In no particular order...
To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) William Friedkin's big-monster-balls secret service, counter-feiting drama...Contains some outstanding set pieces; one of which is the greatest car chase ever committed to film™, the coolest "watching William Petersen in this movie gives me a hard-on" lead performance, awesomely atmospheric cinematography by Robby Muller, some outstandingly lyrical swearing from John Turturro and a kick ass Wang Chung score! Only draw back is for those 80's-phobic bastards who can't see passed the spray-on jeans, American football tops, and music that's unashamedly of its time.
A.W.O.L. (aka Lionheart) (1990) I'm sure most people would rather die than watch a Van Damme movie but there's always one exception to the rule. Read about my sickness here.
Seven Samurai (1954) Six samurai and Toshirô Mifune defend a village from rampaging bandits. Pure cinema! Director Akira Kurosawa apparently used all of the available fire engines to produce the rain for the final battle. Four houses burned down that dayÉbut seriously Seven Samurai delivers a banquet of emotions that should be feasted on once every 2 years to avoid indigestion. Yum. Worthy of note is the finest scene ever committed to celluloid; Kyuzo get shot, falls in the mud then with his last breath stands and throw his sword in anguish at the gods - as Katsushiro looks on (like his idol/god's been felled) CUT!
Once Upon A Time in America (1984) Sergio Leone's colossal take on the gangster movie spans three time periods, and many years (as did the production). De Niro plays Noodles one of 5 friends who grow up in 'prohibition' New York. Friendship, betrayal and loyalty are all examined amongst the flashbacks, flash forwards and quite possibly the most audacious did he/didn't he denouement in cinema history. Least I forget the magnificent score by Leone's partner in crime, Ennio Morricone.
Enter The Dragon (1973) Bruce Lee in his final performance, and only English language kung fu flick, is the embodiment of super cool as he breaks necks like its going out of style. He's joined by John Saxon (so-so) and Jim Kelly (the bomb) in a tournament of martial arts on Han's Island. A Kung Fu Dr No this maybe but there's none finer. Lalo Schifrin adapts his free style Jazz to Jeet Kune Do and a star is immortalised.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Following on from the huge success of the first movie, George Lucas drags in the help of friends (to write) and colleagues (to direct) the next Star Wars instalment (one guesses he was too busy counting his cash from the merchandising). Surprisingly the movie added a great depth to the previous film (now films) as well as improving on it itself. Yoda, Boba Fett and Lando are brought in and only Chewbacca gets the shaft as far as character development of the original posse is concerned.
The Killer (1989) Director John Woo started this out as a homage to the films of Melville and Scorsese but half way through the unlimited supply of arsenal seems to have got in the way. Chow Yun Fat - cooler than gawd - plays a perfectionist hitman who 'done fucks up' on a hit and accidentally blinds a girl. Danny Lee is the misfit cop who is assigned to catch him. Chow falls in love with the girl, Lee falls in love with Chow and everybody gets shot! More squibs were used in this film then any other I care to remember. In fact it border on a gun snuff movie at times.Note: Kudos to the original review of this in Time Out that I've 'Tarantino-ed from' liberally.
Hana-Bi (1997) 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano made this film, a meditation on life & death, following his near fatal moped accident that left him with semi facial paralysis and a newly found talent for painting. Set to wondrously uplifting music by Jô Hisaishi, the story is about a cop (Kitano) who gets one hell of a 'lemon' passes to him by God. First his kid dies, then his lone attitude to policing gets one of his colleges killed and another loses the use of his legs, and if that wasn't enough his wife is diagnosis with terminal cancer. So Kitano takes the nihilist attitude of his previous movies and sees about using it to help out others at the expense of himself (not to mention the Yakuza). The scenes between him and his wife break me in two.
City Lights (1931) Charlie Chaplin's first 'sound' film - it was released in the age of sound but Chaplin kept it dialogue free. He starred, wrote, directed, edited and scored it. A tramp. A blind flower girl. A sober/drunk, stranger/best mate millionaire. A boxing match. A soap sandwich. A comedy. A love story. A masterpiece. Oh and a great visual joke about shovelling elephant shit!
