The 50 Best Movies on Amazon Prime (October 2017)

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The 50 Best Movies on Amazon Prime (October 2017)

Amazon Prime  is an unheralded streaming treasure trove of some of the best movies to come out in the past couple years, though good picks are far from easy to cull from the sometimes overwhelming glut of weirdly terrible titles buried in Prime’s nether regions.

Still, with Oscar picks like Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea flanking critical darlings like The Handmaiden and two of our picks for the best movies of 2017 so far, The Lost City of Z and I Am Not Your Negro, Amazon Prime is proving to have an eclectic collection of stuff you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

It’s October too, the season to be scary, so Amazon’s horror movie selection is herein represented well, from recent freaky recommendations like Demon, The Neon Demon and The Blackcoat’s Daughter, to left field finds (Society)—from icons (Texas Chain Saw Massacre, An American Werewolf in London) to the soon to be iconic (The Witch).

Of course, you can also browse guides to the best movies on other platforms, updated as best as we can manage, like Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Showtime, Redbox, On Demand, YouTube, Shudder and The Best Movies in Theaters. Visit the Paste Movie Guides.

Here are the 50 best movies available to stream for free with Amazon Prime this month:

neon-demon-movie-poster.jpg 50. The Neon Demon
Year: 2016
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
If Nicolas Winding Refn—anthropomorphic cologne bottle; asexual jaguar—is going to make a horror film, Nicolas Winding Refn will make a horror film about the things that scare Nicolas Winding Refn most: asymmetry, sex, fatherhood. In The Neon Demon, every character is either someone’s daughter or a deranged daddy figure, both thirsty for the kind of flesh only Los Angeles can provide, the roles of predator and prey in constant, unnerving flux. Part cannibal-slasher movie and part endlessly pretty car commercial, Refn’s film about a young model (Elle Fanning) making it in the fashion industry goes exactly where you think it’s going to go, even when it’s trying as hard as it can to be weird as fuck. But despite his best efforts, Refn sustains such an overarching, creeping atmosphere of despair—such a deeply ingrained sense of looming physical imperfection, of death—that it never really matters if The Neon Demon doesn’t add up to much of anything in the end. —Dom Sinacola


blackcoats-daughter-movie-poster.jpg 49. The Blackcoat’s Daughter
Year: 2016
Director: Osgood Perkins
Looking at his first two horror features, it becomes clear that director Osgood Perkins seems to have a distinct distaste for both plot and film convention. His films defy easy description, as anyone who watched I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House on Netflix could attest. The Blackcoat’s Daughter, meanwhile, was completed and exhibited as early as 2015 under the title February, but has been floating around in limbo ever since until A24 decided to finally give it a limited release this spring. Compared with Pretty Thing, Blackcoat’s Daughter is at least easier to grasp and marginally brisker, which makes it more effective overall. Perkins’ style is languid, atmospheric and deliberate, favoring repetition and a slowly multiplying sense of unease and impending doom. The story follows two high school-aged students who are both left relatively alone at their uptight Catholic boarding school over break when their parents fail to pick them up. As one descends into what is implied to be either madness or demonic possession, the events are interwoven with another story about a young woman journeying on the road in the direction of the boarding school. The two stories inevitably intertwine. The film’s pace sometimes leaves something to be desired, but patience is largely repaid by its final third, which contains several moments genuinely disturbing in their violence and transgressive imagery. In the end, The Blackcoat’s Daughter comes together significantly more neatly and logically than one might consider while watching its first hour, rewarding careful attention to detail throughout. —Jim Vorel


shaun-the-sheep.jpg 48. Shaun the Sheep
Year: 2015
Directors: Mark Burton, Richard Starzak
Can a viewer die of excessive cuteness? That’s the most concerning question plaguing the otherwise adorable, slight Shaun the Sheep Movie, which does risk being cloying but mostly moves along with a wry smile on its face. The stop-motion film from Aardman Animations stars Shaun, the bug-eyed lamb who made his debut in the terrific, Oscar-winning 2005 Wallace & Gromit short A Close Shave. As in his U.K. series spin-off which started two years later, Shaun doesn’t speak a word in his big-screen premiere. Writer-directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzak sometimes strain to sustain the dialogue-free conceit, but one suspects they know that, even when the momentum flags, Shaun has plenty of cheerfulness and good will in reserves. —Tim Grierson


