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The 50 Best Movies on HBO Go and HBO Now (January 2018)

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The 50 Best Movies on HBO Go and HBO Now (January 2018)

HBO’s lineup continues to refresh with as many great films added as those that are expiring—including several new collections this month, like the Harry Potter films and the Back to the Future trilogy. So, to help make sure you get the most out of your subscription this month, we’ve chosen our 50 favorite movies available on HBO this firt month of the new year, ranging from Oscar-buzzed dramas to classic comedies and insightful documentaries, from new 2017 classics like Get Out, John Wick: Chapter 2 and Logan, to underseen gems like In a Valley of Violence, Loving and Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris (which will be leaving the service soon, along with excellent Spielberg romp Catch Me If You Can). No matter your tastes, there’s a great movie waiting for you on HBO GO or HBO Now.

You can also check out our guides, some more updated than others, to the best movies on other platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, On Demand, and The Best Movies in Theaters. Visit the Paste Movie Guides for all our recommendations.

Here are the 50 best movies on HBO in December:

purge-election-year-movie-poster.jpg 50. The Purge: Election Year
Year: 2016
Director: James DeMonaco
The horror film America needs right now, or perhaps the horror film it deserves. There’s nothing elegant about DeMonaco’s third chapter in the franchise he began back in 2013 with The Purge, but that’s OK: Elegance is overrated, and if The Purge: Election Year is a broad, sloppy film that hits with all the subtlety of a hammer to the crotch, then in 2017 it’s the broad, sloppy, hammer-to-the-crotch all of us need. The movie doesn’t bother to hide its politics or disguise its social inclinations, taking equally to task America’s culture of narcissism, its ongoing struggle to relieve itself of white supremacy’s grasp, its obsession with “might makes right” ideologies, and its ever-increasing political instability and polarization. If shitty kids wearing shittier homemade masks aren’t busy busting into your store to steal your candy and kill you, then Murder Tourists, assholes from around the globe who fly to the U.S. of A. to partake in legalized murder, are hunting you down in packs to make a point about America’s patriotic disaster, and then also kill you. Feels about right.

But the scariest detail of The Purge: Election Year is its coda, in which we realize that once the genie is out of its bottle, it can’t be put back inside, whether the genie is a system that permits nationwide carnage on an annual basis or, speaking to our sad reality, a president-elect who doesn’t think he should have to waste his time on intelligence briefings. —Andy Crump


girl-with-a-pearl.jpg 49. Girl With a Pearl Earring
Year: 2003
Director: Peter Webber
There’s something to be said for a film that’s most sensual moments involve the piercing of an ear and the removal of a bonnet—just a bonnet—from the head of a woman who always dresses in layers. Based on a novel, Girl With A Pearl Earring is the first feature by Peter Webber, and even if it doesn’t attempt to understand painter Johannes Vermeer, it does show a mastery of its own visual art. Every frame looks stunning, as if Webber and his crew surrounded themselves with Vermeer’s paintings and adopted his palette for the glowing yellow faces of the people dressed for tea and the deep blue suits of the men on the sidewalk, both of which subtly echo the dialogue. Scarlett Johansson plays Griet, a servant girl in Vermeer’s household and eventually the subject of the painting that shares the movie’s title. At one point, Griet is quietly setting the dinner table. The frame around her expands to include Vermeer, played by Colin Firth, who is watching her work. Then it expands again to show Vermeer’s mother-in-law watching Vermeer watching Griet, with his wife situated in the middle. This scene may not say much about Vermeer as an artist and it may not be very subtle, but it’s a visually graceful summary of the movie’s dramatic triangle. As a drama about unrequited romance, the film works well enough. The most tensely sensual scenes are the ones with the least potential for sex, and although Griet has the eye of every man in the story, the movie refuses to entertain a torrid affair between Vermeer and Griet, preferring instead to leave her as an enigma. This is commendable in a sense but also somewhat contradictory: the movie is trying to explain away the mystery of Vermeer’s painting, but it still hopes to claim some of that mystery for its invented characters. —Robert Davis


