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The 100 best movies on Amazon Prime UK, from Four Lions to Four Weddings and a Funeral
As the pandemic rumbles on and we face a winter bereft of the usual festivities, hunkering down at home with on-demand streaming services may be the only thing to keep us sane through the Christmas period.

As the pandemic rumbles on and we face a winter bereft of the usual festivities, hunkering down at home with on-demand streaming services may be the only thing to keep us sane through the Christmas period.

Amazon has plenty of critically acclaimed options, from, to Sam Mendes’ Oscar-winning First World War drama 1917.

But if you’re in search of something a little more light-hearted, there’s a heartwarming Love Actually or tear-jerking The Notebook for every challenging watch.

This is The Telegraph’s film critics’ regularly updated guide to 100 of the best. Most are included with Prime, some cost a few pounds to rent.

Calm with Horses (2020)
Calm with Horses Credit: Film Stills

Genre: Drama Dir: Nick Rowland. Cast: Cosmo Jarvis, Barry Keoghan, Niamh Algar, David Wilmot, Anthony Welsh, Ned Dennehy. Cert: 15 Time: 100 min

In a nutshell: This Irish thriller is a firecracker directing debut for Nick Rowland. Played a brooding Cosmo Jarvis, laconic ex-boxer Arm in west Ireland does the dirty work for a local family of drug dealers. In a performance that’s reminiscent of Tom Hardy’s career-best work in The Drop, Arm makes of this ungentle giant, a tough guy who’s had enough; someone brutally convincing and not to be underestimated.

Read our five star review of Calm with Horses

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)

Dir: Eliza Hittman Starring: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Sharon Van Etten, Ryan Eggold, Théodore Pellerin. Cert: 15 Time: 101 min

In a nutshell: This scalding abortion drama centers on teenage heroine Autumn, who’s magnetically played by first-time actress Sidney Flanigan, as she tried to explain herself in a New York abortion clinic. As Autumn responds to each of the intensely personal questions with one of the title’s four straightforward multiple-choice options, the fog suddenly rolls back and she recalls how she became pregnant.

Read our five star review of Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Portrait of Lady on Fire (2020)

Dir: Céline Sciamma Cast: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino Cert: 15 Time: 120 mins

In a nutshell: Writer-director Céline Sciamma examines the suppressed but lasting power of the female gaze through the life of a reluctant sitter for an undercover artist. Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), a noblewoman living on the coast in 18th-century Brittany is observed from afar by painter-in-disguise Marianne (Noémie Merlant). Sciamma’s splendid, multi-layered conceit manages to carry equal weight as a love story and a manifesto of sorts for feminine art.

Read our four star review of Portrait of Lady on Fire ​

The Invisible Man (2020)
The Invisible ManCredit: Mark Rogers/Universal

Dir: Leigh Whannell Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Benedict Hardie, Oliver Jackson-Cohen Cert: 15 Time: 124 mins

In a nutshell: Elisabeth Moss senses her controlling ex-lover lurking unseen in every corner in this ingenious and often terrifying new spin on the classic HG Wells novel. Equal parts haunted house ride and sober treatise on domestic abuse, this is horror with more on its mind than up its sleeve.

Read our four star review of The Invisible Man

1917 (2019)

Genre: Drama Dir: Sam Mendes Cast: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, Richard Madden, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong. Cert: 15 Time: 118 mins

In a nutshell: Two young British soldiers, played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman, set out on a death-defying no-man’s-land scramble to deliver an urgent message that could save 1,600 lives. The entire film is presented in just two extended, head-spinningly complex tracking shots, though both are in fact stitched together from shorter sequences, and the joins are mostly, if not entirely, invisible. 

Read our review of 1917

The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)

Genre: Drama Dir: Armando Iannucci Cast: Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Jairaj Varsani, Hugh Laurie, Ben Whishaw, Peter Capaldi, Daisy May Cooper Cert: PG Time: 119 min.

In a nutshell: A rollicking, colour-blind Dickens adaptation from master satirist Armando Iannucci. We follow David – adorably played as a boy by Jairaj Varsani and with consummate sparkle and charm as a young man by Dev Patel – from idyllic-then-abused childhood, through his raucous schooldays to a promising and ambitious youth, hampered by family hardships. 

Read our 4 star review of David Copperfield

Carol (2015)

Genre: Drama Dir: Tod Haynes Cast: Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Kyle Chandler Cert: 15 Time: 118 min.

In a nutshell: Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel. Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) works at a department store in Manhattan where she encounters the beautiful Carol (Cate Blanchett leaping over her own highest standards with a subtlety that’s little short of phenomenal.) An illicit relationship begins. 

Read our 5 star review of Carol

Knives Out (2019)

Genre: Drama Dir: Rian Johnson Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette. Cert: 12A Time: 130 mins

In a nutshell: On the occasion of his 85th birthday, with grasping family members gathered all around, world-famous crime writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found in his mansion’s attic snug with his throat slit. Every one of the surviving Thrombeys has a juicy motive for speeding him to the grave. Enter Daniel Craig’s deliberately hammy performance as one Benoit Blanc, a Southern gentleman-detective hired to find the truth.

Read our 5 star review of Knives Out

Hustlers (2019)

Genre: Drama Dir: Lorene Scafaria. Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Cardi B, Lizzo, Stormi Maya, Madeline Brewer, Mercedes Ruehl. Cert: 15, Time: 110 mins

In a nutshell: Based on a 2015 New York Magazine article about a real-life cabal of exotic dancers who juiced Wall Street with renewed zeal after the financial collapse, this is a star vehicle for Jennifer Lopez as Ramona, queen of a New York strip. In a twist on all the all-female heist genre, she and her confederates must go out on the prowl  in late-night cocktail bars, armed with small vials of an MDMA-ketamine blend to slip into the drinks of unsuspecting rich guys, who can then be lured near-helplessly to the private clubs, credit cards at the ready. 

