I enjoyed compiling my 10 favourite films of 2014 so much, that I thought I would step back one more year and do the same with 2013. It is only when you look back at the list of great movies that you realise there are some that are classics already. Hope you spot one or two of your own favourites, if not, then shout at me in the comments!
It’s not easy to create a truly original take on a horror sub-genre such as zombies, but Warm Bodies delivers a touching and heart felt romance within the absurdity of the undead. Hoult is superb despite the restrictions of his role and although I had major problems with the consistency of its story, the film cleverly avoided the cliché- ridden basement of the horror house and opens the door to the spare room instead.
Iron Man 3
It isn’t perfect and even murdering the Mandarin and underusing Kingsley aside, it is still a step down from the slick first instalment. But I firmly believe that Iron Man 3 is really underrated as a Marvel movie and suffers from the same scepticism that Revenge of the Sith faces due to its poor predecessor. Above all else its surprisingly funny and arguably has better Downey jokes than the first film, delving into the post-trauma of Avengers. Plus Pepper is looking hot throughout.
Boy has this movie grown on me from when I first watched it! Once you get past the woeful acting and over-dramatic cinematography you quickly realise that it has much more to offer. Del Toro it seems knew exactly what he was doing when he went all out to replicate the sense of fun and awe that really classic monster movies had at the cinema when he was growing up. It’s simply already a classic for many movie fans and I always stick it on now and again for a Friday night movie.
Howard’s surprisingly gripping biopic was a real break from the norm in 2013 and deserved all the plaudits it garnered. Hemsworth and Bruhl battle to outshine each other both on screen and on the racetrack, as they go wheel to wheel in some brilliantly realistic race scenes. The film’s achievement to balance entertainment with revealing the necessary truths found in racing’s past, is testament to its downright greatness.
This is probably my favourite film of 2013. The casting is mindbogglingly good and it drives itself forward with relentless speed. Harrowing performances from all involved, the cinematography matches the film’s dark tone and sinister motives. Gyllenhall is especially watchable as he wrestles with emotion and investigation amidst a father’s anger. It may not have turned many heads at the time, but it has to go down as one of the best psychological thrillers of the twenty first century.
Hanks’ performs the role of his life in Greengrass’ indisputably realistic tale of Somali pirates. It’s all about the characters in this movie and the viewer finds their assumptions torn apart as the cast do battle in hauntingly gritty scenes. Serves as a necessary lesson about these dangerous waters whilst also showcasing Greengrass’ determination to capture more than just a bunch of bad guys stealing a boat. Brilliant film.
Not many people saw this movie when it came out, which is simply a shame as it captures a sense of cheesy sci-fi fun with a fairly serious undertone lingering underneath. Blending some mature themes with a mostly adolescent cast, is something the eighties did so well, and I only hope that kids of today look back at Ender’s Game with the same fondness I do to other coming-of-age classics like Last Starfighter. Worth a watch if you haven’t already.
I have watched this on blu-ray at home after seeing it for the first time in the cinema in 3D and I was quite taken aback by how much more of an aural (that’s hearing you dirty lot) experience it was than before. Perhaps I wasn’t distracted by the stomach-flipping sense of vertigo this time, but it enhanced the whole experience to a different plane. A strange and ethereal movie that has not only remained one of my favourite films of 2013, but a real game-changer in terms of cinematic scope.
Absolutely brutal. Lone Survivor is literally there to prove how far the human body can go when unfaltering spirit is instilled in the most elite of soldiers. The film rolls down the hills, picking up pace as the bones break and the bullets fly. Whalberg is only outshone by Ben Foster, who is fast becoming one of my favourite actors. A visceral and stirringly realistic portrayal of war. Must watch.
The Wolf of Wall Street
It was a rare thing to find someone, especially a guy, that didn’t absolutely love this movie. How much that had to do with the boobs and midget throwing is anyone’s guess, but it became the most talked about movie in the workplace for months. Its lesson of the perils and power of greed is partly lost in the whirl of drugs, drinks and inspiring speeches. While not Scorcese’s greatest work, teaming up with Dicaprio has proved a winning formula once again. I f**king love you Jordan!
With 2015 predicted to be a record breaking year for films, albeit mostly due to the inevitable sweep of box office receipts by the upcoming Star Wars comeback, 2014 may have escaped your eyes as a brilliant year for not just franchise instalments, but original films full of new ideas and superb performances.
As it has taken me the best part of half of 2015 to finally feel like I have mostly caught up with the good-looking films of last year, I thought it would be great to compile my Top 10 Films of 2014. Have to admit there are one or two I still haven’t got around to watching, especially Nightcrawler, which is supposed to be brilliant. I just hope my choices don’t give me away as a Marvel fan boy!
