The Best Films of All Time

I will say this. I do not like films. I am serious. I do not like romantic comedies, horror, science fiction, thrillers or any other genre for that matter as a general rule. For me to like a film, it either has nostalgia value, or it has to be artfully brilliant. The scores or soundtracks to films are a huge factor in my liking a film. Sometimes, a film can be downright silly, but extremely entertaining. This is why I think it may be worthy to mention the rare times a film has captured me and the ones I actually enjoyed.

Pride & Prejudice – Joe Wright
My favourite film of all time by a mile. First of all, it helps that I am a period drama fan, love Literature and most of all, adore Jane Austen. Even considering this there are plenty of versions of this classic and even more period dramas out there, but this one comes out on top. I must have seen it over a dozen times by now. I first went to see it at the cinema and I found myself grinning goofily at the screen as I willed the protagonists on with all of my heart and soul. Now, I hate RomComs, and I am no soppy female that swoons over handsome men on the screen, but I think my heart stopped when Mr. Darcy came out of the fog. Not only was it beautifully shot but Dario Marianelli‘s score at that point was just magical. Speaking of which, the score of this film is probably the element that sets this film apart from the others. The Pride and Prejudice score is by far my favourite album which I play from beginning to end over and over again. Joe Wright proves himself to be one of the most promising new directors with this film. Sadly, he was robbed of his Oscar.

Aliens – James Cameron
I think this is largely nostalgia, though it scared me when I was young. Strictly speaking, I do not really enjoy any of the films in this franchise. I find the second film, Aliens, to be the most tolerable. What I am in love with is the creature itself. I think it is a fantastic creation and it is the model of the Aliens xenomorph which I favour. The new CGI aliens in the latest AVP films do not cut it for me. I mean, the creature itself is so mind blowingly awesome. Every part of its body is sharp and deadly, it has, like, three mouths, it bleeds pure acid, so if you shoot it, you get gunked and you still lose, it is really fast, it swims, and it is born inside living hosts. That is an alarmingly lethal foe. And Ripley is awesome.

Schindler’s List – Steven Spielberg
I almost want to put this here just for Ralph Fiennes‘ “I pardon you” line, which is side splittingly funny but I think there is more to this film than that. Apart from the over sentimental ending which lets this film down a bit, it is cinematic perfection. Although it is a tough topic, it is still highly watchable and interesting. It can get uncomfortable at times when you know you want to so desperately laugh at Ralph Fiennes’s character but there is always that horrible knowledge that he was based on a real person. Although this film is often criticised for being manipulative I cannot really see how that detracts, as how can something manipulate someone into feeling that the concentration camps were horrific and unjust? It goes without saying in the first place. Film or no film.

A Little Princess – Alfonso Cuarón
Shockingly enough, I only came across this as an adult. Children are supposed to like this, or adults struck with nostalgia, but for some reason, some how, I watched this only a few years ago and fell in love with it. It has a very special place in my heart, as this film introduced me to my absolute favourite composer of all time, Patrick Doyle. Alongside Pride and Prejudice‘s score, this score is one of my favourites. Being a simple children’s film one could hardly expect so much effort to be made to make the film so artistic, but Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) did just that. He took this film very seriously, and aesthetically speaking, it really shows. The story itself is still light-hearted and aimed at children, but there is much for an adult to see here simply because of the films direction. Patrick Doyle really does the film justice with his score, which is so great that it is on the forefront at all times. There is no background music, but music that is pivotal to what is happening on screen.

Love Actually – Richard Curtis
Normally, romantic comedies are a huge “NO-NO”. They’re generic, soppy, exclusive and always contain the same cast. Love Actually is different. First of all, it is British. That is a very good thing, and frequently puts a film into my good books even before viewing. Secondly, the score, by Craig Armstrong, and the soundtrack is again, top notch. Thirdly, it is not generic. Thank you, God. This film tries to do something different, by loosely interweaving a number of short stories into one film focusing on different kinds of love. Most of the stories have a happy ending, but one or two do not. Some of it is sugary sweet, but it has the wit and charm to pull it off, especially as Curtis is self-aware. Lastly, the cast of this film is mind-blowing. Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Rowan Atkinson, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy and Kris Marshall all in one film? What kind of heaven is this? Okay, not all respectable actors, but all, beautifully, beautifully British. I like my British. To top it all off, the film is funny.

Beauty and the Beast – Disney
NOSTALGIA. Okay, no, there is more to it than that. This is genuinely my favourite Disney film. I really like the concept of the story, though it is an old and battered concept that Disney does best. Old and battered concepts or stories and bring fresh new life to them. Although Howard Ashman always wrote his librettos with great gusto and wit, this film was his best for me and serves to remind us all how tragic it is that his talent was lost to us so early. Alan Menken‘s score for this is also his best, though his The Little Mermaid is not far behind. The characters of Gaston and Lefau make a great comic duo that serves as a perfect balance between the ever serious Belle and Beast. Any dialogue that involved Gaston, him speaking, being spoken of, or to, never fails to give a chuckle of appreciation.

Spirited Away – Hayao Miyazaki
I am a big fan of Studio Ghibli. I have only seen five so far, this is my second favourite from them. The sheer creativity, intelligence and imagery from this film make it a must see. It is critically acclaimed and is a massive financial success, and so it should be. I am not particularly an anime fan but this studio has so many unique concepts and ideas to express that it would almost be a crime to miss out on it. Basically about a young girl that accidently enters a spirit world with her parents, the story details her journey to save her parents (who have been turned into pigs) and learning to cope on her own.

