2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece follows a group of astronauts on a voyage to Jupiter to uncover the secrets of an alien monolith found on the moon. They are accompanied by the sentient computer HAL, who is initially shown to have a calm and polite demeanour. But his programming is revealed to have flaws that result in erratic and dangerous behaviour, putting the crew at great risk.
Released in 1968, it’s staggering how real the effects look, putting a lot of modern blockbusters to shame. It’s as if Kubrick really went to space and filmed it. The sound design is as accomplished as the visuals, with Kubrick’s use of silence and classical music creating a hypnotic and transcendent viewing experience. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a film that raises profound philosophical questions about the nature of humanity and our place in the universe. The film’s exploration of evolution, technology, and consciousness continues to captivate viewers decades after its release. Its ability to challenge audiences to contemplate the mysteries of existence and the limitless possibilities of human exploration makes it a repeatedly rewarding film.
Kubrick’s cerebral classic is one of the few films I would call a cinematic achievement.
1. The Graduate (1967)
The story of The Graduate is timeless, exploring themes of youth, identity, and societal expectations that continue to resonate with audiences today.
Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, is uncertain about his future and direction in life. He is seduced by an older woman, Mrs. Robinson, played by Anne Bancroft, and begins an affair with her. As the affair progresses, Benjamin becomes increasingly disillusioned and restless. He falls in love with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine, played by Katharine Ross, but their relationship is complicated by his past with Mrs. Robinson.
So why The Graduate? While most of this list is curated based on objective attributes, it’s hard not to have my favourite film also be listed as the best. It’s the one I watch repeatedly and never tire of. Some afternoons I will throw on The Graduate because it just clicks with me. That being said, it has plenty of merits to warrant being a Best Film of All Time contender.
Beyond the story, The Graduate features some of the most iconic performances in film history. Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of Benjamin Braddock is a masterclass in acting, capturing the character’s angst, uncertainty and charm with nuanced subtlety. Anne Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson is equally iconic, embodying both seduction and vulnerability in a performance that has become synonymous with the character. I love her chemistry with Hoffman and their scenes together are among the film’s most memorable.
Director Mike Nichols deserves credit for his innovative direction, which utilised unconventional camera angles, editing and sound design to create a cinematic experience that was both fresh and immersive. From the famous opening sequence to the film’s unforgettable final shot, Nichols’ direction elevates the film to a level of artistry that is rare in Hollywood. His choice to use Simon and Garfunkel for the soundtrack not only complements the story and visuals but also adds to the film’s overall impact and cultural significance.
The Graduate is a true masterpiece that remains relevant over 50 years after its release.