100 Favourites II — Statistics

I couldn’t do a list like that without publishing some statistics at the end, could I? No, no I could not. By my standards this will be a relatively brisk post, though, because I didn’t thoroughly log everything I could have. Nonetheless, I had some observations…

One thing I was particularly interested to compare was the age of my picks. I know my tastes skew recent — I like “old films”, but I do watch more new(er) stuff and (as demonstrated in my 10th anniversary statistics) I tend to place newer films higher in my year-end lists too. My first 100 Favourites list certainly bore that out as well, as you can see on this graph. Have the last ten years changed that at all? Well, no. Not in the slightest. If anything, it’s worse.

That’s 49% of my selections — almost literally half — from the 2010s, a decade which at the time of writing only includes seven years. And if you add in the 2000s as well, the last 17 years account for 72%, just under three-quarters of the list. I guess if I tried this again in another ten years some of the more recent films would fall out while the older classics would endure. I must say, I’m not alone in this — it’s something I’ve observed on other public-voted great lists, like the IMDb Top 250 (well-liked new films are always jumping in and then slowly dropping out), or Empire magazine’s 500 Greatest and 300 Greatest polls. The opposite seems to happen with critics’ lists, like Sight & Sound’s famed poll, which Citizen Kane topped for, what, 50 or 60 years, and the rest of the top ten is pretty stable too. But maybe that also changes a lot further down, I don’t know.

Talking of top tens, precisely 70% of the films on this list were previously featured in one of my year-end top tens. The worst affected were 2007, 2009, and 2012, each of which lost six films. Luckiest was 2016, with all ten top-tenners making the list. 2013, 2014, and 2015 only lost one each. That’s partly thanks to a change of perspective, of course (as you may have noticed, many of the films have shifted around in their ranking), but it’s also simply the case that some years had more films I liked than others. In terms of total numbers in this 100, the worst hit were 2009 and 2012, which only feature four films each. If you want to rank them thoroughly, 2009 definitely fared worse: only one of its films is in the top 50, while 2012 has three in the top 50, including two in the top 20, and one of those in the top 10.

Conversely, the most successful years were the last four (the ones with the most top-tenners that made it, unsurprisingly). Highest of all was 2015 with 18. I suppose that’s helped by the fact I watched 200 films that year, though 2014 is second with 16 and I ‘only’ watched 136 then. Indeed, rendered as a percentage, 2014 fares best of all, with 11.76% of the films I watched that year making my top 100. Second is shared by 2011 and 2013, each with exactly 10%, while 2015 only comes fourth, with exactly 9%. At the bottom end, the fact 2009 and 2012 were my least successful years in numerical terms (the only two times I failed to make 100) doesn’t help them at all, coming out at 4.26% and 4.12% respectively.

Here’s a pair of graphs, comparing the years in flat numerical terms and as a percentage of their own year’s total.

Compared to their previous positions in my year-end top tens, the biggest riser was The Story of Film: An Odyssey, shooting up 13 places from being 2015’s 21st to its 8th now. (I know #21 is not in the top ten, but I did a top 20 that year and noted The Story of Film was 21st, so…) The biggest faller within the chart was Stoker, also from my 2015 viewing, which dropped seven places from 7th to 14th. The worst-affected film not on the list was 2010’s #3, Inception, which isn’t among the nine 2010 films on the list. The #3 films from 2007 (Mean Creek) and 2012 (Master and Commander) also aren’t here, but (as we’ve seen) their respective years don’t feature as many films on the list so they’ve theoretically dropped less far.

Lastly, directors. There were 82 of them across the 100 films, of which 13 had two or more entries on the list. Top of the pile with four was, of all people, Matthew Vaughn. His films ranged from Kick-Ass in 8th up to Kingsman in 83rd, via X-Men: First Class at #16 and Stardust at #41. Sharing second place, each with three films, were David Fincher (Zodiac at #3, The Social Network at #11, Gone Girl at #66), George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead at #62, Dawn of the Dead at #63, Land of the Dead at #89), and Steven Spielberg (The Adventures of Tintin at #9, War Horse at #86, Lincoln at #95). Finally, the remaining nine directors with two films apiece were Wes Anderson, Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa, George Miller, Hayao Miyazaki, Chan-wook Park, Zack Snyder, Quentin Tarantino, and Denis Villeneuve.

And now I’m done.

Should you wish to revisit the excitement, all 200 of my 100 favourites can be found linked from their dedicated page here.

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100 Favourites II — The Top 10

And so I reach the pinnacle of my list — my most favourite films I’ve seen for the first time in the past ten years. (Well, if we’re being precise, in the past ten years and three months, but not counting anything from the last three months. But that’s less snappy.)

Over three previous posts I’ve counted down #100 to #11, but here’s the perfectly rounded number everyone loves for a list: the top ten.

#10
Dark City


4th from 2008
(previously 3rd | original review)

Before The Matrix there was Dark City, which tackles some of the same philosophical issues as the Wachowskis’ trilogy, only in a less opaque and verbose fashion — and, as I said, did so first. Of course, it lacks the groundbreaking action sequences that made The Matrix such a hit, but as a thoughtful piece of stylish sci-fi noir it probably bests its better-known thematic cousins. I also reckon it’s still a bit underrated… including by me, really, because it’s nine years since I first watched it and I still haven’t got round to seeing the Director’s Cut. (Note to self: fix that.)

#9
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn


1st from 2014
(previously 2nd | original review)

Calling on the same skill set that produced the Indiana Jones movies, Steven Spielberg created an adventure movie that perfectly balances plot, action, and humour. Despite the freedom afforded by crafting the entire thing in CGI (rendered with stunning realism by Weta), Spielberg knows when to hold back and maintain a level of realism, only to cut loose when warranted. The top end of this list definitely skews blockbustery-y — well, it is “favourite” rather than some kind of “objective best” (not that that’d be strictly possible anyway) — but, nonetheless, I think Tintin is a very fine and underrated example of the form.

#8
Kick-Ass


1st from 2010
(previously 1st | original review)

As Watchmen was to superhero comics, so Kick-Ass is to superhero films: taking familiar building blocks from other films and TV series, it deconstructs the genre through a “what if someone tried to be a superhero for real” storyline, asking questions about the glorification of violence and the sexualisation of its characters — all while being a funny and exciting action-comedy. Perhaps it’s having its cake and eating it, and that leads some people to miss the point (some by enjoying it a bit too much, some by thinking it has nothing to say), but I don’t think that stops it being one of the best and most thoughtful superhero movies yet made.

#7
Let the Right One In


1st from 2011
(previously 3rd | original review)

It’s felt like you can’t escape vampires in film and TV for the last couple of decades, but trust a European movie to give them a unique spin, right? So it’s both a coming-of-age-y arthouse-y movie about two 12-year-olds and first love, and a scary horror movie about violent supernatural creatures. It works by not shortchanging either aspect, instead combining them to transcend genre boundaries. So it’s a genuinely touching, emotional and relatable drama, as well as a creepy and horrific fantasy thriller.

#6
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation


1st from 2015
(previously 1st | original review)

There’s always been a bit of a ‘wannabe’ air to the Mission: Impossible films, like maybe someone thought it could fill the void left by Bond disappearing post-Dalton, only it took so long to make it to the screen that Bond himself got there first in the shape of Pierce Brosnan. Nonetheless, the series has trundled along… though I don’t want to sound like I’m doing it down too much because I’ve always enjoyed it — the second one made my first 100 Favourites list, even. But Rogue Nation is where M:I finally out-Bonds Bond. Mixing action thrills and a genuine sense of jeopardy with just-ahead-of-reality gadgets, a knowing sense of humour, and a cast full of likeable characters, it’s superb blockbuster entertainment.

