Netflix has plenty of classic films in its catalogue – and in recent years, the streaming service has also produced some remarkably original films of its own, from the animal rights satire Okja to the Oscar-favourite Roma. But for every award-winning drama, there are just as many trashy B-movies (such as the risible romance A Christmas Prince).
If you need help navigating these murky, Sharknado-infested waters, look no further: in this star-rated guide, The Telegraph's film critics choose 100 of the very best.
Shirkers (2018) ★★★★★
Genre: Documentary Dir: Sandi Tan Cast: N/A Cert: 12 Time: 97 mins
In a nutshell: A young Singaporean woman shoots her country’s first road movie, then her kindly male mentor vanishes with the footage. A perplexing, ingenious, timely documentary, that pries the lid off a shaken jigsaw box of broken dreams.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) ★★★★★
Dir: Joel and Ethan Coen Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Stephen Root, Liam Neeson, Harry Melling, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Brendan Gleeson Cert: 15 Time: 133 mins
In a nutshell: The Coen brothers brilliantly revive the anthology film with these six offbeat tales from the old American West. Among an impeccably-cast ensemble, there are standout performances from Tom Waits as a beardy prospector and Tim Blake Nelson as the eponymous singing cowboy. Read the full review
Private Life (2018) ★★★★★
Genre: Comedy Dir: Tamara Jenkins Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Paul Giamatti, Kayli Carter, Molly Shannon, John Carroll Lynch Cert: 15 Time: 127 mins
In a nutshell: Eleven long years after The Savages, Tamara Jenkins returns with this wincingly intimate comedy of fertility, featuring Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti as a 40-something couple taking every conceivable measure to conceive. The two terrific lead performances feel unswervingly true-to-life, even as the plot toys expertly with irony and farce.
The Revenant ★★★★☆
Genre: Western Dir: Alejandro G. Iñárritu Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy Cert: 15 Time: 156 mins
In a nutshell: Wrap yourself in a warm blanket and grab a mug of cocoa, because this Oscar-winning tale of a 19th-century fur trapper in the frozen Canadian wilderness is so beautifully shot that you'll find yourself shivering. It tells an embellished version of the life of frontiersman Glass (DiCaprio) who was mauled by a bear and left for dead, and how, despite all odds, he managed to make it thousands of miles back home.
A Ghost Story (2017) ★★★★★
Genre: Supernatural drama Dir: David Lowery Cast: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara Cert: 12A Time: 92 mins
In a nutshell: In David Lowery's eerie meditation on intimacy, grief and time, Rooney Mara stars as a bereaved young woman, alongside Casey Affleck (in a bed sheet with cut-out eye holes) as her dead husband. There's more to it than that, but to say more would be to spoil a riveting slow-build of mystery and wonder. Read the full review
Nymphomaniac, Vols 1 & 2 ★★★★☆
Genre:Drama Dir: Lars von Trier Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman Cert: 18 Year: 2013 Time: 242 mins
In a nutshell: Lars von Trier's epic about the life of nymphomaniac Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) may not be as controversial as everyone would have you believe but it remains an intensely innovative and provocative piece of film-making, worthy of every column inch its release generated.
Dir: Alfonso Cuarón Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, Verónica García, Fernando Grediaga, Nancy García. Cert: 15 Time: 135 mins
In a nutshell: Alfonso Cuarón has made some gorgeous films – Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men – but this may be his best yet. In Seventies Mexico, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) is the devoted maid to Sofia (Marina de Tavira), whose husband is walking out; Cleo has her own unhappy liaison with macho Fermín (Jorge Antonio Guerrero). Roma is a beautifully stark snapshot of the era, and its intricate human drama is heart-rending.
Atonement (2007) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Joe Wright Cast: Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan and Benedict Cumberbatch Cert: 15 Time: 120 mins
In a nutshell: Joe Wright's grand vision of Ian McEwan's novel is everything that his 2005 truncated Pride and Prejudice was not. Atonement benefits from James McAvoy's subtle performance as the man whose life is wrecked by a girl's foolish fantasy. The film's theme is the power of art to atone for our sins: not one for the realists. But it does romance with the same sweeping aplomb, and Keira Knightley proves she can act.
Full Metal Jacket (1987) ★★★★☆
Genre:Drama Dir: Stanley Kubrick Cast: Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, Lee Ermey Cert: 18 Time: 116 mins
In a nutshell: Stanley Kubrick's tightly constructed anti-war satire is two films in one. The first half focuses on the training – and dehumanising – of a squad of marines before they are allowed to join the corp, while the second half sees the soldiers arrive in Vietnam and follows the experiences of two of them in combat, showcasing their sense of humour offset by the tragedy of war. Lee Ermey is superb as the Drill Sergeant.
Crazy Stupid Love (2011) ★★★★☆
Genre:Romantic Comedy Dir: John Requa and Glenn Ficarra Cast: Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone Cert: 12 Time: 118 mins
In a nutshell: You'd be crazy, perhaps stupid, not to fall in love with the charming cast of this cherishable comedy about three generations' romantic misadventures. Cal (Steve Carell) leaves home following his wife's affair and starts hanging out with the super-suave Jacob (Ryan Gosling). Meanwhile, son Robbie has an agonising crush on his babysitter. The narrative strands eventually intertwine in a hilariously slapstick climax.
The Hateful Eight (2015) ★★★★★
Genre:Drama Dir: Quentin Tarantino Cast: Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins Cert: 18 Time: 187 mins
In a nutshell:Eight of the ugliest varmints you’ve ever met face off in Quentin Tarantino’s most intimate film since Reservoir Dogs. This beautiful, blood-splattered western, recast as a parlour-room mystery and set at an undetermined point shortly after the end of the American Civil War, allegorises America’s race war with bad taste and gallows humour. The result feels both vital and real.
