The Last Of The Mohicans (1992)
The Movie: Michael Mann teams up with Daniel Day-Lewis for this brutal account of the French-Indian war. Day-Lewis might be a renowned method actor, but in working with Mann, he must have felt he'd met his match.
Attention To Detail: Having already spent six months bulking up and learning to use the weapons appropriate to his character, Day-Lewis reported back to Mann, only to be sent out to the nearest wilderness for a fortnight before filming. So keen was Mann to achieve the appropriate sense of realism, that he instructed his star only to eat what he could catch. Whatever you say, boss...
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
The Movie: Marc Webb's Spidey reboot wasn't universally loved by the fans, but there was plenty to enjoy, not least the sparky chemistry between leads Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield. And Webb himself had certainly done his homework when it came to the comic-books…
Attention To Detail: Several of the film's scenes are loving recreations of specific panels from the comics. For example, Peter's tinkering at his work-bench is lifted directly from the Ultimates book, and the first leap he takes from the bridge to go in pursuit of the Lizard assumes a body pose familiar to many of his on-page outings. Anyone can throw in obscure in-jokes, but getting movement and poses right takes a little more effort.
Return Of The King (2003)
The Movie: Part three of the LOTR saga, and the one that finally bagged Peter Jackson a well-deserved Oscar. Whether or not it's the finest of the three is up for debate, but there's no arguing with the big man's recognition from the Academy.
Attention To Detail: Peter Jackson was adamant that Shelob's voice should be just so, and suggested a series of bizarre elements be blended together to make it happen. They included the howl from an Alien toy, the war cry of a Tasmanian Devil and a series of steam hisses inspired by an encounter the director and his young daughter had had with an alligator.
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows pt. 1 (2010)
The Movie: The first half of the saga's grand finale, Deathly Hallows pt. 1 isn't big on action, but it sets up the final film's crash-bang-wallop pleasures very nicely indeed. And it also contains the series' biggest tear-jerker ion the form of Dobby's demise.
Attention To Detail: Bill and Fleur's cottage is only seen briefly at the end of the film, but an obscene amount of work went into it. Constructed at Leavesden studios, it was moved to West Wales and then carried by tractor along the beach. Once there, 4500 scallop shells were individually glued to the roof, while hundreds of tufts of grass were fixed into the surrounding sand. It least it got a brief appearance in the second film as well...
The Movie: Will Smith stars in this weighty biopic of the legendary fighter, which contains a little more fat than would be tolerated on a prize-fighter, but still manages to land most of its punches in the desired areas.
Attention To Detail: Michael Mann will never use a studio when the real location is available, and so it was that many of the scenes featuring Ali at home were filmed in the boxer's actual house in Miami. Never mind that most of the audience would have no clue what Ali's house looks like… for Mann, authenticity is everything.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
The Movie: David Fincher presents a cold, calculating and beguilingly dreamlike take on Stieg Larsson's mega-selling thriller, bringing his familiar flair for the macabre to bear on this most grisly of murder mysteries.
Attention To Detail: Fincher's meticulous eye for detail combined with Rooney Mara's startling dedication was the recipe behind her stunning turn as Lisbeth. Having been driven to distraction by Fincher repeatedly asking her to re-audition, Mara moved to Sweden alone, underwent a total makeover (including body piercings), learned how to ride a motorbike and made the part her own. The end result was startlingly accurate, and utterly magnetic.
Back To The Future (1985)
The Movie: Robert Zemeckis' time travel caper is a near perfect slice of family entertainment, boasting not one but two of cinema's best-loved characters in the form of Marty McFly and Doc Brown. Great Scott!
