30 September 1998

The Most Legendary Movies of all Time

I've just seen Armageddon, and I'm proud to say, I enjoyed it immensely.

Yes. I enjoyed that movie. Not a hard thing to say, is it?

It is a movie like this which shows up movie critics as the bunch of certifiable wankers that they are. Firstly, Armageddon is released amidst the brouhaha surrounding a movie with a budget bigger than the GDP of several third-world countries, and naturally, the critics have a field day panning a movie which they haven't even seen, in a backlash rivalling The Wave in the other asteroid movie (or comet, whatever it was). Then, after seeing it, in a backflip to end all backflips, it suddenly becomes cool to say that they liked it.

In The Big Issue and Juice, this movie was canned by the reviewers, simply because it wasn't a low budget arthouse flick.

By the time Beat and In-Press got around to review it, that had changed to, "yeah the plot had more holes in than all the cheese in Switzerland, but it looked impressive, and you gotta like that." You actually had movie critics backlashing against the backlash, because it happened to be the cool thing to do.

I liked it because, although it was completely improbable, sorry, impossible, it looked good. The sets were good, the photography was good, the costuming was spot-on, the special effects were A1, oh, and the scene where New York cops a meteor shower was absolutely first class.

But more than that, I liked the scene where Ben Affleck's character is in a romantic interlude with Liv Tyler's character. Now while this is going on, there is music in the background provided by Aerosmith, which is fronted by none other than Steve Tyler, who happens to be Liv Tyler's dad. Deliberate? But wait. There's more. Liv Tyler plays Bruce Willis's character's daughter, all during a movie where Willis and L.Tyler were allegedly romantically linked.

There is about four layers of irony during that scene. Hilarious, I thought.

But that is merely the intro section to what I consider to be the most legendary movies of all time.

Now, those of you out there reading this who are movie critic types, then just stop reading this and go back to that half finished Stephen Downes food article, because, there is nothing on this list directed by Serge Bunuel, Akira Kurosawa, Orson Welles or Alfred Hitchcock.

The list reads as such:

=1. This Is Spinal Tap (dir: Rob Reiner)

This movie was legendary for the number of Rock and Roll bands who, whenever something goes wrong in their lives, say, "That was Tap-esque". Famous for inspiring music critics everywhere to say, "(insert band name here) had their amps well and truly turned up to eleven." Not to mention "(insert band name here as well) have had more guitarists than Spinal Tap have had drummers." This movie had Christopher Guest (from The Princess Bride), Michael McKean (Laverne and Shirley) and Harry Shearer (The Simpsons) as the main protagonists in the band, as well as appearances from Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, Patrick McNee, Paul Shaffer, Fran Drescher and Bruno Kirby.

=1. The Blues Brothers (dir: John Landis)

Famous for being the movie in which the record was set for smashing up cop cars (142?), Jake and Elwood Blues' path to destruction had them being chased by police, nazis and rednecks, while accompanied by most of the members of Booker T and the MGs. Cameos included Frank Oz, Carrie Fisher, Steven Spielberg, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and others. The scene where one nazi says to another nazi, "I've always loved you," is to die for.

3. Ben Hur (dir: William Wyler)

A curious inclusion, nonetheless a still impressive movie these days. The inclusion of the lamentable Charlton Heston was more than made up for by a stellar bit part from Frank Thring as Pontius Pilate. But of course there is always one scene which makes this must see viewing, and that is, natch, the chariot race. There is always something about a biblical epic that is incredibly hard to avoid, and that goes for the next one as well.

4. The Ten Commandments (dir: Cecil B de Mille)

This stands up today as an incredible achievement in film. Extras everywhere, huge sets, Yul Brynner's amazing performance as the Pharoah, where he hams it up in a splendidly tongue in cheek way, and, ol' chisel chin himself, the aforementioned and abysmal Charlton Heston. Sent up mercilessly by Mel Brooks et al, this movie contains one of the most incredible scenes ever filmed, the parting of the Red Sea, which still looks good in this day and age.

