Midnight Express (1978)
The Turks were mad as, well Turks, at the way their people and prisons were portrayed in this hard-hitting drama from Alan Parker, based on the true story of American Billy Hayes who was arrested for smuggling hashish out of Turkey. If you're able to maintain a critical eye towards the political stance the film offers, however, this is expert storytelling with powerful human observations from start to finish. Oliver Stone's script borders on the speculative, but it is extremely well-written and considerate enough to be highly effective. The young screenwriter romanticises characters and criticises systems - like he has done so many times subsequently in his career. And director Alan Parker, in his first American feature, obviously speaks the same language. They know that the more brutality and hardship they subject Brad Davis, John Hurt and Randy Quaid to, the sweeter the payoff will be. And it works - mainly because Davis gives one of the most incredible physical and emotional performances in the history of modern cinema.