Well it’s official, I’ve now been alive for 30 years and in celebration of this amazing milestone I’m counting down the 30 films that have shaped my life through the last three decades.
Check out my full curated list of the film’s hat have spoken to me and made me into the man I am today below:
1989 – Batman
So technically it’s 31 films for 30 years, but if there’s a year that starts everything off then it has to be 1989, the year I was born, and in this year cinemas would be graced by a monumental cinematic achievement in Tim Burton’s Batman. This extravagant tent pole action film defined what the comic book movie could be and it’s lavish visuals, gothic art direction, full-on narrative and performances from a cast including Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger set the screen on fire. Batman really was the whole package and it certainly set the template for what my life in film would be like.
1990 – Goodfellas
1990 was a very seminal year for film and in my own early life and Martin Scorsese’s classic Goodfellas would arrive in cinemas and established itself as a modern cinema classic. Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci and Paul Sorvino. Now that’s a line-up. Scorsese’s direction was perfect in its composition and he took his audiences into the dangerous, yet seductive world of the mafia from the mid 1950s all the way to the excessive 1980s and it’s a powerful portrait of both crime and American society. Goodfellas is a film that starts off like a gunshot, and doesn’t let up for a moment. It’s truly an American cinema classic.
1991 – Terminator 2: Judgement Day
I’ve long considered Arnold Schwarzenegger to be my personal hero and his role as the T-800 in Terminator: 2 Judgement Day is his most definitive performance ever. From beginning to end, James Cameron takes you on a roller coaster ride and you’re adrenaline is dialled up by Arnie’s big screen heroics. No one ever looked cooler on a Harley than Arnold and this explosive action rush just kept going and going and going. The very art form of action cinema was transformed by Terminator 2: Judgement Day and it’s a film that I absolutely keep on repeat.
1992 – The Last of the Mohicans
If you were seeking larger than life heroics then you were bound to find them in Michael Mann’s epic historical romance of the frontier in The Last of the Mohicans. The phenomenal talent that is Daniel Day Lewis brought an incredible range to the character of Hawkeye, and his fearless love for Cora Munroe (Madeleine Stowe), a woman from another place, really swept you up in the moment. The Last of the Mohicans is a film that pulls you in with it’s magnificent visuals and historical reality and it’s an unforgettable cinematic experience.
1993 – Dazed and Confused
Regarded as one of, if not, the seminal works on coming-of-age adolescence, Richard Linklater’s 1993 slacker teen film Dazed and Confused in a tremendously captured portrait of youth in action and there’s so much incredible detail to behold. Packed out with an all-star cast including Jason London, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Cole Hauser, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Joey Lauren Adams, Matthew McConaughey, Nicky Katt, and Rory Cochrane, Dazed and Confused really gets to the heart of what it meant to be young in a very specific time period and is a true triumph of independent cinema.
1994 – Pulp Fiction
It was the film that revolutionized cinema and introduced audiences to the explosive power of director Quentin Tarantino and to this day, Pulp Fiction holds up as one of the wildest films ever made. With it’s interweaving narrative, grindhouse aesthetic, intense shock value and a cast at the top of their game including John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman and Bruce Willis, Pulp Fiction remains as a film to truly be cherished.
1995 – Pocahontas
The Disney Renaissance was in full swing by 1995 and in this year my favourite Disney film of all time would be released. Pocahontas was a striking story of star crossed loved, epic romance and packed out with some unforgettable imagery and songs. Still to this day it’s the Disney film that I most connect to, the artistry remains something to be studied and it’s enduring themes still call out to me.
1996 – Jerry Maguire
Tom Cruise has never given a better performance than the one he gave in Jerry Maguire, and his turn as a self-centered sports agent who suddenly has an awakening to doing the right thing leads him on a crazy journey to reconnect with the people around him and actually do some sense of good in the world. Cruise really brought at the humanity that existed at the heart of Jerry, and he really invested himself in the character and director Cameron Crowe’s script was spot on in its construction. This certainly is one film that will have you at hello.
1997 – L.A. Confidential
In 1997 director Curtis Hanson took audiences back into the past with a murky noir tale of police corruption, morally complex heroes and beautiful woman and it made for an unforgettable experience. The details were perfect here, and the film’s narrative and vintage feel where in keeping with the film’s 1950s setting. L.A. Confidential is a film that absolutely belongs up on the big screen and its epic tale of right and wrong is sure to leave a mark on your memory.
1998 – There’s Something About Mary
If you’re looking for comedy then it really doesn’t get much better than The Farrelly Brother’s 1998 comedy smash hit There’s Something About Mary. Starring Ben Stiller as a lovelorn guy who finds himself once again on the path to love with Mary (Cameron Diaz), the perfect woman in his eyes, the comedy certainly got zany here. Outlandish and over-the-top at every turn, but still packed out with plenty of sweet moments, There’s Something About Mary is a really fun time at the movies.
