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The 50 Best Movies on Sundance Now

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The 50 Best Movies on Sundance Now

The best movies on Sundance Now are typically those you could’ve found streaming before on platforms like Netflix or Hulu, outcasts and peripheral classics that Sundance has mixed with undeniable modern masterpieces like Taxi Driver and Hoop Dreams. No other streaming service will have Kelly Reichardt’s debut, River of Grass, smattered amongst a weird Nick Broomfield joint like Biggie & Tupac or Robert Downey Sr.’s (father to that Jr.) midnight staple, Putney Swope. Like Fandor or MUBI, Sundance Now is worth the subscription fee for it’s curatorial gems, not for the glut of its library.

Still, it’s arguable that no other service has so many essential documentaries, many of which you can find on our list of the best documentaries of all time, like the aforementioned Steve James opus, but also Dear Zachary, Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners & I, Robert Greene’s Actress and the incomparable Shoah—all ten hours of it.

Genuinely excited by what Sundance has to offer, we’re here to provide you with our prime pickings. And as always, you can check out all of our best movie streaming guides to find the best of what’s available on whatever streaming device you use.

Here are the 50 best movies streaming on Sundance Now:

borgman-movie-poster.jpg 50. Borgman
Year: 2013
Director: Alex van Warmerdam
Van Warmerdam’s film begins as if it’s midway through a twisted dream-sequence: Several mysterious characters emerge from underground shelters in the woods, having just avoided capture following a vicious manhunt. The man who seems to be the leader of these dodgy characters, Borgman (Jan Bijvoet), ends up in a rich neighborhood and knocks on the door of the home of Richard (Jeroen Perceval) and Marina (Hadewych Minis), asking for a place to wash up. Richard reacts rather aggressively to the request, but Borgman remains unfazed and simply returns in the evening when Richard is out. Embarrassed by her husband’s behavior, Marina lets Borgman in and then promptly realizes she wants him to stay. Did she just let the devil into her home? Borgman rarely attempts to explain itself, dancing between perception and reality with vaguely political intent, not quite Lynchian but not exactly ordinary either. Either way, it’s a late masterpiece from one of Dutch cinema’s masters. —Roxanne Sancto


taxi-dark-side-movie-poster.jpg 49. Taxi to the Dark Side
Year: 2007
Director: Alex Gibney
A shade overshadowed by controversy surrounding the film’s distribution and promotion, Taxi to the Dark Side is still a punishing document of American imperialism—both a product and condemnation of the democratic system that’s failed us for so long. Part post-9/11 discourse on torture and those who facilitate it for a so-called greater good, and part slowly simmering nightmare, Gibney’s film draws out a labyrinth of bureaucracy only slightly less enraging than the feeling of sitting there, watching this documentary, knowing there’s pretty much nothing you can do. This is the way the world ends—not with a bang but with the whimper of a man being tortured to death. —Dom Sinacola


city-lost-children.jpg 48. The City of Lost Children
Year: 1998
Directors: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro
Ron Perlman plays the reluctant hero, a circus strongman looking for his adopted little brother, as Marc Caro (Delicatessen) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie) together create a wildly imaginative dystopian universe. Mad scientist Krank (Daniel Emilfork) harvests children’s dreams in order to keep himself young, so One (Perlman) enlists the help of an orphaned street-thief to save the enslaved kids. Fans of Terry Gilliam and Michel Gondry will appreciate this surreal masterpiece. —Josh Jackson


loneliest-planet-poster.jpg 47. The Loneliest Planet
Year: 2012
Director: Julia Loktev
A lot happens when you sit down to silently watch a movie where nothing happens. Gus Van Sant’s Elephant immediately comes to mind, a movie that conjured the same dread from recognizable environments and long takes of people just pretty much walking around. That’s what happens in The Loneliest Planet: Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Nika (Hani Furstenberg) decide to hike the Caucasus Mountains on some extended hipster holiday, so they hire a native Georgian guide and go walk around for a really fucking long time. Then a sundering something occurs exactly halfway through their trip, irrevocably coming between Alex and Nica, and they continue to walk around for a really fucking long time, only this time full of pain and resentment and hopelessness. Nica and Alex and their guide Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze) comb through an awesome wilderness, and we’re left to watch. Silently. And that’s it. The film shudders with ambiguity. Exalted with it. Planet’s about a relationship; whether that relationship survives is, of course, ambiguous, but at its lowest, when the connection the two people share is barely holding, the characters in this movie are real sad-sacks. And the epic landscape surrounding them grows all the more menacing. —Dom Sinacola


