100 films watched in 2021 ranked, rated, and reviewed

While the world has continued its alligator wrestle with COVID-19, I’ve continued watching as many films as my champagne lifestyle will allow – a mix of the iconic ones you’re repeatedly urged in magazine articles to see before you die, and others that simply pop into my head, or drift into my line of vision.

It’s been a thoroughly enriching side-effect of the pandemic.

Anyway, no more ado, we all fucking hate ado. Here’s the 100 I’ve watched in 2021, all reviewed, ranked from best to worst, and rated on my ingenious Covid Rating – 1 being very very shit, 19 being the bee’s actual bollocks.

Seven Samurai (1954)

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura

At 3.5 hours, it’s way too long – that’s two shags (right?) – but do it in two sittings and you’ve got something very close to perfection. Seven Samurai, all different, all fully realised, and a deflowering love story plonked in the mix that’s genuinely sweet. Then it starts raining. Covid Rating: 19

All about Eve (1950)

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Starring: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter

The downsides of fame viewed from just about every angle. The ruthless hunger of someone searching for it, the paranoid desperation of someone clinging to it. There’s not a soul that hasn’t been sold, no real hero, just different levels of Faustian degradation. Bette Davis is the fading Broadway star being slowly devoured by Anne Baxter’s devious upstart. Covid Rating: 19

Notorious (1946)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman and Claude Raines reunite after Casablanca, while Cary Grant and Hitchcock get together pre-North by Northwest. And what you’ve got is pure tension all round, as Bergman is tasked with infiltrating a Nazi group, and Grant’s government agent with not falling in love with her. But guess what… Covid Rating: 18

Scenes from a Marriage (1974)

Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson

Ingmar Bergman’s forensic study of a relationship told in vignettes as a couple comes apart at the seams, then clumsily stitches itself back together again in patchwork. Caused a mass spate of divorces on its release, and you can sort of see why. Covid Rating: 18

Local Hero (1983)

Directed by Bill Forsyth
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Peter Riegert 

A big corporate monster attempts to buy a remote Scottish town, yet somehow – veering wildly from cliché –  everyone involved in the deal is painted with enough humanity to make them not just sympathetic, but likeable. It might be the most uplifting film I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen Dead Poet’s Society. Covid Rating: 18

Day for Night (1973)

Directed by Francois Truffaut
Starring: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Jacqueline Bisset

My favourite Truffaut film, a point I’ll be passionately and sometimes violently reasserting at drinks parties for the rest of my life. It’s a movie about making movies and it’s better than Singin’ in The Rain (fuck you, it is!), but not quite as good as Sunset Boulevard. Covid Rating: 17

The Graduate (1967)

Directed by Mike Nichols
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft

Once you get used to Dustin Hoffman playing a sprightly 21-year-old with a voice made up entirely of bass notes, and you accept that it’s the late 60s and the sexual politics are all over the place – most notably when a girl is in two minds about a boy because she thinks he might have raped her mum – what you’ve got is a near-faultless romantic comedy. Covid Rating: 17

Beau Travail (1999)

Directed by Claire Denis
Starring: Denis Lavant, Michel Subor

Murderous intensity simmers then bubbles over against a backdrop of startlingly beautiful African landscapes, as the Foreign Legion is put through its various paces. You could probably happily watch it with the sound off – but then you’d miss the magic of the surprising dance solo at the end. Covid Rating: 17

La La Land (2016)

Directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

For some reason I’d swerved the glitzy allure of La La Land, figuring I’m too hairy and ungainly to be seduced by such things as musicals and swishy dresses. But more fool me, because it’s bloody wonderful and somehow achieves the Holy Grail of being an uplifting breakup movie. Covid Rating: 17

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Directed by Elia Kazan
Starring: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando

Like his character 20 years later in Last Tango in Paris, Brando’s Stanley Kowalski is riddled with overt psychological problems, but here his iconic smouldering ultimately overshadows any shocking displays of brutality. Vivien Leigh, a real-life troubled soul, is also amazing. Covid Rating: 17

Silent Running  (1972)

Directed by Douglas Trumbull
Starring: Bruce Dern, Cliff Potts

Bruce Dern plays a deranged ecowarrior trying to keep an Eden Project style rainforest alive in space – all alone, just him and his two androids… because he murdered the rest of the crew (don’t ask!). The accompanying Joan Baez song is lovely, but here’s the real newsflash – if we’re talking space movies, I prefer it to Kubrick’s 2001. Covid Rating: 16

