spends his days at the factory bench, his evenings in the local pubs and his nights in the arms of Brenda (Rachel Roberts), the wife of a fellow factory worker. Irresistibly handsome and brimming with animal vitality, Arthur is anti-authority and unashamedly amoral.Based on Alan Sillitoe’s largely autobiographical novel, and with powerful central performances, crackling dialogue and a superb jazz score by Johnny Dankworth, the film stands as a vibrant modern classic. This Seminal film of the British New Wave was a great box-office success – audiences were thrilled by its anti-establishment energy, gritty realism, and above all its fresh, outspoken working-class hero.
14 SCARFACE 1983 – This sprawling epic of bloodshed and excess, Brian De Palma’s update of the classic 1932 crime drama by Howard Hawks, sparked controversy over its outrageous violence when released in 1983. Scarface is a wretched, fascinating car wreck of a movie, starring Al Pacino as a Cuban refugee who rises to the top of Miami’s cocaine-driven underworld, only to fall hard into his own deadly trap of addiction and inevitable assassination. Scripted by Oliver Stone and running nearly three hours, it’s the kind of film that can simultaneously disgust and amaze you (critic Pauline Kael wrote “this may be the only action picture that turns into an allegory of impotence”), with vivid supporting roles for Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Robert Loggia.
13 BLADE RUNNER 1982 – To call this cut of Blade Runner ‘long awaited’ would be a heavy, heavy understatement. It’s taken 25 years since the first release of one of the science-fiction genre’s flagship films to get this far, and understandably, Blade Runner: The Final Cut has proved to be one of the most eagerly awaited DVD releases of all time. And it’s been well worth the wait. Director Ridley Scott’s decision to head back to the edit suite and cut together one last version of his flat-out classic film has been heavily rewarded, with a genuinely definitive version of an iconic, visually stunning and downright intelligent piece of cinema. Make no mistake: this is by distance the best version of Blade Runner. And it’s never looked better, either.
The core of Blade Runner, of course, remains the same, with Harrison Ford’s Deckard (the Blade Runner of the title) on the trail of four ‘replicants’, cloned humans that are now illegal. And he does so across an amazing cityscape that’s proven to be well ahead of its time, with astounding visuals that defied the supposed limits of special effects back in 1982. Backed up with a staggering extra features package that varies depending on which version of this Blade Runner release you opt for (two-, four- and five-disc versions are available), the highlight nonetheless remains the stunning film itself. Remastered and restored, it remains a testament to a number of creative people whose thinking was simply a country mile in advance of that of their contemporaries.
12 GOODFELLAS 1990 – Martin Scorsese’s 1990 masterpiece GoodFellas immortalises the hilarious, horrifying life of actual gangster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), from his teen years on the streets of New York to his anonymous exile under the Witness Protection Program. The director’s kinetic style is perfect for recounting Hill’s ruthless rise to power in the 1950s as well as his drugged-out fall in the late 1970s; in fact, no one has ever rendered the mental dislocation of cocaine better than Scorsese. Scorsese uses period music perfectly, not just to summon a particular time but to set a precise mood. GoodFellas is at least as good as The Godfather without being in the least derivative of it. Joe Pesci’s psycho improvisation of Mobster Tommy DeVito ignited Pesci as a star; Lorraine Bracco achieves a career-defining performance as the love of Hill’s life; and every supporting role, from Paul Sorvino to Robert De Niro, is a miracle.
11 LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS 1999 – Cockney boys Tom, Soap, Eddie and Bacon are in a bind; they owe seedy criminal and porn king “Hatchet” Harry a sizeable amount of cash after Eddie loses half a million in a rigged game of poker. Hot on their tails is a thug named Big Chris who intends to send them all to the hospital if they don’t come up with the cash in the allotted time. Add into the mix an incompetent set of ganja cultivators, two dimwitted robbers, a “madman” with an afro, and a ruthless band of drug dealers and you have an astonishing movie called Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Before the boys can blink, they are caught up in a labyrinth of double-crosses that lead to a multitude of dead bodies, copious amounts of drugs, and two antique rifles.
