860. My Left Foot (1989) Dir. Jim Sheridan, 103 mins.
It tells the story of Christy Brown, an Irishman born with cerebral palsy, who grew up in a poor, working-class family and despite only having control of his left foot became a writer and artist. Propelled by outstanding performances, particularly the astonishing Daniel Day-Lewis, My Left Foot is both a gritty and inspiring film.
859. Grizzly Man (2005) Dir. Werner Herzog, 103 mins.
Herzog’s documentary chronicles the life of bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell and includes some of his own footage of his interactions with grizzly bears shot before he and his girlfriend were killed and devoured by one of the wild animals in 2003. Fascinating and provocative, the film refuses to judge, leaving the audience to make up their own minds about Treadwell’s mental state.
858. Minority Report (2002) Dir. Steven Spielberg, 145 mins.
The film follows John Anderton (Tom Cruise), a Washington, D.C. detective in the year 2054 who works for “PreCrime”, a specialised police department, that apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by three psychics called “precogs”. Spielberg delivers a visceral and intense sci-fi thriller.
857. Caché (2005) Dir. Michael Haneke, 117 mins.
The film follows an upper-class French couple, Georges and Anne, who are terrorised by anonymous tapes that appear on their front porch and hint at Georges’s childhood memories. A creepy Hitchcockian thriller skillfully directed by Haneke.
856. Into the Wild (2007) Dir. Sean Penn, 148 mins.
An adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s 1996 nonfiction book of the same name, Into the Wild follows college graduate Christopher McCandless who abandons his family and privileged life to travel across North America in the early 1990s. Penn’s character study takes a while to find its rhythm but once there becomes an uplifting and poignant tale.
855. Gentlemen of Fortune (1971) Dir. Aleksandr Serjy, 88 mins.
Sery’s comedy Gentlemen of Fortune follows a kindergarten teacher who bears a striking resemblance to a cruel criminal thief. When the criminal and his gang steal a helmet from an archaeological excavation, that belonged to Alexander the Great, the teacher uses his brains and his looks to go undercover and attempt to retrieve the item. One of the Soviet Union’s most popular films.
854. Russian Ark (2002) Dir. Aleksandr Sokurov, 99 mins.
An experimental historical drama that uses a single, uninterrupted, 87-minute take to follow an unnamed narrator, who having died in a horrible accident, is now a ghost who wanders through the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. In each room, he encounters various real and fictional people from various periods in the city’s 300-year history. A hugely ambitious and astounding technical achievement that’s like drifting through a dream.
853. Teorema (1968) Dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini, 105 mins.
Pasolini’s visionary art-house film, a brutal dissection of the typical bourgeois family, follows a mysterious figure known only as “The Visitor” (Terence Stamp) who appears in the lives of an upper-class Milanese household and soon seduces each family member as well as the maid (Laura Betti). Great performances particularly from Stamp and Betti.
852. The Passion of the Christ (2004) Dir. Mel Gibson, 127 mins.
Artistically audacious, Gibson’s controversial and visceral biblical drama primarily covers the final twelve hours of Jesus’ life. This includes the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the grievance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the crucifixion and a brief depiction of his resurrection. Some critics found the brutal violence excessive and there were question marks around antisemitism, but many found The Passion of Christ a powerful and moving experience.
851. Rope (1948) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 80 mins.
After a string of films for Hollywood producer David O. Selznick, Hitchcock sought independence from the studio system and made the commercially risky and aesthetically and technically ambitious Rope. The film concerns two implicitly homosexual college chums, who, inspired by conversations about Friedrich Nietzsche’s Übermensch years earlier with their kindly professor (James Stewart), kill a third friend as an intellectual exercise. Hitchcock’s first colour film is particularly notable for its experimental and elaborate long takes that were only interrupted when the camera needed to be reloaded.
850. The Long Good Friday (1980) Dir. John MacKenzie, 114 mins.
The film follows a London east side gangster Harold Shand, who controls the city docks, and is planning a big real estate deal, financed by money from the American mob. However, just as the American mafia’s representatives are about to arrive Shand finds his operation under attack and can’t understand who wants to destroy him. Impressively directed The Long Good Friday is a gripping drama featuring terrific performances from Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren.