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) F.W. Murnau's love poem made cinema. Frankly after watching this and City Lights it's a wonder filmmakers even bother with dialogue.
A Short Film About Love (1988) Originally a part of 10 short films - each based on one of the Ten Commandments - made for Polish TV. This and A Short Film About Killing were expanded for theatrical release and thank god. If you only watch one Polish film in your lifetime make it this one. A short film about love directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski.
Fight Club (1999) The first two rules of Fight Club are...
Robocop (1987) Paul Verhoeven's Hollywood debut is also the most bad ass science fiction movie ever made! From the opening ED-209 technology-gone-insane-scene (it in itself an audacious homage to Chaplin's Modern Times) to the final scenes of Murphy walking Christ like on water, it's clear this is not the robotsplotation film audiences expected. Violence. Gore. More Violence. Sex. Plus huge dollops of satire. "I'd buy that for a dollar!"
Raging Bull (1980) The male psyche of violence has never burned more vivid than in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull. Scorsese egged on by the method acting madness of a possessed DeNiro, shoots the life of the repulsive wife beating, animal of a boxer, Jake LaMotta in blistering Black & White. Surprisingly this is electric viewing, and La Motta apparently wasn't nearly as nice in real life.
True Romance (1993) Before a certain movie geek turned movie god, turned movie geek; Tarantino penned this 'Bonnie & Clyde' fantasy. Christian Slater, a cool version of Tarantino, falls in love with Patricia Arquette, a teenage wank fantasy of hooker, and they go on the run from her pimp and the mob. Cue the coolest dialogue outside of a Shane Black movie and some slick direction by Tony Scott (see The Last Boy Scout for examples of BOTH) and played to perfection by an eclectic cast of super star cameos. "Now tell me, am I lying?"
The Big Silence (1968) Sergio Corbucci (always over shadowed by his namesake Leone) filmed this bitterly cold, in tone as well as location, melancholy euro-western. Jean-Louis Trintignant plays 'The Man With No Voice' up against the aptly named bounty hunter Loco (played by Klaus Kinski, typecasting?), while Ennio Morricone supply's a haunting gem of a score. Clint Eastwood wanted to remake this but was worried audiences wouldn't accept him as a mute. LOL! He made the dialogue-laden (ahem) Outlaw Josey Wales instead.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) Errol Flynn IS Robin Hood. Olivia de Havilland IS Maid Marion. This was the first take on the legendary antics of Sherwood's outlaws-in-tights filmed in Technicolor, and boy is it colourful! The Merry Men have never been merrier and Basil Rathbone as Flynn's nemesis sets himself up for 90+minutes of disappointment by quipping "I'll have him dangling in less that a week!" in the opening minutes. Errm yeah right! :p
Police Story (1985) After getting fucked twice by Hollywood, Jackie return to HK to make this classic modern age martial arts masterpiece. More crazy stunts than gawd, an intense performance to rival Bruce Lee, and even a theme song sung by the man himself. It's amazing that no one was killed during this movie (altho' one suspects a few cripplings occurred!). From watching the final shopping mall scenes (and indeed the outtakes) one can guess why the crew nicknamed it 'Glass Story'. Ouch.
Predator (1987) The classic men on a mission formula gets a Sci-Fi twist with Big Ahhnuld getting his whole crew quadrospazzed by an 8ft Rastafarian alien on safari. Expect: Cool characters. Jungle. Huge gun battles. Jungle. Rubbery looking fingers. Jungle. Bad ass dialogue. All held together by a majestically jingoistic Alan Silvestri score. To be watched "Anytime!"
America Graffiti (1973) Before George Lucas became 'Mr Star Wars' he made this homage to his misspent youth. It in-turn became THE nostalgic movie of misspent youth. Featuring a cast of ascending stars (and Ron Howard) and a groundbreaking soundtrack. Anyone who's ever left their hometown will feel this. "Lucas, is that you writing Ewok movies? Jeez was a waste of machinery!"