24-Netflix-Docs_2015-biggie-tupac.jpg 46. Biggie & Tupac
Year: 2002
Director: Nick Broomfield
From its very first moments, Biggie & Tupac—a sort of truther’s glimpse into the murders of rappers Notorious BIG and 2Pac—is an exceptionally strange film. Director and narrator Nick Broomfield speaks in a clipped cadence, as if English isn’t his first language, and Earth isn’t his home planet. That he is somehow able to waddle his way into the most exclusive (and sometimes terrifying) situations is nearly incomprehensible, until one realizes that, to some extent, all his weirdness probably makes him seem so non-threatening that the folks who spill deeply incriminating confessions probably never figure his footage will ever see the light of day. And yet, Biggie & Tupac is endlessly compelling, far from an actually competent procedural but still ringing with enough sincerity that, buried beneath Broomfield’s weirdness and his very dubious journalistic intentions, there must be something true he’s tapping into. I’ve heard Broomfield referred to, among other epithets, as a “bottom-feeding creep,” and it’s not a stretch to see how his methods and results could be construed as the work of such. Yet, the access the man gets … when it comes to documentary film, do the ends justify the means? Because: the last 10 minutes of the film alone are worth the journey, in which an interview with Suge Knight (whom the film pretty clearly portrays as the orchestrator of both murders) reveals unnerving opinions on socioeconomic and racial realities. —Dom Sinacola


christmas-tale-poster.jpg 45. A Christmas Tale
Year: 2008
Director: Arnaud Desplechin
A Christmas Tale is a lively, capricious, mischievous ensemble delight—the kind of movie Noah Baumbach would make if he were French and a little more hopeful about humanity. Abel (Jean-Paul Roussillon) and Junon (Catherine Deneuve) have three grown children, two of whom have long been estranged. Now, as Junon needs a dangerous transfusion to survive cancer, everyone convenes in the family home to celebrate Christmas together. Though the film deals with many exceptionally depressing topics (mental illness, hatred, life-threatening disease, lost love, betrayal) director Arnaud Desplechin never veers into maudlin territory. Instead, with a lightly stylized touch, A Christmas Tale avoids taking itself or its characters’ foibles too seriously. Family members might hate each other, but something like love is underneath it all. On top of his story about a hilariously contentious family reunion, Desplechin has heaped cinema itself, spinning up a maelstrom of irises and dissolves, Vertigos and Tenenbaums, Minguses and Herrmanns, to end up with something that feels almost, maybe, strangely, ever so slightly touching. —Alissa Wilkinson


frances-ha.jpg 44. Frances Ha
Year: 2012
Director: Noah Baumbach 
Frances Ha is endearing, kind and, in many ways, Noah Baumbach’s best movie since the one to come before it. One could trace his films, from his debut (Kicking and Screaming) to the one before Frances Ha (Greenberg) and see a slow but increasingly steady focus on the individual, as well as his abandonment of an ironic, sometimes caustic stance against the very characters he writes. It is as if Baumbach could only write a certain type of person—the privileged, socially crippled intellectual with either too much self-awareness or none at all—and for a while it seemed like even the writer himself couldn’t stand to be in the same room with such characters. This anger faded, and what has emerged over the course of the films he’s made with Greta Gerwig (who here plays the titular Frances) is an embrace of both the flaws of his characters, and those as a filmmaker. He has settled down and created a film imbued with love, fun and melancholy. It’s a simple joy to watch. —Joe Peeler


daddy-longlegs-poster.jpg 43. Daddy Longlegs
Year: 2010
Directors: Ben Safdie, Joshua Safdie
Is Lenny Sokol the coolest dad ever? Or is he a walking hazard who exposes his often unruly twin boys to risks most parents would consider unthinkable, if not prosecutable? Both, actually. This autobiographical film by brothers Ben and Joshua Safdie (this year’s Good Time) is a freewheeling, totally bugged-out portrait of a father whose love is inseparable from chaos. Indie director Ron Bronstein (Frownland) plays existential dervish Lenny, a divorced projectionist who only has custody of his boys (Sonic Youth offspring Sage and Frey Ranaldo, in their full seven-year-old glory) for two weeks per year. Emotionally generous and refreshingly real in its restless, handheld whirl, the film veers between tenderness and panic, capturing gritty details of a New York City that barely seems to exist anymore. The wiry Bronstein’s caffeinated pulse gives the film its improvisatory edge, as the story takes unpredictable leaps through the magic and terror of childhood. —Steve Dollar


