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MISSING from BBC’s top 100 films of the 21st century


Film is something I have had a long love affair with. At age 12 my cinema education began with the list of films my dad had long been waiting to show me, and from that moment my adoration of good cinema was instilled. I have seen a lot of great films in that period of time: it is therefore no mean fete when I say that Birdman is one of my favourites, if not in my top three. You can perhaps understand my horror, then, upon discovering that Birdman had been snubbed by the recent publication of the BBC’s top 100 films of the 21st Century so far. How, I ask, could this have happened?

Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and released in 2014, as soon as the lights went dark in the cinema and the reel begun, I knew I was watching something special. The clever way of filming, the witty script and the mesh of reality and fantasy had me in awe: Riggan Thomson, played beautifully by Michael Keaton, was a character whose inner turmoil, presented in the form of his superhero Birdman appearing to him, I related to in many ways. There was no weak cast member, with every role both loveable and despicable in equal measure. And I wasn’t the only one who found Iñárritu’s creation spellbinding – it has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, received 4 and 5 star reviews from a whole host of publications, and ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Picture. Perhaps this sums it up: out of all the films I could have a poster of on my wall, Birdman is the one that made the cut.

Many of my favourite films had made the cut, including the likes of Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards and the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, and rightly so. Yet some frankly dull Hollywood stereotypes somehow clinched Birdman to the post. For example, John Crowley’s Brooklyn: whilst a heartfelt and generally enjoyable experience, it is merely a standard Hollywood affair of ‘girl overcomes her troubles and meets boy who loves her dearly’. In my books, films such as this are nothing compared to the special cinematic viewing of Birdman.

Birdman is, interestingly, not the only Oscar Best Picture winner to be completely ignored by this list: 2010’s The King’s Speech, 2011’s The Artist and 2012’s Argo were also not included on the list. 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, and 2015’s Spotlight, came in 42nd and 88th respectively. This, however, highlights a massive discrepancy in what the Academy Awards consider to be the best, and what the critics do.

Lily Pickard



This was a zombie film with brains, but not in the traditional sense. Danny Boyle’s thriller shows us Britain driven mad by ‘Rage’, a virus which turns its victims into a violent, relentless hoard determined to infect anyone they encounter. Within the chaos, a group of survivors attempts to make their way towards a supposed safe haven, only to realise that monsters come in many forms.

As well as being full to the brim with tense and unsettling scenes, it has an rich emotional core filled with well developed characters, all of whom exist in an uncomfortable moral grey area. It is a film about how quickly we can let ourselves go mad in a world gone mad, and a wonderfully spun tale of corruption and power. On its merits as a piece of filmmaking alone it deserves a place on this list, however it’s cultural impact adds further cause. 28 Days Later reshaped a genre which was rapidly becoming stale, adding faster and more vicious zombies as well as a greater human focus which has allowed films for years to come to follow in its shambling footsteps. It is the pinnacle of a genre which captured the imagination of a generation, and one of the best films of this century. Also, seeing Brendan Gleeson gurgle his way through a cockney accent never gets old.

 Johny Lynas



Stephen Daldry’s The Hours is one of the most neglected cinematic masterpieces of our time. Adapted from Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer winning novel of the same name and it tells the story of three women from different periods of history, whose lives are intricately and fatally connected.

In 1923, a numbingly disturbed Virginia Woolf has started writing the novel for which she will become most famous: Mrs. Dalloway. In 1951, a suffocated Los Angeles housewife is reading the aforementioned novel as a way of escaping the monotony of a societal role that she has no wish to fulfil. And in 2001, New York editor Clarissa Vaughan appears as a modern embodiment of Woolf’s eponymous heroine as she prepares to host a party for a dying poet. Within the span of a single day, each character’s life begins to unravel as they are faced with a dilemma whose outcome will be inevitably destructive, regardless of the path chosen.

What makes this film so good is partly the strength of the performances in it. The Hours possesses one of the most ingeniously cast ensembles to ever grace the silver screen. Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep play the three principal characters and are supported by a company that includes: Ed Harris, John C. Reilly, Jeff Daniels and Alison Janney. Every character in this film is well-conceived, complex and possesses its own individual subtleties that are, for the most part, expertly pinpointed by the actors who approach their roles (regardless of its size) with great humanity and raw elegance.  The picture moves seamlessly from one era to the next and each scene is masterfully choreographed to ensure the film’s inherent parallels and emotional nuances are displayed with a delicate clarity.

Although its main themes consist of those of depression, suicide, destructive infatuation and the triviality of everyday life, The Hours’ final resolution in uncharacteristically hopeful and (dare I say) bright. It is a film that encourages us to live the life we want and teaches us that every hour spent unwillingly is an hour wasted.

 Joseph Irwin


A striking omission from the BBC’s 21st Century’s 100 greatest films list is Martin McDonagh’s 2008 film In Bruges. In its exclusion the list is sorely lacking a visually arresting neo-noir drama with extraordinary comic flair, intelligent scriptwriting and an at times absurdist look into the concepts of death, morality and redemption.

This much-loved Irish playwright brings his quick witted, sharp dialogue to his characters Ray (Colin Farrell), Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Harry (Ralph Fiennes), hit men who are caught up in a harrowing and heart breaking situation that they approach with McDonagh’s signature dark humour. Whilst young Ray is unimpressed by the location of their latest hide-out (“if I’d grown up on a farm and was retarded Bruges might impress me… but I didn’t, so it doesn’t”), Ken is enchanted by its medieval beauty and it is within the pair’s bickering relationship that the film considers the morality of murder, the importance of a man’s individual principles and the prospect of an eternal purgatory for what the characters have done.

With breath-taking visuals of Bruges and its looming gothic architecture and a hauntingly beautiful score by Carter Burwell, the characters wrestle with guilt, the ethics of their job and their sense of duty whilst meeting a gorgeous Belgian lady, an irritating Canadian and a drug-addled dwarf. This film can be viewed as a black, at times surreal look into the politics of murder with its overt religious symbolism, giving its audience a great deal to consider as Ray and Ken make bizarre and seemingly irrelevant observations whilst their lives hang in the balance.

Catherine Pearson



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