The Swimmer (1968)

Directed by Frank Perry
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Janet Landgard

Burt Lancaster decides to “swim home” through his neighbours’ backyard pools kickstarting a series of weird vignettes that paint a picture of a man who has lost it all including his marbles. A genuinely oddity – even down to the central premise that you can just wander around in your trunks without anyone bothering to be bothered. Covid Rating: 16

Body Double (1984)

Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring: Craig Wasson, Melanie Griffith

If I’ve discovered anything in 2021 (which I definitely haven’t) it’s the unmitigated madness of Brian De Palma films. No one’s better at going highbrow and lowbrow at the same time, veering from arty to trashy – and this, essentially a garish 1980s grindhouse mashup of Vertigo and Rear Window, is pure sleaze, and fucking excellent for it. Covid Rating: 16

Whiplash (2014)

Directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons

Sort of a sports movie, but with jazz drums. Or even a war film, with bandleader J.K. Simmons – the third most famous JK behind Rowling and Jamiroquai – channelling the most terrifying big screen depiction of angry toxic masculinity since Lee J. Cobb in On the Waterfront. Covid Rating: 16

The Last Detail (1973)

Directed by Hal Ashby
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid

Jack Nicholson and Otis Young escort a gangly Randy Quaid to naval prison in a threeway buddy movie that’s almost up there with Midnight Run (though not quite). They do all the usual Friday night stuff – drugs, prostitutes, fist fights. My favourite Hal Ashby film, fractionally ahead of Being There. And possibly my favourite Nicholson performance. Covid Rating: 16

The Age of Innocence (1993)

Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer

Scorsese does Merchant Ivory, and does it surprisingly without shooting anyone in the fucking face. Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer step into the romantic Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci roles, and love each other with no less intensity. Covid Rating: 16

The Long Good Friday (1980)

Directed by John Mackenzie
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren

As British as eating an eel with your mashed potatoes, and better than every other UK gangster film you can think of, including the various Guy Ritchies, and the one where Tom Hardy plays both members of Spandau Ballet. Bob Hoskins is colossal, as is Her Royal Highness, Helen Mirren. Covid Rating: 16

Palm Springs (2020)

Directed by Max Barbakow
Starring: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti

A timeloop comedy set at a wedding, I watched this not long after re-watching Groundhog Day and, cover your ears everyone, I PREFER IT. It goes to darker places, when it’s being funny it’s funnier, when it’s being clever it’s cleverer. And the coup de grace – it’s got a better Andy in it. Covid Rating: 16

The Third Man (1949)

Directed by Carol Reed
Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten

Orson Welles appears from the shadows in post-war Vienna, then acts his gigantic bollocks off on a Ferris wheel. You don’t need me to tell you this is an amazing film, 300 million other men (both male and female ones) got there before me. Covid Rating: 16

Play it Again, Sam (1972)

Directed by Herbert Ross
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton

A Woody Allen film that Woody Allen wrote (originally as a play, then as this), starred in, but didn’t direct. So essentially a great Woody Allen film without officially being a Woody Allen film. I feel like I’m saying Woody Allen a lot – not always advisable with the current winds that blow. Covid Rating: 16

Autumn Sonata (1978)

Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Ingrid Bergman, Liv Ullmann

Two Bergmans (or should it be Bergmen?) with Ingmar directing Ingrid, here playing an aging pianist receiving angry parenting lectures. Ingmar’s muse Liv Ullmann is insanely good as the damaged daughter exploding truth bombs about feeling neglected. Covid Rating: 16

Lost in America (1985)

Directed by Albert Brooks
Starring: Albert Brooks, Julie Hagerty

Albert Brooks, originally born Albert Einstein, presents his own theory of relativity in this comedy about a disgruntled New York couple feeling an intense gravitational pull away from the rat race towards a simpler life. But as the great man Ovid rightly opined many years earlier, the grass is never greener on the other side. Another win for philosophy over science. Covid Rating: 16

Red Desert (1964)

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Starring: Monica Vitti, Richard Harris

One of those languid Michelangelo Antonioni movies everyone warns you about – all beaten down landscapes weathered by attrition, or large industrial buildings somehow imposingly beautiful. A looming backdrop to hot women with complex minds having love affairs by accident. Covid Rating: 16

