Helen O'Hara

Editor At Large, Empire

Voted for

In the Mood for Love2000Wong Kar Wai
The Apartment1960Billy Wilder
Casablanca1942Michael Curtiz
Petite maman2021Céline Sciamma
His Girl Friday1939Howard Hawks
Hunt for the Wilderpeople2016Taika Waititi
Spirited Away2001Hayao Miyazaki
Lady Bird2017Greta Gerwig
Parasite2019Bong Joon-ho
Singin' in the Rain1951Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen


In the Mood for Love

2000 Hong Kong, France

There are few films as gorgeous, and hardly any that capture cinema's potential for aching romance as well.

The Apartment

1960 USA

Imagine being as good at anything as Jack Lemmon is for every second of this tragicomic masterpiece.


1942 USA

A perfect movie.

Petite maman

2021 France

Delicate, understated, profound, perfect.

His Girl Friday

1939 USA

Still faster and funnier than modern life can provide.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

2016 New Zealand, USA

I adore this film and I don't care if this is its only vote. It's a classic odd couple movie with a quintessentially Kiwi sense of humour and easily Waititi's best. Skux 4 life.

Spirited Away

2001 Japan

Bizarre and beautiful, this is the perfect example of a film that *had* to be animated because there's no other way to do it.

Lady Bird

2017 USA

A great mother-daughter story. We need more of those to counter cinema's endless father issues.


2019 Republic of Korea

Few films switch genres as nimbly as this one, and even fewer manage to say something while they're about it. The moment when the housekeeper opens that door is an all-time great cinema experience.

Singin' in the Rain

1951 USA

A perfect musical: bright, sparky and romantic, leavened by a certain clear-eyed cynicism underneath.

Further remarks

As you can perhaps tell, I've gone for favourite films I also think are great, not simply "greatest" films I can't connect with. I freely acknowledge the greatness of, say, The Godfather, but I have never particularly been moved by it.