Charlton Heston double bill

Seen in front of a Heston grandkid who, at 10 or 12-years-old, piped up that he'd seen Ben-Hur at least three times. Casting a Glance (James Benning, USA) The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina France Italy Spain) .had me exiting the theatre staggering. A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin, France) Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden) Burn After Reading (Ethan Coen Joel Coen, USA) Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, USA) .the perpetual-motion depression machine.

Academic and critic Denmark

Sight & Sound readers won't need persuading that to really grasp a particular film's quality it has to be seen in the cinema. Only two of the five films I've chosen approach anything near a big budget, but all of them come into their own by being experienced in proper conditions darkness, quality projection, traditional screen size - and an alert, engaged audience. La Rabia (Albertina Carri, Argentina) This was shown in the Panorama in Berlin but few critics appeared to pay much attention to...

Academic and critic UK

Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso, A Week Alone (Celina Murga, Argentina) It was another strong year for Argentine cinema, but these two films stood out. Liverpool has shared concerns with Alonso's earlier La libertad and Los muertos, only here the narrative pull is stronger. Murga's detached take on the 'home alone' scenario follows the misadventures of a group of privileged children 'orphaned' for a week as their parents leave them in the care of their nanny. A Week Alone offers an unsettling...

Academic Oxford University UK Il Divo Paolo Sorrentino Italy

Political cinema meets Fellini meets Tarantino. And if you think the plot is far fetched, you should follow Italian politics more closely. Appaloosa (Ed Harris, USA) An unpretentious but well-shot Western with great acting and fine dialogue. A working-class Parisian gigolo meets a sleek but ageing businesswoman. Even at its most cliched, the film comes across as funny and warmhearted. Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, Italy) This is the dirty underbelly of Italy, with no heroes and belles to write home...

Academic UK

The British release came long after last year's poll deadline. Will Ferrell's best performance since Anchorman. Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas, France) This is Assayas' best film since Late August, Early September. Lawrence of Belgravia (Paul Kelly, UK) The subject of this film, the world's greatest pop star, won't see it until it gets the premiere he feels due to him. Distributors, the call is on you. Charlie Wilson's War (Mike Nichols, USA) Some relief from what was a golden age for nihilism.

Acting Deputy Editor The Wire UK

The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, USA) Enjoyable as a symptom as much as anything else, this is a depthless film, but that's good, since it means that it avoids Frank Miller's portentous psychologising. Instead it's about surfaces and An evocation of a lost time and place, the film restores the exhilarating grandeur to Joy Division's music that Control failed to. It succeeds because it has what Control didn't the voice and body of Ian Curtis. How to throw away your life, twice - documentary...

BFI Screenonline UK

The best believe-the-hype film I saw all year and welcome proof that cinema can still be urgent and relevant, while systematically deconstructing hoary old gangster myths dating back to Cagney, Paul Muni and beyond. Import Export (Ulrich Seidl, Austria) The most confrontational film I saw this year, Seidl's second feature was simultaneously revolting and riveting, lurid and tender, despairing and yet strangely respectful of human dignity. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, Canada) An utter delight, and...

Columbia University New York USA

A fine film on gender discrimination in the Islamic Republic of Iran, in this case about women not being allowed to watch soccer games in sports stadiums. Panahi is now the heir-apparent to Abbas Kiarostami as the most intelligent film-maker of his generation. Politics is much more visibly embedded in his cinematic craftsmanship than in that of his mentor. In the Valley of Elah (Paul Haggis, USA) Haggis' quiet, subdued treatment of Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones) is one of the most memorable...

Critic After Dark Philippines Altar Rico Ilarde Philippines

Ilarde is too in love with horror to win the respect of arthouse audiences, yet too smart and subtle and stylish to hold the microscopic attention spans of hardcore gorehounds. His latest no-budget effort mixes Latin spells and demonic possession with a hero straight out of John Ford's The Quiet Man and a sidekick with the warmth and earthy humour of Sancho Panza. The results are distinctively Ilardean and altogether inimitable. Hellboy II The Golden Army (Guillermo del Toro, USA Germany)...

Critic and filmmaker UK

There will be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA) Magnificent - in a class of its own, proving that Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis are among the supreme talents of today. Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas, France) Poignant - Assayas makes his most mature and Renoiresque film, with a top cast. Hilarious - finally a film from Maddin that sustains its length with a brilliant parade of fantasy and invention. Wall E (Andrew Stanton, USA) Beautiful - animation has never been more sublime, with a...