Girlfriends (1978)

Directed by Claudia Weill
Starring: Melanie Mayron, Christopher Guest

Claudia Weill’s cult 1970s New York comedy about a how a specific creative milieu copes when conventional living comes barging into their charmingly dilapidated apartments – here in the form of one girl getting married, the other one definitely not. Big echoes are found in the iconic sitcom Girls a few years down the road. Covid Rating: 15

Wings of Desire (1987)

Directed by Wim Wenders
Starring: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin

Existential silences, inner monologues that we can all hear, an angel desperate to connect with the people he’s watching over – particularly, it must be noted, the hotter ones with the sexier bods. Yes sir, even angels get the horn. Like most of the Wim Wenders oeuvre, it’s a sad fairy tale, simultaneously uplifting and melancholic. Covid Rating: 15

Alice in the Cities (1974)

Directed by Wim Wenders
Starring: Yella Rottlander, Rudiger Vogler

You wait for one Wim Wenders, and two come along at once. This time with planes, trains, automobiles, buses, and ferries as a disgruntled writer helps a young girl search for her elusive grandmother’s house. Its whereabouts being the elusive part, not the gran. The first part of the Wenders “road trilogy”. Covid Rating: 15

Late Autumn (1960)

Directed by Yasujiro Ozu
Starring: Setsuko Hara, Yoko Tsukasa

Unlike the endless stream of Saki flowing in his movies, you can have too much Ozu, and this one found me over-satiated as I dove in. It was time to tap out for a bit. Pop the lid back on the bottle. That said, the story of three drinking buddies prodding around other people’s love lives is as lovely as always. Because of course it is – all his films are lovely. Covid Rating: 15

Volver (2006)

Directed by Pedro Almodovar
Starring: Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura

A trip to Spain, and a first Almodova. While the abiding memory might be, rather objectifyingly, Penelope Cruz’s spectacular cleavage, let’s not forget that squodged between those magnificent breasts is a far more disturbing tale of abuse, murder, and faked deaths. Covid Rating: 15

The Parallax View (1974)

Directed by Alan J. Pakula
Starring: Warren Beatty, Paula Prentiss

Warren Beatty plays an investigative journalist chasing down conspiracy theories, putting him somewhere in the middle of the Venn Diagram that links All the President’s Men and Fletch. It does a great job of emoting paranoia, and all in that muscular 70s cinema way where even the apples look like they’d break your teeth. Covid Rating: 15

Django (1966)

Directed by Sergio Corbucci
Starring: Franco Nero, Jose Canalejas

There’s not a great amount of jeopardy to speak of when your main character is a sharp shooter who repeatedly guns down 23 guys in 0.7 seconds – but viewed as a superhero film (of sorts) this is heads and shoulders above any of your computer-generated Marvel marvels. Covid Rating: 15

De Palma (2015)

Directed by Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow
Starring: Brian De Palma

My new favourite American film director is entertainingly candid as he goes through his movies one-by-one, giving each a hot take and honest assessment. Usurped in critical opinion by Scorsese, Spielberg, Coppola etc, but possibly, actually, the most interesting of the lot. Covid Rating: 15

Dressed to Kill (1980)

Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson

This doesn’t scan particularly well with the current gender and identity winds that bluster, but taken as a trashy homage to Hitchcock’s Psycho, it’s great. That Nancy Allen was nominated for both a Golden Globe and a Golden Rapsberry for her performance pretty much sums it up. Covid Rating: 15

L’Avventura (1960)

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni 
Starring: Gabriele Ferzetti, Monica Vitti

Antonioni takes his time, like REALLY takes his time, as he unfurls an ambiguous tale about a woman going missing on a boat trip and the bizarre love affair that ensues between her boyfriend and her best pal. Emotional complication, stunning views, classic Antonioni. Covid Rating: 15

Wild Strawberries (1957)

Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Victor Sjostrom, Bibi Andersson

An aging intellectual takes a trip, both in an actual sense to pick up a doctorate, and also a metaphorical one down a road I like to call “Memory Lane” (a term I completely made up). And while going down this Memory Lane (my term), he bears witness to his more notable failings. Covid Rating: 15

Le Cercle Rouge (1970)

Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Starring: Alain Delon, Bourvil

