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-winning 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.
Uncut Gems (2020)
Genre: Crime Dir: Josh and Benny Safdie Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin Garnett, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Mike Francesa, Idina Menzel, Eric Bogosian. Cert: 15 Time: 135 mins
In a nutshell: After a series of duds, Adam Sandler turns out a career best performance, proving that given the right material he is a formidable dramatic actor. The Safdie brothers let him shine, while finding miraculously original ways to film the most extensively filmed city on Earth. A jeweler and gambling addict in New York City's Diamond District must retrieve an expensive gem to pay off mounting debts.
Read our 5 star review of Uncut Gems
The Irishman (2019)
Genre:Crime Dir: Martin Scorsese Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Harvey Keitel. Cert: 15 Time: 209 mins
In a nutshell:Martin Scorsese’s gang crime epic recounts the life story of syndicate hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro). Joe Pesci comes out of career retirement to play gangland supremo Russell Buffalino and Al Pacino gives a characteristically goofy performance as union boss Jimmy Hoffa. Scorsese incorporates the best elements of gangster movies in this lengthy but absorbing tale of age, greed and betrayal.
Read our 5 star review of The Irishman
Marriage Story (2019)
Genre: Drama Dir: Noah Baumbach Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever. Cert: 15 Time: 136 mins
In a nutshell: Noah Baumbach’s agonising depiction of a marriage falling apart. A New York theatre director (Adam Driver) and his actress wife (Scarlett Johansson) realise they have very different creative ambitions, leading to an acrimonious, coast-to-coast divorce which leaves their young son caught in the middle. With some great dialogue to play with, the two leads shine in Baumbach’s funniest, most fine-grained picture to date.
Read our 5 star review of Marriage Story
Genre: War drama Dir: Christopher Nolan Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy. Cert: 15 Time: 106 mins
In a nutshell:Allied soldiers have retreated to Dunkirk and are trapped on all sides by advancing German forces. Christopher Nolan’s nerve-shredding depiction of this legendary moment in the Second World War grips from start to finish, aided by a Hans Zimmer score. The star-studded cast hold together a complicated three line plot, depicting evacuations from land, sea and air. One Direction’s Harry Styles impresses on his acting debut.
Read our 5 star review of Dunkirk
The Revenant (2015)
Genre: Action Dir: Alejandro G. Iñárritu Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy Cert: 15 Time: 153 mins
In a nutshell: Wrap yourself in a warm blanket and grab a mug of cocoa, because this 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. It scooped Best Actor (DiCaprio), Best Director and Best Cinematographer at the 2016 Academy Awards and it's not hard to see why.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Genre:Romantic Comedy Dir: Mike Newell Cast: Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, James Fleet Cert: 15 Time: 117 mins
In a nutshell: The best of Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant's romcoms about awfully nice chaps dithering over frightfully pretty girls. Grant plays bumbling Charles, who, ah, er, can't tell what's, um, going on between him and the scrummy Carrie (Andie MacDowell), whom he keeps, gosh, bumping into at weddings. It's aged pretty well and certainly knocks spots off Love, Actually.
Genre: Comedy/Drama Dir: Alejandro G. Iñárritu Cast: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton Cert: 15 Time: 116 mins
In a nutshell: This miraculous comic drama won four Oscars, including Best Director and Best Picture. Michael Keaton plays the former star of a superhero franchise taking one last stab at respectability with a self-penned Broadway play, and like theatre (and real life), the entire film appears to unfold in a single, sinuous take. Keaton is better than he's ever been, with the former Batman star mining the role's real-life parallels for maximum humour and pathos, while the supporting cast (Emma Stone, Ed Norton, Zach Galifianakis) all somehow shine individually in the whirling chaos. The film defies everything we think we know about film, and makes you think again about what cinema can do, and be.
Read our 5 star review of Birdman
The Wife (2018)
Genre: Drama Dir: Björn Runge Cast: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons, Alix Wilton Regan, Elizabeth McGovern Cert: 15 Time: 100 mins
In a nutshell: Glenn Close gives a mesmeric turn in this smooth adaptation of Meg Wolitzer's 2003 novel, about a woman in the shadow of her Nobel Prize-winning writer husband (Jonathan Pryce). She knows his darkest secret, but may not be willing to sit on it forever. Max Irons plays their son, a would-be writer caught in his father's shadow.
