My Top 20 Movies – Part I

After some heavy issues over the last couple of weeks, I thought it was time for something a little lighter!

This list was originally going to be the Top 10, but whilst researching possible entries I realised there are just too many for 10! So, in two parts, I will give you my personal favourites and see if you agree and where you disagree. I have not put in films that are great but not seen personally. Believe it or not, I have never seen The Godfather – so it isn’t in. Other films are undoubtedly great but either not as influential or didn’t leave as great a mark on me, so they didn’t make it.

You will have to wait until next week to get my very best Top 10. For this week it’s 20-11. Enjoy and do please comment on the choice here. Leave your “I can’t believe you didn’t choose…” comments until next week!

20 The Matrix

I do love a good sci-fi and the Matrix had it all. Great effects, good music and a storyline that was a guaranteed winner. I was definitely one of those who identified with the paranoia that all is not as we think it is in the world. As a kid I was convinced I was being watched by scientists and this was all a Truman Show type of a life. The Matrix may not have been my exact paranoia but I definitely identified with that way of thinking. I still love conspiracy theories to this day though I am afraid that I am far too cynical to believe most of them. Still a good yarn though and when I grow up I want to be Keanu Reeves!

19 Blade Runner

Yep, another sci-fi but, oh, what a sci-fi. Beautiful effects with equally haunting music and an ending that is clever. If you are switched on, the very last thing you see ( in the lead character’s apartment) gives you an OMG moment and makes you want to watch the movie again. Deeply philosophical, the movie has all the right combinations of action and poignancy. Harrison Ford’s best movie without a doubt.

18 Jaws

When I’m not watching sci-fi I do like the occasional horror (though less so as I get older and find the real horror in such movies is not the gore but the nastiness of the main characters who seem, unfailingly, to be rather selfish).  Jaws, these days, hardly counts and even my young children have watched it. But when it first came out we were all terrified. I still think the film holds up well not least because of John William’s amazing score (who else could create one of the most famous leitmotivs with only two notes?). The idea was fantastic, despite being wrecked by too many sequels and is timeless as recent headlines involving swimmers being mauled by sharks has proven. I have to say that I did like the first sequel – which remained true to the spirit of the original – but it all went wrong after that!

17 The Shawshank Redemption

An incredibly emotional journey which makes you whoop with joy when you realise how he got out! Often voted one of the very best films of all time, this didn’t connect that well to me but it did connect. Brilliantly acted by the whole cast and taking on issues that are not easy to think about, I was transfixed every minute of the movie and could have wished it to go on longer than it did. A perfect movie.

16 Sin City

There is a dark side to me and it comes out with Sin City. I grew up with Marvel comics and 2000AD and spent years poring over the pages soaking up those moody, crime-filled sci-fi fantasies. I wish I had more time so I could buy and read the comic books that are so popular these days – not with children, but with adults. Anyway, dark though this is, the film recreates that comic book feeling with great success and is obviously a labour of love. Bruce Willis is the real star of the film though I have to admit that Jessica Alba looks stunning and I’d watch it for her alone! Not a film for everyone’s taste but if you can cope with dark matter then this is a film you must watch at least once. Disturbing but beautiful.

15 Life of Brian

Not a favourite amongst Christians which I think is a shame really. In the humour lies a criticism of religion that leaders of all religions could be advised to take note. You need to understand the Monty Python humour to get this film but if you have it then you have one of the funniest films ever. It has something of an unfinished feel to it, as all Monty Python films and TV episodes did, but this adds to its charm as a quirky – and thoroughly British – film. I love all the Python productions and could easily replace this one with The Holy Grail,  but I chose this one for one of the truest statements about history in any film – “What have the Roman’s ever done for us?”

14 Psycho

The film that spawned the horror genre with the infamous shower scene, still considered one of the greatest moments in film history. Brilliant scoring by Bernard Hermann, without which, the film would not have been half as effective. Hitchcock was, of course, a genius and I could have chosen from a whole host of his movies for this slot. But I chose Psycho as the most influential and, in many ways, his best work even though (for me) some others like Spellbound are even better. If you have not seen a Hitchcock movie you need to see at least one. If you get into more than one of them then watch out for his trademark of appearing briefly in each one. You don’t see much of him and never for long so you have to watch really carefully.

