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2008-2018: My List

If you follow Mark Kermode's blog, you'll know that he recently did his 10 best and worst films of the last ten years. Naturally, it got me thinking about my own favourites.

It's tough picking ten and then trying to organise them in order of quality. I don't think this order makes much sense but I really feel these are the films that had the biggest impact on me as a screenwriter over the last ten years. There's no real explanation to go with these choices and I'm really just doing this for a bit of fun, but here it goes. 10. The Wrestler

A tough and gritty movie about the reality of life as a professional wrestler. The movie that turned me around as a screenwriter to write better character-driven stories and not get so caught up in plot twists and spectacle. 9. Blue is the Warmest Colour

A deeply beautiful film with one of the most powerful break-up scenes I've ever seen in a movie. I can't say the film spoke to the screenwriter in me, and I don't care for the extensive love scenes that populate the film, but this is a timely and, above all, honest love story without the usual gimmicks or Hollywood fare and it deserves a high place on any list.

8. Wind River

On the surface, this appears to be another investigative crime drama until you realise that this film speaks to a much wider and under-recognised problem affecting the women of this region in America. It is deeply powerful, incredibly well constructed and proof that Taylor Sheridan is one of the finest writers in America today. 7. Winters Bone

To me, Winter's Bone is one of the finest westerns ever made. It is starkly real, both ugly and beautiful in equal measure and it has a gripping yarn at the centre of it. I'm not the biggest Jennifer Lawrence fan (don't know why really) but I always maintained she should have won an Oscar for this performance. In short, it is a masterclass in character development built around the simplest and most thrilling active question, "where's my father?".

6. The Revenant

I was more interested in seeing this film because of its lengthy and troubled production, but in the end, it was the incredible story of survival and the some of the most beautiful cinematography ever committed to film that made me revisit the film several times since. There have been many 'epic' films like this (The Thin Red Line springs to mind) but it's the clear and perfectly structured story that separates it from all the others for me. 5.  A Most Violent Year

I came to this film because of its great cast. Little did I know I would be watching one of the finest 'gangster' films of the last 15 years. It is an original take on a tired genre and features some of best 'never talk to me about my business' style dialogue since The Godfather.

4. Sicario 

Watch it, if only for the border crossing scene, but definitely watch it. Emily Blunt steals the show, even though the spotlight now shines on Benicio Del Toro as he carries the franchise forward. The second Taylor Sheridan entry in this list (it may have been directed by Denis Villeneuve but it's definitely a Sheridan film) and the film that made everyone take note of this incredible screenwriter. I first saw the film on Netflix and during that famous border crossing scene at the U.S./Mexican border, I bought the film on Blu-ray on the assumption that the rest of the film was going to live up to this high standard. I wasn't wrong.

3. Blade Runner 2049

I find the original Blade Runner boring. I bought it again on Blu-ray right after this came out and I still haven't watched it again to this day. I've watched 2049 many times since. This tells you how strong it is. For me, this takes its place up there with The Godfather Part 2 and The Empire Strikes Back in the pantheon of sequels that surpass the original. This is a great investigative drama wrapped up in some of the most stunningly beautiful and imaginative cinematography ever seen. Like The Revenant, it demands to be seen on the big screen and I'm so appreciative that I got the chance to do so. A cinematic experience that will stay with me forever.

2.  Inception

Speaking of cinematic experiences, I don't think any film blew me away in the cinema quite like Inception. The most imaginative science fiction film I had ever seen and populated by many of my all-time favourite actors. Top it off with a pitch-perfect score by Hans Zimmer and you've got a masterpiece on your hands. Underneath all of this complexity and wonder lies a very human and powerful story about a man in denial about his own personal loss and the journey it takes for him to come to terms with it. Few films manage to pull this off in a regular setting but Nolan does it to perfection while running upside down in a hotel corridor or on a Bond-inspired mountain base about to be overcome by an avalanche.

1.  Tinker tailor soldier spy

I grew up on spy films and the prospect of watching Gary Oldman, one of my favourite actors, take the lead in a post-war 'who-dunnit' (of sorts) spy thriller was right up my alley. It's a film that takes multiple viewings to fully get to grips with, but that's not a flaw. It juggles many complex characters and doesn't slow down for the audience. In fact, it challenges the audience through brilliant uses of visual storytelling and balances dialogue and action perfectly. It walks a fine line between single protagonist and multiple protagonist storytelling and the conclusion is immensely satisfying. It is a character study and a plot-heavy thriller. It achieves so much, the impossible at times, but above all, it is a stylish and engrossing piece of cinema that has stayed with me since the first screening and I make a point to watch it at least once a year. I do hope they make another. That's my list. There are plenty of other movies I could have put down, but at the end of the day, these are the movies that I go to when I need encouragement or inspiration. They are the movies that taught me something about the art of storytelling or the craft of screenwriting. They elevate the medium of cinema for me and that's why they are here on this post.


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