Essential movies – Whale Eaters Wed, 06 Oct 2021 02:05:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Essential movies – Whale Eaters 32 32 50 Essential Movies For Kids Mon, 04 Oct 2021 06:48:06 +0000 (Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail image: 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.; Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection; MGM.) Looking to enrich your kid’s viewing habits? Or if you’re under 13 yourself, love movies, and you want to watch some of the best ever made, take it […]]]>

(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail image: 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.; Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection; MGM.)

Looking to enrich your kid’s viewing habits? Or if you’re under 13 yourself, love movies, and you want to watch some of the best ever made, take it from us when we list 50 Essential Movies For Kids!

These are not just great children’s movies, but movies that play well for the curious and growing mind. While all these movies are classics and can be seen at any age, some have stronger themes than others that would play better during upper years. So, we separated the movies in suggested age categories:

Ages 1-5: Kids may not actively recall everything from this age, but a good baseline is fundamental in developing a healthy appetite for movies. Here we feature colorful classics (The Wizard of Oz), fun adventures (Chicken Run), and tales as old as time (Beauty and the Beast).

Ages 6-9: As more time is devoted to school and outside life, movies become more of an escape, and their power to transport starts to become apparent. Don’t miss out on epic quests (Star Wars), wish fulfillment (Home Alone), and dazzling fantasies (Spirited Away).

Ages 10-12: The magic window, the time in life when movies can move and change tweens, and stick for the rest of time. A good era for the classic portrayals of youth (The 400 Blows), face-melting action (Raiders of the Lost Ark), and romance (Romeo & Juliet).

Whether you’re a parent looking for a moral, entertaining movie night with your kids, or you’re a young student of movies making the leap on your own, check out these 50 Essential Movies For Kids!


Adjusted Score: 105021%

Critics Consensus: Enchanting, sweepingly romantic, and featuring plenty of wonderful musical numbers, Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney’s most elegant animated offerings.

Synopsis: A French maiden takes the place of her captured father in the enchanted castle of an accursed prince, and her… [More]


Adjusted Score: 104502%

Critics Consensus: Chicken Run has all the charm of Nick Park’s Wallace & Gromit, and something for everybody. The voice acting is fabulous, the slapstick is brilliant, and the action sequences are spectacular.

Synopsis: A dashing rooster and the hen he loves lead an escape from a farm in 1950s England…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 101887%

Critics Consensus: Beautifully animated, smartly written, and stocked with singalong songs, Frozen adds another worthy entry to the Disney canon.

Synopsis: A fearless young princess (Kristen Bell) sets out with a mountaineer (Jonathan Groff) to find her sister (Idina Menzel), whose… [More]


Adjusted Score: 100513%

Critics Consensus: Kiki’s Delivery Service is a heartwarming, gorgeously-rendered tale of a young witch discovering her place in the world.

Synopsis: Kiki and her talking cat, Jiji, move to a seaside town in accordance with her village’s tradition for witches in… [More]


Adjusted Score: 99050%

Critics Consensus: Alfonso Cuarón adapts Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel with a keen sense of magic realism, vividly recreating the world of childhood as seen through the characters.

Synopsis: A British Army captain’s (Liam Cunningham) 10-year-old daughter (Liesel Matthews) irks the headmistress (Eleanor Bron) of her girls school in… [More]


Adjusted Score: 93188%

Critics Consensus: The Muppet Movie, the big-screen debut of Jim Henson’s plush creations, is smart, lighthearted, and fun for all ages.

Synopsis: Fried-frogs-legs franchisers (Charles Durning, Austin Pendleton) follow Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and company to Hollywood…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 98648%

Critics Consensus: My Neighbor Totoro is a heartwarming, sentimental masterpiece that captures the simple grace of childhood.

Synopsis: Two sisters encounter a mythical forest sprite and its woodland companions when they move to rural Japan…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 97216%

Critics Consensus: The Red Balloon invests the simplest of narratives with spectacular visual inventiveness, making for a singularly wondrous portrait of innocence.

Synopsis: A red balloon with a life of its own follows a boy around Paris…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 111385%

Critics Consensus: With its involving story and characters, vibrant art, and memorable songs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs set the animation standard for decades to come.

Synopsis: A wicked queen casts a spell upon a beautiful young girl in this Disney adaptation of the classic fairy tale…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 106907%

Critics Consensus: Entertaining as it is innovative, Toy Story reinvigorated animation while heralding the arrival of Pixar as a family-friendly force to be reckoned with.

Synopsis: A flashy new action hero’s arrival creates upset in a community of toys that comes to life when people are… [More]


Adjusted Score: 106424%

Critics Consensus: Wall-E‘s stellar visuals testify once again to Pixar’s ingenuity, while its charming star will captivate younger viewers — and its timely story offers thought-provoking subtext.

Synopsis: After years of tidying up an Earth devoid of humanity, a robot janitor (Ben Burtt) meets a mechanical scout and… [More]


Adjusted Score: 118424%

Critics Consensus: An absolute masterpiece whose groundbreaking visuals and deft storytelling are still every bit as resonant, The Wizard of Oz is a must-see film for young and old.

Synopsis: After a tornado whisks Kansas farm girl Dorothy (Judy Garland) to a magic land, she must travel to the Emerald… [More]


Adjusted Score: 102099%

Critics Consensus: The rare family-friendly feature with a heart as big as its special effects budget, Babe offers timeless entertainment for viewers of all ages.

Synopsis: An Australian farmer (James Cromwell) adopts a piglet that becomes a champion sheepherder. Live action/animatronics…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 104149%

Critics Consensus: Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, Back to the Future is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit.

Synopsis: A teen (Michael J. Fox) takes a crackpot’s (Christopher Lloyd) DeLorean time machine to 1955 and sees his parents in… [More]


Adjusted Score: 114518%

Critics Consensus: Coco‘s rich visual pleasures are matched by a thoughtful narrative that takes a family-friendly — and deeply affecting — approach to questions of culture, family, life, and death.

Synopsis: Accompanied by a charming trickster, a young musician embarks on an extraordinary journey through the colorful Land of the Dead… [More]


Adjusted Score: 113972%

Critics Consensus: Playing as both an exciting sci-fi adventure and a remarkable portrait of childhood, Steven Spielberg’s touching tale of a homesick alien remains a piece of movie magic for young and old.

Synopsis: A boy’s close encounter with an alien stranded on Earth leads to a unique friendship in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 90462%

Critics Consensus: A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell’s funny and charming performance as one of Santa’s biggest helpers.

Synopsis: Adopted as a baby by one of Santa’s elves (Bob Newhart), a man (Will Ferrell) leaves the workshop to search… [More]


Adjusted Score: 101015%

Critics Consensus: Fantastic Mr. Fox is a delightfully funny feast for the eyes with multi-generational appeal — and it shows Wes Anderson has a knack for animation.

Synopsis: After three nefarious farmers declare war on them, a sly fox (George Clooney) rallies his animal neighbors to fight back…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 81617%

Critics Consensus: The Goonies is an energetic, sometimes noisy mix of Spielbergian sentiment and funhouse tricks that will appeal to kids and nostalgic adults alike.

Synopsis: Coastal Oregon kids (Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen) follow the treasure map of pirate One-Eyed Willie past his deadly… [More]


Adjusted Score: 88995%

Critics Consensus: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone adapts its source material faithfully while condensing the novel’s overstuffed narrative into an involving — and often downright exciting — big-screen magical caper.

Synopsis: An orphan (Daniel Radcliffe) attends a school of witchcraft and wizardry and pieces together the mystery of his parents’ deaths…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 69691%

Critics Consensus: Home Alone uneven but frequently funny premise stretched unreasonably thin is buoyed by Macaulay Culkin’s cute performance and strong supporting stars.

Synopsis: Accidentally left by his Paris-bound family, an 8-year-old (Macaulay Culkin) makes mincemeat of two burglars (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) in… [More]


Adjusted Score: 105472%

Critics Consensus: Boasting dazzling animation, a script with surprising dramatic depth, and thrilling 3-D sequences, How to Train Your Dragon soars.

Synopsis: A misfit Viking teenager (Jay Baruchel) sees a chance to change the course of his clan’s future when he befriends… [More]


Adjusted Score: 116066%

Critics Consensus: Inventive, gorgeously animated, and powerfully moving, Inside Out is another outstanding addition to the Pixar library of modern animated classics.

Synopsis: An 11-year-old girl’s (Kaitlyn Dias) five emotions try to guide her through a difficult transition after she moves from the… [More]


Adjusted Score: 91895%

Critics Consensus: Utterly predictable and wholly of its time, but warm, sincere, and difficult to resist, due in large part to Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio’s relaxed chemistry.

Synopsis: A New Jersey teen (Ralph Macchio) moves to California, meets bullies and learns karate from a handyman, Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki… [More]


Adjusted Score: 102170%

Critics Consensus: The endearing Iron Giant tackles ambitious topics and complex human relationships with a steady hand and beautifully animated direction from Brad Bird.

Synopsis: A malevolent government agent threatens to destroy the friendship between a boy and a huge alien robot…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 107409%

Critics Consensus: Boasting beautiful animation, a charming voice cast, laugh-a-minute gags, and a surprisingly thoughtful story, The Lego Movie is colorful fun for all ages.

Synopsis: An ordinary LEGO figurine (Chris Pratt), thought to be the key to saving the world, is accompanied by a fellowship… [More]


Adjusted Score: 77306%

Critics Consensus: Little Manhattan is a sweet story of young love that provides an enlightening if pragmatic view on love and courtship.

Synopsis: A New York boy (Josh Hutcherson) finds his first love, while the marriage between his parents (Bradley Whitford, Cynthia Nixon)… [More]


Adjusted Score: 90667%

Critics Consensus: Danny DeVito-directed version of Matilda is odd, charming, and while the movie diverges from Roald Dahl, it nonetheless captures the book’s spirit.

Synopsis: A little girl (Mara Wilson) develops extraordinary mental abilities, despite neglectful parents (Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman) and a brutal headmistress…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 83561%

Critics Consensus: A magical journey about the power of a young boy’s imagination to save a dying fantasy land, The NeverEnding Story remains a much-loved kids adventure.

Synopsis: A New York schoolboy (Barret Oliver) escapes into a book about a boy warrior (Noah Hathaway) and an empress (Tami… [More]


Adjusted Score: 111879%

Critics Consensus: Paddington 2 honors its star’s rich legacy with a sweet-natured sequel whose adorable visuals are matched by a story perfectly balanced between heartwarming family fare and purely enjoyable all-ages adventure.

Synopsis: One fine day, Paddington spots a pop-up book in an antique shop — the perfect present for his beloved aunt’s… [More]


Adjusted Score: 104828%

Critics Consensus: A delightfully postmodern fairy tale, The Princess Bride is a deft, intelligent mix of swashbuckling, romance, and comedy that takes an age-old damsel-in-distress story and makes it fresh.

Synopsis: A storybook stableboy turns pirate (Cary Elwes) and rescues his beloved (Robin Wright), who is about to marry a dreadful… [More]


Adjusted Score: 68468%

Critics Consensus: It may be shamelessly derivative and overly nostalgic, but The Sandlot is nevertheless a genuinely sweet and funny coming-of-age adventure.

Synopsis: The best baseball player (Mike Vitar) in the neighborhood helps a new kid (Thomas Guiry) with his clumsy ball-handling…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 103523%

Critics Consensus: Spirited Away is a dazzling, enchanting, and gorgeously drawn fairy tale that will leave viewers a little more curious and fascinated by the world around them.

Synopsis: Lost in a forest, a 10-year-old girl (Daveigh Chase) meets animals, ghosts and weird creatures…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 97796%

Critics Consensus: A kinetic and fun movie that’s sure to thrill children of all ages.

Synopsis: When a technical genius kidnaps retired spies (Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino), only their children can save them…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 108171%

Critics Consensus: A legendarily expansive and ambitious start to the sci-fi saga, George Lucas opened our eyes to the possibilities of blockbuster filmmaking and things have never been the same.

Synopsis: Robots and other allies help a youth (Mark Hamill) and a space jockey (Harrison Ford) rescue a rebel princess (Carrie… [More]


Adjusted Score: 96684%

Critics Consensus: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is strange yet comforting, full of narrative detours that don’t always work but express the film’s uniqueness.

Synopsis: A poor boy (Peter Ostrum) and his grandfather (Jack Albertson) win a tour through the marvelous factory of a wily… [More]


Adjusted Score: 105922%

Critics Consensus: A seminal French New Wave film that offers an honest, sympathetic, and wholly heartbreaking observation of adolescence without trite nostalgia.

Synopsis: Neglected by his parents (Claire Maurier, Albert Remy), Parisian schoolboy Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) runs away from home and turns… [More]


Adjusted Score: 90195%

Critics Consensus: A warm, family-friendly underdog story, featuring terrific supporting performances from Keke Palmer, Laurence Fishburne, and Angela Bassett.

Synopsis: Akeelah (Keke Palmer), an 11-year-old girl living in South Los Angeles, discovers she has a talent for spelling, which she… [More]


Adjusted Score: 99756%

Critics Consensus: Louis Malle’s autobiographical tale of a childhood spent in a WWII boarding school is a beautifully realized portrait of friendship and youth.

Synopsis: Filmmaker Louis Malle tells of the friendship between a Jewish boy (Raphael Fejto) and a Roman Catholic boy (Gaspard Manesse)… [More]


Adjusted Score: 100814%

Critics Consensus: Hugo is an extravagant, elegant fantasy with an innocence lacking in many modern kids’ movies, and one that emanates an unabashed love for the magic of cinema.

Synopsis: A resourceful orphaned boy (Asa Butterfield) and a bookish girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) set out on a quest to unlock… [More]


Adjusted Score: 77425%

Critics Consensus: A charming, quirky, and often funny comedy.

Synopsis: A gawky teenager (Jon Heder) from an odd family (Jon Gries, Aaron Ruell) helps his new friend run for class… [More]


Adjusted Score: 90071%

Critics Consensus: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure brings Paul Reubens’ famous character to the big screen intact, along with enough inspired silliness to dazzle children of all ages.

Synopsis: Childlike Pee-wee (Paul Reubens) loses his vintage bicycle and embarks on a cross-country adventure to get it back…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 101753%

Critics Consensus: Queen of Katwe is a feel-good movie of uncommon smarts and passion, and outstanding performances by Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo help to elevate the film past its cliches.

Synopsis: Missionary Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) mentors young chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) in the slum of Katwe in Kampala,… [More]


Adjusted Score: 103737%

Critics Consensus: Featuring bravura set pieces, sly humor, and white-knuckle action, Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most consummately entertaining adventure pictures of all time.

Synopsis: Globe-trotting archaeologist Indiana Jones races the Nazis for possession of a legendary religious artifact…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 98600%

Critics Consensus: The solid leads and arresting visuals make a case for Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet as the definitive cinematic adaptation of the play.

Synopsis: Shakespeare’s tragic Renaissance teenagers (Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey) fall in love despite their families…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 82127%

Critics Consensus: Though undeniably sentimental and predictable, Rudy succeeds with an uplifting spirit and determination.

Synopsis: With heart and determination an Illinois youth (Sean Astin) tackles shortcomings to play Notre Dame football…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 118276%

Critics Consensus: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse matches bold storytelling with striking animation for a purely enjoyable adventure with heart, humor, and plenty of superhero action.

Synopsis: Bitten by a radioactive spider, teenager Miles Morales suddenly develops mysterious powers that transform him into Spider-Man. He must now… [More]


Adjusted Score: 93658%

Critics Consensus: Time Bandits is a remarkable time-travel fantasy from Terry Gilliam, who utilizes fantastic set design and homemade special effects to create a vivid, original universe.

Synopsis: Cosmic dwarfs take a boy on an odyssey featuring Robin Hood (John Cleese), Napoleon, King Agamemnon (Sean Connery)…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 100570%

Critics Consensus: Buoyed by Robert Wise’s dazzling direction, Leonard Bernstein’s score, and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics, West Side Story remains perhaps the most iconic of all the Shakespeare adaptations to visit the big screen.

Synopsis: Rival New York City gangs affect the love of a young man (Richard Beymer) and woman (Natalie Wood) from each… [More]


Adjusted Score: 96247%

Critics Consensus: With a deliciously wicked performance from Angelica Huston and imaginative puppetry by Jim Henson’s creature shop, Nicolas Roeg’s dark and witty movie captures the spirit of Roald Dahl’s writing like few other adaptations.

Synopsis: A Norwegian (Mai Zetterling) and her grandson (Jasen Fisher) outwit British witches after one (Anjelica Huston) turns him into a… [More]

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21 essential movies about Black lives on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and more Mon, 04 Oct 2021 06:17:25 +0000 Three years ago, cinephile Adam Davie started building a Letterboxd recommendation list of films focused on Black lives. His hobby became a massive undertaking: His list now includes more than 1,700 movies, largely with consensus ratings of three stars or higher, broken down by genre to make it easier to navigate. “I thought this was […]]]>

Three years ago, cinephile Adam Davie started building a Letterboxd recommendation list of films focused on Black lives. His hobby became a massive undertaking: His list now includes more than 1,700 movies, largely with consensus ratings of three stars or higher, broken down by genre to make it easier to navigate.

“I thought this was going to be for me to reference, just for myself, because I was upset I couldn’t find anything like this on the entire internet,” Davie tells Polygon. “You can search for ‘Best Black Films of the 1990s’ or whatever, but there’ll be 10 or 20 films total. I wanted something that would encompass the entire black experience. So I thought, ‘If you’re upset about this, then why don’t you just do it yourself? If it’s motivating you that much, obviously it’s something you should take on.’”

Polygon recently spent a couple of hours talking with Davie, and we asked him to curate a list for us, picking one standout movie from each of his genre categories — not the absolute best pick in any genre, but a favorite he’d personally recommend. (Note that the genre classifications come from Letterboxd.)

Along the way, Davie limited himself to films where he felt like at least one black character’s perspective was key to the narrative. Many movies deal with black lives and problems from white points of view, but as Davie puts it, “I wanted these films to be centered not just around a black character who was expendable, but about black stories, whether they were defined by racism or not … It’s a labor of love, it’s something I really enjoy, and it seems like people are getting some benefit out of it.”

This interview has been transcribed from a longer conversation, and edited for clarity and concision.

Action: Mandingo

With this list as a whole, it would have been very easy to just choose the highest-rated films in any category. Like here, it might be Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse. But a lot of people have already seen those higher-rated films, so I picked an exploitation film from 1975: Mandingo. It’s a film that influenced Quentin Tarantino when he made Django Unchained. I chose it simply because it’s exploitative, it’s shameful, and it’s obscene, but it perfectly describes the period these characters are living in. It’s about a slave owner who purchases a slave to train for bare-knuckle fighting, what’s called “Mandingo fighting” in the film.

One of the things that interests me here is the way black bodies are used for sport, but never given a concern outside of what they can do for white audiences. This is something we’re living with right now. A year or so ago, LeBron James stood up and made a statement regarding the killing of an unarmed African-American man, and a commentator from Fox News, Laura Ingraham, told him to shut up and dribble. And less than a week ago, Drew Brees, the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints said — he’s officially walked this back, but at the time, he said he’ll never agree with someone who doesn’t stand for the flag, because it means so much to him. And the same commentator said, “Well, he definitely has a right to his opinion!” The hypocrisy was so apparent. That’s just one of the things I thought of when I watched this film.

I know there are a lot of people who don’t like films that exploit black or white characters. If someone’s repulsed by it, that’s the response that they should have. This was a repulsive period in American history. No one who decided to own slaves or condone what you see in this film should be applauded. This film doesn’t applaud it — it’s brutal in its treatment of the antebellum South in general.

I’m not interested in having a film comfort me. When Hollywood wants to advertise a film, they often describe it as “the feel-good film of the year.” Especially in quarantine, people are talking about comfort films. I’m not comforted by removing reality from what’s in front of me. Just living in America as a black man, I can’t afford to stick my head in the sand. So whether it’s an exploitation film like this, or something uncomfortable by someone like Michael Haneke, one of my favorite filmmakers — these types of films prepare you well for life outside of the movie theater. Life is beautiful, life is grand, but life is also rough at times. And I do find that some of my film selections can prepare me mentally for the complexities of day-to-day life.

Mandingo is streaming on Amazon Prime.

African Cinema: Black Girl

This one’s from Ousmane Sembene in 1966. It’s about a Senegalese woman who’s looking to better her life, so she takes a job as a housemaid to this wealthy white family in France. The film explores a lot of different things: colorism, the exporting of colonialism — Senegal was at one point occupied by the French, until it declared independence, but the French footprint and grip on society is still there. But there’s this hope in the film that because Senegal is free, there will be new opportunities for the woman.

It doesn’t work out that way. She goes to France, looking for a bit of prosperity, thinking she’s going to be able to achieve some form of independence and a new life. But she’s quickly subjugated and relegated to the lower class. And there are these voiceovers of her questioning her decision, and questioning white supremacy, and her role and within it, and whether there’s a way out. I really enjoyed the way it touched on those subjects without feeling overbearing, without providing too much cover for the white family in the film, because it really isn’t about them. You know, she works for them, but it’s her story, and the film is centered around her for its entire duration.

Black Girl is temporarily streaming free on The Criterion Channel.

Animated: Whitewash

This was the toughest category, because there are a lot more animated TV shows than films centered around black characters. This one’s a short film called Whitewash, from 1994, directed by Michael Sporn. It originally aired on HBO. It’s based on a true story about a young girl named Helene Angel, who, on our way home from school one day, was attacked by a group of racist kids who spray-painted her face white. And this was in 1992, in the Bronx. The story just boggles my mind.

So it’s a first introduction to racism, for kids. It’s probably the most terrible thing that can happen to anyone, let alone a young child who is pretty much carefree at that moment in time. She obviously struggles to understand racism in the film, which contrasts her ordeal with that of her grandmother, who she and her older brother live with. Her grandmother paints a picture of how things were when she was growing up in the South: “This is nothing new, and this is how I overcame it.” It has an afterschool-special feel.

When I was thinking of animated films, I was thinking of something meant obviously for children. Even in a lot of black families, discussions about race are commonplace as you get older. But from my perspective, we don’t do a good enough job in this country of dealing with the issue of race early on, and we don’t give children enough credit for being able to understand these issues. You don’t have to give a James Baldwin treatise on what’s going on in the world, or in an individual’s life. But if you can explain to a white child that their black friend was hurt because of XYZ, and it made them feel bad, because something happened simply because of the color of their skin, I believe children will be able to pick up on that.

Later in the film, the young girl’s classmates show up to her house and escort her to school, letting her know she’s not alone. And it’s a pretty multicultural group. It struck me as interesting because that’s exactly what’s happening in the streets today — hopefully racism is no longer an issue where black people are taking up the cause, championing it, while white people recognize it’s a problem, but don’t actually step up to take the necessary steps. We’re all living together. We’re not going back to segregation. We all have to make this work. In the film, there’s a community effort to help this young girl heal. I think the same thing is going to have to happen within our country, to get us back on the right path.