diana-our-mother.jpg 48. Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy
Year: 2017
Director: Ashley Gething
This HBO original documentary falls in the “pathologically respectful” category, but it at least has a focus that makes clear that it understands its own purpose. It’s Diana’s life story as recalled by her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. While not especially substantive or deep, it is pleasantly intimate and gives viewers a legitimate peek at a point of view they probably haven’t had access to until now, as Diana’s sons have not spoken much about her in public. You can feel A Lot of Stuff getting glossed over, but it’s lightweight versus insincere. This particular documentary does a good job of reinforcing one of those through lines: Diana was, by all accounts, a loving and deeply engaged parent. This is a warm-hearted look at a couple of boys who are now men and who have never gotten over the untimely and sudden loss of one of their parents because, generally speaking, you don’t get over that. It’s… not typical, at least it wasn’t, for the British royal family to expose much about their private lives or their feelings (Charles and Diana’s incredibly public divorce changed that a bit), and William and Harry are restrained and circumspect in their remembrance of their mother. It’s kind of obvious that there’s a certain amount of reputation damage control going on here, and fair enough: The woman was so dogged by tabloid journalists and accused of everything from being an unfaithful bad-wife attention-seeking troublemaker to being downright mentally ill. This documentary does a really good and arguably needful job of reminding people that this adored and beleaguered public persona was also a human being and the mother of two other human beings who miss her. —Amy Glynn


Why-Him-Movie-Poster.jpg 47. Why Him?
Year: 2016
Director: John Hamburg
When an enterprising healthcare student (Zoey Deutch, till deserving of meatier roles since her supporting turn in the other big 2016 movie with punctuation, Everybody Wants Some!!) convinces her family to spend Christmas (another emotional prime-time for comedy) with her boyfriend, the profane and inked Silicon Valley CEO Laird Mayhew (James Franco, at his most gleefully oily and unpretentious), the culture shock conducts like a blow dryer in a bathtub. The owner of a dying printing company, her father Ned (Bryan Cranston playing between his fatherly Malcolm in the Middle role and his why-am-I-putting-up-with-this-sleazeball bits of Breaking Bad comedy) finds himself the focus of the most affection as Laird aims to propose with Ned’s blessing. An ultimatum is given and a quest undertaken. Financial and sexual insecurities fit into jokes about sexual oversharing and technological ineptitude while the set designers stuff every frame with an artistic gag. The film pops even when we’re not ogling hilariously-labeled portraits of animals in flagrante delicto, with the modern architecture used to frame both its quietest conversations and rowdiest ragers inside the ever-present juxtaposition of Silicon Valley excess and Midwest conservatism. The limited pop culture references and focus on its talented supporting players (especially the other family members, Megan Mullally as the mom and the wonderfully earnest Griffin Gluck as the little brother) give Why Him? a charm that doesn’t bury its insight. —Jacob Oller


the-normal-heart.jpg 46. 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


harry-potter-half-blood-prince-movie-poster.jpg 45. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Year: 2009
Director: David Yates
The first thing you’ll notice about Half-Blood Prince is that it’s gorgeous. Director Yates found his footing in Order of the Phoenix, and this follow-up displays a stylishness that elevates his best contribution to Rowling’s cosmos. Cinematographer Bruo Delbonnel desaturates the color palette while adding casts of green, gray, auburn and crimson. It’s a timeless, high-drama approach which calls to mind the claustrophobic surrealism of Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari when the action escalates, as well as the wartime romance of films like Casablanca as the emotions flood. While the Deathly Hallows films may offer the most Wagnarian spectacle, Half-Blood Prince remains the personal climax of the Potter saga. It’s a trippy, bold descent into the psyches of the characters and a statement to the complexities that separate them from their imitators in less nuanced fantasy. Snape and Dumbledore—respectively embodied by Alan Rickman and Michael Gambon—etch out a dynamic that never stops surprising, and the films become infinitely less interesting with their respective exists. —Sean Edgar


