I was asked what my top 10 films were, which is a common question really and one I never really think about too much. How do you compare films? What makes a film your favourite? Why do some love a film and some really hate it? e.g Gravity, which I thought was an awful film, but so many loved it. The best way for me to come up with a list was not to really think about it and write down the first 10 films that came to mind that I really loved and then put them into order. I think this was the best way to do it.
Here is my list
10) Champion- Starring Kirk Douglas and directed by Mark Robson (1949)
09) Moulin Rouge- Starring Jose Ferrer and Zsa Zsa Gabor and directed by John Huston
08) The Big Country-Starring Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Charlton heston and Burl Ives and directed by William Wyler (1958)
07) Spartacus- Starring Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons, Laurence Oliver, Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis and Charles Laughton and directed by Stanley Kubrick (1960)
06) From here to eternity- Starring Burt Lancaster, Deborah kerr, Montgomery Clift, Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra and driected by Fred Zinnermann (1953)
05) Ben Hur- Starring Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd and Jack Hawkins and directed by William Wyler (1959)
04) Oliver Twist- Starring Alec Guinness and Robert Newton and driected by David Lean (1948)
03) Great Expectations- Starring John Mills, Jean Simmons, Alec Guiness, Valerie Hobson and Martita Hunt and directed by David Lean (1946)
02 Kind Hearts and Coronets- Starring Alec Guinness, Dennis Price, Valerie Hobson and Joan Greenwood and directed by Robert Hamer 1949)
01)Its a Wonderful Life- Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore and directed by Frank Capra (1946)
These films have given me great joy from a very young age, most of which were introduced to me by my grandparents. I think Champion was the start of some truly great boxing films, this was brutal, emotional and full of moral dilemmas. Kirk Douglas plays the part magnificently as only he could. Kirk is brilliant at playing parts with angst and anger also parts with spirit and emotion. One of my favourite films with him in it, is Lust For Life (1956) about Vincent van Gogh and as you can imagine Kirk was perfect with his ability to portray characters emotions, especially those in turmoil. Kirk Douglas gave an interview once when he was much older stating that he wasn’t the easiest person to get along with because of his drive and determination to succeed. He sometimes stepped on people to get his way and set very high standards for everyone else, ones he set for himself too. This often made him quite an unlikable man at times. He did mellow as he got older and I think the stroke he had put many things into perspective. When you look at the many films he starred in, it was and still is quite a career.
Baz Lurhman is a great director and I love his unique style, especially the way he uses music, mixing modern with the classic tunes of the time periods. His take on the Moulin Rouge was exciting, full of energy and full of amazing characters. The film in my opinion doesn’t match up to the John Huston version telling the story of the poster artist Toulouse Lautrec. There is not quite the energy of the Lurhman take, but it does tell a very real story of a life that started promising, but ended in desperation as Toulouse was taken by the absinthe fairy and his feelings towards the CanCan girls of the Moulin Rouge were not returned. His work was iconic of the time and today he is celebrated, but then life was particularly difficult, especially having a disability like Toulouse had. Jose Ferrer played Toulouse brilliantly, spending a large amount of time on his knees to match the height of the artist, when today it could have all been completed by CGI. It has been a long time since I have seen this film as it is now rarely seen on television, but I suggest that people do because it shows what life was really like.
A star studded cast make this western one of the best ever seen on the big screen, this coming from someone who dislikes the western genre of film. Gregory Peck once again plays the good guy, the fair one and the one who backs away from a physical fight if words are the better tool. Heston is the cowboy who is good at what he does, strong, but when something is wrong then fists start flying. These two do not like each other and do not understand each other, but have a common goal and respect is soon achieved by the end of the day. Jean Simmons is the beauty who has been brought up by a fair minded man and wants peace between the two families, she is the love interest. Burl Ives is the head of the other side and has a set of codes that he lives his life by. His family are wild, womanising and cut throat, much to his shame, but when he feels he is being dealt with unfairly then guns can do the talking. This makes for an exciting showdown between the two families. Burl Ives is a brilliant actor and has a very distinguishable voice, one I remember from a child film I saw, when he sang the Ugly Bug Ball. He plays the old fashioned father who will stick up for his family, but will deal with any misbehaviour inhouse, not being scared to use the back of his hand. Peck is the perfect good guy and Jean Simmons and him make for the perfect couple. There are so many interesting and contrasting characters, which make for a brilliant film,
Kirk Douglas has already been mentioned as has Jean Simmons, but again the performances are brilliant, The contrast between Kirk as the warrior and the soft hearted Jean makes for a great love affair. Spartacus is on a crusade against the Romans, who are the callous and evil men, played so well by the greatest British actor to grace the screen Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis played the lover and musician, who became a brave solder alongside the warrior Spartacus and was willing to die alongside him for the cause. Films like this just do not exist now, despite all the advances in technology and the great sums of money paid to the actors. This was a big reason why I didn’t enjoy Gladiator as it had been done before and far better. Peter Ustinov brought a light heartedness to the film and through the pomposity of his character there were many laughs. The sets were amazing and the acting was superb from every member of the cast. This is just a beautiful film with great storyline to go with it.