Written and directed by talented newcomer Guy Ritchie, this is one of those movies that was destined to become an instant cult classic à la Reservoir Dogs. Although some comparisons were drawn between Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino, it would be unfair to discount the brilliant wit of the story and the innovative camerawork that the director brings to his debut feature. Not since The Krays has there been such an accurate depiction of the East End and its more colourful characters. Indicative of the social stratosphere in London, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a hilarious and at times touching account of friendships and loyalty. The director and his mates (who make up most of the cast) clearly are enjoying themselves here. This comes across in some shining performances, in particular from ex-footballer Vinnie Jones (Big Chris) and an over-the-top Vas Blackwood (as Rory Breaker), who very nearly steals the show. Full of quirky vernacular and clever tension-packed action sequences, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a triumph–a perfect blend of intelligence, humour and suspense.
10 SNATCH 2000 – Snatch, the follow-up to the Guy Ritchie’s breakthrough film–the high-energy, expletive-strewn cockney-gangster movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels–hardly breaks new ground being, well, another high-energy, expletive-strewn cockney-gangster movie. Okay, so there are some differences. This time around our low-rent hoodlums are battling over dodgy fights and stolen diamonds rather than dodgy card games and stolen drugs. There has been some minor reshuffling of the cast too with Sting and Dexter Fletcher making way for the more bankable Benicio Del Toro and Brad Pitt, the latter pretty much stealing the whole shebang as an incomprehensible Irish gypsy.
09 ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST 1968 – The so-called spaghetti Western achieved its apotheosis in Sergio Leone’s magnificently mythic (and utterly outlandish) Once upon a Time in the West. After a series of international hits starring Clint Eastwood (from A Fistful of Dollars to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), Leone outdid himself with this spectacular, larger-than-life, horse-operatic epic about how the West was won. (And make no mistake: this is the wide, wide West, folks–so the widescreen/letter-boxed version is strongly recommended.) The unholy trinity of Italian cinema–Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Dario Argento–concocted the story about a woman (Claudia Cardinale) hanging onto her land in hopes that the transcontinental railroad would reach her before a steely-eyed, black-hearted killer (Fonda) does. (The film’s advertising slogan was: “There were three men in her life. One to take her … one to love her … and one to kill her.”) Meanwhile, Leone shoots his stars’ faces as if they were expansive Western landscapes, and their towering bodies as if they were looming rock formations in John Ford’s Monument Valley.
08 PULP FICTION 1994 – With Pulp Fiction writer-director Quentin Tarantino stunned the filmmaking world, exploding into prominence as a cinematic heavyweight contender after initial success with 1992’s Reservoir Dogs. But Pulp Fiction was more than just the follow-up to an impressive first feature, or the winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival, or a script stuffed with the sort of juicy bubblegum dialogue actors just love to chew, or the vehicle that re-established John Travolta on the A-list, or the relatively low-budget ($8 million) independent showcase for an ultra-hip mixture of established marquee names and rising stars from the indie scene (among them Samuel L Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Julia Sweeney, Kathy Griffin and Phil Lamar). It was more, even, than an unprecedented $100-million-plus hit for indie distributor Miramax. Pulp Fiction was a sensation. It packs so much energy and invention into telling its non-chronologically interwoven short stories (all about temptation, corruption and redemption among modern criminals, large and small) it leaves viewers both exhilarated and exhausted–hearts racing and knuckles white from the ride.
07 SCHINDLERS LIST 1993 – Steven Spielberg had a banner year in 1993. He scored one of his biggest commercial hits that summer with the mega-hit Jurassic Park, but it was the artistic and critical triumph of Schindler’s List that Spielberg called “the most satisfying experience of my career.” Adapted from the best-selling book by Thomas Keneally and filmed in Poland with an emphasis on absolute authenticity, Spielberg’s masterpiece ranks among the greatest films ever made about the Holocaust during World War II. It’s a film about heroism with an unlikely hero at its center–Catholic war profiteer Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who risked his life and went bankrupt to save more than 1,000 Jews from certain death in concentration camps.
