Classic

You must experience these.

Hannah Arendt

Excellent film (currently on Netflix) focused on eponymous philosopher/political theorist, who reported for The New Yorker on the trail of Nazi Adolf Eichmann. Her criticisms of the actions of Jewish leaders in Europe led to much controversy. Incredible acting, makes philosophical debate utterly compelling.

Classic

The Hunt (Jagten)

Hard to say anything without spoiling this must watch film. An accusation of child abuse and consequential suspicion. Outstanding.

Classic

Interstellar

Brilliant, sci-fi from Christopher Nolan. Not as easy to watch as Inception etc but with substance and enough thrills to keep things moving. One has, of course, to ignore some of the details of the 'science'; but with a surprisingly coherent conclusion, beautiful cinematography (see it in IMAX if you can) and epic soundtrack, I highly recommend it.

Classic

Boyhood

Incredible film made over 12 years, centred on a boy growing up and his family; I don't want to say much more, but you must see this: probably the best film of 2014 so far.

Classic

Calvary

A bold film following a priest who has been warned in confession that he will be murdered next Sunday morning. Big themes, in contemporary, largely secular, rural Irish society with extremely sharp dialogue. Compelling stuff.

Classic

Lion

Incredible, emotional film centred around five year old lost in Calcutta and adopted by an Austrialian couple. Must see.

Classic

Good Vibrations

Outstanding film chronicling Terri Hooley's life in Belfast; setting up a record-store and developing punk-rock music in the troubled 70s. Inspiring, engaging; a must see.

Classic

Timescapes

Incredible time lapse photography and landscape videography. Sublime: a must-experience. Available in ridiculously high resolutions; I watched in 1620p(!) but you can choose whatever is best for your display.

Classic

Dunkirk

Extraordinary. Utterly compelling, absorbing film; which plays around with time as it builds tension. Sparse dialogue, astonishing production values. Visually and auditorily incredible. A must experience.

Classic

Life of Pi

To the incredible novel's story this film adds beautiful CG visuals which still look great today. It is a wonderful adaptation, well paced, keeping the essence of the book.

Classic

The Secret In Their Eyes

Astonishing Argentine film; an investigator reflects on a brutal rape and murder case from twenty five years ago, as he writes a book and reconnects with his old boss and the victim's husband. Unrealised love and the search for justice. A must watch.

Classic

Your Name

Anime where a rural girl and city boy swap bodies on random days. That alone sounds like an interesting premise, but this film twists in extraordinary ways... one of the best films I've seen this year. It also happens to have beautiful visuals. A must watch.

Classic

Kajaki

Utterly absorbing, visceral, believable take on warfare. British soldiers trapped in riverbed minefield, struggle to escape. Seemingly incredible true-to-live take on horrendous events. An essential film.

Classic

Great

Highly recommended.

Detachment

Gritty drama, shot in a documentary style, following a US inner-city substitute teacher at a struggling school. A must watch (on Netflix).

Great

The Theory of Everything

Inspiring biopic of Stephen Hawking. The maths and science is a bit neglected (and when featured is often silly) but a powerful story of overcoming physical adversity as well as powerful portrayal of his relationship with his first wife.

Great

Friday Night Lights

I rewatched this brilliant sports movie recently. This delivers a wonderfully polished sports movie (which you don't need to know the sport to enjoy). The series offers a much longer take on similar themes; the book is also excellent.

Great

The Tribe

Seriously dark film set at Ukrainian boarding school for the deaf (the entire film is un-subtitled). Innovative, compelling; perhaps one of the finest 'silent' movies ever made?

Great

The Spectacular Now

Surprisingly sympathetic treatment of alcoholism, centred around an eighteen year old and his relationships (with his ex, girlfriend, mother and sister). Great performances, captivating story, well worth watching.

Great

Southpaw

Gritting boxing drama. Highly enjoyable, sufficiently dark stuff.

Great

Rush

It seems like a film about formula one should be incredibly dull; this is far from it, a compelling tale of rivalry that is consistently entertaining, beautifully shot with great music etc. Highly recommended.