Read our 4 star review of Hustlers

Parasite (2020)

Genre: Drama Dir: Bong Joon-ho. Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun, Chang Hyae-jin. Cert: 15 Time: 131 mins

In a nutshell: A black satirical thriller about the tension between the superficial and the subterranean. It centres on a sly but luckless working-class family, the Kims, whose various lowly cash-in-hand gigs barely sustain them from one meal to the next. But then good fortune strikes: their 20-something son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) is able to bag a job tutoring the teenage daughter of an IT mogul, Dong-ik Park (Lee Sun-kyun) and so begins a hilariously cunning and complex domestic heist, in which the Kims conspire to fleece the Parks for all they are worth, before things take a turn for the violent and the terrifying.

Read our 5 star review of Parasite

The Wolf of Wall Street (2014)

Genre: Drama Dir: Martin Scorsese Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujardin, Margot Robbie, Cristin Milioti, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau. Cert: 18 Time: 180 mins

In a nutshell: Scorsese’s 23rd feature in almost 50 years – and best in more than 20 – is based on a memoir by the stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who founded the investment firm Stratton Oakmont in an abandoned Long Island garage, and spent much of the Nineties swindling his way to an enormous personal fortune. It’s an uproarious, outrageous morality tale and gives us DiCaprio, McConaughey and Hill at their bests.

Read our 5 star review of The Wolf of Wall Street

The Holiday (2006)

Genre: Comedy Dir: Nancy Meyers Cast: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black. Cert: 12A Time: 148 mins

In a nutshell: Two professionally successfully but currently lovelorn thirtysomethings meet on an uncannily well-predicted forerunner of AirBnB and agree to house swap (from either side of the Atlantic) for the Christmas season.

Love Actually (2003)
Love ActuallyCredit: Peter Mountain

Genre: Romantic Comedy Dir: Richard Curtis Cast: Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy. Cert: 15 Time: 145 mins

In a nutshell: Richard Curtis’ now cult classic festive ensemble is as sweet and buttery as a tray of mince pies. It depicts eight loosely connected (and very middle class) London love stories in the run-up to Christmas.

Booksmart (2019)

Genre: Comedy Dir: Olivia Wilde Cast: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis. Cert: 15 Time: 105 mins

In a nutshell: Olivia Wilde’s snappy and funny directorial debut about two graduating high school girls who decide to go wild after years of knuckling down. Nothing Wilde has done in her previous acting career could have tipped us off that she had this film in her, though her sweet, shambolic performance in Joe Swanberg’s 2013 dramedy Drinking Buddies probably comes closest to the tone on screen.

Read our 4 star review of Booksmart

Wild Rose (2019)

Genre:Drama Dir: Tom Harper Cast: Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo, Jamie Sives, Craig Parkinson, James Harkness. Cert: 15 Time: 101 mins

In a nutshell: Relative newcomer Jessie Buckley shines as the lead in this heartening tale of a Scottish woman, fresh out of prison and with two kids, who wants to make it as a country music star. Buckley previously appeared on the BBC’s I’d Do Anything, and puts her vocal chops to good use in this refreshing crowd-pleaser that turns down any easy emotional shortcuts.

Read our 4 star review of Wild Rose

Suspiria (2018)
SuspiriaCredit: Alessio Bolzoni/Amazon Studios

Dir: Luca Guadagnino Cast: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Angela Winkler, Ingrid Caven, Chloë Grace Moretz. Cert: 18 Time: 152 mins

In a nutshell: In a thrilling remake of the 1977 horror film of the same name, a renowned German dance company (led by Tilda Swinton’s enigmatic instructor) falls under the influence of something dark. As dancers disappear, secrets begin to be uncovered which could kill them all. 

Read our 5 star review of Suspiria

Green Book (2019)

Genre: Drama Dir: Peter Farrelly Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco, Dimiter D. Marinov. Cert: 12 Time: 130 mins

In a nutshell: This Best Picture winner caused controversy for advancing a "white saviour" narrative. Telling the true story of Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a working-class Italian-American bouncer who takes on a job as a chauffeur for Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a highly-educated African-American classical pianist, Green Book is a solid if slightly pedestrian film.

Read our 3 star review of Green Book 

  • Read more: The 100 best movies of all time
Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in Green Book
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.

Platoon (1986) 

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.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
Hacksaw RidgeCredit: Mark Rogers

Genre: War drama Dir: Mel Gibson Cast: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Vince Vaughn. Cert: 15 Time: 139 mins

In a nutshell: Mel Gibson’s biographical war film tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian and pacifist who saved 75 men in one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War without firing a gun. Gibson finds a kindred spirit in Doss, an unconventional man of faith, shunned by the establishment. Thick with Christian symbolism, this is a zealous but compelling story of faith and the horrors of war. 

Read our 4 star review of Hacksaw Ridge

The Notebook (2004)

Genre: Romance Dir: Nick Cassavetes Cast: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, James Marsden, Sam Shepard, Joan Allen. Cert: 12 Time: 124 mins

In a nutshell: Classic tear-jerker starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as a young couple who fall in love but are separated by fate. Although at times cringey and sentimental, it manages to capture the pathos lacking in so many similarly pitched films, with strong performances from the two leads. 

Guava Island (2019) 

Genre: Musical Dir: Hiro Murai Cast: Donald Glover, Rihanna, Nonso Anozie, Letitia Wright Cert: 12 Time: 55 mins

In a nutshell: This lean and sumptuous 50-minute short (an Amazon original production) casts Donald Glover as Deni Maroon, an amateur musician and the joyous beating heart of a fictional Caribbean island, who clashes with a rich businessman (Nonso Anozie). Largely an excuse to tie together hit songs by Glover’s alter-ego Childish Gambino, it’s a beautifully shot – if largely inconsequential – slice of island melodrama.

Read our 3 star review of Guava Island 

The Usual Suspects (1995)
Stephen Baldwin, Pete Postlethwaite, Gabriel Byrne in The Usual Suspects

Genre: Crime Dir: Bryan Singer Cast: Pete Postlethwaite, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Baldwin Cert: 18 Time: 104 mins

In a nutshell: This dexterous tour de force is a treat, keeping the audience guessing about whether criminal kingpin Keyser Soze actually exists. Starting at the end of five criminals’ six-week odyssey, it details how a boat came to be blown up, and on each rewatching it seems more complex. Postlethwaite, Spacey and Baldwin effortlessly make Christopher McQuarrie’s tricky script seem plausible.

