‘The Matrix’ (The Wachowskis, Warner Bros., 1999): I first saw ‘The Matrix’ at a friend’s place when I was about thirteen. It was shown on his wall using a home projector. I’d heard a lot about this movie before seeing it, but its weirdness at the time had put me off. I came out with a fever — a film fever. I felt like I could bend the rules of the universe.
‘Citizen Kane’ (Orson Welles, RKO, 1941): For some reason, I responded to Kane’s loneliness, bitterness, selfishness and dementia more than anything. Maybe because these traits define humanity more than any other? Gregg Toland’s masterfully mobile and low-key cinematography gave the experience an added sense of ‘cool.’
‘Star Trek’ (J.J. Abrams, Paramount Pictures, 2009): This was an unexpected surprise. Lens flares do get annoying, as does Abrams’ preoccupation with making people run around whilst the camera jerks up, down and sideways. Nevertheless, a smart and genuinely thrilling blockbuster with the opening sequence of a lifetime.
‘Blade Runner’ (Ridley Scott, Warner Bros., 1982): What more can I say about ‘Blade Runner’ that hasn’t already been said? A mix of dystopian sci-fi, film noir and philosophical meditation on life and humanity, its slow, melancholic style constitutes perhaps its most original contribution to the genre (aside from just about everything else). Vangelis’ soundtrack gets a special mention from me.
‘Metropolis’ (Fritz Lang, UFA, 1927): The first film I saw at the University of Warwick’s Student Cinema. The day had been tiring, and I went along to the movie to give me something to do and a place to escape. I fell asleep. It was long. It was even more exhausting than my day’s tribulations. But I knew I’d seen one of the greatest films of all time.
‘Rear Window’ (Alfred Hitchcock, Paramount Pictures, 1954): A film that I’ve seen, studied and dissected countless times over. It is a movie about life, about voyeurism, about curiosity, about love, about murder, about suspicion, about paranoia, about filmmaking, about Hitchcock, about city life, about the rhythms of the everyday, about framing, about composition, about… You name it. In my opinion, Hitchcock’s best.
‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (Stanley Kubrick, MGM, 1968): You can’t really go wrong with Kubrick. I almost included ‘Dr. Strangelove’ (1964) on this list but something about ‘2001’ trumps everything else he’s ever done. I’ve only seen this twice, and both times I’ve marvelled at watching not just a great film, but art in motion. See it now.
‘Alien’ (Ridley Scott, 20th Century Fox, 1979): I actually went to see this with a girl whom I’d just gotten to know in the past couple of weeks. I would say it was a date, but she’d probably beg to differ. The projector broke down halfway through the picture. Or maybe it was just WSC projectionists not knowing how to deal with old, fragmented reels of film (I know, I was one of them). Still, a masterpiece. I would recommended watching all the Alien films (except for, you know, ‘Aliens vs. Predator’). Great filmmaking.
‘Man of Steel’ (Zack Snyder, Warner Bros., 2013): The contentious one. Most people on my degree actually had a go at me for liking this. And to be honest, the first time I saw Zack Snyder’s loud, bad and dangerous-to-know adaptation, I would probably have agreed with them. My little brother actually fell asleep during the first 10 minutes. My Dad loved it. I’ve since seen it twice and written about it in my undergraduate dissertation. What it achieves in terms of blockbuster filmmaking trumps even James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ (2009). The spectacle here serves the story, not the other way around. Amir Mokri’s 35mm cinematography is stunning. See it and make up your own mind.
‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ / ‘El laberinto de fauno’ (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006): I was lucky enough to see it projected in 35mm at my local arthouse cinema, ‘La Scala’. I lived literally next door to the Scala until it got moved recently. A modern day fairytale, with the right amount of horror. One of the greatest films of the decade.