#5
Seven Samurai


1st from 2013
(previously 1st | original review)

A phrase like “three-and-a-half-hour subtitled black-and-white movie” is going to conjure up a certain experience in the minds of most viewers. That experience is most probably nothing like Seven Samurai — although it is, of course, a three-and-a-half-hour subtitled black-and-white movie. On the surface it’s about a bunch of warriors protecting a small impoverished village that can’t defend itself, and it has a lengthy action-packed climax to deliver on such promise, but it rises above that thanks to its reflective attitude towards its characters and their very existence. No, wait, I said it’s not your typical three-and-a-half-hour subtitled black-and-white movie!

#4
Rashomon


3rd from 2008
(previously 5th | original review)

I’d wager most would rank Seven Samurai higher in the Akira Kurosawa canon, but I give Rashomon the edge because the form of its storytelling appeals to me. It retells the events surrounding a murder from the subjective viewpoint of each of the characters who were there, and of course their accounts differ. Its title has become a byword for such narratives, but there’s more here than just trendsetting plot construction — it’s a fantastically made film, exquisitely shot and magnificently performed.

#3
Zodiac


2nd from 2008
(previously 2nd | original review)

David Fincher’s meticulous true crime thriller may be his best movie — and when we’re talking about the man who made Se7en and Fight Club, that’s certainly saying a lot. It may look like it’s a murder thriller — it is about the hunt for a serial killer, after all — but in many respects it’s more about obsession and addiction, and how such things can come to take over your life. But if you don’t want to ponder that kind of thing, there’s always chills like the basement scene to keep you viscerally engaged. (The slightly-different Director’s Cut is the better version of the film and, if we’re being specific, would be my pick here; but I watched that a couple of years later, so it was the theatrical cut that figured in 2008’s top ten.)

#2
Skyfall


1st from 2012
(previously 1st | original review)

The James Bond films have always been action blockbusters, and more often than not immensely popular and successful ones. Skyfall changed the game though: by hiring Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes it was instantly booted into Prestige Picture territory — and still managed to deliver the most financially successful film in the series’ long history, the first billion-dollar Bond. But box office success is not why Skyfall is #2 on my list. It’s the beautiful cinematography; the way it adds thematic weight to the character without breaking the formula; the sense of Bond’s history without over-explicit reverence — and the way those aspects makes it both familiar and fresh at the same time. Plus it delivers on the action, larger-than-life villain, and one-liners just like a Bond film should. Its artistic success may be a case of the stars aligning and lightning striking (the lacking-by-comparison follow-up Spectre proved that), but Bond has rarely been better.

#1
The Dark Knight


1st from 2008
(previously 1st | original review)

Eight years and three months ago, when I named The Dark Knight my #1 film of 2008, I wrote that “I’m unashamedly one of those who believe The Dark Knight isn’t just one of the best films of 2008, it’s one of the best films ever.” It’s nice to be able to stand by such a brazen assertion. And, having thought long and hard about what I would declare as my most favouritest movie from the 1,283 new ones that I’ve seen in the last decade, I clearly do stand by it. I love superhero movies, I love crime thrillers, and I love epics, so it’s no surprise that a movie which combines all three — and does them all well — would top a list of my favourite movies.

Now: what’s a good list without some statistics?

100 Favourites II — The Penultimate 20

Week 3 of this list (the first two parts are here and here) sees us hurtling towards the top of the chart — the films that are among my very most favouritest that I’ve seen in the last decade.

I will say, there are more superhero movies than I expected…

#30
Deadpool

2nd from 2016 (previously 8th)
I feel like I should’ve matured out of finding Deadpool so entertaining, but it definitely appealed to my inner adolescent. It’s a riot. More…
#29
Super

5th from 2011 (previously 5th)
More superhero comedy, but Super’s low-budget grittiness and James Gunn-imbued barminess gives it an edge, even as its action climax is viscerally satisfying. More…
#28
Before Sunrise

4th from 2007 (previously unranked)
Richard Linklater distills the essence of twentysomething life and relationships into one night in the first (and best) of his decades-spanning Before trilogy. More…
#27
Citizen Kane

3rd from 2007 (previously 7th)
A film now overshadowed by its reputation, if you try to shed the baggage then Orson Welles’ debut still stands up very well in its own right. More…
#26
Watchmen: Director’s Cut

1st from 2009 (previously 3rd)
The most acclaimed superhero narrative ever penned became a film that is equally as complex and flawed, but also brilliant. More…
#25
Gravity

4th from 2014 (previously 1st)
Sandra Bullock is stranded in space and we’re right there alongside her in Alfonso Cuarón’s gripping and technically astonishing survival thriller. More…
#24
Sherlock Holmes

4th from 2010 (previously 8th)
Exciting, funny, with exceptional evocations of how it would feel to be the Great Detective. Not a traditional depiction, but surprisingly faithful. Plus: a proper mystery with a proper solution. More…
#23
Toy Story 3

3rd from 2010 (previously 2nd)
Lightning strikes thrice for Pixar’s studio-defining trilogy. Funny and moving, it tackles big emotional themes while still providing a kid-friendly adventure-comedy. More…
#22
United 93

2nd from 2007 (previously 1st)
Paul Greengrass’ 9/11 film almost feels like a documentary, with its naturalistic performances and handheld camerawork. That it was endorsed by the families is another stamp of approval. More…
#21
12 Angry Men

3rd from 2014 (previously 5th)
Twelve men talk to each other for an hour-and-a-half in this tense, gripping courtroom (without the courtroom) thriller. A directing masterclass from a debuting Sidney Lumet. More…
#20
Supermen of Malegaon

3rd from 2015 (previously 4th)
This little-seen documentary is an inspirational film about living your dreams even when the world won’t let you. Genuinely, I think it’s an absolute must-see for any lover of film. More…
#19
Requiem for a Dream

2nd from 2014 (previously 8th)
Darren Aronofsky’s addiction drama may ultimately be grim and without hope, but the verve of the filmmaking transcends expectations. More…
#18
Anatomy of a Murder

2nd from 2010 (previously 4th)
A precision-engineered procedural crime drama that refuses to deviate from the methodology of the case, but still finds room to deepen its array of characters. More…
#17
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

2nd from 2012 (previously 4th)
Boasting an original variation on Batman’s backstory, plus a fine turn from Mark Hamill’s arguably-definitive Joker, this animation is among the very best Bat-films. More…
#16
X-Men: First Class

4th from 2011 (previously 2nd)
The X-Men begin in this origin story that shows us another side to familiar characters, with a unique feel thanks to its ’60s setting and plot that riffs off Cold War spy-fi. More…
#15
The Raid 2

1st from 2016 (previously 2nd)
Bigger and grander than its predecessor, this is a sprawling crime epic that still has time for huge, elaborate fight sequences. One of the greatest action movies ever made. More…
#14
My Neighbour Totoro

3rd from 2011 (previously 7th)
Gorgeously animated with a beautiful soundtrack, Hayao Miyazaki lures you in to a world and tells you a thoroughly nice story with no enforced peril. Refreshingly lovely. More…
#13
The Guest

2nd from 2015 (previously 3rd)
This ’80s-inspired thriller (with a horror-influenced edge) offers a witty screenplay, engaging characters, stylish visuals, and a fab score. Dan Stevens can definitely be my guest. More…
#12
Brief Encounter

1st from 2007 (previously 6th)
A romantic affair of cups of tea, discussions of the weather, tea, trips to the cinema, tea, guilt, indecision, and more tea. All the repressed emotions make it truly British. That and the tea. More…
#11
The Social Network

2nd from 2011 (previously 1st)
Unlikeable brats sit at computers, writing websites and arguing, but with dialogue by Aaron Sorkin and direction from David Fincher that becomes engrossing and exciting. More…

Next Sunday: the top 10.

