Favourite Films

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People often ask me “What’s your favourite film?” Features are different, I’ve seen thousands; it’s impossible to reduce them to one, other than perhaps Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon (1957) in the full-length British version.

Simmered down chronologically, here are my top 101 films, revealing personal taste-threads of dramatic structure, justice, determination, impossible odds, horror, thriller, sci-fi, emotional turbulence, originality, style and the fantastic.

A few TV series are included. From my age, many of these fave features date from the 70s and 80s. If you’re ‘y-‘ or ‘z-‘ generation, don’t be put off if a film here has no CGI or mobile ‘phones. Winking smiley

 

DirectorFilmYearWhy I like it
1.Todd BrowningFreaks1932A unique film from the 30s, originally banned. This film brings home how little we can rely on appearances.
2.Robert WiseThe Day the Earth Stood Still1951Unique, otherworldly atmosphere provided by Bernard Herrmann's unusual score. Sanity for our crazy world.
3.Kenji MizoguchiChikamatsu Monogatari1954Unique in that atmospheres are drawn almost symbolically from scenes and set pieces. This Japanese film merges diegetic and non-diegetic almost throughout.
4.Satyajit RayThe Apu Trilogy1955-59Three black and white films about the Bengali life of Apu: boyhood in Pather Panchali (1955), youth in Aparajito (1956) and maturity in The World of Apu (1959). Akin to the work of Robert Bresson, these films are naturalistic, honest and without pretension. Ray's visions touch humanity.
5.Fred WilcoxForbidden Planet1956What happens if a race discovers they can do anything? Ths film is said to have been based on Shakespeare's play The Tempest.
6.Robert BressonUn condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut1956Pure humility in film-making. A gentle prisoner condemned to death calmly prepares his escape.
7.Jacques TourneurNight of the Demon1957Avoid 'Curse of the Demon' which was a cut, 83-minute version of the film for the US market. This film chills from what is not seen.
8.John SturgesThe Magnificent Seven1960One, huge, build-up to the final climax, with a pulsating, relentless, syncopated score from Elmer Bernstein.
9.Alfred HitchcockPsycho1960Editing, performances, direction and camera angles each as strong as the other to tell a story that's not what you think it might be.
10.George PalThe Time Machine1960The fast-motion time-travel sequence shown with a shop window is devastating escapism. Our hero learns that plus ça change... Herbert Wells's work was prescient. Are we Eloi?
11.Wolf RillaVillage of the Damned1960Never seen anything like it. A simple English village is taken over by a group of small children with glowing eyes. From the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham.
12.J. Lee ThompsonThe Guns of Navarone1961One of the most exciting war films I've ever seen. A crack team fight their differences for a mission more vital than their individual concerns, with nail-biting, spectacular results.
13.Basil DeardenVictim1961The closed, fearful life of gay professionals in the late 1950s. Beggars belief. Extraordinary to experience.
14.Terence Young, Guy Hamilton et alThe James Bond Films1962-presentEach a thrill ride. I enjoy the James Bond films for the ways in which many of them involve clever variation of the main title music in the score.
15.Steve SekelyThe Day of the Triffids1963Another John Wyndham story (see Village of the Damned). No-one able to help, a small group battle their way to safety while avoiding the lashing stings of deadly alien plants. Remarkable score by Ron Goodwin.
16.Bryan ForbesScéance on a Wet Afternoon1964One of my favourite directors, Bryan Forbes's films show a gentleness to humanity. A couple face up to their actions.
17.Freddie FreddieDr Terror's House of Horrors1965Delicious set of macabre short stories, each introduced by a mysterious fortune teller played nonchalantly by Peter Cushing.
18.Sidney FurieThe IPCRESS File1965Dark and brooding as a quiet, unpretentious British spy squares his bosses' rules with moral obligations. Understated but full, East-European-tinged score by John Barry.
19.Terence FisherDracula: Prince of Darkness1966One of the most disturbing sequences I've seen in a film, when a polite butler demonstrates who his real Master is.
20.Richard FleischerFantastic Voyage1966Daft story told with conviction. (Reality is founded on belief.) A crew of medical scientists is miniaturised and injected into the body of a statesman needing urgent, impossible brain surgery. All is not as it seems. Exciting scenes. Terrifically atmospheric 12-note score by Leonard Rosenmann.