A real puzzler that flew in under the radar and kick-started 2014. Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook are superb as complex characters that drive the story in ways you just don’t see coming. If you like time paradoxes that wind you up and confuse to the point of pushing a HB pencil through your eye, then you will absolutely love this detective-sci-fi mix that leaves you wondering just what you saw. Love it.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
In my opinion simply the best marvel film so far outside of Iron Man. More like a spy thriller than a superhero film, Winter Soldier upped the stakes for the unloved superhero and showed us how best to market ol’ cap. As soon as his boot connects with a bad guy and sends him flying through the air, you know you’re in for a improvement on the First Avenger, with the expert pacing, dialogue and action all coming together achingly well. If you still haven’t seen it yet, then get on it.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
It may be a remake of Terminator 2 and have a ludicrous subtitle, but Days of Future Past in fact felt like a combination of all the great aspects of the X-Men franchise and the sort of darkly-funny-sequel vibe we have learnt to enjoy. Taking X-Men to another level again, Singer’s return to the franchise may not deliver the smoothest plot in the world but simply seemed to resonate with many fans, old and new. Plus Quicksilver was awesome, just a shame he was too overpowered to stay in the film.
Edge of Tomorrow
My concerning Cruise bromance aside, Edge of Tomorrow came out of nowhere as one of the best action and sci-fi films seen in years. You would be hard pressed to find someone that didn’t enjoy Cruises’ hilarious transformation from coward to hero, coupled with Blunt’s superb performance as the Full Metal…well you know the rest.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Even though in some ways I was slightly disappointed with the ambition of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I cannot deny how important the film is in terms of paving new ground for CGI and motion capture. Plus it has Gary Oldman shouting a lot, which is always good to watch.
Guardians of the Galaxy
The soundtrack alone is enough to take this quirky entry in the marvel universe into anyone’s Top Ten for 2014. Famous for being full of characters nobody has heard of, Guardians is fun, colourful and full of a great cast and one giant tree-thingy. Not only was it much needed light-refreshment at the time, but Guardians also proved that stick a Marvel logo on, and it will sell, and sell well.
Looking back over David Fincher’s filmography, it is no surprise that his latest film featuring a scarily-ripped Ben Affleck really sent waves through the film world. Rosamond Pike is deliciously messed up as his absent wife and Affleck nails the indifference needed from his character during the investigation. Darkly comic, clever and addictive, if you haven’t got to see it yet, make it next on your list. Just don’t watch it with your mum, probably not a good idea…
It is simply a national travesty how many people have not seen this film yet. Probably the most underrated war movie of the twenty first century, Fury is a visceral, compact and brutal film that covers well-tread battlefields but with a whole new cinematic take. Plus it has some of the sickest tank battles that even leaves Saving Private Ryan’s final moments for dead.
I have watched Nolan’s sci-fi epic at least five more time since I first reviewed it, with each viewing allowing more “brain time” to absorb a previously unexplored avenue or trope that I hadn’t seen before. It isn’t the most water-tight space expedition in terms of story, but the visual and scientific ambition mixes with an emotional vein that runs through the heart of the movie, making it both ground breaking and audience-dividing all at one. The robots were really cool as well, big Tars fan.
Yes yes, it may not be as exciting and “awesome” as the big blockbusters we have all been spoilt with recently, and it is no surprise that Birdman has been pushed to the arty peripheral of mainstream cinemas, albeit with an Oscar as a prize. But Keaton’s mindblowing performance alongside an undeniably talented ensemble of supporting cast makes this one of the stand-out films of the last year. It also very inteligently parodies its own place in cinema through Keaton’s character. Well, that’s what I got out of it anyway…
I hope you enjoyed my Top ten movies of 2014, let me know of any I missed!
I’ll admit, it is hardly ground-breaking to be posting a Top 5 Spielberg movie list, due to his mainstream popularity and global household name. But because Steven Allan Spielberg has tackled such a wide variety of film genres, jumping from horror to thriller to science-fiction and back again in a few short years, everybody’s Top 5 Spielberg flicks are going to be different. Therefore, this Top 5 is purely my favourites and not necessarily which ones I think are the best. This will probably reveal more about my taste in movies than his directing prestige, but it will also hopefully pay tribute to some of his films that are perhaps not as recognised as others. Hope you enjoy the list and comment with your own Top Fives!
5: Duel (1971)
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Starring Dennis Weaver and Jacqueline Scott
Proof that horror does not have to be covered in blood, Spielberg’s made for TV movie and directional début Duel showcases his talent in its purest form. The simplicity and unerring realism of the situation is marked by a myriad of inventive and hauntingly suspenseful camera shots and invasive sound effects, which throw you right into the seat next to Dennis Weaver as he desperately tries to out-think and escape the anonymous truck driver.
I became obsessed with the dirty giant truck when I was a kid, and the tension and broad daylight setting for this relentless threat was one of the catalysts for my movie obsession. Even though it is less famous than his other seventies hits, to create such a vibrant and emotive movie out of the simplest of plots really is testament to Spielberg’s skill and ingenuity. If you have not seen it yet, then grab it on Amazon, you won’t regret it.
