My Top 20 Movies – Part II

Part II

Well, what a stir part I seemed to cause with strong points of view expressed on the blog and Facebook. Nice to see that most found something they liked here. I am afraid there will be disappointments with this following list. Even I acknowledge there are some very odd choices indeed.

I think the reason for making lists like this – and for people reading them – is that they tell you more about the writer than they do making any objective statement about what is best. Some of you who have known me for many, many years will not be surprised by some of these films but I hope there is something to surprise all but one or two of you who might have guessed what would be here.

To those  of you disappointed by what you find here, I can only apologise and remind you that my criteria was, at least in part, based on how these films affected me personally. I hope that all you find something here that makes you think “oh I have never thought about that film before. I’ll have to try it out.” If you do, then I’ve done my job!

Here goes then.

10 Forrest Gump

One of the best feel -good films of all time even if very American. Tom Hanks is a wonderful actor to watch in any situation and this choice represents all the films I’ve seen with Hanks. The film itself is true to something I believe in strongly – that your intelligence or background should not be how you are judged. Your spirit and honesty inside is what makes you and what defines you. For this reason I am very anti-educationalist despite being a teacher – I certainly don’t believe in education as the answer to all. If it encourages young people to think and feel the way Gump does, then it’s good. If it encourages greed then it’s not.

09 Trainspotting

In total contrast to the family feel good nature of Forrest Gump, this film is dark and difficult. A cult soundtrack with some of the best rock/pop tracks of all time (in my opinion) I love this film because it cleverly gives and anti-drug message by making drugs seem the coolest thing ever. By doing this, it hooks those who would be turned off from normal anti-drug propaganda so the full shock of the infamous ‘baby’ scene really hits hard. This, along with the great humour (I nearly gagged with laughter at the ‘bedsheets’ scene the first time) makes it a memorable, and classic, film.

08 The Shining

In my opinion, Stanley Kubrick is possibly the greatest film director of all time and I could have chosen several of his films – 2001 A Space Odyssey , One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Clockwork Orange to name a few – to be in this list. The Shining can represent them all then as arguably the greatest horror ever made (as voted many times). You can’t best Jack Nicholson for playing a mad guy and this film sees him at his best despite the fact that the story moves far away from that of the original by Stephen King. I loved this film because it does not rely on gore for the thrills. Almost nothing happens throughout the film – but what does happen is terrifying. As an aside, if you have not seen the Simpson’s Shinning episode you should do – it spoofs this film brilliantly even though now when I see the real film I find myself thinking “that’s odd. Usually the blood gets off at the second floor…”

07 Slumdog Millionaire

Had I seen this film before living in Bangladesh I would have just counted it as yet another rags to riches story. But watching in Bangladesh had my wife and I both feeling we knew this story for real. For that reason it holds many special memories for us and everyone we knew who lived or lives in Bangladesh felt the same about it. The film could be set in Dhaka just as easily as it was in India. The harsh reality of life for poor Asians is portrayed perfectly with a wonderfully clever plot idea to tell the main character’s life through the questions he has to answer to win the jackpot. If you want an introduction to why I work in the Indian subcontinent then watch this film. It does not tell the whole story, but it will give you a taste.

06 Gandhi

Believe it or not, I did not watch this film until earlier this year.  I love Ben Kingsley’s work and think he is one of the most versatile actors in the business today. But that is not why I love this film. I never watched it before because I was led to believe that was a great deal of bias against the British (despite it being made by a British director) and too much glorifying of Gandhi himself. It was only after spending a lot of time in Bangladesh reading the history (from both sides –  Bangladeshi and British) from ancient history up to the present that I felt able to watch the film and judge for myself. I found it truthful, accurate and utterly captivating. I can’t recommend this film enough to anyone wanting to know about arguably the most important and politically influential man of the twentieth century and I defy anyone to watch this film and not want to be more like Gandhi by the end.

