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The Best Movies Currently on HBO Max

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ford v ferrari
'Ford v Ferrari' | 20th Century Fox
'Ford v Ferrari' | 20th Century Fox

Let's face it: You can only watch so much Netflix. At a certain point, all those little floating movie posters start to blend together, and you groan, "I've already watched all these movies a dozen times." Well, that's what HBO Max is for. The still relatively new streaming service boasts original series and the HBO TV back catalog, but it also has a truly impressive library of movies. Dig into these beloved classics, box office hits, hidden gems, and recent award-winners currently showing on the premium sibling services.

above the rim
New Line Cinema

Above the Rim (1994)

Basketball dramas are plentiful, but only one has a scene-stealing performance from the late great Tupac Shakur. Many sports movies have since drawn from this classic, too, as a drama about a high school sports star (Duane Martin) pursuing his professional dreams while attempting to remain loyal to his friends and his family. And yet, despite the stacked cast (Bernie Mac, Marlon Wayans, etc.) and great soundtrack, Above the Rim has remained extremely underrated. Watch the '90s flick and see for yourself.

Alien (1979)

Ridley Scott's chest-bursting, nerve-frying science-fiction classic doesn't mess around. After introducing us to the chatty blue collar workers aboard a commercial rig floating through the vastness of the galaxy, the movie goes into stealth mode and picks off characters one by one as the tension rises, leaving Sigourney Weaver's Ripley to fend for herself against some of the nastiest special effects ever dreamed up. James Cameron's militarized sequel Aliens is also on HBO Max at the moment, and some argue it's even better, but we're partial to the original. Check them both out and decide for yourself. 

All the President's Men (1976)

In a political climate that's called on the media to dig up no shortage of controversies, it seems fitting to revisit the newspaper heroes of yore. Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford co-star as Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, respectively, the two Washington Post reporters who unearthed the details of President Richard Nixon's now-infamous Watergate scandal. This Alan J. Pakula-helmed drama is a psychologically piercing classic that'll make you view the current political landscape with a healthy amount of cynicism and hope.

american splendor
Fine Line Features

American Splendor (2003)

Paul Giamatti plays the perfect curmudgeon in this quirky biopic of Harvey Pekar, the Cleveland-based illustrator behind the self-deprecating comic book strip also called American Splendor. Pekar shot to national fame thanks to combative appearances on David Letterman's late-night show, the last of which effectively turned into an on-air argument that ended their tense friendship. Part-documentary (with appearances from Pekar himself), part comic book, and part fictional biopic, there's nothing quite like American Splendor—a fitting tribute, because there was no one quite like Harvey Pekar. 

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Yeah, baby, yeah! There’s no franchise that’s quite as groovy as Austin Powers, the Mike Myers comedy about a sex-crazed, mod spy cryogenically frozen and reanimated in the '90s. It's an absolutely absurd James Bond sendup, but that's half the fun in watching him take on the villain Dr. Evil (also Mike Myers). If you find the London swinger with those teeth and Victorian lace ensembles as irresistible as apparently every woman on the planet, you can also catch the second and third installments on HBO Max, too. Yes, please!

the beguiled
Focus Features

The Beguiled (2017)

This remake of the 1971 Clint Eastwood-Geraldine Page drama returns to the Farnsworth seminary, a haven for proper young women avoiding the corruption of Civil War. Tucked away in the mist-swept backwoods of Virginia, the disciples of Miss Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) live regimented days, a strain of well-intentioned repression eventually imploded by the arrival of John McBurney (Collin Farrell), an injured Union corporal. Hospitable to a fault, Farnsworth and her girls tend to the soldier, who draws out their carnal hunger (no one can resist Farrell's chest hair) before lashing out with his own animal instincts. Simple, stylish, and threaded together from the quirks of female and male behavior, The Beguiled is a sexual Southern Gothic fairy tale that is wisely more humid than hot.

Blade Runner (1982)

Director Ridley Scott went out of his way to imagine 2019 Los Angeles as a pretty terrible place to be, and yet the look, sound, and feel of the world are so seductive that we want to visit regardless. Same goes for the story: Blade Runner's plot is a barely warmed-over detective yarn with Harrison Ford in the role of the hard-boiled investigator, but we can feel glimmers of the pain and confusion of artificial humans who realize they are powerless against their pre-determined fate. The movie is a triumph of world-building that still makes a mark on viewers and filmmakers years later.