Attention To Detail: The film is absolutely bursting with in-jokes and references. Examples? How about theme song practitioner Huey Lewis turning up on the judging panel of the school talent contest? Or the fact that Marty travels back to 1955, the year of Einstein's death, after whom Doc's dog is named? Or the name "Peabody" on the mailbox of the farmer Marty drops in on, who goes on to refer to his son as "Sherman"? The list goes on…
X-Men 2 (2003)
The Movie: Brian Singer builds on his original X-Men movie with real gusto, liberating himself from origin story constraints to conjure up one of the best comic-book movies of recent years. We really wish he'd stuck around to see that Phoenix story arc through, mind…
Attention To Detail: When Mystique hacks into Stryker's computer database, a whole host of X-Men trivia can be seen listed, including the names of such mutant luminaries as Gambit, Silver Samurai, Deadpool, Omega Red and many more. One for the pause button there…
The Passion Of The Christ (2004)
The Movie: Mel Gibson's controversy-baiting account of Jesus' crucifixion, complete with scenes of extreme brutality and a slightly questionable portrayal of the involvement of the Jews…
Attention To Detail: Gibson certainly didn't do things the easy way, deciding that the story was so well known, it would turn people off to hear it in English. Instead, he sent the script to a classics professor who translated it into a mix of Latin, reconstructed Aramaic and Hebrew. There were even deliberate mispronunciations included in the script, for occasions in which certain characters were speaking dialect that would be unfamiliar to them. But of course, you will have picked up on that…
The Social Network (2010)
The Movie: David Fincher's account of the creation of Facebook may not be 100% accurate, but it makes for a cracking yarn, thanks in no small part to Aaron Sorkin's razor-sharp script. Who knew a group of computer programmers could be so entertaining?
Attention To Detail: The Winkelvoss twins were played by Armie Hammer and Josh Pence, with the former's face digitally grafted on to the latter's body. However, Pence certainly deserves his fair share of the credit, having attended a special boot camp with Hammer in order to perfect matching body language. Happily, Pence does get his mug on screen in a brief cameo at a house party.
Public Enemies (2009)
The Movie: Rumour has it that Johnny Depp and Michael Mann fell out on the set of this Prohibition-era gangster flick, as Mann is something of a stickler for detail. "[ He's about ] the details of the details of the details," says Depp through gritted teeth. "They should invent a word to describe it because it's not just details, it teeters on microscopic obsession with every molecule of every moment."
Attention To Detail: Mann insisted on staging the climactic shootout at the Little Bohemia Lodge in the exact spot where it happened. "We had Johnny Depp in John Dillinger's real bedroom, lying on the same bed, walking past the same toilet, escaping in exactly the same way Dillinger had," gushed the director. Buoyed by this, Mann had nearly all of the film's scenes take place in geographically accurate locations. Which can't have been stressful for the cast and crew at all...
Aguirre: The Wrath Of God (1972)
The Movie: Werner Herzog's wild-eyed tale of a conquistador and his band of merry men floating by boat through the depths of an untamed jungle. Where on earth would he be able to find a suitable location for that, you might ask?
Attention To Detail: Having no budget to speak of for special effects or even stunt doubles, Herzog forced his cast to recreate the exact plot of his movie by living through it themselves. If it looks remarkably detailed and authentic, that's because it is! You might recall this as the shoot during which Herzog threatened to shoot Klaus Kinski. Good times.
The Movie: Chan-wook Park's ultra-violent mystery story is currently being remade by Spike Lee, but the director will have to go some to top the macabre pleasures of the original. If you have't seen it yet, be sure you see the original version first, preferably knowing as little as possible about how it turns out.
Attention To Detail: Luckless star Min-sik Choi performed that famous octopus-eating scene for real, gulping down four of the slippery blighters before the scene was in the can. A devout Buddhist, Choi spent several hours praying afterwards in atonement.
The Movie: Andrey Tarkovsky's masterpiece of atmosphere and allegory, in which the mysterious Stalker leads a pair of thinkers to a room that can supposedly grant its occupants' most heartfelt wishes.
