'I just wish I could be as concise, accurate, well balanced and full of love for the movies as Halliwell’s manages to be year after year.' Simon Bates, Classic FM, Christmas 2005
‘At the end of the day, Halliwell’s is top of the pile.’ Film Review
‘The King Kong of movie reference works.’ Mail on Sunday
‘The indispensable reference guide for the avid moviegoer’s bookshelf.’ Empire
‘Often imitated, never bettered.’ Guardian
The 2009 edition of Halliwell's represents a significant change of emphasis from previous guides in this series. This is a smaller-format volume, containing some 2,800 carefully selected films; as such, it is a response not only to feedback from readers but also to the future of film guide publishing in the early 21st century.
The accumulation of new film entries over the years has led to Halliwell's guides becoming bulky; last year's edition, containing more than 24,000 entries, ran to almost 1,400 pages and weighed around 5 lb and many regular buyers have voiced concerns about this.
Then there's the question of how people now access information about films. Most of those who came of age before the internet arrived still find automatic comfort in the printed page, while for lots of younger readers it is easier simply to click on a screen than to wade through the pages of a dense, formidable-looking tome.
We believe this edition represents a way of sustaining Halliwell's through a transition period; a volume that is more accessible and reader-friendly for first-time buyers but an invaluable companion work to those who peruse the guide each year.
The edition lists all films in alphabetical order, but consists of three elements. Firstly, it includes new UK releases, some 350 for the year ending June 2008. These exclude only Bollywood movies, re-releases of classics and a handful of films that received a tiny release (sometimes on one screen), were barely seen in cinemas and are primarily intended for the DVD market. But all this last year's major titles are in the 350.
Secondly, the bulk of this volume comprises 2,000 titles from the past 20 years, each one with a brand new review; for good or bad, most films seen today, whether on television, or bought or rented on DVD, come from this period.
We believe almost all the significant films of these last two decades are here. Many others are underrated or simply neglected. Inclusion in the 2,000 does not necessarily imply a hearty endorsement: titles such as Showgirls and Striptease confirm as much. Some films make the list only because they were a talking point at the time, even if it involved hand-wringing at the state of the film business.
Box-office success does not confer automatic selection: you will look in vain here for the two most recent Star Wars films, and for a few Harry Potters. We also judge each film on individual merit, rather than as part of a series: clearly, Lord of the Rings enthusiasts will have seen the entire trilogy, but we feel if you're neutral about the first, you could skip the second and head straight for the last one.
The third and final category is a group of 500 earlier films selected by myself. They range from early silents to the latter part of the 1980s; from Intolerance to Blue Velvet, if you will. It's a purely subjective list, and anyone can argue the merit or otherwise of any entry; but it's safe to say that acquainting yourself with all, or even most of them, would give you a solid grounding in film history.
Leslie Halliwell, the founder of these guides, wrote the original reviews for these 500 films. Some of his pithy assessments, especially for the older entries, are virtually unimprovable and appear here in their original form or close to it. But tastes change, reputations of films rise and fall, and many of these older entries, especially those from the 70s and 80s, have been given new reviews.
Speaking of Halliwell, he is the subject of one of 10 features sprinkled throughout this volume, most of them about people or subjects that were topical this last year. We hope you enjoy the innovative elements in this new edition.