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.

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.

#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.

All Your Film Are Belong To Blog: 1,337 Films in a Decade

Today is 100 Films in a Year’s 10th birthday.

Back when this started it was just a challenge to myself, inspired by “50 books in a year” efforts that other people were doing. I covered it on my DeviantArt blog because that’s where I’d seen the idea (look, it’s still there!) After that first year went rather well I decided to continue the challenge, but moved my coverage to a dedicated blog on Blogger (look, it’s still there!) That didn’t last long: less than two months later I moved on to the film blogging community at FilmJournal (look, it’s still there!) After several happy years, the FilmJournal community began to die off as the site fell into a kind of disrepair (if you follow that link you can see what a mess the formatting became), prompting a final move to WordPress in 2012 (look, I’m still here!)

When I started this whole shebang the world was a different place: Tony Blair was still Prime Minister and George W. Bush was still President. Apple had only just announced the iPhone; the iPad and the tablet revolution were still several years away. Facebook had only been open to everyone for five months. The hashtag hadn’t been invented yet. The final Harry Potter book hadn’t been published, most people hadn’t heard of Twilight, and Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t even exist. Britain’s Got Talent hadn’t aired, never mind spawned the ubiquitous Got Talent franchise. The format war between Blu-ray and HD DVD was still raging.

I suspect the “all your base are belong to us” meme had already had its day by then too, but I’m using it now nonetheless.

On a personal level, I was still an undergraduate, had never owned a dog (it was a couple of years before we’d meet Rory at a rescue — I wonder what he was up to then?), and still had all those dreams and ambitions of youth that end up going unrealised. But hey, at least I’ve still got my blog!

During the past decade said blog has certainly grown, from writing a couple of sentences about each film in updates posted every few weeks, to the almost-daily and often-far-too-long dedicated reviews I post nowadays, along with my monthly updates and TV reviews. The number of people reading my ramblings seems to have continually increased as well, which is rewarding in its way — I guess I’m doing something right; have something interesting to say.


Two months in, 2017 is already over halfway to 2013’s total.

Commensurately, the blog has taken up an increasing amount of my time: it feels like when I’m not watching films and TV I’m writing about them; especially last year, when adding my 100 Favourites series into the mix took up far more time than I’d anticipated. Sometimes it feels like I’m making a rod for my own back, doing all this, but at the end of the day it’s enjoyable — why else keep doing it? But after the monomaniacal focus I’ve given this thing for the past couple of years, I do need to find more time to broaden my activities.

Not just yet, though! For two reasons: starting on Thursday (after tomorrow’s February monthly update) I’ll be diving into 100 Favourites II! No, not another 52-week marathon project — it’ll all be over by Sunday. More on that then.

For now, the thing everyone loves (right?): statistics!

As the title of this post reveals, in the past decade I’ve watched 1,337 films expressly for this blog — which, as anyone familiar with internet-y slang will know, is code for “elite”, as in “very good”. Probably a bit old fashioned to use nowadays (or it should be), which is connected to why I revived the whole “all your base” thing. See, there’s method to my madness.

Those 1,337 films include all the alternate cuts and other films I reviewed. The actual total of brand-new films I’ve seen is 1,283 (which is a less entertaining number, hence why it’s not inspired the theme of this post). The total running time of that many movies was 136,154 minutes, and if you factor in everything else I’ve watched and reviewed it comes to 144,118 minutes — back to back, that’s 3 months, 2 weeks, 2 days, 1 hour, and 58 minutes of solid viewing. Phew!

Regular readers of my annual statistics posts may have noticed that the graph of each year’s running time always shows “no data” for 2007. That’s because when I first posted my 2007 reviews I didn’t include that information, so I couldn’t tally them up for my stats that year either. However, when I re-posted all those reviews to one of my new blogs I added the times… but still didn’t bother to total them up — it is a lot of films, after all. But this is a special occasion, so I’ve finally gone back over the lot and done it. So here, for the first time, is a complete running time graph:

If you’re curious, that makes the average running time of a film 106 minutes. I don’t think that really signifies anything, but there it is.

Down the years I’ve regularly noted my predilection for newer films — more recent decades always come out on top year-by-year, and my 100 Favourites showed a definite bias towards the past couple of decades (there are stats on that here). Naturally, that’s borne out when I look back at the last ten years in totality. The only possible element of ‘tension’ is: what will come out on top between the 2000s and the 2010s? On the one hand, about 70% of my blog’s life has been in the latter decade; on the other, that means there are more years (and therefore more films) for the former. Drama!

