My top 50 films of all time – 20-11.

As we near the end of my compilation list, here’s part 4.

If you missed any of the previous entries please click:

Here for part 3 – 30-21.

Here for part 2 – 40-31.

Here for part 1 – 50-41.

20: Battle Royale (2000)

“Here’s your list of friends in the order they died.”

A crazy, borderline-psychotic Japanese film set in a dystopian world in which school students fight to the death using a variety of weapons in a reality-TV kind of environment. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s fair to say that The Hunger Games borrowed from Battle Royale to put it mildly. No ridiculously Hollywood moments in this one though and no sight of any happy endings. The general idea is that all but one student must die, or they all die, so you see a number of different tactical approaches. These vary from friends trying to team up, to lone wolfs killing as many people as they can and even students trying to escape from the island to avoid conflict. Unfortunately, rather than knowing when to stop, they made an abysmal sequel which tried incredibly hard to be Saving Private Ryan and failed miserably, even in terms of cinematography, in one of the strangest follow ups ever conceived.

Did you know?
The Japanese parliament atttempted to get both the novel that the film’s based on and the film itself banned. Similarly to when this has happened with other films, this backfired horribly and only served to pique interest in seeing what all the fuss was about.

19: Léon: The Professional (1994)

                                     “Is life always this hard, or is it just when you’re a kid?”                                          “Always like this.”

The titular character, Léon, is a professional hitman with personal interests in only horticulture and watching old films. One day, everything changes for him when he sees a young girl from a dysfunctional family, Mathilda, smoking in the hallway with a black eye. He soon finds it upon himself to take Mathilda in after her family is murdered and she insists on him teaching his methods of cleaning so that she can get revenge. Rather than doing this, he teaches her how to become a world-class horticulturalist. It turns out that this film is actually a prequel to Jean de Florette (1986) and becomes a great role model. Just kidding, he coaches her through the ways of his trade and turns an eleven year old girl into a deadly killer.

Did you know?
Amusingly, when Mathilda checks Léon and herself into a hotel room, she uses the name “MacGuffin”. This term was originally thought up by Alfred Hitchcock, who used it to describe something that has little to no value other than to drive the plot forward.

18: The Usual Suspects (1995)

“Keaton always said, “I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of him.” Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze.”

One of the greatest crime thrillers of all time, The Usual Suspects follows five criminals initially thrown into a police lineup together for a crime that none of them committed. While in holding, they decide to orchestrate a revenge crime on the police for payback. As far as they’re aware, the job goes well, but all of them have angered a criminal mastermind called Keyser Soze, of who very little is known about. The race to discover who Keyser Soze is on, before he can cause more destruction and chaos.

Did you know?
While in the police lineup the actors were meant to keep it serious, but an unknown person, rumoured to be Benicio Del Toro, kept passing wind on every take and making everyone laugh. The director, Bryan Singer, was enraged after an entire day of filming this scene, but ended up seeing the funny side of it and decided to use the funniest takes in the final cut.

17: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

“You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.”

The soundtrack to this epic spaghetti Western is enough by itself to make your hairs stand on end. Three outlaws all out to make money for themselves must work together to find a cemetery in which a huge sum of gold is buried.  Each only has 1/3 of the information required to find the right grave and none of them want to share. Tense, beautifully filmed and, ultimately, one of the best Westerns ever made. It’s easy to forget that the film is almost 50 years old when watching it, it’s aged that well.

Did you know?
With health and safety not being in its heyday, Eli Wallach could have/nearly died at least three times on set. The first time, he would have been decapitated by a train if he’d so much as raised his head slightly. The second, he accidentally ingested acid that someone had wisely put into a drinking bottle. Finally, he had his hands tied behind his back while on horseback for one of the more famous scenes, the horse bolting at the sound of a gunshot with poor Eli still dangling off the back by only his knees. Incredibly, the screen legend lived to the age of 98 and died only last year.

16: Django Unchained (2012)

“Normally I would say “Auf wiedersehen,” but since what “auf wiedersehen” actually means is “’till I see you again”, and since I never wish to see you again, to you, sir, I say goodbye!”

Much like buses I’m afraid, in that no Westerns feature for 33 entries then two come along at once. Django is a modern take on the Western genre, which had been out of favour for a long, long time (barring some moderate successes in 3:10 to Yuma and a couple of others. The less said about Wild, Wild West the better) before Tarantino came along and decided to take a swing at it. What a swing it was. In Tarantino’s inimitable auteur style, he sticks to his guns and keeps the script politically incorrect, the tension high and the plot unpredictable. Starring a whole host of big name actors as usual, yet managing to keep the characters they play fresh and new.

Did you know?
Leonardo DiCaprio accidentally cut his hand on a glass while filming one scene. Rather than end the take, he stayed in character and even smeared the blood on a fellow cast member’s face. When the scene finally ended, DiCaprio got a well deserved standing ovation from the cast and crew.

15: Goodfellas (1990)

“Paulie may have moved slow, but it was only because Paulie didn’t have to move for anybody.”

