My 100 Lockdown Movies, ranked and rated, from best to worst

Published: 27th Jul, 2020

There have been some very curious side effects with this coronavirus pandemic – urges to go to the beach in droves, uncertainty around hugging family members, and the one that hit me the hardest: an unwavering focus on relatively fruitless endeavours (baking bread, flower arranging, watching films).

It doesn’t matter that the world around is crumbling, nor that I’ve battled Covid-19 myself, nor that much of my gainful employment now lurks at the bottom of the ocean somewhere – I challenged myself to watch 100 films during lockdown, and I’ve been doing so with tunnel vision intensity, keeping the old grey matter fertilised while I put myself through some hodge-podge version of film school. Watching all the stuff that’s in foreign, you know, all the ones in black and white.

It’s not hard. It’s always irked me when people proudly declare that they’ve never watched The Godfather, or never seen Star Wars, as though it’s some kind of cap feather of contrarianism. It isn’t, it’s laziness. These are blips in your cultural knowledge that can be remedied, literally, in a couple of hours. Just sit, watch, and you never need tell anyone you don’t know who Darth Vader is ever again.

Anyway, point is I succeeded, I’ve watched 100 films during Lockdown – I started from my sick bed, via my home office/shed, and occasionally on the sofa. I started with ones I’d been intending to see, then some that I saw as a kid and enjoyed. Then eventually, as my challenge grew, so the iconic critical status of my choices started to swell. Movies that could be referenced using ungodly words like “oeuvre” or “important”.

And now I can accurately identify a Truffaut from a Godard, I’ve been to Japan, Germany. I’ve fallen in love with the work of the Frenchman Eric Rohmer, whose echoes can be heard in films by directors like Richard Linklater, Noah Baumbach, and he of whom we cannot speak apparently, Woody Allen. I’ve realised that the best movies are not the longest – ideally they should be no more than 90 minutes. And I’ve also realised that to truly enjoy a film, you need floatation tank levels of solitude. It’s not a team sport, and it’s definitely not socialising.

I agree with Scorsese that much of modern cinema is just a theme park ride (Thor, Star Wars, Mad Max). The movies that really got me are explorations of characters, big on observation, less so on story. I’ve also learned about a whole list of stars I’d never heard of before all this – Setsuko Hara (the warmest screen presence I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Robin Williams), Beatrice Romand and Marie Riviere, two of Rohmer’s muses, both magnetic. I’ve seen enough of Richard Gere and Harrison Ford and Kathleen Turner to wonder how the 80s ever belonged to Arnie and Stallone. I’m convinced Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s screen romance might yet become the greatest of all time.

It’s been really rewarding, it’s also made me sound really pretentious (pretentieux, me?). Big shout outs too to Ozu, Fassbinder, Bergman. Films, I’ve realised, are bloody great – so here is my Lockdown 100, from best to worst. And if you’re curious about the rating, I’d say that anything 14+ is astoundingly good, once you get under 10, I wouldn’t bother.   

THE TOP TEN

The Green Ray (1986)
Directed by Eric Rohmer
Starring:  Marie Riviere, Beatrice Romand
Covid Rating: 19

Tokyo Story (1953)
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Starring: Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara
Covid Rating: 19

Late Spring (1949)
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Starring: Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara
Covid Rating: 18

Somewhere (2010)
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning
Covid Rating: 18

Ghost World (2001)
Directed by Terry Zwigoff
Starring: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson
Covid Rating: 17

Love in the Afternoon (1972)
Directed by Eric Rohmer
Starring: Bernard Verley, Zouzou
Covid Rating: 17

Cries and Whispers (1972)
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Harriet Andersson, Liv Ullmann
Covid Rating: 17

Before Midnight (2013)
Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Covid Rating: 17

Gregory’s Girl (1980)
Directed by Bill Forsyth
Starring: John Gordon Sinclair, Dee Herpburn
Covid Rating: 17

Bed & Board (1970)
Directed by Francois Truffaut
Starring: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Claude Jade
Covid Rating: 17

THE BEST OF THE REST

Prick up Your Ears (1987)
Directed by Stephen Frears
Starring:  Gary Oldman, Alfred Molina
Covid Rating: 17

My Dinner with Andre (1981)
Directed by Louis Malle
Starring: Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn
Covid Rating: 17

Fox and His Friends (1975)
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Starring: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Kurt Raab
Covid Rating: 16

My Night at Maud’s (1969)
Directed by Eric Rohmer
Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Francoise Fabian
Covid Rating: 16

