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The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2018) 940-921


940. Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) Dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini, 116 mins.

Loosely based on the book The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade, the film focuses on four wealthy, corrupt Italian libertines, during the time of the fascist Republic of Salò, who kidnap eighteen teenagers and subject them to four months of extreme violence, sadism, and sexual and mental torture. It was still banned by several countries going into the 21st century and with such graphic content, it’s not hard to see why the final work of the notorious Pasolini has been called one of the most sickening films of all time. While much of Salo is extremely difficult to watch, some critics and film historians still see it as essential cinema.

939. Shaun of the Dead (2004) Dir. Edgar Wright, 99 mins.

A British horror comedy starring Simon Pegg as Shaun, a man attempting to get some kind of focus in his life as he deals with girlfriend and family problems while also having to cope with an apocalyptic zombie uprising. Not just a parody of George A. Romero and zombie films in general, Shaun of the Dead is full of wonderful witty satire and plenty of gore.

938. Gods and Monsters (1998) Dir. Bill Condon, 105 mins.

A British-American period drama adapted from a speculative novel ‘Father of Frankenstein’ by Christopher Bram. The film recounts the last days of the life of troubled film director James Whale who directed Frankenstein and its sequel Bride of Frankenstein. Ian Mckellen, who was nominated for an Oscar, provides a notably affecting performance as Whale in an imaginative and engrossing film.

937. Manhunter (1986) Dir. Michael Mann, 124 mins.

The first film adaptation of Harris’ Hannibal Lecktor novels focuses on FBI profiler Will Graham who comes out of retirement to lend his talents to an investigation on a killer known as the “Tooth Fairy”. In doing so, he must confront the demons of his past and meet with Lecktor (Brian Cox), who had previously nearly killed him. Reappraised in more recent years Manhunter is now noted for its stylish direction and gripping intensity.

936. The Sound of Music (1965) Dir. Robert Wise, 174 mins.

Based on the memoir ‘The Story of the Trapp Family Singers’ by Maria von Trapp, the film is about a young Austrian woman (Julie Andrews) studying to become a nun in Salzburg in 1938 who is sent to the villa of a retired naval officer and widower to be governess to his seven children. Those who can excuse the more corny moments should be pulled along by the classic songs and charming story.

935. Catch Me If You Can (2002) Dir. Steven Spielberg, 141 mins.

The film is based on the life of Frank Abagnale, who, before his 19th birthday, successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars by posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor and a Louisiana parish prosecutor. Lighthearted and hugely enjoyable, the film also considers the effects of a broken home, which along with Abagnale, director Spielberg also experienced as a teenager.

934. Planet of the Apes (1968) Dir. Franklin J. Schaffner, 112 mins.

The film tells the story of an astronaut crew who crash-lands on a strange planet in the distant future. Although the planet appears desolate at first, the surviving crew members stumble upon a society in which apes have evolved  into the intelligent dominant species and humans are mute creatures. While there is some thought provoking social commentary, it’s the fast paced entertaining action that makes Planet of the Apes still a film to see.

933. Billy Elliot (2000) Dir. Stephen Daldry, 110 mins.

Set during the 1984–85 coal miners’ strike in north eastern England, the film follows 11 year old Billy who aspires to become a professional ballet dancer, but must deal with his bully of an older brother and his miner father’s negative stereotype of male dancers. The film is charming, visually inventive and Julie Walters shines as the boy’s spirited ballet teacher. It also features a great soundtrack (particularly the songs of T-Rex).

932. Good Will Hunting (1997) Dir. Gus Van Sant, 126 mins.

If you can accept the central premise and the predictable outcome there’s plenty to take from the Boston set drama about a 20-year-old labourer, Will Hunting, who is an unrecognised mathematical genius until his talent is discovered by a renowned MIT professor. Robin Williams is on Oscar winning form as the therapist who tries to help Hunting (Matt Damon) after he assaults a police officer. A real breakthrough for Damon, who also wrote the script with pal Ben Affleck.

931. Pharaoh (1966) Dir. Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 180 mins.

Released just 3 years after Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s famous Hollywood epic Cleopatra, this Polish adaptation of Bolesław Prus’s novel seems an age away in terms of style and authenticity. It helps that some of the tale of fictional pharaoh, Ramses XIII, and his power struggle with priest Herhor, was filmed at authentic Egyptian locations as well as other parts on meticulously created sets in a studio in Lodz. Revealing the mechanisms of power and the influence of religion the film features accomplished performances and some unforgettable sequences. It is among 21 digitally restored classic Polish films chosen for ‘Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema.’