Great

The Lives of Others

Compelling drama set in East Germany featuring Stasi officer and the target of his surveillance.

Great

Zona Sur

Bolivian film focused on upper class family and their servant as their position in that society crumbles. Sharp dialogue, beautiful cinematography; compelling.

Great

Les Miserables (the 2012 film)

The epic musical is brilliantly produced as a film.

Great

Pride

A fantastic, feel good film (it will put a smile on your face for most of its running length). Gay rights campaigners from London join Welsh miners in resisting Thatcher.

Great

Gravity

You wait years for a single film as suspenseful as Captain Phillips and this year we get two. Gravity is visually stunning (see it in 3D!) , and this is why I'm rating it as Great, but also entertaining, tightly edited stuff.

Great

Noah

Surprisingly impressive film: the trailer makes it look absolutely dire, but it is not the Lord of the Ring wannabe portrayed there. Loosely inspired by the Biblical Noah story, with a dash of environmentalism and other mythic elements; centred around Noah and his decisions and relationships. God, or rather 'the creator' is largely absent; leaving Noah to make the hard choices.

Great

The Golden Dream

Three friends set of from Guatemala and are joined by another (who doesn't speak Spanish) as they try to move to the USA. Bleak, powerful stuff. A must see.

Great

Chasing Ice

Incredible documentary following James Balog and his team as they use time lapse photography to capture glaciers retreating dramatically. Beautiful photographs and videos and an important message.

Great

Slow West

Dark, clever western film, with clueless Scottish boy searching for his lost love, guided by mysterious bounty hunter (whose target is actually the love's father). Definitely worth watching.

Great

Captain Phillips

I managed to go to see this without knowing the ending (it turns out this level of ignorance was an unusual achievement) which only added to the tension which was sustained for nearly the entire length of the film. Definitely worth watching.

Great

Jurassic World

Entertaining Jurassic Park movie with plenty of thrills, wit, incredible special effects (particularly in 3D), tight editing and enough substance (and references to the original) to impress.

Great

Zombieland

An interesting and entertaining twist on the zombie movie. Highly recommended (see also Warm Bodies).

Great

Star Trek First Contact

Foolishly started watching this on Netflix (and ended up watching the whole thing again). Only recently challenged for 'best star trek film' by the reboot; still remains strong.

Great

Ender's Game

Impressive and interesting sci-fi. Well worth watching.

Great

X+Y

Heartwarming film following autistic boy who excels at mathematics as he competes in the International Mathematics Olympiad. Highly recommended.

Great

UWantMeToKillHim?

Fascinating, dark film of incitement to murder over the internet. Based on a true story, apparently.

Great

The Way He Looks

Brazilian coming-of-age drama centred on blind teenager. Saying more would spoil things, but really excellent film.

Great

The Raid

Maintains an ridiculous level of intensity throughout a compelling, violent and substantial film. So much more than a Hollywood action movie.

Great

Snowpiercer

Bleak, dystopian film set on board a train constantly rotating a terraforming-gone-wrong frozen earth. The passengers in the tail rebel against those in first class. Really interesting story, which I don't want to spoil, but lots of subtleties (and plenty of action).

Great

Kill Your Darlings

Engaging, interesting film following the origins of the Beat Generation in an un-romanticised way.

Great

Common

British drama set around the a stabbing and the prosecution of clueless teenager (who gave his cousin and friends a lift) under Joint Enterprise law. Powerful, interesting.

Great

Almost Famous

Compelling coming-of-age film. Well worth watching.

Great

13 Assassins

Feudal Japanese intrigue, a psychopathic dictator and a visceral, bloody battle between 13 assassins and an army of hundreds. Recommended (if this is your kind of thing).

Great

Shutter Island

Brilliant psychological thriller that keeps you on your toes.

Great

Twelve Years a Slave

Powerful, epic film adaptation of Solomon Northup's autobiographical account of his time as a slave. Unflinching, uncomfortable and essential.