Whitewash is streaming on Amazon Prime.

Adventure: The Last Dragon

I had to look up the definition of adventure, because I normally think of “adventure films” as Star Wars or Superman, and that isn’t how Letterboxd is using it. Turns out adventures can take place on your block, or light-years away. So I went far afield here and picked The Last Dragon. I would say black people are often attracted to kung-fu and martial-arts films, maybe because of the themes of betterment and self-empowerment. This film isn’t very good, but it’s earnest in its aims, and the people within the film are having fun. It’s really trying to do the right thing, even if from a technical or just a narrative standpoint, it doesn’t all come together.

I think it fits into the same narrative as [the Shaw Brothers studio kung-fu films] that the Wu-Tang Clan always talk about, because it merges black culture with hip-hop and R&B. And it’s one of those instantly quotable films. It’s one of those films I always have fun with. It gives me good feelings. I like anti-escapist cinema, but I can’t help but have fun and laugh and smile when I watch this film.

The Last Dragon is available to rent on major digital services.

Crime: Blindspotting

I chose Blindspotting, which is centered around a crime. The main character, Collin, played by Daveed Diggs, is out on parole and looking to reform his life. But he has this friend, Miles, who keeps trying to pull him into scenarios that may jeopardize his freedom. The number one thing I like about it is that there’s an interracial friendship there that feels genuine. You know there’s a healthy respect between these two men, but even even though they’re lifelong friends, there’s still a gap between the two. Miles doesn’t recognize his privilege, and in many cases, the unlimited strikes white men have in society. Whereas for Collin, there is no coming back from a failure. If he screws up again, he might be going to jail for a very long time.

It tackles the issue of race in such a fanciful way. There’s a moment where Daveed directly addresses the camera. He’s talking to a cop, he’s angry, and he’s rapping, in kind of the same way he did in Hamilton. He’s standing up for himself, and against police brutality and racist police tactics. It fits the current moment because of the way he refuses to be defined by or exploited because of his blackness. There’s a target on his back, he recognizes it, and he’s doing his best to avoid it, but it’s not as easy for him as it is for Miles.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know there’s an unarmed black man running from a cop, and the cop shoots him in the back. Throughout the film, you learn more about this fictional character who has been murdered. There’s a scene where Miles is sitting on the couch with his wife and daughter. And then there’s this news coverage of the event, where the newscaster says something about the victim’s prior arrest, and Miles says, “Oh, no, no parade for you!” or something like that. It blew my mind how aware this film is about the way that even in death, the criminalization and dehumanization of black shooting victims continues to take place. People have been trying to do it with George Floyd. They did it with Trayvon Martin. There are just these little insights in the film, these discussions of the way we view race and decide who is worthy of redemption, and we don’t see those in a lot of films.

Blindspotting is streaming on HBO Max and HBO Now.

Comedy: Support The Girls

This is another section where I decided to go off the beaten path. I chose Support the Girls, Andy Bujalski’s 2019 comedy, because number one, I really like Regina Hall! And because I’ve watched so many films about black people in pain because of racism that it was nice to see a black woman who’s just tired. I believe the film takes place over the course of one day, as she goes through everyday working-class issues. You have this woman who’s a lead, who’s strong, who’s a leader. She has folks, both black and white, who respect her. She’s able to stand up for herself.

But at the same time, she’s not superhero. All too often, I think we depend upon the women in our lives. Just speaking as a black man, we rely on black women to carry much of the load. You can see it’s just wearing on her in this film, for a variety of reasons, but it’s deeply funny, because of her exasperation, and because of the supporting characters. Mainly Haley Lu Richardson, but they all do a great job.

Support the Girls is streaming on Hulu.

Documentary: Lenny Cooke

This is probably the strongest category. Black history is American history, and there’s a ton of stories to choose from. I chose Lenny Cooke, directed by Josh and Benny Safdie. At one point in time, he was the number-one high-school basketball player in the country, and this documentary about him has the Safdie touch. I describe their characters as “unlovable losers,” for a variety of reasons, and you can place Lenny in that category, even though he’s an actual living, breathing person.

He fits nicely into their worldview, and the worlds they’ve created. He’s someone with immense talent and grit, but he can’t get out of his own way. We just saw that in Uncut Gems — a character who just could not get out of his own way. The same in Good Time, there’s someone who’s hellbent on stacking one obstacle on another against himself as he traverses New York City, working to get his brother released from prison. I see a little bit of both of those characters in Lenny Cooke, because at one point, the world was his oyster. LeBron James, for instance, is really good friends with Jay-Z, and Lenny had that same type of relationship with Jay. That’s how big he was. The film is split into two parts: the earlier years, like the late ’90s, early 2000s, when he was on his meteoric rise throughout high school, and then you see what his life is like now.

And I wouldn’t want to be Lenny Cooke on his best day or on my worst. Facing the music right now and looking at what his life could have been — it’s just so depressing, but in that sad way, too. At one point, the world was his oyster, and you just watch him slowly squander it. It’s not as fast-paced as Good Time or Uncut Gems, but the same types of themes are there. And just the fact that they got him to actually sit there and grapple with what could have been, it’s just amazing. I’m so enraptured by this film because I read about him growing up, and I knew how good he was. I’ve seen him play. To just watch all that talent be wasted unsettles me, and makes me feel so bad, both for Lenny and for those around him whose lives could have been uplifted through his talents.

Films like this allow me to remain cognizant of the fact that all all the blessings, all the great things I have in my life right now can be stripped away in an instant. It encourages me to work harder. And it also forces me to think about the ways in black men and women — but mainly, from my perspective, black men — have been boxed into a particular mentality as a result of starvation of education and other opportunity. Biggie Smalls said on his first album, Ready To Die, “Either you’re slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot.” It’s the truth, in certain ways — certain opportunities will be placed in front of you, and if you don’t have anything, you’re just going to grasp at the one thing that seems most appealing.

Lenny probably could have been a rocket scientist or a doctor, but he chose basketball. He was really good at it, but I don’t think he recognized at the time that this gift isn’t given to everyone, and that you have to take advantage of every single opportunity. It’s a stark contrast to the life of someone like LeBron James, who probably hasn’t made the best decision every single step of the way, but he’s taken advantage of every single opportunity. He’s not only uplifted himself, but also others around him, and in the community of Akron. He’s made millions of dollars for tons of people who he may or may not know.

I try to understand that this is dealing with real people’s lives, and not to take delight in it, except maybe in some of the scenes of him playing basketball, before his downfall. It’s just a film that brings me down to earth, that keeps me from getting too wrapped up in the fantasy and the miracle of filmmaking. Here, there are real people’s lives at stake.

Lenny Cooke is streaming on the library-supported Hoopla.

Drama: The Story of a Three-Day Pass

This one’s easy: Melvin van Peebles, The Story of a Three-Day Pass. It’s a great 1967 film about a black soldier stationed in France who begins a relationship with a white French woman. It came out a year after Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. It makes sense that Melvin van Peebles had to produce this independently in France, because white audiences and white America was just at the point back then where they might be willing to, within the context of a film, accept a black person into their homes. But this film takes things a little further.

You can see that Melvin van Peebles was very much inspired by New Wave techniques and directors. There are a lot of jump cuts and voiceovers, and it feels like he’s thumbing his nose at the system. Interracial relationships weren’t readily accepted in America in the late ’60s, so he’s really taking a bold step here. Just as there’s a freedom with these new filmmaking techniques and the camera work, there’s also a freedom in this character’s life. Maybe he wasn’t initially interested in dating a white woman, but when he has the freedom to do so, he takes advantage of it. At the same time, there’s a stark reminder that he’s a black man from America. When racism rears its ugly head once again, it’s so disappointing. But for this brief moment in time, he’s able to be to be free.

I would love to see other black directors be inspired by the French New Wave, and have their own take on it, but they rarely had the opportunity in the 1960s. This was one of the rare films that really took advantage of that. It’s not quite a masterpiece, but it’s getting there for me.

The Story of a Three-Day Pass is streaming on Fandor and the library-supported Kanopy.

Family: Pariah

This is Dee Rees’ first film, about a young woman who’s gay and grappling with it, because her family is very strict. I would say as a community, black people are becoming more accepting of the LGBTQ community. But at the same time, certain things get in the way, like religion and the awareness that you already have a target on your back as a black man or woman. And then if you come out, that’s automatically another target on you. I think that’s a concern for a lot of black families. You see this family grappling with that in the film. Their young daughter doesn’t come out directly in the film early on, but it’s always there on the periphery. They’re aware things aren’t gonna be easy for her, and they feel like she’s just making things harder for herself. But at the end of the day, the girl, Alike, has to ask whether she’d rather repress her true self, or embrace it and let the chips fall where they may. That’s a big part of the film, because for a good portion of the story, she’s withdrawn and hiding her true self from those around her.

It’s not grim, because there is a reconciliation, and a recognition of the fact that this is who she is. But another thing I love in film is that even when films don’t end on happy notes, it’s just positive that the story is being told. That is important. Regardless of the subject matter, if it’s a story that needs to be told, and someone managed to tell it, that’s uplifting for me. Just the fact that it was able to get in production is a positive thing in of itself. When I think about some of the films that have dour endings, I still celebrate the fact that it was able to get made, because for the longest time, there were gatekeepers who believed no one had any interest in these stories, or they just weren’t worth being told. Which is obviously not true.

Pariah is available to rent on major digital services.

Lakeith Stanfield sits in a glass booth under purple lighting in Boots Riley’s SORRY TO BOTHER YOU.

Photo: Annapurna Pictures

Fantasy: Sorry to Bother You

I love the fact that Sorry to Bother You is such an outlandish story. This poor black guy is just consumed by our capitalistic system. There’s something to be said about this moment when all these occupations are being deemed essential, even though a few months ago, the upper classes and capitalist society overlooked them in terms of wages and the benefits people have been fighting for, like healthcare. This film does a deep, quirky dive into the way capitalism eats away at us, and even more so if you don’t have the means to protect yourself? It’s a battle, in a way, and this film turns it into an actual battle between characters. I just enjoy the fact that Boots Riley is in Hollywood right now, an actual director championing socialism and toppling and overthrowing the system, under the guise of this comedy about a guy working in a phone bank. It’s just so outlandish and tough to describe.

Plus, White Voice is definitely a thing. I don’t even think it’s something I try to put on anymore. It’s an everyday part of my life, because I live in a predominantly white community. There’s that need to make sure you’re accepted, and that’s one way to do it. It’s not just when you’re on the phone, trying to get money out of somebody’s pocket. It’s just one of those ways of coping with a world where white supremacy rules or dictates our every move, how we adjust and cope with the situation we’re dealing with. But it’s used hilariously in the film. I love how he takes some of these ideas that could really be painful for a lot of people, particularly black people, but he puts a humorous spin on it as well. It’s incredibly funny.

Sorry to Bother You is streaming on Hulu.

A car on fire surrounded by crowds of people.

Photo: National Geographic

History: LA 92

Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin’s documentary LA 92 recounts the Los Angeles riots from 1992. What I love about this film is — so many people today are eager to rewrite history, whether it it’s about a vote they cast in Congress or something they said on social media in the past, something that’s coming back to bite them, because there’s a lot of reckoning taking place right now. In this film, the directors took, I think, a couple thousand hours of footage, leading up to the riots and in the aftermath, and they put it together into a little film that’s under two hours. It’s just so concise, and so full of fury and heartbreak.

But it also shows us that the protests going on right now — this has all happened before, and we’ve refused to deal with it. There are still people today looking at peaceful protests and riots, and commingling the two, and acting like this is something new. But it isn’t. It’s always been there, and people have chosen to ignore it. I love the way the film only uses archival footage to tell the story. Nobody’s able to come in and whitewash history, not just in terms of an actual white person saying, “This is what I would have done, and this is what would happen,” but in terms of actually recasting what really happened. You’re able to see it play out.

One of the things that really upsets me about the film, though, is that it shows America has a really, really hard head, and it just doesn’t learn. There’s a scene in this film where a group of activists and community members are watching the verdicts being read for the cops who beat Rodney King. They’re coming in: not guilty, not guilty, not guilty. You see this man who’s got to be in his 60s or 70s, and he just starts crying. At that moment, I think I lost it too. I can’t imagine — how sad is it as a country that we’ve allowed people like this man to live in this world? He’s probably overcome Jim Crow, been through the civil-rights movement, possibly a world war, and yet he’s still being let down by our society. It disturbs me so much because he’s crying, because he probably had hope. The crime was caught on tape, the cops were brought to court, charges were brought up. It seemed like there might be this one moment in time where America would do the right thing. But they didn’t. And then all hell breaks loose.

There was a woman on social media who gave us an impassioned speech that went viral. Kimberly Latrice Jones. She said the country should be happy that black people just want equality and not revenge. And from my perspective, LA 92 is showing you what happens when people do want revenge. They’ve seen people march, they’ve seen people vote, they’ve seen people engaged in activities designed to affect change, but nothing has come of it. So they say, “You know what, F it, we’re just gonna burn this place down.” It’s white America’s worst nightmare. That’s why certain people are so opposed to the idea of what they think equality is, because they feel like, “Well, if we ever gave them an inch, they’ll try to take a couple yards.” No, it’s just like, “We want to be on equal footing. We’re not looking to establish a new supremacy here, we just want a level playing field.” It’s just disappointing to see America continue to stumble upon itself, when there are so many clear examples of these types of things happening. We watch it repeat itself in movies like LA 92, but hopefully this current time is different.

It’s all archival footage. No voiceovers, nothing. It’s more powerful that way. You get to hear people voice their concerns, their anger, within the moment. You bring in these talking heads, and in this case, they’ve got 25 years to reflect on this and say “Well, it wasn’t really like that. I didn’t really mean it that way.” This way, the events are right in front of you, and you make of it what you will. It’s a clear example of what happens when America doesn’t learn its lessons when it comes to mistreating people of color and marginalized communities.

LA 92 is streaming on Hulu and Netflix.

Horror: The Transfiguration

The Transfiguration is a horror-drama that came out a few years ago, about this young boy reeling from the death of his mother. He also has a fascination with vampires, which factors heavily into the film because as a way of processing his trauma, he’s retreating into this vampire lore. It plays out in such a strange way. One of the things I really enjoyed about it is that you don’t see a lot of films where black kids are just allowed to be weird in this way. Think Let the Right One In The Transfiguration isn’t as good, but it has a similar feel, that same atmosphere. The young boy, Milo, also has a young girl that befriends him, and he seems weird to her, but they slowly become friends. While she recognizes that something is probably a little off, they retreat into their own little fantasy world, that is really, really strange.

I probably wouldn’t show this to a young child. But when I have kids, as my child got older, I’d love to hold this film up, if they were into horror, and say, ”Look at this, this is us in the genre.” It’s also another film where — I’ve covered films that deal with racism, but another reason I put together that Letterboxd list is that I just want to see films of black people doing regular stuff, or living in weird fantasy worlds, just playing out any story where white supremacy doesn’t play a major part in their lives. This film is a good example of that. It’s not that scary, but it’s disturbing. For me, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is scary, but the Halloween films, those are disturbing. This is more along the nerve-wracking, disturbing line of films, vs. anything that’s seeking to shock you with jump scares, or and stuff like that.

I think this is why I gravitate toward real-life scenarios in horror. A young boy whose reality is blurred because he’s trying to cope with the death of a family member is something that’ll stick with me far longer than a Michael Myers or a Jason Voorhees, where it’s disturbing and scary, but it’s not real. You could actually encounter someone like Milo in The Transfiguration, who’s totally detached from reality, and is unable to tell fact from fiction, and he’s so deeply entrenched in his world as a way of overcoming his grief and any guilt he may feel.

The Transfiguration is streaming on Shudder and the library-supported Kanopy.

LBGTQ: The Wound

John Trengove’s The Wound is about a factory worker in South Africa in a relationship with another man who was a part of his tribe growing up. Obviously in certain parts of the world, LGBTQ rights aren’t respected. There’s no room for homosexuality within the community in the film. One of the things I enjoy about this one is that it’s about how we attempt to define masculinity, and how someone will go to great lengths to protect it, even if they don’t believe in the concept itself.

This couple, Xolani and Kwanda, would rid themselves of their community in a heartbeat. In the films I’ve seen that have been set in Africa, family and social structures are a very strong bond that ties people together, so it’s hard to give them up. You see them grappling with this in the film, and it’s an amazing story about someone trying so hard to fight who they really are, because they’re trying to conform and remain part of their community. They both have a lot to lose in terms of their family and their larger social structure. It’s a type of film you don’t see coming out of Africa very often, because homosexuality isn’t tolerated in many parts of Africa, so they aren’t making these films. This would make a good double feature with Rafiki, because you’d also get to see a woman’s perspective on the same issue. The films are different in terms of their overall plot, but the general concept is the same.

I’m always intrigued by films that depict same-sex relationships as authentic, and I love that this film does that. The scenes where they’re allowed to be themselves, vs. the scenes where they’re out in the open, you sense the repression, and the masks they have to place on themselves to reintegrate into the community. You see that in a lot of LGBTQ films, these dual personalities at play.

The Wound is available to rent on major digital services.

Music: What Happened, Miss Simone?

Nina Simone is one of those artists where, if you don’t know her, I suggest you get familiar. I’m sure you probably have some some artists in your life you really enjoy, and if somebody says “I’ve never heard of them,” or “I’ve never listened to them,” your jaw drops and you question their taste in the arts overall.

And this is one of those documentaries that’s pretty much it on a career. I’m fascinated by her story. Like most young black women growing up in her time, she came from pretty much nothing, and she became a superstar, a household name worldwide. Early on, she expressed a desire to be a classically trained musician. But the people interviewed in the documentary, and Nina herself, through archival footage, state that promoters and executives and teachers felt she wouldn’t be acceptable because she was a darker-skinned black woman. Because of that, she was forced to gravitate toward jazz and other popular forms of music.

That type of boxing-in of black women and black artists in general is still prevalent in the music industry. As talented as they are, there’s a reason why the Beyoncés and Rihannas of the world are more popular, and why there aren’t a lot of darker-skinned black women who have achieved that worldwide-superstar status. A lot of it has to do with the way we view beauty, which has nothing to do with talent. The two can exist without each other. Nina Simone was a beautiful woman, and she was talented. But she came up during a time where it was important to distinguish between the two, for whatever reason. And at the same time, she was able to overcome that and have a very successful career.

In this documentary, the concert footage and performances factor heavily into the film. Her performances are so passionate, it’s probably a blessing in disguise that she wasn’t confined to the classical realm. Even today, there’s passion in classical music, but you also have to be very restrained. You don’t want to lose your grip on the keys, or on your instrument. And most classical music is geared toward stuffier, buttoned-up crowds. But the music she chose let her be expressive. And when it was time for her and other artists to speak up about Jim Crow and civil rights, she was able to do so in a way she couldn’t have as a classical artist.

There’s a famous song, “Why? (The King of Love Is Dead)” that she recorded shortly after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. She doesn’t perform it in the film, but the passion you hear in that song, you see in the documentary, and that’s something that would have been taken away from her if she went down the other path. So I’m happy she ended up in the genre she did, because she affected a lot of people’s lives, and she reached a lot more people because of it.

What’s Happened, Miss Simone? is streaming on Netflix.

Justin Lubin

Mystery: Get Out

I went pretty commercial with this one. If you haven’t seen this film at this point, you’re probably someone who chooses to ignore the realities of being black in what was originally termed “post-racial America.” Clearly we aren’t over race. It’s a film that needs to be revisited because there are people in society who consider themselves good people, but their heads are in the sand. I really enjoy the way the black protagonist, Chris, comes to the home of his white girlfriend’s family’s, and he’s accepted, but there’s something a little off. That’s the thing that stands out to me more than anything, just the discomfort.

I was at a country club this past Friday. I play golf, and friends invited me, and I was the only black person there. This happens every single time. So as Chris is in this space, Jordan Peele really captures the sense of discomfort he feels, even though he’s trying to keep it together as these insults and these passive-aggressive comments are being made. That feeling of being black in a predominantly white space sticks out for me. In this day and age, films like this one, among others, need to be continually re-examined. The film was designed, in Jordan Peele’s mind, for that post-racial society. But we’re still living in a society that’s deeply segregated, where people don’t really understand the internalized pain black people feel when they’re not made to feel welcome, when we’re in predominantly white spaces. I would hope that with the discussions being had today, surrounding the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, that this discomfort is part of it. It’s not your job to make me feel feel comfortable, but it’s your job to understand other people, to understand what’s taking place in these situations, in these surroundings.

I enjoyed Us, Peele’s second film. I think that it’s a film that isn’t defined by a specific moment. There are no specific references to Donald Trump, or white America. When capitalism’s ill effects rear their ugly head, this is a film that speaks to that, in the images of the doppelgängers. They amplify or exhibit the characters’ worst tendencies and attributes. It’s not as defined by race as Get Out. I think the movie should grow on people, and that it will be able to evolve with the times. I don’t think it was appreciated the way it should have been, because a lot of people were looking for Get Out Part II, and they didn’t get that, and they were confused. In Get Out, the characters are able to verbally explain what’s going on, and explain their pain, explain some of the issues of the day. Us doesn’t do that in the same way, so I think people were frustrated with it. But it’ll grow with the times. We’re going to be able to come back to it continually, and re-examine what it means as times change.

Get Out is available to rent on major digital services.

Romance: Beyond the Lights

I wanted to throw this in Drama, but someone on Letterboxd described this movie as “all rom without the com,” and it struck me how you don’t see that very often. It’s a pure romance, but it’s also about the music industry, and the way women’s bodies and appearance are exploited for our own personal gain, at the expense of their health. It’s a sincere, charming romance that really doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the prospects of Nona Jean, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and this gentleman Kaz, played by Nate Parker, actually being together. They’re from opposite ends of the public spectrum — she’s this pop star who’s worldly and all about presenting this sexual image to the world, and he’s very buttoned-up. He’s a cop with political aspirations, and associating himself with someone like her, even though she’s not a bad person, could wreak havoc on his political career.

There’s a depth to it that I don’t see in a lot of other romances, and I really enjoyed that. It’s also another film where race doesn’t factor heavily into the romance. It’s definitely a part of it — you can see from Kaz’s perspective that he has to be careful about the moves he makes, because he won’t be able to recover from scandal as quickly as a white cop, or a white politician, who was associated with someone who most people would deem as not an ideal partner for someone looking to go into politics. There are always people who try to blame pop culture for our society’s ills, so it seems like their relationship wouldn’t work. But he chooses love, and you can see they’re both better off for it.

Beyond the Lights is streaming on the library-supported Kanopy and Hoopla.