The Butler (2013) ★★★★☆
Genre:Drama Dir: Lee Daniels Cast: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Robin Williams, Vanessa Redgrave and Alan Rickman Cert: 12 Time: 132 min
In a nutshell: This film takes an ambitious sweep through the past as it follows the life of White House butler Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker, in a superb performance). The parade of presidents alone – from John Cusack's scheming Nixon to Alan Rickman's pompadoured Reagan – provides a kind of panoramic pop–up entertainment. It might bite off more history than it can chew, but it packs a sustained emotional punch.
Jackie (2016) ★★★★★
Genre:Drama Dir: Pablo Larrain Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard and Greta Gerwig Cert: 15 Time: 100 mins
In a nutshell: Portman received widespread acclaim and an Oscar nomination for her turn as America's First Widow Jackie Kennedy. It is very rare that a biopic feels as raw, unsettling and real as this one, and Portman shines in recreating the magic and sparkle of one of America's most loved women.
Dead Man Walking (1995) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Tim Robbins Cast: Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Robert Prosky and Raymond J. Barry Cert: 15 Time: 122 mins
In a nutshell: Susan Sarandon stars as Sister Helen Prejean (a role which won her an Oscar) in Tim Robey’s true-life drama, while Sean Penn plays the fictional convict Matthew Poncelet, who sister Helen counsels in the film. Sarandon’s work in the film is widely regarded as one of the greatest performances of the Nineties.
Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) ★★★★★
Genre: Comedy, Drama Dir: Wes Anderson Cast: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law and Tilda Swinton Cert: 15 Time: 97 mins
In a nutshell: Ralph Fiennes gives one of his finest performances in this Wes Anderson film as a concierge, who becomes embroiled in an inheritance dispute with ludicrous consequences. The tale unfolds through the eyes of a young bell boy. Fiennes’s incongruous bursts of swearing, and his ridiculous fussiness are fleshed out with skill and timing.
Moonstruck (1987) ★★★★☆
Genre: Romantic Comedy Dir: Martin Scorsese Cast: Cher, Nicolas Cage, Vincent Gardenia and Danny Aiello Cert: PG Time: 100 mins
In a nutshell: Cher won an Academy Award for her role in this working-class romantic comedy. She plays Loretta, a 37-year-old Italian-American widow who agrees to marry a man she doesn't love (Danny Aiello), only to fall for his wayward brother (Nicholas Cage). It's an ebullient, witty film with charming performances – particularly from Olympia Dukakis (who also won an Oscar) as Loretta's no-nonsense mother.
Gangs of New York (2002) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Martin Scorsese Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Jim Broadbent Cert: 18 Time: 160 mins
In a nutshell: Martin Scorsese's 19th–century epic tempted Method master Daniel Day–Lewis out of retirement and introduced Leonardo DiCaprio as the new post–De Niro fixture in his films. He plays the son who returns to New York to avenge the death of his Irish immigrant father at the hands of Day–Lewis's Bill the Butcher, only to be sucked into the city's gang culture.
Million Dollar Baby (2004) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Clint Eastwood Cast: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman and Jay Baruchel Cert: 12 Time: 131 mins
In a nutshell: This Oscar-winning boxing film packs a colossal emotional punch (pardon the pun). It’s also a little soppy and highly manipulative of its viewers, but since this is what director Clint Eastwood intended you have to cut him some slack. Eastwood’s gruff coach guides Hilary Swank’s rookie boxer on an exhilarating rise to boxing glory, but it all ends in tears.
Seven Psychopaths (2012) ★★★☆☆
Genre: Comedy Dir: Martin McDonagh Cast: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson and Christopher Walken Cert: 15 Time: 108 mins
In a nutshell: Colin Farrell stars as boozy writer Marty in Martin McDonagh's (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) brutal black comedy. He is a struggling to find the plot for his screenplay, so friend Billy (Rockwell), a part-time dognapper, tries to help him out – inadvertently embroiling him in a world of gangster crime. Not as clever as McDonagh's best work, but it's entertaining.
Some Like it Hot (1959) ★★★★★
Genre:Comedy Dir: Billy Wilder Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon Cert: 12 Time: 116 mins
In a nutshell: When two musicians (Lemmon and Curtis) witness a mob hit, they flee the state disguised as women in anfull all-female band, but further complications arise in the form of demure ukulele player Sugar Kane, superbly played by Marilyn Monroe. Billy Wilder's classic comedy is effortlessly wacky and clever.
Taxi Driver (1976) ★★★★★
Genre: Drama Dir: Martin Scorsese Cast: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd Cert: 18 Time: 114 mins
In a nutshell: This tale of urban alienation is Martin Scorsese at his most sublime. Robert De Niro plays Travis Bickle, a mentally unstable Vietnam War veteran who works as a cab driver. He is driven to a murderous rampage after observing the low-lifes who inhabit New York City’s underbelly. Underpinned by Bernard Herrmann’s chilling score, it’s terrifying.
American Psycho (2000) ★★★★☆
Genre: Horror/Comedy Dir: Mary Harron Cast: Christian Bale, Samantha Mathis, Willem Dafoe Cert: 18 Time: 99 mins
In a nutshell: Adapted from Bret Easton Ellis's satire of America in the Eighties, this blackly comic drama bristles with razorsharp wit and stars Christian Bale in the role that made him a household name. He plays Patrick Bateman, an unctuous Wall Street financier, obsessed with success. He's also – apparently – a serial killer who murders without provocation or reason. Willem Dafoe is the detective who suspects Bateman is up to no good.