4: Jurassic Park (1993)
IMDB Rating: 8.0
Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum
If you look up Jurassic Park on the ever reliable Wikipedia, it is classed as “a 1993 American science-fiction adventure film that incorporates some horror elements as well”. This genre-layering is something done so well by Spielberg, and ensures his films stand out even more. Of course it is based on a fantastic book, but if you have read Crichton’s perennial work you will notice that it leans more towards the horror element, and much of it is watered down for the PG audience, which meant Spielberg was able to ramp up the adventure element with grandiose shots of Brontosaurus’ and heart stopping Tyrannosaur chases.
As the film predominately used animatronics, it still looks fantastic even now, giving it massive longevity. Reading the book will show how brilliant the casting was, with the excellent Goldblum as the realistic and skeptical Ian Malcolm and Richard Attenborough as the determined but deluded John Hammond, creator of Jurassic Park. Despite some wooly science, the whole story, cinematography and pace of the film is truly breathtaking and stands out as one of Spielberg’s greatest achievements, landing it a place at number four in my list.
3: Minority Report (2002)
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Starring Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton
You may sneer at my choice for the number three spot, but bear with me. Although not the most revered of Spielberg’s movies, it is nonetheless a breathtakingly fast paced and achingly well filmed movie that takes Philip K Dick’s story and pays it huge credit. It is typically dark as with all the best from the famous director, but is also brilliantly modern and Cruise excels in a role almost tailored for him. As I have mentioned above, some of Spielberg’s best work comes from genre-melding, and the combination of crime, mystery, thriller and science-fiction ensures a different experience every time I watch this slick film. The film’s central theme regarding free-will is so well handled, that it actually creates an intelligent debate amidst all the gun-fire and Cruise running as per usual.
Spielberg always gets the absolute best out of all the actors involved. With this in mind, Colin Farrell is in one of my favorite roles, and his ambiguous position as he chases and then sides with Cruise is brilliant. The plot twists and turns in a sci-fi world glittering with the neo-noir tropes that surround the cast, and much of K Dick’s premonitions about the use of technology in the future is hauntingly realistic. Not only an underrated film, but also an underrated directing performance from Spielberg, and if it was not for the brilliance of the next two films below, it would be my number one choice.
2: Saving Private Ryan (1998)
IMDB Rating: 8.6
Starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon and Tom Sizemore
What more can be said about possibly the best war movie ever made? Along with me, those lucky enough to have caught it at the cinema were completely blown away by the famous D-Day landings at the outset, which left cinema-goers with their jaws rooted to the floor. The adherence to real-life testament of the experience was also revered across the board, landing it five Oscar awards, including a best director award for Mr Spielberg himself. The muted sound effects that Captain Miller experiences during the initial battle was so innovative on the big screen, it has been reused ever since.
With such a variety of well edited scenes, and almost a plethora of great actors all putting in the some of their best performances, it is almost impossible to not experience some new emotion with every watch. The camerawork is masterfully handled from the first person perspective that the viewer’s connection to the film itself has arguably never been bettered. As with all Spielberg’s best work, it still looks fantastic 16 years on, and may never be beaten in terms of realism and sheer excellence.
1: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
IMDB Rating: 8.6
Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen and Tom Freeman
This is probably the point at which you are shaking your head and wondering how I could possibly have omitted Jaws, Schindler’s List and Close Encounters of the Third Kind from my Top 5, and I would assume there may only be a handful of my fellow Indy lovers that are agreeing with my top choice. But I ask you to find me a better opening sequence that is so iconic, so genuinely cinematic, and so delightfully well crafted, than the famous sequence of Idol-swapping, trap-dodging and boulder-fleeing at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I have watched all four Indiana Jones movies many times (albeit not so much the disaster that is Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), and for me Raiders is the one with the most artistic value, directing vision and pure genius. From the fantastic patient reveal of the iconic hero at the start, all the way through to the unforgettably horrifying and fairly bleak ending. No matter what Amy says on the Big Bang Theory, Raiders of the Lost Ark has never been emulated and every time it is tried, there is always too much emphasis on either heavy-handed comedy, or over-produced action. The balance of adventure, romance, comedy and pure cinematic wonder has never been beaten, and it remains still my favourite of all Spielberg’s films.
I hope you enjoyed my list, and please open up the debate with your own opinion!
A fantasy movie without a battle is like a slice of plain toast. Although still edible, it will most likely be boring, dry and tasteless. Ok, so that’s not always the case, as there are some great fantasy films without the clash of swords. But when beasts and armies meet on the fantasy battlefield, it makes some of the most epic moments in film. Everything from Greek legends, to giant monsters of fiction have clashed on the fantasy scene, and I have really enjoyed making this post and especially choosing my Top 5.
