The Best New Shows and Movies on Netflix This February
Anyone can tell you everything that's streaming on Netflix, take an inventory of a given month's new additions and subtractions, or cast the net of recommendations so wide that reeling in where to start is overwhelming. The whole goal of Netflix as a company is to give you as much content as possible, whether through streaming or good old-fashioned DVD mail-ins (remember those?).
Our goal in this space is to provide a different service: a list of the 100 best films currently streaming on Netflix, so you can find a satisfying movie without wasting time with endless scrolling.
Reimagining Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness as a Vietnam war story brilliantly and brutally connects the dots between the height of the colonial era to its post-colonial fallout. Director Francis Ford Coppola's famous opening scene sets the stage for Captain Willard's (Martin Sheen) cursed mission to terminate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who's gone rogue on the wrong side of the Cambodian border.
For his follow-up to his two action epics, The Raid and The Raid 2, director Gareth Evans dials back the hand-to-hand combat but still keeps a few buckets of blood handy in this grisly supernatural horror tale. Dan Stevens stars as Thomas Richardson, an early 20th century opium addict traveling to a cloudy island controlled by a secretive cult that's fallen on hard times. The religious group is led by a bearded scold named Father Malcolm (Michael Sheen) who may or may not be leading his people astray. Beyond a few bursts of kinetic violence and some crank-filled torture sequences, Evans plays this story relatively down-the-middle, allowing the performances, the lofty themes, and the windswept vistas to do the talking. It's a cult movie that earns your devotion slowly, then all at once.
This sweeping romantic epic, based on the Ian McEwan novel of the same name (which is worth a read, though you won't find the book on Netflix), sends Robbie (James McAvoy) off to fight in World War II, and he finds himself in the middle of Britain's retreat from the Germans on the shores of Dunkirk Beach. Director Joe Wright pulled off a tragically beautiful five-and-a-half-minute tracking shot of the whole ordeal that'll break your heart if Robbie's separation from his love Cecilia (Keira Knightley) didn't already.
The Aviator (2004)
The Aviator is a tour-de-force historical epic that hinges on Leonardo DiCaprio as American aviator Howard Hughes, whose mental state stymies grandiose ambitions. DiCaprio loves a good man tormented by internal and external demons, but in this three-hour masterpiece, Martin Scorsese pushes the 30-year-old Leo to bring all of Howard Hughes' many contradictions to life: the swaggering young playboy billionaire, the starlet romancer, the daredevil innovator, and the shrunken madman, unshorn, guzzling milk, pissing in bottles, and muttering "the way of the future" over and over again. It's one of the most harrowing on-screen depictions of how mental illness can wrench a life apart, and one of Leo's unobjectable triumphs.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
The Coen brothers gave some big-name-director cred to Netflix by releasing their six-part Western anthology on the streaming service, and while it's not necessarily their best work, Buster Scruggs is clearly a cut above most Netflix originals. Featuring star turns from Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, and more, the film takes advantage of Netflix's willingness to experiment by composing a sort of death fugue that unfolds across the harsh realities of life in Manifest Destiny America. Not only does it revel in the massive, sweeping landscapes of the American West, but it's a thoughtful meditation on death that will reveal layer after layer long after you finish.
In 1981, Barack Obama touched down in New York City to begin work at Columbia University. As Barry imagines, just days after settling into his civics class, a white classmate confronts the Barry with an argument one will find in the future president's Twitter @-mentions: "Why does everything always got to be about slavery?" Exaltation is cinematic danger, especially when bringing the life of a then-sitting president to screen. Barry avoids hagiography by staying in the moment, weighing race issues of a modern age and quieting down for the audience to draw its own conclusions. Devon Terrell is key, steadying his character as smooth-operating, socially active, contemplative fellow stuck in an interracial divide. Barry could be any half-black, half-white kid from the '80s. But in this case, he's haunted by past, present, and future.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
It's hard to tell the actors apart in Black Hawk Down: they're all dressed in military fatigues, often with helmets and goggles that obscure their faces; there's dust everywhere; and yelling is the preferred method of communication. To say that Ridley Scott's chronicle of a 1993 US military raid in Mogadishu doesn't cohere isn't exactly a negative critique. It's a part of the movie's frenzied, discombobulating aesthetic. Faces blur. The soundtrack pummels you with gunfire. Helicopters whirl overhead. It's experiential, the type of movie that's tough to shake -- even on a puny computer screen.
Black Panther (2018)
Director Ryan Coogler's deft balancing of a high-tech spy gadgetry, ceremonial palace intrigue, fantasy action mayhem, and subversive political critique is unparalleled in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe that Black Panther springs from. In the same way Creed, his propulsive and knowing reboot of the Rocky franchise, paid tribute to and upended boxing iconography, Coogler's take on superhero-dom is both pleasing and probing.The larger ideological conflict between the new king T'Challa (Boseman) and the American revolutionary Killmonger (Jordan) has been seen before in the pages of history books and comics, but it's never been given this type of eye-popping, brain-scrambling, heart-pounding blockbuster treatment.
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
Released into a media storm overly concerned with its lengthy, controversially filmed sex scene, Abdellatif Kechiche's three-hour opus drowns tabloid buzz with sensual and sensitive drama. Make time for the tender, inquisitive exploits of Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), who falls hard for the cerulean lure of Emma (Spectre's Léa Seydoux). The runtime breathing room gives Kechiche the chance to explore every glance, every touch, every kiss, and every misstep in their relationship. It's a love epic, where minor notes play like power chords.
Richard Linklater spent a decade with the same actors to shoot bits and pieces of his coming-of-age story as an experiment in seamless onscreen aging. The result is a subtly funny, troubling, and true portrait of how special each person's "normal" life can be.
Burn After Reading (2008)
The Coens followed up their No Country for Old Men Best Picture win at the Oscars by turning sharply back to comedy. Burn After Reading is absurd and acerbic, a political hoopla revolving around a prized MacGuffin -- a CD containing government secrets! -- that isn't a MacGuffin at all. A gaggle of "serious" actors, most notably Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, and Coen stalwarts Frances McDormand and George Clooney, shoot for the stratosphere as they weave through the mad, mad, mad, mad world of Washington, DC. And because this is a Coen brothers movie, blood spills freely as everyone from personal trainers to CIA spies sink deeper and deeper into confusion. An ode to empowered idiocy, complete with a dildo chair.
