My Top Films of the Century So Far – Part 2

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Following on from my previous post covering numbers 20-11 (see homepage), I count down my top 10 films of the century so far…

10) The Social Network (2010)

A big example of how films about people sitting in rooms talking can be thrilling, The Social Network is one of those pictures that manages to be several different things at once, and yet still stand up under scrutiny. Smartly written, with impressive performances and a propulsive score, the story of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and the tumultuous founding of Facebook is fascinating. As a subjective version of recent history, a story about the breakdown of a friendship, and a look at the way humans tick all at once, it is formidable.

9) The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

This zany Wes Anderson film tells of the often perplexing exploits of the concierge of the titular hotel, Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), and his lobby boy Zero (Tony Revelori) in a fictional Republic during World War II. Starring a cast of big names playing a host of  wacky and unforgettable characters, this convoluted story is both a hilarious comedy and a look back at a lost era. A mixture of madcap and heartfelt, tinged with unmistakable sadness, this is singular cinematic gold.

8) Casino Royale (2006)

Daniel Craig’s first and best Bond film (to date), Casino Royale is a bruising, efficient thriller with some great action scenes. Craig is brilliant as 007, whilst Eva Green is also superb as feisty Bond girl Vesper Lynd. However, it’s also a more emotionally mature Bond film than has ever been made before, which is character-driven, gritty and entirely fitting for the modern era. Skyfall and SPECTRE have perhaps faded in my imagination over time, but this is as good as it was on its release 10 years ago, and to me is one of the best Bond films ever made.

7) Nebraska (2013)

This tale of an ageing alcoholic who decides to travel to Nebraska to (supposedly) claim a million-dollar sweepstake prize, accompanied by his estranged son, is a slow-burner, but well worth the wait. Full to the brim with observations about family and life itself, this genteel road movie is powered by some extremely sensitive acting, and gradually (but in a calculated fashion) reveals more about its characters as it goes along. You really do care about them by the end, and the film’s pacing and overall conclusion are nigh-on flawless.

6) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The summation of the whole Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises is an action-packed adventure that bears all the hallmarks of director Christopher Nolan’s craft. Well-worked action scenes, a script crammed with subplots and little details, and some powerful performances, particularly from Christian Bale as Batman, make this a conclusion to remember and savour. Packed with the emotion of an entire trilogy, it’s a stunning ending that’s everything you want it to be. It also may well contain the most perfect, fist-clenching, grin-inducing final five minutes of a film that I have ever seen.

5) The Lives of Others (2007)

A superlative German film set in the 1980s, when the Stasi monitored communications and Germany was split into East and West by the Berlin Wall, this atmospheric thriller is a beautiful evocation of time and place, with a moral conundrum at its heart. Icy, efficient Stasi agent Gerd Wiesler (the late Ulrich Mühe) is asked to spy on a young couple, a director and actress, but finds himself becoming increasingly drawn into their lives. With well-drawn characters, a thrilling plot and a central performance of understated intensity, The Lives of Others is a film you won’t forget in a hurry. 

4) Inception (2010)

Seen as overrated by some, this high-concept action flick is Christopher Nolan’s best film to date. This twisting, intricately woven story about a group of dream thieves who, instead of stealing information from a target’s mind, are tasked with planting a new idea there instead (so-called ‘inception’), is a knockout. Inception combines originality with mind-blowing action and all-round classy acting from the dream team of Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page, among others. It may well be seen as a classic given time.

3) Chicken Run (2000)

This poultry-led claymation take on The Great Escape boasts Aardman’s traditionally insane eye for detail. They run riot with subtle visual gags, as a characterful bunch of chickens attempt to escape from their farm before they are made into pies by their nefarious owners. Featuring a cast of Brits, this is a pastiche which is brilliant in its own right. A funny ride that is uniquely British in its sense of humour, it has a whole hen-coop of memorable, quotable moments, and will reward re-watch after re-watch.

2) Toy Story 3 (2010)

Unexpectedly for me (at least at the time of first viewing), Toy Story 3 is the best in an already great trilogy. In this third instalment, the toys, led by Woody and Buzz, are accidentally abandoned in a daycare centre, and must come to terms with the fact that owner Andy is growing up. As the film progresses it reaches emotional heights unprecedented for an animated film, whilst showing off Pixar’s trademark wit and humour too. Toy Story 4 is being released in 2018, but for me this will always be a fitting and fond farewell to the toys.

1) Finding Nemo (2003)

This wildly imaginative underwater odyssey is Pixar at the pinnacle of their art. The titular fish is captured by a diving crew, prompting his father to mount an ocean-wide rescue mission. The ensuing adventure strikes just the right balance of heartstring-tugging and hilarity, and is a joy from start to finish. Filled with larger-than-life characters, and beautifully animated too, as per usual, Finding Nemo (in my book at least) sets a benchmark for films of all genres. Fish are definitely friends, dude.

Alex Nicholson


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