As it is, things go as you might expect: the 2010s come out on top with 458 films, which is 34.3% of the 1,337; and then of course the 2000s are second, with 388 (29%). The only other decade to make triple figures was the ’90s, its total of 114 representing a mere 8.5%. In order of size, the next decade is the ’80s with 91 (6.8%), followed by the ’40s with 79 (5.9%) — all those classic detective series add up. The countdown continues as follows: the ’60s with 57 (4.3%), the ’50s right behind with 56 (4.2%), the ’70s with 50 (3.7%), the ’30s with 21 (1.6%), the 1920s with 15 (1.1%), and finally the 1910s with 8 (0.6%). And the 1900s are actually represented too, by a single short.

As we’re talking about my tastes skewing newer, I thought I’d take a look at something I’ve never considered before. Every year I post a list of my top ten films selected from my personal viewing that year, meaning that films from any time period are eligible. Despite that, I’m aware I still have a tendency to declare newer stuff my #1 of the year. Just how new? Well, this graph shows the ages (in years) of my #1 picks at the time I picked them…

The average age of a #1 (ignoring the outlier) is just over 9 months old. Sticking out is, of course, Seven Samurai, which was 716 months old when it became 2013’s #1. The second oldest was United 93 at a piddling 18 months, while the youngest of all was Skyfall at just 2 months. So, yeah, pretty new.

Similar to running times, I’ve not kept track of all my stats for all ten years — I can’t list languages, or countries of production, or a couple of other things I cover at the end of each year nowadays. It would’ve been interesting, but there you go. There are a couple more things I can pick out, though.

Firstly, the formats I’ve watched all these movies on. This is an interesting one (well, it is to me) because these have regularly fluctuated down the years. Back in 2007 DVD was at the height of its dominance and was the clear frontrunner, but since then it’s slipped far back. Blu-ray has taken its place to an extent (maybe not in the wider population, but in the hearts of people like me), but in terms of my own viewing I know that watching films on TV topped the pile for a number of years. Recently, however, streaming has taken charge, with Now TV making Sky Movies Cinema more affordable and the increasing rise of Netflix, not to mention Amazon’s wannabe-competition. But what comes out best from the decade as a whole?

A little to my surprise, the winner is television, with 367 films (27.4%). I know it was once the #1 format for my viewing, but it’s been slipping for four years now. I guess it’s because it’s been a constant, whereas DVD has faded, streaming has only recently risen, and I’ve never watched as many of my Blu-rays as I should. That said, Blu-ray is second, gradually amassing 318 films (23.8%) over the past nine of the ten years. DVD has clung on in third, with 291 (21.8%). I guess that’s a slow accumulation — it’s one of only three formats to be represented in all ten years (along with television and another that we’ll come to in a bit). New champion streaming (it’s been #1 the past two years) ends up fourth with 243 (18.2%). Considering its numbers over the last couple of years, if I re-ran this all-time chart this time next year it’d likely be second, with the number one spot in its sights not long after. Unless I finally buck up my ideas and get better stuck in to my DVD and Blu-ray collection, anyway.

There’s a big drop to the rest of the figures, which are rounded out by the third and final format to crop up in all ten years, downloads, on 68 (5.1%); my poor record of trips to the cinema on 42 (3.14% — so it’s both the answer to life, the universe and everything and pi); good old VHS on 7 (0.5%); and a lonely little film watched in-flight, that 1 being just 0.07%. Sadly, it wasn’t a Bond film. Even more sadly, it was the risible Superhero Movie.

Finally, as always, a word on quality, or at least my perception thereof. In the past ten years I’ve handed out 223 5-star ratings. That’s 16.7% of the films I’ve watched, which also happens to be one-sixth. I guess that’d sound neater if it was one-fifth, but then I’d be an even more generous marker than I already am. This is definitely borne out by the 615 4-star ratings, which at 46% is not that far off half. (Well, I’d have to have given out 53½ more of them to make it actually half, but still.) Sitting between those two in quantity were the 350 3-stars, which at 26.2% is only a little over a quarter (certainly closer to a quarter than 46% was to half). That leaves the two ‘bad’ ratings to share just 11.1% of films between them — which is just over a tenth, of course. That splits as 130 2-star ratings (9.7%), leaving just 19 films (1.4%) in the highly exclusive 1-star club.

