Will Brooker

Director, research, film and television, Kingston University

UK

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

Blade Runner

1982

Ridley Scott

Breakfast Club, The

1985

John Hughes

Breathless

1960

Jean-Luc Godard

Man with a Movie Camera

1929

Dziga Vertov

Rope

1948

Alfred Hitchcock

Searchers, The

1956

John Ford

Star Wars

1977

George Lucas

Touch of Evil

1958

Orson Welles

Tron

1982

Steven Lisberger

West Side Story

1961

Robert Wise/Jerome Robbins

Comments

Rope is more theatrical than Hitchcock’s other great pictures, which explicitly engage with cinema and the camera-eye, but its camera is more subtly clever, an invisible character weaving with cunning choreography around the apartment, like a ghost at the dinner party. The mise-en-scene is so deeply layered, and the script and editing went through so many rewrites and reshuffles, that Blade Runner remains an exceptionally complex, dense and rich film, repaying multiple viewings and intense, forensic examination. Is it messy? Maybe. But humans are messy creatures. Touch of Evil’s first shot has more skill, verve, suspense and spectacle than most films offer in their entire running time. Breathless is irresistibly fresh, sexy, unpredictable and smart, 50 years on. Star Wars is perhaps not a great film in itself, but it’s about great film. It distils the best moments of cinema from its inception until 1977 – samurai, Westerns, The Wizard of Oz – and repackages them in a raw, thrilling best-of compendium, a pure hit that a generation would never forget. For all its ugly moments, The Searchers is a beautiful film: epic, grand and moving, like ‘the turning of the earth’. West Side Story’s opening sequence draws you into its world, and its rules of realism and performance – a New York where gang members sing their arguments and high-kick down stage avenues in bright costumes against Technicolor skies – and sells it without question. More powerful, more stirring and dynamic than 50 action films. Tron is about the videogame culture of its time, and about the future those games and that technology would bring; it opened a window onto the visual spectacle of contemporary CGI and the camera CG-Eye. But it is also about the thrill of ‘new media’ in a broader sense: its monochrome computer world, with pale-faced, dark-eyed figures, recalls early cinema. Vertov’s film Man With A Movie Camera is a cut-up love letter from cinema to the city, all cities, any city – a historical document and a vision of the future, spliced and stuck back together. Cinema should never forget that it’s inherently a teenage thing. It’s the culture of the drive-in, the date; it’s allowed to be gauche and naive, to try to be cool, to go through stupid fashions and hopeless crushes. The Breakfast Club – once entirely of its moment – now seems nostalgic, closer to Rebel Without A Cause than the present day, but it is all the more poignant and painful for the passing of time.

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