Many different photovoltaic technologies are being developed for large-scale solar energy conversion. The wafer-based first-generation photovoltaic devices have been followed by thin-film solid semiconductor absorber layers sandwiched between two charge-selective contacts and nanostructured (or mesostructured) solar cells that rely on a distributed heterojunction to generate charge and to transport positive and negative charges in spatially separated phases. Although many materials have been used in nanostructured devices, the goal of attaining high-efficiency thin-film solar cells in such a way has yet to be achieved. Organometal halide perovskites have recently emerged as a promising material for high-efficiency nanostructured devices. Here we show that nanostructuring is not necessary to achieve high efficiencies with this material: a simple planar heterojunction solar cell incorporating vapour-deposited perovskite as the absorbing layer can have solar-to-electrical power conversion efficiencies of over 15 per cent (as measured under simulated full sunlight). This demonstrates that perovskite absorbers can function at the highest efficiencies in simplified device architectures, without the need for complex nanostructures.