Classic Discs - 50 Movies You Must Own
Time to complete your collection
Following on from the Top 20 Reference Discs and Top 20 3D Discs, reviewers Simon Crust and Cas Harlow have come up with what they consider to be the Top 50 Greatest Films to own on Blu-ray, which takes into consideration the film (the principle reason for buying the disc in the first place) as the main criteria although, where appropriate, also the set which houses it.Click on the links to read our complete reviews of each movie.
50. Oldboy - “I’ll rip your whole body apart. And nobody will be able to find it anywhere, and you know why? Because I’m going to chew it all down!”
One of the greatest films to come out of the brief Korean cinema resurgence a few years back, this comic-book-based thriller is defined by a dark and oppressive tone, piloted by a stunning and compelling turn from the most tragic casualty of the subsequent near-death of Korean cinema, Choi Min-sik. The film is captured with an innovative style and enhanced by a superior soundtrack, which is both engaging and haunting. It’s one of those films that truly gets under your skin and surely delivers on the sheer magnificence of the plot premise.
Memorable moment: Oldboy takes on a group of thugs in a corridor with a hammer, in the closest thing we've seen to a live-action sideways videogame scroller. Although watching someone eat a live octopus has to come a close second.
49. Man on Fire - “Forgiveness is between them and God. It’s my job to arrange the meeting.”
Arguably one of the best of the many collaborations between the great Denzel Washington and the late Tony Scott, this film, for once, perfectly utilises Scott's frenetic stylisation as we follow a straightforward but superbly-implemented tale of revenge and redemption. Washington’s ex-mercenary-turned-bodyguard-turned-avenging-angel, Creasy, shares some great scenes with his lost ward, Pita, played by a young Dakota Fanning, and the build-up to the violence-fuelled rampage is strong and solid, allowing you to champion Creasy’s bloody cause.
Memorable moment: The kidnapping, with Pita torn between running to safety and returning to the bullet-riddled corpse of her friend, Creasy, who was taken out trying to protect her.
48. Robocop - “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”
Verhoeven’s Robocop is a classic. There’s no question about it. Over a quarter of a Century on and it still has teeth; still remains eminently watchable, thoroughly entertaining and bitingly relevant. Even today. The story of a Detroit cop becoming a cyborg might be the stuff of hokum, but when played straight for the jugular, it hits home every time, drawing you right in to the future mayhem. It’s funny, smart and has resounding punch. It’s brutal, relentless, and distinctly adult. The recent re-issue of the Blu-ray with a new transfer, a superior picture and new features is the one you should own.
Memorable moment: Battered and half-blown to hell from his first confrontation with ED-209, ol’ Robo gets caught on the way out of the building by, basically, the entire Detroit Police Department, who are under orders to tear him to shreds, and proceed to do so.
47. Die Hard Anthology - “Come out to the coast! We’ll get together, have a few laughs!”
One undisputed action-thriller classic, an enjoyable but by-the-numbers sequel, an original, engaging third instalment, an entertaining if diluted fourth film, and a fifth feature that most people would prefer hadn’t happened (but which is still far from unwatchable). Willis' reinvented action-hero John McClane is an icon for all ages and, any way you cut it, these are five of the best action movies out there, and thus this marks one of the best action movie franchises ever.
Memorable moment: With two bullets left, and his gun taped to his back, the bloodied and battered John McClane walks into the best scene in the entire series.
46. Back to the Future Trilogy - "Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads!"
Robert Zemeckis had a monster hit in 1985 with the original Back to the Future; it had everything that was thrilling about a time travel film; a great cast, stellar effects and a story that had a mum falling for her son! The follow ups might not have been quite to the same standard but both were well received and helped to increase the popularity of the franchise – the score alone is a must have! With one of the most comprehensive Blu-ray sets on the market this one easily makes the grade. The extras even include a few brief scenes of Eric Stoltz, who was originally cast as Marty McFly but replaced half-way through filming!
Memorable moment: Chasing the lighting to get enough power into the DeLorean to enable the flux capacitor and get ‘back to the future’!
45. Mad Max Collection - “The chain in those handcuffs is high-tensile steel. It'd take you ten minutes to hack through it. Now, if you're lucky, you can hack through your ankle in five.”
One of those rare franchises that adapts and changes the formula to great effect with an arguably superior sequel, Max goes from fuel-injected personal revenge drama to post-apocalyptic sci-fi actioner and catapults Gibson to stardom in the process. Rich and atmospheric, dark and gritty, Miller's Max Trilogy plays out like equal parts dystopian future action-thriller and comic-book movie prototype, with colourful characters peppering his voyage through the desert wilderness. It's the chases and stunts that the films are best remembered for, though.
