One Hundred and One Great Movies !
Greatness is subjective. Thus determining the ‘greatest’ one hundred and one movies, out of the myriad of movies made, is a task intrinsically mired within the limits of one’s own experience, interests and biases, however, to recognise this reality is to also recognise the reverse, that all categorisation is partly subjective, but ensconced, hopefully at least, around a core of objective criteria. Therefore, it is within this framework, a mix of objective criteria, mediated by personal preference, and my viewing history, that I offer to you, the reader, my list of the greatest movies (which includes the occasional TV show) ever made. Those movies, which, I believe, entertain, enthral, and even, to some extent, however small, enlighten.
Yet, let us start at the beginning. Movies are by definition, fiction. Fiction, by definition, is not real, however, fiction is (mostly) based upon reality, in that its relies upon existing facts and beliefs for the initial impetus to its speculations. The importance of this genre is not always understood, nevertheless, fiction is indeed the medium of humanity. Let other species deal with the harsh, unvarnished realities of existence, and slowly evolve mechanisms to deal with life. Only the human species (as far as we know) has created fictional entertainment, which is the fabrication of new and ‘unreal’ worlds, where we can delve into the alternatives of existence. In this way, good fiction—as opposed to ‘soap’ pap—has the ability to deepen our understanding of our world by providing us with widely different perspectives, a different ‘take’ as it were, on the real world.
In short, to narrow the focus of our discussion to the subject at hand, fictional movies convey the extant human condition into new and different directions, allowing us to both escape the quotidian banality of existence, and to visualise alternatives to that existence. Good fiction provides the impetus, to those willing to grasp its nettle, to move beyond what we see, feel, and directly know, to imagine what lies beyond.
For example, how many scientists and engineers grew through their childhood and beyond watching ‘Star Trek’, in any of its versions? To what extent have we been inspired to think and do, by what we saw on the silver screen?
Yet, while it is true that fiction can lead and inspire, we should be careful to acknowledge its boundaries. Fiction, is in reality, a medium of entertainment.—designed to provide an income to the author, and 90 minutes of diversion to the audience (“beer money”, as the late RAH often wrote). Most fiction is merely a story, with the intent of amusement, nothing more—perhaps not a lofty goal, but one worthy of respect. We all lead lives of quiet desperation—to quote Thoreau—the struggle for survival, for life, with its varied pains and loss, with the knowledge of our inescapable demise, is something which shapes our existence. To escape from this people have turned to the bottle and to god, with equally disastrous results. Fiction provides a far better choice. Movies which inspired and inspire. Movies which provided guidance and example. Capt. James T. Kirk, again, standing on his bridge, leading him people to victory.
In the following pages the reader will quickly see that my movie preference is skewed towards science fiction (SF—please, never SciFi). I make no apologies for this, rather I boast. Since its creation as a distinct genre a century ago SF has been the central literary interest of the intelligent and educated class, those which have an interest in science, technology and culture. Generations of scientists, engineers, technicians and thinkers have revelled in this genre. SF is the creation of the scientific era.
Here below are what I regard as the most thrilling, entertaining, and defining movies of our time, delineated of course by my preferences and my viewing history, of our shared cinematic past.
Watch & Enjoy
Ps Yes, spoilers, deal with it.
In Memory of My Cat: Nemesis. c.1992–2010.
An outstanding companion, and a true spirit. You are missed.
Begin Here: ------------------------------------------------------------------
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The greatest movie ever made—and the greatest story ever told. The story of Man’s evolution, as told by two of our greatest story tellers, from its infancy to the stars. I have seen this movie innumerable times. It still inspires awe and admiration. Brilliant photography, special effects (before the age of CGI), and consummate acting. (The acting in 2001 is often under-appreciated.) The greatest work of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke. And the single greatest vacuum scene in cinematic history.
Dave Bowman: "Open the pod bay doors, HAL".
Dr Strangelove (1964)
Again, Kubrick. I have decided to list the Kubrick movies together, not necessarily because they are the top three (but, then again, maybe they are), but because Kubrick deserves the recognition. Here he displays his true genius in this ‘dark comedy’ of the Cold War. In short, a B52 base commander dispatches his nuclear armed aircraft to attack the Soviet Union. The story revolves around how the great powers resolve this situation, and, in doing so, reveal their own pettiness and lack of humanity. Excellent acting by Peter Sellers.
Major T. J. "King" Kong: "Well, boys, I reckon this is it—nuclear combat toe to toe with the Roosskies".
Clockwork Orange (1971)
The third Kubrick. The story of a troubled boy in a troubled world, and a solution, which is even more troubled: violence, survival & police states. Very controversial when it came out, and it still raises questions, and eyebrows. Again, a great story, which can be watched and re-watched. It also typecast Malcolm McDowell for the remainder of his life.
Alex: "What we were after now was the old surprise visit. That was a real kick and good for laughs and lashings of the old ultraviolent."
The Heston Trinity:
Charlton Heston began his working life as a model, and ended it as a poster boy for the US conservative movement. Along the way he made more than a few movies, including a few memorable. Here are the top three.
Soylent Green (1973)
A future, overcrowded world, where the masses struggle for survival. Heston plays a dedicated and corrupt cop, managing to get by in an impossible world, who uncovers a tragic secret. Over the last four decades the tag line to the movie has become a iconic quote for SF geeks everywhere.
Detective Thorn: "Soylent Green is people!"
The Omega Man (1971)
The best of the three. Heston plays a lone man, fighting for survival—survival for himself and for humanity, against the virus infected remnants (zombies) of a Cold War plague. The first part of the story, where Heston is truly alone, going about his every day routine, maintaining his sanity, is totally cool. The conclusion is cliched, but poignant. Very ballsy. Very 70s. Very good.
Robert Neville: "Now I'm sorry you didn't make it."
Lisa: "Sorry the world didn't make it."
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Charlton Heston (Taylor), on a space voyage, (crash) lands on an unknown planet, where apes are the dominant and vocal species, and humans are mere mute slaves. Taylor does not like this, and does something about it. Great acting and a great story, with a touch of Rod Serling.
Taylor: “Get your hands of me you dammed stinking Ape!”
Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (1965).
So long ago, and so good. The first episode made of what was to become a screen legend, an epic story, and a social phenomena, which has inspired (so far) two generations of scientists and engineers, and others.
A formative influence. The great Captain James T. Kirk, striding forth, crushing his enemies and getting the girl, however, one thing Kirk always emphasised—ask “why”, question authority, always do what is right, not simply obey orders—never accept a statement from authority unquestioned. He also solved problems with his brain and wits, and with the assistance of his team. A great show, apart from the glitch with ‘Enterprise’ (best ignored), and a bunch of movies, which have stretched well across the decades. Note: Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek.
Capt. Kirk: "Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its 5-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before."
Aliens (Alien II) (1986)
The entire Alien trilogy (lets just agree to forget the fourth movie) is an excellent series to watch. Much has been said about which is best, and there is no clear winner, however, I believe that the second in the franchise is the superior of the three. The first I greatly enjoyed, as I did the 3rd (opinions differ regarding this movie—it’s all about redemption). Yet, the 2nd stands out: action, intrigue, drama, a touch of pathos, with compensatory humour.