Unlike the Unfriended films or this summer's indie hit Searching, this web thriller from director Daniel Goldhaber and screenwriter Isa Mazzei isn't locked into the visual confines of a computer screen. Though there's plenty of online screen time, allowing for subtle bits of commentary and satire, the looser style allows the filmmakers to really explore the life and work conditions of their protagonist, rising cam girl Alice (Madeline Brewer). We meet her friends, her family, and her customers. That type of immersion in the granular details makes the scarier bits -- like an unnerving confrontation in the finale between Alice and her evil doppelganger -- pop even more.
Cape Fear (1991)
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro's collaborations are best when jacked up to all-out intensity and featuring an off-the-wall, frighteningly good performance from the legendary leading man. Cape Fear is absolutely of this ilk. In the thriller, De Niro plays Max Cady, a convicted rapist who, after spending 14 years in prison, has a vendetta against his former defense attorney, Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte). While Bowden clearly moved on from the case, his crazed client never did, considering the fact that the man who was supposed to represent him kept quiet about a piece of evidence that could have gotten him acquitted. So, as De Niro's character is determined to see through in the utmost of violent, terrifying portrayals, this man and his family have a whole lot of horror coming their way.
Todd Haynes’ story about lesbian love in the 1950s is a gorgeous film from start to finish: from the direction (every frame is as lush as a painting) to the awards-worthy performances (Rooney Mara as the gawky, vulnerable Therese and Cate Blanchett as the alluring, perfectly coiffed Carol -- seriously, give this woman’s hair-swoop its own award). No matter which way you swing, Carol is one of the most tender cinematic depictions ever of what it feels like to be in love -- how the quality of light changes, how time slows, how every fleeting gesture takes on the deliberateness of sign language -- and why two people would be willing to go against everything society expects of them in order to hold on to it.
City of God (2002)
This Fernando Meirelles film about the titular favela's descent into criminal rule leaves a haunting note echoing in the wake of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Rio de Janeiro 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.
Set against the heavenly hills of Sils Maria, Switzerland, this chamber drama traps an aging actress (Juliette Binoche), her raw and responsive assistant (Kristen Stewart), and an ingenue gunning for fame (Chloë Grace Moretz), as they swirl through each other's lives like a mist. There's little plot to describe in Clouds of Sils Maria; you come to watch three premier actresses drill into psychology and they deliver in spades.
There are elements of previous Pixar movies in this story centered around a young boy's journey on the Day of the Dead -- the vision of the afterlife is a bit like Monsters Inc.'s nightmare world, the generational divide will likely remind you of Up, and the emotionally brutal finale is as mournful and psychologically fraught as Toy Story 3's climax -- but director Lee Unkrich and his collaborators approach every aspect of the tale, from the world-building to the slapstick dog gags, with gusto. Taking a page out of the traditional Disney playbook, this is the first Pixar film to heavily rely on original songs, and they're stunners. The sequence built around "Remember Me," the Oscar-winning song performed by multiple characters, belongs in Pixar's tearjerker Hall of Fame.
The Constant Gardener (2005)
Since 1965's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, screen adaptations of John le Carré' books have continuously found audiences thanks to their close attention to the mundane, human details of espionage to go along with the heart-pounding tension of spy work. The Constant Gardener is no different, though espionage in this case is a vast corporate pharmaceutical conspiracy that exploits and kills poor Africans, and the "spy" is a muted Ralph Fiennes as Justin, a low-level diplomat turned vigilante investigator of his wife's murder. The story is a little wonky and more than a little messy, but that's true to the reality of life, especially when you're at the mercy of forces you don't understand.
Patrick Brice's found-footage movie is a no-budget answer to a certain brand of horror, but saying more would give away its sinister turns. Just know that the man behind the camera answered a Craigslist ad to create a "day in the life" video diary for Josef (Mark Duplass), who really loves life. Creep proves that found footage, the indie world's no-budget genre solution, still has life, as long as you have a performer like Duplass willing to go all the way.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
This biopic about Ron Woodruff, a particularly rebellious Texan who learns he's HIV-positive in the 1980s, is peak Matthew McConaughey and led to his infamous acceptance speech after winning the Oscar for Best Actor. (In case you've forgotten, he says his hero is himself in the future.) Jean-Marc Vallée's searing Texas landscapes and unflinching look at the progression of a disease few people understood give this movie a unique spin on the conventional biopic.
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.
The Departed (2006)
Don't let your annoying college roommate's affection for The Departed ruin the movie for you -- it's an enormously entertaining crime film. Leonardo DiCaprio's expert slow-boil performance as undercover cop Billy Costigan is a big reason for that, marking a major career step forward; he stood tall against the Martin Scorsese film's many big-name scenery chewers (Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, and Alec Baldwin is a lot of male ego to contend with) and kept his Boston accent under control. Just try to forgive the little rat at the end.
Thrillers don't come much more propulsive or elegant than Houda Benyamina's Divines, a heartwarming French drama about female friendship that spirals into a pulse-pounding crime saga. Rambunctious teenager Dounia (Oulaya Amamra) and her best friend Maimouna (Déborah Lukumuena) begin the film as low-level shoplifters and thieves, but once they fall into the orbit of a slightly older, seasoned drug dealer named Rebecca (Jisca Kalvanda), they're on a Goodfellas-like trajectory. Benyamina offsets the violent, gritty genre elements with lyrical passages where Dounia watches her ballet-dancer crush rehearse his routines from afar, and kinetic scenes of the young girls goofing off on social media. It's a cautionary tale told with joy, empathy, and an eye for beauty.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Denis Villeneuve's (Arrival) creepy sci-fi thriller about a man who discovers he has a doppelganger. The double has been a literary trope for just about as long as people have been creating art (Enemy is based on Nobel laureate José Saramago's novel The Double), but Gyllenhaal's unnerving performance and Villeneuve's claustrophobic, monochromatic directing make Enemy a particularly sophisticated riff on a well-worn theme. It's a mind-bending exploration of identity, and the ending will leave you lying awake, puzzling over what it all means.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Romance and love are nothing without the potential for loss and pain, but most of us would probably still consider cutting away all the worst memories of the latter. Given the option to eradicate memories of their busted relationship, Jim Carrey's Joel and Kate Winslet's Clementine go through with the procedure, only to find themselves unable to totally let go. Science fiction naturally lends itself to clockwork mechanisms, but director Michel Gondry and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman never lose the human touch as they toy with the kaleidoscope of their characters' hearts and minds.
