Films That Didn’t Make My Top 10 List



Choosing ten desert island films for my upcoming event at London’s wonderful Cinema Museum on May 14th (a few tickets still available) has been a nightmare, mainly because I change my mind every ten seconds. (Is it only guys who love making lists?) I finally decided to limit my choice to ten films that directly influenced me, no matter how cheesy or unfashionable they were. That means only one arthouse flick and a few embarrassing British comedies.

One film that would have made the cut was Kubrick’s ‘2001’, which the film critic Anne Billson in her excellent ‘Film Database’ (now available as an e-book) couldn’t connect with – and I wondered if it was a film few women connected with until I remember that I first heard about it via my mother, who sat on the end of my bed and excitedly described the entire plot to me.

Time has been kind to the film, although the spaceships are now clearly static rostrum photographs (would it be utter sacrilege to suggest an alternative cut where they move?). What separates the film is its stretches of silence revealing the true vastness of space, its underplayed characters and its oblique message. I particularly love the encounter on the space station with Leonard Rossiter(!) in which the dialogue is awkward and strained by government restrictions on information. Anyone who complains about the oddly static performances misses the point; this is a future that belongs to the scientists.

When the signal finally goes out and awakens us to other possibilities in the universe, it will fill our eyes with so much wonder that a new renaissance can begin; it’s the ultimate optimistic film, so open-ended that it made the sequel ‘2010’ redundant before it arrived.

There isn’t a moment in the film which isn’t iconic – how many films can you say that about? If you’ve seen the viral online joke in which Siri replaces Hall (check out my Twitter feed @peculiar – I can’t upload it here as I’m in an airport) you’ll know how prescient the film was. And it’s still the most stylishly designed movie ever.

Okay, it got a couple of things wrong; Corbett Woodall didn’t live to be 150 and Pan Am went bust, but the underfloor-lighting-antique chair look didn’t hit hotels until around 2001, so Kubrick was on the money.

Most importantly, it’s a science fiction film (possible the only one) which achieves what it set out to do – to convey the epic scale of the undertaking, to speculate, to hope, to thrill and to reveal that there is more beyond our little planet than we can ever hope to understand.

The reason why I didn’t include it is twofold; 1. It’s simply too familiar, and I want to surprise the audience. 2. I didn’t see it until fifteen years after it came out (but then I saw it about 20 times).

5 comments on “Films That Didn’t Make My Top 10 List”

  1. Vivienne says:

    Not only guys. I have many lists and even a list of my lists. Not yet a definitive Top 10 films, but 2001 definitely a strong contender. Also have a ticket for May 14th which may help with the choice!

  2. Jackie Hayles says:

    I was expecting my first baby in 1978 when I watched 2001 and I was knocked out by the foetus and the idea of rebirth; an eternal pulse of life. I still find it truly moving. As for Leonard Rossiter, he had a great cameo in one of my top ten films, Barry Lyndon. It could be my top film of all.

  3. keith page says:

    I found 2001 rather too long; the best bits as far as I’m concerned were the spaceplane/ space station scenes.A great contrast with the somewhat shoddy present-day reality.I recently watched ‘Forbidden Planet’ and found it really not too bad at all for 1956.

  4. Ken Mann says:

    I was taken to see this on first release when I was 7 or 8. My father drove us to the nearest cinema that had the right screen. I think this innoculated me against Star Wars. Thanks Dad.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    I saw it then and it made enough of an imprint that I haven’t seen it since but I think I need to see it again with more educated eyes. It influenced everything that came afterward. I knew the movie the minute I saw the picture.

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