Written by Tyrone Bruinsma
-Above the Law
-The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
-Coming to America
-Crocodile Dundee 2
-A Fish Called Wanda
-Gorillas in the Mist
-The Great Outdoors
-Killer Klowns from Outer Space
-The Land Before Time
-Oliver and Company
The second films Clive Barker ever directed (after Hellraiser) was both a fantasy horror film and a pro-Gay/LGBTQ culture film. NightBreed pretty has a guy get convinced he’s an evil murderer by a psychopathic therapist (played by horror director David Cronenberg) and finds out he actually belongs to a group of monstrous creatures who are actually quite welcoming. And eventually the film becomes a fight between this seemingly monstrous community and organised, religiously motivated cops and rednecks…get it? While the film is about as subtle as a sledgehammer and it’s initial release didn’t 100% work (The Director’s Cut is much better) the film still carries an air of passion and cultural exploration that most films wouldn’t. I can pretty much recommend this (even the initial cut) to anyone as a fun “outsider becomes savior narrative” (Because it’s not exactly a White Savior Narrative like Avatar) thanks to some great direction, performances, scares and some truly inspired monster designs with the final battle being fun and cathartic as all hell-but if you are someone who identifies within the LGBTQ community, this might carry a spell-binding effect.
9. THE THIN BLUE LINE
Directed by documentary titan Errol Morris, The Thin Blue Line is kind of like Netflix’s Making of a Murderer…but more objective. See this film examines a potentially false conviction of a murderer by going over various testimonies and shooting recreations tailored to each specific version of events to show discrepancies. Sometimes a car or placement of a person is different from each account and suggests ultimately that the imprisoned murderer…wasn’t the murderer. Now, just like Making of a Murderer-you can believe that this films leaves out information, but considering the number of people examined and the information given-it really doesn’t seem like that. The documentary is a post-modern classic wherein the film is challenging the establishment of crime (I mean American Police still have a not so bright track record) and it deserves to stand as that classic. If you need a great example of an engaging documentary-watching this.
8. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO
I’ll be honest, I don’t get why this is so often considered an unquestioned anime classic. Same reason I don’t get why ET is a classic: both are well made, cute and slightly nuanced films that would be the foundational template for many films. Totoro certainly has its great animation and was one of the reasons Hayao Miyazaki became extremely popular and was able to make his more nuanced work. I feel the story is kind of unimportant to allow instead for cute antics, inventive creature designs and enough deviations from this kind of basic template of “Child gets Big Monster Friend” that it works. Totoro’s simplistic design is as iconic as other animated icons like Pikachu, Minions, Shrek and Mickey Mouse. Its Disney dub actually has a very good cast including the Fanning Twins (Dakota-Man on Fire, Elle-Maleficent), Pat Carrol (The Little Mermaid), Tim Daly (Justice League The Animated Series) and Frank Welker (Transformers, Aladdin) as the title monster. While it lacks deeper themes I prefer in his later work, this film certainly is higher tier animation of the time.
7. THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
This controversial masterwork by Martin Scorsese that tells an alternative story of Jesus Christ is still an engaging, visual and emotional tale of this Christian Messiah. It was so controversial at the time because of its dark, post-modern revisionist take that Evangelical Christian boycotted and burned what they could of it, attacked patrons of the film in small ways and bigger ways like the crashing of a bus and a Molotov cocktail. Like…way to show everyone how positive your faith is idiots by attacking people who wanted to see it. Now I can get why people might get mad over this considering it takes the story of Jesus and makes it feel more akin to Scorsese’s filmography of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull (having been written by the writer of those films Paul Schrader) as a dark examination of masculinity, sin and choices (The ultimatum Catholic Guilt story). it also feels odd that this mostly positive story got attacked by Christians…but the ultra violent and more questionable Passion of the Christ was riotously defended by the same group…like…wow.
Because I think this is genuinely a beautiful, emotional, nuanced, humanist and inspiring tale of how Jesus was still human and could make mistakes and sin. It shows his wife Mary was a prostitute without shying away from it and gives Judas a very nuanced role instead of the usual traitor. Its performances, especially by Willem Defoe (Spider-Man) as Jesus are wonderful, with not a single weak lead performance. It’s also a beautiful looking film thanks long time cinematographer of Scorsese Michael Ballhaus, its score is astounding thanks to musician Peter Gabriel (Sledgehammer) and tis editing by the legendary Thelma Schoonmaker is fantastic. This is a testament to faith based films trying to say something and not just be blind religious propaganda based on anger and ignorance to make money off the faith based audience.
