The 50 Best Movies on HBO Go and HBO Now (April 2019)

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The 50 Best Movies on HBO Go and HBO Now (April 2019)

As it usually goes, HBO lost a buttload of great films this month, but still: To help make sure you get the most out of your subscription, we’ve chosen our 50 favorite movies available on HBO in March, ranging from new 2017 classics like Oscar winner Phantom Thread, to three of our favorites from last year, Paddington 2, Isle of Dogs and, this month, The Miseducation of Cameron Post. HBO has also added a few Woody Allen flicks, which seems odd at best, but we’ll still gladly welcome Annie Hall and gladly ignore Manhattan.

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 April:

despicable-me-movie-poster.jpg 50. Despicable Me
Year: 2010
Directors: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
Followed by three more franchise flicks—one of which, 2013’s Despicable Me 2, is so old-timey racist and unabashedly violent and culturally tone-deaf it’s legitimately detrimental to the health of young children—the original Despicable Me shines best by flattening the dichotomy between good guys and bad guys, removing all but the most heart-strings-tugging stakes from what would otherwise be a minefield of superhero and spy thriller movie tropes. In the world of career super villain Gru (Steve Carell, playacting a mouthful of an Eastern European accent), good guys are boring state-subsidized bureaucrats, and bad guys aren’t all that bad, just ambitious pseudo-scientists with big ideas and healthy competitive natures. They don’t actually want to hurt anybody. So, really, once Gru begins unwittingly step-fathering three young orphan girls (the youngest voiced adorably by Eighth Grade’s Elsie Fisher) he sheds all of his sociopathic tendencies to become an ersatz Good Guy replete with brand new nemesis, Vector (Jason Segal). Though the two sequels and standalone Minions vehicle needlessly complicate the DM mythos, further muddying Gru’s lineage and giving the Minions personalities (the funniest joke in this first film is how Gru talks to each Minion as if they are an individual being, giving them normie names, even though they are impossible to distinguish)—which then means we have to ask questions about how Minions procreate and/or go to the bathroom—the first Despicable Me movie is a pleasantly pure distillation of family-friendly values, slapstick and indifferent character designs, bolstered by a good joke or two. If only it ended there. Instead, we must wonder, in 2019: If a Minion with its pants around its ankles has no genitals, is it really naked? —Dom Sinacola


love-simon-movie-poster.jpg 49. Love, Simon
Year: 2018
Director: Greg Berlanti
Love, Simon is the latest entry in the fairly minuscule collection of movies geared towards young LGBTQ people, but it’s in how main character Simon (Nick Robinson) self-actualizes which seems to establish the film firmly in the present. The ironies of Simon’s very liberal family, accepting friends, etc. are no match for deeply rooted anxiety and a proclivity to want to create some sort of identity online, a version of himself only he and one other, his anonymous pen pal Blue, can know. Love, Simon was not the first queer teen movie (though it was being touted as if it was), and it was not even the first queer film to explore digital identities, but the film is nonetheless of interest because of the way that it uses digital spaces to project who Simon wants to be and and what Simon wants gay desire to look like. Simon, brusquely masc-performing and part of a dream middle class family, can exist as an ostensibly more honest version of himself in the digital realm, while writing to an anonymous person named Blue, whom he found by way of a “confessions”-like blog. Love, Simon’s connection to You’ve Got Mail is crucial because of how it articulates the line between artifice and authenticity: Simon, and Blue for that matter, are no less honest for carving out an identity online in which they feel safe enough to reveal an “authentic” part of themselves. The internet has evolved rapidly since Nora Ephron’s film, but the same rules apply. Love, Simon is one of a few very recent queer films that has its protagonist use the internet to imagine who they could be, or who they think they should be. For Simon and Blue, an email thread can be the queer space they need to explore what “being yourself” really means. —Kyle Turner