Cargo (2017) ★★★★☆
Genre:Horror Dir: Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke Cast: Martin Freeman, Anthony Hayes, Caren Pistorius Cert: 15 Time: 104 mins
In a nutshell: Martin Freeman stars in this Australian zombie movie in which his character Andy has two days to find somebody to take care of his infant daughter and to protect her from his own changing nature after he is chomped on by his newly turned wife. It's a strong entry from first-time feature film-makers Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke, who eschew scares for survival-esque thrills.
Paris is Burning (1990) ★★★★☆
Genre: Documentary Dir: Jennie Livingston Cast: N/A Cert: 15 Time: 73 mins
In a nutshell: This groundbreaking documentary about New York drag balls (catwalk-style competitive pageants) captures both the glamour and the fragility of the scene, acting as a snapshot of how different parts of the city's working-class LGBT community contend with poverty, AIDS and homophobia.
Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) ★★★★★
Genre: Comedy Dir: Terry Jones Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin Cert: 15 Time: 90 mins
In a nutshell: The Monty Python team's brilliant Biblical satire – about a baby born just down the road from the true Nativity who grows up to be constantly mistaken for the Messiah – caused an almighty furore when it was released. The charges were that it was blasphemous when, in fact, it is heretical (a big difference). One of the greatest British comedies, as funny today as ever.
The Social Network (2010) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Cast: David Fincher Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rashida Jones Cert: 12 Time: 117 mins
In a nutshell: Jesse Eisenberg is superb as the gauche cyber-geek who became a billionaire in his twenties in this dazzling dramatisation of the story of Facebook. It may necessarily be speculative in parts about Mark Zuckerberg and his invention, but this is a brilliantly scripted and absolutely gripping tale of clashing egos, precocious talent and betrayal.
Whiplash (2014) ★★★★★
Genre: Drama Dir: Damien Chazelle Cast: Miles Teller, J. K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist Cert: 15 Time: 104 mins
In a nutshell: This dazzling, exhilarating drama from La La Land director Damien Chazelle stars Miles Teller as a talented 19-year-old drummer at a prestigious music conservatory who is cherry-picked for a place in the school's jazz band by its violently driven conductor (JK Simmons), determined to hammer him into brilliance. Simmons won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance.
Annihilation (2018) ★★★★★
Genre: Sci-fi Dir: Alex Garland Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez Cert: 15 Time: 115 mins
In a nutshell: In this thrilling, otherworldly sci-fi film, Natalie Portman heads into a mind-altering contamination zone to learn exactly what happened to her husband (Oscar Isaac) when he preceded her there. Alex Garland's follow-up to Ex Machina is beautifully trippy, with shades of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
Their Finest (2016) ★★★★☆
Genre:Drama Dir: Lone Scherfig Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy Cert: 12A Time: 114 mins
In a nutshell:This plucky film peeks at the Ministry of Information mid-Blitz, as the staff, newly joined by Gemma Arterton's aspiring writer, scramble to make a morale-boosting short film on Dunkirk, with an aging matinee star (a brilliant comic turn from Bill Nighy). Fittingly, the film rips along like well-honed propaganda, and that's meant as a serious compliment.
Nightcrawler (2014) ★★★☆☆
Genre: Thriller Dir: Dan Gilroy Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Ann Cusack Cert: 15 Time: 115 mins
In a nutshell: This satirical thriller has a can't-miss-the-point premise, and a big, weird, sharkish performance from Jake Gyllenhaal – as a petty thief who stumbles into a career as a news cameraman – powering it. It's a must-talk-about film, electrically overblown in the moment, if not wholly in control of its payoff.
Milk (2008) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Director: Gus Van Sant Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco Cert: 15 Time: 128 mins
In a nutshell: Sean Penn was awarded the Best Actor Oscar for his meticulously detailed performance as charismatic gay activist Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant's evocative if slightly hagiographic biopic. Milk became the first openly gay man to be elected to political office in the United States when he won a council seat in San Francisco in 1977, but not everyone was happy about it.
Life, Animated (2016) ★★★★☆
Genre: Documentary Dir: Roger Ross Williams Cast: N/A Cert: PG Time: 92 mins
In a nutshell: After Owen disappeared into his shell at the age of two, no one in his bewildered family could find any way to get through to him until he started talking while watching The Little Mermaid. For Owen's parents, Disney cartoons became the key to communicating with their autistic son, and their own Disney-esque journey is explored in this irresistibly moving documentary.
Little Dorrit, Pts. 1 & 2 (1988) ★★★★★
Genre: Drama Dir: Christine Edzard Cast: Derek Jacobi, Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood Cert: U Time: 350 mins
In a nutshell: One of the finest Dickens adaptations ever made. Christine Edzard's six–hour epic offers great performances (from Derek Jacobi and Alec Guinness) and a glorious operatic soundtrack. The tale, of a shy man's moving redemption courtesy of a diminutive woman who has grown up in a debtors' jail, is almost as underrated as this film.
Pride (2014) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Matthew Warchus Cast: Imelda Staunton, Andrew Scott, Bill Nighy Cert: 15 Time: 117 mins
In a nutshell: Directed by The Old Vic's Matthew Warchus, Pride tells of the gay and lesbian activists who rallied to the support of striking Welsh miners in 1984, and features a fine cast (with stand-out performances from Staunton and Nighy). While it's groaning with pints of mild and choral singing, acid-wash denim and disco, it has the energy of a great stage show. Pride chases applause, and earns it.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) ★★★★☆
Genre: Documentary Dir: David Gelb Cert: U Time: 80 mins
In a nutshell: David Gelb's celebrated documentary about an elderly Tokyo legend of the sushi circuit not only provides a crash course in sushi-ya customs and etiquette, but also has the texture of great drama. As for the sushi itself, it glistens like couture jewellery - and happens to be just about as expensive.