6. THEY LIVE
One of John Carpenter’s greatest films, a sci fi film that exposes the toxic and corrupting nature of 80’s capitalism. This is one of the best sci fi films of the 80’s in general, standing alongside Aliens, Blade Runner and The Terminator-a smart, entertaining and pop-culture institution piece of cinematic art. Starring Roddy Piper, Keith David and Meg Foster in a story wherein Piper plays a man who discovers that advertising is a subliminal brain washing tool and the 1% of America are really aliens controlling you. A great paranoia thriller that actually has more to say than “they’re out to get YOU” and shows that controlling systems are more passive and target EVERYONE. Besides its strong message; its performances are great (because Keith David is always great), the action sequences (especially the six minute brawl) are fantastic, its narrative is naturalistic and not a cliché ‘Chosen One’ story, and it has iconic imagery and lines. Whoever told you the line “It’s time to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and I’m all out of gun” comes from Duke Nukem is wrong-it came from this. Its direction is great, especially considering the low budget and it’s mostly thanks to cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe (Robocop 3, In the Mouth of Madness). And its low key, jazzy score from Carpenter and collaborator Alan Howarth is unique for their career, but certainly great. This is an absolute must watch, especially for genre junkies.
5. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?
Organising the top 5 of this year was difficult because it’s basically 5 amazing films I have to order begrudgingly. Roger Rabbit is one of those films that films buffs know of, but I feel more modern young film/animation fans should see. Before you could just CGI a character into the film, this was one of those films wherein they had to have actors acting to nothing, hide whatever they could and draw over 82’000 individual frames of art. Realized by Disney and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg under director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Cast Away), from a screenplay by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman (Wild Wild West, How the Grinch Stole Christmas), based off the book Who Censored Roger Rabbit by Gary K. Wolf. Starring greats like Bob Hoskins (Brazil, Hook), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Anastasia) and Kathleen Turner (Romancing the Stone, Monster House), shot by Dean Cundey (Halloween, Jurassic Park) and scored by Alan Silvestri (Predator, Avengers Infinity War) the movie just rocks. Its direction, acting, animation, score, narrative, themes, humor, action and mild dose of horror works as a great film that anyone can enjoy at any age. Mostly I love the character arc, the play back between Private Eye Eddie (Hoskins) and the titular Roger Rabbit. It’s a neo noir film with animated characters from all over the place, serving as a metaphor for racial discrimination. Yeah, Bright didn’t do it first…or anywhere near as good guys.
4. GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES
This was the great Studio Ghibli film of 1988. From anime director Isao Takahata (Only yesterday, Pom Poko, The Tale of Princess Kaguya) and based off the novel by the last Akiyuki Nosaka-the film is a start emotional anti-war film that pretty much works as Japan’s answer to Schindler’s List. While many films set in World War 2 era Japan (Especially American films) deal with the famous battles, the warships and the planes-this one focuses on how war affects the smallest people in it. It’s about a brother a little sister forced to deal with this war they have no stakes or capability of affecting. You mostly just see them trying to survive and see the effects of this war. Yes, this movie is a kind of tear jerker masterpiece and I’ve seen it have flank thrown at it for that. Movies that falsely make you cry are one thing, but movies where we see what happened to real people and children is another. This movie was critical of the co-current generation (a spoiled generations from Japan’s prosperous Post War economy that had no concept of war, skipped school and often made gangs) and it did try to make them understand what their parents and grandparents went through. I feel the non-diegetic moments made only for the audience are designed to talk to the audience in its beauty and show who these characters were. It’s a relationship with the Japanese audiences to ask them to consider with more heart. Haunting, beautiful and ever-lasting in its effect, I can’t recommend this more.
3. DIE HARD
If Die Hard wasn’t high on this list-I’d be beaten to death by action fans with Steven Seagal’s bad filmography. Die Hard is a classic for a reason: it’s a perfectly made, perfectly shot, perfectly cast, perfectly written and perfectly realised action film. It doesn’t have the biggest set pieces, the most revolutionary effects or some genre re-defining theme: it’s simply the best possible version of an enclosed character based action thriller. Bruce Willis made himself the everyman star as the true John McClane, with Predator director John McTiernan pulling perfect direction for a thrilling story and punctuating a story based off the detective thriller novel Nothing Lasts Forever. It also has the late Alan Rickman as one of the greatest villains ever leading a great cast, a subtle 80’s power fantasy and at the end of the day: it’s an entertaining, well excited action film that doubles as a post-modern Christmas movie. If you want a better summary of this, watch Moviebob’s video on it:
Also in terms of the other movies: 2 and 3 are fine with memorable moments, 4 is largely mediocre and A Good Day to Die Hard is straight up garbage. Also that final that’s some how supposed to have Bruce Willis also in it and has Len Wiseman from the 4th film returning to direct worries me.
