So…with it being my birthday, I figured why not do a post around the Twitter hashtag #ThisIsYourFilm where you choose your favourite movie from every year you’ve been alive. Piece of piss, right? Won’t take that long. Oh boy, was I wrong. Even now, as I’m writing this opening preamble, I’m still second-guessing some of my choices, especially for the decade from 1984 to 1994. At least it’s favourite movies and not ‘best’ movies otherwise this would have taken forever. So, without further ado, for better or worse, This Is My Film [Life]:
1974 Blazing Saddles
One of Mel Brooks’ earliest efforts is still one of his very best. Generationally amusing, it rewards repeated viewings as you get older as more and more jokes reveal themselves to you. Start with the cowboy bean feast and go from there.
Responsible, to this day, for my reluctance to swim in the sea.
1976 Logan’s Run
Weirdly timeless and yet hopelessly dated, Michael York seems an odd choice for a leading man but this is smart sci-fi that only resonates more as you get older. Also, Peter Ustinov.
1977 Star Wars
As if I could pretend there would be any other choice for 1977. I was too young to see it when it first came out but it would shape cinema for the rest of my childhood.
This was a close run choice between “Grease” and “Superman: The Movie” but given Randal Kleiser’s 1978 musical forms the basis of my earliest memory of going to the cinema, the man of steel will have to sit this one out.
1979 Monty Python’s Life Of Brian
I may only have discovered it in my teenage years but that doesn’t stop Life Of Brian from being my favourite 1979 movie. He may not be the messiah, but this was a very easy choice.
This is the first year that really gave me a tough choice. It could easily have been “Airplane!” or “Superman II” and when I say “Superman II” I mean the theatrical Richard Lester version. [Blasphemy!]
1981 Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Not even the trenchant observations of the writers of “The Big Bang Theory” can diminish the fact that this is peerless swashbuckling adventure cinema. One of the few films which, when you happen upon it regardless of how much you’ve missed, you’ll want to watch the rest.
My favourite movie of all time. Yes, it’s Star Trek, which for some seems to prohibit it from being considered great but it’s a masterclass of screenwriting, the epitome of how to successfully bring an old TV series back to big screen life and features career best performances from the entire cast.
1983 Trading Places
Hilarious, still relevant and archly satirical, Aykroyd and Murphy are on top form, Jamie Lee Curtis is on mischievously topless form and veterans Denholm Elliott, Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche class up the joint. Director John Landis gets the best from his top drawer cast.
They say that it’s around the age of 12 that you start to firm up your personal cultural touchstones, the things you watch, listen to and do at the cusp of your teenage years forms the benchmarks against which you judge everything from then onwards, especially anything which attempts to riff on your childhood favourite. That may go some way to explaining why I found 1984-1994 trickier than almost every other year. Were there just many more great movies in that decade or is it the rosy glow of nostalgia?
For the longest time, this is the film I claimed was my all-time favourite movie but then I grew old enough not to care if people got sniffy about The Wrath Of Khan. Still, I do adore the sumptuousness of Milos Forman’s lavish adaptation. It’s legitimately my second favourite movie and it made me a fan of F Murray Abraham forever. 1984 could easily, though, have gone to “Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom”, “Ghostbusters”, “Gremlins”, “The Last Starfighter” or “Police Academy”.
1985 The Goonies
Indiana Jones junior shenanigans, its appeal is reputedly based more in nostalgia than quality as it doesn’t play anywhere near as well with kids these days but it’s just so much fun I find it irresistible. Sorry, “Back To The Future”, “Rocky IV” and “Teenwolf”
Actually a better benchmark for ‘superior sequels’ than “The Empire Strikes Back”, Cameron’s follow-up to Scott’s original monster movie ramps up the actions and the aliens while underpinning it with themes of motherhood and corporate greed. Just the right amount of cartoonish tropery means you care about each and every grunt who meets their heroic or deservedly grisly death. Whether you’re watching the original or Director’s Cut, there’s simply too much here for “Big Trouble In Little China”, “Labyrinth”, “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” and “Poltergeist II” to overcome.