Memorable moment: Driving the last of the V8 interceptors – aka the most uneconomical car in the world – in a post-apocalyptic future where we’ve run out of the precious juice, Max roars into the second movie and takes down a group of scavengers, before mopping up some petrol with a handkerchief and hopping that the drops will get him through the rest of the movie.
44. The Wicker Man - “O, God! O, Jesus Christ!”
Absolutely essential, The Wicker Man is, without any doubt at all, one of the greatest British films ever made. The legendary status it still carries, the controversies it still courts, the haunting imagery and super-shock climax ensure its classic endurance. It's a bonafide masterpiece of the macabre, with endlessly fascinating details that provide a richness and a texture that only grows with each viewing, providing it with a stature and a gravitas that simply cannot be repeated. The recent Blu-ray release includes no less than three cuts of the film and a host of fascinating extras.
Memorable Moment: Over the crest of the hill, the foreboding site of the Wicker Man himself!
43. Get Carter - “You're a big man, but you're in bad shape. With me it's a full time job. Now behave yourself.”
Initially forgotten through poor promotion, but retrospectively reappraised, Mike Hodges’ 1971 crime classic was the perfect confluence of elements. It has a strong story based on a well-regarded source novel, a driven new director with a clear vision, a star-on-the-rise actor ready to do something different, a sharp documentary style thanks to a skilled DOP and a superior film score. All of which culminates in one of the greatest films of all time, which changed face of gangster films forever.
Memorable moment: Carter tracks down his long-time adversary, Eric – who was not only complicit in the death of his brother, but also his daughter's abuse – and chases him along a beach and up a hill to drown him in whiskey and have his final vengeance.
42. Night of the Demon - "It's in the trees! It's coming!”
Night of the Demon is a true horror classic; it grabs you from the first frame and drags you through the wringer in a terrifying ride that simply will not let up. There is the clear inevitability to the film, director Jacques Tourneur is a master of light and shadow, eking the story out but at pace, relentlessly drawing you towards a terrifying conclusion that even now, nearly sixty years after its release still manages to be edge of the seat viewing. With a strong script, serious and dedicated performances from its cast and despite studio interference regarding the monster, Night of the Demon remains compelling viewing.
Memorable moment: Karswell’s pure panic as he chases after the runic paper in an attempt at an impossible escape.
41. Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection -“It's not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?”
A master of tension, of editing, of framing and of story and, for many, way ahead of his time, Hitchcock’s career spans decades and there is a masterpiece at every turn. From the horror of Psycho and The Birds to the psychological thrills of Marnie, Shadow of a Doubt and his supreme masterpiece Vertigo; from the murder thrillers Frenzy and Rope to the superior spy film, North by Northwest. Hitchcock dabbled in many sub-genres, and played with techniques and expectations at every turn, juggling a core cast of actors – most notably Cary Grant and James Stewart – and churning through increasingly terrified but never less than stunning leading ladies. Benchmark thrillers that have set the standard for many filmmakers to pay tribute to – or outright copy – Hitchcock was undoubtedly one of the greatest directors of all time, and this collection presents some but not all - there’s no Dial M for Murder! - of his best features.
Memorable moment: Walking past a school climbing frame, we get repeated shots of an increasing number of birds perched menacingly until, eventually, all we can see are birds. Simple but powerful.
Kurosawa, Coppola, Spielberg, Cameron, Nolan, Mann, and Ridley Scott all got more than one entry.
40. Superman Motion Picture Anthology - “Kneel before Zod!”
For many Christopher Reeves is the quintessential filmic Superman with the 1978 debut managing to capture the essence of the character, and along with that wonderful score and Donner’s love for the franchise, catapulted him into the spotlight. The four original film features (of exponentially decreasing quality) and a solid if abortive reboot make for a tremendous collection, particularly with a couple of Expanded/Director’s Cuts along the way for the first two (and best) Donner outings along with so many extras the set needed more discs. Superman never really got better than that, although he’s arguably one of the toughest comic-book characters to bring to life.
Memorable moment: Knowing that his arch-enemy Lex Luthor would ultimately betray him, Superman does possibly the only intelligent thing he has ever done, by using him to dupe General Zod and his minions into stripping themselves of their super powers.
39. Star Wars: Complete Saga - “These are not the droids you are looking for.”
Borrowing the framework from Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress, the Jedi sabres and spirituality from Japanese Samurai and Bushido, Lucas’s original Star Wars films still comprise one of the greatest fantasy trilogies of all time and, even if he went off the rails and nearly ruined the original saga with the more recent prequel trilogy, there’s still plenty to enjoy in this 6-film saga. And what with The Empire Strikes Back recently being voted as the number one film of all time, how can this set not be included?
Memorable moment: It can’t get much tougher for a hero than to lose his hand and find out that his arch-nemesis happens to also be his dad, at the culmination of one of the best lightsaber duals in the saga.
