To begin with, I’m getting the obvious out of the way and starting with my top ten films.
I’ll confess now that I am a recent graduate of film school, which means a) making this list of extremely hard, and b) I should be able to provide an in-depth analysis if why these films are the best…
I said should.
I also said I graduated.
So I tried not to think for too long about my top ten films, otherwise, I’d probably still be trying to decide and this list would never be posted.
So here it is! Before I change my mind.
Directed by Gareth Evans. Released 2011
The Raid is an adrenaline-fuelled, Indonesian, action/martial arts film set in the slums of Jakarta.
A team of commandos- among them rookie Rama (Iko Uwais)- raid a high rise apartment block to capture the ruthless drug lord Tama (Ray Sahetapy).
It is raw, gritty and full to the top of extremely violent action; it will make your head spin and your stomach turn, and with just enough plot and character development to warrant such violence.
2. Dog Soldiers
Directed by Neil Marshall. Released in 2002.
The quote on this film is ‘A bitch of a werewolf movie.’
I think that says it all.
Dog Soldiers is a low-budget action-horror film set in the Scottish Highlands, where a band of British soldiers are sent on a military routine exercise. Except something much more terrifying waits for them in the woods.
If that doesn’t make you want to watch this film, I don’t know what will. It’s gritty, British humour at its best.
It also manages to avoid the usual cliches of typical werewolf films by focussing on the soldiers and their militant fight for survival, and although made on a low-budget, the werewolves look fantastically terrifying towering over their victims.
3. Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut
Directed by Richard Kelly. Released in 2001.
I fail to see how any sane person could make a best films list and not include Donnie Darko somewhere on it.
Chances are you’ve already seen it, but in case you haven’t, it’s a science fiction film starring a young Jake Gyllenhaal as a troubled teen experiencing strange hallucinations of the end of the world.
This is quite a simple description of a quite un-simple film.
The story is captivating, confusing and well-formed, but I always specify that I love the Director’s Cut though, as I find it to more coherent and better told.
4. Train to Busan
Directed by Yeon Sang-Ho. Released in 2016.
Bring tissues for this one.
A father and his daughter are on the train from Seoul to Busan when they suddenly become trapped in the speeding vehicle as passengers start turning into ravening zombies.
And it manages to breath new life into the zombie genre, as the plot isn’t cheapened by the arrival of zombies but heightened by it. So heightened. To the point that you’re afraid of falling over the edge the whole film.
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Released in 1975.
‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat.’
What’s not to love about a great white shark eating its way an entire tourist town?
Police chief of Amity Island Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), ichthyologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and ship captain Quint (Robert Shaw) offer to help Brody capture the killer great white, since Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) refuses to do anything in favour of tourist revenue, fearing it will affect people coming to his town.
It’s a classic, well-crafted, suspenseful story with a killer musical score that still makes me feel wary of going into any body of water.
This is because the shark exists predominantly in our own minds until its big reveal.
Until it attacks the Quint’s boat, the beast is only hinted at through camera shots underwater, character reactions, the score and glimpses of fins.
This makes it so much more terrifying and suspenseful.
6. Monsters Inc
Directed by Pete Docter. Released in 2002.
This film makes me so nostalgic.
I loved it as a kid, and I love it now.
It’s just a funny, feelgood, light-hearted movie and I love the characters of Sully, Wasowski who worked at an energy-producing factory, which generates power by scaring human children through their wardrobes.
Boo is also just so cute!
I don’t really have anything else to say about it… I thought I’d allow myself one childish film.
Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace. Released in 1990.
Back to horror.
Nothing has ever scared me as much as Tim Currey as Pennywise the clown because he’s so unhinged and unpredictable and the scariest villains are the ones who you can’t anticipate.
Pennywise is a shapeshifting demon that usually takes the form of a clown to torment the small town of Derry every 27 years. A group of kids vow to kill the clown and save the town.
To me, Stephan King will always be one of the kings of horror- and this is definitely one of my favourite adaptions and favourite horror films.
As with Jaws, I can never look at a hole in the floor without fear of clown crawling out.
8. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Directed by Peter Jackson. Released in 2003.
I was going to cheat a bit here and count Lord of the Rings as one film, however, I thought I would try and pick my favourite of the three.
Which I think is Return of the King
Watching Smeagol become Gollum
The ghost army
Lighting the beacons
Eowyn fights the Witchking
‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!’
All the battles
The multiple endings do annoy me a little bit, though
Only a little bit.
It’s still a masterpiece.
9. Only God Forgives
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Released in 2013.
This is probably the weirdest film on my list- a metaphorical, revenge-driven trip set in Thailand, starring Ryan Gosling as the almost-mute Jullian, and Kristin Scott Thomas as his ruthless mother.
It has moments of extreme violence amongst the slow, meditative pace of the story and soundtrack, making it an intense experience that is, at times, hard to watch.
It is also visually stunning- as Refn’s films tend to be.
I’ve analysed this film multiple time during university, and I could easily keep going, as there is just so many layers of unspoken commentary within the characters, plot and mise-en-scene.
10. Django Unchained
Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Released in 2012.
Set two years before the Cold War, a slave (Jamie Foxx) and a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz ) set out on a mission to find the vicious Brittle brothers and free Django’s wife from their possession.
Jamie Foxx is brilliant in this film, as is Leonardo Dicaprio. (I think he should have won his Oscar for this performance.)
Of course, there is a typical Tarantino blood-fest toward the end of the film, which I feel cheapens the story a little bit, but it still has a great plot, interesting characters and well-paced for such a long film.