The Polka King (2018) ★★★☆☆
Genre:Comedy Dir: Wallace Wolodarsky, Maya Forbes Cast: Jenny Slate, Jack Black, Jason Schwartzman Cert: 12 Time: 94
In a nutshell: This kooky biopic is based on the life of Jan Lewan, a Polish polka-band leader who moved to America and (perhaps accidentally) ended up running a lucrative Ponzi scheme. Arriving straight to Netflix after a Sundance premiere, it's an uneven film, but anchored by its pleasingly hammy central performance from a far from polka-faced Jack Black.
When Harry Met Sally (1989) ★★★★☆
Genre:Romantic comedy Dir: Rob Reiner Cast: Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, Carrie Fisher Cert: 15 Time: 92 mins
In a nutshell: In Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner's perfectly pitched romcom, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan play neurotic New Yorkers who have been friends for a decade. Harry's assertion that it's impossible for men and women to be platonic sets up a predictable ending, but the pair's chemistry and the script's crisp dialogue offer a humorous, and at times poignant, view of relationships.
Mudbound (2017) ★★★★☆
Genre:Period drama Dir: Dee Rees Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke and Garrett Hedlund Cert: 15 Time: 134 mins
In a nutshell: Two families thrash out the complexities of race relations in Second World War-era America. Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke and Garrett Hedlund are the newcomers to the Mississippi Delta, but the cast standouts are Jason Mitchell, as an airman, and Mary J Blige as his mother. Read the full review
La La Land (2016) ★★★★★
Genre: Musical Dir: Damien Chazelle Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone Cert: 12A Time: 128 mins
In a nutshell: This love-letter to the golden age of Hollywood musicals scooped up six Oscars, including Best Director, Best Score and Best Actress (for Emma Stone). Stone and Gosling play two star-crossed your loves pirouetting through a Jacques Demy-tinged Los Angeles.
The Interview (2014) ★★★★☆
Genre: Comedy Dir: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen Cast: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Randall Park Cert: 15 Time: 112 mins
In a nutshell: Television newscaster Skylark (Franco) and producer Aaron Rapoport (Rogen) discover that Kim Jong-Un is a big fan of their show. Seizing a chance to legitimise themselves as journalists, they land an interview with the North Korean dictator – but are soon roped into a plot to assassinate him instead.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016) ★★★★☆
Genre: War drama Dir: Mel Gibson Cast: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey Cert: 15 Time: 139 mins
In a nutshell: Mel Gibson returns with this fantastically moving and bruising military biopic of a Christian US Army medic clinging to his principles in a typhoon of blood and bullets. Andrew Garfield stars as real-life conscientious objector Desmond Doss.
The Pink Panther (1963) ★★★★★
Genre:Comedy Dir: Blake Edwards Cast: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner Cert: PG Time: 110 mins
In a nutshell: This is the first of a number of cinematic adventures with bumbling French detective Jacques Clouseau, played by a terrific Peter Sellers. With David Niven as the jewel thief, Phantom, in pursuit of the valuable 'Pink Panther' diamond, this is a comedy great, and far better than the 2006 remake.
Black Hawk Down (2001) ★★★☆☆
Genre:War drama Dir: Ridley Scott Cast: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana Cert: 15 Time: 146 mins
In a nutshell: This action drama retells the events of October 3, 1993, when 100 soldiers from a UN peacekeeping force were dropped into war-torn Somalia. Their mission is to capture two warlords, but when two of their Black Hawk helicopters are shot down, a long, violent siege follows.
The Meyerowitz Stories (2017) ★★★★☆
Genre: Comedy Dir: Noah Baumbach Cast: Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller Cert: 15 Time: 112 mins
In a nutshell: Its premiere at Cannes was overshadowed by an ugly row with the French cinema industry, but this bittersweet Wes Anderson-ish comedy about three generations of a Jewish family in New York (led by Dustin Hoffman's aging patriarch) is a gem worth watching – and not just because it features the rarest of filmic phenomena: a good performance from Adam Sandler.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) ★★★★☆
Genre:Comedy Dir: Stephan Elliott Cast: Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce Cert: 15 Time: 103 mins
In a nutshell:In this cult classic, three tough-guy, serious actors (Stamp, Weaving, Pearce) star as two drag queens and a transsexual who travel in an enormous bus to get to a cabaret gig in the Australian desert. It's hilarious and as camp as you'd expect, but also darkly absorbing and oddly poignant.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Jean-Marc Vallée Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner Cert: 15 Time: 114 mins
In a nutshell: McConaughey and Leto bagged Oscars as Ron Woodroof, a real-life Texas rodeo cowboy diagnosed with AIDS in the mid-1980s, and Rayon, the ailing drag queen he employs. If it sounds depressing, it's worth emphasising that this strong, bitter film is about survival, not dying – the medicine, not the illness.
The Incredible Jessica James (2017) ★★★☆☆
Genre: Comedy Dir: James C Strouse Cast: Jessica Williams, Chris O'Dowd, Noël Wells Cert: 15 Time: 83 mins
In a nutshell: Comedian, podcaster and Daily Show alumna Jessica Williams impressed with her first leading film role in this lightweight, whimsical Netflix-only romcom, playing a struggling New York playwright who strikes up an unexpected romance with a geeky Irish app-designer (Chris O’Dowd).
