Motion Factory Blog
Industry insights, advice
and general musings
from the Motion Factory Team
Posted by Travis James Annabel
Film is a medium that is by design meant to entertain by eliciting an emotional response. Whether it makes you laugh, cry or become angry, a good film will elicit these emotions and make you empathise with its characters.
The films that have, over the years, inspired me to pursue screenwriting and filmmaking as a career are an unusual bunch, that’s for sure. And indeed, there are probably a large number of them which wouldn’t appear on many other people’s “top 10 Films of all time” lists. But, each to their own. Also, the fact that the majority of these films originate from the 90s probably has something to do with that being the decade of my formative teenage years, so don't hold that against me!
All of these movies have entertained me by eliciting an emotional response in some way or another. Whether it’s though sheer spectacle, or by making me empathise with the characters, it varies from film to film. So, from 10 to 1, here are the films that have inspired me most as a filmmaker.
10. Pulp Fiction (Dir: Quentin Tarantino)
Pulp Fiction needs no introduction. Quentin Tarantino’s second film, and in my opinion his best, combines classic performances, including Samuel L. Jackson’s incredible portrayal of hitman Jules. The story is devised masterfully, and the old-school filming techniques that Tarantino employs work an absolute treat. I first saw Pulp Fiction when I was a teenager, and the dark content freaked me out a little (especially the “Z” sequence… *shudder). But with age, I developed a love and appreciation for Pulp Fiction that I will always have. It taught me how to entertain through the use of confronting content. It taught me how the portrayal of that content is so important in society. But, most of all, it taught me to always be sure that if you’re going to snort coke, be 100% certain it’s not heroin.
Favourite Quote: "Say 'what' again, I dare you, I double dare you motherf**ker, say what one more Goddamn time!"
9. Inception (Dir: Christopher Nolan)
As you read on, you’ll understand that I have a love of mind-bending films and stories with twists. Inception is the most recent film on my list, but it is a fantastic study in filmmaking and story telling. A mind-bendingly satisfying story is combined with beautiful cinematography and top-notch performances from the entire cast, however the standout for me is Tom Hardy who, although has a relatively minor part, manages to be the most charismatic of the on screen talent – a tall order considering that the lead is Leonardo DeCaprio. It also throws in some stellar action sequences, none-better than the gravity defying hand-to-hand hotel room brawl.
Favourite quote: "What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient... highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate."
8. 12 Monkeys (Dir: Terry Gilliam)
It’s hard to articulate what I enjoy so much about 12 Monkeys. It’s jam packed full of great performances, it has a story that twists and turns but still makes complete sense the whole way, and it’s filmed in a way that makes it appear like it’s a much bigger budget film than what it is. But in reality, it’s none of those things that are what I love most about this film. The thing I love about it, is how quirky is. From Brad Pitt’s breakout performance as a mentally ill eco-terrorist to the weird but compelling soundtrack, 12 Monkeys is proof that in filmmaking, there should be no rules, and that weird is good.
Favourite quote: "Wiping out the human race? That's a great idea. That's great. But more of a long-term thing. I mean, first we have to focus on more immediate goals."
7. American Beauty (Dir: Sam Mendes)
Darkly funny, with stunning cinematography, performances and direction, American Beauty tells what at first glimpse could be a darkly funny, but somewhat mundane story about a middle class American going through a mid-life crisis. But look a little closer (indeed, the film's tag line), and there’s just so much more to this film than meets the eye. There’s barely a character that could really be considered a good person – at some point, each of them do something that is near abhorrent – but the viewer is still made to empathise with each and every one of them. The entire cast give absolutely incredible performances, none better than the leads, Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening.
Favourite quotes: "Janie, today I quit my job. And then I told my boss to go f**k himself, and then I blackmailed him for almost sixty thousand dollars. Pass the asparagus."
6. Heat (Dir: Michael Mann)
Heat is, through and through, an action movie. From the opening heist on the armoured car to the bank robbery that results in all out urban warfare (more on this in a bit), the film is most certainly packed full of action. Yet, it takes the time to develop each and every one of its characters. Whether it’s the home life troubles of Al Pacino’s LAPD detective, the romantic life of Robert DeNiro’s bank robber, or the mental health issues of Al Pacino’s step daughter (portrayed by a very young Natalie Portman), this film cares loads about each of its characters to the point that it forces the viewer to understand their motivations. The performances are a large part of it, none more so than Al Pacino’s incredible run as Detective Hanna. It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest performances of all time.
Aside from the performances, the action sequences are some of the best ever filmed. The incredible heist sequence in downtown LA would be, in my books the best action sequence in film period if it weren’t for another another sequence in a film further down on my list. But the echoes of the guns in the street and the way that Val Kilmer’s character just stops mid-stride and starts unloading in full auto always keeps me on the edge of my seat no matter how many times I’ve seen this film.
Favourite quote: "Oh, I see, what I should do is, ah, come home and say "Hi honey! Guess what? I walked into this house today, where this junkie a**hole just fried his baby in a microwave, because it was crying too loud. So let me share that with you. Come on, let's share that, and in sharing it, we'll somehow, ah, cathartically dispel all that heinous sh*t". Right? Wrong."
