Gene Hackman joked that he was at least seventh choice to play Jimmy Popeye Doyle in The French Connection. After years of struggle and misfortune, the role of the gritty New York detective won him an Oscar at the age of 41 and made him a star.
Hackman, who celebrates his 90th birthday on 30 January, had a remarkable career, spanning 85 movies and acclaimed roles in television and on stage. Yet success came only after numerous crushing disappointments. Many aspiring actors would have given up, but tough former marine Hackman said he held on to his conviction that I wasnt going to let any f***ers get me down.
The actor, born Eugene Alden Hackman in San Bernardino, California, in 1930, learnt resilience at just 13. His father walked out on their family for good. He always went too far, laid it on pretty heavy, recalled Hackman of his dad, who operated a newspaper printing press and believed in corporal punishment. Things came to a head in 1943, after the family had been forced to relocate to Denville, Illinois, and live with grandparents.
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The fateful day Hackmans father abandoned his family remained forever etched into Hackmans mind. The actor often talked in later life about the hurt and disappointment of the memory of his father waving from the car as he drove past him on the street. That wave, it was like he was saying, OK, its all yours. Youre on your own, kiddo, Hackman recalled in The New York Times Magazine 46 years later. He drew on the emotions of that fateful day in his career, quipping that dysfunctional families have sired a number of pretty good actors.
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1/40 40. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
A helter-skelter ride of a movie, satirical, very witty and showing its directors immense affection for the B-movie actors, stunt men and hangers on who make up its cast. Its also a tribute to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Who would have believed that a film set just as the Sixties in LA turned sour could be so uplifting? Geoffrey Macnab
2/40 39. The Master
The world isnt scared enough of Scientology, but perhaps it
would be if enough people had seen The Master. Paul Thomas Anderson depicts (a fictionalised version of) the cult as a trap for bruised masculinity. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix contort themselves into primitive creatures of greed and desire.
Its an ugly film, in the very best sense of the word. Clarisse Loughrey
3/40 38. The Irishman
Scorsese summons all his sad captains for one last reunion in his magisterial gangster epic. De Niro, Pesci, Keitel and (newcomer) Pacino are all cast in a film as much about friendship, memory and betrayal as it is about corruption in the Teamster union or Mafia violence. GM
4/40 37. Inside Out
This is Pixars boldest and strangest animated feature. It takes us deep inside the mind of its heroine, 11-year-old Riley, where her unconscious is shown as akin to a magical theme park; emotions like Joy and Sadness feature as characters. Director Pete Docter deals with complex subject matter in a lithe and inventive way, and without too many Freudian hang ups. GM
5/40 36. Shoplifters
Hirokazu Kore-eda is like the Charles Dickens of contemporary Japanese cinema. He tells melodramatic family stories which would seem mawkish if they werent so brilliantly observed. Winner of the Palme DOr in Cannes, this is one of his very best movies a heart-tugging story about impoverished members of a makeshift family doing everything they can to survive. GM
6/40 35. Dogtooth
Dogtooth is a grim tale of isolation, incest, cat murder and
DIY dentistry. But Yorgos Lanthimos has a hidden superpower up his sleeve: the more off-putting his films, the more you get drawn in. His work breeds curiosity. We want to solve the mystery of these strange worlds and their cold, inscrutable characters. The
fact that there are no answers keeps us coming back for more. GM
7/40 34. Edge of Seventeen
Kelly Fremon Craigs gorgeous if cruelly unrecognised The Edge of Seventeen is deliberately small in plot, with Hailee Steinfeld playing a grumpy teen horrified to discover her best friend is dating her older brother. But it is told with heartwarming urgency, reflective of the heightened, dizzying drama of merely being a teenager.
8/40 33. A Quiet Passion
Reclusive New England poet Emily Dickinson, who published only a handful of poems during her lifetime, is brought to life in vivid fashion by actress Cynthia Nixon in Terence Daviess biopic. She may look like a spinster aunt but Nixon shows us her passion, mischief and her eccentric brilliance.
9/40 32. Frances Ha
Noah Baumbachs Frances Ha is the definitive film about the quarter-life
crisis, largely because it embraces the messiness of it all. We get the ups and the downs. We get the poorly-planned trip to Paris made by a young woman desperate to experience something profound. Its a film without many dramatic conflicts, but marked by
a gentle push towards accepting the inevitability of change.
10/40 31. The Revenant
Famous for its scene of Leonardo Di Caprio being mauled by a bear, Alejandro González Iñárritus western is part survival drama, part revenge movie. Its a wilderness tale on the very grandest scale. From the opening massacre to the snowbound denouement, it if full of moments that startle you with their violence and their beauty. GM
11/40 30. Boyhood
Shot over 12 years, Richard Linklaters Boyhood is the ultimate coming-of-age movie. It follows main character Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from when he is seven years old until he is a young adult. Its a testament to the patience and ingenuity of Linklater and to the exceptional work of his cast (including Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) that the film never feels phoney. GM
12/40 29. Hereditary
The horrors of Ari Asters occult contraption are matched
only by the sheer volume of ideas crammed into it. A devastating kaleidoscope of stark images, mischievous easter eggs and pure, guttural horror,
Hereditary
asks a staggering amount of star Toni Collette, who wails and groans and weeps, as if conveying a full-body demolition in painful slow-motion. It is a performance for the ages in one of the best films in recent memory.