always-shine-poster.jpg 42. Always Shine
Year: 2016
Director: Sophia Takal
Sophia Takal punctuates her film with horror movie grammar, whether in setting or in style. It’s always bad news when a movie compels its human beings to attend a cabin in the woods, especially when those humans know of their own accord that the surrounding area lacks cell coverage, so Anna (Mackenzie Davis) and Beth (Caitlin Fitzgerald) get off to a shaky start that becomes downright wobbly with just a shift in setting. Also troubling are the flashes between the film’s present and what we presume to be its future. Takal occasionally slows down Anna and Beth’s dialogue and plays it in reverse, or flits from their chatter to the sights and sounds of struggle. These aggressive editing choices hint at where Always Shine ends up going, though nothing substantial enough to give away the big reveal. —Andy Crump


dark-days-movie-poster.jpg 41. 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


marwencol-poster.jpg 40. Marwencol
Year: 2010
Director: Jeff Malmberg
One night in 2000, Mark Hogencamp was beaten close to death by five men outside of a bar he frequented. No one really knew why it happened; after nine days in a coma, Hogencamp awoke with severe brain damage and little memory of life before. Unable to pay for intensive therapy, he slowly devised a world of his own to reconstruct in place of the one he’d lost: Marwencol, a World-War-II-era Belgian town made from 1/6th scale hobby sets and GI Joe/Barbie dolls, He populated the place with characters transposed from his life as he knew it—himself, friends and the men who attacked him. In order to find reason, and one assumes come to some sort of closure, Hogencamp—charmingly chain-smoking—acts out serialized plots in his little town, meticulously positioning tiny hands or dragging action figure vehicles down back country roads, all the while in thrall to every trivial detail within his control. Marwencol explores Hogencamp’s imagination as he attempts to rediscover the identity he lost, following the man to New York when his photos of Marwencol are featured in Esopus magazine and shown in an art gallery. The trip proves to be the first time since the accident that Hogencamp’s left his rigorously controlled, excessively private life, and with that director Jeff Malmberg captures him finally getting a grip on the quietly slumbering truths that may have—somehow—brought him to that point. It’s a story rich in awakenings, about the precarious nature of identity and the surprises of spirit awaiting us, somewhere, out of our control, yet held deeply within. —Dom Sinacola


devil-blue-dress-poster.jpg 39. Devil in a Blue Dress
Year: 1995
Director: Carl Franklin
Devil in a Blue Dress perfectly casts Denzel Washington as a down-on-his-luck WWII veteran who relocates to L.A. to start a new career as a private investigator. As tends to happen with PIs in this subgenre, the man inevitably finds himself embroiled in a complicated murder investigation. Adding his own spin to the well-trodden noir plotlines, writer/director Carl Franklin uses his film’s detective story as a launching pad to explore the racial landscape of 1940s America. Philip Marlowe certainly had his share of rough encounters, but he had the benefit of never being instantly judged on the basis of his skin color. Mix in a scene-stealing turn from Don Cheadle and Devil in a Blue Dress makes for one tantalizing riff on the film noir formula. —Mark Rozeman


four-lions-poster.jpg 38. Four Lions
Year: 2010
Director: Chris Morris
Four Lions proves once again that great comedy can be extracted from the dodgiest and most painful subjects, mixing slapstick with dry British humor to tell the story of four would-be radical Islamic terrorists hell-bent on bringing down the evil capitalist heathen of the West. Only one problem (well, a couple of them): They have no real connections, skills, or ability to plan anything, suffering from varying degrees of resolve when it comes to blowing themselves up for their cause. In other words, they are terrible at their dream jobs. As unrelenting as Four Lions can be in the way that it pokes fun of its central four characters, they film never adopts a farcical tone, instead never shying from the dangerous ramifications of their actions, no matter how incompetently they go about them. Deftly executed by co-writer/director Christopher Morris, who should be known States-side as the neurotic boss during the first season of The IT Crowd, and a pre-mopey, pre-The Night Of Riz Ahmed in a hilarious leading turn, Four Lions demonstrates a careful, masterful directorial hand. Plus it contains the best line about suicide bombing in any movie: “His soul will reach heaven before his head hits the ceiling.” —Oktay Ege Kozak


