There’re the best films and there’re the favourite films. There’s a movie geek somewhere in King of Prussia, PA who can’t get enough of Ernest Goes To Jail, but he’s truly aware that Once Upon A Time In America is perfect as is his mate who’s more an Ozu kinda guy but firmly believes Goes to Camp is the superior entry. It shouldn’t be a competition, but there are those films that are more favoured than others with some being the ultimate cinematic comfort food, some being truly great works of art and some being a cocktail of the two – usually with a double shot of the comfort. These are what you might call the Best Favourite Films.
My favourite film is Gremlins. If you’re of the poor few who haven’t seen Joe Dante’s Noelle nailing classic, there are two things you must do immediately: stop reading this and watch Gremlins.
Too much a lego block of my own DNA to critique objectively, I thought it best to try and find some obscure trivia for this most familiar of blockbusters and came across a statistic that floored me: apparently there is not one documented case of a person disliking Gremlins because they think it’s a bad film. It definitely makes many a movie buff’s favourites list but this startling stat got me thinking- Is Gremlins the BEST FAVOURITE FILM EVER?
Of course again it shouldn’t be a competition. But of course the Gremlins don’t play that way and so in their spirit let’s face them off against some of the Best Favourites out there.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Is it really the ultimate Christmas movie? The melding of the dark and the wholesome has long been the appeal of Capra’s classic but Bedford Falls gets a run for its money for most idyllic all-American, Xmas loving town going to shit. Unlike seeing George Bailey’s hometown becoming a seedy postcode, the Gremlins takeover of Kingston Falls is no cautionary vision but a snowy bloodbath that actually happens. Dante also manages to deliver a final scene warm enough to erase any nasty taste, but bittersweet enough to not feel like a cheat.
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE - Leatherface and his clan certainly take pleasure in their job but it is more driven by an outmoded work ethic and specialist diet. The Gremlins have one goal: to amuse themselves however possible. And slaughtering innocent people amuses the crud out of them. Tell me, which is scarier?
THE DARK KNIGHT - The Joker claims allegiance to random chaos but has an awful lot of well thought through plans up his sleeve, but The Gremlins truly ARE chaos.
JAWS - Seńor Spielbergo’s most ballsy piece of entertainment has lost none of its magic, but the producer’s trademark magic is put to twisted ballsier use when filtered through Dante’s anarchic crazy-eye.
TOY STORY – The birth of what is pound for pound the strongest trilogy in movie history, there’s similarities with Billy & Gizmo’s camaraderie and Andy’s love for Woody. But the boy-toy dynamic is based on imagination/nostalgia/growth and is ultimately more poetic and so Pixar’s debut wins poignancy points. Yet the buddy arc from gift-pet to friend to friends in need to allies in war to heart breaking goodbye allows this to be a draw. And what do you mean there’s no Buzz? Stripe is the ultimate ring leading scene stealing shit stirrer. This could be a tie. Depends on mood – Buzz or Stripe?
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY – Everybody knows the treacherous, self-serving scumbag Tuco is the best thing about this masterpiece. Gremlins gives you an army of Tucos in almost half the running time.
SEVEN SAMURAI - ...against like a thousand Gremlins!? Hardly seems fair.
APOCALYPSE NOW - Brando’s models-own rant is like all totally great and everything but Cates chilling monologue of the worst first world Christmas imaginable is more nightmarish. Some may feel the lovely Phoebe cheats somewhat by reading what was in the script and acting as a character in a story – but I think that’s nitpicking.
DIRTY DANCING - Better dancing in Gremlins, but it’s a close call. And Gizmo is cuter than Johnny. And just how much Judge Reinhold does Dirty Dancing have? Exactly.
THE THIRD MAN - In the universe of movie reincarnation, Harry Lime surely came back as a gremlin. Maybe all of them.
SUSPIRIA - One of the finest horror films ever made and the art direction and visuals are bar none. Although, there’s at least one dramatic steering staircase and at least three evil witches yet not a one of them is dispatched via magna-volted stairlift!
CINEMA PARADISO – Quite the love letter to cinema, but seeing those sharp toothed jolly-seekers entranced by Snow White remains the greatest homage to the magic of celluloid.
PULP FICTION - Both films throw loving genre references, dark humour, bright humour and extreme violence gleefully into a blender. Gremlins literally shows you that blender.
GHOSTBUSTERS - For a generation, Gremlins closest competition and as a comedy blockbuster it is unsurpassed but as a horror comedy blockbuster the scaly skinned rapscallions totally have the edge. Whereas the oncoming Armageddon of horrors Dr Venkman and Co are pitted against seems to consist of pranksters, dangerous drivers and the cutest monsters ever, Dante’s small town massacre feels like you’re witnessing a genocide and still manages to be funny. Sequel side note: Ghostbusters 2 is a perfectly fine toned-down retread, but The New Batch is the finest bit of deconstructive cinema to ever come out of the Hollywood system.
THE GOONIES - This is Josh Brolin’s best film. But it isn’t Cory Feldman’s.
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S – Sure, Gremlins’ creepy store owner does veer towards the mysterious Oriental racial stereotype, but at least they actually cast a, y’know, Chinese guy in the part.
STAND BY ME - The true career highlight for all involved: Rob Reiner, Stephen King, Kiefer Sutherland, River Phoenix etc.. All except Feldman.
DIE HARD - Another Xmas classic of the blood thirsty variety, but with Gremlins you can watch it with pretty much all ages of family over the seasonal despite it having the higher body count. Well, it does if you count the Gremlins and if you’re counting the bad guys in Die Hard, i’m counting the bad guys in this.
EMPIRE STRIKES BACK - Gremlins has better puppets, the darker tone and doesn’t rely on other movies to make sense of or complete itself. Empire needs its buddies to work as a story and therefore is scared of Gremlins. 2nd sequel side note: Dante had the idea of pissing over a beloved legacy long before Lucas and he did it both intentionally and with perfect aim.
So there you have it. Quite a fair and measured 20 movie royal rumble i’m sure you’ll agree. I hereby declare Gremlins the Best Favourite Film Ever. It’s on the internet now so it’s official.