Well, I could have told you it was going to be that one.
|10||The Railway Children |
Interesting to note, as we climb into the top ten, how old classics, rollicking adventure yarns, and childhood favourites seem to take over the list. Which is fine by us, of course, especially so this timeless slice of Nesbit, which is, of course, all three. The drill, in this instance, is one everybody has down pat by their 8th birthday, which is in itself a testament to Lionel Jeffries' - ahem - "helming" abilities - similar sentimental Victoriana such as The Water Babies singularly failed to take where this one firmly took root, even among those of us who proclaim themselves immune to steam age nostalgia and heartstring-strumming emotional manipulation. Never mind the petticoats. Oh, and credit due to Agutter, Thomsett and the great Bernard C, of course. "Daddy! My daddy!" Go on, you're filling up as you read.
There is probably no better definition of what this list is about than the appearance of this Richard Lester-helmed British thriller, and in the top ten, too. Not a regular feature on any other list that we've ever seen (in fact, it's never been mentioned on any list we've ever seen) and despite its stellar cast largely forgotten, the reason it is here is because it's a really entertaining film and people enjoy it; the only two criteria that matter to us. Watch this and remember Richard Harris as Fallon, the eccentric bomb-disposal expert and not Albus bloody Dumbledore. Harris is tasked with being dropped on a cruise liner mid-ocean – and mid-refit – with his team including right hand man Charlie played by David 'blimey, he's changed' Hemmings. Meanwhile Ian Holm tussles with the government over the ransom, Anthony Hopkins and Ken 'Admiral Piet' Colley try to find the eponymous bomber (questioning in the process Michael 'more to me than Paddington' Hordern and Cyril Cusack), Omar Sharif tries to steer the ship in a straight line and Roy Kinnear tries to keep the passengers happy. Indeed, his performance of Roll Out The Barrel while Fallon and his team defuse the bombs is one of the great sequences in British movies. It didn't win any Oscars, nobody writes books about it, it doesn't appear on the lists at the BFI, AFI or even Total Film, but we think it's brilliant, and here it is.
|8||Passport to Pimlico |
Margaret Rutherford gets another place in the list as the unintentional star of this great Ealing comedy. Pimlico turns out to be – thanks to Rutherford's research – part of the ancient Duchy of Burgundy and therefore the residents, amongst other things, are not subject to rationing. All sorts of problems arise as the residents, their neighbours in London, who are not so fortunate, and the government, who are less than pleased, try to deal with the situation. Like the best Ealing comedies this is concerned with ordinary people pushed into extraordinary circumstances and how they use their innate character and instinct to cope. Stanley Holloway is to the fore here as he struggles to try and find a way to find a compromise between all the parties that works. Against the backdrop of the war and the plight of London in that conflict the story is given another dimension as the issues of personal freedom – the threat to it from both aggression and the restrictions upon it that flow from resistance to that aggression – are dealt with, subtly, with humour and not a little charm.
|7||Back To The Future |
Comedy Adventure is a major bugbear of pundits who lament the post-'70s decline of Hollywood, but for a while in the '80s this mish-mash of a genre threw up umpteen minor classics that for sheer guts and invention remain unbeaten, and one of the men responsible was Robert Zemeckis, who banged out Used People, Romancing the Stone, this Fox-based shoo-in and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? - all gloriously, unashamedly silly - before he started taking himself as seriously as he did his venerable craft, and it all went Gump-shaped. The trick with this sort of film, largely absent these days, is daftness served up with intelligence. Script and direction throw the ludicrous plot at you with such wit, charm and off-the-cuff pizazz you're effortlessly drawn in, ready to accept whatever stoopidity gets thrown at you. Compare and contrast with today's self-important, overblown trilogy-centric attempts to elevate blockbuster fluff to the realms of serious drama. Which seems dumber now? Sadly, even the DeLorean showcase couldn't escape becoming a franchise, although BTTF2 wasn't without its charm. Set the capacitor for the days when '50s nostalgia was all the rage, skateboards instantly denoted "America", Christopher Lloyd's patented throaty nutcase turn was yet to outstay its welcome, and Huey Lewis making a cameo appearance in a motion picture was a media talking point. Simpler times.
|6||The Goonies |
This Spielberg adventure fantasy was always one of those "they wouldn't let me into Terminator" second choices at the cinema for kids of the day but time has been kind to this pirate tale and left it the focus of genuine affection and real nostalgia. It's a simple adventure story (with a cast of three kids, a horse and Dudley Sutton it might well have been a CFF) high on fun, low on cynicism and with sure comic flourishes, we're thinking mainly of Corey Feldman and his comedy translations for the Spanish cleaner at the start here. The real star is of course Anne 'Hit puree!' Ramsay and, much as we deplored Chunk's nauseatingly precocious turn on Wogan (that's *Mr.* Wogan to you, sunbeam!) we must admit that his scene retelling the incident in the cinema – with everybody puking – is tremendous. One Eyed Willie, Pincers of Power, that Shuffle and gratuitous Japanese and Hispanic stereotypes are all in attendance but only the most flint-faced of critics could find anything malicious about them. As usual with '80s US films we're also equally interested in the soundtrack, which features such quintessential acts as Cyndi Lauper, Philip Bailey, The Bangles, Teena Marie and, er, REO Speedwagon. You know you love it. "Heeeeeeey, you guuuuuuys!"