05 Schindler’s List

To this day, if I hear the theme tune to this film I start to weep and I can feel tears in my eyes as I think about the final scene where the actual Jewish people who are portrayed in the film are led by their respective actors to Schindler’s grave to lay flowers. What an incredibly moving story made all the more heart-churning by being true. Oscar Schindler is one of the few men in the world I come close to envying. To die knowing you saved so many lives has got to be one of the best ways to go. I wish we could all have such hearts. This film introduced Liam Neeson to me and, as a result, I have remained a fan ever since. I don’t think I have seen him in a bad film yet. I don’t want to either.

04 The Clay Bird

Not many of you, outside of Bangladesh, will know Matir Moyna (The Clay Bird) though I would be surprised if there are any Bangladeshis reading this who don’t know it. I only recently discovered that the film was actually banned in Bangladesh for a few years before the ban was overturned. I can understand why, but think it was a pity. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and appreciated the accuracy of its portrayal. I sympathised with the father of the main character who refuses to believe, and then later is devastated to realise, that brother could go to war against brother. This film won several awards including the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and deservedly so. If you are a foreigner living in Bangladesh I recommend this film to you to understand something of where this nation has come from.

03 Anne of Green Gables

Well I’ve done horrors; I’ve done sci-fi; comedies; even historical drama has had a look in. But a Children’s story and that a made-for-TV film?! If there is any common thread running along all of these movies it is this: I am attracted to character – be it ugly, heroic or simple. It just has to be truly human. The character I identify with more than any other is that of Anne Shirley, the little orphan girl who lives in a world of her own full of adventure and romance despite the harsh realities of her real world. Unwanted and unloved, she wins the hearts of everyone just by believing in imagination and the truth that “tomorrow is day without any mistakes in it”. I can’t think of a much better way to live life on a day to day basis. No matter how you screw up today, tomorrow is a fresh start. Despite being a teenage boy when I first saw this (forced by my parents) I fell in love with that Anne girl and loved the first film and then the sequel. I bought all six books and they are amongst my most treasured possessions. What a disappointment to find that a third film did not follow the books at all and was hopelessly sentimental. Don’t watch it – but do watch the first two films!

02 The Elephant Man

Despite being partly based on the play rather than the true story, this film depiction of Joseph (or John) Merrick is a wonderfully produced piece of art that succeeds in bringing out the real man behind the ‘monster’ that was the horribly disfigured ‘Elephant Man’. David Lynch who directed (and went on to do the incredible Twin Peaks series) did an incredible job with clever ideas such as setting the whole thing in black and white to aid the Victorian atmosphere and giving a dreamlike sequence to the opening which describes the myth of how Merrick came to be deformed.  A great cast included John Hurt, who plays Merrick himself perfectly, and Anthony Hopkins (I told you he would get mentioned again) who plays his friend, Frederick Treves, on whose writings this film is, in part, based.  John Merrick is one of my all time great heroes in life. Watch it and see why.

01 The Empire Strikes Back

Ok, after all this strange eclectic mix of films, I come back to the film that gets voted as number one more often than any other. Sorry, I know that is disappointing but it does tell you one really important fact about me – that, at heart, I am just a big kid! Star Wars ruled my life as a kid and I lived to be Luke Skywalker. But with The Empire Strikes Back I was utterly shocked. I thought there must have been some terrible mistake. Darth Vader couldn’t be Luke’s father could he? And how can a film end with the bad guys winning?! In its own way Empire introduced to me the concept that films can break rules and mess with your head. Unfortunately, most films seem to forget this and only a very few do something different. The Star Wars universe continues to be enjoyed by millions of kids-at-heart whatever their age and I have no shame in admitting that I am one of them. George Lucas was a brave man when he started the franchise at a time when sci-fi films were trashy and brought little revenue into Hollywood. Star Wars changed all that and Empire made sure that the franchise would still be entertaining us all 30 years later. When I grow up, I want to be George Lucas. Or Luke Skywalker .