To the Bone (2017) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Marti Noxon Cast: Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston Cert: 16 Time: 107 mins
In a nutshell: Telling the story of Ellen, a young girl with anorexia nervosa, this Netflix-only film from first-time writer/director Marti Noxon drama has been accused of glamorising the condition, but Lily Collins has earned well-deserved acclaim for her sensitive performance in the lead role.
Kill Bill, Vols 1 & 2 (2003 / 2004) ★★★★★
Genre:Action Dir: Quentin Tarantino Cast: Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Lucy Liu Cert: 18 Time: 111 mins / 137 mins
In a nutshell: Tarantino brings together the iconography of kung fu, grindhouse and the spaghetti western into a self-acknowledged “rampage of revenge” so giddy with genre-splicing potential that it burst the banks of a single feature. Uma Thurman plays a former assassin, known throughout as simply The Bride, who wakes from a coma after four years. Filled with a desire for revenge, she vows to get even with every person who contributed to the death of her unborn child - and draws up a hit list.
Doctor Strangelove (1964) ★★★★★
Genre: Comedy Dir: Stanley Kubrick Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens Cert: PG Time: 103 min
In a nutshell: The brink of nuclear war understood as male-posturing farce, this is Kubrick’s funniest, tightest and most gleefully cynical picture. Sellers rules the roost in his triple role, but there’s indelible work right down the cast list, and Ken Adam’s production design is immortal.
Okja (2017) ★★★☆☆
Genre:Sci-fi Dir: Bong Joon-ho Cast: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Ahn Seo-hyun Cert: G Time: 121 mins
In a nutshell: A diverting blend of find-the-missing-pet adventure and anti-meat satire, Okja comes from the pen of Jon Ronson (a vegetarian with a dark sense of humour) and the fervid brain of Korean director Bong Joon Ho. It follows a young Korean girl's journey to rescue her beloved pet – a giant mutant pig – after it's abducted by a multinational food company fronted by Tilda Swinton.
A Quiet Passion (2016) ★★★☆☆
Genre:Drama Dir: Terence Davies Cast: Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Ehle, Duncan Duff Cert: 12A Time: 122 mins
In a nutshell: Terence Davies divided viewers with this uncompromising literary biopic of the American poet Emily Dickinson, played with an overbright edge by Cynthia Nixon, who bristles against her circumscribed life in New England and the anonymity which enshrouded her career.
Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) ★★★☆☆
Genre:Prison drama Dir: John Frankeinheimer Cast: Burt Lancaster, Karl Malden, Thelma Ritter Cert: PG Time: 145 mins
In a nutshell: Burt Lancaster stars in the true-life tale of convicted murderer Robert Stroud, who became an ornithologist while in jail. Director John Frankenheimer brings out the pathos in Stroud's story – he spent 42 years in segregation – but takes a large liberty: Stroud wasn't permitted to keep birds in Alcatraz
Notes on Blindness (2016) ★★★★☆
Genre: Documentary Dir: Peter Middleton, James Spinney Cast: N/A Cert: U Time: 86 mins
In a nutshell: John Hull, a professor at Birmingham University, went blind in 1983, and spent much of that decade compiling detailed thoughts on the experience of sight loss – a condition he grieved at first, before finding in it much of philosophical value. This fascinating documentary from James Spinney and Peter Middleton uses audio recordings of Hull and his family to reconstruct his voyage into darkness.
Other People (2016) ★★★☆☆
Genre: Comedy Dir: Chris Kelly Cast: Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Bradley Whitford, Maude Apatow, John Early, Zach Woods Cert: N/A Time: 96 mins
In a nutshell: Saturday Night Live writer Chris Kelly exorcised his demons by turning two years of his life into a feature film, creating a warm if bittersweet comedy drama that's far better than the "sad cancer weepie" its premise implies. Jesse Plemons is a gay aspiring comedy writer forced to return home when his mother, a brilliant Molly Shannon, reveals she has been diagnosed with cancer. There he is forced to confront his demons and plot his next move.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008) ★★★★☆
Genre: Documentary Dir: Sacha Gervasi Cast: N/A Cert: 15 Year: 2008
In a nutshell: This endearing, often hilarious and ultimately rather moving documentary tells the story of a real-life Spinal Tap, a Canadian heavy metal band which failed to capitalise on its 15 minutes of fame in the early Eighties and whose singer/lead guitarist and drummer have been struggling to stage a comeback ever since. it's hard not to warm to these middleaged men clinging desperately to their dreams of rock stardom.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012) ★★★★☆
Genre:Horror Dir: Drew Goddard Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connelly, Jesse Williams Cert: 15 Time: 95 mins
In a nutshell: Don't be fooled by its young cast and stereotypical teen-horror appeal: co-writers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's clever detonation of the scary movie is actually very good, with the genre's most original plot twist in years. Five friends visit a remote cabin in the woods for a weekend away, where they encounter more than they bargained for.
