Originally written for Taste of Cinema – http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2019/10-great-movies-to-watch-when-you-want-something-exciting/?fbclid=IwAR3HKYArfbAF8PWVPa3T2yHoSuQj2lWwDsDlamlnnXzoSjOfFOIL54mc5zk
Every now and then, we all need a film that gets the adrenaline pumping… whether that film is good or not isn’t always easy to guess, however, here’s hoping this list can help you find some films to watch next time you’re in need for something to get your pulse up! Without any further ado, here are ten films to watch when you want to see something exciting!
1. Domino (Tony Scott, 2005)
The majority of Tony Scott’s films are quite exciting, from his earlier and more straight-forward work like Top Gun (1986) and The Hunger (1983) to his last few films which were hyperactively edited and disheveled in a way that remains truly unique in terms of modern mainstream cinema, with their editing making them much more easily comparable to underground experimental short films for the most part, and Domino may just be his most energetic and his most experimental.
What really stands out about this film in particular is the way that it feels the need to be bombastic with just about everything. The leering camera that sexualises the characters at first seems, understandably, disgusting, but it quickly becomes apparently that Scott is making everything extreme here, from his edits and performances to just the way that the camera looks at these people as if they’re not even human.
It’s a very divisive film, admittedly, and it is easy to see why so many would have a tough time with the raging editing and riotous form, but those who enjoy it seem to really love it, so it is well worth a shot next time you need something exciting.
2. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989)
Another film that certainly won’t be for everyone (You definitely want to think twice before making this one a family event) is Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man, a truly crazed film. The most popular of all Japanese Cyberpunk films, this low budget sci-fi/horror/fantasy revolves around people who… transform from flesh into metal, or become hybrids of the two.
Clocking in at a measly 67 minutes, it’s definitely not going to take too much time to get through (the sequels are both a little longer, and neither are as magical as this, but they’re still quite fun), and the unhinged, hyperactive editing is more than enough to keep the adrenaline flowing for such a brief runtime. Its special effects are stunning, the tone uncomfortably energetic throughout and the dazzling form is not to be missed. A wonderful film, for those who can stomach it.
3. Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma, 1980)
Brian De Palma has always been a thrilling director, even to this day with his latest output being some of his most brazen yet, but it was in the 1980s that he really seemed to communicate this tension and excitement perfectly through his films, especially in Dressed to Kill, Body Double and Scarface.
Dressed to Kill is perhaps the best of these three, or at least the most thrilling, riffing on Hitchcock (as well as Argento, stepping outside of De Palma’s usual comfort zone into a Giallo-esque murder mystery!) as came to be expected from De Palma.
Dressed to Kill focuses on the story of Kate Miller (played by Angie Dickinson), a prostitute who witnesses a murder and is subsequently stalked by the very same killer, bringing together a whole host of various influences from within the horror genre, matching them with De Palma’s bold, fantastical style and wondrous shot compositions and creating something beastly in and of itself.
De Palma has never been quite so eloquent in communicating tension and fear, with the score and the dizzying cinematography working hand-in-hand to make one of the better examples of a slasher film from the 1980s, placing this film right up there with all of the classics of the slasher genre. It may just be his finest film, though it’s hard to say which is best in a filmography so star-studded.
4. Crank (Brian Taylor & Mark Neveldine, 2006)
Literally any of the weird and wonderful films of Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine could have been placed here, from their insanely energetic Crank 2: High Voltage (admittedly, even more exciting than this one, however, it feels strange recommending a sequel before its predecessor), Brian Taylor’s recent Nicolas Cage solo effort Mom and Dad (2018), or even their silliest film to date, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (A really strange film, but with wonderful stunt work and really exciting cinematography driving the lacklustre story, also starring the King of crazy, Nicolas Cage!), however, a recommendation of Crank – their most coherent film, and by far the easiest to enjoy for what it is, unhinged insanity – feels more than suitable.
Starring Jason Statham (Calm your alarm bells, he fits this film perfectly, finally showing enough self awareness to take his typically macho performances to the nth degree and bounce off the walls for two hours) in the lead role as Chev Chelios, a man who is injected with a poison that will kill him if his heart rate drops.
If you think it sounds like Speed, just with the bus swapped for a man, you’re not wrong at all, but Neveldine and Taylor take the adrenaline rush of something like speed and force it tenfold, with a narrative so fast and unkempt it’s hard to believe that it doesn’t violently fly off the rails, a lead performance so fun that you won’t believe it’s THE Jason Statham on screen and cinematography bursting with energy reminiscent of MTV music videos.
It’s complete chaos, total anarchy in the best way, the kind of riotous film that is an absolute joy to watch unfold. As mentioned previously, the sequel is even more unhinged, following directly on from the final shot of this one (which is an all timer, one of the funniest endings to any film of recent memory, but I shan’t spoil it!) and adding more side characters, as well as a lot of electricity (no, really!) to the mix, as if it wasn’t already an energetic concoction.
5. Strange Days (Kathryn Bigelow, 1995)
Master director Kathryn Bigelow is certainly more renowned for her later work, particularly The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty (maybe Detroit, too), however Strange Days could be her finest film to date.
Starring Ralph Fiennes in the leading role as Lenny Nero, a once police officer who currently deals ‘data-discs’, discs which are able to make the viewer live in what is recorded (think Virtual Reality, but you feel the same feelings, too). Eventually, Nero is sent a disc which contains a murderer’s memory of killing a prostitute, and Nero soon finds himself in over his head in the conspiracy surrounding him.