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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16 Responses to My Top 20 Movies – Part II

  1. Pingback: The Surya Trilogy and Third Culture Kids « kenthinksaloud

  2. Vikki Ford-Powell says:

    Well at least we agree on most of the top ten hubby. I do have to say though…who stole my husband and swapped him for an alien?! What happened to 2001? After making me sit painfully through it, since when did it drop out of your top 20!!:p

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    • It IS there under number 8 – but in with all the Kubrick films. I had to do a certain amount of clumping brilliant films together or this list would have been Ken’s top 100!! I don’t think even I would have read through all that! 2001 IS a brilliant film with fantastic camera work and beautiful music setting. But The Shining has to have the edge if I choose between the two – if for no other reason than the whole “Red Rum” scene. Scary…

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  3. Ruth Subash says:

    Have you read the book Questions and Answers? – this was made into the film Slumdog Millionaire. It is a great book and so much better than the film. The two main characters are friends and not brothers and the main character has a name that his Hindu, Muslim and Christian. You really should read it.

    it took a lot of persuasion to get Subash to go to the cinema to see this film. He hated the title and refers to it as Slumboy Millionaire. It is so true to life. The film brings out the reasons why I struggle to give money to beggars on the streets of India as you just cannot tell who is a genuine beggar and not being used by someone else. This film also makes me want to move to India as soon as possible and try to make a difference to the lives of these poor children.

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    • No I haven’t read it but I will add it to my list (which I have to admit is getting a bit huge!). If it is better than the film then it must be amazing. I think what I liked about the film is the realism of the place which I recognise as Indian sub-continent Asia. The visuals moved me. You are right about the begging issue. What we do to get around it is not give money but give food instead. Bananas are very cheap and easy to carry as well as carrying nutritional value so we often buy a bunch to give out – especially to children. They never last long!!

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  4. Tracy B says:

    What I love about so many of those choices … is that they’d have been in your top 20 at least 20 years ago … (Star Wars, Anne of GG, Elephant man, Schindlers List) … beautifully constant and stable (yet always open to hear new things) in a world that doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going half the time. As for the first blog … WAY too much sci-fi (and horror – too scary!) in there for me to make a constructive comment – mainly cos I aint seen (wasted my time) half of ’em!🙂

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    • I always thought you liked sci-fi Tracy! To be fair, most of the sci-fi I chose actually do have deeper issues. Blade Runner, for instance, questions what we mean by life and what makes us human. Yes, some of these choices have never changed but you are right that I am open to new things. Some of these films I only saw this year or certainly in the last three. No doubt, if I was to write this again next year, they would be different all over again.

      You should try some of the horrors though Tracy – You would love the Shining! At least I didn’t put The Ring or The Grudge in there!

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  5. Tim says:

    Hotly anticipated – I went on line yesterday to see if you’d written this one yet! As usual we had a wee guessing game to see what we would pick. Didn’t do very well – oddly the only match was Forrest “Life is like a box of chocolates” Gump! However I’d forgotten about Schindler’s List – I too wept in the cinema – but at a different point in the film. My denouement came when the red dress was seen for the last time – ah my heart aches at the evil of the holocaust.
    Yes a great blog, well written mate!

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    • Ha ha! Glad I didn’t turn out to be too predictable! Yes, if I had had more space and time I would have talked about the red dress moment. Very special and very emotional. A brilliant film🙂

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  6. dbmoviesblog says:

    Great choices. However, what always astonishes me is to how ‘gendered’ people’s film choices usually are. Me, being a female, I adore such films as ‘Matrix’ and ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, but I am equally in love with ‘The English Patient’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love’. Few, however, are willing to admit that they like films like that too.

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    • Interestingly, I have not seen ‘The English Patient’ or ‘Shakespeare in Love’ but I hope there are some choices here which indicate something of my feminine side – I would think Anne of Green Gables and the Elephant Man would be high up there! I personally really don’t care if a film is a ‘chick flick’ or whatever and happily admit to any sort of film – hence the eclectic mix here. I think you have a good point though; many I have spoken to about this since writing the first list have tended to fall in to ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ stereotypes! Thanks for the comments🙂

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  7. Sajib says:

    The Clay Bird, directed by a Bangladeshi film, shame that I haven’t seen that yet. By the way, he was killed in a road accident, did you know that? I watched his latest film, Runway, at his home. He invited us to join him. He had an amazing personality.

    You can read more about it here: http://www.expressbloggers.net/2010/12/25/runway-a-film-of-messages/

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  8. Ladygardenia says:

    One question out of theme- how did you put the snowfall on your blog? : )

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