Midsommar (2019)

Genre: Horror Dir: Ari Aster Cast: Florence Pugh Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Ellora Torchia, Archie Madekwe, Will Poulter. Cert: 18 Time: 104 mins

In a nutshell: Ari Aster’s much-hyped follow up to Hereditary, largely set during a blindingly bright nine-day pagan festival in Sweden, is a delicious prank of a film that’s by turns heroically upsetting and deeply funny. Aster is some new cinematic god of misrule, tickling blossoms under your nose with one hand, while he uses the other to sneak a poisoned blade almost lovingly between your ribs.

Read our 5 star review of Midsommar

Under the Skin (2013)

Genre: Sci-fi Dir: Jonathan Glazer Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Pearson Cert: 15 Time: 108 minutes

In a nutshell: There are shades of Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth in this extraordinary film from the British director Jonathan Glazer. By turns sensual, funereal and entrancing, it finds Scarlett Johansson on breath-snatching femme fatale form as an alien in human disguise who roams the streets of Glasgow, sizing up earthlings to feast on.

The Big Sick (2017) 
The Big SickCredit: Nicole Rivelli

Genre: Romantic Comedy Dir: Michael Showalter Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Adeel Akhtar Cert: 15 Time: 120 mins

In a nutshell: One of the best things a romcom can do is make you feel party to the falling-in-love stuff – and Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan have such tremendous chemistry in this oddly shaped, culture-clash piece from the Judd Apatow workshop, that you may find yourself pulling puppy-dog faces throughout. Here’s the hook: Kazan’s character breaks up with Kumail’s shortly before going into a coma – but once she’s comatose, he finds himself back at her side, doing a kind of affable penance.

Read our 3 star review of The Big Sick

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

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) 

Genre: Comedy Dir: Joel and Ethan Coen Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund Cert: 15 Time: 105 mins

In a nutshell: This often overlooked film from the Coen Brothers follows a week in the career of struggling musician Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) in Sixties New York. A jumble of terrible luck and even worse decisions make for a gloomily amusing film. Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake complete the line up as a dysfunctional married couple and singing partnership.

Read our 5 star review of Inside Llewyn Davis

Frost/Nixon (2009)

Genre: Drama Dir: Ron Howard Cast: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Rebecca, Hall, Toby Jones, Matthew Macfadyen, Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell. Cert: 15 Time: 122 mins

In a nutshell: Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon sets itself up as a prize fight between a yapping underdog and a grizzly bear, telling the story of the 1977 interviews between disgraced president Richard Nixon and British journalist David Frost. Frank Langella and Michael Sheen strike up a riveting partnership as the two respective leads in this punchy retelling. 

Read our 3 star review of Frost/Nixon 

Disobedience (2018) 

Genre: Drama Dir: Sebastián Lelio Cast: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola, Allan Corduner, Anton Lesser, Nicholas Woodeson Cert: 15 Time: 114 mins

In a nutshell: Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams star in a story of illicit lesbian love played out under the disapproving gaze of north London’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, as two women given a chance to reunite when Weisz’s character returns from the US for her father’s funeral. There’s real potency to the sense of shame and condemnation they feel, and the performances are a knockout.

Vice (2018)

Genre: Comedy Dir: Adam McKay Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam, Rockwell, Tyler Perry, Alison Pill, Lily Rabe, Jesse Plemons. Cert: 15 Time: 132 mins

In a nutshell: Christian Bale undergoes a dramatic transformation, bodysuit and all, to portray pantomime villain and presidential puppeteer Dick Cheney, who served as Bush’s Vice-President during the Iraq War. A head-spinning shock-and-awe satire that comes in hot then cranks up the thermostat to infernal – a Molotov cocktail of biopic, documentary and black comedy, with a thrillingly short fuse.

Read our 4 star review of Vice

Still Alice (2014) 
Julianne Moore as Alice in Still AliceCredit: Linda Kallerus/AP

Genre: Drama Dir: Wash Westmoreland, Richard Glatzer Cast: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth Cert: 12 Time: 101 mins

In a nutshell: Moore finally netted a long-overdue Oscar for this modest, piercing drama about a linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The increments of her decline are acted with devastating subtlety, and there’s terrific support from Stewart as her youngest daughter.

The Disaster Artist (2017)

Genre: Biographical comedy Dir: James Franco Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison, Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver. Cert: 15  Time: 103 mins

In a nutshell: James Franco tells the true story behind The Room, widely considered one of the worst films ever made. Tommy Wiseau and actor Greg Sestero move to Los Angeles to look for Hollywood stardom, before turning their attention to filmmaking. A lively companion piece to the original – but the best possible account of The Room’s beguiling awfulness remains The Room.

Read our 3 star review of The Disaster Artist

Read more: The best British TV shows

Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Genre: Drama Dir: Charlie Kaufman Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest. Cert: 15 Time: 123 mins

In a nutshell: Charlie Kaufman makes his directorial debut after making his name as a screenwriter, behind a series of modern classics including Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich. Synecdoche New York follows an ailing theatre director (Charlie Kaufman) who develops an unhealthy obsession with realism. In keeping with his subject, Kaufman blurs the lines between fiction and reality in this at times alienating but remarkable postmodern fiasco. 

Read our 5 star review of Synecdoche, New York

The Children Act (2017) 
The Children Act

Genre: Drama Dir: Richard Eyre Starring: Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Fionn Whitehead, Ben Chaplin, Jason Watkins Cert: 12 Time: 105 mins

In a nutshell: You could hardly cook up a juicier moral quandary than the one at The Children Act’s heart. And cooked up is exactly what the new film from Richard Eyre (Iris, Notes on a Scandal) often feels like. Adapted by Ian McEwan from his own 2014 novel, it is a drama in which, like a Michelin-star-wannabe dish, every component feels painstakingly tweezered into place. They do rest on one impeccable, locally sourced ingredient, though: a tremendous performance from Emma Thompson, in her first lead role of substance since Saving Mr Banks (2013).