13/40 28. Melancholia
Kirsten Dunst is remarkable as a bride in the grips of
mental illness shortly before the world ends. She conveys like few before her the surging apathy and bottomless self-loathing of depression, where everything, be it food or otherwise, tastes like ashes. The film that surrounds her is equally awe-inducing,
distilling with grim elegance all of Lars von Triers polarising genius. AW
14/40 27. Selma
Selma is a masterclass in the historical biopic. Presenting a
crucial moment in Martin Luther King Jrs life without dramatic embellishment or emotional manipulation, it lets his legacy speak for itself, as Ava DuVernay wields her camera like a weapon of truth. Unabashedly political in its approach, Selma speaks plainly
to the fact that society cannot pave its future without first understanding its past. CL
15/40 26. Boy
Taika Waititis films always end with the feeling that things
will work themselves out. Its not blind optimism, but something far more comforting he believes deeply in peoples ability to weather even the worst of storms. This is most apparent in Boy, still his best film to date, which catalogues a young Maori boys
dawning realisation that his absent father isnt the hero he imagines him to be. CL
16/40 25. Dunkirk
British stoicism and grace under-fire are foregrounded in Christopher Nolans epic film about the Dunkirk evacuations. Nolan has a Cecil B De Mille-like genius for orchestrating crowd scenes and working with huge ensemble casts. He combines spectacle with very intimate moments that show the quiet desperation of the soldiers stranded on a French beach with little chance of escape.
17/40 24. Her
Her
felt almost uncomfortably relevant upon its release in 2013, and even more so today. Not because it shows people falling in love with artificially intelligent operating systems voiced by Scarlett Johansson, which hasnt exactly caught on (…yet), but for
what it said about modern loneliness. It is a sparse, oddly human film, Joaquin Phoenix finding solace and romantic fulfilment in sparkly new technology, before everything falls apart. AW
18/40 23. Call Me by Your Name
Luca Guadagninos wonderfully evocative coming-of-age drama, set over a long, lazy Italian summer sometime in the 1980s, is notable for its frank but delicately observed account of the love affair between the precocious adolescent Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and the American academic, Oliver (Armie Hammer), who becomes part of the household. GM
19/40 22. Anomalisa
It may be animated but few live-action films have captured middle-aged male angst and disillusionment as well as Charlie Kaufmans Anomalisa. David Thewliss exceptional voice work brings an extra, sardonic edge to its portrayal of the businessman on a work trip to Cincinnati. Kaufman captures the mans vulnerability, boredom and creeping disappointment about the course his life has taken. GM
20/40 21. The Social Network
Described upon release as a lightly fictionalised account
of the birth of Facebook, and as hurtful by Mark Zuckerberg himself, The Social Network was always spectacular, but its lessons have only deepened with time. It now resembles a terrifying warning about privacy, power, misogyny and the dangers of the internet,
brought to life by David Finchers irresistibly cool direction, a characteristically snappy script by Aaron Sorkin and the dreamy, pulsating score by the now-ubiquitous Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It remains the most important film of the decade. AW
21/40 20. Black Swan
Its important to occasionally remind yourself that
Black Swan,
a bonkers, uncompromising and horrifying ballet thriller, somehow grossed $329m at the box office. But even removed from its staggering financial success, Darren Aronofskys psychological creepshow is a creative triumph. Part
Showgirls,
part Polanski and all Perfect Blue,
it flirts with camp, Cronenbergian body horror and shaky-cam intimacy, with the deservedly Oscar-winning Natalie Portman as the twirling, crumbling creature at its centre. AW
22/40 19. Roma
Roma takes two stories one heartwrenching and intimate, the other sweeping and political and weaves them together so delicately that they become one. Its a tribute to the domestic worker who director Alfonso Cuarón says raised him. But its also the story of Mexicos history, as seen through the perspective of those who have, for so long, been left voiceless. This is Cuaróns masterpiece. CL
23/40 18. The Act of Killing
It feels remarkable, given how easy it is to turn away from evil,
that The Act of Killing exists at all. Not only did Joshua Oppenheimer choose one of the perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide as his subject of his documentary, but he had him confront his own crimes through a series of cinematic reenactments. It is profoundly
disturbing to watch. CL
24/40 17. Stoker
Park Chan-Wooks twisted homage to Hitchcocks Shadow of a Doubt
may be filled with beautiful things, but theyre laced with venom. When India (Mia Wasikowska) receives a visit from her enigmatic Uncle Charlie, she discovers they share a perverse kinship. Are they the same soul in two different bodies, or are they merely
bound together by the stench of death that follows them wherever they go? CL
25/40 16. The Selfish Giant
Like Ken Loachs Kes, Clio Barnards Bradford-set tale, very loosely inspired by the Oscar Wilde story, combines lyricism with polemic. It captures brilliantly the mischief and resourcefulness of its two young protagonists (teenage kids excluded from school) while laying bare the brutality of the society in which they and their families are cast adrift. GM
26/40 15. Son of Saul
In ‘Son of Saul’ Geza Rohrig plays a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner tasked with the extermination of his fellow Jews
27/40 14. Lady Bird
Lady Bird and its story of a frustrated teen (Saoirse Ronan)
trapped in Sacramento, California is deeply attuned to how we relate to memory. Its less about particular events than the emotions they create: a flash of adolescent alienation, a tearful goodbye at the airport, or the sensation of seeing a familiar place
through new eyes.
