He’s never exactly beaten around the bush, but with Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese surpassed himself. Ultra-violent, profane, bleak, hilarious and seriously stylish, this is the gold standard of gangster cinema, and an utter vindication of Scorsese’s decision to marry directorial liberties and cinematic flourishes with the true story of a real-life wiseguy – using all manner of tricks to capture the essence of organised crime and delight in unsettling audiences.


The Matrix

“Why not follow up our small-scale, cult lesbian heist film with a crazily ambitious epic that borrows heavily from decades of science fiction literature, manga, and more besides?” That’s how we picture the first conversation about The Matrix between the Wachowskis starting, anyway. “Let’s also invent a new visual action style, define a neo-goth wardrobe aesthetic, and elevate Keanu Reeves further into mega-stardom” must have been the reply. “Let’s pretend we have sequel ideas, too”.


Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

Peter Biskind’s essential recounting of 1960s, 70s and 80s Hollywood, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, depicts pre-Star Wars George Lucas as somewhat of a madman. Unkempt and possibly insane, he roamed Hollywood with a vast book detailing a distant galaxy’s civilisation and the adventures taking place therein. Somehow, he convinced someone to pay for him to turn it into a movie, and even more surprisingly, a coherent space adventure that captured the imagination of a generation.


Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump’s mum always said “Life was like a box of chocolates… You never know what you’re gonna get.” Unlike a list of favourite films because you’re always guaranteed to see this history-hopping charmer pop up. In one of the few cases where the film was WAY better than the book, Gump oozes charm every minute, squeezed for everything its worth via Tom Hank’s perfect puppy dog performance.


The Dark Knight

“Why so serious?” asked Heath Ledger’s Joker, in what would become a tragically career-defining performance that brought even more real-world gravitas to the ambitious Gotham built by Christopher Nolan. With the strongest blend of superhero antics and grimy drama of Nolan’s trilogy, a bleak tale to tell, and rare praise from the Oscars, The Dark Knight succeeded in legitimising superhero movies as sophisticated drama, if inspiring much brooding in its wake – not to mention gruff-voiced Bat-imitators.


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Hype was huge around Peter Jackson’s ambitious adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s classic, harbouring a wealth of excited fans as well as a glut of pessimistic naysayers unconvinced that the novels could ever work on film. But with The Fellowship of the Ring, Jackson made believers of us all, delivering a rousing fantasy adventure that defined ‘epic’ (a word the internet would later dilute).


Pulp Fiction

Fewer films had people quoting the Bible like Quentin Tarantino’s chronologically-cluttered comedic crime masterpiece. Constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed in a way that demanded numerous re-watches, the film embedded itself into the psyche of instant fans who can recite the script on request. If your friend knows what a Quarter Pounder with Cheese is called in Paris, it’s not because of Wikipedia – it’s because of Pulp Fiction.


The Godfather

Francis Ford Coppola created a gangster drama that all other gangster dramas referred to as Don. Oscillating between two messiahs of acting, Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, The Godfather crisscrosses two poignant character arcs – one that sees Don Vito Corleone exit the darkness while his son becomes accustomed to it. Even then, this is the cherry to a rich cake of cinema that invites anyone to chow down.


Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars blew moviegoers’ minds thanks to George Lucas’ cunning idea to set the adventure of a Saturday morning serial in a galaxy far, far away. If people weren’t expecting Star Wars, they certainly weren’t anticipating The Empire Strikes Back, with new locations and Empire armaments dropping jaws, a darker tone infusing proceedings, and the unexpected happening throughout – including the mother (father?) of all plot twists to leave everyone hanging.


The Shawshank Redemption

Though it was nominated for seven Oscars, this movie adaptation of Stephen King’s short story claimed none. But what it did claim is a universality that places it as number one on both this list and IMDb’s Top 250. Through masterful use of all the elements that define cinema – acting, screenwriting, cinematography, editing, music, sound – The Shawshank Redemption is a pure storytelling force of nature that can sweep up anyone.

Flicks.co.nz has run this Top 100 poll once previously in 2010, your number one choice then? Shawshank.