Read our 3 star review of The Children Act

Brazil (1985)

Genre: Sci-fi Dir: Terry Gilliam Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian, Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Ian Richardson, Peter Vaughan. Cert: 15 Time: 143 mins

In a nutshell: Terry Gilliam’s off-beat sci-fi fantasy about a shy bureaucrat in an Orwellian future gave De Niro a strange comic turn as the oddly named maintenance man Harry Tuttle, who moonlights as a terrorist and memorably arrives to fix the ventilation shaft in full night camouflage garb. It was the first glimpse of De Niro in full comic mode and a classic cameo in a great movie.

The Commuter (2018) 

Genre: Action Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra; Starring: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill, Jonathan Banks, Elizabeth McGovern, Andy Nyman, Florence Pugh, Dean-Charles Chapman Cert: 15 Time: 104 mins

In a nutshell: In yet another of his post-Taken revenge thrillers, Liam Neeson plays an insurance manager who makes a strange deal witha mystery woman (Vera Farmiga) on his commuter train: identify a passenger on board “who doesn’t belong”, plant a tracking device on them, and collect a large sum of money for his efforts. Because this is a Liam Neeson movie, Michael quickly discovers that Farmiga’s scheme is far bigger than the moral dilemma she flirtatiously described, when his wife and son are threatened with abduction.

Read our 4 star review of The Commuter 

Nowhere Boy (2009) 
Anne Marie Duff as Julia and Aaron Johnson as John Lennon in Nowhere BoyCredit:  Film Stills

Genre: Biopic Drama Dir: Sam Taylor-Wood Cast: Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Anne-Marie Duff Cert: 15 Time: 98 mins

In a nutshell: He doesn’t look much like the young John Lennon, but Aaron Taylor-Johnson makes a decent fist of playing the future Beatle in his formative years in Sam Taylor-Wood’s directing debut. Kristin Scott Thomas is a particular highlight as John’s uptight aunt.

The BFG (2016)

Genre: Fantasy Dir: Stephen Spielberg Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader. Cert: PG Time: 117 mins

In a nutshell: Charming adaptation of Roald Dahl’s much-loved children’s book starring Mark Rylance as the titular Big Friendly Giant, who abducts Sophie in the middle of the night and carries her off to giant country. Stephen Spielberg’s dreamlike picture captures Dahl’s playful humour with some groundbreaking use of motion capture technology and CGI. 

Read our 5 star review of The BFG

The 39 Steps (1935)

Genre: Thriller Dir: Alfred Hitchcock Cast: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Lucie Mannheim, Godfrey Tearle, Peggy Ashcroft, John Laurie. Cert: U Time: 86 mins

In a nutshell: An average Joe stumbles upon a plot to steal British military secrets by a shady organisation called the 39 Steps. Alfred Hitchcock’s pacey spy caper set the bar for modern entertainment films with its idiosyncratic blend of suspense and comic relief.

The Mercy (2018)
The MercyCredit: Dean Rogers

Genre: Drama Dir: James Marsh Cast: Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis Cert: 12 Time: 102 mins

In a nutshell: The tragic story of Donald Crowhurst’s bid to win the round-the-world yacht race in 1969 is ably dramatised by James Marsh, with Colin Firth digging into the man’s lost soul – and giving his best performance in years. Rachel Weisz co-stars as his wife, Clare.

Read our 3 star review of Mercy

Stan and Ollie (2019) 

Genre: Drama Dir: Jon S. Baird Cast: Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Nina, Arianda, Rufus Jones, Danny Huston. Cert: PG Time: 97 mins

In a nutshell: Laurel and Hardy tour the music halls of Britain after their Hollywood star begins to wane, along with that of the silent movie. Darker, more human portrayal than normally given to two of cinema’s greatest clowns. Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly establish an impressive partnership of their own with striking moments of light and shade. 

Read our 4 star review of Stan and Ollie

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (2011) 

Genre: Documentary Dir: Alex Gibney Cast: N/A Cert: 15 Time: 106 mins

In a nutshell: Reliable muckraker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, We Steal Secrets) takes on the abuse of power by the Catholic Church, focusing on the case of four deaf men who were victimised by the same priest in the Sixties.

Read our 4 star review of Mea Maxima Culpa

Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) 
Fantastic Mr. Fox

Genre: Animation Dir: Wes Anderson Cast: George Clooney (voice), Meryl Streep (voice), Bill Murray (voice) Cert: PG Time: 87 mins

In a nutshell: George Clooney voices the eponymous hero in this fantastic stop-motion animation of Roald Dahl’s much-loved children’s book. Director Wes Anderson finds the charm and humour in Dahl’s story and adds lots of his own. This is an Anderson film with an overwhelming sense of Seventies nostalgia (think Clangers). It’s a dazzlingly imaginative and poetically inflected comic caper.

Whitney (2018)

Genre: Documentary Dir: Kevin Macdonald Cast: N/A Cert: 15 Time: 120 mins

In a nutshell: Kevin Macdonald’s documentary tells the life story of Whitney Houston with input – some of it cagey – from her family and friends. Although it is curiously unmoving as a memorial, there’s a bombshell about her childhood buried near the end and her tragic burnout is cogently analysed.

Read our 3 star review of Whitney 

Side Effects (2013) 

Genre: Thriller Dir: Steven Soderbergh Cast: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones Cert: 15 Time: 106 mins

In a nutshell: Side Effects is set waist-deep in the moral murk of prescription-drug culture, with Jude Law as a well meaning psychiatrist testing a new depression med, and Rooney Mara as his troubled young patient-stroke-guinea pig. It begins as a sober psychological thriller, which Soderbergh ferments with a chemist’s precision into a queasy Hitchcockian whodunit. Pathologically satisfying stuff.

Read our 5 star review of Side Effects

Late Night (2019)
Late NightCredit: Emily Aragones

Genre: Comedy Dir: Nisha Ganatra Cast: Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, Max Casella, Hugh Dancy, John Lithgow, Denis O’Hare, Reid Scott, Amy Ryan. Cert: 15 Time: 102 mins

In a nutshell: Enjoyable if slightly limp comedy about a late night talk-show host (Emma Thompson) forced to hire a female writer (Mindy Kayling) after falling ratings. Funny in parts with some satisfying shots at the increasingly annoying American talk-show scene, it always seems short of the biting satire and hateful thrill of Devil Wears Prada. 

