5. Team America: World Police (2004)
America! F- well, you know the rest.
Comedy seems to be a genre that we are seeing less of as the years go by. Whether you believe that “Hollywood are too scared to make comedies anymore” or that Superhero movies now fill the role of the comedy genre thanks to the humour spliced throughout them, the sad fact is that major comedies barely exist these days. Not on the big screen.
With that in mind, one must often look back for a good laugh. If you were to go looking for the best of the bunch from this century, well there’s only really one answer: Team America: World Police (though Superbad is a close second, with Hot Fuzz maybe third). From the minds of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, both of ‘South Park’ fame, it is safe to say that the unapologetically scalding satire that the duo are known for is prominent within the film.
Parodying Hollywood action cinema in order to poke fun at American militarism, the ‘South Park’ lads further portray just how ridiculous the American mindset can be by delivering the entire film through puppetry. Rather than muscle-bound action stars like Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, or big action epic scenes like those from Die Hard or Terminator 2, instead we get… puppets.
Though as much as the stylistic choice to use puppetry is enough to get a good few laughs from us, the writing is impeccable. Throughout, the writing team of Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Pam Brady craft a fun and tight hour and a half, but also perfectly capture the inherent racism of America’s war on terror post-9/11 and take jabs at just about everyone else, leaving no prisoners.
Now almost twenty years old, Team America: World Police sits as a time capsule of a different era; of filmmaking, of comedy, of politics. Though some may watch it now and find that our collective comedic sensibilities have moved on from this type of humour, what clearly hasn’t moved on since 2004 is the politics of the United States government. Just as the film parodies 80s action movies to show how such little had changed in the American mindset in twenty years, so too is it obvious twenty years after the release of the film, and that is what makes Team America not only one of the greatest comedies of all time but one of the greatest films of all time.
4. Trainspotting (1996)
Growing up in Scotland, Trainspotting really is a rite of passage that you simply have to see. For me, that rite of passage came the summer before I started high school, as part of a VHS double bill alongside Pulp Fiction. Safe to say, an impression was left on me that day.
Although Trainspotting follows a group of Heroin addicts navigating themselves from one hit to another through the economically depressed and HIV-infested Edinburgh of the time, the movie is incredibly fun. In large part this is due to the point of view through which the events of the film are shown; through the eyes of Mark Renton. It is this point of view that injects such high levels of entertainment – as a heroin addict, the drug provides the highest of highs to Renton (or as he puts it “take the best orgasm you ever had, multiply it by a thousand and you’re still nowhere near it”) as well as the lowest of the lows.
Trainspotting is, in this way, a perfect cocktail of immense pleasure and entertainment blended with some of the most disturbing images ever put to screen; a cocktail which is mixed by the masterful scriptwriting of John Hodge, the hyperactive editing style of Masahiro Hirakubo, and the fast paced and era-appropriate direction of Danny Boyle.
Through its flawlessly paced ninety-five minute runtime, it seems as though Boyle has meticulously orchestrated every single aspect of the film. Perhaps most impressive, however, is his ability to blend pop culture into his disturbing and evolving world, as well as his perfection of the needle drop. Although both feats had been achieved previously in the works of Scorsese, Tarantino and Linklater, Trainspotting offers possibly the most widely renowned and most satisfying blend. Although Boyle’s brilliant needle drop on Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” is the most famous example, creating one of the best film openings ever, it is the transition from Heaven 17’s “Temptation” to Sleeper’s “Atomic” that is possibly Trainspotting’s greatest example, using one simple guitar riff to create one of the best character introductions of all time for Kelly Macdonald’s Diane.
Simply put, in spite of its less than inviting premise, Trainspotting has surpassed its title of the greatest Scottish film ever made and is undoubtedly one of the greatest ever made in any country, leaving behind an indelible legacy that allows it to be remembered just as fondly more than a quarter of a century later.
Although the movie portrayed a Scotland of the time, it still speaks to the people of the country to this day, not just as a representation of the ups and downs of Scottish life but how sometimes “It’s shite being Scottish!” – even if we do make good films!
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3. Jurassic Park (1993)
Jurassic Park is simply one of the greatest movies of all time. Similar to the Hitchcock slot on this list, this number three spot really is rotational with other Spielberg-directed masterpieces like Jaws and Saving Private Ryan (or films with his stamp as a producer such as Back to the Future), there is very much a reason why Jurassic Park was chosen for this list.
Filled to the brim with groundbreaking special effects, iconic imagery and jaw-dropping action sequences, Jurassic Park is Spielberg’s tightly paced masterpiece that never lets up between minute one and minute one-hundred and twenty-seven. Though he may have created the blockbuster with Jaws, Jurassic Park is really where he perfected the formula for big screen popcorn flicks and ultimately set the standard for what audiences should expect from the biggest films of the summer.
Better yet, almost every scene is iconic yet still of vital importance. There are sillier, more innocent moments for the kids like Mr. DNA, a goofy corporate-style animation made to explain the science of Jurassic Park to the visitors (and to us as an audience), shooting off tonnes of exposition without ever feeling forced, all because of its very nature and its placing within the film. Not only does it allow us to understand the world of Jurassic Park but also John Hammond, the man who signed off on Mr. DNA; a telling sign of how he views the very thing he created.
There are more humorous moments such as the famous “that is one big pile of s***” line delivered by Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm, a moment which not only provides some light comedy to the picture but also leads to the moment in which the crew find an ill Triceratops, marking the very first time that they (and us) can get so close to a dinosaur that they can physically touch it. It’s a jaw-dropping moment of animatronic magic that engrosses us in the reality of the Jurassic Park universe, selling us on John Hammond’s dream and the threats that lurk just around the corner.
And, of course, there are the moments of truly exhilarating action: the entire T. Rex enclosure sequence, the raptors in the kitchen, even Dennis Nedry vs the Dilophosaurus. They are arguably some of the greatest-directed action sequences of all time and certainly the greatest to be featured on this list. Frankly, with Jurassic Park, Spielberg only goes to prove that he really can do it all, and what a delight it is to watch every single time.
Whether you grew up with it or were just recently introduced to the delights of Jurassic Park, it will dazzle you and stick with you forever. It is already thirty years old, and I have a feeling it won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
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