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The 60 Best Movies on HBO Go and HBO Now (2016)

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The 60 Best Movies on HBO Go and HBO Now (2016)

Just as Netflix has been emulating HBO, commissioning fantastic original series with top-level talent, HBO has quietly become more like Netflix, amassing a movie catalog that’s beginning to rival its streaming competitors. Instead of cycling out its best films each month, the HBO Go and HBO Now library has both expanded and stabilized. The vast majority of the films listed here will still be available next month and the month after that. With an enormous selection of documentaries, classic films like The Godfather, several Woody Allen gems, recent Oscar winners and contenders, and broader comedies and action flicks, HBO is no longer relying on its original series to get you to subscribe. So we’ve expanded our list from the regular 25 to the 60 best movies on HBO Go and HBO Now for 2016:

50-year-argument.jpg 60. The 50 Year Argument
Year: 2014
Director: Martin Scorsese, David Tedeschi
Robert Silvers is an audacious man. It took a certain kind of boldness to start a competitor to The New York Times book-review section in 1963. And to ask Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, Susan Sontag, Robert Penn Warren, William Styron, Alfred Kazin, Robert Lowell and W.H. Auden to write reviews for that issue. And, 50 years later, when the idea of a documentary on The New York Book Review arises, to ask Martin Scorsese to direct it. Audacity has its merits. For The 50 Year Argument, the challenge was capturing both the process of creating an issue and the enormity of what the paper has accomplished over time into a two-hour film. Joan Didion is just one of the countless writers whose special relationship with the paper gets told in the film, which covers Mary McCarthy’s early anti-war opinions stemming from her travels in Saigon, Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer’s battle over feminism, Michael Greenberg capturing the Occupy Wall Street movement, and Darryl Pickney recalling the impact of James Baldwin on his own life.—Josh Jackson

american-sniper.jpg 59. American Siper
Year: 2015
Director: Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood’s latest portrait of a man of violence unfolds with an immediacy that the octogenarian multi-hyphenate rarely musters anymore. In place of the solemn air that suffused every minute of the recent reflective likes of Gran Torino and J. Edgar, we’re immediately immersed in the perilous milieu that is an urban war zone. On a rooftop in Fallujah, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper)—a newly initiated Navy SEAL sniper—peers through his rifle’s sites at the rubble-littered, Marine-patrolled street below. When a potential threat presents itself in the form of two unlikely assailants, it likewise seems to represent one of those “impossible decisions” that typically gives a protagonist pause and instigates some no-holds-barred wrestling with doubts. However, Kyle barely hesitates, taking dead aim and firing two fatal shots that dispatch the danger with remarkable efficiency. And while these particular scalps may not be what he envisioned claiming when he signed on, they do set the standard for the years of decorated service that see the taciturn Texan amass another 158 confirmed kills over four tours of duty. It’s an impressive body count that would earn the real-life Kyle the title of “most lethal sniper in U.S. military history” Lacking The Hurt Locker’s journalistic impulses, American Sniper assumes the form of a firefight-punctuated character study that once again allows Eastwood to investigate the toll killing takes on a man. Consequently, the film dispenses with the distraction of A-listers serving as glorified extras and never lets Cooper out of its crosshairs.—Curtis Woloschuch

win-win.jpg 58. Win Win
Year: 2011
Director: Tom McCarthy
Films like Little Miss Sunshine and Win Win have often been referred to as dark comedies. But it’s a misnomer; they should just be called everyday, real-life, flawed-family comedies—you know, like what most of us have. Here, Paul Giamatti plays an attorney and high-school wrestling coach whose law practice, and his team, have hit on hard times. His solutions to both, however, lead to some unforeseen and complicated results. This is Giamatti at his best: a floundering underdog and a redeemable sinner. Amy Ryan (Holly in The Office) as the attorney’s skeptical spouse and newcomer Alex Shaffer are just part of a dynamite supporting cast.—Tim Basham