Frances Ha (2012)
Before winning hearts and Oscar nominations with her coming-of-age comedy Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig starred in the perfect companion film, about an aimless 27-year-old who hops from New York City to her hometown of Sacramento to Paris to Poughkeepsie and eventually back to New York in hopes of stumbling into the perfect job, the perfect relationship, and the perfect life. Directed by Noah Baumbach (The Meyerowitz Stories), and co-written by both, Frances Ha is a measured look at adult-ish life captured the kind of intoxicating black and white world we dream of living in.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (2019)
Everyone's favorite disaster of a festival received not one, but two streamingdocumentaries in the same week. Netflix's version has rightly faced some criticism over its willingness to let marketing company Fuck Jerry off the hook (Jerry Media produced the doc), but that doesn't take away from the overall picture it portrays of the festival's haphazard planning and the addiction to grift from which Fyre's founder, Billy McFarland, apparently suffers. It's schadenfreude at its best.
Gerald's Game (2017)
Like his previous low-budget Netflix-released horror release, Hush, a captivity thriller about a deaf woman fighting off a masked intruder, Mike Flanagan's Stephen King adaptation of Gerald's Game wrings big scares from a small location. Sticking close to the grisly plot details of King's seemingly "unfilmable" novel, the movie chronicles the painstaking struggles of Jessie Burlingame (Carla Gugino) after she finds herself handcuffed to a bed in an isolated vacation home when her husband, the titular Gerald, dies from a heart attack while enacting his kinky sexual fantasies. She's trapped -- and that's it. The premise is clearly challenging to sustain for a whole movie, but Flanagan and Gugino turn the potentially one-note set-up into a forceful, thoughtful meditation on trauma, memory, and resilience in the face of near-certain doom.
The Gift (2015)
In less daring hands, this psychological thriller may have telegraphed its legitimately disturbing ending and devolved into another direct-to-VOD movie you will never watch. But Australian writer-star-director Joel Edgerton goes all in with this tale about an alpha yuppie (Jason Bateman, exuding impish charm in a non-comedic role) struggling to deal with his forlorn wife (Rebecca Hall) and the relentless friendliness of a long-lost schoolmate (Edgerton).
Gone Baby Gone (2007)
In his first outing as a director, future Batman Ben Affleck stays firmly behind the camera, letting his brother Casey take the lead role as a private eye Patrick Kenzie in this grim adaptation of author Dennis Lehane's crime novel. (Yes, it's set in Boston.) Though the material is bleak -- Kenzie and his partner Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) are working a child-kidnapping case -- the performances are darkly funny and the elder Affleck has a workmanlike visual approach that makes the movie crackle like an old-school noir. He doesn't need a utility belt or a bat cowl to wow you.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
It might be hard to believe now, but once upon a time, Jason Bourne and Batfleck wrote an Academy Award-winning script. As the titular Will Hunting, a directionless MIT janitor with a jaw-dropping gift for mathematics, Matt Damon sparred with the late Robin Williams' beautifully portrayed psychologist to create a moving picture that weighs embracing ambition with remembering one's roots. Minnie Driver, South Boston accents, and quality dive bar scenes are also in the mix -- the movie's still a must-see, or must-re-see.
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" or "new media," 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!
This Romanian morality tale brims with such tension that the constant vibrations of a troubled man's cell phone provide the kind of jump scares you'd find in The Conjuring. A few days before her final exams -- which could earn her a scholarship in London -- a man sexually assaults 18-year-old Eliza (Dragus). The encounter shakes her and her father, Romeo, who winds up pulling strings to ensure his daughter aces the test. The well-intentioned crime consumes Romeo's life like a plague, and Mungiu barely lifts a finger as it unfolds. Like Euro-flavored Coen-brothers drama, Graduation is rich with character, culture, and corruption.
Happy Gilmore (1996)
Adam Sandler has returned to the dude-friendly, cliche-filled sports movie well over the years, but this slobs vs. snobs comedy about a hockey player-turned-golf pro earns its gold jacket. It's got the funniest cameos (God bless Bob Barker), the most lovable sidekick (RIP Chubbs), the best villain (Christopher McDonald's sniveling Shooter McGavin), and even the product placement for Subway is funny ("Talk about a hole in one!"). Two decades of people incessantly quoting the movie out on the links still can't zap this thing of its long-drive-hitting, magical power.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Quentin Tarantino has something to say about race, violence, and American life, and it's going to ruffle feathers. Like Django Unchained, the writer-director reflects modern times on the Old West, but with more scalpel-sliced dialogue, profane poetry, and gore. Stewed from bits of Agatha Christie, David Mamet, and Sam Peckinpah, The Hateful Eight traps a cast of blowhards (including Samuel L. Jackson as a Civil War veteran, Kurt Russell as a bounty hunter known as "The Hangman," and Jennifer Jason Leigh as a psychopathic gang member) in a blizzard-enveloped supply station. Tarantino ups the tension by shooting his suffocating space in "glorious 70mm." Treachery and moral compromise never looked so good.
Michael Mann's three-hour action-thriller is about the personal and professional lives of cops and criminals, but it's really about putting two powerhouses, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, in the same room and seeing what happens. In the beginning of the end, Pacino's Lt. Vincent Hanna and De Niro's Neil McCauley confront at one of Los Angeles' most famous restaurants, Kate Mantilini, creating a nucleus in which an epic showdown can form around. The duality of human instincts is on full display as the two outrun one another -- literally, in the film's final footchase shootout. Heat is not good. It is Biblically Awesome.
Like Mean Girls but with murder, this dark '80s cult classic features Winona Ryder and Christian Slater at their peak cool as two young lovers who start bumping off the popular kids in their high school (including a group of pre-Plastics mean girls all named Heather). While the film flopped at the time, the movie seemed pre-destined to be a cult classic, packed as it was with iconic images and lines: Veronica's monocle, the red power scrunchie, the croquet-playing, "What's your damage, Heather!?," and of course, "Fuck me gently with a chainsaw." Years ahead of its time, Heathers was a sharp satire of sickly sweet '80s teen movies, a lethal dose of cinematic Drano that we still can't believe ever got green-lit (and that certainly wouldn't pass muster in today's post-Columbine world).
