The best films of 2024 in the UK so far

One Life

Anthony Hopkins stars as Nicholas Winton, the “British Schindler” who rescued 669 Jewish children from the Nazis, alongside Helena Bonham Carter on mighty form.
What we said: “The film does justice to this overwhelmingly moving event in British public life in a quietly affecting drama.” Read the full review.

Scala!!!

Richly enjoyable documentary charts the rise and fall of a unique alt-cinephile repertory house that inspired generations of film-makers, artists and musicians.
What we said: “A very entertaining madeleine for movie-going of the analogue age.” Read the full review.

Poor Things

Emma Stone gives a hilarious, beyond-next-level performance as Bella Baxter, the experimental subject of a troubled Victorian anatomist, in Yorgos Lanthimos’s toweringly bizarre comedy.
What we said: “Everything in it – every frame, every image, every joke, every performance – gets a gasp of excitement.” Read the full review.

The End We Start From

All too believable disaster drama with Jodie Comer as a young woman whose baby arrives just as environmental crisis begins to break the society around her.
What we said: “It is all the more disturbing, credible and immediate in that, unlike other examples of genre, the narrative isn’t heading for an abyss of unknowable chaos.” Read the full review.

Jodie Comer in The End We Start From. Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy

The Holdovers

Alexander Payne’s story of a cantankerous teacher holed up for Christmas with a wayward teen and the school cook is expertly told with gentle, grownup comedy.
What we said: “What a unique talent [Paul] Giamatti is; it’s a pleasure to see him play a movie lead, his first for a while, and his prominence in this really good film is a signal that the cinema could be moving back to a more approachable world of authentic drama and analogue talent.” Read the full review.

Samsara

Playfully mysterious invitation to contemplate death in Spanish film-maker Lois Patiño’s whimsical meditation on the Buddhist cycle of life.
What we said: “Set in Laos and Zanzibar, it is mysterious and quietist, but flavoured with something whimsical and even playful; it is one of those ostensibly serious films best appreciated with the sense of humour.” Read the full review.

All of Us Strangers

Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott are tremendous in a beautiful fantasy-romance about a screenwriter who visits his childhood home to find his parents, who were killed in a car crash, still living there.
What we said: “What tremendous performances from all four; what style [Andrew] Haigh brings to this movie, fusing the themes of romantic relationships and intergenerational relationships of his previous movies Weekend and 45 Years.” Read the full review.

The Zone of Interest

Jonathan Glazer adapts Martin Amis’s chilling Holocaust drama pulling the banality of evil into pin-sharp focus.
What we said: “It really has the scalp-prickling quality of a bad dream or a fairytale.” Read the full review.

Sandra Hüller in The Zone of Interest. Photograph: AP

American Fiction

This enjoyable meta-level adaptation of Percival Everett’s 2001 novel Erasure tackles black-victimhood stereotypes, showcasing Jeffrey Wright and Issa Rae as rival writers.
What we said: “Broad-brush American Fiction might be, but its approach to race and racism is oblique and unexpected, and it’s very funny about publishing’s literary ghetto.” Read the full review.

Occupied City

Monumental film which tracks day-to-day life in Amsterdam under Nazi rule asks hard questions of what we think about the gulf between past and present.
What we said: In its scale and seriousness, Occupied City allows its emotional implication to amass over its running time. The effect is mysterious and moving. Read the full review.

The Settlers

Europe’s early 20th-century exploitation of Tierra del Fuego is told in an unsparingly bloody drama-thriller by first-time director Felipe Gálvez Haberle.
What we said: “The Settlers is really unsettling: an evocation of the violence and colonial brutality mixed into the foundations of Chile’s nation state, and which, it is implied, provided a lesson in political violence for later on.” Read the full review.

The Iron Claw

Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White and Harris Dickinson play the Von Erich brothers, the wrestling superstars who were battered by trauma, in and out of the ring.
What we said: “The tragicomic spectacle of American wrestling, with all its poignant pantomime machismo and showbiz fury, is the subject of Sean Durkin’s deeply sad, odd true-life drama based on the case of the Von Erich family – like the Von Trapp family, only with a ’roid rage death wish.” Read the full review.

Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson and Zac Efron in The Iron Claw. Photograph: Brian Roedel

Eureka

Viggo Mortensen stars in barmy yet rich experimental enigma from Argentinian director Lisandro Alonso.
What we said: “It is entirely fascinating, though undoubtedly it requires the audience to recalibrate their own consumption-tempo and attention span stamina.” Read the full review.

