Freelance Film Critic
|Singin' in the Rain
|Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen
|Some Like It Hot
|The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
|Back to the Future
|Shaun of the Dead
|This is England
|Guillermo del Toro
|The Social Network
Singin' in the Rain
I love musicals, and they don't come better than this one. Gene Kelly is charisma personified and the Make 'Em Laugh sequence with Donald O'Connor is about as pure a distillation of physical comedy on the big screen as it's possible to find. It's probably the first movie I'd show to an alien who needed to know what cinema is.
Some Like It Hot
I could've populated this entire list with Billy Wilder films, but the pure rat-a-tat energy of Some Like It Hot - not to mention its middle finger to the Hays Code - catapults it to the top of wilder's oeuvre.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
There are many different kinds of horror movie. There are those that provide ghost train jolts and jumps, there are those that shock with extreme gore and there are those that masterfully build slow-burn tension. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, though, delivers pure immersion into a world of sweaty intensity. It's grubby, unpleasant and horrible to watch. I love it.
Steven Spielberg has repeatedly explained that Jaws was the toughest movie he ever made and, certainly, the calamitous production is as legendary as the film itself. But the finished film speaks for itself - a masterpiece of tension and thrills, driven by the unique masculine power play between three protagonists pitting themselves against nature's raw supremacy.
Back to the Future
If you were to construct the perfect feel-good popcorn movie, the result would be Back to the Future. Time travel has been an endless fascination of cinema, but Robert Zemeckis and writer Bob Gale keep it simple and put character at the centre of everything.
Shaun of the Dead
Edgar Wright's approach to comedy is unlike anybody else's, eking laughs out of every line, camera movement and cut. Shaun of the Dead is the epitome of that, balancing emotional heft with some of the most quotable dialogue of the last few decades.
This is England
Shane Meadows has a remarkable ability to find nuance amid the darker side of Britain, here delving into the horrendous racism percolating under Thatcher in the 1980s. Stephen Graham delivers one of his many towering performances as the thuggish bigot Combo, but the true genius of the film is in the way it finds a third dimension even to characters who could have been portrayed as cartoonish and irredeemable.
Guillermo del Toro's love of the supernatural and distaste for humanity at its worst takes centre stage in Pan's Labyrinth. It's not just the indelible images of the faun and the Pale Man (hat tip to Doug Jones), but the fantastical aura that proves an escapism from the atrocities of Franco's Spain - not just for the protagonist, but for the audience too.
The Social Network
Before we all realised that Facebook was destroying our lives and those of everybody else on the planet, David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin crafted this depiction of the way a petty and unpleasant college student transformed the world. Jesse Eisenberg was absolutely robbed of an Oscar for his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg, while Aaron Sorkin's script just gets better with every rewatch.
If, as Roger Ebert famously said, the movies are a machine to generate empathy, then Paddington 2 deserves its status among the greats. Its final scene triggers floods of tears via the reunion of two CGI bears. Pure movie magic. After this year's gag in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, I feel like the choice is thoroughly vindicated.
Listing just 10 great films is really hard. As a result, I decided to arbitrarily limit myself to one movie per director, lest the entire list be dominated by Wilder and Spielberg. Beyond that, there wasn't really any systematic approach here, beyond a sort of broad desire to reflect the genres and brands of movie I enjoy the most. There's, perhaps inevitably, a degree of recency bias towards films released during my lifetime, but I'm afraid I couldn't bring myself to leave out Paddington 2. Nobody wants to be subjected to a hard stare.