demon-movie-poster.jpg 47. Demon
Year: 2016
Director: Marcin Wrona
Demon’s action unfolds around the wedding of Piotr (Itay Tiran in an incredible leading performance) and Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska), young, beautiful and madly in love despite a short relationship capped by an even shorter engagement. The brevity of their union concerns her dad (Andrzej Grabowski), but he does his best to warm up to Piotr despite his reservations. He gifts the couple with family property, an old farmhouse, too, though here “gift” is perhaps a term used loosely. Piotr flies to Poland from England to wed Zaneta, settle down, and gussy up the house and the land it rests upon, and so their troubles begin: with a skeleton Piotr uncovers while mucking around with an excavator. Horror snobs may feel inclined to evict Demon from the genre for its absence of scares. Marcin Wrona doesn’t hide in cabinets and jump out at us while screaming “boo” and flailing his arms. He includes no unearned jump beats, nothing to startle us the way that horror cinema has taught us to anticipate throughout its annals. What he pulls off instead is a good deal trickier, thanks in large part to expectation and custom. Demon gets under the skin, distorting perception while corrupting bliss at the same time, and even with a plate that full the film finds room for pitch black humor and a slice of nationalism: Toward the narrative’s climax, one wedding guest, totally blotto, rants aloud about the good old days, when everyone was Polish and no one freaked out when strangers talked to ghosts. —Andy Crump


sicario.jpg 46. Sicario
Year: 2015
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Denis Villeneuve’s considerable strengths and severe limitations are both present in Sicario, a Traffic-by-way-of-Zero Dark Thirty look at American drug policy along the Mexican border. This propulsive action thriller boasts a series of strong performances and is punctuated by some ace suspense sequences. As a piece of sleek, grown-up entertainment, it most assuredly succeeds. But it’s all the trappings around Sicario where matters get far more complicated. Even if the film doesn’t tell us much that we don’t already know about America’s drug wars, it tells it with abundant skill. —Tim Grierson


swiss-army-man.jpg 45. Swiss Army Man
Year: 2016
Directors: Daniel Scheinert, Dan Kwan
It should be ridiculous, this. A buddy comedy built atop the premise of a man (Paul Dano) lugging around, and bonding with, a flatulent talking corpse (Daniel Radcliffe)—but cinema is a medium in which miracles are possible, and one such miracle occurs in Swiss Army Man. A film with such a seemingly unpalatable concept becomes, against all odds, a near-profound existential meditation. And, for all the increasingly absurd gags about the utilities of that talking corpse’s body—not just as a jet-ski propelled by bodily gas, but as a giver of fresh water through projectile vomiting and even as a compass through its erection—there’s not one iota of distancing irony to be found in the film. Directors Daniel Scheinert and Dan Kwan are absolutely serious in their attempts to not only re-examine some of the most universal of human experiences, but also explore the idea of a life lived without limits, casting off the shackles of societal constraints and realizing one’s best self. It’s a freedom that the Daniels project exuberantly into the film itself: Swiss Army Man is a work that feels positively lawless. Witness with amazement what bizarrely heartfelt splendors its creators will come up with next. —Kenji Fujishima


what we do in the shadows-movie-poster.jpg 44. What We Do In the Shadows
Year: 2015
Directors: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement
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, and upcoming Thor: Ragnarok (a testament to the guy’s boundless-but-genre-tethered imagination)—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 even 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. Clement and Waititi, along with cinematographers Richard Bluck (second unit DP for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Avatar) and D.J. Stipsen, whose credits include several real documentaries, craft something both bleak and touching, silly and emotionally resonant, a genuinely original take on a metaphysical medium that seemed lost to the nostalgia of Christopher Guest’s best. —Christine N. Ziemba


