Top films of 2005
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Date: 22 December, 2005

Howl's Moving Castle
Howl's Moving Castle


'Everybody was racist but everybody also had the chance to redeem themselves - or not.'

Surefish’s film critic Catherine von Ruhland picks out her best films of the year.

2005 has been a cracking year (Gromit) for quality films. For a change, wave upon wave of strong adult movies (in the true sense of the word) washed in from Hollywood, and the kids were well entertained too. In Europe, Germany presented a particularly thriving film industry in spite of the country's economic woes, and African stories made a global impression.

The Aviator

Released on the cusp of last year, Martin Scorsese's stylish biopic humanely redeemed engineer/filmmaker Howard Hughes, especially for those recalling images from his final years of a tortured, long-haired, taloned recluse. Leonardo diCaprio's first truly grown-up role was a post-Titanic career best, and Kate Blanchett, classy as Katharine Hepburn deserved her Oscar.

The Woodsman

Kevin Bacon excelled as the released paedophile on parole attempting to go straight while surrounded by temptation in a brave film that sought compassion and understanding over condemnation. Mysterious Skin (15) heartbreakingly captured the other side of the story in its depiction of two damaged young men still paying for their lost childhood.

Head On

Two failed suicides met and married for convenience in this spiky tale of car-crash romance between a couple of going-nowhere Turkish Germans. 'Life's what you make it, don't back date it' on the soundtrack said it all.

Elsewhere, young German trio The Edukators (15), were breaking into rich people's houses, rearranging the furniture, and leaving grafitti declaring 'Your days of plenty are numbered.' Thought-provoking and prophetic, or maybe they too hadn't a clue.


A bitter-sweet road movie of a mid-life crisis as two mismatched fortysomething mates drank wine amid the Californian vineyards, bickered about women and generally wondered where life had gone.

Zach Braff's Garden State (15) too was laugh-out loud funny in its depiction of a seriously mad world, while Me and You and Everyone We Know (15) presented desperate people daring to connect.


Powerful men's last days came under scrutiny. Bruno Ganz gave a definitive performance as a raging Adolf Hitler holed up in his bunker with his increasingly lip-biting courtiers while outside the Nazis were fighting a losing battle.

The Sun (PG), about Japanese Emperor Hirohito preparing to surrender to General MacArthur at the end of World War II served as a worthy companion-piece. The Last Mitterand (PG) conveyed the difficulty of a journalist's attempt to pin down a modern president.

Dear Wendy

Lars von Trier's small-town Western was a pertinent Dane's eye-view and clever history lesson about America's love affair with the gun. Jamie Bell and his loser adolescent pals visibly straightened as their weapons gave tthem self-worth. While Canadian David Cronenberg's A History of Violence (18) darkly suggested what's needed to maintain white-picket-fence family life.


Everybody was racist but everybody also had the chance to redeem themselves - or not - in this intelligent star-studded LA story. The scenes between Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon in particular were powerfully gut-wrenching.

Equally 'of its time' was political thriller, Silver City (15) with the always worth-watching Chris Cooper giving a barn-storming George Bush impression that chilled and amused in equal measure.

In The Realms Of The Unreal

A magical documentary, narrated by ubiquitous childstar Dakota Fanning traced the behind-closed-doors fantastical artistic blossoming of barely noticed US janitor, Henry Darger, and so captured the worth of every human being, however prepossessing they might seem. Oscar-winning doc, Born Into Brothels and Darwin's Nightmare and Tarnation (15) were all jaw-dropping true-life tales.

Howl's Moving Castle

Hayao Miyazaki didn't quite match Spirited Away in calibre but the animation was breathtaking. And Howl was the most beautiful man - or wizard - on screen this year.

The psychedelic Spongebob Squarepants (U) was cuddlier than Robots (PG) and while we were saddened by the Aardman fire (though Nick Park's dismissing of it in the light of the Pakistan earthquake was honourable) Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (U) brought the smiles back.

The Constant Gardener

Based on John le Carre's novel, this was ostensibly a mainstream ghost/love story cum political thriller set in the Nairobi's slums where a Western drug company is cynically using the locals as guinea pigs. Hotel Rwanda (12A) too placed African politics high on the global movie agenda, the documentary Shake Hands With The Devil revealing the chilling truth about UN-tasked Lieutenant General's Romeo Dallaire's - Nick Nolte's character's - tied-hands inability to stop the slaughter.

Also Rans

Christopher 'Memento' Nolan made a brave and dark stab at Batman Begins (12A) that left you wanting to see what he'd have done with the already filmed sequels.

Bonbon El Perro (15) was a deliciously deadpan Patagonian road movie about one on-the-scrapheap fiftysomething man and his tactiturn dog.

In 3-Iron (15), a lonely housebreaker discovers a battered women and intriguingly becomes her invisible/ ghost lover in this Eastern fable.

Millions (12A), Danny Boyle's latest moneybags movie (Shallow Grave for kids?) had at its heart a young Catholic lad who
only wanted to do good - and a final sequence depicting the changed world for some that well-placed money can buy.

Bullet Boy (15) was a Britflick about young East End men with guns (so what's new) that was grounded in reality. Lead, Ashley Walters - aka So Solid Crew's Asher D - was even filmed leaving the Feltham cell he'd once actually occupied, flanked by the very same screws.

Maria Full of Grace (15) followed a Colombian girl's matter-of-fact yet desperately dangerous drug mule journey to the US.

Moolaade (15) examined the women of a Sengelese village attempting to make a stand against female circumcision.

Being a quality football film isn't saying much but Goal! made the Premiership of the genre whether or not you happened to like the sport.

Oscar-nominated The Sea Inside (PG) and Million Dollar Baby (12A) both had quality scripts but shared severely disabled main characters seeking death above all else.

The Chorus (12A) was a French version of the new teacher taking a class of no-hopers and transforming them; here the singing truly lifted the heart.

Heimat 3 (15) at 6 episodes was more suited to the small screen (it's been shown on BBC 4) but its fascinating tracing of the lives of a few friends in Germany from unification to the Millenium had a big screen scope.

Revivals worth catching this year were the French classic, l'Atalante (PG), Robert Bresson's Pickpocket (PG ) which provided the inspiration for the ending of American Gigolo, and West Side Story (PG) in its element screened in the 1950s interior luxury of London's Curzon Mayfair cinema.