38. Universal Monsters Box Set - “Oh, in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!”
It is fair to say that the ‘Universal Three’, that is Frankenstein, Dracula and Bride of Frankenstein helped shape the gothic horror, indeed the horror genre as we know and love it today. But Universal did not stop there, in fact they produced such a wealth of ‘monster horror’, that they eventually killed the format. But before that happened there is a legacy of pure terror, brought together in this magnificent box set that contains, not only those listed above, but the other most well-known creations; the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon – in 3D!
Memorable moment: Frankenstein’s monster making its first terrible movements of life.
37. Terminator Trilogy - "I'll be back!"
James Cameron and Arnie Schwarzenegger, in 1984, delivered a sci fi classic, nay, masterpiece in The Terminator, instantly confirming their respective statuses as A-listers. With Arnie as the unstoppable Terminator and a circular story encompassing some (extra) special effects from Stan Winston their legacy was assured. Not only that but the franchise is a great example of a sequel expanding the series in such a way as to rival the original, taking things to the next level by morphing from sci-fi horror thriller to sci-fi action thriller in the same time it took for the T-1000 to change shape. These two films alone assure its place on this list, for whilst the third entry is nowhere near in terms classic status it holds some nice ideas (like the surprising ending) and made for a fitting close to the saga.
Memorable moment: Having already tried blowing him up and freezing him, a one-armed, battered Arnie reroutes his power, reloads his 30mm grenade launcher, and blows the menacing T-1000 into a pool of molten metal.
36. Star Trek Motion Picture Series - “I'll chase him round the Moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition's flames before I give him up.”
Possibly the only TV series to make both a critically and commercially successful transition to film series, resulting in a strange ‘law of even numbers’ in terms of quality, but also merit and pleasure in following the old – and arguably best – Enterprise crew in the various galactic exploits. Yet to get a definitive release in terms of director’s cut’s, this set is nevertheless very worthy and proves man can go where no one has been before
Memorable moment: His ship immobilised, his opponent about to finish the job, Kirk’s greatest play – beyond reprogramming the Kobayashi Maru test – was to trick Khan into thinking that he was prepared to surrender, only to drop his opponent’s ships and try and even the odds.
35. Kubrick Collection - “Heeere's Johnny!”
Stanley Kubrick is a master film maker whose body of work encompasses every genre and exemplifies at every turn. Famously precise and headstrong, and managing to get the very best out of his actors and the medium, there has never been anyone quite like him before, or since. Often said his films mark the pinnacle of their respective genres, always critically acclaimed, if not, on their release and commercially successful; they do have the eerie quality to be able to get under your skin and always invite innumerable repeat viewings. And this set brings them all together in one exciting and all-encompassing collection full to the brim with extras.
Memorable moment: An axe wielding Jack Torrance pushes his face up to the hole in the locked door and utters that immortal line.
34. Gladiator - “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”
The partnership of Crowe and Scott in this epic fiction of gladiatorial battles in the waning years of the Roman Empire struck a cord and became at once marvelled and cited. The combination of story structure, visuals and emotion produced a film that engages on just about every level. The extended cut further enhances the story becoming even more epic and even more just. Make sure you pick up the re-mastered version for the complete set and best presentation!
Memorable moment: Maximus commanding the gladiators and holding his ground against the chariots in the arena and eventually winning the bout.
33. Gravity - "Don't let go!"
Easily one of the best - if not the best - films of 2013, Director Alfonso 'Children of Men' Cuaron's Gravity is a masterful exercise in pure suspense and relentless tension; a powerful and blisteringly accurate disaster movie set in the dead of space, where not only can no one hear you scream, but they also can't hear the high-speed bullet-like impact of debris tearing through your ship and leaving you stranded in the great abyssal 3D vacuum.
Memorable moment: With audibly emphasised gasps for air, and an intermittently blurred first-person image to match the character’s fading vision as she runs out of oxygen, you practically hold your breath, hoping that she makes it back to the ship in time.
32. Toy Story Box Set - "To infinity and beyond!"
There is no denying the sheer magnificence of Pixar’s first film, Toy Story, that used sophisticated (at the time) computer graphics to tell an incredibly heart-warming buddy-buddy story that is fun for kids of every age. What makes the film even more special is the fact that it has been followed up by two superior sequels that built to an incredible climax that will break the heart of even the most hardened reviewer. Outstanding in terms of story, visuals and sound design you have to go a long way to top what is a terrific set.
Memorable moment: When the toys, resigned to their fate, simply hold hands
31. Raging Bull -“I ain't ever gonna get a chance to fight the best there is. And you know somethin'. I'm better than him.”
Boasting one of the most committed method-acting contributions from the once-great De Niro, we follow the dual narratives of the prize-fighting but volatile young Jake La Motta and his overweight, ruined, older self, charting the tragic rise and fall of this contender with striking black-and-white cinematography and some of the most brutal boxing sequences ever shot.