The cast of Attack the Block stand in front of a motor scooter

Photo: Optimum Releasing

Science Fiction: Attack the Block

I love it, I love it, I love it! I watched it before I knew who John Boyega was. The term “leading man” gets thrown around a lot, but it’s normally just assigned to white cisgender males with certain physical and emotional characteristics. But he has all those traits, and I wish more people would recognize that. I love the fact that he’s being a leading man in real life too. He steps up for his community in this film, and he stepped up for his community in London, in the Black Lives Matter protests. He’s such a smart guy. He recognized that speaking out could dramatically affect his career, and at another point in history, I think it would. I hope things are different now. I do think that speaking up and being on the right side of history is going to serve him well.

But within the film, I just enjoy how the black kids recognize that no one’s coming to save them, so they need to do it themselves. It’s a much more uplifting portrayal than a film like The Transfiguration. It’s another film I’d show to my young son or daughter to say, “Yes, there are people that look like us at all ages, in all walks of life, who can step up when their community needs it, and be heroes. That’s a truth that’s been overlooked in Hollywood circles for so long. This was an independent British feature, but the point stands that the director didn’t throw in a white savior. He said, “No, these kids are more than capable enough to fend for themselves, and stand up to this alien invasion.” So they handle it!

Attack the Block is streaming for free with ads on Fubo and Pluto TV.

Steven Soderbergh/Netflix

Sports: High Flying Bird

It would have been very easy for me to choose Hoop Dreams, or a few others, but there are so many film critics who have written about that film and the others. So I choose Steven Soderbergh’s High Flying Bird. I think in this day and age, we have a lot of athletes who are recognizing their worth, their value in a system that’s pretty much dominated by white men. The statistics boggle my mind. Like 70% of the NFL is black, 99% of the league owners are white! This is a film where an agent, Ray, played by André Holland, decides he’s not going to let the system game him and others around him anymore. Just the hint of expressing some form of ingenuity, just the thought of bringing up something that could in no way topple what’s already been built, just threaten it a bit, is enough for the forces to come together against him and others.

I love that the central theme of the film is, “Know your worth.” You see a lot of athletes, both when it comes to dollars and cents, and when it comes to areas of social justice, standing up to the system and saying, “I recognize what I’m worth, I recognize that you’re nothing without me.” There are very few sports leagues in America where you can remove all the black athletes, and the leagues can still stand on their own and be as exciting. I find the pushback exciting, but it’s a little tough for me to grapple with. We have all this power, but not the pull where it’s really needed, to make necessary changes. Colin Kaepernick gave up a lot when he chose to kneel a few years ago. Now you’ve got people in the NFL coming out and saying they were wrong on areas of racial justice, but they haven’t apologized to him. There’s no telling how much money he lost for his beliefs. If there was a way people like him could gain a little more power both in the executive suite and from an ownership perspective, then maybe we could see some of these leagues stand up and be on the right side of history early on, so the athletes who are taking a stand and making the right call aren’t as marginalized going forward.

I love the way this film looks. I know some people were disturbed by him using iPhone as the cameras in this film, but I loved it. I thought it gave the film an immediacy that was further highlighted by the Aaron Sorkin-style script. So you’ve got this camera which is right up on top of each of the characters, and then this snappy dialogue, and it all works for me. There’s so much at stake, and the filmmaking and dialogue makes it clear that time is of the essence. It paints this picture of someone who is searching for an opportunity, a leg up in a system where they should be a head honcho, but they’re relegated to the side. Ray is on top of things, he’s always thinking, even though he doesn’t own a team. It really is about reclaiming ownership of yourself, of your worth.

High Flying Bird is streaming on Netflix.


Thrillers: Luce

I love this film. It fits with Sorry to Bother You — the main character, Luce, doesn’t actually use White Voice in the film, but the story takes that idea and magnifies it. Luce is a star athlete and a star pupil, what I’d refer to as The Acceptable Negro, because he has to be on-point 24/7, lest he slip and fall, and be viewed as just as delinquent as some of the other characters in the film. His decency and upstanding-ness, if that’s a word, is contrasted with that of another character in the film. The star, Kelvin Harrison, does a great job. His teacher, Octavia Spencer’s character is very hard on him, with good reason. it’s, it demonstrates the ways in which there’s very little room for failure for black men and women in our society. I think a lot of that comes from our parents telling us, “Whatever, this white person does, this white athlete, this white student, you have to be two or three times as good, just to get your foot in the door and be noticed.” In the film, you see how that weighs on him. He’s an extremely smart kid. I love the way he recognizes his inherited privilege. He recognizes that there’s no room for failure, so he decides to test the waters of that, and he throws everybody, including his adoptive parents, played by Tim Roth and Naomi Watts, for a loop.

And it wreaks havoc on the lives of people like his teacher, who sees him as someone who’s potentially squandering opportunities. Then this model student and model son that Roth and Watts feel they have is being questioned, and they have no idea what to do with it. In my eyes, they’re the type of parents who don’t see color, even when they absolutely need to see it. It’s something that has allowed him to stand out within his community. But it can also easily destroy him, as we see with one of the other characters who’s just as promising, but has had a bit of a slip-up, and is now struggling to regain his footing in society, in this community that’s largely written him off.

Luce is streaming on Hulu.

War: General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait

This is a documentary about the former dictator of Uganda, who ruled from the early to late 1970s. The director Barbet Schroeder, just made this portrait, capturing a moment in time during his dictatorship. There are just so many stark parallels between our current administration and what I see in this dictator, in this film. Donald Trump is no way as barbaric as Idi Amin, but he’s just as clueless, and his grip on power is just as fragile. There are a lot of cracks in Trump’s armor right now. In the same way, in this film, you recognize that the emperor has no clothes, and the only way he’s able to hold onto power is through through violence, through force.

Something that trips me up about this film is that there are certain points where Amin is talking to his cabinet or his troops, and he refers to himself as a revolutionary leader. He goes on and on about this, “I’m a revolutionary leader.” And I’m like, “Is someone going to tell him that a true revolutionary leader like Nelson Mandela doesn’t have to assign that tag to himself?” People typically, generally, will let you know if you’re a revolutionary leader! But then, hey, if I was part of his cabinet, I wouldn’t be the guy to speak up to Idi Amin either! So there’s this comedy there, in the way he’s ruling. But it’s tough, obviously, to step up and speak truth to power, when you know you’ll be paying for it with your life.

I believe Schroeder was severely handicapped in what he was able to show. It’s similar to if Werner Herzog went to North Korea and was able to document Kim Jong-Un. You’re only going to get what the party wants to show you. I’m sure he could have taken more creative license, but he would have done so at his own peril, even if he wasn’t a citizen of that country. There would have been repercussions. So it’s definitely not the true story of Amin, his dictatorship, and his rule over the country during that period. I believe he murdered close to half a million of his own citizens, and there’s very little about that in the film.

But there is an unnerving moment in the film where Amin is having a cabinet meeting, and he’s talking to one of his subordinates, and he doesn’t get the type of answer he wants, because of something that’s gone wrong. And then later in the film, you have the same cabinet meeting, and that member is nowhere to be found. And you know exactly what’s happened to him. Even though it’s Amin’s self-portrait, very grandstanding, probably because he said, “This is how it’s going to be,” Schroeder fit in all these moments where you’re brought back to reality, where you recognize what a brutal, inhumane person you’re dealing with.

I think Schroeder is documenting for posterity. He probably took what he could get. There were probably other news portraits, and journalists and others who created individual pieces, and then when you put those together as a whole, you can provide a more realistic portrait of what took place while he ruled the country. But it’s important to get these people on record, and hear their own words. Because as time goes on, you start to realize how ridiculous some of the things they say can sound. You can’t point it out in the moment, but you can see how detrimental his actions and policies were.

General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait is streaming on Criterion Channel and the library-supported Kanopy.

Western: The Retrieval

This was probably the toughest category, because a lot of the Westerns centered around black characters aren’t very good, at least the ones I’ve seen thus far. It would have been easy to choose Blazing Saddles or Django Unchained, but everybody’s seen those who’s going to, and as a recommendation, that won’t enlighten anyone. I chose an independent film from 2013, The Retrieval, by director Chris Eska. It’s about these two black bounty hunters living in the antebellum South who travel north to retrieve runaway slaves. The film is great because it’s one of those films showcases black agency in a time where there really was none. Most films set in this period, black people are slaves. And in the film, the two bounty hunters — one’s an older man, and the other’s a young boy, Ashton Sanders, who plays Chiron in Moonlight. This was one of his first features. So it’s always cool to see actors you love at a younger stage of their career.

In the film, I love the fact that you’re able to see these black characters engage with their world directly. They’re confronting racism in many ways, because they’re freed slaves who are sent out to capture their own. And it’s such a moral dilemma, because they recognize what it’s like to want to run away, and they would have known that could result in them being recaptured, re-enslaved, or put to death. At the same time, they’re denying other people their freedom. It has such strong Western vibes — how many Westerns are about a group of men being sent out to capture someone, and going on an adventure as a part of it?

The Retrieval is streaming on Amazon Prime and the library-supported Kanopy.

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300 Essential Movies To Watch Now Sun, 03 Oct 2021 17:51:08 +0000 Welcome to our updated guide to the 300 Essential Movies To Watch Now, which features incredible must-watch movies from the 1920s to today! In our annual refresh, we’re sticking with the list’s original vision as a definitive source of movie guidance and education for all ages and stages, whether you’re a seasoned film buff or […]]]>

Welcome to our updated guide to the 300 Essential Movies To Watch Now, which features incredible must-watch movies from the 1920s to today! In our annual refresh, we’re sticking with the list’s original vision as a definitive source of movie guidance and education for all ages and stages, whether you’re a seasoned film buff or just starting out, while reflecting new trends and significant movies uncovered over the past year. We’re also just making sure we give you some really good movies to watch.

You may remember from years past that this guide was capped at 200 movies. By adding space for 100 more, we’re skipping the annual internal staff debate about what to add and what to take out while upholding the guide’s mission of a balanced, entertaining document. We’ve now expanded the silent era selections (like Pandora’s Box and Dracula), inserted plenty of sparkling Golden Age Hollywood classics (The Lady Eve, The Philadelphia Story, To Be Or Not To Be), and got in more animation (from Pinocchio to Princess Mononoke). We continued to survey the contemporary scene and their wide breadth of subjects, selecting the ones that will endure, from Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Call Me By Your Name, to Creed and The Hate U Give.

The list is sorted by alphabetically. Feel free to start tackling the list with whatever is the most interesting to you first…or just start at the top and work your way down. We think you’ll have fun either way. And best of all, every movie on the list is Certified Fresh!

Ready to take on the watching challenge? Click here and head to FandangoNOW where you can sort the list and buy or rent any of the movies! For now, enjoy this list of 300 Essential Movies to Watch Now.


Adjusted Score: 108164%

Critics Consensus: Sidney Lumet’s feature debut is a superbly written, dramatically effective courtroom thriller that rightfully stands as a modern classic.

Synopsis: One (Henry Fonda) of 12 jurors holds out in the case of a boy from the slums who is accused… [More]


Adjusted Score: 107652%

Critics Consensus: One of the most influential of all sci-fi films — and one of the most controversial — Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 is a delicate, poetic meditation on the ingenuity — and folly — of mankind.

Synopsis: Supercomputer HAL 9000 guides astronauts (Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester) on a trip to find the origins of humans…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 105922%

Critics Consensus: A seminal French New Wave film that offers an honest, sympathetic, and wholly heartbreaking observation of adolescence without trite nostalgia.

Synopsis: Neglected by his parents (Claire Maurier, Albert Remy), Parisian schoolboy Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) runs away from home and turns… [More]


Adjusted Score: 98033%

Critics Consensus: While its premise is ripe for comedy — and it certainly delivers its fair share of laughs — Priscilla is also a surprisingly tender and thoughtful road movie with some outstanding performances.

Synopsis: Three drag queens (Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce) head for a gig at a central Australia casino in a… [More]


Adjusted Score: 110368%

Critics Consensus: Errol Flynn thrills as the legendary title character, and the film embodies the type of imaginative family adventure tailor-made for the silver screen.

Synopsis: The Sherwood Forest outlaw (Errol Flynn) and his men save King Richard and Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland) from Prince… [More]


Adjusted Score: 103136%

Critics Consensus: A haunting journey of natural wonder and tangible danger, Aguirre transcends epic genre trappings and becomes mythological by its own right.

Synopsis: Power-mad Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) leads an ill-fated raft party from Pizarro’s 16th-century Amazon expedition…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 104878%

Critics Consensus: Though unabashedly juvenile and silly, Airplane! is nevertheless an uproarious spoof comedy full of quotable lines and slapstick gags that endure to this day.

Synopsis: A pilot (Robert Hays) afraid to fly follows his stewardess ex-girlfriend (Julie Hagerty) and must take over for the poisoned… [More]


Adjusted Score: 94409%

Critics Consensus: Akira is strikingly bloody and violent, but its phenomenal animation and sheer kinetic energy helped set the standard for modern anime.

Synopsis: A Japanese teenager learns that his newfound powers of telepathy are more powerful than he suspected…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 111092%

Critics Consensus: A modern classic, Alien blends science fiction, horror and bleak poetry into a seamless whole.

Synopsis: Crewmembers (Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver) aboard an interstellar freighter encounter a merciless monster that crawls around their ship’s dark corridors… [More]


Adjusted Score: 105604%

Critics Consensus: While Alien was a marvel of slow-building, atmospheric tension, Aliens packs a much more visceral punch, and features a typically strong performance from Sigourney Weaver.

Synopsis: On planet LV-426, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and a dwindling number of Marines battle an almost-unstoppable army of monstrous predators which… [More]


Adjusted Score: 116329%

Critics Consensus: Smart, sophisticated, and devastatingly funny, All About Eve is a Hollywood classic that only improves with age.

Synopsis: A Broadway star (Bette Davis) takes a young and seemingly naive aspiring actress (Anne Baxter) under her wing…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 101234%

Critics Consensus: Almodovar weaves together a magnificent tapestry of femininity with an affectionate wink to classics of theater and cinema in this poignant story of love, loss and compassion.

Synopsis: New friends help a woman (Cecilia Roth) struggling to get her life in order after her son’s (Eloy Azorín) death…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 101391%

Critics Consensus: A taut, solidly acted paean to the benefits of a free press and the dangers of unchecked power, made all the more effective by its origins in real-life events.

Synopsis: The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) tie the Watergate break-in to the White House…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 96600%

Critics Consensus: Almost Famous, with its great ensemble performances and story, is a well-crafted, warm-hearted movie that successfully draws you into its era.

Synopsis: An aspiring teenage rock journalist gets his big break when he follows an up-and-coming band on its tour…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 103125%

Critics Consensus: A lavish, entertaining, powerful film about the life and influence, both positive and negative, of one of Western culture’s great artists.

Synopsis: Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), court composer in Vienna, confesses in old age to his sins against the young genius… [More]


Adjusted Score: 95366%

Critics Consensus: The feel-good Amelie is a lively, fanciful charmer, showcasing Audrey Tautou as its delightful heroine.

Synopsis: An accidental find convinces a young woman (Audrey Tautou) to try to enrich the lives of a tobacco dealer, a… [More]


Adjusted Score: 102219%

Critics Consensus: With towering performances and an unflinching script from Michael Haneke, Amour represents an honest, heartwrenching depiction of deep love and responsibility.

Synopsis: A retired music teacher (Jean-Louis Trintignant) demonstrates unflagging devotion to his wife (Emmanuelle Riva), even after she has a debilitating… [More]


Adjusted Score: 111847%

Critics Consensus: The plot may be problematic, but such concerns are rendered superfluous by Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron’s star power, the Gershwins’ classic songs, and Vincente Minnelli’s colorful, sympathetic direction.

Synopsis: An American soldier (Gene Kelly) stays in Paris after World War II to paint and falls in love with a… [More]


Adjusted Score: 105942%

Critics Consensus: Filled with poignant performances and devastating humor, Annie Hall represents a quantum leap for Woody Allen and remains an American classic.

Synopsis: A New York comedian (Woody Allen) recalls his lost love, a kooky singer (Diane Keaton) with a style all her… [More]


Adjusted Score: 102975%

Critics Consensus: Director Billy Wilder’s customary cynicism is leavened here by tender humor, romance, and genuine pathos.

Synopsis: A corporate climber (Jack Lemmon), whose boss (Fred MacMurray) and others use his apartment for hanky-panky, aids a young woman… [More]


Adjusted Score: 107538%

Critics Consensus: Francis Ford Coppola’s haunting, hallucinatory Vietnam War epic is cinema at its most audacious and visionary.

Synopsis: An Army agent (Martin Sheen) goes upriver into the heart of Cambodia to kill a renegade colonel called Kurtz (Marlon… [More]


Adjusted Score: 123366%

Critics Consensus: Exciting, entertaining, and emotionally impactful, Avengers: Endgame does whatever it takes to deliver a satisfying finale to Marvel’s epic Infinity Saga.

Synopsis: The remaining Avengers — Thor, Black Widow, Captain America and Bruce Banner — must figure out a way to bring… [More]


Adjusted Score: 104149%

Critics Consensus: Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, Back to the Future is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit.

Synopsis: A teen (Michael J. Fox) takes a crackpot’s (Christopher Lloyd) DeLorean time machine to 1955 and sees his parents in… [More]


Adjusted Score: 103350%

Critics Consensus: Terrence Malick’s debut is a masterful slice of American cinema, rife with the visual poetry and measured performances that would characterize his work.

Synopsis: A thrill-seeking teenage girl (Sissy Spacek) joins a garbageman (Martin Sheen) on a South Dakota killing spree…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 105021%

Critics Consensus: Enchanting, sweepingly romantic, and featuring plenty of wonderful musical numbers, Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney’s most elegant animated offerings.

Synopsis: A French maiden takes the place of her captured father in the enchanted castle of an accursed prince, and her… [More]


Adjusted Score: 100764%

Critics Consensus: Smart, funny, and highly original, Being John Malkovich supports its wild premise with skillful direction and a stellar ensemble cast.

Synopsis: A puppeteer (John Cusack) and his co-worker (Catherine Keener) discover a tunnel that allows others to enter the actor’s mind… [More]


Adjusted Score: 99827%

Critics Consensus: Smart, sophisticated, and refreshingly subtle, Being There soars behind sensitive direction from Hal Ashby and a stellar Peter Sellers performance.

Synopsis: The president (Jack Warden) and a power broker heed the utterings of a simple gardener (Peter Sellers) who likes to… [More]


Adjusted Score: 109786%

Critics Consensus: An engrossing look at the triumphs and travails of war veterans, The Best Years of Our Lives is concerned specifically with the aftermath of World War II, but its messages speak to the overall American experience.

Synopsis: A disabled serviceman and two other veterans (Fredric March, Dana Andrews) have difficulty adjusting to civilian life after World War… [More]


Adjusted Score: 84237%

Critics Consensus: A promising work by Lin, the energetic Better Luck Tomorrow is disturbing and thought-provoking.

Synopsis: A 16-year-old Asian student (Parry Shen) commits crimes with his goofy friend (Jason Tobin) and a gang in Southern California…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 108956%

Critics Consensus: An Italian neorealism exemplar, Bicycle Thieves thrives on its non-flashy performances and searing emotion.

Synopsis: A poor man (Lamberto Maggiorani) and his son (Enzo Staiola) search postwar Rome for the stolen bicycle he needs to… [More]


Adjusted Score: 90125%

Critics Consensus: Typically stunning visuals and sharp dialogue from the Coen Brothers, brought to life with strong performances from Goodman and Bridges.

Synopsis: Bowling buddies (Jeff Bridges, John Goodman) become involved with a multimillionaire and his family wanted by mobsters in 1990s Los… [More]


Adjusted Score: 112932%

Critics Consensus: Funny, heartfelt, and intelligent, The Big Sick uses its appealing leads and cross-cultural themes to prove the standard romcom formula still has some fresh angles left to explore.

Synopsis: Pakistani comic Kumail becomes worried about what his traditional Muslim parents will think of his American girlfriend Emily. When Emily… [More]


Adjusted Score: 108868%

Critics Consensus: A thrilling leap forward for director Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman is an ambitious technical showcase powered by a layered story and outstanding performances from Michael Keaton and Edward Norton.

Synopsis: A washed-up actor (Michael Keaton), whose previous claim to fame was his portrayal of a popular superhero, attempts to recapture… [More]


Adjusted Score: 82816%

Critics Consensus: Though it’s light on character development and cultural empathy, Black Hawk Down is a visceral, pulse-pounding portrait of war, elevated by Ridley Scott’s superb technical skill.

Synopsis: U.S. soldiers (Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore) take heavy fire while trying to capture a warlord’s associates in Mogadishu,… [More]


Adjusted Score: 95662%

Critics Consensus: Colorful, atmospheric, and infections, Black Orpheus takes an ancient tale and makes it fresh anew, thanks in part to its bewitching bossa nova soundtrack.

Synopsis: Death follows a streetcar conductor (Breno Mello) and country girl (Marpessa Dawn) during carnival in Rio de Janeiro…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 124600%

Critics Consensus: Black Panther elevates superhero cinema to thrilling new heights while telling one of the MCU’s most absorbing stories — and introducing some of its most fully realized characters.

Synopsis: Black Panther’s mettle as king gets tested when an old enemy draws him into a conflict that puts his nation… [More]


Adjusted Score: 104060%

Critics Consensus: Misunderstood when it first hit theaters, the influence of Ridley Scott’s mysterious, neo-noir Blade Runner has deepened with time. A visually remarkable, achingly human sci-fi masterpiece.

Synopsis: A specialized detective (Harrison Ford) in 2019 Los Angeles receives an order to terminate obsolete android slaves (Rutger Hauer, Sean… [More]


Adjusted Score: 95047%

Critics Consensus: Daring, provocative, and laugh-out-loud funny, Blazing Saddles is a gleefully vulgar spoof of Westerns that marks a high point in Mel Brooks’ storied career.

Synopsis: A black railroad worker is appointed sheriff of a town marked for destruction by a scheming politician…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 97982%

Critics Consensus: Grounded in strong characters, bold themes, and subtle storytelling, Boogie Nights is a groundbreaking film both for director P.T. Anderson and star Mark Wahlberg.

Synopsis: A producer (Burt Reynolds) guides a young man (Mark Wahlberg) to success in the 1970s porn industry, but greed and… [More]


Adjusted Score: 91548%

Critics Consensus: Harrowing yet stirring, Boys Don’t Cry powerfully commemorates the life — and brutally unjust death — of transgender teen Brandon Teena.

Synopsis: A young transgender man explores his gender identity and searches for love in rural Nebraska, before falling victim to a… [More]


Adjusted Score: 100992%

Critics Consensus: Well-acted and thematically rich, Boyz N the Hood observes Black America with far more depth and compassion than many of the like-minded films its success inspired.