A group of space marines are despatched by the ‘company’ to investigate a colony world which has gone silent. They land, explore, and discover that the Aliens have killed, or worse, the colonists. The rest of the movie is a bloody, desperate, near futile struggle for survival as the remnants of the marine force attempt to escape the planet.
A group of space marines are despatched by the ‘company’ to investigate a colony world which has gone silent. They land, explore, and discover that the Aliens have killed, or worse, the colonists. The rest of the movie is a bloody, desperate, near futile struggle for survival as the remnants of the marine force attempt to escape the planet.
This movie was adequately funded (unlike the first), has good dialogue (“game over man, game over”), has a simple, but appealing story, and the final scenes of confrontation between Ripley and the Alien are standout performances, both by the actors and by the auteur James Cameron (again). Great stuff, can be watched time and time again.
Avoid the “director’s cut”, lots of unnecessary scenes and conversation. I am amazed that the cut was ever released, it totally tones down the impact of the original release.
Newt: We'd better get back, 'cause it'll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night... mostly.
Taxi Driver (1976)
What can one say? An exercise in stupid, mindless violence. Is this movie indicative of anything? Not really, just a fun romp through a working class, twisted psyche—a Vietnam War era purgative for the middle class. The story: a Viet vet gets a job as a taxi driver, he develops a fixation on a upper class chick, is rejected, decides to assassinate her boss who is a polly. He also hooks up with an underage hooker. Quiet the story.
Travis Bickle: You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?
Apocalypse Now (1979)
One man travels upriver to kill another, in a bitter and divided Vietnam war. What is the point, what is the goal, who is right, who is wrong: seeming chaos reins? Two leading men who in real life almost came to embrace these questions. An egocentric, stone killer, Marlon Brando, and a conflicted Martin Sheen . Putting aside all of this, it is simply one man doing what he must. Just forget the stupidity of the war, and revel in the intense experience. A feast of paradoxes, a montage of life, a revelation of the senses.
Willard: I'm here a week now... waiting for a mission... getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger. Each time I looked around the walls moved in a little tighter.
Umm, post-apoc, industrial grunge, with serious overtones of anti-establishment (and very unusual, in a Hollywood movie), traces of anti-capitalist sentiment. The story? A privatised police force, and a somewhat dead cop, who is transformed by ‘the company’ into a cyber cop, hence Robocop. He has various adventures, he goes anti-company, and things get complicated. A good, anti-establishment show. Spawned sequels.
RoboCop: Come quietly or there will be... trouble.
Dr Who: “The Robots of Death” (1977)
Without doubt one of the great Dr Who adventures, and one of the great (though not always appreciated as such) robot stories. The good Dr (Tom Baker) materialises inside a giant mining machine, a sandminer, crewed by a sizeable number of robots overseen by a relative handful of indolent humans. The Dr quickly learns that this society is one entirely dependent on robots, which perform the boring and tedious tasks. The only problem with this seemingly idyllic situation is that the robots on the sandminer begin killing people. Ummm.
Needless to say, the Dr discovers the identity of the instigator of this social change, who is a deranged human, who believes that by changing the robots basic programming, allowing them to act autonomously and to kill humans, he is setting them free.
From a SF perspective this story is an imaginative interpretation of Asimov’s famous “Three Laws of Robotics”. The robots play a vital part in the society and economy of this planet, and they are designed to be reliable and harmless, but what happens when this partnership goes awry?
Robophobia, an irrational fear of robots, at one point referred to as 'Grimwade's syndrome'.
Dangerous Liasions (1988)
The story of a man who likes: women, seduction, betrayal, and the game. On a bet, a jaded French aristocrat, in the decades preceding the French revolution, seduces a young, virgin girl. This sets in motion a complex chain of events, revolving around himself and a bet. A fascinating story, filled with worldly advice, ably told and ably acted. Starring the sometimes incomparable John Malkovich. Certainly worth a watch.
The movie is based upon the novel written by a contemporaneous French soldier, who turned his hand to writing, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. Published in 1782. Its release met an amused response at the time, but in later centuries it attracted a great deal of disapproval.
Vicomte de Valmont: It's beyond my control.
Things to Come (1936)
From the inventive pen and mind of H. G. Wells. A story of human tragedy and triumph told in three parts: devastating world war, painful savagery, and then recovery to new scientific heights. It begins with a second world war, which drags on for decades until plague and devastation wipe out most of humanity. Then a ‘rational’ society rebuilds the world. Finally, with humans about to leave to explore the moon an uprising against further exploration occurs. More than a little corny, but so what? It is a good story, an attempt to show the world a better alternative to warfare and violence, and I like it. So there.
John Cabal: If we don't end war, war will end us.
I Claudius (1976)
The BBC production of the Roman novels of Robert Graves. The biography of the bumbling Roman emperor Claudius. His marginal early life, followed by his chance rise to imperial power, his relationships with the powerful, and with those near to him. All told with consummate acting, marvellous dialogue and a cold drama which in certain scenes brings home the brutality of autocratic power. A thirteen part series, and produced with the typical BBC low budget sets.
Claudius: Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.
The Man Who Never Was (1956)
The true (though dramatised) story of operation Mincemeat, a WWII intelligence exercise in which a corpse, costumed as a British officer carrying misleading top secret documents, was released into the ocean off the coast of Spain in an attempt to mislead the German military. I first saw this movie long ago, it is a haunting tale, well told.
Adm. Cross: [Montagu has just informed him of the secret plan to use a freshly dead body as if it were a live person to fool the Nazis] It's the most outrageous, disgusting, preposterous, not to say barbaric idea I've ever heard, but work out full details and get back to me in the morning!
Barry Lyndon (1975)
A fourth Kubrick, but not one of the big three. A long tale, and one which seems initially boring, almost. However, on closer examination it is easy to see that this movie tells well of a complex and ever changing life, set against a rich background. Based (closely) on the novel of the same name by William Makepeace Thackeray, in which an 18th century card shark and rogue, makes his way, with various fluctuations of fortune, over several decades, through the social hierarchy of western Europe.
Narrator: It would require a great philosopher and historian to explain the causes of the famous Seven Years' War in which Europe was engaged...
Sin City (2005)
One from the Willis oeuvre. Strangely compelling. Based upon Frank Miller’s graphic novel. It’s hard to describe the story: several different episodes of different people, somewhat related, caught up in the violence of a dark city.
John Hartigan: You're just a horny ex-con watching an exotic dancer.
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly (1966)
The tale of three cowboys (the good, the bad, and the ugly—though none are that good), who scheme against each other to collect $200k of stolen Confederate gold. Dirty, dusty and unpleasant. One of the ‘spaghetti western’ (‘westerns’ made in Europe) creations of Sergio Leone. This is the third in his ‘Dollars’ trilogy.
Clint Eastwood plays his iconic cool character, ably co-starred with Eli Wallich and Lee Van Cleef. (Is anyone more of a natural bad guy than Eli Wallach?). A film without moral edification, except perhaps for:
Tuco: “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
A murder of a prominent white man in a red neck, southern US town—a situation mixed with money, ignorance and prejudice, and in walks Sidney Poitier, who plays a highly competent northern detective. Poitier solves the murder, and along the way reveals the prejudice and hypocrisy lurking behind the clean image of the town, and southern society as a whole. He even manages to shift the perceptions of some of the leading citizens of the town. An outstanding performance from an outstanding actor, ably supported by his fellow actors. A standout movie from the 60s.
