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The Pendragon Society

The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2019) 180-161


180. The Last Laugh (1924) Dir. F.W. Murnau, 90 mins.

Regarded amongst the greatest silent films of Weimar cinema, Murnau’s drama was hugely influential for its combination of Karl Freund’s remarkable cinematography and Emil Jannings lead performance. The only international star working in Germany in the 1920s, Jannings brought his commanding presence to the role of a hotel doorman, who, fiercely proud of his job, comports himself like a general in his resplendent costume, and is treated like royalty by his friends and neighbours. The posh hotel’s insensitive new manager, noting that Jannings seems winded after carrying a heavy trunk for a patron, decides that the old man is no longer up to his job and demotes him to a restroom attendant. Although criticised for an upbeat commercial fantasy ending, that was insisted on by the UFA, The Last Laugh heralded a new presence for German films internationally. It remains notable thanks to the psychological realism of Jannings’s acting,  Freund’s exceptional camera work, with which he attained an unprecedented degree of camera movement and for Murnau’s creation of an artistic language of film based purely on the expressive qualities of the image.

179. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Dir. Jonathan Demme, 118 mins.

An adaptation of Thomas Harris’s best selling novel and the first horror film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, The  Silence of the Lambs follows Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), a young working class FBI recruit, who puts herself in physical and psychological danger by seeking the advice of the imprisoned former psychiatrist and cannibalistic murderer, Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to apprehend another serial killer, known only as “Buffalo Bill” (Ted Levine) and rescue his latest victim. While lacking the atmospheric style of Michael Mann’s earlier Manhunter (also based on Harris’s novel), the film works thanks to tour de force performances by a memorably chilling Hopkins, a creepy Levine and the compelling Foster. The latter had to fight hard for what would be her second Oscar winning role (the part being originally earmarked for Michelle Pfeiffer), but her strong performance was somewhat overshadowed by a campaign to out her as gay that came after criticism of the film by LGBT groups for its portrayal of Buffalo Bill as bisexual and transsexual.

178. The Departed (2006) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 151

Based on the internationally acclaimed Hong Kong actioner, Infernal Affairs and it’s two sequels, The Departed transports the story of deception and conflicted loyalties, within the police and a criminal group, to Boston. Irish Mob boss Francis “Frank” Costello (Jack Nicholson) plants Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) as a mole within the Massachusetts State Police. Simultaneously, the police assign undercover state trooper William “Billy” Costigan (Leonardo Di Caprio) to infiltrate Costello’s crew. The outstanding ensemble cast, the stylish direction of Scorsese and his and William Monahan’s intelligent adapted screenplay helped garner not just popular and critical acclaim but also significant recognition at the academy awards.

177. Fitzcarraldo (1982) Dir. Werner Herzog, 158 mins.

It portrays would-be rubber baron Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald (Klaus Kinski), who has to pull a steamship over a steep hill in order to access a rich rubber territory.

176. Nights of Cabiria (1957) Dir. Federico Fellini, 117 mins.

Based on a story by Fellini, the film is about a prostitute in Rome who searches for true love in vain.

175. My Darling Clementine (1946) Dir. John Ford, 97 mins.

John Ford’s western takes its inspiration from the life and legend of Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda), the frontier lawman who teamed with Doc Holliday (Victor Mature) for the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

174. Last Year at Marienbad (1961) Dir. Alain Resnais, 94 mins.

Set in a palace in a park that has been converted into a luxury hotel, it stars Delphine Seyrig and Giorgio Albertazzi as a woman and a man who may have met the year before and may have contemplated or started an affair, with Sacha Pitoëff as a second man who may be the woman’s husband.

173. Oldboy (2003) Dir. Chan-Wook Park, 120 mins.

The film follows the story of one Oh Dae-Su, who is locked in a hotel room for 15 years without knowing his captor’s motives. When he is finally released, he is trapped in a web of conspiracy and violence.

172. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) Dir. Chantal Akerman, 201 mins.

In this experimental film about a middle-aged widow driven to desperation by the crushing boredom of making beds, cleaning bathtubs, cooking, dusting, and even just eating, the real-life time needed to make that bed or to cook is exactly the time used in the film, an effect which makes some viewers just as bored and restless as the widow, and which brings home the point of the film quite well.

171. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 86 mins.

The film tells the charming story of the two young daughters (Satsuki and Mei) of a professor and their interactions with friendly wood spirits, particularly Totoro, in postwar rural Japan.

170. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Dir. Michel Gondry, 108 mins.

The film uses nonlinear narration and neosurrealism to explore the nature of memory and romantic love.

169. King Kong (1933) Dir. Merian C. Cooper, 100 mins.

The film tells of a gigantic island-dwelling gorilla-like creature called Kong who is taken to New York and dies in an attempt to possess a beautiful young woman. The original and still the best.

168. The Great Dictator (1940) Dir. Charles Chaplin, 125 mins.

During World War I, a Jewish barber (Chaplin) in the army of Tomania saves the life of high-ranking officer Schultz (Reginald Gardiner). While Schultz survives the conflict unscathed, the barber is stricken with amnesia and bundled off to a hospital. Twenty years pass and Tomania has been taken over by dictator Adenoid Hynkel (Chaplin again) and his stooges Garbitsch (Henry Daniell) and Herring (Billy Gilbert).

167. The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964) Dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini, 137 mins.

It is a cinematic rendition of the story of Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of Saint Matthew, from the Nativity through the Resurrection.

166. Star Wars (1977) Dir. George Lucas, 121 mins.

Lucas’s space opera follows farmhand Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who’s isolated life is disrupted when he inadvertently acquires two droids that possess architectural plot focuses on the Rebel Alliance, led by Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and its attempt to destroy the Galactic Empire’s space station, the Death Star.

165. Yojimbo (1961) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 110 mins.

It tells the story of a rōnin, portrayed by Toshiro Mifune, who arrives in a small town where competing crime lords vie for supremacy. The two bosses each try to hire the newcomer as a bodyguard.

164. Unforgiven (1992) Dir. Clint Eastwood, 131 mins.

Eastwood’s revisionist western portrays William Munny (Eastwood himself), an ageing outlaw and killer who takes on one more job years after he had turned to farming.

163. Amarcord (1973) Dir. Federico Fellini, 123 mins.

Amarcord is a comedy-drama film directed by Federico Fellini, a semi-autobiographical tale about Titta, an adolescent boy growing up among an eccentric cast of characters in the village of Borgo San Giuliano (situated near the ancient walls of Rimini) in 1930s Fascist Italy.

162. All About Eve (1950) Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 138 mins.

The film stars Bette Davis as Margo Channing, a highly regarded but ageing Broadway star. Anne Baxter plays Eve Harrington, an ambitious young fan who insinuates herself into Channing’s life, ultimately threatening Channing’s career and her personal relationships.

161. Cinema Paradiso (1988) Dir. Giuseppe Tornatore, 155 mins.

The story begins in the present as a Sicilian mother pines for her estranged son, Salvatore, who left many years ago and has since become a prominent Roman film director who has taken the advice of his mentor too literally. He finally returns to his home village to attend the funeral of the town’s former film projectionist, Alfredo, and, in so doing, embarks upon a journey into his boyhood just after WWII when he became the man’s official son.