930. The Legend of 1900 (1998) Dir. Giuseppe Tornatore, 121 mins.

Tim Roth stars in the title role as a virtuosos musician born at sea, who leads a brilliant, but rather unconventional life staying entirely within the confines of a trans-Atlantic steamer. With a stunning score by Ennio Morricone, Tornatore’s charming fable, his first English-language film, has some magical moments enhanced by beautiful imagery.

929. True Grit (2010) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 110 mins.

The Coen brothers revisionist western is a more faithful adaptation of Charles Portis’s novel than the 1969 version starring John Wayne. The film follows 14 year-old farm girl Mattie Ross who hires Rooster Cogburn, a boozy, trigger-happy US Marshall to help her track down and apprehend an outlaw named Tom Chaney who murdered her father. A solid, occasionally moving character study with a particularly likeable performance by Jeff Bridges as Cogburn.

928. The Child (2005) Dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Lucy Dardenne, 95 mins.

The Belgian Palme d’Or winner follows a teenager surviving on welfare cheques who gives birth to a baby boy. The baby’s father, a small-time thief who shows know interest in wanting the child, sells the infant against the mother’s wishes on the black market. Authentic characters and a complex narrative combine to create an affecting film about how desperation can lead to all the wrong choices. The film was named the fourteenth “Best Film of the 21st Century So Far” by The New York Times in 2017.

927. Tokyo Twilight (1957) Dir. Yasujiro Ozu, 140 mins.

One of Ozu’s lesser known and darker films, Tokyo Twilight tells the story of two sisters who are reunited with the mother who left them as children. Understated and melancholic, the story still finds emotional depth and even retains some hope.

926. Oliver! (1968) Dir. Carol Reed, 153 mins.

Based on the stage musical, with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, and Charles Dicken’s novel, the story centres on orphan Oliver Twist, born in a workhouse and sold into apprenticeship with an undertaker. After escaping, Twist travels to London, where he meets The Artful Dodger, a member of a gang of juvenile pickpockets led by the elderly criminal, Fagin. Winning the best film Oscar in 1968, Oliver! is triumph of great characters, music and production design and was a fitting swan-song for The Third Man director Carol Reed. The British Film Institute ranked Oliver! 77th in their list of the greatest British films of the 20th century.

925. Antonio das Mortes (1969) Dir. Glauber Rocha, 100 mins.

Rocha’s highly stylised, inverted western masterpiece is set in the wilderness of the Brazilian north east. Having already appeared as the hired bandit killer for the church and landlords in Black God, White Devil, the eponymous mercenary is back, but this time he turns away from corrupt authority and becomes a revolutionary. Part fact and part legend the hallucinogenic western blends social banditry with the mysticism of messianic religion.

924. Mad Max (1979) Dir. George Miller, 93 mins.

Financed privately rather than by the failing Australian Film Commission this violent dystopian action movie was a big international hit and changed the way Australian films were funded in favour of a more commercial ethos rather than a cultural one. The film also launched the career of future Hollywood star and director Mel Gibson, who plays a vengeful policeman embroiled in a feud with a vicious motorcycle gang. Now lauded for its visceral power and strong direction the film initially polarised critics.

923. Atonement (2007) Dir. Joe Wright, 130 mins.

Based on Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel of the same name, the film focuses on a crime and its consequences over the course of six decades, beginning in the 1930s. Saoirse Ronan makes a big impression as the 13 year old Briony Tallis who tells a lie which ruins the lives of lovers, Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley), her older sister, and Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), the son of the Tallis family’s housekeeper. There are great performances and brilliant cinematography, particularly the remarkable five minute single take tracking shot across the beach at Dunkirk.

922. Lord of the Flies (1963) Dir. Peter Brook, 92 mins.

Lord of the Flies is an adaptation of William Golding’s novel of the same name about 30 schoolboys who are marooned on an island where they become savages. The film has a troubling, raw intensity which captures the essence of Golding’s dark adventure story.

921. Cold Mountain (2003) Dir. Anthony Minghella, 154 mins.

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Charles Frazier, the film is set towards the end of the American Civil War, and tells the story of a wounded deserter from the Confederate army trying to get home to North Carolina and the love of his life. While some find the episodic structure flawed, the film is beautifully shot, well acted and captures the pointless cruelty of war.


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960. Bambi (1942) Dir. David Hand, 70 mins.