From all that, we can deduce that the average rating earnt by these 1,337 films is 3.6679, which as a percentage would be 73.358%.

And that, I’m afraid, is the end of that.

Tomorrow: putting my birthday celebrations aside for a moment, the February update.

On Wednesday… 100 Favourites II: Eclectic Boogaloo.

100 Films @ 10: Short Films

For the final in my series of ten top tens (yes, we’ve reached the end already / finally (delete as appropriate)), I’ve decided to take a look at one of the less-discussed aspects of the film world: shorts.

In the past ten years I’ve watched and reviewed just 51 short films, but as I’ve never ranked them before it seemed overdue that I create some kind of quality-sorted list. Here, then, are my ten favourite short films that I watched in the last decade.

10
Pixels

Don’t worry, there’s no Adam Sandler in sight — this Pixels is the three-minute short that went down so well online someone bought the rights and turned it into a feature. A fun idea, it works better as a narrative-less couple of minutes than it did forced into the shape of a blockbuster.

9
Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter

Easily the best of Marvel’s now-defunct series of short films, Agent Carter was so good — exciting, characterful, funny — that it was later expanded into a two-season TV series (which I still haven’t watched. Oops.)

8
Telling Lies

A simple idea, very well executed: as we listen to a series of phone conversations, the speakers’ dialogue appears on screen… except instead of transcribing their exact words, it reveals their true thoughts. At only a few minutes long Telling Lies doesn’t outstay its welcome, instead maintaining the basic idea well and crafting a neat and amusing little story with it.

7
Toy Story of Terror!

Having managed to beat the odds and create three great Toy Story movies, Pixar seemed foolish trying to extend it further as a franchise. Toy Story of Terror justifies that decision, however, with a story, style, and message that would’ve been strong enough to be a whole feature (with some expansions, of course) but plays equally well in just 20 minutes.

6
Wallace and Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death

As with #7, this was a seasonal special for old animated favourites that would’ve worked just as well (perhaps even better) expanded out to a full feature. A Matter of Loaf and Death is the first Wallace & Gromit film since the very first not to win an Oscar, but it’s every bit as good as its forebears — I can’t think of much higher praise than that.

5
Presto

The Pixar short that accompanied WALL-E, Presto is a perfectly-executed piece of near-silent slapstick tomfoolery. Surprisingly, this also lost out on an Oscar. Its director went on to co-direct last year’s Storks, which… didn’t go down so well.

4
The Lunch Date

Winner of the short Palme d’Or and an Oscar, The Lunch Date is a clever little tale with a well-disguised twist. I imagine if it was made today people would talk about its social relevance, which is a little depressing nearly 30 years on, but there you go. The first work by director Adam Davidson, he’s since gone on to helm episodes of shows like Six Feet Under, Lost, Deadwood, Dexter, Rome, True Blood, Fringe, Fear the Walking Dead, and many, many more.

3
The Present

As with most of the best shorts, The Present presents a simple but effective idea quickly and with a strong emotional hit. A cute tale of a boy and his dog, it also has a message about positivity and overcoming adversity. No Oscar here, but its director has since worked for Disney on Zootropolis and Moana, as well as on The Secret Life of Pets and Revolting Rhymes.

2
Feast

Another lovely short, also told economically and without dialogue, about a friendly little dog who helps out his owner. Yeah, I’m a sucker for cute dogs. But Oscar-winner Feast is also beautifully animated: nicely stylised and executed as essentially one long montage, proving again that exceptional filmmaking can create an emotional experience in the briefest of times.

1
Commentary! The Musical

Unlike the previous films on this list, it’s the very opposite of silent — it is, in many ways, all about sound. There’s also no big emotional hit and no sniff of awards recognition either. So why does Commentary! The Musical top my list? Because it so impressively made. It’s the commentary track on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, but rather than just the production team chatting about how they made the show, it’s sung through. And it’s not just a collection of new songs played over the original production — it’s frequently scene specific, sometimes even shot specific. It’s an incredible feat of writing and planning; not only that, but it’s hilariously funny too.

Tomorrow: birthday day.

100 Films @ 10: Best Picture Winners of the Past Decade

It’s moviedom’s glitziest night of the year this evening, as the best and brightest of Hollywood and the wider movie world (well, some of it) gather in L.A. for the 89th Academy Awards — aka the Oscars! How many awards will La La Land win? How many anti-Trump speeches will there be? It’s all to play for!

