Although not immediately apparent, telephones are integral to some of the most memorable moments in film history and are used for many different reasons including the creation of narrative elements, to act as shields of identity, symbols of status or as gadgets with identities of their own.
With that in mind, here are some of my most memorable and favourite film phone moments:
1. Superman – The example that immediately springs to mind and one of the most iconic is that of Superman emerging from a phone box ready to save the day.
Not featured in many of the original comics, it has still managed to cement a reputation and is now seen being performed badly by Uncle Pete in gamesof charades most Christmases.
Part of me suspects that it was a practical way for the special effects department to transform Clark Kent with minimal work, in his various television and film incarnations.
After failing to put on a wetsuit in a cramped shop changing room, in a weird way I feel I can empathise…
2. Batman – Staying with the theme of superheroes, my second choice of movie phone is the Bat-phone.
Replaced in the newest wave of films with high-tech gadgetry, I rather like the gentlemanly element of its original formal appearance as a big red landline. Many businesses now have a ‘bat phone’ number that is given to important clients and is usually a direct line to someone of authority within the business.
It also may just be an excuse to say ‘bat-phone’…in which case I’m going to start calling the filing cabinet the ‘bat cave’.
3. Juno – Third on my list, and now a modern classic is the burger phone from the film Juno.
A rather retro design that imitates a hamburger, it has spawned modern remakes that now adorn the nation’s households. Impractical maybe, but undoubtedly a cool piece of cult film history.
4. E.T. – One of the all time most loved films and a film almost shown as much at Christmas as The Great Escape is E.T. which at its heart is a film all about a phone.
Elliot and the stranded alien build a device to ‘phone home’ using a ‘speak and spell’ toy and a mess of wires and tin cans.
Bizarrely, government officer’s guns in the 20 year anniversary edition of the film were digitally edited out and replaced by walkie talkies at Steven Spielberg’s request.
Although, given the size of the walkie talkies themselves at that time, they could have still done some considerable damage to E.T’s frail little alien bonce.
5. Jerry Maguire – Next is one of the most famous pieces of film dialogue ever, the scene in Jerry Maguire that features Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character on the phone to an initially bemused Tom Cruise repeatedly screaming “Show me the money!”
A classic film and a role that helped Gooding Jr. secure further lucrative roles in films such as Pearl Harbour. Although I’m sure that he probably wished it hadn’t.
6. Phone Booth – Set, unsurprisingly in a phone box. The main character played by Colin Farrell finds himself held captive by a gunman who tells him he will die if he hangs up.
There’s nothing spectacular about the phone box itself, and absolutely no mention in the film about it smelling of urine. Unusual for a phone box.
7. Die Hard with A Vengeance – Bruce Willis desperately rushes around the city to one location after the next, frantically grabbing the ringing pay phones at each to meet the demands of a neurotic villain.
Compare this to Willis’ struggle to start a remotely immobilised car in the fourth instalment, and it just doesn’t have the same drama.
8. The Departed – A film with communication at its very centre. Ironically, a film most of which I spent explaining to my girlfriend.
Two warring snitches cross delicate lines between city gangsters and the Massachusetts State Police in a tale of corruption and revenge played out in a network of phone calls and secret meetings.
I can’t help feeling that it would have been a much shorter film if the ‘News of the World’ had been involved…
9. The Bourne Trilogy – The seemingly omnipresent Bourne evades a host of the world’s top intelligence organisations, leading them on wild goose chases and making them look silly by rooting around in their offices while they’re out.
Perhaps risky for a person in Bourne’s position, but still effortlessly cool is a scene in which Bourne buys a pre-paid phone from a street vendor to stop being traced.
10. James Bond – Rounding up at number 10. He was always going to find his way into the list, its 007 James Bond, and his most memorable mobiledevice, used in the 1997 film Tomorrow Never Dies.
An Ericsson mobile which cunningly opens up to reveal a remote control for driving his BMW 750iL around a conveniently empty car park, inconveniently filled with baddies.
If you fancy replicating some of 007’s remote based shenanigans you can now buy an AR Drone, an indoor helicopter controlled, with camera view from your smart phone.
I want one.