The IMDb250. A list of the top 250 films, as ranked by the users of the biggest movie Internet site on the web. It is based upon the ratings provided by the users of The Internet Movie Database, which number into the millions. As such, it’s a perfect representation of the opinions of the movie masses, and arguably the most comprehensive ranking system on the Internet.

It’s because of this that we at HeyUGuys (and in this case, we, is myself and Gary) have decided to set ourselves a project. To watch and review all 250 movies on the list! We’ve frozen the list as of 1st January this year. It’s not as simple as it sounds, as we’ll be watching them in one year, 125 each.

This is our fifth update, a rundown of my next five movies watched for the project.

(You can find last week’s update here)


The Lady Vanishes (1938) – 7.9 No. 233

Two weeks ago, in my review of Rebecca i said one of the best aspects of this project was watching great movies i otherwise wouldn’t have seen. One of the pitfalls became clear to me this week. When working through a list of films people love, you’re going to come across some that you just don’t get. Once again, Hitchcock was the culprit…
The Lady Vanishes begins as almost an Ealing farce, as a hotel fills up with people waiting for a delayed train journey. There is much smutty humour and comic one liners. Once aboard, a young female passenger Iris befriends an elderly English lady named Miss Froy. Now, the preceding comedy may have worked to make what occurs next more of a shock, but the title of the movie gives it away. Iris desperately tries to find Miss Froy, but with the other passengers denying any knowledge of her existence, she is left feeling confused and frustrated. Once she manages to convince fellow passenger Gilbert that she isn’t crazy, they work together to solve the mystery.
The chemistry between the two characters works very well, and it’s easy to buy into their blossoming relationship. As the mystery deepens, and the conspiracy unravels, the story becomes more interesting. What is lacking, however, is a real sense of threat. The humour that has come before, and the continuing comic banter make the frankly outlandish plot rather benign.
A shootout at the end livens things up, and much of what is good about Hitchcock’s work is clearly in evidence, but for me, the odd mixture of suspense and slapstick doesn’t work. The Lady Vanishes is just one of many Hitchcock films in the 250, and it’ll be interesting to see how it compares to some of the other Hitchcock movies when they come up.


Leon (1994) – 8.6 No. 35

There have been many memorable child performances in cinema. Some have even garnered award nominations. Next to Natalie Portman’s multilayered portrayal of Mathilda in Leon, however, these nominations are almost laughable. Leon is a professional hitman, a ‘cleaner’. He works for Danny Aiello’s Tony, and is the best at what he does. He lives alone in his New York apartment, he has a fondness for Hollywood musicals, and despite killing people for a living, he has a naive, almost childlike nature. Mathilda has seen much too much much too young. She lives in the same run down apartment block as Leon. She has an abusive father who handles drugs for a living. And she has arrived home to find her family has been slaughtered.

Leon takes her in, very reluctantly, and agrees to teach her to become a cleaner. They build a complex, uneasy relationship. Mathilda is in many ways mature beyond her years, and curious about her sexuality. Her seeming lack of compunction unnerves Leon, her infatuation with Leon terrifies him. Mathilda is at once streetwise and naive, jaded and hopeful. She is young, confused, directionless, and somehow Natalie Portman plays it perfectly. Jean Reno himself is no lightweight, and he carries his part well too. Leon is humanised by the presence of Mathilda, and by the end of the movie has discovered a new purpose in life.

As a whole movie, aside from the Leon Mathilda dynamic, there’s a certain indefinable spark missing. Is it the genuinely odd performance by Gary Oldman that’s the problem? Or is it the unfinished feeling, caused by the movie ending when Mathilda’s journey is arguably just beginning? Certainly it’s not from the blistering action scenes and some stunning cinematography. The big question i find myself asking isn’t whether Leon deserves a place in the IMDb250, but whether another of Luc Besson’s great works should be there instead. It’s certainly Besson’s best English language offering, which is probably the main factor behind it’s preferential position.


