Ladies and gentlemen, my name is… Ah let’s skip that part.
This year marks my 25th consecutive annual breathing of this planet’s life-sustaining oxygen, and to mark such an occasion I thought I’d make a list. No, I’m not setting myself some more resolutions and no, I’m not making a list of meaningful ‘things to do before I’m 30’. Though the list will be meaningful in a way, it will also be one of the more subjective things I’ve done in a while and is, from here on, also subject to modification if and when I see fit to do so.
This list will be my top 25 films. Not necessarily the top 25 best films, but my top 25 favourites (I’d like to think there’s some overlap there in any case). This does, I’m afraid, pretty much exclude Spielberg and Hitchcock – sorry, but neither have ever really resonated with me beyond a purely aesthetic filmmaking sense.
Now, I’ve seen a lot of lists like this in my time, and sometimes they tend to fall into one of two categories: either composed by proper film buffs who can reel out a number of films, some old and some foreign, that most other people have never heard of. Or, should a list be subject to the whims of a younger author groomed predominantly by Hollywood and the modern multiplex, it may include mostly American films released since the early to mid-1990s. Either is fine, of course, because these are, after all, subjective and everyone’s entitled to compose their own as they like.
My own list will, I’m sure (though it is still to be finalised), fall somewhere in the middle of these two. Born in 1990, it is true that my first experiences of cinema are barely twenty years in the making, and more recent films have in all likelihood had more of an impact on my personal tastes as a result. But I have always been intrigued as well by cinema’s origins, and tend to seek out those older films that influenced the ones I look fondly upon now. Further to that, many films of the postmodern era in which we’re entrenched – and in referring to this ‘postmodernism’ I am indeed talking about the past twenty years or so – can only be fully appreciated with a general background knowledge of the major cinematic milestones that influenced them.
The Babadook (2014), for example, will be enjoyed most by those horror fans who acknowledge its roots in the German Expressionism style of the 1920s. Sighs may be produced at that, and indeed many visitors to the local multiplex on an average weekend would frown at being expected to do such homework. But the best films, of course, do not require you to go off and do your research beforehand; they will have the standalone qualities to appeal to the casual viewer, while adding that extra sense of appreciation for the cinema enthusiasts in their audience – which I believe is precisely what The Babadook did.
Nonetheless, it was in the 1990s that postmodernism in cinema truly began to take shape. You can look back at the rising popularity of Tarantino movies and the tongue-in-cheek Scream trilogy as two such examples of when it became ‘cool’ to put new spins on old ideas, rather than come up with entirely original ones of your own (whether there is even such a thing as a truly ‘original’ idea anymore is up for debate – though it is one necessitated by this modern sense of hyper-nostalgia).
This is the cinematic environment I grew up in, and while one could argue it may not have led, or currently be leading, the industry forward in creative terms, it certainly encourages an all-encompassing appreciation of cinema from past to present. For me, at least; for others who don’t so much care, they’ve probably enjoyed the ride anyway.
So, a word about some basic things to expect from my Top 25 list. It will be a countdown from 25 to 1, starting 25 March and ending 18 April (this plan is provisional and I’ll let you know if it’s likely to change at any point). I’ll reveal one film per day, and write a short summary for each as I attempt to justify their inclusion in my list. In some cases I may fail to convince you. In others I may intrigue you enough to seek out a film previously not on your radar; in which case, great!
Most of the entries are set by now, and there may only be a slight change in a place or two. It will likely cover a full 90 years of cinema in its breadth of films – though many will be post-1950, because in general I do think films have improved through the years, and it is arguably only sentimental value that leads people to overrate some of the older, clunkier classics before this period. There are exceptions, of course (and one older classic in particular is likely to hold a prominent place on my list). I would hasten to add as well, once again, that this is a list of my personal favourite films; therefore not necessarily the greatest or most influential throughout cinema history. I daresay one could do three separate lists for those headings and they would bare some subtle yet revealing differences to each other.
This really is simply a matter of personal taste. Maybe, unlike me, all your favourites are from the 1920s. That doesn’t mean they have to be among mine, and it doesn’t mean either of us are wrong as it pertains to those films we enjoy watching more than others.
Finally, in so far as possible I’ll be trying to avoid films that are part of a trilogy. That may sound curious, but often I find trilogies should be taken as a whole rather than getting into debates about which of them is superior. Lord of the Rings, for example, I can’t help but see as a whole experience (as Tolkien originally intended) and, should it make any list, I think it should do so as a self-contained trilogy. In other instances it is certainly more arguable, especially when a trilogy that was not intended as one to begin with becomes one for questionable reasons (usually related to profit), or when a trilogy is subject to a fourth chapter that comes along to join the group for similar reasons as just mentioned (Indiana Jones may yet find even more cousins to join the family), or when one movie in a trilogy is notably inferior to the other two (as with The Godfather) and may, by these rules of taking them as a whole, unjustifiably drag the other two down in one’s estimation.
I’m not categorically saying these films will be excluded from my list based on such reasoning alone, though if one or two do make it, you can be sure I thought hard before reserving it one of my spaces (which, being only 25 of them, are actually quite limited). It would have to be a clear standout not only in the context of its own series, but as a unique film in its own right – and, of course, a personal favourite of mine.