Read our 3 star review of Late Night​

A Bronx Tale (1993) 

Genre: Drama Dir: Robert De Niro Cast: Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri, Lillo Brancato Cert: 18 Time: 141 mins

In a nutshell: A superb directorial debut from Robert De Niro who adapted Chazz Palminteri’s one-character play for this gripping film. It follows an Italian–American teenager (Francis Capra) and the battle of two father figures – one his father Lorenzo (De Niro), the other a local mobster (Chazz Palminteri), fighting for influence in his life.

Carol (2015) 

Genre: Drama Dir: Todd Haynes Starring: Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Kyle Chandler Cert: 15 Time: 116 minutes

In a nutshell: Everything in this long-gestating adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel feels weighted to perfection. The film’s a smorgasbord of edible Fifties design which finds meaning in the smallest details. Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) and her maybe-girlfriend Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) are inexorably drawn together, despite the disapproval of Carol’s husband and Therese’s boyfriend.  

Read our 5 star review of Carol

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)
The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society

Genre: Drama Dir: Mike Newell Cast: Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Glen Powell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Courtenay, Penelope Wilton, Katherine Parkinson, Matthew Goode Cert: 12 Time: 124 mins

In a nutshell: Mystery, comedy and romance combine in this hearty, comforting casserole of a film, adapted by Mike Newell from the book group favourite. Lily James leads the ensemble cast as a writer unearthing wartime secrets on the island. It is a confection in every sense, but plump with natural sweetness.

Read our 4 star review of The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society 

Happy Feet (2006) 

Genre: Animation Dir: George Miller Cast: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Hugh, Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Steve Irwin. Cert: U Time: 108 mins

In a nutshell: Endearing animation comedy about a penguin who cannot sing, crucial for finding a soul mate, but is a gnarly tap dancer. Visually dazzling, funny and with some surprisingly catchy musical numbers, Happy Feet is a guilty pleasure. 

Fight Club (1999) 

Genre: Drama Dir: David Fincher Cast: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter Cert: 18 Time: 136 mins

In a nutshell: Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, this gripping dark satire includes one of Brad Pitt’s best performances. He plays salesman Tyler Durden, who, along with Ed Norton’s nameless character, establishes an anti-capitalist network centred around an underground fight club. Its members meet to unleash the primal violent urges kept bottled up during the day.

Paddington (2014) 

Genre: Family Dir: Paul King Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters Cert: PG Time: 95 mins

In a nutshell: This is as warm and welcome as a hot pair of socks on a winter morning. The bear from Darkest Peru is brought beautifully to life by Ben Whishaw and the digital artists at visual effects house Framestore; it’s every bit as charming as Michael Bond’s original. Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins are terrific as Paddington’s guardians Mr and Mrs Brown. Look out for a very game Nicole Kidman as a fanatical taxidermist.

Read our 4 star review of Paddington 

Early Man (2018) 

Genre: Animation Dir: Nick Park Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall, Miriam Margolyes, Rob Brydon, Kayvan Novak, Gina Yashere, Richard Ayoade, Johnny Vegas (voices) Cert: PG Time: 89 mins

In a nutshell: When a Stone Age tribe are shooed from their valley by Bronze Age invaders, they vow to win back their home in a high-stakes football match – because, this being an Aardman film, that’s exactly how it works. The stop-motion studio’s imagination feels ever-so-slightly hemmed in by the underdog sports plot, but the craftsmanship is dazzling, and the film’s sense of fun is enormous.

Read our 4 star review of Early Man

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

Genre: Drama Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone. Cert: 15 Time: 121 mins

In a nutshell: Heart surgeon Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) has it all: a storied career, an elegant spouse (Nicole Kidman) and two cute children. But then along comes Martin (Barry Keoghan), a strange teen with some sense-defying news that sets the family to self-destruct. Hair-raising absurdism with a venomously funny streak.

Read our 5 star review of The Killing of a Sacred Deer

To Catch a Thief (1955)
Alfred Hitchcock's cameo in To Catch A ThiefCredit: Film Stills

Genre: Thriller Dir: Alfred Hitchcock Cast: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, John Williams,Charles Vanel, Brigitte Auber. Cert: PG Time: 106 mins

In a nutshell: A reformed cat burglar (Cary Grant) must save his reputation after a spate of robberies targeting wealthy citizens. One of Hitchcock’s lesser known films, and low on his trademark suspense, but eminently watchable and stylish.

What Happens in Vegas (2008) 

Genre: Romantic Comedy Dir: Tom Vaughan Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Cameron Diaz, Queen Latifah Cert: 12 Time: 100 mins

In a nutshell: Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz play mismatched New Yorkers – she’s a workaholic, he’s a slob – who meet while drowning their respective sorrows in Las Vegas and drunkenly tie the knot; before they can get a quickie porce, however, he hits the jackpot with her quarter. Back in Manhattan, a judge decrees they stick together for six months or forfeit the three million dollars, leading to a battle of wits as each tries to trick the other and claim the dosh. Diaz, as always, is game for anything, and Kutcher is the cutest slacker you ever saw.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) 

Genre: Comedy Dir: Declan Lowney Cast: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Tim Key Cert: 15 Time: 90 mins

In a nutshell: Films based on sitcoms tend to play broader than the real series, and this feature-length outing for Steve Coogan’s fading media gasbag is no exception. The plot has Alan held hostage at a radio station in Norfolk. Old friends, such as his assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu), join in. Viewers hoping for new catchphrases will be happy, but Partridge loses his Pooterish potency when moving from talk to action.

Read our 3 star review of Alpha Papa

Logan Lucky (2017) 
Logan Lucky

Genre: Comedy / Crime Dir: Steven Soderbergh Cast: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig Cert: 12 Time: 116 mins

In a nutshell: As you might expect from Steven Soderbergh, the director of Ocean’s Eleven, this latest heist caper runs like clockwork: there’s a small fortune to be stolen from a speedway track, and a jostling ensemble (including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Daniel Craig) needed to do it. What has changed this time is the setting: blue-collar West Virginia, land of recession, is worlds away from the coastal milieus of the Ocean’s franchise. Great fun.

