Looking for a great movie to watch tonight? Look no further!
This A to Z isn't my favourite movies, or what I'd call the best movies either. It's an A to Z that I put together before I went on holidays, because I didn't want to leave my fellow film fans with nothing while I was on the high seas!
You might notice the little silver squares in the movie stills (which must credit to IMDB). These are the letters for the creative keys collection - something which got me thinking about a movie A to Z to begin with.
Have you seen any of the films below? Get social and let me know what you think of them - I always love to talk movies!
Without any further delay, here we go:
A – Aliens
Yes, I know, it’s a sequel, but Aliens is really sets the standard for what a sequel should be. Not an imitation of the previous film, but an elevation of it. Sci-fi, action and a touch of humour – if you haven’t seen it, watch it now. If you have, watch it again!
B – Back to the Future
The tagline for this film was ‘the only kid to get in trouble before he was born’. For the most part, it lays off the science and philosophy of time travel, and lets us enjoy it. Now, the idea of Gigawatts of electricity and 88mph being enough to make time travel possible may seem slightly quaint, but I’m pretty sure they knew back in the 80s that it wasn’t the case.
My main disappointment with the whole franchise is that we got to 2015 and half the cool stuff Marty had hasn’t been invented… but I can’t really blame that on the film!
Family friendly, good humoured but still action packed, this is one of my all-time favourite watches.
C – Casablanca
Casablanca remains one of Hollywood’s finest moments. A film that succeeds not because of any single thing, For the most part, it plays by the rules but does so in a way that adds to it’s greatness.
There is so much in this film about relationships – not just the love interest – and that’s what keeps it fresh and relevant today.
If you haven’t seen it… where have you been for the last 70 years?
D – The Dark Knight
I know, I know, there’s a couple of Christopher Nolan films on the list, but give me a break – he’s one of the greats! This D could just have easily been Dunkirk.
The reason I enjoy this so much is because everyone went in thinking that they knew Batman, and mostly came out blown away. You think the know the Joker – but there hadn’t been a joker quite like Heath Ledger’s before.
That’s one reason I’m excited to see what happens with the next Joker film – but we’re talking the Dark Knight right now.
It’s an example of film making at its best, as it highlights the strength of every single person involved. The Nolan brothers managed to create superhero characters in a film that were well-drawn and complex, which allowed the actors to unleash their full talents. Every piece of this movie, right down to the costume and makeup deserves credit for what is truly an exceptional movie, with plenty of quotable lines.
E – Easy A
There were a couple of other candidates for E, but I stuck with Easy A because it really endeared Emma Stone to me. It also pulls of the neat trick of being serious and light hearted at the same time. It captures both sides of the high school experience, the lies and the rumours but also the days where you go in, kick ass, and don’t care what anybody thinks.
Sure, the family is maybe a little too perfect, but Easy A is still an enjoyable rollercoaster that keeps you hanging on to the very end to see what will become of Olive Prenderghast.
F – Fight Club
I’m showing my age when I say I can’t believe that Fight Club is 20 years old in a few months. There was an enormous amount of hype around the film when it was released. The themes of the film are great, and the script is tight enough to make the 2h19 runtime fly by.
The almost black humour won’t be to everyone’s taste, but Fight Club presented a fresh take on life in a fresh way.
G – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Another classic, this time starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Almost farcical in its comedy, this is a powerhouse of music, dancing, and oh my! The jewellery! Add to that the fact that these two women do things exactly on their own terms, including playing dumb, and you’ve won me over.
Lorelei and Dorothy’s friendship shines throughout the film, making it the perfect movie to watch with your bestie.
H – Heat
Heat could almost the be thinking man’s shoot-em-up flick. At 2h50, you’ll need a comfy seat, but the game of cat and mouse played by the police Lieutenant and his adversary will keep you on the seat of it the whole time.
This is arguably one of the best cops’n’robbers films ever made, due to the performances of the two main characters, who come to a joint realisation about their ultimate confrontation.
Heat is also a feast for the eyes, with intense imagery matching the pulse-raising action.
I – Inception
Inception could almost be called Christopher Nolan’s signature piece. As writer and director, he shows us exactly what he can do and how finely his skill has been honed through the years.
