“It’s a science experiment” | Back to the Future Part III (1990)

In Back to the Future Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travelled back in time 30 years from 1985 to 1955, using a time machine invented by the eccentric scientist Emmett “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd). In Back to the Future Part II Doc took Marty 30 years into the future, before events forced them to return ...

“There’s something very familiar about all this” | Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Sequels are common in Hollywood. Good sequels are much rarer. Back to the Future Part II, released in November 1989, is arguably one of the most inventive and jaw-dropping sequels ever made. The noted astronomer and science communicator Carl Sagan once told its director that it was ‘the best movie ever made on the science ...

“Back in good old 1955” | Back to the Future (1985)

‘Bob Zemeckis and I had written three movies together,’ said Bob Gale, ‘and we had always wanted to do a time-travel story. We’d just never figured out how. What turned the light on for me was coming across my dad's old high-school yearbook and thinking, “Would we have been friends if we’d been at school ...

“What, like, it’s hard?” | Legally Blonde (2001)

The premise of Legally Blonde, a 2001 American comedy film directed by Robert Luketic, is honestly the sort of cringe-worthy Hollywood cliché that makes one want to run a mile. Elle Woods, a rich Los Angeles college student obsessed with beautiful clothes, pedicures and her tiny dog, is rejected by her law student boyfriend. To ...

“I’d be lost without the weight of you two on my back” | Winter’s Bone (2010)

Teenager Ree Dolly lives in a run-down house in the rural Ozarks with her mentally ill mother and her two young siblings. Her absentee father is on bail after being arrested for manufacturing meth-amphetamine. When he skips that bail and goes underground, Ree is informed that her family house was put up as his bond: ...

“I just want to be perfect.” | Black Swan (2010)

Sometimes the best genre filmmaking can pass you by. It seemed to happen in 2010: Darren Aronofsky’s excellent film Black Swan was a critical darling that year, with critics raving about his Polanski-esque psychological thriller and Natalie Portman’s fragile central performance. The acclaim continued into 2011, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ...

‘Anyone wearing a uniform is one of our own.’ | PTU (2003)

Lo Sa, a tired and overweight detective in Hong Kong’s police department, chases a gang of youths into a Kowloon alleyway. He slips and falls, knocking himself unconscious in the process. When he wakes, his handgun has been stolen. This sparks off a series of encounters as the local police tactical unit (PTU) work to ...

“Everything I’ve done, I’ve done for you” | Labyrinth (1986)

You can listen to a podcast version of this essay here. A teenage girl obsessed with imagination and fantasy angrily wishes for her baby brother to be spirited away by goblins – only to discover goblins have done exactly as she asks. To rescue her brother she must make her way through an elaborate maze ...

“You do it because you’re driven” | Speed Racer (2008)

In May 2008 Warner Bros released the glossy and expensive action film Speed Racer into cinemas around the world. Directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski, it was a live-action adaptation of a once-popular children’s cartoon made on a US$130 million dollar budget, blessed with wall-to-wall advertising and given a prime summer release date. It under-performed ...

“My last and best reason for living” | Ladyhawke (1985)

In 1980 film producer Lauren Shuler was looking for a screenwriter for one of her developing film projects. Someone at 20th Century Fox told her about a writer named Edward Khmara, whom they thought might be a good fit. To demonstrate Khmara’s writing skills, the Fox representative mailed Shuler a copy of his most recent ...

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