Heaven Knows What (2014)
Before turning Robert Pattinson into a maniac burglar in 2017's Good Time, indie darlings Ben and Joshua Safdie helmed this brutal docudrama homeless 20-somethings losing their lives to heroin on the streets of New York. Starring and based on the life of Arielle Holmes, a former addict discovered by the directors during the shooting of another movie, Heaven Knows What wades through an overdosed existence without worry of whether it's teaching you a lesson. It's not "entertaining," but you won't be able to look away until the very end.
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.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)
A meditative horror flick that's more unsettling than outright frightening, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House follows the demise of Lily, a live-in nurse (Ruth Wilson) who's caring for an ailing horror author. As Lily discovers the truth about the writer's fiction and home, the lines between the physical realm and the afterlife blur. The movie's slow pacing and muted escalation might frustrate viewers craving showy jump-scares, but writer-director Oz Perkins is worth keeping tabs on. He brings a beautiful eeriness to every scene, and his story will captivate patient streamers. Fans should be sure to check out his directorial debut, The Blackcoat's Daughter.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)
In this maniacal mystery, Ruth (Melanie Lynskey), a nurse, and her rattail-sporting, weapon-obsessed neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) hunt down a local burglar. Part Cormac McCarthy thriller, part wacky, Will Ferrell-esque comedy, I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore is a cathartic neo-noir about everyday troubles. Director Macon Blair's not the first person to find existential enlightenment at the end of an amateur detective tale, but he might be the first to piece one together from cussing octogenarians, ninja stars, Google montages, gallons of Big Red soda, upper-deckers, friendly raccoons, exploding body parts, and the idiocy of humanity.
In Bruges (2008)
Colin Farrell is a seriously funny actor. In playwright Martin McDonagh's sly directorial debut, Farrell plays Ray, an Irish hitman wracked with guilt over the accidental killing of a young boy. Instead of using his rugged good looks to play yet another "badass" assassin character, Farrell goes full neurotic, twitching his eyes and fidgeting like a child struggling to stay still in class. It's a hilarious, manic performance that makes the film's comic moments pop, and allows its somber, reflective moments to sneak up on you like a dark stranger approaching in an alley. You won't know what hit you.
In Order of Disappearance (2014)
Norway knows how to thrill. In this snow-white black comedy, Stellan Skarsgård searches for the truth surrounding his son's recent death, eventually launching him into Taken mode against a local drug ring. Coen-esque touches and kick-ass takedowns make this the perfect material for Skarsgård, legendary actor Bruno Ganz, and Game of Thrones star Kristofer Hivju.
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
With a bullwhip, a leather jacket, and an "only Harrison Ford can pull this off" fedora, director Steven Spielberg invented the modern Hollywood action film by doing what he does best: looking backward. As obsessed as his movie-brat pal and collaborator George Lucas with the action movie serials of their youth, the director mined James Bond, Humphrey Bogart, Westerns, and his hatred of Nazis to create an adventure classic. To watch Raiders of the Lost Ark now is to marvel at the ingenuity of specific sequences (the boulder! The truck scene! The face-melting!) and simply groove to the self-deprecating comic tone (snakes! Karen Allen! That swordsman Indy shoots!). The past has never felt so alive.
The Informant! (2009)
Steven Soderbergh's price-fixing dramedy manages to make the arcane details of corporate malfeasance sound funny in this Matt Damon-led film about a real-life scandal. Damon plays Mark Whitacre, the informant in question, who blows the whistle on a scheme to fix the price of an animal-feed additive -- but that's not the point. Instead, you fall deeper and deeper into the confused psyche of Whitacre, a compulsively lying narrator who manages to remain likable, even when he's doing the exact thing he was told explicitly not to do. Just when you think Whitacre has finally figured out how to behave, he inevitably digs himself a deeper hole. It's an excruciating, yet wildly entertaining watch.
The Invitation (2015)
This slow-burn horror-thriller preys on your social anxiety. The film's first half-hour, which finds Quarry's Logan Marshall-Green arriving at his ex-wife's house to meet her new husband, plays like a Sundance dramedy about 30-something yuppies and their relationship woes. As the minutes go by, director Karyn Kusama (Jennifer's Body) burrows deeper into the awkward dinner party, finding tension in unwelcome glances, miscommunication, and the possibility that Marshall-Green's character might be misreading a bizarre situation as a dangerous one. We won't spoil what happens, but let's just say this is a party you'll be telling your friends about.
Ip Man (2008)
There aren't many biopics that also pass for decent action movies. Somehow, Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip made Ip Man (and three sequels!) based on the life of Chinese martial arts master Yip Kai-man, who famously trained Bruce Lee. What's their trick to keeping this series fresh? Play fast and loose with the facts, up the melodrama with each film, and, when in doubt, cast Mike Tyson as an evil property developer. The fights are incredible, and Yen's portrayal of the aging master still has the power to draw a few tears from even the most grizzled tough guy.
"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 Shallows, Jaws is still scary, funny, and essential viewing. These are waters you'll want to get back into.
Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 (2003, 2004)
Arguably the movie that established Quentin Tarantino as a full-fledged mainstream auteur, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 possesses some of the filmmaker’s most iconic set pieces and visual tableaux, from the Bride rocking Bruce Lee's Round 5 jumpsuit to the animated O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) backstory sequence. The relatively quiet, reflective sequel was viewed by many as a leisurely paced come-down from the frenzied blood-letting high of the action-packed first half. But, like Beatrix Kiddo herself, the movie has only gotten wiser with age.
L.A. Confidential (1997)
A lurid tale of cynicism and optimism crashing into one another in the swingin’ '50s of Hollywood, director Curtis Hanson’s adaptation of writer James Ellroy's crime novel attacked the town’s corrupt underbelly with gusto. Introducing us to Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe, who play cops tasked with walking a tricky ethical line, the movie has a leisurely pace, which allows the viewer to dig into the damaged psyches of the characters. The byzantine plotting might be tough to follow -- or fully understand as the credits roll -- but the people linger.