21.Michael AndersonThe Quiller Memorandum1966East German agent Max von Sydow steals the show. American agent cannot believe the cold war environment he is in. Mesmerising score by John Barry.
22.Gerry & Sylvia AndersonCaptain Scarlet & the Mysterons1967-68It shouldn't work: little puppets made to look like humans, fight invisible invaders from Mars. BUT: factor in analogue SFX by Derek Meddings, the super-architectured small-resource score of Barry Gray, crazily futuristic designs and the psychedelic colour scheme of Sylvia Anderson and you're in. SIG!
23.Stuart RosenbergCool Hand Luke1967How a nice guys gets into deeper and deeper trouble and an unforgettable egg race.
24.Bryan ForbesThe Whisperers1967Heartbreaking, unpretentious, realistic tale of slightly dotty, lonely old lady. A gentleman from social services cares, but she is caught in her own world and only wants to warm her feet in the local public library.
25.Ingmar BergmanHour of the Wolf1968Max von Sydow leads in this dark, surreal film, as a man confronting his demons.
26.Pier Paolo PasoliniTeorema1968A young man enters a bourgeois home and seduces each member of the household in turn. Played unforgettably by fantastic actor Terence Stamp.
27.Brian HuttonWhere Eagles Dare1968The most exciting war film ever made. Utterly thrilling. "Broadsword calling Danny boy." The cable-car fight sequence will stay with you. Richard Burton commands, Clint Eastwood slinks helpfully.
28.Michael ReevesWitchfinder General1968High-camp, grand Guignol, over-the-top tale of a witchfinder (Vincent Price) having his wicked way and getting what he deserves.
29.Jean-Pierre MellevilleL'armée des ombres1969One of the most unsettling films I have ever seen: how the principle of resistance against invaders overrides human qualms.
30.Michael Armstrong & Adrian HovenHexen bis aufs Blut gequält (Mark of the Devil)1970Similar to Witchfinder General (1968) see above, but less camp. Hard to believe that such things happened in real life.
31.Gerry & Sylvia AndersonUFO1970-71Live-action TV series with some of the funkiest film music ever written. Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation (SHADO) secretly protects the Earth from organ-harvesting Martians. Slow-moving, but super costumes, sets and special effects from the early 1970s. Check out the car designs.
32.Richard Fleischer10, Rillington Place1971Very disturbing. Not for the faint-hearted. The true story of a serial killer working in poverty-stricken, post-war London. Brilliant performances from all cast including Richard Attenborough in the chilling title role.
33.Don SiegelDirty Harry (set)1971All brilliant crime thrillers, five Dirty Harry films were made: Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983) and The Dead Pool (1988). Not in the series, but similar in vein is The Gauntlet (1977).
34.Werner HerzogAguirre, The Wrath of God1972Mesmerising. The story of a medieval court who take a long journey along the Amazon river and are gradually disintegrated by its jungle. Entrancing score by 'Popul Vuh'.
35.Antonio MerceroLa Cabina1972Surely this could not happen in real life. Short film about a man who gets stuck in a 'phone box.
36.Robert AltmanImages1972Surreal film about a schizophrenic woman gradually losing her marbles. Delightfully weird score by John Williams.
37.Buichi SaitôLone Wolf & Cub (Baby Cart)1972-74Set of Japanese martial arts films about itinerant single father and his baby son. They wander from town to town, the father looking for work, happens to be an extraordinary Samurai swordsman. Four of the films were made in 1972, as if the makers knew the series would be successful. They are: Baby Cart in Peril (1972), Kenji Misumi's Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972), Baby Cart to Hades (1972), Sword of Vengeance (1972) and Baby Cart in the Land of Demons (1973); and Yoshiyuki Kuroda's White Heaven in Hell (1974). Slightly formulaic.
38.Fred ZinnemannThe Day of the Jackal1973Failure is not an option for Inspector Lebel of the French constabulary. He must track down the crafty Jackal. I sometimes wonder how one's spirit changes when one must, absolutely, achieve something. Thrilling.
39.Robin HardyThe Wicker Man1973Puritanical Scottish policeman confronts prevailing pagan myths.