Read our 4 star review of The Wife
The Reconquest (2016)
Dir: Jonás Trueba Cast: Francesco Carril, Itsaso Arana, Candela Recio Cert: N/A Time: 107 mins
In a nutshell: A translator in his early thirties, happily in a relationship, catches up one night in Madrid with an actress who was his girlfriend 15 years ago. One drink leads to another, and to soul-searching: should these childhood sweethearts have tried harder to stay together? Split into three sections, this wonderful film feels like Richard Linklater's Before trilogy compacted into a single, chronologically reshuffled film. The third part, with perfectly cast younger versions of the leads, is a lost valentine between kids who have no idea where their future lives will lead them
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Genre: Crime Dir: Quentin Tarantino Cast: Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth Cert: 18 Time: 99 mins
In a nutshell: Quentin Tarantino's directing debut became a notable cult success, re-adrenalising the gangster film. Even though it's heartless and violent, it's well written and extremely entertaining. A failed robbery has consequences for the thugs who dress like the Blues Brothers and whose colour-coded pseudonyms include Mr White (Keitel), Mr Pink (Buscemi) and Mr Orange (Roth).
The Death of Stalin (2017)
Genre: Comedy Dir: Armando Iannucci Cast: Steve Buscemi, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Paul Whitehouse. Cert: 15 Time: 107 mins
In a nutshell: The death of Russian dictator Josef Stalin throws the Soviet Union into chaos as his hapless ministers manoeuvre to succeed him. Armando Iannucci brings his familiar brand of comic farce to an infamous historical moment, satirising the petty ambitions and casual cruelty of late-Soviet politics.
Read our 4 star review of The Death of Stalin
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
Genre: Family Dir: Ken Hughes Cast: Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries Cert: U Time: 144 mins
In a nutshell: Roald Dahl co-wrote the screenplay for this classic musical fantasy loosely based on a children's book by Ian Fleming, but Dick Van Dyke's eccentric 1900s inventor and his revolutionary flying car never quite get out of second gear. Still, the mixture of cute and weird sometimes pays off, and Robert Helpmann's Child Catcher is truly the stuff of nightmares.
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Genre: Western Dir: Sergio Leone Cast: Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volontè, Marianne Koch Cert: 15 Time: 99 mins
In a nutshell: Clint Eastwood rides into town with a gun and a cigar to make a few quick bucks, settle some scores and invent a whole new genre of movie. Sergio Leone's first "spaghetti western" set a high standard (albeit one later surpassed with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) with its sparse direction, epic landscapes and magnetic star. Ennio Morricone's score is one of the most recognisable in cinema.
Darkest Hour (2017)
Genre: Historical drama Dir: Joe Wright Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane, and Ronald Pickup. Cert: PG Time: 125 mins
In a nutshell: Winston Churchill faces pressure to capitulate to the Nazis and negotiate a peace treaty. Against the odds, the weathered British prime minister keeps Britain in the war and orders the successful evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk. Tracking Churchill’s rise to power in 1940 to his eventual defeat in the 1945 general election, Joe Wright’s nuanced character study hands Gary Oldman the role of a lifetime - and his first Oscar.
Read our 4 star review of Darkest Hour
Genre: Concert film Dir: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter Cast: N/A Cert: MA Time: 137 mins
In a nutshell: Beyoncé's concert movie, capturing her acclaimed 2018 Coachella festival set, is a musical triumph. Behind-the-scenes footage reveals the work that went into creating the show, while archival voice-overs from Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison (among others) highlight its theme of black pride and celebration. It's a reminder that Beyoncé is the best in the world at what she does.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Genre: Comedy Dir: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin Cert: 12A Time: 91 mins
In a nutshell: The Pythons' first proper film may be little more than a string of sketches, but when the sketches are this good it doesn't matter. In this wonderously daft Medieval romp – filmed on a shoestring budget – King Arthur (Graham Chapman) leads his knights in search of the Holy Grail, meeting along the way such such foes as the killer Rabbit of Caerbannog and the Nights Who Say Ni.