1999 – Fight Club
David Fincher’s seminal 1990s feature film of masculine rage is a very fun watch and stars Brad Pitt and Edward Norton really delivered with their performances here. Pitt redefined screen cool with uber alpha-male Tyler Durden while Edward Norton brought out the frustration of the average man. Then there was of-course the scene stealing performance of Helena Bonham Carter as Marla Singer as well. Packed full of bone crunching aggression and shot with absolute precision by Fincher, Fight Club is definitive classic of the screen.
2000 – Gladiator
If there is one film that reigns supreme as my all-time favourite film then it is undoubtedly Gladiator. Directed by the visionary Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe as former general turned slave turned gladiator Maximus Decimus Meridius, Gladiator is cinema in the most epic of definitions. Everything from narrative to character, production design, costuming, hair & make-up, visual effects, sound effects and score all came together to bring a colossal vision of the past back to life and this film was sure to sear it’s images on your mind. Russell Crowe created the ultimate portrayal of a hero in Maximus and the action and violence of the arena was breathtaking. Gladiator is simply an unforgettable tale of blood, sand and celluloid.
2001 – The Fast and The Furious
Every generation has their youth film. For mine it was The Fast and The Furious. This macho-laden story of rebels and tuner cars burst onto the big screen with plenty of raw energy and audiences loved it. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker shone together as Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner and there was a terrific rebel spirit about this picture. The racing sequences were intense and the film’s narrative came together perfectly. If you’re seeking a rush, then this is the film to give it to you.
2002 – Minority Report
The combination of Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise is simply too good not to turn down and the revered director’s genius was on display in this haunting tale of the future in Minority Report. Striking a balance between moody noir police thriller and high concept sci-fi escapism, Minority Report was a twisting, complex and extremely thought provoking piece of cinema that really got audiences going and took them on a full-on ride through a strikingly original future landscape.
2003 – Oldboy
Acclaimed director Chan-wook Park took audiences into the vicious vice grip of the heart of darkness with Oldboy, and the result was a film that took audiences to the edge. A masterwork of dramatic tension and out-of-control violence, Oldboy is an extremely haunting film that lingers with it’s audience and carves it’s place in their minds. This one is definitely not for the squeamish, but it delivers big time on the visceral thrills.
2004 – The Aviator
Martin Scorsese takes audiences into the grand life and haunting mind of Howard Hughes in The Aviator and it was a triumphant success. Leonardo DiCaprio was excellent in his portrayal of the obsessive and excessive Hughes and this film took you into the high flying life that Hughes lived. Scorsese offered up a grand vision here and he captured this film with incredible period rich detail and a wonderfully realized script. The Aviator was truly an event movie.
2005 – Sin City
Director Robert Rodriguez brought his rebel filmmaking style to this bold noir tale and the result was one completely badass film. I can remember this being the first film that I was really obsessive about and its brooding noir subject matter, visual zeal and excessive ultra-violence really gripped me. Rodriguez really inspired my rebel spirit here and with a cast including Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, John Hartnett and Bruce Willis, well, you knew you were going to be in for one very fun ride with Sin City. You really could walk down the right back alley and find anything in this pulp noir universe.
2006 – Pan’s Labyrinth
Talk to any film fan and they’ll list Mexican auteur filmmaker Guillermo del Toro as one of their all-time favourite movie makers and the revered director’s 2006 dark fairytale work is an utter masterpiece. Telling an enchanting and evocative story of child-like innocence set against a world of both mortal and fairy tale monsters, Pan’s Labyrinth is a wholly original creation and its grand visuals offer an immense feast to audiences. It truly is a masterpiece of vision, design and art and is a testament to its director’s desire and love for cinema.
2007 – No Country For Old Men
The Coen Brothers always bring their A-Game to their varied filmography and No Country For Old Men really was something incredible. Introducing audiences to the stunning range of Javier Bardem as ultimate antagonist Anton Chigurh, No Country For Old Men is a hard-boiled chase thriller that doesn’t stop for a second and it really kept you guessing as an audience member. This cat and mouse game that was played out via the film’s narrative was sure to keep you on edge and its deconstruction and experimentation with genre really led to something memorable.
2008 – The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger would cement his legacy with a portrayal of the ultimate villain in The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and it was utterly triumphant. The was a blockbuster that transcended the comic book genre and really elevated it to cinema legend, and took audiences on an absolute action rollercoaster. Christian Bale and Heath Ledger really squared up well together as Batman and The Joker and created the ultimate blockbuster action film.
2009 – A Single Man
With 2009’s A Single Man, fashion designer turned director Tom Ford brought his incredible eye for beauty to the big screen and crafted a film that is the most beautifully captured piece of cinema I’ve ever witnessed. Ford’s visual palette gripped his audience completely and Colin Firth has never given a better performance as broken down professor George Falconer and the film radiated a crisp design and a profoundly heart moving narrative.