Memorable moment: Pressured to take a dive, LaMotta wraps his arms around the ropes and allows himself to get beaten to a pulp, but refuses to go down.
What about Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Casino? Well, Raging Bull has to speak for them all...
30. Jason and the Argonauts - “Rise up, you dead, slain of the hydra. Rise from your graves and avenge us. Those who steal the Golden Fleece must die.”
Perhaps the pinnacle the fantasy genre and also of Ray Harryhausen’s prolific career, Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece would encompass water Gods to Titans and everything in-between. With the whole of Greek mythology to call upon the creative team stuck quite faithfully to the original prose and come up with a thrill ride that enchanted a generation and gave birth the next cohort of film-makers hell bent on topping such wonderful spectacle (none have yet succeeded!) A spell binding adventure right out of a comic book brought to life by the master of stop motion animation, that still manages to look more real and frightening that any CG. A legendary story. A legendary film.
Memorable moment: The skeleton attack remains not only the film’s highlight, but a stunning piece of work that even matches today’s best efforts.
29. Tarantino XX Collection - “You shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologise.”
When Tarantino burst onto the American film circuit in 1992 with his re-make of City on Fire he was a breath of fresh air and injected a slice of Hong Kong Ultra Violence and sprinkling of pop culture references into a stagnating Hollywood. Since then he has become a bit of a rebel, making the films he wants to make, continuing to use 35mm, and injecting his films with the kind of rich irony and gratuitous violence that is normally only found in the independent market. Perhaps not quite the legend he professes to be, his films nevertheless mark a legacy for his vision; all turn a profit and all are enjoyable for what they are. This set brings together his first eight films with a wealth of extra features; actually Pulp Fiction alone secures this set a place in the list.
Memorable moment: Jules’ terrorising the street punks by simply eating their burger.
28. Spaghetti Western Trilogy - “It's not a joke, it's a rope, Tuco. Now I want you to get up there and put your head in that noose.”
Making an instant movie star of a young TV actor, Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood simply re-wrote the book on how a western should be done. Bigger, bolder, immensely stylised and full of heart, the three films are only a loose trilogy, but can be viewed as an all-encompassing whole. The man with no name has never been so iconic and, I’ll wager, will never be so again. The set has probably the best western of all time in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, a film so slick and cool it transcends the genre to become an icon in its own right. Three films, all legendary: awesome. The just re-released box set includes a beautiful new 4K transfer of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly that is frankly worth the price of a double-dip.
Memorable moment: Blondie, Tuco and Angel Eyes and that standoff at the base of the cemetery – utterly compelling cinema.
27. Dirty Harry Box Set -“Go ahead, make my day.”
Launching the maverick anti-hero cop – and Clint’s career in such roles – the iconic Dirty Harry set the benchmark for tough, no-nonsense anti-heroes who were prepared to beat, torture and kill suspects in order to ensure justice is done. Facing off against a staggeringly evil serial killer, it doesn’t get much better than the first chapter, but the first sequel, Magnum Force, comes close, as Harry faces off against a group of corrupt cops who are assassinating nasty criminals, forcing us to reflect upon the grey area between his sense of justice, and the actions of those he is hunting. The Enforcer’s hippie terrorists and female partner proved engaging but unexceptional, Sudden Impact has all the best lines as Harry takes on a gang of rapists, and The Dead Pool has a remote controlled car-bomb and an in-fashion Chinese sidekick. But at least Harry gets to kill somebody with a ship harpoon.
Memorable moment: After the psychotic Scorpio takes a bus-load of petrified school kids hostage, he looks up to see none other than Dirty Harry standing on the overpass, ready to jump on the bus.
26. Life of Brian - “He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy!”
Easily one of the funniest films ever made, the Monty Python team struck pure gold with this title and never managed to capture that spirit of comedic genius ever again. Telling the story of the ridiculousness of misinterpretation of religion by having Brian of Nazareth born just down the road from Jesus and then following his tumultuous life once he is mistaken for a prophet, is pure unadulterated hilarity that has never, ever been equalled.
Memorable moment: “Bigus Dickus” and the corpsing that it involves!
25. Matrix Trilogy - "Stop trying to hit me and hit me!”
Redefining the action genre with a martial-arts-infused sci-fi action thriller blockbuster scope that reinvented the notion of an action hero too – presenting Keanu Reeves, Larry Fishburne, Cary Anne-Moss and Hugo Weaving as plausible fighters within this universe – The Matrix is an absolute classic. It changed action films forever, changed our expectations, and set the mark impossibly high for sequels which were never meant to be in the first place. The box set is the very definition of comprehensive with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in!
Memorable moment: Neo dodging bullets for the first time.
