5. Steven Spielberg
Since the 1970’s, Spielberg has reigned as Hollywood’s master-of-spectacle. Some of his movies are spectacular for their set designing, special effects and the entertaining quotient while others are sentimental masterpieces in the serious, drama genre.
Among his most re-watchable movies though, the one that takes the cake is undoubtedly Jurassic Park – one of the most endearing movies to come from Hollywood. It’s a boundary-pushing film that has large doses of unbelievable special-effects, great background score by John Williams, including a witty script with high doses of suspense and action. The movie must be given credit for renewing the world’s love and awareness about Dinosaurs.
Not far behind is ET or Extra-Terrestrial, the most heart-warming and sentimental sci-fi family tale ever made. It is the story of how a lonely child bonds with a soft-hearted alien marooned on earth – it had near-perfect performances, apt special effects, including the creation of a lovable alien, and cinematography that succeeded in creating the right mood.
Among his most re-watchable movies next is the man versus nature fare which paved the way for many others. Jaws is that expertly executed suspense thriller that has the capability of terrifying anyone looking for a gooseflesh-ridden cinematic experience.
A decade before Spielberg came up with the most heart-warming alien, he created this shocking and serious sci-fi drama – Close Encounters of the Third Kind – it sort of encompasses his favourite theme – the role of humanity in this universe. Till today, Douglas Trumbull’s visual artistry remains spellbinding.
Unlike most others, Spielberg’s list of re-watchable films doesn’t end here – Spielberg and Lucas abetted by a killer script from Lawrence Kasdan created the four part Indiana Jones franchise. Of the four films, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are two with the most entertaining value.
4. Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino was the most volatile and distinctive directorial talent to emerge during the early nineties. Unlike many famous directors, he didn’t graduate from any film school. Largely, his film education happened at Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, CA, where he was employed as a clerk. The first two screenplays he wrote while he was working here were True Romance and Natural Born Killers.
First on the list of his re-watchable movies would be Pulp Fiction, a story of two hit men, played superbly by the sermon-spewing Samuel Jackson and John Travolta. When it won the Palme d’Or at the prestigious Cannes Film festival, all eyes turned to Tarantino. Made for a meagre 8 million dollars, the film went on to gross a 100 million.
His 2nd best movie is Django Unchained – the story of a former slave turned bounty hunter who sets out to rescue his wife from her slave master, with help from his friend. While the characters are layered and engaging, the action is marvellous and the cinematography mesmerizing.
Next up is Kill Bill volume 1 and volume 2 – an exuberant celebration of moviemaking that works on multiple levels – drama, satire and pure unadulterated action. Undoubtedly, it ranks as one of the best female-led revenge stories of all time. It is guaranteed to have you at the edge of your seat right from the opening frame to the last.
Reservoir Dogs, the story of a heist gone wrong is next, the screenplay of which Tarantino had written while working at Video Archives. The film got rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival and developed a cult following.
Next on the list is Inglourious Basterds, a film about a massive plan to wipe out Hitler and his high ranking party officials when they come for a movie premiere one night. It is highly engaging throughout and comes with a fantastic ending.
3. Sergio Leone
Italian director Sergio Leone developed what is known as the Spaghetti Western in the 60’s. Gripping suspense and economic storytelling were the hallmark of this Western sub genre.
The most noteworthy element of Leone’s work was unmistakably his ability to create enormous tension on screen with very little camera or character movement. Of course, Leone’s team of editor and music composer was also responsible for the overall effect. Though he made a very limited number of films, it is great that Leone’s films continue to resonate deeply in the popular consciousness.
The first part of the Dollars trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars is especially notable for bringing the iconic Clint Eastwood into the limelight. This film was a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 film Yojimbo, which in turn was inspired by the Westerns of John Ford.
Inspired by its success, coming up with the sequel didn’t take much time – and For a Few Dollars More was made the following year with a bigger budget. The concluding film of the Dollars trilogy – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was made on an epic scale with sweeping cinematography and an extremely popular music score that became synonymous with the Western genre.
