840. Ashes and Diamonds (1958) Dir. Andrzej Wajda, 103 mins.
Two men are hired to kill a top Communist official in the aftermath of World War II.
839. Divorce Italian Style (1961) Dir. Pietro Germi, 105 mins.
Marcello Mastroianni excels in Germi’s hugely entertaining and darkly humorous comedy as an impoverished Sicilian nobleman who wishes to end his marriage to his shrewish but devoted wife because he’s fallen in love with his much younger attractive cousin. While Italian Catholic law prohibits divorce, murder is only punishable by a light sentence if it’s committed to restore family honour. So he plans to find his wife a lover, deciding on a local priest’s godson with long standing feelings for the wife, and shoot them both in a jealous rage.
838. Eyes Wide Shut (1999) Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 159 mins.
Kubrick’s last film follows the sexually charged adventures of Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise), who is shocked when his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), reveals that she had contemplated having an affair a year earlier. He embarks on a night-long adventure, during which he infiltrates a massive masked orgy of an unnamed secret society.
837. In the Heat of the Night (1967) Dir. Norman Jewison, 109 mins.
The Hollywood social conscience genre of the 1960s reached its pinnacle with this classic race relations drama that won the Academy Award for best picture. The confrontational narrative pits a sophisticated black Philadelphia homicide detective Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) against a bigoted southern white police chief (Rod Steiger). The film works within the traditional framework of a crime thriller but is clearly more interested in how the black protagonist can operate in a hostile Southern white environment than the resolution of the murder he’s investigating. Watch
836. Heaven’s Gate (1980) Dir. Michael Cimino, 149 mins.
Considered a grossly indulgent folly by many, Cimino’s western epic, loosely based on the Johnson County War, 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. Watch
835. Gertrud (1964) Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer, 119 mins.
Gertrud Kanning, like the maid Joan in Dreyer’s best-known film, La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, is a woman in isolation. On the eve of her husband’s appointment to a cabinet minister post, she announces that she is leaving their loveless marriage. But her younger lover Erland Jansson, a concert pianist, is more interested in keeping their affair illicit than in continuing it in the open. Buy
834. The Last of the Mohicans (1992) Dir. Michael Mann, 112 mins.
Something of a departure for a director who made his name with atmospheric crime dramas, The Last of the Mohicans is a historical epic set in 1757 during the French and Indian War that’s based on on James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 novel. Daniel Day-Lewis gives a powerful central performance as the white adopted son of a Mohican chief who comes to the aid of two English daughters of a British colonel who are under threat from a Huron warrior who blames the colonel for wrong done to his family. Watch
833. Dumbo (1941) Dir. Ben Sharpsteen, 64 mins.
The main character is Jumbo Jr., a semi-anthropomorphic elephant who is cruelly nicknamed “Dumbo”, as in “dumb”. He is ridiculed for his big ears, but in fact he is capable of flying by using his ears as wings. Watch
832. Blood Simple (1984) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 99 mins.
M. Emmett Walsh plays Visser, an unscrupulous private eye hired by Texas bar owner Marty (Dan Hedaya) to murder Marty’s faithless wife Abby (Frances McDormand) and her paramour, Ray (John Getz), one of Marty’s employees. Watch
831. Braveheart (1995) Dir. Mel Gibson, 177 mins.
Directed and starring Mel Gibson, the film follows William Wallace, a late 13th-century Scottish warrior who led the Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England (Patrick McGoohan). It’s stirring stuff but lacking in any attempt at factual historicity. Watch
830. Ed Wood (1994) Dir. Tim Burton, 127 mins.
The film concerns the period in Wood’s life when he made his best-known films as well as his relationship with actor Bela Lugosi. Johnny Depp is the daft director while Martin Landau delivers a career best performance as Lugosi.
829. Man on Wire (2008) Dir. James Marsh, 94 mins.
The documentary film chronicles Philippe Petit’s 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center.
828. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) Dir. Alfonso Cuaron, 105 mins.
The film is a coming-of-age story about two teenage boys taking a road trip with a woman in her late twenties. It’s set in 1999 against the backdrop of the political and economic realities of Mexico.
827. Infernal Affairs (2002) Dir. Wai-keung Lau, 101 mins.
It tells the story of a police officer who infiltrates a triad, and another officer secretly working for the same gang.
826. Thelma & Louise (1991) Dir. Ridley Scott, 129 mins.
It stars Geena Davis as Thelma and Susan Sarandon as Louise, two friends who embark on a road trip with unforeseen consequences.
825. Die Hard (1988) Dir. John McTiernan, 131 mins.
The film follows off-duty New York City Police Department officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) who is caught in a Los Angeles skyscraper during a Christmas Eve heist led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman).
824. Edward Scissorhands (1990) Dir. Tim Burton, 105 mins.
Burton’s modern fairy tale stars Johnny Depp (in their first collaboration) as an artificial young man named Edward who is built, but unfinished, by an eccentric inventor (Vincent Price). When his maker dies, Edward is left with scissor blades instead of hands, but is eventually taken in by a suburban family and falls in love with their teenage daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). A delightfully quirky and charming film that is also a visual treat.
823. Fantasia (1940) Dir. James Algar, 120 mins.
The film consists of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski, seven of which are performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra.
822. The Crying Game (1992) Dir. Neil Jordan, 112 mins.
The film is about the experiences of the main character, Fergus (Stephen Rea), a member of the IRA, his brief but meaningful encounter with a soldier, Jody (Forest Whitaker), who is held prisoner by the group, and his unexpected romantic relationship with Jody’s girlfriend, Dil (Jaye Davidson), whom Fergus promised Jody he would protect. However, unexpected events force Fergus to decide what he wants for the future, and ultimately what his nature dictates he must do. Putting to one side whether Whittaker works as a British soldier and the famous plot twist that almost overwhelms the rest of the film, The Crying Game is a gripping mystery that becomes an emotionally complex and haunting drama.
821. Toy Story 2 (1999) Dir. John Lasseter, 92 mins.
In the film, Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) is stolen by a toy collector, prompting Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and his friends to vow to rescue him, but Woody is then tempted by the idea of immortality in a museum.