60 – School of Rock (2003, Richard Linklater)
Another day, another 10 film countdown, coming in at number 60 is a film that I grew up watching and hold dear to my heart, which is of course, School of Rock. The film tells the story of Dewey Finn, a man who; after being kicked out his band, becomes a substitute teacher where he discovers is students have musical talent and so teaches them to become a rock band. Made by Dazed and Confused director, Richard Linklater, School of Rock demonstrated a different style to the usual authentic day-in-the-life films Linklater had been known to make. Linklater crafts a wholesome and fun movie that is elevated tremendously by its energetic star performance. Ultimately, School of Rock is the perfect star vehicle for the uniquely eccentric Jack Black and a benchmark movie in both his and Linklater’s careers.
59 – The Shape of Water (2017, Guillermo Del Toro)
At 59 is one of my favourite best picture winners ever, Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water. Telling the story of Elisa, a mute janitor for who bonds falls in love with an amphibious man that’s held captive in the a top secret government facility she works at. Del Toro directs and co-writes a surreal yet ultimately endearing sci-fi romance bolstered by a beautifully physical performance from Sally Hawkins. Where the film really succeeds is in its visual storytelling. Due to its central love story being between two speechless characters, Del Toro shows rather than tells his story, which is a technique that is surprisingly forgotten by many filmmakers and ultimately demonstrates Del Toro as a master filmmaker. The Shape of Water is stylish, funny, beautiful and endearing, featuring a classic score in the making and career best work from Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, cinematographer Dan Laustsen and writer director Guillermo De Toro.
58 – Dancer In The Dark (2000, Lars Von Trier)
At number 58 is another beautiful yet controversial film, directed by one of cinemas most nihilistic filmmakers Lars Von Triers, and starring one of music’s most eccentric stars, Bjork. Dancer in the Dark tells the story of Selma, a single mother who works in a factory and a has a passion for music and musical theater. Selma has is losing her eye sight, which puts her at risk at work, but worst of all her condition is hereditary. Selma has saved up enough money to pay for a surgery that will save her son’s eyes, however, when a friend of hers falls on hard times, her and her sons future may be in jeopardy. Von Trier blends his authentically depressing style of dogma filmmaking, with the surprising addition of the musical genre. Von Trier integrates the musical sequences incredibly well and ultimately, Dancer in the Dark is the perfect combination of Von Trier and Bjork’s distinctive talents. Dancer in the Dark is a truly harrowing watch as expected of Lars Von Trier, however this time it is boosted by a deeply distressing performance from Bjork, who would never act again after this film… And having seen it… Boy who could blame her?
57 – Juno (2007, Jason Reitman)
Continuing on our list at number 57 is yet another coming of age movie with the teen pregnancy dramedy, Juno. The film tells the story of Juno, played by Ellen Page, a young woman who accidentally falls pregnant, unable to abort the baby; Juno decides to put the baby up for adoption and so embarks on a search for the future babies parents. The debut film from the winning team of writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, Juno is a quirky and endearing comedy packed to the brim with personality and heart. With an outstanding ensemble cast featuring Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, JK Simmons and Michael Cera, Juno is most importantly, lead by a career best performance from its title star, Ellen Page. Like the baby in Juno’s tummy, the film has its own pulse, or as the titular character would say “fingernails?”
Honourable Mention – Tully (2018, Jason Reitman)
Just missing out on this list, but still worth shouting out is yet another Cody/Reitman film, Tully. The film was intended as a sequel to Juno of sorts; however it is its own film with its own separate personality and pulse. The follows Marlo, played by Charlize Theron, a suburban mum who’s struggling with the strain of motherhood. Her life is changed when a young nanny called Tully arrives at her door to help ease the stress and reignite Marlo’s free spirit. The film is both funny and honest as it depicts modern motherhood in full excruciating detail. It may just miss out on this list, but it’s equally worth your time.
