The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2020) 100-81

100. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) Dir. Andrew Dominik, 160 mins.

An adaptation of Ron Hansen’s 1983 novel of the same name, Dominik’s ambitious revisionist western dramatises the relationship between James and Ford through the series of events that led up to the shooting of the legendary outlaw. Edited by Dominik to be “a dark, contemplative examination of fame and infamy,” the studio was initially opposed to his approach as they wanted more action. The writer/director had his way, backed by producers Brad Pitt and Ridley Scott. The film is full of fine performances, particularly by Pitt, who fits the bill as the charismatic and dangerous James but is just about overshadowed by an outstanding portrayal of Robert Ford by Casey Affleck. Along with the two brilliant lead performances, it’s the stunning visuals helped by Roger Deakins’s inventive cinematographic techniques, an emotive soundtrack from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis and a bold script from Dominik that come together to create a stylish mood piece with an epic sweep that explores the casual violence and harsh loneliness of the 19th century American west and the links between criminality and fame. More…

99. Ugetsu (1953) Dir. Kenji Mizoguchi, 94 mins.

It is about a peasant farmer and potter who leaves his wife and young son during civil war, and is seduced by a spirit that threatens his life. A subplot involves his friend, who dreams of becoming a great samurai and achieves this at the unintended expense of his wife. Watch

98. The Right Stuff (1983) Dir. Philip Kaufman, 193 mins.

Adapted from Tom Wolfe’s best-selling 1979 book of the same name the film follows the Navy, Marine and Air Force test pilots who were involved in aeronautical research at Edwards Air Force Base, California, as well as the Mercury Seven, the military pilots who were selected to be the astronauts for Project Mercury, the first manned spaceflight by the United States. Sam Shepherd gives an iconic performance as Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to officially break the sound barrier. Watch

97. Late Spring (1949) Dir. Yasujiro Ozu, 108 mins.

Chisu Ryu plays a middle-class widower with a marriageable daughter. Not wishing to see the girl resign herself to spinsterhood, Ryu pretends that he himself is about to be married. The game plan is to convince the daughter that they’ll be no room for her at home, thus forcing her to seek comfort and joy elsewhere. Watch

96. L’atalante (1934) Dir. Jean Vigo, 89 mins.

Jean Dasté stars as Jean, the captain of a river barge who lives with his new wife Juliette (Dita Parlo) on the boat, along with first mate Père Jules (Michel Simon) and the cabin boy (Louis Lefebvre). Watch

95. Brazil (1985) Dir. Terry Gilliam, 94 mins.

Influenced by the surrealism of Fellini, Gilliam’s Orwellian sci-fi is set in a consumer driven dystopian world, in which there is an over reliance on whimsical and poorly maintained machines. It centres on Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), who lives in a small apartment and works in a mind numbing job while trying to find a woman who appears in his dreams. Watch

94. Paths of Glory (1957) Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 87 mins.

Set during World War I, the film stars Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of French soldiers who refuse to continue a suicidal attack. Dax attempts to defend them against a charge of cowardice in a court-martial. Watch

93. Trainspotting (1996) Dir. Danny Boyle, 94 mins.

An adaptation of the novel by Irving Welsh, the film follows Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewan Bremner) and other heroin addicts in the late 1980s economically depressed area of Edinburgh. After quitting heroin, Renton struggles to adjust to the sober lifestyle he no longer remembers. Watch

92. Pickpocket (1959) Dir. Robert Bresson, 75 mins.

A pickpocket, Kamal, is blamed by his wife for bringing misery to other families as well as to their own home. Although, he has promised to reform himself, he cannot find another line of work which would bring him a living wage. One day, after a morning of picking pockets, Kamal finds a photograph of his wife in a man’s purse he had just stolen. Watch

91. The Deer Hunter (1978) Dir. Michael Cimino, 182 mins.

Co-written and directed by Mchael Cimino, The Deer Hunter is about a trio of Russian American steelworkers whose lives are changed forever after they fight in the Vietnam War. Features arresting and harrowing scenes. Watch

