In no particular order my favourite films. Very much a personal choice, some of them are widely recognised as being genius, some aren't. I don't care personally, if I enjoy them more than Citizen Caine, they're in.


WITHNAIL & I (Bruce Robinson)
I'm reliably informed that there is a 'Withnail and I' drinking game where you pick a character from the film and attempt to match them drink for drink. If you tried it, you'd be dead 20 minutes into the film, because 'Withnail and I' is a movie of excess. The film revolves around the two out of work actors at the arse end of the sixties, living in a flat of indescribable squalor on a diet of booze, pills and grass, and when they can get it, lighter fluid mixed with antifreeze. The eponymous anti-hero of the film (Richard E. Grant) and the anonymous 'I' (Paul McGann) stagger from one disaster to the next, whether it's going on holiday 'by accident' or attempting to deal with their Withnail's terrifyingly camp uncle Monty. (Richard Griffith) This film can both touch and endanger your spleen from laughing too much. Filled with quotable snippets that will cause anyone who hasn't seen the movie to stare at you strangely - "Don't threaten me with a dead fish!" - it is undoubtedly -the- best film to come out of the eighties. And Ralph Brown totally steals the show as Danny, inventor of an immense joint known as the Camberwell carrot, a role he was to revive later for Wayne's World 2.

HEATHERS (Michael Lehmann)
It's a shame that the American film industry tends to cater more for fans of special effects and thrills and spills, because this is a fine example of what they could do on a very small budget if they put their minds to it. Winona Ryder, Shannon Docherty and Christian Slater aren't exactly the sort of actors you'd expect to find in a movie this dark and devious, but they manage to pull it off with aplomb. Nice one. So far only Go has managed to capture any of the bollocks this film had, with it's dry and delicious blackness. The Heathers of the title are a trio of the three most popular girls in school, and it is only with the arrival of C.D. (Slater) that the elite is humbled when he systematically begins to wipe them out with the help of new girlfriend Veronica, (Ryder) planting evidence at the scenes to make it seem like suicide. I like most of my films black, and this has a nice line in explosive finales..
THE ITALIAN JOB (Peter Collinson)
Michael Caine, Noel Coward, the Mini...what more could you ask for? Well, a perfect cast doesn't always make a perfect film, but it does in this case. The car chase through, and over and under, the streets of Turin with three Minis is the finest in cinematic history, kicking Bullitt's bony arse. Michael Caine plays the chirpy cheeky cockney thief without making you want to vom in a bucket, and Noel Coward has a scene stealing performance as the crime boss who runs his business from gaol. Okay, so it's pretty lightweight with a touch of comedy, but it's still better by half than any recent effort (especially the embarrassing remake), except maybe the superlative 'Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.' Only in 'Get Carter' was Caine any better, and it's one hell of a lot better than 'Jaws 4' for a start. Even Benny Hill gets his teeth into a delightfully over the top comedy role, for pete's sake, and it's a rare occurrence that happens.
THE LADYKILLERS (Alexander Mackendrick)
One of the later Ealing Comedies, from an age when the British film industry was both prolific and unsurpassed. The cast, particularly the elderly Katie Johnson, is perfect. Alec Guinness is suitably sinister as the gang leader masterminding a bullion robbery, while Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Danny Green and Cecil Parker are spot on as his incompetent gang. The plot revolves around the gang's desperate attempts to silence their elderly landlady Mr. Wilberforce (Johnson) after she has discovered the evidence of the robbery. Of course, she proves to be rather more difficult to kill than you would expect, mainly through sheer innocence of what they're up to. It is that much better for being that much blacker humour than the average Ealing comedy, with a death count as well. Still, it all works out alright in the end.
If you've never seen 'Spinal Tap' then attempting to explain it is almost impossible. To describe it as spoof rockumentary would be to under sell it, Tap is pure genius. Based around the final US tour of a fading British rock band, it's basically a vehicle for a number of brilliant set pieces, stuffed with memorable quotes, hysterical slapstick, and dwarfs crushing an 18 inch high replica of Stonehenge. The film has spawned multitudes of spin-off albums, T-shirts, guest appearances and singles, all of which have simply reinvented the Tap as being a 'real' rock group. The joke might not be funny anymore but Tap is claimed to be the 'funniest film ever' and that isn't too far out. With more than a nod in the direction of rock giants like Deep Purple and Queen, the soundtrack is probably the best thing about it, boasting songs like 'Big Bottom' and 'Stonehenge' that are terrifyingly accurate. Rent it, buy it, whatever, just WATCH it.