heathers_poster.jpg 37. Heathers
Year: 1988
Director: Michael Lehmann
As much an homage to ’80s teen romps—care of stalwarts like John Hughes and Cameron Crowe—as it is an attempt to push that genre to its near tasteless extremes, Heathers is a hilarious glimpse into the festering core of the teenage id, all sunglasses and cigarettes and jail bait and misunderstood kitsch. Like any coming-of-age teen soap opera, much of the film’s appeal is in its vaunting of style over substance—coining whole ways of speaking, dressing and posturing for an impressionable generation brought up on Hollywood tropes—but Heathers embraces its style as an essential keystone to filmmaking, recognizing that even the most bloated melodrama can be sold through a well-manicured image. And some of Heathers’ images are indelible: J.D. (Christian Slater) whipping out a gun on some school bullies in the lunch room, or Veronica (Winona Ryder) passively lighting her cigarette with the flames licking from the explosion of her former boyfriend. It makes sense that writer Daniel Waters originally wanted Stanley Kubrick to direct his script: Heathers is a filmmaker’s (teen) film. —Dom Sinacola


we-are-the-best-poster.jpg 36. We Are the Best!
Year: 2014
Director: Lukas Moodysson
“What do you mean, ‘Out of tune’?” says middle-schooler Klara (Mira Grosin), the lead singer and bassist in the self-proclaimed Best Band in the World (even before they’ve learned to play their instruments). It is 1982 in Stockholm, and she and best friend Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) are being taught chords by new recruit, Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne), a tall blonde outcast. They’ve asked Hedvig to join their band after realizing that, despite her long hair and shiny crucifix, she has the right attitude for punk. “Why does she keep performing when everyone boos her?” they wonder just before asking her to join. We Are the Best! is, in many ways, a typical and flawless coming-of-age film. What it does best, though, is show the particular arc of the kind of kid whose life is saved by music. Early scenes in which Bobo drowns out the cheesy mainstream music of bland adult life and strife by blasting punk through her headphones are just as thrilling and authentic as scenes during which the girls transition from not knowing how to play at all, to writing lyrics about their annoyances (being called ugly freaks; hating sport and conformity), to finally figuring out the very basic formula of punk rock. It may be the greatest movie ever made about the Riot Grrrl movement—even if it takes place a decade before the movement existed. —Miriam Bale


computer-chess-poster.jpg 35. Computer Chess
Year: 2013
Director: Andrew Bujalski
Writer-director Andrew Bujalski tells the story of a group of young nerds trying to design a computer program that can outsmart a human at chess. Set in the early ’80s, Computer Chess utilizes camera equipment from the era to recreate not just a period but also a mindset—that of a culture in which technology hadn’t yet invaded every aspect of our lives and the idea of chess-playing computers still seemed the stuff of science fiction and outcasts—which only makes its unexpected ending all the more pointed and lonely. —Tim Grierson


waltz-bashir-poster.jpg 34. Waltz with Bashir
Year: 2008
Director: Ari Folman
As much about memory’s hallucinatory inventions as the facts of the 1982 massacre at a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut by the so-called Phalangist Christian militia, Ari Folman’s animated Waltz with Bashir begins with 26 barking dogs rushing through a city—from there, the emotion builds, relentlessly. Though Folman, a veteran Israeli documentarian, calls Bashir a documentary based on the interviews at its core (mostly with fellow soldiers), his cameras go places the handiest cinematographer could never venture: Beams of light bend between branches during a forest battle; and the dream images of men rising naked from the sea—while balls of fire fall from the sky—are just as real as the chasm-like blank spots in Folman’s mind as he reconstructs his mission into Lebanon. Powerful beyond a doubt, especially during a fourth-wall shattering climax, Waltz with Bashir borrows the visually manifest mind games of Richard Linklater’s Waking Life or A Scanner Darkly and dances them to the deep end. —Jesse Jarnow