What about “The Lost Boys”? you may howl but for me, “Robocop” is the movie of 1987, just edging out “Predator”. It wasn’t an easy win, though, as I had “Spaceballs” pencilled in here for a while too. Peter Weller’s far too sincere performance in Verhoeven’s schlocky and gratuitous satire, though, gives this a rewatchability which sets it above its contemporaries.
1988 The Naked Gun: From The Files Of Police Squad!
My overriding memory of seeing this in the cinema is my sides literally aching from having laughed so much only to nearly fall out of my seat at that last visual gag of Nordberg (O J Simpson) in his wheelchair careering down the bleachers and pin wheeling over the railing onto the baseball field right at the very end. And that’s my justification for choosing it for 1988 over “Die Hard”, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, “Coming To America”, “Beetlejuice”, “Crocodile Dundee II” (my favourite of the Crocodile Dundee movies or even one of my guiltiest pleasures: “My Stepmother Is An Alien”
1989 The Little Mermaid
The beginning of the Disney Renaissance and my personal favourite of Disney spectacular 1989 – 1994 run. ‘Under The Sea’ remains my showstopper benchmark for every subsequent Disney musical. Sorry, “Batman”, “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade”, “The Abyss”, “Back To The Future Part II”, “Lethal Weapon 2” and “Parenthood”.
1990 The Hunt For Red October
The first Tom Clancy Jack Ryan adaptation remains the best (the last one the worst) and it’s a shame Alec Baldwin didn’t continue in the role rather than the effective but workmanlike turn by Harrison Ford. 1990 was one of the toughest years to choose, too, and Red October may have squeaked through due to the crowded field: “Total Recall”, “Die Hard 2: Die Harder”, “Arachnophobia”, “Kindergarten Cop” and “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” would all have been good choices too.
1991 Beauty And The Beast
Robbed of the Best Picture Oscar (up yours, “Silence Of The Lambs”), my favourite movie of 1991 is a tale as old as time, which may go some way to explaining why the recent remake left me cold. If Belle and the Beast hadn’t got this year in the bag it could easily have gone to “The Addams Family”, “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”, “Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves”, “Hot Shots”, “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” or “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey”. And maybe “Silence Of The Lambs”…begrudgingly.
Sorry, Prince Ali Ababwa, but Kermit & Co’s note perfect Dickens adaptation is the only film I could have chosen for favourite of 1992. Nothing else even came close.
1993 Jurassic Park
An adventure 65 million years in the making and my current record holder for ‘most times seen in the cinema’, 1993 belongs to the Spielberg/ Crichton collaboration, despite “Mrs Doubtfire”, “Addams Family Values”, “Demolition Man”, “Cliffhanger” and the vastly underrated “Last Action Hero”.
1994 The Shawshank Redemption
Who couldn’t choose Shawshank in this year? Well, nearly me thanks to “The Lion King”, “True Lies”, “Stargate”, “The Mask” and “The Santa Clause”
1995 Apollo 13
Free of the golden decade, the choices become easier again. Houston, we have no problem in choosing Ron Howard’s gripping true life drama as my favourite film of 1995.
It may not be my favourite scary movie, but it’s my favourite movie of 1996 and catapulted Neve Campbell into my affections.
1997 Devil’s Advocate
I’ve got a real soft spot for this satanic legal satire; there’s deliciousness to the acting prowess imbalance of Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino sharing the screen which adds to the fun. In the current age of remaking movies as TV series, this is one I’m genuinely surprised hasn’t been plundered for a new series. “Hell-A Law” anyone?
1998 The Wedding Singer
Yeah, an Adam Sandler film. Don’t @ me. I’m only joking; of course you can @ me. In fact, I’d love to hear what your favourite movie of 1998 is!
1999 Fight Club
Fincher’s, Pitt’s and Norton’s finest. This nihilistic masterpiece of self-congratulatory masculinity may have a queasy edge of toxic machismo nearly twenty years later and its twist, like “The Sixth Sense” loses its impact after the first viewing, but there’s still so much to enjoy.
2000 Pitch Black
Gravel-voiced action megastar Vin Diesel gets his big break in this gritty, imaginative indie sci-fi horror which spawned two sequels of varying insanity and quality.