28/40 13. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Andersons kitsch yarn, largely set in a luxurious spa hotel just before the Second World War, is an elegy for a lost world. Whether its Alexandre Desplats music, the eye-popping colours or the mannered but brilliant performances, all the elements here are perfectly judged. A film that could easily have seemed flimsy and conceited is instead utterly enrapturing. GM
29/40 12. 12 Years a Slave
Steve McQueens harrowing period drama confronts audiences with the reality of slavery. Racist white owners treat their slaves as if theyre livestock, not human beings. Chiwetel Ejiofor excels as Solomon Northup, the free man sold into slavery. The film has a furious polemical charge but also works as a terrifying Kafkaesque drama about a man who falls off the face of the world. GM
30/40 11. Under the Skin
Scarlett Johansson tucking nervously into a slice of
chocolate cake becomes one of cinemas most humane and bittersweet moments courtesy of filmmaker Jonathan Glazer, whose once-in-a-blue-moon film projects have produced a trilogy of sinister classics. Like
Sexy Beast
and Birth
before it, Under the Skin
is a wild, beautiful pleasure, as haunting as it is tender and serenaded by a spindly, disquieting score by Mica Levi. AW
31/40 10. 20th Century Women
20th Century Women is a small-scale comedy drama with the power of something bigger. A tapestry of restless lives figuring things out, it is about family, longing and feeling out of place. At its heart is Annette Bening, heartbreakingly empathetic as a woman out of time too
old for youthful bohemia and too young for her stuffy peers, and determined to raise her teenage son to be enlightened and brilliant. Rare is a fictional world so peacefully captivating.
32/40 9. You Were Never Really Here
Cinema is often at its most triumphant when its used as a tool
for empathy, letting us climb into someone elses brain and experience things that feel miles away from our own reality. Thats the revelatory power of Lynne Ramsays portrait of a PTSD-suffering vigilante, brought to life with incredible vulnerability by
Joaquin Phoenix.
33/40 8. Mad Max: Fury Road
In a recent interview, Parasite director Bong Joon-ho revealed
that hed shed a tear while watching George Millers unexpected return to the Mad Max franchise. He called it something we cannot describe with our words: all we can do is just cry. Hes right. Fury Road is, essentially, a feature-length car chase but
its hard to put into words how epic and symphonic it truly is. CL
34/40 7. Paddington 2
A soothing balm for all of our socio-political ills,
Paddington 2
is the film we needed more than any other this decade. There are numerous delights here, from the majesty of Paul King and Simon Farnabys script and its elaborate sleights of hand, to a moustache-twirling Hugh Grant at his most magnificent. But more than
anything, Paddington 2
is about the healing power of community and family, a message conveyed with wholesome warmth and pluck by the achingly sweet bear of the title. Michael Bond would be proud.
35/40 6. American Honey
It took a woman from Dartford to capture the sprawling, stirring power of the American road and all that it promises. Of all the decades films, Andrea Arnolds
American Honey
feels the most hungry to exist independently on its own, ignoring the rules of storytelling and bursting at the seams with wildness and colour. Sasha Lane who had never acted before she was spotted by Arnold on a beach during spring break plays working-class
teenager Star, who yearns for a greater purpose and hitches a ride with a truckful of kids as adrift as she is. AW
36/40 5. Inside Llewyn Davis
Inside Llewyn Davis is a kind of anti-Odyssey. In its story of
a folk singer (Oscar Isaac) who hops from couch to couch, with no direction and few prospects, Llewyn becomes the weary Greek hero who not only struggles to find a way home, but realises he may not have a home to go to. Its a deeply melancholic work.
37/40 4. Phantom Thread
Phantom Thread
is a love story in a funhouse mirror fizzy and feather-light, but with a barbed and kinky underbelly that could only have come from the mind of Paul Thomas Anderson. The bewitching duo of Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps play a fashion designer and his
muse, who unearth new means to sustain their marriage. Anderson lingers over objects of beauty throughout the lines of a fabric, the mess of a breakfast table, the colourful residue left over after the ball drops on New Years Eve. Apparently Day-Lewis
final film, but what a blissful way to go out. AW
38/40 3. Get Out
Get Out sunk its teeth into culture in 2017, and hasnt stopped biting. Jordan Peeles horror satire is a polished, spooky and supremely well-executed chiller, but works even better as a deconstruction of race. In its sights are peak white centrism, the burdens and expectations of being black in America, and the untruths of the post-racial utopia many were fooled into embracing in the Obama era. No other film has reflected society in the 21st century more succinctly. AW
39/40 2. Carol
A magical reprieve from much of the queer romance canon,
Carol is neither tragic nor sexually neutered, and is rich with snowy, expensive opulence. Todd Hayness 2015 masterpiece plays like
a fairytale, kick-started by a misplaced pair of gloves, with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara acting on feelings that were considered unacceptable at the time. Deeply romantic, sexy and dramatic, it takes everything Haynes perfected in his Douglas Sirk-inspired
drama Far from Heaven
(2002), and maximises it.
40/40 1. Moonlight
Barry Jenkins is destined to be one of the most important cinematic
voices of the era. Moonlight is ample proof of that: there are very few debuts that feel this transportive, that fill the screen with this much raw beauty and human vulnerability. The director knows the power of gesture, and so the films emotional weight
rests on a few shared glances, or one hand placed gently on another. In the intersection between race, sexuality and class, it crafts tender poetry. CL
1/40 40. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
A helter-skelter ride of a movie, satirical, very witty and showing its directors immense affection for the B-movie actors, stunt men and hangers on who make up its cast. Its also a tribute to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Who would have believed that a film set just as the Sixties in LA turned sour could be so uplifting? Geoffrey Macnab
2/40 39. The Master
The world isnt scared enough of Scientology, but perhaps it
would be if enough people had seen The Master. Paul Thomas Anderson depicts (a fictionalised version of) the cult as a trap for bruised masculinity. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix contort themselves into primitive creatures of greed and desire.