With splendid animation the film tells the touching story of male deer Bambi from his birth, through to his early childhood experiences and particularly his memorable friendship with Thumper the rabbit. The tale takes a tragic turn with the traumatic loss of his mother at the hands of hunters and moves on to him falling in love and battling to save his friends from a forest fire. Was placed 3rd in the animation category of the AFI’s 10 Top 10 in 2008.

959. The Tin Drum (1979) Dir. Volker Schlondorff, 142 mins.

Already considered to be at the forefront of New German Cinema, Schlondorff took home an Oscar for best foreign film for his controversial adaptation of Gunter Gross’s allegorical novel of the same name. David Bennent plays Oskar, the young son of a German rural family, who receives a shiny new tin drum for his 3rd birthday. Seeing around him an unkind world full of miserable adults, Oskar vows never to grow any older or bigger. This eccentric and intense film has such startling images it’s hard for any viewer to turn away from.

958. A Short Film About Love (1988) Dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski, 86 mins.

A Short Film About Love is one of two episodes of Kieslowski’s The Decalogue TV series, that focused on the Ten Commandments, to be expanded for a cinema release. The film is about a shy young post office worker who spies on a promiscuous older woman living in an adjacent apartment building and falls deeply in love with her. There’s some beautiful and funny moments and it helped set Kieslowski on the road to international prominence.

957. Fallen Angels (1995) Dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 90 mins.

Sometimes frustrating but often visually exhilarating Wong Kar-Wai’s film expands on the themes and mood of Chungking Express while focusing more on style than the two loosely linked and minimal plot lines.

956. The Birth of a Nation (1915) Dir. D. W. Griffith, 190 mins.

Griffith’s twelve reel epic Civil War drama hastened the American film industry’s transition to the feature film but is also notable for its highly controversial portrayal of black men as unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards white women, and for glorifying the Ku Klux Klan. While The Birth of a Nation has garnered acclaim for the acting, the impressive spectacle and its innovative film making techniques Griffiths spent the rest of his career seemingly apologising for the blatant racism. 

955. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933) Dir. Fritz Lang, 122 mins.

Rudolf Klein-Rogge returns as Dr. Mabuse who, while imprisoned in an insane asylum, continues on with his plots to destroy the world. Beautiful, powerful and with a great deal of suspense the film is Lang at his most inventive.

954. The Secret in their Eyes (2009) Dir. Juan José Campanella, 127 mins.

The Argentine-Spanish crime drama depicts a judiciary employee and a judge in 1974 as they investigate a rape and murder case that turns into an obsession for all the people involved, while also following the characters 25 years later reminiscing over the case and unearthing the buried romance between them. Full of excellent performances and with an unpredictable narrative, the film is well on its way to becoming a classic of world cinema. It placed 91st on the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.

953. Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) Dir. Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 104 mins.

Louise Brooks stars, in the second of her two films with Pabst,  as the innocent, naive daughter of a pharmacist who becomes puzzled when on the day of her confirmation their housekeeper, Elisabeth, leaves suddenly. It turns out she is pregnant with the pharmacist’s baby and later that day appears to have committed suicide. Brooks is a beautiful and compelling presence that helps lift the film from lurid melodrama into the realm of haunting human drama.

952. Taste of Cherry (1997) Dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 95 mins.

Mr Badii (Homayoun Ershadi), a middle-aged man, drives through a city suburb looking for someone who can burying him after he commits suicide in return for a large amount of money. While Roger Ebert, in particular, hated the film others consider it hypnotic and profound.

951. The Little Mermaid (1989) Dir. Ron Clements, John Musker, 83 mins.

Based on the Danish fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid tells the story of a beautiful mermaid princess called Ariel who dreams of becoming human. After a string of critical and commercial failures for Disney, the film marked the start of the studios renaissance. A live-action film adaptation of The Little Mermaid is currently in the works.

950. Pride & Prejudice (2005) Dir. Joe Wright, 129 mins.

Keira Knightley stars as Elizabeth Bennet, in a version of Jane Austen’s hugely popular romance, as one of five sisters from an English family of landed gentry who must deal with issues of marriage, morality and misconceptions. Despite the numerous adaptations of the novel, the film feels surprisingly fresh combining 21st century sensibilities with an authentic look.

949. Dark City (1998) Dir. Alex Proyas, 100 mins.

Somewhat overshadowed by The Matrix which was released the following year, Proyas’s neo-noir sci-fi follows an amnesiac man who finds himself suspected of murder. He attempts to discover his true identity and clear his name while on the run from the police and a mysterious group known only as the “Strangers”.  It’s visionary to some and bewildering to others but few could argue that it doesn’t contain some startling and arresting imagery.

