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FILM & TV

What are the greatest films you’ve never seen?

Words by Rob Chilton

Rob Chilton starts ticking off the missing movies on his list

The other day I watched Casablanca for the first time. Seeing as it came out almost 80 years ago, I appreciate I’m a little late to the party. I turned off my phone and committed to this legendary piece of cinema that features in most top 10 lists of the greatest movies of all time.

And whaddya know? It turns out everyone is right – Casablanca is brilliant. I’d seen so many clips over the years that much of it was familiar but I still got a thrill from seeing Humphrey Bogart swagger around Rick’s Cafe looking sensational in a white dinner jacket. Ingrid Bergman was mesmerising, the music was fantastic, the cinematography was hypnotic. So this is why everyone raves about Casablanca, I smiled, as the credits rolled on the black and white classic.

What else from the pantheon of great films had I missed? It was time to take action.

What’s first? I live in a desert so how about Lawrence of Arabia. Why hadn’t I had seen this Peter O’Toole epic directed by David Lean that won seven Oscars? The three hour 48-minute running time might have had something to do with it. I prepared snacks and got stuck in. Wow, what a beautiful film. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

Casablanca

Next came Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey, (two hours 44 minutes). Then Apocalypse Now (two hours 33 minutes). I was starting to notice a theme: when it came to great movies I hadn’t seen, anything longer than a football match had no chance. Tut tut, I had no stamina, no concentration, no gumption. That was going to change.

I sat through both 2001: A Space Odyssey and Apocalypse Now. Hmm. I thought 2001 was painfully slow and in some places, boringly surreal. There are some amazing sequences, of course, but I shan’t be watching it again. Apocalypse Now, also, was like wading through treacle with its baffling dialogue. Delivered. At. A. Frustratingly. Turgid. Pace. Not even the masterful Marlon Brando held my attention.

Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange

Taxi Driver, another blind spot, had a bit more zip about it. I was surprised at how rough around the edges it was. Clearly, Martin Scorsese’s budgets have increased in the decades since he made the 1976 classic. But there's no denying Robert De Niro’s performance as Travis Bickle which is, of course, deservedly lauded as one of the greatest in cinema history.

There were many more huge titles missing from my list, which I am baffled as to how I haven’t seen them. Apologies – again – to Scorsese and De Niro, because I haven’t seen Mean Streets either. Al Pacino’s Serpico is a blank, too. I have a giant Stanley Kubrick-shaped hole in my list because, as well as 2001: A Space Odyssey, I haven’t seen Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange or Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Shockingly, Nicholson stars in two more on my list: Chinatown and Five Easy Pieces. I know the latter’s famous chicken salad scene, but I’ve never seen the film.

Serpico, starring Al Pacino

I like Humphrey Bogart, but how has The Maltese Falcon stayed unwatched for me all these years – it came out in 1941! Everyone knows the song Singin' in the Rain, but have I seen the movie? Nope. Sunset Boulevard ("All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up") is another classic from the golden age of Hollywood that has never met my eyes, as is 1934’s It Happened One Night with Clark Gable that was the first flick to win the big five Oscars for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Writing.

Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain

But perhaps the most glaring omission in my list is the film that regularly tops the critics’ charts: Citizen Kane. In my defence, I have tried to watch Orson Welles' masterpiece twice, but nodded off after 25 minutes on both occasions. Maybe I should make a pot of coffee and try again (third time lucky) as I continue to tick off my embarrassingly long list of the greatest movies I’ve never seen.

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