Based on the scabrous novel by James Ellroy, the “Demon Dog of American crime fiction”, this is a quite brilliant adaptation that manages to convey much of the book’s complex characterisation and relentless narrative drive.
Described by feared critic Pauline Kael as “perhaps the biggest piece of conceptual art ever made”, Akira Kurosawa’s samurai interpretation of Shakespeare’s Lear is an epic cinematic canvas of colour-coded armies, blood-soaked palaces and isolation.
Filmmaker Ross McElwee is given a grant to make a documentary about the lasting effects of William Tecumseh Sherman’s devastating rampage through the southern states during the American Civil War. Just before shooting begins, however, he is dumped by his girlfriend…
A film of remarkable restraint, this is the perfect introduction to the understated, elegant cinema of Robert Bresson.
Martin Scorsese’s brawling, brutal biopic based on the memoirs of middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta is perhaps his finest achievement, as incisive and traumatic a deconstruction of masculinity as has been put on film.
Astringent French director François Ozon assembled an unparalleled cast of Gallic glamour – including Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert and Emmanuelle Béart – for his endearing, eccentric musical murder mystery from 2002.
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In May 1845, the explorer Sir John Franklin, 129 men and two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, left the coast of Kent bound for the Canadian Arctic. Their mission? To find the North-West Passage route through the Arctic Ocean. They never returned.
A struggling actress in depression-era New York is plucked from obscurity to star in a movie to be shot on the mysterious, and supposedly uninhabited, Skull Island…
Does one have to compromise one’s moral integrity to win a war? The Bush administration certainly thought so, according to this quietly furious film.
If the saccharine excesses of St. Valentine’s Day have left you nauseous, then take refuge in Takashi Miike’s astonishingly grisly tale of crushed dreams, lost love and missing appendages.
Most famous for the faking-orgasm-in-a-restaurant scene, Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron’s bittersweet tale of love and friendship remains as timeless as Meg Ryan’s apparently Botox-enhanced forehead.
Myth and metal collide in Richard Sarafian’s mesmerising counter-culture chase movie, which blends thrilling action with surreal encounters to create a dizzying, existential experience.
Kathleen Byron, who died a week ago, would never better her role in Powell and Pressburger’s haunting tale of winds, ghosts, temptation and madness among the Himalayan peaks.
Shocking audiences on its initial release with its overt sexuality, violence and horror, Hammer’s Technicolor marvel is still ridiculously enjoyable, and scary, 50 years later.
Terry Gilliam’s magnificent nightmare is more than 20 years old, yet seems even more potent today with its wicked blend of terrorism,authoritarian leadership, cosmetic surgery gone crazy and bureaucratic madness.
Lives and lies collide in this wicked, caustic deconstruction of the Australian male.
An against-all-odds adventure from the pen of David Mamet which tackles his usual themes of masculine aggression, secrets and lies, but removes the protagonists from the distractions of civilization.
Based on a poem from the murky depths of Tim “Beetlejuice” Burton’s imagination, this animated tale has two beloved holidays colliding with delirious, demented results.
William Friedkin’s thriller remains as riveting and determinedly adult today as it was on release in 1971, coldly scrutinising the processes of both the police and their quarry.
Endeavour to put Woody Allen’s decidedly average recent work from your mind and settle back for his glorious tale of love, loss and cultural paranoia.
Ten years after making his documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, director Werner Herzog returned to the jungles of south-east Asia to shoot a feature film based on the same story.
With Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort just about to hit cinemas, now is the time to revisit his mesmerising, awardwinning 2004 drama, which, much like The Changeling, is about a young woman struggling against the odds.
Translated from ancient Sufi as “the thread that weaves life together”, Ron Fricke’s elegiac and profound global journey explores our world’s magnificent, and often cruel, heart.
A beautiful, brutal Western and a defining moment in American cinema, this seemingly straightforward tale of revenge is given enormous weight by its candid acknowledgment of the racism inherent in the country’s troubled history.
David Lean’s magnificent film is perhaps less indebted to Charles Dickens’s novel than it is to the profoundly beautiful cinematography of Guy Green.
Postal worker Jacob Singer, traumatised by both a serious injury he suffered in the Vietnam war and the untimely death of his young son, starts to experience terrifying hallucinations. Faceless demons shadow his every move, the surviving members of his platoon are being murdered, and his lover may not be what she appears to be.
Levon Helm’s snare drum cuts through the dense smoke of the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, signalling both the start of something truly special as well as the final act of one of music’s most influential and revolutionary groups, The Band.
An aspiring actress, a horrific accident and a case of amnesia: thus begins David Lynch’s extraordinary trip to the rotten heart of Hollywood.
This sophisticated gem of a farce from Howard Hawks was a notorious, and surprising, box-office disaster. Yet it remains one of the most breathlessly entertaining films of all time.
A motley gang of crooks, led by Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), devises a daring racetrack robbery with a possible pay out of $2m. The plan seems flawless, with Johnny determined that “no one will get hurt”. However, he hadn’t banked on a scheming dame or an annoying dog.