The Siege of Jadotville (2016) ★★★☆☆
Genre:War drama Dir: Richie Smyth Cast: Jamie Dornan, Mark Strong, Mikael Persbrandt Cert: 15 Time: 108 mins
In a nutshell: In 1961, a handful of poorly-equipped Irish soldiers held off an army of 3,000 mercenaries in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Jamie Dornan stars as their intelligent but inexperienced commanding officer in a workmanlike take on a little-known corner of history.Read our interview with the film's director Richie Smyth
Tramps (2017) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Adam Leon Cast: Callum Turner, Grace Van Patten Cert: 15 Time: 83 mins
In a nutshell: A low-budget indie picture snapped up by Netflix straight from the festival circuit. This breezy, charming caper wooed the critics at the Toronto Film Festival. When awkward teenager Danny (Callum Turner) fails to leave the right suitcase in the right place at the right time, he has to go on the run with his good-looking getaway driver (Grace Van Patten) to recover it. Sure enough, young love blooms.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016) ★★★☆☆
Genre:Horror Dir: Osgood Perkins Cast: Ruth Wilson, Paula Prentiss, Bob Balaban Cert: 15 Time: 87 mins
In a nutshell: Osgood Perkins, son of Psycho's Anthony and formerly an actor (you might remember him from Legally Blonde), has embarked on an intriguing horror career of late, directing subtle, strange indie chillers. Along with February, his time-shifting satanic mystery with Emma Roberts and Kiernan Shipka, his second feature is also available on Netflix. Ruth Wilson is the home caregiver finding herself caught up in a ghostly haunting, with Paula Prentiss her terrified elderly charge.
The Discovery (2017) ★★★☆☆
Genre: Sci-fi Dir: Charlie McDowell Cast: Jason Segel, Rooney Mara, Robert Redford, Jesse Plemons, Riley Keough Cert: 15 Time: 102 mins
In a nutshell: This solemn, straight-to-Netflix puzzler is set in a world where scientists have proved the existence of an afterlife, prompting a wave of mass suicides. The boffin behind this discovery is Dr Thomas Harbour (Robert Redford). It premiered in January at Redford’s own Sundance Festival - the natural launchpad for metaphysical sci-fi shenanigans - where it left the critics passionately divided.
I Don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore (2017) ★★★★☆
Genre: Comedy thriller Dir: Macon Blair Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy Cert: 15 Time: 96 mins
In a nutshell: Writer/Director Macon Blair's promising debut won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. In this crime comedy, chronically depressed Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) is shaken out of her malaise when a group of burglars raid her home. Teaming up with her weirdo neighbour (Elijah Wood), she decides to track down the wrongdoers.
The Little Prince (2016) ★★★★☆
Genre: Animation Dir: Mark Osborne Cast: Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Ricky Gervais, Riley Osborne Cert: TBC Year: 2016
In a nutshell: This charming animated take on the much-loved 1943 novella strays far from the original, but remains true to the spirit of the book. A little girl (Foy) meets an eccentric old aviator (Bridges), who shares the story of his encounter with the Little Prince. While the girl's world is standard-fare CGI, the Prince's tale is painstakingly realised in claymation. A winner of the prestigious César Award for animation, the film loses its way in an action-heavy third act, but elsewhere shows real heart and emotional depth. Read our interview with director Mark Osborne
The Fundamentals of Caring (2016) ★★★☆☆
Genre:Comedy Dir: Rob Burnett Starring: Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez, Craig Roberts Cert: 15
In a nutshell: In this indie road-movie, Rudd plays a professional caregiver tasked with looking after Roberts's sparky, sardonic disabled teenager. Together, they set off on a bizarre cross-country quest to see America's deepest pit. Muscular dystrophy is hardly the most obvious material for comedy, but the chemistry between Rudd and Roberts (and a surprisingly strong cameo from Selena Gomez) makes it a quirky, feel-good hit.
13th (2016) ★★★★☆
Genre:Documentary Dir: Ava DuVernay Cast: N/A Cert: 15 Time: 100 mins
In a nutshell: The Oscar-nominated documentary from Selma director DuVernay tackles the racial inequalities in America's prisons, and leans towards the radical argument that through the mass incarceration of black Americans slavery has been allowed to continue under another name. The wide range of interviewees includes Angela Davis, Newt Gingrich and Michelle Alexander.
Nashville (1975) ★★★★★
Genre: Drama Dir: Robert Altman Cast: David Arkin, Barbara Baxley, Ned Beatty Cert: 15 Time: 160 mins
In a nutshell: This epic follows two dozen main characters (musicians, businessmen, politicians) in the countdown to a presidential primary. Great Altman is really hard to beat, and this is where it peaks: the high masterwork of patchwork cinema from which Paul Thomas Anderson has borrowed liberally. A scintillating pageant of American weirdness, hypocrisy, hope and sadness.
The Big Short (2015) ★★★★☆
Genre: Comedy drama Dir: Adam McKay Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling Cert: 15 Time: 130 mins
In a nutshell: Anchorman's Adam McKay knows how to wrangle absurdity. So the fact he's directed this pitiless dissection of the 2008 financial crisis, adapted from Michael Lewis's 2010 exposé, makes a crazy kind of sense. Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt play Wall Street "weirdos" who spot the storm brewing and cook up the ultimate get-richquick scheme: a bet against the supposedly rock-solid housing market. Its thinking is as lucid as its laughs are frantic, and that's no mean trick.
Days of Heaven (1978) ★★★★★
Genre: Western Dir: Terrence Malick Cast: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard Cert: PG Time: 94 mins
In a nutshell: Terrence Malick’s second, and for many, greatest film is a mesmerisingly gorgeous love triangle set in the Texas Panhandle in 1916, loosely based on an Old Testament parable. Richard Gere and Brooke Adams are the lovers who pose as brother and sister to fool a rich, dying farmer (Sam Shepard). Nestor Almendros’ astounding magic-hour photography rightly won an Oscar, and Linda Manz supplies heartbreaking, plainspoken narration as Gere’s younger sister.
