100 Films in a Year is five years old this week, and to mark the occasion I’m having five days of top fives from the past five years. On Monday I bemoaned the five worst films I’ve seen as part of this project, on Tuesday I slammed the five most overrated, and yesterday I lamented the five most underrated.
Choosing films for all of these lists has been tough, but I think today’s was hardest of all. I could easily list another five or ten or twenty films here (Let the Right One In came closest, for some reason; I could also have had The Greatest Film of All Time, which was one of the reasons I left it out — you don’t need me to recommend it (not that some of these need that either)), but these are what I’ve settled on as…
Anatomy of a Murder
I’m not one of the hardcore devotees of the crime genre (the many millions who buy the endless stream of crime paperbacks or watch all the TV cop shows), but I love a great thriller, and this is certainly one. Expertly judged by director Otto Preminger, with a barnstorming performance by Jimmy Stewart, this is a procedural tour de force.
Truly a film of another era; one where a romantic affair consists of cups of tea, discussions of the weather, trips to the cinema, tea, guilt, indecision, and more tea. First-class writing, direction and acting convey all the repressed emotions that make it truly British. That and the tea. It may be of another era, but it still shines today.
Inspired by real cases, Fritz Lang’s prototypical thriller tells of the hunt for a child killer by both the police and the criminal underworld. Innovative filmmaking helps tell a story that still thrills today, with themes that have an enduring relevance. Loaded with moments of pure cinema, M is essential viewing for any fan of the medium.
So influential its name has become an adjective, Akira Kurosawa’s film is still the archetypal story about conflicting accounts of one event because it does it so well. There are many imitators, but few have done it with such conviction. Add beautiful cinematography, music and performances and you have a masterpiece.
Before he got sidetracked into action filmmaking, director Paul Greengrass helmed documentary-esque dramas about real events. Here he brings those skills to bear on ‘the other plane’ from 9/11, the one crashed in a field by its brave passengers. But he doesn’t deify them — these are ordinary people in a horrible situation. For that truth, it’s all the better.
Honourable Mention: Blade Runner: The Final Cut
After a couple of decades, Ridley Scott was finally able to realise his ideal Blade Runner. Some prefer the 1992 Director’s Cut; some even like the largely-ignored original release; but, unlike his Alien Director’s Cut (which he admits is an older man having a fiddle), this is Scott’s definitive version. It’s a great film, and by finally existing I deemed it eligible for inclusion, but really it’s a tweaked version of the Director’s Cut and I’d seen that before.
Tomorrow 100 Films’ birthday celebrations continue with my final top five: my favourite films from my last five years of viewing.
After that… well, we’ll see.