sully-poster.jpg 44. Sully
Year: 2016
Director: Clint Eastwood 
Clint Eastwood’s film is a meticulous recounting of the actions of Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), best known as the pilot who saved the lives of an entire passenger plane on January 15, 2009 when he miraculously landed in the Hudson. An unambiguously heroic story starring one of the most likable movie stars in the world, Sully could easily be viewed as a preemptive career move on Eastwood’s part after the controversies around American Sniper’s biographical whitewashing. Yet, the most radical thing about Sully is its apparent disinterest in presenting this story as a thriller. Beginning with a throttling dream sequence, Sully’s opening belies its intentions. A better encapsulation comes minutes later as Sully corrects an official who calls the incident a “crash.” “It was a forced water landing,” he says assertively in a line of dialogue that would be arrogant coming from any other actor, but feels ingratiating from Hanks. In other words, by mimicking the harmony of the real-life events, this is an anti-disaster film. Sully is foremost about control, harkening back to Howard Hawks films like Only Angels Have Wings in its exploration and admiration of the complexities of duty. Compared to Robert Zemeckis with Flight, Eastwood has no interest in telling a morality play; no missing clues or secret motives emerge in its final act. He lays out everything from the beginning. Part character study, primarily a courtroom drama, Sully is invested in the working gears of professionalism in extraordinary situations. —Michael Snydel


popstar-never-stop-poster.jpg 43. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Year: 2016
Directors: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Is pop stardom fascism? Is the glitzy parade of egocentric personality-worship a distant cousin to dictatorship? Maybe not, but for one moment of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping’s 80-minute duration we’re gulled into thinking these questions matter to a madcap, joke-a-second takedown of pop music and its overprivileged stewards: We glimpse the cover of the fictitious album that drives the film’s action by dint of sheer awfulness, and we see its star, Conner4Real (Andy Samberg), positioned at its center, his hand held straight and aloft in an unwitting evocation of history’s greatest tyrant. It’s impossible to mistake the reference for anything other than what it is, but the gag is just one in Popstar’s comic artillery. Popstar marks the second time The Lonely Island has spun a feature out of whole cloth together, but it might be the film that they’ve been brewing in their minds since they began. Think of it as the culmination of their love for pop culture excess and slick, bumping production—as much as their love for the willfully absurd and the endlessly stupid, too. —Andy Crump


about-a-boy.jpg 42. About a Boy
Year: 2002
Directors: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
No stranger to romantic comedies, Hugh Grant delivered perhaps his best performance ever in About a Boy, a different kind of rom-com. Through his relationship with a young teenager, Grant subtly transforms from notorious womanizer into, well, a man capable of loving the beautiful Rachel Weisz. Grant’s relationship with the boy is tender and thoughtful, much like the film itself. —Jeremy Medina


split-movie-poster.jpg 41. Split
Year: 2017
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Split is the film adaptation of M. Night Shyamalan’s misunderstanding of 30-year-old, since-discredited psychology textbooks on Dissociative Identity Disorder, but if we deign to treat it with scientific scrutiny, we’ll be here all night. Suffice it to say, don’t go looking at anything in this film as psychologically valid in any way. But do go see Split, because it’s probably M. Night Shyamalan’s best film since Signs. Or maybe since Unbreakable, for that matter. And if there’s one way that Split reinvigorates Shyamalan’s stock most, it’s as a visual artist and writer-director of tension and thrilling action. The film looks spectacular, full of Hitchcockian homages that remind one of Vertigo and Psycho, to name only a few. It’s a far scarier, more suspenseful film in its high moments than Shyamalan’s last film, The Visit, ever attempted to be, and it may even be funnier as well, although these moments of levity are sown sparingly for maximum impact. Mike Gioulakis deserves major props for cinematography, but the other thing that will stick in my mind is the unexpectedly great sound design, full of rumbling, groaning metallic tones. After so many films that relied on the kind of overwrought twist ending that made The Sixth Sense so buzzy in 1999, it seems like Shyamalan has finally gotten over the hump to make the kinds of stories he makes best: atmospheric, suspenseful potboilers. Here’s hoping that this newfound streak of humility is here to stay. —Jim Vorel