Its an ugly film, in the very best sense of the word. Clarisse Loughrey
3/40 38. The Irishman
Scorsese summons all his sad captains for one last reunion in his magisterial gangster epic. De Niro, Pesci, Keitel and (newcomer) Pacino are all cast in a film as much about friendship, memory and betrayal as it is about corruption in the Teamster union or Mafia violence. GM
4/40 37. Inside Out
This is Pixars boldest and strangest animated feature. It takes us deep inside the mind of its heroine, 11-year-old Riley, where her unconscious is shown as akin to a magical theme park; emotions like Joy and Sadness feature as characters. Director Pete Docter deals with complex subject matter in a lithe and inventive way, and without too many Freudian hang ups. GM
5/40 36. Shoplifters
Hirokazu Kore-eda is like the Charles Dickens of contemporary Japanese cinema. He tells melodramatic family stories which would seem mawkish if they werent so brilliantly observed. Winner of the Palme DOr in Cannes, this is one of his very best movies a heart-tugging story about impoverished members of a makeshift family doing everything they can to survive. GM
6/40 35. Dogtooth
Dogtooth is a grim tale of isolation, incest, cat murder and
DIY dentistry. But Yorgos Lanthimos has a hidden superpower up his sleeve: the more off-putting his films, the more you get drawn in. His work breeds curiosity. We want to solve the mystery of these strange worlds and their cold, inscrutable characters. The
fact that there are no answers keeps us coming back for more. GM
7/40 34. Edge of Seventeen
Kelly Fremon Craigs gorgeous if cruelly unrecognised The Edge of Seventeen is deliberately small in plot, with Hailee Steinfeld playing a grumpy teen horrified to discover her best friend is dating her older brother. But it is told with heartwarming urgency, reflective of the heightened, dizzying drama of merely being a teenager.
8/40 33. A Quiet Passion
Reclusive New England poet Emily Dickinson, who published only a handful of poems during her lifetime, is brought to life in vivid fashion by actress Cynthia Nixon in Terence Daviess biopic. She may look like a spinster aunt but Nixon shows us her passion, mischief and her eccentric brilliance.
9/40 32. Frances Ha
Noah Baumbachs Frances Ha is the definitive film about the quarter-life
crisis, largely because it embraces the messiness of it all. We get the ups and the downs. We get the poorly-planned trip to Paris made by a young woman desperate to experience something profound. Its a film without many dramatic conflicts, but marked by
a gentle push towards accepting the inevitability of change.
10/40 31. The Revenant
Famous for its scene of Leonardo Di Caprio being mauled by a bear, Alejandro González Iñárritus western is part survival drama, part revenge movie. Its a wilderness tale on the very grandest scale. From the opening massacre to the snowbound denouement, it if full of moments that startle you with their violence and their beauty. GM
11/40 30. Boyhood
Shot over 12 years, Richard Linklaters Boyhood is the ultimate coming-of-age movie. It follows main character Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from when he is seven years old until he is a young adult. Its a testament to the patience and ingenuity of Linklater and to the exceptional work of his cast (including Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) that the film never feels phoney. GM
12/40 29. Hereditary
The horrors of Ari Asters occult contraption are matched
only by the sheer volume of ideas crammed into it. A devastating kaleidoscope of stark images, mischievous easter eggs and pure, guttural horror,
Hereditary
asks a staggering amount of star Toni Collette, who wails and groans and weeps, as if conveying a full-body demolition in painful slow-motion. It is a performance for the ages in one of the best films in recent memory.
13/40 28. Melancholia
Kirsten Dunst is remarkable as a bride in the grips of
mental illness shortly before the world ends. She conveys like few before her the surging apathy and bottomless self-loathing of depression, where everything, be it food or otherwise, tastes like ashes. The film that surrounds her is equally awe-inducing,
distilling with grim elegance all of Lars von Triers polarising genius. AW
14/40 27. Selma
Selma is a masterclass in the historical biopic. Presenting a
crucial moment in Martin Luther King Jrs life without dramatic embellishment or emotional manipulation, it lets his legacy speak for itself, as Ava DuVernay wields her camera like a weapon of truth. Unabashedly political in its approach, Selma speaks plainly
to the fact that society cannot pave its future without first understanding its past. CL
15/40 26. Boy
Taika Waititis films always end with the feeling that things
will work themselves out. Its not blind optimism, but something far more comforting he believes deeply in peoples ability to weather even the worst of storms. This is most apparent in Boy, still his best film to date, which catalogues a young Maori boys
dawning realisation that his absent father isnt the hero he imagines him to be. CL
16/40 25. Dunkirk
British stoicism and grace under-fire are foregrounded in Christopher Nolans epic film about the Dunkirk evacuations. Nolan has a Cecil B De Mille-like genius for orchestrating crowd scenes and working with huge ensemble casts. He combines spectacle with very intimate moments that show the quiet desperation of the soldiers stranded on a French beach with little chance of escape.
