Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My Top 15 Films Watched This Year*

A slightly different post than usual and being me it's not quite so straightforward. This is a list of my top 15 film that I've watched this year - not that have necessarily been released this year just that I first watched them. I haven't even watched 15 new releases, I have however made it to 365 films watched this year, yup, that's one a day.

Now these films aren't necessarily classics, none are really blockbusters and some aren't that easy to get but one thing can be said, they've entertained me immensely, some had immediate effect and other made me think afterwards.

So in true "Top Whatever" style I'm going to countdown from 15, if I can I'll also include a trailer along with a none give away line about why I love it. Well, I better put all this after the cut.

List also available on Letterboxd.

15. Stranger by the Lake (2013) Director: Alain Guiraudie
Well I start with something close to a new film, it was only in the cinema this year so it does count. An exciting French thriller centered by a secluded lake which is also a popular cruising spot for men. It's a clever, stylish slow moving thriller with a superb plot and cast.

14. Graduation Day (1981) Director: Herb Freed
The first from 88 Films - Graduation Day was released as part of its Slasher Classics collection which I'm very excited about (all future releases are pre-ordered). I wasn't sure what to expect, it was kind of a blind buy, I knew the film but had never watched it. There are so many slasher films and more duds than classics but Graduation day is really something special. It isn't one of those cheap, jumping on the bandwagon style slasher, the plot is carefully thought out and the film is well paced. This particular release has scrubbed up so well.

13. Bastards (2013) Director: Claire Denis
Another relatively new release (I don't think I've watched so many "new" films in years) and another French thriller but a completely different pace. This is really quite an intense, complex interweaving plot not a film to put on if you want to switch off but I would highly recommend making the time to watch it.

12. Nightmare Beach AKA Welcome to Spring Break (1989) Director Umberto Lenzi
The first Umberto Lenzi film in this list with this being a slasher film. I do like a good slasher film and some can be a bit patchy but this one works very well, it's exciting from beginning to end. The plot is a nice mix of familiar but original.

11. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) Director: Jim Jarmusch
I actually went to the cinema to see this, me, in a cinema, unbelievable. I was really excited to see this film and tied this in with a trip to see the band Goblin. It really is quite a sexy film, the colours the texture, it's sumptuous. The plot is strong and avoids the usual vampire clichés, It just feels so right.

10. Phantom of the Paradise (1974) Director: Brian de Palma
I find Brian de Palma very hit and miss, some of his films I love but some I just hate - even those highly regarded. I hadn't pre-ordered the lovely steelbook of this film as I just didn't know but I was very fortunate as I actually won a copy! It gave me room to hate it but I didn't, it's actually a rather fantastic musical. It's really exciting, if you like your oddball musical I'd really recommend this.

9. The Last Horror Film (1982) Director: David Winters
It's sometimes hard to balance being gloriously gory and fantastically funny, many try but most go wrong somewhere, either they just can't balance it right or in most cases there just isn't a plot. The Last Horror Film has been on my watchlist for a while, to be honest I was expecting to be pretty good but it was actually quite amazing. In a way it is a standard horror but the plot is clever, the setting is neat and it meshes so well.

8. Kuroneko (1968) Director: Kaneto Shindô
A truly dark supernatural film. Two women are raped and murdered by Samurai soldiers who reappear as vengeful ghosts. This Japanese film may be close to 50 years old but it's truly chilling.

7. Privilege (1967) Director: Peter Watkins
I faithfully collect the BFI Flipside releases but they sometimes sit on my shelf for a while before I get around to watching them.  A film from 1967 it could have been released this year if you look at the influence of pop music. The film focuses on Steven Shorter, Britain's ultimate pop star, the public hangs on every word and he can do no wrong, of course he isn't fully in control of his own life.

6. City on Fire (1987) Director: Ringo Lam
I've seen City on Fire many years ago but my memories of it were patchy and had been desperate to watch it for a while, so I picked it up and waited until I could devote some quality time. City on Fire is such an exciting action film, the tale of an undercover cop that infiltrates a gang of thieves who are planning to rob a jewellery. So many twist, turns, moments of humour and high octane action. It's so exciting and fun, and also rather festive - I can see watching this each year will become a Christmas tradition.

5. Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922) Director: Benjamin Christensen
The thing that struck me about this film was that it wasn't your usual "old" horror film, it was a remarkably interesting tale that focuses on how women were deemed to be witches throughout the ages coming up to women in the modern age (well, the 1920s). It's very clever and is incredibly interesting to look at the ever evolving fears. It also manages to feel incredibly modern even though it is nearly 100 years old. Such a remarkably striking film, such a clever tale.

4. Nightmare City (1980) Director: Umberto Lenzi
To be honest I wasn't expecting much, now I was hoping it would be entertaining but I wasn't expecting a masterpiece. Well, when I say masterpiece it may seem over the top but I love my horror. Now I like Umberto Lenzi so I was expecting something good but it just struck me as being a completely amazing zombie film, now becoming one of my favourites. I do think quite a few zombie flicks are overdone and overrated but this just works so well, I'm now rather disappointed that this isn't as widely loved.

3. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) Director: Jaromil Jires
A complete bizarre and full wonderful fantasy film, a visually rich adult fairy-tale that has to be seen to be believed. In a weird way it's also the perfect coming-of-age tale.

2. The Bad Seed (1956) Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Such a classic dark tale, there are many evil fictional children around but Rhoda from The Bad Seed is truly the worst. I don't think I've despised a fictional child as much as her but if you watch this it's easy to see why. This has been on my watch list for some time but as it isn't so easy to pick up in the UK I unfortunately hadn't been able to pick it up until this year but I'm glad I finally got my hands on a copy.

1. The Bride Wore Black (1968) Director: François Truffaut

One of the most stylish crime films I have ever had the pleasure of watching. The dvd had been on my wishlist for a while, I received it for my birthday back in March but in my usual fashion I waited. I waited until I had the right amount of time to dedicate to watching this film properly, this happened only very recently. A simple plot, with a very minimalist approach to telling the tale, this revenge film portrays such a rich, exciting tale in such a heart-stopping, beautiful, aloof way. This film is such a work of art I just hope in the future a blu-ray release might be on the cards.


  1. Happy NYE and NYD to you. I hope you have a better new year then this year. I am also doing the same type of lists in LJ but i wanted to let you know about this and I preordered it yesterday. Never saw the film but i am looking forward to it

    1. Happy New Year, I really hope so. I've been working on this list on and off for a month, I'm glad I got it done with. The Bride Wore Black is just so spectacular, you'll love it. I'm tempted to pick up the blu-ray at some point as it's region free xx

    2. I too took the time to just view BIRDE (the blu ray looks great) I viewed the film dubbed in English and everything about that film made me saw wow, at the end all i could say was "what the fuck did i just watch" and when i say that i was blown away. The music was so great (the blu has an isolated track) I felt the same way after viewing Citizen Kane for the first time and I had to re watch it so it could soak in. I trust I'll be coming back to this film a few more times. And compare it to Kill Bill. Pick up the blu its well worth it before its all sold out for good