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…

The Vigesimal Monthly Update for January 2016

A new year means the monthly update format is… exactly the same as last year, because it works. (Well, I think it does.)

For any newcomers, or people in need of a refresher, here you’ll find: everything I watched in January 2016, with some observations and analysis too; all the reviews and 100 Favourites entries I posted last month; and The Arbies, my monthly awards. Plus, this month, a few snippets of site news.

Without further ado:


#1 Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (2016)
#2 Snatch. (2000)
#3 12 Years a Slave (2013)
#4 Funny Games (1997)
#5 Lady of Burlesque (1943)
#6 The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978), aka Shao Lin san shi liu fang
#7 Super 8 (2011)
#8 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
#9 The Five Venoms (1978), aka Five Deadly Venoms
#10 Hercules (Extended Cut) (2014)
#11 White God (2014), aka Fehér Isten
#12 King Boxer (1972), aka Five Fingers of Death
#13 Return to the 36th Chamber (1980), aka Shao Lin da peng da shi
#14 Starman (1984)
#15 The Two Faces of January (2014)
#16 Amistad (1997)
#17 The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
#18 47 Ronin (2013)
#19 A Boy and His Dog (1975)
#20 Adam (2009)


  • For the first time, I’ve opened up my What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen selections beyond my DVD and Blu-ray collection to include stuff I have access to on streaming services, etc. Due to my inattentiveness, I included a film that was to be removed the day after I posted that list. Fortunately I did notice, and 12 Years a Slave was squeezed in on its last evening on Amazon Prime.
  • I also caught Snatch before I cancelled my Netflix subscription (I hadn’t meant to keep it so long, what with also having Amazon Prime, but golly, there’s so much to watch!) That’s two checked off already, meaning WDYMYHS 2016 is off to a flying start. Considering I usually end up playing catch up (and, two times out of three, failing), that’s a Good Thing.
  • A few other instances of pairs and repetitions this month:
  • 2x Guy Ritchie movies. As mentioned, one was the first check off WDYMYHS 2016; the other was the first check off my list of 50 Unseen from 2015.
  • 2x slavery-related movies. The aforementioned 12 Years a Slave, and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad. Both feature Chiwetel Ejiofor, donchaknow.
  • Lots of kung fu movies! Two reasons: Film4’s first Martial Arts Gold season (there’s another in March/April), and that loads are available on Netflix UK, including several well-regarded ones.


January is always the most awkward month to analyse. In so many ways the start of a new year is a false new start — it’s an arbitrary marker imposed on Time by humanity, not any kind of empirical new beginning. (Sorry to get glumly philosophical.) A goal like watching 100 films is different though, because January bumps you right back to #1; and this year, that was from the lofty heights of #200. My point being: here, January is a new beginning, not just “the next month”, and can set a tone or pace for the year to come.

Probably not this year though, because — in spite of my stated aim to watch fewer films in 2016 — I made it to 20 in January. That makes it only the fourth month to pass into the 20s, and also my fourth-highest month ever — and as I’ve been doing this for 109 months now, being fourth is (in relative terms) an achievement. It’s the best January ever too, exceeding last year’s tally of 16, and the 20th month in a row with a double-figure total. That is something I aim to maintain this year. If I achieve it, it will see me reach 10+ films per month for two consecutive years, and a total of 31 consecutive months. Just 11 months to go…

So what else can we forecast for 2016? If I keep this up, it’s looking at another record-obliterating final total, this time of 240. I won’t keep it up, though. Historically, January averages 8.08% of a year’s final tally (the actual percentages ranging from 2008’s 5% to 2011’s 12%), which would peg 2016’s total at an even higher level: 248. Which, I say again, it won’t be. What it should be, though, is over 130 — which would still position it as my third best year ever. Considering I intend to spend February and/or March getting value-for-money out of a streaming service or two (as I did in January), besting 2014’s 136 is certainly not out of the question.