In my opinion, still the film to aspire to if you want to make a classical mob film, by which I mean the Cosa Nostra. Goodfellas is essentially a biopic of the life of Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta), a gangster in the Lucchese family between the 50s and 80s, before turning into a rat for the FBI. It shows the dark side of the criminal underworld, where friends kill each other over trivial matters, money is king and you can never be sure of who to trust. Up until the superb Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014) TV series, I can’t think of anything that comes close to capturing this world as well as Goodfellas did. It’s a film where mobsters can beat a man to death, stuff him in the trunk of their car and go and have dinner with one of their mothers before burying him. No, really.

Did you know?
At least 25 of the cast of Goodfellas ended up working together on The Sopranos (1999-2007). Scorsese would later go on to direct an episode of and co-produce Boardwalk Empire.

14: Run Lola Run (1998)

“Man… probably the most mysterious species on our planet. A mystery of unanswered questions. Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? How do we know what we think we know? Why do we believe anything at all? Countless questions in search of an answer. An answer that will give rise to a new question and the next answer will give rise to the next question and so on. But, in the end, isn’t it always the same question? And always the same answer?”

Exploring the dimensions of time and space in relation to narrative, Run Lola Run is a German film with multiple timelines. There is a level of Sliding Doors or the Butterfly Effect to it, in that one seemingly innocent change in someone’s life can have a profound long-term effect. Almost like watching a comic book unfold at times, with such a vibrantly coloured main character running in the dull city streets, an outsider whose sole goal is to save her boyfriend, Manni, who owes a large sum of money and must repay it in 20 minutes or die. Coming up with different solutions to the problem in each strand of the narrative, Lola has to work out how to save his life.

Did you know?
The number 20 features heavily in the film. It’s the amount of time that Lola has to save Manni’s life, the length of the first and final stories and also the number that Lola bets on at the roulette table.

13: Gangs of New York (2002)

“When you kill a king, you don’t stab him in the dark. You kill him where the entire court can watch him die.”

Unorthodox in that it’s a Scorsese film which doesn’t focus on the Sicilian mafia as such, focusing instead on gang life in the 1860s, the battle for the five points in New York, Irish immigration and the civil war. I would argue that Scorsese did even better here than he had had in any of his previous works up to this point. Daniel Day-Lewis, known for being one of the best method actors going, in this case immersing himself so much into his character that he actually got pneumonia while filming Gangs of New York and refused to wear a thicker coat as it wasn’t keeping with the times. With that level of dedication, there’s no way that Day-Lewis especially would let this film be anything other than a masterpiece, and they certainly achieved that.

Did you know?
The pneumonia wasn’t the only thing that happened to Day-Lewis on set. He refused to speak in his normal accent, staying in character even in between takes. He also had his nose broken in a fight scene with DiCaprio but carried on acting anyway until the scene ended. I’m surprised he didn’t insist on actually murdering some extras for authenticity.

12: Inglourious Basterds (2009)

“You probably heard we ain’t in the prisoner-taking business, we in the killing Nazi business. And cousin, business is a-booming.”

Set in a fictional World War 2, the worst spelt Tarantino film is possibly also the one with the most suspense. I would argue that this is Tarantino’s finest, as the world he creates is so dark, the casting was spot on and the film is incredibly unpredictable. Christoph Waltz, as the sadistic, multilingual, intelligent and charming Colonel Hans Landa or “the Jew hunter”, won a number of awards on the back of this performance and I struggle to recall many finer performances from any actor. There are many iconic scenes which end completely differently to what you would expect to find in any conventional script, and it’s this unprecictability and tension that makes Inglourious Basterds Tarantino’s finest work to date.

Did you know?
Ironically in real life, Christoph Waltz has a son who is a rabbi.

11: The Departed (2006)

                              “Do you have anyone in with Costello presently?”                               “Maybe, maybe not. Maybe fuck yourself.”

Another Scorsese film to make my list, and arguably his finest. Based on Infernal Affairs (2002), a Hong-Kong police thriller, The Departed is a western approach to it, boasting an impressive cast list including DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Ray Winstone, Mark “Eyebrows” Wahlberg, one of the better Baldwin brothers and Martin Sheen to name a few. It’s almost a classic ‘spy vs spy’ approach, with a member of the Boston police infiltrating the Irish mob in an attempt to catch the notorious and seemingly untouchable Frank Costello. Simultaneously, there’s a gangster working his way through the police ranks. One of the more cerebral gangster films with twists and turns galore, and one of the few where you find yourself rooting for the police rather than the mafia.

Did you know?
Martin Scorsese was apparently unaware of the existence of Infernal Affairs until after he’d already agreed to make the film. He refused to watch the original until after production had ceased, presumably to ensure that the film had his own signature touch rather than being a generic remake. It seems to have worked pretty well.


Next up we’ll have the final part, where the winner of the prestigious Wayfaring Walrus Tusktastic film of all time will finally be declared!

As always, the Walrus has spoken.


4 thoughts on “My top 50 films of all time – 20-11.

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