I don’t miss much about my pre-kids life but one thing I do miss is the freedom to go to the cinema on a whim.
I’ve written previously about how much of a thrill a trip to the cinema was as a kid. I was a regular moviegoer – at least a couple of times a month – during my teen and university years. But in the 9½ years since our children were born, the only films I have seen on the big screen are kids’ movies and the four most recent instalments in the Bond franchise.
These days I only really watch films at home.
To help celebrate Father’s Day, I was sent a goodie box to promote the British Association for Screen Entertainment ‘Movie Weekender’ initiative, including T2 Trainspotting and the latest John Wick and Jack Reacher movies. That’s enough to keep us going for a good couple of months, in between rewatching Moana and Trolls for the eleventy-millionth time.
It’s got me thinking. If, as a Father’s Day gift, I were to be given the opportunity to have my own ‘Movie Weekender’, what selection of films would I choose to binge-watch, in a Desert Island DVDs kind of way?
So I’ve selected 12 films that would make up my personal movie weekend. They’re not necessarily my favourite films or the ones I admire the most – but they are the ones I would most like to watch again.
In no particular order (with a few honourable mentions thrown in) …
1. Grease (1978)
It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s what you do with your dancin’ shoes.
A sentimental choice. This was the first film I ever saw at the cinema. I love musicals. And I still know pretty much every word to every song.
2. The Matrix (1999)
I know kung fu.
I could easily have listed a dozen sci-fi films but I’ve kept it down to two. There’s nothing particularly original about the Wachowski brothers’ take on the old ‘ordinary guy saves the world’ trope but it’s the way the story is told that still feels ground-breaking even now. Its super slo-mo ‘bullet time’ effects set a new bar for CGI effects and its uber-cool fight scenes brought martial arts back into the mainstream.
3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Hasta la vista, baby.
If The Matrix redefined special effects at the end of the 1990s, then Terminator 2 did the same at the beginning of the decade. The original Terminator is a superior story but one shot on a real-world budget. T2 was a superior action movie produced with an out-of-this-world budget and it showed on the screen with the T-1000’s liquid metal effects and some astonishing action sequences in an era when stunts were still all performed ‘practically’ rather than with CGI doing the heavy lifting.
Honourable sci-fi mentions: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Alien.
4. Top Gun (1986)
I feel the need … the need for speed.
Okay, the plot is practically non-existent – and what little there is took a left turn at ‘preposterous’ and kept on sailing until morning. But this is the stuff of a teenage boy’s fantasies and it has a rip-roaring soundtrack, from Danger Zone to Take My Breath Away. Oh, and that version of You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.
5. The Full Monty (1997)
Gentlemen, the lunchbox has landed!
The mid to late-1990s saw a revival in British film-making. Not your Hollywood blockbusters but films that were just so, well, British. Four Weddings and a Funeral, the original Trainspotting, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels … and then there was this odd little tale of some unemployed steel workers who take up male stripping to earn a crust. It had pathos, it had a touching gay romance, but most of all it was just uproariously funny. I still can’t hear Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff without thinking of this moment …
Robert Carlyle went on to play a Bond villain. Mark Addy starred in Game of Thrones. But they will always be best remembered for getting their kit off in a Sheffield nightclub.
6. The Incredibles (2004)
I had to have one superhero movie. And it had to be this one. Lovingly created with nods to comic book heroes aplenty, like the best Pixar films it’s ostensibly a story about heroism but really it’s more all family and friendship.
Honourable superhero mentions: Avengers Assemble, Superman. Honourable animation mentions: Finding Nemo, the Toy Story trilogy, Moana (because the soundtrack is incredible).
7. Die Hard (1988)
Just a fly in the ointment, Hans. The monkey in the wrench. The pain in the ass.
Starring one man and his indestructible string vest, Die Hard gave us not one but two breakout performances. Bruce Willis shone in his first leading role. And the late Alan Rickman’s turn as the film’s villain Hans Gruber was his first studio film role of any description. It lacks the big CGI-driven pyrotechnics of modern action movies but it’s still eminently watchable and quotable even now. And yes, I do count it as a Christmas film.
Honourable Christmas mentions: It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf.
8. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?
I grew up watching reruns of old black-and-white Saturday morning serials from the 1930s and 1940s such as Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and King of the Rocket Men, where at the end of every episode our heroes would find themselves facing certain doom, only to miraculously escape at the beginning of the next instalment. Raiders intentionally captured that same spirit and brought us a winning combination of action and humour, with a strong female lead (rare at the time) in Karen Allen’s Marion. Plus, y’know, this scene …
9. Forrest Gump (1994)
My momma always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
A simple story of a simple man who found himself constantly running in to pivotal moments in American history. In large parts, particularly towards its end, it is an incredibly sad film – I still cry at the end – and yet equally uplifting. Tom Hanks’ performance is astonishing.
Honourble Tom Hanks mentions: Philadelphia, Cast Away, Big, Saving Private Ryan, the list goes on.
10. The Truman Show (1998)
Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night!
Some films just catch the zeitgeist perfectly. And occasionally one is just far enough ahead of its time that it feels like life then imitates art. The Truman Show – a story about a regular guy who is the unwitting star of a TV show built solely around him – seemed like a fantastic and fantastical piece of fiction at the time. Two years later, Big Brother opened the floodgates to a world of reality TV that made Truman seem alarmingly prescient. Jim Carrey is terrific too, at turns funny and deadly serious.
Honourable comic-turned-serious-actor mentions (aka the Robin Williams award): Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, Insomnia.
11. Back to the Future (1985)
An iconic film with an iconic car (the gull-winged DeLorean DMC-12) and an iconic song (Huey Lewis’s The Power of Love). Incidentally, did you know that Michael J Fox is three years older than Crispin Glover, the actor who played Marty McFly’s father George?
Honourable trilogy mentions: Toy Story, The Godfather, the original Star Wars trilogy.
12. Life of Brian (1979)
He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy.
Surely one of the most quoted and parodied films ever, this was by far the best Monty Python effort and it remains a masterpiece of quirky, surreal humour, the likes of which I doubt we will ever see again. At one time, I knew pretty much the entire script by heart. 20-odd years since I last watched it, I’d like to see how much I still remember.
So that’s my list of 12 must-sees for my hypothetical movie weekender. Although now I’ve just remembered I want to include The Breakfast Club. Oh well, better start again …
Which films would make it on to your list? And will you be watching a film at home this Father’s Day weekend?
I was sent a variety of DVDs and other products in exchange for featuring the British Association for Screen Entertainment ‘Movie Weekender’ initiative, which promotes and celebrates watching films at home.