2001 Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
Arguably the best of the trilogy (or sextology if you include “The Hobbit” films), it’s everything that was great about Peter Jackson’s trilogy and like nothing we had seen before at this stage.
2002 Blade II
Another superior sequel, better in every conceivable way than its predecessor even despite the slightly awkward need to retcon Whistler’s ‘death’ in the first movie. Marvel has never been darker or as badass as this again.
2003 Big Fish
It was a close run thing, with “Kill Bill Vol. 1”, “X2” or “Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World” all vying for attention but there’s something about Tim Burton’s kooky and sentimentally sunny biography of tall tale teller Edward Bloom. Seeing as I couldn’t choose “The World According To Garp” for 1982, this is the next best thing.
2004 The Incredibles
Simply the finest version of “The Fantastic Four” ever brought to cinematic life. Not just a perfect animated family movie, but a perfect comic book/ superhero movie too. How Brad Bird has not yet been snapped up by either Marvel or DC simply beggars belief. He’s the one man I would trust to rehabilitate Superman within the current DCEU.
2005 Batman Begins
Speaking of the DCEU, here’s the film which started (and potentially ruined) it all. A breathtaking and necessary retooling reboot after the hideous excess of “Batman & Robin”, Christopher Nolan stripped the caped crusader back to grounded basics and finally made Bruce Wayne/ Batman the most important character in his own movie.
2006 The Devil Wears Prada
Bitchy with performances to die for, Streep is magnificent while Tucci, Hathaway and Blunt give as good as they get. I’ve watched this multiple times and love it every single viewing.
2007 Hot Fuzz
The definite high point of The Cornetto Trilogy, Edgar Wright’s sharply observed and affectionate spoof of overly macho action movie tropes is perfectly realised in the idyllic English countryside, magnifying the comic potential.
2008 Iron Man
Yeah, I chose “Iron Man” above “The Dark Knight”. Both are great movies in their own right, both were followed by sequels which failed to live up to them but only one launched an unparalleled cinematic franchise while the other arguably crippled an attempt to create another. This is probably also a good time to reiterate that this is a list of my favourite movies from each year, not my list of the objective best movies of each year.
There is nobody finer than Zack Snyder when it comes to bringing the panels and imagery of a comic book to painstakingly recreated life on the big screen. Where he’s working from an established text and therefore doesn’t need to take responsibility for story and character, he’s phenomenal. For me, “Watchmen” remains his benchmark.
Hello again, Christopher Nolan. Three movies in one, this sci-fi thriller out-Bonds Bond and manages to deliver both kick-ass action and philosophical food for thought in equal measure.
2011 Arthur Christmas
Aardman brings their magic to bear on Christmas with a twinkly and imaginative spin on the legend of Santa Claus, providing a satisfying explanation for almost every aspect of the myth.
2012 Avengers Assemble
It seems so obvious now, but it’s worth remembering just how huge it was that not only did this film work, it worked brilliantly. Still one of the best cinema experiences of my life, the theatre was buzzing from start to finish and I came out of seeing it on a high I don’t think I’ve ever really come all the way down from.
2013 The Wolf Of Wall Street
Gratuitous, foul-mouthed and gob-smackingly true, this is the film Leo should have won the Oscar for. Absolutely flies by despite its three hour run time, and packed with great performances from the entire cast.
Like a cardboard theatre brought to live, it’s simply exquisite to look at and listen to. Sublime.
Ironically this movie failed to find an audience with its message that negativity and nihilism breeds its own self-fulfilling prophecy but I adored its pro-science, pro-intelligence optimism. Little wonder the world which rejected this movie and its moral ended up voting for Brexit and Trump.
Packed with character and sly humour, Taika Waititi beautifully realised, quirky adaptation of the story of a kid and his foster uncle going on the run in the bush deals with weighty themes whilst keeping everything light and frothy.
2017 Kong: Skull Island (so far*)
It’s just so silly and fun. It fully embraces its utter nonsensicality and is all the stronger for it. A good, old-fashioned creature feature adventure.
*Up to April 10, 2017.
So there you have it. 44 years’ worth of favourite movies. Boy, that took way longer than I expected and threw up some interesting choices. Which years do you agree with? Which don’t you? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to see your lists.