40.Roger PriceThe Tomorrow People1973-79Micro-budget sci-fi TV series about 'homosuperior' youths (super-evolved humans) supporting each other to come to terms with their gifts, so that they can protect the Earth. The pull between maturity and responsibility for the world, is beguiling.
41.Michael WinnerDeath Wish I-V1974Vigilante Paul Kersey takes matters into his deathly hands. The web link here is to the first film.
42.Kevin ConnorFrom Beyond the Grave1974Another in the Amicus Studios' omnibus films. Short horror stories hauntingly told.
43.Ken HughesThe Internecine Project1974It's nice when a plan comes together. A crooked intelligence agent devises a chain of events to rid himself of those who know too much. Imaginatively-conceived interlocking tales build the tension inexorably. Exciting and imaginative.
44.Ronald NeameThe Odessa File1974Again, a story of planning and execution as a young reporter pays the price to reach his goal. A beautifully-structured plot from the mind of Frederick Forsyth (who also wrote The Day of the Jackal).
45.Alan PakulaThe Parallax View1974A 70s' chiller thriller. Who is behind a spate of political murders? Will the truth emerge? (See also Marathon Man (1976) directed by John Schlesinger.) Fabulously 'paranoid' soundtrack by Michael Small.
46.Sidney GreeneThe Count of Monte Cristo1975There are lots of films with this title. My two favourites are this one, starring Richard Chamberlain, and the mini TV series made in French, starring Gérard Depardieu (1998) directed by Josée Dayan. Based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, this is a story of tragedy and merited revenge with deep lows and stratospheric highs.
47.Steven SpielbergJaws1975Frightening thriller that builds and builds, about a giant killer shark. Fantastic performances from Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw. Superb score from John Williams.
48.Picha, & Boris SzulzingerTarzoon: la honte de la jungle1975Tongue-in-cheek animated adult film about a hapless 'ape man' (Tarzoon) who is chased by ...well, watch it.
49.François TruffautL'argent de poche (Small Change)1976Fly-on-the-wall feature about the hysterical antics kids get up to in a French town. Very funny. No canned laughter thank goodness.
50.Michael AndersonLogan's Run1976Beautifully-styled, big-budget 70s' sci-fi about a future in which no-one may live beyond the age of 30. Extraordinary designs and music.
51.Richard DonnerThe Omen1976Darkly chilling, the original tale of the birth and struggle of the anti-Christ. A genuinely disturbing score from Jerry Goldsmith.
52.variousThe New Avengers1976-77This TV series takes itself seriously in the way that it does not take itself seriously. Three, stylish British agents take on master criminals. One of the most extraordinary episodes involves a computerized building that tries to control the people trapped in it. Fantastically-exciting funky, militaristic music from Laurie Johnson.
53.Franklin SchaffnerThe Boys from Brazil1978Gregory Peck plays a returning Nazi war criminal, chased by the elderly Ezra Lieberman. The film builds to an extraordinary climax when the two men are trapped in a house. The Straussian, 'happy' waltz score by Jerry Goldsmith shouldn't work, but it does.
54.Michael CrichtonComa1978One of those "I can't believe this is happening" films. Chilling tale of professionalism gone wrong. Frightening score by Jerry Goldsmith.
55.Alan ParkerMidnight Express1978Deeply moving story of young man who gets caught for years in a brutal Turkish prison.
56.Donner, RichardSuperman: The Movie (director's cut)1978See the (ca 3 hour) director's cut if you can. The more one watches this film, the more it reveals. The screenplay asks questions of us as humans.
57.Tinto BrassCaligula1979What happens when one can do anything? The no-holds-barred rise and inevitable fall of a Roman emperor. Opt for uncut version.
58.Werner HerzogNosferatu - Phantom der Nacht1979Extremely atmospheric, with clever light play. Horror folk tale told authentically. Creepy.
59.Tobe HooperSalem's Lot1979Frightening story of the taking over of a town by a force controlled by an antique dealer, played superbly by James Mason. The "open the door" scene is unforgettable. Brace yourself.