Critic Mexico

An enthralling account of how the Camorra has seeped into every aspect of Neapolitan life. Through five separate narratives, the film creates an overpowering, cumulative effect. Still Walking (Kore-eda Hirokazu, Japan) In what is perhaps Kore-eda's best work to date, the nuanced depiction of a Japanese family's inner turmoil brought out justified comparisons with Ozu. Three Monkeys (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey France Italy) Although dismissed by some colleagues as a minor film, this is an intense...

Critic Sunday Herald UK

McQueen's account of hunger striker Bobby Sands confidently lets the images do the talking - images that are by turn ravishing, bruising, haunting. In the middle of the film is a verbal stand-off, between terrorist and priest, to rival that of Pacino and De Niro in Tony Manero (Pablo Larra n, Chile Brazil) Disco and dictatorship meet in this wickedly inspired prism on the Pinochet years by Chilean Larra n. Weaselly Ra l is a psychopath obsessed with Travolta's Jive Talkin' Saturday Night Fever...

Critic UK

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, France) One could scarcely imagine a less promising subject for a film than the story of a man totally paralysed except for his left eyelid, but Schnabel, aided by subtle acting from Mathieu Amalric and Anne Consigny, made something wonderfully inspiring while avoiding sentimentality. No Country for Old Men (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, USA) Perhaps not quite as terrifying as Cormac McCarthy's novel, but the Coen brothers' film is by far the best...

Critic UKIndia

Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, UK USA) Danny Boyle captures the energy of Mumbai in a way no other filmmaker has managed. 99 francs (Jan Kounen, France) This hallucinogenic, vicious satire on the advertising industry has a haunting coda. The Good, the Bad, the Weird (Kim Ji-woon, South Korea) A thoroughly enjoyable homage to Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns that reaffirms Korea's pole position in current Asian cinema. McQueen's film is a starkly beautiful, spine-chilling, subtle political...

Critic US

The wondrous true story of a tightrope walk between the Twin Towers becomes a wonderful mel e of heist flick, joie de vivre and memento mori in Marsh's superlative documentary. Be Kind Rewind (Michel Gondry, USA) Nostalgie de la boue (literally, 'nostalgia for the mud') meets community activism in Gondry's typically scattershot attempt at VHS revivalism. An uncomfortable and rewarding lo-fi debut from Brooklynite Bronstein, whose 16mm feature obliges us to spend time with people you'd cross the...

Critics Germany Austria

It's not that we think that 2008 was a lean year, just that we saw these five films for the first time on a big screen in 2008. They perfectly embody what we believe in, particularly in this combination United Red Army (Wakamatsu Koji, Japan) Wakamatsu's film is a monument to an ambiguous but obstinate optimism. Prisoner-Terrorist (Adachi Masao, Japan, 2006) A philosophical exploitation trash-tract about terrorism as self-realisation. It's astonishing that the two films above are so rarely...

Daily Telegraph UK

Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony (Zhang Yimou, China) The drums the LED paper scrolls the dancers the lip-synching and the CGI fireworks the setting of Herzog and De Meuron's extraordinary Bird's Nest Stadium the militant euphoria of it all. This wasn't just Zhang's best production for many years, it was also the most giddy, eye-popping spectacle of the year. Patria mia, nomad direction (Duska Zagorac, Bosnia & Herzegovina UK) No documentary this year beguiled me more than this revelatory...

Editor Sight Sound UK

There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA) Powerful large-scale cinematic drama such as very few film-makers are now capable of producing. On a par with many of the 70s greats such as Apocalypse Now and Chinatown. Day-Lewis knows how to overplay with conviction better than anyone I can think of. Here he is the Big Bad Wolf of Capital, harrowing America for his hard-gotten gains. Laurent Cantet here is out-Loaching Ken and getting a more human as well as humanist result. The film's...

Festival programmer and critic Kazakhstan Twolegged Horse Samira Makhmalbaf Iran

The most impressive film that I saw anywhere, this concerns a rich boy who hires a poor youth to carry him around. It brings together complex relationships. Tulpan (Sergey Dvortsevoy, Kazakhstan) Winning the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes only confirmed this film's great cinematic quality. Dvortsevoy's documentary approach to fiction reflects the energy of life in inhospitable climates. It's a bitter and a beautiful portrait of Kazakhs living in the steppes. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas...