Dune: Part Two

The second part of Denis Villeneuve’s monumental adaptation expands its extraordinary world of shimmering strangeness. It’s impossible to imagine anyone doing it better.
What we said: “It’s another shroom of a film, an epic sci-fi hallucination whose images speak of fascism and imperialism, of guerrilla resistance and romance.” Read the full review.

Memory

Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard excel in Michel Franco’s absorbing story about the unnerving reunion of a care worker and a friend from her past.
What we said: “It is about abuse, violence, recovery and the redemptive power of sexual intimacy, but also about just what its title proclaims: memory, and how this accumulates over a lifetime to form an identity.” Read the full review.

Red Island

A visually exquisite, tender film about a boy growing up in a military airbase in the former French colony of Madagascar, directed by Robin Campillo.
What we said: “Campillo has surrendered to the flow of memory and given us this wonderful, personal movie, created with tenderness, unsentimental artistry and visual flair.” Read the full review.

Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World

Giddy Romanian experiment is a freewheeling essay-movie-slash-black-comedy collage that takes swipes from all angles at modern life.
What we said: “It’s a film that freewheels around and refuses to alight on a particular tone, or decide what the central point really is, or to tell us precisely what sort of a satire it is, or if it’s a satire at all.” Read the full review.

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World. Photograph: Publicity image

Copa 71

The shameful treatment of women’s football after an unofficial tournament in Mexico in 1971 is the subject of this absorbing documentary.
What we said: “A revolutionary political parable that goes beyond football. A different world is possible; not only that, a different world was not just possible but did in fact exist.” Read the full review.

Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell

Much is open-ended about this realist yet dreamlike exploration of midlife crisis and regret set in Vietnam.
What we said: “It is a zero-gravity epic quest, floating towards its strange narrative destiny and then maybe floating up over that to something else.” Read the full review.

Monster

Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda offers a deliberately dense but ultimately hopeful examination of how to negotiate family dysfunction with intelligence and humanity.
What we said: “Kore-eda challenges us with intricacy and complexity in this family drama about bullying, homophobia, family dysfunction, uncritical respect for flawed authority, and social media rumour-mongering; all working together to create a monster of wrongness.” Read the full review.

The Delinquents

Beguilingly surreal slow-motion Buenos Aires heist tale that looks like what might result if Pedro Almodóvar and Éric Rohmer teamed up to compose a meanderingly long crime caper.
What we said: “The seriocomic taste of this film has to be savoured, like some little-known fortified wine, and there is something so seductive in this unlikely adventure.” Read the full review.

The Delinquents. Photograph: Publicity image

Baltimore

Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy tell a cool, low-key drama about Rose Dugdale, the wealthy debutante who joined the IRA, abetted an art heist and bombed a police station.
What we said: “Imogen Poots is excellent as Dugdale, seen almost throughout in searching closeup, wondering whether she has it in her to execute a possible witness in cold blood.” Read the full review.

Disco Boy

Giacomo Abbruzzese’s drama follows Belarusian Aleksei on his journey into the French Foreign Legion and a very strange epiphany in the Niger delta.
What we said: “This is bold film-making: a movie that wants to dazzle you with its standalone set pieces, but also to carry you along with its storytelling.” Read the full review.

Evil Does Not Exist

Compositional quirks and unhurried direction turn Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s tale of a Tokyo company buying up land near a pristine lake into a complex and mysterious drama.
What we said: “A realist film teetering on the edge of the uncanny, whose very title points the way towards the idea that there are shades of grey in every judgment we make.” Read the full review.

Evil Does Not Exist. Photograph: ©️2023 NEOPA

Monkey Man

Dev Patel exacts wildly OTT vengeance in the neon-lit city in this stylish and exciting action thriller, which doubles as a boisterous satire of Modi-esque nationalism.
What we said: “As the lead performer, Patel shows us some pretty serious martial arts chops, kickboxing and thumping seven shades of ordure out of the punchbag, and then the bad guys.” Read the full review.

Io Capitano

Two teenage boys star in Matteo Garrone’s passionate exposé of how greed, trauma and corruption drive the modern-day slave trade in would-be migrants.
What we said: “Apart from everything else, Io Capitano delivers some home-truths about the boats used; they are notionally ‘captained’ by one of the passengers, a wretched soul who, due to a nauseating twist of fate, may well be even less qualified and less able than everyone else.” Read the full review.

Back to Black

Woozy Amy Winehouse biopic that is more interested in romance and creativity than demons or blame, and is Sam Taylor-Johnson’s best film to date.
What we said: “There’s a thoroughly engaging and sweet-natured performance from Marisa Abela as Amy – though arguably taking the rougher edges off.” Read the full review.