13 Silence of the Lambs

I love Anthony Hopkins and this film sees him in, undoubtedly, his greatest role. I am not normally into police/detective films, nor murder mysteries but this one, with Hopkins pitted against/with Jodie Foster is an exception. The character of Hannibal Lecter is horribly appealing and a very accurate description of a psychopath (my wife worked with one for a short while – it is scary to think what could have happened). As a result of the film, I read all the books and loved every single one. Who would think that a cannibal could be so attractive!

12 Alien

The greatest Sci-fi horror ever – I defy you to find a better one! When this came out I was way too young to be allowed to go see it. So I did anyway! Sneaking into the cinema to watch it I was truly terrified and hooked. I am longing for my kids to be old enough for us to cuddle up on the sofa, turn the lights off and press play whispering “In space, no one can hear you scream…”

11 Pulp Fiction

Any Tarantino could have gone here. I had no interest in his films as I don’t like “shoot em ups” and gratuitous violence for no good reason. I was convinced to watch Reservoir Dogs and I’m glad I was – it was incredibly well done. Very arty and very clever. From then I have loved his work and Kill Bill was another amazingly well produced and thought out film. Despite the violence, Tarantino produces works of art that pay homage to a range of movie and art styles that make these movies very special. The reason for choosing Pulp Fiction over the others is that I thought it was witty and cleverer with the way it weaves several stories together. It also contains the most dramatic and scary use of scripture ever! Does anyone know, by the way, what was in the suitcase?

Well, that’s it for this part. My very most favourite movies come next week and will no doubt contain the odd surprise for some of you. I hope you enjoyed this little run down – see you next week!

About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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36 Responses to My Top 20 Movies – Part I

  1. The Matrix, Jaws, and Shawshank are also in my Top 20 favs list.

    Also, Silence of the Lambs…but I hate admitting that because it makes me sound psychotic.😉

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    • That’s good to hear! Silence of the Lambs doesn’t need to make you sound psychotic (honest!) – as long as you don’t try to copy🙂 I think that when someone writes a brilliant character, it doesn’t really matter what that character is – you get into who they are and enjoy the ride. That’s certainly true with Lecter – at least with someone as amazing as Hopkins playing him. I like Hopkins and I will give an exclusive sneak clue into the forthcoming part I and tell you that he will appear in the list again…

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  2. Great list! Some of these would make my own list.

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  3. Stephen Macleod says:

    good list you have there, although disappointed shawshank redemption never made an appearance, and i hope inception and fight club get into the top 10. I would have to say my favourite sci fi movie has to be the 1994 classic, Stargate (starring Kurt Russell) due to the fact that my dad is a die hard sci fi fan and this was all that we watched in my childhood! not to mention one of our form members was named after a lead character in stargate lol.
    Oh, and I will be extremely disappointed if back to the future does not make it in there! but I trust you will make the right choice Ken, you don’t want any crazy Libyans after you if you don’t pick BTTF!

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    • Look again – Shawshank is there!

      I LOVE Stargate and watched the entire series whilst out in Bangladesh. The other films you mentioned Stephen are all great films, no doubt about it. Whether they will get into the list however…you’ll have to wait and see!😛

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      • Stephen Macleod says:

        oh good! yeah they are mind blowing, i love how they bring it down to earth with jack o’neill and his simplistic mind, when samantha carter (not your former student lol) will explain something in the most complicated and scientifically mind blowing way, and then dumb it down for jack.
        Cannot wait to read the rest of your reviews,
        kind regards and best wishes
        Stephen Macleod

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  4. yaykisspurr says:

    Hi! Great post.

    I’ve seen most of these films, can’t stand Monty Python though I’ve seen enough to understand the appeal. I also haven’t seen The Shawshank Redemption. I’ve tried and though about it but didn’t seem to be in the mood. I really must sit down and bite the bullet one of these days to see what all the hoopla is about. Not a fan of horror either but your choices are the exception to the rule. And any Hitchcock is great, I’ve seen most all of them.

    The 40s was a magical time because that’s when the public really fell in love with movies and started the movie system. There are so many iconic actors from that time. Today’s tastes really dictate they way an actor crafts his/her work. What’s popular today would have doomed the movie system back in the 40s.

