The Independent Recommends

The Five Best Films

Affliction (15)

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

Life is Beautiful (La Vita e Bella) (PG)

Roberto Benigni directs and stars in this tragicomic fable about an Italian Jew who tries to shield his boy from the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp by pretending that the brutal regime is an elaborate game.

Shakespeare in Love (15)

This enjoyable romp suggests how romance fired Shakespeare with the creative inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow (right) head a multi-star cast.

A Bug's Life (U)

Less sophisticated and more child-friendly than Antz, this animated feature spins another enjoyable yarn about an ant colony and its battle to survive. Kevin Spacey provides the voice of the chief grasshopper.

The Opposite of Sex (18)

Christina Ricci plays 16-year-old bitch-on-wheels Dedee, who causes all kinds of havoc when she moves in with her half-brother (Martin Donovan).

Anthony Quinn

The Five Best Plays

Oklahoma! (Lyceum Theatre, London)

Widely regarded as the best ever, Trevor Nunn's glorious production of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic fully deserves its West End transfer. To 26 Jun


(Duchess Theatre, London)

Michael Frayn's profound and haunting meditation on science, morality and the mysteries of human motivation. To 7 Aug


(Royal Court at The Ambassador's)

So you thought that the comic fascination of a mass-production bakery in 1970s Hull was somewhat limited? Richard Bean's delightfully funny play proves you wrong. To 6 Mar

The Winter's Tale (RSC, Stratford)

An amazingly rich and complex performance from Antony Sher in Gregory Doran's Romanov-style production. In rep to 4 Mar

The Tempest

(West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds)

Ian McKellen (right) gives a low-key performance as a Prospero who presides over an island grimly reimagined as a correctional facility. To 27 Feb

Paul Taylor

The Five Best Shows

Monet in the 20th Century (Royal Academy)

He lived until 1926. The gardens and lily ponds at Giverny dissolve into elemental visions: fiery lights, haze, liquid reflections, voids and depths. The strange last works of Impressionism. To 18 Apr

Portraits by Ingres (National Gallery)

Some of the most intense portraiture ever. Women: exquisite melanges of flesh and fabric, dreams of sex and money. To 25 Apr

Andreas Gursky (Serpentine Gallery)

Photographs 1994-98: Huge, wide-vision, high-finish, micro-detailed, digitally manipulated images of our everyday world (right). To 7 Mar

Oppe Watercolour Collection

(Whitworth Gallery, Manchester)

Classic and still fresh 18th- and 19th-century British watercolours, including works by Alexander Cozens, John Sell Cotman, Constable, and Francis Towne. To 5 Apr

Disasters of War

(Wolverhampton Art Gallery)

"I saw this" - three ages of European war through the etchings of Jacques Callot, Goya and Otto Dix. Visions from the blackest of times. To 20 Mar

Tom Lubbock