hitchcock-truffaut-movie-poster.jpg 40. Hitchcock/Truffaut
Year: 2015
Director: Kent Jones
One of America’s greatest film scholars takes on the most influential film book ever written—and in the process celebrates two of the greatest directors who ever lived—in Hitchcock/Truffaut, a lively, spectacularly entertaining documentary by filmmaker, archivist and historian Kent Jones. Here’s the background: In 1962, French film critic and director Francois Truffaut wrote to one of his idols, American auteur Alfred Hitchcock. At the time, Truffaut was a critical darling thanks to a trio of early masterpieces: The 400 Blows, Shoot the Piano Player and Jules and Jim. Hitchcock was one of the most successful and well-known directors in the world, yet few people outside of Truffaut and his colleagues at Cahiers du Cinema thought of “Hitch” as an artist. That was to change after Hitchcock accepted Truffaut’s written proposal: for Truffaut to spend a week interviewing Hitchcock in America for a book-length study of the director’s work. The resulting publication, Hitchcock/Truffaut, not only sparked the beginning of a critical reevaluation of the master’s work but influenced generations of young directors around the globe. Jones is so good at what he does that the worst thing one can say about the film is that there isn’t enough of it—at 80 minutes, it left me wanting much, much more. Ultimately, the film is a nearly perfect treasure, a love letter from one director to another, about that director’s love letter to his favorite director. I was left not only with a deeper appreciation of Hitchcock and Truffaut, but of Jones, who in his own way has become Truffaut’s American counterpart. Somebody ought to make a documentary about him. —Jim Hemphill


valley-of-violence-movie-poster.jpg 39. In a Valley of Violence
Year; 2016
Director: Ti West
One of the most heartbreaking scenes of any film of 2016 was one of the most heartbreaking scenes of any film in 2014—then it was in slickly excellent Keanu Reeves mass-slaughter vehicle John Wick, and two years later it’s in Ti West’s otherwise pretty fun-filled neo-Western, In a Valley of Violence. To even mention the former means sauntering smugly into spoiler territory with the latter, but West, who’s proven he’s one of our deftest genre handlers still figuring out what he wants to do when he grows up, knows you can’t really spoil such an archetypal plot anyway. Instead, with his latest film, by giving up scares for shoot-outs, the typically horror-centric writer-director isn’t interested in re-configuring classic tropes as much as he is in rubbing those tropes against reality to see what sparks. And while In a Valley of Violence doesn’t burn the traditional Western formula to dust, it does give a cadre of impeccable character actors a wide-open sandbox to squat over and dump into. More, maybe, than any other recent revisionist Westerns, like Bone Tomahawk or The Hateful Eight, In a Valley of Violence is built around interrogating the genre’s tried and true archetypes—its cinematic language even—rather than upholding, modernizing, or (in the case of Tarantino’s take) obliterating them out of existence. Ethan Hawke finds the perfect workmanlike take on the Man With One Name, Paul, a gunslinging drifter and former Union soldier, by playing him as blankly as he can, owing his opaque demeanor to the Eastwoods and Bronsons of Sergio Leone’s classics. Meanwhile, the film is far funnier than any of its pedigree would suggest, aided in part by the arrival of John Travolta as the surprisingly rational U.S. Marshal. Like Kurt Russell in Bone Tomahawk, Travolta’s is a reassuring presence, as effortless as it is wearied, the anchor which the film’s increasingly stylized violence can never totally lift. Still, West is an impeccable craftsman, his storytelling chops as fatless and near-faultless as ever. As much could be expected from any genre director these days, really, and West is, undoubtedly, up to the task of trying his hand at any of the kinds of films he loves. —Dom Sinacola