24. Lord of the Rings Trilogy - “You shall not pass!”
Back before Peter Jackson was a money grabbing hack he had real vision and managed to bring probably the ultimate book of fantasy fiction to the big screen. And with the backing of an equally visionary studio, a wealth of dedicated actors, a special effects team second to none, succeeded in bringing what was long thought unfilmable to fruition. The Lord of the Rings is an absolute triumph and the extended versions even more so bringing together over twelve hours of epic filmic treat, they may be three films, but they are one gigantic story - we will never see its like again (yah boo sucks to the Hobbit). The Blu-ray set of the extended versions is also the high-water mark against which all other box sets are measured.
Memorable moment: The lighting of the beacons for what is a fantastic fusion of vision and sound.
23. King Kong - “Oh no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.”
Never before had stop motion been used to such a degree as in the first outing for the mighty Kong in 1933. Indeed, such is the complexity of some of the optical compositing that it is a marvel how it ever got made. Often cited as the inspiration for generations of film makers it is easy to see why – a romantic adventurous tale, with monsters, thrills and spectacle, cinema seldom gets any better than this. Forget the two remakes, this is the one that deserves its place, a triumph of the technology of the time that still manages to look as impressive as it did over ninety years ago! The film gets the Blu-ray it deserves, with a fantastic documentary and even a recreation of the lost 'Spider pit' sequence, courtesy of super-fan Peter Jackson.
Memorable moment: The bi-planes bearing down on Kong as he tries to swat them; the agony on his face as he realises he is going to lose his precious Ann.
22. Brotherhood of the Wolf - “Ghost or not, I’ll split you in two!”
The 2001 French film Le Pacte Des Loups is arguably the best example of a successful multi-genre blend. It told a period horror tale, with political manoeuvring, romance and subterfuge all thrown into the mix – along with a hefty dose of kinetic martial arts action, and a smattering of sex. Hell, it even sported the thin veil of a supernatural fantasy flick. The result was supremely stylish, well-developed, cleverly-plotted and strongly acted, with bouts of gory horror and stunning martial arts to boot. Outstanding.
Memorable moment: After the pure horror of the opening scene, we are introduced to our heroes, and the blending tone of the movie, as they take on a group of violent bandits with martial arts fury.
21. Bond 50 Collection - “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die”
There is no denying the impact that Bond has had over his fifty-year cinematic history; we had a year-long celebration as a testament to that fact. Each decade has brought with it a re-invention of the character with successive interpretations by the actors in the role. Everybody has their favourites but there’s no denying the fact that each actor has brought something special to the fore – Connery was the first, Moore was the gentleman, Brosnan was the mixed blend, Lazenby never had a chance, Dalton was ahead of his time and Craig, for many, is the definitive Bond. With the creative team as hungry as ever and there being no shortage of story ideas or the public’s appetite for MI6’s finest (as highlighted by the continuing success of the last instalment, Skyfall) there really is no reason why Bond can’t go on for another fifty years. This box set is both comprehensive and an absolute steal, so if you don't own it then shame on you.
Memorable moment: Few will forget the scene where Connery's Bond has to talk his way out of getting sliced in two by a laser.
No Brian De Palma? No Untouchables or Carlito's Way? Well at least we squeezed Pacino's Scarface in there.
20. The Seventh Seal - “I met Death today. We are playing chess.”
With compelling stark imagery that has often been imitated, sometimes copied outright but never equalled Bergman, in 1957, managed to produce a film that encompasses faith, love and death by looking through the eyes of a weary knight as he travels home through his Black Death ravaged land while playing chess with Death for his own life (in an image that is an icon for cinema). The film is a rare beast in that is both a visual and cerebral treat being both beautiful and deadly at the same time. Often cited and always compelling Bergman was a master of his art, and never more so that here.
Memorable moment: The Knight playing chess with Death on the beach.
19. Scarface - “Say hello to my little friend.”
If we are talking top gangster films, then Brian De Palma’s 1983 Oliver Stone-penned Al Pacino vehicle, Scarface, has got to make the short list for top entries of all-time, amidst the likes of Coppolla’s The Godfather (Part I/Part II), Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America and Scarface’s own half-cousin epic, Carlito’s Way, also from De Palma and Pacino. Woefully derided by critics on release for its then-extreme violence, drug use and profanity, the film was still a sizeable box office success, and has gone on to become a cult classic, now oft-quoted and held in globally high regard.
Memorable moment: Outnumbered and under siege, Montana plunges his head into a mountain of cocaine, grabs his ‘little friend’ - an M-16 assault rifle with 30mm grenade launcher attachment - and goes to war.