A new series for 2016, tracking my 100 favourite movies (that I saw before starting 100 Films). This month: a fuller introduction than that one-sentence summary (though that is the gist of it) and the first seven entries. The full list of all 100 will continue to be updated here throughout the year.



The 8th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Looking back over this month’s viewing, it feels a bit “good but not great” — a lot of films I liked very much, but nothing that really jumps out at me as a dead-cert contender for this category. While it’s more of a Quality movie than a favourite per se, then, the best film this month was its only five-stars-er, 12 Years a Slave.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Conversely, not many films I didn’t enjoy this month either. However, for disappointment value — expecting the greatest martial arts movie ever made and getting a mess — the loser is The Five Venoms.

Best Opening Sequence of the Month
If you haven’t seen White God then it can be a tough experience (especially for dog lovers), but the opening is fantastic: our young heroine cycles through deserted city streets, percussion-heavy classical music dramatic on the soundtrack, pursued by a pack of hundreds of dogs. There’s a reason they used it for the poster.

Most Surprising #1 at the Chinese Box Office
I know I’m meant to choose these awards, rather than let the Chinese public do it for me, but surely it’s worthy of note that the cinema release of Sherlock: The Abominable Bride saw it top the box office in China, as well as post strong figures in South Korea and other countries. No, really. And that was just the start of it: according to Box Office Mojo, it wound up taking $20.5 million in China and $7.5 million in South Korea, where it bested The Force Awakens (seriously), while other reports peg it as earning $2.7 million in the US. Full figures aren’t easy to come by, but it seems to have a worldwide gross somewhere north of $34 million. Not bad for a TV episode produced for a couple of million quid.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Outpacing popular posts from just inside the New Year, like Sherlock and my statisticstastic 2015 list, was fun backstage murder mystery — and, significant to its success in this category, blogathon entry — Lady of Burlesque.


Normally I refresh my directors page header image somewhere around August to October, but I was busy watching a shedload of films back then, so it’s been pushed to now. January’s a better time for it anyway, after a full year of film viewing — and next January could make a big change, with my 100 Favourites factored in. The header features the 20 directors who have the most films reviewed on here, and some will get multiple additions thanks to that favourites list. For now, it’s based on how things were on January 1st. I completely rebuilt it, so it’s all spiffy.

Also, I’ve modified the “list of reviews” header. I think that’s the first time I’ve changed it since it went live a couple of years ago. Of the 27 pictures, ten were replaced and four refreshed with higher-quality versions, so it looks a lot spiffier too.

Finally, I decided to re-write the “About” page, for the first time in 3½ years. I re-read the old one and found myself intensely irritating, so hopefully the new version is… less bad.


My viewing selections will be mainly dictated by “what’s on Sky Movies”, in the run up to the Oscars…

Blindspot: What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…? 2016

If you read enough blogs, you’ve probably seen Blind Spot lists/projects/whatever manifesting on them over the last week. For readers who don’t know what this Blindspot* thing is, it’s essentially “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen” by another name. For readers who don’t know what “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen” is, it’s essentially Blindspot with a more idiosyncratic name.

And if you have no idea what any of these words mean, I shall explain: you pick 12 films you’ve never seen but really want to / feel you should have / etc, then spend the next year watching one per month.

First: my 12 picks, in order of must-see-ness. Then, a few interesting (maybe) facts about them. After that, I’ll tell you how I picked them.


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest




Grave of the Fireflies





The Pianist





12 Years a Slave





Barry Lyndon





Ben-Hur





The Maltese Falcon





Snatch.