948. Cloud Atlas (2012) Dir. Tom Tykwer, The Wachowskis, 164 mins.

This hugely ambitious science fiction epic was one of the most expensive independent films ever made. Adapted from the 2004 novel of the same name by David Mitchell, the film has multiple plots set across six different eras exploring how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future. While some may be baffled by the narrative it’s hard to ignore the epic scope, stunning visuals and big ideas. It also benefits greatly from repeat viewings.

947. The Darjeeling Limited (2007) Dir. Wes Anderson, 91 mins.

Three brothers reunite on board a train called The Darjeeling Limited, having not seen each other since their father’s funeral a year earlier. They travel through a stunning Indian backdrop hoping to re-connect. While probably not Anderson’s best work, it is funny, melancholic and has a great soundtrack, particularly the songs by The Kinks.

946. Stray Dog (1949) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 122 mins.

Notable as a precursor to the contemporary police procedural and buddy cop film genres, Akira Kurosawa’s crime drama also shows consideration for the difficult period of Japanese postwar recovery. Regular Kurosawa collaborators Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura star as the rookie and the veteran detectives in a visually strong and complex film.

945. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 180 mins.

Based on the memoir by Jordan Belfort the film recounts Belfort’s perspective on his career as a stockbroker in New York City and how his firm Stratton Oakmont engaged in rampant corruption and fraud on Wall Street that ultimately led to his downfall. Leonardo Di Caprio makes for a funny and magnetically charming Belfort in a film that received criticism for glorifying the crime while shying away from the true consequences of such criminality.

944. JFK (1991) Dir. Oliver Stone, 189 mins.

Accused of taking liberties with historical facts, Stone’s examination of the events leading to the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the alleged cover-up was always going to be controversial. Kevin Costner leads a terrific cast as former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison who is convinced that there are some big flaws in the investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald. Leaving to one side the questionable historicity, JFK works as an entertaining and well crafted conspiracy theory.

943. Samurai Rebellion (1967) Dir. Masaki Kobayashi, 128 mins.

Considered one of the best samurai films ever made, Toshiro Mifune is electric as the masterful swordsmen who goes against his local rulers to protect his family. It’s a meditative and gripping film which ends with an action packed and tragic finale.

942. Dirty Harry (1971) Dir. Don Siegel, 102 mins.

Clint Eastwood plays the title role, in his first outing as San Francisco Police Department Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan. Drawing upon the actual infamous case of the Zodiac Killer, Callahan seeks out a similarly mysterious and vicious psychopath. A hugely entertaining and violent action thriller directed competently by Don Siegel.

941. Salvatore Giuliano (1962) Dir. Francesco Rosi, 125 mins.

Shot in a neo-realist documentary, non-linear style, it follows the lives of those involved with the famous Sicilian bandit Salvatore Giuliano, who remains mostly off screen. Seen as groundbreaking in political cinema, Rosi’s film is both mysterious and open ended but also features a gritty, raw realism.


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980. Z (1969) Dir. Costa-Gavras, 127 mins.

One of the most highly praised political films of the post-war era, Costa-Gavros’s thriller presents a thinly fictionalised account of the events surrounding the assassination of democratic Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis in 1963. It’s fast paced action cinema and a satirical attack on Greece’s military junta who ruled the country from 1967 to 1974.

979. Raising Arizona (1987) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 94 mins.

Nicholas Cage is a store robber who decides to go straight if Holly Hunter’s police officer will marry him. Their new life together hits problems when they find they can’t have children and trying to break out of their ensuing depression, they decide to snatch one of a furniture store owners recently born quintuplets. There’s some fantastic and inventive madcap humour and it’s not hard to feel sympathy for the hapless kidnappers.

978. Gallipoli (1981) Dir. Peter Weir, 110 mins.

Weir’s first world war drama follows two young men from rural Western Australia who enlist in the army and are sent to the peninsula of Gallipoli. Whilst there are historical inaccuracies the film is a devastating anti-war piece and a moving tribute to those Anzac soldiers who found themselves fighting the futile Battle of the Nek.

977. Far From Heaven (2002) Dir. Todd Haynes, 107 mins.

Julianne Moore plays the seemingly perfect 50s housewife who’s life begins to fall apart in Haynes homage to the films of Douglas Sirk. Shot and designed to re-create the atmosphere of a 1950s melodrama the film is filled with intelligent writing and some heart breaking performances.

976. The Long Riders (1980) Dir. Walter Hill, 99 mins.

Made particularly notable for the casting of four sets of real life brothers, Hill’s western is a visually authentic and yet mythic retelling of the legends surrounding the James-Younger gang.