Chinatown (1974)

Robert Towne's Chinatown script is often cited as one of, if not the greatest of all time. (And not just because of that iconic line.) As a struggling private eye, Jack Nicholson dives headfirst into a mystery that turns into a maelstrom of LA corruption. The result is a well-paced noir tale, equal parts frustrating and fascinating, that still lives up to its reputation.

city of god movie
Miramax Films

City of God (2002)

This film about a Brazilian favela's descent into criminal rule leaves a haunting note echoing in the wake of the 2016 Rio Olympics. The harsh reality City of God portrays, one in which gang logic trumps all, will not make for an uplifting night in, but the movie is much more than a shoot-em-up thrill ride—Brazil's natural beauty and the hope of youth always serve as heartbreaking counterbalances to violence.

Clerks (1994)

As you've probably heard by now, Kevin Smith is one of Hollywood's most vocal stoners. And though Clerks, his debut feature, predates his pothead phase, this black-and-white comedy about Dante Hicks, a retail clerk at a convenience store, bears the hazy mark of a future weed enthusiast. For one thing, it's mostly about hanging out and noticing the small details of life. It's hard to explain its appeal to people who haven't experienced it. It's also pretty long-winded if you pay attention. And most people get obsessed with it in high school. Unlike weed, it's available to stream right now.

cruel intentions
Columbia Pictures

Cruel Intentions (1999)

In adapting the classic French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses for the WB generation, writer-director Roger Kumble doesn't pull back on any of the book's nasty back-stabbing and emotional manipulation. Instead, the movie revels in the melodramatic tawdriness of it all and features truly inspired lead performances from Sarah Michelle Gellar (using all the tricks that made her so likable on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as conniving mean girl Kathryn Merteuil), Ryan Phillippe (as her charmingly vacant step-brother Sebastian Valmont), and Reese Witherspoon (as the virginal Annette Hargrove). Plus, you know "Bittersweet Symphony" has never sounded sweeter.

The Dark Knight (2008)

Not all superhero films are action movies, but The Dark Knight, with its Heat-inspired opening robbery, truck-flipping car chase, and Batman-as-NSA-watchdog high-rise fight, certainly qualifies. Critics have rightly dinged Christopher Nolan's incoherent editing and glaring plot holes, but the Inception director is a master of narrative stacking, layering stories to create a sense of frenzied tension. The Dark Knight is a brilliant Jenga tower of suspense. With Heath Ledger's iconic Joker performance at its center, the movie grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go.

dirty dancing
Vestron Pictures

Dirty Dancing (1987)

Nobody puts Dirty Dancing in a corner—30 years after its release, this Patrick Swayze starmaker remains a cultural touchstone for generations of kids who hated going on family vacation. The ultimate fantasy combines wish fulfillment on several levels: escaping your family's grasp; rebelling against a stuffy, conservative society; and achieving a personal-sexual awakening in the process. It's all captured in Swayze's dance instructor Johnny Castle and Jennifer Grey's 17-year-old Baby Houseman, who engage in a fraught relationship that centers around—you guessed it—dancing during the Housemans' vacation in a Catskills resort. Plenty of Swayze hip thrusts ensue. 

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Dog Day Afternoon is a movie that vibrates with the energy of a city on the brink of exploding. In telling the story of a real-life New York bank robbery, director Sidney Lumet captures more than just the inherent tension between Al Pacino's stressed-out Sonny and the put-upon citizens trapped inside the bank with him. The movie also pulls back enough to capture the media circus, the community uproar, and the law enforcement response without losing sight of the human drama at the center. There's a reason almost every bank robbery movie since has stolen liberally from this one.