5. Spartacus (dir: Stanley Kubrick)

I'll go out on a limb, here and say that this is the best flick that Kubrick ever did. Another 'biblical' epic (that word gets stretched a bit, but there's nothing wrong with that), featuring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis, it really doesn't have much structure to it, but has some of the most authentic battle scenes ever, courtesy of Kubrick's eye for detail. The scenes between Douglas's character and Curtis's character come off amazingly homoerotic, and yet, what was cut from the movie manages to outdo this. Possibly the earliest movie to have two gay characters as the lead roles.

6. Star Wars (dir: George Lucas)

When Sci Fi is tackled, the results can either be supremely rivetting like this one, 2001 or Ridley Scott's Alien and Blade Runner, or spectacular failures like David Lynch's Dune. This one succeeded in spite of patchy dialogue, because it looked good, and it had a brutally good story. Witness James Earl Jones' Darth Vader, the most evil screen villain ever and Alec Guinness as the aging Jedi, Obi Wan Kenobi. Special mention should also go to Peter Cushing as the Death Star's governor Grand Moff Tarkin. It's interesting to note that Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) went on to obscurity, while Harrison Ford was launched into superstardom.

7. 2001 (dir: Stanley Kubrick)

Another really good Sci Fi flick. Although Kubrick tended to drag out some scenes a little too long for my liking (for dramatic effect, I'm told) this space yarn is something that you can really go to town on. The scenes in space are really agoraphobic, and the scenes inside the spacecraft (plural) and with the Monolith are just so well done that you actually want to be up in space with them as they go off into the universe.

8. Apocalypse Now (dir: Francis Coppola)

A really weird little 'Nam flick that just got weirder and weirder as the movie continued. GIs from America go to 'Nam, get bombed, go surfing, get bombed while going surfing, and meet up with a crackpot played by Marlon Brando who has set up his own little republic amidst the mayhem. Quote from the movie which you will hear ad infinitum from anyone who has seen the movie - "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."

9. Die Hard (dir: John McTiernan)

This was the movie that sparked the renaissance of what I consider to be the supreme genre of movies - the High Budget Action Movie. Bruce Willis is a cop trapped in a building where a maniac terrorist, played in superb fashion by Alan Rickman, has everyone but him under control. A well executed piece involving much bloodshed and explosions, as well as some quirky quotes from Willis himself. Spawned two sequels that, while good viewing, are just never going to come close to this one. Much like Blues Brothers 2000, actually.

10. You Only Live Twice (dir: Lewis Gilbert)

James Bond never got better than this. Sean Connery is at his most misogynist and is strangely compelling, and he gets help from Q in the form of a wicked gyrocopter as well as the Japanese secret service's entire staff of trained Ninjas. Blofeld was never better than when he was played by Donald Pleasance, and the photography, sets and general atmosphere throughout is excellent. You get the feeling that Connery enjoyed himself immensely when he was making this.

11. Goodfellas (dir: Martin Scorsese)

Scorsese has made the gangster flick genre all his own. While others have had a crack at it, none has quite had the way of pulling it off in the same way that Scorsese has, with the possible exception of Coppola's Godfather series. The mafiosi, played by Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta, and Robert de Niro are the most disturbingly violent bunch of misanthropes ever, and, by the end of the movie, you cannot trust anyone. Or so it feels.

12. Taxi Driver (dir: Martin Scorsese)

This movie launched Scorsese's career. Robert de Niro is excellent as a New York cabbie pushed too far, and when you get to the redemption at the end, you wonder how he could've gotten away with it. To watch here is Harvey Keitel as the pimp with absolutely no morals whatsoever, as well as Jodie Foster in one of her earlier roles as a ten year old hooker. Surprisingly good bit parts are provided by the likes of Cybil Shepherd and Albert Brooks, although, "You looking at me?" must rate as a truly harrowing piece of moviedom.

13. Alien (dir: Ridley Scott)

Picked ahead of Blade Runner and the other Alien movies, because his one was a truly frightening piece of space cinema. Sigourney Weaver hasn't changed in nineteen years, and is quite the heroine in this, although she is almost overshadowed by the likes of John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, and the incomparable Harry Dean Stanton. After seeing this movie for the first time, I had this malevolent mistrust of cats for quite a while. Not to mention having egg on my face.