Lilo & Stitch (2002)
In the early-'00s, Disney was in a weird place: After a decade of animated blockbusters, the House of Mouse took some creative detours. Like similarly quirky The Emperor's New Groove and Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Lilo & Stitch isn't cut from the same sumptuous musical cloth as the company's '90s hits like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, or The Lion King. Instead, this tale of a mischievous Hawaiian girl (Lilo) and a genetically modified alien-like creature (Stitch) is a laid-back comedy packed with Elvis songs, Roswell references, and beautiful surfing sequences. It's a low-key oddity in the Disney canon, a testament to what talented artists can do when they deviate from the formula.
Without the nostalgic glow, Steven Spielberg's rowdy, rousing act of political theater stands out as a treasure waiting to be appreciated. Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for portraying our thunderous 16th president, who pulled every string necessary to end the Civil War and abolish slavery in one fell swoop. Spielberg finds comedy and tragedy in the saga, which resonates with a particularly damning pitch in our current stagnant moment. With gorgeous period accoutrements and the sharpest casting of the decade, Lincoln captures the past, speaks to the present, and hopefully inspires the future.
In 1986, 5-year-old Saroo Brierley becomes an accidental stowaway aboard a train headed to Calcutta -- 930 miles away from his home. Twenty-five years later, grown under the care of an Australian couple, the expatriate sets out to locate the mother he barely knew. His tool of choice: Google Earth. Brierley's life story is the setup for a feel-good drama, and Lion lands the life affirmations without schmaltzing up the hardships. Davis splits the movie in two, first capturing the metropolitan chaos from a pint-sized POV, then wrestling with an identity crisis in the present. Patel picks at a raw nerve as the present-day Brierley, displaced but driven towards discovery, while Kidman delivers a heartbreaking performance as his adoptive mother. Thank God for the meditative soundtrack.
The Lobster (2016)
Greek style master Yorgos Lanthimos' dystopian allegory against romance sees Colin Farrell forced to choose a partner in 45 days or he'll be turned into an animal of his choice, which is a lobster. Stuck in a group home with similarly unlucky singles, Farrell's David decides to bust out and join other renegades in a kind of anti-love terror cell that lives in the woods. It's part comedy of manners, part futuristic thriller, and it looks absolutely beautiful -- Lanthimos handles the bizarre premise with grace and a naturalistic eye that reminds the viewer that humans remain one of the most interesting animals to exist on this planet.
The Look of Silence (2014)
The stronger one of Joshua Oppenheimer's films confronting the mid-1960s genocide in Indonesia (the other is The Act of Killing) follows an optometrist as he meets and interviews the individuals responsible for the death of his brother, none of whom have been held accountable before. It sounds so simplistic, and at first it plays so serenely, then gradually, it builds into a powerful record of the candid confessions of men still considered heroes in their country. This documentary focuses on the legacy of events that will soon only be in the hands and minds of a generation detached from and mistaken about the events of 50 years ago.
The Lovely Bones (2009)
Peter Jackson's film adaptation of the 2002 novel of the same name stars Saoirse Ronan as a murdered 14-year-old girl who watches life on Earth continue to go on without her while she adjusts to life in heaven. Ronan gives a dazzling performance as she spends a good portion of the film navigating the heaven that she illustrates all on her own while struggling to keep an eye on her grief-stricken family and her murderer (Stanley Tucci), who has yet to be caught.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)
When Danny (Adam Sandler), Matthew (Ben Stiller) and Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), three half-siblings from three different mothers, gather at their family brownstone in New York to tend to their ailing father (Dustin Hoffman), a lifetime of familial politics explode out of every minute of conversation. Their narcissistic sculptor dad didn't have time for Danny. Matthew was the golden child. Jean was weird… or maybe disturbed by memories no one ever knew. Expertly sketched by writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) this memoir-like portrait of lives half-lived is the kind of bittersweet, dimensional character comedy we're now used to seeing told in three seasons of prestige television. Baumbach gives us the whole package in two hours.
Sean Penn won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, the openly gay public official who galvanized San Francisco's activist movement. Directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting), Milk is a traditional, yet elegant biopic that keeps two fingers firmly placed on the pulse of 1970s Castro Street while mirroring debates and actions we're still (still!) witnessing today.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
The legendary British comedy troupe took the legend of King Arthur and offered a characteristically irreverent take on it in their second feature film. It's rare for comedy to hold up this well, but the timelessness of lines like, "I fart in your general direction!" "It's just a flesh wound," and "Run away!" makes this a movie worth watching again and again.
The attention-getting debut from Warcraft director Duncan Jones is basically a one-man show for star Sam Rockwell, who plays the lone operator of a moon-based mining outpost. Nearing the end of his three-year shift, the guy starts to have problems. Not just the loneliness and stunning boredom you'd expect from solo life on the moon; more like big fractures in his life, which reveal far more troubling facts about his existence. The brilliant Rockwell is aided by the voice of Kevin Spacey as the outpost's AI helper, and by a minimal but effective score from Clint Mansell. Facing death alone on a cold rock in space shouldn't be this appealing.
No, not mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence. This Mother, while also a tense thriller, is a critically acclaimed hit from South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho (The Host, Snowpiercer) that has its titular mother on an obsessive quest to prove that her mentally disabled son is innocent of a murder he's accused of committing. Its unpredictable twists and turns cast Kim Hye-ja, seen as the maternal archetype in Korea for her other roles in more family-centric titles, as a vengeful protectorate. There aren't any supernatural scares here; just the grotesque horrors that humans can capably wreak on one another.
The South's post-slavery existence is, for Hollywood, mostly uncharted territory. Rees rectifies the overlooked stretch of history with this novelistic drama about two Mississippi families working a rain-drenched farm in 1941. The white McAllans settle on a muddy patch of land to realize their dreams. The Jacksons, a family of black sharecroppers working the land, have their own hopes, which their neighbors manage to nurture and curtail. To capture a multitude of perspectives, Mudbound weaves together specific scenes of daily life, vivid and memory-like, with family member reflections, recorded in whispered voice-over. The epic patchwork stretches from the Jackson family dinner table, where the youngest daughter dreams of becoming a stenographer, to the vistas of Mississippi, where incoming storms threaten an essential batch of crops, to the battlefields of World War II Germany, a harrowing scene that will affect both families. Confronting race, class, war, and the possibility of unity, Mudbound spellbinding drama reckons with the past to understand the present.