100 Favourites II — The Next 30

Last week, my ranking of 100 favourite movies I’ve seen in the last decade began with 40 films that ranged from screwball comedies to spectacle-fuelled blockbusters, from gritty crime thrillers to artistic animations, from gory horrors to melodramatic epics…

This week, my typically eclectic selection continues with the next 30 picks.

#60
The Nice Guys

8th from 2016 (previously 11th)
Convoluted criminality is rendered hilarious in Shane Black’s spiritual sequel to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. More…
#59
Arrival

7th from 2016 (previously 6th)
An intelligent, adult drama about humanity, which also happens to be a science-fiction mystery. More…
#58
His Girl Friday

6th from 2010 (previously 7th)
Sharp, fast, intelligent, hilariously funny — they don’t make films like this anymore. More…
#57
The Story of Film: An Odyssey

8th from 2015 (previously 21st)
Mark Cousins’ history of the movies wasn’t to all tastes, but I found all 15 hours to be fascinating and enlightening. More…
#56
The Night of the Hunter

7th from 2013 (previously 7th)
Charles Laughton’s only film as director is a masterpiece of dread, fear, cruelty, and near-peerless beauty. More…
#55
M

5th from 2010 (previously unranked)
Fritz Lang’s proto-noir serial killer procedural still has the power to thrill and chill. More…
#54
Inglourious Basterds

3rd from 2009 (previously 1st)
Killin’ Natzis, Tarantino style. History re-rendered in terms of pure cinema. More…
#53
In Bruges

2nd from 2009 (previously 2nd)
“There’s never been a classic movie made in Bruges, until now.” More…
#52
Byzantium

7th from 2015 (previously 5th)
These vampires aren’t glamorous or sparkly, but damaged and discarded in a seedy seaside town of tarnished charms. More…
#51
How to Train Your Dragon

8th from 2011 (previously unranked)
Glorious animation, with soaring flight sequences and an emotive connection to its characters, both human and dragon. More…
#50
Dredd

6th from 2013 (previously 6th)
Sharp, efficient sci-fi action with impressive gun battles, dry humour, and Karl Urban nailing the title character. More…
#49
Steve Jobs

6th from 2016 (previously 3rd)
A gripping character drama with a surprising corporate thriller vibe, magnificently written by Aaron Sorkin. More…
#48
Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro

7th from 2011 (previously 4th)
Described by no less than Steven Spielberg as “one of the greatest adventure movies of all time”. More…
#47
The Shining

8th from 2014 (previously 3rd)
Eliciting dread and almost-primal fear, it’s the most excruciatingly and exquisitely unsettling film I’ve ever seen. More…
#46
X-Men: Days of Future Past

7th from 2014 (previously 9th)
Surprisingly deep characterisation rubs shoulders with witty and inventive action in this all-eras X-Men team-up. More…
#45
Predestination

5th from 2016 (previously 5th)
Thought-provoking science-fiction in this time travel mystery that tackles issues of gender and identity — how timely. More…
#44
The Revenant

4th from 2016 (previously 4th)
Starring Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, this gruelling survival Western is primarily told with visuals and so becomes a work of pure cinema. More…
#43
Oldboy

6th from 2014 (previously 7th)
Mixing a straightforward revenge thriller with weird, almost surrealistic touches, Oldboy is kinda crazy, kinda disturbed, but kinda brilliant because of it. More…
#42
Hanna

5th from 2013 (previously 5th)
A teen coming-of-age movie… with hard-hitting action sequences, surreal imagery, long single takes, beautiful cinematography, and a pulsating Chemical Brothers soundtrack. More…
#41
Stardust

5th from 2008 (previously 4th)
A truly magical film, packed with wit, action, delicious villains, a star-studded cast, a stirring score, and genuinely special effects. More…
#40
North by Northwest

4th from 2013 (previously 4th)
Almost everything you could want from a movie: pure tension, action, humour; a mystery, a thriller; a dash of romance. Unadulterated entertainment. More…
#39
The Three Musketeers

6th from 2011 (previously unranked)
Sword fights galore in this riot of swashbuckling fun, with a lightness of touch that makes for pure entertainment. More…
#38
The Grand Budapest Hotel

6th from 2015 (previously 10th)
A film full of delights, from the hilarious performances, to the clever dialogue, to the inventive design, to the controlled camerawork. More…
#37
Mad Max 2

5th from 2015 (previously 2nd)
Post-apocalyptic Australian Western that climaxes with a balls-to-the-wall multi-vehicle chase, one of the greatest action sequences ever filmed. More…
#36
Sicario

3rd from 2016 (previously 1st)
A dark and morally questionable thriller, incredibly shot by Roger Deakins, artfully helmed by perhaps the best director currently working, Denis Villeneuve. More…
#35
Rise of the Planet of the Apes

3rd from 2012 (previously 7th)
An intelligent science-inspired drama that just happens to link up to a big studio sci-fi/action series. More…
#34
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

5th from 2014 (previously 4th)
The sequel to the prequel to the Planet of the Apes presents a fully-realised ape society and a story of interspecies relations that reflects our own times. More…
#33
Django Unchained

3rd from 2013 (previously 2nd)
Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western homage is an entertaining, occasionally thought-provoking, rewarding, and thoroughly cinematic experience. More…
#32
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
2nd from 2013 (previously 3rd)
One of the most underrated films of the ’00s, Andrew Dominik’s historically accurate movie is a considered, immersive, complex, intimate, epic Western. More…
#31
Mad Max: Fury Road

4th from 2015 (previously 6th)
Action filmmaking elevated to a genuine art form, but alongside the mind-boggling stunts there’s a surprising richness of theme and character. More…

Next Sunday: the penultimate 20.

100 Favourites II — The First 40

Regular readers will remember that I spent last year listing my 100 favourite films, but with one key stipulation: they were all films I’d seen before 100 Films began. Now, the somewhat inevitable sequel, in which I list my favourites from 100 Films.

Last time I listed the 100 alphabetically, but this time I’ve attempted to rank them. In many respects the result is pretty arbitrary — I mean, how are you meant to compare the relative merits of, say, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Notorious, Enchanted, and Jurassic World? I love them all, but in very different ways. So it’s a bit rough in places, though things should get more precise in later posts, as we reach the top end — you’ve gotta be more sure to say stuff is the “best of the best”, haven’t you? I think I could’ve fiddled with the ranking endlessly, one merit or another boosting films up and down whole chunks of the list, but at some point you have to let it go (fundamentally it doesn’t matter, does it?), and this is how it was when I let it go.

However, one thing I definitely did was select and rank this list from scratch, with minimal reference to my existing year-end top tens. That means films from the same year now appear in a different order, and stuff that didn’t even make my top ten at the time is now present. Even the films I ranked less than two months ago have been rearranged with the change of perspective. Nonetheless, on each entry I’ve noted where it now ranks relative to other films from its year, as well as where it used to rank (if it even did). Of course, as I was just saying, if I recompiled this list next month I might rank them completely differently again.