To mark the auspicious occasion, today’s celebratory top ten looks back over the last decade of Best Picture winners and asks, “which is the best Best Picture?” And ranks all the others too, because it wouldn’t be much of a top ten otherwise, would it?

10
No Country for Old Men

I’ve long ago lost the source to cite it, but I once read a critic describe No Country as the only worthy Best Picture winner of that decade. Well, obviously I disagree. I have mixed feelings about the Coen brothers’ work most of the time, and this is no exception. I just find it a deeply unsatisfying film.
What should have won? The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is better than either of the so-called Westerns that were nominated. But of the actual nominees? Maybe Atonement.

9
Birdman

At least I found Birdman less expressly irritating than No Country, but it does frequently feel like it’s more concerned with showing off than… well, anything else. It’s obviously tailor-made to appeal to Oscar voters, particularly the dominant acting branch, so from that point of view it’s no surprise it won. Kind of sad the Oscars can be reduced to such observations, isn’t it?
What should have won? A lot of people thought it should be Boyhood, which is a worthy pick, and Whiplash remains very popular, though my favourite of the nominees was The Grand Budapest Hotel.

8
The King’s Speech

There’s an element of heritage drama to The King’s Speech that mean some will always find it inherently objectionable — generally cinephile types, while wider audiences love that kind of thing. I mean, how else to you explain Downton Abbey’s phenomenal success? King’s Speech works in spite of that thanks to its trio of lead performances, not least Colin Firth as the can-very-much-wait-to-be-King struggling with a stammer.
What should have won? The Social Network. Fincher 4eva.

7
Slumdog Millionaire

Maybe it’s rich of me to berate No Country for its reliance on fate and chance while elevating Slumdog up the list, but in the former it feels intrinsic while here it’s just a structural choice. I did object to its regular branding as “feel-good” though, because it’s a pretty grim film on the whole, but a strong cast of child actors and Danny Boyle’s lively direction keep it compelling.
What should have won? Okay, I retract that “Fincher 4eva” — not Benjamin Button. I actually still haven’t seen any of the other nominees from 2008, so I guess Slumdog deserves it.

6
The Departed

It must be almost ten whole years since I watched The Departed, and for most of that time I’ve been meaning to revisit it (and to see the original Hong Kong film that inspired it). I confess that my overriding memory isn’t really to do with the film itself and more to do with the fact I thought United 93 was better and more deserving of honours. But it was not to be — the stars had finally aligned for Scorsese. Anyway, The Departed should be my kind of movie, so maybe one day I’ll get round to re-watching it and it can escape that shadow. That’s why it’s only in the middle of this list.
What should have won? United 93 wasn’t actually nominated for Picture, so… maybe Little Miss Sunshine?

5
Spotlight

The most recent winner rejects filmmaking flash in favour of unfussy storytelling to relate the powerful tale of a group of journalists uncovering a huge cover-up and the wide-reaching conspiracy that maintained it — and it’s all true! Criticisms that Spotlight didn’t focus enough on the victims are probably misplaced: this isn’t a film about what the journalists uncovered, it’s about the act of the journalists uncovering it. In the era of so-called ‘fake news’, it’s more relevant than ever.
What should have won? Either Mad Max: Fury Road or The Revenant would’ve been very worthy choices in my view.

4
Argo

Ben Affleck’s spy thriller is an oddity in modern Oscar winners, what with it being an entertaining genre-ish movie rather than a worthy dramatic picture. It is a true story, though, so it ticks that box. Argo lacks the heft of most Great Movies, but makes up for it with some amusing Hollywood satire and tense undercover thrills.
What should have won? From 2012’s nominees I’m torn between Django Unchained and Lincoln. The latter is more Oscar-y.

3
The Hurt Locker

If we’re talking about tension, The Hurt Locker knocks Argo into a cocked hat. Well, what better situation to elicit nail-biting nervousness than a bomb disposal unit in a fraught war zone? What makes it more than just a series of exciting vignettes is the character throughline, where it meditates on the idea that some people can find war to be as addictive as a drug.
What should have won? I was a big fan of Inglourious Basterds. This was the year District 9 was nominated, which I’ve still not seen, so maybe that?