18. Yojimbo/Sanjuro - “Kill me if you can!” “It’ll hurt.”
Smart and snappy, witty and cheeky, dark and satirical, Kurosawa’s Mifune-starring double-bill is electric with thrills, twists, back-stabbing, and, of course, superior samurai-sword action. Sanjuro is a fantastic, iconic character – the basis for Eastwood’s Man with No Name (just like Yojimbo was the basis for A Fistful of Dollars) – and with a script as sharp as this, and as skilled an auteur as Kurosawa behind him, Mifune delivered unto us his most famous performance. Although many are more familiar with the Western-flavoured Yojimbo – with it is Hammett-inspired story which has been the template of everything from Miller’s Crossing to Last Man Standing – some prefer the more playful Sanjuro. Either way they are both superb classics.
Memorable moment: Forced to save four young samurai who got captured trying to spy on him, Sanjuro reluctantly – but clinically – slaughters over a dozen armed guards in a heartbeat.
17. Lawrence of Arabia -“I pray that I may never see the desert again. Hear me, God.”
David Lean is well known for epic drama and in Lawrence he is at his peak. Telling the (mostly) true story of T.E. Lawrence and his uniting of the Arab factions in Arabia during the First World War, Lean manages to transcend film to an epic scale; the result is a peerless story of such a grand scale it has to be seen to be believed. Utterly compelling, totally absorbing, lensed so well you can feel the heat of the desert and with that amazing score this is as close to perfection in cinema as ever there was. The Blu-ray release includes a host of extras and a gorgeous restoration of the original 65mm negative, resulting in one of the best-looking Blu-rays you'll ever see.
Memorable moment: The edit between a match being blown out to desert sun rise.
16. Marvel Phase 1 - "You've been called the Da Vinci of our time, what do you say to that?" "Absolutely ridiculous. I don't paint."
Although this is one of the few entries where it's questionable whether any single title might have achieved a spot (perhaps The Avengers), and although it's a shame that we can't include some of the Phase 2 chapters in this collection (Iron Man 3, Winter Soldier), there's no denying that Phase 1 represents possibly the most audacious ensemble superhero build-up in history, seeing the solo characters introduced in fantastic standalone origin features before coming together in Whedon's tremendous Avengers. We doubt anybody will attempt - or pull off - anything quite as impressive as this ever again. As a Blu-ray set it really works, with extensive extras and perfect picture and sound.
Memorable moment: Finally getting the character right, both as Banner and his alter-ego, it doesn't get much more satisfying - or much funnier - than seeing the God, Loki, ranting about being so much more important than Banner's 'dull creature', before getting soundly ground pounded; Hulk merely imparting two words: Puny God.
15. The Wild Bunch - "If they move, kill 'em!"
Troubled anti-studio Director Sam Peckinpah crafted his seminal masterpiece in this epic anti-Western, which sees his all-star cast beset upon all sides by treachery, lawmen, bandits, militia and the corrupt Mexican Army, as they struggle to stay alive as the Old West dies around them. Utilising all of his trademark stylistic slow-mo, cross-cutting filming techniques, Peckinpah delivers a rich narrative and acute character study peppered with stunning action sequences and bloody violence. The Blu-ray includes a beautiful restoration of the original uncut negative and even an Oscar-nominated documentary about the film.
Memorable moment: Knowing that they face insurmountable odds and certain death, the Bunch tool up and walk into the square to take on the entire Mexican Army.
14. Heat -“I do what I do best: I take scores. You do what you do best: try to stop guys like me.”
Compelling, absorbing, tense and character-driven, yet packed with outstanding action sequences, immensely quotable, at once tragic and yet satisfying, and featuring once-great heavyweights DeNiro and Pacino going head-to-head, Heat is a classic from start to finish. Mann and his excellent cast have crafted a fantastic-looking, exceptionally stylish, superbly-scored and utterly epic crime thriller that is pretty much perfect in its realisation.
Memorable moment: Still the benchmark for cops vs. robbers shootouts – and as a military demo for how to survive an armed ambush – the street sequence is an exceptional action set piece.
13. Drive - “You put this kid behind the wheel, there’s nothing he can’t do.”
Without a doubt one of the best films of the past few years, this relatively small indie production has true heart and soul; an ostensibly low-key B-movie production made simply unique by unpredictable plot development, multi-layered characterisation, powerhouse against-type performances, stunning visual imagery and rich symbolism, and an outstanding retro score which will take your experience to the next level. Effortlessly cool, remarkably tense and surprisingly tragic, vying with Inception and The Dark Knight, this is a strong contender for the best post-2000 film.
Memorable moment: The elevator scene where, in a split-second, the dream-like fairytale turns into nightmarish reality, as the Driver is forced to show his true nature.