Synopsis: Three boys become men, one (Cuba Gooding Jr.) guided by his father (Larry Fishburne), in their racially divided Los Angeles… [More]


Adjusted Score: 95172%

Critics Consensus: The Breakfast Club is a warm, insightful, and very funny look into the inner lives of teenagers.

Synopsis: A wrestler (Emilio Estevez), a rebel (Judd Nelson), a brain, a beauty (Molly Ringwald) and a shy girl share Saturday… [More]


Adjusted Score: 105205%

Critics Consensus: Breathless rewrote the rules of cinema — and more than 50 years after its arrival, Jean-Luc Godard’s paradigm-shifting classic remains every bit as vital.

Synopsis: A French hood (Jean-Paul Belmondo) kills a policeman and heads for Italy with his American girlfriend (Jean Seberg)…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 100502%

Critics Consensus: A marriage of genuine characters, gross out gags, and pathos, Bridesmaids is a female-driven comedy that refuses to be boxed in as Kristen Wiig emerges as a real star.

Synopsis: Though broke and lovelorn, a woman (Kristen Wiig) takes on the strange and expensive rituals associated with being her best… [More]


Adjusted Score: 104050%

Critics Consensus: This complex war epic asks hard questions, resists easy answers, and boasts career-defining work from star Alec Guinness and director David Lean.

Synopsis: A British POW colonel (Alec Guinness) orders his men to build their Japanese captor (Sessue Hayakawa) a railway bridge in… [More]


Adjusted Score: 85275%

Critics Consensus: Though there was controversy over the choice of casting, Zellweger’s Bridget Jones is a sympathetic, likable, funny character, giving this romantic comedy a lot of charm.

Synopsis: An outrageous British woman (Renée Zellweger) decides to take control of her life, but instead falls for two very different… [More]


Adjusted Score: 102718%

Critics Consensus: Blockbuster dramatist James L. Brooks delivers with Broadcast News, fully entertaining with deft, deep characterization.

Synopsis: A reporter (Albert Brooks), a producer (Holly Hunter) and an anchorman (William Hurt) form a triangle in a TV-network news… [More]


Adjusted Score: 96412%

Critics Consensus: A beautiful, epic Western, Brokeback Mountain’s love story is imbued with heartbreaking universality thanks to moving performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Synopsis: In 1960s Wyoming two cowboys (Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal) begin a secret romance that endures through many years and each… [More]


Adjusted Score: 95551%

Critics Consensus: With its iconic pairing of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, jaunty screenplay and Burt Bacharach score, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid has gone down as among the defining moments in late-’60s American cinema.

Synopsis: When a persistent posse threatens two outlaws’ (Paul Newman, Robert Redford) romp through Wyoming, they decide to take their act… [More]


Adjusted Score: 99245%

Critics Consensus: Great performances and evocative musical numbers help Cabaret secure its status as a stylish, socially conscious classic.

Synopsis: Multiple Oscars went to this tale about an American chanteuse in Berlin caught in the rising tide of Nazism…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 114273%

Critics Consensus: Arguably the first true horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari set a brilliantly high bar for the genre — and remains terrifying nearly a century after it first stalked the screen.

Synopsis: A hypnotist (Werner Krauss) in black exhibits a cabinet, which contains a pale man (Conrad Veidt) in black in a… [More]


Adjusted Score: 112086%

Critics Consensus: Call Me by Your Name offers a melancholy, powerfully affecting portrait of first love, empathetically acted by Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer.

Synopsis: In 1983 Italy, a precocious 17-year-old and a young doctoral student discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the… [More]


Adjusted Score: 107916%

Critics Consensus: Shaped by Todd Haynes’ deft direction and powered by a strong cast led by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Carol lives up to its groundbreaking source material.

Synopsis: Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) spots the beautiful, elegant Carol (Cate Blanchett) perusing the doll displays in a 1950s Manhattan department… [More]


Adjusted Score: 119623%

Critics Consensus: An undisputed masterpiece and perhaps Hollywood’s quintessential statement on love and romance, Casablanca has only improved with age, boasting career-defining performances from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

Synopsis: A cynical nightclub owner (Humphrey Bogart) protects an old flame (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband (Paul Henreid) from Nazis in… [More]


Adjusted Score: 104539%

Critics Consensus: Casino Royale disposes of the silliness and gadgetry that plagued recent James Bond outings, and Daniel Craig delivers what fans and critics have been waiting for: a caustic, haunted, intense reinvention of 007.

Synopsis: After receiving a license to kill, British agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) enters a high-stakes poker game with Le Chiffre… [More]


Adjusted Score: 101203%

Critics Consensus: Children of Men works on every level: as a violent chase thriller, a fantastical cautionary tale, and a sophisticated human drama about societies struggling to live.

Synopsis: When infertility threatens mankind with extinction, a disillusioned bureaucrat (Clive Owen) becomes the unlikely champion in the fight for the… [More]


Adjusted Score: 107776%

Critics Consensus: As bruised and cynical as the decade that produced it, this noir classic benefits from Robert Towne’s brilliant screenplay, director Roman Polanski’s steady hand, and wonderful performances from Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.

Synopsis: A 1930s gumshoe named Jake (Jack Nicholson) sticks his nose into a sordid mess over Los Angeles land and water…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 95275%

Critics Consensus: City of God offers a shocking and disturbing — but always compelling — look at life in the slums of Rio de Janiero.

Synopsis: After forming a gang in Rio de Janeiro, a young man and his best friend descend from robbery to drug… [More]


Adjusted Score: 97407%

Critics Consensus: Cinema Paradiso is a life-affirming ode to the power of youth, nostalgia, and the the movies themselves.

Synopsis: A Sicilian boy (Salvatore Cascio) discovers the movies with his local theater’s projectionist (Philippe Noiret)…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 119231%

Critics Consensus: Orson Welles’s epic tale of a publishing tycoon’s rise and fall is entertaining, poignant, and inventive in its storytelling, earning its reputation as a landmark achievement in film.

Synopsis: Enigmatic newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) rises, falls and leaves behind a riddle with his dying breath…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 105627%

Critics Consensus: One of the best underdog romance movies ever, with an ending that will light up any heart.

Synopsis: A little tramp (Charlie Chaplin) gets money from a drunken millionaire (Harry Myers) for an operation to restore a flower… [More]


Adjusted Score: 93109%

Critics Consensus: With its quirky characters and clever, quotable dialogue, Clerks is the ultimate clarion call for slackers everywhere to unite and, uh, do something we guess?

Synopsis: A 22-year-old clerk (Brian O’Halloran) takes in a day’s worth of customers at a convenience store in New Jersey…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 97042%

Critics Consensus: Disturbing and thought-provoking, A Clockwork Orange is a cold, dystopian nightmare with a very dark sense of humor.

Synopsis: Young Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his droogs commit barbaric acts in a near-future, dehumanizing society…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 90108%

Critics Consensus: A funny and clever reshaping of Emma, Clueless offers a soft satire that pokes as much fun at teen films as it does at the Beverly Hills glitterati.

Synopsis: A Beverly Hills teen (Alicia Silverstone) plays matchmaker for teachers, transforms a bad dresser (Brittany Murphy) and examines her own… [More]


Adjusted Score: 114518%

Critics Consensus: Coco‘s rich visual pleasures are matched by a thoughtful narrative that takes a family-friendly — and deeply affecting — approach to questions of culture, family, life, and death.

Synopsis: Accompanied by a charming trickster, a young musician embarks on an extraordinary journey through the colorful Land of the Dead… [More]


Adjusted Score: 109750%

Critics Consensus: With a terrific cast and a surfeit of visual razzle dazzle, Crazy Rich Asians takes a satisfying step forward for screen representation while deftly drawing inspiration from the classic — and still effective — rom-com formula.

Synopsis: Rachel Chu is happy to accompany her longtime boyfriend, Nick, to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. She’s also surprised… [More]


Adjusted Score: 108764%

Critics Consensus: Creed brings the Rocky franchise off the mat for a surprisingly effective seventh round that extends the boxer’s saga in interesting new directions while staying true to its classic predecessors’ roots.

Synopsis: Long-retired boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) agrees to train Apollo Creed’s son (Michael B. Jordan) to become a fighter, even… [More]


Adjusted Score: 103107%

Critics Consensus: The movie that catapulted Ang Lee into the ranks of upper echelon Hollywood filmmakers, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon features a deft mix of amazing martial arts battles, beautiful scenery, and tasteful drama.

Synopsis: A 19th-century martial arts master (Chow Yun-Fat) gives a sword called Green Destiny to his beloved (Michelle Yeoh), then the… [More]


Adjusted Score: 108485%

Critics Consensus: Dark, complex, and unforgettable, The Dark Knight succeeds not just as an entertaining comic book film, but as a richly thrilling crime saga.

Synopsis: Batman (Christian Bale) has to keep a balance between heroism and vigilantism to fight a vile criminal known as the… [More]


Adjusted Score: 97630%

Critics Consensus: One of the most compelling and entertaining zombie films ever, Dawn of the Dead perfectly blends pure horror and gore with social commentary on material society.

Synopsis: Cannibal zombies pursue a couple (David Emge, Gaylen Ross) and two former National Guardsmen in Philadelphia…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 104633%

Critics Consensus: Socially minded yet entertaining, The Day the Earth Stood Still imparts its moral of peace and understanding without didacticism.

Synopsis: Klaatu (Michael Rennie) and his guardian robot, Gort, come from afar to warn Earth about nuclear war…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 96911%

Critics Consensus: Featuring an excellent ensemble cast, a precise feel for the 1970s, and a killer soundtrack, Dazed and Confused is a funny, affectionate, and clear-eyed look at high school life.

Synopsis: Assorted teens waste another day of school before getting down to wasting summer in 1976 Austin, Texas…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 89340%

Critics Consensus: Affecting performances from the young cast and a genuinely inspirational turn from Robin Williams grant Peter Weir’s prep school drama top honors.

Synopsis: A teacher at a New England prep school uses unconventional methods to instill spirit into the lives of his students…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 100303%

Critics Consensus: Its many imitators (and sequels) have never come close to matching the taut thrills of the definitive holiday action classic.

Synopsis: A New York policeman (Bruce Willis) outwits foreign thugs holding his wife (Bonnie Bedelia) and others in a Los Angeles… [More]


Adjusted Score: 101566%

Critics Consensus: Smart, vibrant, and urgent without being didactic, Do the Right Thing is one of Spike Lee’s most fully realized efforts — and one of the most important films of the 1980s.

Synopsis: Spike Lee’s account of erupting racial tensions on a summer afternoon in a predominantly black Brooklyn neighborhood…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 90912%

Critics Consensus: It may not be the best of David Lean’s epics, but Dr. Zhivago is still brilliantly photographed and sweepingly romantic.

Synopsis: The Russian Revolution forms the backdrop for this tale of a sensitive Russian physician (Omar Sharif) who is torn between… [More]


Adjusted Score: 100784%

Critics Consensus: Framed by great work from director Sidney Lumet and fueled by a gripping performance from Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon offers a finely detailed snapshot of people in crisis with tension-soaked drama shaded in black humor.

Synopsis: A loser (Al Pacino) robs a Brooklyn bank with his stupid buddy (John Cazale) to pay for his lover’s sex… [More]


Adjusted Score: 102954%

Critics Consensus: Don’t Look Now patiently builds suspense with haunting imagery and a chilling score — causing viewers to feel Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie’s grief deep within.

Synopsis: British parents (Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland) of a drowned child go to Venice and meet a blind psychic and her… [More]


Adjusted Score: 111026%

Critics Consensus: A dark, tautly constructed adaptation of James M. Cain’s novel — penned by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler — Double Indemnity continues to set the standard for the best in Hollywood film noir.

Synopsis: An insurance man (Fred MacMurray) helps a platinum blonde (Barbara Stanwyck) kill her husband, but all does not go as… [More]


Adjusted Score: 106864%

Critics Consensus: Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant Cold War satire remains as funny and razor-sharp today as it was in 1964.

Synopsis: President Muffley (Peter Sellers) and his advisers (George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn) man the Pentagon war room, as planes with… [More]


Adjusted Score: 99508%

Critics Consensus: Bela Lugosi’s timeless portrayal of Dracula in this creepy and atmospheric 1931 film has set the standard for major vampiric roles since.

Synopsis: A real-estate man (Dwight Frye) visits the Transylvania castle of a 500-year-old vampire (Bela Lugosi)…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 102478%

Critics Consensus: With its hyper-stylized blend of violence, music, and striking imagery, Drive represents a fully realized vision of arthouse action.

Synopsis: A Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver for thieves finds that a price has been put on his… [More]


Adjusted Score: 89159%

Critics Consensus: Jackie Chan sends up some amazing and entertaining fight sequences in The Legend of Drunken Master.

Synopsis: Wong Fei-Hong must use his unique kung fu fighting technique to battle vicious smugglers bent on stealing ancient Chinese artifacts…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 99659%

Critics Consensus: Fueled by inspired silliness and blessed with some of the Marx brothers’ most brilliant work, Duck Soup is one of its — or any — era’s finest comedies.

Synopsis: Spies (Harpo Marx, Chico Marx) intervene when Freedonia’s prime minister (Groucho Marx) declares war on nearby Sylvania…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 113972%

Critics Consensus: Playing as both an exciting sci-fi adventure and a remarkable portrait of childhood, Steven Spielberg’s touching tale of a homesick alien remains a piece of movie magic for young and old.

Synopsis: A boy’s close encounter with an alien stranded on Earth leads to a unique friendship in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 90682%

Critics Consensus: Edgy and seminal, Easy Rider encapsulates the dreams, hopes, and hopelessness of 1960s counterculture.

Synopsis: Two free spirits (Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper) on chopped motorcycles clash with the Establishment and meet a boozy lawyer (Jack… [More]


Adjusted Score: 94887%

Critics Consensus: The first collaboration between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, Edward Scissorhands is a magical modern fairy tale with gothic overtones and a sweet center.

Synopsis: A deceased inventor’s unfinished creation (Johnny Depp) becomes an instant celebrity when a cheery suburbanite (Dianne Wiest) brings him home…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 97655%

Critics Consensus: Election successfully combines dark humor and intelligent writing in this very witty and enjoyable film.

Synopsis: When a school’s goody-two-shoes (Reese Witherspoon) runs for class president, a teacher/adviser (Matthew Broderick) schemes to keep her from winning…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 97846%

Critics Consensus: David Lynch’s relatively straight second feature finds an admirable synthesis of compassion and restraint in treating its subject, and features outstanding performances by John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins.

Synopsis: Victorian Dr. Treves (Anthony Hopkins) rescues deformed Joseph (John) Merrick (John Hurt) from a London sideshow and shows him humanity…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 100354%

Critics Consensus: Badass to the max, Enter the Dragon is the ultimate kung-fu movie and fitting (if untimely) Bruce Lee swan song.

Synopsis: A secret agent (Bruce Lee) comes to an opium lord’s island fortress with other fighters for a martial-arts tournament…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 100181%

Critics Consensus: Propelled by Charlie Kaufman’s smart, imaginative script and Michel Gondry’s equally daring directorial touch, Eternal Sunshine is a twisty yet heartfelt look at relationships and heartache.

Synopsis: A doctor’s invention allows a couple (Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet) to erase the memories of their tumultuous relationship…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 100734%

Critics Consensus: Evil Dead 2‘s increased special effects and slapstick-gore makes it as good — if not better — than the original.

Synopsis: Cabin visitors (Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry) fight protean spirits of the dead with a chainsaw, a shotgun and Egyptian incantations…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 92822%

Critics Consensus: The Exorcist rides its supernatural theme to magical effect, with remarkable special effects and an eerie atmosphere, resulting in one of the scariest films of all time.

Synopsis: An actress (Ellen Burstyn) calls upon Jesuit priests to try to end the demonic possession of her 12-year-old daughter (Linda… [More]


Adjusted Score: 115513%

Critics Consensus: The Farewell deftly captures complicated family dynamics with a poignant, well-acted drama that marries cultural specificity with universally relatable themes.

Synopsis: Billi’s family returns to China under the guise of a fake wedding to stealthily say goodbye to their beloved matriarch… [More]


Adjusted Score: 101176%

Critics Consensus: Violent, quirky, and darkly funny, Fargo delivers an original crime story and a wonderful performance by McDormand.

Synopsis: A pregnant police chief (Frances McDormand) probes the murderous events that evolved from a desperate car salesman’s (William H. Macy)… [More]


Adjusted Score: 84707%

Critics Consensus: Sleek, loud, and over the top, Fast Five proudly embraces its brainless action thrills and injects new life into the franchise.

Synopsis: In Rio de Janeiro, ex-con Dom Torretto (Vin Diesel) and ex-cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) join forces against a corrupt… [More]


Adjusted Score: 82578%

Critics Consensus: While Fast Times at Ridgemont High features Sean Penn’s legendary performance, the film endures because it accurately captured the small details of school, work, and teenage life.

Synopsis: The teen scene includes a party-animal surfer (Sean Penn), a pregnant girl (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and a fast-food worker (Judge… [More]


Adjusted Score: 87295%

Critics Consensus: Solid acting, amazing direction, and elaborate production design make Fight Club a wild ride.

Synopsis: Two young professionals (Brad Pitt, Edward Norton) create an underground club where men can compete in hand-to-hand combat…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 94994%

Critics Consensus: Cannes Jury Prize-winner Fish Tank is gritty British realism at its very best, with flawless performances from newcomer Kate Jarvis, and Michael Fassbender.

Synopsis: When sparks fly between Mia and Connor, her mother’s new boyfriend, the boundaries of their relationship become blurred as mother… [More]


Adjusted Score: 100578%

Critics Consensus: Shakespeare gets the deluxe space treatment in Forbidden Planet, an adaptation of The Tempest with impressive sets and seamless special effects.

Synopsis: An astronaut (Leslie Nielsen) and crew land on Altair-4 in 2200 and find a mad doctor (Walter Pidgeon), his daughter… [More]


Adjusted Score: 100175%

Critics Consensus: While frothy to a fault, Four Weddings and a Funeral features irresistibly breezy humor, and winsome performances from Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell.

Synopsis: An English charmer (Hugh Grant) and a lusty American (Andie MacDowell) make love over a course of surprising events…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 106828%

Critics Consensus: Still unnerving to this day, Frankenstein adroitly explores the fine line between genius and madness, and features Boris Karloff’s legendary, frightening performance as the monster.

Synopsis: Baron Frankenstein (Colin Clive) creates a monster (Boris Karloff) from cadavers and a killer’s brain…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 108103%

Critics Consensus: Realistic, fast-paced and uncommonly smart, The French Connection is bolstered by stellar performances by Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, not to mention William Friedkin’s thrilling production.

Synopsis: New York Detective “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner (Roy Scheider) chase a French heroin smuggler…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 80256%

Critics Consensus: Frida is a passionate, visually striking biopic about the larger-than-life artist.

Synopsis: Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek) marries fellow artist Diego Rivera who shares her radical political views…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 95213%

Critics Consensus: Peter Weir’s devastating anti-war film features a low-key but emotionally wrenching performance from Mel Gibson as a young soldier fighting in one of World War I’s most deadly and horrifying battles.

Synopsis: Two Outback runners (Mark Lee, Mel Gibson) join Australian and New Zealand troops fighting in World War I…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 91912%

Critics Consensus: Director Richard Attenborough is typically sympathetic and sure-handed, but it’s Ben Kingsley’s magnetic performance that acts as the linchpin for this sprawling, lengthy biopic.

Synopsis: Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning portrait of the man whose policy of nonviolence won India’s independence…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 86244%

Critics Consensus: Intelligent and scientifically provocative, Gattaca is an absorbing sci fi drama that poses important interesting ethical questions about the nature of science.

Synopsis: An outcast (Ethan Hawke) takes part in a complicated and perilous scheme to assume the identity of a genetically engineered… [More]


Adjusted Score: 98418%

Critics Consensus: Brilliantly filmed and fueled with classic physical comedy, The General captures Buster Keaton at his timeless best.

Synopsis: Union spies pursue an engineer (Buster Keaton) who chased them to recover his stolen train…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 117874%

Critics Consensus: Funny, scary, and thought-provoking, Get Out seamlessly weaves its trenchant social critiques into a brilliantly effective and entertaining horror/comedy thrill ride.

Synopsis: A young photographer uncovers a dark secret when he meets his girlfriend’s seemingly friendly parents for the first time at… [More]


Adjusted Score: 99517%

Critics Consensus: A stunning feat of modern animation, Ghost in the Shell offers a thoughtful, complex treat for anime fans, as well as a perfect introduction for viewers new to the medium.

Synopsis: A cybernetic agent must stop a potent form of artificial intelligence before it can attain human form…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 104121%

Critics Consensus: An infectiously fun blend of special effects and comedy, with Bill Murray’s hilarious deadpan performance leading a cast of great comic turns.

Synopsis: Armed with proton packs, four paranormal investigators (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis) battle mischievous ghouls in New York…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 99312%

Critics Consensus: Girls Trip is the rare R-rated comedy that pushes boundaries to truly comedic effect — and anchors its laughs in compelling characters brought to life by a brilliantly assembled cast.

Synopsis: Four best friends travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival. Along the way, they rekindle their sisterhood and… [More]


Adjusted Score: 116620%

Critics Consensus: One of Hollywood’s greatest critical and commercial successes, The Godfather gets everything right; not only did the movie transcend expectations, it established new benchmarks for American cinema.

Synopsis: Crime boss Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) and his sons (Al Pacino, James Caan) rule their New York empire with Mafia… [More]


Adjusted Score: 109730%

Critics Consensus: Drawing on strong performances by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola’s continuation of Mario Puzo’s Mafia saga set new standards for sequels that have yet to be matched or broken.

Synopsis: Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) rules his father’s criminal empire, while flashbacks recall young Vito’s (Robert De Niro) climb to power…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 102817%

Critics Consensus: More than straight monster-movie fare, Gojira offers potent, sobering postwar commentary.

Synopsis: A fire-breathing behemoth terrorizes Japan after an atomic bomb awakens it from its centuries-old sleep…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 105055%

Critics Consensus: Goldfinger is where James Bond as we know him comes into focus – it features one of 007’s most famous lines (“A martini. Shaken, not stirred.”) and a wide range of gadgets that would become the series’ trademark.

Synopsis: Agent 007 (Sean Connery) drives an Aston Martin, runs into Oddjob and fights Goldfinger’s (Gert Frobe) scheme to rob Fort… [More]


Adjusted Score: 107955%

Critics Consensus: Arguably the greatest of the spaghetti westerns, this epic features a compelling story, memorable performances, breathtaking landscapes, and a haunting score.