2
The Artist

A rare foreign winner at the Oscars… though it was backed by the Weinsteins and the brief bits of dialogue are in English, so it’s not that foreign (so that’s OK then!) The Artist is part tribute to the wonder of the silent era, part charming romantic comedy, and all an ode to the brilliance of Uggie the dog. I think it’s the most readily likeable winner of the last decade.
What should have won? Well, I liked War Horse, but otherwise The Artist looks a pretty fair pick.

1
12 Years a Slave

The powerful true story of an educated, respected, free black man who was abducted into slavery, 12 Years a Slave is obviously a tough movie in theme, but what makes it bearable is the quality of the filmmaking — particularly the great performances from the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, and Michael Fassbender, and the classical but effective direction of Steve McQueen. I don’t think it’s the best movie made in the last decade, but I think it’s probably the best one that won Best Picture.
What should have won? 12 Years a Slave is great ‘n’ all, but, c’mon, Gravity.

How many of those have found a spot on one of my year-end top tens?

None.

Tomorrow: great shorts.

100 Films @ 10: Films I Shouldn’t Have Wasted My Precious Time On This Earth By Watching

A pause from celebrating great things today to look at the flipside of movie watching: the crap.

However hard we may try, we’re always going to watch stuff we don’t like (and some of us don’t try that hard, let’s be honest — I swear the world is full of people who flock to all the new blockbusters even though they probably couldn’t remember the last time they actually enjoyed one). Whether it’s something that was recommended that we don’t like, or a poor entry in a franchise we used to enjoy, or by a director we once admired, or just morbid curiosity, the chances of going a significant period of time without seeing something bad are slim.

So in the “significant period of time” that was the last ten years, here are the worst films I saw.

10
Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert

I only watched this because it was part of Channel 4’s 3D Week (back when people thought home 3D was going to be a big thing), during which they only showed three films and this was one of them. Frankly, I don’t really remember it, other than that the 3D worked well because it was a modern production. I’m pretty sure I’ve blanked it from my memory for a reason. (Review.)

9
The Baskerville Curse

It feels almost cruel to pick on a made-for-TV kids’ animation from the ’80s when there are so many big-budget movies I could name here. The reason I’ve included it nonetheless is because of its thorough misunderstanding of the tone of Sherlock Holmes’ most famous adventure. I know you can’t properly do Gothic horror in a kids’ cartoon, but the bright and sunny colours, plus stretches devoted to telegram writing and train journeys, really take things to the opposite extreme. (Review.)

8
Chicken Little

As computer animated kids’ movies took off in the wake of Pixar’s arrival, Disney’s traditional 2D animations began to falter at the box office. They clearly put this down to the visual style, resulting in this being their first 3D computer animated movie… and it’s bloody terrible, proving their failure was nothing to do with the animation method and everything to do with their godawful content. This is the real nadir of Disney’s so-called Animated Classics. (Review.)

7
Sharknado

Cynical in the extreme, Sharknado is not a movie that’s so bad it’s good, it’s a movie that’s been made deliberately badly so people will think it’s so bad it’s good. But it’s not — it’s so bad it’s bad. But it worked, as they’re now up to four sequels, I believe. Ugh. (Review.)

6
The Final Destination

The best thing about the fourth movie in the Final Destination series is its title: it was to be the last movie, so they added a definitive article. Then they went and made a fifth one and ruined even that. It’s a shallow gore-fest with very little entertainment value. (Review.)

5
AVPR – Aliens vs Predator: Requiem

Alien vs. Predator wasn’t a very good movie; a weak PG-13 blockbuster that… didn’t really ruin either franchise, let’s be honest, because Alien had already done it to itself and Predator was never classy in the first place. Nonetheless, this sequel tried to put more nails in the coffin. It’s so bad, it actually makes the first AVP look good. Conversely, AVPR doesn’t look like much at all — it’s so dark you can’t see most of it. (Review.)

4
The Last Airbender

As M. Night Shyamalan’s popularity continued to sink, he turned his hand to director-for-hire style work, adapting the popular animated series Avatar (with a name change forced by a certain big-budget 3D movie). Unfortunately this wasn’t any better, with bizarrely forced storytelling (the result of a studio after a quick 3D conversion, to the extent they couldn’t afford to have the whole film done) and poor performances by controversially miscast actors. It’s definitely Shyamalan’s worst work. I mean, at least The Happening had some comedy value. (Review.)