Read our 4 star review of Logan Lucky

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.

Paddington 2 (2017)

Genre: Live-action animation Dir: Paul King Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw. Cert: U Time: 104 mins

In a nutshell: So good it makes the list twice, the Paddington series is a lesson in how to put a beloved children’s book character on the big screen. In the second installment, the marmalade-loving Peruvian bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is framed for a crime he did not commit. Irresistibly funny and beautifully shot, director Paul King comes up trumps again.  

Read our 4 star review of Paddington 2

What We Do in the Shadows (2014) 


Genre: Horror/Comedy Dir: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement Cast: Jemaine Clement, Taikia Waititi, Jonathan Brugh Cert: 15 Time: 85 min

In a nutshell: From such unpreposessing ideas as a largely plotless vampire mockumentary are desperately funny films spawned. This irresistible Kiwi offering about a quartet of bloodsuckers has at least one hilarious line a minute, and it’s amazing what legs the basic joke has.

Read our 4 star review of What We Do in the Shadows

The Imitation Game (2014) 

Genre: Drama Dir: Morten Tyldum Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode Cert: 12 Time: 112 mins

In a nutshell: This film gives a fine account of mathematician Alan Turing by juggling three time frames: the school years, the Enigma-cracking mission at Bletchley Park years, and the persecuted aftermath. Benedict Cumberbatch is compelling as Turing and cracks open an imaginary window onto the genius’s torment, though the script adopts a proper attitude towards what should stay private.

Read our 3 star review of The Imitation Game

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Genre: Drama Dir: Barry Jenkins Cast: KiKi Layne, tephan James, Colman Domingo, Teyonah, Parris, Michael Beach, Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Regina King. Cert: 15 Time: 117 mins

In a nutshell: Barry Jenkins’s follow up to the Oscar winning Moonlight premiered at the London Film Festival, and follows the joy and despair of a young black couple in 1950s New York City when Fonny (James) is wrongly incarcerated and Tish works to free her husband before their child is born. 

Read our 5 star review of If Beale Street Could Talk

Manchester by the Sea (2016) 
Casey Affleck in Manchester by the SeaCredit: Claire Folger/K Period Media

Genre: Drama Dir: Kenneth Lonergan Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler Cert: 15 Time: 134 mins

In a nutshell: Lonergan, the great American dramatist behind Margaret and Gangs of New York, picked up well-deserved Oscar nods for Best Screenplay and Best Direction with this story of broken lives in Massachusetts. Casey Affleck gives an intensely sorrowful performance as a man tasked with caring for his teenage nephew (Chandler) after his brother’s death.

Read our 4 star review of Manchester by the Sea

Don’t Worry he Won’t Get Far on Foot (2018)

Genre: Drama Dir: Gus Van Sant Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara Cert: 15 Time: 114 min

In a nutshell: Joaquin Phoenix plays the tetraplegic, alcoholic cartoonist John Callahan, in Gus Van Sant’s Oscar-baity vehicle about addiction and recovery. He transforms physically for the role, of course, but the film depends just as much on how recognisably Phoenix-y he is – what humour, energy, humanity and understanding he pours into his performance.

Read our 3 star review of Don’t Worry he Won’t Get Far on Foot

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Genre: Comedy Dir: Ron Howard Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon. Cert: PG Time: 105 mins

In a nutshell: Based on Dr Seuss’s classic children’s book. The Grinch plots to steal Christmas from the insufferably quaint townsfolk of Whoville. Ron Howard’s quirky adaptation gives Jim Carey one of his weirdest, most well-suited roles – 105 minutes of boundless hyperactivity, impressions and slapstick. Heaven or hell?

Brooklyn (2015)

Genre: Drama Dir: John Crowley Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Zegen Cert: 15 Year: 2015

In a nutshell: Saoirse Ronan stars as a young woman forced to move from Fifties rural Ireland to New York, in Nick Hornby’s powerfully understated adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s coming-of-age novel. It won the 2015 Bafta for Best British Film, while Ronan earned a nod at both the Oscars and the Golden Globes.

Read our 4 star review of Brooklyn

A Bigger Splash (2015) 

Genre: Drama Dir: Luca Guadagnino Cast: Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson Cert: 15 Time: 122 mins

In a nutshell: Come for the Olympic-grade dad-dancing (courtesy of a never-better Fiennes) and stay for a serpentine comic sex thriller, dripping with glamour and intrigue. Guadagnino (I Am Love) reworks Jacques Deray’s La Piscine with Swinton as an androgynous rock goddess and an impossibly cool supporting cast.

Silence (2016) 

Genre: Drama Dir: Martin Scorsese Cast: Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, Adam Driver Cert: 15 Time: 157 mins

In a nutshell: Martin Scorsese’s monumental epic follows the search for a devout Portuguese Jesuit priest (Andrew Garfield) who has gone native in 17th-century Japan. Stunning.

Read our 5 star review of Silence

Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

Genre: Documentary Dir: Malik Bendjelloul Cert: 12 Time: 86 mins

In a nutshell: The late Malik Bendjelloul’s film is one of the most uplifting documentaries in recent memory. It tells the story of a Detroit folk singer called Sixto Rodriguez who became a bigger star in South Africa in the Seventies than Elvis Presley. The lilting, honeyed soundtrack, made up of Rodriguez’s own songs, makes his relative obscurity here seem all the more puzzling. Happily, this film attempts to set that right.

Read our 4 star review of Searching for Sugarman

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Genre: Drama Dir: Robert Mulligan Cast: Gregory Peck, John Megna, Frank Overton Cert: PG Time: 124 mins

In a nutshell: Deftly adapted from Harper Lee’s novel, this poignant coming-of-age tale is considered one the finest dramas of all time. Set in the Thirties in a racially charged Alabama, the story is seen through the eyes of a young white girl whose father (an Oscar-winning Gregory Peck) decides to defend a black man (Brock Peters) charged with rape.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Genre: Fantasy Dir: Guillermo Del Toro Cast: Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Sergi Lopez Cert: 15 Time: 199 mins

In a nutshell: The real and the imaginary are brought together in striking fashion in Guillermo del Toro’s wonderfully inventive award-winning film. Set in Spain five years after the Civil War, the tale comes via 10-year-old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), who goes to live with her new stepfather, the vicious Capitán Vidal (Sergi López). There, she meets the faunlike god creature Pan, who gives her three challenges. Magical.

