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Upon his deathbed Sir John Betjemen, summoning up one last breath, chose to cast off his mortal coil not with words of great beauty or profound insight, but to lament a lack of sex in his life…

Okay, he wasn’t quite on his deathbed but the sentiment stands – regret was first and foremost on his mind. Learn from this, readers. Undeniably more sex would be welcome, but not all of us can work the line: “I’m Poet Laureate. Would you like to read some of my poems up in my hotel room?”

What he should have regretted was not watching more films. Sex requires wooing partners, privacy (usually), and planning. Watching a movie, however, is achievable with a click of a mouse button. You can do it now. You can even put on a few classics while on your deathbed (if you’re not already lost in a morphine fog of confusing memories and visions of angels). Whatever you do, don’t die without seeing the films listed below.

This edition: Animation. A film shot using… For Christ’s sake you don’t need us to tell you what an animation is.

“Told in a series of interviews with fellow ex-soldiers, psychiatrists and friends, Waltz With Bashir floors the audience with a gut punch as powerful as any you’ll find in cinema.”

05 - Waltz With Bashir | Director: Ari Folman | Released: 2008

waltz with bashir

Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman is the star and director of this brilliant animated mystery / documentary about the Lebanese War of 1982. Inspired by a comrade’s post-traumatic nightmare about being chased by dogs, it dawns on the now middle-aged Folman that he’s developed amnesia about his own role in the Lebanese uprising. As he tries to piece the puzzle together he’s forced to confront some horrifying truths. Told in a series of interviews with fellow ex-soldiers, psychiatrists and friends, Waltz With Bashir floors the audience with a gut punch as powerful as any you’ll find in cinema. Harrowing, original and essential viewing.

“Like a classic fairy tale, it feels instantly familiar and yet unlike anything you’ve ever seen (unless of course you’re already a Ghibli fan).”

04 - Spirited Away | Director: Hayao Miyazaki | Released: 2001

spirited away

Studio Ghibli’s Oscar-winning tale of a young girl lost in a bizarre fantasy world is a timeless work of genius. Like a classic fairy tale, it feels instantly familiar and yet unlike anything you’ve ever seen (unless of course you’re already a Ghibli fan). A surly ten-year-old is moving, against her wishes, to a new home. This disquieting step into the unknown is crystallised when her parents are transformed into pigs and she finds herself trapped in a bizarre alternate reality of bath houses, spirits, witches, and vomiting monsters. Spirited Away is a superlative coming-of-age tale and a great testament to the enduring relevance and beauty of hand-drawn animation.

03 - The Incredibles | Director: Brad Bird | Released: 2004

the incredibles

A family of superheroes are forced to be “normal” and hide their true identities in this superbly animated tale from Pixar veteran Brad Bird. Dad is losing his hair, packing excess pounds, while remembering his past heroic exploits with warm, fuzzy nostalgia. Demoralised by his insurance firm job, cowed by his tiny pencil-necked boss, an offer to squeeze into his old costume and do what he does best is too strong a temptation. Keeping it from his wife, she begins to suspect an affair – cue a touching domestic drama spliced with flawlessly choreographed action sequences, brought together in one of the best scripts to have ever graced an animated feature film.

“Set in a dystopian future where half the population is on drugs, Keanu Reeves plays an agent going undercover to infiltrate a group of local suppliers, becoming hooked on the product he’s investigating in the process.”

02 - A Scanner Darkly | Director: Richard Linklater | Released: 2006

a scanner darkly

Richard Linklater introduces the rotoscope to sci-fi legend Phillip K Dick with spectacular results. Set in a dystopian future where half the population is on drugs, Keanu Reeves plays an agent going undercover to infiltrate a group of local suppliers, becoming hooked on the product he’s investigating in the process. It’s an absolute head-fuck of a script with themes of identity, paranoia, betrayal and addiction. Robert Downey Jnr and Woody Harrelson play Reeves’ raving drug-buddies to perfection. Enjoy the tail-chasing madness of the plot or just sit back, inject yourself in the eyeballs with some heroin and giggle inanely at the trippy visuals and Downey Jnr’s scene-stealing virtuosity.

01 - Watership Down | Director: Martin Rosen | Released: 1978

watership down

There’s a strong undercurrent of spirituality coursing through this tale of rabbits fleeing their doomed warren for a kind of leporine Promised Land. Never has being a rabbit seemed like such a terrifying undertaking. The animators don’t hold back; torn fur, crimson blood, limp bodies, terrifying visions… This film is at once darkly horrifying and beautifully uplifting (encapsulated in Art Garfunkel’s Bright Eyes, a tender “I … I’ve just been chopping onions” song about change and death)… Finally credit has to go to the casting director for assembling possibly the finest array of vocal talent of all time; including such luminaries as John Hurt, Ralph Richardson, Joss Ackland and Michael Hordern… Voices of such gravitas the studios would have collapsed if they’d all tried to speak simultaneously. A wonderful film!

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