I have written down my top ten films every month since I was about 18 and it ALWAYS changes. Therefore, compiling this in proper print (rather than at the back of a Duran Duran diary) is altogether more serious. I have chosen the films that have knocked me out of my seat, that have altered me from the inside.
My choices aren’t subtle, they’re not clever and they’re certainly not impressive. I suppose I got to this list by thinking: what are the ten films I’d give my children when they’re 18? If they do see them (I should add, not in one sitting), then I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing what my parents did for me: opening their eyes to the magic of cinema. A total cliché but one I’m happy to go along with.
So here goes – in alphabetical order – my top ten films of all time…
(Billy Wilder, 1960, US)
I can’t compile a list of favourite films without this one always being on it. I can remember watching it for the first time when I was about 18. And this shows how thick and immature I was, as I thought it was just funny. Now I watch it and I feel totally different – the cracked mirror moment is heartbreaking. If you want to watch one of the best films of all time, stick this one on. And you’ll never use a colander in the same way again…
The Battle of Algiers
(Gillo Pontecorvo, 1965, Alg/It)
I had never seen anything like this film. I don’t want to ruin it – and I don’t want to explain too much – but if you haven’t seen it, do so fast. If it doesn’t immediately enter your top ten I’ll be amazed. And will send you a cake.
ET the Extra-Terrestrial
(Steven Spielberg, 1982, US)
Right, I’m going to come right out and say that I’m a bit of a Spielberg obsessive. My dad sat me in front of the telly and made me watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind when I was quite small. Since then I’ve probably watched most of his films more than 100 times each – and after I saw Jaws I wrote to him weekly (I’m not making this up, you can ask him).
ET was my first night out at the cinema. I won’t bore you with what I wore but I can tell you it was velvet (for the very first time). I remember the thrill of the dark, inky room and sitting next to my best friend from school (Joanna Goodkind, if you’re interested) and I will never forget turning to my mum and asking her why my eyes were scratchy halfway through. A film was making me cry?! That little creature with a long finger and his message of “Be good” blew my mind. I sobbed at the end and begged to go the next night. My mum had to explain that going to a cinema was a real treat. I had to wait a while until I saw it again, which only made me love it more. For these (albeit sentimental) reasons, ET is my favourite film of all time.
The Godfather, Part II
(Francis Ford Coppola, 1974, US)
My brother knows the dialogue off by heart. This makes Sunday lunch generally more fun.
(Mike Nichols, 1967, US)
True story. I once saw Dustin Hoffman in a restaurant in Swiss Cottage in London. I was too scared to go up to him and I didn’t want to ruin his supper. The second I got home I regretted it. That was HOFFMAN – my all-time favourite and I’d been a wuss. I decided to go back almost every night just in case he caught my eye and randomly said, ‘Hey, you seem pleasant, would you like to join my wife and I? And you can ask a million questions about all the films I’ve been in…” This, incidentally, never happened but The Graduate is one of my all-time favourites – for Hoffman, for Anne Bancroft and for Simon and Garfunkel. Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson.
La Grande Illusion
(Jean Renoir, 1937, Fr)
My father told me that if I watched this film I would understand everything about the futility of war. He was right.
My Neighbour Totoro
(Hayao Miyazaki, 1988, Jpn)
In exactly the same way ET and The Apartment are on every best film list I’ve ever compiled (mostly on the back of a Post-it when I should be doing something else), I always want a Miyazaki on the list, too. I love Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky and Kiki’s Delivery Service, but Totoro, an unsentimental film about friendship, is still my favourite. This is the film I always buy people the second they have a baby. You could argue a blanket/nappies/a cardigan are more useful, but I think this is the film they’ll watch again and again. We had to call my daughter Mei – the name of the hero – for a full six months after she’d seen it.
(Claude Lanzmann, 1985, Fr)
My grandparents watched this Holocaust film over and over again when I was a little girl. They were looking for their family. Enough said.
This Is Spinal Tap
(Rob Reiner, 1984, US)
I would like to be very serious about this one. I couldn’t be friends with someone who didn’t like this film. If you’ve got flu, lots of people will tell you that chicken soup and bed is the answer; I’m pretty certain a toasted cheese sandwich and a Spinal Tap viewing will sort you out instead.
(Danny Boyle, 1995, UK)
The first time I saw this film, I’m not entirely convinced I breathed for the full duration. If you haven’t seen it for a while, watch it again -it will knock you for six. Boyle is King. End of.