creed.jpg 43. Creed
Year: 2015
Director: Ryan Coogler
There’s an alternate timeline in which Creed is a superfluous waste of nostalgia. In that universe, Warner Bros. gave the reins to a filmmaker other than Ryan Coogler, the young Oakland-born director who stunned viewers in 2013 with Fruitvale Station, a bio-drama about the death of Oscar Grant. Maybe Coogler is the last person anyone might expect to take up Sylvester Stallone’s mantle and breathe new life into the long-abiding, conditionally beloved Rocky franchise. There’s a chance that Creed might have turned out just fine without Coogler at the helm. But that version of Creed would lack the chief detail that makes Coogler’s film so good: perspective. Structurally, Creed is nearly a beat-for-beat remake of Rocky, which is fine if not particularly exciting on paper. It’s different, though, because it isn’t about Rocky Balboa at all. It’s about Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), the son of Rocky’s rival-turned-best friend, Apollo Creed, whom we first meet in juvie pummeling an older, larger boy while their fellow delinquents cheer and jeer them on. And then, of course, there’s Rocky himself. There’s an air of masculine chagrin to his arc. We’re not used to seeing guys like Rocky laid this low and left this vulnerable. Donnie is his chance at winning glory in the ring again, but the kid also gives him the strength to fight anew when he’s down and out. It’s every bit as schmaltzy as it sounds, but schmaltz is Rocky’s bread and butter. Coogler makes it his, too. He understands that schmaltz is pure delight when it’s served properly: with earnest emotion and through rousing spectacle. Creed defies our expectations of its genre even as it fulfills them. —Andy Crump


the-fits.jpg 42. The Fits
Year: 2016
Director: Anna Rose Holmer
It’s not difficult to imagine a different cut of Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits that hews closer to the arc of a traditional sports story. Hers has the makings of a familiar one, of a misfit who wants more than anything to compete—but unlike most stories of inspirational audacity, The Fits is as much about discomfort as the catharsis that comes with achievement. In it, Toni (Royalty Hightower) is an 11-year-old who has more experience with stereotypically male pursuits like lifting weights and punching speed bags than the usual interests of a pre-teen girl. She spends nearly all of her time at the Lincoln Recreation Center alongside her boxer brother, Jermaine (Da’Sean Minor), pushing her body to the limit. While she shows a remarkable aptitude for the ascetical devotion required for boxing, she still dreams about competing on the dance team, “The Lincoln Lionesses.” Framed with a rigid sense of space by cinematographer Paul Yee, and backed by the groaning score from veteran composers Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, The Fits is infused with such dread that one can’t help but imagine that characters’ muscles and bones could break or shatter at any moment. The film’s most explicit example of which may be Toni pulling off a temporary tattoo, but The Fits is firmly a story of metaphysical body horror, an allegory about our greatest fears of physical fragility shot brilliantly through a feminist lens. With that, the film manages to reinvent the sports story as something both brainy and physically pure. —Michael Snydel


green-room.jpg 41. Green Room
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
What’s perhaps most refreshing in Green Room is writer-director Jeremy Saulnier’s lack of interest in the kind of moralizing that made his last film, Blue Ruin, ultimately seem conventional. Instead, Saulnier simply presents us this nutty scenario without feeling the need to lard it up with anything as cumbersome as topical commentary or moral ambiguity. He proceeds to wring as much tension and suspense from its pulpy retro plot as possible, adding a few entertaining grace notes along the way, which can best be seen in its performances. In the ensemble-based Green Room, Saulnier revels in the contrasts of personalities and styles: band bassist Pat’s (Anton Yelchin) Bill Paxton-like desperation, for instance, set alongside the weary, near-drugged-out deadpan of Amber (Imogen Poots), a friend of the woman whose murder sets off the film’s violent chain of events; or the imperial calm of Darcy (Patrick Stewart), the ruthless leader of the band of white supremacists who attempt to kill Pat, Amber and the rest. It’d be a stretch to call these characters three-dimensional, but nevertheless, under Saulnier’s writing and direction, they all manage to stand out just enough as individuals for us to become emotionally involved in their fates. Meanwhile, Saulnier supports these characters and plot turns with filmmaking that is remarkable for its economy and patience. D.P. Sean Porter gets a lot of mileage out of the cramped quarters and grimy lighting of the bar, lending its wide (2.35:1) frames an appropriately nightmarish feel amidst many suspenseful set pieces. In those ways, the lean, mean Green Room stands as one of the best B-movie genre exercises in many years. —Kenji Fujishima


amy.jpg 40. Amy
Year: 2015
Directors: Asif Kapadia
Director Asif Kapadia wisely puts his subject front-and-center: Friends, family members and music industry associates are all interviewed for the film, but nearly all of them are presented as voiceovers rather than talking heads. Even when others are speaking, it’s impossible to take your eyes off Winehouse in Amy. Kapadia makes Winehouse’s reality feel cinematic, lingering in slow motion as she looks back at the paparazzi and rolls her eyes after rushing into a car amid a flurry of camera flashes. When she wins the Grammy for Record of the Year and gazes up at a screen broadcasting the ceremony, the way her eyes light up will make you briefly think you’re not watching a documentary, but rather an awards-season biopic with some actress in a beehive wig trying to earn her Oscar. Then you’ll pity anyone dumb enough to try to top Amy with something scripted—there’s nothing like the real thing. —Bonnie Stiernberg


behind-the-candelabra.jpg 39. 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


