Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss bring Sherlock Holmes into the present day, in slick, stylish fashion. Benedict Cumberbatch shot to fame on the strength of the title role – but Martin Freeman's performance as the down-to-earth John Watson is just as important to the show's success, with a thousand Tumblrs now dedicated to capturing their interplay in GIF form.
Netflix has the first two series available to view – they may be short at just three episodes each, but those episodes are just as long (and packed with twisty-turny plotting) as any movie. Pace yourself and space them out for maximum enjoyment.
A terrorism and spy thriller with a cracking twist (at least in the first season): we don’t know if the terrorist really is a terrorist – or if he even knows whether or not he’s one.
Homeland gets its hooks into you very quickly, and while the premise and plot have a tendency to stretch the bounds of believability at times, there’s always something that’ll keep you watching. At first it’s that is-he-or-isn’t-he hook, but soon it’s the performances from a great cast, with Claire Danes’ portrayal of bipolar CIA officer the clear standout. Currently, the first three seasons are available to stream on Netflix.
– Sam Kieldsen
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Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey has made an extraordinary about-turn in the last year or so, going from bland leading-man roles in romantic comedies to full-blown Oscar contender. And the McConaissance kicked off with this film, in which he plays Ron Woodruff – a macho Texan who's diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to live. He quickly defies doctors' gloomy predictions by using unapproved drugs; and sets up a business smuggling the pharmaceuticals in from Mexico for fellow patients. McConaughey's easy charisma gives way to a fierce desperation as the film progresses, and Woodruff faces down both the prejudice faced by AIDS sufferers in the 80s, and the bureaucratic indifference of the FDA.
If at first glance it seems like an Oscar-baiting checklist – AIDS! Gay and transgender characters! Weight loss! – it quicky reveals itself as a compassionate, unflinching portrait of a many-layered man.
As JJ Abrams takes over the director's chair for the new Star Wars film, it's worth revisiting his homage to the 1970s cinema that was defined by film-makers like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. A love letter to the era – and to the director's youthful exploits as a film-maker – it follows a gang of kids who inadvertently catch an alien monster on film while they're making a creature feature movie.
Mashing up the wonder of The Goonies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. with the scares of Jaws, it's no mere pastiche – this is an exciting adventure story in its own right, and is compelling proof that Abrams is the best choice to take the helm of the Millennium Falcon.
Captain America: The First Avenger
A WW2 action-adventure that has more in common with Indiana Jones than Saving Private Ryan, the first Captain America film is a love letter to the pulp fiction of the 1930s and 40s. Weedy Steve Rogers is determined to make the grade and fight the Nazi menace – but he's hamstrung by his 4F physique. When he's given the chance of enlisting in the US Army's Super Soldier program, he becomes Captain America – the Star-Spangled Man, taking the fight to the German deep science division, HYDRA.
Director Joe Johnston has a flair for comic-book adventure, having previously directed The Rocketeer – and here, he pays tribute to the derring-do of wartime serials. Hugo Weaving camps it up as hissable villain the Red Skull (complete with Werner Herzog accent), while Chris Evans brings layers to Captain America, making him more than just a flag-waving steroidal freak. This is a more nuanced portrait of heroism than you'd expect, playing on themes of self-sacrifice; in wartime, there are no happy endings.