Close Your Eyes

Spirit of the Beehive director Víctor Erice’s first feature in 30 years uses a film-within-a-film structure to ruminate on memory, ageing and cinema itself.
What we said: “It is a mysterious, digressive, long and baggily constructed film possessed of a distinctive richness and humanity, all about the balance between memory and forgetting which we all negotiate as we come to the end of our lives.” Read the full review.

José Coronado as Julio Arenas in Close Your Eyes. Photograph: New Wave Films

Opponent

Payman Maadi brings a fierce intelligence to his portrayal of an Iranian former wrestling champ seeking a secure new home for his family in Sweden.
What we said: “Opponent is a film about codes of masculinity and loyalty, in which the ‘opponent’ is your home country, your supposed adoptive country, even your spouse.” Read the full review.

Challengers

Luca Guadagnino’s terrifically absorbing screwball dramedy features Zendaya as a devastatingly cool leading lady, Josh O’Connor on rallying form and zinging extended dialogue rallies to match.
What we said: “Moment by moment, line by line and scene by scene, Challengers delivers sexiness and laughs, intrigue and resentment.” Read the full review.

Omen (Augure)

Musician and film-maker Baloji’s story about a Belgian-Congolese man who takes his white wife to DRC to meet the family is complex, risky and bold.
What we said: “The whole concept of a culture-clash is questioned and undermined by Baloji; culture, heritage, nationality and identity are all shapeshifting concepts here.” Read the full review.

Omen (Augure). Photograph: Publicity image

Kidnapped

Based on the true story of a young Jewish boy kidnapped by papal authorities, this is a full-tilt melodrama that lays bare tyranny, bigotry and the abuse of power in the Catholic church.
What we said: “[Director Marco] Bellocchio shows us a brutal convulsion of tyranny, power and bigotry with echoes of the Dreyfus affair in France, and later, horrific events.” Read the full review.

There’s Still Tomorrow

Paola Cortellesi’s directing debut, in which she also stars, depicts gruelling domestic abuse before finding its way to startling redemption.
What we said: “It’s a richly and even outrageously sentimental working-class drama of postwar Rome, a story of domestic abuse whose heroine finally escapes from misogyny and cruelty through a piece of narrative sleight-of-hand that borders on magic-neorealism.” Read the full review.

Love Lies Bleeding

Violent story of extreme sport, forbidden love and a lot of murder could be a new grindhouse classic, but Kristen Stewart’s fierce subtlety pushes it up a level.
What we said: “Uproarious, horribly violent and lethally smart noir thriller sited in the Venn diagram overlap between bodybuilding, murder and sex. The body count climbs so alarmingly that the characters are in danger of running out of rugs to roll the corpses up in.” Read the full review.

Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry

Elene Naveriani’s film tells the story of a middle-aged single woman in a remote Georgian village whose life is changed for ever after a near-death experience.
What we said: “It’s a film which tells us what most films contrive to ignore: love and sex is not just for the lovely and the sexy and the young.” Read the full review.

Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry. Photograph: © ALVA FILM & TAKES FILM

La Chimera

Set in 1980s Tuscany, Alice Rohrwacher’s captivating film follows a lovelorn Englishman plundering Italy’s historical artefacts with a bizarre gang.
What we said: “It’s a movie bustling and teeming with life, with characters fighting, singing, thieving and breaking the fourth wall to address us directly.” Read the full review.

Hoard

Luna Carmoon’s deeply strange and compelling study of hysteria shows the ways in which childhood trauma can bloom in adult life.
What we said: “Hoard isn’t perfect but its pure vehemence and the commitment of its performances are arresting.” Read the full review.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

Anya Taylor-Joy makes a fantastic action heroine as the chase resumes, facing down a hilariously evil Chris Hemsworth in signature high-speed fights.
What we said: “Young Furiosa, played by Taylor-Joy, sets the tone of vengeful rage that runs through George Miller’s immersive, spectacular prequel to his Mad Max reboot from 2015.” Read the full review.

The Beast

Disaster appears imminent as Léa Seydoux and an impressive George MacKay meet across three different eras in what is maybe Bertrand Bonello’s best movie yet.
What we said: “It’s rich, strange, with a chilly indifference to your viewing comfort and a tremor of imminent disaster.” Read the full review.

George MacKay and Léa Seydoux in The Beast. Photograph: Carole Bethuel

Hit Man

Glen Powell plays a mild-mannered professor posing as a contract killer to catch would-be criminals in Richard Linklater’s diverting noir comedy loosely based on a true story.
What we said: “Hit Man comes close to fantasy and approaches screwball but keeps the realism. A hit is what it deserves to be.” Read the full review.

The Guardian

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