17/40 24. Her
Her
felt almost uncomfortably relevant upon its release in 2013, and even more so today. Not because it shows people falling in love with artificially intelligent operating systems voiced by Scarlett Johansson, which hasnt exactly caught on (…yet), but for
what it said about modern loneliness. It is a sparse, oddly human film, Joaquin Phoenix finding solace and romantic fulfilment in sparkly new technology, before everything falls apart. AW
18/40 23. Call Me by Your Name
Luca Guadagninos wonderfully evocative coming-of-age drama, set over a long, lazy Italian summer sometime in the 1980s, is notable for its frank but delicately observed account of the love affair between the precocious adolescent Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and the American academic, Oliver (Armie Hammer), who becomes part of the household. GM
19/40 22. Anomalisa
It may be animated but few live-action films have captured middle-aged male angst and disillusionment as well as Charlie Kaufmans Anomalisa. David Thewliss exceptional voice work brings an extra, sardonic edge to its portrayal of the businessman on a work trip to Cincinnati. Kaufman captures the mans vulnerability, boredom and creeping disappointment about the course his life has taken. GM
20/40 21. The Social Network
Described upon release as a lightly fictionalised account
of the birth of Facebook, and as hurtful by Mark Zuckerberg himself, The Social Network was always spectacular, but its lessons have only deepened with time. It now resembles a terrifying warning about privacy, power, misogyny and the dangers of the internet,
brought to life by David Finchers irresistibly cool direction, a characteristically snappy script by Aaron Sorkin and the dreamy, pulsating score by the now-ubiquitous Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It remains the most important film of the decade. AW
21/40 20. Black Swan
Its important to occasionally remind yourself that
Black Swan,
a bonkers, uncompromising and horrifying ballet thriller, somehow grossed $329m at the box office. But even removed from its staggering financial success, Darren Aronofskys psychological creepshow is a creative triumph. Part
Showgirls,
part Polanski and all Perfect Blue,
it flirts with camp, Cronenbergian body horror and shaky-cam intimacy, with the deservedly Oscar-winning Natalie Portman as the twirling, crumbling creature at its centre. AW
22/40 19. Roma
Roma takes two stories one heartwrenching and intimate, the other sweeping and political and weaves them together so delicately that they become one. Its a tribute to the domestic worker who director Alfonso Cuarón says raised him. But its also the story of Mexicos history, as seen through the perspective of those who have, for so long, been left voiceless. This is Cuaróns masterpiece. CL
23/40 18. The Act of Killing
It feels remarkable, given how easy it is to turn away from evil,
that The Act of Killing exists at all. Not only did Joshua Oppenheimer choose one of the perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide as his subject of his documentary, but he had him confront his own crimes through a series of cinematic reenactments. It is profoundly
disturbing to watch. CL
24/40 17. Stoker
Park Chan-Wooks twisted homage to Hitchcocks Shadow of a Doubt
may be filled with beautiful things, but theyre laced with venom. When India (Mia Wasikowska) receives a visit from her enigmatic Uncle Charlie, she discovers they share a perverse kinship. Are they the same soul in two different bodies, or are they merely
bound together by the stench of death that follows them wherever they go? CL
25/40 16. The Selfish Giant
Like Ken Loachs Kes, Clio Barnards Bradford-set tale, very loosely inspired by the Oscar Wilde story, combines lyricism with polemic. It captures brilliantly the mischief and resourcefulness of its two young protagonists (teenage kids excluded from school) while laying bare the brutality of the society in which they and their families are cast adrift. GM
26/40 15. Son of Saul
In ‘Son of Saul’ Geza Rohrig plays a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner tasked with the extermination of his fellow Jews
27/40 14. Lady Bird
Lady Bird and its story of a frustrated teen (Saoirse Ronan)
trapped in Sacramento, California is deeply attuned to how we relate to memory. Its less about particular events than the emotions they create: a flash of adolescent alienation, a tearful goodbye at the airport, or the sensation of seeing a familiar place
through new eyes.
28/40 13. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Andersons kitsch yarn, largely set in a luxurious spa hotel just before the Second World War, is an elegy for a lost world. Whether its Alexandre Desplats music, the eye-popping colours or the mannered but brilliant performances, all the elements here are perfectly judged. A film that could easily have seemed flimsy and conceited is instead utterly enrapturing. GM
29/40 12. 12 Years a Slave
Steve McQueens harrowing period drama confronts audiences with the reality of slavery. Racist white owners treat their slaves as if theyre livestock, not human beings. Chiwetel Ejiofor excels as Solomon Northup, the free man sold into slavery. The film has a furious polemical charge but also works as a terrifying Kafkaesque drama about a man who falls off the face of the world. GM
30/40 11. Under the Skin
Scarlett Johansson tucking nervously into a slice of
chocolate cake becomes one of cinemas most humane and bittersweet moments courtesy of filmmaker Jonathan Glazer, whose once-in-a-blue-moon film projects have produced a trilogy of sinister classics. Like
Sexy Beast
and Birth
before it, Under the Skin
is a wild, beautiful pleasure, as haunting as it is tender and serenaded by a spindly, disquieting score by Mica Levi. AW
31/40 10. 20th Century Women
20th Century Women is a small-scale comedy drama with the power of something bigger. A tapestry of restless lives figuring things out, it is about family, longing and feeling out of place. At its heart is Annette Bening, heartbreakingly empathetic as a woman out of time too
old for youthful bohemia and too young for her stuffy peers, and determined to raise her teenage son to be enlightened and brilliant. Rare is a fictional world so peacefully captivating.
32/40 9. You Were Never Really Here
Cinema is often at its most triumphant when its used as a tool
for empathy, letting us climb into someone elses brain and experience things that feel miles away from our own reality. Thats the revelatory power of Lynne Ramsays portrait of a PTSD-suffering vigilante, brought to life with incredible vulnerability by
Joaquin Phoenix.
33/40 8. Mad Max: Fury Road
In a recent interview, Parasite director Bong Joon-ho revealed
that hed shed a tear while watching George Millers unexpected return to the Mad Max franchise. He called it something we cannot describe with our words: all we can do is just cry. Hes right. Fury Road is, essentially, a feature-length car chase but
its hard to put into words how epic and symphonic it truly is. CL
34/40 7. Paddington 2
A soothing balm for all of our socio-political ills,
Paddington 2
is the film we needed more than any other this decade. There are numerous delights here, from the majesty of Paul King and Simon Farnabys script and its elaborate sleights of hand, to a moustache-twirling Hugh Grant at his most magnificent. But more than
anything, Paddington 2
is about the healing power of community and family, a message conveyed with wholesome warmth and pluck by the achingly sweet bear of the title. Michael Bond would be proud.
