For a while we have been writing about the top 100 movies streaming on Netflix. After a lot of thought we have decided that this probably isn’t very helpful when it comes to your choice of viewing and have cut it back to a top 20. A hit parade if you like. Each month we’ll try and take a different spin but we’ve started with 20 highly rated films as judged by the independent rating sources. This has given us an Oscar frenzy. There are so many nominations and awards in this list for June that we haven’t bothered to count. Now we’re well aware that everyone has their own opinion and we’re always delighted to hear your thoughts so please let us know what you think.
20. The Trial of the Chicago 7 – 2020
Directed By: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong
Running Time: 129 minutes
What was supposed to be a peaceful protest turned into a violent clash with the police. What followed was one of the most notorious trials in history.
It is a truism that protesters are inherently colourful characters. The Vietnam war was nothing if not unpopular and the Chicago protest resulted in one of the most unfair trials in US history. Because the courtroom dialogue is based on transcripts, this is an untypically accurate true story. The film earned 6 Oscar nominations and is eminently watchable; however, it is unlikely to go down in history as a classic.
19. Marriage Story – 2019
Directed By: Noah Baumbach
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda
Running Time: 136 minutes
Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Noah Baumbach directs this incisive and compassionate look at a marriage coming apart and a family staying together.
Divorce is very rarely pretty and Marriage Story explores the emotional roller coaster of a break-up with aplomb. The performances are immaculate and the semi autoboigraphical script is perfect. This is definitely a weepie but the lighter moments lift the film well. There are no bad guys and no victims here which is what makes it so real and so sad. Is this a user procedures manual? Probably not. But, in the end, there’s always hope.
18. Rain Man – 1988
Directed By: Barry Levinson
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino, Gerald R. Molen
Running Time: 133 minutes
A fast-talking yuppie is forced to slow down when he meets the brother he never knew he had, an unusually gifted autistic savant named Raymond.
It is sometimes difficult to understand how an actor can win the Best Actor Oscar and his co-star misses out on the best supporting actor award. Rain Man is a good example of this. Tom Cruise, who puts in an excellent performance, wasn’t even nominated. Rain Man is an emotional and yet amusing movie that will register as a classic over time. And remember, life is like a box of chocolates.
17. Fiddler on the Roof – 1971
Directed By: Norman Jewison
Starring: Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Molly Picon
Running Time: 181 minutes
This adaptation of the musical chronicles the trials of a Jewish peasant, his wife, and their three strong-willed daughters in pre-revolutionary Russia.
One of our oldest choices and the longest movie in our list, Fiddler on the Roof is a musical at the best end of the genre. The songs are not cheesy and there is not the over acting that tends to spoil musicals generally. Whether the film needed to be three hours long is debatable but in the good old days of going to the cinema, they undoubtedly provided the entertainment for a night out. Also a Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof is an undiputed ane timeless classic.
16. The Help – 2011
Directed By: Tate Taylor
Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer
Running Time: 146 minutes
A young, white writer stirs up the status quo in 1960s Mississippi by interviewing Black housemaids and bringing their stories to the masses.
The death of George Floyd caused a surge in the appetite of people to learn more about race issues. The Help certainly benefitted from the widespread interest but it focusses strongly on the white characters and does little to actually inform the general debate. Fundamentally, The Help tries far too hard to avoid offending anyone yo be an important peice of work but this does not undermine the quality of the performances or the inetgrity of the film
15. Scarface – 1983
Directed By: Brian De Palma
Starring: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Running Time: 169 minutes
Al Pacino stars as Cuban refugee Tony Montana, who becomes a Florida drug kingpin but makes the fatal mistake of getting high on his own supply.
Say hello to our little review. See what we did there? Oft quoted but rarely seen, Scarface is the movie for which Al Pacino is most remembered. A brutal look at the drug world in Miami that sees Tony Montana rise to the top and then become the target, Scarface is uncomfortably violent. The screenplay is completely reliant on the f*** bomb. Bizarrely, we are sympathetic to the evil scarface. This is definitely a classic.