My Happy Family (2017)
At 52, Manana (Ia Shughliashvili) packs a bag and walks out on her husband, son, daughter, daughter's live-in boyfriend, and elderly mother and father, all of whom live together in a single apartment. The family is cantankerous and blustery, asking everything of Manana, who spends her days teaching better-behaved teenagers about literature. But as Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groß's striking character study unfolds, the motivation behind Manana's departure is a deeper strain of frustration, despite what her brother, aunts, uncles, and anyone else who can cram themselves into the situation would like us to think. Anchored by Ia Shughliashvili's stunningly internal performance, and punctured by a dark sense of humor akin to Darren Aronofsky's mother! (which would have been the perfect alternate title), My Happy Family is both delicate and brutal in its portrayal of independence, and should get under the skin of anyone with their own family drama.
National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)
Food fight! John Belushi's iconic college co-ed "Bluto" Blutarsky is commemorated on posters and T-shirts at universities far and wide, and with good reason: His merry band of misfits flips the made-up Faber College's classic fraternity ideal on its ass. The measures their Delta House takes to save their charter are, to paraphrase Otter (Tim Matheson), futile, stupid, and pee-in-your-pants funny. Watching them topple their clean-cut Omega rivals through toga parties and horse abductions will crack up even the meanest dean.
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.
NymphomaniacVols. 1 & 2 (2013)
Provocateur Lars von Trier (Antichrist, Melancholia) made headlines for filling his orgastic opus with unsimulated sex. While the four-hour-long, two-volume journey (though both volumes should be viewed together) is filled with explicit scenes -- everything from train-car blow jobs to threesomes to fetish whipping where a riding crop takes care of the stimulation -- von Trier has more on his mind than pornographic subversion. His sardonic Nymphomaniac questions sexuality, the roles of men and women in one another's lives, and storytelling on a macro level. The movie's a triumph -- and not just for those who dreamed of seeing Shia LaBeouf thrust on camera.
This wild ride, part action heist, part Miyazaki-like travelogue, and part scathing satire, is fueled by fairy tale whimsy -- but the Grimm kind, where there are smiles and spilled blood. Ahn Seo-hyun plays Mija, the young keeper of a "super-pig," bred by a food manufacturer to be the next step in human-consumption evolution. When the corporate overlords come for her roly-poly pal, Mija hightails it from the farm to the big city to break him out, crossing environmental terrorists, a zany Steve Irwin-type (Gyllenhaal), and the icy psychos at the top of the food chain (including Swinton's childlike CEO) along the way. Okja won't pluck your heartstrings like E.T., but there's grandeur in its frenzy, and the film's cross-species friendship will strike up every other emotion with its empathetic, eco-friendly, and eccentric observations.
On Body and Soul (2017)
This Hungarian film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film, and it's easy to see why. The sparse love story begins when two slaughterhouse employees discover they have the same dream at night, in which they're both deer searching the winter forest for food. Endre, a longtime executive at the slaughterhouse, has a physically damaged arm, whereas Maria is a temporary replacement who seems to be on the autism spectrum. If the setup sounds a bit on-the-nose, the moving performances and the unflinching direction save On Body and Soul from turning into a Thomas Aquinas 101 class, resulting in the kind of bleak beauty you can find in a dead winter forest.
The Other Side of the Wind (2018)
Don't go into Orson Welles' final film expecting it to be an easy watch. The Other Side of the Wind, which follows fictional veteran Hollywood director Jake Hannaford (tooootally not modeled after Welles himself) and his protegé (also tooootally not a surrogate for Welles' own friend and mentee Peter Bogdanovich, who also plays the character) as they attend a party in celebration of Hannaford's latest film and are beset on all sides by Hannaford's friends, enemies, and everyone in between. The film, which Welles hoped would be his big comeback to Hollywood, was left famously unfinished for decades after his death in 1985. Thanks to Bogdanovich and producer Frank Marshall, it was finally completed in 2018, and the result is a vibrant and bizarre throwback to Welles' own experimental 1970s style, made even more resonant if you know how intertwined the movie is with its own backstory. If you want to dive even deeper, Netflix also released a documentary about the restoration and completion of the film, They'll Love Me When I'm Dead, which delves into Welles' own complicated and tragic relationship with Hollywood and the craft of moviemaking.
Personal Shopper (2017)
As Maureen, a French socialite's personal shopper who believes that if she hangs around Paris long enough, she'll make contact with her recently deceased twin brother, Kristen Stewart is a conduit of the spirits of Vivien Leigh, James Dean, and the leading ladies of Hitchcock thrillers. She's enigmatic yet seductive, the perfect set of observing, questioning eyes to lead us down a windy exploration of grief. Personal Shopper becomes a supernatural horror, psychosexual drama, high-tension suspense, and the type of playful character drama that the French have perfected, all while orbiting Maureen's racing mind, which we see provoked by everything from séance YouTube videos to anonymous text messages.
The Pianist (2002)
Adrien Brody picked up an Oscar for his silent portrayal of celebrated Polish pianist Władysław Szpilman, a Jew who survived the Holocaust thanks to a mix of luck, ingenuity, resistance, and endurance. Like all stories of the Holocaust, it's a harrowing depiction of the Nazi reign, which in addition to taking lives destroyed talent and livelihoods across Europe. The film is deathly silent, punishing, and unforgiving -- like the entirety of World War II and the Holocaust.
Private Life (2018)
Over a decade since the release of her last dark comedy, The Savages, writer and director Tamara Jenkins is back with a sprawling movie in the same vein: more hyper-verbal jerks you can't help but love. Richard (Paul Giamatti) and Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) are a Manhattan-dwelling couple who have spent the last few years attempting to have a baby with little success. When we meet them, they're already in the grips of fertility mania, willing to try almost anything to secure the offspring they think they desire. With all the details about injections, side effects, and pricey medical procedures, the movie functions as a taxonomy of modern pregnancy anxieties, and Hahn brings each part of the process to glorious life. Eventually, the pair recruits 25-year-old college dropout Sadie (Kayli Carter), the step-daughter of Richard's brother, to serve as an egg donor. Soon, they form their own unconventional family united by feelings of inadequacy and hope for the future. The final shot, which features a moment of silence after over two hours of near constant chatter, is one you won't forget.
