Barry Norman died yesterday and took with him one of those iconic names, voices and careers that were part of my childhood and millions of lives up and down this country. Even now, as people gather in groups of friends and families, anyone that makes a comment on a film leave themselves wide open to the response; “sorry, Barry Norman”. He is totally and utterly synonymous with films and the movie business. He was the way most us accessed Hollywood. He was a broadcasting giant. He was the movies.
His passing provides a sad opportunity to do something he would surely have loved; reflect on my favourite films. I have obliged with a list of my own and some comments – I couldn’t help myself. Be grateful you are just reading the list and were not sat next to me as I made it – you are therefore spared the reenactments of my favourites lines, scenes or songs from these extraordinary pieces of cinema. Dr J was not so lucky!
I have listed 51 (I wrote 5o and then added one!) here – the first names that came to mind after an hour or so of racking my brains. There will be others that pop in to my mind over the coming days, which will illicit some kicking myself for missing them out. Like my bucket list post, I feel an update will not be far away. Just to be clear, these are my favourite films not necessarily those I am saying are the best films – although given my outstanding taste in films, they could be considered one in the same……….
The Godfather – the nearest thing to popcorn perfection it is possible to get, apart from its sensational sequel
The Godfather part II – perfection, perfection, perfection.
Schindler’s List – a masterpiece and amazingly uplifting given the subject. I have watched this at least 10 times and find new details to marvel at each time. I still get something in my eye as he is presented with the gift. Gulp.
One Day in September – won an Oscar for a reason – the best documentary film I’ve ever seen – Munich 1972 Olympics – jaw dropping at first watch and if anything gets more shocking the more you watch it.
Camelot – magical and deeply moving – made even more magical by the Newsroom’s references to it.
Airplane – surely, the funniest film ever made. I am serious, and don’t call me Shirely.
Argo – as you can, I love political/historical films. This is done brilliantly. The final 25 minutes is breathtaking tension. The scene when they are trying to get the operation reinstated is priceless.
In the Name of the Father – still makes me angry to this day – after 25+ viewings. One of the most sickening miscarriages of justice, done justice by the amazing Daniel Day Lewis, Emma Thompson and Pete Posetlewaite.
The Untouchables – the best worse Irish accent ever from Sean Connery but a magnificent movie – the best wardrobe ever seen on the screen.
The Wind That Shakes The Barley – felt sick the first time I watched it. Effected me deeply. Even the words “black and tans” now makes the hair on the back of my neck rise and the pulse race.
ET – cried watching as a child, cried watching as an adult.
The Silence of the Lambs – the best acting performance ever from Sir Anthony. Astounding in ever possible way.
Donnie Brasco – forget about it. The definition of how a gangster movie should be made. Wonderful. It only has one equal (I don’t count the two Godfather films – I’m ignoring the third, despite it being beautifully shot with an amazing soundtrack – as it transcends genres – it sits alone)……..the next on my list……..
Goodfellas – so many memorable moments and scenes – once watched, never forgotten.
Mary Poppins – over 50 years old and still as magical, fresh and catchy as ever. Probably my favourite film of all time for what it meant to me growing up, watching my sister grow up and my daughter grow up. Memories.
Mrs Doubtfire – a children’s film really made for adults. Williams’ genius on show in every scene.
A Few Good Men – court room scenes and characters to die for. The scene when Tom Cruise cross examines Jack Nicholson never ever ages.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – the best of the Dr Jones films. Amazing chemistry between dad and son on screen, despite only twelve years between Ford and Connery.
Rocky – no words needed. I went to Philadephia, ran up the steps, listening to the soundtrack and broke down at the top. A film that makes you dream.
Lawrence of Arabia – the most stunning film I’ve ever seen. Every scene a piece of priceless artwork.
Gladiator – avoided it for years, watched it and felt a fool. Mesmerising.
Taxi driver – dark, dark and more dark. Performances that make you believe anything is possible.
Seven – the dialogue between Freeman and Pitt and their relationship is magnetic. The box. The scene with the box. Oh god.
Casablanca – timeless genius.
Fight Club – the coolest film of its age. I even felt a little bit cooler after I watched it.
The Usual Suspects – likewise. Clever, clever stuff. I’m sure I got cleverer just watching.
Shawshank Redemption – an epic of Ben Hur proportions. The closing scenes are to die for. Wonderful.
Goldfinger – what made Bond great. The car. The clothes. The glamour. The lines. The iconic scenes. Connery. Imaginations fired.
Moonraker – Moore. The best Bond villain ever. Ludicrous plot. Watched this dozens – literally dozens – of times at Uni. Could still quote the whole film.
Live and Let Die – in film terms, the best Bond film. Everything in its place. Could watch it every day and not get bored. Charlie!
Munich – another way of viewing the 1972 massacre and aftermath – another piece of Spielberg genius with an amazing John Williams soundtrack.
Die Hard – all three (ignoring the lazy fourth) are great action films but something about this being the original makes it stand out – fabulous.
When Harry Met Sally – in my top five. Funny. Exquisitely written. Music out of this world. Sad. Poignant. Lump in the throat still to this day. Baby fishmouth!
Notting Hill – best of this genre and so many memories of where me and Dr J lived.
Star Trek 2: the wrath of Khan – love, love, love the Star Trek movies. This for interplay between Kirk and Khan just edges it.
Bridesmaids – laugh out loud funny. Roared watching it on a flight first time. Ball-achingly brilliant.
Moneyball – baseball in a movie based on a true story; what’s there not to like?
Catch Me If You Can – a brilliant (true) story, perfectly told by Mr Spielberg but the movie it stolen by the sheer talent and presence of Christhoper Walken, who can only be in 5% of the film. A masterclass in impact.
Philadelphia – Hanks at his best. Gut wrenchingly brilliant.
Fahrenheit 9/11 – only time I have been to the cinema and seen a film get a standing ovation. The tears rolled down my face. One of the most powerful experiences of my life. Period.
Bowling for Colombine – exposing the lunacy of US gun laws in the most powerful way and taking the NRA apart. Well done, Michael Moore, again. The scene with Charlton Heston is staggering, on so many levels.
All the President’s Men – some of the best performances I’ve ever seen in one movie. Robert Redford is the most handsome man I’ve ever seen in this film.
Frost Nixon – unmissable. Sheen is a modern day movie giant. This fed my Watergate obsession over and over again.
Kings Speech – perfect Christmas Day fayre. Great story – another true one – perfectly done. Understated.
Star Wars: return of the Jedi – the best of the bunch. Heroes in every scene.
Champions – sport + movies usually = cheesy. Not this one; John Hurt, the Grand National, a true story and that music. Makes me tear up every year when the Grand National is one – this is where it started.
Ghandi – epic.
The Pink Panther – how comedy was meant to be. Sellars is the classic troubled comic genius. This film is his crowning glory. I have watched this (and shot in the dark) at least 50 times. “Does you dog bite?”. Timing.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – one of the first films I watched over and over again – the directors cut has some special extras, including extra swearing. Magic.
Hotel Rwanda – watched the whole thing with my mouth open and my heart racing. Hard to believe it happened, but it did.
The Interpretator – ok film, extraordinary performance from Sean Penn. Never seen someone dominate a film so much – in a good way. What an actor! The sub plot about his wife and the answerphone message gets me every time.
It is impossible to think about Barry Norman without thinking about the movies he loved and the programme he presented for a generation on television. It is impossible to think of Barry Norman and not staring humming that music. As he may have said himself, and why not?