el-mariachi.jpg 33. El Mariachi
Year: 1992
Director: Robert Rodriguez 
A Doberman with aviator sunglasses. A turtle moonlighting for the chicken crossing the road. A traditional mariachi song that sounds suspiciously like Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart.” Mean guys with dumb mustaches in ugly shirts. Today, Robert Rodriguez’s debut as writer/director reads like a laundry list of interesting curios paraded before the viewer with an aesthetic that lands somewhere between Mexican soap opera and Terry Gilliam. Twenty-five years have passed, and while Rodriguez has helmed a butt-load of genre flicks in that time, from kid-centric fantasy spectacles to adults-only, overblown turd parties, El Mariachi is still a strong reminder that at one point Rodriguez was making fiercely confident action movies that actually wanted to be something more than neon signs pointing to themselves. “Hungry Heart” is right: Rodriguez was ravenous and ready from the get-go. —Dom Sinacola


river-grass-movie-poster.jpg 32. River of Grass
Year: 1994
Director: Kelly Reichardt
When it comes to discussing the films of Kelly Reichardt, most people tend to forget about River of Grass, her debut feature from 1994, a whole 12 years before her sophomore effort, Old Joy, would put her on many critics’ radars. Certainly, anyone expecting the social consciousness of Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy and Night Moves will be thrown for a loop by the purely genre-based leanings of River of Grass. It’s essentially a variation on lovers-on-the-run pictures, with a noirish mystery thread revolving around cop Jimmy Ryder (Dick Russell), the oblivious father of one of the escaped lovers, Cozy (Lisa Bowman). The key to Reichardt’s vision in River of Grass lies in Cozy’s character—her voiceover narration, especially. A 30-year-old housewife who still lives with her father, she frequently gives herself over to her daydreams, imagining a life outside her dead-end environment. Reichardt doesn’t signal this with any fantasy sequences; all one needs to do is hear her dryly delivered faux-poetic musings—“Murder is thicker than water,” she says at one point—and see the cheerleader-like routines she does out of the blue to grasp her essential immaturity (one scene featuring a dreamy slow dance is especially mesmerizing). Though Reichardt maintains a deadpan distance from her and the rest of the characters, Cozy’s desperation and her subsequent excitement at getting caught up in all of this intrigue register with enough force that, toward the end, when the much less glamorous reality of her situation dawns on her, the revelation also hits us with a devastating punch. —Kenji Fujishima


easy-rider.jpg 31. Easy Rider
Year: 1969
Director: Dennis Hopper
Perhaps no movie captures the time of hippies—or at least its darker side—than Easy Rider. Denis Hopper’s gritty and twisted film is about chasing freedom, but it flips that concept on its head into a critique of American culture that doesn’t actually cherish those who are free. With a cast that includes Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and Hopper himself, this is 1969 counterculture incarnate—plentiful drugs, free love, a commune and a cross-country motorcycle ride. Grossing $60 million at the box office, Easy Rider helped establish the New Hollywood movement of the 1970s, influencing a decade of filmmaking. —Josh Jackson


it-felt-like-love.jpg 30. It Felt Like Love
Year: 2014
Director: Eliza Hittman
With It Felt Like Love, writer-director Eliza Hittman takes a few routine subjects—the coming-of-age story, sexual awakening, adolescent confusion—and reminds us that a confident director, however experienced, can make material this common appear as fresh, strange and surprising as any good science-fiction story. Hittman has made some well-received short films (2010’s Second Cousins Once Removed, 2011’s Forever Gonna Start Tonight), but this is her debut feature, and her command over everything—performance, style, tone, imagery—announces her as a noteworthy new filmmaker. She invokes Maurice Pialat and Catherine Breillat when describing her genre influences in interviews, but her fascination with skin and bodies also owes a debt to Claire Denis. These inspirations neither overwhelm the material nor lessen Hittman’s achievement—if anything, they highlight the fact that we need voices like Hittman’s who speak with such formal and psychological curiosity. —Danny King