Following on from my Top 5 Sci-fi battles, below is my favourite fantasy battles from some of the best the genre has to offer. I have spanned many decades in my choices, offering an idea as to the movies I like the most. Definitely one of the hardest to narrow down, but also loads of fun re-watching those fantastic battle scenes. Enjoy!
5: King Kong (1933)
A bad-tempered Eighth Wonder of the World VS a T-Rex, the only suitable opponent in Earth’s history
I have chosen this perennial 1933 monster movie, because when held against the remakes, many would be pleasantly surprised by the raw brutality of the original film. It really does feel like Kong is a true movie-monster, and a mindless and very dangerous ape to boot. This makes it even more shocking when the capitalist motivation and memories of the Victorian freak show, drive Denham and company to take this uncontrollable beast back to the mainland. Or as Doctor Ian Malcolm would say: “the worst idea in the long, sad history of bad ideas”.
I have picked Kong’s fight against the T-Rex, because it is that moment in the film when the viewer realises the true strength of the beast. But what is also poignant about the scene, is that it can be seen as both the defence of a woman by a misunderstood creature, an action some may even perceive as love, or the instinctive actions of a dangerously petulant and selfish monster, whom doesn’t want to lose his favourite toy. I have to swing for the latter, especially when you see Kong absent-mindedly playing with the jaw of the T-Rex after he has snapped it in half. As I said before, fairly brutal even for today’s thick skinned audience.
4: Beowulf (2007)
Grendel (our monster) VS Beowulf (the man that is here to kill our monster)
When I watched Zemeckis’ grotesque creation burst into that doomed mead-hall in glorious Blue ray, I thought it was one of the best fantasy scenes I had ever seen. It was one of the most terrifying things I had even seen as well. The almost strobe-like effect of the blue camp-fire on the monster’s skin only adds to the horror. The animation, visuals and sound are so refined, it serves as a fantastic backdrop to a rather unfortunate-looking Grendel, screaming in an ancient language and tearing the legs off terrified Heorotilites.
Even though our hero’s battle with the beast is clearly the more significant scene, the monster’s ambush of the unlucky merry-makers, and their fruitless battle against him, is such a shocking moment in the context of the generally harmless frivolities building up to it, that I had to put it in my list. Zemeckis’ motion-capture paintbrush works its magic so freely, that it dances with the boundaries of brutality, finishing with Hopkins staring down his forgotten son and willing his own demise. Fantastic scene in a fairly underrated fantasy movie.
3: Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Jason and Co VS a bunch of not-so-funny bones
No doubt the most famous battle from the undisputed master of stop-motion animation. Even though I had to bump Medusa vs Perseus down to honourable mention status, there was no way Harryhausen’s best work was not going to make my Top 5. This was the moment that he achieved a god-like status in visual effects, and his techniques became integral to the entire genre for a generation, going on to influence future fantasy film-makers such as Peter Jackson and his Rings trilogy.
Aeëtes, in pursuit of Jason after steeling the Fleece, sows the Hydra’s teeth after praying to the goddess Hecate, producing a skeletal warrior from each. Frozen in fear, the heroes watch as these menacing creatures rise from the ground and creep slowly towards them, before bursting into a ferocious and relentless attack. Fantasy film at its best, the ensuing battle has to be in my Top 5 and showcases Harryhausen’s talent more than any other.
2: 300 (2006)
300 suspiciously toned warriors VS Persian cannon fodder
The first wave of Xerxes’s dark army crashing violently against the glistening shields, spears and bodies of Leonidas and company’s human wall, is practically fantasy-battle porn. Zack Snyder’s take on The Battle of Thermopylae at the Hot Gates, is the ideal backdrop for some fantastically crafted fight scenes, with warriors, giants and huge beasts all getting sliced and diced by the famous 300.
I love this battle for the tension build-up, which is broken by a well-aimed spear thrown from the defiant ranks, acting as the classic fantasy-battle catalyst to spark the initial attack. Butler’s rousing battle cries may be slightly cheesy, but soon the blood starts to flow, as Snyder puts those glossy touches to the action at just the right moments. A great fantasy battle, with plenty of geeky phalanx tactics and cool spear-deaths to drool over.
1: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
NATO VS an army bred for a single purpose…you know the rest
The Fields of Pellennor from Return of the King may have been more epic (albeit slightly anti-climatic), but for me the defence of Rohan at Helms Deep was not just the peak of Jackson’s trilogy, but is also the best of on-screen fantasy warfare. Jackson uses all the tools at his disposal, showcasing the perfect balance between computerised imagery and live action. Using the night and rain as cover, the camera never lingers for too long in one place, blending it all seamlessly together.
The pathetic fallacy of the sudden downpour at the start turns the scene in to a doomed scenario, draining the hope from the faces of the brave men behind the walls. This is Jackson’s finest moment, building up the tension with wordless gnarling and stomping from the enemy, only to be snapped with the unintentional unleashing of an arrow. A classic already, The Battle of Helms Deep has always looked amazing and will no doubt continue to be untouched by age.