One from the Frenchman Jean-Pierre Melville, and another of those foreign ones that’s in foreign. But once you’ve crashed gracefully through the language barrier, you’ll find a thrilling, um, thriller, but the real feather in its baguette is that it looks magnifique. Covid Rating: 15

Working Girl (1988)

Directed by Mike Nichols
Starring: Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford

Insane 80s hair – much of it located around Alec Baldwin’s nipples – Melanie Griffith doing a pitch perfect Marilyn, Harrison Ford being loads better than you remember, Sigourney Weaver absolutely killing it. The only blip being that female empowerment 80s style always seems to pit women against each other. Don’t they know men are the common enemy? Covid Rating: 15

Amelie (2001)

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz

As often depicted on the big screen, it’s the people who view themselves as somehow romantically-impaired who can then cobble together impossibly lovely gestures that make your heart melt. As demonstrated in this entire film, pretty much. Covid Rating: 15

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

Directed by Luis Bunuel
Starring: Fernando Rey, Stephane Audran

Surreal comedy, people describing their dreams – all a bit of a bête noire for this guy (points at face, face is a jellyfish). BUT, this farcical almost-story about a group of bourgeois friends not quite being able to have dinner might just have tamed the beast. (checks melting watch) Momentarily anyway. Covid Rating: 15

The Searchers (1956)

Directed by John Ford
Starring: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter

A widely-lauded Western in which the gorgeous scenery wilts somewhat beneath the potency of John Wayne’s unbridled, unabashed hatred of other cultures. But putting one of America’s chief purveyors of blind raging nationalism to one side, it’s a great film. Correctly iconic. Covid Rating: 15

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Directed by Stanley Kramer
Starring: Sidney Poitier, Katherine Hepburn

The daring tale of interracial love in 1960s America – though was it really that daring? – the frequent debate is to whether Sidney Poitier’s character was so comically flawless as to undermine any good intentions. But in terms of performances, lovely work all round. Covid Rating: 15

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Kris Kristofferson

Scorsese takes a road trip with Ellen Burstyn’s widowed mother-of-one as she grabs a second chance at pursuing the music career she’d always wanted, and deals with all the tawdry menfolk that come with it – mostly abusers in one way or another. Covid Rating: 14

Summer of Soul (2021)

Directed by Questlove
Starring: Sly Stone, Nina Simone

While Woodstock was peddling its brown acid, minds were being equally blown a little way down the road in Harlem, at the Festival of Soul. And here it is unearthed and dusted off for your pleasure. Features Sly and Stevie and especially Nina Simone showing everyone what’s up. Covid Rating: 14

Police Story (1985)

Directed by Jackie Chan
Starring: Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung

Bruce Lee’s martial artistry, Arnie’s sense of humour, a little bit of Robin Williams schmaltz, and you’ve got Jackie Chan. He wrote, directed, and starred in this – but the maddest thing is that the best bit might be the blooper reel in the end credits. Covid Rating: 14

The Conformist (1970)

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli

Themes of sexual repression and Fascism, which you could probably argue are intrinsically linked anyway – only here they’re combined with empty decadence, double crossing, and very sexy camera work. The only let-down really is some very dodgy dubbing. Covid Rating: 14

Under the Skin (2013)

Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams

Scarlet Johansson is one of the great “one for them/one for me” actors and here she’s doing a one for me/us, as she removes all of her clothes and plays a twisted alien harvesting people in Scotland. Cue erections (both on and off screen, you suspect). But seriously, it’s a very weird film. Covid Rating: 14

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Farley Granger, Robert Walker

The hazards of sparking up a conversation on public transport fully realised by Hitchcock, rippling outward into an inevitable world of paranoia and grisly murder. Robert Walker, playing a charming psychopath, was battling his own demons in real life and died soon after. Covid Rating: 14

Killer of Sheep (1978)

Directed by Charles Burnett
Starring: Henry G. Sanders, Kaycee Moore

No arcs, no character development, no real story to speak of, just scenes of black family life in 1970s LA. Even the film’s title is an act of neo-realism, because while it smacks of horror it’s just a factual note about the protagonist’s job in a slaughterhouse. Covid Rating: 14

A Blonde in Love (1965)