Synopsis: A drifter (Clint Eastwood), a bandit (Eli Wallach) and a bounty hunter (Lee Van Cleef) reach a standoff over buried… [More]


Adjusted Score: 105107%

Critics Consensus: Hard-hitting and stylish, GoodFellas is a gangster classic — and arguably the high point of Martin Scorsese’s career.

Synopsis: In the 1950s an Irish-Italian hoodlum (Ray Liotta) joins the New York Mafia, but his mob career is not what… [More]


Adjusted Score: 106430%

Critics Consensus: Typically stylish but deceptively thoughtful, The Grand Budapest Hotel finds Wes Anderson once again using ornate visual environments to explore deeply emotional ideas.

Synopsis: A concierge (Ralph Fiennes) at a posh European hotel is framed for murdering an elderly dowager with whom he had… [More]


Adjusted Score: 111897%

Critics Consensus: Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion is a masterful anti-war statement, bringing humane insight and an undercurrent of ironic humor to an unusual relationship between captor and captive.

Synopsis: World War I French fliers (Pierre Fresnay, Jean Gabin) become captives of a German aristocrat (Erich von Stroheim) who considers… [More]


Adjusted Score: 106387%

Critics Consensus: A potent drama that is as socially important today as when it was made, The Grapes of Wrath is affecting, moving, and deservedly considered an American classic.

Synopsis: Poor sharecroppers the Joads (Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell) leave dust bowl Oklahoma in hope of better luck in California…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 84029%

Critics Consensus: Grease is a pleasing, energetic musical with infectiously catchy songs and an ode to young love that never gets old.

Synopsis: Nice Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and greaser Danny (John Travolta) try to be like each other in their 1950s high school…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 99297%

Critics Consensus: With its impeccably slow-building story and a cast for the ages, The Great Escape is an all-time action classic.

Synopsis: Allied soldiers (Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough) dig a tunnel out of a Nazi prison camp, pocketfuls of dirt… [More]


Adjusted Score: 104477%

Critics Consensus: Smart, sweet, and inventive, Groundhog Day highlights Murray’s dramatic gifts while still leaving plenty of room for laughs.

Synopsis: February 2nd keeps repeating for a cynical TV weatherman (Bill Murray) sent to watch the groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pa…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 107649%

Critics Consensus: Guardians of the Galaxy is just as irreverent as fans of the frequently zany Marvel comic would expect — as well as funny, thrilling, full of heart, and packed with visual splendor.

Synopsis: A space adventurer (Chris Pratt) becomes the quarry of bounty hunters after he steals an orb coveted by a treacherous… [More]


Adjusted Score: 100393%

Critics Consensus: Hairspray is perhaps John Waters’ most accessible film, and as such, it’s a gently subversive slice of retro hilarity.

Synopsis: The Turnblads’ (Divine, Jerry Stiller) plus-size daughter (Ricki Lake) rocks a segregated TV dance show in 1960s Baltimore…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 103880%

Critics Consensus: Scary, suspenseful, and viscerally thrilling, Halloween set the standard for modern horror films.

Synopsis: John Carpenter’s chiller about an escaped maniac who returns to his Illinois hometown to continue his bloody rampage…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 110066%

Critics Consensus: A Hard Day’s Night, despite its age, is still a delight to watch and has proven itself to be a rock-and-roll movie classic.

Synopsis: John, Paul, George and Ringo (The Beatles) spend 36 wild hours in London, besieged by exuberant fans…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 89682%

Critics Consensus: Hal Ashby’s comedy is too dark and twisted for some, and occasionally oversteps its bounds, but there’s no denying the film’s warm humor and big heart.

Synopsis: A 20-year-old heir (Bud Cort) with a death wish meets a 79-year-old free spirit (Ruth Gordon) who knows how to… [More]


Adjusted Score: 98496%

Critics Consensus: Under the assured direction of Alfonso Cuaron, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban triumphantly strikes a delicate balance between technical wizardry and complex storytelling.

Synopsis: The young wizard (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends (Rupert Grint, Emma Watson) confront Sirius Black, a fugitive with ties to… [More]


Adjusted Score: 107712%

Critics Consensus: Led by a breakout turn from Amandla Stenberg, the hard-hitting The Hate U Give emphatically proves the YA genre has room for much more than magic and romance.

Synopsis: Starr Carter is a prep school student who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend at the hands… [More]


Adjusted Score: 93306%

Critics Consensus: Though Al Pacino and Robert De Niro share but a handful of screen minutes together, Heat is an engrossing crime drama that draws compelling performances from its stars — and confirms Michael Mann’s mastery of the genre.

Synopsis: A wily bank robber (Robert De Niro) planning retirement leaves scant clues for a Los Angeles detective (Al Pacino) with… [More]


Adjusted Score: 96858%

Critics Consensus: Dark, cynical, and subversive, Heathers gently applies a chainsaw to the conventions of the high school movie — changing the game for teen comedies to follow.

Synopsis: Cool Veronica (Winona Ryder) and her quirky new boyfriend (Christian Slater) topple a high-school trio of too-cool Heathers…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 96261%

Critics Consensus: Hedwig and the Angry Inch may very well be the next Rocky Horror midnight movie. It not only knows how to rock, but Hedwig’s story has an emotional poignancy.

Synopsis: A transsexual rock singer (John Cameron Mitchell) sues her successful protege (Michael Pitt) for plagiarism…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 100747%

Critics Consensus: With death-defying action sequences and epic historic sweep, Hero offers everything a martial arts fan could ask for.

Synopsis: Flashbacks reveal how a warrior (Jet Li) stopped the elusive assassins (Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung Man-yuk) who tried… [More]


Adjusted Score: 105197%

Critics Consensus: A classic of the Western genre that broke with many of the traditions at the time, High Noon endures — in no small part thanks to Gary Cooper’s defiant, Oscar-winning performance.

Synopsis: On the verge of retirement, a marshal (Gary Cooper) stands alone to face a vengeful gunman and his gang…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 107298%

Critics Consensus: Anchored by stellar performances from Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday is possibly the definitive screwball romantic comedy.

Synopsis: An ace reporter’s editor tries to stop her from remarrying in this remake of director Lewis Milestone’s “The Front Page.”… [More]


Adjusted Score: 97907%

Critics Consensus: Anchored by Mads Mikkelsen’s sympathetic performance, The Hunt asks difficult questions with the courage to pursue answers head on.

Synopsis: A kindergarten teacher’s (Mads Mikkelsen) world collapses around him after one of his students (Annika Wedderkopp), who has a crush… [More]


Adjusted Score: 102833%

Critics Consensus: Ikiru is a well-acted and deeply moving humanist tale about a man facing his own mortality, one of legendary director Akira Kurosawa’s most intimate films.

Synopsis: A rigid clerk (Takashi Shimura) resolves to do something of lasting importance after learning that he is dying of cancer…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 100978%

Critics Consensus: Tense, funny, and thought-provoking all at once, and lifted by strong performances from Sydney Poitier and Rod Steiger, director Norman Jewison’s look at murder and racism in small-town America continues to resonate today.

Synopsis: A black Philadelphia detective (Sidney Poitier) helps a white Mississippi sheriff (Rod Steiger) solve a murder…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 95207%

Critics Consensus: This understated romance, featuring good performances by its leads, is both visually beautiful and emotionally moving.

Synopsis: A man (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and a woman (Maggie Cheung Man-yuk) living in a Singapore building wonder about the… [More]


Adjusted Score: 100460%

Critics Consensus: Smart, innovative, and thrilling, Inception is that rare summer blockbuster that succeeds viscerally as well as intellectually.

Synopsis: A thief (Leonardo DiCaprio) who enters people’s dreams and steals their secrets gets a shot at redemption when he is… [More]


Adjusted Score: 100571%

Critics Consensus: A classic Tarantino genre-blending thrill ride, Inglourious Basterds is violent, unrestrained, and thoroughly entertaining.

Synopsis: An Allied officer (Brad Pitt) and his team of Jewish soldiers join forces with a German actress and undercover agent… [More]


Adjusted Score: 116066%

Critics Consensus: Inventive, gorgeously animated, and powerfully moving, Inside Out is another outstanding addition to the Pixar library of modern animated classics.

Synopsis: An 11-year-old girl’s (Kaitlyn Dias) five emotions try to guide her through a difficult transition after she moves from the… [More]


Adjusted Score: 102170%

Critics Consensus: The endearing Iron Giant tackles ambitious topics and complex human relationships with a steady hand and beautifully animated direction from Brad Bird.

Synopsis: A malevolent government agent threatens to destroy the friendship between a boy and a huge alien robot…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 105428%

Critics Consensus: Powered by Robert Downey Jr.’s vibrant charm, Iron Man turbo-charges the superhero genre with a deft intelligence and infectious sense of fun.

Synopsis: A wealthy industrialist (Robert Downey Jr.) builds an armored suit and uses it to defeat criminals and terrorists…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 119469%

Critics Consensus: Capturing its stars and director at their finest, It Happened One Night remains unsurpassed by the countless romantic comedies it has inspired.

Synopsis: A newsman (Clark Gable) rides a bus and shares a cabin with a tycoon’s (Walter Connolly) runaway daughter (Claudette Colbert)…. [More]


Adjusted Score: 106180%

Critics Consensus: The holiday classic to define all holiday classics, It’s a Wonderful Life is one of a handful of films worth an annual viewing.

Synopsis: Ruined by a miser (Lionel Barrymore) on Christmas Eve, a suicidal family man (James Stewart) sees life anew thanks to… [More]


Adjusted Score: 109124%

Critics Consensus: Compelling, well-crafted storytelling and a judicious sense of terror ensure Steven Spielberg’s Jaws has remained a benchmark in the art of delivering modern blockbuster thrills.

Synopsis: A New England police chief (Roy Scheider), a shark hunter (Robert Shaw) and a scientist (Richard Dreyfuss) have a showdown… [More]


Adjusted Score: 96607%

Critics Consensus: Stylish, thrilling, and giddily kinetic, John Wick serves as a satisfying return to action for Keanu Reeves — and what looks like it could be the first of a franchise.

Synopsis: New York City becomes the bullet-riddled playground of a former assassin (Keanu Reeves) as he hunts down the Russian mobsters… [More]

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6 Essential Movies by Dario Argento Sat, 02 Oct 2021 14:54:17 +0000 Dario Argento didn’t create the giallo subgenre, but his macabre style made it famous. Synapse Films By Peyton Robinson · Published on September 25th, 2020 Welcome to Carnage Classified, a monthly column where we break down the historical and social influence of all things horror, then rank the films of each month’s category accordingly. Franchises, movements, filmmakers, […]]]>

Dario Argento didn’t create the giallo subgenre, but his macabre style made it famous.

Synapse Films

By Peyton Robinson · Published on September 25th, 2020

Welcome to Carnage Classified, a monthly column where we break down the historical and social influence of all things horror, then rank the films of each month’s category accordingly. Franchises, movements, filmmakers, subgenres, etc. This entry is about Dario Argento’s giallo films and includes a ranking of his six best from the subgenre!

There’s something savory about a good murder-mystery. Even more delicious is when it’s delivered on a dramatic platter of theatrical intensity. So surely, Dario Argento’s filmography is a ripe source of sustenance. Though Mario Bava is credited with directing the first giallo film, 1963’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Argento is the man who took the deepest, furthest, and most popularized stab at it. When you hear the term giallo, you think Argento.

Giallo, meaning “yellow” in Italian, refers to the bright yellow book covers of Italian pulp fiction novels that centered their stories around elusive murders. It’s through this knotted connection that “giallo” eventually became synonymous with mystery. Though rooted in the history of the novels, there’s a number of core ingredients that comprise the foundation of making a giallo sensation on film.

For the base, it’s a murder mystery, so combine the killer, the killed, and those desperate to uncover the truth before they wind up on the wrong end of the blade. Mix in leather, bitchin’ bouts of bloodshed, psychological warfare, an unseen killer, and a club-worthy synth score (shoutout to Goblin). Finally, to garnish, regularly give the audience the killer’s POV, watch the body count rise, and relish in witnessing the over-the-top extravagance of the carnage unfold.

So, we got the basics down, but what is it that makes Dario Argento the maestro? Objectively, it might be the fact that he’s made more giallo films than any other director, rounding out with a lucky number of thirteen in total. More so, it’s that he gave the genre its fundamental fashion and furnishings. His debut feature, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, takes inspiration from Bava’s format and adds extra flair and style. It was a hit, leading to the subgenre’s popularity, and it laid the groundwork for the amalgamation of films Argento would produce throughout his career.

Argento’s films are sexy. From the expected yet never unappreciated Italian fashion to the cinematography, and all the way down to the gait and exaggerated expressions of characters, swagger and seduction bleed through his films with equal profoundness to the blood. The penchant for dominant but never overbearing soundtracks — much of which are a product of his long collaboration with Goblin — perfectly accompany the highly stylized atmosphere of Argento’s baroque worldbuilding.

With a photographer and director for parents, Argento seemingly showcases that his eye for visuals is nearly inherent. Equally, he is known for the narratives he concocts, and he cites the work of Edgar Allen Poe as an early and imperative influence. With Poe’s hallucinatory and deeply cerebral horror, it more than manifests through Argento’s own crafting of concurrent dreamlike quality and intensely psychological implications on screen.

Taking his narratives from the happenings of his own nightmares, Argento bridges the gap between the fears of the public unconscious and the ultra-personal recesses of his own mind, making his films wholly and horrifyingly his own. His plots are wonderfully convoluted, constantly subjecting us to guess, and guess again until we finally accept that our minds are no match against Argento’s, and our best guess is only his first twist.

Argento’s use of location is equally important to the happenings on screen, becoming essential in their symbolism as we investigate what they represent, what they permit, and how the openness of commonplace settings can be crippling. Argento’s crafting of elaborately complex plots and magnificent final set-pieces disallow “unimportant” side characters and promote the examination of numerous facets of the darkest corners of the human condition: misogyny, hatred, vengeance, trauma, and exploitation.

Dario Argento’s claim to fame, and the heyday of his career, are the giallos he released in the 1970s and 1980s. So, for this entry, I’ll be looking at the following six titles: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, The Cat O’ Nine Tails, Deep Red, Tenebrae, and Opera.

Onto the ranks! Spoilers ahead.

6. Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)

Four Flies On Grey Velvet

On the rare occasion that we might be looking at our own mortality in the face, it’s difficult to discern whether it’ll be our actions or inactions that do us in. Equally enigmatic is whether our actions or inactions are what put us in the position in the first place.

In Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Roberto (Michael Brandon), a rock musician, is being stalked by a mysterious man and receiving odd phone calls. One night he decides to pursue the pursuer, winding up in a struggle that ends with him stabbing the stalker. Still unknown, the mysterious man’s impact doesn’t die with him, and Roberto remains entangled in a dangerous web from which he hopes to escape alive.

What’s most horrifying in Roberto’s dilemma is that there’s absolutely nothing known about anything — there’s no why to be found. The night that he accidentally murdered the stalker, someone captured photographs of the whole ordeal. They’re blackmailing him, but not for money, just for the pleasure of his suffering. His tormentor attacks him in the dead of night, taunting that they could kill Roberto then and there but won’t because they’re “not finished with [him] yet.”

As Roberto’s friends and associates begin to die off one by one, he’s the common thread and looks more suspicious each day. He has a recurring nightmare of being impaled with a stiletto and then beheaded. Each night the dream lasts longer, his anxiety pushing him further into its narrative as he feels the killer closing in. These circumstances are pressing enough to render the open world as claustrophobic, as Roberto is unable to escape the torment, even in his own home.

Parallel to this claustrophobia, Argento presents flashbacks of the killer’s past, where we see cycles of abuse and their imprisonment in a mental institution. We come to learn that this killer was committed in their youth for homicidal mania, but after the death of their father, they were inexplicably cured — indicative of who the perpetrator of their abuse must’ve been.

Answers come when we discover the killer is Roberto’s wife, Nina (Mimsey Farmer). Her father never wanted a daughter and felt cheated when he got one. So, he opted to raise Nina as a boy, abusing her constantly for being “weak.” Her father died before she could kill him, so she vowed to obtain revenge in any way she could. She states that Roberto looks like her father, so she fostered their relationship until she could enact her murder fantasy vicariously through him.

All the motives that existed in the shadows of Four Flies on Grey Velvet were thrust into the light by this discovery. The film, which began as a study of supposed bad luck turned to bad blood, then evolves into a survey of the persistence of suppressed trauma. Nina was “cured” by her father’s death, as his abuse and physical stronghold were relieved by his demise. But it’s the mental and emotional grip of his violence that persisted and plagued her.

Four Flies on Grey Velvet is searing in its implications. Roberto was an entirely innocent party. It was neither his action nor inaction that put him in Nina’s sights; rather, he was a hapless occurrence of triggering familiarity. Even if he hadn’t pursued the stalker that night and opted for passivity instead, he would’ve been targeted regardless. Through Roberto, the film sinisterly professes that sometimes we may simply be helpless to the emotional demand of others, and these by-chance sequences of events could be the ones that plague us.

5. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

Dario Argento giallo Bird With The Crystal Plumage

Engaging in murder-mysteries is fun in theory — Clue is an iconic board game! However, it’s absolutely depraved to treat death with the same sort of levity if it snakes itself into your actual reality. Exploiting death through means of either art, apathy, or personal self-interest is a behavior that reflects an attitude of its permittance, not its condemnation. Dario Argento’s directorial debut and first giallo, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage leers into the minds of individuals who host these attitudes, coming down on the topic with a bloody fist of consequence.

Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is an American writer in Rome. One night he passes by an art gallery, and through its glass front, witnesses the attack of a young woman. Being the key witness to an attempted murder by a suspected serial killer at large, Sam gets roped into the investigation. As he becomes more invested, though, he develops an obsession defined by nonchalance, and he starts to treat it as a game of whodunnit more than a high stakes open case.

The film’s alignment with art teases fabrication and contrivance, a form of exploitation itself. It’s discovered that one of the killer’s victims worked at an antique shop, and the last piece she sold before her death was a painting that depicted a murder scarily similar to her own. Sam tracks down the artist to find that much of his catalog consists of numerous eerie depictions of brutal killings. Additionally, the site of the crime that Sam witnessed being an art gallery is equally poignant.

We discover that the killer was the woman whom Sam had seen being “attacked,” Monica (Eva Renzi). In reality, she was the aggressor, trying to stab her husband to death. This setting of the art gallery adds to the exploitation of it all, with the windowed front inviting spectators and rendering the attack a performance. Monica was triggered by the sight of the painting, which reminded her of when she was the victim of an attack ten years prior. It drove her into a frenzy of madness, where in order to cope she identified with the attacker rather than the victim — her mind’s own way to grasp at a semblance of control.

Sam confronts Monica, trying to apprehend her himself as some sort of cop by proxy. Tracking her back to the art gallery, he ends up being pinned underneath a fallen statue — an ironic punishment as his own manipulative attitudes towards the investigation left him trapped under an art piece — before he is rescued by real cops that arrive on the scene.

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage uses the relationship between art and exploitation to investigate trauma, crime, and punishment. It muddles the boundaries between victim, perpetrator, and instigator by faulting every character involved in the narrative, showing that in all degrees of separation, permitting attitudes and exploitative behaviors regarding violence can end up promoting a cycle that also victimizes and creates its perpetrators.

4. Deep Red (1976)

Deep Red

Rizzoli Film

As previously discussed, the giallo subgenre has a characteristic set of traits. One of the largest criticisms of Argento, and the giallo subgenre as a whole, is that it’s misogynistic. Women often fall at the pointed end of the blade with a particular intensity that we don’t always see in the murders of men. Their sexuality is somehow always connected to their characterization, whether its promiscuity, sexual insecurity, or simply just the objectifying eye of the camera. Deep Red is a standout in Argento’s filmography in the sense that it takes all of these tendencies and inverts them.

After Marcus Daly (David Hemmings) witnesses the murder of a telepathic psychic (Macha Méril), he is determined to discover who the culprit is. The only information he’s armed with is the silhouette of a figure leaving the crime scene, donned in a leather coat and gloves, but this sight of the killer was fleeting. Teaming up with a spunky reporter, Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi), they rush to uncover the killer’s identity before they close in.

Our introduction to Gianna occurs when she interrupts the boy’s club of the post-crime investigation and is met with annoyance from every man in the room. They find her unflinching confidence and career ambition an annoyance. When she and Marcus decide to team up, their dynamic is equally tense due to Marcus’ fragile male ego. He is constantly cowering in comparison to her strong posture. It’s only when she mentions that ambition is important for a woman that he shows any dominance. Popping his curved spine upright, he proclaims, “It is a fundamental fact: men are different from women. Women are…weaker,” a sentiment he clings to despite losing two rounds of arm wrestling.

Deep Red also inverts the damsel-in-distress and gallant-man relationship trope that has become commonplace across all narratives, but especially the giallo. Firstly, Marcus is not a knight-in-shining-armor in theory or in practice. He’s awkward, insecure, and dependent. Not only is this trope subverted by the fact that Marcus is unable to save the psychic from her killer, but in a role-reversal, it is Gianna who drags him out of the burning building while he’s unconscious.

The film’s opening scene is what sets the stage for both the tone and conclusion of Deep Red. Taking place within a house at Christmastime, two shadows engage in a struggle, resulting in the stabbing death of one. The knife falls at a child’s feet. With frilly socks and heeled black shoes, our expectations tell us that the child is a young girl, but it’s actually Marcus’ friend, Carlo (Gabriele Lavia), instead. This flashback to Carlo’s childhood shows the crime that the murderer is now killing again in order to cover up. The murderer is revealed to be Carlo’s mother, Martha (Clara Calamai), supplementing the female-centric narrative of Deep Red.

Deep Red isn’t the only giallo, or even Argento giallo, to center on a female killer, but it is a standout in the bunch of films that mostly center on strong, valiant, lustful men who punish the women in their lives, use them as tools to accomplish their goals, and endanger them for their own ambition.

It’s still far from a feminist film, as it settles into the romanticism of having Gianna and Marcus fall in love despite his sexist beliefs that bluntly misalign with her own attitudes. Still, though, it comes across as an intentional subversion of expectation that adds an additional layer to Argento’s arguably most cherished film, even functioning as some semblance of a foil to his later film, Tenebrae — but more on that later.

2. Cat O’ Nine Tails (1971)

Cat O Nine Tails


The greatest mystery of humanity might be that we will never fully understand how our brains work. Consequently, we’ll never precisely know the mechanics of empathy; it’s the root of the nature-versus-nurture debate. But when we find out that someone has committed a horrible violent crime and justified it by claiming decreased relation to people or citing childhood trauma, we still don’t accept it as a reason because they’re not the only one. Plenty of people have minds like theirs or histories like theirs but don’t go on to harm others. This debate of psychology has no end in sight, and it’s what lays the foundation for Cat O’ Nine Tails. 