anina.jpg 57. Anina
Year: 2013
Director: Alfredo Soderguit
Uruguayan-Columbian director Alfredo Soderguit’s entrancing animated film concerns a girl who receives the strangest punishment ever doled out following a playground skirmish. Ten-year-old Anina Yatay Salas explains that she is a palindrome three times over, and as such a target of the schoolyard bullies who mock her name. Precocious Anina fights back, landing herself and her taunter in the office of the principal, who gives each party a wax-sealed envelope. Their assignment/punishment: Refrain from opening it for seven whole days, lest they suffer the homework to end all homework (or worse). The weeklong plight is curious and, as it turns out, provocative, so inclined are Anina and her classmate to 1. wonder about its contents and consequences, and 2. then consider scheming to open the other’s envelope in advance. Of course there are life lessons here, but AninA’s most profound delights are its stunning visuals, typified by characters drawn as Modigliani portrait-meets-Raggedy Ann doll-meets-Precious Moments figurine. It is, indeed, precious, though not at all cloying, surreal vignettes of wonder and imagination told through the little girl’s perspective. Drops of frying oil morph into a circus act, and stylistic departures convey shifts in time. The hand-drawn textures are beguiling, the characters charming, with Latin American traditions deepening the universal themes. Backwards and forwards, AninA is one-of-a-kind in its beauty.—Amanda Schurr

theory-everything.jpg 56. The Theory of Everything
Year: 2014
Director: James Marsh
In The Theory of Everything, English thesps Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones play out an arc made from the stuff of fairly boilerplate romantic comedy tropes. Only, Redmayne and Jones are portraying Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde, he one of the world’s greatest scientific minds, she his long suffering but deeply compassionate and empathetic wife. The Theory of Everything is the story of the life they lived together, from their first encounters in 1960s Cambridge, to their years spent enduring Hawking’s battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, to their current situation of amicable separation. The film so handsomely commemorates Hawking’s contributions to his field along the way that one could be forgiven for mistakenly assuming that the stage belongs to Redmayne alone, but he shares it quite happily with Jones. In point of fact, the picture accords them both richly deserved individual attention rather than focus foremost on its leading man. While The Theory of Everything is warily mushy, it’s earnest despite its formulaic trappings. Above all, it’s anchored by Redmayne’s and Jones’s outstanding performances as they recreate the many trials and tribulations the Hawkings endured throughout their marriage.—Andy Crump

book-of-life.jpg 55. The Book of Life
Year: 2014
Director: Jorge R. Gutierrez
As far as animated kid’s movies go, Jorge R. Gutierrez’ The Book of Life is wildly inventive and stunningly beautiful. There aren’t enough children’s movies about death, let alone ones that deal with it as positively as this one. Produced by Guillermo del Toro, Jorge Gutierrez and his team create a cinematic world with a totally unique look that has more in common with bizarro Saturday morning cartoons than you average modern animated feature. In the story within the story, the characters are all patterned on marionettes, articulated and made of wood, though still warm and more human than most pixelated creations. Combining incredible depth of field with a festive Mexican aesthetic, The Book of Life is a gorgeous, vivid, wholly unique mythological adventure that includes a heroic quest through the realms of the dead. Despite revolving around a formulaic love story and a climactic battle with a largely inconsequential villain, the film carves out a stunning visual niche and a fantastic world full of memorable characters that provides a different perspective than the typical animated feature.—Brent McKnight

behind-the-candelabra.jpg 54. Behind the Candelabra
Year: 2013
Director: Steven Soderbergh
At first blush, the main draw of Behind the Candelabra would seem to be its camp appeal: a true-life love story between a humble aspiring veterinarian and Liberace, that icon of kitsch and knowing excess. And while that element exists in director Steven Soderbergh’s film, what resonates more strongly is the difficulty in falling in love with someone famous. That person may love you back sincerely, but fame always gets in the way. That’s not a particularly revelatory idea, but Soderbergh and his cast at least find a lively way to say it one more time. A glitzy coming-of-age story told in hot tubs and Rolls Royces, Behind the Candelabra is not necessarily the sort of project you envision Soderbergh finishing his directing career making. But if it is his final movie, it’s worth noting that this is one of his warmest.—Tim Grierson

