LAST year may have brought some disappointing movies, but it had plenty of great ones, too. Here, I count down my top 10.
10. I, Daniel Blake
Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning drama painted an achingly passionate and quietly angry portrait of the UK benefits system and those that it unfairly penalises and demeans.
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Stand-up comic Dave Johns puts in a captivatingly naturalistic performance as the titular carpenter found fit for work and forced to sign on despite his recent heart attack, while Hayley Squires is utterly heart-breaking as single mother Katie.
9. Hell Or High Water
Scottish director David Mackenzie (Starred Up) joined forces with screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) for this exquisite modern-day Western.
Chris Pine and Ben Foster play two brothers who attempt a series of daring bank robberies across west Texas in a scheme to save their family ranch, with Jeff Bridges as a determined sheriff hot on their trail.
8. Bone Tomahawk
This brilliant and brutal old-school Western centres on a group of four men, including a town sheriff (Kurt Russell), his deputy (Richard Jenkins), a gunslinger (Matthew Fox) and an injured man (Patrick Wilson), who set out to rescue the man’s wife, who has been kidnapped by a cannibalistic tribe.
7. American Honey
One of the UK’s best directors, Andrea Arnold, went across the pond for this sprawling yet intimate road movie. Newcomer Sasha Lane was spellbinding as Star, a young woman who flippantly decides to join a tight-knit group of twentysomethings who travel around the country selling magazine subscriptions.
Richly-textured characters, terrific performances, gorgeous cinematography and an eclectic soundtrack combine to create a rewarding experience.
6. Sing Street
Anyone who likes 1980s music will fall in love instantly with this joyously upbeat coming-of-age story about teenager Conor (newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) in 1985 Dublin, who decides to start an impromptu band in order to impress aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynton). Writer-director John Carney (Once, Begin Again) once more shows off his way with words and music in a charming tale of young love and good tunes.
5. Captain America: Civil War
This blockbuster bust-up pitted Captain America and Iron Man against each other over whether the heroes should have to register with the government to keep the damage they cause in check, forcing the other Avengers to choose sides. Suddenly, Marvel’s world had a moral weight that made for rewarding viewing.
4. The Jungle Book
Disney’s resplendent live-action version of a beloved classic gave us the story we all know and love but this time with some of the most dazzling visual effects the big-screen has ever seen. The near-perfect mixture of blockbuster escapism and heart-warming nostalgia was a fantastic example of how to use CGI to make a fictitious world feel completely believable.
3. The Revenant
Leonardo DiCaprio finally bagged a deserved Oscar for his raw, near-wordless performance at the centre of this epic and gruelling tale of survival and revenge. He stars as a frontiersman and fur trader in the American wilderness of the 1820s, who is mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead by a fellow traveller (Tom Hardy).
Lenny Abrahamson’s astonishing adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s celebrated novel is a cinematic rollercoaster of emotions if ever there was one.
Brie Larson puts in an Oscar-winning performance as a kidnapped young woman, referred to only as “Ma”, doing her best to raise her young son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who has never experienced the world outside the 10ft by 10ft room in which they are being held captive.
Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) delivered a treat of a film that provided something of an antidote to brainless sci-fi blockbusters.
Amy Adams puts in a spectacular performance as a linguistics expert called to action when a dozen mysterious alien crafts appear all over the world. It found a way to combine deep human emotion with a truly mesmerising visual landscape, while asking provocative questions about human communication and our place in the universe.