3
Alone in the Dark

Remember Uwe Boll? I don’t know what he’s up to these days. I don’t care. Neither does the industry, fortunately, having seemed to finally realise that the best way to make his terrible movies go away was to stop talking about them. This is the only one I’ve ever seen and I don’t imagine I’ll waste time on another. Though I am a little curious about seeing Jason Statham in a fantasy movie… (Review.)

2
Parabellum

I summarised this as well as I can think in my review, so I’ll just quote myself: “Alfred Hitchcock once said that ‘movies are real life with the boring parts cut out.’ Valenta Rinner’s movie is the opposite of this in every respect: it isn’t real life, which is fine, but he only left the boring parts in, which isn’t.” (Review.)

1
Flight 93

It’s been ten years since I watched this so it’s entirely possible I’ve hyped up its terribleness in my memory, but I have no desire to revisit it to find out. So, I remember it as being an offensively bad treatment of events from 9/11, its awfulness thrown into sharp relief by how well Paul Greengrass’ United 93 handled the same story. (Review.)

Tomorrow: it’s the Oscars!

100 Films @ 10: Favourite TV Series of the Last 10 Years

This may be a film blog, but you’d be a fool to deny the rise in quality and significance of TV series in the past couple of decades, to the point where a lot of mainstream TV is arguably of higher quality than mainstream movies. So it seemed only appropriate to include it in my celebration of the last ten years.

We’ve all heard about how we’ve reached ‘peak TV’, and with so much television we’ve all missed something we should’ve caught — many things, probably (my list of “stuff I haven’t seen any/enough of” would probably be longer than this one). Nonetheless, here are ten of my favourite TV series that were on at some point during the last decade.

10
The Great British Bake Off

There are all sorts of prestigious dramas I could’ve put in this position — things I’m much more likely to revisit, too — but there’s more to TV than that. Just because we’re not going to buy something in a box set and critically (re)analyse it for years to come doesn’t necessarily mean it has no value. Of course, if you don’t get the appeal of Bake Off then I’m not sure anyone can explain it to you. I mean, who could’ve predicted that a bunch of people in a tent baking cakes while a pair of comediennes make gently naughty puns would become the biggest thing on British TV? If that makes it sound undramatic… it is. Well, apart from bingate. But that’s actually why it works so well (and why so many people actually hated all the fuss provoked by the aforementioned dumping of a baked Alaska) — it’s just lovely. And surprisingly entertaining with it. Or it was until the producers got greedy and shuffled off to Channel 4, potentially shattering the alchemical mix that made the show work. Oh well.

9
Detectorists

This understated BBC Four sitcom about the lives of a group of people who enjoy metal detecting (a hobby whose participants are not “detectors”, they’re detectorists) is quietly one of the best comedies on TV in recent times, both very funny and rather touching. Starring, written, and directed by Mackenzie “Gareth from The Office” Crook, it’s nothing like that series and all the better for it. It also includes a great performance from co-star Toby Jones, whose Lance starts as a somewhat-pathetic supporting turn but reveals many layers by the end.

8
Mad Men

The critically-acclaimed story of ad men in ’60s New York, Mad Men is a rich and frequently abstruse drama that on the surface looks almost soapy but quite clearly is nothing so shallow. It works best in the long run, slowly accumulating character moments and events in ways that pay off down the line, resulting in some stunning scenes and episodes. It’s only so low on this list because it seemed to waver a bit in later years, and I’m still not sure how I feel about its ending. (On the bright side, it didn’t go thoroughly off the rails like, say, Dexter.)

7
Outnumbered

At the risk of sounding like one of those music groupies who are all “I liked their early stuff, before they got famous,” I remember when Outnumbered was buried late at night and it seemed like no one watched it, but those of us who did hoped against hope for a second series because it worked so well. It later morphed into a mainstream staple, but deservedly so — its semi-improvised “kids say the funniest things” format created a veracity that even the best scripted sitcoms fail to match. As the kids have grown it’s become more traditional, I suppose, but retained a smart eye for the absurdism of real life.

6
Romanzo Criminale

Little seen in the UK (or anywhere outside Italy, perhaps) because it was buried on Sky Arts just as the craze for European crime TV was taking off, this Italian gangster saga is consequently an underrated specimen of quality continental drama. Telling one epic story across two seasons and 22 episodes, like many of the best series its effectiveness comes less from individual episodes and more from the way events and complexities build over time. Fortunately Arrow have released it on DVD, so anyone with curiosity (and a spare £30) can see what they’ve been missing.