60.Terry Nation (writer)Blake's 71978-81Low-budget TV series. Bags of imagination. Clever and inventive. Acting often over-the-top for my taste, but engaging stories and characterizations. Jacqueline Pearce steals the show as Servalan: "That thing which you did to me. I should like you to do it again." Delicious analogue electroacoustic score from Dudley Simpson.
61.George MillerMad Max & Mad Max II (The Road Warrior)1979 & 1981George Miller creates a shredding, futuristic dystopia on the unruly roads of the Australian outback. Mindless gimps and savage leathermen attack. Savage. Fantastic.
62.Ken RussellAltered States1980Crazy (in a good way) film about a scientist who explores life beyond ...life, by mixing sensory deprivation with hallucinogens. The orchestral sound transformations of John Corigliano underscore the hero's dramatic regression to a primal human state. Electric.
63.Irvin KershnerThe Empire Strikes Back1980Classic science fiction, the second of the Star Wars films (episode V), epic story arcs, no expense spared in special effects. Luke Skywalker finds lucid maturity as a Jedi Knight.
64.John Barry & Stanley DonenSaturn 31980Cosy couple nurturing a science base off Saturn, are visited by a technocratic pilot with an 8-foot robot, which has other plans.
65.Tony MaylamThe Burning198180s' teen-slasher from when I was a teen: when a hurtful prank goes wrong, a summer camp caretaker returns to those responsible. A scene in a boat never left me. Screaming synth score from Rick Wakeman.
66.Ridley ScottBlade Runner1982Saw this in a cinema the first time and did not know what had hit me. Vast futuristic landscapes, crafts and architecture. Androids try to be human in dark rain and neon.
67.Clint EastwoodFirefox1982Gripping thriller as Mitchell Gant tries to steal an advanced aircraft. Ratcheting tension and stylish flying.
68.Nicholas MeyerStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan1982Exciting story. Who is the vengeful Khan?! Colourful special effects, energetic performances. Fabulous, swashbuckling score from James Horner.
69.David CronenbergThe Dead Zone1983Moving film based on Stephen King's novel, about a teacher who loses everything and then gains something remarkable that he doesn't want. Some emotive scene trigger tears.
70.Terry JonesThe Meaning of Life1983The question is addressed through a series of hysterical sketches that will stay with you.
71.Nagisa ÔchimaMerry Christmas Mr Lawrence1983Haunting, disturbing story about the infatuation a Japanese captain has for an English prisoner of war. The music by actor Ryuishi Sakamoto will never leave you.
72.Francis Ford CoppolaThe Outsiders1983Teen angst film about rival gangs in Oaklahoma needing to belong. This film brought me to tears.
73.Francis Ford CoppolaRumble Fish1983Rusty James's brother comes out of prison. The two try to make sense of their non-existent family life in stiflingly industrial Oaklahoma. Superb rock score by Stewart Copeland.
74.Paul Donovan & Maura O'ConnellSiege (a.k.a. Self Defence)1983A group of young people do anything they can to protect a young man from a driven gang of criminally-connected psychopaths. One of the most disturbing - and rarely-seen - Canadian shockers of the '80s. Avoid DVD which misses 1st 10 minutes, BluRay has full version.
75.Michael CrichtonRunaway1984Slightly embarrassing 80s' styles, but a good story about futuristic cops, car-chasing road drones and poison-injecting robot metal spiders. Exciting 'electonikky' score by Jerry Goldsmith.
76.Robert HarmonThe Hitcher1986Terrifying feature about a violent, loving(?) psychopathic hitch-hiker who takes his young driver further than envisaged.
77.Claude BerriJean de Florette and Manon des sources1986Pair of French films; country tale from the novels of Marcel Pagnol, of two landowners who make life hell for a new, novice farmer in the village. The second film tells what happens when the farmer's daughter returns. Captivating.
78.Jean-Jacques AnnaudThe Name of the Rose1986A medieval detective story. How monks lived and what they got up to (according to Prof. Eco).
79.Clive BarkerHellraiser I-III1987-92Hellraiser (1987), Hellraiser: Hellbound (1988), Hellraiser: Hell on Earth (1992). - Imaginative, qualmless British horror. A fantastic orchestral score by Christopher Young. Check out also Clive Barker's short stories: The Books of Blood.
80.John CarpenterThey Live!198880s' sci-fi paranoïa thriller. A construction worker looking for work meets with a local church charity, who have a better understanding of 'reality' than most.