Attention To Detail: Poor old Tarkovsky spent an entire year shooting the film's various outdoor sequences, only to discover that shoddy developing had rendered it all unusable. Unfazed, he shot the entire thing for a second time, using a new cinematographer. That's dedication for you.
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets (2002)
The Movie: Chris Columbus takes another run at the Potter franchise and does another decent, if unspectacular job of it. To be fair to him he's hamstrung by one of the weaker storylines of the series and some faltering acting from his young cast, but at least Kenneth Branagh is a flouncy treat as the preening Gilderoy Lockhart.
Attention To Detail: The prop manufacturing department built one of their most expensive pieces for Chamber Of Secrets , in the form of the giant telescope tucked away in an upper chamber of Dumbledore's office. However, it is only ever seen in the background! It did at least make a reappearance in The Half-Blood Prince , so the money wasn't entirely wasted...
The Movie: Hitchcock's most frightening film, which he initially considered to be something of a joke, an exercise in toying with his audience's emotions. And there you were thinking he was a cruel piece of work!
Attention To Detail: Hitch subtly indicates Marion Crane's progression from wide-eyed innocent to thief on the run by showing her in a white bra and carrying a white purse before she steals the money. Once the money has been taken however, she carries a black purse and is later seen wearing a black bra. Nice imagery there.
The Movie: Mel Gibson is on ultra-smooth form as slippery card player Bret Maverick in this enjoyably knockabout Western from his Lethal Weapon collaborator, Richard Donner.
Attention To Detail: Donner puts some serious work into crafting one of the most elaborate in-jokes in recent memory, when Maverick finds himself held-up by a strangely familiar bank-robber. The two men exchange a glance of recognition, as a familiar theme works its way into the score. That's right, it's Danny Glover, who even manages to crowbar an "I'm too old for this shit" into proceedings. Lovely stuff!
Panic Room (2002)
The Movie: An enjoyably taught little thriller in which Jodie Foster attempts to defend her family against a group of house invaders, by withdrawing into the metal prison of the film's title. If that sounds simple enough, the filming process was anything but…
Attention To Detail: David Fincher is known for going through take after take after take in order to get a scene just so. However, while the director usually has an end-point in sight, his perfectionism on Panic Room reportedly got way out of control. “He looked at me, and he was like, ‘I just don’t know anymore,’” says Foster of her experience on the shoot. “I’m like, ‘You know what? I usually see what you’re going for. This time, I don’t see the difference between take two and take seven.’ And he’s like, ‘Oh my God. I’m crazy, aren’t I?’" Still a good film, though.
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows pt. 2 (2011)
The Movie: The Potter saga comes to an explosive close with this truly epic finale. With most of the Horcrux-hunting dealt with in Part 1, this one is all about the action, as Voldemort and his Death Eaters lay siege to Hogwarts.
Attention To Detail: The Gringotts break-in was one of the most laborious set-pieces to create, thanks largely to the loaded vault discovered by our intrepid trio. Instead of a computer generated haul of cash, 210,000 individually crafted knuts, sickles and galleons (coins to you and me) were specially made to pack out the vault. Impressive stuff.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Movie: Francis Ford Coppola transposes Conrad's Heart Of Darkness to napalm-scorched Cambodia, as the increasingly unhinged Captain Willard goes in search of renegade Green Beret, Colonel Kurtz.
Attention To Detail: You might have wondered how Coppola managed to pull off such a convincing special effect in that iconic opening scene of the burning palm trees. The answer is, he didn't. Instead he poured around 1200 gallons of gasoline over the trees in question and sent them up in smoke. We're not sure we should really be applauding this, but the effect is unquestionably impressive.
The Movie: Michael Mann's seminal game of cat and mouse, in which Al Pacino's shouty detective goes in pursuit of Robert De Niro's ice-cool thief. Cops and robbers have never seemed cooler.