If you haven’t seen From Here to Eternity, you must because it is a film with love, passion, war and full of moral dilemma. Burt Lancaster is the picture of masculinity and the scene on the beach has become iconic. Lancaster is perfect in the role as he fights his love and passion for Deborah Kerrs in an affair that seems so right, but is obviously very wrong. This affair could cost both very dearly, but their love is too strong and the risks seem to outweigh their feelings. The chemistry between the two is perfect and you truly believe that there is love between them. Montgomery Clift who had his own battles off screen played his role sensitively as a soldier who refused to fight in the ring because he once blinded his sparring partner. Prewit is tested to the absolute limit by his superiors as they try to force him to fight. The punishments are severe and he is labelled a coward by those that do not know his reasons. The result would be a court-martial, but Prewit wont budge even when Lancasters character tries his hardest to get him to change his mind, looking out for his welfare in doing so. Frank Sinatra plays Prewits best friend and he supports him through, but he too has his own demons leading to many costly outcomes as the film progresses. Donna Reed pulls away from the wholesome image she portrayed in Its a Wonderful Life to play a prostitute down on her luck, who falls for private Prewit along the way. This is an outstanding performance from her, so much so that I didn’t realise it was her until a few years ago and I had watched the film numerous times. This is a film with a very strong cast, brilliant storyline, mixed up with love, war, women, drink and a strong bond between soldiers. This is the original story of pearl harbour and is a great tribute to those that died on that sad day.
Epic is used too many times in my opinion, but Ben Hur is most definitely an epic, not just in the length of the film, but also the characterisation along with the wonderful storyline that gives us action, sports, rivalry, friendship, religion, Jesus and Rome. The Film follows the character Ben Hur as he falls from powerful beginnings to slavery as a great misjustice has been delivered by the Roman Masala played by Stephen Boyd. The once great friendship is destroyed By Masala and leaves Hestons Character and his family to a life of torture and survival. The fall is followed by a rise to become a powerful Roman Chariot racer, which gives him the chance to seek and act his revenge on the powerful Masala. Jack hawkins is the rescuer as he takes Ben Hur as his son, if only for a short time. Ben Hur seeks his Mother and Sister and is shocked by their decline leading him to seek Jesus and Christianity to help them. The film won 9 oscars and right;y so and it stands out as one of the greatest films of all time. The sets were epic as chariots raced around arenas, slaves suffered on large boats, mighty Romans lived in huge monuments and Jesus roamed the deserts and the hills. This is one of those must see before you die films.
The next three I have spoken about in previous blogs, so I will lleave you to read those if you haven’t already. This leads me to my favourite film, which is full of sentiment, human generosity and love. The story is beautiful in itself and leads you to wonder about your own life and the impact you yourself have had on the individuals you have met along the way. It is a story of good verses evil, George Bailey being the good and Mr Potter being the evil. James Stewart plays George Bailey who grows up in a small old town, which he soon grows out of, leading him to aspire to get a good education and see the world. Circumstances mean that George has to stay and run the business, get married and have a family. Donna Reed plays George’s beautiful wife who has had a crush on George from the very moment she met him as a child at the sweet shop. They have a family and it seems that George is stuck in this town forever, running the family business. They are living in difficult times and an incident occurs where George loses everything and could possibly face prison. This plight leads him to contemplate suicide and he heads to the bridge to end it all. George’s life is being watched by a guardian angel who has not earned his wings and needs one good deed to help gain them. This deed is to save George and he does this by throwing himself over the bridge so that George will rescue him, which he does. From this point George is given a great gift, he is shown what life would be like he never existed and believe me it is a real eye opener and not for good reasons either. This is a beautiful film that makes you appreciate the impact you have on those around you and how little things can make big changes. James Stewart is perfect as George Bailey, with his distinctive voice, that always brings great warmth to the characters he plays. Donner Reed is part of a beautiful relationship, which is focused on family. There is nothing in this film that bursts from the screen, it is about the life of an ordinary man, who is kind, generous and has the same battles as any other person, but his actions have had a major impact on those around him no matter how small they seem.
Well there you go, here are my ten favoutite films for you to look over and hopefully I have convinced you to see them yourself. Please let me know what you think and share with me the films that you greatly admire. To pick ten is almost impossible because there are hundreds of amazing films out there which can often be very personal to you and your life.