I hope you enjoyed my Top 5 Movie Battles. You can find other genres in the links above!
Honourable mentions: LOTR: The Return of the King (2003): Battle of Pelennor Fields, Clash of the Titans (1981): Medusa vs Perseus, POTC: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003): Black Pearl vs Interceptor, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973): Kali vs Sinbad
Continuing on from my Sci-Fi and Fantasy movie battle Top Fives, my next instalment is the evergreen genre of Horror! Not the most obvious place to look for battle scenes, which means some of my choices lean towards movies with combo-genres, such as sci-fi-horror and comedy-horror. But the continuing on-screen battle between good and evil, so integral to the genre, means there is often more choices than you might first think. I hope you enjoy watching the clips and please comment with your ideas!
5: Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Freddy VS well, Jason, obviously
The much anticipated clash between horror’s most infamous suspected paedophile and its biggest hockey fan, may not have been the best movie in the world, but there was at least something very satisfying about seeing the two horror heavyweights clash on the big screen. After a shared total of seventeen movies, where would-be heroes had tried, and failed, to finally kill them off, I guess it made perfect sense to see what they can do against each other.
The scene is actually really entertaining, and I love the clash of fighting styles, like some weird Streetfighter-horror crossover. Voorhees is clearly portrayed as the immovable object, Kruger being pushed to use cunning and surroundings to swing the battle his way. I won’t give away any spoilers in case you have yet to press play! Its prestige in the genre, and the fact the last fight is probably the best thing about the movie, means Kruger vs Voorhees squeezes into my number five spot.
4: Ghostbusters (1984)
Doe…Ray…Egon!…and Winston!!! VS Godzilla’s lovable cousin
At number four is everybody’s favourite paranormal experts, battling it out on a rooftop in Central Park West with one of the most surreal villains in horror history. After Ray unintentionally manifests the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the Ghostbusters watch in horror as the giant irony crushes everything in its path, with a ridiculous, childish grin spread across its face.
The whole scene is actually a collection of gemtastic camera shots and inventive editing, the shot from the street looking up at the roasting of the marshmallow being one. After marching through the street like Godzilla, Stay Puft starts to climb the tower like King Kong, finally forcing our heroes to do the unforgivable….cross the streams. Such a classic scene in horror-comedy, which launches it into my next spot in the Top 5.
3: Aliens (1986)
Metal Gear Ripley VS Mothers for justice
One of the greatest one-on-one battles in modern movie history, Ripley’s defiance in the face of a seemingly unstoppable alien is the clash of two of the most iconic characters in sci-fi horror. Anyone that has seen the special edition, will know that Ripley’s instinctive maternal connection to Rebecca (sorry, Newt), which drives her to go against this beast, originates from the loss of her daughter through old age, whilst she wandered space in the Nostromo’s lifeboat The Narcissus after the first movie.
Angry and determined to protect the one she loves, Ripley dons the Power Loader (she has a class 2 rating), and squares up to the infamous monster. What follows is the greatest girl fight in history, with the whirring of the loader mixing with the spitting and gnarling of the Queen. But lets not forget, the Alien herself is arguably only acting in self defence against this bitch-in-a-can, whom recently torched most of her offspring! A fantastic battle, and one that is as scary as it is exciting, landing it the number three spot.
2: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
The Van Helsings VS Rodriguez’s imagination
If Rodriguez was slightly tied to Tarantino’s writing for most of From Dusk till Dawn, the final battle scene at the end, when all the inhabitants turn into crazed monsters, is where the Sin City director was really able to put his foot down. Gory, fun and full of action, all the characters turn into bad-ass Van Helsings in the blink of an eye. It is this almost archaic battle between good and evil that perhaps gives the film its cult status, as it moved from box office flop, to revered and loved through the years.
Any deceit or ambiguity behind those that dwell in this dusty bar, is fully removed for the final scene, where the monsters are their purely evil selves, forcing Clooney and Co to renew their faith and return to Bram Stoker’s treasure trove of crosses, holy water and just out and out faith. Both unique and traditional at the same time, this battle between ancient evil and mismatched anti-heroes makes my number two spot.
1: Jaws (1975)
The Brody Bunch VS A giant tuba
For my number one spot I have chosen a great battle scene from one of my favourite movies of all time: The final confrontation in Jaws between one man, completely out of his element in the middle of the sea in a sinking ship, against an ancient killing machine with no natural predators. Of course, in classic horror battle fashion, it takes human wit and intuition to finally take down the beast, as it snaps and terrorises our hero. As a viewer, the double danger of the shark and the water just adds to the tension, making it impossible to take your eyes from the screen.
