900. 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. In the film, the Galactic Empire, under the direction of the ruthless Emperor, is constructing a second Death Star in order to crush the Rebel Alliance once and for all. Since the Emperor plans to personally oversee the final stages of its construction, the Rebel Fleet launches a full-scale attack on the Death Star in order to prevent its completion and kill the Emperor, effectively bringing an end to his hold over the galaxy. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker struggles to bring his father Darth Vader back to the light side of the Force. 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.
899. Ben-Hur (1959) Dir. William Wyler, 212 mins.
A remake of the 1925 silent film, Ben-Hur was adapted from Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. The epic drama follows an aristocratic merchant Jew, Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), living in Judaea in AD 26, who incurs the wrath of a childhood friend, now a Roman tribune and the new commander of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. Although Judah is wrongly accused of starting a riot, condemned to the galleys and his family imprisoned, he survives and sets out on a quest for vengeance. As well as winning a record 11 Oscars, the film is most notable for the memorable chariot race which took five weeks to shoot at a cost of a staggering of $1 million.
898. True Romance (1993) Dir. Tony Scott, 121 mins.
Scripted by Quentin Tarantino, the film follows Clarence Worley, a well-meaning but socially unskilled comic-shop clerk, who visits a grindhouse cinema and meets and falls in love with the beautiful Alabama. To Clarence’s disappointment he finds she’s a prostitute paid by his boss. However, Alabama has fallen for Clarence and is ready to get away from her pimp to be with him. With a terrific cast, plenty of humour and violent action, True Romance has earned cult status. In 2008 it was placed 157th on Empire Magazine’s 500 Greatest films of all time.
897. The Hidden Fortress (1958) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 139 mins.
The jidaigeki adventure film follows two bedraggled peasants, who, having been wrongly taken for soldiers, escape an invading army and find a gold bar while hiding out in the woods. With a mood that changes back an forth between brutality and humour, some have dismissed The Hidden Fortress as nothing more than well shot entertainment or at least not on a par with Kurosawa’s most acclaimed work. However, it does feature some of the filmmaker’s most visually stunning and arresting sequences (particularly notable is the striking use of composition in depth), fast paced action, witty characters and an intriguing narrative that was later recycled by George Lucas for Star Wars.
896. The War Game (1965) Dir. Peter Watkins, 48 mins.
One of the most controversial nonfiction films of the 60s, Peter Watkins’ The War Game, which was filmed in handheld documentary fashion, speculates on how Britain’s civil defence preparations might cope with a future nuclear war. With backing from the BBC, the polemical film argues that such a war could happen and that civil defence efforts would not protect people from its terrible consequences. It dramatises potential post-war horrors such as police shooting severely wounded casualties, rioting because of a lack of food and executions of civilians by firing squads. Evoking the style of cinema verite and using emotive music and a menacing voice-over, Watkins creates a harrowing realism. In fact, so realistic were the gruesome injuries on the hundreds of non-professional actors, the BBC refused to air the film. However, it was exhibited in cinemas by the British Film Institute and received an Academy Award for feature documentary.
895. 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.
894. Ludwig (1973) Dir. Luchino Visconti, 235 mins.
The film is about the life and death of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Having suffered a stroke during filming, Italian director Visconti was unable to stop distributors from cutting the film, which they deemed too long, by an hour. The film was further shortened because of concerns about the depiction of Ludwig’s homosexuality. Ludwig was not restored to its four-hour length until four years after Visconti’s death in 1980 thanks to the work of the film’s editor Ruggero Mastroianni and screenwriter Suso Cecchi d’Amico.
893. 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.
892. Vampyr (1932) Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer, 73 mins.
Although now lauded for its disorientating visual effects and atmosphere, Vampyr was considered a low point in Dreyer’s career at the time of release. The film was written by Dreyer and Christen Jul based on elements from J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s collection of supernatural stories ‘In a Glass Darkly’ and follows Allan Gray, a student of the occult who enters the village of Courtempierre, which is under the curse of a vampire.
891. Forbidden Planet (1956) Dir. Fred M. Wilcox, 98 mins.
Seen as one of the great sci-fi’s of the 1950s, Forbidden Planet follows spacemen who travel to the distant planet of Altair IV to find out what happened to an earlier scientific expedition. On the planet they find only scientist (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter who live with obedient robot Robby. So what became of the rest of the scientists? An influential outer space adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest that is elevated by groundbreaking special effects and intelligent writing.
890. 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.
889. The Little Foxes (1941) Dir. William Wyler, 115 mins.
An adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s play that involves the corrupt machinations of Regina Giddens (Bette Davis) and her two greedy brothers who scheme mercilessly in their attempt to make a fortune on a new cotton mill. In the process, Regina is willing to crush anyone who stands in their way including her own husband who has a serious heart condition. Entertaining, insightful and with innovative cinematography The Little Foxes is a prime example of how well a play can be adapted for the big screen.
888. Heart of a Dog (1988) Dir. Vladimir Bortko, 130 mins.
This Soviet film tells the story of Preobrazhensky (Yevgeni Yevstigneyev), a surgeon, who is a professor of medicine in Moscow. After the Russian revolution is thoroughly in place, he is visited by the housing committee, who feels that he should share the spaciousness of his “big” five-room apartment with several others. Meanwhile, in an experiment he implants a dog with the heart and brain of a tramp. The dog gradually transforms into a man (Vladimir Tolokonnikov), but still has some doggy attitudes.
887. 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. One of the most intelligent and stirring films from the 60s and not only did Scofield deservedly win an Oscar for best actor but there was also Academy Awards for best film and director for Zinnemann.
886. The Roaring Twenties (1939) Dir. Raoul Walsh, 104 mins.
A classic of the gangster genre that follows a pair of World War I buddies who become underworld kingpins.
885. Black Rain (1989) Dir. Shohei Imamura, 123 mins.
Based on the novel of the same name by Ibuse Masuji and released as Kuroi ame, the film follows a trio of survivors during the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in Japan. Using the documentary style seen in much of his work and shooting in stunning black and white, Imamura manages to put across the horrifying physical and psychological consequences of nuclear war. With great acting and a haunting soundtrack, it’s devastating stuff and although was criticised on release for its graphic detail, the film is never gratuitous or sensationalist.
884. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 150 mins.
Turkish drama film, co-written and directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan based on the true experience of one of the film’s writers, telling the story of a group of men who search for a dead body on the Anatolian steppe.
883. A Moment of Innocence (1996) Dir. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 78 mins.
In Tehran, a former policeman in his forties gets in contact with the Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, reminding the filmmaker that he had promised him a part in his next movie. In fact, the two men had “met” 20 years earlier under rather dramatic circumstances: in 1975, the young Makhmalbaf, a dissident under the Shah’s regime, stabbed this policeman while trying to steal his revolver. Imprisoned, the future filmmaker was released during the height of the Revolution.
882. Dirty Harry (1971) Dir. Don Siegel, 102 mins.
Clint Eastwood stars 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.
881. À Nos Amours (1983) Dir. Maurice Pialat, 95 mins.
The story follows a 15-year-old girl named Suzanne (Sandrine Bonnaire) who experiences her sexual awakening and becomes promiscuous, but is unable to feel love.