Directed by Milos Forman
Starring: Hana Brejchova, Vladimir Pucholt

When your film title is also its synopsis, that’s a pretty good sign. In many ways, you could even argue, it’s your classic elevator pitch. But while this is indeed about a blonde in love there’s a few extra bones you should know. It’s a girl (the blonde), it’s quite arty, it’s all in Czechoslovakian. Covid Rating: 14

Scarecrow (1973)

Directed by Jerry Schatzberg
Starring: Gene Hackman, Al Pacino

Pacino and Hackman play drifters attempting to cobble their lives back together – one a mountain of insuppressable rage, the other a puckish clown with tragedy written all over him. Apparently, behind the scenes, the actors really got on each other’s tits. Covid Rating: 14

A Tale of Springtime (1990)

Directed by Eric Rohmer
Starring: Anne Teyssedre, Hugues Quester

Meat and potatoes stuff from the thinking man’s Frenchman, Eric Rohmer. Loneliness, friendship, what to do if your friend’s randy old dad starts spouting vague intellectualisms in an attempt to bone you. That kind of thing. Covid Rating: 14

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Starring: Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider

Brando greases up his hair almost as much as the bottom he butters in a grotty French apartment. Pauline Kael famously compared Brando to Norman Mailer (as a compliment), but the equal genius here is Maria Schneider playing way more than a piece of ass. Covid Rating: 14

Zazie Dans Le Metro (1960)

Directed by Louis Malle
Starring: Catherine Demongeot, Philippe Noiret

My third Louis Malle after Au Revour Les Enfants (pas mal) and My Dinner With Andre (tres bon), and it’s the surreal story of a 10-year-old girl bouncing around Paris getting into one farcical situation after another. It currently sits somewhere between the two in terms of how much I enjoyed it. Covid Rating: 14

LA Story (1991)

Directed by Mick Jackson
Starring: Steve Martin, Victoria Tennant

I’d seen this back in the day and remember it being jaunty and full of gags, but what I’d erased from memory was how fucking weird it is. Steve Martin wrote it himself, and you get the sense this was him going all out to make his masterpiece, a thought-provoking piece of movie art. Very nearly got there too. Covid Rating: 14

My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend (1987)

Directed by Eric Rohmer
Starring: Emmanuelle Chaulet, Sophie Renoir

More Rohmer – and one thing he does so well is to take relatively unknown, relatively normal people and mould them perfectly into his world. Hence, more actors you’ve never seen before nor since get caught up in Rohmeresque tangles, pitting friendship against romance, weighing up the pros and cons of shagging around on holiday versus staying home with your hot boyfriend. Real life essentially. Covid Rating: 14

The Touch (1971)

Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Elliott Gould, Bibi Andersson

More Ingmar Bergman levels of emotional intensity, as Bibi Andersson has an affair with Elliott Gould’s needy American archaeologist behind Ming the Merciless’s back (and eventually to his face). It’s essentially a Woody Allen film with no jokes, in the same way that Woody Allen films are essentially Ingmar Bergman films with them. Covid Rating: 14

His Girl Friday (1940)

Directed by Howard Hawks
Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell

One of those screwball Howard Hawks comedies your grandma used to yammer on about. Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, rat-a-tat-tat conversations at a million miles an hour. They’re divorced, she’s engaged to marry a boring insurance guy, but then guess fucking what… Covid Rating: 14

Groundhog Day (1993)

Directed by Harold Ramis
Starring: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell

Since the unexpected elevation of Palm Springs, this mightn’t be the best timeloop comedy in the pantheon anymore, but sweet god damn it’s still really good. Bill Murray’s finest in fact, with the exception of Rushmore and Lost in Translation. And maybe Stripes. Covid Rating: 14

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Starring: Paul Newman, George Kennedy

My favourite lockdown Paul Newman, which isn’t hard considering how much I disliked the bile spewed forth by Slapshot. Here though, he’s a charming jailbird with a cursed existence, unable to escape the inevitable cruelty of life no matter how hard you’re rooting for him.  Which is very hard indeed, btw. Covid Rating: 14

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Directed by John Landis
Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter

I’d seen “Werewolf… in London, American” (as I call it) years ago and only remembered it in crackling flashbulb moments – the pub, the cartoonish transition from man to wolf, the funny decomposing friend, Jenny Agutter, more Jenny Agutter, Agutter again. Turns out, actually, that’s pretty much it. Covid Rating: 14

Splash (1984)

