40 Years, 40 Essential Man Movies You Must See: Pt 2

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 How many of these definitively masculine movies have you seen?

June 8 marks the 40th anniversary of the Australian release of Taxi Driver, the Martin Scorsese-directed NYC psychodrama that gave Robert De Niro one of his signature roles. Here’s the second part of our Top 40 countdown of must-see man movies made since 1976…

29. Gladiator (2000)

Russell Crowe was already on the rise due to the awesome man-movies Romper Stomper and L.A. Confidential, but he sealed the macho deal with Gladiator. Ridley Scott’s ancient Roman epic has Our Russ at his growliest as general-turned-slave-turned-stadium brawler Maximus. Other Crowe classics for the manly binge watch: Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World; 3:10 To Yuma; State Of Play and Body Of Lies.

28. Se7en (1995)

Director David Fincher’s grim serial killer thriller showed the world that Brad Pitt was more than just a pretty face. He’s the cocky young cop paired with Morgan Freeman’s veteran detective to chase down Kevin Spacey’s psycho John Doe, who’s slaughtering people based on the seven deadly sins. Fincher’s 2007 true-crime flick Zodiac makes for a brilliant double feature with Se7en.

27. Black Hawk Down (2001)

Ridley Scott’s incredibly staged action film puts us in the combat boots of desperate US Rangers and Delta Force operatives as they try to fight their way out of Mogadishu in 1993. Based on the excellent book by journalist Mark Bowden, this is white-knuckle war movie says that soldiers do incredibly brave things not because of politics or morality but because of duty to the man next to them.

26. Predator (1987)

“If it bleeds we can kill it.” So says Arnie Schwarzenegger’s special forces soldier when he and his men are confronted with a tendril-faced alien while on a rescue mission in the South American jungle. In a way, it’s a quote that sums up what makes a great action movie: no-nonsense aggression with a touch of self-aware humour. There’s plenty of that on offer in this enormously entertaining blend of the war, sci-fi and horror genres. Amazingly enough, critics pretty much hated Predator on release.

25. Heat (1995)

Michael Mann’s ruthlessly exciting crime drama had a huge ace up its sleeve on release, being the first time that Robert De Niro and Al Pacino had ever shared a scene (even if, ironically, they’re never seen on screen at the same time). Bobby is a master criminal and Al’s the detective who swears to bring him down. Theirs is an epic game of cat-and-mouse—if, that is, felines and rodents fought their battles with machine guns on the streets of LA..

24. Clerks (1994)

Kevin Smith DIY-ed his movie-biz career with this B&W indie comedy that was put in the can for a measly $US27,000. The flick has convenience store nerd Dante and video-store jockey Randall joking the day away as an assortment of miscreants and mutants pass through their orbits. The story is simple-bordering-on-non-existent but it hardly matters for the rude wit on display.

23. Platoon (1986)

Pre-psychosis Charlie Sheen is a fresh-faced volunteer American G.I. whose soul becomes the battleground for his superior officers, Willem Dafoe’s hippy-dippy philosopher and Tom Berenger’s hard-charging war-monger. Director Oliver Stone’s movie is as subtle as a sledgehammer but also undeniably exciting and affecting stuff. The filmmaker’s other essential man-movies include Salvador, Wall Street, JFK and Natural Born Killers.

22. Swingers (1996)

Like Clerks, this low-budget American flick caught the mid-1990s mood perfectly, with Vince Vaughn establishing his comic persona as the fast-talking smoothie trying to get his schlubby mate Jon Favreau out of the romantic doldrums by taking him to Vegas, baby. It’s also a curious artifact of the very-short lived swing music revival.

21. Team America: World Police (2004)

Trey Parker and Matt Stone are like the Coen brothers of comedy: they’ve done everything on their own terms for decades. South Park revolutionised cartoon comedy with its willingness to go beyond The Simpsons and deep into hilarious bad taste. And, as good as their movie version South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is, it’s Team America, their puppet satire of American politics and cinema post-9/11 that we keep coming back to. America, fuck yeah!

20. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

While it was a box-office turkey on release, this sweeping drama has in the past two decades become one of the most beloved films of all time, regularly ranked alongside the likes of Citizen Kane and Casablanca. This Stephen King adaptation is deserving, too, with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman making one of cinema’s great double acts as inmates in Shawshank State Penitentiary who’re determined to have their freedom, any way they can get it. “Get busy living or get busy dying” isn’t a bad seven-word philosophy, either. Other cracking Stephen King adaptations that fit the man-movie category: The Dead Zone, Stand By Me and The Shining.