When Trent Alexander-Arnold talked up his favourite television shows, he unknowingly broke the seal on us treating television as sports at The Liverpool Offside. And that got us thinking, what other things could we talk about that could maybe, possibly, kind of if you squint at it just right also be sports?
The obvious answer was movies. After all, James Milner and Andy Robertson talked about Christmas movies—and it’s not entirely beyond the realm of possibility somebody at TLO Towers could pick a Christmas movie as a favourite. Plus one time Liverpool player and current cryptocurrency maven Michael Owen has somehow only seen like eight movies in his lifetime—so he could maybe use some recommendations right about now.
So. Without further ado, here are our picks for our movies—with “top” being best, favourite, or whatever the hell we decide it means during the course of answering.
Making a top three list of movies I don’t immediately want to delete and rewrite is an impossible task, and I’m certain I’ll regret every pick seconds after this goes up, so I’m choosing to make this a list of three really good movies in different genres, putting no pressure on myself to defend any of them as The GOAT.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
In a career filled with outstanding entries, this 2007 effort from Joel and Ethan Cohen remains the brothers’ magnum opus and the rare Academy Award winner that doesn’t feel erroneous in hindsight. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is obscenely good, ranging from beautiful to brutal, hiding complexity in simplistic shot selection; the script is airtight, with not a word wasted; and the villain is a Hall of Famer, as Javier Bardem’s bone-chilling Anton Chigurh cuts a sharklike figure, his inevitability making every effort to stop him seem futile. The oppressive tension is constant, the violence sudden, unremarkable, and sometimes, crucially, not shown at all. Tommy Lee Jones’ defeatist monologues throughout put a depressive cap on a nihilist film that somehow leaves you feeling neither when it ends.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Comedy is a notoriously difficult genre to create lasting masterpieces in. Where the great dramas have the luxury of forever retelling nigh-universal human experiences, comedy tends to be more of a snapshot of its moment in time as time leaves pop cultural references to fall flat and topics that at one time were considered appropriate to joke about—at least by those with the power to make movies—cease to be so. The members of Monty Python have in the four-and-a-half decades since the release of this film sadly largely gone the way of the latter, but this movie itself holds up spectacularly. It was the first film I could recite verbatim front to back and it remains absurdly quotable, the period setting gives it an ageless quality, and its ability to make the persistent fourth wall breaking and meta-referentiality charming instead of cynical and eye roll-inducing is a magic trick.
The Karate Kid (1984)
Listen, I just rewatched this for the 400th time last night, and I think you all should too. Arguably the greatest sports and coming of age movie of all time, this classic ticks all the boxes and was absolutely formative in my early life. Ralph Macchio’s slightly annoying—and upsettingly terrible kisser—Daniel sits at the hazy centre of a fantastic supporting cast, with hall of fame high school sweetheart Elisabeth Shue, hall of fame sociopath bully Billy Zabka, generational psycho coach Martin Kove, and the incomparable Pat Morita all delivering blockbuster performances. You have training, fighting, and romance musical montages backed up by one of the great 80s soundtracks—and one of the most satisfying final sequences ever put to film. A stone cold classic.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
I’m going to try to break down my picks to get some variety, starting off with one to check the classic and drama boxes, a movie that clocks in at nearly four hours and was released nearly sixty years ago but that doesn’t feel overlong or poorly paced. It’s vast, visually stunning, one of the most beautifully shot films of all time, an epic and a war movie but mostly a character study about trying—and ultimately, it’s hardly a spoiler to say, failing—to find fulfilment looking outwards, running away and embracing the false romanticism of harsh and unfamiliar places to drown out unhappiness or doubt. There’s a deep current of melancholy beneath the stunning vistas and set-pieces and heroics, but even if you have little interest in what’s going on below the surface it’s a great way to chew through a good chunk of a day—which is something you could probably use right about now.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
There’ve been some great comedies over the years, and great comedy is hard to do—probably harder than great drama. For me, though, no matter how much I might love some other movies, I always come back to this one. To The Dude. To the broke, amiable stoner just looking to get justice for his rug. Which got peed on by a group of dim nihilists who somehow mistook him for the millionaire Lebowski. The Big Lebowskwi. Of course nothing that follows is straightforward and things don’t go especially well for anyone involved. But in its meandering journey between bowling and kidnappings and porn kings exists perhaps the perfect comedy. And I take comfort in that. Because it’s good knowin’ he’ll always be out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Trying to cut it down to three picks means a lot of great movies just miss the cut, but when deciding what to put down for action and/or sci fi I kept asking myself if there’s been a better action movie this millennium. And I kept coming back to no, there hasn’t been. Fury Road is a movie that takes the entire history of the genre, everything that’s come before, and boils it down to its essence. There’s nothing unnecessary in it, not a single superfluous moment, no pretence at being anything other than an attempt to distill the entire history of action movies into 120 minutes and in doing so make the best damn popcorn flick of all time. Yet despite that perfect action movie slickness it manages to go a whole lot deeper, leaning into its sci fi half for theme and subtext. It’s a perfect, propulsive high-wire act, a movie that wants to have its cake and eat it, too—and manages to it.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Basic as fuck? Yes, but there’s a reason why it’s the perpetual #1 on IMDB. Infinitely re-watchable and close to perfection when it comes to the casting, dialogue, beats, pacing, score, and cinematography. It’s a beautiful film, and a timeless one. The issues raised about the criminal justice system, and those who run it, are just as valid as ever. And it contains one of the great villain downfalls of all time. Er. Spoilers?