    Cheers…

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    • Thanks for the comment – great thoughts. You should try and get into Monty Python if you can – you’ll miss out on a whole history of comedy without it. Those guys were geniuses! Shawshank needs the right mood, yes – try and watch it as soon as you have a few hours spare and that mood commes – you won’t regret it! I agree with your summary of Hitchcock.

      I think your comment about 40s films is a good one and I wouldn’t like to dismiss them. But these actors also came out of the theatre where you have to over-exaggerate emotions or the back row won’t see them and they did not transition well. By today’s standards the acting was poor – but that is like saying Michelangelo was a rubbish painter because his technique was not as advanced as Picasso’s! They are great films and great actors for their time and always worth watching.

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  5. Patrick says:

    Royal Tenenbaums?, Truman Show, Casablanca – for something classic, Wonderful Life, and of course The Simpsons Movie.

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    • Thanks Patrick – I have to say that none of these will be in the top 10 but that is not to discredit them. Tenenbaums I haven’t seen (nor the WHOLE of Casablanca). The Truman Show I think I may have referenced in The Matrix and it was certainly a terrific film but not one I have heard people call a classic or think of myself in that way. I love films like it though – including the Bruce & Evan Almighty films which were pure class! Wonderful Life is, of course, a beautiful film and a true classic and I need to watch it again whilst my kids are still young enough to accept watching black & whites. The Simpsons? Well, for me, genuine LOL film and I am a true fan of the series and the film happily comparing them to Shakespeare (I am not joking about that and will defend that argument happily if people want me to). But, again, for me it doesn’t connect emotionally in the way those on my list do. If I wanted to put down a list of films I thought were great though, it would be on the list – which would run to well over 100!!

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  6. Ryan Grey says:

    Reading this got me thinking about when we studied John Williams. After you’ve finished this you should do a favourite film soundtrack list.

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  7. adrian says:

    much better than your music one. though for me bladerunner is easily top 3…😀

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  8. Vikki Ford-Powell says:

    Interesting list and what is more interesting is that after nearly 20 years together we still choose different movies even though we watch them all together. I would agree with Jaws, Psycho, and Silence of the Lambs. I cant believe the Matrix only made it to number 20. My big question is where are all the feel good movies! I guess there is always next week to make up :p

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  9. Am diggin this!!!🙂 I can just imagine your students savoring this kinda stuff!🙂

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    • ha ha – well some of this I know they have watched though I don’t think some of them are old enough to watch or be ready for some of these films. Still, when I was teaching in the UK, it didn’t stop me from showing clips from a lot of them…

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  10. Vanessa Hall says:

    Hell yeah!! Love all of the films (apart from Sin City – but only because I’ve never seen it!). I don’t necessarily agree with the order but that’s just being picky! I’m not a great fan of horror movies. I just don’t understand the fun in scaring yourself silly, but I do like the horror/thriller ones you have chosen. Can’t wait for the next installment. Makes me want to have a movie night🙂 xx
    Get the DVD player warmed up and crack open the pop corn😀

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    • Hey if it has got you wanting to a watch a movie then this blog has done its job Vanessa! Sin city is not everyone’s taste I have to say but if you like that dark Gotham-type marvel fantasy and don’t mind a bit of violence then it is a beautifully made film. Actually, I don’t find horror movies scary – never have! Though sometimes they can make me jump when the killer comes out of the closet with a knife or whatever!

      The order has GOT to be personal really hasn’t it?! I remember talking to an old learned man when I was (much) younger and he talked about how all films were badly acted and not as good as the old 1940 movies. Well I watched those movies and love them but the acting is honestly appalling in comparison! I think their beauty for that guy was in the memories they held for him as much as the skill behind them. Hence, my order is bound to be a bit different to yours because our lives are different. I look forward to hearing what your order would have been though – next week perhaps?

