Film: The Five Best Films

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The Independent Culture

Gods and Monsters (5)

A droll speculation on the last days of 930s horror auteur James Whale (Ian McKellen), who is magnetised by the form of his gardener (Brendan Fraser). Director Bill Condon won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.


Pleasantville (2)

Two Nineties teenagers are "sucked" into the world of a favourite 950s sitcom and begin to exert a dramatic influence on its conformist black & white idyll. A witty, inventive parable about prejudice and change.


Festen (5)

Danish director Thomas Vinterberg's superlative black comedy concerns the 60th birthday of a family patriarch, who finds himself at the centre of the dark secrets that unexpectedly emerge.


Affliction (5)

Paul Schrader's magnificently bleak Oscar-winning study in fatherhood and fatalism, stars Nick Nolte as a man struggling to escape the influence of his violent dad, James Coburn (Best Supporting Actor).


Shakespeare in Love (5)

This enjoyable - and now Oscar-laden - historical romp suggests how romance fired the young Will Shakespeare with the creative inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow (Best Actress) head an impressive cast.


The Night of the Hunter (Curzon Soho)

Charles Laughton's only film as director is an astonishing one- off, as is Robert Mitchum's performance as a deranged evangelist with an eye for rich widows. A classic that will never lose its strangeness.


The American Friend (Curzon Soho)

Adapted from Patricia Highsmith's great novel Ripley's Game, this haunting existential thriller pits an innocent family man (Bruno Ganz) against the manipulative charm of anti-hero Ripley (Dennis Hopper). Sun 2.5pm


The Philadelphia Story (NFT)

Can we ever tire of this lovely romantic comedy? Haughty Katharine Hepburn is caught between spiffy Cary Grant and spoony James Stewart while on the verge of an ill-advised wedding. Sun 6.5pm


La Strada (Riverside)

A simple-minded peasant girl (Giulietta Masina) is sold to an itinerant strongman (Anthony Quinn) in Fellini's poetic story of regret. Sun 2.30pm


The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Pullman Everyman)

Charles Laughton gave one of the performances of his career as Quasimodo in this 939 adaptation of the Hugo tale, while the evocation of Paris is irresistibly grand. Tue 4.30pm