There are also plenty of films I liked a lot that didn’t quite make it in, but I’m not going to list them because that would be cheating. Some films probably benefit from being fresher in my memory, but that seems to be a common affliction of many a list such as this.

Anyway, that’s plenty of ado. So, we begin today with numbers 100 to 61…

#100
The Lego Movie

16th from 2014 (previously unranked)
Everything is awesome in this surprisingly clever and witty animation. More…
#99
Gambit

10th from 2011 (previously 10th)
“Go ahead, tell the end… but please don’t tell the beginning!” More…
#98
After the Thin Man

15th from 2014 (previously unranked)
Murder, screwball comedy, and a romantic subplot involving the dog. More…
#97
Fantastic Mr. Fox

14th from 2014 (previously unranked)
Roald Dahl, Wes Anderson style. More…
#96
Monsters

9th from 2011 (previously 6th)
What’s that coming over the hill? Is it an exciting new director? More…
#95
Lincoln

14th from 2016 (previously 13th)
Abraham Lincoln pretends to be Daniel Day-Lewis playing Abraham Lincoln. More…
#94
Cold in July

13th from 2016 (previously 9th)
Regularly surprising neo-noir thriller. More…
#93
The Limey

12th from 2016 (previously 7th)
Revenge as flashback… or flash-forward… or a dream… or a fantasy… or…? More…
#92
Shutter Island

18th from 2015 (previously 16th)
Gothic psychological mystery thriller. More…
#91
The Green Hornet

13th from 2014 (previously unranked)
A superhero movie made by Seth Rogen and Michel Gondry, which sums it up pretty well. More…
#90
In Your Eyes

12th from 2014 (previously unranked)
Gently fantastical romantic drama. More…
#89
Land of the Dead

11th from 2013 (previously unranked)
Zombies switch eating brains for developing them. More…
#88
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

17th from 2015 (previously 19th)
Spy action of the highest calibre. More…
#87
Zootropolis

11th from 2016 (previously 15th)
A neo-noir crime thriller about racism featuring nudism and drug abuse… from Disney! More…
#86
War Horse

4th from 2012 (previously 2nd)
A beautifully old-fashioned melodramatic war epic. More…
#85
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Deluxe Edition

10th from 2013 (previously 9th)
Batman vs. Superman, Mk.I More…
#84
The New World

6th from 2007 (previously unranked)
When I get round to watching the extended cut I have a suspicion this may find itself even higher. More…
#83
Kingsman: The Secret Service

16th from 2015 (previously 13th)
Irreverent spy-fi in this classic-Bond-inspired action comedy. More…
#82
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

15th from 2015 (previously 9th)
The cinematic equivalent of a greatest-hits cover album, but the hits are great. More…
#81
The Secret of Kells

11th from 2014 (previously unranked)
A magical story with gorgeous animation. More…
#80
Hot Fuzz

5th from 2007 (previously 2nd)
They’re bad boys. They’re die hards. They’re lethal weapons. More…
#79
Stoker

14th from 2015 (previously 7th)
A beguiling, sensuous, classically Gothic thriller. More…
#78
Road Games

10th from 2016 (previously 12th)
Rear Windscreen meets Duel Down Under in a superb Ozploitation thriller. More…
#77
Enchanted

8th from 2008 (previously unranked)
Disney spoofs Disney in this brilliant live-action fairytale/real-world mash-up. More…
#76
Jurassic World

13th from 2015 (previously 12th)
The plot may be familiar, but genuine Spielbergian awe and wonder goes a long way. More…
#75
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

10th from 2014 (previously unranked)
An entertaining and intelligent blockbuster, with a fantastic use of IMAX. More…
#74
The Babadook

12th from 2015 (previously unranked)
If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook. More…
#73
Chronicle

9th from 2014 (previously 6th)
Combining found-footage and superheroes was inevitable, but the result being so good was not. More…
#72
Hairspray

7th from 2008 (previously 6th)
You can’t stop the beat. More…
#71
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ultimate Edition

9th from 2016 (previously 10th)
Clearly not the movie a lot of people think they need, but maybe it’s the one they deserve right now. More…
#70
Coraline

9th from 2010 (previously 6th)
Dark and scary children’s animation. More…
#69
Son of Rambow

4th from 2009 (previously 4th)
Beautifully written, directed and performed, amusing and moving in equal measure. More…
#68
Speed Racer

8th from 2010 (previously unranked)
A candy-coloured masterpiece. More…
#67
The Spiral Staircase

7th from 2010 (previously unranked)
The perfect filmic evocation of a dark and stormy night. More…
#66
Gone Girl

11th from 2015 (previously unranked)
A twist-laden dramatic thriller that deconstructs modern relationships. More…
#65
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

10th from 2015 (previously 17th)
Idiosyncratic thriller perfectly balanced between indie drama and crime actioner. More…
#64
The Passion of Joan of Arc

9th from 2015 (previously 14th)
Surprisingly accessible to modern eyes. An exceptionally affecting experience. More…
#63
Dawn of the Dead

9th from 2013 (previously unranked)
Zombie gore, yes, but more important are the humour, characterisation, and social critique. More…
#62
Night of the Living Dead

8th from 2013 (previously 8th)
The film that created the zombie genre has endured remarkably well. More…
#61
Notorious

6th from 2008 (previously 7th)
Hitchcock’s romantic spy thriller. More…

Next Sunday: the next 30.

100 Films’ 100 Favourites: The Conclusion

About four years ago, I had a crazy notion: that for my 10th blogging anniversary (still several years away at that point) I could do a year-long series of posts discussing my 100 favourite movies — an idea in keeping with my blog’s theme and also a grand way to celebrate it lasting a whole decade. After several years spent mulling over options, about 18 months of writing, and literally hundreds of hours dedicated to the project, it’s finally at an end.

The full list can be found on its dedicated page here. In this post, I’m going to list the second half of my also-rans (the first half can be found here) and do what I always enjoy doing at the end of everything: share some statistics!

During my selection process for this project, my almost-final long-list stalled at a little over 150 films. Due to posting my final selection in alphabetical order, I was able to list 21 of those almost-made-its at the halfway point. Here are the remaining 34:

Little Shop of Horrors
The Living Daylights
The Mark of Zorro (1940)
Match Point
Memento
Men in Black
Mission: Impossible
Mission: Impossible III
Monsoon Wedding
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
The Mummy (1999)
Munich
Natural Born Killers
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Philadelphia
Pitch Black
The Princess Bride
The Proposition
Psycho (1960, obv.)
Ronin
School of Rock
The Silence of the Lambs
Singin’ in the Rain
Sleepy Hollow
Spellbound (2002)
Spider-Man
Stagecoach (1939)
The Terminator
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The Truman Show
Underworld (2003)
Unforgiven (1992)
Where the Truth Lies
You Only Live Twice
.

With the list now complete, what can I observe about my favourite movies?

Well, for starters, the total running time of all 100 films (counted from either their best version or the version that counts for this list) was a smidgen over 209½ hours. That means my average favourite movie runs 126 minutes.

99 of them include English as a major language. In fact, the only foreign language film on the list (unless you want to argue that For a Few Dollars More or Once Upon a Time in the West are originally in Italian) is Ghost in the Shell… which I’ve only ever watched in its English dub. Oh well.

26 other languages are represented one way or another, with the most prolific being German (12 times) and French (nine times), I guess in war movies and the like. Other regulars include Arabic, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish, while the wide variety of one-offs include Latin, Nepali, Urdu, and Klingon (and that not from a Star Trek film).