Filmmuseum Austria

Summer Hours (Oliuier Assayas, France) Summer Hours is the best film of 2008 and the best Chekhov production since 1904, to my knowledge - the only film to focus so fully and graciously on the very real life of things. Because, as a second and third viewing made clear, its greatness in matters of art and heart wasn't diluted by its surprising success with so many critics and non-critics (surprising only because I feared that cinephiles would give it an easy anti-realist bashing). Our Beloved...

Geoffrey Macnab Critic UK

The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, USA) A grungy, lowish-budget yarn about a wrestler fallen on hard times, Aronofsky's film has the same pathos and gentleness as John Huston's Fat City. The wrestling scenes may be garish and violent but the wrestlers treat each other with a respect that they can't find in the outside world. Mickey Rourke is immensely moving in a role tailor-made for him. Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, UK) In the year of the credit crunch and the global economic slowdown, Sally...

Graham Fuller Critic USA

Edge of Heaven (Fatih Akin, Germany Turkey) Moving away from the brutal energy of Head-On, Fatih Akin's latest is both reflective and gentle forgive and connect are the messages of a film as concerned with healing generational conflicts as it is with crossing national boundaries. Its optimism only goes so far, though turning the narrative gears are the murders of two women. Extremist violence lurks on the periphery. Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan France) More than a dreamy...

Head of film programme BFI Southbank UK

The finest film by an American director this year, a monumental achievement of astonishing audacity and ambition best watched in one go. Of Time and the City Terence Davies, UK) Best documentary - even richer than La Vie moderne Raymond Depardon), La Forteresse (Fernand Melgar) and Routes Dancing to New Orleans (Alex Reuben) - and a magisterial return to our screens by Britain's greatest living film-maker. Still Walking Kore-eda Hirokazu, Japan) A witty, perceptive and affecting look at family...

Heat magazine UK

There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA) Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, Italy) Hunger (Steue McQueen, UK) The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, USA) The Cannes critics, who never pass up the chance for a good moan, built up their indignation in advance of the prize-giving ceremony. Jury head Sean Penn was bound to award the Palme D'Or to the flawed Che for political reasons, or to Clint Eastwood's solidly middlebrow Changeling for personal ones. In fact, the best two competition films, The Class...

Independent on Sunday UK

This has been a vintage year for first-person memoir-diary-essay films, Terence Davies (Of Time and the City) and Agn s Varda (The Beaches of Agn s) also leading the pack. But for sheer fabulist eccentricity, Maddin's essay in civic Freudianism was in a snowbound league of its own. Johnny Mad Dog (Jean-St phane Sauvaire, France Belgium Liberia) This year's most arresting revelation, Sauvaire's film is a troubling, intense drama about child soldiers in an African war zone. That it was shot in...

Jay Weisserg

Variety, Italy USA Il Divo (Paolo Sorrentino, Italy) While Gomorrah gets all the attention, the better film, Il Divo, is marginalised as too opaque for non-Italian audiences. For those in the know, every name mentioned is like a kick in the stomach, but anyone with a sense of cinematic language will be bowled over by Paulo Sorrentino's bold, witty and devastating critique of Italy's deformed political landscape. Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, Israel) I went in thinking it's impossible to make a...

Jeanmichel Frodon Cahiers du cinma France

Le Dernier maquis (Rabah Ameur-Zaimeche, France Algeria) A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin, France) The Silence of Lorna (Luc Dardenne Jean-Pierre Dardenne, 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, France) Le Premier venu (Jacques Doillon, France Belgium) Tokyo Sonata (Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Japan Netherlands Hong Kong) The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina France Italy Spain) Hunger (Steue McQueen, UK) Serbis (Brillante Mendoza, Philippines France) Z32 (Aui Mograbi, Israel France) The Dark Knight...

Jonathan Rosenbaum

I retired from a 20-year stint of regular reviewing at the end of February. Apart from a few festivals since then, I haven't seen many new features and haven't experienced much sense of any loss. The current work that stirs me the most tends to interface non-fiction and fiction, usually with greater emphasis on the former 24 City (Jia Zhangke, China) Still the producer of our best global newspapers. Of Time and the City (Terence Davies, UK) England's greatest living film-maker gains a new...

Kenneth Turan La Times USA

A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin, France) Few situations sound more banal than a film about a Christmas family reunion, and few things are more exciting than what Even if seeing is believing, this exhilarating documentary will make you doubt what your eyes are telling you it really will. Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, USA) Jonathan Demme's gratifying return to his independent-film roots, and for actress Anne Hathaway, of all people, a career-changing performance. Slumdog Millionaire...