robocop.jpg 53. Robocop
Year: 1987
Director: Paul Verhoeven
That RoboCop is Paul Verhoeven’s greatest film (unless it’s Total Recall) is a statement of little debate. That it’s his “most Verhoeveny” is a statement of no debate: Like the best of his work, it’s highly kinetic, hard-hitting, deliriously entertaining but still has something to say at the same time. A film like RoboCop truly does work on multiple levels—some audience members will be perfectly pleased with its bone-crunching action, shocking gore and still-awesome practical effects, while others will derive additional enjoyment from its condemnation of greedy corporate culture and media, themes that have only become more apt over time. Additionally, Peter Weller’s performance as the title character has gone down in the history of the genre as one of sci-fi’s seminal heroes—why else would Detroit build a giant, bronze statue of the guy? RoboCop is, to this day, still the best “cyborg” movie ever made.—Jim Vorel

borat.jpg 52. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Year: 2006
Director: Larry Charles
It’s easy to overlook or underrate Borat in 2016, or Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, given the Sacha Baron Cohen movies that followed. The likes of Bruno and The Dictator managed to water down Cohen’s original statement, but his faux-documentary about an awkward Eurasian traveler remains kind of brilliant. It was a wide-release comedy that plainly and critically looked at an average American attitude of dismissiveness and outright xenophobia toward people we don’t understand, as well as a willingness to feign earnestness if they thought taking advantage of Borat might somehow benefit them. Borat might say things that are naive, but at least they’re sincere products of the character’s fictitious upbringing. Borat the character is no charlatan—the “real” people he meets in America, on the other hand, can’t make the same claim. One final aside: This film, along with Anchorman, is the loudest I’ve ever heard an audience laugh in a multiplex theater.—Jim Vorel

the-normal-heart.jpg 51. The Normal Heart
Year: 2014
Director: Ryan Murphy
Among HBO’s most prestigious—and star-studded—recent efforts is this 2014 adaptation of Larry Kramer’s seminal 1985 stage play about the earliest, darkest days of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City. It’s also among the most necessary. Kramer adapted the teleplay, directed by Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story), which casts a brilliant Mark Ruffalo as Kramer’s onscreen alter ego, a gay writer who consults with a local doctor (Julia Roberts) about this mysterious, fatal new “cancer” that’s devastating the community and his inner circle of friends (portrayed by Jonathan Groff, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, all excellent). Just as devastating is the ignorance and inhumanity shrouding what was then viewed as a death sentence and, worse, a deserved retribution. Some 35 years after the HIV/AIDS epidemic hit critical mass, and in light of a generational complacency accompanying new medical breakthroughs like PrEP, The Normal Heart is a timely reminder of the physical, emotional and psychological ravages of the disease. Murphy and co. revisit a not-too-far-away era of fear, in which the basic function of breathing the same air—let alone holding someone’s hand—was a gesture of dangerous courage, and compassion. Though it obviously plays much differently four decades vs. four years after Kramer’s original play, the relevance is undeniable, as is his still-coursing anger at the systemic and individual indifference to those affected. Murphy dials down his own flourishes for a harrowing document that needs to be seen.—Amanda Schurr

citizen-four.jpg 50. Citizenfour
Year: 2014
Director: Laura Poitras
Few documentaries have cameras rolling as history is being made. But director Laura Poitras found herself in the middle of momentous times while making Citizenfour, which takes us behind the scenes as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden works with (among others) journalist Glenn Greenwald to expose the organization’s systematic surveillance of everyday Americans. From the worried initial meetings in a Hong Kong hotel room to the later fallout across the globe, Citizenfour has the rush of a thriller, humanizing its subjects so that we see the uncertainty and anxiety coursing through them, along with the guts and indignation.—Tim Grierson

