Welcome to Inside Film’s ever-developing list of films you must see. If you disagree with any of the choices, or want to suggest a film for the list, then please leave a comment.
A neo-noir crime thriller of the highest order. The Usual Suspects’ layered plot and clever dialogue draws you in and then hits you over the head with its big reveal. The Film 4 review claims, “had it been made 40 years ago by a genre legend like Howard Hawks, we’d be talking about The Usual Suspects as a bona fide movie milestone. That’s the scale of the achievement on show here, the cinema equivalent of scaling Everest.” There’s not much more I can say.
Loosely based on real events, Malick’s directorial debut tells of two young lovers (Sissy Spacek & Martin Sheen) on a crime spree in the US Midwest in which Spacek’s oddly matter-of-fact narration combines beautifully with the captivating soundtrack and elegantly shot landscape. Badlands unassumedly follows the lovers’ brief spree as though we are dreaming it and in this way the psychotic decisions of the protagonists become, to some extent, normalised. Haunting, tragic and timeless, this is the film which put Malick on the map.
De Niro is at his best here playing Travis Bickle, an insomniac Vietnam War veteran who drives his cab on the night-shift through a decaying and morally bankrupt New York City. Taxi Driver is a study in alienation and anger as Bickle moves from laconic loner to violent vigilante. Possibly the great director’s best work.
Sexy Beast (2000) Dir. Jonathan Glazer
A black comedy-cum-heist movie starring Ray Winstone as an ex-career criminal and Ben Kingsley as the psychotic gangster who tries to bring him out of retirement. Set in the scorching heat of Spain, the star of this movie is the screenplay by Louis Mellis and David Scinto which Kingsley unrelentingly barks into our ears. Great suspense and brilliantly funny – this one gets better with repeated viewing.
La Haine (Hate) (1995) Dir. Mathieu Kassovitz
An uncompromising social-realist piece set in a poor Paris suburb, La Haine follows three young disaffected friends on a single day in the aftermath of a riot. One of the three, Vinz (Vincent Cassel), considers himself something of a hard-man and his destructive self-image threatens to land the group in serious trouble after he finds a gun. La Haine considers the hatred that derives from racial intolerance and the frustration of being trapped in a life with no job and few prospects.
Waltz with Bashir (2008) Dir. Ari Folman
This animated documentary follows the director’s attempts to discover the truth of his involvement in the 1982 Israel-Lebanon war after realising he has completely lost his memory of the period. The film combines dream sequences and dramatic re-enactments with documentary-style conversations between Folman and friends and colleagues from the war. The animation is stunning as is Max Richter’s score and the result is a cinematic masterpiece which provides an important lesson in Middle-Eastern history.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) Dir. Ang Lee
This sweeping martial arts epic won four Oscars including Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography and yet inexplicably lost Best Picture to Gladiator which is an entertaining but highly flawed historical romp. By contrast, Crouching Tiger combines a great story with wonderful choreography and is one of the most beautiful films ever made.
The Big Lebowski (1998) Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen
A work of genius from the Coens with a perfectly cast Jeff Bridges as The Dude, whose main occupation is to “Bowl. Drive around [and have] the occasional acid flashback.” Through an unexpected series of events, the laid back protagonist becomes embroiled with a porn baron and a group of German nihilists whilst being beaten and drugged – and all because he wanted his rug back. But then again, it did really tie the room together.