Lost In Translation – Sofia Coppola
This film is very subtle and quietly moving but also has many laugh out loud moments. This film is an acquired taste, as so many people that watch it completely miss the point or do not get it. This film epitomises alienation and mid-life crisis. Starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson their performances are inspiring and play strangers of different generations, both married, that meet and form an unlikely bond in the beautiful but unsettling environment of Japan.

The Fifth Element – Luc Besson
This is one of the guilty pleasures that is pure entertainment from start to finish. The sets look like they are made out of foil. Chris Tucker is hugely annoying. The ending is atrocious. It insults every feminist nerve of my body. Gary Oldman has an annoying limp. It is cheesy. It is American. It is still fucking awesome. It is funny, fast paced, quite original and Milla Jovovich is in it. What more can you possibly ask for? Even Bruce Willis does okay!

Atonement – Joe Wright
This film is placed purely for its score and aesthetic elements. Entertaining this film is not. Wright is trying so hard with the direction; costumes and photography that he forgets to entertain the audience. But this is a shortcoming of the source material by Ian McEwan. I also rate this film because of what an amazing adaptation it is. Having read the book, the film does the tone and imagery justice. Dario Marianelli‘s score, once again, is superb, for which he won his Oscar. The performances of the three Briony’s are simply inspired.

Howl’s Moving Castle – Hayao Miyazaki

My favourite Studio Ghibli film. One of the few films of the studio that is not created by themselves, but adapted from a novel. With that in mind, this film is probably the most straight forward of the Ghibli films I have seen. Christian Bale lends his voice for the title role for the English version of the film with great charm. The film follows an apparently plain young woman, that accidently bumps into the wizard Howl, and after being cursed by the Witch of the Waste into the body of a 90 year old woman, stays in Howl’s castle to try and break the curse. Although the first hour of this film is flawless, it loses steam going into the second half, and the ending is disappointing, but the animation and imagination really pulls this film through.

This list is incomplete, and more will be added at a later date.


3 Responses to “The Best Films of All Time”

  1. Cool list. I like it because it’s a little different and not in the least bit pretentious.

    Always good to see Miyazaki films on a list like this. Spirited Away was pretty close to making my Top 15, actually. I love that movie; it’s so rich and colourful and full of life.

    Love, Actually is a tradition in our home for romantic moments. It’s kind of a Christmas movie, too, so it serves many purposes. I love it, though.

    You already know my thoughts on Atonement. 😉

    Aaaand Besson’s Fifth Element is just flat-out fun. Also lots of colour and action going on there, a really creative sci-fi/action/thriller.

    Schindler’s List is also very good. Very tough to watch. I have it sitting here, but I’ve only seen it once since its original theatrical run when my parents dragged me to it as a young teenager. Very powerful.

  2. Ah, thanks. Schindler’s List must have made a massive impression on you if you saw it when you were so young! I remember watching ‘The Basketball Diaries’ when I was only 12 (for Leonardo DiCaprio, you know. *roll eyes*) and I was put off drugs for life. That film really stayed with me; I am just disgusted by drugs – never tried them, or cigerettes, and I do not drink either.

    I think Schindler’s List may be worth another viewing through the eyes of an adult? I think if you watch it through the eyes of a film-maker, it becomes easier to watch. Yes, the topic is tough, but it’s such a beautifully made film. And the performances? Wow. Just wow. There’s a scene where Fiennes says ‘Look at me,’ and he looks straight into the camera for a few seconds. I was terrified.

    As to Miyazaki – I’ve seen ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Princess Mononoke’, ‘My Neighbour Toroto’, ‘Nausicaa: The Valley of the Wind’ and ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’. What others would you recommend in particular? I have to select carefully because of lack of funds! 😉 Grave of the Fireflys (or a title like that; precision eludes me) has been recommended to me. I don’t think it is Miyazaki, but it’s from Studio Ghibli.

    I agree about The Fifth Element. Creativity wise it’s really quite stunning, but it also has a lot of standard Hollywood clichés thrown in. But it’s so entertaining, I forgive it. Just this once, mind!

  3. Yep, Grave of the Fireflies is a Ghibli. It’s by Isao Takahata, who also did My Neighbors the Yamadas and Pom Poko. I think he’s every bit as good as Miyazaki in some ways. Anyways, Grave of the Fireflies is honestly as powerful a movie as Schindler’s List. If you don’t cry during the last few frames, you’re not human.

    Agreed on the performances in Schindler’s List. They’ve actually still stayed with me and that was a movie that made me a Liam Neeson fan for life. I also remember being fascinated with Spielberg’s whole idea of the “red dress” and its significance on this sea of black and white. It’s maybe the only historical motion picture I can handle from Spielberg, as his other efforts just aren’t that good and always seem to overreach. I WILL watch it soon and review it with fresh eyes.

    Now, in terms of other Studio Ghibli films, I’d say go with:

    Porco Rosso (a very interesting, adult movie that seems ridiculous but somehow works)

    Only Yesterday (this is another Takahata film and it’s an interesting one, very dramatic and straightforward…doesn’t feel like it should be animated but it is…it’s unique)

    Kiki’s Delivery Service (just plain fun)

    Along with Ghibli, I would say that you need to look into Satoshi Kon. He is, for my money, one of the best filmmakers in anime going at the moment. Check out Tokyo Godfathers and Millennium Actress. I have reviews up on my site for both films. See them.

    Incidentally, Miyazaki also has a new one out, 2008’s Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. I haven’t seen it yet, but am looking for a copy. I’ll let you know how it goes.


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