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.
Quiz Show (1994)
Back in the 1990s, every true story became a classically tailored, character-actor-filled Oscar prospect. Quiz Show, directed by Robert Redford, is one of the best of the bunch, a story of the American dream filtered through the Hollywood machine. Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes) became rich and famous playing the game show Twenty One. In 1959, he testified before Congress that producers fed him the answers. He never lived down his scandal. Quiz Show show wrestles with why.
In Julia Ducournau's debut, carnal desires turn carnivorous. A coming-of-age story that'll have the queasy retreating from age, Raw finds sheltered vegetarian Justine (Marillier) embarking on her first year of French veterinarian school. Between graphic dissections, nightly raves, and hazing that makes American fraternity life look like a day at the massage parlor, the student struggles to fit in. Justine's frosh year takes a morbid turn when her upperclassman sister forces her to consume meat for the first time, unleashing an insatiable hunger. The metaphors are obvious, but Ducournau's clinical eye for horror tableaux -- the "gross" parts range from skin peeling to gnawing on human fingers to dredging dung from a cow's anus (for science!) -- keep Raw perpetually and satisfyingly unnerving.
The Ritual (2018)
The Ritual, a horror film where a group of middle-aged men embark on a hiking trip in honor of a dead friend, understands the tension between natural beauty of the outdoors and the unsettling panic of the unknown. The group's de facto leader Luke (an understated Rafe Spall) attempts to keep the adventure from spiralling out of control, but the forest has other plans. (Maybe brush up on your Scandinavian mythology before viewing.) Like a backpacking variation on Neil Marshall's 2005 cave spelunking classic The Descent, The Ritual deftly explores inter-personal dynamics while delivering jolts of other-worldly terror. It'll have you rethinking that weekend getaway on your calendar.
All those billions Netflix spent will likely pay off in the form of several Oscar nominations for Roma, including one for Best Picture. Whether experienced in the hushed reverence of a theater, watched on the glowing screen of a laptop, or, as Netflix executive Ted Sarandos has suggested, binged on the perilous surface of a phone, Alfonso Cuarón's black-and-white passion project seeks to stun. A technical craftsman of the highest order, the Children of Men and Gravity director has an aesthetic that aims to overwhelm -- with the amount of extras, the sense of despair, and the constant whir of exhilaration -- and this autobiographical portrait of kind-hearted maid Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) caring for a family in the early 1970s has been staged on a staggering, mind-boggling scale. Cuarón's artful pans aren't just layered for the sake of complexity: He's often placing different emotions, historical concepts, and class distinctions in conversation with each other. What are these different components in the painstakingly composed shots actually saying to each other? That remains harder to parse. Still, there's an image of Cleo and the family eating ice cream together after a devastating dinner in the foreground while a wedding takes place in the background that you won't be able to shake. The movie is filled with compositions like that, tinged with careful ambiguity and unresolvable tensions.
The big-screen adaptation of Emma Donoghue's best-selling novel, about a mother raising her son in captivity after being abducted as a teenager, has built-in challenges. Most of the film takes place in an 11x11 garden shed. And the drama plays out from the perspective of a 5-year-old. But Lenny Abrahamson's film version is as much a cinematic triumph as the book was a literary one. Anchored by stirring performances from young Jacob Tremblay and Oscar winner Brie Larson, who cements her status as one of the finest actresses working today, Room is a haunting tribute to survival in the most horrific of circumstances.
Schindler's List (1993)
A passion project for Steven Spielberg, who shot it back-to-back with another masterpiece, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who reportedly saved over 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. Frank, honest, and stark in its depiction of Nazi violence, the three-hour historical drama is a haunting reminder of the world's past, every frame a relic, every lost voice channeled through Itzhak Perlman's mourning violin.
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.
She's Gotta Have It (1986)
Before checking out Spike Lee's Netflix original series of the same name, be sure to catch up with where it all began. Nola (Tracy Camilla Johns) juggles three men during her sexual pinnacle, and it's all working out until they discover one another. She's Gotta Have It takes some dark turns, but each revelation speaks volumes about what real romantic independence is all about.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Twist: M. Night Shyamalan's paranormal drama is just as scary after 18 years of meme-ification. Haley Joel Osment is just 11 years old in this star-making turn, as a young boy who can see dead people. Bruce Willis' mouth-agape reactions still chill with each surreal discovery.
Sliding Doors (1998)
You may know Sliding Doors more as a term for life-changing decisions than a romantic drama starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Now, thanks to Netflix, you can finally understand why late-'90s audiences were hung up about the parallel lives they could be living. You can think about Sliding Doors in terms of Paltrow's other '90s romantic hit, Shakespeare in Love: In another universe, the movie lost the Best Picture Oscar to Saving Private Ryan.
Small Crimes (2017)
It's always a little discombobulating to see your favorite Game of Thrones actors in movies that don't call on them to fight dragons, swing swords, or at least wear some armor. But that shouldn't stop you from checking out Small Crimes, a carefully paced thriller starring the Kingslayer Jaime Lannister himself, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. As Joe Denton, a crooked cop turned ex-con, Coster-Waldau plays yet another character with a twisted moral compass, but here he's not part of some mythical narrative. He's just another conniving, scheming dirtbag in director E.L. Katz's Coen brothers-like moral universe. While some of the plot details are confusing -- Katz and co-writer Macon Blair skimp on the exposition so much that some of the dialogue can feel incomprehensible -- the mood of Midwestern dread and Coster-Waldau's patient, lived-in performance make this one worth checking out. Despite the lack of dragons.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
2015's The Force Awakens revived classic Star Wars for a new generation. The Last Jedi finally hands off the saber to Rey and punches the open-ended franchise into story-expanding hyperspace. Though the dramatic shifts didn't sit well with some of the devoted audiences -- why would Luke Skywalker, the Jedi with truncated training who let his sister's son slip to the Dark Side, be a PTSD-crippled curmudgeon instead of his ebullient former self?? -- director Rian Johnson takes the Star Wars universe more seriously than any of his predecessors.
