This seems like the obvious place to start. A classic ‘first-date’ question. This is going to be very subjective, and you might not agree with any of my choices. But I’m the one writing.
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT WHAT I THINK ARE THE ‘BEST’ FILMS EVER. THESE ARE MY PERSONAL FAVOURITES.
The Departed (2006)
I first watched this after my friend had told me to watch it for about 2 years. Scorcese’s remake of Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s ‘Internal Affairs’ is incredible. For a film with a 151 minute running time, the tension and suspense throughout is remarkable, and it quite rightly won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Of course, if we look at the cast, it should come as no surprise that this was such a triumph. Any time DiCaprio, Damon, Nicholson, Wahlberg, Sheen and Baldwin are brought together by Scorcese, it would be pretty tough to fail. But this film’s true skill is the way in which it deals with feelings of identity. Costello assumes the role of father to both Costigan and Sullivan, and Queenan does the same. As the film goes on, both Costigan and Sullivan (who are both portrayed excellently by DiCaprio and Damon respectively), appear to lose their sense of identity and what’s really going on. Indeed, towards the end of the film, Sullivan learns that Frank was in fact an FBI informant, throwing into doubt his whole identity since he was a boy. Similarly, Sullivan gets back at Costigan by taking away his real identity, perhaps as an eye-for-an-eye act of jealousy: he doesn’t know who he is anymore so he takes away Costigan’s identity too. I could talk about this film for hours and hours, and maybe I’ll write that some time, but if you’ve seen it you’ll know, if you haven’t, see it.
Best scene: Any with Mark Wahlberg in
Best character: Colin Sullivan
Best actor/actress: Matt Damon
Best quote: “Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe fuck yourself” – Dignam
Any Given Sunday (1999)
If you’re a sports fan and haven’t seen this, you’re crazy. If you’re not a sports fan and haven’t seen this, you’re crazy. This was the first film I ever saw with Al Pacino in, and although it could never compete with his plethora of historical performances, this film really does have some of the finest intense acting you can hope to see. In a sense, the story of the old legend, damaged coach and the arrogant, young player is a pretty cliched story, but it’s one that is just done so well here. Jamie Foxx (who is, in my opinion the second most talented man in the world, behind Donald Glover), is super as Willie Beamen, and his turn is even more impressive when you remember this was only his seventh film ever. The actual football is realistic (mostly), but this is by no means just a movie for sports fans. The emotional impact of Cap’s decline, the character development of Beamen and the even-more-applicable-now comment on NFL player safety make this, in my opinion, the finest sports film ever made. And if you haven’t at least heard that speech, at least look it up on YouTube to pump you up before your next run.
Best scene: Tony’s big speech
Best character: Jack ‘Cap’ Rooney
Best actor/actress: Al Pacino
Best quote: “You find out, life’s just a game of inches. And so’s football”- Tony
The Dark Knight (2008)
I’m a huge superhero fan, and I’ll always back Marvel over DC. Having sat through Green Lantern, Batman vs Superman, Suicide Squad and Man of Steel, I am by no means a DC fan. But when it’s Christopher Nolan, who has made about 5 films that could have been on this list, I will watch anything. I’d also never really been a Batman fan (due to the lack of superpowers), never heard of Heath Ledger, and also not even watched Batman Begins when I first watched this film. But I think this is probably my most watched of any movie ever. And that says a lot. The first thing to talk about is, obviously, Heath Ledger. People seem to be split into two camps; those who wax lyrical about his performance being one of the greatest ever in cinema, and those who, whilst acknowledging his greatness, think that had he not tragically passed away, his performance would not be spoken about with such admiration. I fall firmly in the first group. Nolan took the heart-throb from ’10 Things I Hate About You’ and somehow turned him into the greatest antagonist ever portrayed on a screen. Never before has an actor been so absorbed by a role, to the point where it ended the way we all know. Ledger will go down in history for this film, and rightly so. It really is a tragedy that we’ll never see him in anything else. Bale, Caine, Freeman and Eckhart round out this superb cast well, although I can’t say I was such a fan of Gyllenhaal’s Rachel. But this film really does transcend the superhero genre, and lives up to the hype.
Best scene: The interrogation
Best character: Obvious
Best actor/actress: See above
Best quote: “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain” – Harvey Dent
Good Will Hunting
I love Matt Damon. As an aspiring film writer, the idea of him writing this screenplay at such a young age is inspiring, and he’s appeared in SO many amazing films. I mean, ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’, Saving Private Ryan ‘Ocean’s Eleven’, The Bourne Series, ‘The Departed’, ‘Invictus’, ‘The Martian’, the list goes on and on. But this one is, and always will be, his best. Sometimes you just get it so right on the first try that no matter how many incredible feats that follow, you’ll just never top the first one. It’s what I call the ‘Illmatic’ effect. The chemistry that Damon has with Williams, Driver and Affleck is what makes this film. It’s packed with so many classic, hilarious and emotionally brutal scenes that it’s hard to pinpoint just one aspect of this movie that stands out the most. The script is perfect, the acting is perfect and the character development is perfect. It’s also worth noting Elfman’s superb original score, which truly is brilliant. There aren’t many films that make me emotional, but this gets close. Robin Williams’ Sean is a person we all wish we had in our lives, but is also someone just as damaged as the titular Will. Watching these two actors work through their difficulties together makes for one of the most hard-hitting and brilliant journeys ever.
Best scene: Will and Skylar’s argument
Best character: Sean Maguire
Best actor/actress: Minnie Driver
Best quote: “My boy’s wicked smart” – Chuckie Sullivan
Baby Driver (2017)
Like I said at the start, this isn’t a list of best films ever, it’s a list of my favourites, and in terms of entertainment, and pure cinematic enjoyment, this may well be right at the top of my list. There’s truly never been a film quite like it, and it cemented Edgar Wright’s place in the top tier of directors. I could write for pages and pages about every little detail that Wright puts in, every synchronisation to the music, every little callback to something earlier in the film, every clever idea, every clever symbolism, but really the best thing about this film is that it’s so, so, so fun. Foxx, of course, steals the show as ‘Bats’, but Elgort, James, Hamm, Gonzalez and even Bernthal are all superb. As is Kevin Spacey, but we don’t talk about that. This is one of those rare films that can be called a masterpiece, and the first three scenes of the movie are quite literally as good as you can get. The way Wright mixes an old-school love story with breakneck driving action with a coming-of-age tale all set to the cliched ‘one last job’ idea is brilliant, and the fact that this wasn’t nominated for Best Picture and Best Director at the Academy Awards is a travesty. Also the soundtrack. Incredible, and something I listen to every week when I’m driving.
Best scene: Baby going to get coffee
Best character: Baby
Best actor/actress: Jamie Foxx
Best quote: “If you don’t see me again, it’s because I’m dead” – Griff
- Manchester By The Sea (2016)
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
- Moonlight (2016)
- Nightcrawler (2014)
- No Country for Old Men (2007)
- The Other Guys (2010)
- Heat (1995)
- Taxi Driver (1976)