#21 O, BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2000)
George Clooney – John Turturro -Tim Blake Nelson
The brilliant Coen Brothers do it again. This show has comedy, drama, music and a dash of history, all woven into a modern day (well, 1930s anyway) version of Homer’s ‘Odyssey’. The music is terrific, the comedy typical Coen mad-cap, and the cinematography breath-taking at times. Clooney demonstrates an unexpected flair for comedy as well. A fun film that has a cult following.
#22 LOVE ACTUALLY (2003)
Hugh Grant – Bill Nighy – Colin Firth
The ultimate ‘feel good’ movie. Apart from Olivia Olson’s annoying rendition of ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’, this delightful film moves along at a fair clip presenting about a dozen mini-love stories all interwoven into Christmas in England. Rarely (if ever) have so many beautiful actresses been herded into a single production and given lines. Eye candy everywhere.
#23 RUTHLESS PEOPLE (1986)
Danny de Vito – Bette Midler – Judge Reinhold
A very funny film with de Vito and Midler at their best. Reinhold and Helen Slater as the amateur kidnappers are fine, too, and Bill Pullman portrays possibly the dumbest man on the planet.
#24 CELLULAR (2004)
Jason Statham – Chris Evans – William H Macy
A modern thriller involving telephone technology, a kind of phone version of The Net, but faster-paced. Jason Statham is always good whether playing a good guy or a bad guy. Macy, too.
#25 ULZANA’S RAID (1972)
Burt Lancaster – Bruce Davison – Jorge Luke
Not many good movies came out of the 70s, but this gritty western is the pick of them. As an accurate portrayal of the Apache renegade mind-set during their raiding in Arizona in the 1880s it has no equal. Lancaster is at his very best playing the veteran scout trying to think one step ahead of Ulzana and his band. Gory at times, but convincingly realistic, even educational.
#26 FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953)
Burt Lancaster – Montgomery Clift – Deborah Kerr
Again, Lancaster is surprisingly good and perfectly cast as the company sergeant involved in an affair with his superior officer’s wife played equally impressively by Deborah Kerr. Frank Sinatra won a supporting Oscar here, but Clift and Ernest Borgnine were better. A black and white drama set around the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941 that probably works better in this non-color format.
#27 DICK (1999)
Kirsten Dunst – Michelle Williams – Dan Hedaya
A terrific spoof on the Watergate break-in that sees two delightful teenage stars (Dunst and Williams) carry this very witty film on their backs, and they do it with ease. Aficionados of Nixon and Watergate will love this tongue-in-cheek take on events.
#28 LIFE OF BRIAN (1979)
John Cleese – Michael Palin – Eric Idle
You would have to be a religious fanatic not to laugh at this most irreverent of comedies. Everyone plays multiple roles and the principles are generally uproariously humorous. Organized religion is crap and the Monty Python gang exposes it for what it is in some unforgettable sequences.
#29 GETTYSBURG (1993)
Jeff Daniels – Martin Sheen – Tom Berenger
It is a bit long, but for Civil War buffs it covers the battle minutely and accurately. It also contains one of the most memorable performances in movie history (in my opinion), and that is Jeff Daniels’ portrayal of the Union hero Colonel Chamberlain.
#30 SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)
Liam Neeson – Ralph Fiennes – Ben Kingsley
This picture is also too long, but it also contains one of the finest acting performances in the history of the cinema, although it did not win an Oscar. Ralph Fiennes is sensational and his portrayal alone is worth the price of admission.
#31 THE CAINE MUTINY (1954)
Humphrey Bogart – Fred MacMurray – Van Johnson
MacMurray shows his ability as a dramatic actor again here, although the kudos all went to Bogart who picked up a Best Actor Oscar. Jose Ferrer has a small but impressive turn as the attorney forced to prosecute Captain Queeg. An intelligent script handled well by all.
#32 SHANE (1953)
Alan Ladd – Jack Palance – Emile Meyer
An enormously under-rated western that was virtually ignored by its studio at Academy Awards time. It is easily Ladd’s best screen work and it also introduces the inimitable Jack Palance as a ‘smiling assassin’ gunfighter, the first time such a character appeared in movies. Everything is underplayed; dialogue is kept to a minimum and the effect is electric at times. Terrific film.
#33 BECKET (1964)
Richard Burton – Peter O’Toole – John Gielgud
Superb performances by Burton and O’Toole, but it is the juicy script that takes the day. No wonder the two principles took turns playing Henry and Becket on alternate nights when the stage play toured. People were seeing it on consecutive nights just to see them switch roles.
#34 L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997)
Russell Crowe – Kevin Spacey – James Cromwell
Loosely based on an actual incident, this movie has everything; a great cast, a snappy script, and enough twists and turns to ensure the viewer maintains interest throughout. All the cast is good, but Crowe, Spacey and Cromwell are standouts. Future ‘The Mentalist’ star, Simon Baker, has a small role.
#35 UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN (2003)
Diane Lane – Vincent Riotta – Lindsay Duncan
This is just a simple love story set in Tuscany, but it features the wonderful Diane Lane in almost every scene so how could it not be good? The scenery is beautiful, the characters real and likeable, the story very touching at several moments. Riotta is splendid also.
#36 THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960)
Yul Brynner – Steve McQueen – Eli Wallach
The Searchers might well be the iconic western, but everybody saw The Magnificent 7, and usually more than once. Brynner, McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson and the others of the seven are just the coolest dudes the western had ever seen. Wallach is a great Mexican bandit and the legendary theme music will probably live longer than most others. Great fun from beginning to end.
#37 GLORY (1989)
Matthew Broderick – Morgan Freeman – Denzel Washington
About the only thing worse than organized religion is war. This movie is based on fact and unashamedly glorifies the process, but the script and performances are of the highest quality throughout. The three principles deliver some moving moments and the battles as set pieces are choreographed stylishly. War is anything but glorious, so the image of it created here is disturbing. Nevertheless, from an entertainment perspective Glory is one hell of a picture.
#38 CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR (2007)
Tom Hanks – Philip Seymour Hoffman – Amy Adams
Hanks’s third entry in my top twenty is testament to my opinion of him and his choice of material. Although he is very good here, his performance is narrowly overshadowed by that of Seymour Hoffman, if only because the latter seemingly has the better lines to spout. There is no doubt that Amy Adams can act, but I am happy just to look at her here whenever she appears on screen. The story is based on fact.
#39 PULP FICTION (1994)
Bruce Willis – John Travolta – Samuel L Jackson
The remarkable thing about this highly entertaining picture is the number of times that the completely unexpected happens. It is almost as if the director arrived at a situation and then decided to deliberately not do what most of the audience was anticipating. The only discordant note is provided towards the end when the two robbers swear non-stop for about 10 minutes (it feels like 10 hours).
#40 THE GODFATHER: PART II (1974)
Robert De Niro – Al Pacino – Robert Duvall
Oddly enough, I am not a huge De Niro fan, but he is brilliant in this. I can see how this movie became the first sequel (well, prequel, actually) to win a Best Picture Oscar. A far better paced film than The Godfather.