The Independent Recommends: The Five Best Films

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Gods and Monsters (15)

A droll speculation on the last days of 1930s horror auteur James Whale (Ian McKellen), who is hypnotised by the alluring form of his Beverly Hills gardener (Brendan Fraser). Director Bill Condon won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Happiness (18)

Set in New Jersey, Todd Solondz's second film (right) is a dark comedy of loneliness and sexual deviancy that reaffirms this young writer-director's talent.

Festen (15)

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

High Art (18)

A portrait of the artist as lesbian screw-up, Lisa Cholodenko's bitterly witty take on New York living (and dying) boasts one of the performances of the year from Ally Sheedy.

eXistenZ (15)

David Cronenberg plunges deep into the grotesque in this futuristic tale of a computer-games designer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on the run from a fatwa. Dark, comical, and not for the squeamish.