Escape From New York (1981)

There are no good guys in John Carpenter’s dystopian rescue movie, and if there were, Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken wouldn’t be one of them. Sure, he offers to save the president of the United States, who crash landed in the futuristic Manhattan mega-prison, from battalions of free-range criminals. Yes, he goes mano a mano with the surliest of the bunch. And yes, his hang-gliding skills are off the charts. But Snake isn’t nice. He’s not fighting for 'Merica. He’s an eyepatch-wearing, gut-toting rebel who looks out for himself as the world drowns in a cesspool of its own making. He sounds like a hero, an even more ruthless Han Solo, because Russell is a pro. Plissken’s first solution to the hostage crisis: "Get a new president!"

The Exorcist (1973)

The original, unquestionable, undisputed great grandpappy of "possession" horror, and one hell of a brutally good time, William Friedkin's The Exorcist is not just one of the scariest films ever made, it's also one of the most well-constructed horror movies of all time. The story of demon-inhabited Regan, her distraught mother, and the two priests working their religious mojo to save her life holds up to repeat viewings—partially because the horrific set pieces still hold up resoundingly well, and also because the actors create realistic, believable characters who are worthy of our empathy.

fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 (2018)

Technically a TV movie, since it was made for HBO, but we'll let it slide. Ray Bradbury's essential dystopian novel where books are banned gets the small screen treatment, starring Michael B. Jordan as Montag, a fireman who ultimately questions the value and purpose behind the book-burning mission. He teams with Michael Shannon, an actor with the unhinged commitment to pull off an evil delivery of a simple line: "Burn it."

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

The next time someone tells you the Fast franchise is dumb as bricks, remind that chump that it all started with a 1998 investigative feature on the world of underground New York City racing. Yes, The Fast and the Furious, from Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story director Rob Cohen, shaves away some of the nuance of magazine prose to be a nu-metal answer to Point Break, but the world is there—diverse, rowdy, and slick. Fetishizing the growling engines, the florescent paint jobs, and the killer scowls behind the wheel (as important as nitro boosters), Cohen's movie is just a few scratchy print lines away from being a fake Grindhouse trailer. This is glossy exploitation with even more gusto than the billion-dollar juggernauts that would follow. 

Ford v Ferrari (2019)

With their emphasis on motion and duration, the movies are great at selling the idea of velocity. Ford v Ferrari, an often workmanlike and occasionally wonderful account of the Ford Motor Company's quest to win the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France, is a movie that knows when to slam its foot on the gas, when to hit the brakes, and when to cruise on charm. As you'd expect, a degree of showmanship is necessary. As iconoclastic American car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and hot-headed British racer Ken Miles (Bale), the two stars get to play characters that fit them like a pair of racing gloves, teaming up to take on the corporate suits and marketing executives that want to rein in their rugged brilliance. Smells like a metaphor for something, right?

gangs of new york

Gangs of New York (2002)

In his first collaboration with Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio shakes off his heartthrob Titanic reputation by getting down and dirty as goatee-sporting tough guy Amsterdam Vallon. But Leo has an iceberg-sized problem: Daniel Day-Lewis. As the violent, ill-tempered Bill the Butcher, the method actor extraordinaire is a terror in a top hat, stealing the whole movie with his wild-eyed magnetism. He slices, he dices, and he makes this 168 minute 19th-century period piece fly by. 

The Graduate (1967)

Dustin Hoffmann's early career masterpiece of privileged malaise holds up, because it turns out that America hasn't matured enough to deal in any meaningful sense with the existential angst its productivity-first ethos creates. Today, the one word Benjamin Braddock would hear might be two: "Venture capital" or "data mining" or "fintech startups" but the vast meaningless would be the same. And, of course, we can't forget the iconic Anne Bancroft, whose Mrs. Robinson is one of the most memorable characters in American film. She's got a whole song named for her! 

Gremlins (1984)

Joe Dante's creature feature hits that sweet spot between kid-friendly entertainment and cruel-and-unusual violent delight. For Christmas, Billy (Zach Galligan) receives an adorable "mogwai" as a pet. The one rule: Don't get the damn thing wet. When the inevitable happens, Gizmo the Adorable Furry Gremlin spawns five Mischievous Razor-Toothed Gremlins, who live for destruction, and threaten to rip apart the most wonderful time of the year.

a hidden life
Fox Searchlight

A Hidden Life (2019)

Terrence Malick movies confront some of the most challenging moral questions with an at times startling directness. A Hidden Life, which was inspired by the true story of Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) and his refusal to fight for the Nazis in World War II, is predominantly shot in the lyrical, late career style most closely associated with the director's 2011 film The Tree of Life: The camera roves across images of natural beauty, tilts up towards the sky, and pushes right up to the actors' light-strewn faces; the characters whisper in simultaneously intimate, quizzical, and philosophical voice-over; the events unfold in carefully edited, symbolically weighted montages that rummage through time. He uses this approach to delve into the motivations of a consciousness objector, dramatizing an internal struggle that becomes a physical test and a family crisis as the war intensifies. 

