Claire Durrant’s top 5, 5/5 stars movies to pass a pandemic with

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CinesocialUK reviewer Claire Durrant faced up to her biggest challenge as a critic to date – naming her top 20, 5/5 stars rated movies (in date of release order only) that you should watch to pass the pandemic with.

M (1931) dir. Fritz Lang.


With his menacing eyes and nasal, yet recognisable, voice Peter Lorre has always been alluring to watch. None more so than his performance in M as wanted child murderer Hans.

Lorre portrays Hans as sinister but somehow is able to make him come across as sympathetic – even after the iconic and chilling opening scene. It is no coincidence that this German film about a foreboding threat was released around the same time the Nazi party were becoming more politically active.

Available on: Amazon; Criterion DVD (US); iTunes (US).

The Third Man (1949) dir. Carol Reed.

At school (for some reason that I cannot remember) we were told to write an essay on this film. A boring black and white film for my classmates, but for me it was the first time I got to study a film academically – I watched The Third Man and analysed its mise-en-scene.

This film was the reason why I went on to study film theory at university. Additionally, The Third Man is without a doubt a British masterpiece with outstanding performances from the ever charming Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten.

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

Rear Window (1954) dir. Alfred Hitchcock.

Rear Window is an essential watch as part of the post-WWII Hollywood movement. Women’s refusal to return to male domination posed a threat to the established patriarchy.

Whilst Rear Window portrays Lisa (Grace Kelly) –  one of Hitchcock’s best female characters – as active yet feminine and Jeff (James Stewart) as  passive in a wheelchair, Hitchcock’s message was that gender stereotypes should be updated.

As well as the film’s theoretical merits, the film is still a classic, full of voyeurism and anticipation. Jeff was social distancing before it was ‘cool’!

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

Du Rififi Chez Les Hommes (1956) dir. Jules Dassin.

Famous for its almost 30 minute sequence with no sound or dialogue, Rififi masterfully establishes a tense heist that is still influencing films today.

From Ocean’s 11 to Reservoir Dogs, a lot of heist films are heavily indebted to director and co-writer Jules Dassin. Beyond that infamous set piece, Rififi is also full of memorable and distinguished characters.

iTunes.

Chinatown (1974) dir. Roman Polanski.

It’s no secret that my favourite genre of film is a crime thriller, especially if it sits in the pulpy noir subcategory. I love a reluctant anti-hero! The Maltese Falcon, LA Confidential etc. they are all also up there in my all time fav. lists.

However, it is the magna opus of Jack Nicholson and Chinatown that sets this film above the others. A perfect script with its darkly infamous last line, there’s a reason most critics have Chinatown on their greatest films ever lists.

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

The Thing (1982) dir. John Carpenter.

The Thing is a perfect film that demonstrates the value of practical effects. The creature is gloriously grotesque and gory – which would only have been downplayed if the film relied on CGI (as in the 2011 remake).

People often praise the ‘chest-burster’ scene in Alien, but I feel the defibrillator scene and the chaos the ensues afterwards in The Thing needs as much admiration.

John Carpenter builds up the suspense masterfully and the atmosphere is so chilling.

See our review of the original and the 2011 remake for more.

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

Labyrinth (1986) dir. Jim Henson.

Ah nostalgia, what a wonderful thing you are!

Labyrinth was a huge part of my childhood. From its catchy soundtrack to the limitless imagination of Jim Henson, this film has been forever imprinted in my mind.

Labyrinth was also my first exposure to David Bowie as an actor, and boy what an introduction that was. As a child, I enjoyed the adventure and eccentric characters, as an adult I appreciate the ‘Bowie bulge’!

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

Little Shop Of Horrors (1986) dir. Frank Oz.

Turning a Roger Corman B-movie into a camp horror comedy just seems like something Frank Oz created for me personally. My favourite musical on film, the unforgettable songs have inserted themselves into my brain forever.

Little Shop of Horrors boasts an impressive ‘who’s who’ of 80’s talent. With Rick Moranis as the geeky lead with special appearances from the likes of Steve Martin, John Candy and Bill Murray, this film is a delightful treat.

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) dir. Frank Oz.

I am lucky to have been raised by parents who showed me a variety of films. Horrors and Westerns were more popular on our TV, but my memories are more lucid of the comedies they introduced me to.

Leslie Nielsen and Steve Martin were recognisable names to me from a young age. It is however Martin’s performance in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels that I return to when in need of cheering up. I adore this film.

Amazon; iTunes.

When Harry Met Sally (1989) dir. Rob Reiner.

A must watch of mine every New Years Day, the film is pure joy!