Ethan, the younger of the desperately talented Coen brothers, turns 50 today. This film, the brothers’ ninth together and a wily tribute to the hard-boiled fiction of James M Cain, is a reminder why this should be celebrated.
Two Italian immigrant brothers are running a failing restaurant in America in the 1950s. Primo (Tony Shalhoub) is the irascible chef, a culinary genius unwilling to moderate his food for the American “philistines”, while Secondo (Stanley Tucci) is the harassed manager.
Based (very, very loosely) on Philip K Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, this has Arnold Schwarzenegger on an interplanetary romp to Mars after a memory implant goes horribly wrong and shadowy assassins inexplicably start to hunt him down.
Luis Buñuel’s scabrously hilarious satire digs deep into the same ground that had proved so controversial in Viridiana – the inconsolable separation of the bourgeoisie from the rest of society, and the powerlessness of the church.
A man wakes up in a bath in a dingy hotel with no recollection of who he is and a murdered woman in the bedroom. Fleeing the crime scene, he scours the nightmarish, Escher-esque city for the truth about himself, love, and why the sun never shines.
Roman Polanski’s neo-noir classic begins with a seemingly simple case of adultery, but rapidly escalates into a labyrinthine plot involving water, property and, inevitably, murder.
A soaring crime rate forces the United States government to transform Manhattan Island into the single maximum security prison for the entire country where anyone who goes in doesn’t come out again.
This wonderful “mockumentary” about the weird creatures that frequent pedigree dog shows makes it totally clear from the outset that it is the humans who are really the ones on display.
Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) has spent his whole life in a Maine orphanage under the caring gaze of Dr Larch (Michael Caine), who tutors him to become his successor.
“Are you watching closely?” And so begins The Prestige, Christopher “The Dark Knight” Nolan’s masterful, intricate revenge thriller.
France, 1572. In an era of turbulent religious struggle, beautiful Catholic Marguerite de Valois is forcibly married to the prominent Huguenot Henri de Bourbon, ostensibly as a way to reconcile the divided country.
James Ivory’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel is a masterpiece of understatement, and a wonderful example of how noise is not always needed for compelling drama.
With actor/director Tom McCarthy’s second feature The Visitor about to open in cinemas, it is the perfect time to revisit his charming 2003 debut. Train-obsessed dwarf Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) inherits an abandoned depot in the middle of nowhere, and sees it as the perfect opportunity to hide away from a world in which his small stature just doesn’t fit.
Seventy-five years on and this Marx Brothers caper is still one of the most inventively surreal and consistently hilarious comedies ever.
A guilty pleasure for dad today: Clint Eastwood is “Dirty” Harry Callahan, a jaded San Francisco detective tasked with catching a sniper called Scorpio. His irregular methods cause him to fall foul of his superiors, and the law itself, leaving Scorpio free to kill again.
Selma is a Czechoslovakian immigrant living in Washington State in the 1950s. A genetic disease is making her go blind, and to prevent her young son from suffering the same fate she works double shifts at a factory to pay for an operation for him.
A Lancaster struggles home through a thick fog after a Second World War bombing raid over Europe. The pilot bails out with a ruined parachute, but not before he talks to, and falls in love with, an American radio operator called June.
1805: the Napoleonic wars. “Lucky” Jack Aubrey, Captain of HMS Surprise, hunts a much larger French warship, Acheron, off the South American coast. After a brutal engagement leaves the British ship all but dead in the water, should Jack stagger back to England in shame or press on against all the odds?
Texas, 1916. Short-tempered farm worker Bill convinces his lover Abby to marry their dying boss in order to claim a share of his fortune. However, events conspire to derail the plan, not least Abby’s increasing attraction to the farmer, and his seemingly miraculous recovery.
At the height of the Chinese civil war, People’s Liberation Army captain Gu Zidi leads the shellshocked remnants of his command on what turns out to be their last mission.
Released 50 years ago this week, Alfred Hitchcock’s most desperately cynical film is as black-hearted and twisted a love story as you can find.
The animation genius Hayao (Spirited Away) Miyazaki may have made this film 20 years ago, but its universal message of hope, acceptance and generosity has not dated at all.
Two brothers and a friend find $4 million in a crashed plane deep in a snowy forest, and devise a scheme to keep the money. Soon, however, greed, suspicion and circumstance start to unravel
their carefully constructed plans.
James Cameron raised the bar on what audiences could expect from their action movies with this riproaringly entertaining yarn.
John Boorman’s extraordinary, revisionist take on Arthurian legend boasts a silver Camelot, an eccentric, skull-capped Merlin and a thickly west country-accented King.
If ever a film about kidnap and torture has been accused of seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses, then Rendition is it. When American housewife Isabella’s Egyptian-born husband, Anwar, disappears from a flight to Washington DC, she comes face-to-face with the dubious government practice of “extraordinary rendition”: flying suspected terrorists to a different country for imprisonment or
brutal interrogation without recourse to any law.