Hot Fuzz (2007)

Shaun of the Dead spoofers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg set their sights on bumbling police officers trying to solve a murder in a small English town. The duo watched countless buddy-cop flicks to fully satirize the genre, and it paid off, with laughably bad chase sequences and uproarious slapstick gags. They prove how much fun action movies can be when they lighten up a little (OK, a lot). Remember: it's not murder, it's ketchup.

Innerspace (1987)

Gremlins director Joe Dante gave this take on the old Fantastic Voyage framing of the human body as the next expanse for exploration a necessary shot of comedy in the arm. Dennis Quaid plays an ex-naval pilot who signs up to be the test subject in a miniaturization project. Shrunk down to the size of a single cell, the pilot finds himself accidentally injected into the bloodstream of Martin Short, a manic grocery clerk. Working together—Jack navigating a world of espionage and assassins as Quaid does what he can from inside the cranial region—the two foil a plan to steal the miniaturization technology, and we have a ball watching it.

jaws movie
Universal Pictures

Jaws (1975)

"Da-dum… da-dum… da-dum da-dum da-dum!" You know the music. You know the "bigger boat" line. Maybe you even remember that dolly zoom shot of Roy Scheider sitting on the beach with his family when the screams of terror ring out and everyone runs like hell. But no matter how much pop culture chomps on the remains of this classic, there's no stripping this understated, fundamentally humanist monster picture of its primal power. Even in the age of Sharknado and The ShallowsJaws is still scary, funny, and essential viewing. These are waters you'll want to get back into.

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Luckily, HBO Max has all three chapters of director Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings series available, but we suggest starting with the first entry, a rousing adventure that kicks off with wide-eyed and furry-footed hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) leaving home for the first time. Staying true to his gross-out horror roots, Jackson turns J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy novel into a thrill-ride populated by masked riders, dark forests, and hideous Orcs. At the same time, the movie is packed with awe-inspiring images of mysterious cities and stirring portraits of friendships forged in battle.

Magic Mike (2012)

Steven Soderbergh's story of a Tampa exotic dancer with a heart of gold (Channing Tatum) has body-rolled its way to HBO Max. Sexy dance routines aside, Mike's story is just gritty enough to be subversive. Also, did we mention Matthew McConaughey shows up in a pair of assless chaps?

Malcolm X (1992)

What's Denzel Washington's best role? Everyone has their favorite. Training Day? Glory? Crimson Tide? It's hard to have that conversation without bringing up Malcolm X, Spike Lee's lively epic about the influential civil-rights leader. From his early life as a burglar to his later conversion to the Nation of Islam, Washington makes X's intellectual journey an emotional and physical one as well. It's a commanding, lived-in performance that humanizes an icon without succumbing to mimicry. If it's not his best performance, it definitely belongs in any top-five discussion—and the film itself remains as powerful as ever.

the matrix movie
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Matrix (1999)

Combining its signature slo-mo, 360-degree “bullet time” sequences with artfully choreographed Hong Kong-style martial-arts scenes, the Wachowskis' pathbreaking sci-fi epic set a new bar for special effects done right. As much of a kinetic and visual triumph as it was a psychological mindfuck—and that's saying something. Hands down, one of the best action movies of all time. Give this another rewatch before the anticipated fourth installment drops on HBO Max later this year.