7a.jpg 38. Anomalisa
Year: 2015
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Preciousness and misanthropy have always been the twin hallmarks of Charlie Kaufman’s work, his characters’ misery heightened and sometimes enlivened by the writer-director’s ability to craft clever sci-fi/fantastical scenarios around them. In Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind (which won him a Best Original Screenplay Oscar) or his 2008 directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York, he has managed to make everyday loneliness and the gnawing sense of futility resonate with an almost ineffable sting. In Kaufman’s hands, life looks heartbreaking, and yet it can often be beautiful at the same time. It’s hard to know yet whether Anomalisa is a new peak for Kaufman, or merely another highlight in a distinguished career. But what is clear at this point is that it’s piercingly poignant—perhaps his most succinct expression of the malaise that’s forever haunting his work. Anomalisa doesn’t resolve the issues that have eaten at his characters since his first published screenplay, 1999’s Being John Malkovich, but the honesty with which he depicts those struggles remain startling, even comforting. This movie is life-affirming, not because of any artificial feel-good sentiment, but because it mirrors one’s own mixed feelings about the wonders and horrors of being alive. Plus, it’s really funny. —Tim Grierson


society-movie-poster.jpg 37. Society
Year: 1989
Director: Brian Yuzna
Society is perhaps what you would have ended up with in the earlier ’80s if David Cronenberg had a more robust sense of humor. Rather, this bizarre deconstruction of Reagan-era yuppiehood came from Brian Yuzna, well-known to horror fans for his partnership with Stuart Gordon, which produced the likes of Re-Animator and From Beyond…and eventually Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, believe it or not. Society is a weird film on every level, a feverish descent into what may or may not be paranoia when a popular high school guy begins questioning whether his family members (and indeed, the entire town) are involved in some sinister, sexual, exceedingly icky business. Plot takes a backseat to dark comedy and a creepily foreboding sense that we’re building to a revelatory conclusion, which absolutely does not disappoint. The effects work, suffice it to say, produces some of the most batshit crazy visuals in the history of film—there are disgusting sights here that you won’t see anywhere else, outside of perhaps an early Peter Jackson movie, a la Dead Alive. But Society’s ambitions are considerably grander than that Jackson’s gross-out classic: It takes aim at its own title and the tendency of insular communities to prey upon the outside world to create social satire of the highest (and grossest) order. —Jim Vorel


the-witch.jpg 36. The Witch
Year: 2016
Director: Robert Eggers
From its first moments, The Witch strands us in a hostile land. We watch (because that’s all we can do, helplessly) as puritan patriarch William (Ralph Ineson) argues stubbornly with a small council, thereby causing his family’s banishment from their “New England” community. We watch, and writer-director Robert Eggers holds our gaze while a score of strings and assorted prickly detritus. The wagon lurches ever-on into the wilderness, piling the frontier of this New World upon the literal frontier of an unexplored forest. It’s 1620, and William claims, “We will conquer this wilderness.” Eggers’ “New England Folk Tale” is a horror film swollen with the allure of the unknown. To say that it’s reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials, which take place 70 years after the events in the film, would be an understatement—the inevitable consequences of such historic mania looms heavily over The Witch. All of this Eggers frames with a subconscious knack for creating tension within each shot, rarely relying on jump scares or gore, instead mounting suspense through one masterful edit after another. The effect, then, is that of a building fever dream in which primeval forces—lust, defiance, hunger, greed—simmer at the edges of experience, avoided but never quite conquered. —Dom Sinacola