Control (2007)

Genre: Drama Dir: Anton Corbijn Cast: Sam Riley, Samantha Morton Cert: 15 Time: 119 mins

In a nutshell: Sam Riley (SS-GB) stars as troubled Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis in this moving portrait of the seminal Eighties post-punk band. Director Anton Corbijn is as acclaimed for his photography as his filmmaking, and it shows; this black-and-white biopic is a gorgeous piece of visual art.

Read our review of Control

The Duellists (1977) 

Genre: Drama Dir: Ridley Scott Cast: Keith Carradine, Harvey Keitel Cert: PG Time: 96 mins

In a nutshell: Ridley Scott’s debut, and the kind of exercise he ought to revisit: based on a Joseph Conrad short story, it’s about the lifelong quarrel between two Napoleonic officers (Harvey Keitel, Keith Carradine), whose frequent skirmishes are brilliantly authentic.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) 
Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Genre: Spy Thriller Dir: Tomas Alfredson Cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch Cert: 15 Time: 124 mins

In a nutshell: This superb adaptation of John le Carré’s brilliant, intricate Cold War spy novel is a triumph. The espionage drama follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service, with Gary Oldman spearheading the excellent ensemble cast. It’s funny, seductive and suspenseful.

Read our 5 star review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 

Free Fire (2017) 

Genre: Action Dir: Ben Wheatley Cast: Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy Cert: 15 Time: 89 mins

In a nutshell: This breathless shoot-’em-up takes place almost entirely inside a warehouse in Boston, in 1978, where an IRA delegation are collecting a shipment of assault rifles from a South African gun-runner and his seamy associates. When the deal goes south, the film descends into a bloodbath, but one that retains excitement, tension and purpose.

Read our 4 star review of Free Fire

Coco Before Chanel (2009) 

Genre: Romance Dir: Anne Fontaine Cast: Audrey Tautou, Benoît Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola Cert: 12 Time: 105 mins

In a nutshell: Audrey Tautou single-handedly elevates what would otherwise be a dutiful, sometimes plodding biopic. The story traces Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel’s life from childhood in an orphanage, includes her years as a struggling tavern singer and deals with her love affairs with rich suitors (Benoit Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola). It leaves her at the dawn of her stellar career. Tautou offsets her cuteness with square-jawed determination, a sulky demeanour and a will of iron.

Read our 3 star review of Coco Before Chanel

Macbeth (2015)

Genre: Tragedy Dir: Justin Kurzel Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, David Thewlis Cert: 15 Time: 110 mins

In a nutshell: With its blockbuster battle scenes and spine-tingling staging, is this as good as Shakespeare on film gets? This adaptation of the tragedy from Australian film-maker Justin Kurzel is raw and visceral, and its poetry really gets to you. Mostly, though, it’s built around powerful performances from Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

Man Up (2015) 

Genre: Romantic Comedy Dir: Ben Palmer Cast: Lake Bell, Simon Pegg, Rory Kinnear Cert: 15 Time: 88 mins

In a nutshell: Ben Palmer’s likeable, and perfectly British, romcom (that isn’t really very romantic) stars a sizzling Simon Pegg and Lake Bell. Nancy (Bell) plays a Bridget Jones-type character. On the way to her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, however, she is mistakenly identified as the blind date whom Jack (Pegg) has been waiting for at Waterloo station. Nancy goes along with it and they wind up having a ball.

Man UpCredit:  Giles Keyte
Heat (1995) 

Genre: Action Dir: Michael Mann Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight Cert: 15 Time: 171 mins

In a nutshell: Bringing together the irresistible pairing of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, Heat is tautly plotted and superbly acted thriller. Its premise is simple: a dedicated LAPD cop (Pacino) is on the trail of a professional bank robber (De Niro, his last great role), who lives by the callous motto "Never have anything in your life that you can’t walk out on in 30 seconds flat." 

Scrooge – A Christmas Carol (1951, b/w)

Genre: Fantasy Dir: Brian Desmond Hurst Cast: Alastair Sim, Kathleen Harrison, Mervyn Johns, Michael Hordern Cert: U Time: 83 mins

In a nutshell: Brian Desmond Hurst’s touching film is still the definitive film version of Charles Dickens’s beloved story. Alastair Sim is a magisterial Scrooge, faced with the ghost of old partner Marley (Michael Hordern), and those of Christmases past, present and "yet to come".

The Fountain (2006) 

Genre: Romance Dir: Darren Aronofsky Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Marcello Bezina Cert: 15 Time: 96 mins

In a nutshell: Darren Aronofsky had his work cut out with this metaphysical melodrama about the quest for eternal life. Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman star in a visually resplendent time-travelling three-pronged narrative. The leap-frogging in time is a little bewildering.

Toni Erdmann (2016) 

Genre: Comedy Dir: Maren Ade Cast: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller, Michael Wittenborn Cert: 15 Time: 162 mins

In a nutshell: The best comedy of 2016 was also the most unlikely: it’s nearly three hours long, and set in the world of German management consultancy. When a depressed go-getter (Sandra Hüller) finds her work interrupted by ridiculous pranks from her own father (Peter Simonischek), healing gusts of laughter repair their relationship.

Read our 5 star review of Toni Erdmann

Once Upon a Time in America (1984) 

Genre: Drama Dir: Sergio Leone Cast: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern Cert: 18 Time: 223 mins

In a nutshell: The much-lauded director of Westerns, Sergio Leone, gives us an epic saga of gangland America. Charting the lives of New York mobsters Noodles (Robert De Niro) and Max (James Woods) over four decades, the narrative is compelling and De Niro’s controlled performance makes this a classic.

The Founder (2017) 

Genre: Drama Dir: John Lee Hancock Cast: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch Cert: 12 Time: 113 mins

In a nutshell: Between 1955 and 1984, a milkshake mixer salesman turned McDonald’s from a California burger stand into the Godzilla of fast-food brands. This bright, absorbing biopic, starring Michael Keaton in his first lead role since winning the Best Actor Oscar for Birdman, shows how he did it.