There’s been a mini sci-fi renaissance over the last couple of years. Films like Ex Machina and Arrival really showed what great sci-fi could be: using technological or otherworldly phenomena to hold a mirror up to humanity. But for me, Intersteller edges them. Besides just being a brilliant movie, I also have a weirdly personal connection with the film, which gets it a spot on my list. The movie came out the week my wife and I were taking a road trip around Iceland in 2014. By pure coincidence, we went on a glacier walking tour at the exact spot where Christopher Nolan filmed both his ice planet scenes—as well as the training scenes from Batman Begins. The guide pointed to a spot and told us, “This is where they blew up the spaceship.” Dude. Spoilers. Anyway, we had to see it when we got back to Reykjavik, and we were not disappointed. I can nitpick a few cringe things, but Nolan is never shy of ambition and largely pulled it off here.
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
I love this movie. John Cusack, as always, plays John Cusack, but that’s perfect for this role. And the supporting cast is equally great. Minnie Driver has never been better (low bar, maybe, but still) and it’s one last great performance from Dan Aykroyd before he left us all for crazytown. The soundtrack, composed by former Clash frontman Joe Strummer, is extremely on point and an integral part of the film. The movie opens to “I Can See Clearly Now” juxtaposed over an assassination and it only gets better from there. It’s ostensibly a comedy or romantic comedy but it gets darker and grittier than you’d expect, and also takes its time with character and backstory with a heaping helping of heart to top it off.
The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
I have been told by people that I’m not allowed to pick the whole trilogy as one movie but I’m going to do it anyhow. Still, if I was forced to pick a favourite part out of it, it would be Fellowship of the Ring, the first in the franchise. I love watching the way that the fellowship comes together. This is also the film that spends the most time in Hobbiton, my spiritual home. But more than that, we are taken on a trip through Middle Earth for the first film. We see Hobbiton, but also Mirkwood, Mordor, Rivendell, Lothlorien, Weathertop, and Moria. They’re all such distinct and beautiful locations, and Peter Jackson does an incredible job of making you feel like you’re really exploring Middle Earth. Gandalf killing the Balrog is iconic. The chemistry between the actors is perfect. Do I wish there were more women in the movie? Yes, but that’s true for literally every movie. I rewatch all three every year around Christmas time, and they never get old.
Pride and Prejudice (2006)
I have plenty of love, but very little time, for the BBC production of P&P starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Instead, I will choose the Keira Knightley version. I love this story so much. It’s astonishing how well the themes and tropes hold up hundreds of years later. Knightley makes a great Elizabeth—in fact all of the Bennett sisters are well cast. The love story is, of course, the template for a million pretenders in the centuries since, and very few have matched its charms. The costumes are beautiful and the whole thing is very aesthetically pleasing. It also has one of the most romantic scenes in movie history, and it’s just a close up on Mr. Darcy’s hand.
The Sound of Music (1965)
I’ve grown up with this movie. As a kid, I remember that the movie was so long, it came in a double VHS pack. I can even tell you where the first tape ended: at Maria and the Captain’s wedding. I love the music, and I adore Julie Andrews. Their English accents in Austria will forever make me laugh. I had no time for the romance in it when I was a kid, but now I love the story of Maria and the Captain. It also has very memorable secondary characters. Every woman of a certain age can recall the moment that they were old enough to realize that sweet Rolf ended up becoming a Nazi.
The Game (1997)
First off, I’m not a David Fincher guy. I was into Se7en as a young adult and Fight Club hit me in my what-does-it-all-mean post-college gut, but I’m no acolyte. And frankly, Se7en kind of scares me now. Michael Douglas is another matter. That man is a living legend. I’ve never specifically sought out Michael Douglas movies (like I did with Gary Oldman in my younger years—see The Professional and then visit the Luc Besson collection) but always enjoy his performances. See 2007’s King of California also featuring Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood or 2000’s Wonder Boys based on the book by Michael Chabon.
The Game is a tricky film to pitch because its base appeal is rooted in mystery. But if you’ve heard of it you know there’s a well kept secret hidden inside and I can say that while the movie is foreboding and plays out under darkness, it’s a very entertaining ride trying to solve the puzzle. Plus the cinematography is excellent, if you’re into that. The Game was supposed to be a bigger success than Se7en it wasn’t. Then came Fight Club and The Game has been a little forgotten. But that’s okay. It means it’s just for us.
Glengarry, Glen Ross (1992)
This one’s for the acting and screenwriting nerds. Every performance is spectacular, and that’s not just pillow talk. A quick look at the cast and you’re going to be hooked. Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Jack Lemmon. And the script they have to work with is unique, and not just for the time.
Glengarry was written by David Mamet, who adapted his own play for the movie. It shows off his style of quick-talking, profanity-laden dialogue that influenced so many films through the 90s. Mamet went on to direct his own future screenplays to middling reviews from me but here, just as with 1996’s American Buffalo, letting the professionals get behind the camera was the way to go.
And, spoiler, this is the movie with ABC: Always Be Closing. Your film obsessed friends and coworkers have been quoting it for years. It’s maybe Alec Baldwin’s finest eight minutes on screen and it’s time to treat yourself.
Pacific Rim (2013)
Big robots fighting big aliens. And it looks great. It’s the future, obviously, and the world needs saving from those big aliens, who have been very nasty and destructive. So humans have built these massive robots to fight the aliens and that’s what happens. The side plots are interesting. Tom Waits brings another curious character to life (see also 1999’s Mystery Men). Charlie Day provides plenty of comic relief. Idris Elba plays the fearless leader with a heart who gets to deliver the movies’ big, important speech. And Rinko Kikucki steals the show late on. There’s also a wormhole thing and some exciting underwater melee robots vs. aliens action to cap it off.
To be clear, I currently have no intention of seeing Pacific Rim 2: Electric Boogaloo. I just dig Guillermo del Toro and appreciate the way Pacific Rim allowed him to play around creatively while still making an entertaining Hollywood extravaganza.