975. Black Swan (2010) Dir. Darren Aronofsky, 103 mins.

Psychological horror film that revolves around a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake by a prestigious New York City ballet company. Natalie Portman plays the ballerina who is consumed by a love of dance but loses her grip on reality when she faces competition for the main part from a new arrival. Overly melodramatic but gripping none the less, Black Swan is a technical marvel and has some wonderful performances.

974. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) Dir. Tony Richardson, 104 mins.

Based on a short story by Alan Silitoe (who also wrote the screenplay), the film stars Tom Courtenay as an ‘angry young man’ sentenced to borstal for burgling a bakery. He manages to gain privileges in the institution through his prowess as a long-distance runner. A British New Wave classic with a provocative stance on consumerism and the English class system.

973. Where the Wild Things Are (2009) Dir. Spike Jonze, 101 mins.

Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic picture book centres on a lonely eight-year-old boy named Max who sails away to an island inhabited by creatures known as the “Wild Things,” who declare Max their king. It may be too dark for some, but Where the Wild Things Are is a gorgeous vision of childhood imagination.

972. Shutter Island (2010) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 138 mins.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels who is investigating a psychiatric facility on Shutter Island after one of the patients goes missing. This psychological thriller doesn’t rank with Scorsese’s best work but it’s still cleverly constructed and boasts some great performances.

971. Sleeper (1973) Dir. Woody Allen, 138 mins.

The plot involves the adventures of the owner of a health food store who is cryogenically frozen in 1973 and defrosted 200 years later in an ineptly led police state. A madcap sci-fi parody made as a tribute to comedians Groucho Marx and Bob Hope.

970. Donnie Brasco (1997) Dir. Mike Newell, 127 mins.

Johnny Depp stars in the true story of an FBI undercover agent who infiltrated the Mafia Bonanno crime family in New York City during the 1970s, under the alias Donnie Brasco. A tense  and compelling character study by Mike Newell that’s bolstered by a strong performance by Al Pacino as the ageing hitman that Brasco befriends.

969. Early Spring (1956) Dir. Yasujiro Ozu, 144 mins.

Ryo Ikebe plays the married businessman who escapes the monotony of married life and his work at a fire brick manufacturing company by beginning an affair with a fellow office worker. Ozu’s family drama manages to steer away from being a depressive tale of marital discord and is ultimately a hopeful film filled with humour and sensitivity.

968. Videodrome (1983) Dir. David Cronenberg, 89 mins.

Cronenberg’s sci-fi horror follows the CEO of a small UHF television station who stumbles upon a broadcast signal featuring extreme violence and torture. An audacious piece of film making that starts cleverly before veering off into grotesque imagery and narrative confusion.

967. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) Dir. Robert Zemeckis, 104 mins.

The film is set in Hollywood during the late 1940s, where animated characters and people co-exist. Bob Hoskins plays a private detective who must exonerate “Toon” Roger Rabbit, who is accused of murdering a wealthy businessman. Groundbreaking for its mix of live action and animation the film is also very funny and surprisingly touching.

966. Bandit Queen (1994) Dir. Shekhar Kapur, 119 mins.

With its release delayed by Indian censors for sex and violence Kapur’s tale of epic revenge was always going to be controversial. Seema Biswas is the infamous Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi, in a visceral powerful film that broke through to western mainstream cinema.

965. Vagabond (1985) Dir. Agnes Varda, 105 mins.

Sandrine Bonnaire stars as a young vagabond who wanders through French wine country one winter. A stark and strikingly beautiful film that becomes tragically haunting.

964. Jerry Maguire (1996) Dir. Cameron Crowe, 139 mins.

Tom Cruise stars as the title character who has a life-altering epiphany about his role as a sports agent and then writes a mission statement about dishonesty in sports management and how he’d like the industry to work. The then relatively unknown Renee Zellweger is the fascinating romantic interest but it’s Cuba Gooding Jr. who steals the show as a brash American football player.

963. The Cotton Club (1984) Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 127 mins.

It’s perhaps most notable as one of a number of 80s big budget films made by leading white directors that incorporated black themes and images into mainstream cinema. Even if the tale of Gregory Hines dancer is no more than a backdrop to the story of Richard Gere’s cornet player, and his troubles with gangster Dwight Schultz (James Remar), it shows how far things had moved on. The film was another troubled production for Coppola and unlike Apocalypse Now he couldn’t quite pull the rabbit out of the hat.