Attention To Detail: Given the amount of gunplay involved in the film, it should probably come as no surprise that Mann wanted to get the details right. Gun nuts will be pleased to notice the authentic pieces on display, from Cheritto's IMI Galil to McCauley's SIG Sauer P220. No generic Glocks and AKs here. As for the shooting, that too was painstakingly realistic, with Andy McNab specially drafted in to provide the cast with firearms training.
Noah's Ark (1928)
The Movie: A melodramatic disaster flick helmed by Michael Curtiz, the director of Casablanca . Not one to cut any corners (except on the safety front), the film gained a certain notoriety thanks to the death of a trio of extras during the climactic flood scene.
Attention To Detail: The story goes that cinematographer Hal Mohr told Curtiz the scene could be just as effective using miniatures and overlays, but Curtiz was having none of it. As a result, the flood was staged for real, with a stuntman later reporting the deaths. These things were clearly a little easier to sweep under the carpet back in the '20s.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Movie: Chris Nolan's final chapter in his sprawling Batman saga isn't perfect, but it brings the trilogy to a pleasingly satisfying close. Given the hype and the expectations going in, we'd say that's quite the achievement.
Attention To Detail: So keen was Nolan to adhere to his no-CGI-wherever-possible rule, that he managed to achieve a colossal feat of logistics: closing down Wall Street in order to stage a brawl involving hundred of extras, alongside his leading man and chief antagonist. As Christian Bale would comment later, the shoot was unbridled mayhem, but the end result is truly staggering.
Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)
The Movie: The first slice of Peter Jackson's superlative Lord Of The Rings trilogy, which is so delightfully slavish in its attention to detail, we could have written an entire list drawing from these three films alone. Let it never be said that Jackson ever does things the easy way.
Attention To Detail: The Shire is a particularly good tribute to Jackson and his team's eye for detail, a little corner of New Zealand transformed into Tolkien's vision of pastoral heaven through years of hard work. Bag End was a particularly laborious creation, with two versions constructed: one for the Hobbits, and a smaller version for Gandalf, to accentuate his towering frame. All the contents were similarly shrunk, right down to the books on Bilbo's shelves.
The Shining (1980)
The Movie: Stephen King was never hugely keen on Kubrick's adaptation of his seminal haunted hotel story, not least because the director was at pains to establish an ambiguity over just what is going on at the Overlook. King has gone on record as saying he always believed there to be supernatural forces at play, but Kubrick is far less explicit as to how much of Jack Torrance's madness is already in place before he arrives at the hotel.
Attention To Detail: Look closely at the scenes in which Jack appears to be talking to one of the hotel's "ghosts". On almost every occasion, there will be a mirror or a window nearby, be it with Grady in the bathroom, the barman in the bar, or the old lady in room 237. Is Jack talking to himself, the whole time? Kubrick is at pains to pose the question, whether you pick up on it or not…
The Name Of The Rose (1986)
The Movie: An adaptation of Umberto Eco's novel by director Jean-Jacques Annaud, The Name Of The Rose tells the story of a Franciscan Friar and his apprentice, attempting to solve a murder mystery in a Benedictine abbey. Sean Connery plays the lead.
Attention To Detail: Annaud was adament that the period detail be just so, to the point that the monastery in question was built from scratch on a hillside outside Rome, making it the biggest exterior set built in Europe since Cleopatra . Even more painstaking was the assembly of the abbey's many props, most of which were specially commissioned for the production. That's a lot of manuscripts to dunk in coffee…
Iron Man (2008)
The Movie: Jon Favreau's successful translation of Tony Stark from page to screen is full of little easter eggs and in-jokes (Captain America's shield being the first hint of an Avengers tie-in), but not all of them would be immediately obvious to the untrained eye. Or indeed, the untrained ear…
Attention To Detail: When Tony is playing craps in the casino scene, the house band can be heard striking up a familiar tune. That's right, it's the theme from the Iron Man segment of '60s TV show The Marvel Super Heroes . You can hear it again later in the film as the ringtone on Stark's cellphone. Obscure.
