Yesterday, I asked people if they could name my ten favourite movies of all time, and Michael Gerrity did it very quickly, and wins a meal cooked by my wife Dede. Anyone who has eaten chez Wilson will tell you what a fabulous prize this is. Here are stills from all the films. Scroll down to find out the names.
And my all-time all-TIME number one…
1 Some Like It Hot (1959) Billy Wilder
Two musicians are on the run after witnessing a Mafia slaying. They take refuge in a women-only orchestra playing at a hotel resort in Florida. Wonderful ensemble piece, with George Raft playing a Mafia boss in exactly the same way he played it in ‘serious’ movies about the mob. Marilyn Monroe and her problems got all the headlines, but the real story of this film was that it showed that Tony Curtis (a) could act and (b) could do comedy.
2 Bad Day At Black Rock (1955) John Sturges
Tense drama about a one-armed man, played by Spencer Tracy, searching for a lost Japanese friend in a small remote community. Remarkably liberal film made during the Cold War era which questioned American attitudes towards outsiders.
3 Double Indemnity (1944) Billy Wilder
Who would have thought you could make such a taut thriller about an insurance claim?? Terrific performances from Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck (pictured) and the brilliant Edward G Robinson. Directed by the same man who made Some Like It Hot fifteen years later. Two more different films it would be difficult to imagine.
4 The Third Man (1949) Carol Reed
I’m always amazed that so many people make Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane their number one movie of all time. It’s good, but not as good as this post-WW2 film noir starring Welles and Joseph Cotten which, at least for a while, made Vienna the spookiest place on the planet.
5 This Is Spinal Tap (1984) Rob Reiner
The story of a rock band’s embarrassing slide from heroes to zeroes whilst on tour in the US, Spinal Tap is usually referred to as a ‘spoof rockumentary’. It’s generally regarded as a classic comedy, which it most definitely is. However, after seeing it about 15 times on video, I then saw it at the cinema. On the big screen, it comes across as a very sad, poignant film about friendship.
6 Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives Of Others) (2006) Florian Henckel
ALMOST the only film in the list that was made this century. Pre-unification East Germany and the nightmare life of those who were spied upon by the Stasi, the Secret Police. Brilliant central performance from Ulrich Mühe, who in real life was under surveillance as an actor in East Germany, being spied on by his wife Jenny Gröllmann (although she denies this). An assured directorial debut by Henckel, who also wrote the screenplay. Mühe died aged 54 a year after the film was made.
7 Mujeres Al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios (Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown) (1988) Pedro Almodóvar
In fact, I love all of Almodóvar’s films more or less equally, but this one was the first I saw, so it’s here to represent the whole œuvre. If you’ve never seen an Almodóvar film, get someone to buy you one for Christmas.
8 Y Tu Mama También (2001) (And your mother, too) Alfonso Cuarón
This Mexican film is a road movie, a rites of passage movie and a movie about love, death and destruction of the environment. And it has a fabulously sweet sad scene of a beach soccer game. With a wonderful central performance from Maribel Verdú, this is also the film that introduced most of us to Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal.
Many thanks to Nicholas for putting me right about who plays Luisa.
9 Black Cat, White Cat (1998) Emir Kusturica
An exuberant tornado of a film about drug dealing (sort of) and set around a gypsy wedding on the banks of the River Danube. The cast are mainly amateurs and the film contains some of the most unforgettable scenes of high farce ever. Anyone who has seen it will know what I mean if I remind them of the scene where a man cleans himself with a duck. A friend said it felt like people were throwing cans of paint at you right from the start.
10 Steamboat Bill Junior (1928) Charles Reisner
The last and best of Buster Keaton’s feature length films, made classic by the hurricane sequence which culminates in the scene where the front of a house falls onto Keaton (illustrated here). Keaton’s film crew tried to dissuade him from doing this scene because it was so dangerous, and none of them were able to look as it took place. You can see the whole film here http://tinyurl.com/yaakljh or if you just want to see the house falling sequence: http://tinyurl.com/y8sr6tv