Mean Streets (1973) ★★★★★
Genre: Crime Dir: Martin Scorsese Cast: Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, David Proval Cert: 18 Time: 112 mins
In a nutshell: Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Martin Scorsese. All burst on to the scene with this dangerous, hugely influential showpiece, about punk gangsters and the sins they have to atone for. Still crackling with alleycat verve and Method-acting electricity, it features so much strutting machismo you could feasibly get pregnant just looking at it.
Beasts of No Nation (2015) ★★★★★
Genre: Drama Dir: Cary Fukunaga Starring: Idris Elba, Abraham Attah Cert: 15 Time: 136 mins
In a nutshell: Uzodinma Iweala’s novel about child soldiers in West Africa gets potent, urgent and searing treatment from a director, Cary Fukunaga, who shows more range with every film. Idris Elba should have been given an Oscar nomination for his role as the scary commandant, but even more key to the experience is Abraham Attah’s utterly beguiling debut as the orphaned Agu.
Capote (2005) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Bennet Miller Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Clifton Collins Jr Cert: 15 Time: 114 mins
In a nutshell: Philip Seymour Hoffman took his Oscar home for this fluting marvel of a performance as the gay Southern author, grappling with the true-life case he would use to cement his reputation. A model biopic that bites off exactly what it can chew, and that’s plenty.
Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) ★★★★☆
Genre: Animation Dir: Steve Box, Nick Park Starring: Peter Sallis (voice), Ralph Fiennes (voice), Helena Bonham Carter (voice) Cert: U Time: 84 mins
In a nutshell: A giant vegetable competition comes under threat from the ravages of a mutant bunny: who else but Aardman? Purists prefer the shorts, and that’s fine, but the company’s most beloved characters surely deserved this outing, too. It became the only stop-motion film ever to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
Blow Out (1981) ★★★★★
Genre:Thriller Dir: Brian De Palma Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow Cert: 18 Time: 108 mins
In a nutshell: John Travolta's Z-movie sound man, out recording one night, accidentally tapes what turns out to be a political assassination. Brian De Palma hit peak ingenuity and gut-punch profundity with this stunning conspiracy thriller, mounted with a showman's élan but also harrowing emotional voltage from its star.
Fargo (1996) ★★★★★
Genre: Crime Dir: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen Starring: William H Macy, Frances McDormand Cert: 18 Time: 98 mins
In a nutshell: Unforgettable stuff from the Coen brothers, with Frances McDormand on Oscar-winning form as the up-the-duff North Dakota police chief traipsing after the most bungled kidnapping in movie history.
Annie Hall (1977) ★★★★★
Genre: Comedy Dir: Woody Allen Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Christopher Walken Cert: 15 Time: 89min
In a nutshell: Woody Allen’s Oscar moment and, for many, best film. Diane Keaton is his lah-di-dah girlfriend, in a philosophical wonderwork that cuts bitterly close to the truth of their own romance.
Barry (2016) ★★★☆☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Vikram Gandhi Cast: Devon Terrell, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jason Mitchell Cert: TBC Time: 104 mins
In a nutshell: This Netflix-only Obama biopic suffered from poor timing, arriving just three months after the acclaimed "When Barry Met Shelly" movie Southside With You. Tackling the US president's college years, it introduced talented newcomer Devon Terrell as an uncertain 20-year-old Barack, still finding his feet and coming to terms with his identity.
Mean Creek (2004) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Jacob Aaron Estes Starring: Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelly, Trevor Morgan Cert: 15 Time: 86 min
In a nutshell: Five kids, in Jacob Aaron Estes's troubling debut, want to teach another kid a lesson on a boat trip one hazy afternoon, but end up learning a life-changing one themselves. As George, the chubby bully talked into joining them, Josh Peck is astonishing – transparently insecure, but equipped with the unreasoning defence mechanisms of a maltreated bulldog.
Adventureland (2009) ★★★★☆
Genre: Comedy Dir: Greg Mottola Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart Cert: 15 Time: 107 mins
In a nutshell: In Greg Mottola’s unusually subtle coming-of-age flick, Jesse Eisenberg is a virginal college graduate taking a rubbish amusement park job in the summer of 1987, while Kristen Stewart hones her tortured-soul thing as the girl of his dreams.
You Can Count on Me (2000) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Kenneth Lonergan Cast: Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo Cert: 15 Time: 111 mins
In a nutshell: Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo are the orphaned siblings reconnecting in upstate New York, and realising what they mean to each other. Kenneth Lonergan’s disarmingly modest first feature is about the ways they’ve separately failed to grow up.
Warrior (2011) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Gavin O’Connor Cast: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte Cert: 15 Time: 109 mins
In a nutshell: A heaving, grunting, proudly macho-sentimental drama about two brothers (Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) who find themselves pitted against each other in the same mixed martial arts championship. It’s forcefully filmed and acted, with Oscar-nominated Nick Nolte lapping up supporting honours as their pitiful dad, a reformed alcoholic pleading for forgiveness.
The Black Stallion (1979) ★★★★☆
Genre:Drama Dir: Carroll Ballard Starring: Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney, Teri Garr Cert: U Time: 114 min
In a nutshell: Walter Farley's classic children's novel, about the relationship between a wild Arabian stallion and a shipwrecked boy, was shepherded tenderly to the big screen here, in a remarkably handsome, restrained, and soulful adaptation, whose magnificent lensing by Caleb Deschanel was inexplicably ignored for the Best Cinematography Oscar.
Attacking the Devil (2014) ★★★★☆
Genre: Documentary Dir: Jacqui & David Morris Starring: N/A Cert: 12A Time: 102 min
In a nutshell:In the Sixties and Seventies, the Sunday Times ran a dogged campaign to uncover the truth about thalidomide, the morning sickness drug which left thousands of children malformed after the war. This shrewdly organised doc looks at the persistence of the paper's editor, Harold Evans, against an army of lawyers and a complacent political establishment.