Lovefilm and CNNcom Canada

Ed Harris was born to make Westerns, and this one is a beaut funny, laconic and sharp as a freshly oiled spur. Hunger (Steue McQueen, UK) For the smoke in the snow. For mopping up the piss. For daring to concentrate the words in the very heart of the movie. The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, USA) On the one hand there's Mickey Rourke's face - what's left of it. And on the other, there's the cavalier charm and gentility we remember from the old days. Mad Detective (Johnny To, Hong Kong) The most...

Michel Ciment

Couscous (Abdelatif Kechiche, France) Abdelatif Kechiche's third feature is the outstanding French film of the year with its vitality, its pathos, its sense of humour and its exhilarating combination of the best of Pagnol and Pialat. Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, Italy) This exemplifies the return of the great Italian political cinema with its sense of places and faces and its exposure through a mosaic-style narrative of the wrongdoings of society. Hunger (Steue McQueen, UK) Undoubtedly the debut...

Midnight Eye France Japan

United Red Army (Wakamatsu Koji, Japan) With this year's May 1968 anniversary celebrations all but completely glossing over events in the east, Wakamatsu's gripping 3hour docudrama charting the birth of the radical Japanese left-wing outfit through its violent internal ideological purges to its bloody implosion several years later cries out for wider international exposure. Fine, Totally Fine (Fujita Yosuke, Japan) A touching portrait of a group of loveable losers that repeatedly knocks the...

New York Post USA

The Witnesses (Andr T chin , France Spain) A period piece that feels utterly contemporary as T chin observes his AIDS-era characters bearing witness to love, compromise and fate. The story of a good soul, like Fellini's Nights of Cabiria or Candide, and socially conscious as Leigh always is, but here at his most exuberant and engaging. Siega and writer Daniel Taplitz offer a double-barrelled screwball comedy about the blended families and complicated choices of our open-sex society. It is as...

Nick Bradshaw Critic UK

Taxi to the Dark Side (Alex Gibney, USA) Alex Gibney's meticulous expos of the war on terror traces the The Solitary Life of Cranes (Eva Weber, UK) Eva Weber's city symphony of London from above, brilliantly Laurent Cantet's electrifying portrait of several bricks in the wall. In the Woods (Paul Vester, USA) Paul Vester's headspinning short animated dance with Dubya, flowers, and the Israel-Palestine wall. Wall E (Andrew Stanton, USA) Cute and eerie

Nick Roddick Critic UK

Sure, there are some hokey moments, but no other film has so precisely skewered the difference between the Iraq and Vietnam wars both unpopular at home, but only Iraq was fought by volunteer soldiers for whom the army was one of very few employment options. This is an angry, bitter and emotional diatribe about the betrayal of the American working class. Of Time and the City (Terence Davies, UK) The first time, I wept the second, I began to appreciate the exquisite artistry that Davies has put...

Peter Bradshaw The Guardian UK

Of Time and the City (Terence Davies, UK) There could hardly be a more satisfying comeback. Davies' docu-collage meditation on his Liverpool boyhood is unclich d, hilarious and moving. Parque v a (Enrique Rivero, Mexico) This year's Locarno winner was an intriguing film, influenced by Reygadas, a slow-burner which stayed in my mind when flashier products had disappeared. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (Sidney Lumet, UK USA) If this cracking thriller were the work of a 20-something...

Philip Kemp

Powerful, uncompromising, stylistically audacious - the most striking British feature debut for years. In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, UK USA) Scabrously funny and gloriously irreverent. Colin Farrell's eyebrows deserve an Oscar of their own. Of Time and the City (Terence Davies, UK) Our foremost cinematic poet back at last with a bitter-sweet tribute to his native city. Lust, Caution (Ang Lee, USA China Taiwan Hong Kong) Lee's wartime romantic tragedy builds slowly and confidently towards a...

Production development UK Film Council

Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, Israel) This powerful investigation of memory and history navigates the question of how to depict the undepictable as one former Israeli soldier struggles to remember his place in the Sabra-Shatila massacres of 1982. It's the kind of film I'd like to see on the sixth-form curriculum. Hunger (Steve McQueen, UK) Another film that returns to a bloody moment in recent history. Artist McQueen's outstanding film debut is such a physical piece of cinema that one feels...

Professor of Film History Birkbeck UK

An astonishing feature debut from Steve McQueen. Given the originality and variety of McQueen's 'gallery work' for more than a decade this shouldn't have come as a surprise, but I'm sure I wasn't alone in being surprised by its authority. This is a film that goes to the heart of the deep anger that has fuelled Northern Ireland's Troubles for over 40 years. With a minimum of historical scene-setting or relief from the hellish intensity of the Maze prison, McQueen and his collaborators take us to...

