I’m off on a stag do this weekend – paint-balling, followed by drinking, in case you were wondering, although personally I think those should be the other way around – and in fact this is the first stag do I’ve ever been on, so I’m a little apprehensive as to what’s going to go down amidst a group of guys I know next to nothing about, seeing as the only one I really know is the groom. This concern comes from all the bachelor parties I’ve seen in films, and how none of them have ever really worked out all that well. The obvious list I jumped to was top 10 bachelor parties in films, but alas I couldn’t think of 10 (in descending order: The Hangover 2, American Pie: The Wedding, The Hangover, Bachelor Party, Very Bad Things, Clerks 2, Sideways), so I switched it out for something similar, celebrating the films that, just like the traditional stag do, don’t allow women in them. I had to take a few liberties here – you’ll see what I mean – but I think they’re acceptable. In fact, this list contains several of my all-time favourite films, two of which I have posters of in my lounge, which may say something about my opinions of women in cinema… Oh, and before you check, no, there isn’t any gay porn on here.
Honourable Mention: Outpost
Zombies! Nazi zombies! Ridiculous Nazi zombies! The premise for this film is, well, kinda dumb – a rich dude hires a group of mercenaries to take him to an underground bunker, where they discover the Nazis performed some tests in WW2 to create an unkillable soldier, and wouldn’t you know it, whilst they’re their they manage to resurrect them – and the film itself plays out little better. The only ‘names’ amongst the cast are Michael Smiley (Spaced
, Kill List
) and Ray Stevenson (Thor
, Punisher: War Zone
) and the director, Steve Barker, has made nothing else of note save a crap-looking sequel, but despite the unlikable characters (particularly Robert Blake’s greasy Prior) and evidently low budget, this still has its moments. Can’t help thinking Nazi zombies have a great deal more to offer than this though. I really wanted Con Air
to take this position, or Armageddon
, but they have fairly prominent female roles, dammit.
10. Black Hawk Down
Just a head’s up, there’s a fair few war films in this list, and if many hadn’t felt the need to include the characters of reporters or the families back home, there probably would have been a couple more. Tony Scott’s Somalia conflict movie makes up for a lack of female characters by having a heck of a lot of male ones, mostly played by a plethora of great actors – and Orlando Bloom. At times the sheer number of people on screen can make it hard to follow, but having them all be recognisable faces certainly helps. I’ve just got to run down this cast for you, it’s almost unbelievable: Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Wiliam Fichtner, Tom Sizemore, Ewen Bremner, Jeremy Piven, Sam Shepard, Kim Coates, Hugh Dancy, Ioan Gruffudd, Jason Isaacs, Zeljko Ivanek, Glenn Morshower, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Tom Hardy, even Ty Burrell’s in there! And those helicopters were badass.
Sleuth (the original, I’ve not seen the Caine/Law remake) really deserves it’s own list, seeing as not only are there only two actors in the entire film, but there’s only about three locations as well, and the two men (Michael Caine and Lawrence Olivier) are on screen together for almost the entirety of the film. Given how limited the production was, it’s amazing how many twists and turns the plot takes, and how on edge I was as to how the story would play out. Granted, the big twist was a little easy to see coming – although this could be due to dated prosthetics and over-familiarity with Michael Caine and his ability with accents – but this remains a great film I’d highly recommend.
8. Cool Hand Luke
OK, so there is technically a woman in this film (Joy Harmon, cleaning a car) but she is essentially reduced to a Playboy magazine with a safety pin barely holding the pull-out closed as Paul Newman and the rest of the chain gang prisoners leer over her. Plus, she never utters a word, and is only given a speculative name (Lucille) by George Kennedy’s Dragline. The only other females can be found in photographic form, which is only right really, seeing as the film is about an all-male prison separated from society, and if there were more women-folk around then Newman’s Luke would be far less inclined to repeatedly try and escape! In my opinion this is one of Newman’s best performances from his younger days, although I’ve always preferred him older, in the likes of The Colour of Money and The Hudsucker Proxy.
7. Saving Private Ryan
Another film that does technically have women in them, but only in very small roles and very early on, in the form of the letter-writing secretaries and the mother of the three deceased and one alive Ryan boys and the family of the present day surviving soldier, the existence of a mother may well be the driving force of the plot, but the focus is on the group of men sent to find him amongst the haystack that is war-torn France. I love the camaraderie between the guys, and the varying roles they play within the group. Whether it’s the world-weary captain (Tom Hanks), his loyal sergeant (Tom Sizemore), the slightly simple sniper (Barry Pepper), the vengeful Jew (Adam Goldberg) or the inexperienced wannabe writer (Jeremy Davies), there’s no weak link amongst them. Plus, the cast is peppered with great character actors in smaller roles, like Dennis Farina, Paul Giamatti, Ted Danson, Nathan Fillion and Bryan Cranston, and as is always mentioned when discussing this film, the two huge war scenes that bookend the flashback section of the film are absolutely stupendous, guaranteeing this film
a higher position on a list of my favourite war films.