Virgil Tibbs: They call me MISTER Tibbs!
Henry V (1989)
Kenneth Branagh starred in, wrote and directed this excellent adaptation of Shakespeare’s great play. Hard, gritty, and even humorous in parts. Very different interpretation from that of Sir Laurence.
King Henry V: Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; or close the wall up with our English dead!
Casino Royale (1966)
David Niven stars as the ‘James Bond’ figure in this silly movie, yet, silly as it is, I have always enjoyed. Dated and corny, and amusing. This movie is a spoof of the James Bond spy genre where Niven (Bond) is recalled from retirement, in order to track down the mastermind who is assassinating the secret agents of the great powers. However, the story is secondary to how the movie is told. It is a series of silly romps, involving lush, 60s, psychedelic sets, lots of pretty girls, with guest appearances by some big name stars, and lots of overacting. Fun. Enjoy.
Sir James: I remember your chap Lenin very well. First class organizer. Second class mind.
Fight Club (1999)
A mindless explosion of nihilistic violence. Two men (or one?) act out their feelings of alienation (as witnessed by an Ikea catalogue) in street fights. Two men face off, and beat each other brutally, so that they can feel something. This scenario escalates, until the dramatic revelation and conclusion. Complex, multi-level story, well told and ably acted.
Tyler Durden: Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.
Rome (the TV series) (2005)
The collapse of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Empire, as told through the eyes of the main players of the time—and two Roman legionnaires, who become involved in the affairs of the great. A mix of intrigue, tragedy loss and conflict played against the stage of the ancient world, from Britain to Egypt. The series is amazingly close to the historical record, more than that, it brings the characters to life, displaying their persona for all to see. The fate of empires and civilisations was in the balance, the course of western history, in a few decades, was shaped for the next two thousand years. Of note was the performance by James Purefoy, who plays the dissolute Mark Antony. This excellent actor brought the faults and excesses, of the great Marcus Antonius to life.
Gaius Julius Caesar: [evaluating his chances against general Pompey's more numerous legions] Our men must win or die. Pompey's men have... other options.
L.A. Confidential (1997)
What can one say? An anti-movie of that most prosaic of times, the 50s—a time of uniform happiness, an honest establishment, apple pie, and prosperity—or was it? A stand out performance by Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacy, and of course, James Cromwell, and an excellent supporting cast. The story is complex, with several levels, but it revolves around a robbery at a diner, which went bad, and the investigation of which reveals ever deeper levels of corruption and hypocrisy. More than a few unexpected turns of events. We won’t see a movie like this any time soon.
Captain Dudley Smith: I admire you as a policeman—particularly your adherence to violence as a necessary adjunct to the job.
Blade Runner (1982)
Voted the greatest movie of the 20th century by US scientists (I forget the exact reference), and, it is a great movie. It is also one of those rare cases where the movie is better than the written story it is based upon. In this case, Phillip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”.
The story, set in the early 21st century, tells of a jaded ex-Bladerunner—a cop who hunts and kills replicants (sophisticated humanoid androids), who illegally flee to the Earth. Recalled to duty Deckard hunts such a group of replicants, and along the way is forced to question his job, his loyalties, and himself, achieving a renewal and redefinition of humanity. Set in a grim, gritty, and dirty Los Angeles of the future. Three decades old, the special effects and imagery hold up very well.
A masterpiece by Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford. The movie is available in various cuts. Which is best? (Personally, I prefer the original theatrical release. This version has Harrison Ford’s voice over narration. His tired and disinterested reading of the script compliments and enhances the story.)
Holden: Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about... your mother.
Leon: My mother?
Leon: Let me tell you about my mother.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
An instant classic. An imaginative comedic spoof, and re-imaging of the zombie movie. Great stuff. Set in contemporary London a group of loser friends deal with most of their fellow citizens turning into zombies. Excellent story, many in-house references to the zombie genre classics, self-referential humour, and great acting/actors. Starring Simon Pegg, not as appreciated as he should be.
Yvonne: Shaun! How are you doing?
Bogart and Bergman, Claude Reins, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre! With a cast like that, a great movie is almost a certainty.
In the dark first days of WWII, refugees flee to and wait in Casablanca, in the hope of obtaining a visa to the USA (notice no one tried to reach Australia). Against this murky background an expat American (Bogart/Rick) owns and manages a bar/restaurant/casino where all forms of (sophisticated) skulduggery ensue. Into this setting walks a French resistance hero, seeking an exit visa, and his wife, who earlier had an affair with Rick in Paris (where else!). Between the Germans, the French, and various nefarious characters, a resolution is reached.
In black and white, slow by modern standards, but captivating for those who chose to make the effort.
Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
Captain Renault: [aloud] Everybody out at once!
12 Angry Men (1957)
An interesting movie. Most of the ‘action’, as such, takes place in a single room. Yet, the life of a man hangs in the balance. The movie tells the story of a jury, sitting in deliberation of a man accused of murder, and the slow, continual, methodical, and rational weakening of the prosecutions seemingly strong case. The accused is found to be not guilty. Henry Fonda.
Juror #8: Nobody has to prove otherwise. The burden of proof is on the prosecution. The defendant doesn't even have to open his mouth. That's in the Constitution.
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Bogart made a slew of movies. Each shared in his characteristic dead pan, tough guy persona—arguably Boggie had only one acting style, however, what he did he did well. The Falcon is a detective story, about a bird, bad men, and a bad woman, all scheming and fighting for money and success: dark and human. The story is complex, well told, with excellent dialogue. The supporting actors, to say the least, are superb. Directed by the always entertaining John Huston.
Spade: When a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you're supposed to do something about it.
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Based upon the fertile imaginings of Robert E. Howard comes a mighty warrior, who battles and kills his way to victory against evil doers (or at least those who get in his way). Schwarzenegger’s breakout performance. Lots of action, violence, and buckling of the swash. Excellent support by James Earl Jones and others. Great performance by Arnie. Did I say that already?
Thulsa Doom: Now they will know why they are afraid of the dark. Now they learn why they fear the night.
A great city of the future, gleaming with science and wealth, built by the working class, who are condemned to a lifetime of hard, thankless servitude in the depths of that same city. In answer to this injustice revolution is plotted, by means of an idealistic son, a charismatic female preacher, a ‘bad’ female naughty robot, and some great (for the time, obviously) sets and special effects, and you have got yourself a seriously compelling, black and white, silent movie masterpiece. Auteured by Fritz Lang, an early master of the craft.
Freder: It was their hands that built this city of ours, Father. But where do the hands belong in your scheme?
Joh Frederson: In their proper place, the depths.
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
A true classic, and one which has entertained me my entire life. Ray Harryhusens’s re-telling of the story of the Greek hero Jason, and his quest for the Golden Fleece. Animation via real life stop motion. Incredible fight scenes with the monstrous skeletons!
Zeus: If I had to punish *every* blasphemy, I would have *no followers*!