You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Genre: Thriller Dir: Lynne Ramsay Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alex Manette, John Doman, Judith Roberts. Cert: 18 Time: 90 mins
In a nutshell: An emotionally traumatised veteran makes a living rescuing young girls from sex traffickers. After being hired to rescue the daughter of a prominent politician, Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) discovers the horrifying extent of the network, which goes to the top of government. Lynne Ramsay secures her reputation as one of the most daring and interesting directors in the business with this captivating, but at times difficult to watch, noir thriller.
Read our 5 star review of You Were Never Really Here
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
Genre: Musical Dir: Norman Jewison Cast: Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Molly Picon Cert: U Time: 172 mins
In a nutshell: Canadian director Norman Jewison translates this classic Broadway musical into an equally enthralling and time-honoured family movie, following the life of Tevye (Israeli actor Topol, reprising his London stage role) a poor milkman who must juggle the toils of everyday life with the harsh realities of being poor and Jewish in Tzarist Russia in 1905. Poignant and Kosher from start to finish.
The Mask of Zorro (1998)
Genre: Adventure Dir: Martin Campbell Cast: Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones Cert: PG Time: 132 mins
In a nutshell: Silly and sultry by turns, this swashbuckling romp revived the Zorro character of the classic Douglas Fairbanks films, and made a star of its young lead actress Catherine Zeta-Jones. In 18th-century California, Anthony Hopkins is the aging masked hero, who passes on the mantle of Zorro to a promising young swordsman (Banderas), and tasks him with finding his long-lost daughter (Zeta-Jones).
Dir: Oliver Stone Cast: Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen Cert: 15 Time: 114 mins
In a nutshell: This is a chance to see a young Charlie Sheen at the start of his turbulent career. The horrors of the Vietnam War are seen through the prism of a fresh-faced college dropout (Sheen) who finds himself in the thick of battle while Willem Dafoe plays his sympathetic sergeant. Director Oliver Stone used his own experiences of serving in the US army during the war to inform this harrowing film, which won four Oscars.
Lost in Translation (2003)
Genre: Comedy-drama Dir: Sofia Coppola Cast: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi, Anna Faris. Cert: 15 Time: 101 mins
In a nutshell: Two lost souls holed up in a Japanese hotel find solace in each others company. Aging movie star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), an unhappily married college graduate, in the hotel bar. A finely-poised story of loneliness, insomnia and disaffection with the modern world.
The Bad Batch (2016)
Genre: Comedy / Thriller Dir: Ana Lily Amirpour Cast: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves Cert: 15 Time: 119 mins
In a nutshell: A warm welcome awaits Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) in the middle of the Texas desert. Specifically, a barbecue grill. Arlen is a branded and numbered member of the "bad batch": society’s misfit toys, deemed too dumb or dangerous or ugly or foreign for whichever future-United States dystopia Ana Lily Amirpour’s extraordinary film takes place in. It's like a cross between Mad Max 2 and Pretty in Pink.
Legally Blonde (2001)
Dir: Robert Luketic Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair Cert: 12 Time: 92 mins
In a nutshell: This was the moment that Reese Witherspoon entered global consciousness, and no amount of Oscar-winning turns will separate her from ditsy blonde sorority girl Elle Woods. Of course, Elle isn't really ditsy, she turns out to be a legal eagle, which is the whole point of Australian director Robert Luketic's first film: the revelatory observation that blondes can also have brains. The dialogue is fabulously sharp-edged.
Genre:Drama Dir: Garth Davis Cast: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman Cert: PG Time: 129 mins
In a nutshell: Dev Patel, the young actor who was catapulted to fame in Slumdog Millionaire, earned his first Oscar nomination for this devastating true story of an Indian boy who is separated from his family, and goes to extraordinary lengths to find them again.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Genre: Thriller Dir: Jonathan Demme Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine, Anthony Heald. Cert: 15 Time: 118 mins
In a nutshell: Modern classic about cannibalistic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. On the hunt for serial killer Buffalo Bill, budding FBI investigator Clarice Starling seeks Lecter’s advice on the case. Exchanging intimate details about her personal life for clues about Bill, Starling must decide how much of herself she is willing to give away. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins strike up an unlikely but brilliant acting partnership in this unsettling psychological thriller.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
Genre: Historical drama Dir: Steve Mcqueen Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt. Cert: 15 Time: 134 mins
In a nutshell: Steve McQueen’s shattering adaptation of Solomon Northrup’s slave memoir shows the violence and cruelty of the slave trade in all its horrifying detail. Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a freeborn African-American man kidnapped in Washington D.C. and sold into slavery. Strong performances abound, but Lupita Nyong’o’s tragic portrayal of vulnerable slavegirl patsy is one for the ages.