Great

Kings of Summer

Witty, warm, nostalgic film about three 15 year olds who run away to the woods to escape their parents. Fantastic dialogue, wonderful story. Watch this.

Great

There Will Be Blood

Epic film charting an oil prospector's rise, his relationship (as a single parent) with his son and his entanglements with a young preacher. Obsession, religion, money.

Great

Nightcrawler

Dark thriller following freelance crime cameraman chasing 'newsworthy' crime footage in LA, a cynical news editor and a hapless assistant. Really impressive.

Great

Citizenfour

Thrilling documentary following Edward Snowden as he releases the initial material from Hong Kong. In places feels like an espionage thriller, such is our engagement with the (possibly justified) paranoia of those involved. Important, compelling stuff.

Great

Tim's Vermeer

Tim Jenison, a successful inventor/computer graphics technologist (but not an artist in conventional sense) sets out on an obsessive journey to recreate the (unknown) process the Dutch Master Vermeer used in his paintings. He builds his own optical system utilising a lens and mirror to be able to take a manual 'photograph' in oils of a scene. Fascinating documentary film making the case that Vermeer was not some kind of savant, but an inventor and tinkerer. (Worth reading a few upset Art Historian reviews!)

Great

Io e te

Introverted teenager pretends to be on ski trip while hiding in basement of their building. Then his estranged junkie half sister shows up. Always compelling, a (and by this I don't mean to be critical) nice film. I've just ordered the novel for Kindle.

Great

Up

Finally got round to this film which everyone seemed to think was unacceptable that I hadn't seen. Excellent stuff from Pixar; compelling and surprisingly poignant story (I found this a lot more emotive than say Toy Story 3).

Great

Road to Perdition

Impressively realised gangster film lacking the cheap thrills of many lesser films. Engaging and definitely worth watching.

Great

Jimmy's Hall

An account of the resistance in post British Ireland against an alliance of the landowning elite and Catholic Church. Nuanced, interesting stuff.

Great

District 9

Am perplexed that I didn't notice this on release. Outstanding original, darkly comic, satirical sci-fi set in South Africa. A must watch (ideally in HD).

Great

The Lego Movie

Brilliant take on an animated, family film; often genuinely hilarious, better (in my opinion at least) than many of the recent efforts from Pixar. (Though I did play with Lego a lot as a child so I may be biased.) Blends genres, critiques our celebrity driven consumerist culture and includes an almost perfect balance of poignant moments and humour.

Great

Whiplash

What is permissible from a coach in the pursuit of greatness? This film zeroes in on this tension (is the 'coach' a bully or doing what is necessary) and the ruthless world of elite music. A perfectly judged ending concludes an engrossing film.

Great

Primer

Fantastic film, apparently produced on a tiny budget. Friends working in a garage build a limited sort of time machine. What will they do with it? Joyously complex, ambiguous, tightly edited film.

Great

Dans La Maison

Clever and funny French film; combines elements of dark comedy and coming-of-age drama in an entertaining way, where it is often not quite clear what is 'real' and what is imagined.

Great

How to Train Your Dragon 2

A fantastic follow up to the original classic. Darker, funnier, incredible visuals; always entertaining.

Great

Free to Play

Compelling documentary following three professional gamers as they take part in a $1M prize DOTA competition. You don't need to know or care about DOTA (I still don't know what it stands for) to enjoy this tightly edited (75 minute) documentary. Well worth watching.

Great

Stories We Tell

Great documentary looking back on family life, centred around the creator's mother; but told from the contradictory perspectives of husband, sons, daughters and others.

Great

Safety Not Guaranteed

Delightful, brilliant film, where a magazine journalist with two interns investigate a local advert for a time travelling assistant. I don't want to say any more, but I highly recommend this if you are looking for an entertaining/easy to watch but substantial film.

Great

Testament of Youth

Started watching this via Netflix without knowing it was based on true story and would be quite so bleak. Follows young woman and her male friends as her Oxford education is interrupted by WWII. Must watch.

