Mike Davies picks the highlights and lowpoints of his year at the cinema...
Discounting the obvious dumb crowdpleasers geared to shifting tons of popcorn, 2005 has seen an unusually intelligent and thoughtful year from Hollywood, providing films that took as much trouble to engage the brain and emotions as they did the adrenaline glands.
It began in excellent shape with Ray, Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator, proceeding through Ridley Scott's unjustly snubbed Kingdom of Heaven, Robert Rodriguez's thrilling and pioneering Sin City, Christopher Nolan's reinvention of the superhero movie with Batman Begins and Keanu Reeves in Constantine before bowing out in blistering form with The Constant Gardener, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and, of course, King Kong.
Heck, even George Lucas managed to find depth and darkness for the concluding instalment of his Star Wars saga. Of course, Serenity was a whole lot more fun.
Some blockbusters over-reached themselves with pompous self-importance and empty spectacle (War of the Worlds where Tom Cruise was acted off screen by Dakota Fanning), some were criticised for not being what they never set out to be in the first place (Fantastic Four wasn't supposed to be brow-furrowing angst, it was comic book fun!), others were over-shadowed by offscreen gossip (Mr & Mrs Smith is actually a cracking good action thriller) while some earned box office rewards they didn't truly deserve (Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire).
And then there was The Island , which couldn't make up it's mind if it wanted to be a thought provoking meditation on identity and cloning or a shoot em up big bangs chase movie. As a result, it failed as both and proved one of the year's most expensive flops with the producers firmly - and unfairly - laying the blame at the feet of its stars Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johannson.
And let's not mention Alexander.
It was a year of mixed fortunes for costume drama. Pride and Prejudice proved a hugely enjoyable and popular winner, Oliver Twist proved a painful turkey while almost no one went to see Johnny Depp with pox and bad teeth in the gloriously dark and vulgar The Libertine.
Given past track records, it was a huge surprise to find Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn turning out one of the best comedies of the year with The Wedding Crashers though ultimately 2005's biggest laughs were to be found with The 40 Year Old Virgin and wickedly funny Italian farce Torremelinos 73.
Indeed, this has been a prime year for world cinema. Seeing January in with A Very Long Engagement, the roll of honour embraced a rich diversity of offerings ranging from confusing but sensational Russian sci-fi horror
Night Watch, Argentinean dog tale Bombon El Perro, Machuca's story of the 1973 Chilean coup as seen through the eyes of a group of kids, and Wong Kar Wei's melancholic 2046 to the Oscar nominated Maria Full of Grace, the enigmatic but touching 3-Iron, the quite magnificent recreation of Hitler's last days in Downfall, Only Human's black comedy about the Israeli/Palestian situation, the ever so sweet The Chorus and Hukkle , a marvellous dialogue-free Hungarian film, part nature documentary, part murder mystery about everything's place in the food chain.
With the obvious exception of the direly pretentious Revolver, the physically unwatchable Rag Tale and Michael Winterbottom's porny 9 Songs, British and Irish cinema's had a good year.
Vera Drake set the high standard, but major medals should also be pinned to the chests of The Descent (horror film of the year), Adam & Paul (basically Waiting For Godot with two Dublin junkies), local filmmaker Shona Auerbach's poignant Dear Frankie, Danny Boy's kids' movie Millions, Kinky Boots, On A Clear Day, Mrs Henderson Presents (earning a Golden Globe nomination for Judi Dench up against Keira Knightley for P&P) and, naturally, the triumphant big screen debut of Wallace and Gromit.
And you know what, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy wasn't bad either.
Documentaries continued to fare well, this year serving up an eclectic array of subjects that included porn movies (Inside Deep Throat), dirty jokes (The Aristocrats ), wine (Mondovino), paraplegic sports (Murderball), junior ballroom dancing (Mad Hot Ballroom), rock 'n' roll (Ends of the Century, DiG, Rock School), scams and pranksters (Czech Dream, The Yes Men), penguins (March of the Penguins) and even quantum-physics (What The Bleep Do We Know).
The American indie sector was responsible for some of the year's best and most intelligent and stimulating films.
If Bill Murray disappointed in Broken Flowers and The Life Aquatic (both very overrated), Liam Neeson was on top form with Kinsey (but was overlooked at Oscar nomination time), Alexander Payne served up his best yet with the deserved Oscar winning Sideways, Jacob Estes chilled with coming of age drama Mean Creek, David Cronenberg returned to form with The History of Violence, Sean Penn was electrifying in The Assassination of Richard Nixon as was Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman while both performance artist Miranda July and screenwriter Paul Haggis made outstanding directorial debuts with Me You And Everyone Else and Crash respectively, the latter arguably providing the year's most potent, emotionally charged scene with Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton.
There was the usual supply of rubbish of course. The aforementioned Bleep, Revolver and 9 Songs all join the turkeys list alongside Deuce Bigalow 2, The Dukes of Hazzard, the Devil's Rejects, It's All Gone Pete Tong, Are We There Yet, Man of the House and Chicken Tikka Masala.
But with Big Momma's House 2 and Steve Martin in the Pink Panther, be assured 2006 has much worse to come.