Read our 3 star review of The Founder 

No Stone Unturned (2018) 

Genre: Documentary Dir: Alex Gibney Cert: 15 Time: 111 mins

In a nutshell: On a summer’s night in 1994, six men were gunned down in the small Northern Irish town of Loughinisland as they watched an Ireland Vs Italy World Cup match in the pub. Despite the fact that police quickly found the getaway car and weapons used in the murders, no-one was ever charged. In this documentary, Oscar-winner Alex Gibney explores the unsolved case and allegations that police colluded with the killers. 

The Bling Ring (2013)

Genre: Comedy Dir: Sofia Coppola Cast: Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julien, Georgia Rock, Emma Watson, Leslie Mann. Cert: 15 Time: 90 mins

In a nutshell: Sofia Coppola’s biting and stylish comic drama follows a group of Los Angeles high schoolers who decide to burgle the homes of their idols (Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Lindsay Lohan). The film is based on a true story, as detailed in Vanity Fair, but its incisive take on celebrity culture is so timely that if it hadn’t happened, someone would have had to make it up. Emma Watson is among the stars.  

Read our 4 star review of The Bling Ring

The Hurt Locker (2008) 

Genre: War Dir: Kathryn Bigelow Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty Cert: 15  Time: 128 mins

In a nutshell: The Hurt Locker has been talked up as that rarest of things: a film about the war in Iraq that doesn’t preach or pontificate, that isn’t instant box-office poison. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, whose track record includes Point Break (1991) and Strange Days (1995), it’s a super-sharp, nerve-shredding thriller that reveals more about the realities of contemporary military conflict than most documentaries, is as fissile and explosive as a Transformers movie, and delivers a powerful and often haunting critique of American society both at home and as its faultlines are expressed abroad. 

Read our 4 star review of The Hurt Locker

Jeremy Renner in The Hurt LockerCredit:  AP
Legend (2015)

Genre: Biographical drama Dir: Brian Hegleland Cast: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Colin, Morgan, David Thewlis, Duffy, Christopher Eccleston. Cert: 18 Time: 131 mins

In a nutshell: Emerging from the well-mined cinematic pit of London’s most famous gangster duo, this is a fast and loose take from writer-director Brian Helgeland, who centres his rise and fall story in the brother’s wildly differing personalities. Tom Hardy takes a dual role as Ronnie and Reggie Kray, the gangster twins who rose from boxing careers cut short by trouble with the law to become, briefly, almost-respectable businessmen. Long and muddled but with some enjoyable moments.

Room (2015) 

Genre: Thiller Dir: Lenny Abrahamson Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, William H Macy, Joan Allen Cert: 15 Time: 118 mins

In a nutshell: This disturbing – but ultimately uplifting – drama won Brie Larson both a Bafta and an Oscar for her portrayal of a brutalised mother, imprisoned for years in a garden shed with her 5-year-old son. ​Based on Emma Donoghue’s best-selling novel, it’s a powerful tale of love and hope in the face of almost unimaginable cruelty.  

Read our 3 star review of Room

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Genre: Action Dir: Curtis Hanson Cast: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James, Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito. Cert: 18 Time: 138 mins

In a nutshell:  Three cops try to solve a series of killings: Guy Pearce’s ambitious young hot-shot, Kevin Spacey’s cynical celebrity, and Russell Crowe’s hot-headed bruiser. Lesser men than Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson would have baulked at adapting LA Confidential for the screen. This is a film with sex, drugs, death, obsession and corruption coursing through its veins.

Read our 5 star review of L.A. Confidential

The Client (1995)

Genre: Drama Dir: Joel Schumacher Cast: Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones, Mary-Louise, Parker, Anthony LaPaglia, Anthony Edwards, Ossie Davis. Cert: 15 Time: 121 mins

In a nutshell: Based on John Grisham’s novel of the same name, Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones face off in this gritty legal drama about a young boy who comes across dangerous information about a prominent politician. Well-paced and well-acted, but a bit old-school and predictable.

Four Lions (2010) 

Genre: Comedy Dir: Chris Morris Starring: Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak Cert: 15 Time: 97 minutes

In a nutshell: Satirist Chris Morris inspired a miasma of condemnation back in 2010 for having the temerity to explore the funny side of terrorism. But his boldness paid off – Four Lions is an explosively funny farce charting the journey of five hapless British would-be jihadist bombers, as they plan a mass suicide attack.  

Read our 4 star review of Four Lions

Benedict Cumberbatch in Four Lions
Mud (2013)

Genre: Drama Dir: Jeff Nichols Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard, Reese Witherspoon. Cert: 12 Time: 130 mins

In a nutshell: A wholly pleasant, Mark Twain-ish coming-of-age fable written and directed by Jeff Nichols and starring a resurgent Matthew McConaughey. Two 14-year-old boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan, unearthed in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland, making his screen debut), discover a flat-bottomed skiff stranded high in a tree, on a small island in the Mississippi Delta.

Read our 3 star review of Mud

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Genre: Action Dir: Martin McDonagh Cast: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko. Cert: 15 Time: 110 mins

In a nutshell: Martin McDonagh’s comic thriller Seven Psychopaths is a film about films. An aspiring screenwriter gets caught up in the crime underworld when a friend abducts a powerful gangster’s pet. The script is infused with Tarantino tricks: the sly melding of violence and irony, topless hookers, casual misogyny, slashed throats and exploding heads. This film tries to satirise and sell those things at the same time, but such strategies might have felt cleverer five or 10 years ago, but since then we’ve had a surfeit of artful incongruity in cinema. The film still has just enough verbal dazzle and structural daring to be worth seeing. But only just.

Read our 3 star review of Seven Psychopaths

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Genre: Crime Dir: Steven Soderbergh Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy García, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts. Cert: 12  Time: 117 mins

In a nutshell: Star-studded crime caper about a group of eleven specialists brought together by Danny Ocean (George Clooney) to rob three of Las Vegas’ biggest casinos. Funny and fast-paced enough to forgive the over-wrought suspense and silly score.

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