849. Ex Machina (2015) Dir. Alex Garland, 108 mins.
Garland’s psychological sci-fi thriller follows a programmer, working for an internet search engine giant, who wins an office competition for a one-week visit to the luxurious, isolated home of the CEO but then finds he’s been chosen as the human component for a Turing test evaluating an intelligent humanoid robot. It’s a clever and thought provoking film with engaging performances particularly from Alicia Vikander as the A.I.
848. Good Bye Lenin! (2003) Dir. Wolfgang Becker, 121 mins.
Set in East Berlin, the film follows a year in the life of a German boy, Alex (Daniel Bruhl), up to just after German reunification in 1990. After his socialist mother sees Alex arrested during an anti-government demonstration she suffers a heart attack and remains comatose through the fall of the Berlin wall and the GDR. Knowing that the slightest shock could prove fatal upon his mother’s awakening, Alex then attempts to pull off an elaborate scheme to keep the fall of the socialist regime a secret from her for as long as possible. Becker’s comedy drama is a poignant and endearing story that critiques western consumerism and socialist authoritarianism.
847. The Birds (1963) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 119 mins.
Loosely based on the 1952 story of the same name by Daphne du Maurier, the film focuses on a series of sudden, unexplained violent bird attacks on the people of Bodega Bay, California over the course of a few days. Perhaps dented by comparisons to the brilliance of Hitchcock’s previous three films (Vertigo, North by Northwest and Psycho), The Birds was uneasily received at the time of release, but is now lauded for its masterful suspense.
846. Down By Law (1986) Dir. Jim Jarmusch, 107 mins.
The film centres on the arrest, incarceration and escape from jail of three men, a disc jockey (Tom Waits), a pimp (John Lurie) and an Italian tourist (Roberto Benigni). Arguably Jarmusch’s best film, Down by Law is delightfully funny and stylishly cinematic.
845. Fireworks (1997) Dir. Takeshi Kitano, 103 mins.
Writer/director Takeshi Kitano plays a beleaguered policeman, Nishi, whose life is falling apart around him. His daughter was murdered, his wife is dying of leukemia, and his partner was ambushed by gangsters and paralysed. Nishi further complicates his situation by borrowing money from the Yakusa so that he can quit his job and spend more time with his wife. Fascinating, unique and with brutal flashes of violence, Fireworks helped transform Kitano’s reputation into that of a serious filmmaker in his native Japan.
844. The Circus (1928) Dir. Charlie Chaplin, 71 mins.
The ringmaster of an impoverished circus hires Chaplin’s Little Tramp as a clown, but discovers that he can only be funny unintentionally, not on purpose. Given that the troubled production coincided with the death of Chaplin’s mother and divorce proceedings by his second wife Lita Grey, it’s hardly surprising that The Circus has bitter undertones. However, the film does have moments of cinematic brilliance and hilarious slapstick comedy.
843. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) Dir. William A. Wellman, 75 mins.
With Westerns becoming vehicles for the exploration of moral issues in the 1940s, The Ox-Bow Incident deals with a lynching that exposes the hypocrisy of respectable society. Two drifters (Henry Fonda and Harry Morgan) are passing through a small Nevada town when they hear that a local rancher has been murdered and his cattle stolen. They join a posse with the townspeople and when three men are found in possession of the cattle, the drifters try to prevent an act of mob mentality. Despite technical and narrative flaws it has been acclaimed as one of most important films of the western genre.
842. Shoot the Piano Player (1960) Dir. Francois Truffaut, 92 mins.
Strikingly inventive, Truffaut’s second feature follows a one-time concert pianist (Charles Aznavour) who gained fame but then changed his name and plays honky-tonk in an out-of-the-way saloon. His self-imposed exile ends when two of his brothers get into trouble with gangsters they double crossed and the pianist helps them escape, putting his life and that of another brother into jeopardy. With inspiration from his favourite American directors and employing the hallmarks of the French New Wave, Truffaut blends suspense, humour and a variety of technical styles to create a film noir masterpiece.
841. Castle in the Sky (1986) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 124 mins.
Miyazaki’s animated classic follows the adventures of a young boy and girl attempting to keep a magic crystal from a group of military agents, while searching for a legendary floating castle. Blends fable, steampunk and exciting action scenes to create an epic fantasy for all ages.