After a medical complex is robbed, a killer is on the loose. “Cookie” (Karl Malden), a blind man and retired journalist, overhears discussion of blackmail and rushes to the scene. Teaming up with an investigative reporter, Carlo (James Franciscus), the duo rushes to uncover who the killer is and what secrets lie within the documentation he stole.

The objective of the medical complex is left as a mystery for much of the movie. Everything is top-secret and all employees are hard-pressed to utter even a single hint towards what goal the scientists were working to discover, adding suspicion to why everything was so tightly under wraps. The only semblance of a clue is the “GENETICS” folder that we see in passing, but knowing the complex has a focus on fertility, genetics, and heredity, it still doesn’t provide us with much.

We come to find that the complex is investigating “criminal chromosomal patterns,” positing that those possessing XYY have tendencies towards criminality. Parallel to this discovery, the scientists were working on a drug that could alter one’s genes away from the pattern. One of the lead researchers, a medical prodigy, Dr. Casoni (Aldo Regianni), is revealed to be the thief and killer. After discovering he has the XYY pattern, he knew he’d lose his entire career if found out. So, he stole the documentation of proof and murdered Dr. Calabresi (Carlo Alighiero), the individual threatening to blackmail him by exposing his test results.

This operation all calls to mind the commodification of healthcare, and hyperbolically, in this case, emotions. In the case of blackmail, Dr. Calabresi was prioritizing his own financial gain over the benefit of the people, making him a figure of medical corruption. In an exaggerated manner, of course, this could come to represent medical discrimination against individuals with mental illness and pre-existing conditions.

Despite the fact that Dr. Casoni actually ended up acting criminally, in both theft and murder, it’s unclear whether it was his genes that led him to it or the desperation for financial security that put him at threat by a larger institution’s exploitation of his medical history. Cat O’ Nine Tails is complex in its investigation of the origins of aberrant psychology. Showing that even when there’s an explicit seed of corrupted nature to be found in the mind, the answer to our brain’s mechanics will forever be an enigma to the inevitable influences of nurture.

2. Tenebrae (1982)


Murder is an industry. Hitmen and assassins are the more explicit businessmen, but horror films, murder-mystery novels, true crime podcasts, and the like are equal contributions to the corporation of carnage. In many ways it’s exploitation. How does this constant absorption and oversaturation of brutal media seep into the everyday occurrences we may encounter? When and how can media become murder? Tenebrae examines this with a mix of narcissism, blood, and hypocrisy.

Writer Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) is in Rome to promote his newest murder-mystery novel, also titled “Tenebrae.” Upon his arrival, he discovers that someone has begun a killing spree in honor of his book. As he, his assistant, Anne (Daria Nicolodi), and the police investigate the who and the why, they inch incredibly close to motivations with implications that reflect on more than just the killer.

Given the meta nature of Peter’s book being identical to the title of Argento’s film, these two pieces of work are inseparable. The novel is self-described as being about “human perversion and its effects on society.” Therefore, so is the film.

Peter Neal is immediately posited as an icon, a dangerous symbol in the eyes of the unhinged. This intersection of morality and media is what drives the film forward: the killer feels justified by the pages in the book, and inversely, a critic calls the book “sexist” for its brutal violence towards women. Tilde (Mirella D’Angelo), the aforementioned critic, and her lover, Marion (Mirella Banti), are brutally murdered by the killer because of their “perversion.” The killer leaves a note stating, “So passes the glory of lesbos,” an act of homophobic violence that seemingly only serves as proof of Tilde’s criticism of the book’s misogyny.

Later on, Jane (Veronica Lario), Peter’s fianceé, is revealed to be having a love affair with his friend, Bullmer (John Saxon). Her death is the most tortuous and violent of all. Although her killer is revealed to be an obsessed TV book reviewer, we come to realize that not only did Peter kill him but that Peter continued to kill in order to punish Jane and Bullmer and to make it appear that the killer was still at large. His own violence was rooted in his novel’s promotion, keeping him at the center of everyone’s radar, and incredibly hypocritical and misogynistic, given that he also was having an affair.

Throughout the film, there are peeks into the history of an unknown man — who is uncovered to be Peter himself — where we see flashbacks from his adolescence in which he murders a woman who had previously humiliated him. With this added knowledge, the metafiction of Tenebrae becomes abundantly clear. Within his novel, Peter implemented subconscious misogyny that he claimed was never there. With this implicit bias in the writing of the book “Tenebrae,” the blatant bias of Tenebrae is unveiled. Yet the daunting question still remains in grey: if not for writing the book in the first place, is Peter now responsible for the murders he inspired simply because we know his stake in it all is close to home? Was the book “Tenebrae” a subconscious calling card to like-minded misogynistic maniacs, and by extension, what does that say, if anything at all, about the film Tenebrae and its creator?

1. Opera (1987)

Dario Argento giallo Opera

Performance is exalting and terrifying in its vulnerability. As a performer, your role is to serve the audience — to exist for their entertainment and judgment. In any production, it is both essential and inevitable that every person involved is being watched, and therefore, is simultaneously watching. It’s this exchange of perception that rules Opera. The film is laden with imagery of eyes, lenses, and POV shots that profess the importance of vision and its implications.

Opera follows the story of a young understudy turned prima donna, Betty (Cristina Marsillach), who is being pursued by a stalker in a vicious cycle of catch-and-release as she is repeatedly bound and subject to a line of pins underneath her eyes that force her to watch him murder those around her. In her shows, the music is operatic; in the killer’s act, the music is metal — each a juxtaposing genre of performance in their own right. This relationship results in a transference of exhibitionism: though where Betty was freely and openly a performer, she is now a forced voyeur to the horrific recital of her captor. It’s not only an exchange of the watcher and the watched but a swap of power.

Forbidden sights are viewed through bars: the line of pins beneath Betty’s eyes and the grate of the air vent in her apartment as the child spies on her from within the duct. There’s a reminder of the corruption and lack of consent, but powerlessness in knowing there isn’t a way to stop it. Inversely, Opera also uses the robbery of sight as punishment. Betty’s friend, Mira (Daria Nicolodi), has her vision, and life, taken when she’s shot through a peephole, the bullet entering through her eye. She’s murdered because she’s seen as interference, obtrusive to the killer’s fantasy. Later on, in an ironic spin, the stalker has his own eye gouged out by a raven, a vengeful form of poetic justice.

Betty’s sexuality runs through the narrative’s subplot. We see her engage sexually, but she admits, “She’s a disaster in bed.” But she doesn’t know why and claims only that sex “has never worked” for her. With her being a victim to the killer’s overt sadomasochistic displays, she is constantly at the liberty of men’s sexual wiles and objectifying eyes. It is only in her reclamation of the power of gaze that Betty overcomes.

Amidst being at the center of sporadic endangerment, Betty only feels safe at the opera: the sole place in which she is willing and in control of how she is perceived. She eventually uses the opera, and her own performance, as a tool to capture her tormentor on her own terms, knowing the sight of her exhibitionism is irresistible to him. Through this, Betty obtains sexual control in the cyclical push and pull of sadomasochism spurred by her attacker. With this she also gained the confidence and agency she had struggled to obtain, removing herself from the chauvinistic male sight and claiming the power as her own.

The giallo subgenre, spearheaded by the master, Dario Argento, has had a massive influence on the horror genre at large. His elegant balance of extraordinary style that doesn’t detract from the substance is what’s laid his claim in the hearts of horror lovers. Within the industry itself, from masked killers, implicating POV shots, iconic musical accompaniment, and inventive avenues of slaying the unsuspected, it’s easy to eye the direct inspirations from his work in perhaps the most coveted era of horror: the late ’70s-early ’80s slashers.

Yet Argento’s work stands alone, embodying a subgenre of dramatically unique filmmaking with narratives and images that stubbornly stick in your skull. He dissects the darkness of past trauma, personal agency, and revenge with a delectable combination of sexiness and savagery, leaving a lasting impression long after the credits roll. It’s why we watch his films, why we return to them, and why his name is forever synonymous with the image of giallo.

Related Topics: Carnage Classified, Dario Argento, Horror

Spent my childhood watching Spongebob Squarepants and A Nightmare on Elm Street. I’ve been this way ever since.

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13 essential movies about the fight for women’s equality Sat, 02 Oct 2021 06:53:27 +0000 The modern feminist movement isn’t an ambiguous, shapeless mist that has acted of its own volition over decades. It’s made up of people. Women and their allies, whose courage, determination, and will to resist, organise, research, demonstrate, and outright demand the right to equality and justice can’t truly be captured in a couple of hours. […]]]>

The modern feminist movement isn’t an ambiguous, shapeless mist that has acted of its own volition over decades. It’s made up of people. Women and their allies, whose courage, determination, and will to resist, organise, research, demonstrate, and outright demand the right to equality and justice can’t truly be captured in a couple of hours.

But directors give it a shot anyway.

There’s a notably limited amount of mainstream feature films that depict those who have stood at the forefront of the fight for women’s equality, but there are some truly excellent ones among those that have been made. From a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg taking sex discrimination to court to the factory workers strike that changed UK labour laws, to the women who shook up NASA, the fight for women’s equality is full of cinematic moments that deserve to be honoured onscreen in every detail.

Though these films depict or are inspired by key real figures and moments from history, the fight is ongoing, and the movement toward equality for all women under the law remains rife with blind spots. There’s serious work to do on intersectional representation, for instance, and that goes for which stories Hollywood has historically chosen to tell. It’s undeniable that the large majority of films about those pioneers who have paved the way for women’s equality centre the narrative around white cis women, often marginalising or excluding the roles women of colour and trans women played in the same movement. It’s left mostly up to documentaries to tell these stories, of which there are many excellent ones, but c’mon, Hollywood.


Zing Tsjeng on pirate queens, resistance heroines, and history’s forgotten women

Nonetheless, these strong, history-based films shine an interpretive light on the stories of real women: mothers, daughters, sisters, everyday revolutionaries, who often paid immense personal costs fighting for our right to live equally under the law. Taking a couple of hours to learn their stories, to appreciate their struggle, triumph, and sacrifice is the very least we can do.

1. On the Basis of Sex

Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in  ‘On the Basis of Sex’.
Credit: J Wenk / Focus Features / Kobal / Shutterstock

Based on the early life and career of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, On the Basis of Sex focuses on the landmark case that would set a precedent for sex discrimination and set Ginsburg on a path to become the leading gender rights lawyer of her generation.

Set in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, decades before she would become the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, the film follows Ginsburg as a determined lawyer, as she and her husband Marty take on Moritz v. Commissioner, the first federal case to declare discrimination on the basis of sex unconstitutional. Felicity Jones is fiercely brilliant as the young RBG, tearing down the system by the book amid rampant, institutionalised sexism everywhere from the Harvard Law School lecture halls to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

How to watch: On The Basis of Sex is now streaming on Showtime on Amazon or fuboTV in the U.S., Amazon Prime in the UK, and Binge in Australia.

2. Suffragette

Anne-Marie Duff, Carey Mulligan, and Helena Bonham Carter in  'Suffragette'.

Anne-Marie Duff, Carey Mulligan, and Helena Bonham Carter in  ‘Suffragette’.
Credit: Moviestore / Shutterstock

Set in 1912, Suffragette (a term itself more common in the UK versus the U.S., where “suffragists” is more acceptable) recounts a group of working women who joined, organised, and fought for the women’s suffrage movement in the UK, and who were arrested, fired, beaten, and died for it. Movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst (played with ferocity by Meryl Streep), has called for a national campaign of civil disobedience after decades of peaceful protest for the right to vote has gone ignored. We gain insight into the fight through laundry worker and mother Maud Watts (a fictional character played by Carey Mulligan), who endures brutal working conditions and finds her way into the local movement. The film represents real activists as well as characters based on them — for one, Maud meets activist Emily Davison in jail, whose sacrifice for the movement made global headlines and history.


The bold suffragists you likely didn’t learn about in school

Written by Abi Morgan and directed by Sarah Gavron, Suffragette gives a glimpse into the means by which women covertly organised and seized attention for their rights after campaigning peacefully for 50 years, from hunger strikes to bombing pillar boxes. One thing the film does with significance is present the cruelty and harassment experienced by suffragettes not just by law enforcement but their families, husbands, neighbours, and colleagues. And it must be noted the film’s marketing campaign received criticism, reopening conversations about racism against women of colour in the movement and the exclusion of women of colour from the film.

How to watch: Suffragette is now streaming on Netflix in the U.S., All4 in the UK, and Stan in Australia.

3. Hidden Figures

Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, leading the West Area Computing Unit.

Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, leading the West Area Computing Unit.
Credit: Hopper Stone / Levantine / Kobal / Shutterstock

Based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book, Hidden Figures shines long-delayed light on three Black women who worked in crucial roles at NASA during the Space Race in the ‘60s. The film stars Taraji P. Henson as mathematician Katherine Johnson, whose calculations enabled the success of the Mercury-Atlas 6 orbital mission, marking a turning point in the race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It also features Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson, NASA’s first female Black aeronautical engineer; and Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, NASA’s first Black supervisor.

All three women achieved their positions amid blatant sexism and racism while segregation was still legal (though the film downplays the racism significantly in the actions of the white lead characters). They also used their platforms to help other women get a leg up, even when targeted by white women’s racism during the process. In 1979, Jackson left engineering and took a demotion to become the federal women’s program manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center, working to advance the careers of women mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. And Vaughan, the head of the segregated West Area Computing Unit, was a steadfast advocate for women mathematicians. As seen in the film, Vaughn brought many of her colleagues with her to run the groundbreaking Analysis and Computation Division (ACD).

As Johnson, then Goble, concludes in a graceful retort in the film to a sexist comment about her job, “So yes, they let women do some things at NASA, Mr. Johnson, and it’s not because we wear skirts. It’s because we wear glasses. Have a good day.”

How to watch: Hidden Figures is now streaming on Disney+ and fuboTV in the U.S., and Foxtel Now in Australia.

4. Made in Dagenham

'Made in Dagenham' depicts the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968.

‘Made in Dagenham’ depicts the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968.
Credit: Bbc / Kobal / Shutterstock

In 1968, 187 women factory workers at the Ford Motor Company’s Dagenham plant in London led a law-reforming strike, demanding the eradication of sexual discrimination in the workplace. After walking out of their sewing machinist jobs due to a “regrading” of their job skill level (and pay) compared to their male co-workers, car production ground to a halt. The strike garnered the kind of public attention that eventually led to the passing of the Equal Pay Act in 1970.

In Nigel Cole’s 2010 film interpretation of the events, The Shape of Water’s Sally Hawkins brilliantly leads the charge as the fictional Rita O’Grady, a protagonist inspired by the real women — including Rose Boland, Eileen Pullen, Vera Sime, Gwen Davis, and Sheila Douglass — whose fight for equal compensation for their labour would change history for working women in the UK.

How to watch: Made in Dagenham is now streaming on SBS On Demand in Australia, and available to rent/buy elsewhere on iTunes and Google Play.

5. Battle of the Sexes

Do not mess with tennis players.

Do not mess with tennis players.
Credit: Ms th Century Fox / Kobal / Shutterstock

Emma Stone is ace as tennis legend and gender equality activist Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes. Simon Beaufoy’s 2017 film centers around the famous 1973 tennis match between King and the overtly sexist Bobby Riggs (played perhaps with too much charm by Steve Carell). If you can get through this film’s dialogue without punching a wall, good for you. In the 1970s, equal prize money for tennis tournaments was a joke at best, with the top prize for women one eighth of the men’s. In protest, King and Gladys Heldman (a superb Sarah Silverman) created their own women’s tour, forming the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973 and eventually forcing the U.S. Tennis Association to raise pay for female players.

But the crux of the film is the constantly reiterated sexist idea that women and men players are unequal in tennis ability or audience interest, an unfounded claim by top dogs at the USTA that Riggs echoes in his boasts that he can beat any woman on the court, even at age 55. King eventually agrees to take on Riggs to disprove his claims in the iconic “Battle of the Sexes” match.

How to watch: Battle of the Sexes is available to rent/buy on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.

6. Iron Jawed Angels

Hilary Swank plays American suffrage movement leader Alice Paul.

Hilary Swank plays American suffrage movement leader Alice Paul.
Credit: Moviestore / Shutterstock

Driven by an anachronistic early 2000s soundtrack as a significantly lighter take on history than Suffragette, Katja von Garnier’s 2004 film Iron Jawed Angels examines the U.S. women’s suffrage movement in the 1910s, through World War I.

Hilary Swank and Frances O’Connor take on the role of suffrage leaders Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, who joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) at a time when there was rising tension between established members like Carrie Chapman Catt (the inimitable Angelica Huston) and the newer blood on strategy. Paul and Burns were championing the demand for a constitutional amendment to guarantee women the franchise with press-grabbing demonstrations like the organisation of the first women’s suffrage parade in Washington in 1913. The old guard, however, aimed to continue campaigning on a state-by-state basis. Paul and Burns were inspired by the work of British suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst and her militant Women’s Social and Political Union in the UK. Their radical strategy conflicted with NAWSA’s, so they founded their own National Woman’s Party. The film seems slightly dated in 2020, and there’s an unnecessarily cringey romantic narrative, but it’s still an important story.

Notably, the U.S. suffrage movement was not inclusive to all women, and racism was rife within it. In the film, there’s a dramatised scene featuring women’s rights campaigner and early civil rights leader Ida B. Wells, played by Adilah Barnes, in which Paul has instructed Black women to march at the back of the segregated parade to pander to southern suffrage groups. Wells refuses this instruction, challenging Paul and Burns’ commitment to equality for only some (white) women, and we later see Wells marching with her state delegation. “I will march with my peers or not at all,” she says.

How to watch: Iron Jawed Angels is now streaming on HBO Max and HBO Now in the U.S.

7. The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

Trans rights activist and icon Marsha P. Johnson.

Trans rights activist and icon Marsha P. Johnson.
Credit: netflix

The fact that no one has yet made a feature film about Marsha P. Johnson is outrageous, so here’s one of two documentaries we’ve snuck into this list. Netflix’s The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson follows the relentless pursuit of justice by activist Victoria Cruz as she investigates the suspicious death of the transgender icon amid a broader look at the trans rights movement in New York City in the ‘60s.

Directed by David France, the documentary examines the defining roles Johnson and iconic activist Silvia Rivera played in the campaign for trans rights, forming STAR (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries) in 1970. (Notably, trans filmmaker and activist Tourmaline alleged that director David France appropriated her research for the film.) Cruz’s tireless work bringing to light discarded or half-investigated cases of violence against trans women forms the core of this film — and it’s a battle that’s not yet won.

How to watch: The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson is now streaming on Netflix.

8. The Glorias

Lorraine Toussaint and Julianne Moore as Flo Kennedy and Gloria Steinem.

Lorraine Toussaint and Julianne Moore as Flo Kennedy and Gloria Steinem.
Credit: Dan McFadden – Courtesy of LD Entertainmet and Roadside Attractions.

Four actors — Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Lulu Wilson, and Ryan Keira Armstrong — take on different incarnations of feminist icon, journalist, and activist Gloria Steinem in Julie Taymor’s surreal biopic The Glorias. Based on Steinem’s own iconic memoir My Life on the Road, the film traces her journey through a wildly eventful life as a champion for women’s liberation and a leading figure in the feminist movement in the ‘60s, ‘70s and beyond. It depicts key events such as the historic 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston and the launch of Ms., the first national feminist magazine in America.

Steinem’s work was shaped by iconic feminist leaders driving an intersectional movement, many of whom are featured in the film. There’s activist and Ms. magazine co-founder Dorothy Pitman Hughes (Janelle Monáe); lawyer, activist, and speaking partner Florynce “Flo” Kennedy (Lorraine Toussaint); first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and activist Wilma Mankiller (Kimberly Guerrero); labor activist Dolores Huerta (Monica Sanchez); and congresswoman and lawyer Bella Abzug (Bette Midler) among others.

How to watch: The Glorias is now streaming on Amazon Prime in the U.S.

9. Selma

Tessa Thompson as Diane Nash.

Tessa Thompson as Diane Nash.
Credit: Atsushi Nishijima / Paramount / Pathe / Harpo / Kobal / Shutterstock

Although Selma focuses on the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, John Lewis, and Hosea Williams, it’s in our list anyway. Ava DuVernay’s stunning film significantly recentres trailblazing women who stood at the front and laid the groundwork of this pivotal moment in the civil rights movement.

There’s Tessa Thompson as Diane Nash, Oprah Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper, Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Lorraine Toussaint as Amelia Boyton, and many more peacefully protesting, strategising, and demanding the right to vote for Black women and men in the face of fearsome, violent, institutionalised racism.

How to watch: Selma is now streaming on Netflix in the UK, fuboTV in the U.S., and Stan in Australia.

10. North Country

Frances McDormand and Charlize Theron in 'North Country'.

Frances McDormand and Charlize Theron in ‘North Country’.
Credit: Richard Foreman / Warner Brothers / Kobal / Shutterstock

Based on the true story of miner Lois Jenson and the landmark case that changed sexual harassment law in America, North Country is a brutal, inspiring journey of resilience. Jenson was the first woman to win a sex discrimination case in the U.S. after bringing a class action against a northern Minnesota iron mine where women workers including herself were constantly subjected to unchecked assault, harassment, intimidation, humiliation, and abuse.

Inspired by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler’s 2002 book about the case, North Country stars Charlize Theron as the onscreen interpretation of Jenson, Josey Aimes, who changes history for women in the workplace in America — albeit at immense personal cost.

How to watch: North Country is now streaming on Netflix in Australia, and available to rent/buy on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play elsewhere.

11. He Named Me Malala

Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai.

Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai.
Credit: Imagenation Abu Dhabi / Parkes+Macdonald / Participant Media / Kobal / Shutterstock

We only included two documentaries on this list because there are just so many, but also because no one (yet) has made a feature film about Nobel laureate, Oxford graduate, activist, author, and fierce champion for girls’ education Malala Yousafzai. So, yeah, this film makes the cut.


Malala Yousafzai has a book club and yes, you can join

Directed by An Inconvenient Truth‘s David Guggenheim, He Named Me Malala takes a look at the life of the fearless young Pakistani activist who, at 15, was shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking up for girls and their right to an education. In addition, the film interviews young women and girls about Yousafzai’s impact and features stunning animations.

How to watch: He Named Me Malala is now streaming on Hoopla in the U.S. and available to rent/buy on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play elsewhere.

12. Confirmation

Kerry Washington as Anita Hill in 'Confirmation'.

Kerry Washington as Anita Hill in ‘Confirmation’.
Credit: HBO

In 1991, Anita Hill testified in Congress, accusing would-be Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, her former supervisor, of sexual harassment. She made history. “Many people viewing the hearings didn’t even realize that sexual harassment was something that was actionable, that they could file a complaint about. They had no idea what the concept was about,” Hill told the New York Times during the #MeToo movement, decades later. “So we were at a very different point. In the decades following the hearings, that changed.”