Read our 5 star review of 12 Years a Slave
Genre: Drama Dir: Richard Linklater Cast: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke. Cert: 15 Time: 165 mins
In a nutshell: Filmed over a period of 12 years, Boyhood follows Mason Evans Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) between the ages of six and 18. Mason’s divorced parents share the difficult task of guiding their son through youth and adolescence. Although slightly unmoored, Boyhood is an intriguing piece of cinema that asks important questions about the medium.
Read our 5 star review of Boyhood
Bladerunner 2049 (2017)
Genre: Sci-Fi Dir: Denis Villeneuve Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto. Cert: 15 Time: 163 mins
In a nutshell: Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard in a belated sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner. He is hunted down by K (Ryan Gosling), a new-age replicant and blade runner employed by the LAPD to retire rogue replicants from the previous generation. Visually stunning and satisfyingly coherent, Blade Runner 2049 is one of those rare beasts: a successful franchise reboot.
Read our 5 star review of Bladerunner 2049
True Grit (2010)
Genre: Western Dir: Coen Brothers Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper. Cert: 15 Time: 110 mins
In a nutshell: A young girl plots revenge after her father is murdered by a drifter. She enlists the help of alcoholic U.S. Marshal Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to track down the fugitive in Indian territory. A thrilling watch with not a second wasted, and bearing the familiar Coen Brothers blend of slapstick humour, bloody violence and subtle pathos.
Read our 3 star review of True Grit
Genre: Crime Dir: Carlos López Estrada Cast: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Wayne Knight. Cert: 15 Time: 95 mins
In a nutshell: Childhood friends Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal wrote (and starred in) the screenplay for Blindspotting in the early 2000’s, while growing up in Oakland. Collin Hoskins (Diggs) is a convicted felon trying to stay out of trouble during the final few days of his probation, but fiery best friend Miles Turner (Casal) and the city of Oakland don’t make it easy. Funny, poignant and well-observed, Blindspotting is a gripping portrayal of modern American.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Genre: Sci-fi Dir: Matt Reeves Cast: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell Cert: 12A Time: 130 min
In a nutshell:Matt Reeves's sequel to 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes never allows its extraordinary special effects to outgun its emotion and intelligence. Starring a mo-cap Andy Serkis as the apes' leader, Caesar, the film wrestles with genuine ideas about diplomacy, deterrence, law and leadership. However often it risks monkey-mad silliness, it's impressively un-stupid.
Ex Machina (2015)
Genre: Sci-Fi Dir: Alex Garland Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac. Cert: 15 Time: 108 mins
In a nutshell: Captivating sci-fi thriller as smart as it is scary. Programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a week-long retreat to the paradisal, isolated home of tech CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). He is tasked with testing a beautiful humanoid robot possessing advanced artificial intelligence (Alicia Vikander). There is a wonderful dynamic between the small cast, each of whom embodies certain distinct human flaws.
Genre: Drama Dir: Mati Diop Cast: Mame Bineta Sane, Amadou Mbow, Ibrahima Mbaye Sope, Nicole Sougou, Aminata Kane, Mariama Gassama. Cert: 12 Time: 104 mins
In a nutshell: Mati Diop’s enchanting yet spooky feature debut tells the story of Ada, a Senagelese girl whose lover goes missing at sea during a migration attempt. She is reluctantly betrothed to a rich, older man whose bed catches fire in a mysterious attack on their wedding day; the first in several supernatural occurrences. Beautifully shot with fine acting, this is an accomplished debut and a brilliantly original story.
