The Pendragon Society’s 1000 Greatest Films (2020) 880-861


880. RoboCop (1987) Dir. Paul Verhoeven, 103 mins.

Set in a crime-ridden Detroit, Michigan, in the near future, RoboCop centres on police officer Alex Murphy (Weller) who is murdered by a gang of criminals and subsequently revived by the megacorporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) as a superhuman cyborg law enforcer known as RoboCop.

879. Breaker Morant (1980) Dir. Bruce Beresford, 107 mins.

While maybe lacking in subtlety, Bruce Beresford’s film touches a nationalist nerve by portraying Australian positivity against the pompous arrogance, conniving and incompetence of the British, who needing scapegoats for war crimes committed during the Second Anglo-Boer War, court martial three Australian Lieutenants Harry Morant (Edward Woodward), Peter Handcock (Bryan Brown) and George Witton. Set in 1902 and based on one of the first war crime prosecutions in British military history, the film offers historical insight from a time when Australia’s nationhood was being formed and still resonates with contemporary audiences thanks to its powerful sense of injustice.

878. Seven Beauties (1975) Dir. Lina Wertmüller, 115 mins.

Written by Wertmüller, the film is about an Italian everyman who deserts the army during World War II and is then captured by the Germans and sent to a prison camp, where he does anything to survive. Through flashbacks, we learn about his family of seven unattractive sisters, his accidental murder of one sister’s lover, his imprisonment in an insane asylum, where he rapes a patient, and his volunteering to be a soldier to escape confinement.

877. 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.

876. Castle in the Sky (1986) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 124 mins.

Miyazaki’s animated classic follows the adventures of a young boy and girl attempting to keep a magic crystal from a group of military agents, while searching for a legendary floating castle. Blends fable, steampunk and exciting action scenes to create an epic fantasy for all ages.

875. Carlito’s Way (1993) Dir. Brian De Palma, 141 mins.

The film stars Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante, a fictional Puerto Rican drug dealer, who after spending five years in prison (released early due to a technicality), vows to go straight and to retire to the Caribbean with his girlfriend. However, his criminal past proves difficult to escape, and he unwittingly ends up being dragged into the same activities that got him imprisoned in the first place. Masterful direction by De Palma and a fine performance by Pacino that is matched by Sean Penn as Carlito’s sleazy lawyer.

874. Mildred Pierce (1945) Dir. Michael Curtiz, 111 mins.

Dropped by MGM, Joan Crawford signed with Warner Bros. and saved her flagging career by winning the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Mildred, a doting mother who rises from waitress to restaurant owner after the break up of her marriage. The film uses flashback to reveal the events leading up to the murder of her second husband and how her spoiled daughter’s selfishness results in heartbreak. Despite displaying elements of film noir in its narrative structure and visual style the film is known as a classic ‘woman’s picture.’ It’s well directed by Curtiz, who along with the moody photography, prevents the melodrama from becoming too much.

873. Bob le Flambeur (1956) Dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, 98 mins.

Co-scripted by the popular crime writer Auguste Le Breton (Rififi), the film is the story of ex-bank robber and compulsive gambler Bob (Roger Duchesne), who plans one last big heist at the Deauville casino. Placing the ambience of a Hollywood film noir into a Parisian milieu, the film features deft cinematography from Henri Decae and although Melville grew to hate the dialogue, the film was a great inspiration to the directors of the New Wave phenomenon. Watch

872. The Revenant (2015) Dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 156 mins.

The screenplay by Mark L. Smith and Iñárritu is based in part on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel of the same name, describing frontiersman Hugh Glass’s experiences in 1823.

871. Kin-Dza-Dza (1986) Dir. Georgiy Daneliya, 135 mins.

A dystopian comic satire that follows two Russians,  a gruff construction worker and a Georgian student, who find themselves transported to an alien landscape after pushing the wrong button on a strange device. They’ve ended up on a planet named Pluke, a barren desert world that’s home to an oppressive bureaucratic society and where the humanoid inhabitants are telepathic. An imaginative cult sci-fi that parodies Russian society with the sort of absurdist humour that could be classed as Pythonesque.