A high proportion of English films naturally suggests many of them come from the US, and indeed 91 are wholly or partly US productions. Second place, unsurprisingly, goes to the UK, with a hand in 21 of my picks. Another popular co-production partner of US blockbusters is Germany, leading them to third with 12 films. A further 15 countries put in an appearance, from the likes of France (five), Canada (four), New Zealand (the Lord of the Rings trilogy), to one-timers from the likes of Australia, Hong Kong, Denmark, and Mexico.

In terms of temporal location, my favouritism towards recent films is abundantly clear: the top decade is the 2000s, despite only seven of its years being eligible for inclusion, providing 41 of my choices. And second is the ’90s, with 34, leading to a full three-quarters of my favourites being from the last quarter-century (and from just 17 years of that time, in fact). The ’80s accounted for 12, before there were five apiece from the ’70s and ’60s, two from the ’40s, and one from the ’30s. Nothing from the ’50s, nor the ’20s or earlier. In terms of specific years, 2003 was most represented with nine, and was also the year when I first saw the greatest number of my favourites, with 14. Every year since 1988 was represented; and since the birth of the blockbuster in 1975 the only missing years are ’76, ’78, and ’87.

Despite something of a focus on movies I first saw in childhood (thanks to the nominal cut-off being when I was 20), the most prolific BBFC and MPAA ratings are 15 (38%) and R (41%). Every certificate was represented, even one NC-17.

Across the 100 films, there were 74 directors (or directing partnerships). The most prolific, I think unsurprisingly, was Steven Spielberg, with six films. In second was, of all people, Robert Zemeckis, thanks to Back to the Future being a trilogy (plus Roger Rabbit). Other multi-timers include Martin Campbell, David Fincher, Peter Jackson, and Ridley Scott, all with three; and Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Greengrass, John Lasseter, Sergio Leone, Baz Luhrmann, Tony Scott, M. Night Shyamalan, Bryan Singer, Quentin Tarantino, and John Woo, each with two.

In front of the camera, the most prolific leading actor was Harrison Ford, mainly thanks to a pile of Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. Second place is shared between Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen, John Rhys-Davies, and Hugo Weaving — three of them boosted by Lord of the Rings being a trilogy, so perhaps the crown more properly belongs to Mr Hanks. I don’t feel I can accurately do a full run-down of actors because I didn’t go through the full cast for every film. I mean, for one example, Gabriele Ferzetti is in both On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Once Upon a Time in the West but I didn’t mention him in my abridged cast list for either. Who knows how many stars and supporting actors have slipped through the cracks in this manner?

Easier to quantify is the top genre. That’d be Action, with 44 films, closely followed by Adventure, with 37. There were also 32 Thrillers, 28 Dramas, and 27 Sci-fi films. Next after that were Comedies on 26, which surprised me a little because, as a rule, I don’t think I like comedy movies all that much. The only other genre with over 20 was Fantasy, while the likes of Anime, Biopic, Film Noir, and Horror had just one representative each.

I classed 45 of the films as adaptations, which possibly says something about how much movies rely on other media. And speaking of originality, 20 of them are sequels. Similarly, there were nine superhero movies (not counting the likes of Blade or Flash Gordon) and four true stories. There were five James Bond movies (I limited myself!) and three animations each from both Disney and Pixar. There were also three remakes, all of them re-adaptations.

Obviously I love all of these movies, but what do other people think? Well, 34 of them have Oscars, sharing 103 gongs between them, and a further 19 were at least nominated for one. The average Rotten Tomatoes score is a lofty 91% — the highest being shared by Mary Poppins, Toy Story, and Toy Story 2, all of which can boast 100% tallies; the lowest, somewhat unexpectedly, is Man on Fire, with just 39%. Over at IMDb, the average rating is a much lowlier 7.9, spreading from The Shawshank Redemption’s high of 9.3 to the 5.3 shared by Daredevil and Josie and the Pussycats. At the time of posting, 38 of my choices appeared on the IMDb Top 250.

And that’s just about it! I feel like I need a rest…

…though, it’s a bit unfair that I didn’t bother to pick any favourites from my last 10 years of viewing… and it is almost my blog’s anniversary, too…

Hmm…

Young Adam (2003)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #100

Everyone has a past.
Everyone has a secret.

Country: UK & France
Language: English
Runtime: 98 minutes
BBFC: 18
MPAA: NC-17 (uncut) | R (cut)

Original Release: 4th September 2003 (Netherlands)
UK Release: 26th September 2003
First Seen: DVD, c.2005

Stars
Ewan McGregor (Shallow Grave, Big Fish)
Tilda Swinton (Orlando, We Need to Talk About Kevin)
Peter Mullan (Trainspotting, Tyrannosaur)
Emily Mortimer (Lovely & Amazing, Match Point)

Director
David Mackenzie (Starred Up, Hell or High Water)

Screenwriter
David Mackenzie (The Last Great Wilderness, Hallam Foe)

Based on
Young Adam, a novel by Alexander Trocchi.

The Story
Joe is earning his keep helping transport coal on a barge between Glasgow and Edinburgh, spending his free time lusting after his employer’s wife, when he spots a woman’s dead body floating in the canal — something Joe knows more about than he lets on…

Our Hero
Joe is a young drifter, who’s wound up working on a barge with Les and Ella Gault and their son. He’s a horny bugger, sex obsessed to the point of distraction, which will have an effect on everyone’s lives.

Our Villain
It wouldn’t be quite accurate to say the film is a murder mystery — especially as it’s not clear if the woman was indeed murdered. But how did she die? How was Joe involved? He’s the main character, which makes him the hero, but is he actually a bad’un?

Best Supporting Character
Harried barge wife Ella is not anyone’s typical image of desirability, but nonetheless becomes the object of Joe’s own brand of affections, which brings her some happiness… for a while. Mainly, it’s a brilliant, layered performance by Tilda Swinton.

Memorable Quote
Joe: “Are you sorry?”
Ella: “Fat lot of good that would do me.”

Memorable Scene
Cathie, another of Joe’s lovers, comes home soaking wet. As she undresses, she berates him for doing nothing useful with his time. He informs he has made custard, which he throws over her, followed by various other condiments. Then there is, shall we say, an act with (at best) debatable consent. I believe this is a version of something called “sploshing” (thanks, internet).

Memorable Music
David Byrne’s ambient score haunts the soundtrack, as essential to the film’s grey mood as the drizzly Scottish locations and overcast photography. My favourite part is the plaintive closing song, The Great Western Road.