malcolm-x.jpg 49. Malcolm X
Year: 1992
Director: Spike Lee
“Ya been took! Ya been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Led astray! Run amok!” When director Spike Lee introduced us to Detroit Red, he reminded the world of a time in American history more readily forgotten by some than others. Based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Lee (in typical fashion, with a brilliant score and with the grand influence of French cinema throughout) brought us the story of a troubled boy who could have easily become any unknown black man in the ‘60s—who indeed, almost did, until he committed his life to Allah and The Nation of Islam. Denzel Washington perfectly, eerily embodied the role of the young Detroit Red who would become Malcolm X. As a team, Lee and Washington (along with Angela Bassett as Betty Shabazz) created the perfect biopic, where all that we assumed about an icon was troubled or complicated by this new translation of his life.—Shannon Houston

crash-reel-210.jpg 48. The Crash Reel
Year: 2013
Director: Lucy Walker
Walker’s favored extremity in The Crash Reel is snowboarding, which, as extreme sporting events go, appears rather mild—its traumas and injuries are thoroughly wince-inducing, but compared to, say, wingsuit diving, the mortality rate among its practitioners remains low. But Walker has seized upon snowboarding just as it approaches a newly hazardous precipice, and one of the remarkable things about The Crash Reel is how it chronicles the sport’s sudden drop off the other end. The catalyst, as the Cold War-like dramatics of the form dictate, is rivalry: Kevin Pearce and Shaun White, former friends and embittered adversaries, come to represent the film’s evenly matched hero and villain—Pearce the good-natured underdog on his way up, White the vainglorious champion whose years-long reign seems threatened. Of course, story, in a documentary, is nothing more than a pretense in thrall to the life from which it’s fashioned, and a filmmaker can only do so much to sculpt reality to her liking. But Walker has no need to anyway: here she’s happened upon a real-life conflict of almost inherently cinematic interest.—Calum Marsh

burn-after-reading.jpg 47. Burn After Reading
Year: 2008
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
This Coen Brothers favorite has an unsurprisingly incredible cast, but can we take a moment to give all of the awards and props to Frances McDormand? Her Linda Litzke is one of the strangest, most hilariously bizarre characters to ever appear in a film, and yet there’s something completely familiar about her. She’s pursuing her own version of the American dream, and the mess she leaves in her wake makes up the crux of this very black, very funny comedy. That she does so while all the other members of this ensemble do the same, and manage to entangle their own personal dramas with hers, makes this movie one of the most entertaining ways to spend an evening. Along with McDormand, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton and Richard Jenkins (who plays the tragically adorable Ted) all give fantastic turns —unrecognizable, in many ways, from their typical fare which makes the story all the more enthralling.—Shannon Houston

lego-movie.jpg 46. The LEGO Movie
Year: 2014
Director: Phil Lord
The two key components that keep this film fresh and delightful all the way through are the LEGO animation and the LEGO characters themselves. There are so many wonderful LEGO performances going on that some actually outshine the main storyline. In particular, the Good Cop/Bad Cop character (Liam Neeson) is hilarious to watch, as is Unikitty (Alison Brie). The LEGO Movie may not elicit the same timeless emotions as, say, the Toy Story franchise, but it is a wonderful trip into a limitless childlike imagination, and it will inspire creativity from children and recall years gone by for adults.—Maryann Koopman Kelly

pretty-in-pink.jpg 45. Pretty in Pink
Year: 1986
Director: John Hughes
Let’s ignore the fact that she ends up with the wrong guy in the end (Team Duckie for life!) and examine what makes Pretty in Pink’s Andie so impossibly cool: She works in a record store and has killer taste in music. Her outfits are daring and incredible. She brushes off insults from evil richie-rich Steff (James Spader) like they ain’t no thang. She supports her deadbeat dad and essentially serves as head of their household. But most importantly, she’s the picture of courage, staying true to herself the whole way through and never changing to please Blane and his wealthy friends—and if there’s any single movie character teen girls should be modeling themselves after as they attempt to swim the treacherous waters of high school without drowning, she’s the one.—Bonnie Stiernberg