Great

Hurt Locker

Thrilling film featuring a US army bomb disposal unit in Iraq. Compelling action but with surprising depth. Highly recommended.

Great

Good

Worth experiencing but not essential.

Man of Steel

Probably the best Superman film yet (although that isn't saying much). Heavier on sci-fi, lighter on comic book; fun and polished action-filled blockbuster.

Good

RTS Short: North

Watched this via Sky NowTV... interesting short film focused around a son as his mother dies in rural setting.

Good

Tron: Legacy

Beautiful visuals and entertaining, well paced sci-fi action with a lot more depth than you might expect.

Good

Catfish

'True' story (some apparently documentary, some recreated) of a journalist and an apparently artistically gifted child (and her family). Hard (even afterwards) to figure out what is true, but an interesting film.

Good

Print the Legend

Really interesting documentary focused on the personalities and businesses of 3D printing. MakerBot, Formlabs and crazy 3d-gun printer.

Good

Bonobo

Daughter joins what the in film press describe as a "Sex cult", mother goes to intervene. Funny, entertaining stuff.

Good

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

Netflix make a sequel to the classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Enjoyable, recreates the fighting style of the original as well as some of the same spirit. A more straightforward martial arts film, but with many beautiful scenes and plenty of energy.

Good

The Hours

Interesting drama following the loosely related lives of three women (Virginia Woolf, a 1950s housewife and a modern book editor).

Good

Kick Ass 2

Entertaining film, but lacks charm of original, replacing this with extra violence.

Good

The Dirties

Interesting, in style of class project documentary, film about getting revenge on bullies. Can't say much more without major spoilers but worth watching.

Good

Assault on Wall Street

The self-serving actions of a financial institution cause an 'average' person to take them on (with guns). Entertaining, and surprisingly substantial.

Good

World War Z

Solid, entertaining zombie movie.

Good

Het Diner

Surprisingly successful adaptation of what should be an unfilmable book. Faithful to the book; very dark, compelling stuff.

Good

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Solid comic book film (a lot better than the perplexingly critically-acclaimed and commercial success that was Avengers Assemble). Both the Captain America and Iron Man films have been consistently impressive.

Good

Stardust

Entertaining, family fantasy film. Nothing particularly special, but pretty good.

Good

Arbitrage

Entertaining and interesting take on a hedge fund manager's crumbling empire.

Good

The Double

Beautifully realised take on the Doestoevskian double/doppelgänger story. Compelling, dark, visually distinct.

Good

Dallas Buyers Club

Powerful biography based on the life of AIDS patient and 'drug smuggler'. I can see why Mark Kermode thinks the best actor Oscar may go for this (and not Twelve Years a Slave).

Good

Lone Survivor

A small team of Americans are massively out numbered and gradually worn down by dozens of heavily armed Taliban fighters. Utterly ridiculous in places as the Americans get shot repeatedly (in slow motion, blood filled shots) then continue picking off their targets. Compulsive, but something like Kajaki is way more credible.

Good

The Fighter

Gritty film following a fading boxer and his unreliable family as he struggles with a final change to make it.

Good

How to be a Man

A dark comedy featuring a former comedian who, dying of cancer, recruits an inexperienced filmmaker to make a documentary for his unborn son. Surprisingly good.

Good

Locke

A man's life falls apart as he drives at night to London; the film is mostly just his car phone calls and yet is compelling stuff. Recommended.

Good

Circle

Every two minutes a stranger from a the "circle" is killed, after a vote from the others on who to kill. Interesting, dark film.

Good

Youth in Revolt

Quirky Michael Cera comedy; smarter and funnier than many comparable films.

Good

Flight

Drug and alcohol addict pulls of a near impossible flying manoeuvre which saves nearly everyone on a passenger plane. We follow the aftermath.

Good

Hard Candy

Intense(ly) dark film in which a teenage girl confronts an apparent paedophile.

Good

Fury

Surprisingly impressive film; gritty and gripping.

Good

The Wise Kids

Independent, Kickstarted(?) film: small town, evangelical USA, centred around church; three kids: one clever enough to secure her place at a good university (while doubting her religion), one gay and one embracing tradition. Interesting.