Up (2009) – 8.4 No. 70

In my first update a month ago, i watched Wall-E, Pixar’s evolutionary family film, which combined slapstick family action comedy with more mature, complex themes. Up was their follow up, a continuation of their new generation of animated movies. Wall-E set a high bar, but Up, at least initially, matches up well. The opening montage of the young Carl and his wife, as they fall in love and grow old together, enduring tragedy along the way, is perfectly constructed and genuinely heart-wrenching. We catch up with a lonely octogenarian Carl, who is fighting to retain all he has left of his past years – the dream home he built for his wife. When a chance altercation looks to have taken this last remnant away, he literally takes off, unknowingly taking a stowaway along for the ride.
A hard opening act to follow. The banter between sardonic Carl and chirpy boy scout Russell is classic Pixar humour, and carries the adventure along nicely. But the deep, all too human story at the heart of Up becomes squashed by talking dogs and a mad scientist. You get the feeling they were trying to pull back from the overly downbeat first third in order to hold the interest of the children in the audience, but the switch is too extreme. The kids are already too fidgety, and now the adult audience has been robbed of what was promised. The ending is a good enough mix to please both, but by then it’s too late.
Wall-E perfected the balance, but Up just feels too disjointed. I’m not big on animated films, but Wall-E impressed me, and Up showed similar promise. Toy Story is lower placed in the 250 list, and probably deserves to be higher, offering a better mix of adult and child-friendly humour, without the shackles of an attempted ‘worthy’ storyline.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot good about Up, it’s just a shame Pixar didn’t have the conviction to carry the story through without the need for infant pleasing histrionics.


Unforgiven (1992) – 8.3 No. 108

Over the last decade, Clint Eastwood has become a darling of the academy. Nominations for every movie directed for ten years, despite a reputation amongst critics as a rather pedestrian, a to b filmmaker. Eastwood’s first real critical success, however, came some 18 years ago. Eastwood is William Munney, former cold blooded killer, now mild mannered farmer and father. He is presented with the chance to make some money, for a just cause, and economic reasoning makes him dust off his firearms.
Along with old partner Morgan Freeman, and the green kid that brought him the job, he rides cross country to assassinate a couple of cowboys who cut up a prostitute. Freeman and Eastwood bring humour and gravitas to the roles and the partnership, but story wise are short changed by an ultimately dull and straightforward revenge story.
The real interest, and arguably best performances, come from the subplot involving overbearing town sheriff Little Bill and another assassin in town for the job, English Bob. In just a few short scenes, Gene Hackman as the sheriff and Richard Harris as the Duke paint a rich back-story of partnership and betrayal, and create a genuine sense of threat and tension as Little Bill delights in reducing the storied killer to a town joke. Hackman is brilliant. Oozing pure malevolence without resorting to over the top histrionics, he saves Unforgiven from becoming a bland, laboured revenge thriller.
Unforgiven was a modernisation of the western genre. It was also called the best western in over 20 years when it was released, and maybe it was. It was, however, starved of competition. An entertaining enough movie, it’s position 73 places above the multi-layered, epic The Wild Bunch is almost laughable. Unforgiven probably didn’t deserve the Academy Award in 1993, although it was a weak year, and it probably doesn’t deserve to be as high as it is in the top 250 movies of all time. But the Clint Eastwood magic is clearly in effect. Ho hum.


Le scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly 2007) – 8.0 No. 215

Every so often in life, you find yourself sitting down to watch a movie you know nothing about. This is an increasing rarity in today’s information rich age, and particularly when your job is to write about films. Going in to a movie with no preconceptions is probably the best way to watch it, and usually means it’s going to be a very average movie. That tends to be the reason you haven’t heard about it. Occasionally, however, you happen upon a work of brilliance.
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is based upon the book of the same name, which is written by former Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby. It tells of the last months of his life. And he wrote it whilst completely paralysed except for his left eye. The Diving Bell opens with Bauby in hospital, and is shot almost completely from the point of view from his good eye. Bauby’s emotions run through anger, despair, sadness, but with a wry sense of humour always underneath. His assigned speech therapist Henriette begins to develop a form of communication for Bauby to use, an arduous technique which requires him to blink out letters one by one.
Resistant at first, the writer eventually makes the decision to stop feeling sorry for himself. He spends his days writing his book letter by letter, and exploring the depths of his memories and imagination. Trapped within the prison cell of his body, Jean-Dominique Bauby travels using the power of the human mind. The Diving Bell does have a structure, but feels very freeform as we jump from the realities in Bauby’s hospital room, to his memories of his past life, through his dreams of imagined places and situations. Beautifully shot, well edited and perfectly acted, The Diving Bell manages to be both sad and hopeful at the same time.
Bauby is a shining example of overcoming adversity, and carving out a life in the most tragic of circumstances. Part tragic drama, part art film, director Julian Schnabel has done a wonderful job, and whilst i can appreciate why many wouldn’t like the almost freeform nature of the narrative, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly easily deserves it’s place in the IMDb250, and has secured a place in my own personal top movies list.

It’s certainly been an interesting project so far, and of the 15 films i’ve reviewed, i’d only previously seen 7. I’ve discovered some gems, and been underwhelmed by some movies with excellent reputations. That’s the great thing about an art form, we all appreciate different elements. You can find Gary’s next update next Monday, and i’ll see you here in two weeks time.

Don’t forget, you can follow our progress on Twitter at and