style-wars-movie-poster.jpg 29. Style Wars
Year: 1983
Director: Tony Silver
Affectless and workmanlike, Style Wars takes a surprisingly in-depth snapshot of hip-hop in the early ’80s in New York, just as the form was poised to break from street devotion to commercial acclaim. The film elects to focus on the (relatively) least popular elements of hip-hop—namely breakdancing and, especially, graffiti—joining these burgeoning, and young (my god, so young), artists as they navigate the New York underground, trading jargon and insider’s critiques on the art and lifestyle they love, holding no doubt that the work they were conjuring nightly would someday become the stuff of legend. Meanwhile, director Tony Silver stops by mayor Ed Koch’s office to get his smarmy take on what will or won’t deter such hoodlums, and then visits the head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority to hear a voice of sympathy, only to have that voice devolve by film’s end into yet another disciplinary finger-wagging. Still, Silver’s best accomplishment isn’t in painting authority figures as the artists’ archnemeses, but instead casting as super-villain that of anonymous graffiti “bomber” Cap, who confesses throughout the documentary that, in so many words, the most beautiful pieces (created by, among others, Seen, Kase2, Dondi and Skeme) deserve to be hastily sprayed over with his haphazard tag. Cap may seem like a monumental jackass—and war room meetings between the City’s other prominent burners reveal as much in their opinions—but his actions are laced with respect, bringing to light the competition and fleeting nature of hip-hop’s earliest manifestations. That a climactic scene involves a few artists already showing their work in hoity-toity art galleries only reinforces the already doomed nature of what they were trying to accomplish: They were literally rewriting, in miraculously constructive and non-violent terms, the rules of an urban jungle they felt no longer had room for them. —Dom Sinacola


post-tenebras-lux-movie-poster.jpg 28. Post Tenebras Lux
Year: 2013
Director: Carlos Reygadas
Carlos Reygadas’s fourth film, Post Tenebras Lux begins with what, in retrospect, appear to be two dreams. They both become nightmares. In the first: Rut, a toddler (played by the director’s daughter), runs around a football pitch with cows, donkeys and her family’s dogs. It is beautiful, verdant. A storm rolls in. She is alone in the dark. She calls for her brother, Eleazor. She calls for her mother. Lightning strikes. In the second: Inside a house. A demon (Satan himself?) enters. His junk dangles between his legs. He carries a toolbox, like he’s just returned home from work. He walks down the hall to find a small boy out of bed, waiting. The demon walks into the boy’s parents’ room and shuts the door behind him. Reygadas has no problem diving off into a new narrative strand, new characters, into the future, into the past, and even into a subconscious or two without notice or cinematic inflection. As the reality of the film settles in—an upperclass Mexican family, the father Juan’s (Adolfo Jimenez Castro) violent outbursts, his pornography addiction, his trip to an Alcoholics Anonymous-type meeting with a worker named Seven—the entire thing still feels like a lucid dream. If greeted with enough openness and interest, Post Tenebras Lux’s seemingly incoherent string of scenes reveals itself as a carefully executed emotional structure that begs for, and rewards, repeated viewings. —Joe Peeler


blue-warmest.jpg 27. Blue is the Warmest Color
Year: 2013
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Three-hour movies usually are the terrain of Westerns, period epics or sweeping, tragic romances. They don’t tend to be intimate character pieces, but Blue Is the Warmest Color (La Vie D’Adèle Chapitres 1 et 2) more than justifies its length. A beautiful, wise, erotic, devastating love story, this tale of a young lesbian couple’s beginning, middle and possible end utilizes its running time to give us a full sense of two individuals growing together and apart over the course of years. It hurts like real life, yet leaves you enraptured by its power. —Tim Grierson


paranoid park-movie-poster.jpg 26. Paranoid Park
Year: 2008
Director: Gus Van Sant 
A stylistic masterpiece, Paranoid Park is one part Spike Jonze, one part Wong Kar-wai and one part something only Gus Van Sant himself could’ve imagined. But while the film is unmistakably gorgeous, it’s Gabe Nevins’ untrained lead performance that makes this haunting tale of lost innocence unforgettable. Set in a Portland high school filled with disaffected teenagers (played by non-actors cast via MySpace) against a lush classical soundtrack—and in the hands of cinematographic mastermind Christopher Doyle—Paranoid Park infuses teenage spats, telephone calls and coasting skateboarders with lyricism and dreaminess. Alex (Nevins), a high-school student with divorcing parents, a cheerleader girlfriend he views with ambivalence, and middling skateboarding skills, drifts through life not causing much trouble. When he starts visiting a local skate park frequented by hardcore skaters from rough backgrounds, he accidentally partakes in a grisly murder and is at a loss to deal with the emotional aftermath. In Alex’s wake, Van Sant honestly depicts how an adolescent struggles—not just coping with growing up, but with the foundations of life: grief, loss and guilt. —Alissa Wilkinson

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