Seemingly trapped and helpless and having lost his fellow shipmates, Brody battles just to stay alive at first, against this unusually aggressive Great White. It is scenes like this almost primeval struggle for survival, that made Spielberg undoubtedly the best blockbuster movie director of his generation. It only ever feels like you are in the moment with Brody, as he hangs on (quite literally) and finally turns the tables on this terrible foe. The tension that mounts before Roy Scheider delivers that final classic line is fantastic, ending my Top countdown with a great battle from one of the best ever horror films.
I hope you enjoyed my Top 5 Movie Battles: Horror! You will find my honourable mentions below and please comment with any that you feel should have been included.
Honourable Mentions: It (1990): Losers club vs Pennywise, Night of the Living Dead (1968): Humans vs zombies, The Thing (1982), Macready vs The Thing, Jeepers Creepers (2001): The Police vs The Creeper, Alien 3 (1992): Ripley and Co vs Alien, 30 Days of Night (2007): Humans vs Vampires
There is no doubt that battle scenes can make or break a movie. Whether it is an intense skirmish in a building, or an epic battle waged between thousands, these scenes are where the directors and perhaps the actors earn their crust and stamp their authority on a film, perhaps even a genre. Often delivered at the peak of tension build up, it is the time for heroes to rise, spirits to be broken and history to be made. It is also about the time for the inevitable body count to start climbing.
My idea to start a series of top 5 movie battles began with a list I had made of my favourites from across the years. As the list grew longer, I realized that splitting them into genre would be much more suitable. I will begin with Science-Fiction battles, which has to be one of best genres for violent encounters and futuristic weapons that leaves your jaw rooted to the floor. But don’t expect my Top 5 to always follow the path of the bigger the better, and I have chosen one or two that squeeze the action into tight spaces. Choosing my Top 5 was really difficult and you will find my honourable mentions at the bottom. I hope you enjoy my list, and yes, there will be Star Wars!
5: The Terminator (1984)
Arnie in sunglasses VS the entire contents of the West Highland police station
Less a battle and more a massacre, the person known to the police only as “The Phone Book Killer”, bursts into the police station looking for Sarah Connor, and immediately opens fire with a personal arsenal of weapons “purchased” from the local store. Not only is this the moment when Reece’s gentle warning regarding the cyborg’s persistence comes to life, but it is that moment in the science-fiction movie when the viewer realises just how unstoppable the dark assassin really is.
Opening with the most famous words to ever leave Arnie’s mouth, the scene is a brutal demonstration of the futility with which the police fight, getting torn apart in the process. Even Winfield and Henricksen who had only been in the movie a short while, are simply cannon fodder in the big man’s pursuit. Treading the line so beautifully between science-fiction and horror, Cameron’s use of dark spaces and technology laden first-person views has gone down in film history.
4: War of the Worlds (1953)
Earth’s brave soldiers VS the invincible Martian invaders
Try to picture yourself sitting in 1953, witnessing the on screen horror of seeing your country’s bravest men with their most advanced weapons, melt uselessly against the Martian attack. Just like the remake, the pointlessness of fighting is so stark, especially in the context of the cold war 1950s.
The battle in particular I have chosen is the initial attack from the aliens. The tension, mystery and religious significance that builds up is some of the best in cinema, ending in an epic confrontation with some of the most revered special effects. The eventual full retreat, must have been so unnerving in a cold war era. An era that had already proved itself paranoid after Orson Welles’ infamous radio broadcast before the movie’s release.
3: Starship Troopers (1997)
Rasczak’s Roughnecks VS a minor bug problem
Otherwise known as The Ambush at Whiskey Outpost, this battle scene was the moment that Earth realised they were up against more than just mindless bug drones. The trap laid for the Mobile Infantry by the Arachnids on Planet P was for me that best moment in the movie, and the clichés and cheese keep flowing throughout, squeezing itself in-between the carnage.
It is scenes like this that make Verhoeven’s explosive sci-fi imaging so engrossing and entertaining. The enemy bodies pile up so quickly that other Warrior bugs start to use them to scale the walls. You have to love the shot over the wall as the viewer takes in the sheer number of bugs approaching, as well as the huge Tanker bugs coating soldiers in flames. Because, as with all brilliant and heartless sci-fi enemies, overkill is everything,
2: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Kirk and the USS Enterprise VS the USS Reliant and Khhhaaannn!!!
The Battle of Mutara Nebula is one of the defining moments in the Star Trek movie franchise. Never before or since has any Star Trek movie been able to replicate the emotive tension between two adversaries. Add to this the unparalleled backdrop of the Nebula itself, and you have one of the best looking battles in sci-fi.
What I love most about this scene, is that it epitomises the Naval connection that the whole film had. The way the ships pull up alongside each other to unload their weapons and tear holes into their foes, reminds me so much of all the great naval battles in film. The way Kirk outsmarts Khan and his more powerful Reliant, also helped create the legendary status of the famous Enterprise captain.