The Life of Brian (1979)
Indeed, indeed. What a great movie, from the wildly inventive Monty Python Team. Incredibly funny, marvellously witty, and shot through with phrases guaranteed to amuse classicists. The story of a boy from Judea, who hated the Romans, and wanted to do something about it. His life though, just happened to mirror that of another figure from the same time and place.
Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
Attendee: Brought peace?
Reg: Oh, peace - shut up!
Haha. Why include this? The story of two plastic surgeons whose lives are a mix of success, failure, crime, and sex. Well acted, a piece of fluff, but where would we be without fluff. Humorously funny.
Dr Christian Troy: If I am going to do this one woman thing, ... I can’t do it with just one woman.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
A very funny movie, which, considering its cast and origins, is not at all surprising. A must see—for anyone with any sense of whimsy. A frolic through medieval England, about, ummm, it is hard to say what it is about. King Arthur and his knights on a mission in search of the grail? The knights who say ...
Large Man with Dead Body: Who's that then?
The Dead Collector: I dunno, must be a king.
Large Man with Dead Body: Why?
The Dead Collector: He hasn't got shit all over him.
The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
One of the few remakes better than the original. Lenard Nemoy plays a new agey shrink dealing with reports and claims that people are changing, gaining new and different characters! The reality of the story is that humans are indeed gaining new and different characters—because aliens are replacing them with duplicates! What are we going to do about it? Great actors/acting. Very entertaining. Great ending.
Jack Bellicec: Here I am, you pod bastards! Hey, pods! Come and get me you scum!
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
“Klaatu barada nikto!“
A black and white masterpiece. A game changing movie. A super powerful alien visits the Earth (Washington, natch), to tell humanity that we must behave, all else! The alien walks and lives amongst us humans for a time, which provides scope for humorous insights into the human condition. Avoid the K. Reeves remake at all costs.
Klaatu: I'm worried about Gort. I'm afraid of what he might do if anything should happen to me.
Helen: Gort? But he's a robot. Without you, what could he do?
Klaatu: There's no limit to what he could do. He could destroy the Earth.
This Island Earth (1955)
Aliens invade the Earth! Wow, what a story. Top human scientists are recruited to carry out research into energy production, however, they are in fact working for aliens, not humans (or lawyers). They discover this truth, most are killed, but the male lead and his girlfriend are conveyed to the alien planet, where they learn that the first batch of aliens are fighting a war for survival and need new power generation techniques. With a few harrowing near escapes our protagonist (and his gf) manage to return to the Earth. It is a great story, entertaining sets, acting, and even deep in parts. A classic now and forever.
Joe Wilson: I know everybody's seeing flying saucers and screwy lights up in the sky. Well, you can put me in the booby hatch too, because, so help me, I saw this ship turn a bright green up there.
“JON-A-THAN JON-A-THAN JON-A-THAN!”
A cry well known to true fans of SF. A movie of the 70s, which could only have been made in the 70s. A handful of vast corporations rule the world, while the masses are entertained by “Rollerball”, a game fought to the death (sometimes), on motorbikes, on a track. This blood and gore keeps the obedient masses entertained. Not necessarily an original idea, however, the goal of the Rollerball is not merely to thrill, but to demonstrate that the system always wins, i.e. keep your mouth shut and obey. The fault with this corporate mantra is that one man refuses to be defeated: Jonathon E. In a powerful conclusion, against all corporate interests, Jonathon wins his final match. Proving ... ?
Bartholomew: The game was created to demonstrate the futility of individual effort.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Hordes of dead walking the Earth trying to eat YOU ! Bodies, blood and bullets. What more could any true horror fan want? A group of people fleeing a zombie apocalypse hole up in a mall. They battle the zombies, and themselves, and a few other humans to survive, for a while. Several different versions of this movie exist. George A. Romero—the great auteur—a life devoted to scaring people. Great stuff. Watch for the nun zombie scene, classic.
3rd SWAT Cop in Projects Apt.: “Shoot it, man! Shoot it in the head!”
Some do not like this movie. I say to them—”You are so wrong!” Bruce Willis straps on a space shuttle (obviously not a real shuttle, this one can fly) and destroys an asteroid, just before it strikes the Earth, moments to spare—is there any other way? Totally ridiculous in all aspects.
In this movie Willis departs from his usual dead pan acting style to display, on a few occasions, some genuine emotion. A rollicking good adventure yarn, with even a few small surprises.
Harry Stamper: “Your backup plan. You gotta have some kind of backup plan, right?”
Truman: “No, we don't have a back up plan. This is it.”
The Right Stuff (1983)
A well made movie, telling an important story, in an engaging fashion. The story of the first steps into space through to the early 1960s, based upon the novel by Tom Wolfe of the same name. First told through the eyes of the man who broke the sound barrier, Chuck Yaeger. Then the story switches to the Mercury astronauts. Inspiring stuff.
Gordon Cooper: “You boys know what makes this bird go up? FUNDING makes this bird go up.”
Gus Grissom: “He's right. No bucks, no Buck Rogers.”
Carry on ... Up the Khyber (1968)
A silly movie, made with few pretensions, and perhaps not even that funny. Yet Sid James and his crew made this movie memorable, not memorable in a great way, but memorable as a entertainingly silly romp through English pop memory, way. One of a plethora of ‘Carry On ...’ movies, this movie is an account of the British Raj, and an insurrection led by a surly, ungrateful, native Indian ruler. I am not even sure that it is worth watching, I am not even sure that I am recommending that anyone watch, I am not even sure why this is here. Maybe nostalgia.
The Khasi of Kalabar: May the benevolence of the god Shivoo bring blessings on your house.
Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond: And on yours.
The Khasi of Kalabar: And may his wisdom bring success in all your undertakings.
Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond: And in yours.
The Khasi of Kalabar: And may his radiance light up your life.
Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond: And up yours.
The Eiger Santion (1975)
An Eastwood movie, this time he is a cynical cold war warrior, retired and teaching art appreciation, who is recalled—against his better judgement—to battle the commies, while climbing the Eiger mountain, and doing a few other things along the way! Cool. Some very great climbing scenes, some typical Eastwood moments, and a surprise ending. Very entertaining. Way to go Clint. (Watch for the scene which sets back gay rights by a decade.)
Dr. Jonathan Hemlock: You betrayed the both of us in Asia, and we lived, no thanks to you. Now you people have killed Henri in Zurich.
Miles Mellough: I didn't actually kill him, you know.
Dr. Jonathan Hemlock: Well I probably won't *actually* kill you.
Miles Mellough: That's very little comfort.
Dirty Harry (1971)
A tough, no holds barred cop, fighting crime, versus the corrupt, liberal dominated, pansy legal system, which protects the bad guys while denying the aggrieved, good citizens, justice. Clint Eastwood, in this the first of a series, tracks down a serial killer, brings said serial killer to justice (which is to say, blows him away—with a rocket—a rocket ! I said, a rocket !), and then resigns from the cop dept because of the hassle he is getting due to his alleged ‘brutality’.
Harry Callahan: I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
Army of Darkness (1992)
“Lost in Time,
Surrounded by Evil,
Low on Gas” --------------- With a tag line like that how can a movie be bad?