35/40 6. American Honey
It took a woman from Dartford to capture the sprawling, stirring power of the American road and all that it promises. Of all the decades films, Andrea Arnolds
American Honey
feels the most hungry to exist independently on its own, ignoring the rules of storytelling and bursting at the seams with wildness and colour. Sasha Lane who had never acted before she was spotted by Arnold on a beach during spring break plays working-class
teenager Star, who yearns for a greater purpose and hitches a ride with a truckful of kids as adrift as she is. AW
36/40 5. Inside Llewyn Davis
Inside Llewyn Davis is a kind of anti-Odyssey. In its story of
a folk singer (Oscar Isaac) who hops from couch to couch, with no direction and few prospects, Llewyn becomes the weary Greek hero who not only struggles to find a way home, but realises he may not have a home to go to. Its a deeply melancholic work.
37/40 4. Phantom Thread
Phantom Thread
is a love story in a funhouse mirror fizzy and feather-light, but with a barbed and kinky underbelly that could only have come from the mind of Paul Thomas Anderson. The bewitching duo of Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps play a fashion designer and his
muse, who unearth new means to sustain their marriage. Anderson lingers over objects of beauty throughout the lines of a fabric, the mess of a breakfast table, the colourful residue left over after the ball drops on New Years Eve. Apparently Day-Lewis
final film, but what a blissful way to go out. AW
38/40 3. Get Out
Get Out sunk its teeth into culture in 2017, and hasnt stopped biting. Jordan Peeles horror satire is a polished, spooky and supremely well-executed chiller, but works even better as a deconstruction of race. In its sights are peak white centrism, the burdens and expectations of being black in America, and the untruths of the post-racial utopia many were fooled into embracing in the Obama era. No other film has reflected society in the 21st century more succinctly. AW
39/40 2. Carol
A magical reprieve from much of the queer romance canon,
Carol is neither tragic nor sexually neutered, and is rich with snowy, expensive opulence. Todd Hayness 2015 masterpiece plays like
a fairytale, kick-started by a misplaced pair of gloves, with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara acting on feelings that were considered unacceptable at the time. Deeply romantic, sexy and dramatic, it takes everything Haynes perfected in his Douglas Sirk-inspired
drama Far from Heaven
(2002), and maximises it.
40/40 1. Moonlight
Barry Jenkins is destined to be one of the most important cinematic
voices of the era. Moonlight is ample proof of that: there are very few debuts that feel this transportive, that fill the screen with this much raw beauty and human vulnerability. The director knows the power of gesture, and so the films emotional weight
rests on a few shared glances, or one hand placed gently on another. In the intersection between race, sexuality and class, it crafts tender poetry. CL
As a teenager, part of a single-parent family that moved about a lot, Hackman was frequently in trouble. He rowed with authority figures at Storm Lake High School in Iowa. He even spent a night in jail after stealing candy and a bottle of soda. His most peaceful times were when his movie-loving mother Anna took him to the cinema to watch his beloved James Cagney, a hobby that sowed the seeds of his future ambitions.
Hackman finally left school after a furious row with his basketball coach. After working for a brief spell in a steel mill, he lied about his age so he could join the Marine Corps at 16, looking for adventure. He spent four and a half years in the marines serving in Japan and undergoing missions in China during Maos revolutionary years. His proclivity for trouble was not cured by wearing military uniform, however, and he got into trouble for brawling. I have trouble with direction, because I just have always had trouble with authority, he told Larry King in 2004. I was not a good marine. I made corporal once and was promptly busted.
Fate intervened just as his battalion was called up to fight in the Korean War. Hackman crashed a motorcycle into a tractor that had no lights, breaking his right leg, right shoulder and left knee and leaving him unfit for active service. After being discharged in 1952, Hackman spent six months studying journalism at the University of Illinois before dropping out. At the age of 22, he made his way to New York to try to be an actor, bolstered by the taste of show business he had sampled as a marine, when he had been a disc jockey and news announcer on Armed Forces Radio Service.
Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle in the 1975 sequel French Connection II (Sky)
Hackman would later ruefully recall the dark days of his early twenties, scuffling around miserable jobs, and living at the YMCA in New York. He drove trucks, worked as a shop assistant at a drugstore (customers treated you like crapola), sold confectionery door to door, worked in an upmarket womens shoe department (where he would slip expensive shoes to friends in exchange for a few dollars) and hauled furniture up high-rise apartments. The worst job, he said, was the night work at the Chrysler Building, polishing leather furniture.
What Hackman described as the turning point of his life came in 1955 when he was a doorman at a Times Square hotel. A marine sergeant who had been his drill instructor happened to walk past, dressed in his full colours. He never looked at me but muttered, Hackman, youre a sorry son of a bitch, he told David Letterman. Hackman was so embarrassed by the way he was earning a living that he redoubled his efforts to make it as an actor.
Things began to change in 1956. On New Years Day, he married his girlfriend Fay Maltese, a bank secretary, and she encouraged him to pursue his dreams. They moved back to California, where Hackman enrolled at the Pasadena Playhouse Theatres acting school. I was not considered one of their most promising students, Hackman recalled drolly in a 1987 interview. He was putting it mildly.
At 26, he was more than five years older than most of his fellow students, whom he regarded as tanned young walking surfboards. Hackman, who was 6ft 2in, thought of himself as big lummox kind of person, talking self-deprecatingly about having the face of your everyday mine worker. His classmates did not rate him. The only person he liked was a small, 19-year-old oddball who strolled around in a suede vest and sandals. The rest of the class were hostile to him, too, calling him a beatnik. That friend was Dustin Hoffman.