room.jpg 35. Room
Year: 2015
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
A potentially sensational premise is handled with grace and incisiveness in Room, Lenny Abrahamson’s adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s best-selling novel. Scripted by the author herself, and hewing closely to her book’s adolescent point-of-view, the film opens in what is initially known only as “Room,” a small, crowded space filled with a bed, a wardrobe, a few kitchen appliances, a table and drawings that decorate its walls. In this environment, which boasts a skylight but no windows, live Joy (Brie Larson) and her long-haired son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), the latter of whom has apparently never stepped outside Room’s sole door. That entryway is locked via a keypad, and only opened and closed by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers), a bearded figure who appears in the night while Jack sleeps (or pretends to) in order to deliver supplies and have his way with Joy. Abrahamson’s film immediately sets itself alongside Jack, assuming his perspective as he narrates his thoughts, anxieties and skewed comprehension of reality. In the traumatic events that follow, what emerges is a stirring portrait of maternal altruism, as Joy sacrifices their safety, as well as her one true connection to the real world, in order to potentially offer her offspring a future that expands past the constricting walls of his makeshift prison home. —Nick Schager


monster.jpg 34. Monster
Year: 2004
Director: Patty Jenkins
If you haven’t watched the difficult but terrific Monster, it would be easy to dismiss Charlize Theron’s Oscar-winning performance as a gimmick: pretty actress made to look plain or ugly. We’ve seen that many times, on screens big and small, and we’re usually left wondering why the producers just didn’t get a non-starlet to play the role. But even though Theron’s physical transformation takes the ruse to a new level—it is thorough enough to render the actress unrecognizable and often indistinguishable from the real person she plays—her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos goes well beyond make-up tricks. It’s all encompassing. Theron is completely submerged in her character. Every glance, every hand gesture and every physical tick seem to be those of Wuronos. There’s not a single moment in the film in which the actress peaks out from behind those eyes. Charlize Theron captured something essential and magical (if very disturbing) in a performance that ranks as one of the best of cinematic history. —Tim Regan-Porter


krisha.jpg 33. Krisha
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Year: 2016
You’ve seen the plot of Krisha before: self-destructive woman with a drinking problem goes to a family gathering supposedly having made strides in putting her life back together, but finds the tensions that arise testing her resolve to not go back to the bottle. Jonathan Demme explored similar territory in his 2008 film Rachel Getting Married, and Trey Edward Shults’ debut film does have a similar looseness to it, a feeling that anything can happen at any time. That, however, is where the similarities end. Whereas Demme’s film was warmly observational, Shults’ film aims for an expressionism that imaginatively uses formal elements to invite us into the titular main character’s fractured psyche. Krisha could be seen as cinematic family therapy: Shults’ way of dealing with what was apparently a troubled home life. But you don’t need to know all that to appreciate the passion he brought to this project. One can sense it in the film’s long takes and still setups, in the alternation between montages of unnerving chaos and lengthy scenes of shattering solitude. Krisha does more than announce a potentially major new talent; it shakes new, and tragically devastating, energy into the dysfunctional family drama. —Kenji Fujishima


dark-days-movie-poster.jpg 32. Dark Days
Year: 2000
Director: Marc Singer
Marc Singer never intended to be a filmmaker when he befriended a few groups from New York’s homeless community; he never intended to move in for a few months with the denizens of the Freedom Tunnel when he became so close them. And he never intended a documentary, crewed by its own subjects, as anything more than a way to financially help those same subjects. Yet, despite Singer’s less-than-artistic origins, Dark Days rings with unmitigated sincerity—so immersive as to be practically claustrophobic, capturing in stark chiaroscuro a world suffocating beneath the City. It’s rare that a documentary feels almost too up close and personal. —Dom Sinacola


men-chicken.jpg 31. Men & Chicken
Year: 2016
Director: Anders Thomas Jensen
We live in a wondrous world where a film which breaks box office records in Denmark prominently features a chronic masturbator (the inimitable Mads Mikkelsen in his least embraced role in a year in which he’s been part of every worthwhile blockbuster tentpole) and a reasonable-sounding description of the logic behind certain forms of bestiality. In Men & Chicken, Elias (Mikkelsen, mustachioed repugnantly) and his pecky milquetoast of a brother Gabriel (David Dencik) share both a harelip and, upon trekking to a remote island estate where they meet their estranged brood, the discovery that the foundations of their existences hinge on a sort of nightmarish debauching of the basest tenets of life and love. What begins as a pitch-black take on a Farrelly Brothers farce descends irrevocably into madness when director Anders Thomas Jensen reveals—through a deeply unsettling mastery of tone—what the title of his film really means. Jensen never once loses his sense of humor or penchant for gross setpieces as he approaches trenchant, even transcendent ideas about what it means to be human. —Dom Sinacola