hoffa-movie-poster.jpg 48. Hoffa
Year: 1992
Director: Danny DeVito
To call Hoffa a biopic is maybe too on-the-nose, though the title might have most thinking otherwise. Instead, Danny DeVito uses the name to represent a massive social movement, an attitude, a conflagration: Very little is shown of Jimmy Hoffa’s (Jack Nicholson) family, or of his childhood, or even of his undoubtedly complicated internal life. Instead, David Mamet’s script shears all dramatic frills from the Teamster President’s rise to power, building his background as an act of myth-making, letting Nicholson’s frightening charm imbue the historic character with enough confidence and grit to make the fact that Hoffa came to be an inhuman figurehead a believable conclusion to a life’s work. With that, Hoffa is rote in tone and narrative economy, translating an impossibly complex series of backroom dealings and class politics into the fairy tales that now inhabit the gray areas of Detroit legend. It almost doesn’t matter that Mamet frames his script with a Passion-esque prediction of what actually did happen to Jimmy Hoffa’s body—today Detroiters are still looking, long after everyone else stopped caring if he’d ever be found. —Dom Sinacola


oceans-8-movie-poster.jpg 47. Ocean’s 8
Year: 2018
Director: Gary Ross
Somewhat maligned upon release as a second-rate copy of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s films, I’m here to tell you: That is the point. Ocean’s 8 (notice the difference in title treatment compared to Soderbergh’s films) is the cubic zirconium of the Ocean’s films, and proud to be, an imitation that gestures towards all of the elements, stylistically and narratively, of the other movies, but something is off. Something uncanny, perhaps. So, too, is the uncanniness of womanhood in this film, women whose heist job requires them to perform as women. Dresses and accessories and the artifice of femininity abound on the carpet of the Met Gala. What if the movie was the con all along? —Kyle Turner


diana-our-mother.jpg 46. 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


waking-ned-devine-movie-poster.jpg 45. Waking Ned Devine
Year: 1998
Director: Kirk Jones
Waking Ned Devine may be the most feel-good heist flick ever made. An old-timer in a small village, Ned (Jimmy Keogh), wins the lottery then immediately dies of shock. Two of his also-old-timer buddies, Jackie (Ian Bannen) and Michael (Fawlty Towers’ David Kelly), decide to scam the big-city lotto agent into thinking that one of them is Ned, alive and well. What ensues is not so much a con-artist caper but more a celebration of all that is Irish: community, camaraderie and the spirit of human generosity. Other Irish themes championed: whiskey, lush landscapes, poetry, naked geriatric men riding motorcycles, whiskey and the fiddle. —Ryan Carey


tully.jpg 44. Tully
Year: 2018
Director: Jason Reitman 
She’s just so tired. Marlo, the reluctant heroine of Tully, is a wife and mother of two, with a third child just days away from being born. Certain adjectives come to mind to describe her—patient, caustic, diplomatic—but the word that’s most easily applied is tired. Actually, maybe exhausted would be more accurate—stretched to her breaking point, just about ready to snap. Marlo is played by Charlize Theron, making her second film with Up in the Air director Jason Reitman. Their first effort, Young Adult, was about a train wreck stubbornly resisting maturity. In Tully, Theron once again plays a woman who feels like she could shatter. We watch her expectantly, fearing what will happen if this teetering, struggling character finally falls down. Written by Diablo Cody, who previously collaborated with Reitman on Juno and Young Adult, Tully gives us a marriage and a family that’s barely holding on. Marlo’s husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), is a decent guy but a little beaten-down—it’s clear neither of them really wanted a third child but, yet, here we are. Their other two kids are hardly perfect angels—their young son seems to have emotional issues that no doctor has been able to completely pinpoint—and financially, Marlo and Drew aren’t sure they’ll be able to keep their heads afloat after Baby No. 3 arrives. The movie takes some risks near the end that underline the story’s central themes while also undercutting them. But Tully is at its best when it’s simply moving intuitively from one negotiated respite to the next. This film is never as bleak in its depiction of the quiet hells of motherhood as 2011’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, but its awkward, everyday rhythms may resonate more with child-rearing viewers—who probably won’t be able to concentrate on the movie at home because they’ll be too busy corralling their kids to have a moment to themselves. —Tim Grierson