Directed by Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah

Essentially The Little Mermaid, only here she’s bigger, nuder, looks like Daryl Hannah, and her prince charming, somehow, has devolved into Tom Hanks. But apart from that. Covid Rating: 14

Mosquito Coast (1986)

Directed by Peter Weir
Starring: Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren

Critically dismembered when it came out, and unjustly so. Harrison Ford taps into some Aguirre, the Wrath of God intensity, and River Phoenix and Martha Plimpton prove yet again that they were the most 1980s thing about the 1980s. Including Pop Tarts for breakfast and a Mad Lizzie workout. Covid Rating: 14

Sisters (1972)

Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt

De Palma often returns to the world of mad scientists and human experiments, and that’s where we’re at here as Lois Lane from Superman plays identical conjoined twins, one a real cupcake the other a murderous psychopath. Or are they one in the same? Shit sorry, should probably have said SPOILER ALERT. Covid Rating: 13

The Fury (1978)

Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring: Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes

Ole De Palma again, back dealing with telekinesis (like in Carrie), but this time with a gaping hole where a plot should be. No matter, the music’s excellent, and he even explodes John Cassavetes at the end – something I’ve wanted to do ever since I sat through Husbands. Covid Rating: 13

Masculin Féminin (1966)

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Chantal Goya

Godard teams up with Truffaut’s muse Jean-Pierre Leaud as he attempts to charm the bones off some ladies, commentate on the war in Vietnam, and in a very general sense, represent the children of Marx and Coca-Cola. With mixed results. Covid Rating: 13

Reds (1981)

Directed by Warren Beatty
Starring: Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton

Warren Beatty’s second most notorious whopper, this is a three-hour socialist manifesto that doesn’t quite come alive, despite the always-engrossing presence of Diane Keaton – whose radical feminist writer has various intellectuals thinking entirely with their underpants. It’s easy to see why. Covid Rating: 13

The Driver (1978)

Directed by Walter Hill
Starring: Ryan O’Neal, Bruce Dern

Cat and Mouse starring Bruce Dern as Tom (Cat) Ryan O’Neal as Jerry (Mouse), and Isabelle Adjani as the tempting chunk of swiss cheese. In fact, I may even have granted it too much detail – in the film they’re simply known as The Detective, The Driver and The Player. Covid Rating: 13

Total Recall (1990)

Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone

Is this Arnie’s best film? It’s definitely one of the best Philip K Dick adaptations. But while K Dick’s literary version may have ruminated on the deeper philosophical implications of manufacturing your life, this is more concerned with eyes popping out of heads and aliens with three tits. Quite right too. Covid Rating: 13

Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle (1987)

Directed by Eric Rohmer
Starring: Joelle Miquel, Jessica Forde 

Friendship played out in vignettes at the hands of Eric Rohmer, though “adventures” may be overstating it a bit. Can going to a café for a cup of coffee really count as a mad caper? Covid Rating: 13

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)

Directed by Paul Mazursky
Starring: Natalie Wood, Elliott Gould

I love Elliott Gould, and truthfully I have no idea why. Could be the loud talking, could be the will he/won’t he relationship he’s got with having a moustache, could be that he seems to me like a complete product of his time, a new kind of movie star, a leading man through a counterculture lens – hairy, flawed, always questioning societal norms. Here he’s really struggling with the idea of swinging. Covid Rating: 13

Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Directed by Buster Keaton
Starring: Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire

An early hybrid of action movies and rom-coms starring Buster Keaton and some hot piece of 1920s ass credited simply as The Girl. It’s one of those silent movies we’re all too impatient to bother with, but more fool us because it’s really good, and not ironically good like when cool people say they like a Britney Spears song. Actually good. Covid Rating: 13

Pillow Talk (1959)

Directed by Michael Gordon
Starring: Doris Day, Rock Hudson

As someone raised in the 1980s, when for some reason 1960s US sitcoms like The Munsters, The Monkees, and I Dream of Jeannie were practically on loop on TV, I was always going to be a sucker for upbeat romantic comedies from a similar time – especially ones starring lovely Doris Day and hilarious Thelma Ritter, who, by the way, might’ve been a comedy genius. Covid Rating: 13

Death on the Nile (1978)

Directed by John Guillermin
Starring: Peter Ustinov, Mia Farrow

Assemble some of the greatest thesps of their generation, pop them on a boat with strict instructions to go overboard… with their acting, obviously. Covid Rating: 13