wonder-boys.jpg 44. Wonder Boys
Year: 2000
Director: Curtis Hanson
The weekend it all goes wrong, hapless toke-happy English professor Grady (Michael Douglas) is grumpily attending the writer’s festival hosted by the liberal college where he works. His wife is leaving him. He’s hosting his dissipated agent (Robert Downey, Jr.) and struggling to cover the fact that his long-overdue novel has ballooned to an unnatural size. Oh, and he’s having an affair with the college’s chancellor (Frances McDormand), who’s married to someone else. Wonder Boys is the rare enjoyable adaptation of an equally enjoyable novel by Michael Chabon, a sort of madcap cross between a hero’s journey and a belated coming-of-age story that also features Toby Maguire and Katie Holmes as two of Grady’s students. It’s about relocating the narrative of your life when you’ve lost it—and it’s a ton of fun.—Alissa Wilkinson

project-nim.jpg 43. Project Nim
Year: 2011
Director: James Marsh
In Man on Wire, director James Marsh recounted French tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s exploits, most notably his unauthorized 1974 walk between the Twin Towers that held most of the city of New York breathless for an entire morning. In Project Nim, a team of researchers (only one year earlier, in 1973) sets out to accomplish an even more audacious and thrilling goal—to teach a chimpanzee human sign language and initiate meaningful dialogue. Technically the film is flawless. But the really compelling angle for the film is the very idea of inter-species communication.—Michael Dunaway

titanic.jpg 42. Titanic
Year: 1997
Director: James Cameron
Almost 20 years after its theatrical debut, James Cameron’s blockbuster epic is still so ubiquitous in the pop culture zeitgeist, its filmmaking marvels are drowned out by young Kate-and-Leo nostalgia and that damned Celine Dion caterwaul (not to mention the now late James Horner’s iconic score). Cameron’s ear for dialogue may be woefully leaden, but he’s a shrewd storyteller, plunking a Romeo-and-Juliet redux aboard the doomed ocean liner and flanking the fictional romance with historical details, groundbreaking special effects and jaw-dropping visuals. The narrative lapses are at times dumbfounding-let’s face it, old Rose, who tosses a priceless artifact into the abyss after waxing ad nauseam about herself, is a thoughtless jerk—and the aforementioned dialogue is awful (to say nothing of Billy Zane doing his best mustache-twirling silent movie villain) but Titanic remains a painstaking testament to the all-in Hollywood spectacle.—Amanda Schurr

beetlejuice.jpg 41. Beetlejuice
Year: 1988
Director: Tim Burton
After a little vacation, Barbara and Adam Maitland find some uninvited guests in their homes. Okay, so maybe they died, and maybe their house was sold to some poor, unsuspecting (but equally annoying) couple. After some failed haunting attempts, the Maitlands make the mistake of hiring a “bio-exorcist” Betelgeuse (played perfectly by a never-more-revolting Michael Keaton) to fumigate the place of the living. As this situation tends to go, the hired gun gets out of control, and we’re left with Tim Burton’s wacky vision of a ghoul gone really bad. Its good humor and (sort of) likable antagonist make this one a film most of the family can enjoy.—Tyler Kane

last-days.jpg 40. Gus Van Sant’s Last Days
Year: 2006
Director: Gus Van Sant
Actor Michael Pitt portrays the lost figure at the center of Last Days, a stark walk through a dying artist’s final moments inspired by the death of one of rock history’s great tragic heroes. Like Van Sant’s prior films, Gerry and Elephant, an improvised script and freedom from routine cinematic language gives Last Days a hyper-real, oddly poetic flow of events Pitt plays Blake, first seen stumbling alone in the wilderness, a caveman in pajamas and sunglasses. Through a random series of events we learn that he’s a rock musician living in a once-elegant mansion gone seedy with neglect, with a small entourage of housemates who incessantly seek him for advice, money and affirmation. Presumably stoned beyond repair, Blake spends Last Days dodging so-called friends, bandmates and other intrusions of the outside world, unable to secure the peace he craves. There’s no doubt that Blake is intended to recall the late Kurt Cobain; Pitt’s emaciated frame, bedraggled blonde shag, pink sunglasses and general demeanor is sometimes uncanny in its resemblance to the long-mourned star. But the Last Days story has little in common with the facts of the case, keeping only the essential themes. Pitt submerges so deeply into the swampy depths of Blake’s character that he ends up somewhere beyond acting. The film benefits from Pitt’s real-world rock ’n’ roll experiences with Thurston Moore also on board as music consultant.—Fred Beldin