|5||Trading Places |
By our reckoning, there's not a person alive today who dislikes this comedy, and we reckon that's because it straddles the full spectrum of Hollywood comedy. There's both your lowest common schtick - the gorilla suit, the cornball "message", JLC providing "something for the dads" and, of course, the "language" - and genuine wit of the likes American Pie and co. long since dispensed with - Murphy's first appearance (easy to forget how good he was), the Stadtler-Waldorf crosstalk of the two elderly wagermongers, the whole indictment of Reaganite society providing "something for the broadsheets" and, naturally, Denholm Elliott's wry retainer. Simply put, no-one takes this much care over a mainstream comedy film any more. Few did even then, of course, but we can't help but feel sad that the days when something this clever, charming and raucous could play to kids and adults alike in cinemas all across the country seem to be over.
|4||The Wizard of Oz|
We don't suppose we can add much to the millions of words and countless hours of retrospectives that have been produced on this seminal film, so all we can do is confirm yet again that this is easily the greatest fantasy film ever made bar none. Dark without being macabre, sentimental without being schmaltzy, light-hearted without being frivolous and a musical where the music doesn't overpower the acting there just isn't anything wrong with this at all. Just sit and watch it with a great stupid grin all over your silly old face and a box of hankies ready for the end.
|3||A Matter of Life and Death |
A number of films in this chart are wartime propaganda jobs, knocked up in times of crisis for a quick sentimental fix, but made by people seemingly unable to just crack off a forgettable, cornball salute-jerker, and who painstakingly crafted a timeless classic instead. We're certainly not going to suggest that What We Need's Another War, but you have to wonder whether any filmmakers these days would summon the creative energy to go one better than the patriotic fluff they were ordered to make. Grandmasters of lasting stiff-lippery are, of course, The Archers, and the many delights of this film speak for themselves - the charming Old Englishry of the opening radio exchange, the ethereal glimpses of a bureaucratic Heaven (there's something about black-and-white matte painting that beats its colour equivalent hollow), the Technicolour/black-and-white switch (knowingly tricksy, but handled with a sure touch, and not over-milked) - the list goes on. Of course, the England, and indeed the world depicted herein are as long-vanished as the war itself, but you don't have to be a High Tory to fall in love with this smartly woozy call to arms these days - an eye and a heart are all that's necessary. Ignore the dated politicking of the celestial courtroom scenes, there's so much more than bluff national defiance on show here. A singular masterpiece.
|2||Ferris Bueller's Day Off
"Save Ferris!" went the cry. And so we did - till (almost) the end. The votes just poured in for the ultimate scamming and skiving smartarse '80s comedy. Yeah, it's a little childish and stupid, but then so's high school. Actually, what makes this film work outside the US is probably the fact it's largely set outside high school, thus avoiding many of the bewildering cliches of America's largely alien education environment. Instead it's Broderick vs. Jeffrey 'Beetlejuice' Jones through the streets of Chicago, relentlessly cracking wise as they go. And wise they certainly crack - you won't find dialogue of this calibre in most "uh-DULT" films these days, never mind the witless, clammy-handed "teen" fare that clogs up the multiplexes during latter-day "spring breaks", which makes us weep for the future. Plus you get Zapp, BAD, Dream Academy, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and, of course, Yello's mighty Oh Yeah on soundtrack duties, which helps wrap it in its own evocative time capsule, abetted by the fact they wisely avoided a sequel (although a '90s sitcom version with Charlie 'Delinquents' Schlatter and Jennifer Aniston thankfully bombed). Writing magnificently and directing with sacks of flair, it's Hughes' baby all the way, and though the rest of his canon we can mostly take or leave (especially the sentimental Breakfast Club), this still comes up as fresh as paint. You may baulk at the high placing, and granted, it's definitely a film you have to buy into wholesale or sit there nonplussed throughout, but we're not going to let the snot-nosed detractors leave our cheese out in the wind. We're going to defend it. Right or wrong, we're going to defend it.
|1||The Wicker Man
With the release of a director's cut a couple of years ago, this Scots occult masterpiece - a long-cherished, genuine "cult" favourite in all senses - looked in danger of going overground, ending up on the cover of Total Film and being parodied in ITV sketch shows and the like. In the end, fans just replaced their moulding VHSs with a crisper, slightly longer version - added snails and speechifying, plus a bit of pre-credits plot telegraphing - and everyone carried on as normal. Rather like Christopher Lee's unbroachable pagan island community, neatly enough. Which is why it's here, really - it remains just too odd to really fit in with your usual "classic" film shortlist, in practically every respect. Steering perilously close to amateurish in some aspects - the undercooked meat-and-potatoes direction, the weird pacing - it's a misfit of a picture in which everything contributes to the film's otherworldly creation of Summerisle and its virgin-sacrificing, Ekland-fancying, beetle-tethering, caper-cutting denizens. We'll divide the acting honours equally between Lee's languid lord and Woodward's uptight Christian copper (sorry, Britt), while the visual aspect of so many of the films in this chart, namely that wonderful '70s location Eastmancolour cinematography, is as evocative here as it's ever been. And despite Lee's myth-making about those missing cut scenes where he's banging on about apples, the lengthy cut that's now doing the rounds is pretty much perfect. As with American Werewolf, what captures the imagination is the mixture of genres and moods - here it's the crossing of the folk realm of fairy tales and naivete (the folk songs, need it be said, are sinisterly brilliant) with good old gothic horror - although subtly done. "Killing me won't bring back your apples," indeed. This one's got the most perfect final reel of any film.
Thanks to everyone who voted, double-voted, block-voted, abstained from and generally ignored our poll. Special thanks to Clive Shaw, TJ Worthington, Terry Ryan, Suzy Pepper, Milo O'Shea, Liz Morgan, Jane (and Spike) Milligan, Graham Kibble-White, Jill Phythian, Nick Dimmock.
Once again, do please send us your comments to email@example.com.