The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford ( MA15+): Despite some of the best acting this year ( from Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck) and a story that never loses its tragic grandeur, Andrew Dominik’s moody western aims too blatantly for epic status, becoming long- winded and pretentious, which is a shame. — Evan Williams
Across the Universe ( M): Julie Taymor’s spectacular musical incorporates 33 Beatles classics to tell the story of star- crossed lovers Jude ( Jim Sturgess) and Lucy ( Evan Rachel Wood). The songs are lovingly, excitingly reinvented. — David Stratton
Death Proof ( MA15+): Quentin Tarantino re- creates the appearance of 1970s exploitation films, with Kurt Russell as a maniacal killer who targets female drivers. There’s a lot of talk, a great car chase and a winning personality in New Zealand stuntwoman Zoe Bell. — D. S.
Control ( MA15+): Absorbing film about Ian Curtis, the lead singer of British pop group Joy Division, who took his life in 1980, aged 23. Anton Corbijn has shot this astonishing film in black and white. — E. W.
Eastern Promises ( R): David Cronenberg’s new film about Russian gangs in London and the accidental involvement of a young midwife ( Naomi Watts) in a world of sex slavery. Powerful. — D. S.
A Mighty Heart ( M): Michael Winterbottom’s vivid film about the killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002. As the pregnant wife who investigates her husband’s fate, Angelina Jolie gives a powerfully restrained performance. — D. S.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days ( MA15+): Relentlessly harrowing, brilliantly accomplished film from Cristian Mungiu about the efforts of a frightened student in communist Romania to obtain an illegal abortion. — E. W.
Michael Clayton ( MA15+): A fine thriller with George Clooney as a New York law firm troubleshooter who becomes caught up in some legal action involving a multinational agrichemical company. — D. S.
Death at a Funeral ( M): British comedy, directed by Frank Oz, with a clever screenplay and cast of consummate talent. A funeral is disrupted by the delivery of the wrong body and dramatic revelations. Modest, but the funniest film in a while. — D. S.
The Kingdom ( MA15+): In Peter Berg’s intelligent thriller, Jamie Foxx heads a team of FBI agents investigating a terrorist attack on a US compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in which scores of Americans have been killed. — E. W.
Hairspray ( PG): A plump Baltimore teenager ( Nikki Blonsky) succeeds in racially integrating a small television studio. Delights include John Travolta dancing in drag. — D. S.
Moody: The Assassination of Jesse James