The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Directed by Jonathan Demme
This film was introduced to me by my grandad one day after school. He’d recorded it on TV and said “You said you liked horror films, so I thought you’d like this one”. My God, he was right. This film is a beautiful entry into the horror genre; from the intricate characterisation of the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter, to the strong female lead I saw in Clarice Starling. I bought all four books soon after, and it will forever be my favourite series. If you haven’t seen it I won’t spoil anything, but I urge you to give it a go.
Directed by James Wan
This film started off as a short, by the name of Saw 0.5. It then blew up as a big name in the “torture-porn” sub genre of horror, and became part of a huge franchise that spanned for seven films, and two video games. Whilst I feel most of the Saw films are over the top and lack substance, the first one has stuck with me ever since I first saw it. Contrary to popular belief, the first one isn’t anywhere near as gory as its sequels. Instead it relies on the relationship between characters involved in Jigsaw’s games, and how quickly you can lose your head when placed in a life or death situation. (figuratively speaking, of course…)
127 Hours (2010)
Directed by Danny Boyle
There’ll be several Danny Boyle films appearing on this list, but this one is an underrated gem of his. The film tells the true story of Aron Ralston, an avid adventurer who gets stuck in a canyon when a huge boulder falls down and pins his arm to the wall. He then stays stuck down there for 127 Hours (that’s just over 5 days) before making the horrific decision to cut his own arm off with a blunt penknife in order to escape. Everything about this film is wonderful, including James Franco’s performance. In this film he really proves his worth as an actor, and shows us that he can go beyond generic comedy films.
District 9 (2009)
Directed by Neill Blomkamp
This is a sci-fi film that bears a striking resemblance to Apartheid. In this universe alien lifeforms, who go by the name of “prawns” due to their physical attributes, have been reduced to a life of segregation, poverty and ridicule by the general public. Shot in a documentary style, the film follows the story of government worker Wikus and his experience with these alien lifeforms as he tries to relocate them under government orders. I was absolutely blown away by this film and how real it felt. Again, I won’t spoil anything, but it’s certainly worth a watch.
Shallow Grave (1994)
Directed by Danny Boyle
Just a quick question: What would you do if you found your flatmate dead but loaded with cash? That’s what Danny Boyle explores in his debut film. I was introduced to this film by my mum who uttered the words: “If you’re going to be studying Film, you need to watch this.” Well she was right, and I’m glad she sat down with me and watched it. Almost Shakespearean in nature, this film explores themes like betrayal, mental instability, and the deteriorating relationships between friends. A must watch.
The Incredibles (2004)
Directed by Brad Bird
Let’s have a little break from all these dark films and talk about how brilliant this animated classic is. It follows the lives of a superhero family, trying to blend in and live like a normal family. Of course, normality doesn’t last long, and the resulting chaos that ensues is hugely entertaining. Filled with memorable characters and lines, this is one U-rated film that has stuck with me since the first time I watched it. I can’t even begin to express how excited I am for the sequel, either.
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Rather naively, I wondered how much I’d enjoy a film about drumming. I like music but I’m hardly an expert and I wasn’t sure if this was the film for me. Well, it was. The story of aspiring jazz drummer Andrew Neiman and his abusive teacher Terence Fletcher is worth the watch regardless of your level of musical expertise. This film is full of intense, edge of your seat moments and the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard in a very long time.
28 Days Later (2002)
Directed by Danny Boyle
The ‘zombie outbreak’ storyline has been done to death in film and television, but Danny Boyle’s attempt will always be a firm favourite. Everything from the fact we get to see a completely deserted London cityscape to the soundtrack to the characters is absolutely brilliant in my opinion. It’s clear so much work went into making this film a reality, and it’s something I’ve always admired.
Love Actually (2003)
Directed by Richard Curtis
I’m not really a fan of romantic comedies as I find them to be very predictable, but Love Actually is definitely an exception. Filled with a star studded cast, lovable characters and some very heartwarming moments, it’s a film that leaves you with a content, mushy feeling at the end. I revisit this one every Christmas and it hasn’t got old yet!
Directed by Rodrigo Cortés
This one is very different to the others as it centres around Ryan Reynolds trapped in a coffin for 90 minutes. Sounds tedious, right? Well, not to me. In fact the acting quality is so good that I found myself completely drawn into the story, wondering how on earth he was going to get himself out of this mess. Fans of one location films should love this film.