14. Monty Python’s Life of Brian – 1979
Directed By: Terry Jones
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle
Running Time: 93 minutes
Born in a stable in Judea, Brian grows up to join a group of anti-Roman zealots, but his fate keeps getting confused with that of a certain carpenter.
The Life of Brian caused outrage among religious leaders. Which is pathetic really. The undercurrents which, if not completely shred, certainly undermine cults, committees, unions and other collective bodies are subtle and extremely observant. And, of course, the Romans did nothing for us apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, irrigation, roads, public order, etc. This is British satire at it’s very best and a timeless classic. Blessed are the cheesemakers.
13. Cool Hand Luke – 1967
Directed By: Stuart Rosenberg
Starring: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, J.D. Cannon, Lou Antonio
Running Time: 126 minutes
Luke Jackson likes to do things his own way, which leads to a world of hurt when he ends up in a prison camp — and on the wrong side of its warden.
Cool Hand Luke is a typical film form the 60s; simply a great story with no great morals or mystery. This is one of Paul Newman’s finest performances one a par with his Eddy Felsen in “The Hustler” and Frank Galvin in “The Verdict”. In the modern world, non-conformity is pretty much taken for granted but 50 years ago it had to be repressed by authority with puts Cool hand Luke way ahead of it’s time.
12. Klaus – 2019
Directed By: Sergio Pablos
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Will Sasso
Running Time: 98 minutes
A selfish postman and a reclusive toymaker form an unlikely friendship, delivering joy to a cold, dark town that desperately needs it.
One for the Kids, Klaus is rather seasonal. We make no apology for that as it’s a fine morality tale that can watched in the summer with the aircon blasting quite happily. Animation has always been rather hit and miss and Klaus is definitely a hit. It’s far more than a reworking of 30 year old stock films and works on many levels. It’s documented that Jason Schwartzman adlibbed many of his lines; only about 40% of his dialogue in the final film is scripted
11. There Will Be Blood – 2007
Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. O’Connor, Ciarain Hinds
Running Time: 158 minutes
An ambitious prospector strikes it rich and turns a simple village into a boomtown, stoking the ire of a charismatic young preacher.
There Will Be Blood is a tale of family, religion, hatred, oil and madness in the turn-of-the-century days of the oil business. This film has never been universally popular because of a perceived negativity. This is a shame because it’s a portrayal of humanity as it really is. Not everyone is nice. Also, there has been much discussion on the soundtrack which is integral to the atmospshere. Like it nor not, it does a great job.
10. Pan’s Labyrinth – 2006
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez, Maribel Verde, Doug Jones
Running Time: 119 minutes
Young Ofelia meets a mythical faun who claims she is destined to become princess of the Underworld. But first she must carry out three perilous tasks.
Pan’s Labyrith is the purest of fantasies and yet keeps a firm hold on reality. The two elements are independently sufficiently good to stand on their own but are woven together perfectly. The horror in the fantasy is never overdone and the violence never gratuitous; both add powerful and important aspecta to the film. Corruption, violence and the death of innocents make this more suitable for an adult audience than for younger children.
9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail – 1975
Directed By: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam
Running Time: 92 minutes
The Monty Python comedy clan skewers King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they quest far and wide for the Holy Grail.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail has been described as one of the funniest movies ever made. Anyone familiar with the Pythons irreverent and surrealistic view of the world can only agree. This is loosely a romp through the history of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Since the story is largely myth and legend, the Pythons have a free rein to shred it. And they do.
8. A Clockwork Orange – 1971
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke
Running Time: 136 minutes
A young man spends his time stealing, raping and beating innocent people in nihilistic orgies of violence, all in an attempt to get his nightly kicks.
Stanley Kubrick was never entirely happy with the story of violence adapted from Anthony Burgess’ novel which is a shame because it’s a very powerful movie. As a vision of the future it’s entirely nihilistic and the sinister Alex, played beautifully by Malcolm McDowell, offers an extraordinary incongruity with his passion for Beethoven.