870. The Secret in their Eyes (2009) Dir. Juan José Campanella, 127 mins.

The Argentine-Spanish crime drama depicts a judiciary employee and a judge in 1974 as they investigate a rape and murder case that turns into an obsession for all the people involved, while also following the characters 25 years later reminiscing over the case and unearthing the buried romance between them. Full of excellent performances and with an unpredictable narrative, the film is well on its way to becoming a classic of world cinema. It placed 91st on the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.

869. The Twilight Samurai (2002) Dir. Yoji Yamada, 129 mins.

Set in mid-19th century Japan, a few years before the Meiji Restoration, it follows the life of Seibei Iguchi, a low-ranking samurai employed as a bureaucrat. Poor, but not destitute, he still manages to lead a content and happy life with his daughters and his mother who has dementia. Through an unfortunate turn of events, the turbulent times conspire against him.

868. Apollo 13 (1995) Dir. Ron Howard, 140 mins.

The film depicts astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise aboard Apollo 13 for America’s third Moon landing mission. En route, an on-board explosion deprives their spacecraft of most of its oxygen supply and electric power, forcing NASA’s flight controllers to abort the Moon landing, and turning the mission into a struggle to get the three men home safely. Howard delivers a detailed and compelling true story of what happened to the crew of the seemingly doomed mission and is helped along by strong performances and a terrific soundtrack from James Horner.

867. Hope and Glory (1987) Dir. John Boorman, 113 mins.

Boorman’s semi-autobiographical film tells the story of the Rohan family and their experiences of the London Blitz as seen through the eyes of the son, Billy (Sebastian Rice-Edwards).

866. Born on the Fourth of July (1989) Dir. Oliver Stone, 145 mins.

Some may consider his performance histrionic but Tom Cruise proved he really could act in Stone’s biography of paraplegic Vietnam War veteran and political activist Ron Kovic.

865. Son of Saul (2015) Dir. Laszlo Nemes, 107 mins.

Set in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, Son of Saul follows a day-and-a-half in the life of Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando (a work unit made up of death camp prisoners). Numbed by his harrowing experiences cleaning up the gas chambers, Saul regains some humanity when he takes it upon himself to arrange a burial for one of the victims. Winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, the film is probably the most intense and devastating look at the horrors of World War 2 since Klimov’s Come And See made 30 years earlier.

864. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) Dir. Benh Zeitlin, 91 mins.

A pulsating and atmospheric fable set in a forgotten but defiant bayou community, cut off from the rest of the world by the sprawling Louisiana levee, that follows a big hearted six-year-old girl (the enchanting Quvenzhane Wallis) and her relationship with her no-nonsense father (Dwight Henry). Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. First time director Benh Zeitlin delivers an impressive and visually engaging mix of magical fantasy and biting realism despite a small budget.

863. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) Dir. Nicolas Roeg, 139 mins.

A British psychological science fiction film directed with his normal eccentricity by Nicolas Roeg and written by Paul Mayersberg, based on Walter Tevis’ 1963 novel of the same name, about an enigmatic extraterrestrial (an excellent debut from David Bowie) who crash lands on Earth seeking a way to ship water to his planet, which is suffering from a severe drought. However, despite becoming remarkably wealthy thanks to his alien inventions, the visitor is soon corrupted by the addictive and darker sides of earth culture. Not for the easily offended, but Roeg’s film is now lauded as a sci-fi classic full of unforgettable imagery and plenty of satirical bite against America’s corporate world.

862. Empire of the Sun (1987) Dir. Steven Spielberg, 154 mins.

One of the films with which Spielberg attempted to gain greater recognition as a serious artist, it tells the story of Jamie “Jim” Graham, a young boy who goes from living in a wealthy British family in Shanghai, to becoming a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp, during World War II. The director deploys his considerable skill at evoking emotions although some will say he is too heavy handed.

861. Chariots of Fire (1981) Dir. Hugh Hudson, 123 mins.

At a time when things looked bleak for British cinema, an unexpected resurgence was sparked by the Oscar success of this modest production. It tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. Directed by Hudson and produced by David Puttnam, Chariots of Fire won Best Picture at the Academy Awards and prompted writer Colin Welland to famously announce ‘the British are coming’ during his acceptance speech for Best Original Screenplay.


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