Top Ten 1996

1. Secrets & Lies
2. The English Patient
3. Fargo
4. Breaking The Waves
5. Sling Blade
6. The People Vs. Larry Flynt
7. Big Night
8. Trainspotting
9. The Portrait of a Lady
10. Irma Vep


Although it was one of the silliest films made that year, The Nutty Professor does boast, as its most appealing asset, a performance by Eddie Murphy as the titular character…as well as his entire family. Rick Baker won an Oscar for his superb makeup work, but it is the gifted humour shining through all that rubber and latex that makes the film work so well, and it provided the star with an insanely impressive comeback that he made good on ten years later when he finally received his first Oscar nomination (for a musical!)

Honour Roll: Tom Cruise, Jerry Maguire; Woody Harrelson, The People Vs. Larry Flynt; Geoffrey Rush, Shine; Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade


As the cop who investigates a murder in the snowy plains of Brainerd, Minnesota, Frances McDormand delivers the quirkiest lines with the most disarming level of honesty in Fargo, bringing a level of adorable sympathy to a character that could easily have been a caricature. It is the very best film the Coens ever made, and she is its finest player.

Honour Roll: Brenda Blethyn, Secrets And Lies; Diane Keaton,Marvin’s Room; Nicole Kidman, The Portrait Of A Lady; Emily Watson, Breaking The Waves


Geoffrey Rush stuttering his way through the role of David Helfgott is definitely impressive, but more terrifying to watch in Shine is the unstoppable Armin Mueller-Stahl as the overprotective, insanely perfectionist father who makes Mama Rose look like Roger Rabbit. Mueller-Stahl often plays the heavies in American films, something to do with his piercing blue eyes and gruff German accent, but here he gets to portray more dimensions, putting as much terror into his love of his talented son as he does into his disapproval and eventual distancing from him.

Honour Roll: Ian Hart, Hollow Reed; Jeremy Irons, Stealing Beauty; Edward Norton,The People Vs. Larry Flynt; James Woods, Ghosts Of Mississippi


Juliette Binoche brings an incredibly rich texture to Minghella’s masterpiece The English Patient, showing strength as a nurse, vulnerability as a lover, and an immensely sympathetic manner when taking in all the horrible experiences of the war that she witnesses or hears about and suffering them on our behalf. The romance carries the picture but her wise and intelligent observations are its anchor.

Honour Roll: Katrin Cartlidge, Breaking The Waves; Barbara Hershey, The Portrait Of A Lady; Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Secrets And Lies; Miranda Richardson, Kansas City


After years of popularity on the arthouse circuit and European film festivals,Mike Leigh hit the big time when his best ever film Secrets and Lies won a Palme D’Or, scored him his first Oscar nomination and had audiences from around the world running to cinemas to see his work. It remains his greatest triumph and rightfully so; his brilliantly executed method of putting together characters and scenes created after months of improvisation (not to be confused with an improvised film, which his movies are often mistakenly thought to be) coming up with a story of loss and restoration that is riveting, terrifying and wholly satisfying in conclusion.

Honour Roll: Olivier Assayas, Irma Vep; Milos Forman, The People Vs. Larry Flynt; Campbell Scott, Stanley Tucci, Big Night; Lars Von Trier, Breaking The Waves