962. The Mission (1986) Dir. Roland Joffe, 126 mins.

It remains notable for its stunning Ennio Morricone soundtrack but also as one of the big budget films that’s failure at the box-office brought about the effective end of production company Goldcrest and the mini-renaissance of the British film industry. Set in 18th century South America, Robert De Niro stars as the slave trader who kills his own brother and goes looking for redemption with Jesuit missionaries. Joffe struggles to find the sort of haunting, moving and dramatic power of his previous film, The Killing Fields.

961. Faces (1968) Dir. John Cassavetes, 130 mins.

Having vowed never to direct another studio film Cassavetes returned  to independent cinema to tell the story of a dissolving marriage and the lovers to whom the couple turn to for solace. With the director at his most ambitious, Faces was shot on a small budget in black and white on 16 mm and, due to his painstaking methods, took a staggering 4 years to edit. Despite being entirely scripted, unlike his earlier improvised Shadows, the film is known for its powerful expressive acting and realistic dialogue.


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1000. The Ten Commandments (1956) Dir. Cecil B. DeMille, 220 mins.

Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 biblical epic, a remake of his own 1923 version, is still notable for its sublime Oscar winning effects and great performances. While it has some daft moments and often veers away from the biblical narrative of Exodus, the near 4 hour film’s popularity has never waned. Recommended particularly for the parting of the Red Sea sequence that remains one of the greatest special effects of all time.

999. Return of the Jedi (1983) Dir. Richard Marquand, 134 mins.

The third instalment of George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy has never received the acclaim of its two predecessors (some were not taken with the cuddly Ewoks) but it’s still action packed stuff.  Ultimately we care far more about these characters than those in Lucas’s later trilogy and Return of the Jedi gives us the sort of thrilling entertainment often missing from the 21st century’s CGI laden Sci-Fi films.

998. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Dir. Henry Selick, 76 mins.

Produced and conceived by Tim Burton this stop-motion classic is as magical for adults as it is for little people. The film follows Jack Skellington who leaves his home in Halloween Town and goes through a portal to Christmas Town. Humour, romance and great Danny Elfman songs produce a fabulous and original entertainment.

997. Stand By Me (1986) Dir. Rob Reiner, 89 mins.

Four Oregon friends go on a hike and come across a dead body in Reiner’s nostalgic coming of age drama. Featuring a notable performance by River Phoenix, the film is an affectionate look at that tricky time between childhood and adolescence and is one of just a handful of successful adaptations of Stephen King’s work.

996. Mary Poppins (1964) Dir. Robert Stevenson, 139 mins.

With terrific songs from the Sherman Brothers and an Oscar winning performance from Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins remains one of the most beloved musicals of all-time. Andrews plays the nanny who floats into London to improve the lives of the dysfunctional Banks family. Even Dick Van Dyke’s laughable attempt at a Cockney accent couldn’t prevent the film becoming the only Disney production made during Walt’s lifetime to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

995. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) Dir. Wes Anderson, 110 mins.

The absurdist and ironic humour will annoy some but those who embrace The Royal Tenenbaums will delight in it’s eccentricities. A stellar cast tells the whimsical tale of three once gifted siblings and the attempts of their estranged father, a terrific turn by Gene hackman, to reconcile with them. It was listed by the BBC as one of the 100 greatest films of the 21st century.

994. Dazed and Confused (1993) Dir. Richard Linklater, 103 mins.

A coming of age comedy following Texas teenagers during their last day at school in 1976. A strong cast, including Matthew McCounaughey plus that moustache, and a director who manages to find the tone of the era combine to create an amusing and affectionate look at the end of high school. Quentin Tarantino picked it for his 2002 Sight & Sound ballot.

993. Drugstore Cowboy (1989) Dir. Gus Van Sant, 102 mins.

Matt Dillon plays the leader of a group of drug addicts who support their habits by robbing pharmacies and hospitals. As one would expect from Van Sant its lyrically and stylishly shot and is seen as the director/writers breakthrough film.

992. The Incredibles (2004) Dir. Brad Bird, 115 mins.

The Incredibles follows a family of superheroes forced to hide their powers and live a quiet suburban life. Brad Bird moves slightly away from the normal Pixar formula but his dysfunctional family tale provides plenty of wit, a great deal of entertainment and some amazing animation. A sequel was released in 2018.

991. The Last King of Scotland (2006) Dir. Kevin Macdonald, 123 mins.

Propelled by Forest Whitaker’s Oscar winning performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, The Last King of Scotland delivers a taut and satisfying (partly fictional) drama. James McAvoy plays the Scottish doctor who naively falls in with a monster.