This slacker comedy, which features a clever script co-written by co-star Harold Ramis, might be the best of Bill Murray's early comedies. If you avoid the fact that the plot runs out of steam a little bit down the home stretch, this tale of two best friends who join the Army because they have nothing better to do is a low-key blast. Director Ivan Reitman, who also directed Murray in Meatballs, is smart enough to keep things focused on his charismatic star, who was fresh off his SNL run and basically riffs his way through the whole movie.
From Orange Is the New Black writer Sian Heder, Tallulah follows the title character (played by Ellen Page) after she inadvertently "kidnaps" a toddler from an alcoholic rich woman and passes the child off as her own to appeal to her run-out boyfriend's mother (Allison Janney). A messy knot of familial woes and wayward instincts, Heder's directorial debut achieves the same kind of balancing act as her hit Netflix series -- frank social drama with just the right amount of humorous hijinks. As Tallulah grows into a mother figure, her on-the-lam parenting course only makes her more and more of a criminal in the eyes of... just about everyone. You want to root for her, but that would be too easy.
The Third Man (1950)
One of the pillars of film noir arrives to Netflix with pristine shadows and wailing zither music intact. Written by novelist Graham Greene, The Third Man follows a pulp writer (Joseph Cotten) as he navigates post-World War II Vienna, trying to solve the "murder" of his friend, Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Twisting, turning, and employing every trick in the moviemaking playbook, The Third Man ultimately cuts deep because of a cynical theme of confidence and corruption. Heroes fall their hardest in noir.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
The Thor series, with its occasionally leaden mix of earnest mythology, frantic action, and hokey jokes, was the Marvel property most in need of an upgrade. Ragnarok doesn't abandon the core elements of Thor -- Chris Hemsworth still stars as the hunk-ish, Hammer-throwing God -- but director Taika Waititi, fresh off the success of his wiseass adventure film Hunt for the Wilderpeople, optimizes the comedic potential of the character, turning the third chapter into an absurd, Technicolor zing-fest. New characters like Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie, Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster, and Korg, a friendly rock monster voiced by Waititi himself, make this a wacky sci-fi universe you actually want to hang out in.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018)
Of all the entries in the rom com revival, this one is heavier on the rom than the com. But even though it won't make your sides hurt, it will make your heart flutter. The plot is ripe with high school movie hijinks that arise when the love letters of Lara Jean Covey (the wonderful Lana Condor) accidentally get mailed to her crushes, namely the contractual faux relationship she starts with heartthrob Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). Like its heroine, it's big-hearted but skeptical in all the right places.
There are heists pulled off by slick gentlemen in suits, then there are heists pulled off by two wayward 20-somethings rambling along on a steamy, summer day in New York City. This dog-day crime-romance stages the latter, pairing a lanky Russian kid (Callum Tanner) who ditches his fast-food register job for a one-off thieving gig, with his driver, an aloof strip club waitress (Grace Van Patten) looking for the cash to restart her life. When a briefcase handoff goes awry, the pair head upstate to track down the missing package, where train rides and curbside walks force them to open up. With a laid-back, '70s soul, Tramps is the rare doe-eyed relationship movie where playing third-wheel is a joy.
The Truman Show (1998)
Ignore the fact that iPhone cameras and social media has basically turned all of our lives into mini-Truman Shows and revel in the picturesque, suburban fabrications of this science-fiction classic. Jim Carrey stars as Truman, born into a reality TV show and driven to existential crisis. When he discovers what exactly is going on, his coastal town starts collapsing like the rickety flats of an aging sitcom set. The metaphors are endless, and the drama runs high until the final note.
V for Vendetta (2005)
Natalie Portman's dystopian thriller has only increased in relevance since it came out, so you can remember, remember the joy of watching a buzzed Portman trying to fight the repressive forces of future governmental control. Watch the spirit of Guy Fawkes live on before it's too late.
Velvet Buzzsaw (2018)
Nightcrawler filmmaker Dan Gilroy teams up with Jake Gyllenhaal again to create another piece of cinematic art, this time a satirical horror film about the exclusive, over-the-top LA art scene. The movie centers around a greedy group of art buyers who come into the possession of stolen paintings that, unbeknownst to them, turn out to be haunted, making their luxurious lives of wheeling and dealing overpriced paintings a living hell. Also featuring the likes of John Malkovich, Toni Collette, Billy Magnussen, and others, Velvet Buzzsaw looks like Netflix’s next great original.
The Wailing (2016)
Hollywood horror movies rarely shoot for "epic," content with scaring up a storm with micro-budgets and single locations. South Korean director Na Hong-jin does not suffer from the same apprehension. The Wailing is a masterpiece of mood, 156 minutes of every horror trope imaginable, drenched in mythology we foreigners may not entirely understand. That's fine: the movie's plot, a streak of murders that may or may not have been perpetrated by demons, tows the viewer through the foggiest moments with one visceral pleasure after another.
The Witch (2015)
The Witch delivers everything we don't see in horror today. The backdrop, a farm in 17th-century New England, is pure misty, macabre mood. The circumstance, a Puritanical family making it on the fringe of society because they're too religious, bubbles with terror. And the question, whether devil-worshipping is hocus pocus or true black magic, keeps each character on their toes, and begging God for answers. The Witch tests its audience with its (nearly impenetrable) old English dialogue and the (anxiety-inducing) trials of early American life, but the payoff will keep your mind racing, and your face hiding under the covers, for days.
Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
Before taking us to space with Gravity, director Alfonso Cuarón steamed up screens with this provocative, comedic drama about two teenage boys (Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal) road-trippin' it with an older woman. Like a sunbaked Jules and Jim, the movie makes nimble use of its central love triangle, setting up conflicts between the characters as they move through the complicated political and social realities of Mexican life. It's a confident, relaxed film that's got an equal amount of brains and sex appeal. Watch this one with a friend -- or two.
Selma director Ava DuVernay snuck away from the Hollywood spotlight to direct this sweeping documentary on the state of race in America. DuVernay's focus is the country's growing incarceration rates and an imbalance in the way black men and women are sentenced based on their crimes. Throughout the exploration, 13th dives into post-Emancipation migration, systemic racism that built in the early 20th century, and moments of modern political history that continue to spin a broken gear in our well-oiled national machine. You'll be blown away by what DuVernay uncovers in her interview-heavy research.