Michael Mann

Michael Mann

Heat; The Insider
Voted in the directors poll

Voted for:

Apocalypse Now 1979 Francis Ford Coppola
Avatar 2009 James Cameron
Battleship Potemkin 1925 Sergei M Eisenstein
Biutiful 2009 Alejandro González Iñárritu
Citizen Kane 1941 Orson Welles
Dr. Strangelove 1963 Stanley Kubrick
My Darling Clementine 1946 John Ford
Passion of Joan of Arc 1927 Carl Theodor Dreyer
Raging Bull 1980 Martin Scorsese
Wild Bunch, The 1969 Sam Peckinpah


Coppola evoked the high-voltage, dark identity quest, journeying into overload; the wildness and nihilism – all captured in operatic and concrete narrative, with the highest degree of difficulty. A masterpiece.

With Battleship Potemkin, Eisenstein not only laid the theoretical foundation for much of 20th-century cinematic narrative in 1924, but made one of cinema’s great classics, applying dialectics to the collision of antithetical compositional elements and meaning. Its influence in British, Weimar and American cinema is huge.

Citizen Kane was a watershed: a life’s linear history reassembled into a novelistic narrative by investigators querying its meaning. And done with Wellesian brio, to a grand scale.

Upon the foundation of an entirely invented biosystem, Avatar is a brilliant synthesis of mythic tropes, with debts to Lévi-Strauss and Frazier’s The Golden Bough. It soars because, simply, it stones and transports you.

The whole of Dr. Strangelove is a high-energy third act. On American Cold War policy and political-military culture, it is devastatingly more effective through hilarious ridicule than are any number of cautionary fables.

The profound struggle through the lower depths of Barcelona street life of a human soul, Biutiful is resplendent with grace, pathos and love. Pure poetry.

My Darling Clementine is possibly the finest drama in the western genre, with a stunningly subjective Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda). It achieves near-perfection cinematically in many of its passages via its blocking, shooting and editing.

Human experience conveyed purely from the visualisation of the human face: no one else has composed and realised human beings quite like Dreyer in The Passion of Joan of Arc.

Raging Bull immerses us into the failing and besotted life of LaMotta and his need for and pursuit of redemption. The humanity of the picture is extraordinary, as is Marty’s execution.

The Wild Bunch: no other picture captures the poignancy of ‘the last of’, a fin de siècle sense of the west, of ageing, of the pathos of twilight.

And at number 11: Nakashima Tetsuya’s 2010 Confessions – a Japanese masterpiece.  Frighteningly, formally rigidly controlled, it’s unheralded high art.