Good

Driving Lessons

Slightly more substantial that I expected, coming-of-age/comedy/drama, classic if slightly unusual these days, story of hypocritical religious mother, shy teenager and eccentric friend who helps him loosen up; worth watching.

Good

Godzilla (2014 version)

Surprisingly good film. Manages to lightly hint at a bunch of issues (around nuclear power and weapons), keeps things entertaining, but with enough depth to engage.

Good

Mr Turner

Interesting, understated, biopic.

Good

The Way Way Back

Coming of age film, with a shy fourteen year old, his mother and her boyfriend. Feel good, but not over the top. Recommended.

Good

Frozen

It has been ages since I've watched a non-Pixar Disney film; surprised at how funny it was. Light, entertaining stuff.

Good

The Giver

Dystopian scifi adapted from YA novel; an increasingly common part of mainstream cinema. While never being anything particularly special, it is a solid, sufficiently dark, entertaining film.

Good

Transsiberian

Thrilling film set largely on a Transsiberian train. Drugs, murder and tension.

Good

Joe

Interesting, compelling if unexceptional coming of age film.

Good

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Quirky historical-drama-comedy centred on the concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel and his Lobby boy. Art theft, wealth, inheritance and the rise of fascism. Recommended.

Good

Edge of Tomorrow

Entertaining blockbuster film... impressive effects, well paced, coherent; has some interesting moments, but don't expect too much depth.

Good

Guardians of the Galaxy

Surprisingly good, clever, entertaining comic-book-esque sci-fi. Much better than say the incoherent Avengers Assemble.

Good

Kidnapped for Christ

Terrifying film centered around an abusive 'treatment' centre in the Dominican Republic; where parents send their supposedly troubled teenagers to get 'saved'. Makes Jesus Camp look mild.

Good

Night Moves

Interesting film following eco-terrorists, their plans to destroy a hydroelectric dam and the consequences.

Good

Brave

Another impressive film from Pixar. Entertaining, funny and compelling.

Good

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

From something which couldn't really escape Battle Royale's shadow to a more distinctive dystopian film. Surprisingly good.

Good

Starred Up

Gritty prison drama focusing on a young offender and his father.

Good

Four Lions

Making a comedy film about suicide bombers should not work; this is both surprisingly funny and surprisingly grim (they could have made a lot of safer choices).

Good

Warm Bodies

A twist on the usual Zombie fare, manages to quite successfully blend dark comedy and romance! See also Zombieland.

Good

Someday this pain will be useful to you

Drama centred around teenager who struggles to relate to his family and only really gets on with his grandmother. Interesting and a lot more substantial than most coming of age dramas.

Good

The Hunger Games

Battle Royale lite. Entertaining stuff, but hard to recommend when Battle Royale exists. Surprisingly edgy for such a mainstream (and almost family, or at least young adult) film.

Good

Kingsman

Surprisingly good, entertaining comic spy-thriller with enough wit to to keep things fresh.

Good

Taxi Driver

Finally got round to watching this (I must have bought the Blu-ray over a year ago). Interesting film, though doesn't feel like it quite deserves its reputation: perhaps it has now been imitated and influenced many other films.

Good

Blackfish

Convincing documentary, making the case that keeping Orcas in captivity is immoral and dangerous. Feels a little dragged out (not sure what being feature length adds to this; lots of repetition).

Good

Rudderless

Grieving father finds some of his deceased son's lyrics and forms a band, using this music. A lot better than that description makes it sound (but hard not give things away). Worth watching.

Good

The Raid 2

Takes the visceral intensity of The Raid (which was unsurpassed) and dials it up to 11. Frequently astonishing, extremely violent: do not watch this if you are at all squeamish. Lacks the tight focus of the original as we now have a more typical gang-war saga, but impressive stuff.

Good

Okay

Acceptable; I didn't regret it but I wouldn't really recommend it.

Cars 2

Entertaining but not one of Pixar's best.