Read our 5 star review of Atlantics
Dolemite is my Name (2019)
Genre: Biographical comedy Dir: Craig Brewer Cast: Eddie Murphy, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, Wesley Snipes, Chris Rock. Cert: 15 Time: 118 mins
In a nutshell: Set in 1970’s LA, Eddie Murphy portrays comedian and musician Rudy Ray Moore, who struggles to make his way as a performer until he comes up with foul-mouthed alter ego “Dolemite”. Murphy shines in his best role in years, adding cynicism and vulnerability to that familiar comic schtick.
Mid 90's (2018)
Genre: Drama Dir: Jonah Hill Cast: Sunny Suljic, Lucas Hedges, Na-Kel Smith, Katherine Waterston, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, Ryder McLaughlin. Cert: 15 Time: 85 mins
In a nutshell: Jonah Hill’s directorial debut is a nostalgic ode to his childhood home, Los Angeles. Mid 90’s follows a thirteen year old boy, Stevie (Sunny Suljic), who starts hanging out with an older group of skaters. Although sometimes naive, Hill’s honest, uncomplicated style makes for a poignant and charming observation of time and place.
Read our 4 star review of Mid 90's
El Camino (2019)
Genre: Crime Dir: Vince Gilligan Cast: Aaron Paul, Jesse Plemons, Krysten Ritter, Jonathan Banks, Charles Baker, Matt Jones, Bryan Cranston. Cert: 15 Time: 122 mins
In a nutshell:Following the events of the Breaking Bad series finale, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) tries to forge a new life for himself. Series creator Vince Gilligan proves there is life after Walter White with a gritty and sympathetic portrayal of the series sidekick, while Aaron Paul gives a career-best performance in his most iconic role.
Read our 3 star review of El Camino
Genre:Crime Dir: Martin Scorsese Cast: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci Cert 18 Time: 139 mins
In a nutshell: Martin Scorsese's Mafia masterpiece, adapted from a non-fiction book, has all the qualities of great cinema: it's thrilling, it's provocative, it's stylish, and it's got a young Robert De Niro in it. Ray Liotta plays the youngster who longs to be a gangster; De Niro and Joe Pesci are in the Mob. For all the film's subsequent cult appeal, note how Scorsese doesn't glorify the behaviour of the mafiosi; this depiction is unflinchingly honest.
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 our 5 star review of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
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.
Groundhog Day (1993)
Genre: Comedy Dir: Harold Ramis Cast: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky, Brian Doyle-Murray, Angela Paton. Cert: PG Time: 101 mins
In a nutshell: Cult classic featuring Bill Murray as self-centred TV weatherman Phil Connors who gets caught in a time loop while covering a local Groundhog Day event. Murray’s career-best performance in a role perfectly suited to his unique blend of lethargy and mania.
Genre:Biographical drama Dir: Taylor Hackford Cast: Jamie Foxx, C. J. Sanders, Kerry Washington, Clifton Powell, Aunjanue Ellis, Regina King. Cert: 15 Time: 152 mins
In a nutshell: Jamie Foxx portrays rhythm and blues legend Ray Charles, who overcomes childhood trauma and blindness to become one of the most beloved musicians of a generation. Foxx won an Oscar for his energetic performance, brilliantly capturing Charles’ distinctive tics and expressions. Running for well over two hours, Ray can drag at times, but Foxx is worth the time spent.
Read our 4 star review of Ray
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.
Read our 5 star review of Roma
Genre: Horror Dir: Alfred Hitchcock Cast: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, John Gavin, Vera Miles, Martin Balsam Cert: 15 Time: 109 mins
In a nutshell:Alfred Hitchcock’s classic psychological horror. Worth the watch just for that chalkboard shower screeching - which Hitchcock thought was too stupid and funny to be scary. A real estate clerk escapes to a secluded motel after stealing money from her employer. She meets creepy motel manager Norman Bates. “A boy’s best friend is his mother”.
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
Genre: Romance Dir: Luca Guadagnino Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois. Cert: 15 Time: 132 mins
In a nutshell: An incomparably lovely period romance, as warm and therapeutic as the sunlight that suffuses every frame. The period is the early 1980s – unmissably so, thanks to the shorts, trainers, and pop music. Somewhere in Northern Italy, 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) forms a life-changing bond with his father’s charismatic research assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer).