5
Sherlock

Apparently Benedict Cumberbatch’s interpretation of the Great Detective is the most popular British TV character in the world now. I guess that’s in spite of the criticism the series has regularly attracted across its last two runs. Of course, the ratings continue to be massive, so it must be doing something right. The idea of updating Holmes and Watson to the present day seemed foolhardy at first, but with a clever attention to the canon, a raft of cinematic visual tricks, and a top-drawer cast, they made something that worked really rather well. There are a couple of duff episodes, true, but I think they’re more than outweighed by the successes. Hopefully said success — which has helped propel the leads into the realm of movie stardom — won’t prevent us getting more in the future.

4
Torchwood: Children of Earth

Doctor Who’s ‘adult’ spin-off had a rocky start when it first launched in 2006, with a series that had been rushed into and through production and resulted in a few… iffy decisions. The second season improved its consistency, and those two original runs certainly have their fans, but it really got good when it changed its format for this third run. Children of Earth is an almost-standalone five-episode miniseries about an alien race coming to Earth and demanding we hand over all our children, with a fantastic performance from future Doctor Peter Capaldi as a politician embroiled in the discussions about whether to appease them. Torchwood would return to its muddled quality with the attempt at a follow-up miniseries, US co-production Miracle Day, but for five nights in the middle of 2009 it was one of the very best sci-fi miniseries ever produced.

3
Doctor Who

Every era of Doctor Who has its ups and its downs, its fans and its detractors. For example, every five-or-so years Doctor Who Magazine runs a reader survey to rate every story in the show’s history out of 10, and every single story gets at least some 10s, and all but one or two get some 1s as well. Nowhere are these extremities better exemplified than season 21, which ends with The Caves of Androzani (the #1 story in DWM’s 2009 poll) followed by The Twin Dilemma (perpetually placed last in pretty much every poll ever). But for the purposes of this list we’re talking about the revived show’s third series (the first one without Billie Piper) through to the most recent Christmas special (the one with a superhero). That encompasses the beloved and divisive second half of the David Tennant/Russell T. Davies era, as well as most of the divisive and beloved Matt Smith/Peter Capaldi/Steven Moffat era. For my money, any series that can produce the likes of Human Nature/The Family of Blood, Blink, the climax of Utopia, Time Crash, Voyage of the Damned, Midnight, Turn Left, The Waters of Mars, The Eleventh Hour, The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, Amy’s Choice, Vincent and the Doctor, A Christmas Carol, The Doctor’s Wife, The Girl Who Waited, Hide, The Crimson Horror, The Day of the Doctor, Listen, Mummy on the Orient Express, Flatline, The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion, and Heaven Sent deserves a spot in my top ten.

2
The Americans

A couple of weeks ago, US network FX released a trailer for The Americans’ forthcoming fifth season that unashamedly celebrated its increased critical standing, with quotes from half-a-dozen or so media outlets expressing the same fundamental sentiment: it’s “the best show on television”. It’s about a pair of Russian spies operating undercover in the US in the ’80s, who also try to maintain some kind of normal family life with their two teenage kids — who don’t know their parents are spies. Oh, and the FBI agent who’s hunting for them has just moved in over the road. Sounds kind of hokey put like that, but in practice it’s anything but. And like several other shows on this list, it works best in the long term, as things build, echo, and characters have to deal with long-brewing consequences. It works as a spy thriller, but also as a character-driven exploration of what makes people tick. There are just two seasons left to go, both commissioned (thank goodness), and if they can just stick the landing it’s surely destined for a place in lists of all-time greats. So why isn’t it my #1? Well…

1
Game of Thrones

Here’s another show whose place in the all-time pantheon is sure to be claimed or dashed by how it ends, a point which is also exactly two seasons away — what are the odds? Of course, even if it ballses it up, Thrones’ legacy is assured in some ways: it’s basically the biggest TV show in the world right now, certain to remembered as a cultural touchstone of the 2010s. I’ve given it the edge on my beloved Americans primarily for two reasons: the penultimate episode of the last season, and the last episode of the last season (which I wrote about at greater length here). To summarise, they’re two of the greatest individual episodes of TV ever made. Thrones does all the long-brewing cumulative stuff too, but there’s nothing else on TV that can pull off a satisfying Big Moment in quite the same way.

Tomorrow: back to the movies… the bad, bad movies…