11-best-so-far-2015-Cobain-Montage-of-Heck.jpg 39. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
Year: 2015
Director: Brett Morgan
Despite its limitations, the documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is an honorable attempt to restore the gunk, anger and volume to Nirvana’s legacy—and to Cobain’s as well. Dead at 27—the same age when Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison died—the songwriter-guitarist is remembered as a talented, troubled stalwart, but The Kid Stays in the Picture director Brett Morgen wants us to look closer at Cobain, and what Montage of Heck reveals isn’t all that pretty. A junkie, a pain in the ass, an inveterate malcontent: This is the Cobain we see in Morgen’s documentary. Yet, by emphasizing the messy, ugly humanness of his subject, Morgen manages to make him heroic and tragic, too. Though Montage of Heck is undoubtedly geared to fans, it gives fans reason to be grateful for this guy and this band all over again. (Read the full review here.) —Tim Grierson

milk.jpg 38. Milk
Year: 2008
Director: Gus Van Sant
Sean Penn took home a Best Actor Oscar, and writer Dustin Lance Black an Original Screenplay statue, for their work in Gus Van Sant’s vibrant snapshot of slain San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay individual to be elected to public office. As the activist-turned-politician—who was assassinated in November 1978 by fellow city supervisor Dan White—Penn is characteristically intense, but there’s a singular ebullience to his portrayal of a public servant at a watershed moment for civil rights, a decade after Stonewall and with four decades to go until marriage equality. In Penn’s chameleonic characterization, Milk’s journey is a personal one writ large, a midlife crisis that prompted landmark campaigns—and not just for LGBTQ rights. Van Sant captures the energy of San Francisco’s counterculture, especially in the Castro District, with Milk’s spirited calls for action igniting the community. Despite his understandable martyrdom, Penn doesn’t shy away from Milk’s flaws, tantrums and lapses in judgment. It’s a fully fleshed, utterly astonishing turn in a career of them. The ensemble cast is uniformly outstanding; you can feel Josh Brolin at once imploding and exploding as the repressed White, and Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, James Franco, Victor Garber and Denis O’Hare, as Milk’s assorted lovers and colleagues, lend emotional depth and purpose to his journey. One of the best, most moving biopics in recent memory. —Amanda Schurr

what-we-do-shadows.jpg 37. What We Do in the Shadows
Year: 2014
Directors: Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
Who knew that the undead fight over dirty dishes or primp before going out? It’s these types of little moments, paired with almost throwaway bits of dialogue, that turn the vampire mockumentary What We Do In the Shadows into a sublime comedy. As written, directed and starring Jemaine Clement, half of the comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, and Taika Waititi, writer and director of Boy, New Zealand’s highest-grossing film, the film not only tweaks the vampire genre by adding a number of mumblecore elements, but also pays a tongue-in-cheek homage to its history. The film opens with a series of title cards that credit the New Zealand Documentary Board and also explain the film’s premise: A documentary crew was given full access to follow a secret society based in Wellington, New Zealand during the months leading up to the Unholy Masquerade Ball, the social event of the year. The intertitles also note that the crew was assured protection from their subjects, and issued crucifixes, just in case. What We Do In the Shadows played the festival circuit after its Sundance debut, and picked up a number of audience awards in its wake. We can see the appeal: While there’s really not that much action or bloodletting in the fake documentary, the laughs are definitely authentic.——Christine N. Ziemba