1: Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Rebel Scum VS the Empire’s version of overkill
Although perhaps not portrayed as such in the movie, The Battle of Hoth is seen throughout the EU as a pivotal moment in the Empire and Vader’s desire to squash the rebel alliance. In the film, the battle is more a precursor to a predominantly character based plot, rather than a result of built-up tensions. Visually however, it is without doubt one of the defining moments in the genre’s history, and even now is simply mind-blowing in both its effects and cinematography.
There can be no doubt that the AT-ATs make the whole scene. The expert direction turns these surreal tanks from seemingly impenetrable, to crippled by some rope. Truly breathtaking, the action moves between the battle and those involved so inventively it hurts. In the end, it is only Admiral Ozzel’s incompetence that turns a possible massacre into the escape of many, with Skywalker leading the charge and helping to make those pesky Robot Camels fall over.
Honourable Mentions: Independence Day final battle (1996), Aliens Nest Ambush (1986), Return of the Jedi final battle (1983), Tron light cycle battle (1982), First Contact defence of Earth 1996)
No decade in modern film has been defined so clearly as the “sound” that is the eighties. The up-beat, sometimes inspirational tunes and the sheer effort that singers, musicians and songwriters would put into a mere background song was astounding. Only in the eighties could a song be so full of cheese and actually work. These songs injected life into potentially flat genres and turned a simple action, comedy or fantasy film into something else: An eighties movie.
These songs became so ubiquitous with the film itself and whether it be through the title or lyrics, its timing in the film would fit the glove so perfectly in the moment. The songs always seemed to come at the film’s time of need, such as an motivational montage or to capture the feel of a fantasy epic. Be warned however, as the below top 5 is so full of cheese, it will probably give you bad dreams:
5: The Karate Kid (1984)
“You’re the Best” – Sung by Joe Esposito
The song that rose to fame as the background music to the All Valley Championships in The Karate Kid. It epitomised everything the film was about and reminded all those bullied and victimised kids out there that self-confidence and belief are the strongest weapon. The song suited the scene so well, that it almost seemed as if without it Daniel-son would not have won. Although I am not sure Mr Miyagi would have had it playing during his training sessions.
4: Teen Wolf (1985)
“Win in the End” – Sung by Mark Safan
Although this film is probably not remembered for its soundtrack, the ‘final match’ scene was joined by a truly inspirational song that epitomised every sport-related montage in eighties movies. By simply accompanying the game with such an uplifting song, we all fell hook, line and sinker for the ridiculous idea that through team-spirit alone, these bunch of physically inferior misfits could outplay a clearly better team.
3: The Neverending Story (1984)
“The Neverending Story” – Sung by Limahl and Beth Anderson
If you have already pressed play then you are probably wondering why you always thought it was a woman that sung this. Although looking at his hair, it is definitely excusable. This is without doubt the perfect soundtrack for what is the perennial fantasy kids film. It captures the genres of fantasy, adventure and epic in one great moment that is etched permanently into the memories of all that experienced it as children. But, it is also a sad reminder that films this gloriously ambitious are just not made anymore.
2: Back to the Future (1985)
“The Power of Love” – Sung by Huey Lewis and the News
If the title music by Alan Silvestri captured the adventure and science-fiction of the film, then The Power of Love took care of the rest. It was everything that was cool about the movie, from the giant speakers to riding the back of a truck on a skateboard. The song also bridged the gap between the time zones during the film, as it was both distinctively eighties and jiving-fifties at the same time.
1: Rocky III (1985)
“Eye of the Tiger” – Sung by Survivor
A song that instantly creates a montage in the mind. It is so inspiring, we played it in the car on the way to every 5-a-side football match for motivation. We lost the season, but that did not stop it getting everyone fired up and ready before every game and filled us with the belief we could let in less than ten goals. It is one of the most famous soundtracks and the second it comes on, you cannot help but flip your hood up and spar on the spot.
Although in many ways a remake of Battle of the Planet of the Apes , in the same way that Rise was a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (albeit with a much more plausible idea behind the origin of intelligent ape) , Dawn will be set a decade after the previous film. At the conclusion of Rise , we witnessed the release of a humanity-threatening virus, which came at the same time as the establishment and artificial evolution of an intelligent ape community in the woods. This simultaneous battle between disease and ape, makes a much more believable battleground for the inevitable loss of humanity, under the yoke of Caesar (pictured above), than the ridiculously sudden shift seen in the original films. This opens up many possibilities for Dawn , and perhaps the story will take another twist and peel itself away from the original plot. Although for some reason, I can imagine the Statue of Liberty symbolically poking out of the sand by the end of the film, or at least the next one.
