Pulp Ranked: The Top 15 Films That Everyone Needs To See
By Thomasin McCuaig
If you’re about to embark on a film studies degree, here’s some early homework.
15. Amelie (2001)
The 2001 French romantic-comedy directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a must-see film for those who don’t mind a few subtitles. The film is known for its dream-like aesthetic and whimsical portrayal of modern Parisian life. The main character, Amelie, played by Audrey Tautou, decides one day to discreetly lend a helping hand to others and alter their lives for the better. This film will entrance anyone who watches it as it delves the viewer into the fantastical world in which she has created for herself.
“A woman without love wilts like a flower without a sun”
“It’s better to help people than garden gnomes”
“Only a fool looks at a finger that points to the sky”
14. Moonlight (2016)
The ‘Best Picture’ winner at the 2017 Oscars, Moonlight is a coming-of-age drama written and directed by Barry Jenkins. The film explores three stages of the protagonist’s life and their struggle with sexuality and identity within a socio-economic disadvantaged community. The motion-picture is unique within the coming-of-age genre as it spotlights problems that minorities face alongside personal struggles. The film not only deals with sexuality, but it questions masculinity and societal traditions that are imposed on youthful African-Americans. Trust me, after watching this film, you will feel something that you might not have felt before.
“At some point you’ve got to decide for yourself who you gonna be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you”
“You ain’t got to love me, but you gonna know that I love you”
13. Love Actually (2003)
Everyone’s bound to like this one! Love Actually, directed by Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones Diary, Notting Hill), follows the lives of several couples whose stories intertwine in the month leading up to Christmas. Not only is the film a Christmas classic but it is also a classic within the romantic-comedy genre. The film is memorable not only for its witty script, humour and heart but also in the way that it says a lot of things about the relationships we have.
"If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around"
"The thing about romance is people only get together right at the very end"
"I had an uncle called Terence once. Hated him. I think he was a pervert. But I very much like the look of you."
12. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
One of Tim Burton’s best films, Edward Scissorhands is a childhood favourite for me. For those who unfortunately haven’t seen it, Johnny Depp stars as Edward, a Frankenstein-like creation who has scissors for hands. The film is a story about a quirky, scary looking outsider who enters a pastel-coloured, conformist, suburban town in which he blatantly does not fit in. The film can be described as a dark fairytale as it depicts both the brutality of people and the love and kindness of others. The film also expresses people’s tendency to dislike the unusual and, similar to To Kill a Mockingbird, demonstrates our rush to blame others based on personal prejudice as opposed to good reason.
“No matter what, Edward will always be special”
“People are afraid of me because I am different”
“We’re not sheep”
11. Back to the Future - (1985)
Now I know most people have seen this film, but this is in the list for the crazy people who haven’t! The 1985 film directed by Robert Zemeckis follows the adventures of teenager, Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown as they travel in time and repair history. The film stands the test of time for its innovation, light-hearted, magical feel and humour, sharing the message that the future is what you make it, “so make it a good one”.
“Well, that is your name, isn’t it? Calvin Klein? It’s written all over your underwear”
10. The Truman Show (1998)
Peter Weir (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Witness) directed one of the most innovative, moving and humorous films ever made. This is one of my ultimate favourite films, I would be surprised if you hadn’t seen it. Jim Carrey stars as Truman Burbank who has been adopted and raised by a television corporation that has filmed him since the day he was born. However, he is completely unaware. Similar to Rear Window, this movie deals with our need to watch other people’s lives and is particularly relevant in the reality TV obsessed world that we live in today.
“You were real…that’s what made you so good to watch”
“We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented. It’s as simple as that”
“Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight”
9. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Another 1985 film is John Hughes classic comedy-drama which tells the story of five high school students from different cliques who share Saturday detention with their strict, belittling assistant principal. The film remains incredibly relevant today as it explores stereotypes, social status and issues concerning acceptance from one’s parents and oneself in the world. The film is unique in the way that it focuses on dialogue and character development in order to depict a realistic portrayal of what teenagers are really like and the validity of their struggles. Critics consider it among the greatest films of all time. The film was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
“We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”
“I hate it. I hate having to go along with everything my friends say”
“Could you describe the ruckus, sir?”