Read our 5 star review of Call Me by Your Name
Genre:Drama Dir: Tom McCarthy Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup. Cert: 15 Time: 129 mins
In a nutshell: A team of journalists from the Boston Globe investigate a shocking child abuse cover up by the Catholic Church. Painstaking research and procedural wrangling never looked so thrilling. Excitement comes from the joining of disparate dots: a stray comment leads to a tentative telephone call, which leads in turn to a halting conversation in a coffee shop. There’s no tidy moral to take away here, but a story like this shouldn’t end in comfort.
Read our 4 star review of Spotlight
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.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
Genre: Western Dir: Sergio Leone Cast: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Aldo Giuffrè, Antonio Casas, Rada Rassimov, Aldo Sambrel. Cert: 15 Time: 177 mins
In a nutshell: Clint Eastwood plays the Man with No Name, a roaming bounty hunter with ice in his veins. The third installment of Sergio Leone’s ‘Dollars Trilogy’ boasts some of the most memorable shots in cinema and one of the best scores ever composed. Amidst the chaos of the American Civil War, three men seek out a horde of confederate gold.
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.
The King's Speech (2010)
Genre: Historical drama Dir: Tom Hooper Cast: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham, Carter, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon. Cert: 12 Time: 119 mins
In a nutshell: The Oscars went wild for this most austere of British period dramas. Stylishly produced but quite predictable, Colin Firth shines as the awkward, stammering King George VI who visits an unorthodox speech therapist to help his public speaking.
Read our 4 star review of The King's Speech
Genre: Thriller Dir: Steven Spielberg Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton. Cert: PG Time: 124 mins
In a nutshell: The simplest, most sinister score in cinema. Steven Spielberg’s cult thriller about an insatiable great white shark attacking holiday makers is surprisingly terrifying, thanks mostly to that John Williams composition. A motley crew of heroes set out to catch the sea monster, but they’re gonna need a bigger boat.
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.
Read our 3 star review of Seven Psychopaths
6 Underground (2019)
Genre: Action Dir: Michael Bay Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Mélanie Laurent, Corey Hawkins, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Adria Arjona, Payman Maadi, Dave Franco. Cert: 15 Time: 128 mins
In a nutshell: Brilliantly terrible action comedy featuring Ryan Reynolds as the corny, gun-wielding leading man. Michael Bay competes with himself for the record number of explosions packed into a single movie. After faking his death, a billionaire recruits a vigilante squad of operatives to take down a brutal dictator.
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.
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.
Read our 4 star review of The Social Network
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.
Read our 5 star review of Annihilation
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.
Read our 3 star review of Nightcrawler
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.
Read our 4 star review of Life, Animated
Gone Girl (2014)
Genre:Thriller Dir: David Fincher Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry. Cert: 18 Time: 149 mins
In a nutshell: Gillian Flynn’s screenplay, based on her novel of the same name, swerves so dramatically from its initial premise that it is difficult to know what to trust. With strong performances from the two leads Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, this story of a failing marriage and abducted wife continues to shock on repeated viewing.
Read our 4 star review of Gone Girl
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.
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 our 4 star review of Mudbound
The Two Popes (2019)
Genre: Biographical drama Dir: Fernando Meirelles Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins, Mario Bergoglio, Juan Minujín, Luis Gnecco, Sidney Cole. Cert: 12 Time: 125 mins
In a nutshell: Behind the Vatican walls, Pope Benedict and the future Pope Francis must find common ground to forge a new path for the Catholic Church, forming an unlikely friendship in the process. It’s easy to relish Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce chewing the fat as Vatican rivals in The Two Popes, but Fernando Meirelles’ chirpy depiction of the papal handover evades the difficult questions at its centre.
Read our 2 star review of The Two Popes
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.
Read our 4 star review of The Meyerowitz Stories
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Genre:Comedy Dir: Richard Linklater Cast: Jason London, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Cole Hauser, Matthew McConaughey, Nicky Katt, Rory Cochrane. Cert: 15 Time: 102 mins
In a nutshell: Coming of age comedy following a group of teenagers on the last day of highschool. Richard Linklater’s quirky cult classic gave Matthew McConaughey his big break and that iconic catchphrase, “alright, alright, alright”. Playful insincerity and smart pop culture satire make up for a distinct lack of structure.
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.