love-mercy.jpg 30. Love & Mercy
Year: 2015
Director: Bill Pohlad
There is a curious, oft times transcendent harmony to the dissonance at the heart of Love & Mercy. In taking a page from his subject’s life and music, director Bill Pohlad (best known for producing credits like 12 Years a Slave and Into the Wild) largely rejects sentimentality in chronicling a reluctant pop star who wants to craft something more than shiny, happy hooks. (In one scene, Wilson argues the Beach Boys’ true “surfer” cred with his bandmates, knowing better.) Sure, that’s kind of the story—at least on the surface—but his approach unearths the layers of Wilson’s genius and torment. Seemingly straightforward classics like “In My Room” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” take on new meaning as the extent of his struggles come into devastating focus. —Amanda Schurr


ten-kiarostami.jpg 29. Ten
Year: 2002
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Like with Kiarostami’s best films (Close-Up and Certified Copy, among many), the rigorous conceit behind Ten is more unwieldy to describe than it is to experience. Over the course of ten conversations—each demarcated by a sort of old-timey film stock count-down, each chronologically spaced but lacking a clear sense of how much time has passed between segments—we experience the fears, quirks, travails and typical day of a woman living, working and attempting to carve out some room for her own in modern Tehran. Filmed in long takes by two digital cameras, one mounted to unflinchingly chronicle the passenger side of one woman’s (Mania Akbari) taxi cab, and the other trained only on the woman, Kiarostami never moves his cameras (except for one stark glimpse of the casually seedy side of Tehran nightlife) to take in anything but this woman and her passengers. Yet, within these self-set strictures, Kiarostami is able to convey a deeply felt sense of full lives playing out in our periphery, giving intimate voices to those most often overlooked. —Dom Sinacola


the-last-crusade.jpg 28. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Directed by:   Steven Spielberg  
After the mindfreak that was Indiana Jones and the Temple Doom left a bad taste in audiences’ mouths (creating the PG-13 rating in the process), Steven Spielberg and his collaborators went back to the drawing board, crafting a film that would retain the simpler tone of Raiders of the Lost Ark without feeling like a rehash of that Oscar-nominated adventure. After filing through several different pitches and drafts (Spielberg even admitted at one point he felt he was “too old” for some of the stories), Spielberg and producer/writer George Lucas settled on a story about the search for The Holy Grail. Spielberg’s stroke of genius, however, was not only his decision to incorporate Indiana’s Jones estranged father into the plotline but to cast Sean Connery to fill the role. The dramatic dynamic between father and son lends the film an emotional heft that is noticeably absent from the more lightweight Raiders. In this way, one could perhaps even hold up Last Crusade as the superior story (emphasis on “perhaps”). Plus, as an added bonus, the film offers a prologue featuring the late, great River Phoenix as a young Indiana Jones. —Mark Rozeman


rogue-nation.jpg 27. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Year: 2015
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Thrilling and suspenseful, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation balances a glitzy, glamorous aesthetic with brash action, a frenetic pace and sheer excitement. The latest in the Tom Cruise-starring franchise sets its hooks quickly and hurtles you forward. The continually escalating mayhem propels the film past any of the otherwise glaring plot holes, and the action is chaotic enough to gloss over how ludicrous the plot actually is once you stop and think about what’s happening—which is of relatively little consequence. Almost ten years into the M:I franchise, this new installment is a welcome addition to the expert action-filmmaking canon. —Brent McKnight


stories-we-tell.jpg 26. Stories We Tell
Year: 2013
Director: Sarah Polley
With Stories We Tell, actress-turned-director Sarah Polley has proven herself a consummate filmmaker, transforming an incredible (and incredibly) personal story into a playful yet profound investigation into the nature of storytelling itself. The central mystery of her documentary—that the man she grew up believing to be her dad is not her biological father—is public knowledge at this point, easily revealed in the film’s trailer. Yet Polley conceals and reveals information—starting with her relationships to her interview subjects—in such an effortless way as to constantly surprise, even shock, her audience. The result is a film that scrutinizes the ultimate purpose of truth and comes up with a gorgeously rendered shrug. —Annlee Ellingson

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