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Election (1999)
Director: Alexander Payne
Is it strange to see this as Payne's highest entry on this list? Surely one would have expected the broader, more audience-friendly Sideways to have snagged that spot. In retrospect, perhaps not. A film that manages the gargantuan task of goosing both the Darwinian proving ground of high-school USA and the Byzantine machinations of the American political system, Election is satire masquerading as quirky comedy. A canny adaptation of a Tom Perrotta novel, it was initially inspired by the Bush-Clinton election of 1993 and the infamous case of a pregnant prom queen denied her title after staff rigged the vote. Regarding the latter, it's possible to view Election - in which teacher Matthew Broderick attempts to sabotage monstrously ambitious student Reese Witherspoon's bid for student body president - as not merely bang on target but also, in the light of the Florida 2000 fiasco, remarkably prescient. Read Review
The English Patient (1996)
Director: Anthony Minghella
If the late Minghella's best film is ladled with a Dullsville, awards-bait reputation, it shouldn't be, as it is a complex, ferociously intelligent, hugely emotional work - a true testament to a lost talent. Read Review
Rain Man (1988)
Director: Barry Levinson
The best film about a slickster and his autistic brother ever made, the unsung hero here is Levinson, who tells the tale in crisp, confident beats. Tom Cruise also knocks it out of the park. Read Review
The Great Silence (1968)
Director: Sergio Corbucci
A critics' favourite, this classic Spaghetti Western sees Jean-Louis Trintignant's mute gunfighter take on Klaus Kinski's bounty hunters. Also boasts one of the bleakest endings ever mounted.
Ace In The Hole (1951)
Director: Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder gives free reign to his legendary cynicism in this, his first film as writer-producer-director, a caustic tale of media exploitation with Kirk Douglas on top, sleazy form as ruthless journo Chuck Tatum. It's a film that gets more relevant with every passing year. Read Review
The Shop Around The Corner (1940)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
The inspiration for You've Got Mail. Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart fall for each other via letters in a wry, winning rom-com that stays just the right side of sentimental. One of the best from the grandmaster Lubitsch. Read Review

About The Poll
This poll was conducted in November 2008. The list was compiled using votes from Empire readers, Hollywood actors, actress and key film critics.

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