So here it is, the day I’ve been waiting for for a while. I’m no longer a teenager and while that’s going to take a long time to sink in I thought some reflection might be important going forward. To know where I came from and what’s made me who I am today.
So here is something I’ve wanted to do for a while and now I have an excuse.
Here are my 20 favorite films from the last 20 years, which is why ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is not here which remains my absolute favorite film.
20. Saw (2004)
For all the madness of the Saw franchise that followed I like to remember the original for what it was, a tense thriller with a great twist on a stale genre with fantastic practical effects, a brilliant score and THAT ENDING.
Before we move on let’s talk about John Kramer, Jigsaw’s background and motivations aren’t even addressed in this film but what is mentioned is that he doesn’t “technically” kill people. The moment we hear this as an audience the morality of this ‘psychopath’ is instantly questioned and when we come to understand why he does what he does there is no one that won’t at some level understand one of the best horror villains of all time. He’s so good he wasn’t even in 4 of the seven films.
19. The Sixth Sense (1999)
Right, enough of horror let’s talk about something nice… ah, I promise this list get’s happy real soon.
M Night Shyamalans, I googled it that’s how you spell it, debut film is still his best (come on Split, you could do it!) and one of the last great things Bruce Willis has ever done. For those who haven’t seen this film the less you know the better as it does a masterful job of hiding in plain sight.
All I will say is. Car Scene, relatives, crying.
18. Moneyball (2011)
I don’t like Baseball, I’m British so this isn’t exactly unusual but this does mean that films like Field of Dreams are sort of lost on me. But for some reason Moneyball just really sunk it’s teeth into me and earns it’s place on this list from how well it told it’s story.
I wish I could talk about clever cinematography or a mind blowing performance or score (actually Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt being subtle really works) or some crazy twist but I can’t. It’s just a very well made movie that really engaged me.
17. The Prestige (2006)
Christopher Nolan makes an appearance but not with any of his four films everyone talks about. Dark Knight, Inception and Interstellar are all fantastic and if I ever get a tattoo I’ll have it across my stomach saying ‘never watch Memento’.
Here’s why I picked The Prestige.
(SPOILERS, sort of)
It tells you the end of the movie in the title screen and it took me until the 4th watch to see that. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. Nolan perfected the non-linear timeline, has an amazing ensemble cast with charismatic leads, one of the best uses of David Bowie in a film and the re-watch value is insane. Every time I watch it again I see about 5 brand new things that change an aspect of the film.
16. Music and Lyrics (2007)
OK, I have no excuse here. This movie is ridiculous, every part of it but damn does it make me smile. Everything about this should make me fall asleep with boredom but for some reason it doesn’t, maybe it’s because Hugh Grant as a failed musician is amazing casting or someone actually gave Drew Barrymore direction and then there are the songs. Pop Goes My Heart is sung with shocking regularity at my university, with accompanying hand claps of course! Way Back Into Love is pretty good too and a friend of mine genuinely loves Don’t Write Me Off.
So for Adam and Liam, this pick was for you guys.
15. Hot Fuzz (2007)
Keeping it light with Edgar Wright!
The second in the Cornetto Trilogy (yes, Shaun of the Dead was about 22nd on my long list) but in my opinion the best. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost continue to be hilarious and this film contains a cavalcade of great British comic actors from Bill Bailey to Olivia Coleman, Adam Buxton, Jim Broadbent and a cameo from Cate Blanchett.
Never has paperwork been as captivating (until Spotlight) and the shootout at the end is one of my favourite action scenes in movies.
14. No Country for Old Men (2007)
13 The Social Network (2010)
The film that made/ruined Jesse Eisenberg’s career (delete one in 5 years).
David Fincher took his stab at the biopic and with the help of legendary writer Aaron Sorkin they created the phenomenal Social Network, the definitive story of Facebook.
The star of the film for me remains Andrew Garfield, as both a performance and character his is more interesting, compelling and leaves more of an impression.
12. Steve Jobs (2015)
Staying with Mr Sorkin, one of my favourite films of last year which in the past 12 months has only grown in my estimations.
The expected ‘walk and talk’ from The West Wing is ever present and Sorkin’s dialogue is, as usual, brilliant and natural.
Some people didn’t like the unconventional format of this biopic however I believe that I understand Steve Jobs as both a man and as the icon he became purely because of this film. While this may not be true, the magic of the movies has fooled me.
Also notable are the great supporting performances of Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen (who should do many more dramatic roles).
11. Mean Girls (2004)
‘It’s October 3rd’, ‘You can’t sit with us!’, ‘On Wednesdays we wear pink’, ‘She doesn’t even go here!’ ‘YOU GO GLEN COCO!’
One of the most quotable films of the century with one of the best scripts in any comedy. Unlike some comedies that relied on the chemistry of the actors or improvised lines from a real word comedian, Mean Girls succeeds on the strength of its characters, tight script and story.
I think we can all agree Mean Girls is so fetch.
10. Ex Machina (2015)
Man this film has turned from a crazy and experimental sci-fi film to something much darker with every watch.
I would love to sit down with some people and have a 3-4 hour conversation about what elements of Ex Machina made us lose our minds more.