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix (2007)
The Movie: David Yates' first potter outing is arguably the point where the film series really starts to pick up steam, what with the introduction of the monstrous Dolores Umbridge and the climactic battle between Voldemort and Dumbledore. It only gets darker from here…
Attention To Detail: Dumbledore's office truly is a sight to behold, crammed to the rafters with individually prepared artefacts, books and wizarding paraphernalia. There are some 48 paintings of former headmasters dotted around the crowded room, while a whopping 900 memory vials were made for Dumbledore's special cabinet.
The Matrix (1999)
The Movie: The first instalment of the Wachowski Brothers' game-changing sci-fi trilogy, and comfortably the best of the three. However, with all the bullet-time craziness flying around, you might not have spotted the immense effort poured into one seemingly unremarkable scene…
Attention To Detail: The scene in which Morpheus attempts to train Neo's attention (he is distracted by a blonde in a red dress and ends up shot in the face) is populated entirely by doppelgangers, included to demonstrate Mouse's laziness in cutting corners on his programming. No such accusation could be levelled at the Wachowskis however, who spent several days in Sydney (where the scene was shot) tracking down identical twins specifically for this sequence!
The Movie: Jim Cameron's game-changing sci-fi epic might be a bit taxing on the old gluteus maximus, but there's no questioning the breathtaking visuals and the director's mastery of the 3D technology. Whether or not he has lumbered mainstream filmmaking with a horrible three-dimensional albatross is up for debate, but his ambition can't be faulted.
Attention To Detail: Pandora itself appears on the screen as a fully formed universe, plucked straight from Cameron's imagination. However, an uncanny amount of blood, sweat and tears went into its creation, from the Na'vi themselves (characters first sketched by Cameron as a child), to their specifically devised language, via the planet's intricately constructed ecosystem. He even hired a professor of plant physiology to construct Pandora's varied plant life!
Seven Samurai (1954)
The Movie: One of the greatest samurai movies ever committed to celluloid, Kurosawa's sword-swinging epic is as viscerally thrilling today as it was some fifty eight years ago. The final battle in particular remains a masterpiece of action cinema.
Attention To Detail: Kurosawa was so keen that the period detail be as authentic as possible, that he gave his cast their costumes several weeks before shooting began. Given that most of the actors were playing poor farmers, he demanded they wear said costumes for days on end to ensure they looked suitably run down!
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
The Movie: Stanley Kubrick's wartime spoof might have poked fun at the business of war-mongering, but he wasn't about to get any of the details wrong. The man had a reputation to uphold, after all.
Attention To Detail: Not only was Kubrick's B-52 bomber described by US Airforce personnel as "absolutely correct", his war-room was also designed in excruciating detail. One thing Kubrick wouldn't budge on was the necessity of the grand table to be covered in green baize. Yes, the film was shot entirely in black and white, but that's hardly the point, is it?
Throne Of Blood (1957)
The Movie: Kurosawa takes on Shakespeare in this gory reworking of Macbeth , in which Toshiro Mifune stars as an ambitious feudal lord scheming to worm his way into the position of Emperor.
Attention To Detail: Kurosawa could be described as something of a method director, never keen to resort to artifice if the real thing was available. So it was that during the climactic battle scene, he hired trained marksmen to fire real arrows just short of Mifune's body. Health and safety can't have been too impressed…
The Birds (1963)
The Movie: Alfred Hitchcock turns our feathered friends into squawking, clawing creatures of terror. Arguably his most frightening film after Psycho . And possibly Frenzy ...
Attention To Detail: Poor Old Tippi Hedren. Seen here appearing in her big break, the actress was subject to the cruel whims of the notoriously mischievous Hitchcock. Determined that Hedren would not seem suitably terrified if she were reacting to mere props, Hitch insisted on setting live birds upon her, even tying some of them to her clothes. Hedren would go on to recount that one of them came a hair's breadth from pecking her eye out, in a particularly frenzied attack scene. Still, she did look genuinely scared.