990. A Man For All Seasons (1966) Dir. Fred Zinnemann, 120 mins.

Paul Scofield delivers a career defining performance as Thomas More, repeating the role he played on stage. Catholic More rejects Henry VIII’s (Robert Shaw) breaking away from the church in order to divorce Anne Boleyn. An intelligent and stirring film.

989. The Jungle Book (1967) Dir. Wolfgang Reitherman, 78 mins.

The film follows feral child Mowgli, who having been raised by wolves, journeys through the Indian jungle with the help of the panther, Bagheera and bear, Baloo. His new friends must convince him to go to the human world before he falls into the clutches of the evil tiger, Shere Khan. Memorable songs and fun characters, particularly Phil Harris as the ‘bare necessities’ singing Baloo, make The Jungle Book one of the most entertaining of Disney animations.

988. Zero Dark Thirty (2012) Dir. Kathryn Bigelow, 157 mins.

Following the success of The Hurt Locker the former Mrs. James Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow returned to the subject of war in the middle east. The film dramatises the international manhunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama Bid Laden the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist atrocities. Not without controversy (some felt it featured pro-torture propaganda) the film is a gripping and suspenseful thriller with an ending that will remain long in the memory.

987. Argo (2012) Dir. Ben Affleck, 120 mins.

Directed and starring Ben Affleck the film follows a CIA operative who leads the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Iran, under the guise of filming a science fiction film during the 1979–1981 hostage crisis. Growing as a filmmaker Affleck delivers both a gripping thriller and a satirical look at Hollywood.

986. The Blue Angel (1930) Dir. Josef von Sternberg, 124 mins.

Directed in Berlin by the Austrian-American von Sternberg, the film was a co-production of Germany’s Ufa and Hollywood’s Paramount. Emil Jannings, back in Germany after his brief but highly successful stint in Hollywood silents, stars as the respectable straitlaced professor who transforms into a cabaret clown and descends into madness. Jannings is good but it’s Marlene Dietrich who steals the show as the magnetic temptress who ensnares him. The film made Dietrich an international superstar and remains, over 85 years later, an enthralling tale of love and obsession.

985. Pauline at the Beach (1983) Dir. Eric Rohmer, 94 mins.

Teenager Pauline vacations with her supposedly maturer cousin Marion and finds her feet during a summer of romantic experiences. Once again director/writer Eric Rohmer manages to generate charm and emotional energy from a minimal plot line.

984. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) Dir. Blake Edwards, 115 mins.

The film features Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic role as Holly Golightly the naive and eccentric socialite. The future A-Team star George Peppard plays the lonely neighbour and writer who becomes enchanted with her. The overall charm (particularly the cat named ‘Cat’) will allow most viewers to forgive the dafter parts.

983. Arrival (2016) Dir. Denis Villeneuve, 116 mins.

There were few doubts that Villeneuve was the right man to helm the sequel to Blade Runner thanks to the success of his previous sci-fi effort. Some may find Arrival slow and lacking in action but others will find it intelligent, sophisticated and by the end emotionally affecting. Amy Adams delivers maybe her best performance yet as the linguist trying to communicate with aliens.

982. 300 (2007) Dir. Zack Snyder, 116 mins.

Based on the 1998 comic of the same name, Zack Snyder’s film is a fictionalised retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae where Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) leads 300 warriors against a Persian army of 300,000. While some dismiss it as overly violent and with little characterisation, few could argue that 300 doesn’t deliver dazzling visuals and plenty of enthralling action.

981. Easy Rider (1969) Dir. Dennis Hopper, 95 mins.

Director Dennis Hopper and producer Peter Fonda star as two bikers who travel southern America with the proceeds of a drug deal. Their journey carries them to a hippie commune and to an encounter with an alcoholic civil rights lawyer, portrayed by Jack Nicholson. While now looking dated, Easy Rider, helped along by the popular rock song soundtrack, still holds on to a notable place in cinema history for helping to start the New Hollywood era and for encapsulating 1960s counterculture.


The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films of All-Time 2018

In October 2017 we began polling our site administrators and other contributors who were asked to name and rate their 100 best films of all time. These results were combined with those of other greatest film polls (some of which are listed here) and the results have been put into a list of the 1000 greatest films 2018. The countdown of the results began on the 15th November 2017 and can be viewed below.

Ranking films is a completely subjective exercise and we are not, of course, going to arrogantly suggest this is the most definitive of all film lists. The purpose of the poll is to stimulate healthy debate and to get people thinking about what makes a great film! So please let us no what you think of the results.