Mulholland Drive (2001)

David Lynch intended to follow up his cult-favorite TV show Twin Peaks with an even dreamier series. That never happened, but the ditched pilot served as the basis for Mulholland Drive, a gorgeous, interpretable, mind-bending movie—effin' art, man—that draws from 100 years of Hollywood tropes. Naomi Watts plays an aspiring actress who befriends an amnesiac (Laura Harring). There are musical interludes, sexual encounters, and loads of non sequiturs. The flavor of mystery is baked into it all, but you're better off luxuriating in this surreal bath than scrutinizing the plot.

Mystic River (2003)

In the early 2000s, director Clint Eastwood was cranking out Oscar bait like it was his job, which it was, and Mystic River actually delivers the goods (not to mention actual Oscars for Sean Penn and Tim Robbins). Part mystery, part revenge narrative, part meditation on grief and trauma, Mystic River's complexity remains accessible as an exploration of the unbreakable links between childhood and adulthood. 

native son
Matthew Libatique/HBO

Native Son (2019)

In updating Richard Wright's Native Son for our current age, visual artist Rashid Johnson and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks largely hew to the outline of the novel's plot, down to the inclusion of a disturbing moment that made the audience at Sundance's opening night murmur in shock. The 2019 Bigger Thomas (Ashton Sanders) is a green-haired punk who gets a job working as a driver for a wealthy white man, Henry Dalton and his family. There he meets Mary Dalton (Margaret Qualley), Henry's beautiful daughter whose attempts at inclusivity are racist and vapid. But Bigger and his girlfriend Bessie (KiKi Layne) are driven deeper into her orbit until a tragedy unfolds. What results is a film full of arresting images and strong performances from the likes of Moonlight's Sanders and If Beale Street Could Talk's Layne, driven by the enduring power of Wright's prose. 

The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (2017)

There are few anime directors as consistently creative as Masaaki Yuasa, who through a career has focused his talents on stories about ping-pong (Ping-Pong: The Animation), creatures from Hell (Devilman Crybaby), seaside tragic romances (Ride Your Wave, streaming on HBO Max), and anime itself (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!!, also available on HBO Max). Over a long night of heavy drinking in Kyoto, The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl is as funny as it is existential, the perspective-shifting animation bending its sense of time and place as a college student tries to stage a meet-cute with his younger classmate. As a spontaneous drunken night usually is, Yuasa's film diverts into unexpected tangents, including a guerrilla musical in a crowded square, that ushers a crazy night into calm daybreak.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Like a blast from Anton Chigurh's cattle gun, No Country for Old Men came out of nowhere. In 2007, it seemed like the Coen brothers had lost a step, sinking into an era of gentle self-parody. This Josh Brolin-starring neo-Western changed all that. Adapting Cormac McCarthy's brutal, uncompromising thriller, the filmmakers crafted their most purely suspenseful and terrifying film to date. The coin flip, the car crash, and Javier Bardem's haircut have all become parodied pop-cultural fixtures at this point. But the sense of dread the film evokes, amplified by Roger Deakins' shadowy photography, is impossible to shake. It's real. It's scary. And it's coming for you. 

phantom thread
Focus Features

Phantom Thread (2017)

Reynolds Woodcock (the now-retired Daniel Day-Lewis) is the premier fashion designer of the era, a genius playboy who detects the contours of women, dresses, and life itself like Neo sees The Matrix. And though his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) manages every second of his every day, a new muse, Alma (Vicky Krieps), slips by the alarms and disrupts his understanding of success with a simple trick: love. In Phantom Thread, everything from Woodcock's mansion to the draping gowns to pans of sautéed mushrooms are fashion-shoot-worthy (the Oscar voters noticed, too), but there's also a devilish comedic streak to the movie, like a prestige version of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Early on, Woodcock reveals that he sews secret messages into his garment; director Paul Thomas Anderson does the same in Phantom Thread, a drama rich with details and personal admissions.

Point Break (1991)

Point Break is sublime. With its beautiful ocean photography, pulse-pounding robbery sequences, and delicate male-friendship between Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, the undercover-cop drama rides tone like a veteran surfer ripping up uneven waves. Yes, some parts—like anything with Gary Busey—are ridiculous, but director Kathryn Bigelow brings a wryness to the material that keeps the movie from descending into bro'd-out camp. It's no surprise that the Fast and Furious series lifted the film's most essential quality to kickstart a billion-dollar franchise—everyone wants to spend time with a close-knit family.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

No other modern movie so effortlessly created its own language and mythology of cool, where mere objects evoke oceans of meaning. Many have tried, but only Quentin Tarantino could cut and paste his passions into a collage. Both wickedly funny and surprisingly thoughtful, it's even better than you remember it being in the 1990s. Travolta still sizzles. The dialogue still pops. The soundtrack still sings. Forget the loftier films he'd make later in his career—this is his masterpiece.

richard jewell
Warner Bros.