Confirmation recreates this hearing and the events surrounding it, with Kerry Washington delivering a strong performance as Hill (a performance, critics noted, that dug deeper than the movie itself). As the NYT reports, in the year after Hill’s testimony, complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about sexual harassment went up 73 percent. Hill’s testimony and treatment by the all-male judiciary committee panel is also credited with ushering in the “year of the woman” in 1992. As the film shows, the courage it takes to come forward is unimaginable, but the impact it has for others is immeasurable.

How to watch: Confirmation is now streaming on HBO Now and HBO Max in the U.S. and Binge in Australia.

13. The Divine Order

'The Divine Order' follows the suffrage movement in Switzerland in the '70s.

‘The Divine Order’ follows the suffrage movement in Switzerland in the ’70s.
Credit: Pascal Mora / Zodiac / Kobal / Shutterstock

Women in Switzerland only got the vote in 1971. Why the delay? Switzerland’s direct democracy system made sure that a referendum was required for constitutional change — and only men could vote in a referendum. The Divine Order examines the Swiss suffragist movement through fictional housewife and local town leader Nora (played by Marie Leuenberger). It’s a lighter, even comedic look at the campaign for equality, and the power of small acts that make up a revolution.

How to watch: The Divine Order is now streaming on Prime Video in the U.S. and Kanopy in Australia.

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Top 100 Essential Movies Every Serious Film Fan Should See Fri, 01 Oct 2021 06:39:16 +0000 If you’re a budding cinephile, it can be difficult to know where to start or even to find a baseline. Cinema becomes more daunting every year as new films are released and old films are reappraised. With this in mind, the staff of has collaborated on 100 movies we think every film fan needs […]]]>

If you’re a budding cinephile, it can be difficult to know where to start or even to find a baseline. Cinema becomes more daunting every year as new films are released and old films are reappraised. With this in mind, the staff of has collaborated on 100 movies we think every film fan needs to see.

To be clear, this list is not an ending, but a beginning. It’s meant to serve as a starting point. Just because a movie didn’t make this list of 100, that doesn’t mean it’s “inessential.” Rather, we wanted to provide a good foundation that would spark a person’s curiosity about where to go next. Additionally, while many essential movies were done by white, male directors because historically those are the people who have had power, we didn’t want to neglect international cinema, female filmmakers, or filmmakers of color, and we have sought to include their work here.

Another group of film fans could come up with their own “Essential 100” and make a strong argument for it. However, we didn’t create this list to spark an argument, but to spark curiosity. If you look at this list as a guide rather than an end-point, then it should set you on a path to building your knowledge and appreciation of cinema.

Also, it should be noted that this list is organized alphabetically. We have not ranked these movies against each other because part of the purpose of this list is to get you to start with any film that piques your interest and see where it leads you.

Below is an overview of our list, and you can scroll down to read our justifications for why each film is essential. And if you want to test your progress, here is a checklist of all 100 movies. Make sure to let us know how many you’ve seen so far!

And also check out Bill Hader‘s list of movies that inspired him, plus our exclusive interview with the actor/writer/director about how he became a cinephile.

8 1/2

The 400 Blows

2001: A Space Odyssey



All About My Mother

All That Jazz



Image via Universal Pictures

The Apartment

Apocalypse Now

The Avengers

Back to the Future

Battleship Potemkin

A Better Tomorrow

Birth of a Nation

Blazing Saddles


Blue Velvet

The Bride of Frankenstein

Brokeback Mountain

The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari



Citizen Kane

Cleo From 5 to 7


Creature From the Black Lagoon

The Dark Knight

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Days of Heaven

Die Hard

Do the Right Thing

Double Indemnity

Dr. Strangelove

Drunken Master

Duck Soup


Image via Universal Pictures

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

The Empire Strikes Back

Enter the Dragon

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The Evil Dead



Fast Times at Ridgemont High

The General

Get Out

The Godfather

Gone with the Wind


The Great Dictator

His Girl Friday

In the Mood for Love


Jurassic Park

The Killer

King Kong

Lawrence of Arabia

A League Of Their Own

The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

The Matrix


Image via USA Films

Menace II Society


Monty Python and the Holy Grail



Night of the Living Dead


The Princess Bride

Pulp Fiction

Raiders of the Lost Ark


Rear Window

Roman Holiday


The Searchers

Seven Samurai

The Shining

The Silence of the Lambs

Singin’ in the Rain

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

The Social Network

Some Like It Hot

Spirited Away

Star Wars

Sunset Blvd.



Image via Lucasfilm



Taxi Driver

This Is Spinal Tap

The Thing

Top Hat

Toy Story




When Harry Met Sally

For additional curated recommendations from the Collider staff, check out our lists for the best comedy films of the 21st century, best documentaries of the 21st century, and best war movies of the 21st century so far.

8 1/2 (1963)


Image via Embassy Pictures

Director: Federico Fellini

Writer: Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, & Brunello Rondi

Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée, and Sandra Milo

Why It’s Essential: A giant of Italian cinema, it’s difficult to know where to begin, especially with Federico Fellini, who also directed Amarcord, La Dolce Vita, and La Strada. So maybe the best place is where Fellini didn’t even know where to start. 8 ½ (the title referring to Fellini’s 8 ½ film since he had previously directed six features, two shorts, and a collaboration) is one of the great “writer’s block” movie where Fellini stand-in Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) wrestles with trying to put together his next feature while also grappling with creative pressure as well as the many women of his life.

In addition to being an essential film of Italian cinema, the dreamlike and autobiographical qualities of 8 ½ have been highly influential as we’re basically swimming in Guido’s (and therefore Fellini’s) subconscious and that makes for a strange and unique experience that helps provide insight into Fellini’s filmography and process. – Matt Goldberg

The 400 Blows (1959)


Image via Kino Lorber

Director: François Truffaut

Writers: François Truffaut, Marcel Moussy

Cast: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Albert Rémy, Claire Maurier

Why It’s Essential: The directorial debut critic turned auteur François Truffaut also just happens to be one of the most achingly human films ever made and a distinct starting block for the French New Wave movement of the 1950s. The 400 Blows—an extremely literal translation of the French idiom “faire les quatre cents coups”, which is closer to meaning “raise hell”—follows Truffaut’s on-screen stand-in Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a troubled teenager drifting his way through petty crimes and parents who just don’t understand in 1950s Paris. There’s not a whiff of nostalgia to Truffaut’s fictionalized take on his own childhood; The 400 Blows simply feels like being deposited into someone else’s black and white memories. In this endeavor, Truffaut was helped greatly by cinematographer Henri Decae, whose background in documentaries lent itself to the film’s unflinching, pointed gaze toward Antoine’s palpable loneliness. Like most films of the Nouvelle Vague, The 400 Blows free-floats along its own path more than it tells a central narrative, but there’s not a single wasted shot across its entire runtime. The film’s entire vibe can be condensed down to the scenes where Leaud—truly one of cinema’s greatest sad ghost-looking faces that set the stage for the Timothée Chalamets of the modern world—sits in a cell answering questions from a psychologist. Although he hired an actress to provide the psychologist’s voice, Truffaut chose to shoot Léaud alone and give the young actor leeway to answer the questions as he chose. The filmmaker’s camera cares deeply for its subject, and The 400 Blows builds small revelation-by-revelation to one of the most arresting up-close-and-personal final shots of all time. – Vinnie Mancuso

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke

Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter, Leonard Rossiter, Margaret Tyzack, Robert Beatty, Sean Sullivan, Douglas Rain

Two words: Stanley Kubrick. You could pick just about any title in the acclaimed filmmaker’s catalog and you’d have yourself a veritable clinic on movie-making right there on your screen. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a prime example of this, featuring both the tried-and-true methods of the art of the cinematic as well as breaking these conventions in every conceivable way. And for the fans of hard science-fiction who love a tale told with grounded science fact, 2001 is one of the best, thanks in large part to co-writer Arthur C. Clarke being along for the ride.

To say that 2001: A Space Odyssey is an ambitious film is to far undersell it. The story goes to the roots of our existence as both primitive animals and ridiculously advanced sentient beings while the set design went to great lengths to realistically recreate the experience of traveling through space aboard a technologically advanced vessel. While the main conflict of the film appears to center on the disconnect between the malfunctioning supercomputer HAL 9000 and the human astronauts traveling to investigate a mysterious monolith, the film is, more broadly, an exploration of humankind’s connection to the universe. From the “Dawn of Man’ to the “Star Child” and the unknown expanse of time and space that comes afterwards, 2001 is no less than an attempt to tell humankind’s story in a matter of hours, bolstered by stunning, cutting-edge special effects.

Just as Clarke’s stories have influenced generations of writers, artists, creative, and scientists alike, so too has Kubrick’s sci-fi epic influenced untold numbers of filmmakers who came afterwards. It’s impossible to watch 2001 and not see the inspiration for new classic films like Star Wars and Alien, to contemporary sci-fi standouts like Gravity, Arrival, and Ex Machina. The creative impact of 2001 over the last 50 years can’t be overstated, but its influence on future films is a certainty. – Dave Trumbore

Airplane! (1980)


Writers/Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack

Why It’s Essential: Surely, the screwball to end all screwballs, Airplane!, is an influential comedy and you’d be well within your rights to be salty about it. A lot of bad movies have resulted from the Airplane! formula, mostly parody flicks that only believe in quantity over quality in their joke-telling, but that only serves to highlight how much of a miracle Airplane! actually is. Sure, there’s a plot—it’s a disaster parody set on a virus-ridden aircraft that mostly borrows from the straight-faced 1957 drama Zero Hour!—but the amount of one-liners, zingers, sight gags, and yucks Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker manage to cram into these 90 minutes is enough to make your head spin. But jokes are like airplanes: No one is gonna’ be laughing if that thing doesn’t land. And, in the ultrabright lights of 2019, a lot of Airplane!’s jokes don’t! But that’s where the movie’s genius stroke of casting comes in; Abrahams and the Zucker brothers populated their laugh-a-second comedy with some of the most distinguished dramatic actors you could imagine. TV Golden Age dramatist Leslie Nielsen. Emmy-winner Robert Stack. Sea Hunt leading man Lloyd Bridges. The list goes on—led, of course, by the great Julie Hagerty and Robert Hays—and the result is a layer of deadpan gold that very, very few comedies have managed to reach since. Having to wade through your Disaster Movies and your Meet the Spartans is worth having Airplane!, an all-time classic comedy and a first ballot contender in the “Most Quotable Movie” Hall of Fame. – Vinnie Mancuso

Alien (1979)

Image via 20th Century Fox

Director: Ridley Scott

Writer: Dan O’Bannon

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Ian Holm, and John Hurt

Why It’s Essential: Ridley Scott sophomore feature, Alien is one of the best horror movies of all time, one of the best sci-fi movies of all time, and one of the best movies of all time, no qualifier. Crafted with precision to create an immersive working-class world in space, Alien presents a vision of the future that is timeless; a trip through the universe from the perspective of the professional grunts who just want to get the job done and go home. And then they meet the Xenomorph; an alien creature that sits at the pinnacle of predatory evolution.

Where to even begin with this one. Sigourney Weaver is iconic as Ellen Ripley, a beacon of competence and sensitivity in a devolving crisis. And her performance wasn’t just a game-changer for the representation of women in film, it was also just downright fantastic. And she’s matched by performers like Ian Holm, John Hurt, and Harry Dean Stanton, who endow the ill-fated crew with a lived-in presence that makes every casualty hit harder. Then there’s H.R. Giger’s still-unmatched design for the creature, Dan O’Bannon’s refined script, and their combined vision with Scott’s, which creates a provocative intergalactic nightmare that taps into still-taboo subjects and delivers a powerhouse story of class and gender divides, corporate cruelty, and ultimately, survival. – Haleigh Foutch

All About My Mother (1999)


Image via Sony Pictures Classics

Writer/Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Cast: Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Penelope Cruz, Antonia San Juan

Why It’s Essential: You could arguably label Pedro Almodóvar as the finest filmmaker to come out of Spain, but the thesis behind his most decorated film, All About My Mother, might dispute the idea of labels in the first place. Winner of [deep breath] the 1999 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language, Best Direction and six Goya Awards, All About My Mother is, in every way, a film about identity. From the story to the performances to the characters to the color schemes, Almodóvar weaves his way through what makes someone who they are and the millions of beautiful contradictions that come with a personality. Our way in is through Manuela (Cecilia Roth), an Argentine nurse whose son Esteban (Eloy Azarin) is struck and killed by a car while chasing down a famous actress (Marisa Paredes) for an autograph. In the wake of this tragedy, Manuela resolves to track down Esteban’s estranged father—a transgender woman named Lola (Toni Canto)—an odyssey that leads Manuela into the orbits of an old friend working as a sex worker (Antonia San Juan) and a pregnant nun suffering from HIV (Penelope Cruz). Almodóvar cares so deeply for all these flawed, multilayered people, and that warmth spreads to the entire film, to the point where you’re not sure how to react. It’s obviously a deeply melancholic tragedy, but it’s just as often funny, rife with references to A Streetcar Named Desire and All About Eve, and boasting a set design filled with the gorgeously bright reds and yellows of a party. And it all ends with the perfect dedication: “To all actresses who have played actresses, to all women who act, to men who act and become women, to all people who want to become mothers. To my mother.” – Vinnie Mancuso

All That Jazz (1979)


Image via 20th Century Fox

Director: Bob Fosse

Writers: Bob Fosse and Robert Alan Aurthur

Cast: Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Leland Palmer, and Ann Reinking

Why It’s Essential: Not just one of the best musicals ever made, All That Jazz is also one of the most groundbreaking autobiographical films in history. Legendary choreographer, director, and dancer Bob Fosse turns the camera inward as he tells the story of Joe Gideon, a theater director and choreographer who’s juggling the staging of his latest Broadway musical, the editing of a movie he just directed, and his relationship with his girlfriend, ex-wife and daughter. It’s a thinly veiled confessional, as Gideon is overworked, cantankerous, and on the brink of death, and the musical numbers are told entirely from his point of view.

Indeed, the musical sequences are exaggerated reflections of Joe’s inner turmoil, and the way in which Fosse transitions from dramatic scene to musical number drives home that singular point of view. But the film also inflates Joe’s ego—and by extension Fosse’s—building to a rousing, existential climax that features one of the most iconic and emotional musical sequences ever put to screen. – Adam Chitwood

Amadeus (1984)


Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Milos Forman

Writer: Peter Shaffer

Cast: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, and Elizabeth Berridge

Why It’s Essential: Peter Shaffer’s original stage play is an ingenious way to tell the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) while actually telling the story of Antonio Saleri’s (F. Murray Abraham) jealousy and envy. But Milos Forman made it cinematic and breathtaking by never making the action feel staged or claustrophobic. Instead, Forman relishes the lush palace intrigue and gorgeous settings to not only emphasize the stakes, but also show Mozart as an abrasive outsider, someone who doesn’t really play by the rules that Saleri has lived his life by.

There’s really no excuse for any biopic to be as staid and predictable when Forman showed a unique approach to a person’s life over thirty years ago. If you’re looking for a “faithful” recessitation of Mozart’s life, you won’t find it here. Instead, you’ll find a much richer story about professional jealousy and knowing your limitations when meeting greatness. Amadeus is really the story two tragedies: the tragedy of Mozart, who died young and was betrayed by his friend, and Saleri, who was confronted by his lack of genius. – Matt Goldberg

The Apartment (1960)


Image via United Artists

Director/Writer: Billy Wilder

Cast: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, and Jack Kruschen

Why It’s Essential: Just one year after he made one of the greatest farces ever with Some Like It Hot, filmmaker Billy Wilder created one of the best romantic comedies ever made: The Apartment. The 1960 masterpiece stars Jack Lemmon as an insurance clerk named Bud who enmeshes himself with the higher-ups at his company by allowing them to use his apartment for their extramarital affairs. He subsequently falls in love with his work building’s elevator operator Fran (Shirley MacLaine), who it turns out is having an affair with his boss—in his apartment no less.

The Apartment was pretty ambitious for the period during which it was made. The film’s subject matter covers extramarital sexual liaisons and suicide, and the skill with which Wilder vacillates between comedy and drama is marvelous. In that way it would prove influential to other comedy/dramas to come, as Wilder showed a comedy could also confront issues that human beings face in the real world. This dimensionality makes Bud and Fran all the more relatable, and Lemmon and MacLaine deliver a pair of all-timer performances as the iconic duo. – Adam Chitwood

Apocalypse Now (1979)


Image via United Artists

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Writer: John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola

Cast: Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Dennis Hopper, and Robert Duvall

Why It’s Essential: There are plenty of movies that deal with the psychological toll of the Vietnam War, but none are as surreal and unhinged as Apocalypse Now, a movie that almost killed its director as recounted in the excellent documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse. Based on the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness, the story follows Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) who has been tasked with finding and killing the AWOL Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando).

There are movies that go more to the facts of the Vietnam War (Platoon, based on the experiences of director Oliver Stone) or the difficulty in returning home from that war (Coming Home, Born on the Fourth of July, The Deer Hunter), but Apocalypse Now hits at something far more psychological and ineffable. It’s one thing to say that “war is hell”, but for Coppola and Apocalypse Now, war shatters the mind and the spirit, creating some unholy abomination that can’t be easily explained or recreated. – Matt Goldberg

The Avengers (2012)


Image via Marvel Studios

Director/Writer: Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Renner, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, and Samuel L. Jackson

Why It’s Essential: The Avengers is technically just a big superhero movie in which a team of heroes battle a formidable foe attacking New York City, but it’s the larger implications of the film that make it an essential piece of film history—especially for the 21st century. The film marked a culmination event for Marvel Studios, which began making its own superhero movies with 2008’s Iron Man, and after that started to thread standalone films together with cameos and recurring characters, much like a TV series (or, obviously, a comic book). After the films Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor, the idea was to team up the individual heroes in a “team movie” called The Avengers. There were naysayers who thought it wouldn’t work, who assumed that people who hadn’t seen Thor or Captain America or Iron Man 2 would skip The Avengers because they weren’t “caught up.” They were wrong.

The Avengers broke the box office record for opening weekend and went on to gross $1.5 billion worldwide. Moreover, the individual films after The Avengers were more successful than their predecessors, and as Marvel Studios kept building out and moving towards additional “team” movies, the success rate—both at the box office and with critics—just keep improving.

The Avengers quite literally changed how movies were made, as other major studios looked at this Marvel Cinematic Universe model and attempted to recreate its success. It was easier said than done, as Warner Bros.’ DC version eventually stalled out with 2017’s Justice League and led to a reworking of their approach, and Universal Pictures’ “Dark Universe” of monster movies was one-and-done with 2017’s The Mummy. Regardless of the film’s quality (It’s good! But it’s not one of the best movies ever made), The Avengers has solidified its place in film history as an important marker for moviemaking in the 2010s. – Adam Chitwood

Back to the Future (1985)


Image via Universal Pictures

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writers: Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale

Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover

Why It’s Essential: Until scientists actually figure out a way to travel through time, Back to the Future will have to suffice. It’s obviously not the first movie to deal with time travel, but it’s one of the few feature comedies to do so and do it with style. The DeLorean, more iconic as a movie vehicle than its real-world counterpart, makes for a more impressive time-travel conveyance than H.G. Wells’ titular time machine ever did (yes, even in Time After Time), and the film’s attempts to establish the basics of time travel through grounded “science” lends a practical, realistic feel that’s absent from flicks like Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits. Back to the Future made time travel feel contemporary, immediate, and possible, even as we watched a souped-up sports car powered by plutonium rocket through a shopping mall parking lot and disappear into the not-so-distant past.

Back to the Future has an absolutely wacky premise that really helps to put the antics of Rick and Morty into perspective. Basically, eccentric scientists Dr. Emmett Brown recruits high-schooler Marty McFly to meet him at the mall parking lot, which is totally normal, as is the fact that Brown stole plutonium from Libyan terrorists (also in the parking lot) who shoot him, forcing Marty to travel to the past in order to change Doc’s fate. The problem is that Marty is now stuck in 1955 with no plutonium and no way to get … back to the future.

While the film may be 100% wish fulfillment from beginning to end, where Marty saves the day after nearly making out with his mother but getting to bring some ‘80s-era rock ‘n’ roll to the stuffy ‘50s, it’s still as entertaining as hell. Zemeckis made his mark as a cutting-edge special effects wiz and pioneer of the next great tech here, continuing a career that’s brought audiences and filmmakers alike some astounding achievements. But it’s Back to the Future’s crowd-pleasing antics, wonderfully absurd pseudo-science, and compelling sci-fi aesthetic that made it a blockbuster feature, a franchise-starter, and a pop culture icon. – Dave Trumbore

Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Director: Sergei M. Eisenstein

Writer: Nina Agadzhanova

Cast: Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barskiy, and Grigoriy Aleksandrov

Why It’s Essential: Do you like editing and montage? These pillars of cinema owe a debt to Eisenstein and his 1925 propaganda film Battleship Potemkin. The story is based on the revolt on the Battleship Potemkin where soldiers revolted against their officers who expected the men to eat spoiled food. This act of rebellion reverberates to the people who start fighting back against the government forces and sacrifice their lives at the hands of their cruel masters.

Make no mistake: Battleship Potemkin is unabashed socialist propaganda, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t advance the entire artform of cinema. Eisenstein pioneered the kind of narrative devices and editing techniques we take for granted today, and basically made one of the first action movies of all time. These kind of techniques are so essential and relevant that Brian De Palma pretty much wholesale lifted the Odessa Steps sequence for The Untouchables, and if you’re going to steal, steal from one of the most important movies of all time. – Matt Goldberg

A Better Tomorrow (1986)


Image via Cinema City & Films Co.

Director: John Woo

Writers: John Woo, Chan Hing-kai, Leung Suk-wah

Cast: Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung, Chow Yun-fat

Why It’s Essential: The film that cemented the creative partnership between director John Woo and leading man Chow Yun-fat is so influential—and so influentially violent—it left bloody bullet hole in both Chinese cinema and Hollywood. Crashing onto a Hong Kong scene that was mostly made up of cartoonish martial arts movies at the time, A Better Tomorrow was a gritty gangster flick infused with Woo’s trademark style, filled with over-the-top bloodshed and double-fisted gunplay that the director filmed with all the grace of a choreographed dance. Ti Lung leads the show as Sung Tse-Ho, a former Triad member forced to decide between living a clean life like his police officer brother (Leslie Cheung) or teaming up with former criminal colleague Mark Lee—Yun-fat, playing a character so freaking cool he successfully rocks a trench coat—to take down the fools who once betrayed them. Bursting with genuine emotion and dramatic stakes, yes, A Better Tomorrow also—to use a technical term of film critique—whips a ton of ass. Woo’s electrifying brand of blood-letting not only led directly to a Hong Kong movie rating system, it also spawned the “Heroic Bloodshed” genre, a style of film that emphasized gun-fu, gangsters, and brotherhood. (But also shooting two guns at the same time.) That influence soon trekked on over to Hollywood, not only with Woo-directed films like Hard Target and Face/Off, but the Wachowski’s conspicuously trench coat-filled Matrix trilogy, most of the nine films from Quentin Tarantino, and the Keanu Reeves-led John Wick movies. – Vinnie Mancuso

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

Image via Epoch Producing Co.