Each week, souls of the newly dead arrive at the doors of a dilapidated office building. There, they have three days to choose, with the help of counsellors (also dead) the single happiest or most poignant memory from their lives.
Henri-Georges Clouzot was often referred to as the French Hitchcock. In fact, Alfred Hitchcock felt his soubriquet Master of Suspense was so threatened by the director that he made Psycho in an attempt to outdo Les Diaboliques, Clouzot’s masterful murder mystery.
It is almost impossible to believe that Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction epic is 40 years old, when it remains so thematically daring and so technically perfect.
If you are a history pedant with high blood pressure avoid this sequel to the 1998 film.
With their masterfully low-key crime epic, No Country for Old Men, the Coen Brothers are in a great position to win big at tonight’s Oscars. For the purest demonstration of their storytelling skill, however, look no further than their audacious 1984 debut.
What better way to keep the little ones out from under your feet than with Pixar’s delightful tale of ambition realised and purpose discovered.
If you can look past Joe Wright’s exhausting over-direction and Keira Knightley’s jaw, you will find a simple, compelling and tragic love story just crying out to be heard above the clamour of its numerous award nominations.
This violent re-interpretation of the classic 1957 Glenn Ford western retains the original’s cynical attitude to human nature and greed, while questioning our very modern approach to celebrity.
Bolster yourself before the most depressing day of the year – officially tomorrow – by revisiting this hilariously black-hearted comedy about precarious mental health.
If you know Will Ferrell only as the ridiculously moustachioed misogynist from Anchorman, the supremely arrogant skater in Blades of Glory, or the delightfully dumb racing driver in Talladega Nights, then this fantastical romantic drama will be a revelation.
If you are worried about having gained a few pounds over Christmas, then this sobering documentary should put things into perspective.
This creepy little gem was somewhat overlooked on its cinema release but shouldn’t be missed on DVD. John Cusack plays Mike Enslin, a cynical author who specialises in debunking supernatural phenomena, despite being emotionally haunted by the untimely death of his daughter.
What with reading hundreds of guides about how to make cooking the Christmas dinner a totally stress-free experience, you haven’t actually got round to preparing anything, let alone finding the perfect recipe. But it’s not too late.
The best action thriller of the past year succeeds on the small screen just as well as it did in the multiplexes, with the action sequences seeming even more oppressive as Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne fights his way to the truth through corridors, crowded streets and car parks.
With an opening threat sounding more like the tagline to a horror movie – “the summer floods and why you could be next” – this programme follows the conventions of the “disaster-waiting-to-happen” documentary to the letter.
Who can forget John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever? He is no less unforgettable here, as a woman in a 30lb fat-suit.
The Bourne Ultimatum
The final part of the Bourne trilogy is also the best, with United 93 director Paul Greengrass bringing his unique style of hyper-realism to the action movie genre with exhilarating results.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The boy wizard is back. With Harry and Dumbledore’s warning about the return of the evil Lord Voldemort ignored, a sinister bureaucrat takes control of Hogwarts.
The third (and possibly final) adventure of the grumpy-yet-lovable ogre brings the series to a natural conclusion, and is an ideal way to keep the kids amused on a rainy Sunday afternoon, while providing plenty of laughs for grown-ups as well.
Sarah Beeny can barely contain her disbelief at one of the most ambitious (ie unwise) schemes ever seen on Property Ladder. Wild-eyed Richard and borderline-hysteric Isabelle have had an idea seemingly over far too much coffee) to convert a small house in Chiswick into a luxury family home by digging out an absolutely enormous lower-ground area directly underneath it.
How Hermione and Ron put up with Harry in this, the latest film in the hugely popular series, is beyond me. He’s sullen, inarticulate, rude and spontaneously aggressive – basically your average hormonal teenager.
Nothing screams “weirdly British” like the phrase “transport enthusiast”.
Bruce Willis returns as world-weary cop John McClane in this exhilaratingly bizarre mix of hightech villainy and explosive old-school thrills.
Joe Simpson, famous for his remarkable tale of survival in Touching The Void, returns to the mountains to tell the story of one of mountaineering’s great tragedies.
The cheery owner of the Fat Duck restaurant in Bray takes us on a culinary journey to find the secrets inherent in one of Britain’s most popular dishes – the chicken tikka masala.
Based on the adventures of the Lafayette Escadrille, a squadron of Americans who volunteered to fly for the French during the First World War before the United States entered the war, Flyboys tells the story of a group of young misfits as they find love, life and death in the air.
Less a historical narrative about the Wall and more a biography of its creator, this mesmerising documentary tells the story of Qi Jiguang and his rise from lowly foot soldier to general, Chinese hero and creator of the largest man-made structure on the planet.
Winner of the best foreign-language film award at this year’s Oscars, The Lives Of Others (just released on DVD) is an understated, elegant study of the delicate relationship between art and work, as well as being a cracking Cold War thriller.