Okay

Sightseers

Dark drama-comedy, as a caravanning couple tour Northern England, murdering those who irritate them.

Okay

Pacific Rim

Giant robots battling giant monsters doesn't sound promising (it sounds terrible), but this is a surprisingly entertaining action movie.

Okay

The Wolverine

X-Men with the violence levels dialled up a lot. Nothing special.

Okay

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Finally we get to a Hobbit Movie which isn't bad. However, it certainly isn't good. After the brilliant Lord of the Rings trilogy one can't help but be exasperated by this 3-part cynical cash in. Peter Jackson please just put down the camera and retire to some where remote (like New Zealand). Entertaining stuff, but what might have been one good film was one terrible one, one overly long one and one okay, if superficial one.

Okay

A Walk Among the Tombstones

A solid, if in no way special, Liam Neeson film. Compelling, somewhat gruesome, sometimes interesting film. Non-Stop is better.

Okay

X-Men Days of Future Past

Entertaining, well paced film; though nothing particularly interesting, retreading familiar ground albeit with a sent from the future twist.

Okay

How I Live Now

Post World War III fight for survival and teen romance mash up... relatively compelling, some beautiful footage of English countryside.

Okay

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

A massive improvement on the dire first Hobbit film. The massive budget and acting talent (who should be making more Sherlock!) seems wasted on this merely fairly entertaining film. Still lacking in tension, but keeps things moving and looking good.

Okay

What we do in the shadows

Faux documentary about vampires. Came highly recommended but I didn't see what the fuss was about (and abandoned after c. 30 minutes).

Okay

X-Men

Hasn't really aged well; not one to re-watch. Interesting formula but after 4 very similar films (and a few spin offs) feels very tired.

Okay

House of Last Things

This seems interesting at first but stagnates and the last half an hour is quite tedious. You will probably watch to the end to find out the mystery, but I suggest avoiding entirely.

Okay

Halo: The Fall of Reach

Okay, CG animated film with some Halo backstory.

Okay

X-Men 2

One of the more interesting ones in the series, but as so many of these repeat the same basic story it is hard to find it interesting on re-watching.

Okay

Robocop

Decent, entertaining sci-fi. Manages to update Robocop to deal with contemporary issues of drone killings and USA-style insane (possibly influential) television anchors, while preserving the essence of the original. Never outstanding, but solid, entertaining stuff.

Okay

Avengers Assemble

One of those films whose popularity and (relative) critical and popular acclaim seems completely out of line with what seems to me to be merely a big budget, thoroughly uninteresting and unexceptional film. Avoid. Try any of the Iron Man films instead.

Okay

Poor

Avoid.

Churchill

Painfully bad and obviously historically inaccurate. An unsympathetic portrayal of Churchill but implausibly as a sentimental, sidelined leader worried about the regular soldiers. Netflix's The Crown has a much more interesting and plausible take on Churchill in decline (when he is back in government); this is just bad. Avoid.

Poor

The Lost City of Z

Tedious, though lavishly realised in places and with a few somewhat interesting scenes. But fails to be anything more than a period recreation.

Poor

Blade Runner 2049

Incredibly boring with muddy/miserable aesthetic and grating audio. Can't believe this is from director of Arrival and composer of Dunkirk. Incomparably worse to either. Perhaps could have been salvaged by cutting out half the runtime. Avoid.

Poor

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

Beautiful special effects, but otherwise tedious self indulgence from Peter Jackson and completely lacking in tension or the grandeur of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Avoid.

Poor

Avengers Age of Ultron

The original Avengers Assemble was ridiculously overrated but at least managed to be consistently entertaining. This is worse. Avoid.

Poor

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Disappointing. The original was a fresh comic book twist on space opera, this while genuinely funny on a handful of occasions is generally poor. Reminded me of the also weak Age of Ultron: lacking in tension or interest.

Poor

Melancholia

Supposedly the "non-tedious, non-offensive" Lars von Trier film; well it isn't offensive, it is however extremely dull with only a few interesting moments.

Poor