Notable losses from our last poll include – Ben-Hur (1959), The Lady Vanishes (1938), The White Ribbon (2009), For All Mankind (1989), Henry V (1944), Hotel Rwanda (2004), Ghost World (2001), How Green was My Valley (1941).

Below is a list of all the directors with two or more films in the top 1000 –

14 – Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese

13 – Luis Bunuel

12 – Steven Spielberg

11 – Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock

10 – Yasujiro Ozu

9 – Jean-Luc Godard, Hayao Miyazaki, Woody Allen, Joel & Ethan Coen

8 – Federico Fellini, Christopher Nolan, Howard Hawks, Quentin Tarantino, Charles Chaplin

7 – Andrei Tarkovsky, Michael Powell, John Huston, Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang

6 – Robert Bresson, Michelangelo Antonioni, Roberto Rossellini, Orson Welles, Francois Truffaut, Werner Herzog, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Masaki Kobayashi, Wong Kar-Wai, Wes Anderson, Krzysztof Kieslowski

5 – Terrence Malick, Satyajit Ray, John Ford, Sergio Leone, Kenji Mizoguchi, David Lean, F. W. Murnau, Ernst Lubitsch, Emeric Pressburger, Robert Altman, Luchino Visconti, David Lynch, Jean Renoir, William Wyler, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Michael Mann, Francis Ford Coppola, David Cronenberg, Darren Aronofsky, Richard Linklater

4 – Carl Theodor Dreyer, Bernardo Bertolucci, Roman Polanski, Wim Wenders, Sergei M. Eisenstein, Max Ophuls, Paul Thomas Anderson, George Stevens, Alain Resnais, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Elia Kazan, Jean-Pierre Melville, David Fincher, John Boorman, Yimou Zhang, Louis Malle, Michael Curtiz, Peter Jackson, Nicholas Ray, Nicolas Roeg, Brian De Palma, Mel Gibson, Hsiao-hsien Hou, Jim Jarmusch, Sidney Lumet, Abbas Kiarostami, Spike Jonze, Peter Weir, Eric Rohmer

3 – Terry Gilliam, Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati, Milos Forman, Frank Capra, Leo McCarey, Bela Tarr, Steve McQueen, Hal Ashby, Andrzej Wajda, Alfonso Cuaron, George Cukor, Clint Eastwood, Preston Sturges, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Sam Mendes, Danny Boyle, Vittorio De Sica, Michael Haneke, Ang Lee, Raoul Walsh, George Miller, Carol Reed, Robert Wise, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Oliver Stone, D. W. Griffith, John Cassavetes, Robert Zemeckis, Josef von Sternberg, Brad Bird, Gus Van Sant, Rob Reiner

2 – Victor Fleming, Jean Cocteau, Terry Jones, Erich von Stroheim, Alexander Mackendrick, Andrey Zvyagintsev, John Lasseter, Damian Chazelle, George A. Romero, Henri-Georges Clouzot, George Roy Hill, Andrew Stanton, William Friedkin, John Carpenter, Mikhail Kalatozov, Edward Yang, Mike Nichols, Emanno Olmi, Theodoros Angelopoulos, Otto Preminger, Agnes Hranitzky, Jules Dassin, Chris Marker, Douglas Sirk, Jacques Becker, Victor Erice, Robert Aldrich, Michael Cimino, Mike Leigh, Isao Takahata, Peter Bogdanovich, Thomas Vinterberg, Jean Vigo, Claude Berri, Philip Kaufman, Samuel Fuller, Bob Fosse, Jacques Demy, Sam Peckinpah, Sergei Parajanov, Shohei Imamura, Wojciech Has, James Whale, Peter Watkins, George Lucas, Frank Darabont, Yuriy Norshteyn, Pete Docter, Mario Monicelli, Marc Caro, Jonathan Demme, Alexander Payne, Alan J. Pakula, Tomas Alfredson, William A. Wellman, Lindsay Anderson, Tim Burton, Charlie Kaufman, Emir Kusterica, Sam Raimi, Kon Ichikawa, Sergio Corbucci, Ken Russell, James Ivory, Jacques Rivette, Lars Von Trier, Anthony Minghella, Glauber Rocha, Giuseppe Tornatore, Franklin J. Schaffner, Don Siegel, The Wachowskis, Joe Wright, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, David Hand, Roland Joffe, Cameron Crowe, Agnes Varda, Shekhar Kapur, Todd Haynes, Denis Villeneuve, Kathryn Bigelow, Fred Zinnemann

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