Taking so many 1990s anxieties, from gang crime and the changes in the media to a general fear of what the twenty first century would bring, Strange Days is a pitch-perfect thriller, featuring some of the greatest action set-piece sequences ever put to screen (the opening scene is a POV perspective all timer) and cinematography so evocative of anxiety and discomfort it’s frankly hard to believe. Ralph Fiennes is, as always, mesmerising in his performance and Bigelow’s direction is second to none – a must see for any fans of dystopian thrillers, or thrillers in general.
6. To Live and Die In L.A. (William Friedkin, 1985)
Whilst many prefer The Exorcist and/or The French Connection, some stand by the fact that William Friedkin’s true masterpiece is, and always has been, To Live and Die In L.A, his 1985 crime thriller focused on Richard Chance, a secret service agent, and his hunt for the counterfeiter who murdered his partner, played by Willem Dafoe.
With one of the most thrilling and enchanting car chase sequences ever put to screen (no surprise from Friedkin, really), some of the most impressive and visually arresting colour grading of the 1980s – need you be reminded of the bombastic colours splattered all over most films at the time – and some of the most interesting exploration of loss within a policing setting. It’s vibrantly colourful, pulse-pounding, classic entertainment from one of the best directors ever to make crime films.
7. Speed Racer (The Wachowskis, 2008)
One more film bound to split audiences in half, Speed Racer is one of the most ambitious studio films of the twenty first century so far. Starting off more hallucinogenic than The Beatles and only bringing the bar up until the culmination which feels ripped straight out of a Stan Brakhage film, it is also one of the most focused (on being completely crazy) films of recent memory, bringing in one key idea and giving it everything.
It feels almost ironic for a film this colourful and in-your-face to mock capitalism and greed, but it’s all here, and it’s genuinely hard to believe that a studio is behind such a film, one completely detached from just about anything else out there.
Almost the entire film is plastered in special effects, and that is what makes it works – truly a film for those who say that CGI never works well – using the insane visuals to put the audience deeply within this world and within the headspace of the protagonist in a way that few films have the guts too.
It’s relentlessly paced, ridiculously enthralling both visually and narratively, and furthermore it has real points to make about self belief. Definitely one more appropriate for a family setting, too.
8. Lovers on the Bridge (Leos Carax, 1991)
Another film that is mostly exciting because of its intrinsic focus on visual storytelling, and particularly the use of expressive camera movements and motivated character movements to match (This is seen throughout Carax’s entire body of work, his performances are always so physically demanding, in a refreshingly unique way, too), Leos Carax’s mesmerising Lovers On The Bridge stars the always phenomenal Denis Lavant alongside the wonderful Juliette Binoche in two of their finest performances to date as two vagrants.
Lavant’s alcoholic Alex and Binoche’s afflicted painter have stunning chemistry in the leading roles, likely partially down to their working together on Carax’s previous film Mauvais Sang (1986), only adding to the kind of tension that comes from all of the different parts of the film.
As with most Carax films, Lovers On The Bridge has it all – tension, romance, beauty, tranquility and just about anything else an audience member could ever ask for – and with form as strong as it is here, alongside a truly unique style and vision, it’s a must watch.
9. Miracle Mile (Steve De Jarnatt, 1988)
Often mentioned within the context of undeservingly forgotten classics, Steve De Jarnatt’s genre-blending apocalyptic romance is one of the most breakneck paced and joyous films ever produced, no hyperbole involved. Starting off as a romantic comedy and eventually devolving to a kind of tension packed thrill ride with nuclear panic horror as pungent as that of the infamous BBC TV movie Threads (1984), there’s no denying that De Jarnatt’s film has quite the impressive range, and there is even less denying that, against all odds, the film somehow pulls each and every one of them off beautifully.
It’s a total cinematic treat, a film so involving and so pressing with this bundle of emotions that it becomes almost impossible to escape the overwhelming range of emotional outbursts featured throughout, from romance so cute it makes you want to find someone to love and nuclear horror so deeply petrifying it makes you want to hide away on some remote island, or in a cave.
The Tangerine Dream score is electrifying (and maybe their best… really!), the performances are just as versatile as required by the genre-blending at play here, the writing is impeccable and the direction is so witty and precise. The form is enough to be exciting completely by itself, the thrills provided by the story and the way it unfolds is just an addition win for the audience.
10. After Hours (Martin Scorsese, 1985)
One of the few Scorsese films that don’t seem to garner enough recognition, or at least not as much as it deserves, After Hours is a wonderfully eccentric film about one night gone horrendously wrong time and time again.
Narrative progression like this is hard to come by, especially as beautifully executed as it is here, with Scorsese’s masterful control over the tone also shining through from start to finish, guiding an unassuming audience through the horror and dark relief of one great night slowly rotted down to the worst imaginable.
It is one of Scorsese’s finest films, both hilarious and disturbing, relentless and idiosyncratic and even very balanced considering the ambition of a small story turned huge. The performances across the board are terrific, especially with Griffin Dunne giving a career best as Paul Hackett, one very distressed word processor finding himself stuck on some hellish hamster wheel in a dizzying, cyclical pit. It’s a lot funnier than it sounds… that’s a promise.