With acting school pal Dustin Hoffman in the 2003 thriller Runaway Jury (Rex)
The future Oscar winners bonded over their dislike of their fellow students. Dustin was thought of as amusing and strange, Hackman recalled in 1998. Id been in the Marine Corps for five years and was married an equally unlikely candidate for movie stardom. Hackman and Hoffman would escape their classmates by going up on to the roof of the theatre to play bongos.
The class alumni voted them both Least Likely to Succeed. Hackman was thrown out of the Playhouse after a year, having been awarded the lowest ever grade given there. In later years, he tended to frame these experiences in humorous terms, joking about failing to hear from his old classmates. In 2001, Hackman recalled that after his own acting career had started to take off, he had run into one former classmate who boasted about being in an episode of a TV drama called Blue Light. And its gonna be repeated, he told Hackman. Blue Light was axed in 1966 after only one season the same time Hackman landed his first big film role in Bonnie and Clyde.
Being voted Least Likely To Succeed only fuelled Hackmans determination. Back in New York, he began studying twice a week with George Morrison, a graduate of Lee Strasbergs Actors Studio, who taught him about method acting, relaxation techniques, how to hone his timing and delivery and overcome his insecurities. Gene never knew whether he was an actor, Morrison told Vanity Fair in 2013. He would have a part, and then go back to moving furniture. Hackman did, however, take on board two fundamental questions Morrison said he should dwell on for every part: How am I like this person? and How am I not like this person?
The battle to get on to Broadway was arduous No one starts at the top in the theatre, he said, and the bottom is a very ugly place but he gradually began to get promising parts, making decent money for the first time. His biggest disappointment was that his mother, who died in 1962 when her burning cigarette ignited a fire in her home, was not around to see him fulfil his dreams. Even as an old man, Hackman would talk wistfully about a trip to the cinema with her, when she said she hoped to see you do that someday.
Estelle Parsons and Gene Hackman in 1967 crime film Bonnie and Clyde (Sky)
In 1964, the year he appeared in the popular comedy stage show Any Wednesday, Hackman landed a role in Lilith, a movie with Warren Beatty. A couple of years later, Beatty recommended Hackman for the role of Buck Barrow, elder brother of the outlaw Clyde Barrow. Hackmans performance in Bonnie and Clyde, which captured the anger and rebellion of Buck, won him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, although he lost out to Cool Hand Lukes George Kennedy.
In his thirties, Hackman remained obsessive about improving his skills. He would wander around New York, endlessly watching people, absorbing their personalities and mannerisms. He also drew on emotions about the people close to him, admitting that he did so in a very cold and clinical way. Director Arthur Penn said Hackman was one of the best at exploiting the early pain in his life. Hes one of the ones who are willing to plunge their arm into the fire as far as it can go, said Penn, who directed Hackman inBonnie and Clyde and Night Moves (1975).
There is a compelling scene in Clint Eastwoods 1992 western Unforgiven, in which Hackman portrayed the sadistic Sheriff Daggett. Hackmans character brutally beats a hired gunman called English Bob, played by Richard Harris. When asked how he found inspiration for this scene, he said he channelled anger over a snub from Harris. The pair had appeared together in the 1966 film Hawaii. I could tell he didnt remember having worked with me and he tried to fake his way through it, Hackman told The New York Times in 2001. I remember thinking, Oh, I can use this. I just took that disappointment and did this kind of transference. He won an Oscar for his performance.
Two decades earlier, as Popeye Doyle, Hackman had found having to be violent on screen so gruelling that he told French Connection director William Friedkin he should consider replacing me. But it is strange, given Hackmans personal history of fights with strangers, that he had such qualms about slapping around a drug suspect on screen. Hoffman said that his friend would sometimes just announce, I gotta go, explaining to Variety that he had to get in a fight. Hed go to some bar. 
Hackman as Sheriff Daggett in 1992 western Unforgiven (Sky)
He was still getting into real-life violent altercations as an old man. In December 2001, a minor traffic accident in West Hollywood escalated into a fist fight with two men in broad daylight. He brushed against me and I popped him, Hackman told the Los Angeles Times. Then the other guy jumped on me. We had this ugly wrestling match on the ground. The police came … I got a couple of good shots in. The guy had me around the neck. Thats the ugly part. When youre down on the ground and youre nearly 72 years old.
Hackman is truly a man of wild contradictions. Robert Duvall, who has been a friend since the 1950s, called him a tormented guy, always into his own space, his own thing. Where director Arthur Penn saw a man normally full of great joie de vivre, Morrison saw an inveterate loner. Hackmans volatile bust-ups with directors on set earnt him the nickname Vesuvius although he was forgiven for his temper tantrums. Theres something very charismatic in him, even when hes being his worst, said Wes Anderson, who directed Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums.
The paradoxes of his life are plentiful. His political views were liberal; he was a lifelong Democrat voter who was proud of being listed as an enemy of President Nixon. Yet Hackman also loved arch conservative Ronald Reagan, saying: I loved the idea of that man. He was so committed to a beautiful America.
He is as happy talking about his beloved Jacksonville Jaguars football team as he is about art. Hackman started painting impressionist oil works in the 1950s, shortly after taking a class at the Art Students League Of New York. At the height of his fame, the Oscar winner steered clear of shallow Hollywood parties, preferring instead to spend his spare time stunt flying and deep-sea diving. In the late 1970s, Hackman drove in Sports Car Club of America races and even competed in a 24-hour sports car endurance test in a Toyota he shared with leading Japanese racer Masanori Sekiya.