By employing Jews in his crockery factory manufacturing goods for the German army, Schindler ensures their survival against terrifying odds. At the same time, he must remain solvent with the help of a Jewish accountant (Ben Kingsley) and negotiate business with a vicious, obstinate Nazi commandant (Ralph Fiennes) who enjoys shooting Jews as target practice from the balcony of his villa overlooking a prison camp. Schindler’s List gains much of its power not by trying to explain Schindler’s motivations, but by dramatising the delicate diplomacy and determination with which he carried out his generous deeds. As a drinker and womaniser who thought nothing of associating with Nazis, Schindler was hardly a model of decency; the film is largely about his transformation in response to the horror around him. Spielberg doesn’t flinch from that horror, and the result is a film that combines remarkable humanity with abhorrent inhumanity–a film that functions as a powerful history lesson and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the context of a living nightmare
06 BRAVEHEART 1995 – Mel Gibson’s birth-of-a-nation epic Braveheart does for England what Spartacus did for Rome: every Englishman in this film is weak or nasty or a fool, or all three. Gibson plays William Wallace, the highland warrior whose fierce fighting spirit prompted Robert the Bruce’s memorable victory over the English at Bannockburn. The film opens with boy Wallace losing his father and brother to the murdering English. Gibson’s over-age Wallace then indulges in an unintentionally risible spot of teenage romance with the chaste Murron (Catherine McCormack), who is promptly despatched by yet another wicked Englishman. Gibson swings into action in some truly impressive (and horribly gory) fight scenes, culminating in the battles of Stirling and Falkirk.
When not separating English body parts, Gibson finds time for a clandestine romance with Isabelle, the Princess of Wales (Sophie Marceau), whom he manages to impregnate, thereby ensuring that the current British monarchy are all descended from him and not from William the Conqueror as they might heretofore have supposed. He trounces the weak and venial English at every turn, causing England’s nasty Edward I (Patrick McGoohan) to cough and splutter a lot. Only treachery by the Scotch nobility (lowlanders to a man) stops Wallace’s triumphant crusade. His final apotheosis, complete with pre-Passion of the Christ crucifixion imagery, posits Wallace as the redeemer of his country’s lost independence.
The set-piece battles are a feast for the senses: a combination of the scale of Spartacus with the mud of Branagh’s Henry V. But the continual use of slow motion in tandem with the gorgeous scenic backdrops and James Horner’s cloying “folksy” music score of indeterminate national origin, enhances the feeling that this is a slick promo for the Scottish tourist board (ironic, perhaps, that much of it was shot in Ireland). Gibson and his Caledonian costars give the impression that a good time was had by all.
05 SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION 1994 – When The Shawshank Redemption was released in 1994, some critics complained that this popular prison drama was too long to sustain its plot. Those complaints miss the point, because the passage of time is crucial to this story about patience, the squeaky wheels of justice and the growth of a life-long friendship. Only when the film reaches its final, emotionally satisfying scene do you fully understand why writer-director Frank Darabont (adapting anovella by Stephen King) allows the story to unfold at its necessary pace.
Tim Robbins plays a banker named Andy who is sent to Shawshank Prison on a murder charge, but as he gets to know a life-term prisoner named Red (Morgan Freeman), we soon realise his claims of innocence are credible. We also realise that Andy’s calm, quiet exterior hides a great reserve of patience and fortitude, and Red comes to admire this mild-mannered man who first struck him as weak and unfit for prison life. So it is that The Shawshank Redemption builds considerable impact as a prison drama that defies the conventions of the genre (violence, brutality, riots) to illustrate its theme of faith, friendship and survival. Nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor and Screenplay, it’s a remarkable film (which movie lovers count among their all-time favourites) that signalled the arrival of a promising new filmmaker.
04 A CLOCKWORK ORANGE 1971 – The controversy that surrounded Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange while the film was out of circulation suggested that it was like Romper Stomper: a glamorisation of the violent, virile lifestyle of its teenage protagonist, with a hypocritical gloss of condemnation to mask delight in rape and ultra-violence. Actually, it is as fable-like and abstract as The Pilgrim’s Progress, with characters deliberately played as goonish sitcom creations. The anarchic rampage of Alex (Malcolm McDowell), a bowler-hatted juvenile delinquent of the future, is all over at the end of the first act. Apprehended by equally brutal authorities, he changes from defiant thug to cringing bootlicker, volunteering for a behaviourist experiment that removes his capacity to do evil.