12. Chinatown - "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown."
Masterfully intricate, Chinatown’s detective tale perfects the multi-layered approach to storytelling in this genre, seamlessly fusing murder mystery elements with a dark psychological subplot and standing out amidst even the best of the rest. Even ignoring the suggested symbolism – the rape of the LA valley and its orchards by a group of wealthy, powerful, corrupt and immoral oligarchs paralleling the actual sexual abuse sub-plot – Robert Towne's screenplay is a masterwork, and, coupled with a career-high Polanski, a star-in-the-making Jack Nicholson, a hauntingly evocative score, and a perfectly-chosen selection of supporting cast and filmmakers, the end result is a resounding masterpiece.
Memorable moment: As Jake tries to slap the truth out of the girl, he doesn't realise that the hysterical, seemingly incompatible answers - she's my sister, she's my daughter - are actually both true.
11. Last of the Mohicans - “You stay alive! I WILL find you.”
Visual style over substance and a strong 80's penchant for mood in tone and colour-palette have been hallmarks of cult director Michael Mann. But with his lavish, big budget adaptation of the classic novel The Last of the Mohicans he revealed a remarkable grasp of historical detail and, coupled with a terrific cast, sumptuous locations, and a fabulous, soul-stirring score, adrenalised the old-fashioned romantic adventure through kinetic, modern action set-pieces that contained the sort of realism that hits you in the gut. Bolting immense character study and tragic emotional truth to the framework of the tale, he fashioned one of the best action/adventure films of the nineties and, without a doubt, one of the most credible, moving and engrossing historical epics that has ever rampaged across the screen.
Memorable moment: Fulfilling his promise, Hawkeye and the others race to save his love, but, rather fittingly, it's actually Chingachgook - the true last of the Mohicans - who faces off with the evil Magua in the final clash.
If you count how many Best Pictures we've included, you'll get an idea of what we think of the Oscars.
10. Leon - “No women, no kids. That’s the rules.”
A bona fide classic, the production was a defining moment in the careers of all those involved - a high point for both Reno and Oldman, an auspicious debut for Natalie Portman and, for Besson, it was the pinnacle of his film history; at the height of his power he brought more style to the opening scene than most accomplish over an entire movie. Leon is a beautifully painted tale of life and death, love and hate, revenge and redemption, played out perfectly – like a symphony – from start to finish.
Memorable moment: Perched above his apartment door, Leon takes out three successive SWAT teams in order to get Mathilda back.
9. Dark Knight Trilogy - “Don’t pray to God. Pray to ME!”
The greatest comic-book film series of all time; defining, re-defining and transcending the limitations of its genre; setting a seemingly unsurpassable standard for all those around it. With a triumphant opening reboot in Batman Begins, a seminal best-movie-of-all-time contender in The Dark Knight, and an epic final chapter, acclaimed writer/director Christopher Nolan proved to be the master of the Big Budget Hollywood Box Office and showed, once again, that you can have both sheer scale and exceptional substance in one fantastic package.
Memorable moment: The Heat-scored opening sequence to The Dark Knight, as, one by one, the various members of a gang of armed robbers kill each other - at the behest of The Joker - before the final reveal: the last survivor is The Joker.
8. Indiana Jones Complete Adventures - "Snakes? Why did it have to be snakes?!"
In 1981 the paring of Spielberg and Lucas brought together a film franchise the encompassed everything about ‘Saturday Morning Cinema’ that both legendary directors loved – action and adventure serials. The result was a series of films (and one diabolical one, but we forget the fourth instalment) that are at once entertaining and engaging and mark a point in cinema that was fun. The stories were outrageous, the stunts even more so, but the combination of music and visuals while harking back to the ‘Golden Age’ proved to be a monumental success. The set brings together all the films and extras in one excellent package.
Memorable moment: Having guesstimated the weight of sand required to swap out the gold idol that he seeks to retrieve, Indy makes the switch only to realise, with horror, that he got it wrong, and find himself running for his life from a giant thundering boulder.
7. Inception - “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”
Effortlessly combining the kind of visual opulence that is reminiscent of the dream worlds created in such recent masterpieces as The Matrix with a story structure and visionary concept that sacrifices neither satisfyingly rich plotting nor emotionally deep character development; a strong ensemble cast led by DiCaprio and a rousing Bond-imbued score from Hans Zimmer, Nolan shows us once again that it is clearly possible to have a Summer Blockbuster action-thriller that boasts both style and substance. Indeed, it is arguably the perfect blockbuster.
Memorable moment: The multiple layer dream assault, basically allowing us to have multiple action setpieces all running in parallel and all contingent on one another.
6. Blade Runner Collection - "I've seen things you wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost, in time, like tearsin rain."
Out of adversity comes gold and the torturous shoot of Blade Runner definitely proves that with Scott in young, hungry and headstrong form managing to transform a Philip K Dick novel into pure unadulterated spectacle. In doing so created a cinematic legend, not only at the time, but in the home format for it was one of the very first ‘director’s cuts’ available and has since gone to prove to be indestructible with this set containing no less than five different cuts of the film! Some love the cinematic release others profess the Final cut to be the true intent, but which ever you go for there is one thing for sure – you are in for a cinematic treat.
