Film Intel's Top 10 from Universal's 100th Anniversary Selection

As part of their 100th Anniversary celebrations, Universal have collected together a selection of 100 films and reissued many of them on DVD or Blu-ray, complete with new packaging, marking the milestone. 100 films is a lot to choose from, so Film Intel have whittled down the list to a selection of ten highlights. Yes, Universal did include Hop in their 100. No, it did not make our list.

10 - Back To The Future (1985)

I'm not a complete Back To The Future convert, but you can't deny how much fun it is, or how much of a lasting legacy it has managed to create. Not only has Robert Zemeckis' film stood the course of time, it has gained a huge fan base to boot. Watching this should be compulsory for anyone attempting to produce a stuffy time travel offering.

9 - Hellboy 2 (2008)

Perhaps not everyone's first choice to make it as high as the Top 10 but every list needs a surprise entry and Guillermo Del Toro's second Hellboy film is that rarest of things: a sequel to a so-so first film that learns from the mistakes of its predecessor. The Golden Army looks better, is more exciting and has a better developed plot. Even amongst more recent stellar superhero offerings (The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises) it still holds up as a really entertaining piece of fantasy.

8 - The American (2010)

Did I say every list needs one surprise entry? Make that two. There was a time when The American was one of the favourites for the 2010 Oscar season but then, somewhere along the way, it lost its buzz and its supporters and gained something of a negative reputation. This is a real shame. Anton Corbijn shows off a really smart director's eye and Clooney shows he can do just about anything. The finale is poignant and the whole thing feels deliciously wrapped in musings on faith and lives lost. I enjoyed it at the time and continue to do so now.

7 - Schindler's List (1993)

Yes, it's drastically long and yes it is stuffy at points but IMDb's 7th best film of all time has a majestic performance by Liam Neeson at its centre, an amazing script from Steven Zaillian and Spielberg on top form in the director's chair. It looks fantastic, it is as over-filled with emotion as your average Adele song and, yes, it is Important to boot. Sadly feels, like another film later in the list, like it is in the process of being somewhat marginalised.

6 - The Thing (1982)

Perhaps the laughable remake/prequel has diminished the effect of this somewhat, especially for a generation only able to discover it now. Regardless though, this is brilliant genre film-making, of the like you still see far too rarely. Whereas the remake was a film about a monster, this, very clearly, is a film about identity and tension. It does not need to rely on creatures and blood because it has quiet creepiness and oodles of atmosphere. Simply one of the best Horror films around. Still.

5 - Citizen Kane (1941)

Kane can leave some cold, and the effect of its finale has certainly diminished over time, but its influence is hard to dispute. Camera angles, directing style, cinematography; Orson Welles' film is both a magnificent piece of drama and a technical marvel.

4 - Gladiator (2000)

It feels like (and don't ask me why it feels like this, it just does) Gladiator has lost some of the euphoric sheen that accompanied Ridley Scott's film wherever it went, not so long ago. Maybe it's because Swords and Sandals stuff is back 'in', and very much in our faces on a regular basis (Spartacus, Game Of Thrones). When this came out it wasn't 'in'. Far from it. Scott crafts an amazing technical achievement, anchored by a performance Russell Crowe will never repeat. It's bravura, grandiose, film-making, on an epic level, with ambition and an actual plot and characters anchoring the vast amounts of money spent on special effects. Oh, and Joaquin Phoenix's villain? Evil is rarely presented in such a chilly matter-of-fact way.

3 - Rear Window (1954)

Hitchcock's best film (start the argument now!), Rear Window is a perfect example of the director's mastery of location, tension and drama. Since aped by numerous films (and even more individual scenes in films) this proved both influential and eminently more satisfying than a number of the director's other offerings. Like several films on the list, this succeeds because of technical nous, entertaining execution and an ability to secure for itself a legacy. Sterling stuff.

2 - Children Of Men (2006)

One of the many reasons Alfonso CuarĂ³n's film is so high on this list is that it hits so many of the items on the tick list of components that make great Science-Fiction films great. Invention? Just look at the long take shots, complex, beautiful and unexpected. Vision? The world is well conceived and realised, its grim and gorgeous at the same time. Emotion? This isn't a cold wilderness of metallic beasts hitting each other, look at the relationships between Clive Owen's protagonist and both Julianne Moore and Michael Caine's characters. This is, probably, the best Sci-Fi film since The Matrix, and arguably just as good as The Wachowski's magnum opus.

1 - The Big Lebowski (1998)

The Coen Brother's best film, and a leading candidate for best film of the 1990s, remains, to this day, a fascinating, funny, inventive piece of movie making, from minds that understand why White Russians and rugs and the use of the word 'Swiss watch' are humorous. It is both a perfect film, in and of itself, with a satisfying plot and wonderful character arcs, and a surprisingly timely portrayal of 90s slacker culture and the public's ability to be ambivalent towards the most grandiose of things, yet set off by small personal losses. Does Dude care about Vietnam? Hell, no. But he wants his rug back. It tied the room together. Defines the concept of 'modern classic', arguably better than any other film.


  1. Interesting that quite some of these films were not actually Universal productions (Citizen Kane most notably). When I think Universal, I think thrills & excitement, which they did a good job branding themselves as in the 80s and 90s (are there still studio identities to the same extent? Certainly the Golden Age house styles were long gone at that point, but I still remember noticing certain trends at certain studios as a kid, probably because of who was green lighting what). Mostly this legacy is due to the Spielberg association, Hitch's late films, and of course the monster movies of the early 30s.

    I remember on my VHS tape of Back to the Future Part III there was an intro which displayed all the different Universal logos in succession.

    1. Good points there. Obviously with distribution deals nowadays (part of the reason Universal claim Kane as their own) you can argue very successfully that studio identity has clearly waned but I completely agree on what I typically associate Universal with (although I don't think they necessarily represent their best films). Universal still stand for unashamedly chasing blockbusters in my view. I'm not sure if they've got an independent arm but if they have then its less directly linked than, say, Fox Searchlight, which has done a great job of linking Fox to attractive indie offerings.

      A blog (can't remember which one now) did a series of articles on logo change with all of the iterations of the studios included. It was awesome!