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James Prestridge: The Best Films Of My Lifetime

INSPIRED by a segment on the CinemaSins podcast, James Prestridge of Close-up Culture reveals his favourite film from each year he has been alive.

1994 – Pulp Fiction


Not a bad movie year to be born in. Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction just edges out Frank Darabont’s epic Shawshank Redemption in a year that also gave us Forrest Gump, The Lion King and Leon: The Professional.

1995 – Before Sunrise


1995 provided two films that I watched countless times in my childhood – Toy Story and Jumanji. It also gave us the thrilling drama and surprise endings found in The Usual Suspects and Seven, as well as the teen fun of Clueless.

Even still, I prefer being swept away by the wondering romance of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise.

1996 – Fargo


My Coen Brothers obsession started with The Big Lebowski, but Fargo is more than good enough to hold off Trainspotting as the best film of 1996.

1997 – Boogie Nights


Perhaps prompted by Slavoj Zizek’s critique of the film, I have never enjoyed Titanic in the way many others do. Boogie Nights steals 1997 ahead of Jackie Brown and Men In Black.

1998 – The Big Lebowski


The Big Lebowski is my ‘go to’ answer when anyone asks what my favourite film is. A quotable, hilarious and deceptively deep film that tickles all of my cinema senses.

1999 – Election


The Matrix, Princess Mononoke, Office Space, Toy Story 2, The Fight Club, The Green Mile and American Beauty – 1999 is easily the strongest film year of this list so far.

Even to my own surprise, I found myself choosing between two clever comedies as the devilish satire of Election narrowly won out over Galaxy Quest.

2000 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon


O Brother, Where Art Thou? has my favourite soundtrack of all time, but it falls just short compared to the action of Ang Lee’s film.

2001 – Memento


Memento or Mullholland Drive? My pick for 2001 year could change hourly.

2002 – Spirited Away


It is too tough to pick between the brute action of The Bourne Identity and Gangs of New York, as well as the expansive battle scenes of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Instead I went for Miyazaki’s enchanting fable Spirited Away.

2003 – Lost In Translation


Unless I have missed something, this is possibly the weakest year for films in my lifetime. That does not take away from the fact that I love Sofia Coppola as a filmmaker.

2004 – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind 1.jpg

I had been sleeping on the genius of Charlie Kaufman until I saw Anomalisa and then Synecdoche, New York. 

2005 – Walk The Line


I have a soft-spot for this film as Johnny Cash is my favourite artist of all-time. A good year for biopics with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s incredible portrayal of Truman Capote.

2006 – Pan’s Labyrinth


Another fall back answer for my favourite film of all time. Pan’s Labyrinth is the type of deeply artistic and layered film that made me fall in love with cinema.

2007 – There Will Be Blood


2007 presents another dauntingly tough choice. This time between Daniel Day Lewis’ towering performance in There Will Be Blood and the Coen Brothers’ neo-western masterpiece No Country for Old Men. 

2008 – Wall-E


This might be an unpopular pick given the brilliance of Nolan’s The Dark Night, but the silent section of Wall-E is magical to watch. 

2009 – Inglorious Basterds


I was tempted to go with another Pixar film (UP), but I have opted for Tarantino instead. Forget the violence, the dialogue and simmering tension provide the entertainment in Inglorious Basterds. 

2010 – Black Swan


Along with Shutter Island, 2010 was a fantastic year for psychological thrillers.

2011 – The Artist


Uggie alone wins 2011 for The Artist.

2012 – Spring Breakers


Misunderstood and/or under-appreciated, Harmony Korrine’s Spring Breakers gives me something new to think about with each watch.

2013 – The Wolf of Wall Street


The ridiculous excess of Martin Scorsese’s film wins 2013, although I must mention Jeremy Saulnier’s excellent thriller Blue Ruin.

2014 – Birdman


Forget 1999. With Birdman, Nightcrawler, Whiplash, Clouds of Sils Maria, Interstellar, Wild Tales, Ida, Force Majeure, Guardians of the Galaxy and Leviathan, 2014 is easily the best film year of my lifetime – and the one I feel most connected to.

2015 – Mad Max: Fury Road


At this point in my life, I was basically living in the cinema and seeing every film available – which makes choosing a favourite all the more difficult.

Mad Max: Fury Road wins another strong year that also included Ex Machina, Carol, Son of Saul, Creed, Victoria and Sicario.

2016 – Arrival


Arrival is a spectacular film. See it now if you have not already.

2017 – La La Land


Damien Chazelle’s dazzling musical is the perfect way to round off this list. La La Land gave me my favourite cinema experience sitting front row at a Curzon Victoria preview screening.


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