Nomadland (2020)

Directed by Chloe Zhao
Starring: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn

Strange one. Abundantly excellent, laden with awards, and very much of this time and probably many other times for that matter. Yet like the vast landscapes it depicts, there seemed a strange chasm of emptiness at the core of it. Perhaps that’s the idea, a celebration of absolutely nothingness. Covid Rating: 12

The Passenger (1975)

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider

It’s a simple lesson really, if you’re going to steal someone’s identity, make sure they’re not an arms dealer. It all slowly blows up in Jack Nicholson’s face in Antonioni’s navel gazer, which finds yet another acting titan outplayed by Maria Schneider. Covid Rating: 12

The Bride Wore Black (1968)

Directed by Francois Truffaut
Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Jean-Claude Brialy

A Truffaut revenge film, a widowed bride reaping bloody retribution on the motherfuckers who killed her husband. It’s kind of like Death Wish but slower, and Frencher, and not as brutal. You know what, I think I prefer the idea of it. Covid Rating: 12

Eating Raoul (1982)

Directed by Paul Bartel
Starring: Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel

One of those cult movies everyone goes mad about, the kind you’d find in a big basket at Blockbusters going for around a quid – only now it’s got the stamp of approval from The Criterion, elevating it to an artsier status. It’s all swingers parties and frying pan murders, you’d love it. Possibly. Covid Rating: 12

Sound of Metal (2019)

Directed by Darius Marder
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke

Finally, a classic “would you rather…” conundrum solved as it becomes abundantly clear that hearing nothing at all is better than hearing only tinny crackling sounds – the result of expensive ear drum surgery gone awry. Covid Rating: 12

Black Bear (2020)

Directed by Lawrence Michael Levine
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott

One of those film-in-a-films that leave you intrigued or completely nonplussed. This one does a bit of both, shifting tone midway, with the lead actors swapping roles in kind. Problem is, the first act is waaaaaay stronger than the second. Covid Rating: 11

Mystery Train (1989)

Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Masatoshi Nagase, Yuki Kudo

Three vignettes from the same night in Memphis, all centred around a local flophouse which exists beneath the looming shadow of Elvis Presley. Joe Strummer is also there for fans of either The Clash or very bad acting. Covid Rating: 11

Pretty Woman (1990)

Directed by Garry Marshall
Starring: Richard Gere, Julia Roberts

If you’re looking at it purely from a business perspective, her as a prostitute who falls for a client, him as a wealthy trick repeatedly taking a whore to work events, both come out of the whole thing looking entirely unprofessional. As a romance, it’s similarly flawed. Covid Rating: 11

Love and Basketball (2000)

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Omar Epps

If the question is whether two dedicated athletes can find room to satisfy one another emotionally, then this provides a definitive answer, which is (drum roll): not sure, sorry. If you’re looking for absolute clarity, you might be better off asking Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. Covid Rating: 11

Almost Famous (2000)

Directed by Cameron Crowe
Starring: Billy Crudup, Patrick Fugit

Ironically, as a love letter to rock and roll and life on the road, it comes off a little too glossy, a bit too Nickelback when you want Nirvana. It’s like knocking the door expecting Mick Jagger to answer and getting Phil Collins in a big dressing gown. Covid Rating: 11

New Police Story (2004)

Directed by Benny Chan
Starring: Jackie Chan, Nicholas Tse

Imagine a really amazing episode of the BBC espionage drama Spooks, but with Jackie Chan beating the living shit out of bad guys. This is precisely that. Covid Rating: 11

The Bee Gees – How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (2020)

Directed by Frank Marshall
Starring: Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb

You can’t move for docs about musical icons, and here’s another one that does the necessary job of making you reassess and appreciate old sounds, while once-again reasserting the common assertion that worldwide fame does the opposite of nourishing your spirit. Covid Rating: 11

The Story of Adele H. (1975)

Directed by Francois Truffaut
Starring: Isabelle Adjani, Bruce Robinson

My least favourite François Truffaut so far, a point I’ll be continually brandishing at cocktail parties or family picnics. It features Bruce Robinson who went on to make Withnail and I – with the “I” character created in his image. Covid Rating: 11

Same Time, Next Year (1978)