A horror, action, and comedy movie, starring that master of B horror, action, and comedy, Bruce Campbell. The story: a guy working in a S-mart franchise (think Walmart, think Kmart, you get the idea), is transported back in time to the dark ages. In his quest to return to his own time he unwittingly releases an army of the undead, but then manages, with science, to defeat the bad guys, redeem his honour, be the hero of the hour, and to win the girl. But he still returns home !
There are two earlier movies in the series, which are more or less prequels to this. Not bad, but this is by far the best.
Ash: [monologue] I had a wonderful girlfriend Linda. Together we drove to a small cabin in the mountains. It seems an archeologist had come to this remote place to translate and study his latest find: Necronomiconexmortis. The Book of the Dead. Bound in human flesh and inked in blood, this ancient Samarian text contained bizarre burial rights, funeral incantations, and demon resurrection passages, it was never meant for the world of the living. The book awoke something dark in the woods, something evil.
A film about an ancient Egyptian mummy, which comes to life, in a red neck southern retirement home, which in turn houses, as one of its inmates, the elderly Elvis Presley (he did not die—long story), played by the legendary Bruce Campbell. With this premise, what can go wrong? The mummy ‘lives’ by sucking the souls out of the elderly, ‘haunting’ the retirement home. Elvis, in one last stand, aided by another inmate, J.F.K. (he did not die—long story), destroys the evil mummy, thus saving his fellow retirees, and finds peace. Taking care of business.
Elvis: [to Bubba Ho-Tep] Come and get it, you undead sack of shit.
The British army suffers a major defeat in South Africa at the hands of the Zulus. A handful of troops then face the full force of the victorious Zulu army, but manage to emerge victorious, relying on training, discipline and leadership. A story of manly virtue and triumph. Based upon true events, which occurred in the year 1879. A standout performance by the cast.
Colour Sergeant Bourne: A prayer's as good as bayonet on a day like this.
The Great Escape (1963)
Another manly movie. A group of allied WW2 POWs resolve to escape from an escape proof internment camp. Loosely based on a true story. Courage, determination, struggle, planning, survival, comradeship—it is all here, along with a sizeable dollop of great acting by some great actors, and humour.
Hilts: How many you taking out?
Bartlett: Two hundred and fifty.
Hilts: Two hundred and fifty?
Hilts: You're crazy. You oughta be locked up. You, too. Two hundred and fifty guys just walkin' down the road, just like that?
Space Cowboys (2000)
Yes, indeed. Another Clint Eastwood movie. This time the ‘Pale Rider’ saddles up for space. The story? The story goes that an errant Russian comsat is about to crash into the Earth, and that NASA has to do something about it, quickly. Eastwood forces NASA to launch himself and his old crew (from the dawn of the space age) into space along with a gaggle of young guys. Needless to say, intrigue, action, betrayal, and adventure await. Not overly original, but a tale told very well, with a few hints of poignancy along the way. The inclusion of several other well known, ageing character actors, rounds out the mix.
Sara Holland: I have never met a kid who didn't dream of being an astronaut when he grew up.
Col. William 'Hawk' Hawkins: Did you ever meet a kid who didn't grow up?
Apollo 13 (1995)
The Greatest Story Ever Told—in some ways greater than Apollo 11. Danger, struggle, failure and success, its all there, and all true. A story of heroism, and the greatest attribute of true heroism, just doing one’s job. Thousands of people across the world worked together, giving what they could to return three astronauts in a stricken spacecraft to the Earth.
This is an excellent telling of this story, well crafted by Ron Howard, and well acted by Tom Hanks and his co-stars.
Jim Lovell: “Houston, we have a problem.”
The Man who would be King (1975)
Two cinema legends: Sean Connery and Michael Caine together in this superbly crafted masterpiece. An interpretation of Rudyard Kipling’s story of two English adventurers who set out to create their own kingdom in the remote northern regions of India. Closely follows the original. A story well told, entertaining, humorous in parts, surprising twists, excellent dialogue, with a poignant end. The two men struggle against the elements, human perversity, and their own faults to achieve their goal.
Daniel Dravot: Peachy, I'm heartily ashamed for gettin' you killed instead of going home rich like you deserved to, on account of me bein' so bleedin' high and bloody mighty. Can you forgive me?
Peachy Carnehan: That I can and that I do, Danny, free and full and without let or hindrance.
Daniel Dravot: Everything's all right then.
The Shootist (1976)
I have watched many a John Wayne movie over the course of my life, it is almost impossible not to do so, however, I have not felt a need to re-watch many (any) of them, except for this, his last and his best. In a semi-biographical manner Wayne plays an ageing gun-slinger (who only kills bad people, he is a good gun-slinger), dying of cancer. Rather than go out slowly and in pain, he decides to invite his remaining enemies to one final shoot out, and die with a gun in his hand. The story unfolds well, with a poignant message at the end. If you watch one Wayne movie, watch this one, it is the one worth the time.
John Bernard Books: “I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a-hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”
Escape from New York (1981)
“I thought you were dead”—famous line aimed at ‘Snake’ Plissken. A low budget John Carpenter masterpiece. Carpenter is the guy who can make a great movie with very little, and even when he makes a bad movie, it is good. Here we have a future dystopia where the ‘bad’ people are exiled to New York city, which is now a maximum security prison. The mission? The president (of the usa) has been kidnapped by revolutionaries, and is being held hostage inside NYC prison. Snake is sent in to retrieve him. Watch it for the attitude and the dialogue, not the moral allegory.
Brain: “Swear to God Snake, I thought you were dead... ”
The Thing (1982)
Classic. Another of John Carpenter’s great stories. An (evil) alien creature is found buried in the Antarctic. It comes back to life (natch), and spends most of the movie horrifically attempting to kill (with a sizeable measure of success) the men who are responsible (unintentionally) for its resurrection (ungrateful): lots of attitude, lots of action, blood and gore and violence, and a flame thrower—a low budget horror and adventure fest. The end of the movie is perhaps the strongest I have ever seen. I won’t tell you what it is, you will have to go and see it for yourself.
Starring Kurt Russell and based on a 1938 novella by the science fiction author Joseph Campbell. There was an earlier 1951 movie, far inferior in quality.
Clark: “I dunno what the hell's in there, but it's weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”
Vampires (1998) Also known as “John Carpenter’s Vampires”
A kick ass bad guy movie, again from the creative mind of J. Carpenter. A team of Catholic Church based vampire hunters, who drink and whore in their off hours, run into the ‘master’ vampire. Taking this vamp out proves to be a chore, along the way lots of bodies and action, all skilfully managed. Great movie. Carpenter yay ! Starring James Wood.
Valek: For 600 years I have fed on your kind at will.
The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972)
A young ozi boy travels to England to claim his inheritance, but that has almost nothing to do with the movie. It is a stream of idiotic comedy from start to finish, making fun of the English, and Australians. Cliches and potty humour without limit. Dumb? Silly? Yes, but still a laugh, now partly due to nostalgia.
Barry McKenzie: Don't come the raw prawn with me!
Die Hard (1988)
Total crap? Well, maybe, but certainly entertaining. Bruce Willis, in what has become a franchise, stars as John McClaine, a tough, but caring cop, with a sense of humour, who gets himself into the wrong place at the wrong time, frequently. A bunch of bad guys take over a building, Willis takes it back. End of story. Bang!
John McClane: Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.
