(Post by nerdbastards contributor Melissa Fouch Machowski)
Lots of films didn’t make the cut for this list for the following reasons: 1. Certain directors and movies are too well-known and obvious to spend time recommending. 2. Some movies don’t need to be recommended to sci-fi nerds, horror freaks or pop-culture afficionados of any particular decade. 3. These vary on the obscurity scale, but they’re all beloved to this writer’s heart and colossally riveted into my psyche….and 4. There are only twelve spots on this list, so by all means use the comments section to make your Must-See Top 12 Films known.
I give you A Year In Must-See Films
January — The Changeling (1980)
Just because Halloween was a few months ago doesn’t mean you can’t freak yourself out with a slow-moving quiet terror-fest such as The Changeling. Giant creaky haunted house. Grieving older man trying to move past witnessing the tragic death of his family…you know, something cheerful to start out the year! I love this movie for its pre-A.D.D. pace. Back when people understood that the scariest stuff to be discovered lingers in the silence of our minds and the anguish of being alone. That and a good talk-to-the-spirits scene or two. Forget 3D, CGI, make-up and effects. This movie is brass tacks horror from my favorite decade of the genre — 1975-1985.
February — The Warriors
Wait, what? You haven’t seen The Warriors? I can’t imagine that being the case, but if it is, please don’t wait another day. Go now. Go get a copy and drink in the godliness of this classic 70s cult film. It never ceases to pain me when the final credits roll as the Warriors walk along the Coney Island shoreline. GOOD MOVIE, Can you dig it?
March — Knife in the Water
Roman Polanski’s 1962 directorial debut, this thriller brings us along on a very uncomfortable sail with a couple who has picked up a hitchhiker. Did I mention that the couple is rather unhappy? This is another film that brilliantly entwines quiet with violence and slow pace with underlying pain and loneliness.
April — Krull
Krull rocked me as a kid. I saw it in the theater and then many more times on HBO or Showtime, whichever was showing it a million times. The most melancholy and recurring thought of my adolescence came from this movie: the beloved Cyclops, Rell, knew when he would die. Krull holds a place in my heart for making me fall even deeper in love with sci-fi..
“From the sky will come the Black Fortress. From the Fortress will come the Slayers to devour the planet of Krull. Then shall a girl of ancient name become queen…she shall choose a king…and together they shall rule the planet. And their son shall rule the galaxy.” Written by Stanford Sherman
May — Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Perfectly bizarre. Its hard to choose just one Russ Meyer flick for this list because they’re all so rock-and-roll — hot, sexy, violent dark films with big-breasted bombshells toting guns and driving fast cars in go-go boots. What’s not to love? But Beyond the Valley of the Dolls steps into Epic territory with its plunge into psychadelic rage and chaos. The Carrie Nation, a band of cute, bubbly girls crosses through the mire of a well-established weirdo-zone filled with candylike colorful characters such as Z-man and featuring The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s party performance. This movie defies explanation because it is to be experienced from within. Trippy, huh?
June — Dazed and Confused
School’s out! Jump back in time and re-experience the last day of school in 1976…back when the freshmen were hazed, the weed was everywhere and getting laid and drinking beer seemed to be the top priority. I don’t think it was limited to the 70s to have an older dude supplying the beer and weed to the guys in exchange for an in with the highschool girls though. I won’t name names, but that was going on in my highschool parking lot in the 80s. But I digress. I bet most of you have seen this one and will agree that its a classic that’s so accurately portrayed that they almost pass you the joint on that football field. Favorite quote:
Truer words were never spoken.
July — Death Race 2000 (1975)
This film is described on imdb as such:
In the near future the ultimate sporting event is the deathrace. Contestants get score points for running people down as they speed across the country. The sport has crazed fans who sacrifice themselves to the drivers. An overt agency is trying to bring an end to the immoral deathrace and has infiltrated one of their followers in to the race as a navigator. In the end of the race the lives of the competitors, the President and the deathrace itself are in peril. Written by FMJ_Joker
I would just like to point out that although this is a Must-See film…that description in no way indicates how retardedly great this movie is. And believe me, I tried to avoid using the word retardedly. But its just the most accurate way to say it.
August — Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
At the risk of including too many films about angry unhappy couples in this, my newlywed year….I am recommending this strange ride. Elizabeth Tayor and her soon-to-be ex-husband-in-real-life and master actor Richard Burton play an aging alcoholic couple with some seriously dark stuff happening in their marriage. And being the creeps that they are, they invite a young newlywed couple over for dinner and drinks. They tangle the couple into some bizarre conversations and extremely awkward drunken situations…and um…that’s the movie. A perfect double feature with this would be Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in “Taming of the Shrew” which they filmed together early in their relationship. Such a great thing to know when you watch these two films.
September — Dot and the Kangaroo
If you’re like me you prefer children’s movies a little on the less saccharine sweet side. This movie played repeatedly on cable when I was a kid and was addicting. Not only the catchy songs, but the half real/half animated world drew me right in. The scary undertone of a girl lost in the woods entices me way beyond Shrek, Toy Story or any of the more recently released films targeted at kids. The main character Dot wanders through the world of animals trying to survive and get back home with the help of some strange woodland creatures in the Australian Outback. Its nice to go back to a time when scaring kids was a-ok.
October — Pieces (1982)
Pieces might just be up there in my top five all-time flicks. I first discovered this at some indie video shop in Denver, Colorado in the late 80s. I was in charge of choosing the horror movies to be shown at the high school Halloween dance. Ha! Now that is an assignment I was born to do. I brought home an armload of VHS tapes that looked gritty and horrifically awesome. Pieces rocked me in a Carrie meets 70s slasher meets college campus kind of way (so bad its good). The plot is impossibly simple, but still somehow proved cumbersome for the writers, keeping right in step with the overall dumpy-is-so-right production value. Very little dialog is a good thing in this movie….it is the visuals that stay with you. Dark empty college campus buildings, dimly unlit sets, young fresh girls, anatomy classrooms, tons of dark splashing blood…I kept the copy I rented for the dance and forced many people to watch it with me over the years, in its crapalicous splendor. Fortunately Grindhouse Releasing recently released a fresh new version of this without destroying the vintage-y horror quality (NO! Not Tarantinto and Rodriguez “GRINDHOUSE” films) — more about that here. For my money, this is the ultimate Halloween horror night movie.
November — Twilight of the Cockroaches
I suppose you could call this “Semi-Anime”, but I KNOW you can call it a masterpiece. If you’re not real bright you’ll see a semi-animated film featuring animated cockroaches in a live-action footage world not unlike idiotic MTV film Joe’s Apartment. But its way way way more than that. First of all its a visual work of grandeur. Go have a look. Then layer on the complexity of the allegorical plot that brings tears over the trials and tribulations of cockroaches. Frankly I find it difficult to express the depth of metaphor and how well the director and writers handled the details and big picture. If you love anime….if you loved MAUS….forget it. This movie will move you.
December — River’s Edge
So I get that most of you have seen this movie, but maybe not in a long time…and its reeeeally really good. First off you have the incredible cast including Ione Skye, Crispin Glover (“I poked it…with a stick”), Dennis Hopper: I may as well stop right there. If you’re not immediately drawn to a film that features performances from both Dennis Hopper and Crispin Glover…then I fear you’ve just read the wrong list of “Must See Films”. Also note that this is the one film performance by Keanu Reeves that actually works because he plays a cute, dumb regular dude. Perfectly cast for the last time in his career. The center of the plot seems to be the killing of a girl in a group of friends at the hands of her boyfriend. For me, the real heart of this movie lies in the aftermath that each character lives through in the days following the murder. Brilliant, strange, pedestrian and creepy.