8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
This 1991 psychological horror-thriller, directed by Jonathan Demme, was the first classified horror film to have won ‘Best Picture’ at the Academy Awards. The American Film Institute ranked Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter as the greatest film heroine and villain respectively. Starling, played by Jodie Foster, is an FBI trainee who seeks advice from Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in order to capture another serial killer named “Buffalo Bill.” The film is memorable for not holding back and explores themes of manipulation, cunning and the nature of evil.
“All good things to those who wait”
“I’m having an old friend for dinner”
7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
This 1975 film directed by Miloš Forman is an American comedy-drama starring Jack Nicholson. The film follows Randle McMurphy: a criminal who after serving a short sentence at a prison farm is moved to a mental institution, despite not being mentally ill. The film won all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay). I don’t want to ruin the film by saying much about it, so I am just telling you that you must see it.
“Which one of you nuts has got any guts”
“I’m a goddamn marvel of modern science”
6. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is an American Crime film like no other. Pulp Fiction is memorable for its ironic combination of humour and violence, it’s screenplay and elements of pastiche. The film is set in Los Angeles, follows several characters and storylines and was inspired by the punchy dialogue and graphic violence of the popular mid-20th century pulp magazines. The accidents within the film constitute the disjointed nature of the plot and Tarantino does this to show how chance governs us and is a contributing factor to how we form our ethical views. Also: Listen to the soundtrack on Spotify. You can thank me later.
“If my answers frighten you, then you should cease asking scary questions”
“Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.”
5. Stand by Me (1986)
Three years before Rob Reiner directed When Harry Met Sally, he directed a film which I would describe as perfect. The film is a coming-of-age comedy-drama that is based on Stephen King’s 1982 novella The Body. The film takes the viewer on a journey with four young boys who go on a hike in hopes of finding a dead body of another boy. The film is timeless as it explores youthful friendship, how to cope with grief, adolescence and fear of facing change.
“This is my age! I’m in the prime of my youth, and I’ll only be young once!”
“Suck my fat one, you cheap dime-store hood”
“We’d only been gone for two days but somehow the town seemed different”
4. Psycho (1960)
An Alfred Hitchcock movie that deserves a spot on this list is the 1960 psychological-horror film Psycho. Hitchcock broke cinematic and social boundaries by pushing the limits of acceptability through his unfiltered portrayal of violence and sexuality. His use of the camera and lighting influenced the future of cinematography as he used certain techniques to manipulate the audience and convey suspense. Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack of screeching violins, violas and cellos also became renowned as a result of the famous shower scene.
“We all go a little mad sometimes”
“They’ll see and they’ll know and they’ll say, “Why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly”
3. American Beauty - (1999)
I love this film, despite having unwanted flashbacks of writing about it during the HSC. The 1999 film written by Alan Ball and directed by Sam Mendes (Skyfall, Road to Perdition), explores sexuality, romantic and paternal love, self-liberation, materialism and redemption. The film predominantly follows the life of Lester Burnham, who is going through a midlife crisis. Through this lens, the film deals with the consequences of achieving the ‘American Dream’ and how we must value life and discover the beauty within our world. The film must be applauded for its use of colour theory to convey meaning to the audience.
“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in”
“Jane, honey, are you trying to look unattractive?”
2. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
This 1962 film directed by Robert Mulligan and adapted from Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, is incredibly significant not only in the context of which the film was set and made, but also in today’s society. The film tackles themes of prejudice, racial injustice, innocence, human morality and empathy. The film is memorable for its message: to put aside preconceived notions that are made without evidence or good reason and to put one’s self into somebody else’s shoes. Also, it has one of the most beautiful soundtracks ever composed!
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."
“Remember, it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird”
1. Rear Window (1954)
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 technicolor mystery-thriller film is known by critics and scholars to be one of the greatest films ever made. Shia Labeouf’s film Disturbia is a modern take on this classic murder mystery but I advise everyone to watch Rear Window first! The film stars James Stewart as professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies who is recuperating from a broken leg and is therefore confined to his apartment. In order to bide time, Jefferies spies on his neighbours using his binoculars and finds himself witness to a potential murder. This film is memorable for its ideas about surveillance, our interest in other people’s lives and the interesting use of cinematic ‘point of view,’ positioning the audience as a voyeur looking in from Jeff’s restricted perspective.
“We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms”
“People do a lot of things in private they couldn’t possibly explain in public”