Sheila Johnston Critic UK

The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, USA) Not just a bravura comeback for Mickey Rourke (though it is), but an intimate, funny look at a community - small-time pro-wrestlers -rarely seen on film. A o u a (Jon s Cuar n, Mexico) Still photographs are stitched together into a bittersweet love story with the help of great vocal performances and sound design. Firsttime director Jonas is the son of Alfonso Cuaron but decidedly his own man. Lake Tahoe (Fernando Eimbcke, Mexico) No apologies for including...

The Bangkok Post Thailand

Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, USA) Kaufman's film is sad and oddly heartbreaking in its portrait of a man confronting his futility and insignificance of his existence and his art - or perhaps they're the same thing. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden) An underage vampire hooks up with an orphan boy in this cold, dark and moving film that's a teen love story, a blood-splashed horror, and the flipside of a fluffy fairytale, set in a nearly adult-free urban backwoods of...

The Films of Frederick Wiseman

Towering over my moviegoing this year was the experience of viewing or reviewing Wiseman's 34 documentaries. By fostering habits of observation and synthesis, his terrific work literally makes you a better movie watcher. Not to mention world watcher walking on the street, I found the same habits coming to the fore. Forget Kino-Glaz - here's Wiseman-Eye Random rep-house highlights in a mixed year for new releases American Job (Chris Smith, USA, 1996) Une sale histoire (Jean Eustache, France,...

The Telegraph UK

The year's most formally impressive cinematic call-to-arms, not so much for that static dialogue scene as for McQueen's ferocious collisions of image and sound. The Class (Laurent Cantet, France) Simply enthralling, and a Palme d'Or winner that's hard to knock, although it contains plenty to argue about. A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin, France) Some call Desplechin an acquired taste but I wolfed down this virtuoso ensemble piece, loving the in-joke of Emmanuelle Devos's late arrival. Secret...

Film programmer Canada

Itin raire de Jean Bricard (Jean-Marie Straub Dani le Huillet, France) Le Genou d'Art mide (Jean-Marie Straub, Italy) The high point of Cannes and of the year, Jean-Marie Straub's twin farewells to a past in which political resistance was a matter of life and death, and to his beloved partner and co-director Dani le Huillet, achieve rending nobility. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina France Italy Spain) Martel returns to her terrain of oblique unease among the rural bourgeoisie of...

Film Comment Lincoln Center USA

Four years ago, Chris Marker sent around a cartoon predicting that Barack Obama would be the first African-American president of the United States. The only thing he got wrong was the year. We didn't have to wait until 2016. On the night Obama was elected, we opened our windows and heard cheers and honking horns and victory whoops rising up from the street. We threw on our coats and ran out on to Broadway, which was shut down. We milled and chanted and clapped and jumped and somehow made way...

Anna Smith

Witty, gloriously irreverent and black as night, with a career-best performance from Colin Farrell. Gone Baby Gone Ben Affleck, USA This confident, engaging and emotionally complex drama deserved to be a bigger hit when it was finally released in June. I'd have loved to have seen it trounce the lazy, patronising cash-in that was Sex And The City The Movie. It'll be interesting to see if director Ben Affleck can follow this. In Search of a Midnight Kiss Alex Holdridge, USA One of those...

University of Cambridge UK Cloverfield Matt Reeves USA

Shows that monster movies look better through a camcorder. WALL E Andrew Stanton, USA For the first 40 minutes it's the best wordless comedy since the silent era. The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan, USA This is a truly disturbing dystopia with an unforgettable performance from Heath Ledger. Los Bastardos Amat Escalante, Mexico France USA A home-invasion movie, both brutal and subtle, which subverts all the stereotypes of Mexico and the USA. The Orphanage Juan Antonio Bayona, Spain France, 2006 A...

Alexis A Tioseco Critic Philippines

Bontoc Eulogy Marlon Fuentes, USA Philippines Bontoc Eulogy was made in 1995, but I first saw it - first heard about it - this past March, in Paris of all places at Cinema du Reel. Telling the story of Markod, one of many Filipino savages put on display in the St. Louis World Fair of 1904, the film is a stunning feat of borrowing and appropriation Edison films, Burton Holmes travel footage , a sincere fake-documentary, and a meditation on the nature of images, memory, identity, and cinema. It...

