Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts
Running time: 119 mins
We said: Michael Keaton plays the one-time star of a Hollywood superhero franchise seeking to redeem himself on the Broadway stage. Keaton, a one-time Batman himself, “gives the performance of his career” in this “hilarious, beautiful, film-defying film”. Read the full review of Birdman.
Director: Ava DuVernay
Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Alessandro Nivola, Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Roth
Running time: 128 mins
We said: British actor David Oyelowo is “electrifying” as Martin Luther King in Ava DuVernay’s “scorching, full-bodied, flat-out great film” about the events that took place in Selma, Alabama, as members of the civil rights movement fought for the right for black Americans to vote. Read the full review of Selma.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short
Running time: 149 mins
We said: Paul Thomas Anderson’s surreally funny Thomas Pynchon adaptation, which stars a “quietly dazzling” Joaquin Phoenix as a dishevelled LA private eye, is like no noir you’ve ever seen. Read the full review of Inherent Vice.
Director: Bennett Miller
Starring: Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Anthony Michael Hall, Vanessa Redgrave
Running time: 134 mins
We said: The true story of Olympic wrestler brothers Dave and Mark Schultz, and their fatal dealings with eccentric millionaire John Eleuthère du Pont (played by a near-unrecognisable Steve Carell), becomes a “smoke-black parable of modern America”, with a screenplay as tense and tuned as piano strings. Read the full review of Foxcatcher.
Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, JK Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser
Running time: 106 mins
We said: Superb performances from Miles Teller as a young jazz drummer and JK Simmons as his martinet of a mentor are at the heart of this “dazzling, exhilarating drama”. Read the full review of Whiplash.
Director: Peter Strickland
Starring: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Monica Swinn, Chiara D’Anna, Eugenia Caruso, Kata Bartsch, Fatma Mohamed, Eszter Tompa, Zita Kraszkó
Running time: 104 mins
We said: Two women who live in a grand old house in the middle of a moss-draped forest play out an elaborate sex game in this “uniquely sexy and strange film, built on two tremendous central performances and a bone-deep understanding of cinema’s magic and mechanisms.”Read the full review of The Duke of Burgundy.
7. It Follows
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Jake Weary, Daniel Zovatto
Running time: 94 mins
We said: With its marvellously suggestive title and thought-provoking exploration of sex, this indie chiller is a contemporary horror fan’s dream come true. Read the full review of It Follows.
8. Still Alice
Director: Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer
Starring: Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parish, Alec Baldwin
Running time: 101 mins
We said: Julianne Moore gives one of her greatest ever performances playing a professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in this “gorgeous, piercing” drama. Read the full review of Still Alice.
Director: Isao Takahata
Starring: Aki Asakura, Yukiji Asaoka, Takeo Chii, Isa Hashizume, Hikaru Ijûin, Takaya Kamikawa
Running time: 137 mins
We said: Studio Ghibli’s lovingly crafted film, based on a 10th-century Japanese legend about a reluctant princess trying to get back to the forests and hillsides of her childhood, is a work of “supreme artistry”, and a fitting swansong for director Isao Takahata. Read the full review of The Tale of Princess Kaguya.
Director: Roy Andersson
Starring: Holger Andersson, Nils Westblom, Viktor Gyllenberg, Lotti Törnros, Jonas Gerholm, Ola Stensson
Running time: 100 mins
We said: Roy Andersson’s hyperreal series of comic sketches may be “untranslatable” cinema, but his film about doom and death and the ineffable weirdness of human experience willl make you laugh until you weep. Read the full review of A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence.
Director: George Miller
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
Running time: 120 mins
We said: George Miller’s return to the apocalyptic world of Mad Max is “nothing less than a Krakatoan eruption of craziness”; Tom Hardy is “totally commanding” stepping into Mel Gibson’s shoes, and Charlize Theron is “superb” as the film’s real alpha male, the rogue soldier Imperator Furiosa. Read the full review of Mad Max: Fury Road.
12. Inside Out
Director: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
Starring: Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Diane Lane, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith (voices)
Running time: 102 mins
We said: Pixar’s “searingly beautiful” new film is set inside the head of an 11-year-old girl, with Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger jostling for position. “The first tear was rolling down my cheek within 30 seconds,” wrote Robbie Collin. Read the full review of Inside Out.
13. Listen Up Philip
Director: Alex Ross Perry
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter, Joséphine de La Baume, Jess Weixler
Running time: 109 mins
We said: Alex Ross Perry’s wince-inducing black comedy about two repellent literary blowhards – a young misanthropic egomaniac (Jason Schwartzman) and a subtle, Philip Roth-like grotesque (Jonathan Pryce) – marks the arrival of a major new directorial talent. Read the full review of Listen Up Philip.