Richard Jewell (2019)

During a concert in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park on July 27, 1996, security guard Richard Jewell noticed a suspicious unattended backpack beneath a bench near a crowd. While that discovery is dramatized in Richard Jewell, Clint Eastwood's docudrama about the bombing starring I Tonya breakout Paul Walter Hauser as the title character, the film is more interested in what came before and after this inflection point in Jewell's otherwise mostly unremarkable life. Along with 2016's gripping Sully and 2018's even more peculiar The 15:17 to Paris, Richard Jewell caps off an inscrutable trilogy of movies about valor in modern American life.

The Road Warrior (1981)

While Mad Max: Fury Road topped critics' lists and racked up Oscar nominations back in 2015, it’s worth remembering where the cylinders first fired. No, not the first Mad Max film, more of a grungy cop drama. We’re talking about The Road Warrior, George Miller’s soft reboot of the 1979 original. With Mel Gibson's taciturn, raw performance, outlandish character designs, and its final pulverizing chase sequence, the movie defined what the phrase "post-apocalyptic" would mean for future generations. In the process, it also set a new bar for pure gasoline-fueled, pedal-to-the-metal insanity—one that has, arguably, never been topped.

Saw (2004)

Say what you like about the sequels, but those who caught Saw before all the surprises were spoiled were in for a big, bruising treat. First-timers James Wan (director) and Leigh Whannell (writer) are clearly having a ball with this buffet of horror delights. The low-budget, high-energy horror show goes from suspense to shocks and from police procedural to outright gory mayhem without skipping a beat. We're not ashamed to admit that the ending, with the reveal of the Jigsaw Killer, totally got us. If you think this movie is little more than "torture porn" (a nonsense phrase) then you need to give it another spin.

seven movie
New Line Cinema

Se7en (1995)

Director David Fincher has a thing for serial killers. The man who helmed Zodiac and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and who's executive producing Netflix's Mindhunter, got his first taste with Se7en, about two detectives (Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) on the hunt for a murderer obsessed with punishing those he perceives to embody the seven deadly sins. The famous final murder scene ("What's in the box?!") grabs all the attention, but it's a payoff that's earned by the dark, brooding character studies that Fincher builds over the course of the film, a style that would become a hallmark of his later work.

Spirited Away (2001)

One of the major selling points of HBO Max's launch was that it would be the first-ever streaming home for the library of Hayao Miyazaki's legendary Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, and while most every film in it has a certain magic, Spirited Away remains its gold star. Bending down to see the world from a child's eyes and capture a moment of fresh-faced adulthood, Spirited Away tails Chihiro, your average unfocused, along-for-the-ride 10-year-old, when her family wanders through an overgrown tunnel, entering a rich world full of pastoral vistas and a menagerie of creatures ripped from notebook margin doodles. To save her parents, transformed into gluttonous pigs by some enchanted sausages, Chihiro braves the working world of a bathhouse run by a wicked witch, guides a faceless spirit through limbo, and frees the spirit of the river. A sophisticated and lush Alice in Wonderland for modern times, Miyazaki's hyper-detailed art elevates Spirited Away's simple lessons into a masterwork.

A Star Is Born (2018)

This is a movie of competing voices: On one end, you have the guttural croak of Jackson Maine, the hard-living, cowboy-rock troubadour played by the film's director, producer, and co-writer Bradley Cooper; on the other end is the soulful roar of Ally, the waitress harboring dreams of pop stardom played by IRL pop icon Lady Gaga. The contrast between the two vocal deliveries is part of what makes the film's Oscar-winning power ballad "Shallow" so immediately alluring, the sonic equivalent of your goosebumps getting goosebumps, and that same tension drives this remake from one sequence to the next.