hidden-figures-movie-poster.jpg 38. Hidden Figures
Year: 2016
Director: Theodore Melfi
As with most biopics, Hidden Figures is centered on an individual possessed of great talent and vision, a figure who is both extraordinary and ordinary, who confronts a world which neither recognizes said talent nor shares said vision, and who eventually proves that social change is possible by taking on the structures the world has organized against her. Fin. Melfi, without hesitation, embraces that blueprint, confident that his actors and his message will eclipse the film’s categorical trappings. It helps that Hidden Figures eschews “great man” clichés to make celebrating the achievements of women of color its purpose, telling the story of how African-American mathematicians Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) defied systemic discrimination to carve out places for themselves in NASA during the 1960s. It helps further that Melfi doubles down on uplifting his viewers by way of sheer jubilance: He believes in the inherent power of his movie’s meaning and history, recognizing that fancypants filmmaking would dilute their affecting power and lessen their impact. Hidden Figures flips back and forth between its broad palatability as a triumph narrative and its sobriety as one about American racism. The film never makes light of the obstacles placed in Johnson, Vaughn and Jackson’s way. Instead, it uses entertainment value to cut sharp contrasts with the gravity of its heroines’ professional circumstances. If Melfi dips into pseudo-screwball territory on occasion, he remains ever aware of the injustices his film, adapted from Margot Lee Shetterly’s nonfiction tome of the same name, necessarily chronicles in honoring its subjects’ accomplishments, and maybe that’s why Melfi’s decision to stick to the biopic blueprint works. Johnson’s achievement is inextricably linked to her struggles. You can no more discuss one without discussing the other. —Andy Crump


hellboy-2-movie-poster.jpg 37. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
Year: 2008
Director: Guillermo del Toro 
The Golden Army is a somewhat divisive sequel to Hellboy, with some proponents possibly praising del Toro’s vivid imagination in crafting an even better film than the first, while others could consider its an example of Lucas-ian drift from character and story into a world-building wonderland. Regardless of the comparison, though, it’s a sequel that gives us more of the first film’s better elements—the genius of Ron Perlman, Doug Jones as Abe Sapien, a bit of John Hurt—and the addition of the eccentric Johann Krauss, the disembodied, ectoplasmic professor contained in a diving suit. The elven antagonist, Prince Nuada (Luke Goss), can’t quite measure up to the first film’s villains in terms of how they fit into the mythology of Hellboy’s creation and destiny, but the MacGuffin of the titular Golden Army makes for a spectacular final fight sequence. Also neat: Seeing an expansion of the fantasy/fairy world that coexists next to the human one in the Hellboy universe, including their memorable trip to the Troll Market existing in a parallel dimension under the Brooklyn Bridge. The story is ultimately slightly less focused on Red himself, but The Golden Army is never anything short of entertaining. —Jim Vorel


scarface.jpg 36. Scarface
Year: 1983
Director: Brian De Palma
Brian Depalma’s Scarface may be overrated, but it’s a cult classic with, perhaps, the most famous quote from any gangster film: “Say hello to my little friend.” In other words, the film—particularly Al Pacino—is completely over the top, which is both awful and awesome. —David Roark


la-la-land-2-movie-poster.jpg 35. La La Land
Year: 2016
Director: Damien Chazelle
La La Land’s exhilarating and nearly unflagging energy strives to inspire in viewers an equally bold appreciation for all the things it celebrates: the thrill of romantic love, of dreams within reach, of what we call “movie magic.” In this, Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to Whiplash, an opening scene blooms into an ambitious song-and-dance number set in the midst of a Los Angeles traffic jam. It’s there our protagonists, Sebastian and Mia (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone), will have a terse encounter foreshadowing their destiny as lovers, but not before a flurry of acrobatic dancing and joyful singing erupts around them, as if heralding their own flights of fancy to come. Cinematographer Linus Sandgren’s camera guides us through the excitement, weaving and spinning among drivers who’ve left their cars to execute a stunning sequence of choreography which appears to have been performed in a long, unbroken take. The combination of song and visual is how Chazelle renders the joy of being in love and the way love transforms the geography around those in its sway. —Anthony Salveggi