Awards
4 BAFTA Scotland Awards (Film, Actor in a Scottish Film (Ewan McGregor), Actress in a Scottish Film (Tilda Swinton), Director)
4 British Independent Film Award nominations (British Independent Film, Actor (Ewan McGregor), Actress (Tilda Swinton), Director)
3 Empire Awards nominations (British Film, British Actor (Ewan McGregor), British Actress (Emily Mortimer))

What the Critics Said
“Joe is a hard case. Opaque. Not tender, not good with the small talk. Around women, he has a certain intensity that informs them he plans to have sex with them, and it is up to them to agree or go away. He is not a rapist, but he has only one purpose in his mind, and some women find that intensity of focus to be exciting. It’s as if, at the same time, he cares nothing for them and can think only of them. […] He is not a murderer but a man unwilling to intervene, a man so detached, so cold, so willing to sacrifice others to his own convenience, that perhaps in his mind it occurs that he would feel better about the young woman’s death if he had actually, actively, killed her. Then at least he would know what he had done and would not find such emptiness when he looks inside himself. This is an almost Dostoyevskian study of a man brooding upon evil until it paralyzes him. […] The death of the girl and the plot surrounding it are handled not as a crime or a mystery but as an event that jars characters out of their fixed orbits. When you have a policy of behavior, a pose toward the world, that has hardened like concrete into who you are, it takes more than guilt to break you loose.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Score: 62%

What the Public Say
“McGregor, putting his meat and two veg on show once again, is really good as the conflicted and sex addict, Swinton does almost steal the show as the sex-craving barge woman, who also gets naked, and Mortimer in the flashbacks is very good, with her clothes off too. The film is just stuffed with sexual scenes, and with the dead body premise it combines film noir and melodrama, all adding up to a well crafted and most watchable period drama.” — Jackson Booth-Millard @ IMDb

Verdict

Part murder mystery, part beat character study, part erotic drama, Young Adam is an enigmatic, moody, conflicted film — in a good way. It presents a grimily realistic view of life and sex, around which writhes a murder mystery that, as it turns out, doesn’t contain a murder and, relatively quickly, isn’t much of a mystery. Instead it’s something of an ethical dilemma, presented to a character who’s not exactly unethical but isn’t necessarily concerned about doing what’s right either, especially if it’s against his own interests. Not a cheery one, then, but a film of grey morals, grey imagery, and grey mood — in a good way.

Next time… looking back over my 100 favourites.

X2 (2003)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #99

The time has come for those who are different to stand united.

Also Known As: X-Men 2 (promotional/DVD title), X2: X-Men United (US promotional title)

Country: USA & Canada
Language: English
Runtime: 134 minutes
BBFC: 12A
MPAA: PG-13

Original Release: 25th April 2003 (Lithuania)
UK Release: 1st May 2003
US Release: 2nd May 2003
First Seen: cinema, May 2003

Stars
Hugh Jackman (Van Helsing, The Prestige)
Patrick Stewart (Dune, Hamlet)
Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters, Mr. Holmes)
Brian Cox (Braveheart, Troy)
Alan Cumming (Emma, Josie and the Pussycats)

Director
Bryan Singer (Apt Pupil, X-Men: Days of Future Past)

Screenwriters
Michael Dougherty (Superman Returns, Trick ‘r Treat)
Dan Harris (Superman Returns, Imaginary Heroes)
David Hayter (X-Men, Wolves)

Story by
David Hayter (The Scorpion King, Watchmen)
Zak Penn (Last Action Hero, The Incredible Hulk)
Bryan Singer (X-Men, The Triangle)

Based on
The X-Men, comic book superheroes created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. In part inspired by the graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson.

The Story
When a mutant attempts to assassinate the president, military scientist William Stryker uses it as a pretext to step up his persecution of mutants. With the X-Men occupied hunting for the would-be assassin, the school is attacked and the remaining students flee with Wolverine — whose still-mysterious past has some connection to Stryker.

Our Heroes
The X-Men, a team of mutants — humans who have evolved superpowers — organised by Professor Charles Xavier. As well as returning heroes Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, and Rogue (see X-Men), the roster this time includes Bobby Drake, aka Iceman, who can generate and manipulate ice, and John Allerdyce, aka Pyro, who can control fire. Plus Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, a demonic-looking blue-skinned German teleporter.

Our Villains
Col. William Stryker, a military scientist who wants to eradicate mutants, and plans to use Xavier’s mutant-finding Cerebro machine to do so. Has a role in Wolverine’s mysterious past…

Best Supporting Character
Imprisoned at the end of the last film, Magneto is tortured by Stryker for information on Cerebro… until he escapes and teams up with the X-Men to stop the new threat.

Memorable Quote
“Have you ever tried… not being a mutant?” — Bobby’s mom

Memorable Scene
When Stryker launches a military assault on the school, Wolverine goes full berserker to defend the students, before he comes face to face with Stryker — as it turns out, not for the first time.

Write the Theme Tune…
I’ve always loved John Ottman’s main theme for X2, so I’ve been very pleased that Bryan Singer has made it the recurrent theme for the X-Men series since he retook the directorial reins for Day of Future Past. Its appearance there is quite short, but Apocalypse has two fantastic renditions.

Making of
The set for Stryker’s underground base was the largest in North America at the time — so large that cast and crew used bicycles to get to the bathroom as quickly as possible. Some areas of the set weren’t even used in the film, such as a room that was to be the setting of a Nightcrawler vs. Toad fight. (Several other sets were built and not used, including the X-Men’s famous Danger Room training centre. After also dropping its inclusion from the first X-Men, it finally turns up in The Last Stand.)

Previously on…
The film that started the modern era of comic book movies, X-Men.

Next time…
The trilogy was rounded out by X-Men: The Last Stand, though answers about Wolverine’s past were saved for spin-off movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine. More history was revealed in prequel X-Men: First Class, before time travel adventure X-Men: Days of Future Past combined both casts. The prequels continued with this summer’s ’80s-set X-Men: Apocalypse, with a ’90s-set follow-up in the works. Spin-offs include The Wolverine and next year’s third Wolverine movie, Logan, as well as Deadpool, the perpetually delayed Gambit, and X-Men: The New Mutants. TV series Legion is based on the X-Men licence but may or may not be connected to the films, and other connected (or not) TV series are in development.

Awards
1 Saturn Award (Science Fiction Film)
6 Saturn nominations (Director, Writing, Music, Costumes, Make Up, Special Effects)
Nominated for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
2 Kids’ Choice Awards nominations (including Favorite Female Butt Kicker (Halle Berry))
1 MTV Movie Awards Mexico nomination (Sexiest Female Villain (Rebecca Romijn) — she lost to Demi Moore in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle)

What the Critics Said
X2 is also possessed of an emotional complexity that won’t surprise comics fans, but will delight connoisseurs of the summer blockbuster. […] The plot, in which hatred of a minority group threatens to spark a global war, is frighteningly topical and Singer doesn’t flinch from showing that resolution often comes at a bitter price — albeit one which paves the way for a pleasingly inevitable X3. Yet it’s not all FX-augmented naval-gazing. Though it does get very dark, X2 is unashamedly entertaining, with crowd-pleasing moments for geeks (the appearance of metal-skinned muscle man Colossus in full armoured form should benefit upholsterers everywhere) and non-geeks (a Nightcrawler-led mid-air rescue is exhilarating) alike.” — William Thomas, Empire

Score: 86%

What the Public Say
“it was the perfect superhero film sequel, the one that truly set the bar for all future sequels (and many managed to match it, thankfully.) Singer understood what worked about the first film, he understood that the audience wanted ‘more of the same’ but not just the same story over again. The core elements were preserved. The team’s personalities, diversity, and relationships that formed the emotional core of the first film, and were the most faithful thing about Singer’s adaptation, were carried on, as was the emphasis on Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Charles’ (Patrick Stewart) relationship and contrasting philosophies. The driving elements of the plot, though different than the driving elements of X-Men‘s plot, didn’t feel like they ‘came out of nowhere.’ Everything felt familiar without necessarily being the same. The ‘new’ elements that were introduced really did broaden the world, but were based in elements X-Men had already established. […] Although I, unlike many fans, didn’t consider this an improvement over Singer’s first X-Men film, I also don’t think it needed to be. And despite my preference for the first film, X2 was to a certain extent really when the series hit its stride and showed that it had staying power.” — Kat, Love. Think. Speak.