Read our 4 star review of Dallas Buyers Club
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.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
Genre: Biographical drama Dir: James Marsh Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie, Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis. Cert: 12 Time: 123 mins
In a nutshell: Eddie Redmaybe won the Oscar for his committed portrayal of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. While studying at Cambridge, Hawking is diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and given two years to live. This seems to spell the end of his promising research career and his developing relationship with literature student Jane Wilde. Although a touch sycophantic, it is well-plotted and emotionally poignant, and does a good job of translating the physics for the layman.
Read our 3 star review of The Theory of Everything
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.
Read our 3 star review of Okja
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.
Read our 4 star review of Notes on Blindness
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.
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.
Read our 4 star review of The Cabin in the Woods
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.
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.
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.
Read our 3 star review of The Fundamentals of Caring
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.
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.
Read our 4 star review of The Big Short
District 9 (2009)
Genre: Sci-Fi Director: Neill Blomkamp Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James, Vanessa Haywood, Mandla Gaduka, Kenneth Nkosi. Cert: 15 Time: 112 mins
In a nutshell: Low-budget sci-fi thriller that built a cult following for its gripping action sequences and searing social commentary. An oppressed alien race is subjected to forced labour on earth but find an ally in a rogue government agent. The most imaginative, resonant and dramatically turbo-charged work of science fiction of its generation.
Read our 5 star review of District 9
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.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Genre: Drama Dir: Stephen Chbosky Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae, Whitman, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Joan Cusack, Paul Rudd. Cert: 12 Time: 103 mins
In a nutshell: In Stephen Chbosky’s wonderfully observed coming-of-age film, which the director adapted from his own novel, 15-year-old Charlie (Logan Lerman) is just one wallflower in an entire herbaceous border of them. He struggles with depression after a friend’s suicide but learns to cope with his tumultuous past after befriending two high school seniors.
Read our 4 star review of The Perks of Being a Wallflower
La La Land (2016)
Genre: Musical-drama Dir: Damien Chazelle Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt. Cert: 12 Time: 128 mins
In a nutshell: A charming musical tribute to Los Angeles. Emma Stone plays an aspiring actress who meets an enigmatic jazz musician (Ryan Gosling). They are drawn together by their shared passion for art, but must choose between staying together and chasing their dreams. Although the film’s repeated insistence that we feel sad and nostalgic for the plight of budding LA superstars gets a bit irritating, the beautiful cinematography and hypnotic score make it easy to forgive.
Read our 5 star review of La La Land
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.
Erin Brokovich (2000)
Genre: Biographical drama Dir: Steven Soderbergh Cast: Julia Roberts, Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart, Marg Helgenberger, Tracey Walter, Peter Coyote. Cert: 15 Time: 130 mins
In a nutshell: Steven Soderbergh’s quirky, thoughtful legal drama absorbs throughout, dramatising the true story of Erin Brokovich, a single mother who took on the Pacific Gas and Electric Company for polluting her town’s water supply. Although guilty of elbowing awkward details aside, this is a rousing tale about sticking it to the man - with a typically captivating performance from Julia Roberts.
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.
Read our 4 star review of Warrior
Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers (1993)
Genre: Animation Dir: Nick Park Cast: Peter Sallis, Peter Hawkins. Cert: U Time: 30 mins
In a nutshell: To cover his debts, Wallace takes in a lodger, a devious penguin who drives Gromit from the house. Stealing Wallace’s techno-trousers, the penguin plans an ambitious heist. All Aardman films are miracles in themselves considering the painstaking claymation process, but The Wrong Trousers is a particular triumph with its memorable stunts and clever plotting - while being funnier than most adult comedies.
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.
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.
Read our 4 star review of 1922
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.
Read our 2 star review of Prisoners
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.
Read our 4 star review of Looper
Genre: Animation Dir: Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson Cast: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow. Cert: U Time: 90 mins
In a nutshell: Shrek set the bar for animated feature films with a Simpsons-style blend of adult and infantile humour. Loosely based on William Steig’s novel of the same name, it brilliantly pastiches a host of familiar fairytale characters and introduces a new one in Eddie Murphy’s motormouth donkey. In order to evict the fairytale intruders from his swamp, Shrek strikes a deal with Lord Farquaard and sets off to find him a bride.
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.