tickled-movie-poster.jpg 34. Tickled
Year: 2016
Directors: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve
It’s safe to assume that most people have never heard of “competitive endurance tickling,” so when David Farrier, a New Zealand-based television reporter and actor, was sent a link to a bizarre video of young men tickling other men for “sport,” it was only natural that it piqued his curiosity. So, he did what any other reporter would have done: He sent a Facebook message to Jane O’Brien Media, the U.S.-based company that produced the aforementioned videos. While his inquiry was routine, the response he received from company representative Debbie Kuhn was anything but. In fact, it was jaw-droppingly hostile. She wrote, “To be brutally frank, association with a homosexual journalist is not something that we will embrace,” and then continued, assuring Farrier that Jane O’Brien Media would pursue legal action should he take his inquiry any further. So begins the fascinating documentary Tickled, directed by Farrier and Dylan Reeve, the latter largely remaining off-camera. What might have been a tongue-in-cheek examination of a subculture—a fluff piece of the kind on which Farrier’s built his career—quickly becomes a trek down the fetish rabbit hole, the filmmakers uncovering a larger, more nefarious operation. With hidden cameras, ambush interviews and Dateline-esque gotcha segments, the film segues into a bona fide thriller as they explore the dark, seamy corners of the internet, hunting for the Keyser Söze of the competitive tickling world. —Christine N. Ziemba


pale-rider-poster.jpg 33. Pale Rider
Year: 1985
Director: Clint Eastwood 
The first mainstream Western to be produced after the colossal critical and financial bust of 1980’s Heaven’s Gate wound up the most successful of its ilk for that decade. Director-star Clint Eastwood’s oater owes as much to Biblical scripture as to the 1953 classic Shane, following another Man with No Name, the enigmatic “Preacher” who helps defend a mining camp from a greedy interloper during the California Gold Rush. Of the title’s referencing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Eastwood’s character is a supernatural entity lifted directly from the Book of Revelation, Death itself riding in on four legs from the Sierra Nevada—Eastwood called his clerical collar-wearing vigilante “an out-and-out ghost.” Pale Rider paints its not-so-mysterious parable of divine retribution in moody tableaux—sometimes heavenly, others more akin to a hellish, light-starved descent—and with Eastwood’s inimitable economy of dialogue. He’s not on screen here as much as in his films like The Outlaw Josey Wales and Unforgiven, but his avenging loner is felt at all times. Just like the Johnny Cash spiritual “The Man Comes Around,” Eastwood’s preacher man is never not around these parts. —Amanda Schurr


catch-me.jpg 32. Catch Me if You Can
Year: 2005
Director: Steven Spielberg 
Based on a true story, Catch Me if You Can revolves around a charming cat-and-mouse game between Leonardo DiCaprio, playing teenage forgery expert Frank Abagnale, and Tom Hanks, playing the FBI agent on his tail. In the fim, Abagnale grows up idolizing airline pilots, and one of his first cons involves forging paychecks from Pan Am Airways, using stickers from toy Pan Am planes to make the checks look official. This eventually leads Abagnale to con his way onto actual flights, pretending to be a dead-heading pilot. His dream of living the pilot’s life and walking arm-in-arm with flight attendants is realized, but it isn’t long before the forged life comes crashing down around the young criminal mastermind. —Ryan Bort


last-days.jpg 31. 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 figures. 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, with Thurston Moore also on board as music consultant, only the essential themes Van Sant believes we should take away from Cobain’s demise. —Fred Beldin


