film saving private ryan (15)

Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (above) finds the director at the height of his film-making powers, and on course for Oscar glory.

Praised for its veracity by D-Day veterans and critics alike, this Second World War epic doesn't flinch from depicting the horrific realities of combat (this could be the first film to cause post-traumatic stress), or from the difficult moral questions raised by war.

Spielberg leaves these provocatively unresolved; and you stagger out into the light, emotionally and psychically drained, pondering the value of human life, weighing up the relative merits of mercy and revenge in wartime, and dreading the real prospect of another tearful Tom Hanks Oscar acceptance speech.

Summer blockbusters rarely come this profound, gut-wrenching or humane. James Cameron eat your heart out.

On general release

Stephen Applebaum