In writing this post, I have started to realise that this is an impossible task. From time to time, my favourite movies change and it’s often irritating to omit some of my favourite films from the list. So all I can do is settle on ten movies that I’m big into now, and lay them down.
Carnival Of Souls 
A great b-movie, this movie was released in an era caught up in the tensions of the Cold War. It’s very much a movie akin to the story-telling popularised in shows like ‘The Twilight Zone’. Without divulging any elements of the plot, the film explores base human fears about death. I find it sweet that this movie has been done on the cheap, and it shows. Some of the acting performances on display are abysmal, which is hilarious. However, the film retains it’s status as a creepy masterpiece, and went on to inspire film-makers such as George A. Romero, as is seen in his ‘Of The Dead’ series.
28 Days Later 
Danny Boyle’s film borrowed heavily from John Wyndham’s ‘Day Of The Triffids’, which is one of my favourite books. A deadly virus fundamentally changes the nature of civilisation. Through the eyes of survivor, Jim, portrayed by Cillian Murphy, we encounter a grim tableau of a contemporary England, dramatically affected by a vicious infected human population. Alex Garland wrote the magnificent script while Christopher Eccleston provides an icy bad guy. All underpinned by a magnificent soundtrack by John Murphy including the epic post-rock track, ‘In The House, In A Heartbeat’.
Pulp Fiction 
This movie is an easy choice for the list. After having made the grisly ‘Reservoir Dogs’, Tarantino showed off his directorial skills by introducing us to the very human and believable array of characters in this superb crime movie. Whilst resurrecting the careers of both John Travolta and Bruce Willis (who were dead in the water by 1994), he also gave us hilarious dialogue punctuating the brutality that some attributed to the so-called ‘ultra-violence’ genre. ‘Pulp Fiction’ was a daring film too, as its non-linear narrative gave rise to some powerful key scenes, in which prior knowledge of a scene’s outcome could play a key role. Nicely done!
Les Yeux Sans Visage 
This movie is the oldest in the list and is another member of the creepy club. The surgeon, Dr. Génessier, lives in regret for having destroyed the face of his daughter, Christiane in a car accident. He is driven by madness to abduct women so that he might find the perfect candidate for a facial transplant in order to fix the damage, as if Christiane’s injuries were not enough. Because of it’s age, this French movie relies much more on atmosphere and implication rather than gore, although there is a particularly impressive and sickening surgery scene, which fares well for a sixty year old film. From the expressive acting performance of Edith Scob as the masked Christiane to the inevitable tragedy of the plot, this movie is seriously impressive.
The Shawshank Redemption 
Hard to avoid this movie, and it possibly makes the top ten movie list of all the people I know. It’s almost pointless mentioning the film, because if you are a movie fan, you’ve probably seen it yourself a few times. Stephen King’s short story, ‘Rita Hayworth And The Shawshank Redemption’ was extended via a masterful Frank Darabont script into one of the greatest movies of all time. With Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman playing the roles of their lives, it’s a movie that plays out a full spectrum of emotions. King’s other notable prison story, ‘The Green Mile’, also made a great film, but Shawshank keeps its feet on the ground by avoiding King’s narrative love affair with all things super-natural.
Shaun Of The Dead 
This Edgar Wright penned classic, co-written with Simon Pegg who lends his acting talents to the titular Shaun, managed to masterfully blend the genres of romantic comedy with horror. The balance is spot on, and alongside Pegg’s regular henchman, Nick Frost, this humble gem helped to re-establish the zombie as a favourite with movie goers, whilst providing a transition for Simon Pegg from the TV world of the excellent ‘Spaced’ to a pretty impressive Hollywood career.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark 
While I was always a big Star Wars fan as a child, for me, there was always something rather clunky and flawed about the big space franchise. However, these flaws were not present in George Lucas’s other big project. With Lucas penning the script while Spielberg directs, nothing goes wrong and the pair managed to reinvigorate the action adventure movie at a time when we didn’t expect to be getting excited about archaeologists tangling with Nazis on exotic treasure hunts. Raiders lent itself to decades of entertainment, and even modern franchises such as Naughty Dog’s ‘Unchartered’ series owe an undoubted nod to Harrison Ford’s heroic academic.
Before Sunrise 
This magical film captures the excitement of meeting people and making connections in a manner so natural, it’s easy to forget that the events are fictional. The film observes a couple as they meet for the first time while travelling in Vienna. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke explore the city and each other in a manner so charming and believable, that empathising with the on-screen romance is almost unavoidable. It’s fantastic that this film may be the greatest romance film ever made, while its modest budget of $2.5 million says that it’s one of the cheapest.
Enter The Dragon 
Golden Harvest came to work with Warner Brothers in recognition of the talents of their shared son, Bruce Lee. It was an ambitious project, calling on the talents of not only Lee, but US action star John Saxon, World International Middleweight Karate Champion, Jim Kelly, Hong Kong body-builder and martial artist, Bolo Yeung, 9th Dan Karate Champion, Robert Wall, and even a young Jackie Chan. The smartest way to bring all these talents together was to build a plot around a martial arts contest, but the clever angle that the film went down was to mimic the format of the then very popular James Bond films. A movie like this will never be made again, and it undoubtably shot the profile of martial arts into the mainstream. The funky Lalo Schiffrin soundtrack is also a highly welcome partner in this wonderful film that I have seen more than any other film.
Simply the best of all the Arnold Schwarzenegger films, ‘Commando’ is great. It’s not the most sophisticated. In fact, sometimes it verges on being shit-tastic. But ultimately, it’s got the best one-liners, a ridiculously high body-count and some great action set-pieces, including an impressive Tarzan swing through a shopping mall, creative use of circular saws and steam pipes and an hilariously homo-erotic, topless rowing scene. Casting Vernon Wells as John Matrix’s adversary, Bennett may have been a mistake, as the menace he cultured as the evil punk Wez in ‘Mad Max 2’ is lost behind his moustache, beer belly and string vest combination. Perhaps this just adds to the hilarity, and Bennett’s final demise allows Arnie to rip off one of his greatest one-liners.
Many films narrowly missed inclusion on this list, so the concept will have to be revisited at some point. Ten films just isn’t enough for me to celebrate my love of movies. One thing that does surprise me is that the most recent of these movies was made over a decade ago, which is a bit of a sad statement on the state of modern movie-making. Or maybe that just means I’m stuck in the past!