Taiwanese martial arts drama The Assassin has been named the best film of 2015 in a poll of 168 critics.
Set in the 9th Century, the film earned Hou Hsiao-Hsien the Cannes Film Festival’s best director prize in May.
It has now topped Sight & Sound magazine’s Films of the Year poll, ahead of Carol and Mad Max: Fury Road.
Arabian Nights by Portuguese director Miguel Gomes was fourth, followed by Cemetery of Splendour by Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
Seven of the top 10 films had “striking female leads”, according to the British Film Institute (BFI), which publishes Sight & Sound.
They include The Assassin’s heroine, played by Shu Qi, who was kidnapped as a child by a nun, trained in martial arts and sent to kill her cousin, a military leader.
Sight & Sound editor Nick James said: “It’s pleasing that such a gorgeous work of revenge, magic and delicate restraint – a work of martial arts cinema only in the loosest sense – should win out with the critics.
“Todd Haynes’ swooning, subtle lesbian melodrama Carol has no peers in terms of craft and guile, so it’s no surprise to see it in one of the top spots.
“On the other hand, finding George Miller’s mega-chase-movie Mad Max: Fury Road in third place might seem a surprise but many critics have waited a long while for such a sharp, vivid and imaginative blockbuster.”
The highest-ranked British film was drama 45 Years, which starred Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary, simply titled Amy, was also in the top 10.
Other films in the top 20 included Charlie Kaufman’s animation Anomalisa (joint 11th place), horror film It Follows (=11th), Pixar’s Inside Out (=14th), and Tangerine, which was shot entirely on iPhones (=14th).
The full top 20:
- 1. The Assassin (director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
- 2. Carol (Todd Haynes)
- 3. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
- 4. Arabian Nights (Miguel Gomes)
- 5. Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
- 6. No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman)
- 7. 45 Years (Andrew Haigh)
- 8. Son of Saul (Laszlo Nemes)
- 9. Amy (Asif Kapadia)
- 10. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)
- =11. Anomalisa (Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman)
- =11. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)
- 13. Phoenix (Christian Petzold)
- =14. Girlhood (Celine Sciamma)
- =14. Hard to Be a God (Aleksei German)
- =14. Inside Out (Pete Docter)
- =14. Tangerine (Sean Baker)
- =14. Taxi Tehran (Jafar Panahi)
- =19. Horse Money (Pedro Costa)
- =19. The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer)
The poll comes days after The Assassin collected five awards at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards, including best film and best director.