Welcome to what will hopefully be a newly weekly post that I am going to do where me and a friend lay out our 5 favourite films, or film related things. Joining me this week is my friend Alex to explore our favourite films to have ever won the big prize; the Best Picture award at the Oscars.
- Shuggie: On The Waterfront – I haven’t seen a huge amount of classic movies, but On The Waterfront was the one that I really liked. Marlon Brando’s performance as a dockworker whose brother is high up in organised crime is absolutely fantastic. His classic ‘could have been a contender’ speech is such a hugely powerful moment that the film really managed to stay with me. It may have been a long time since I have seen it, but On The Waterfront is a classic that is really worth checking out.
- Alex: Spotlight – Maybe a bit of bias for this one, since it came out so recently, but this year’s best picture winner is a truly brilliant look into the seedy underbelly of the Catholic church. Relatively unknown director Tom McCarthy tells the true story of a Bostonian newspaper’s shocking expose of the rampant peadophilia undertaken by some of the most trusted members of the local community: the priests. Mark Ruffalo is the standout here, playing the determined reporter who won’t let the story die, but there are no weak performances in the ensemble cast, and the story clips along at an exciting pace. A must watch for any fan of docudramas.
- Shuggie: Braveheart – I come from a Scottish family and am very proud of my roots, and so it’s not really a huge surprise that I was shown Braveheart at quite a young age. I absolutely loved it then, and have grown to appreciate it even more now. The battle sequences perfectly encapsulate the brutal and chaotic nature of warfare and Mel Gibson’s William Wallace brilliantly leads the film. This is one of the strongest historical epics around, and it makes you proud to be Scottish.
- Alex: American Beauty – Director Sam Mendes, now best known for successfully helming the Bond franchise for its two most recent outings, first came onto the scene with this controversial drama. Kevin Spacey shines as depressed advertising executive Lester Burnham, a 40-something year old man caught in the throes of a midlife crisis who becomes infatuated with his 16 year old daughter’s best friend. Spacey takes a very well written role, and propels it to meteoric heights, simultaneously establishing himself as one of truly great actors of the current generation. It is no surprise that this performance netted him best actor.
- Shuggie: Silence of the Lambs – This is an absolute masterpiece of the horror/thriller genre. Silence of the Lambs pits Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling in a mental struggle against Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter as she seeks his help in searching for another serial killer. Any scene where Hopkins’ Lecter is on film is just so watchable that he managed to elevate the character to an icon of cinema. It also swept the ‘big 5’ at the Oscars, something only 2 other films can claim to have done, but this is the one that stands out for me.
- Alex: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – It would be completely remiss of me not to include the greatest fantasy epic of all time on this list, especially since it paved the way for the current popularity of the genre (Game of Thrones anyone?). Arguably the best film in a fantastic trilogy, Return of the King has it all: fantastic performances, frenetic battle scenes, beautiful cinematography and, of course, Gollum. Is its obscene runtime off-putting to some? Yes. Is the army of the dead a bit of a Deus Ex Machina cop-out? Perhaps. Was Frodo and Sam’s relationship deeply homoerotic? Of course. Do I care about any of that? Not even slightly.
- Shuggie: Gladiator – Much like Braveheart this is a historical epic that I have a huge emotional connection to. I study ancient history at university and Gladiator is one of the best films that celebrate that time period. Russell Crowe, Joaquín Phoenix, Oliver Reed are all fantastic in the film, Crowe won the best actor Oscar whilst Phoenix was nominated for best supporting actor. The film has so many great quotable lines and fantastically choreographed fight scenes, not to mention some real emotional guy punches. It’s a film that succeeds on so many levels and I enjoy it every time I see it.
- Alex: Schindler’s List – I’m going to catch hell for saying this, but I think this is Spielberg’s best film, and possibly the greatest ever cinematic treatment of the holocaust. It may not be a cultural touchstone like Indiana Jones, E.T or Jaws, but with Schindler’s List, Spielberg told a horrific story perfectly. His use of black and white is ideal for highlighting the duality of the film, the depiction of Oskar Schindler as the sole ray of light within the darkness of a brutal and uncaring bureaucratic regime. Neeson is fine as Schindler, but the true stand-out is Ralph Fiennes as the psychopathic concentration camp commandant Amon Goeth. In this star-making role, Fiennes was dread personified, even to the point where actual holocaust survivors on the film set broke down in tears when they saw him in costume. Terrifying. Watch out for the sniper rifle scene, and the girl in the red dress.
- Shuggie: The Lord of the Rings: Return Of The King – It won’t surprise anyone who knows me that I’ve selected the Lord of the Rings film that finally won the Best Picture Oscar as my number 1. The Lord of the Rings is absolutely my favourite film series ever, not to mention book. So to see it so brilliantly brought to life was absolutely incredible. Following on from the first two films Return of the King does an incredible job with raising the spectacle level whilst also delivering many of the most emotional moments in the trilogy. Elijah Wood and Viggo Mortensen both deliver their absolute best performances from the three films and carry Return of the King to number one spot on this list with ease.
- Alex: The Departed – Full disclosure, Martin Scorsese is my favourite director of all time, so that may have coloured my decision a bit here. However, the Departed is unquestionably one of the finest mobster movies ever made, and certainly deserves a place somewhere on this list. The film pits Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio against each other as rival moles in the Boston PD and the Boston mob respectively. Both the leads play their parts perfectly, as does Jack Nicholson in his role as the ruthless boss of the gang that DiCaprio infiltrates. The plot twists and turns rapidly as the two men struggle to reveal each other, and as the bodies pile up, we are left wondering who is going to be left standing at the film’s end. Scorsese’s trademarks are all here: ultraviolence, excessive profanity, electric dialogue and, bizarrely: Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones (it’s in like four of his films, the guy must love the song). Better than the Godfather, and I don’t care how bold a claim that is. Watch this film.
Thank you for reading. If you liked this idea please let me know, as I said I am hoping to do a Top 5 every week if anyone has a suggestion then please let me know as it would be very much appreciated.