austin-powers.jpg 30. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Year: 1999
Director: Jay Roach
I have a theory about Mike Myers: If you were not a teenage boy growing up in the late ’70s or early ’80s, you’re going to miss so much of his humor. With the “Powers” films and the two “Wayne’s World” films, Myers brilliantly, and hilariously captured something, that hodgepodge of pop culture from the ’60s that permeated the ’70s and morphed into something else in the ’80s. Essentially variations on one joke, a spoof of ’60s spy movies, the ’60s themselves and, by extension, the ’90s, the series began to run out of steam mid-way through this second installment but it certainly has its charms, notably the opening musical sequence. —David J. Greenberg


informant!-movie-poster.jpg 29. The Informant!
Year: 2009
Director: Steven Soderbergh 
Matt Damon stars as a real-life, decidedly non-movie-star-wielding white-collar executive named Mark Whitacre who turned FBI informant against his employer—aggro-business giant Archer Daniels Midland—to reveal a price-fixing scandal. Rather than a straight comedy, though, The Informant! is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a singularly odd man, one who tried to scam the FBI even as he was providing them information, ending up in jail right alongside his bosses. Featuring plenty of on-location scenes in Decatur, a mid-size, blue-collar city that is indicative of Illinois’ past prominence in the manufacturing industry, the film is a respectful, unblinking look into the kinds of cities that dot the interior of Illinois, islands of buildings surrounded by fields of corn and soybeans, where Chicago is all-too-often considered a sort of separate province supposedly populated by the effete bourgeois. —Jim Vorel


erin-brockovich.jpg 28. Erin Brockovich
Year: 2000
Director: Steven Soderbergh 
Julia Roberts teaches us what Brockovich taught PG&E in the early ‘90s: never, ever underestimate a single mother in a push-up bra. Erin Brockovich’s story reminds us that every injustice—no matter how small—deserves its own revolution. —Shannon M. Houston


mohicans-movie-poster.jpg 27. The Last of the Mohicans
Year: 1992
Director: Michael Mann
On one of his many jaunts through American history, Daniel Day-Lewis stops off in 1757 in the middle of the French and Indian War, playing a white man raised by a Native American chieftain and beholden to no one side in the fight engulfing the then-British colony of New York. Director Mann does not delve too deeply into the tangled politics of this particular American war, instead focusing on the general antagonism felt by American Indians towards white colonists—whether French or British, Europeans scrap for land that never belonged to them in the first place—and their perpetual thirst for conflict. The romance between Day-Lewis’ Nathaniel Hawkeye and Madeleine Stowe’s English debutante Cora Munro may be tepid, but typical for Mann the action is marvelously arranged, from the explosive siege at Fort Henry (first spied from a distance as a storm of fire in the night, just one of many spellbinding images courtesy of DoP Dante Spinotti) to the rousing, emotionally charged showdown between the last Mohicans and a rival tribe led by a glowering, damaged Wes Studi. —Brogan Morris


hacksaw-ridge.jpg 26. Hacksaw Ridge
Year: 2016
Director: Mel Gibson 
More or less, every film Mel Gibson has made as a director from Braveheart onwards has been a Christian parable with splatter, each one (particularly, obviously, The Passion of the Christ) about a common Chosen One offering himself as a sacrifice for the good of mankind. Gibson’s latest, the schizophrenic WWII drama Hacksaw Ridge—half cornball melodrama, half ultra-violent action movie—is a bloodthirstily reverential bio in the same mold. Its subject, conscientious objector Desmond Doss (played with saintly sincerity by Andrew Garfield), a Seventh-day Adventist who won the Medal of Honor despite never carrying a weapon into combat, might not have approved of Gibson’s gore-hungry style, but the director’s way with battle scenes in the second half of the film is undeniable as cinema. Once it enters the Pacific Theater, and Doss’s regiment sets up camp on the heavily fortified Okinawa, Hacksaw Ridge is all Sturm und Drang, a visceral depiction of war like no other. —Brogan Morris

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