The Movie: Zack Snyder takes on the seemingly impossible task of translating Watchmen to the big screen, and pulls it off with considerable success. It might not be perfect, but it's a very decent stab at the notoriously dense source material.
Attention To Detail: During the glorious opening montage, Snyder includes a wry reference to Batman, as Night Owl punches out an armed thug outside the stage door of a theatre. The signs in the background show the production in question to be Die Fledermaus (The Bat), the venue is Gotham Opera House and that couple emerging into the left of the frame are presumably Martha and Thomas Wayne. Still not convinced? There's even a Batman poster thrown in for good measure!
The Movie: One of the seminal comedies of the '80s, Ghostbusters remains a passion project for star Dan Aykroyd, who continues to battle for a third film to this day. He should probably let it go, but still… the first one really is great!
Attention To Detail: Yep, Dan sure did his homework on this one. Apparently, the way in which Venkman treats Dana after her possession is received advice for maintaining control of a possessed individual, while the term Ectoplasm had been coined by Nobel Prize Winner Charles Richet as a description for, "a substance exuded from spiritual mediums to facilitate spirits' contact with the living world." So now you know.
The Movie: Akira Kurosawa's Golden Lion winning crime drama, in which a disturbing story concerning a dead body is relayed from a number of different perspectives.
Attention to Detail: Kurosawa was a stickler for ensuring the mood of his films was adequately translated in the visuals, and decided that common or garden rain wouldn't cut the mustard for the drama he wanted to portray. Instead, he used calligraphy ink to dye the raindrops black, creating a far murkier vista against which to tell his tale.
Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
The Movie: Edgar Wright's rom-zom-com is so crammed to the gills with horror movie in-jokes ("We're coming to get you Barbara"), its a wonder he found time to construct an actual plot. However, not only did he construct a belter, he also spells out what's going to happen in one of the most detailed bits of foreshadowing we've ever seen…
Attention To Detail: "A bloody Mary first thing, a bite at the King’s Head, couple at The Little Princess, stagger back here and bang… back at the bar for shots." That's Ed's plan for the following day, and that is more or less what happens. First off, they kill a blood-soaked girl named Mary, before Shaun's stepfather gets his head bitten. Then they pick up Liz (Shaun's princess) and another couple, before staggering back to the Winchester (disguised as zombies) and start firing off shots all over the place!
Toy Story 3 (2010)
The Movie: Pixar's films are always jam-packed with references to its previous work, and when factored in to the kind of attention to detail required to render its beautiful cast of characters, you get some idea of the herculean task each film represents.
Attention To Detail: According to a report from FirstShowing , Lots-o-Huggin Bear alone was comprised of 3,473,271 individually animated hairs. And he's only one of a sizeable ensemble cast!
The Thief And The Cobbler (1993)
The Movie: Richard Williams' painstakingly hand-drawn animation, which had the crippling misfortune to be released in the same year as Aladdin , which even more unfortunately, looked remarkably similar. That'll be why you haven't heard of it, then…
Attention To Detail: While Aladdin employed cutting edge CGI, every frame of Williams' remarkably elaborate film was drawn by hand. As a result, it was in production for more than 30 years, a world record to this day. Now that's a labour of love.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
The Movie: Edgar Wright's hyper-kinetic adaptation of the popular comic-book series, in which Michael Cera's titular slacker finds himself forced into battle against a stream of evil ex-boyfriends of the girl he has his eye on.
Attention To Detail: Edgar Wright demonstrates an obsession with the number system of the ex boyfriends that hits terrifying levels of obscure detail. The first ex has one eye, the second says "it will take two minutes to kick your ass", the third is in a three-piece band, the fourth fights Scott in a club called "4", five and six have five syllables in their surname (six with their first names added in) and number seven is named Gideon, G being the seventh letter of the alphabet. Oh, and check out Scott's t-shirt. He's zero!