Escape Goats – Best Films for Getting Away

We may not have been able to immerse ourselves in that cinematic experience in recent months but movies have in some ways become even more important as a means of escape. I recently sat down and tried to compile a top 100 list of escape movies that could be described (as the title suggests) as the Greatest Of All Time. Eventually, this list was whittled down to a handful which Liverpool-based Londoner Jamie Mattocks kindly agreed to illustrate for us.  

This article first appeared in Proper Magazine, Issue 37, which you can still get here

Stand By Me 
Four lads each with their own dysfunctional family lives go in search of a dead body. It’s a classic coming-of-age tale which any adult male who isn’t a massive square can identify with.   

REI, Danner, Patagonia and so on. You could say this is up our street. This autobiographical tale follows the life of Cheryl Nyland as she struggles to find her place in the world, as a young adult. Despite marrying young, she eventually finds herself becoming unfaithful and – out of guilt – changes her surname to Strayed as permanent penance for her mistakes. She then embarks on a journey of redemption along the Pacific Crest Trail, encountering everything you’d expect to find along the way. It’s a mint story, this.

 Shawshank Redemption 
The drinking man’s ‘best fillum eva’, but don’t let its populist characteristics put you off, it’s still really good. You’ve almost certainly seen it so we don’t need to explain the story. Let’s just say the poster boy for this tale might (quite literally) be Tim Robbins, it’s Morgan Freeman who steals the show. 

Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman wear Stone Island pyjamas and eventually find their escape in different ways. Dead, dead good. Ten on ten.  

The Beach 
Decent soundtrack and another story of someone finding themselves by fucking right off out of it and having a mad time with girls, drugs and drama. It’s got Leo Di Caprio in it looking dishy.  

Easy Rider 
Coolest movie ever, bar none. Perfectly capturing the countercultural direction of the day, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper star in this road movie with drugs central to the story. If you’ve not seen it you need to turn it on, tune it in and generally just sort your head out, yeah? 

Nuts in may 
This 1976 film was part of the BBC’s Play for Today series. Directed by the legendary Mike Leigh, it shows uptight Keith and his partner Candice-Marie as they head to Dorset for some R&R. Unfortunately, everything and anything sees Keith annoyed and what ensues is a series of amusing tantrums. Through 2021 eyes he’s probably crippled with OCD and needs some mental health first aid, but back in 1976 he was just an angry bloke with a dippy Mrs. In that context it’s a lot of fun.  

Mid 90s 
This Semi-autobiographical tale from big Jonah Hill marks his directorial debut. It’s yet another classic tale of a disenfranchised kid trying desperately to find acceptance, which he eventually locates in the local skateboarding community. It’s one of those films in which nothing seems to happen but also, lots happens. You’ll have to give it a whirl to see what I mean.  

Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence team up in a love/hate relationship in this underrated story of misfortune and retribution. The reference to escape in this is a literal one, as both characters find themselves locked up, framed for a murder they didn’t commit. They then spend their entire lives growing old, falling out with each other over everything, yet never, ever giving up on the dream of freedom. That makes it sounds spiritual and serious. It’s not, it’s daft and funny. It’s Eddie Murphy FFS.   

Almost Famous 
Lad struggling to fit in… it’s a bit of a theme this. Partly autobiographical and based on the early years of writer Cameron Crowe working for Rolling Stone Magazine, it’s a feelgood tale which follows 15-year-old William as his pursuit of an interview with his favourite band takes him on twists and turns. It also got an Oscar apparently. I’m not sure I’d go that far but it’s still a decent enough watch.  

Endless Summer 

Released in 1966, it follows Mike Hynson and Robert August as they travel the world in search of perfect surfing conditions. The idea came about when director Bruce Brown began planning the film and realised the cost of a ticket to Cape Town was in the same ballpark as a round the world ticket. His theory was to follow the surf as it’s always summer somewhere, hence the title.  

Sexy Beast 
There are elements of escape in this but they’re tenuous really. It makes this list simply because it’s my favourite film. Ben Kingsley’s performance as psychotic villain Don Logan steals the show, with Ray Winstone uncharacteristically supporting. The script and the way it is delivered by Kingsley are just on another level. Apparently, he came straight from the set of Gandhi and launched straight into character, even off set.  

A firm family favourite around our house, mainly with the youngest lad. As per the Charles Dickens tale of 1838, Oliver Twist is an orphan whose bad attitude (he asks for more food in the workhouse, soz!) sees him sold to a drunken mortician. He then makes a run for it and falls in with a gang of pickpockets who look after him but also put him in danger. It’s a musical, and it was released in 1968 so if you’re into Fast and Furious films or movies with Bruce Willis saving the day, this might be something of a departure. It’s a classic though.   

London to Brighton 
One of several noughties films to come out of the UK, this is an awkward watch which is almost certainly rooted in reality. Warped minds get what’s coming to them but as a result, that escape theme comes in hence the name of the film. There are worse places to do a flit to than Brighton. Or so you’d think.  

Nil By Mouth 
In a similar vein to the above, this is another gritty masterpiece featuring Ray Winstone. Written and directed by Gary Oldman, it shows everyday late 90s struggles on a South East London council estate. It also features Big Mo off Eastenders who is actually Oldman’s real-life sister. Oh and if you’re not into swearing, maybe watch it on mute. There are 82 c-words and 428 uses of the f-word.  

Dead Man’s Shoes 
Another modern classic, this Shane Meadows-directed tale sees Paddy Considine play Richard, a returning soldier with revenge on his mind and a pretty nice M65 jacket on his back. Won’t spoilt it, but all those clips you’ve seen on social media paint a decent picture. Dark and moody but with light moments too. 

School of Rock 
Given this whole article was inspired by films watched with my 5 year-old, I should balance things up a bit and mention movies which don’t have angry males at their centre. Jack Black could never play an angry male. In School of Rock he somehow manages to dupe the principal of an expensive private school to believe he’s a qualified teacher by getting her a bit pissed and singing Stevie Nicks at her. Sounds farcical and dodgy but it’s mint. All he wants to do is share his love for rock music with the younger generation and in doing so inspire them to be dead good at it. Nothing wrong with that is there?  

Big Daddy 
Adam Sandler plays Adam Sandler in this movie featuring Adam Sandler. What I’m saying is he basically plays the same character in every film doesn’t he? And yet I like him. In Happy Gilmore he turns up the volume on the button marked ‘Simpleton’. In Mr Deeds he does the same with the ‘country yokel’ dial and in Big Daddy he follows the lead of Jack Black in School of Rock by somehow gaining custody of someone elses child. I think in a dust-up to win the title of ‘Best Dad and Lad movie’ this and School of Rock would run each other close. But the fact my smallest child burst into genuine tears towards the end of this means it made a big impression on him.  

Where the Wild Things Are 
Maurice Sendak’s 1963 book serves as inspiration for what I reckon might be a bit of a classic. With an atmospheric soundtrack provided by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the voice of one of the main characters provided by James Gandolfini, this melancholy tale will resonate with anyone who is feeling a bit lost and lonely. All of us at some point in the last year then? Prepare yourself for a “No it’s something in my eye” moment towards the end. Maybe that was just me. 

Mark Smith

I had pizza for tea.

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