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

In 1982, documentarian Marty Di Bergi embedded himself with British rock group Spinal Tap for the Smell the Glove tour. The result is this fly-on-the-wall documentary that captures the raw emotion of band relationships, the power of a great set piece (nothing screams "ROCK" like an 18in Stonehenge replica), and exposes Spinal Tap's penchant for losing drummers to freak accidents. A must-see for music fans.

tinker tailor soldier spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

If a season of 24 took place in the smoky, well-tailored underground of British intelligence circa 1973, it might look a little like this precision-made John le Carré adaptation from Let the Right One In director Tomas Alfredson. Even if you can't follow terse and tightly-woven mystery, the search for Soviet mole led by retired operative George Smiley (Gary Oldman), the ice-cold frames and stellar cast will suck you into the intrigue. It's very possible Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, and Benedict Cumberbatch are reading pages of the British phone book, but egad, it's absorbing. A movie that rewards your full concentration.

Training Day (2001)

Let's forget for a minute that Washington won his second Oscar basically playing a piece of shit. His Detective Alonzo Harris is a chain-smoking, whip-riding, utterly corrupt LA cop who takes a naĂŻve cop (Ethan Hawke) for an ever-eventful ride. Let's remember instead the devilish layers Washington brought to that role. For most of the movie, he had audiences wondering if he'd take Hawke on a crooked-but-ultimately righteous path or send him to hell along with him. Yeah, he was a bad guy, but he was one of the most fascinating bad guys anyone has ever seen.

true grit movie
Paramount Pictures

True Grit (2010)

Having flirted with the Western genre in No Country for Old Men and Raising Arizona, it made sense for the Coen Brothers to saddle up for an adaptation of Charles Portis' True Grit, previously made into a 1969 vehicle for John Wayne, who won his only Oscar award in the role. By swapping out Wayne for Jeff Bridges, the Coens signaled that this would be their own type of cowboy movie: darkly funny and loaded with profound melancholy. With a sneaky, standout comic performance from Matt Damon and a star-making turn from Hailee Steinfeld, the movie has more than enough great acting, intense gun battles, and gorgeous vistas to keep you under its old-fashioned spell.

Unforgiven (1992)

Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning Western inverts the hero mold by turning an aging outlaw into a driven do-gooder. Eastwood stars alongside Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, and the late Richard Harris, who all contribute wisdom and brutality to this portrayal of redemption in the Old West. Everything you know about Eastwood's "Man with No Name" persona is upended when his character, a widowed pig farmer, sets out for the mission of his life.

us movie
Universal Pictures

Us (2019)

The double, the doppelgänger with questionable intentions and mysterious origins, is a potent concept for both horror and comedy. Fittingly, writer and director Jordan Peele uses the device to elicit scares and laughs in Us, his sophomore feature about a family, led by intrepid parents Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o) and Gabe (Winston Duke), facing off against their jumpsuit-wearing, scissor-wielding counterparts in the middle of a leisurely vacation. What begins as an unsettling home invasion thriller with socio-political undertones in the vein of Michel Haneke's Funny Games gives way to a more frenzied, twist-filled science-fiction brain-teaser that tunnels deep into feelings of paranoia like an episode of Lost or The Twilight Zone. Untethering the ideas becomes half the fun.

13 Going on 30 (2004)

What if Big, the Tom Hanks classic about a little boy upgraded to an adult body, got gender-swapped? Jennifer Garner showed us what that would look like in this feel-good rom-com, which transports her 13-year-old Jenna from her 1987 birthday party to adulthood 17 years later. Wouldn't you know, wish fulfillment isn't all it's cracked up to be—but Mark Ruffalo makes it bearable as Jenna's charming love interest.

2001 kubrick

2001: A Space Odyssey (1969)

The man-apes. The monolith. The star-gate sequence. Maybe these are elements you vaguely remember from a Film 101 course you slept through in college, or maybe you just never got around to opening the pod-bay doors on Stanley Kubrick's existential sci-fi classic. Well, here's your chance. Sure, your laptop or phone aren't the ideal formats to appreciate 2001's meticulous production design, but if you own a decent-sized TV, it's still possible to go on an odyssey of your own.

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