05 February 2018

Darkest Hour

Antony McCarten

With his rousing speeches, tactical know-how and notoriously dry humour, Winston Churchill led the Allies to win the Second World War. However, the journey was not a smooth one, and included an early period during which he nearly signed a treaty with the Nazis. Having scooped Best Actor and Makeup gongs at both the Oscars and BAFTAs (plus 11 more nominations across the two awards'), this thrilling drama by Antony McCarten - who was also the screenwriter for The Theory of Everything –  depicts a conflicted Churchill yet to assume his position as the hero we remember.

I Am Not Your Negro

James Baldwin and Raoul Peck

Samuel L. Jackson’s moving narration is the hallmark of I Am Not Your Negro; a poignant documentary that was nominated for an Oscar in 2017, and won the BAFTA for Best Documentary this year. In it, Raoul Peck gives new life to James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember This House. Both the film and the book explore contemporary and historical racism, civil rights and social history through the lives of Baldwin's friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X. and Martin Luther King Jr., all of whom were killed in the struggle before their fortieth birthdays.

First they Killed my Father

Loung Ung

Angelina Jolie directed the adaptation of this memoir by Loung Ung, which tells the tale of her family’s ordeal at the hands of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. Ung’s large family were once close allies of influential figures in Cambodia, but a brutal regime change saw her relatives murdered, dispersed, tortured and abused. The film is scripted and spoken entirely in Khmer Cambodian and thus earned a nomination for Best Film not in the English Language at the BAFTAs this year.

Mudbound

Hilary Jordan

This critically acclaimed Netflix original film won Oscar nominations for it's screenplay, score, perfomances and cinematography. Mudbound is based on Hillary Jordan’s novel about a family in the Mississippi Delta before and after the Second World War. Henry and his wife, Laura, settle on a farm in the south to pursue a rural life that only he truly desires. Laura, meanwhile, grows ever-more lonely until the return of Henry’s brother, who arrives home from fighting in the Second World War to help on the farm. Also returned is Ronsel – the black son of two of the  farmworkers - who faces new challenges in the form of his neighbours' bigotry. 

The Silence of the Lambs

Thomas Harris

In 1991, Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster brought Thomas Harris’s disturbing novel to life in this iconic thriller. One of few films to win the five major Oscar awards – Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay – it also took millions at the box office and made an indelible mark on cinema-goers’ consciousness for years to come. Not only does this film include gore, torture and suspense,it also specialises in the creeping, insidious manipulation of both its characters and audience. 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Ken Kesey

Another classic of the silver screen to win the quintet of major Oscar awards is Ken Kesey’s tale of life in a psychiatric unit as seen through the eyes of new resident, Randle McMurphy. In this breakthrough role, Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy meets his new neighbours, from the nervous and paranoid to the overconfident, and much of the film is focussed on their relationships and consequent adventures, but McMurphy eventually persuades them to aim for something more, despite their fear of calculating bully Nurse Ratched.

The English Patient

Michael Ondaatje

The events of the Second World War have inspired a raft of exceptional films and novels, and the all-pervading tragedy it instigated provides much of the inspiration for the works on this list. In this tale, Ondaatje’s patient is rehabilitating after an accident, the details of which are unravelled piece by piece as he regains his memory. What follows is a tale of romance, heartbreak, espionage and catastrophe, all brought to life in 1996 by an A-list cast including Ralph Fiennes, Colin Firth, Juliette Binoche, Kristin Scott Thomas and more.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

There aren’t many best-of lists that don’t feature this outstanding classic tale of morality, racism and community in mid-twentieth-century Alabama, and this one is no exception. We know the book is a treasure but the 1962 film was also celebrated, earning eight Oscar nominations and three awards, and a hefty box office turnover. Gregory Peck stars as Atticus Finch, in what came to be widely regarded as his finest role.

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