7. Rumble Fish (1983) – Francis Ford Coppola
The film is based on the novel by S.E. Hinton and was Francis Ford Coppola’s attempt at making an “Art Film for Teenagers”. I love the texture of this film; what it lacks in polish and narrative consistency, it makes up for with charm, emotions, looks and sounds.
I’ve used this film as a reference point on loads of treatments and pitches, and a lot of my clients end up being a fan of this film purely because of how it looks and the feeling they get from watching it. Motorcycle Boy is too cool not to be trapped in his magnetic persona.
It’s bizarre, offbeat, daring and completely original and that’s why I love it, and that’s how it’s influenced me as a director. It’s made me think outside the box to understand that sometimes look and feel can engage people more than story. It made me see Cinema as much more than I realised.
Film School Rejects wrote this great article about 6 Scenes they love in Rumble Fish: https://filmschoolrejects.com/6-scenes-we-love-from-the-underrated-rumble-fish-f866af792c9b#.j65xb5j0n
6. Groundhog Day (1993) – Harold Ramis
The movie is the love child of It’s a Wonderful Life and The Twilight Zone”. It springs straight from the heart of the great tradition of American trash surrealism, which is what makes it so immediately and delightfully accessible, so multilayered and rich without pretension.
This film isn’t just funny; it’s creative. It’s exciting and innovative. It manages to be the bleakest, most depressing film whilst still making you cry with laughter.
Bill Murray is one of the greatest actors of all time, and this film proves it. The dryness of his delivery is fantastic and inspirational.
Remi Ray has written this great article on the subtle brilliance of Groundhog Day: https://medium.com/@remiray/the-subtle-brilliance-of-groundhog-day-a98da19a7232#.q9oyyq1tc
5. Borat (2006) – Larry Charles
This film is all about dedication to a character. This film is about how people fear the unknown. This film is about a man pretending to be a man from Kazakhstan who goes to America and makes them all look stupid.
This is the comedy that gets me going, the unsuspecting public being caught out but a very well-thought-out character. It’s pure enjoyment until you realise these people don’t know this guy is a Cambridge-educated comedian from England. That’s how good Sasha Baron Cohen is at playing a character; Bruno and Ali G are both fantastic creations, but Borat is different.
This film made me realise that you don’t always need to have a script; sometimes comedy comes from situations, and sometimes the funniest bit is a pause.
Film School Reject have a great review of Borat here: https://filmschoolrejects.com/borat-cultural-learnings-of-america-for-make-benefit-glorious-nation-of-kazakhstan-616518e2a1e2#.kwcvi89dv
4. Reservoir Dogs (1992) – Quentin Tarantino
A cult classic, and independent hit, this is (in my opinion) Tarantino’s best work. The film is a black comedy, a farce, and a crime caper.
This is the first film in the list where the soundtrack almost plays as much of a role as the cast. It’s a character in itself, really; it is K-Billy and his Super Sounds of the Seventies Weekend.
This film is a film of bad guys, but somehow they’re still fighting between good and evil. Great dialogue, great acting and a great soundtrack. There is much more to be said about this film.
This film is so high on my list purely because it’s taught me the importance of soundtracks in films, the importance of excellent editing, and how great acting can make a good film so much better. Everything about this film is fantastic, and it’s a must-watch for all filmmakers, film fans, and storytellers.
3. The Blues Brothers (1980) – John Landis
It’s an action comedy musical about two brothers on a mission from god. What’s not to love about a film about two brothers on a mission from god? It’s an epic film with explosions, one of the most destructive car chases in cinema history, massive choreographed dance scenes, and a soundtrack of feel-good Motown and Blues music, with a country song or two thrown in for good measure.
It has it all big laughs, big action, and big tunes. It’s a film of excess with a really simple message. ‘Get the job done’
Greg Belfrage wrote about the film’s 35th anniversary last year: http://740thefan.com/blogs/movies/742/35th-anniversary-of-the-blues-brothers/
2. Fight Club (1999) – David Fincher
What a film, if you’ve seen this film you probably loved it. Based on the Chuck Palahniuk book of the same name. It’s a psychological thrill ride through the psyche of the average insurance claims adjuster. I know insurance claims adjusters… their job really is that monotonous. Not sure his mind is as messed up as Ed Norton’s character in Fight Club, though.
This film is a cinematography masterclass and one of the first films to use augmented reality style motion graphics in the apartment scene where the narrator shows how all his furniture is from the Ikea catalogue.
Everyone has a theory on the meaning of the film and the reasons behind certain elements, but http://www.jackdurden.com seems to be the one with the most traction and has even been given the nod from the official Chuck Palahniuk Twitter account.
1. This is Spinal Tap (1984) – Rob Reiner
Since I saw this film 20 years ago as a kid, I’ve always wanted to make a film on this level; the idea of creating a seemingly factual piece of comedy gold has been my dream. Obviously, when I was 11, I didn’t know this wasn’t real; no one told me. Now I know and think that makes the film even more of a triumph.
Here is the first episode of a mockumentary series I directed in 2015, starring stand-up comedian Michael Wheeler called Noel Wrighter: Screenwriter
So that’s it. That’s the seven films that have made me the filmmaker I am today. I must watch these films at least once a year and always find something new in them, a new camera move, a new way of cutting a scene, or the use of sound.