It’s all stylised: from Burgess’ invented pidgin Russian (snarled unforgettably by McDowell) to 2001-style slow tracks through sculpturally perfect sets (as with many Kubrick movies, the story could be told through decor alone) and exaggerated, grotesque performances on a par with those of Dr Strangelove (especially from Patrick Magee and Aubrey Morris). Made in 1971, based on a novel from 1962, A Clockwork Orange resonates across the years. Its future is now quaint, with Magee pecking out “subversive literature” on a giant IBM typewriter and “lovely, lovely Ludwig Van” on mini-cassette tapes. However, the world of “Municipal Flat Block 18A, Linear North” is very much with us: a housing estate where classical murals are obscenely vandalised, passers-by are rare and yobs loll about with nothing better to do than hurt people.
03 GET CARTER 1971 – Released in 1971 (the same year Straw Dogs and A Clockwork Orange hit the screens, which must make 71 the annus mirabilis for violent films set in Britain), Get Carter opens with gangsters leering over pornographic slides and ends on a filthy, slag-stained beach in Newcastle. It’s a low-down and dirty movie from beginning to end, and possibly the grittiest and best film of its kind to come out of Britain. The granddaddy of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and all its ilk, director Mike Hodges’ Get Carter offers revenge tragedy swinging-60s style, all nicotine-stained cinematography, shabby locations and the kind of killer catchphrases Vinnie Jones would die for (“You’re a big man, but you’re in bad shape. With me, it’s a full-time job. Now behave yourself”, says Michael Caine’s deadpan anti-hero Carter before inflicting a few choice punches on Brian Mosley, aka Coronation Street‘s Alf Roberts, to name but one example from Hodges and Ted Lewis’ exquisitely laconic script).
Presenting the dark horse in his family of loveable Cockney geezer roles (Alfie, The Italian Job), Michael Caine plays the title role of Jack Carter, a man so hard he barely registers a flicker of regret watching a woman he’s just had sex with plunge to her death. After taking the train up to Newcastle as the credits roll and Roy Budd’s chunky bass-heavy theme tune plays, Carter returns to his hometown to attend his brother’s funeral and investigate the circumstances of his death. Not that he’s all that sentimental about family: he shaves nonchalantly over the open coffin, and shows affection to his niece Doreen (Petra Markham) by cramming a few notes in her hand and telling her to “be good and don’t trust boys”. Gradually, Carter unravels the skein of drugs, pornography and corruption tangled around his brother’s death, which brings him up against supremely oleaginous kingpin Kinnear (played by the author of Look Back in Anger John Osborne) among others. A remake starring Sylvester Stallone is in the offing, but quite frankly it will be a 30-degree (Celsius) Christmas night in Newcastle before Hollywood could ever make something as assured, raw and immortal as this.
02 THE WICKER MAN 1973 – It must be stressed that despite the fact that it was produced in 1973 and stars both Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland, The Wicker Man is not a Hammer Horror film. There is no blood, very little gore and the titular Wicker Man is not a monster made out of sticks that runs around killing people by weaving them into raffia work. Edward Woodward plays Sergeant Howie, a virginal, Christian policeman sent from the Scottish mainland to investigate the disappearance of young girl on the remote island of Summer Isle. The intelligent script by Anthony Schaffer, who also wrote the detective mystery Sleuth (a film with which The Wicker Man shares many traits), derives its horror from the increasing isolation, confusion and humiliation experienced by the naïve Howie as he encounters the island community’s hostility and sexual pagan rituals, manifested most immediately in the enthusiastic advances of local landlord’s daughter Willow (Britt Ekland). Howie’s intriguing search, made all the more authentic by the film’s atmospheric locations and folkish soundtrack, gradually takes us deeper and deeper into the bizarre pagan community living under the guidance of the charming Laird of Summer Isle (Lee, minus fangs) as the film builds to a terrifying climax with a twist to rival that of The Sixth Sense or Fight Club.
01 THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY 1966 – The Good The Bad And The Ugly. By far the most ambitious, unflinchingly graphic and stylistically influential western ever mounted, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is an engrossing actioner shot through with a volatile mix of myth and realism. Clint Eastwood returns as the “Man With No Name,” this time teaming with two gunslingers (Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef) to pursue a cache of $200,000 and letting no one, not even warring factions in a civil war, stand in their way. From sun-drenched panoramas to bold,hard close-ups, exceptional camera work captures the beauty and cruelty of the barren landscape andthe hardened characters who stride unwaveringly through it. Forging a vibrant and yet detached style of action that had not been seen before, and has never been matched since, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly shatters the western mold in true Clint Eastwood style.