Bursting with ideas, action and character, Nolan takes us on a tour of an actual dreamworld, instead of hinting at it through colours or shots. Sure, it contains the ‘dead wife’ shortcut that Nolan is criticised for, but it plays out extremely well here.
My other half and I still argue about the ending whenever we talk about it – how many films can you say that about?
J – Jaws
One of the finest monster movies ever made – not least because the monster in this case is real.
Although shark attacks on humans are rare, the fact that we are all familiar with sharks and their power allows the gnawing ‘what if’ to settle firmly in the mind. When a film sucks you in and defies logic, you know you’re onto something good.
Jaws is something that made many of my friends jump, hold their breath, and ultimately fall in love with movies.
K – The Kings Speech
A story about recent historical Britain, which explores the expectation and limitations of power on public figures. The world this takes place in is before televisions, computers and mobile phones.
For many people, the ‘wireless’ was their link to the outside world, and it is this that makes us believe that a stutter could cause such a problem for a monarch. Colin Firth brings a warmth and relatability to the monarch, which speaks volumes about his performance.
Although movies like this are usually ‘based on’ a true story, there are diaries and papers to back up what happens, which makes the film all the more remarkable – and enjoyable.
L – The Ladykillers (1955)
This is one of Ealing Studio’s finest achievements. Not only does it provide an entertaining crime caper, there are also subtle rummages around the class divides that Britain was (is?) obsessed with.
Although the film is littered with stars and fine performances, the lady in this case is without doubt the one who steals the show. being an almost effortless nuisance to everyone in the film.
I’ve seen reviews say that the humour doesn’t travel well across to America, but given some of the dark comedies that have originated there in recent years, I’d have to disagree.
M – The Matrix
Another great film from 1999 that I can’t quite believe is 20 years old! Although there had been films that looked at similar themes before, none did so in quite as stylish and action-packed way as the Matrix.
Great performances by all concerned, as well as a great mind-bending premise that still has fans questioning the nature of reality 20 years later.
Check out the blog I wrote about it cinebling.com/blogs/movie-reviews/the-matrix
N – Nightcrawler
Whenever I see Jake Gyllenhaal, I always think about him in Nightcrawler. It might be because it is a movie so focussed on an individual, and also the great performance that Gyllenhaal gives as Louis Bloom.
He starts the movie desperate for some kind of work, and after stumbling onto the world of crime reporting, he inserts himself into the profession. With each assignment that he turns in, the line between reporting fact and distorting the truth for a good story bends subtly each time.
This is without doubt a dark movie, but it is an excellent thriller.
O – Ocean’s Series
That’s right, I’m breaking the rules here. I loved Ocean’s Eleven (including the 1960 original), and although there are critics of the series, I still think they’re all excellent at what they intend – that is, to provide twisty crime thrillers that keep you entertained. Realism isn’t strictly a requirement.
I though the series was done, and when I heard about the all-female reboot, I wondered how exactly it would work. But it worked really well, true to the series and wow – those diamonds left me drooling!
If you like a good con, this series is definitely worth a watch.
P – Pi
Pi is a taut 86 minutes from director Darren Aronofsky, who also directed another one of my favourite movies, Black Swan. Although I rarely like to give credit to one person for an entire movie – after all, it takes hundreds to make one – this has Aronofsky’s fingerprints all over it, probably because he wrote it too.
This movie contains both the voice of madness and the voice of reason, and there are little directorial devices that make you wonder whether you’re part of the delusion. I saw this when I was in Japan in 2001, and watched it again recently, having suffered from migraines in the years between, it felt even more powerful.
The fact that it was shot back in 1998 on a budget of $60k should inspire everyone who wants to make a movie and has nothing but their mobile phone. Get out there and achieve greatness!
Q – The Queen of Versailles
The Queen of Versailles is a documentary, but a somewhat trippy one, even though everything in it is real.
It follows a family who were billionaires in 2008, but whose dreams were disrupted by the economic crash. They had planned on building a modern-day palace of Versailles – the largest private home in America at 90,000 square feet. With the upturn in the economy, the house is reported the 4th most expensive house in the US, despite being simultaneously under construction and under refurbishment.
