The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2018) 620-601


620. The Great Escape (1963) Dir. John Sturges, 172 mins.

Based on the book by Paul Brickhill, The Great Escape is the supposedly true story of Allied prisoners plotting to break out of a Nazi detention camp. With the US part in planning the escape fabricated.

619. Jurassic Park (1993) Dir. Steven Spielberg, 127 mins.

Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, Spielberg’s dinosaur epic is set on the fictional island of Isla Nublar, located off Central America’s Pacific Coast near Costa Rica, where a billionaire philanthropist (Richard Attenborough) and a small team of genetic scientists have created a wildlife park of cloned dinosaurs. When the park’s technology breaks the dinosaurs are set loose. While the film has a ferocity which sits uneasily alongside its tidy moral lessons, Spielberg manages to combine the bitter horror of his early work with state of the art special effects to create some awe inspiring moments. The film surpassed the earnings of E.T. to become, what was then, the biggest grossing film of all time.

618. Farewell, My Concubine (1993) Dir. Kaige Chen, 156 mins.

Farewell My Concubine explores the effect of China’s political turmoil during the mid-20th century on the lives of two male stars in a Peking opera troupe and the woman who comes between them. Financed with Taiwanese money, Farewell My Concubine was first Chinese film to win the Palm d’Or at Cannes.

617. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) Dir. Vincente Minnelli, 113 mins.

Divided into a series of seasonal vignettes, starting with Summer 1903, it relates the story of a year in the life of the Smith family in St. Louis, leading up to the opening of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (more commonly referred to as the World’s Fair) in the spring of 1904. Perhaps best known to modern audiences for Judy Garland’s performance of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Christmas’.

616. The Hidden Fortress (1958) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 139 mins.

Two soldiers hide out in the woods from the invading army. They find a gold bar hidden in a tree, and the mood changes from brutality to humour. With a story that was later recycled by George Lucas for Star Wars.

615. Moonrise Kingdom (2012) Dir. Wes Anderson, 94 mins.

Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two twelve-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. A tremendous ensemble cast.

614. East of Eden (1955) Dir. Elia Kazan, 115 mins.

It is about a wayward young man (James Dean) who, while seeking his own identity, vies for the affection of his deeply religious father against his favoured brother, thus retelling the story of Cain and Abel.

613. Manon of the Spring (1986) Dir. Claude Berri, 113 mins.

Manon (Emmanuelle Beart), now fully grown, is a shepherdess who prefers to keep her distance from the local villagers but is determined to uncover the truth behind the death of her father (played by Gerard Depardieu in Jean de Florette) and to wreak vengeance on the men she holds responsible.

612. A Night at the Opera (1935) Dir. Sam Wood, 91 mins.

Enticed to MGM by Irving Thalberg, the Marx Brothers had their last great success with A Night at the Opera. We are introduced to Groucho Marx as penny-ante promoter Otis B. Driftwood. After a sumptuous dinner with a beautiful blonde at a fancy Milan restaurant, Driftwood tries to cadge another free meal from his wealthy patroness, Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont). The dignified dowager complains that Driftwood had promised to get her into high society, but has done nothing so far.

611. The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013) Dir. Isao Takahata, 137 mins.

Found inside a shining stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter (James Caan) and his wife (Mary Steenburgen), a tiny girl grows rapidly into an exquisite young lady (Chloë Grace Moretz). The mysterious young princess enthrals all who encounter her – but ultimately she must confront her fate, the punishment for her crime.

610. Interstellar (2014) Dir. Christopher Nolan, 169 mins.

Set in a dystopian future where humanity is struggling to survive, the film follows a group of astronauts who travel through a wormhole in search of a new home for humanity.

609. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) Dir. Jacques Demy, 91 mins.

Guy Foucher (Nino Castelnuovo), a 20-year-old French auto mechanic, has fallen in love with 17-year-old Geneviève Emery (a luminous Catherine Deneuve), an employee in her widowed mother’s chic but financially embattled umbrella shop. On the evening before Guy is to leave for a two-year tour of combat in Algeria, he and Geneviève make love. She becomes pregnant and must choose between waiting for Guy’s return or accepting an offer of marriage from a wealthy diamond merchant.

608. Giant (1956) Dir. George Stevens, 201 mins.

Giant opens circa 1922 in Maryland, where Texas rancher Jordan “Bick” Benedict (Rock Hudson) has arrived to buy a stallion called War Winds from its owner, Dr. Horace Lynnton (Paul Fix). But much as Bick loves and knows horses, he finds himself even more transfixed by the doctor’s daughter, Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor), and after some awkward moments, she has to admit that she’s equally drawn to the shy, laconic Texan.

607. The Color of Pomegranates (1968) Dir. Sergei Parajanov, 79 mins.

Parajanov’s Armenian masterpiece is based in part on the life of the 18th-century poet, Sayat Nova (‘The King of Song’). Renowned for his writings and his religious lifestyle, Sayat Nova became a martyr when he grew too influential for the authorities to control. Displaying a baroque aestheticism that has influenced several generations of directors throughout the USSR (Tarkovsky was an admirer).

606. Death in Venice (1971) Dir. Luchino Visconti, 130 mins.

Based on a novel by Thomas Mann, Death in Venice stars Dirk Bogarde as a German composer who is terrified that he has lost all vestiges of humanity. While visiting Venice, Bogarde falls in love with a beautiful young boy (Bjorn Andresen).

605. The Wind Will Carry Us (1999) Dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 118 mins.

This idiosyncratic drama from Iran begins as a jeep winds through the hills of Kurdistan, containing an engineer (Behzad Dourani) and his two assistants (whom we never see) as they search for a small village in the mountains. When they arrive, they are greeted by a young boy, who shows them a place they can stay and guides the engineer to the home of an old woman (also never seen) who seems to be dying. No one is sure what the engineer and his men are doing there; some locals think he’s keeping watch of the old woman and wants to purchase her land when she dies, while others think he could be an archeologist searching for rare artifacts.

604. Brokeback Mountain (2005) Dir. Ang Lee, 134 mins.

The film stars Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and Michelle Williams, and depicts the complex emotional and sexual relationship between Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist in the American West from 1963 to 1983.

603. Secrets & Lies (1996) Dir. Mike Leigh, 142 mins.

Hortense, a black optometrist, discovers that her birth mother is a working class white woman.

602. The Hour-Glass Sanatorium (1973) Dir. Wojciech Has, 124 mins.

The story follows a young Jewish man who visits his father in a mystical sanatorium where time does not behave normally.

601. Heaven’s Gate (1980) Dir. Michael Cimino, 149 mins.

Grossly indulgent Western epic loosely based on the Johnson County War, that portrays a fictional dispute between land barons and European immigrants in Wyoming in the 1890s. The failure of the film to recover even a proportion of its huge costs not only effectively brought down United Artists but made Hollywood executives wary of further adventures out west leading to the 1980s being the western’s worst ever decade.


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