Before Sunset (2004)
Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Covid Rating: 16

Walkabout (1971)
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Starring: Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil
Covid Rating: 16

Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Starring: Brigitte Mira, El Hedi ben Salem
Covid Rating: 16

An Autumn Tale (1998)
Directed by Eric Rohmer
Starring: Beatrice Romand, Marie Riviere
Covid Rating: 16

When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Directed by Rob Reiner
Starring: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal
Covid Rating: 16

Badlands (1974)
Directed by Terrence Malick
Starring: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek
Covid Rating: 16

I Like Killing Flies (2004)
Directed by Matt Mahurin
Starring: Kenny Shopsin
Covid Rating: 16

Le Mepris (1963)
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance
Covid Rating: 16

The Bad News Bears (1976)
Directed by Michael Ritchie
Starring: Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal
Covid Rating: 15

Blow Up (1966)
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Starring: David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave
Covid Rating: 15

Le Samourai (1967)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Starring: Alain Delon, Cathy Rosier
Covid Rating: 15

Bad Timing (1980)
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Starring: Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell
Covid Rating: 15

Claire’s Knee (1970)
Directed by Eric Rohmer
Starring: Jean-Claude Brialy, Beatrice Romand
Covid Rating: 15

12 Angry Men (1957)
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Starring: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb
Covid Rating: 15

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
Directed by Joseph Sargent
Starring: Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw
Covid Rating: 15

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
Directed by Werner Herzog
Starring: Klaus Kinski, Peter Berling
Covid Rating: 15

My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Starring: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves
Covid Rating: 15

The Aviator’s Wife (1981)
Directed by Eric Rohmer
Starring: Phillippe Marlaud, Marie Riviere
Covid Rating: 15

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring: Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch
Covid Rating: 14

Pauline at the Beach (1983)
Directed by Eric Rohmer
Starring: Amanda Langlet, Arielle Dombasle
Covid Rating: 14

Vivre Sa Vie (1962)
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Anna Karina, Sady Rebbot
Covid Rating: 14

Stolen Kisses (1968)
Directed by Francois Truffaut
Starring: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Claude Jade
Covid Rating: 14

A Good Marriage (1982)
Directed by Eric Rohmer
Starring: Beatrice Romand, Andre Dussollier
Covid Rating: 14

Jackie Brown (1997)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Pam Grier, Robert Forster
Covid Rating: 14

Breathless (1960)
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg
Covid Rating: 14

The Squid and the Whale (2005)
Directed by Noah Baumbach
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Jesse Eisenberg
Covid Rating: 14

Jules and Jim (1962)
Directed by Francois Truffaut
Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner
Covid Rating: 14

The Player (1992)
Directed by Robert Altman
Starring: Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi
Covid Rating: 14

Birdman (2014)
Directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Ed Norton
Covid Rating: 14

Crimes of Passion (1984)
Directed by Ken Russell
Starring: Kathleen Turner, Anthony Perkins
Covid Rating: 13

The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978)
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Starring: Hanna Schygulla, Klaus Lowitsch
Covid Rating: 13

High Fidelity (2000)
Directed by Stephen Frears
Starring: John Cusack, Jack Black
Covid Rating: 13

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen
Starring: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds
Covid Rating: 13

Blow Out (1981)
Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen
Covid Rating: 13

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
Directed by Monte Hellman
Starring: James Taylor, Dennis Wilson
Covid Rating: 13

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Directed by Arthur Penn
Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway
Covid Rating: 13

Moneyball (2011)
Directed by Bennett Miller
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill
Covid Rating: 13

Bait (2019)
Directed by Mark Jenkin
Starring: Edward Rowe, Mary Woodvine
Covid Rating: 13

Radio On (1979)
Directed by Christopher Petit
Starring: David Beames, Sting
Covid Rating: 13

Witness (1985)
Directed by Peter Weir
Starring: Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis
Covid Rating: 13

Little Women (2019)
Directed by Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh
Covid Rating: 12

A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
Directed by John Cassavetes
Starring: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk
Covid Rating: 12

Love on the Run (1979)
Directed by Francois Truffaut
Starring: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Claude Jade
Covid Rating: 12

Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Uma Thurman, David Carradine
Covid Rating: 12

Saturday Night (2010)
Directed by James Franco
Starring: John Malkovich, Bill Hader
Covid Rating: 12

Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Enzo Staiola, Lamberto Maggiorani
Covid Rating: 11