Altered States (1980)
William Hurt and Ken Russell plays games with mind altering experiences, in the name of science. How cool is that! A little freaky in parts, a little creepy, but an interesting twist on the eternal and age old question of the nature of humanity, and so forth. Hurt’s character is a medical scientist interested in different states of consciousness. With the assistance of an isolation tank, drugs, and ‘primitives’, he explores this side of his/our nature: religious delusions and some form of evolutionary reversion. It sounds tired, but is not. Hurt’s best work.
Eddie Jessup: You saved me. You redeemed me from the pit. I was in it, Emily. I was *in* that ultimate moment of terror that is the beginning of life. It is nothing. Simple, hideous nothing. The final truth of all things is that there is no final Truth. Truth is what's transitory. It's human life that is real. I don't want to frighten you, Emily, but what I'm trying to tell you is that moment of terror is a real and living horror, living and growing within me now, and the only thing that keeps it from devouring me is you.
Enter the Dragon (1973) Bruce Lee—a life and legend.
Bruce Lee, an underground martial arts tournament, drugs, the mafia, prostitutes, revenge, throw in some (a lot) of Kung Fu—what more could anyone ask for? Back in the day, Bruce Lee was cool, an iconic figure of pop culture. Some great entertainment. Sadly, died before his time.
Shaolin Abbott: I see your talents have gone beyond the mere physical level. Your skills are now at the point of spiritual insight. I have several questions. What is the highest technique you hope to achieve ?
Lee: To have no technique.
Shaolin Abbott: Very good. What are your thoughts when facing an opponent ?
Lee: There is no opponent.
Shaolin Abbott: And why is that ?
Lee: Because the word "I" does not exist.
“Long Live the New Flesh!” The new media of video tape (80s, it was the 80s) reaches out to engulf the world, and everyone in the world, dragging into itself those so unwise as to look into the spooky, supernatural world of videodrome. James Wood (a much under appreciated actor) stars in another weird movie.
“Long live the new Flesh!”
North by Northwest (1959)
An action spy chase by that master of the macbre Alfred Hitchock. A hapless Cary Grant, mistaken for a spy by everyone, is pursued across the US of A. The story overall, is just a little weak, and perhaps even a little silly, but the story is so interestingly told, and the photography so impressive, not to mention the high quality of the acting, that whatever defects there are in the actual story can be easily overlooked. Perhaps the best Hitchcock movie.
Phillip Vandamm: That wasn't very sporting, using real bullets.
The Dawn Patrol (1938)
David Niven and Errol Flynn create the ‘fighter pilot’ sub-genre of war movies in this masterpiece. The story of a British fighter squadron in WWI. Fighting the Germans in poorly maintained aircraft, with half trained new pilots, and the everyday problems of warfare. The movie seems cliched, but that is because it created the cliche. Stirring stuff.
Maj. Brand: You know what this place is? It's a slaughterhouse, and I'm the butcher!
High Noon (1952)
Gary Cooper shows himself to be the man. A retired sheriff turns back to battle a group of gun slingers out for revenge, and when he does so, his deputies, the town folk he helped, and even his wife, turn against him and refuse him aid—each, of course, with a good reason. Nevertheless, he stays the course, defeats the four bad guys, and then throws his badge down and walks away. Dam straight.
Throw into this mix a Mexican hooker, a little anti-hero talk, and you have yourself the makings of a fine movie. A man doing what a man has to do. The difficult course, not the easy. Interestingly enough, the anti-hero aspects of this movie were controversial at this time (maybe even now?). John Wayne, for example, called this movie ‘unamerican’.
Will: “I've got to, that's the whole thing.”
The Fifth Element (1997)
A masterpiece of SF imagery. Bruce Willis plays a retired war hero, who is called back to active duty to save the planet from the bad guy, and his super evil space overlord master. Silly? Maybe, but lots of dry and sometimes subtle humour, some excellent supporting roles, and there you have it. A well paced and skilfully written movie.
Zorg: “I don't like warriors. Too narrow-minded, no subtlety. And worse, they fight for hopeless causes. Honor? Huh! Honor's killed millions of people, it hasn't saved a single one.”
12 Monkeys (1995)
Terry Gillam can make a movie, however, I am not really sure just what this movie is trying to say, yet, it is a bit of dark fun. Bruce Willis plays his usual character role. The inclusion of Brad Pitt was not a good idea. If nothing else it took the focus away from Bruce, who is the protagonist. Perhaps if Pitt had less screen time, but I am sure that his contract forbids this contingency.
The story: the dystopic future where 99% of humanity is dead, due to a plague. A group of eccentric scientists send a ‘volunteer’ back in time to search for a cure. Mayhem, clever use of time travel, and a few twists ensue. A Terry Gilliam winner.
James Cole: Look at them. They're just asking for it. Maybe the human race deserves to be wiped out.
Fawlty Towers (1975 & 1979)
The comedy to end all comedies. The story of a high-strung, hapless, status chasing man, John Cleese/Basil Fawlty, hotel manager, burdened with a nagging wife (hehe), ‘assisted’ in the running of his hotel, by a even more hapless Spaniard with the name of ‘Man-u-el’ (from Barcelona). John Cleese, in perhaps his greatest role. Only twelve episodes were made, but each is a carefully constructed masterpiece, each reflects one aspect of life, and turns it into a joke, both funny and sad. The theme of each episode is that Basil attempts to better himself/the hotel in some manner, and then the plan unravels, creating an ever cascading disaster.
Basil Fawlty: Right, well, I’ll go and have a lie down then. No, I won’t; I’ll go and hit some guests.
End of Days (1999)
Arnie battles the devil—and wins (of course!). A suicidally depressed New York rent a cop discovers that his client is the devil—in town for a few days to prepare for the millennium and a “change in management”! Lots of action, good dialog, and a great cast (specially Kevin Pollack as Arnie’s sidekick, and straight man). Very entertaining.
Father Kovak: He was doing God's work.
Jericho Cane: So God ordered a hit on an investment banker?
One Flew Over the Cookoos Nest (1975)
One of the few Jack Nicholson movies worth watching. In an attempt to avoid incarceration a working class rebel gets himself caught up in the psychiatric system. He quickly discovers that the true nutcases are the staff, while his fellow headcases are interesting, but troubled human beings. Not a happy ending. One man v. the system. Who wins?
McMurphy: I must be crazy to be in a loony bin like this.
The Abyss (1989)
A magnificent movie. Several underwater movies came out at this time, but the Abyss is far and away the best. There are several different cuts, with different endings (rather sloppy to have different endings—unprofessional somehow).
A team of underwater drillers in a fully kitted out underwater habitat are requested to recover a sunken USofA nuclear weaponed submarine, which experienced an accident. So far so good. Along the way they discover an intelligent species, which lives in the far depths of the sea, a psycho SEAL team, and lots of action, with some degree of poignancy. A long movie, some great scenes, one of James Cameron’s masterpieces.
Lt. Coffey: Everybody just stay calm. The situation is under control.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
In a splendid career spanning more than a few decades Peter O’Toole has made some good and some great movies, here is his finest. The dramatised story of T.E. Lawrence: a scholar and archaeologist, who defeated the Ottoman empire in the Middle East. The movie is noted for its photography, the engaging and literate story, and numerous memorable scenes. A sweeping epic: struggle, conflict and battle, in the sand.