Like a dream, Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation envelopes you with ahaze of light, moody sound, love, jetlag and a feeling of familiarity, even if you've never visited neon-fused Tokyo. Jetlagged, helplessly lost (literally as well as figuratively) and out of sync with the metropolis, aging actor Bob Harris (Bill Murray at his world weary best) befriends the married but lovelorn Charlotte (played with skill beyond her years by the then18-year-old Scarlett Johansson). Written and directed by Coppola, the film is far more atmospheric than plot-driven: we whiz through Tokyo parties, karaoke bars and odd nightlife, always ending up in the impossibly posh hotel where the two are staying. It’s bitter-sweet, lonely story of abandonment and friendship.
FARGO (The Coen Brothers)
The Coen Brothers have produced some brilliant films in their time - Barton Fink, Millers Crossing and The Great Lebowski, but this is their finest hour so far. With a cast of unfamiliar actors, Steve Buscemi and William H. Macy being the only real recognisable faces here, they recreate the 'true' story of kidnapping and blackmail in Minnesota that goes horribly awry. It is darkly comic, violent and satirical in equal measures, all the hallmarks of a decent Coen brother's film, but it's probably less 'way out' than some of their other offerings and not quite as visually stunning. Frances McDormand quite rightly won an Oscar for her role as the pregnant sheriff hot on the trail of the kidnappers. All the characters seem to have ice water for veins, the bad guys are psychotic and the good guys bemused.
David Lean has always been a fantastic director, from his versions of Dicken's Great Expectations and E.M. Foster's Passage to India to classic war movies like Lawrence of Arabia, but Bridge of the River Kwai is my favourite of all his films. Alec Guinness is Britain's finest film actor, a human chameleon whose skills only Peter Sellers have come close to. This is another 'true' story, of the Japanese Prisoners of War forced to build a bridge across the an uncrossable river, although reality differed mightily from fiction. Guinness is the British Army Colonel refusing to surrender his principles to the Japanese Camp Commandant who holds their lives in his hands, and is both sympathetic and ultimately guilty of complicity. He has able support from Jack Hawkins and William Holden, and the magnificent direction of a master filmmaker. A film that comes as close to showing the true to stupidity of war as any ever made.
Mel Brooks has never matched the pure brilliance of his first film, the perfect 'The Producers'. From the golden age when both Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder were consistently funny came this film, packed with sick humour and brilliant lack of taste. Failing Broadway producer, Zero Mostel, is prompted by the innocent accountant Gene Wilder to realise that he could make a lot more money from a flop than a hit, simply by raising more capital that he could ever need. With this aim in mind the pair set about finding a surefire flop...and thereby hangs the tale. The show they eventual choose is an all singing, all dancing comedy musical, set in Nazi Germany called Springtime For Hitler. The sight of a chorus goose-stepping in time to the overture is a gag that is pretty much unsurpassed as far as tastelessness goes. And as we all know, tastelessness is a cornerstone to great comedy.
LEON (AKA The Professional) (Luc Besson)
French director Luc Besson followed up his incredible hit film Nikita with this compulsive thriller. The film explores the relationship between an emotionally stunted hit man and the 12 year old he takes in following her families death at the hands of a corrupt drug dealing DEA agent. Gary Oldman is at his most sinister in this part, hamming it up as a demonic pantomime villain, pill popping at every opportunity and massacring people to the strains of Beethoven on his walkman. This would make a film in itself, but it truth Oldman is only a relatively minor character, the focus of the action being the relationship between Leon and the 12 year old Mathilda. Reno, a long time Besson favourite, is perfect in his role as the indestructible hitman brought down by emotions he never expected to feel, bringing real pathos to the role. Even so, Portman nearly stole the show, and it's a disappointment she seems to have lost her ability to act as she's aged.
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