90. Some Like it Hot (1959) Dir. Billy Wilder, 120 mins.

Wilder’s classic comedy follows two musicians (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) who dress in drag in order to escape from mafia gangsters whom they witnessed commit a crime inspired by the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Watch

89. The Lives of Others (2006) Dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 137 mins.

After a series of German comedies about the end of the East German socialist state, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (who was only 16 when the Berlin Wall fell) delivers a deeply unsettling thriller with a remarkably authentic feel. The film involves the monitoring of the cultural scene of East Berlin by agents of the Stasi, particularly Captain Wiesler (the outstanding Ulrich Mühe) who listens in to the lives of a playwright and his prominent actress lover. While the decision to make Wiesler the hero of the piece was criticised by some the film was mostly applauded in Germany and with its clever narrative, build up of suspense and emotional intensity it’s not hard to see why many believe it’s one of the very best films to come out of the country. More…

88. Wild Strawberries (1957) Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 91 mins.

This profound character study chronicles an automobile trip taken by an elderly medical professor (Victor Sjostrom) to accept an honorary degree. Incidents and conversations occurring during the journey are intermixed with dreams and memories as the old man comes to terms with the life he has lived. Acclaimed Swedish silent film director, Sjostrom gives a moving performance as the reflective old man. Watch

87. No Country For Old Men (2007) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 122 mins.

Faithfully adapted from the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, No Country for Old Men tells the story of an ordinary man (Josh Brolin) who, while out hunting, stumbles across the aftermath a drug deal gone awry and walks away with two million dollars in a briefcase. Soon he is being pursued by those who want the money back, including psychopathic hitman Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). While exploring similar ground, such as fate versus self determination, to their earlier crime films Blood Simple and particularly Fargo, the Coen Brothers move into even darker territory to deliver a landscaped based modern western with minimal dialogue and plenty of remorseless killing. Bardem’s chilling performance, the clever build up of suspense, stunning visual sequences and the serious tone (even with the marvellous deadpan humour) help make No Country for Old Men arguably the best of the Coens career so far. More…

86. The Leopard (1963) Dir. Luchino Visconti, 187 mins.

The Leopard chronicles the fortunes of Prince Fabrizio Salina and his family during the unification of Italy in the 1860s. Watch

85. Wings of Desire (1987) Dir. Wim Wenders, 128 mins.

The film is about invisible, immortal angels who populate Berlin and listen to the thoughts of its human inhabitants, comforting those who are in distress. One of the angels (Bruno Ganz), falls in love with a beautiful, lonely trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin). The angel chooses to become mortal so that he can experience human sensory pleasures and discover human love with the trapeze artist. Watch

84. Ikiru (1952) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 143 mins.

The film examines the struggles of a terminally ill Tokyo bureaucrat and his final quest for meaning. Watch

83. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Dir. Frank Darabont, 142 mins.

An adaptation of Stephen King’s prison drama that follows banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murder of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence. Over the following two decades, he befriends a fellow prisoner, Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman), and becomes instrumental in a money laundering operation led by the prison warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton). A film that struggled at the box office but grew in reputation thanks to word of mouth. Particularly notable are Freeman’s superb narration and Robbins compelling performance. Watch

82. Modern Times (1936) Dir. Charles Chaplin, 87 mins.

Modern Times is a silent comedy written and directed by Charlie Chaplin in which his iconic Little Tramp character struggles to survive in the modern, industrialised world. Watch

81. Days of Heaven (1978) Dir. Terrence Malick, 94 mins.

Remarkably immersive and visually stunning, Days of Heaven is set in 1916 and tells the story of Bill and Abby, lovers who travel to the Texas Panhandle to harvest crops for a wealthy farmer. Bill encourages Abby to claim the fortune of the dying farmer by tricking him into a false marriage. Watch


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