14. The Naked Gun 2½ (dirs: David Zucker)

This is quite possibly the silliest movie I have ever seen. It is certainly the funniest. Quick quiz: Why is irony, satire and other cerebral forms of humour celebrated at the expense of slapstick, toilet humour, idiot humour and smut, when, given, (and it is most definitely given) that these are more funny forms of humour? Anyway, Leslie Nielsen is out of control as he deadpans his way through a movie packed with more jokes per second than any other movie ever. Incidentally, Robert Goulet makes a groovy villain.

15. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (dir: George Roy Hill)

Quite simply, the best western ever made. Paul Newman and Robert Redford just come out with the buddy thing happening in vast quantities, their on-screen presence greater than other buddy combinations such as Matthau and Lemmon or Martin and Lewis. The music of Burt Bacharach can not be heard after this movie without seeing them riding double-dink on bicycles round a farm, or holding up banks throughout Bolivia as 'Los Bandidos Yanquis'. Incidentally, the last scene from the movie could be the most important scene in movie history.

16. Cool Hand Luke (dir: Stuart Rosenberg)

Another movie with the indomitable Paul Newman as the drunk who gets arrested while sawing the tops off parking meters and sentenced to hard labour on a prison farm. Newman keeps trying to escape, and eventually pays the price but not before the immortal line, "What we have here, gentlemen, is a failure to communicate," is spoken.

17. The Terminator (dir: James Cameron)

"Arrrrrrrnnnnniiiieeeee!" we all cried after seeing Arnie as a cyborg blowing up virtually every thing in sight, and Linda Hamilton was forced into a serious situation as the mother of the unborn John Connor. Actually, T1, as we now fondly refer to it, was a really dark movie, shot mostly at night, with not much daylight in sight, and gruesome flashes to a future where computers control our destiny, and Arnie the evil cyborg lurks around every corner and says "Get Out!" and "I'll Be Back." For quote junkies, this movie was a veritable cornucopia of seething Arnie one-liners.

18. True Lies (dir: James Cameron)

Completely over the top, this send up of James Bond never stops. Firstly, we have not one, but two Arnies - Schwarzenegger and Tom - who do the buddy thing surprisingly well. Then, you have Arnie and his wife (the irrepressible Jamie Lee Curtis) take on an army of terrorists and almost completely wipe them out in a remarkably bloody scene, part of which involves an Uzi on autofire tumbling down stairs. After which, a bridge is destroyed and a nuclear bomb goes off wiping out the Florida Keys. But that's not enough. Arnie then jumps into a Sea-Harrier and takes out an entire office building. Outstanding stuff, which confirms James Cameron as a hero of action movies of the highest budget.

19. Police Story 2 (dir: Jackie Chan)

Jackie Chan's piece de resistance has everything a good action flick should be. Having not seen much of Chan's earlier work, I don't know how the rest of his back catalogue compares, but I know good when I see it, and this is it. Car chases which go down mountain sides destroying a shantytown in the process, and martial arts sequences that are absolutely evil, compete with sometimes shoddy (but always hilarious) subtitling which adds to the charm of Chan the unlikely-looking action hero.

20. Raiders of the Lost Ark (dir: Steven Spielberg)

The genius of Steven Spielberg was once again made manifest on this, the first Indiana Jones movie. While others prefer Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, this has the best story of the three, as Harrison Ford in the role of Indy goes mental trying to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant from under the noses of the Nazis whilst dealing with asps, boulders, poisoned spears, and finally, Lefty himself.

So there you have it. The twenty most legendary movies of all time. Movies to miss out (but not by much) were Tim Burton's Batman and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws, Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, John Woo's Face Off, Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, Oliver Stone's Platoon, Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm (featuring the late and great Frank Sinatra), Dennis Hopper's Colors, Douglas Trumbull's Brainstorm, Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant and more.

Stay tuned for, next month, the preview to the election we had to have.

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