American Gigolo (1980)
Directed by Paul Schrader
Starring: Richard Gere, Lauren Hutton
Covid Rating: 11 

Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Directed by Bob Rafelson
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Karen Black
Covid Rating: 11

Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Directed by Charlie Kaufman
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton
Covid Rating: 11

After Hours (1985)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette
Covid Rating: 11

Repo Man (1984)
Directed by Alex Cox
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Harry Dean Stanton
Covid Rating: 11

Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Starring: O’Shea Jackson Jr, Corey Hawkins
Covid Rating: 11

Rope (1948)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: James Stewart, John Dall
Covid Rating: 11

Coffy (1973)
Directed by Jack Hill
Starring: Pam Grier, Sid Haig
Covid Rating: 11

The Guilty (2018)
Directed by Gustav Moller
Starring: Jakob Cedergren
Covid Rating: 11

The Fugitive (1993)
Directed by Andrew Davis
Starring: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones
Covid Rating: 11

The Notebook (2004)
Directed by Nick Cassavetes
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams
Covid Rating: 11

Days of the Bagnold Summer (2019)
Directed by Simon Bird
Starring: Monica Dolan, Earl Cave
Covid Rating: 11

The Long Goodbye (1973)
Directed by Robert Altman
Starring: Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt
Covid Rating: 10

Chico & Rita (2010)
Directed by Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, and Tono Errando
Covid Rating: 10

Moonstruck (1987)
Directed by Norman Jewison
Starring: Cher, Nicolas Cage
Covid Rating: 10

1917 (2019)
Directed by Sam Mendes
Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman
Covid Rating: 10

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Directed by George Miller
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron
Covid Rating: 10

I, Tonya (2017)
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Starring: Margot Robbie, Allison Janney
Covid Rating: 10

Ratatouille (2007)
Directed by Brad Bird
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm
Covid Rating: 10 

Hope and Glory (1987)
Directed by John Boorman
Starring: Sebastian Rice-Edwards, Sarah Miles
Covid Rating: 10

The Trouble with Harry (1955)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Edmund Gwenn, Shirley MacLaine
Covid Rating: 10

The Naked Gun 2 ½ (1991)
Directed by David Zucker
Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Priscilla Presley
Covid Rating: 10

THE NOT-SO-SURES

Babette’s Feast (1987)
Directed by Gabriel Axel
Starring: Stephane Audran, Birgitte Federspiel
Covid Rating: 9

The Kid (1921)
Directed by Charlie Chaplin
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan
Covid Rating: 9

Mo Better Blues (1990)
Directed by Spike Lee
Starring: Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes
Covid Rating: 9

Three Men and a Baby (1987)
Directed by Leonard Nimoy
Starring: Tom Selleck, Ted Danson
Covid Rating: 9

Dirty Work (1998)
Directed by Bob Saget
Starring: Norm Macdonald, Artie Lange
Covid Rating: 8

Billy Madison (1995)
Directed by Tamra Davis
Starring: Adam Sandler, Norm Macdonald
Covid Rating: 8

The Running Man (1987)
Directed by Paul Michael Glaser
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso
Covid Rating: 8

Die Hard 2 (1990)
Directed by Renny Harlin
Starring: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia
Covid Rating: 8

Thor Ragnorok (2017)
Directed by Taika Waititi
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett
Covid Rating: 7

The Florida Project (2017)
Directed by Sean Baker
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Bria Vinaite
Covid Rating: 7

Big Night (1996)
Directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci
Starring: Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub
Covid Rating: 6

Letter to Brezhnev (1985)
Directed by Chris Bernard
Starring: Alexandra Pigg, Margi Clarke
Covid Rating: 5

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Starring: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver
Covid Rating: 4

Husbands (1970)
Directed by John Cassavetes
Starring: John Cassavetes, Peter Falk
Covid Rating: 3

Hustlers (2019)
Directed by Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez
Covid Rating: 3

The Big Bird Cage (1972)
Directed by Jack Hill
Starring: Pam Grier, Sid Haig
Covid Rating: 2

Rocky IV (1985)
Directed by Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren
Covid Rating: 2

Police Academy 2 (1985)
Directed by Jerry Paris
Starring: Steve Guttenberg, Bubba Smith
Covid Rating: 1

Josh Burt
About the author:
Josh has been a writer and journalist for the best part of twenty years and has written for modern staples like FHM and Cosmopolitan and The Daily Telegraph and The Sun. He has also written a small handful of so-so books that you can still buy.

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