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      • Vanessa Hall says:

        Yes, I’ll wait to see what your top ten is first – kept wanting to say ‘I would have put this or that in’ but then realised this was only 20 to 11 so refrained from doing so🙂
        I totally agree with the point you made about your memories attached to the movie having a big influence on how good you think the movie is. I still love the original Karate Kid, although in all honesty it is a pretty crap film. It’s just that I was in my early teens and me and my mate (and my hormones) fancied the pants of Ralph Machio😀 Ahhhh, the good times xxxx lol
        But I’m really not good with horrors. I watched most of ‘I am Legend’ from behind my hand with commentry from Chris because I couldn’t bear to watch it. and that’s not really even a horror film!
        Talking about Alien, Chris and I went on the ‘Alien Experience’ ride in Disney a few years back. I’ll tell you about it on Sat – but lets just say that after that, a simple scary movie didn’t have the nearly the same effect on me. It was quite literally ‘wet your pants’ scary!!!

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        • I look forward to hearing the story – I have one too about the “Alien Experience” we had down in London many years ago – one of the scariest things of my life!!

          I had a real LOL moment imagining you hiding your face and Chris giving a running commentary to “I am Legend” (which I think is a great film DESPITE the remake missing the whole point to the title!) – I think you would be out of your depth with some of these films Vanessa!

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  11. Sajib says:

    IMDb puts The Shawshank Redemption as the number 1 movie of all time. But in my case, I find The Mist and The Green Mile to be somewhat better than The Shawshank Redemption (info: all three movies are directed by the same director). And there is no question for The Silence of the Lambs being the top psycho-thriller movie of all time.

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    • Yes, I very nearly mentioned the Green Mile – awesome film and a very unusual Stephen King if I remember correctly! The Mist…? Not sure (but then I have not seen the re-make I think you are mentioning). I think Shawshank has the edge personally but I can see your reasons. Silence of the Lambs is great – did you like the sequels?

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      • Sajib says:

        Sequels to what? Silence of the Lambs? Never even heard of that.😮

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        • Oh yes! The correct order goes – Hannibal Rising, Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and finally Hannibal – if you like the character you will LOVE the whole series! Hannibal Rising was written last. It talks of how he became the way he did and what happened to him as a child. Brilliant though very disturbing…

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      • Sajib says:

        Oh, I knew them. I was actually picturing on my mind like Silence of the Lambs 2, Silence of the Lambs 3 and so on.😛

        Anyway, I watched Red Dragon only.

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        • You should watch (or even better – read) the other two which are much better. Red Dragon really just talks about how Lecter got caught, Hannibal Rising about how he became what he is. Hannibal finishes the whole storyline off though the book has a different ending to the film…

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  12. Tim Naylor says:

    Cor, what a great start, can’t wait till next week. Some of my top favorites – Blade Runner for example- I would’ve put in the top 10. So I look forward to next week so see what is better!

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    • It is a great film Tim, definitely! I suspect you will not agree with my choices next week but I’m quite pleased I’ve already had people ask me what the choices are going to be in advance! It’s funny what gets some people!

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  13. Honor says:

    yeah Shawshank is one of my favourites, especially that whole ‘hope’ speech; when Andy has been in the hole for a month and he says he had the music in his heart to keep him company, that music is something no-one can take away from you, like a light inside of you no-one can touch, that’s just yours. Then Red says something like yeah but it doesn’t make much sense in here, and Andy says ‘here’s where it makes the most sense’ – ‘it’s so you don’t forget’ – ‘forget that there are brighter places, that there is hope…….”Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.”

    I love the music – hope thing. that scene stays in my mind. Awesome movie about perseverence and strength of character against all odds. And Morgan Freeman is great as usual.

    And Matrix is like a many layered onion. Need I say more? 😉

    Like

    • Thanks Honor – you clearly like Shawshank! It is a wonderful film and, yes, anything with Morgan Freeman has got to be good! Like I say, it didn’t totally connect to me but I was certainly moved. Thanks for commenting!

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  14. Rachel Denwood says:

    How dare you rank Aliens higher than Shawshank Redemption!😮 shocking

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    • Ah Rachel, I apologise! I guess because Alien has such good memories for me and was so well put together, it scored over Shawshank which was great but didn’t totally get me (not the way some films I will mention next week do). Besides, I’m a sci-fi fan at heart. I think, without being overtly sexist here, that Shawshank will have a habit of being higher in girls’ opinions…I could be wrong though…🙂

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