Leone also directed an incredible film titled Once upon a Time in the West for Paramount. Because of its big budget, this was the first Leone film that was actually shot in America, in the Colorado plateau.
Last but not the least, the closing film of Leone’s career, Once Upon a Time in America – was a true masterpiece set in New York City instead of the Wild West. The film is today regarded as a magnificent piece of work, a fitting closure to a marvellous career.
2. Charlie Chaplin
Cinema was still taking tentative steps to emerge from its infancy when Charlie Chaplin created his magical comic character ‘the tramp’ which went on to become the most iconic movie character ever.
An exaggerated shuffling walk with a cane, baggy trousers, bowler hat, endearing moustache and mannerisms, all contributed to making the tramp being loved by one and all. The genius of Charlie Chaplin culminated in an oeuvre that can be watched again and again for their poignant storylines, unblemished innocence and gut-splitting escapades.
‘The Kid’ – his first feature as a director also happens to be one of the best. It’s an ode to 1920’s poverty – in which the tramp lives in a shack, eats garbage and spends his days totally carefree – until he chances upon an abandoned baby whom he begrudgingly takes under his wings.
Then there is the amazing ‘Gold Rush’ – a film where the tramp dons the robe of a prosecutor during the eponymous time when every man strived to make it rich by striking gold.
Next on the list is ‘City Lights’ – a poignant film that best encapsulates the carefree spirit of the tramp while giving the audience a glimpse of his romantic nature. It also has the distinction of having the greatest ending in the history of cinema. The film addresses one of the most innate psychological desires inherent in human beings – the deep rooted longing to be accepted and loved for being oneself.
In 1936 came ‘Modern Times’, a film that attempted to skewer the industrial world – a political and social satire on The Great Depression.
Another gem that can be viewed umpteenth times is ‘The Great Dictator’ – Chaplin’s first real talkie that condemned European fascism.
These five films top the list among the eleven features that he directed. A true auteur, Charlie Chaplin’s oeuvre has become timeless in its appeal and it is no surprise that he still towers above all as an unmatched cinematic genius.
1. Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense was born on Friday the 13th, August 1899. One has only to see his prolific oeuvre to understand the magnitude of the man’s career. No wonder he was conferred the title of Grandmaster of Cinema. Many great directors had their films remade but Hitchcock’s Psycho made such a monumental impact that a director of Gus Van Sant’s stature remade the film shot by shot as a tribute to the master.
Hitchcock generally did not experiment with genres, he was content churning out films on crime and guilt. Explaining his obsession with this particular genre, he always narrated his childhood story of how, to teach the naughty kid a lesson, his father had sent him to the local police station with a note, asking the sergeant in charge to lock him up.
Of all his films, Psycho was undoubtedly the undisputed horror classic. Though the film was made on a much smaller budget then his later films, Psycho became a landmark movie that inspired an entire genre in its wake. Made for a mere $800,000, the film went on to gross more than $30 million in its worldwide run.
As it happens, most of his films are re-watchable but Vertigo, the director’s unconventionally structured, deepest and most personal film tops the list after Psycho. A critical and commercial failure upon its release, Vertigo is today recognized as one of the greatest films ever made – a complex statement on masculinity and obsession.
The immediate predecessor to the downbeat Vertigo is his most loved crowd-pleaser North by Northwest. One of cinema’s giddiest and dazzling delights, it has dollops of suspense, humour and romance. No wonder it rivals many great movies for its sheer entertainment value.
Another masterpiece from Hitchcock is Rear Window, the story of a man stranded in a wheelchair, who observes a murder from his window. The film has Grace Kelly in an iconic role where she transforms from a glamorous, passive girl to an adventuress with effortless ease.
And how can one overlook Strangers on a Train, Hitchcock’s bold and stylized feature that has become the staple fare of film schools around the world.
Close on its heels is Shadow of a Doubt, his personal favourite – a film that comes packaged with all the Hitchcockian tropes of deceit and serial killing.
Author Bio: Having relinquished his job as creative director, Neil Choudhury is now a full time yogi and screenplay writer. He lives in Pune, India.