Director: D.W. Griffith

Writers: Thomas Dixon Jr., D.W. Griffith, Frank E. Woods

Cast: Henry B. Walthall and Lillian Gish

Why It’s Essential: Let’s be absolutely clear: the plot and message of Birth of a Nation is absolutely loathesome. It’s a three-hour silent film whose narrative can only be described as incredibly racist as it speaks to white fears of black power and that the only way to put black people (all portrayed here as white people in blackface) “in their place” is through terrorism. It’s a film you only want to watch once.

But if you care about how cinema developed and its storytelling techniques, you do have to endure this wretched movie. D.W. Griffith basically made the first blockbuster with Birth of a Nation, and because he did his job so well, it shows that while cinema has the power to inspire, it also has the power to corrupt. We have to respect art because of this power and that there’s really no such thing as “pure entertainment” because while white audiences surely found Birth of a Nation entertaining when they saw it in 1915, they also had no problem with a movie that upheld the Ku Klux Klan as American heroes. The historical contributions to cinema from Birth of a Nation are undeniable, but we also have to balance that against the evil of its story. – Matt Goldberg

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Mel Brooks

Writers: Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor, Norman Steinberg, Al Uger, Andrew Bergman

Cast: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Slim Pickens

Why It’s Essential: If you smudge Blazing Saddles from cinematic history you are quite literally erasing one of the most cherished staples in comedy history: the fart joke. Yes, friends, Blazing Saddles deserves its place in the pantheon strictly for being the first to feature recorded on-screen flatulence. Trail-Blazing, indeed. There’s also, right, the fact that it’s master of the joke-a-minute parody Mel Brooks operating at the absolute peak of his powers, crafting a Western that manages to pack a wagon train’s worth of gags right next to some truly biting commentary on race and the ten gallon morons who misunderstand it. It’s 1874, and corrupt State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) appoints a railroad worker named Bart (Cleavon Little) sheriff of Rock Ridge, knowing the locals won’t take too kindly to a black man keeping the peace. Undeterred by a barrage of slurs from all sides, Bart becomes Lamarr’s worst enemy with the help of boozed-up gunslinger Jim “The Waco Kid” (Gene Wilder). Both freewheeling and fearless, Blazing Saddles is so loaded with double entendres, anachronisms, and trademark Brooksian fourth wall-breaking, it’s easy to miss just how mad this move is at the racism that permeated Westerns and still hovers over the movie industry today. (The action literally spills out into the Warner Bros. backlot and all over Hollywood Blvd at one point.) It’s no surprise at all that Richard Pryor had such a strong hand in the script. The fierceness of his comedy combined with Brooks’ glee at poking a subject in its eye result in one of the sharpest satires of all time.

Plus, like, the scene with the farts is really funny. Great films contain multitudes. – Vinnie Mancuso

Blowup (1966)

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Writers: Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, and Edward Bond

Cast: David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, and Sarah Miles

Why It’s Essential: Part of the reason we don’t have a Production Code (a self-censorship set of rules run by that prevented explicit content from reaching cinemas so that outside forces wouldn’t censor Hollywood) anymore is because of Blowup. Antonioni’s movie is explicitly violent, sexual, and includes drug use, which may not seem like a big deal today, but it wasn’t exactly commonplace when the film was released in 1966.

But the reason the film endures, not just because of how it upended the Production Code, but also because of what it means to the concept of the male gaze, and the power of it has over its subjects. The protagonist is Thomas (David Hemmings), who unintentionally witnesses a murder while taking a photo of two lovers. Blowup examines the intrusiveness of the camera, and the power of the Observer effect in which the mere act of observing an act changes that act. It’s a film that revels in its ambiguity and openness to interpretation, and while some may find such ambiguity frustrating, Blowup can certainly stimulate an intellectual itch. – Matt Goldberg

Blue Velvet (1986)


Image via Criterion

Writer/Director: David Lynch

Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rossellini

Why It’s Essential: Choosing David Lynch’s “most accessible movie” is like picking the most flammable part of the Atlantic Ocean, but the filmmaker’s surreal 1984 mystery Blue Velvet acts as the perfect introductory course in all things Lynchian for anyone looking to to take that wild ride. Nearly a decade removed from his art-film nightmare Eraserhead, just after the box office mega-bomb that was the Dune adaptation, and just a few years away from drastically changing network television with Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet is Lynch at his most beautifully mystifying. Part coming-of-age tale, part voyeuristic look into a small town’s perverse underbelly, the film stars constant Lynch companion Kyle MacLachlan as a fresh-faced college student named Jeffrey who discovers a severed ear in a field, leading him and a police detective’s daughter named Sandy (Laura Dern) down a rabbit hole and into the orbit of abused lounge singer Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini) and the monstrous gangster Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). Like all of Lynch’s work, that surface story is just there to draw unexplainable emotions out of his audience. Blue Velvet plays like someone dreaming a classic neo-noir story; you’re drawn into and eventually repulsed by Jeffrey’s descent into this mad underworld, even when it feels like you’re being tugged down with him. The two biggest benefactors of Lynch’s style are Rossellini and Hopper, who both enjoyed something of a revitalization thanks to Blue Velvet. Rossellini gives every ounce of energy she has to to the tragic, desperate figure of Dorothy, while Frank Booth remains one of the most horrifically comic creations in all of movie history. Whether or not David Lynch is for you, I can guarantee you will never erase from your head the sound of Dennis Hopper screaming “Baby wants to fuck!” – Vinnie Mancuso

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)


Image via Universal

Director: James Whale

Writer: William Hurlbut

Cast: Elsa Lanchester, Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Ernest Thesiger

Why It’s Essential: If anyone ever brings up the topic of the best sequels of all time without mentioning Bride of Frankenstein, it is they who are the true monster. Dracula and Frankenstein might have jumpstarted Universal Studios’ era of creature feature talkies, but it’s director James Whale’s follow-up to the latter that stands as the classic monster-verse’s crown jewel. Tasked with creating a suitable sequel to the Boris Karloff-starring Frankenstein, Whale and screenwriter William Hurlbut borrowed a plot from Mary Shelley’s source novel and built the monster a mate. The result was one of the most enduring bits of iconography in all of horror history, the tall-haired, white-striped visage of The Bride, etched in history forever thanks to—and this is always a surprise for first-timers—just over five minutes of screentime. So what makes the Bride such a force? There’s the fierce, unforgettable embodiment by Elsa Lanchester—who also plays Shelley herself in a prologue—the creature design, the prosthetics, the immediate recognition that marrying a monster man is a trash decision. Like these beasties themselves, it’s an amalgam of parts put together and jolted with lightning to create something undeniably alive, in this case one of, if not the best monster movie ever made. – Vinnie Mancuso

Brokeback Mountain (2005)


Image via Focus Features

Director: Ang Lee

Writer: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana

Cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway

Why It’s Essential: Like so many groundbreaking films for their time, it’s hard to imagine just how transgressive Brokeback Mountain was in the context of today’s culture, but Ang Lee’s sublime, tragic romance was a pivotal stepping stone in bringing queer cinema to the mainstream. To the point that the filmmakers answered queries about the central love story being “disgusting” after its premiere. With an acclaimed filmmaker like Lee at the helm and former teen-dream movie stars like Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, and Anne Hathaway in the lead, Brokeback Mountain held a cultural cache as one of the first LBGTQ films to hold major sway on the awards circuit – even if it lost Best Picture in one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history.

But the film’s impact wasn’t thanks to its prestige, it was because Brokeback Mountain is a gorgeous, melancholic love story about two fascinating characters, told with Lee’s elegant eye for detail and talent for stories of tremendous empathy. Based on the short story by Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain is the story of Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Ledger), two otherwise good, old-fashioned country boys who happen to fall in love with each other. Lee charts their passion and repression – and the fallout from both – with a mix of tenderness and cruelty, and the result is as captivating as it is devastating. The film was added to the US National Film Registry in the Library of Congress in 2018, cementing its legacy as a formative work. Who needs a Best Picture statue, anyway? – Haleigh Foutch

‘Five Nights at Freddy’s Movie: Jason Blum Reveals Chris Columbus Is No Longer Directing, but the Film Is Still Happening

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5 essential films with iconic French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo to watch Mon, 06 Sep 2021 19:58:50 +0000 French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo in ‘Ace of Aces’ (1982). (Photo credit: Mondadori via Getty Images) Mondadori via Getty Images French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo has died today at the age of 88. An icon, affectionately known as Bebel in his native country, Belmondo is one of the most beloved and charismatic actors in French cinema. The […]]]>

French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo has died today at the age of 88.

An icon, affectionately known as Bebel in his native country, Belmondo is one of the most beloved and charismatic actors in French cinema. The French New Wave propelled him to fame and several other iconic roles with some of the greatest directors, becoming France’s biggest box office star.

Born on April 9, 1933 to artist parents, the famous sculptor Paul Belmondo and the painter Madeleine Rainaud-Richard, Jean-Paul Belmondo trained as an actor at the prestigious National Conservatory of Dramatic Art. During his 60-year career, Belmondo starred in more than 80 films, starting with the French New Wave, he turned in the 1970s to comedy and action films and made a name for himself for its impressive cinematic stunts. With such an impressive filmography, it’s hard to choose just five films. But if you were only going to watch five movies he’s starred in, these are the ones I’d pick to start with.

Breathless (Breathless)

Jean-Paul Belmondo is best known internationally for his first major leading role. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, À Breathless saw Jean-Paul Belmondo play as Michel Poiccard, a young delinquent hidden from the police in Paris where he meets the beautiful American Patricia, played by Jean Seberg, walking the Champs-Elysées to sell copies of the New York Herald Tribune. The iconic Godard film, revolutionary in style, propelled Belmondo to fame, thus becoming internationally known. Belmondo will star in three other films directed by Godard. Breathless is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video and to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Léon Morin, priest

With the success of Breathless, Belmondo played in seven films before taking the helm of Jean-Pierre Melville’s film Léon Morin, priest in 1961, based on a novel by Béatrix Beck. His role as an attractive young priest in Melville’s film is completely different from that of Michel Poiccard in Breathless. The film tells the story of a young widow, played by Emmanuel Riva, who decides to have her daughter baptized during the Nazi occupation. She meets local priest Léon Morin, and they both find themselves confronted with their own religious faith as well as their own repressed sexual desires. Belmondo’s performance here is both subtle and sensual, masterfully directed by Melville. Léon Morin, priest is on KinoNow.

The Doulos

A year later, in 1962, Belmondo starred in Melville’s upcoming noir crime film, The Doulos. Belmondo plays the gangster Silien, who helps his friend fresh out of prison Maurice Faugel, played by Serge Reggiani, to prepare for another heist. Silien, however, is a police informant. The Doulos full of traditional black themes and gangsters wearing trench coats and hats. This French black is available for rent on Amazon Prime Video.

Pierrot le fou

Pierrot le fouBelmondo’s most cult streak sees Belmondo co-star Anna Karenina bored and moaning that she doesn’t know what to do with herself (“I don’t know what to do”) until Belmondo tell him to shut up. Belmondo plays Ferdinand, a father who runs away with the baby-sitter, Marianne, played by Anna Karenina. The pseudo-romance quickly turns into a road movie filled with cliché French expressions and literary quotes. This was Belmondo’s third collaboration with Jean-Luc Godard, after Breathless and his musical A woman is a woman (A woman is a woman). At the time that Belmondo starred in Pierrot le fou in 1965, he was already considered a big star in France. Pierrot le fou is on Apple TV and Prime Video.

Fear Over the City (aka The Night Caller)

In Fear over the city, directed by Henri Verneuil, Belmondo plays the policeman Jean Letellier tracking down a serial killer. The film is best known for the scene in which Belmondo runs after the serial killer on top of the moving metro as he crosses the Bir-Hakeim bridge in Paris. It’s an incredible stunt sequence, which Belmondo did all himself. Fear Over the City is emblematic of the genre of films in which Belmondo starred and produced in the 1970s and 1980s. He then had a predilection for action films, in which he himself directed the stunts, as in The Guignolo who saw him hanging from a helicopter over Venice; or in The Animal where Belmondo stood on top of a moving plane; or in the cult car chase sequence with the Eiffel Tower in the background in the professional which is available for rental on Prime Video.

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Essential High School Movies You Must See Fri, 03 Sep 2021 07:00:00 +0000 Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg began to describe the story of “Superbad” when they were themselves in high school, and when the film finally screened, its crazy drifts shocked audiences. “Superbad” captures the 21st century high school experience and the superficial desires of teenagers in hilarious and precise detail, but despite its scorching character, the […]]]>

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg began to describe the story of “Superbad” when they were themselves in high school, and when the film finally screened, its crazy drifts shocked audiences. “Superbad” captures the 21st century high school experience and the superficial desires of teenagers in hilarious and precise detail, but despite its scorching character, the story is truly heartfelt. It is ultimately about two friends who do not want to leave.

Best friends Evan (Michael Cera) and Seth (Jonah Hill) spend almost every moment together, but they are expected to attend different universities after graduation. Trying to make the most of the last days of their senior year, the boys see an opportunity to find love at an upcoming party. Evan has a longtime crush on Becca (Martha MacIsaac) and, after a surprising schoolwork assignment, Seth falls in love with the popular girl, Jules (Emma Stone). The couple decide the only way to stand out is to get some booze for the party, so the boys enlist their friend Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to get a fake ID, which accidentally reads “McLovin” .

“Superbad” gets even more wacky as Fogell is caught under the wing of two eccentric cops, Slater (Bill Hader) and Michaels (Rogen). However, “Superbad” never forgets its underlying emotion, and Evan and Seth’s last conversation is quite touching.

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Ten essential films from ten years ago Tue, 01 Jun 2021 07:00:00 +0000 Tom Jolliffe goes back 10 years in 2011, offering up to ten must-see films of the year … I am almost stunned that we are now 10 years from 2011. For me 2011 is the future. I’m still stuck somewhere in 2004. How on earth are 21 year olds born in this century now? Yet […]]]>

Tom Jolliffe goes back 10 years in 2011, offering up to ten must-see films of the year …

I am almost stunned that we are now 10 years from 2011. For me 2011 is the future. I’m still stuck somewhere in 2004. How on earth are 21 year olds born in this century now? Yet here we are. Let’s not be overly optimistic about the future prospects of film offerings. Might as well look back instead. 2011 has been a pretty solid film year, with some real cult favorites dotted around. Here are 10 must-see movies from that year.



Let’s start with a movie that may have escaped your radar. Stellar actor Paddy Considine has grown into a stellar filmmaker, writing and directing this story of a bitter man struggling with his vices and uncontrollable anger. Outside of a small audience in the UK, it didn’t really get the attention it deserved. Peter Mullan has proven once again how a totally underrated actor he is with an amazing performance and Olivia Colman is also superb here. She has stepped into the kind of star she more deserves than in the years since, and is now (rightfully) an Oscar-winning actress. Tyrannosaurus is a grim but compelling vision.

To protect


Another film that has slipped somewhat under the radar. To protect is an exciting character play that sees Michael Shannon give a better career performance as a blue collar family man who becomes obsessed with a premonition he has about an apocalyptic event. His obsession quickly interferes with work and family life, and finds him at odds with the community as well. The film drew public attention to writer / director Jeff Nichol and the film received critical acclaim, although it failed to find a large following. It’s a wonderful movie.

Silver ball

Silver ball-2-600x392

Brad Pitt as a baseball coach who develops a revolutionary statistics-based screening method. It either sounds like the wet dreams of fantasy baseball league fans, or it sounds like a cinematic death song to the rest of us. It turns out that fans of the fantasy league are right. Silver ball has been unfairly dismissed in some corners as populist guts, but it’s a compelling, true story that makes the subject matter entertaining. Pitt is as effortlessly charismatic as one might expect, but the big surprise here was Jonah Hill, stepping away from stoner comedies and delivering a performance that shattered any preconceptions about his limits. Without lacking in snobbery, some rejected his six Oscar nominations (including a surprise but welcome nod to Hill and one to Pitt), but the success of awards season was justified.

Tinker Tailor Spy Soldier


Based on the novel by the late John Le Carré, this classic Cold War era story gets a perfect film adaptation (which is also worthy of the excellent British TV miniseries). Gary Oldman leads a star cast in a film excellently directed by Tomas Alfredson (Leave the one on the right in). It’s a slow-burning, old-fashioned thriller that’s constantly intriguing. Bridget O’Conner and Peter Straughan do an exceptional job adapting classic source material. Despite praise from critics, it didn’t hit everyone, due to the sluggishness that manifested itself especially around 2011 against a growing increase in relentless movies aimed at reducing attention span.



Here is a curved ball. It was pretty underrated for me. He was often rejected like Liam Neeson did Taken with wolves. In reality, the film feels a lot more like a mixture of literal and allegorical battle with the heartache of the loss. It is mere vanity but a brutally effective fight for survival in extreme conditions against a fierce animal foe. A pack of wolves eliminates one by one the survivors of a plane crash in almost uninhabitable snow conditions. The set and the enemy make for a gripping film, but Neeson’s performance (as an almost desperate hunter who finds his will to survive) is superimposed on the actors’ new heartbreak in a film that was made shortly after having lost his wife Natasha Richardson in a tragic accident.



This almost instantaneous cult hit became that year the film “have you seen…” among cinephiles. An ultra-sleek neo-noir about a stoic moonlighting stuntman as a runaway chauffeur who owed a lot to Michael Mann. Nic Winding Refn had cult fans of his Pusher series and Bronson in particular, but Drive really drew attention to him. It was, and still is, his most accessible “mainstream” film, and as such, its sequels have tended to alienate as much as they have certainly won over. Additionally, Ryan Gosling saw his popularity increase dramatically, especially with male audiences, when he suddenly became Hollywood’s coolest mofo. A superb soundtrack, stunning visuals and a sensational cast (including Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman) combine for a film that remains one of the best of the past decade.

Killer Joe

Another neo-noir. It also marked one of two key year films for Matthew McConaughey. It was really the start of the McConaussance. After spending many years in mediocre romantic comedies, which normally had him leaning askew on the poster (sometimes back to back with the female lead), he took a decisive turn and started making darker cinema. , more mature and stimulating. There was the Lincoln Lawyer also but Killer Joe was nicer for me (Mud, by Jeff Nichols came the following year). A dark story of deception and attempted murder as an indebted double criminal (Emile Hirsch) finds himself embroiled in a cop / hitman whose reputation precedes him. McConnaughey revel in his enigmatic and villainous role. He is sublime and the rest of the cast too. It’s also a great comeback for one of the masters of cinema, William Friedkin. He hasn’t been able to match her since.

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Duncan Jones made a great debut in Moon, with another beautifully contained and engaging sci-fi thriller. Here Jake Gyllanhaal does groundhog day with a twist, having to repeat the same last moments before an explosion wipes out a train full of passengers. It’s up to him to find the bomber and prevent it from striking again. It’s complex, winding and well designed. Gyllenhaal is huge and the nature of his role and the simulation are tragic. The fate of those in the simulation is inevitable as they fight for the future of the next potential victims of the bomber. To the surprise of many, this was entirely ignored by the Major Awards.



Family drama meets MMA brawl. Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy), an ex-marine, haunted by his past, returns home, setting his sights on MMA glory, enlisting his father (Nick Nolte) to train him. Meanwhile, once a promising fighter-turned-teacher Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton), the estranged older brother makes a return to low-level fighting to make ends meet. A meeting of brothers in the ring is inevitable. warrior is brilliant, anchored by outstanding performances from Hardy, Edgerton and Nolte (particularly brilliant). It’s exhausting, captivating and the fights are exceptionally well done too. I found this one more exciting than The fighter, which covered similar caveats (in this realistic tale with Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg from 2010).



Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender recombined after their star flick Hunger (2008) with Shame. Fass plays a sex addict whose hedonistic activities are disrupted by the arrival of his rebellious sister (Carey Mulligan). As we now expect and appreciate, McQueen is uncompromising in his austere character study and likewise, Fassbender is fully committed to his complex role. Mulligan is also exceptional. It’s a mind-boggling movie that won’t suit all tastes given its flawless take on a sort of addiction not often covered in the movies (realistically anyway). It’s a perfect cohesion between the director and the cast.

SEE ALSO: Back to 2001: ten essential films from twenty years ago

What are your favorite movies of 2011. Let us know on our social media @ flickeringmyth…

Tom Jolliffe is an award-winning screenwriter and avid film buff. It has a number of films on DVD / VOD around the world and several releases in 2021, including Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Ian Ogilvy and Billy Murray), Crackdown, When Darkness Falls and The War. of Worlds: The Attack (Vincent Regan). Find more information on the best personal site you have ever seen …

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Jack Nicholson: 25 Essential Movies Thu, 22 Apr 2021 07:00:00 +0000 There is the smile, which always seems to announce that an entire alley of cats has just lapped the cream of a dairy. There are the eyebrows, able to wiggle and arch towards the sky in one leap. There are the sunglasses – the better to hide what he’s thinking, or maybe what he’s been […]]]>

There is the smile, which always seems to announce that an entire alley of cats has just lapped the cream of a dairy. There are the eyebrows, able to wiggle and arch towards the sky in one leap. There are the sunglasses – the better to hide what he’s thinking, or maybe what he’s been drinking, my dear. There’s that nasal twang, which can suggest that a come-on or a sarcastic comeback is on the bridge, or if you’re unlucky, that a rage attack is brewing. There is the reputation, which precedes him and concerns his love of good times. And then there’s that presence that he brings with him, whether it’s on the court of a Lakers game or front row at the Oscars, an aura of composure that hints that, yes, you have it. Seen in a million movies and at a million awards ceremonies, but really: you don’t know Jack.

Jack Nicholson has become an integral part of the Hollywood firmament – a link to the shaggy 60s, the age of 70s antiheroes, and the old-fashioned notion of 1980s movie fame – that it’s easy to forget he’s not just a celebrity. The man is above all an actor, one of the most talented and memorable film performers to have graced the screens for five decades. And although Nicholson, who turns 84 today, has long retired from acting, he has left behind a legacy of rebels, scum, angry young (and old), saints, sinners, pranksters, artists, authority figures, killers and saviors. To celebrate his career, we’re shining the spotlight on 25 of his greatest performances, from memorable cameos to Oscar-winning roles. Here is Jacques!

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