2. DEAD RINGERS
David Cronenberg is more than simply one of the greatest horror directors or body horror directors ever-he’s just one of THE greatest directors ever. Although he’s a cult director with many great and controversial films not many people went to see: Shivers, Scanners, Videodrome, The Dead Zone, The Fly, Naked Lunch, Spider, A History of Violence, Eastern Bodies, Cosmopolis (The Fly being his most successful)-his film stand the test of time. And I’d rank Dead Ringers as his best: a stomach turning film with great performances, a wonderfully realized theme and horror that’s more exposing than any 80’s slasher. Jeremy Irons plays the double role of twin gynecologists that share women (one clearly dominant and the other submissive) and it becomes and intricate body horror tale of sexuality, sex and questioning the body. It doesn’t need to explodes like in Cronenberg’s other films to be powerful, by the end it’s reach an emotional peak many films would fail at attempting. Bolstered by composer Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings) and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky (The Empire Stakes Back) the film is hauntingly beautiful in more ways than one. Miss it for Halloween? Check it out now.
Full Disclosure: I think this is the great film ever made (3rd favorite of all time). A technical achievement in animation that not only speaks to ideas and themes that remain despite their dated origins, but also just one of the great untouchable films in my opinion. Granted you’ve probably heard this from any film/anime snob, but I’m still going to say my piece. And for the record I’m going by the 2001 dub that outshine the original English dub (but the Japanese dub is still great).
So the story of a Neo Tokyo dystopian city dealing with youth biker gangs, civil unrest and a secret experiment that might’ve caused the original disaster to make this world is one of the best stories ever told. Adapted by Katsuhiro Otomo (from his own, unfinished manga at the time) the film’s story I wonderful structured, paced and avoids cliché. The characters and their respective voice actors are wonderful, in fact the original Japanese dub was recorded before any of the animation was drawn-to remove the anime “lip flap”. Another special thing about the audio is that Akira’s astounding score (which I’d place as one of the best underrated scores alongside Tron Legacy, Batman V Superman and Alien Covenant) because it’d not only great but might potentially have hypersonic frequencies that your ears don’t register, but your brain does to add to the effect and I’d believe that. The film also invented 50 new colours due to the film being mostly done at night and needing special attention to lighting. It’s one of the best looking, best sounding, most viscerally charged films ever made. The movie isn’t just a great film because of its place in popular culture, it redefined animation cinema the same way Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey and recently Blade Runner 2049 did. Speaking of which, Blade Runner 2049 might be the only post 1988 releases that achieves anything like this film. While Akira stands as a sci-fi masterpiece like Metropolis, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell or The Matrix-it’s not been a film anyone could really replicate. I think the only other modern film that’s somewhat close to this movie is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, but Akira is far superior. There’s a reason this film’s remake has languished in production hell for about 30 years: no one can one up this. The manga’s storyline continues after the end of this film (because again, the film was made before it was finished) and I’m not sure who could adapt this for the American Hollywood system. Directors from Stephen Norrington (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Ruairi Robinson (The Last Days on Mars), Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), George Miller (Mad Max Fury Road), Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Taika Waititi (Thor Ragnarok) have potentially been able to make it, but none have accepted (even though I would in a heartbeat). I that either Akira should never be remand or be told by a visionary director with a master of action, horror and themes (James Cameron, Guillermo Del Toro, Peter Jackson, Ridley Scott, Denis Villenueve and Zack Snyder would probably be the best for this).
Now onto the themes. Akira was made at a time where youth crime was on the rise, students were skipping school and Japan was enjoying its post war financial boom (similarly made works in response to this included Grave of the Fireflies and Battle Royale). And the theme played up here is the fear of a commonly known, yet older threat returning to change the world. Considering the film opens with a nuke type explosion and the name of the film is Akira (a very common name in Japan) so the idea that a revolutionary, dangerous element is by this seemingly simple name is like if everyone in the Western was fearful of someone named Michael, Sam or John. And the film shows this fear through realistic riot scenes, the youth gangs in rebellion, shadowy government agents and in the end…the literal smallest things imaginable being the greatest threat. And let me be clear, the ending act of this film is one of the best you’ll ever see and it’s the director that pulls this scene off that will define the live action adaptation.
In short, Akira still remains one of the greatest films of all time in animation, science fiction and in general. If you’ve NEVER seen this movie, it’s required viewing.