The Sting





The Iron Giant





The Deer Hunter





Howl’s Moving Castle




A few facts about this year’s 12:

  • There’s a spread of 72 years between the oldest (The Maltese Falcon, 1941) and newest (12 Years a Slave, 2013). The latter is the most recent film I’ve yet included on WDYMYHS.
  • The 1970s make up 33% of the list. The 2000s are next with 25%. There’s one film apiece from the 1940s, 1950s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2010s.
  • The total listed running time is 27 hours and 3 minutes, making the average length of a film 2 hours and 15 minutes.
  • 58% of the list are over 2 hours long; 25% are over 3 hours! Only two are under 90 minutes.
  • The shortest is The Iron Giant (86 minutes), the longest is Ben-Hur (212 minutes).
  • Just one film this year is in black & white (it was 50/50 last year).
  • Just two aren’t originally in English… but as they’re anime, there’s a 50/50 chance I’ll watch them with the English dub anyhow.
  • This year features only the third animated film to make it in to WDYMYHS… and the fourth… and the fifth. Previously animation has made up 5.6% of WDYMYHS titles. This year it’s 25%.

Whereas other people just seem to choose their films, I have to turn it into A System. (I’m the guy who posts 3,000 words of statistics about his own viewing every year — what did you expect?) I must admit that I was feeling a bit uninspired this year though, so my system is nothing like as complicated as the last two years (which you can read about here and here, if you like).

Essentially, I decided I fancied achieving some more awards on iCheckMovies. So I looked at all the lists I was getting close on — “close” in this case being any with 12 or fewer films to the next award (because of the 12 films on this list, y’see). That came to 43 lists. 43! Going through them, I noted down any unseen films that I own or have ready access to. That came to 209 films, of which 110 were on more than one list. Even with 43 lists, the most prolific film (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) was on just 9, which I guess is testament to the randomness and wide-ranging spread of lists I was using.

Such low ‘scores’ meant the films were all ranked quite close together, so I also threw in that grand arbiter of film quality popularity, the IMDb Top 250, to see if it shook out a top 12. And, with the implementation of some familiar WDYMYHS rules, it did. Said rules were: no repeat directors (ta-ra, Amadeus and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind!), and that a WDYMYHS film I failed to see isn’t allowed on the next year’s list (cheerio, Princess Mononoke and City of God!)

At first I wasn’t quite sure about these selections, but having sat with them for a bit I feel better about them. As a whole group, they’re perhaps a bit more… mainstream (for want of a better word), and less quirky (for want of a better word), than my systems have generated in the past few years. Maybe that’s just a matter of perspective, though: there are two anime movies on there, and, though they’re both Studio Ghibli, I don’t know that we can call anime “mainstream” even now.

Anyway, there they are. Hopefully I’ll do better than 75% this year. Even if I don’t, getting round to seeing some of these is better than not getting round to any.


* No one can seem to agree if it’s one word or two. Regular readers will know how much this bugs me. ^

100 Films’ 100 Favourites

As you may or may not have noticed, this is the 10th year that I’ll be doing 100 Films in a Year (the blog’s 10th birthday is in February 2017). I also (whisper it) turn 30 this year. Argh, the big three-oh! (“Oh, shut it,” says anyone over the age of 31.) To mark this confluence of momentousness, throughout 2016 I’ll be running a new series of posts covering my 100 favourite films.

Taking one film at a time, the series will run all year, hopefully biweekly (as in twice a week, not fortnightly), meaning I can just squeeze all 100 in by December 31st. The plan is to post every Wednesday and Sunday, regular as clockwork (fingers crossed…) All the posts will be collated on this page (not this page, that page).

I will say at the outset, these are not the 100 films I consider to be the greatest ever made (whatever that actually means). Far from it, actually. These are my personal favourites. I suppose to some people that’s one and the same, and of course there’s some overlap, but this list also includes the guilty pleasures (if you believe in such a thing); the films which you know aren’t ‘great’ but you love anyway; or even just films that aren’t as objectively fantastic as something else, but I personally prefer.

Now, there are some caveats to this announcement. (Of course there are — it’s me.) If you really don’t care about The Rules, or some of my thoughts on the selection process, or a few hints about what’s to come, then I’ll see you on Sunday for #1. Otherwise, read on…

I say “The Rules”, but there’s only one major caveat to the whole shebang: the only films eligible for inclusion were ones I’d watched before I started 100 Films. Is it cheating to flat-out exclude anything I’ve watched in the past nine years? Well, here’s the thing: all of those films have already been reviewed here, and while some would benefit from a deeper going-over, others have been thoroughly covered as it is — if I were to review The Dark Knight again, it would be the fourth time I’d covered it. So from a pure list-making perspective, yes, it’s a bit of a cheat; but in terms of what adds more interest and value to this blog and its archive, and therefore to you, my dear readers (well, hopefully), it’s this method.