When Harry Met Sally is witty and cynical, but also warm and uplifting. We follow our two romantic leads as their friendship blossoms over a period of years before potential romance is even on the cards.

The depth to Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) means their relationship resonates more to me than your typical Hallmark romantic films.

This film is so much more than its infamous diner scene.

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

Hard Boiled (1992) dir. John Woo.

When I was younger My Pops (Grandad) would watch a lot of wuxia and Martial Arts films. I was mesmerized by their graceful fighting skills. Years later I discovered Hard Boiled on the TV, and I was stunned to see Chow Yun-Fat play a gun toting, tough police officer.

The action in this film is still some of the best choreographed! The long take at the hospital is still just as impressive! Inspector Tequila was dodging an unrealistic amount of bullets way before John Wick.

iTunes (US).

Ed Wood (1994) dir. Tim Burton.

Just like the Academy, I too relish films that focus on Tinseltown. No story to me though is more fascinating than Hollywood’s outcast and B Movie extraordinaire Ed Wood.

Still my favourite collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, you can see that this was a project they both were passionate about. I admire that this film delves into the life of the titualar person to show he was more comprehensive than what we assumed. Additionally, Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi is pitch perfect casting.

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

Clueless (1995) dir. Amy Heckerling.

My teen movie!

Full of satire and effervescent dialogue, Clueless is still as quotable today as it was back when my friends and I would watch this religiously.

Cher (Alicia Silverstone) is one of my 90s queens; optimistic, full of questionable wisdom, and a fashion idol (I wanted that computer programmed wardrobe so bad!)

Packed with baby face stars you’d recognise (including Paul Rudd who hasn’t aged since), Clueless is a quintessential 90s teen romp.

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

The Iron Giant (1999) dir. Brad Bird.

A film that every time I mention I cherish, I am usually greeted with disgusted looks. However, The Iron Giant is one of the wisest, most mature, and stunning animated films I have seen.

Every time I revisit this film, I find something new to fall in love with it all over again – whether it be the great cast of voice actors or its political symbolism.

An underrated gem, it is worth watching either for the first time or for the twentieth.

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004) dir. Wes Anderson.

Likely to be my most unpopular choice on my list, TLAWSZ is often picked as Wes Anderson’s worst film. For me, I think it is Anderson at his most eccentric and artistic;  with beautiful and surreal underwater animated sequences.

All your usual Anderson suspects feature – including an always welcome performance from Bill Murray – Jeff Golblum being his most ‘Goldblumiest’ and Willem Dafoe having an absolute blast. Also features the best ensemble slow motion walk.

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) dir. Shane Black.

When people ask me what my favourite film is, after a minute of literally forgetting every film I’ve seen ever, I tend to cite Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as my number one pick.

A film noir, screwball pastiche that is unmatched with it’s slick screenplay from Shane Black, perfect comedic moments and faultless performances from Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer. To quote Key and Peele, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, is my shit!”

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

Drive (2011) dir. Nicolas Winding Refn.

I remember vividly the time I had first finished watching Drive. I was alone in this dingy arthouse in Oxford. The seats were horribly uncomfortable and the overbearing smell from the toilets seeped into the freezing screening room.

Yet, I was completely in awe with what I had just seen; that I sat stunned throughout the credits. My favourite Ryan Gosling performance to date, he is both captivating and subtle. With its stylish cinematography, and heavily synth score – I was hooked.

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes (99 p to rent on some services).

The Babadook (2014) dir. Jennifer Kent.

Recently there has been a compelling trend of horror films that uses scares as an allegory for mental health – Hereditary and The Ritual being two examples.

The metaphors and message in The Babadook may be in your face obvious, but the low key set piece of a grieving single mother raising her difficult son is irrefutably moving. A slow burn of a horror, it is still however effective at presenting fear and shivers.

Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

What We Do In The Shadows (2015) dir. Taika Waititi.

The concept of a mockumentary following a houseshare of ancient vampires adjusting to modern New Zealand is a genius one.

Directed and co-written by Taika Waititi, you can expect all his well known charm, humour, obscurity and deadpan nature erupting in the script.

Many favourite quotes of mine have stemmed from this feature. Thinking of this film alone gets me smiling.

Amazon, Google Play; iTunes.

The Lighthouse (2019) dir. Robert Eggers.

It would be amiss to not include one of the last astounding films I saw at the cinema before lockdown.

Ironically the film is about two people isolated in a building who are starting to lose their sanity. A concept I can now really relate to.

Gloriously surreal with two powerhouse performances, The Lighthouse isn’t a film I am going to forget anytime soon.

For more, see Claire’s full review.

Soon available on: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes.

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