81.Renny HarlinCliffhanger1993Absolutely thrilling mountain adventure with lots of plot twists. Sylvester Stallone bares his muscles to the snow.
82.Tim BurtonEd Wood1994What happens when you haven't got what it takes, but are enthused to succeed anyway. - The life of hopeless Hollywood filmmaker: Ed Wood. Catchy score by Howard Shore.
83.Russell MulcahyThe Shadow1994This 1940s' super-hero has no powers other than his mind, financial resources and the loyalty of his friends. An imaginative and atmospheric story about the implementation of justice.
84.Frank DarabontThe Shawshank Redemption1994All this innocent accountant prisoner wanted to do was to serve his time and be helpful. Governor, guards and inmates have other ideas. Will his vision, determination, tolerance and discipline get him through?
85.David TwohyThe Arrival1996One of the most unusual and imaginative alien invasion features I have ever seen. The film leaves us hanging before we understand what's really going on. Villain deliciously played by the late Ron Silver.
86.Hettie MacdonaldBeautiful Thing1996Set on a rough, inner-London housing estate, the story of two bullied teenagers who fall in love. A moving, heartwarming story with some wonderful cameos. Songs from 60s' American vocal group The Mammas & the Pappas well used.
87.Mark Gatiss; Steve Pemberton & Reece ShearsmithThe League of Gentlemen1999-2017TV series set in the imaginary English village of Royston Vasey, the writer-actors here depict surreal people living surreal lives. Not for the ironically-challenged, this is a delicious mix of the disturbing and the hilarious.
88.Ridley ScottHannibal2001Akin to watching a puzzle assembling. This film runs like clockwork, as, with cultural flair, Hannibal Lecter, always a step ahead, dispatches those who would stop him. Gorgeous locations and a deeply chilling performance from Sir Anthony Hopkins.
89.Matt Lucas & David WalliamsLittle Britain2003-06TV comedy not for the ironically-challenged. Lucas and Walliams hold a distorted mirror up to society, by playing characters who annoy, disgust and exasperate.
90.Jonathan HensleighThe Punisher2004Cleverly written story of an undercover vigilante who unleashes his wrath on the businessman who slaughtered his family.
91.Brett LeonardFeed2005Hard to watch horror about a cybercrime investigator who tracks a force-feeder.
92.Greg McLeanWolf Creek I & II2005 & 2013Tourists become prey to crazed, serial-killing pig-hunter Mick Taylor. On set of II, John Jarrat playing Taylor apparently apologized to co-star Ryan Corr, hoping that he was not going to disturb him too much during the filming of some scenes.
93.Alexandra WestmeierAlone in Four Walls2007One of the most heartbreaking documentaries I've ever seen, about a struggling Russian orphanage.
94.Vince Gilligan (writer)Breaking Bad2008-13Superbly-stylised, highly original. The story of a chemistry teacher who finds a shady way to supplement his income, and must face his fears so to do. Clever story-telling, fantastically original camerawork.
95.Daniel BarberHarry Brown2009I wonder if this should be 'Harry Palmer'. Dark, gritty film about an elderly ex-serviceman who takes things into his own hands.
96.Jacques AudiardA Prophet2009Such naturalistic performances, it's as if things are happening for real. Terrifying to watch, as a young Algerian finds himself in a French prison.
97.Zack SnyderWatchmen2009A science fiction super-hero film like no other. These unusual 'heros' have human foibles, but come together when world affairs demand.
98.Jaume Collet-SerraUnknown2011Exciting thriller. A man wakes from coma to find he's not who he thought he was. - What happens when you trust your own conviction.
99.Antoine FuquaThe Equalizer2014Structure plays a part in this film's success. The whole first section is one giant build to a scene in which our hero reveals of what he is capable. "He wasn't asking for help; he was asking for permission." There've been two sequels.
100.Ken LoachI, Daniel Blake2016Loach brings to screen the experiences of those living on Britain's breadline. The wearing effects of red tape and middle-management exasperate.
101.Rebecca DalyGood Favour2017Daly's film is remarkable in the way her visual effects are so subtly done, that many viewers don't notice them. An entrancing film with important moral messages.