6. The Shawshank Redemption
There was a period in my life where I wouldn’t go longer than a couple of months without watching this film, and I see absolutely nothing wrong with that, as it is almost flawless. What keeps it out of my top 5 is how much I enjoy watching the remaining films more, possibly because I may have over-saturated myself on Shawshank
‘s goodness. Anyway, this is the second prison film on the list, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering I don’t think there’s been a mixed-gender prison movie, and no, technically there is one more prison movie to come. As before, there are very small female roles here in essentially background characters – Andy’s wife that was murdered to cause his incarceration, the woman on Red’s third parole board, the customers in the supermarket – and of course there’s Rita Hayworth (and Raquel Welch, and the others).
5. Glengarry Glen Ross
Brass balls. That’s what you need to sell real estate, and that’s what you need to be in Glengarry Glen Ross
, unless you want to be a coat check girl or a voice on a phone. Of the seven key actors here – Pacino, Spacey, Lemmon, Harris, Arkin, Baldwin and Pryce – it is Jack Lemmon, in an Oscar-worthy but sadly un-nominated role – who steals the show for me, even above an early shouty performance from Pacino. Lemmon’s Shelley ‘The Machine’ Levine once had it all, but now sees his greatness slipping and faces unemployment at the hands of his own failing ability to sell, and a broken system that favours the successful. Mamet’s rapid fire script is taut – you cannot cut a line from this film, not anywhere – and I long for it to be on stage somewhere near me, so I can see it how it was meant to be seen – live.
4. The Thing
It’s appeared on lists before, so I’ll keep this brief. John Carpenter’s The Thing
is one of my favourite films, which goes to show how great the rest of this list is, seeing as this is only at number 4. The all-male cast helps rank up the tension, which would have been more easily dissipated had there been some women on hand to relieve some of those stresses, or to at least cause the men to act civilly in front of. As such, the story of a weird alien uh, thing, integrating itself within the confines of an Arctic research station, and having the ability to transform into anyone it comes into contact with, is so incredibly tense, and it never lets up. I still haven’t seen the recent prequel, but the involvement of a woman – even if she does look like Mary Elizabeth Winstead – does not raise my hopes.
3. 12 Angry Men
Had I kept with my original theme for last week’s top ten and gone with the Top 10 Movies with Numbers in the Title (not including sequels), to coincide with the Film Vituperatum
‘s movie of the week being Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps
, then 12 Angry Men
would have proudly sat atop that pile. Sidney Lumet’s masterful direction – slowly decreasing the size of the room and the height of the camera as he increases the temperature and frays the tempers – makes me appreciate this film more and more with every viewing. Add to this some stellar performances from the likes of Lee J. Cobb, Jack Klugman, Ed Begley and of course Henry Fonda, and you have another flawless film from the same director who brought you Network
, Dog Day Afternoon
and The Verdict
. Lumet does not get nearly enough credit as an awesome director.
2. Reservoir Dogs
The first Tarantino film I saw also remains my favourite, even if I’ll admit that the likes of Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds are probably better. Why do I prefer Reservoir Dogs? Well, to start with it’s a great deal shorter, meaning I can more easily watch it one evening after work without having to feel guilty that I haven’t gone to the gym/written a review/done the washing up, but there’s also the fact that I’ve never had a deep-seated craving throughout my day to watch any other Tarantino picture, whereas there have been many occasions when I just haven’t felt right with the world until I’ve seen Michael Madsen getting his groove on to Stealer’s Wheel, before cutting Marvin’s ear off. I do recall there being at least one woman – Steve Buscemi’s Mr. Pink briefly takes a female hostage, if I remember rightly, but her gender is of no consequence to the plot, and neither is his referring to a female waitress in the coffee shop opening. Like Glengarry Glen Ross and The Thing, this has a very small, contained cast in a limited number of locations (although not as limited as 12 Angry Men or Sleuth), but it uses every aspect of the actors and places to their full extent.
1. The Great Escape
Occasionally a contender for my favourite film of all time, though in recent years it’s become a distant second to Jurassic Park
, The Great Escape
would top a list of war films, escape films, ensemble casts, motorbike scenes, dodgiest accents (James Coburn is a lot of things, but Australian is not one of them), drinking scenes, movie deaths (poor Ives) and so many other lists I haven’t even come up with. There’s a good reason I’ve not crossed it off my Steve McQueen list yet – I’ve no idea how I’ll even begin reviewing a film I love so unconditionally, which is also the reason I’ve been rambling a little here. I should be getting to it soon though, so you can just wait a little before reading why I love it so much. I think it’s mainly Hilts and his baseball.
So did I miss any out? If so, I probably haven’t seen them, as I literally couldn’t think of any others! Either way, let me know, I love recommendations.