56 – Patriots Day (2018, Peter Berg)
At number 56 is the final film in an unofficial Mark Wahlberg/ Peter Berg trilogy, Patriots Day. The film documents the build-up and aftermath of the Boston marathon Bombings, following the men who did the act of terrorism and the state-wide manhunt for them. What sets this film apart from its trilogy counterparts; Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, is the authenticity of its direction. Peter Berg directs an intense and distressing film that depicts its true event is harrowing and bloody detail, even occasionally integrating achieve footage to effectively heighten the authenticity of this film. Not only that, but the cast deliver incredibly authentic performances, especially Mark Wahlberg who delivers one of the best acted scenes of his entire career.
55 – First Reformed (2017, Paul Schrader)
At 55 is perhaps the best film Paul Schrader has ever made. Schrader started as a writer, writing Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Last Temptation of Christ for Martin Scorsese to direct. Having moved on to direct his own scripts long ago, Schrader has now crafted his greatest work with First Reformed. The film tells the story of Toller, a pastor in New York whose faith is tested when he encounters a depressed environmental activist and his pregnant wife. Schrader writes a profoundly relevant film with realistic/pessimistic messages and themes. The film is largely boosted by its stand out lead performance that also marks a career best for star Ethan Hawke.
54 – 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016, Dan Trachtenberg)
The Cloverfield trilogy contains films of various degrees of quality; however I personally connected with the first sequel in the series, 10 Cloverfield Lane. Originally a standalone thriller, which it should’ve remained, 10 Cloverfield Lane tells the story of Michelle, a young woman who wakes up after a car crash to find herself locked in an underground bunker with an unpredictable conspiracy theorist named Howard. The film uses its confined setting perfectly, as director Dan Trachtenberg crafts a hellishly intense thriller where you’re never quite sure who to believe. Although everything that connects the film to the Cloverfield series is forced and truly awful, the confined standalone thriller that the film is for the most part is so amazing I found myself able to forgive its third act, largely as it’s the product of studio meddling. 10 Cloverfield Lane sits at number 54; however, the film it originally could’ve been would’ve been a lot higher.
53 – The Babadook (2014, Jennifer Kent)
As you can probably tell from some of the films on this list, I love the horror genre. Expect more on this list, like my 53rd pick, Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook. Telling the story of Amelia, a single mother who is haunted by her husband’s death and overwhelmed by her Son’s special needs. When a mysterious book arrives at their door entitled Mr Babadook, Amelia discovers that she and her son may be in grave danger. The film is genuinely scary film that finds unconventional ways to make your skin crawl. This being said, the film isn’t just a horror film. It also has a heartfelt human message at the core of this surprisingly moving story. The Babadook isn’t just a great horror film; it’s a great film, period.
52 – Won’t You Be My Neighbour? (2018, Morgan Neville)
The penultimate film on this 10 film countdown is perhaps the most wholesome movie on this list. Won’t You Be My Neighbour? Is a documentary about the legendary children’s TV show Host Mr Fred Rodgers and the philosophy of love that he preached to children all around the world. There is a lot to learn about in this documentary, As Mr Rodger is a figure not overly well known in the UK. This films source material is so beautifully wholesome that it will bring you to tears. Won’t You Be My Neighbour? Is one of few films in the world that will make you cry from happiness. It’s an outstanding film, perfectly fitting the outstanding man it’s about.
51 – Shrek (2001, Andre Adamson & Vicky Jenson)
Some… Body must’ve expected this film to make the list. No film has defined the 21st Century quite like the one, the only, Shrek. If you’re unfamiliar as to what this DreamWorks animated film is about, then where have you been? Under a rock? Anyway, Shrek follows its title character, an angry ogre who lives alone in a swamp. When a bunch of fairy-tale creatures arrive at his door having been exiled by the arrogant little ma, Lord Farquaad, Shrek reluctantly embarks on a mission, with his trusty sidekick a talking donkey, to send the fairy tale creatures back from where they came from and get his swamp back. Shrek is clever, subversive and family film that’s fun for the whole family. It’s more than decade defining, it’s century defining and it’s my 51st best film on this list.
And just like that, we are halfway there. Now you have seen my lower 50. What would your lower 50 consist of? Let me know what you think. I’m aiming to upload one of these every other day so expect Part 6 very soon. Thank you for reading; I hope you enjoy my words.