Memorable moment: Frustrated with the empathy test which questions what he feels about an upturned turtle baking in the sun, the replicant promptly shoots the blade runner who is interrogating him.
5. Seven Samurai - “I'm preparing for a tough war. It will bring us neither money nor fame. Want to join?”
An acute character study, wrapped up in a thin veil of socio-political allusions and commentary, and grounded in brutal action and genuine consequence, this was widely regarded as one of the first ever ‘action’ movies, utilising multiple cameras and slo-mo techniques to provide stylish, fluid, continuous action during its numerous Samurai ‘stand-offs’ and battle sequences. Kurosawa’s epic masterpiece defined team-based action films from that point forth, right down to each trademark character, and is a masterclass in filmmaking.
Memorable moment: With snipers in the forest, one silent samurai tells a villager he’ll be back in a bit, disappears into the trees, and comes back a few hours’ later with two rifles. Then he sits down and goes to sleep.
4. Alien Anthology - "I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."
Another example of a sci-fi sequel which transmutates the horror thrills of the original into an all-out action extravaganza - again, courtesy of James Cameron. Although Ridley Scott's classic original and Cameron's epic sequel will always be favoured, there's plenty to enjoy, particularly in the restored Workprint of David Fincher's third entry, even if the outlandish fourth film never quite earned such retrospective reappraisal. This set is a strong contender for best of all time what with two cuts of each film and a whole wealth of extra features, including the brutally honest documentary "Wreckage and Rage" about the making of the third film.
Memorable moment: Seemingly safe aboard the Sulaco, Ripley and the girl watch in horror as the synthetic human, Bishop, gets ripped in half by the Alien Queen that stowed away on their fleeing dropship.
3. The Godfather Trilogy - "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."
One of the greatest trilogies of all time, and boasting that all-too-rare sequel that arguably tops the original, Coppola's all-star cast of Brando, Pacino, De Niro and Duvall help bring to life the greatest gangster crime saga in film history. Sure, the third film, despite the best efforts of Pacino and a young Andy Garcia, doesn't maintain the impossibly high standards set by the first two, but this is still an indisputably stunning collection. The fantastic Blu-ray box set includes the three films with restorations overseen by the recently departed Gordon Willis, documentaries and loads of deleted scenes.
Memorable moment: Waking in bed to find a bloody horse's head.
2. Apocalypse Now - "I love the smell of napalm in the morning"
Coppola's greatest epic - one of those director-driven productions that nearly bankrupted a studio, and that led, ultimately, to the power shift from Director to Studio - this is an absolute masterpiece. Its philosophical and socio-political musings on the futility of war and the ultimate evil within all humans, coupled with standout performances, intricately constructed characters, authentic, haunting and staggeringly epic sets, a powerful soundtrack and a timeless story have elevated this to be not only one of the greatest war movies ever made, but actually – transcending genre restrictions – one of the greatest movies ever made full stop.
Memorable moment: Duvall's Air Cav, striding proudly and defiantly up the beach as it's being shelled, and as everybody else around him is taking cover, matter-of-factly yelling Charlie don't surf!
1. Jaws - "You're gonna need a bigger boat!"
The summer of 1975 would change the face of cinema forever for born out of a young hungry director out to prove his worth, a failing shark prop, a bestselling source novel and a score from John Williams that proved to be inspirational the Summer Blockbuster burst into history. At once thrilling, scary, emotionally invigorating and utterly compelling Jaws is just about the perfect movie; with defining camera movements, stunning editing, a sound design that promotes realism and being able to scare to the entire world, the film has done more to harm sharks than anything by tapping into our very primal fear of the unknown – utterly and unashamedly – the very definition of masterpiece. The Blu-ray release is equally as impressive, with a new 4K restoration of the original camera negative, the film has never looked or sounded better and you even get two full-length documentaries.
Memorable moment: A stunning piece of effects innovation, Spielberg tracks the unseen shark using floating barrels.
A short word about the selection process.
As is obvious, Simon and Cas have had to fudge the list slightly by including Box Sets, which has a plus side (it was possible to include a far greater number of films) but also a downside (some entries only make it in on the basis of the complete package). And, even at 50+ titles it was impossible to come up with a definitive list that encompassed all of Cas and Simon's favourites, let alone everybody's - Simon's personal favourite Nosferatu is a glaring omission, and Cas's Manhunter didn't make the grade either. Including and omitting films is often a very personal task, but they have tried to, by committee, formulate a list of top titles which, in their entirety, deserve a place in everybody's collection. And if your own personal favourite isn't listed, don't take it to heart, everything couldn't be in this - there were only 50 places after all. So let us know what you think in the thread below.
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