Sherif Ali: I do not understand this. Your father's name is Chapman...
T.E. Lawrence: Ali, he didn't marry my mother.
Sherif Ali: I see.
T.E. Lawrence: I'm sorry.
Sherif Ali: It seems to me that you are free to choose your own name, then.
An ancient alien device is found in the sands of Egypt. It is a gadget that allows interstellar travel via stepping through a gateway between worlds. A group of military explorers step through this gate onto a desert world where they battle an evil alien (is there any other kind?), egomaniacally oppressing a primitive people.
Slow in parts, but the acting, sets, and script is good. Good enough to raise it a step or two above the host of B grade alien themed movies. Starring the redoubtable Kurt Russell. The movie led to a long running (still running in 2010) TV franchise.
Colonel Jonathan "Jack" O'Neil: Give my regards to King Tut, asshole.
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
A drifter vandalises parking meters, is imprisoned, is harshly treated for his trouble, but stays his own man. He resists all attempts by the system to break his spirit, and triumphs. A true anti-establishment movie. Made watchable by Paul Newman, and a great production.
Luke: Wish you'd stop bein' so good to me, cap'n.
Arnie, a South American jungle, a posse of expendable side-kicks, and a bat-shit bad-ass alien hunter/killer monster—CAN IT GET ANY BETTER ? The movie falls into three parts. First, Arnie and his team rescue some sort of ‘secret’ espionage team from the bad guys. Second, Arnie and his team are hunted by an unknown as they attempt to escape homewards. Third, the big bad-ass part of the movie, Arnie and the alien ‘Predator’—big bad aliens, who live to hunt—face off in a death match in the jungle. Lacking more than a few social graces and bereft of conventionally redeeming features, it is a great story, a fight to the end, and perhaps that most manly of virtues: never give up, never surrender!
Any number of sequels and so forth, mostly good, but always start with the original.
Dutch: (Arnie) You still don't understand, Dillon, do you? Whatever it is out there, it killed Hopper, and now it wants us.
A classic. The story of a hacker scanned and entrapped in a virtual world where he has to battle evil—and save the girl. A masterpiece of digital imagery of its time, and not an entirely pointless story. Some do not like this movie, but I see it has having many redeeming features. Worth a look.
Master Control Program: You're getting brutal, Sark. Brutal and needlessly sadistic.
Sark: Thank you, Master Control.
Galaxy Quest (1999)
One of the funniest of SF movies. A movie that humorously ridicules Star Trek, and tells an amusing story in doing so. A hapless actor, living off his past half glory as the Captain of a B science fiction series, is mistaken for the real thing by a group of technically advanced, but socially inept aliens. He is ‘beamed up’ to their ship and asked to deal with another alien species, this one far less friendly. How he does so is truly good, funny, entertaining, and so forth. Worth watching a few times, specially if life seems to be getting you down.
Jason Nesmith: Never give up... and never surrender.
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
Much underrated, and one of M. Crichton’s few good creations. The hard SF, ‘scientific’ story of a group of scientists battling to prevent an outbreak of an alien virus brought to Earth by a military satellite. A slow paced movie, a certain amount of social commentary, one or two anti-establishment/military comments. Good stuff.
Dr. Jeremy Stone: Stick to established procedures.
Dr. Ruth Leavitt: Establishment gonna fall down and go boom.
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Seven men ride in, protect the good folk, and kill the bad guys—end of story. And a story told many times, in many different ways, through most of human existence, no doubt, however, here it is carried to a higher level. Yul Bryner does his characteristic thing (capturing the American self-image far better than John Wayne ever did, even though Bryner was born in Russia), as the totally cool leader of the group. Excellent supporting cast (stars all), plus a great script.
Vin: We deal in lead friend.
The Ten Commandments (1956)
God, Moses, Pharaoh—the entire gang. And, needless to say, with Cecil B. DeMill at the helm, wonderfully magnificent sets. The story of a lost Jewish baby, adopted into the family of the King of Egypt, who rediscovers his roots, and then leads his people to freedom. What a story! Great cast, great acting, and a great script.
Sethi: Let the name of Moses be stricken from every book and tablet, stricken from all pylons and obelisks, stricken from every monument of Egypt. Let the name of Moses be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men for all time.
Forbidden Planet (1956)
One of the greatest SF movies of all time. I first saw this movie when I was a young lad, and it made me what I am today. An Earth space craft travels to a distant planet in order to discover the fate of a long lost colony mission. What the intrepid crew and captain find is that the sole survivor of the expedition made a great discovery, a discovery which leads to terror, death, and dismemberment. Lots of great SF concepts here, which found there way into the SF mainstream. And, of course, Robbie the Robot ! Definitely recommended.
Dr. Edward Morbius: Yes, a single machine, a cube 20 miles on each side.
Flying High (1980)
The comedy to end all comedies. A movie almost impossible to explain. It is a very funny movie, a spoof of the airline disaster genre. It plays games with all the cliches of film making. Starring lots of famous actors. Plot? An ex, loser pilot takes charge of a passenger plane after the crew fall sick.
Jack Kirkpatrick: Shanna, they bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into. I say, let 'em crash.
Bad Boy Bubby (1994)
Do I like this movie? Not really. It is really depressing, and yet, if we look all the way through, it is redemptive, and indicative of the basic nobility of the human ‘soul’ (speaking metaphorically of course). A man deceived into believing the world is a dystopic nightmare, escapes his incestuous mother and heads out into the world to find his own way. He slowly gains knowledge of the world (after a measure of death and mayhem), and finally marries and lives happily ever after. The cat scene is sad.
Bubby: And if the poison doens't get you... God will.
American Beauty (1999)
A surprising movie. It tells the story of a man, trapped in the usual middle-class, married, paper shuffling job, hell (secular, metaphoric), who gains one chance for freedom, but is then cut down just as he attains that freedom. The flip side to ‘Fight Club’.
Lester Burnham: [narrating] Both my wife and daughter think I'm this gigantic loser and they're right, I have lost something. I'm not exactly sure what it is but I know I didn't always feel this... sedated. But you know what? It's never too late to get it back.
Field of Dreams (1989)
‘Another’ base ball themed Kevin Costner movie. This one touched with pathos, epiphany and redemption. An unexpected story with an entirely unexpected ending. A mid-western corn farmer hears voices, voices which tell him to trample his corn field and turn it into a baseball field. He does so, and unexpected things happen, a journey of self-discovery. Very good. Very touching. Very sweet.
Ray Kinsella: It's okay, honey. I... I was just talking to the cornfield.
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
A classic, which, according to legend, saved many an independent cinema. Words fail to accurately describe this frolic of a movie. Aliens with a ‘slightly’ skewed sexuality ‘hang out’ on the Earth, sing, dance and have fun? Does that describe this movie? Tim Curry at his finest.
Frank: [singing] I'm just a sweet transvestite, from Transsexual Transylvania.
One man against an Empire! Or something like that. Based on the novel by the left wing author Howard Fast. A long and rollicking Kubrick story. The slave Spartacaus leads a slave army against the powerful Roman Republic, which is mired in corruption and intrigue! Lots of battles, some good acting, some great actors. All lots of fun.
