Gavin Jones: Five Films that inspired me to write

If I had to pin point a period of time that inspired me to write crime thrillers, I would have to go back to the middle of the 1990’s. I was reaching my late teens and the sort of films I was watching were evolving. I no longer felt so in awe of science-fiction and action films, but real, gritty thrillers. Luckily there was a new generation of writers and directors to etch images into my mind. Although there were some classic films from this era, the five below for one reason or another made more of an impact on my writing, most notably the concept and plotting of my debut novel Three Bullets.

Heat- 1995

But I will not hesitate. Not for a second.”

Although strictly speaking a remake of one of his earlier TV movies, this was, and is, for me the best cop vs crook film of all time. Take away De Niro and Pacino and you still have an astonishing film. I was immersed in the story – two men on either side of the coin, at the top of their chosen profession, facing off against each other. The main inspiration from this story was the respect one had for the other. The stand out moment being the coffee shop scene, you can feel the pain that both characters are under, neither really wanting to do what they were doing anymore, but being too deeply involved to do anything else.


Reservoir Dogs – 1992

I mean everybody panics, everybody, things get tense, it’s human nature to panic, I don’t care what you name it you just can’t help it.

What is there technically not to learn from this piece of work? You are dragged into this film from the first word and, like it or not, you a part of its journey. The characterisation is rich and believable. The dialogue is smart, filled with humour and expletives. The ear scene taught me a massive lesson in writing, you don’t always have to show everything to get inside someone’s head. Letting the reader use their own imagination engages them even more. I remember sitting in front of my TV screen through squinted eyes at something you don’t actually see. Tarantino made criminals cool again with this film; not since The Godfather had there been anything so iconic in the genre.


Se7en – 1995

People will barely be able to comprehend it, but they won’t be able to deny it.

Dark, intelligent and horrifying. One of the best thrillers ever made. Atmosphere and setting are the real influences on me. The story has an element of bleakness, not just for the victims but for the life of every character in portrayed. It makes the viewer feel like the world is a horrible place, an emotion that is hard to influence, because it’s human nature to push that feeling away. Brad Pitt’s Detective Mills is not the usual written protagonist – for one he is not that likeable. He is arrogant, and unaware that both he and Somerset (Morgan Freeman) are merely pawns in one serial killer’s immaculately planned-out crime. The killer himself is brilliantly written and portrayed; there are points were you actually admire him, without condoning what he is doing.


The Usual Suspects – 1995

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that… he is gone.”

Confusion. Not always the easiest trick to keep the audience wanting more. Unless you craft it with enough intrigue and depth. The twist on the very last page is not a new concept, though when it is as cleverly mastered as in The Usual Suspects, it’s a joy. On further viewing, the mystery of Keyser Soze is still not clearly understood. The Usual Suspects throws up more questions than answers and I have spent many a conversation discussing the film with friends. One of the best things I’ve heard regarding Three Bullets, was that three friends were discussing certain plot aspects. They all had different views, something I had set out to do. For that I must thank The Usual Suspects.

Many people reading this article will probably think they could guess the last film on the list. Silence of the Lambs maybe, Pulp Fiction, possibly. No, like a good thriller there has to be a twist right at the end.

Toy Story

Oh, great. If anyone attacks we can blink em’ to death.

Take away all the technology, and strip the child-friendly visual characterisation away, and Toy Story gives us a lesson in real story telling. The character interaction between Woody and Buzz is fantastically played out with skilful dialogue. Add to this an assembly of supporting roles which are neither unneeded nor two dimensional. Everyone is there for a reason. The action is timed perfectly and everything peaks in the right places. It might not have the gore, the bleakness or the violence of the four films above, but it has been as influential on my writing as any of them.

One other aspect I love about this film is that undertone of mental illness. If you ever get a chance to watch Toy Story again, watch it with the idea that Buzz Lightyear is suffering from delusional mental issues. It is actually darker than you think.


Gavin Jones is a thirty-something writer from Birmingham, England. His debut novel Three Bullets, published by Rowanvale Books is a fast-paced psychological crime thriller, and is available now at