The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2019) 1000-981


1000. 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. Buy

999. 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.

998. King Kong (2005) Dir. Peter Jackson, 187 mins.

Set in 1933, King Kong tells the story of an ambitious filmmaker who coerces his cast and the crew of a hired ship to travel to the mysterious Skull Island. There they encounter Kong, a legendary giant gorilla, whom they capture and take to New York City. Perhaps too long, but Peter Jackson’s affectionate remake of the 30s classic still has plenty to admire and enjoy. It’s not so much the huge and often excessive CGI action sequences that make the film but rather the charming and moving moments between Kong and Ann Darrow (Cate Blanchett), a struggling vaudeville actress who becomes the ‘beauty’ to Kong’s ‘beast.’  It ranked 450th on Empire magazine’s 2008 list of the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.

997. The Turin Horse (2011) Dir. Bela Tarr, Agnes Hranitzky, 146 mins.

It recalls the whipping of a horse in the Italian city of Turin which is rumoured to have caused the mental breakdown of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

996. 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.

995. Force of Evil (1948) Dir. Abraham Polonsky, 78 mins.

Joe Morse wants to consolidate all the small-time numbers racket operators into a single powerful organisation. But, his older brother is one of these small operators, and he wants things to stay the way they are, rather than dealing with the gangsters who dominate the big-time.

994. 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.

993. 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 a notably authentic ‘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.

992. 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.

991. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) Dir. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, 117 mins.

In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales becomes one of many Spider-Men as they team up to save New York City from Kingpin.

990. My Fair Lady (1964) Dir. George Cukor, 170 mins.

With a screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner, the film depicts a poor Cockney flower seller named Eliza Doolittle who overhears an arrogant phonetics professor, Henry Higgins, as he casually wagers that he could teach her to speak “proper” English, thereby making her presentable in the high society of Edwardian London.

989. Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Dir. Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, 149 mins.

In the film, the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy attempt to stop Thanos (Josh Brolin) from amassing the all-powerful Infinity Stones, and wiping out half of all life in the universe. Brolin as the fascinating antagonist is the film’s stand out performance.

988. Synecdoche, New York (2008) Dir. Charlie Kaufman, 124 mins.

The plot follows an ailing theatre director (Philip Seymour Hoffman), working on an increasingly elaborate stage production, whose extreme commitment to realism begins to blur the boundaries between fiction and reality. Writer/director Kaufman’s film was lauded for it’s ambition and it does have some brilliant parts but many will it find it uneven and baffling.

987. 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.

986. The River (1951) Dir. Jean Renoir, 99 mins.

A fairly faithful dramatisation of an earlier literary work of the same name (The River, authored by Rumer Godden), the movie attests to a teenager’s coming of age and first love, and how her heart is broken when the man she falls in love with is smitten with her best friend instead.

985. Possession (1981) Dir. Andrzej Żuławski, 124 mins.

The plot obliquely follows the relationship between an international spy and his wife, who begins exhibiting increasingly disturbing behaviour after asking him for a divorce.

984. 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).

983. The Cameraman (1928) Dir. Edward Sedgwick, 75 mins.

Fast-paced and funny, this silent Buster Keaton comedy has” the Great Stone Face” playing an aspiring newsreel cameraman who falls in love with an office girl and tries to impress her by getting the scoop on a Chinese tong war. Instead he finds himself in the midst of a terrible gunfight. Still he captures it on film and is about to triumphantly return with it when the mischievous monkey of a local organ grinder steals it away.

982. 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.’

981. 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.


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