Marcus Licinius Crassus: The enemies of the state are known, arrests are being made, the prisons begin to fill.
Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
In 19th century US of A, Jeremiah leaves the ‘low lands’, ascends into the mountains of the US to live a new life. He slowly learns how to live and thrive in these wilds. He also learns love and loss, tragedy and joy. He becomes a legend. A manly movie, short on dialogue.
Jeremiah Johnson: Just where is it I could find bear, beaver, and other critters worth cash money when skinned?
Robidoux: Ride due west as the sun sets. Turn left at the Rocky Mountains.
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
John Carpenter’s earlier work. A group of deranged revolutionaries assault a police station. What is it all about? I don’t really know, but it sure is kick ass. Watch it when feeling disconnected with the world—it will help.
Wells: In the meantime, I got this plan. It's called "Save Ass". And the way it works is this - I slip outta one of these windows and I run like a bastard!
The Lion in Winter (1968)
An excellent movie—dark and bloody, betrayal and intrigue. It is the year 1183 CE, and one day in the life of the King of England (ruler of half of western Europe), Henry II, as he squabbles with his wife, his three sons, and the young king of France, over power and his succession. A must see movie. Ably acted by some of the greats: Peter O’toole, Katherine Hepburn plus a host of (what were then) upcoming actors.
Henry II: We're off to Rome to see the Pope.
Princess Alais: He's excommunicated you again?
Henry II: No, he's going to set me free.
Seven Samurai (1954)
A poor village of peasants hires seven samurai for protection against bandits. A story of bravery: good guys against bad. The basis for that American classic “The Magnificent Seven”. Auteured by the film genius Akira Kurosawa.
Gisaku: What's the use of worrying about your beard when your head's about to be taken?
Matthew Broderick at his best. The story of a socially marginalised geek, beavering away on his computer, who then starts, and, after myriad adventures and even journeys of life, prevents nuclear armageddon. A movie of its time, at the dawn of the mass computer age, back in the good old days of the Cold War, when the military-industrial complex had something serious to spend our money on.
Joshua (the super computer): Wouldn't you prefer a nice game of chess?
David Lightman: [typing] Later. Let's play Global Thermonuclear War.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
A brave lawyer in a mid-western town, who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. A sea of ignorance and prejudice. Gregory Peck was a great actor, never more so than in this role.
Bob Ewell: What kinda man are you?
Terminator I (1984)
The movie which spawned a franchise and put the bite into IT. A robot (the terminator) and a freedom fighter, both from the future, travel back to 1984 LA in order to battle for the future. Will machines or humans inherit the world? Skilfully wrought drama, a fight to the bitter end, no holds barred. Arnie’s big breakthrough movie. See it. Watch it. Appreciate it.
Kyle Reese: Come with me if you want to live.
Yes Minister / Yes Prime Minister (1980-1987)
Yes, indeed. The surprisingly few episodes of this series made a noticeable splash during the 1980s. Many people, from many walks of life, quoted and referenced the show. For a few years it was part of the pop culture. The show spoofed the political process as displayed between a hapless British government minister, who eventually (“in the fullness of time”) metamorphosed into the Prime Minister of Great Britain, (but was still equally hapless), and his constant adversary, his Permanent Secretary, who ably strives to prevent change or government interference in the running of the country.
More than simply a spoof, it made trenchant comments about the political process, lambasting everyone involved. Yet, people still line up and do what the politicians say. Starring two excellent actors: Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne, both now, regrettably deceased.
Sir Humphrey Appleby “In the fullness of time, Minister.”
Buffy (1997-2003: 7 years on the small screen)
Umm, difficult to quantify. A seven year long tv series, based upon a mediocre movie, however, unlike the movie, the tv series had lots of wit, humour, and some serious drama, from time to time. Plus the lovely Sarah Michelle Gellar, and some great supporting actors. The story—the story of a young girl, a high school student, who discovers that she is in fact, a Vampire Slayer! Her fate, her destiny, is to fight and kill vampires, and, in doing so, protect humanity.
The joy of the show is the wit and humour shown by the characters, plus a depth of feeling and emotion, plus a consistently entertaining presentation.
As the series develops the monsters she battles, progress from simple vampires up to gods, and down (or up) to a bunch of geek, nerds. The show is the brain child of the wonderfully inventive Joss Whedon. If you have not seen it, you should. Enjoy the humour, wallow in the tragedy.
Buffy: "I'm the thing that monsters have nightmares about.”
Dr No (1962)
The first James Bond movie (and arguably the best) starring Sean Connery (unarguably the best Bond). Dispatched to Jamaica to learn of the disappearance of a MI6 agent. Sexy women, exotic scenery, intrigue, corruption, with a subtle humour, plus one of the coldest kills ever seen on film—this movie has it all. Just don’t take it too seriously.
James Bond: [to the bad guy, who just tried to kill Bond with six shots, just before Bond shoots and kills the bad guy] “You have had your six.”
Repo Man (1984)
A genuine SF cult classic. The story: a young loser, who stumbles into the repo business, meets a girl, a mad scientist, MiB, a wild ride, and radioactive aliens. Way to go. Must see TV.
Duke: The lights are growing dim Otto. I know a life of crime has led me to this sorry fate, and yet, I blame society. Society made me what I am.
Otto: That's bullshit. You're a white suburban punk just like me.
The Twilight Zone (Rod Serling) (1959-1964)
Ground breaking, revolutionary, brilliant, etc. A mind bending show, which still enthrals after half a century. Each episode (black and white, most <30mins), told the story of ordinary people dealing with extraordinary events. The stories were ingenious, well written, and skilfully directed. And each was different, its own story. The pace of creativity is amazing. The show became an exemplar, it inspired a generation of actors and writers
Narrator: There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
The Name of the Rose (1986)
A movie starring Sean Connery, in which someone else gets laid! Amazing. Anyway, this movie is based upon the novel by Umberto Eco (a scholar of semiotics), of the same name. Amazingly, the movie is comparable in quality to the novel, in that both are very good. The story revolves around a gifted scholar, in 14th century Dark Age western Europe, William of Baskerville, who visits a monastery in order to take part in a christian theology debate, however, during his stay a series of murders occur. Murders with both a mysterious (as in unknown) motive and executed with mysterious means. Against the wishes of the abbot and his superiors, William, using clues, facts, logic and reason (one cannot help but think of Sherlock Holmes) solves the mystery, and in doing so reveals a dark side (another) to xianity. Great dialogue, acting and script.
Remigio da Varagine: In the twelve years I have lived here, I have done nothing but stuff my belly, shag my wick, and squeeze the hungry peasants for tithes.
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1954)
Monsters from the deep, giant squids. A great novel by Jules Verne turned into an entertaining movie—action, adventure, and a giant squid! Throw in several top notch actors and what more could anyone ask for? Extremely entertaining.
Captain Nemo: I have done with society for reasons that seem good to me. Therefore, I do not obey its law.
***** ***** ***** *****
Watch all of these at least once, and you will be a better person. One who has gained a more accurate understanding of the nature of humanity, of human society, and your place in the world.
And remember kiddies, never download pirated movies. It will make you go blind, and promote terrorism.
copyright: creative commons. Free to use, but acknowledgement required.