1922 (2017) ★★★★☆
Genre: Thriller Dir: Zack Hilditch Starring: Thomas Jane & Molly Parker Cert: 15 Time: 102 min
In a nutshell: Nebraskan farmer Wilfred James (Thomas Jane) looks back at the year he murdered his wife, and – in time-honoured fashion – failed to prosper from his deed. Based on the King novella of the same name, and set against a wide backdrop of open skies and whispering cornfields, it’s primarily about guilt and regret, and about the “conniving” stranger hiding inside ordinary men and women, driving them to unspeakable crimes.
Prisoners (2014) ★★★☆☆
Genre: Crime thriller Dir: Denis Villeneuve Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Hugh Jackman. Cert: 15 Time: 153 min
In a nutshell: Two daughters step out one Thanksgiving and don’t come back: enter a tattooed, twitchy Gyllenhaal as a maverick cop who’s never lost a case. He gets straight down to business by arresting a weirdo RV driver (Paul Dano) seen loitering suspiciously on the relevant street, but the lack of physical evidence encourages Jackman’s hot-headed carpenter to take the law into his own hands.
Looper (2012) ★★★★☆
Genre:Sci-fi thriller Dir: Rian Johnson Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano Cert: 15 Time: 118 min
In a nutshell: Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a looper: a freelance assassin living in the 2040s, whose targets are zapped back to him from the 2070s, an era in which it is easier to teleport a live body than dispose of a dead one. He spends his days blowing away the bound and hooded unfortunates who materialise in front of him, and his nights blowing the spoils on fast women, neat spirits and recreational drugs administered by eye-dropper.
Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) ★★★★☆
Genre: Romantic Dir: Abdellatif Kechiche Starring: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos Cert: 18 Time: 180 min
In a nutshell: Kechiche has essentially made two films here. One is a minutely fascinating account of finding your identity by submitting to the pull of desire – a lesbian coming-out story, albeit one which audaciously resists the clichés of the genre. The other is a more dramatically conventional consideration of what happens to love after that first, intense flush.
Misery (1990) ★★★★☆
Genre:Thriller Dir: Rob Reiner Starring: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Frances Sternhagen, Lauren Bacall Cert: 18 Time: 97 min
In a nutshell: From another of Stephen King's dark designs. Paul Sheldon, author of hugely popular series of romance novels, decides to kill off his main character and take a break from the writer's life. That is, until he crashes his car on a snowy road and is taken in by Annie Wilkes (Cathy Bates). Far from a godsend, however, she is Sheldon's "biggest fan", and isn't too happy, not at all happy, about the forthcoming death of the series' protagonist... Thrills, gore and unbearable tension await.
It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) ★★★☆☆
Genre:Comedy Dir: Stanley Kramer Starring: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar Cert: U Time: 139 min
In a nutshell: With a truly golden age Hollywood line-up, including Phil Silvers, Buddy Hackett, and Ethel Merman, this absurd romp through desert, highway and even airway is genuinely funny. When a line-up of cars on a desert road leads to a brutal car crash, the car's dying occupant reveals the existence of buried treasure "under a big double-ya!" Thus begins a race for the treasure among otherwise sane people that bears every resemblance to Wacky Races.
Downfall (2004) ★★★★☆
Genre: International films Dir: Oliver Hirschbiegel Starring: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Corinna Harfouch Cert: 15 Time: 155 min
In a nutshell: No film about Hitler does a better job at transporting its audience into his very presence. Based on the memoirs of Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary, we are privy to the Fuhrer's final days and hours, his mania, his delusion, his demise. Packs as big an ethical punch as its entertainment and artistic value.
God's Own Country (2017) ★★★★☆
Genre:Romance Dir: Francis Lee Starring: Josh O'Connor, Alec Secăreanu, Ian Hart, Gemma Jones Cert: 15 Time: 144 min
In a nutshell: A bleakly beautiful gay love story set in the wintry hills of Yorkshire. Despite its worn out plot – boy meets boy, overcomes obstacles – there is refreshingly little tragedy here, and also deftly manoeuvres other issues such as immigration, fatherhood and farming.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008) ★★★☆☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Mark Herman Starring: Asa Butterfield, Jack Scanlon, Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis Cert: 12 Time: 94 min
In a nutshell: 8-year-old Bruno (Asa Butterfield) moves with his family near a concentration camp, where his father is commander. With all the innocence of his childhood, Bruno's curiosity leads him to befriend one of the child inmates during the conversations they are able to snatch at the fence. When Bruno breaks in, however, his world is shattered.
Good Will Hunting (1997) ★★★★☆
Genre: Drama Dir: Gus Van Sant Starring: Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck Cert: 15 Time: 126 min
In a nutshell: Wayward young janitor Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is recognised by university staff as a mathematical genius. Just when life seems to be going his way, however, demons from his past catch up to haunt him. Enter the dearly missed Robin Williams, who counsels and ultimately befriends his ward.
Scarface (1983) ★★★★★
Genre: Crime drama Dir: Brian De Palma Starring: Al Pacino Cert: 18 Time: 169 min
In a nutshell: Brian De Palma's eye for the epic lifts this tale, based on Howard Hawks's 1932 film, of the rise and fall of Tony Montana (Al Pacino), a savage Cuban refugee turned Miami drugs lord, way above normal gangster fare. "The world is yours" promises the advert on an air balloon gliding across the sky on the night that Tony kills his boss. It's a brilliant illumination of the dark side of the American dream.