I have just finished re-watching the entirety of the Apes films, and felt moved to do do a Top 5 of my favourites to wet the appetite and perhaps even inspire the reader to jump onto Amazon and pick themselves up the original box set for a measly three pounds. When, or if, you make it to the end, you will realize that credit must be given to the series for its patience and ambition to go the full paradoxical circle, even with some woolly science squeezed in along the way. But because of this previous loop, it was always going to be those leaky plot holes that first needed plugging when making the next-gen instalments. With this in mind, I think 2001′s remake of the original film (above) made the mistake of attempting to fix something that was not broken, and made a bit of a hash of it in the process. Whereas Rise did the right thing by completely rethinking the entire origin timeline, and came out smelling mostly of roses.
I nearly did a Best and Worst post on the movies, but as there are only seven films, most of which I really enjoyed, it made the task much more suited to a Top 5. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the countdown, and let me know if you think I have misplaced my apes!
The two movies that got away:
7: 2001′s remake Planet of the Apes did not get a look in, primarily because of its soulless representation of the original narrative. Tim Roth is undoubtedly the highlight as Thade, but it is a film that misses the point and avoids asking any really interesting questions, and Burton spends too much time on the visual aesthetics of a fairly undramatic affair.
6: 1973′s Battle of the Planet of the Apes ,although watchable, tries to be all its predecessors at once and seems to believe it is therefore better than it is. It limps along without ever getting exciting, and the dialogue is so outrageously predictable and boring it becomes as painful as watching a school play.
5: Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)
IMDB Rating: 6.2
Directed by Don Taylor / Starring Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter and Bradford Dillman
Continuing on from the atomic destruction of earth at the end of Beneath , Escape tells the story of the three apes that escaped their Earth on the ship left behind by Heston and company in the original film. This begins the time paradox so essential to the series, and it is interesting to see the apes reversing the role portrayed by Heston, as the outsider in an alternate time. There is much to enjoy in the film, and the typical knee jerk reaction of the humans to this potential threat, although predictable, is essentially intrinsic to the tale. Yes, the film lacks the science fiction of others in the series (there is even a shopping montage featuring the female ape, give me strength), but Taylor directs the mix of action and humour very smoothly and McDowell does the stalwart job he always does. Not so much a memorable classic, and more a solid entry in the franchise.
4: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
IMDB Rating: 6.0
Directed by J Lee Thompson / Starring Roddy McDowall, Don Murray and Ricardo Montalban
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is for me the most underrated of the series. Although the action set-pieces are slightly repetitive and predictable, Thompson shows a truly commendable dedication to the task at hand. I absolutely love the hyperbolic stylisation of the different apes, which harks back to the original film in an important nod that links the series together. The oppression allegories that circumscribe the film mixes with the feeling of an underlying threat, one more heavily felt through the memorably dystopian and Orwellian setting. Roddy McDowell was also given possibly his most challenging role by Thompson, and rises to the challenge of changing earth’s entire future through his passion and hatred fuelled by the loss of his spiritual father.
3: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
IMDB Rating: 6.1
Directed by Ted Post / Starring James Franciscus, Kim Hunter and Maurice Evans
Although not a touch on the original film, Beneath continues on in the same methodically patient way that the original did, to deliver a satisfying slice of early seventies science-fiction. I absolutely loved the surreal combination of the barren wasteland and the post-apocalyptic urban underground that Brent encounters. The introduction of the mutant humans that live underground and use their powers to manifest illusions on the surface is an interesting twist in the series, and the very contemporary and sobering end bookends the film nicely against its predecessor. A slightly uneven picture overall, but one that is an enjoyable and essential instalment in this epic series.
2: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
IMDB Rating: 7.6
Directed by Rupert Wyatt / Starring James Franco, Andy Serkis and Freida Pinto
So many years had passed since the classic original series that many, myself included, rolled their eyes at the thought of another pointless and inevitably poor remake. But as rumour rose to the surface about the truly original plot, and then the stills of Andy Serkis’ Caesar were leaked, everybody started to sit up and take notice. James Franco is in one of his more suited roles as Will Rodman, whom increases the intelligence of apes in an attempt to defeat Alzheimer’s, a disease that has left his own father a shadow of his former self. It is not a perfect film, and I was one of those that winced when Tom Felton shouted, “Get your stinking paws off of me, you damn dirty ape!” , but it nevertheless has left both the old and new generations of fans chewing at their nails in anticipation of the approaching sequel.
1: Planet of the Apes (1968)
IMDB Rating: 8.0
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner / Starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter
The original and best, 1968′s Planet of the Apes still stands as one of the most thought-provoking science fiction movies of all time. It begins with an achingly patient set of scenes as our intrepid space travellers, led by the intense Heston, make their way slowly across the wastelands to eventually be captured or killed by the brutal gorillas. This sudden change in pace is the movie’s real calling card, and the plot continues to deliver twist after twist that creates such a surreal masterpiece. The tiered society of apes, all strikingly represented by their colours and occupation, serves as a perfect backdrop to the mounting mystery and unanswered questions that permeate the film. The tension that snaps when Heston eventually speaks, is only topped by the famous and unforgettably bleak conclusion as we all realise the truth behind the planet of the apes.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Trailer!