Alex Garland’s directorial debut with stunning performances from Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac and Domnhall Gleeson garnered critical and commercial adoration and after one of the best Science Fiction films of the century the world waits to see what Garland will do next.
9. Birdman (2014)
For a lot of people, Birdman was a pretentious meta-textual movie about first world problems and an excuse to get people talking about Michael Keaton again.
Which is exactly why I loved it.
I’m a film nerd and long takes are an easy way to win over my affection, Innaritu and Lubezki astounded audiences with their persistent and brilliant camerawork. Antonio Sanchez doesn’t get enough credit for the success of this film, his hypnotic drum score is the only thing I ever want to hear when I think about or watch Birdman.
This film also, infamously, beat Boyhood to the best picture Oscar… There’s no point to this statement I just don’t like Boyhood.
8. 28 Days Later (2002)
Zombies were outdated and boring before this movie.
Earlier this year I went to a live interactive event based on this film where we were led into a ‘hospital’ and then chased through various set-pieces by scarily accurate representations of rage victims.
14 years after its release 28 Days Later is still invoking discussion and striking absolute fear into the heart of it’s viewers, the guerilla filmed production has an unbelievable realistic edge to its set pieces and first act. I will take the sight of an empty Westminster Bridge to my grave.
7. Inside Out (2015)
It’s not a surprise that I love this movie, I gushed and gushed when I named it my top film of last year and 5-6 viewings later it’s still brilliant. Especially after the trainwreck of The Good Dinosaur *shudders*.
For my full opinion on this fabulous movie just click here: https://www.ticgn.com/top-ten-movies-of-2015/
6. The Lord of The Rings Trilogy
Yeah I know I’m cheating but shut up they’re all too good to pick between them.
The definitive fantasy story made into the definitive fantasy movie trilogy.
One of only 3 films to win best picture at the Oscars on this list, The Lord of The Rings will remain an example of what is possible when a large group of actors, writers, designers, craftsmen, technical crew and executives knuckle down and work together to create something utterly timeless and beautiful.
From the green haven of The Shire, the bleak and haunting dead marshes, the idealistic Gondor, rural Rohan and the wastelands of Mordor Middle Earth exists as long as we believe in Jackson, Tolkein and the story of the unremarkable achieving the impossible.
And The Hobbit only makes these films look better over time.
5. Room (2016)
It’s a hard sell of a film but Room is more than worth the price of admission.
Emma Donoghue’s book laid the foundation to let Lenny Abrahamson and the perfect Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay create one of the most moving pieces of cinema I have ever seen.
From the moment Jack screams ‘I want a different story!’ and we as an audience are powerless to help this poor sheltered boy to a better life the film has won. I’ve seen a lot of critics use the word overwhelming when talking about Room and I can only concur that this film does overwhelm you with inner paternal and maternal instincts, dry eyes are very uncommon when watching this film. This is not the last time this year I will talk about Room on this website but until I’m sure everyone has seen it I will continue to give it undying praise.
4. Whiplash (2014)
Full Metal High-Hat
I can’t put a proper Kubrick movie on this list (I’m looking at you Eyes Wide Shut…) but Whiplash is as close to a musical directed by Stanley Kubrick we will ever see.
Damien Chazelle’s stunning film was an instant hit the from the count-in and while some films of this kind tend to end somewhat lukewarm, Whiplash end finishes with you so far off the edge of your seat just building and building and building until the incredible climatic drum solo.
I would like for people, when they watch this film next, to look at the editing in the music sections. Not for hidden meanings or something like that, but because it’s some of the best editing you’re likely to see in any movie.
For a film that was made for only $2.7 Million going toe-to-toe with the studio juggernauts, both critically and commercially, is a huge success and a wake up call to those who complain that nothing original is being made.
Whiplash is everything we didn’t know we wanted from Jazz music and features a masterclass in manipulation and megalomania from the outstanding J.K Simmons.
3. Fight Club (1999)
2. There Will Be Blood (2007)
The opening 30 minutes don’t contain dialogue, a lead character that’s as despicable as they come, a first time film score from a rock guitarist, a film about how capitalism always wins.
But for some reason, this film is beloved and cherished
Paul Thomas Anderson has made some of the best films of the past twenty years. I could put anything from Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk Love, Magnolia to The Master but There Will Be Blood is, almost without question, his finest work to date.
I would go as far to say that There Will Be Blood is the best film of the past 20 years and in the conversation for the best of all time. With all the ‘great’ films there are often caveats; Citizen Kane has the impossible plot hole, The Godfather has The Godfather Part III etc. but There Will Be Blood is just an incredible movie.
Daniel Day-Lewis is a really good actor, who knew? The performance of the century (suck it, Leo, he didn’t have to eat liver to win an Oscar… or 3!) from the greatest living actor was enough to make this list without everything else.
Jonny Greenwood, the guitarist from Radiohead, had never fully scored a film before this and was only given three weeks to write and record 2 and a half hours worth of material.
The end result? A highly polished and meticulously detailed and interesting score that Williams, Shore, Horner and Howard would be jealous of. How it was ineligible for consideration during awards season will remain a great mystery to me.
Maybe I will do a full review of this film because I can talk about it for days on end. I will simply end with a quote from Mr Plainview.
‘I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed. I hate most people.’