Theatrical and real at the same time, this documentary had me hooked.
R – Ringu
Ringu treats horror like a virus – everyone who watches the video dies within 7 days. It may not have been unique when it was made (or maybe it was, I’m not sure!) but there have certainly been plenty of films that have been made with a slight twist on the idea.
For me, the scariest thing about this is the matter of fact way that the viewers of the tape accept what will happen. Perhaps this is because the main character is a journalist, and is so naturally matter of fact, perhaps it is something else.
This is based on the novel by Koji Suzuki, which is well worth reading. It is both horror and mystery, though a line by Julia Louis-Dreyfus in The New Adventures of Old Christine brings a smile too: “I don’t get it. If she lives in the well, why is she crawling out of the TV?” If you get scared, try and work out the logic!
Not for the faint-hearted!
S – Shaun of the Dead
I had to get one of the cornetto trilogy in here somewhere! Although these days Simon Pegg is famous for being Scotty in the rebooted Star Trek, or Benjy in Mission Impossible, I find him at his best when teamed up with Nick Frost. The movie achieved cult status before it was ever released for a scene in which the pair, clearly not equipped to battle zombies, stand and discuss which vinyl albums they will throw at the zombies had. Add a love story to the mix and you have the birth of a genre referred to as ‘romzomcom’. As with most of Edgar Wright’s work, there are lots of nice little touches, like the mugs in the planning scene, and the way a daily routine can continue with a certain amount of zombie invasion. Keep your eyes open!
T – Toy Story
Woody, Buzz, Bo Peep and Slinky. Do I really need to go on?
U – The Usual Suspects
This is an early script from Christopher McQuarrie, who has written many excellent movies. It boasts incredible petty criminal characters that were conceived so brilliantly they have reach near mythical status – which is exactly what they were intended to do.
This is a great crime thriller which keeps you guessing right up until the end of the movie, which has been called the greatest movie ending of all time. That said, how could I possibly say much more about it and risk giving it away?
V – V for Vendetta
I have always loved bonfire night, from being a small child, so this anarchic movie with the same rebel spirit caught my attention immediately.
I haven’t read the comic books on which it was based, but as a standalone film, it’s excellent. The plot is complex and nuanced but easy to follow. The performances are great, and the atmosphere, the cinematography – another example of what can be achieved when everyone involved is on their game.
Favourite quote: Ideas are bulletproof.
W – Winters Bone
This is an unusual film, and Jennifer Lawrence’s first starring role. She does an excellent job as a tough mountain girl who is in way over her head, in trying to hunt down her drug-dealing father while keeping her family safe.
There are a couple of scenes in this film that really made me wince, but that’s only because I was invested in the characters and the situations they faced. It is a gritty film, but a journey worth taking.
X – The X Files
So, it was more or less this or the X Men movies for my A-Z, and since the X Men films are still pretty prominent in people’s consciousness, I thought I’d remind everyone about the X Files.
It’s hard for me to judge the films as standalone works, as I absolutely loved the series and had a massive crush on Fox Mulder (but not David Duchovny!). The global conspiracy contained in the movie certainly kept me gripped throughout, even if it could be called ridiculous.
For the TV series, Chris Carter always tried to write in the realms of the possible, even if that possibility is slim, and the same is true for the film. It is extremely unlikely that something like this could happen, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.
Y – Yojimbo
A classic from Akira Kurosawa, the master of atmosphere. Combining crime, action and touches of comedy, this film is about a cunning ronin, who plays two criminal gangs against each other in a quest to try and free the town from their hold.
There are, of course, complications, but this is a film that has been copied many times, which speaks to its originality and quality.
Z – Zombieland
Zombieland is, in some ways, a buddy movie. The name Zombieland is appropriate, not just because the zombies have taken over, but mostly because the film is a fun ride through the world they inhabit. There is little gore and a lot of comedy, and a pace that doesn’t quit. Throw in Bill Murray and you have yourself a great film. I’m looking forward to the sequel.
Favourite quote: You ever seen a lion limber up before it takes down a gazelle?
So, that's the end of this movie A to Z. I don't know if there will be a sequel, but it was a pretty good excuse to watch 26 awesome movies, so... stay tuned!