14. Slow West
Director: John Maclean
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorius
Running time: 84 mins
We said: There’s everything here from John Ford mythmaking to Coen brothers mischief-making, plus the sinewy sparseness of Sergio Leone – and even a little of the pride-puncturing slapstick the genre has occasionally attracted in films like Laurel and Hardy’s Way Out West and Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. Read the full review of Slow West.
15. Song of the Sea
Director: Tomm Moore
Starring: David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Lisa Hannigan, Fionnula Flanagan, Lucy O’Connell
Running time: 93 mins
We said: Though it’s preoccupied with loss, Song of the Sea is a film that can barely stop itself from giving, and every scene shines with imaginative flourishes that could only possible in two-dimensional, hand-drawn animation. It’s alive to the world in a way that challenges, and sometimes even defies, adult understanding. The only way to describe it is childlike. See it and feel four years old again. Read the full review of Song of the Sea.
16. The Wonders
Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Starring: Maria Alexandra Lungu, Sam Louwyck, Alba Rohrwacher, Sabine Timoteo, Monica Bellucci
Running time: 110 mins
We said: Alice Rohrwacher, the 31-year-old Italian film-maker, has conjured up a mesmerising coming-of-age tale: small and sweet in every good way, but alive with a power that seems to surge up from deep beneath its sun-roughened landscape. Read the full review of The Wonders.
17. Hard to Be a God
Director: Aleksei German
Starring: Leonid Yarmolnik, Yuriy Tsurilo, Natalya Moteva, Aleksandr Chutko, Evgeniy Gerchakov
Running time: 177 mins
We said: An astronaut visits a mirror planet to Earth, stuck in an eternal Dark Ages, and witnesses scenes of grotesque barbarity. “Imagine Monty Python and the Holy Grail directed by Bruegel and you’re some way towards grasping director Aleksei German’s vision”, says Robbie Collin. Read the full review of Hard to be a God.
18. 45 Years
Director: Andrew Haigh
Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James, Dolly Wells
Running time: 93 mins
We said: A couple (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay) struggles to cope when the husband learns that the perfectly preserved body of his ex-girlfriend has been discovered, 50 years after she slipped into an Alpine crevasse. Rampling “rarely been better” than she is in this “shattering, shivery marital drama”. Read the full review of 45 Years.
19. The Walk
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale
Running time: 123 mins
We said: Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis glimmeringly recreates Frenchman Philippe Petit’s tightrope walk between the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center, previously told in the documentary Man on Wire. Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes a thoroughly charming lead, despite his “prononced Franch acksong”, and once we get to the main event, “the camerawork is subtle and meticulous, the 3D head-spinningly well-applied.” Read the full review of The Walk.
Director: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, David Thewlis, Paddy Considine, Jack Reynor, Elizabeth Debicki
Running time: 113 mins
We said: This is already “one of the great Shakespearean movies,” says Robbie Collin, “built around a pair of cosmically powerful performances from Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.” The text is pared back and key scenes have been ingeniously re-interpreted. “Everything here is so perfectly in tune with itself that you might expect the film to feel a little too neatly self-contained and vacuum-packed, like Game of Thrones with an arts degree. In fact it’s the opposite: raw, visceral and contagious.” Read the full review of Macbeth.
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Andrew Scott, Dave Bautista, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear
Running time: 148 mins
We said: The 24th Bond film’s Day of the Dead-themed opening is “a swaggering show of confidence from returning director Sam Mendes,” writes Robbie Collin. “The film’s colour palette is so full of mouth-watering chocolates, coffees and creams that when the story moves to Rome, the city looks like a $300-million-dollar, fascist tiramisu.” SPECTRE is relentlessly modern, yet “writers John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth rub sly references to the Bond canon, and craft moments of pure flamboyance that belong there: a secret base inside a crater, a spot-lit meteor as an interior design feature, a wrestling match in a pilotless helicopter, two leonine sports cars roaring through the Roman night.” Read the full review of SPECTRE.
Director: Sean Baker
Starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan, James Ransone
Running time: 86 mins
We said: Shot entirely on an iPhone, this “heart-spinning” movie about two transgender prostitutes on a rampage of revenge on Christmas Eve is more than just a novelty. “In spite of its explicit sex and livid orange skies, Tangerine is, at heart, a proper Christmas movie about family and friendship,” says Robbie Collin, “perhaps the best since Elf in 2003, in fact, although you probably wouldn’t bring the kids.” Read the full review of Tangerine.