Directed by Robert Mulligan
Starring: Alan Alda, Ellen Burstyn

A timeloop romantic comedy, but only in the sense that Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn (Alan and Ellen, you just can’t make it up) meet in the same place at the same time each year to have a few nice shags before getting back to their marriages. It’s adapted from a play and it shows. Covid Rating: 10

The Master (2012)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix

Paul Thomas Anderson takes a thinly veiled pop at Scientology, and Joaquim Phoenix conjures up yet another disturbed character you’d probably duck in and out of traffic to avoid. Covid Rating: 10

Stardust (2020)

Directed by Gabriel Range
Starring: Johnny Flynn, Marc Maron

Got a bit of a kicking, and fairly undeservedly. Problem is, when you’ve got the weight of the hypersensitive Bowie legions expecting sacrilege and you’re armed with none of his actual music, it’s like, as George Clinton might put it, trying to make love in one stroke. Covid Rating: 10

It’s My Turn (1980)

Directed by Claudia Weill
Starring: Jill Clayburgh, Michael Douglas

After loving Girlfriends, I sought out another from Claudia Weill and found this – in which Jill Clayburgh’s heart is on the line, and it’s a straight up tug’o’war between Charles Grodin and bearded Michael Douglas to see who’ll get it. It’s fine. Totally fine. Completely and utterly okay. Covid Rating: 10

Arrival (2016)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner

A plodding ode to the adage about how it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all – via a little bit of Close Encounters. For many it’s a transcendental existential masterpiece, but less so for this guy (points at face, pokes both eyes out). Covid Rating: 10

A Rainy Day in New York (2019)

Directed by Woody Allen
Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Elle Fanning

The low score has nothing to do with the turning tides against Woody Allen, and everything to do with the mismatch of Allen’s words with Timothee Chalamet’s languid delivery. Worked just about with Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris, but lightening has not struck twice, despite all the rain. Covid Rating: 9

The Meg (2018)

Directed by Jon Turteltaub
Starring: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li

Presumably assembled in a lab where they look at algorithms and map it all out beat by beat. Bubble-gum. Covid Rating: 9

An American Pickle (2020)

Directed by Brandon Trost
Starring: Seth Rogen, Sarah Snook

Hitchcock supposedly once said that short stories make the best material for movie adaptations, but that’s not the case here in a film spawned of a funny New Yorker piece. A few nice jabs at hipsters from people who are ostensibly hipsters themselves. In which case, self-hating ones, it seems. Covid Rating: 8

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Directed by David Frankel
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep

Having spent the first ten years of my career working at magazines I can vouch for the sadistic, self-centred, sociopathic nature of all magazine editors. That aside, this is just Working Girl by numbers, and not as good. Covid Rating: 8

Logan’s Run (1976)

Directed by Michael Anderson
Starring: Michael York, Jenny Agutter

Mid-70s, so we’re talking peak Agutter, but we’re also caught somewhere in the middle of the Venn Diagram that links Planet of the Apes with Flash Gordon. Though unfortunately, the worst bits of both. Covid Rating: 8

Tommy (1975)

Directed by Ken Russell
Starring: Roger Daltrey, Ann-Margret

An undeniable soundtrack. You just can’t deny it. This, on the other hand, should probably have been denied somewhere along the production line. Covid Rating: 7

Real Life (1979)

Directed by Albert Brooks
Starring: Dick Haynes, Albert Brooks

A prescient one from Albert Brooks, pre-dating the swell of reality TV that flows through our screens like orange squash. Unfortunately, with the impatient minds we’ve since developed, it just drags. Covid Rating: 6

Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942)

Directed by Richard Thorpe
Starring: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan

Classic fish out of water stuff as Tarzan takes a city break, puts on a suit, and looks less like the king of the jungle and more like the wolf of Wall Street. You suspect that back in 1942 this was gasp-inducing stuff, now it’s a bad afternoon at a dodgy circus. Covid Rating: 5

One Day (2011)

Directed by Lone Scherfig
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess

Another one to file under “good book, bad film” alongside all attempts at The Great Gatsby and the original go at doing Dune. When the big emotion gut punch elicits a sigh of relief because you know the film is going to finish soon, the going isn’t very good. Covid Rating: 4

Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee
Starring: LeBron James, Don Cheadle

The opposite of a slam dunk. I’d rather watch strawberry jam. Covid Rating: 3

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