Further to that, there are still some repeats, because down the years I’ve reviewed a handful of previously-seen titles — indeed, at least one that I’ve reviewed would’ve been a dead cert for this list, were it not for that very re-watch having an impact on my opinion (that’s Sin City, by-the-by). For anyone interested in a guessing game (or just generally curious), I’ve already reviewed 18 of my 100 picks. On the bright side, the posts in this favourites series won’t just be straight-up reviews, as you’ll see soon enough.

As anyone who’s ever tried to compile a list of their favourite movies will know, it’s hard. Doing a list this long relieves some of the pressure — my list of “absolutely must include”s was indeed long, but not close to filling all 100 places. Because of the length, there are films that would be genuine contenders for my all-time top ten best movies I’ve ever seen, and others that I liked very much but are ‘making up the numbers’. Which is a little harsh — it’s less that they’re padding the list, more that I’d know where to start cutting if I had to make room. Besides, that’s probably where the more unusual and surprising choices will be found.

Throughout the selection process, value judgements have to be made — some films lose out on the day that might’ve made it on another. The biggest losers (as it were) were a handful of films I remember loving but have never got round to re-watching. As I’d only seen them once, and over a decade ago at that, I didn’t feel qualified to include them instead of films I was more certain of my opinion on. So pity Battle Royale, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, A History of Violence, JFK, The Mark of Zorro, Munich, Philadelphia, Where the Truth Lies, and several more — if I’d made the time for their re-viewing (and I did do some, just not enough), things might have been different.

Nonetheless, eight films that I’ve only seen once did still make the list. Now I feel like I’ve made some silly choices…

What kind of films made the cut? Well, to be perfectly honest, there’s a lot of really obvious stuff on here. My even longer long-list contained a few more oddities, but the well-known classics (and modern classics) have that status for a reason, and they ultimately won out… most of the time. There will be a few surprising omissions, I’m sure, and hopefully a few surprises littered about too. If you’re wondering about specific inclusions/omissions, the films will be in alphabetical order, so you might spot omissions before the end… unless they begin with, y’know, Z. (Hint: there are no films beginning with Z.)

A certain kind of film makes up the majority of the list. “Juvenile” would be too strong a word; “mainstream” would not be far from the truth. Remember, this is a list compiled from films I first saw up to the age of about 20 (albeit selected from the perspective of being nearly 30). It was only at the very tail end of this time that my experience of cinema really began to broaden beyond what one might semi-pretentiously call the Anglospheric mainstream. That period of widening horizons overlapped with this blog’s birth, as you might observe from some of the films featured in my very earliest days. So films from those first tentative, sometimes faltering, steps into a greater appreciation of Cinema don’t really find a place on this particular list.

That said, don’t imagine things will be limited to Disney musicals and Spielbergian action-adventures. Indeed, some people would look at this list and think it fairly represents the breadth of cinema. Certainly, it could be worse. But I shan’t spoil anything by suggesting how many of them should be viewed with subtitles, or how many were produced before the year of my birth, or how high the percentage of American movies is — though I think we all know that such statistics will inevitably be trotted out when I reach the end.

A list of favourite movies is always a work in progress — there are always more classics to discover, or hidden gems that most people don’t adore but you do, not to mention all the new films they can’t stop making. You might argue most of the latter are dross, but there’s always something worth seeing, and every once in a while a genuine classic comes along.

The work-in-progress factor is even true of this list: it may be locked to films I first saw 10+ years ago, but re-watches and the shifting opinions of age can always bring change. By the end of this project (or the middle, or even the start), I might think I should’ve made some different choices. Even still, over the next year you’ll see an at-least-passable version of my 100 favourite films.