7. What Keeps You Alive – 2018
Directed By: Colin Minihan
Starring: Hannah Emily Anderson, Brittany Allen, Martha MacIsaac, Joey Klein
Running Time: 98 minutes
A couple’s romantic anniversary retreat to a rural cabin unravels when a childhood friend appears and reveals long-held secrets from the past.
What Keeps You Alive is a psychological thriller riddled with holes in the plot. That doesn’t matter. Our lesbian couple deliver a strong if very dark story. The relationship between abuser and abused is exaggerated, perhaps a little too much, but that is why What Keeps You Alive has a power beyond it’s implausibilities. For a low budget film, it delivers far more than the critics considered.
6. 3 Idiots – 2009
Directed By: Rajkumar Hirani
Starring: Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Madhavan, Sharman Joshi
Running Time: 163 minutes
While attending one of India’s premier colleges, three miserable engineering students and best friends struggle to beat the school’s draconian system.
With the word idiot in the title, you can be sure that 3 Idiots is a comedy. This movie is at #83 in the IMDB top 250 which speaks volumes. A romp through a voyage of rediscovery, this is loosely Bollywood because of the songs but it’s a lot more. The nearly 3 hour running time will seem like a few minutes and the hidden depths and poignant moments do nothing but entertain.
5. The Departed – 2006
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg
Running Time: 151 minutes
Two rookie Boston cops are sent deep undercover — one inside the gang of a charismatic Irish mob boss and the other double-crossing his own department.
The Departed is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that never lets up. Layer after layer makes this one of Scorcesse’s best works; perhaps the best. The twists and turns carry us to a truly shocking conclusion – sorry, no spoilers. This is an absolute must for those of you who long for intelligent, gritty stories.
4. The Pianist – 2002
Directed By: Roman Polanski
Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman
Running Time: 148 minutes
Famed Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman struggles to survive the onslaught of Nazi tyranny during World War II in this drama based on his memoirs.
The movie industry has come at the Holocaust from hundreds of different angles. Many have worked but few have matched this heart-wrenching story of a man whose family have been lost in the Holocaust. It’s the story of his survival through solitude, deprivation, starvation and terror while hiding on Warsaw during the Nazi occupation. He is a simple man rather than a rebel self-destructive type seeking revenge.
3. Back to the Future – 1985
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover
Running Time: 116 minutes
Eccentric inventor Doc Brown turns a DeLorean into a time machine that inadvertently sends his young friend, Marty McFly, 30 years into the past.
The Back to the Future has become one the most enduring family favourite trilogies of all time. Doc Brown is the best manifestation of a nutty scientist ever. This is not open to debate so don’t even start. And then there’s the De Lorean. An icon for any petrol head. The thing is, you can engage in hours of intellectual discussion about time travel after watching Back to the Future and this makes it worthy as well as fun.
2. Mad Max – 1979
Directed By: George Miller
Starring: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley
Running Time: 88 minutes
In a post-apocalyptic future, a malicious gang murders Max’s family as an act of retaliation, forcing Max to hit the open road seeking vengeance.
The shortest movie in our list this month (by quite a way), Mad Max launched Mel Gibson onto the big screen. The vision of a distopian future gets more surreal in the sequels but this, the first of the franchise, does a perfect job in setting the scene. The barbaric humour never detracts from the speed of the film and the camera angles that are used throughout have kept the film contemporary.
1. Spotlight – 2015
Directed By: Tom McCarthy
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber
Running Time: 129 minutes
A team of reporters and editors at the Boston Globe relentlessly investigate a shocking child molestation cover-up by the Catholic Church.
Spotlight is the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the disgrace of child molestation and it’s cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. The expose shook the Catholic Church worldwide. While true stories are invariably the best, it is an enduring tragedy that this story ever existed in the first place. The victims are the innocents and the perpetrators come from a position of trust. Appalling. And it seems we might never hear the end of it.