5. Fight Club (Dir: David Fincher)
When it comes to mind bending films, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve never been as bamboozled as I was by the twist in Fight Club. I can remember resisting seeing it for many years – the trailers made it seem so uninteresting, just like some kind of macho fighting film. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that Fight Club probably had some of the worst marketing in film history. But when I finally sat down and watched it, I was blown away. On the surface, it’s a stupid film. Grown men fighting society in possibly the most immature way imaginable; but there’s just so much more to it than what you see on the surface. Throw in the all-round solid performances (especially from Helena Bonham-Carter), stellar direction from Fincher and some filmmaking gimmicks that you won’t even notice on the first watch through, and you’ll begin to understand that Fight Club has layers upon layers upon layers. Oh, and not to mention some incredible one liners.
Favourite quote: “Of course, it's company policy never to imply ownership in the event of a dildo. We have to use the indefinite article, "a dildo", never ... your dildo.”
4. The Departed (Dir: Martin Scorsese)
Again, layers upon layers. The Departed is what happens when you take a stellar story, add an unbelievable cast, and thrown in a bit of Martin Scorsese for good measure. Leo and Matt Damon are both brilliant in this film, but Jack Nicholson takes it to the absolute brink – his performance is godly. Plus, special mention has to go to Alec Baldwin for his performance as a coke-head police captain, which was also brilliant.
The Departed’s story is every bit as good as it’s performances, too. From the twists and turns all the way through, you’re kept guessing right to the very end who’s loyal to who. Also, that ending – brutal.
Favourite quote: "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's say you have no idea and leave it at that, okay? No idea. Zip. None. If you had an idea of what we do, we would not be good at what we do, now would we? We would be c**ts. Are you calling us c**ts?"
3. Dark City (Dir: Alex Proyas)
There’s two versions of Dark City, the original theatrical version and the Director’s Cut version. I enjoy both, but I first fell in love with the original theatrical version, so that will always be my favourite. Yes, it comes with added (and perhaps unnecessary) exposition. But that didn’t faze me. Dark City is, perhaps, an odd film to be on a top 10 list of films. Firstly, it’s not going to win any awards for its acting. It’s often over-acted, sometimes jarringly so. But this is clearly a deliberate ploy by director Alex Proyas, and in my opinion, adds to the atmosphere of the film, which without a doubt is its best feature, and the thing that I love most about it. The story is great, the visuals are great and the soundtrack is quirky and brilliant. This film is all about the noirish atmosphere, and thanks to it's stunning cinematography and lighting it does it better than just about any other film. As the name implies, it’s dark, and that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.
Favourite quote: "You know something, I don't think the sun even exists in this place. 'Cause I've been up for hours, and hours, and hours, and the night never ends here."
2. The Fifth Element (Dir: Luc Besson)
Another film that wouldn’t make many people’s top 10 lists, I absolutely adore The Fifth Element. The best way I can describe it is that it’s outrageous. From Chris Tucker’s deliberately over-the-top Ruby Rhod to Milla Jovovich’s alien supreme being Leeloo-whatsy, the performances are all ridiculously over the top, and that’s exactly what makes them so good. How many films that dedicate a full sequence to an operatic/techno performance by a big blue dancing alien can be taken seriously? None – and that’s the point. The Fifth Element is not meant to be taken seriously – it is meant to entertain. And it does that incredibly well.
Favourite quote: "What's wrong with you? What you screamin' for? Every five minutes there's somethin', a bomb or somethin'. I'm leavin'. Bzzzz."
1. Children of Men (Dir: Alfonso Cuaròn)
Children of Men is nothing less than a study in brilliance. It is so masterfully written, directed, shot, acted and edited that for me, it is the absolute pinnacle of filmmaking. It’s one of those films that has so much happening in the backgrounds of every shot, that you could watch it through 100 times and still not see everything.
It’s also a study of contradiction – it’s violent, but beautiful; sad, but hopeful; heartbreaking, but inspiring; tragic, but entertaining. And it does it all so masterfully. The performances from the entire cast are brilliant, none more so than Clive Owen. The story is heartbreaking, but still inspires hope the entire way through.
But, if there’s one thing that takes this film from brilliant to sublime, then it’s the incredible “one shot” action sequences. While not really one shot sequences (there are in fact numerous creative and CGI transitions in there), there are in particular two sequences which are amazing. The first is a violent ambush along a country road, that really changes the tone of the film. The second, a big climatic battle in a British refugee slum featuring tanks and crumbling buildings is in my opinion the greatest action scene ever filmed, edging out the previously mentioned LA gunfight in Heat.
The saddest part, is that Children of Men is not a particularly well known film. But, I urge you if you get the opportunity to watch it – you won’t be disappointed.
Favourite quote: "As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children's voices. "
There we have it, the top 10 films that inspired me to become a screenwriter and filmmaker. What do you reckon of the list? Love it or hate it? I'd love to hear your thoughts, or even your own list of favourite films - comment below!
Producer, videographer, editor - Motion Factory's Director of Photography has a huge passion for film making.
Travis james annabel
Filmmaking has been a passion of Trav's for as long as he can remember.