14. scream (Custom).jpg 36. Scream
Year: 1996
Director: Wes Craven
Before Scary Movie or A Haunted House were even ill-conceived ideas, Wes Craven was crafting some of the best horror satire out there. And although part of Scream’s charm was its sly, fair jabs at the genre, that didn’t keep the director from dreaming up some of the most brutal knife-on-human scenes in the ’90s. With the birth of the “Ghost Face” killer, Craven took audiences on a journey through horror-flick fandom, making all-too-common tricks of the trade a staple for survival: sex equals death, don’t drink or do drugs, never say “I’ll be right back.” With a crossover cast of Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan and Drew Barrymore (okay, for like 10 minutes), Scream arrived with a smart, funny take on a tired genre. It wasn’t the first film of its kind, but it was the first one to be seen by a huge audience, which went a long way in raising the “genre IQ” of the average horror fan.—Tyler Kane

spaceballs.jpg 35. Spaceballs
Year: 1987
Director: Mel Brooks
Originally perceived as one of writer/director Mel Brooks’ lesser works, this loving send-up of the sci-fi/fantasy genre (specifically, Star Wars) has, over the years, wormed its way into the hearts of a new generation of fans who caught it on video. “May the Schwartz be with you,” “Ludicrous Speed,” “Mawg”—if these are all terms that mean nothing to you then it’s high-time you checked this movie out and see what all the fuss is about.—Mark Rozeman

knocked-up.jpg 34. Knocked Up
Year: 2007
Director: Judd Apatow
Sure, there’s a graphic scene involving a baby coming out of a womb. Yes, there’s nudity and plenty of expletives. And okay, it is sort of strange how a schlub like Seth Rogen can get a girl like Katherine Heigl. Even so, there’s an inherent sweetness to Knocked Up that make it such a pleasure to watch. Judd Apatow’s treatment of the supporting characters, like Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, also help catapult the romantic comedy into one of the genre’s very best.—Jeremy Medina

mullholland.jpg 33. Mullholland Dr.
Year: 2001
Director: David Lynch
Film noir has always been an unmistakable influence in the work of David Lynch, the patron saint of bizarrely gleeful genre experiments. With Mulholland Dr., however, Lynch took his fascination with the subgenre to a whole other level, depicting a world where a character’s interior life influences not only the film’s visual style but its narrative structure as well. In the first great performance of her illustrious career, Naomi Watts plays a wide-eyed actress newly arrived in Hollywood who stumbles upon a beautiful young woman who can’t remember who she is. That pithy logline only touches the tip of the iceberg, as the film delights in throwing numerous other subplots and mysteries at its audience only to violently pull the rug out from under them in its latter half. Mulholland Dr.’s brilliance is enough to make David Lynch’s exile from the feature film world all the more painful.—Mark Rozeman

lean-on-me.jpg 32. Lean on Me
Year: 1989
Director: John G. Avildsen
Before he started playing God, Morgan Freeman took on the god-like Joe Clark (based on the real life Joe Louis Clark) and warmed our hearts as the fun-loving principal who turned an inner-city school around. Just kidding. Principal Joe Clark didn’t play around, and if you’ve seen the film (from Rocky director John Avildsen), you probably still have nightmares about him catching you in the bathroom and making you sing the Fair East Side song or dragging you to the top of the school building and telling you to stop doing drugs—or jump. Gotta love that Joe Clark. But the reality is, Lean On Me is a refreshing take on the old, well-meaning-white-person-comes-in-to-save-poor-underprivileged-black-kids tale. There are no well meaning white people starring in this dark but inspiring story, and the main character’s methods are so outrageous, it’s not always clear whether he’s a villain or a savior. And that’s the point. This isn’t about a superhero-like character saving the day. Clark is a plain old, flawed human, risking his own sanity and freedom to save the very children American society says aren’t worth the effort.—Shannon Houston

waitress.jpg 31. Waitress
Year: 2007
Director: Adrienne Shelly
Every bit as comforting as the delicious, candy-colored pies Keri Russell bakes in the film, Waitress is a honeyed little comedy that should speak to anyone who has ever felt stuck in a situation. And as good as Russell is, the film’s true star is its writer/director/co-star, the late Adrienne Shelly. Murdered before the film saw its release, the film stands as a wonderfully bittersweet testament to her considerable talent.—Jeremy Medina

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