Updated: Jun 19
Lockdown. A period of time to reflect, speak to family on Zoom, start that business from home that you’ve always wanted – or in my case, watch all the films I didn’t have time to see before. Granted, you could argue that my time could be better spent but, luckily for you, I have compiled a definitive rankings of all the movies that I’ve seen – so far.
1. Richard Jewell (2019)
Based on the Centennial Olympic Park bombing and its aftermath, this movie is one of the best I’ve seen. Ever. It follows Richard Jewell, played by Paul Walter Hauser, who evacuates the opening ceremony after spotting a suspicious bag, only to later be wrongly accused of having placed the device himself. The star-studded cast includes Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, and Olivia Wilde who all deliver phenomenal performances. Tear-jerking and powerful, this film felt like we were privy to the most intimate of moments when faced with the ultimate crime sentence. I would be surprised if there weren’t some Oscar nominations for this sensational film.
2. JoJo Rabbit (2019)
New, bizarre and shocking (in a good way!). These are the three words that come to mind when I think about Taika Waititi’s comic drama, JoJo Rabbit. The story follows Johannes "Jojo" Betzler, a Hitler Youth member who finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic, leading him to question his beliefs. You might think, oh, how is this new and inventive? Surely it’s just another World War Two film? No. The standout performance, for me, was Waititi’s comic portrayal of Adolf Hitler. ''Hitler??'' I hear you say. Throughout the film, JoJo has to deal with his imaginary friend, a caricatured version of Adolf Hitler, which creates an almost Brechtian feel – the comic presence of Hitler, with his outrageous comments made me laugh, and then pause to think. I think it, altogether, made for a more pointed and direct film. Interesting, indeed – give it a watch!
3. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
This spoof of the classic British spy film tells of Eggsy, and his recruitment and training for a ‘gentlemen’s’ secret spy organisation. Starring Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Caine, this is definitely one to watch. Filled with outrageous (thus hugely funny) fight scenes and brilliantly caricatured performances of spy film stereotypes, this was a highly entertaining addition to my lockdown list. Though critics have criticised the overly-sexualised and, at times, perhaps excessively violent nature of the film, I loved the overall stylised feel of the hilarious film.
4. Speed (1994)
This film had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper, this exhilarating blockbuster is centred around a bus that has been hijacked by a crazed bomber. The bus bomb arms itself as the bus reaches 50 miles per hour and will explode if the bus subsequently drops below this speed. Fast-paced, dramatic and non-stop, this film made me feel like I was on a rollercoaster that I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) get off.
5. The Princess Diaries (2001)
Not a new watch for me, but worth a review, nevertheless. There is never a bad time to watch The Princess Diaries. Anne Hathaway, Julie Andrews, Sandra Oh… and produced by Whitney Houston?! What more could you want? A shy teenager from San Francisco learns she is heir to the throne of a European kingdom. Under the tutelage of her estranged grandmother, the Queen of Genovia, Mia must decide whether to claim the throne she has inherited or renounce her title permanently. Just watch it. Please. You will not regret it.
6. Cocktail (1988)
An absolute classic was on the cards for a rainy Thursday afternoon three weeks into lockdown. Cocktail follows the story of a young New York City business student, Brian Flanagan (played by Tom Cruise), who takes up bartending in order to make ends meet. Granted, it could be bordering on outdated but this film is a must see for film lovers and novices alike. Why should you go see this film? Are the iconic bartending moves and Elisabeth Shue’s seminal permed hair not convincing enough? Definitely a must see.
7. 1917 (2019)
I felt, as a film student, that 1917 was a film that I had to see. Sam Mendes’ Oscar-nominated and BAFTA award-winning Word War One epic follows two soldiers as they cross no-man’s land to deliver a message that could alter the outcome of a horrifying battle. Of course, the most iconic and notable element of the film is the fact that it appears to be one sustained shot. I felt, at first, as though I was on a Disneyland ride simulator, following the soldiers run through the trenches, however it made for a more immersive and powerful experience (and you get used to it after a while!). It featured some beautiful scenes and a glorious score but I also felt like I didn’t sympathise with the characters as much as I should have. This could be to do with the fact that we weren’t really given any background to them – outstanding individual performances from both leads, nevertheless.
8. A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019)
This film is the equivalent of a hot water bottle on a cold night, or a cup of hot chocolate. Soothing and good for the soul, this intimate, highly character-focussed film was top of my lockdown list. The Oscar-nominated American biographical drama, directed by Marielle Heller was inspired by the 1998 Esquire article "Can You Say ... Hero?" by Tom Junod, published in Esquire. The film, which stars acting giants Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys, follows Lloyd Vogel, a troubled journalist who is assigned to profile American television icon Fred Rogers. Despite my overall final impression of it as heart-warming and thought-provoking, I do feel that as a British viewer I missed out on parts of the film. As Fred Rogers was an American performer for American kids, I couldn’t relate to the nostalgia that, I’m sure, the film intended to provoke. Nevertheless – one to watch! Why not? We have the time, after all!
9. Casino Royale (2006) & Quantum of Solace (2008)
During the last couple of weeks, we’ve started to watch a new Bond film every Saturday night. Disclaimer – aside from the very first Bond, these are the only two I’ve seen. We were working our way through all of Daniel Craig’s movies; I’ve grouped these two together because I think it's worth comparing the two. Casino Royale was pretty much exactly what I expected, and needed, from a James Bond movie. The words classy, dramatic and sexist pretty much sum up what I thought. Also, I had the misconception that this iconic franchise was basically the British (and original) version of Mission Impossible. The understated nature of the fighting (so, for example the intense poker matches) disproved this, as there weren’t many Tom Cruise-esque chase sequences – which are, yes, dramatic, but do begin to get repetitive after a time. Quite a long film but we all really enjoyed it. Then, the week after, we embarked to Haiti, where Quantum of Solace picks up. This film felt more flashy and slightly less cerebral than the previous one – not to mention, the focus was entirely on Bond's desire for revenge (following on from the last film) so there were no majorly remarkable performances from anyone other than 007 himself (much less action from these Bond girls, Gemma Arterton and Olga Kurylenko, too.) Still entertaining though, of course – so would still recommend a watch.
10. Misbehaviour (2020)
This comedy-drama, starring Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Greg Kinnear, follows the events of the 1970 Miss World competition, which saw the crowning of the first black competitor, and a group of women’s rights protestors. It’s a really important film to watch as it tackles really important issues surrounding race and sexism in an accessible way. It shocked us when watching the Miss World competitions and the treatment of its competitors that this happened as recently as the 70’s. Despite these heavier topics, the film still felt feel-good, uplifting and funny. The only drawback was the ‘one-size-fits-all’ simplified approach to feminism as some of the scenes were so self-consciously caricatured to work as an effective critique of sexist beauty standards. Nevertheless, a good Friday night film – one to watch with the parents, too as they probably will recall living through this period of time themselves.
11. Military Wives (2019)
Based on the true story of the Military Wives Choirs, founded by Gareth Malone, this film follows a group of women on the home front that form a choir whilst their partners are away serving in Afghanistan. A rainy Sunday afternoon watch, in my opinion. There were some great performances from Amy James-Kelly, Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan and it didn't fail to put a smile on my face. Heart-warming – maybe one for the mums to enjoy, I think!
HAPPY WATCHING! (I have linked the trailers of all the films discussed to the pictures)