Verdict

If there’s one trend in the modern superhero era that’s gone under-analysed (at least as far as I’m aware), it’s this: sequels that are better than their predecessor, upending the accepted order of things. It’s not a universal occurrence (Iron Man 2, anyone?), but it happens often enough that many reviews of first films now note they’re setup a sequel. And as with so many things in the current superhero epoch, it started with the X-Men.

Personally I’ve always slightly preferred the first movie, but X2 does polish up the action sequences, engages with the series’ thematic subtexts in an effective manner, and adds significantly to the ongoing mystery of Wolverine’s past. Coupled with a shock ending that teased a big plot to come, everything looked so good for the third movie. Sadly, the whole “sequels are better” thing still doesn’t regularly extend to third movies. (Suffice to say, The Last Stand will not be next week’s #100.)

#100 is the moment when… Ewan McGregor drops his Jedi knickers and pulls out his real lightsaber.

X-Men (2000)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #98

Trust a few.
Fear the rest.

Country: USA
Language: English
Runtime: 104 minutes
BBFC: 12
MPAA: PG-13

Original Release: 13th July 2000 (Australia)
US Release: 14th July 2000
UK Release: 18th August 2000
First Seen: cinema, 2000

Stars
Hugh Jackman (Oklahoma!, Les Misérables)
Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: First Contact, Green Room)
Ian McKellen (Richard III, The Lord of the Rings)
Anna Paquin (The Piano, Margaret)
Famke Janssen (GoldenEye, Taken 2)
James Marsden (Gossip, The Box)
Halle Berry (B*A*P*S*, Catwoman)

Director
Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns)

Screenwriter
David Hayter (The Scorpion King, Watchmen)

Story by
Tom DeSanto (producer of Apt Pupil & Transformers)
Bryan Singer (Public Access, Superman Returns)

Based on
The X-Men, Marvel comic book superheroes created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; and in particular Wolverine, a comic book superhero created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, and John Romita, Sr.

The Story
In a near future where some humans have mutated to have extraordinary powers, and consequently are hated and feared by the general population, a runaway teen comes under the protection of a mysterious stranger. As a radical leader hunts them for his world-changing scheme, they encounter a school for mutants — and the superpowered team who teach there.

Our Heroes
The X-Men, a team of mutants — humans who have evolved superpowers — organised by Professor Charles Xavier, a wheelchair-bound telepath. There’s team leader Scott Summers, aka Cyclops, who shoots force beams from his eyes; Dr. Jean Grey, potentially an even more powerful telepath than Professor X, who can also move things with her mind; Ororo Monroe, aka Storm, who can control the weather. We’re led into their world by teen runaway Marie, aka Rogue, who can absorb people’s energy, and her reluctant protector, Logan, aka Wolverine, who has metal claws in his hands, can heal really fast, and can’t remember most of his past.

Our Villain
Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto, who can manipulate metal. A one-time friend of Xavier’s, they parted ways over his beliefs that mutants and humans couldn’t coexist, which leads him to violently oppose mutant oppression.

Best Supporting Character
Mystique, one of Magneto’s gang, who runs around naked — but that’s because her skin’s blue and bumpy and stuff, so it’s OK. She can shape shift into the form of anyone she’s made contact with, which is very useful for her and very tricky for our heroes.

Memorable Quote
Magneto: “Does it ever wake you in the middle of the night, the feeling that one day they will pass that foolish law, or one just like it, and come for you and your children?”
Xavier: “It does indeed.”
Magneto: “What do you do, when you wake up to that?”
Xavier: “I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul who comes to that school looking for trouble.”

Memorable Scene
As Magneto, Sabretooth and Toad exit a train station with a kidnapped Rogue, they’re greeted by a sea of policemen. With his powers, Magneto takes all their guns and turns them on their owners. Then Sabretooth grabs Magneto’s throat — he’s being mind-controlled by Xavier. Magneto fires all the weaponry in his control, but stops the bullets just short of their targets — unless Xavier lets him go…

Truly Special Effect
Superheroes really needed the modern era of CGI to make them possible — and, as with everything else, X-Men led the way. Probably the most memorable are Mystique’s skin-changing transformations, which involved 8,000 scales animated in different directions.

Making of
Stanley Kubrick is responsible for the casting of Wolverine. No, really. Well, sort of. Here’s how it goes: Kubrick’s famous perfectionism meant the filming of Eyes Wide Shut overran; that meant star Tom Cruise had to delay his next project, Mission: Impossible II; that sequel finishing later than scheduled meant Dougray Scott — who played the lead villain in M:I-2 and was originally cast as Wolverine — had to drop out of X-Men, which was already on an insanely tight schedule to make its release date. Hugh Jackman was cast on the recommendation of his friend Russell Crowe, who had been sought for the role, and only joined the production several weeks into filming. Apparently if you look closely you can see Jackman’s physique change in various scenes because he was working out extensively while filming continued.

Previously on…
Although this is the first X-movie, I’m sure the enduring popularity of the 1992-1997 animated series can’t’ve hurt the film’s success.

Next time…
In an immediate sense, X2. After that, multiple direct sequels, prequels, and spin-offs. Plus the entire current multitude of comic book movies owe their existence to this film being (a) good, and (b) a hit. Whether that’s a mark for or against X-Men is up to you.

Awards
6 Saturn Awards (Science Fiction Film, Actor (Hugh Jackman), Supporting Actress (Rebecca Romijn), Director, Writing, Costumes)
4 Saturn nominations (Supporting Actor (Patrick Stewart), Younger Actor (Anna Paquin), Make-Up, Special Effects)
Nominated for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation
1 World Stunt Award nomination (Best Speciality Stunt for “Wolverine blown out of truck”)

What the Critics Said
“After trying for decades, Marvel Comics finally may gain the kind of pop-cultural cachet that only comes from a major leap into movies. That movie is X-Men, a fully realized translation of comics’ adolescent power fantasies to adult-level, big-screen entertainment. It’s a film X-Men fans can embrace and action fans in general can appreciate. It has emotion and a solid story to go with its mayhem, and the comics’ central themes aren’t betrayed. Director Bryan Singer gets bang for his buck. At $75 million, X-Men was a modest and rushed shoot for an action showcase, yet its computer generated imaging effects are handsome, and it gleams with polished production design.” — Bruce Westbrook, Houston Chronicle

Score: 81%

What the Public Say
“this is a superhero movie with ideas, fully aware of the potential social commentary inherent in its source material. It paints simplistically, in broad strokes, but elegantly. It feels small-scale but full-bodied, and it takes storytelling risks. I mean, the damn thing opens on a concentration camp. The main characters being mutants, discriminated against by ‘normal’ people, gives the screenplay the opportunity to use this as a catchall allegory. Any feared or shunned group of people can find familiar themes at work in the world of the film. […] reflecting on the first X-Men solidifies its status as not just a prelude of better things to come, but as quite a strong movie in its own right. After seeing the franchise move the Golden Gate Bridge, travel decades in time, and resurrect an Egyptian god, it’s refreshing to rewind to this one humble tale of ‘the not too distant future’. The 2000 film has a great lo-fi charm to it, while at the same time being lent gravitas by McKellen and Stewart’s war of wills. It holds up not just as a curiosity, but also as a well-told story of mutants and morals.” — Paul Stanis, A Voyage through Film

Verdict

I’ve written before (several times) of my near-lifelong fandom of the X-Men. This isn’t where it started (that’d be the classic ’90s animated series), but it certainly helped cement it. Its significance to the current movie landscape is hard to underestimate: it took the superhero subgenre, which hadn’t actually produced that many major movies and had nonetheless reached a comedic nadir with Batman & Robin, and made it respectable blockbuster fodder, which leads directly to where we are today. And the reason it sparked all that is because it’s a quality entertainment in its own right, mixing superpowered action with weighty themes and top-drawer performances from a cast who are almost all better than this, elevating the material rather than besmirching themselves with it. I mean, even without the witty lines and tightly choreographed fisticuffs, anything that has Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen verbally sparring over a game of chess is bound to bring satisfaction.