Mark Cousins Prospect UK

The Dark Knight Christopher Nolan, USA This was fuelled by such anxiety about cities and what festers within them that it reminded me of the great anti-city films of the 1920s as exciting as Metropolis. Of Time and the City Terence Davies, UK This showed a city where savvy, humour and memory is smelted. Julia Erick Zonca, France Zonca's exhilarating film treats its main character like a dung beetle scuttling through life. It made me think of Imamura's brilliant The Insect Woman someone release...

Michael Atkinson Critic USA

The crazed Winnipego-paleokino-alchemist, no-budget magus caps his meta-autobiographical trilogy and scores his most moving film. There Will Be Blood Paul Thomas Anderson, USA Who saw this coming, from the smug artificer-auteur of Magnolia Textures no one's seen in a period film before. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days Cristian Mungiu, Romania A hyperrealist ordeal by anticipation and, with an earned closet of international awards, the best of the Romanian films. The Flight of the Red Balloon Hou...

Chris Darke Critic UK

The Beaches of Agn s Agn s Varda, France Supposedly her last feature, Varda's semi-encyclopaedic cin -m moire is an enchanting documentary self-portrait covering her life and work. The story will no doubt be filled out in the five-part, four-hour television version to be screened on ARTE in 2010. Hunger Steve McQueen, UK This devastatingly interior work closes round the viewer like the faeces-smeared walls of a hunger-striker's cell. Proof that McQueen's generation of film-mad artists has...

Kate Stables Critic UK

There Will Be Blood Paul Thomas Anderson, USA This lean, dusty epic, breathtakingly ambitious in every aspect, includes a towering performance from Day-Lewis. It's a classic for our peak oil era. Lars and the Real Girl Craig Gillespie, USA Not just your average boy-meets-sex-doll love story. This whip- smart, big-hearted comedy of small town salvation brought Capra- esque charm back into the movies in spades. Lust, Caution Ang Lee, USA China Taiwan Hong Kong Lee at the peak of his powers,...

Assistant Editor Sight Sound United Red Army Wakamatsu Koji Japan

Wakamatsu Koji's gripping 3-hour docudrama account of Japan's Red Army Faction of the 1970s stands head and shoulders above The Baader Meinhof Complex as an insight into radical terrorist groups. There's no glamour here instead the suffocating claustrophobia of life inside such a group, particularly the gruesome scenes of 'self-criticism', is almost unbearable to watch. It deserves far more international exposure than it's so far had. Still Walking Kore-eda Hirokazu, Japan Kore-eda Hirokazu's...

Fernanda Solorzano Critic Mexico

Bullet in the Head Jaime Rosales, Spain Rosales' take on the activities of Basque terrorist organisation ETA is daring and unbashful. By leaving out any discernible dialogue, his re-creation of a bloody incident manages to send the audience a message on the absurdity of 'explaining' death. Be Kind, Rewind Michel Gondry, USA Only Gondry could have pulled this off. His display of homemade filming techniques is both a charming homage to pop-culture myths and a jaw-dropping lesson in the art of...

Catherine Wheatley Critic UK

Snow Aida Begic, Bosnia amp Herzegovina Germany France Iran Persepolis Vincent Paronnaud Marjane Satrapi, France USA Caramel Nadine Labaki, France Lebanon I've Loved You So Long Philippe Claudel, France 2008 seemed to me to be a particularly vibrant year for women filmmakers, with great works coming from old hands, such as Catherine Breillat, Laeticia Masson, Sandrine Bonnaire and Agn s Varda, and newcomers at least to these shores , including Pia Marais, Lucia Puenzo, C line Sciamma and Joanna...

Adrian Martin Critic Australia

Our Beloved Month of August Miguel Gomes, Portugal France This Portuguese film is the revelation of the year - an idiosyncratic, very funny and moving blend of documentary, fiction and popular music. The Silence of Lorna Luc Dardenne Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Belgium France Italy Germany The Belgian brothers' best film since Rosetta shows, once and for all, how their supposed 'social realism' has much more do with Bresson and philosophy. Gray is the new Jerry Lee Lewis the French love him and...

Brad Stevens Critic UK

The Flight of the Red Balloon Hou Hsaio-hsien, Taiwan France This sublime example of humanist cinema reinforces Hou's status as one of the world's greatest film-makers. Chelsea on the Rocks Abel Ferrara, USA Any year with both a new Hou and a new Ferrara must be a good one. Amid the bombast and pompousness of many of today's acclaimed films, the dismissal of Ferrara's latest as a minor work suggests the nature of its importance. Heartbeat Detector Nicolas Klotz, France The year's biggest...