It’s shocking that you have to go back all the way to 1986 to find a genuinely great Alien movie, but despite its advancing years, James Cameron’s action thriller take on the xenomorphs still feels fresh, frightening and frenetic.
When Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley is picked up following the events of Alien, she finds out that she’s been in hypersleep for decades – during which time humans have begun colonising the planet where she discovered the creature that killed her crew. When contact with said colony is lost, she is sent in as with a gung-ho military team to investigate, and discovers… well, that’d be spoiling it.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Rian Johnson’s take on Star Wars has come in for plenty of criticism from the self-appointed bastions of the series' purity, but anyone who isn’t kept up at night worrying about the “proper” way made-up characters in a space-fantasy world should behave or look will likely have a lot of fun watching it – and we sense that, as the mid-point for Disney’s new trilogy, its true value may not be recognised until after the third movie has been released, watched and digested.
You know the drill: it’s Star Wars. So expect lightsaber duels, dogfights in space, a few laughs, space nazis, “the lure of the Dark Side” and the rest – plus a slightly tonally weird trip to a space casino.
In his infinite wisdom, Stephen King identified the very high creepiness potential of clowns, and chose to propagate this concept via his beloved novel It. Now adapted for the screen for a second time in Andy Muschietti’s 2017 chiller, which comes off like a cross between The Goonies and Halloween.
Rich in Kingian tropes (childhood trauma, loss of innocence, friendship, ancient evil) and a loving homage to the 1980s, It is a fine piece of crowd-pleasing supernatural horror in which seven misfit kids are stalked by a entity that takes the form of their worst fears – and yes, in some cases that’s a clown. While it doesn’t attempt to redefine the genre, it works within horror’s confines to produce a film that’s as stuffed with heart and soul as it is with scares.
Blade Runner 2049
The long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi noir, Blade Runner 2049 is among the best-looking films ever made, with Roger Deakins’ masterful cinematography bringing director Denis Villeneuve’s nightmarish vision of a future Los Angeles to glorious life.
The movie as a whole doesn’t feel quite as assured as the camerawork – at almost three hours, it’s a little too ponderous for its own good – although it retains the original Blade Runner’s spirit through a mixture of fine action sequences, philosophical pondering and memorable characters, all tied together in a riveting detective story in which new-gen replicant Ryan Gosling seeks answers to a puzzling, deadly riddle.
Call Me By Your Name
Taking place over a glorious, early 1980s northern Italian summer, Call Me By Your Name is a coming-of-age story about an outwardly precocious teenager (the fantastic Timothée Chalamet) who falls for an older American (Armie Hammer) that comes to stay at his family’s holiday home.
To reveal any more would spoil the joy of this wonderful movie, which drifts warmly, hazily and lazily along like the perfect summertime. Evocative, funny and bittersweet, it conveys a universality (this is one of the few popular movies about a queer relationship that doesn’t make the sexuality of its participants into a plot point) that puts it among the finest films of the past few years.
We know what you’re thinking: it’s yet another Spider-Man reboot. But there’s something quite refreshing about this one, which star fresh-faced Brit Tom Holland as the web-slinger’s youngest movie portrayal yet, plus skips past the radioactive arachnid bite/Uncle Ben getting shot phase to a point where Peter Parker already knows that with great power comes great yada yada.
It’s also the first Spider-Man movie that exists within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which means we get appearances from familiar faces, plus the setup for the character’s appearance in Avengers: Infinity Wars later this year. This Spidey is still very much a school kid, of course, learning what he can do with his abilities and eager to please his benefactor Tony Stark (we’ve never seen a Spider-Man suit this hi-tech in previous movies). So when he gets the chance to stop an alien tech-enhanced arms dealer (Michael Keaton, this time playing a Birdman of a different type), he puts down his textbooks and starts swinging.
Before his current role steering the James Bond series, former theatre director Sam Mendes made his big screen debut helming this unconventional drama – which went on to win no fewer than six Oscars, cement Kevin Spacey as one of the best actors of his generation, and ensure none of us ever looked at a discarded plastic bag in the same way again.
A bleakly comic examination of contemporary life, American Beauty shines its spotlight on the suburbs – a place of crushing conformity, banality and superficiality that, in certain moments, still remains capable of exhibiting the pure beauty that lies below it all.
One of the Coen brothers’ early and (unjustifiably) lesser-known films, Miller’s Crossing is rich with the snappy script, intricate plotting, symbolism and visual flair that characterise their later hits like Fargo, The Big Lebowski and No Country For Old Men.
Set in an unnamed American city during the Prohibition era, it’s a slick gangster tale about the nature of friendship and betrayal, and features stellar performances from Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney and frequent Coen alumnus John Turturro.
The witty, hard-boiled dialogue might be the film’s best asset, but the sequence in which Finney’s pyjama and robe-clad mob boss fights off an assassination attempt to the strains of "Danny Boy" is nothing less than one of the great moments of '90s cinema.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The swashbuckling, squabbling and swaggering crew of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket and Baby Groot returns for another space adventure and, once again, the fate of the entire galaxy rests in their hands.
In a world where there are, perhaps, a few too many Marvel movies out there, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 stands out by virtue of its humour and (despite all the aliens) humanity. But don’t worry – if you’re looking for space dogfights, exploding planets and all manner of CGI extravagance, there’s no shortage of that either.