#99 will be… X-Men united.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

100 Films’ 100 Favourites #97

It’s the story of a man, a woman,
and a rabbit in a triangle of trouble.

Country: USA
Language: English
Runtime: 104 minutes
BBFC: PG
MPAA: PG

Original Release: 22nd June 1988 (USA)
UK Release: 2nd December 1988
First Seen: VHS, c.1991

Stars
Bob Hoskins (The Long Good Friday, Super Mario Bros.)
Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Addams Family Values)
Charles Fleischer (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Gridlock’d)
Kathleen Turner (Romancing the Stone, The Virgin Suicides)

Director
Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Beowulf)

Screenwriters
Jeffrey Price (Doc Hollywood, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
Peter S. Seaman (Wild Wild West, Shrek the Third)

Based on
Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, a novel by Gary K. Wolf.

Animation Director
Richard Williams (Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure, The Thief and the Cobbler)

The Story
When cartoon movie superstar Roger Rabbit is accused of murder, rundown private detective Eddie Valiant overcomes his dislike of toons to take the case — which masks a much bigger conspiracy…

Our Heroes
Eddie Valiant is an alcoholic Hollywood PI who used to work high-profile cases involving toons, but now dislikes them because one killed his brother. Nonetheless, an innate sense of justice (and a pair of handcuffs) brings him to the aid of Roger Rabbit, the manic major cartoon star who’s accused of murder and on the run for his life.

Our Villain
The cheerily named Judge Doom, the sinister and literally-black-hatted judge responsible for Toontown who has developed a special substance especially for killing toons, called “Dip”. Very keen to introduce Roger to it.

Best Supporting Character
Jessica Rabbit, Roger’s human (well, cartoon human) wife. A slinky, sexy, 2D femme fatale, she’s the cartoon character even people who aren’t attracted to cartoon characters are attracted to.

Memorable Quote
“I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” — Jessica Rabbit

Memorable Scene
When Judge Doom and his henchmen discover Roger in hiding, he and Eddie escape in a cab — an anthropomorphic toon cab called Benny. Cue a chase involving a real human in a cartoon vehicle, which exemplifies the film’s technical chutzpah.

Technical Wizardry
The whole film is a technical marvel, what with many of the lead characters being created in 2D animation integrated into live-action footage. What’s even more impressive is that they’re 2D characters who exist convincingly within a 3D space. Production went to a lot of effort to pull this off, including using life-size models on set. (And if you need proof of how hard it is to do right, watch Cool World.) In total, 326 animators worked full-time on the film, drawing and painting 82,080 frames of animation. Animation director Richard Williams estimates that, after including storyboards and concept art, well over a million drawings were completed for the film.

Making of
With a production budget estimated at $70 million, Roger Rabbit was the most expensive film produced in the ’80s. Animation is expensive, of course, and the team were dedicated: when Eddie takes Roger Rabbit into the backroom of the bar to cut the handcuffs, the ceiling lamp is bumped and swings around, meaning lots of work for the animators to match the shadows between the live-action footage and the animation — something most viewers aren’t even going to notice, at least not consciously. Apparently “bump the lamp” has since become a term used by Disney employees to mean going the extra mile to make something special even when most viewers won’t notice.

Next time…
Three short animations starring Roger Rabbit were made to promote the film and screened with other movies (they’re all available on the DVD/Blu-ray release). Although the original book is very different (and therefore any sequels to it are presumably unlikely to provide suitable movie material), Gary K. Wolf has nonetheless penned two follow-ups: 1991’s Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? and 2014’s Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? Talk of a movie sequel has occurred ever since the original film was a hit — J.J. Abrams met with Spielberg in 1989 to work on an outline and storyboards, for example. Nat Mauldin wrote a prequel titled Roger Rabbit: The Toon Platoon, about Roger and his animated friends having to rescue Jessica from the Nazis in 1941, but Spielberg decided he couldn’t satirise the Nazis after directing Schindler’s List. Retitled Who Discovered Roger Rabbit, the screenplay was reworked to cover Roger’s rise to fame on Broadway. That version got quite far: Alan Menken wrote five songs and test footage was shot that mixed live-action, traditional animation and CGI, but it was abandoned when the budget spiralled over $100 million. Nonetheless, various people involved have expressed their interest ever since, with numerous scripts supposedly in the works. Even Bob Hoskins’ death hasn’t stopped such talk, though it seems to have led to a definite focus on any follow-up being a prequel.

Awards
4 Oscars (Editing, Sound Effects Editing, Visual Effects, Special Achievement Award to Richard Williams for “animation direction and creation of the cartoon characters”)
3 Oscar nomination (Cinematography, Art Direction-Set Decoration, Sound)
1 BAFTA (Special Effects)
4 BAFTA nominations (Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Production Design)
1 Annie Award (Technical Achievement)
3 Saturn Awards (Fantasy Film, Director, Special Effects)
5 Saturn nominations (Actor (Bob Hoskins), Supporting Actor (Christopher Lloyd), Supporting Actress (Joanna Cassidy), Writing, Music)
Won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation

What the Critics Said
“This splendidly entertaining film, which craftily combines live action with cartoon animation, […] is an absolutely new and novel motion-picture concept. Illusion on the big screen has never been better executed or more uproarious in effect. Assuming you can withstand the laughs during the first 10 minutes of the film — with its dazzling, breakneck animated sequence and introduction of the goofy star, Roger — then brace yourself; you`re in for the ride of your life, disbelieving all you will see and hear.” — Roger Hurlburt, Sun Sentinel

Score: 97%

What the Public Say
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is not a children’s film; it’s too noir for that; there’s scenes of drinking, smoking, sexual intrigue and murder. The strong animated aspect, however, draws children into the film and these dark overtones engage them in a completely different way. That’s one of the things that’s so special about Roger Rabbit; you feel as if you’re watching a film made for an adult audience using elements that appeal to one’s more childish side. The USA and UK ratings of the film are a PG, so younger audiences can still watch. However, the twisting noir-esque plot focusing on Judge Doom’s attempt to destroy The Red Car trolley service and ToonTown in order to build a freeway can be hard enough for adults to follow. […] This is why the film works so well; everyone is committed and the characters show no awareness that they’re in a PG rated noir with elements of comedy; they commit as if they are in a 1940s, life-or-death, grown-up movie.” — queenieem, the6fingeredblog

Verdict

“Effects movies” used to mean lots of model work and now of course means non-stop wall-to-wall CGI, but you could also apply it to Roger Rabbit, considering the monumental effort involved in animating half the cast, not to mention props and locations. But that would undersell it, because while the technical achievement remains impressive today (bearing in mind the limitations of the time) it’s all in service of the characters and the story. Even as you marvel at the visuals, you’re engrossed by the mystery and kept amused by the gags, including clever and witty references to cartoons and film noir.

I’ve always liked Roger Rabbit, but I re-watched it recently for this project and discovered I really love it. I think it’s underrated, even — it’s a masterpiece.

#98 will be… the beginnings of another stage of human evolution.