Hackman with his Unforgiven co-star and director Clint Eastwood at the 1993 Oscars (Rex)
Hackmans hobbies, though, were always secondary to his devotion to his craft. His greatest roles including his two films as Popeye Doyle and the monumental way he portrayed the drug-withdrawal scenes in French Connection II have earnt him a stellar reputation among his peers. Gene was simply the best actor I worked with, said double Oscar winner Kevin Costner.
Hackmans popular roles included playing sneering supervillain Lex Luthor in the Superman films, but the former stage actor always thrived on taking on challenging parts in movies, including playing a widowed college professor in 1970sI Never Sang for My Father, a role that earnt him a Best Supporting Actor nomination. He was nominated again for his gripping portrayal of FBI agent Rupert Anderson in Mississippi Burning(1988), and is also saluted for major contributions to hit movies such as The Firm(1993), Get Shorty (1995), Enemy of the State (1998) andThe Royal Tenenbaums(2001).
However, two of his finest roles came in films that had little commercial success. In the picaresque road movie Scarecrow (1973), which Hackman described as his favourite movie he worked on, he and Al Pacino played a pair of ex-con hobos who dream of opening a car wash. Its the only film Ive ever made in absolute continuity, and that allowed me to take all kinds of chances and really build my character, said Hackman.
Hackman had the ability to laugh at his own celebrity status at this time. He and Pacino prepared for Scarecrow by staying in costume and character while they spent time on the streets of San Francisco. Hackman told David Letterman about asking a muttering homeless man on Market Street the way to the nearest soup kitchen. The man gave them comprehensive directions. After they thanked him, in gruff voices, the homeless man smiled back and replied, Youre welcome, Mr Hackman and Mr Pacino.
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Perhaps Hackmans finest performance was as the bugging expert Harry Caul in The Conversation(1974). Finding out that he was second choice to Marlon Brando seemed to inspire him to even greater heights. The prescient script about illegal wire-tapping, written by director Francis Ford Coppola several years before Nixons Watergate scandal, reveals Hackmans brilliance as a character actor, playing such a secretive, introverted man. That was the pinnacle of my acting career in terms of character development, Hackman said. Caul was somewhat constipated. The character didnt burst out. There was no satisfying cathartic moment in the film.
As well as reaching dizzying heights in acclaimed movies, Hackman also admitted to Costner that he had taken many questionable roles, in substandard films such as The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Lucky Lady (1975), A Bridge Too Far (1977) andMarch or Die (1977). In the late 1970s and 1980s, Hackman also ran into problems with tax liabilities, joking that he had to borrow his daughters piece-of-s*** car to get to interviews in Hollywood, having blown money on expensive motor vehicles, private planes and bad investments. I was just barely hanging in, taking pretty much anything that was offered to me and trying to make it work, he told interviewer Alysse Minkoff in 2000. He had also been left devastated when his best friend Norman Garey shot himself in 1981. Five years later, his troubled marriage to Faye, with whom hed had three children, ended in divorce. It was a terrible time for Hackman, who admitted he was struggling to find the motivation to act.
It says everything for Hackmans character and true greatness as an actor that he pulled himself together to make his award-winning appearance in 1988sMississippi Burningafter such a troubled period. He is incapable of bad work, said the films director, Alan Parker. Every director has a short list of actors hed die to work with, and Ill bet Genes on every one.
Hackman has always been a voracious reader, and alongside his acting, he also carved out a career as the co-author of historical fiction. After bonding with his New Mexico neighbour and undersea archaeologist Daniel Lenihan they shared a deep love for the books of Robert Louis Stephenson, Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Conrad and Jack London the friends came up with the idea for a novel called Wake of the Perdido Star, a 19th-century sea adventure no less. They went on to write four more books, including a western thriller. Hackman says the hardest thing about writing fiction is the constant editing. I like the loneliness of writing, actually. Its similar in some ways to acting, but its more private and I feel like I have more control over what Im trying to say and do.
With Al Pacino in Scarecrow, the 1973 movie Hackman described as his favourite to work on (Rex)
Hackman retired from acting in 2004 after a final role in Welcome to Mooseport, a satire in which he played retired president Monroe Eagle Cole. As an older man, he found the acting business very stressful and was no longer willing to make the compromises that you have to make in films. He later joked that he would only take another movie role if it was filmed in his house. 
Since then, aside from narrating a documentary called The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jimain 2016, Hackman has been content to live quietly in Santa Fe with his second wife Betsy Arakawa, a former classical pianist 32 years his junior. Despite heart concerns (Hackman had angioplasty surgery in the 1990s) and knee pains that are a legacy of that bike crash, the Hollywood star continues to get out and about on his bicycle. Even a collision in 2012 in Florida when, with no helmet on, he was struck by a pick-up truck and injured has not dampened his spirits. In January 2018, Bicycling.com reported that 88-year-old Hackman had bought a $2,800 e-bike, capable of travelling at 20mph, so he could ride around Santa Fe.
Celebrity worship has never been something Hackman wanted in his life. He says he is not a sentimental guy and does not keep movie memorabilia in his home apart from a poster of Errol Flynn. He isnt even sure what happened to his Oscar statues. Maybe theyre packed somewhere, he told the LA Times in 2001.
After retiring, Hackman was amused rather than angry when unlike the homeless man in San Francisco in 1973 a film crew in his home town failed to recognise him. There was a young assistant director on a backstreet in Santa Fe, directing traffic, he said in 2011. I pulled up next to her and asked her if they were hiring any extras. She said, No, Im very sorry, sir.
Hackman once said that he wanted to be remembered as a decent actor as someone who tried to portray what was given to them in an honest fashion. He did so much more than that. Hackman is simply one of the greatest actors of our age even if he did become least likely to succeed as an elderly extra.