When I first started this blog in 2012, Top Tens were all the rage. Most days, it seemed to me as if there was a Top Ten of everything on the blog. This ranged from the top ten cute cats, to the top ten favourite film stars, through to the top ten favourite places to go in the world, and the top ten best snack foods. Top Ten mania had hit blogging, and could not be avoided.
Not long after I started to write posts about film and cinema, the ‘Top Tenners’ came knocking on my door. They sent me links to their own top tens, and asked to know my own preferences. Who were my favourite actors? My list of best directors? The questions went on and on. The barrage was relentless, for a while. Some blogging sites were even called ‘My Top Ten’, and other variations. These Top Ten addicts went into almost everything you can imagine, believe me.
But I resisted, I refused to play ball. There was no way that I could think of my personal top ten films. After all, I had seen so many, how could I choose? I offered them categories. I would suggest my top ten films by Japanese directors, or my top ten war films, and so on. But this did not satiate their desire for me to provide that list. Even when I said things like, “my tastes are constantly changing”, they refused to accept that I could not provide them with a ready-to-order selection.
Almost five years later, and I hardly ever see Top Tens anymore. Maybe they ran out of subjects to place in order, or perhaps they just stopped blogging once they had got all the answers. They should have waited for me though, as I have just decided that I WILL list my top ten favourite films after all. There are some thoughts accompanying this list though. I do not claim that these are actually the best ten films ever made, far from it. Nor do I claim that their subject matter will suit everyone, even the most ardent film fan. They are just the films that I remember fondly, and always enjoy seeing over again. I will also state from the outset that those people who do not like subtitles will be disappointed. You lot better not bother to read on, in that case. And everyone should also realise that these are personal favourites at the moment, so that does not preclude new films appearing, and knocking some of these from their spot.
So, here goes, in ascending order. Feel free to add your own top tens in the comments. Let’s keep the spirit of those Top Tenners alive, in 2017!
10) The Conformist (1970)
Bertolucci’s political drama has long been a powerful memory for me. Fascism in Italy, amazing sets, and the portrayal of a man prepared to do almost anything to move up in the world. Memorable performances from a talented cast, and everything feeling just right, at the hands of one of the best directors. The period is recreated impeccably too.
9) The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)
This unusual British film, written and directed by Peter Greenaway, can best be described as having a ‘cult following’. The amazing costumes, the wonderful musical score, and the unusual construction, all surround a baffling ‘whodunnit’ murder mystery, set in England in the 17th Century. I have heard it described as the ultimate case of style over substance. I don’t care. It is fabulous.
8) Great Expectations (1946)
David Lean had to feature here, and this film is undoubtedly one of his best. Beautifully filmed in luxurious black and white, this is a masterclass in how to bring the work of Charles Dickens to the big screen. Add to that a great cast at the peak of their form, stunning imagery, and a faithful depiction of Victorian England, and you are left with a work to treasure; one to watch over and over again, and never tire of.
7) Carmen (1983)
I have always loved to watch Spanish Flamenco. I admire the percussive dancing, the hand-clapping, and the wonderful guitar work. Carlos Saura took the story of Bizet’s opera, and transplanted it to a modern flamenco school. It was a stroke of genius, and works so well, with the flamenco rhythms replacing the operatic score. This is a very personal preference of course, and I will understand if you are baffled to find it in my list. But it is a great film, in so many ways.
6) Kagemusha (1980)
Akira Kurosawa is one of my all-time favourite film-makers. I could have probably populated this list with ten of his films, and left it at that. Kagemusha: The Shadow Warrior is a visual feast. This is how to make an historical epic. Set in the turbulent days of feudal Japan, this film left me reeling after watching it at the cinema. Sweeping vistas, a riot of colour, and the use of countless extras in the cast. This feels completely authentic at all times, and the plot, about a small-time crook who resembles a warlord, is almost unnecessary.
5) GoodFellas (1990)
I have admired many of Martin Scorsese’s film over the years, but none more so than this. In my opinion, this is the ultimate gangster film, and the best ever made in the genre. (You will note that it managed to squeeze The Godfather trilogy out of this list) From the opening scene, it had me gripped, and I watched every second of the film with the same fascination. This is the seedy side of the hoodlums who do the dirty work for organised crime, with a succession of first-rate actors taking on every role as the film unfolds, as well as the performance of a lifetime from Ray Liotta. Throw in some of the best long-shot scenes ever put on film, and the constantly convincing changes in the eras covered, and you have what can only be described as a modern masterpiece.
4) Touch Of Evil (1958)
I have always loved to watch Orson Welles. I write about him a lot on this blog, from his twinkling-eyed smile in ‘The Third Man’, to my own admiration of his performance as Falstaff, in ‘Chimes at Midnight’. I really rate him as an actor, though he is best known as a director. His work on this film is second to none, in both areas. From what is perhaps the best crane shot in cinema, as the film opens, to his portrayal of the run down bloated detective Quinlan, Welles has crafted a film that is complete in so many ways. There is a seen-better-days Marlene Dietrich to enjoy too, and you can even forget that Charlton Heston is in it.
3 ) The Lives OF Others (2006)
This Oscar-winning German film deals with life in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989. It is about surveillance, dissent, and living in a very controlled society. But you can now just forget that, because this film is high on my list for one very good reason. The acting of the star, in the main character of Wiesler, the Stasi captain. Ulrich Muhe might well have been unknown to most of us, were it not for this film. As he sadly died the following year, aged just 54, we are left with this amazing performance as his legacy. His depiction of the obsessive captain is second to none, and he displays such nuance, that at times it appears that he is not acting at all. One of the great films of all time, without doubt.
2) Come and See (1985)
Regular readers of my blog will hardly be surprised to see this Russian film so high on my list. This is a war film like no other. A haunting, surreal production that will live on in your memory, and is unlikely to ever be erased from your mind. It is almost impossible to describe. You just have to see it, to experience its terrible wonder.
1) Blade Runner (1982)
A film that has had its own post here already, and been praised to the hilt by me so many times, it just had to get the top slot. Few films have stayed with me like Ridley Scott’s dystopian film noir. Part science-fiction, part gumshoe detective story, it just has it all. Wonderful performances, amazingly-rendered sets, and fantastic ideas. When I left the cinema after watching this, I knew that I would never forget it. And in all those years since, it has never been bettered. There is a sequel due out soon, but don’t wait for that. See the original, and marvel at the invention.
There you have it. My first ‘real’ Top Ten. No great surprises, for anyone who knows my taste. I hope that you will play along in the comments, and maybe even watch the ones on this list that you have never seen. Let me know if you want more Top Tens too.