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.