2010 – The Fighter
David O. Russell is a filmmaker always ready to push the boundaries in order to get a reaction out of his audience and this true-life biopic of the life and struggle of wold champion boxer Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his brother Dickie (Christian Bale) was a triumphant success. Long regarded as the passion project of Wahlberg, The Fighter is an unflinching portrayal of the ultimate underdog and the considerable trials and tribulations he had to undergo in order to become a champion. Featuring an absolutely fearless performance on behalf of Bale, The Fighter is a film that shows the true meaning of the never give up spirit.
2011 – Drive
If you were seeking neo-noir cool then you needn’t look further than Nicolas Winding Refn’s neon-lit crime caper Drive. Turning Ryan Gosling into a cinema badass as the nameless Driver, Drive was one seriously cool heist film that put audiences into the very tip of the action as the Driver laid down his own brutal code of right and wrong to a collection of very nefarious bad guys, and the intensity was really dialed up here. Beautifully shot with an eye to neon framing, Drive is an unforgettable piece of crime cinema that is worth watching repeatedly.
2012 – Argo
Ben Affleck’s career as a director continued to sky rocket after his work on Gone Bay Gone and The Town, and with Argo the director would take us on an incredible cinematic journey. This true-life story of Hollywood fiction and a daring real-life escape gripped its audience from beginning to end, and Affleck was in complete control of his narrative as both director and lead actor with his portrayal of CIA agent Tony Mendez. Shot with incredible period correct detail that captured the groovy cool of 1970s Hollywood and the terror of the Iranian Revolution, Argo was one film that demanded your attention.
2013 – Man of Steel
In 2013 acclaimed visual director Zack Snyder would bring to the screen the story of Superman once more and this epic story certainly made for the best type of blockbuster entertainment. Henry Cavill made for the perfect Clark Kent/Superman and brought both a combination of vulnerability and power to his performance as the famed superhero. Man of Steel sparkled with energy and really drew out a massive scope for how colossal a comic book movie good be. Displaying themes of hope and optimism, Man of Steel was a true event level movie.
2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy
By 2014 the Marvel Cinematic Universe had certainly carved out its own place in cinema history and audiences flocked to cinemas to witness all of the adventures of these grand superheros. After introducing audiences to such characters as Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, audiences would then come to meet a group of misfits called the Guardians of the Galaxy and this band of outsiders absolutely shook up the MCU with plenty of energy and some outstanding comedic moments and director James Gunn took things in a bold new cosmic direction. Guardians of the Galaxy and it’s sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 remain as my absolute favourite entries in the MCU and Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot certainly took us on some awesome adventures here.
2015 – Sicario
If you were seeking a hard-edge thriller, well, you certainly got it with Denis Villeneuve’s evocative crime thriller Sicario and it made for edge of your seat thrills. Pitting Emily Blunt as yet untested FBI agent Kate Macer with the mysterious mercenary hitman known as Alejandro (Benicio del Toro), the stage was set for a burning explosion of intense violence and Sicario delivered here. This was a film not for the faint of heart, but it was a cinematic experience that was simply unforgettable.
2016 – La La Land
The lightness and dramatic flair of the Hollywood musical was once again brought back to the big screen by sensational young director Damien Chazelle in La La Land, and it was film that most definitely entertained. Harkening back to classic Hollywood and constructed of beautiful images, striking fashions and sensational musical numbers, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone made a perfect couple of love-swept dreamers who were seeking romance in the pursuit of their own individual Hollywood dream. Utterly charming in every way possible, La La Land is movie magic on a grand scale.
2017 – Logan
For 19 years Hugh Jackman had crafted the perfect portrayal of the antihero with his turn as Wolverine throughout the X-Men franchise and he would make his final statement on the character in Logan. This grand vision of director James Mangold burned with intense energy and hearkened black to the classic western structure of times gone by. Here we saw a broken, damaged man ready to fight his final battle and ready to go all out in order to save the ones closest to him and it was utter perfection. To this day Logan is one of only three film’s I’ve ever cried in while watching and it carried plenty of amazing and heavy emotions. Cinema just doesn’t get more powerful that what we witnessed in Logan.
2018 – Mission: Impossible – Fallout
If you were looking for blockbuster action on the most epic of scales then you need not look further than Mission: Impossible – Fallout! Tom Cruise really pushed the adrenaline switch here and the film’s penultimate helicopter chase really took audiences to the edge with it’s sheer craziness and your eyes really opened up wide here. From beginning to end this entire film commanded your attention and you definitely got your adrenaline fix.
2019 – Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood
Master filmmaker Quentin Tarantino returned to cinemas with his ninth feature film this year in Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood and it certainly made for one wildly entertaining ride. Packed out with colourful characters and plenty of 1960s era swagger and style, Once Upon A Time In…Hollywood is a film that is made for film lovers and the level of detail and buzz that it offered up on the big screen was sure to command your attention. This film was completely wild and it’s a perfect end note to the thirty years of cinema that has come to define my life so far.