mavis.jpg 43. Mavis!
Year: 2016
Director: Jessica Edwards
Mavis! celebrates the remarkable career of Mavis Staples, one that started when the woodsy-throated Chicagoan was only 16, backed on guitar by her father Roebuck “Pops” Staples, and belting out the religious standard “Uncloudy Day.” Just as Greg Kot’s biography avoided the temptation to focus on scandal fodder, Jessica Edwards’ movie avoids the easy path of relying on celebrities to deliver on-camera testimonials about how terrific Mavis is. The filmmaker trusted that the audience could figure that out from the plentiful performance clips, so she only used talking-head interviews if the subjects had worked directly with Mavis and could advance the narrative. The result is one of the best music documentaries of this decade. The film includes the scene of Mavis receiving her first Grammy Award in 2011; she looked up overhead and said, “It’s all because of you, Pop, that I am here. You built the foundation, and I’m still working on the building.” The picture ends with Mavis and her recent producer Jeff Tweedy fleshing out Pops’ final recordings, which he left unfinished when he died in 2000. —Geoffrey Himes


the-normal-heart.jpg 42. 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


early-man-movie.jpg 41. Early Man
Year: 2018
Director: Nick Park
With Early Man, Nick Park has made his first feature since 2005’s The Curse of the Were-Rabbit—and his first non-Wallace and Gromit film since 2000’s Chicken Run—and it’s a sly, unexpectedly emotional comedy with lots of goofy laughs and the occasionally inspired bit of business. But fair or not, it’s hard not to compare this prehistoric laugher to Aardman’s (and Park’s) brilliant past. In this stop-motion film, we’re introduced to Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne), a kindly caveman who thinks his tribe, led by Chief Bobnar (voiced by Timothy Spall), needs to stop settling for rabbits to hunt and instead go after bigger game. But their peaceful, albeit meager existence is interrupted by an invading Bronze Age army, which kicks them out of their valley homeland and condemns them to live in the inhospitable Badlands. As a way to return to the valley, Dug offers the Bronze Army’s snooty Lord Nooth (voiced by Tom Hiddleston) a deal: If his tribe can beat Nooth’s elite athletes in a soccer match, they can remain in the valley. If they lose, Dug and his friends will have to work in Nooth’s grueling mines. Chicken Run, which Park co-directed with Aardman co-founder Peter Lord, succeeded in part because of its cheeky tweaking of the prison-breakout movie. Early Man cycles through a few genres—Park reportedly pitched the film as a mixture of Gladiator and Dodgeball—but it’s primarily an underdog sports movie, pitting our lovable losers against a superior squad, the whole film building to the finale’s big game. What’s consistently funny about Early Man is its characters’ discomfort—at being mocked, of saying the wrong thing, of losing the big match—which lends Park’s film a humanity and vulnerability that undercut the splashy razzle-dazzle of other, bigger-budgeted animated fare. —Tim Grierson


ready-player-one-movie-poster.jpg 40. Ready Player One
Year: 2018
Director: Steven Spielberg 
I shudder to think what Ready Player One would have been like if had been directed by anyone other than Steven Spielberg. The novel the movie is based on is the infamously dopey videogame geek fantasy—only gamers can save the world!—that was harmless and derivative in 2011 but seems oddly weaponized in a Gamergate age, and what someone like, say, Michael Bay or Max Landis would have done with the book is more than a little bit terrifying. Spielberg is the perfect guy to direct this, maybe the only one, because he not only has a direct connection to the relentless ’80s nostalgia throughout—one of the most fun aspects of the film is spotting Spielberg’s own Easter eggs—but he also has the same gentle, overly earnest tone he’s had his whole career. There are times that earnestness can turn cloying and even toxic. But here, it’s exactly the antidote the rest of these needs. The movie is still silly and empty. But Spielberg, as always, makes it feel good going down. Our hero is Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), who survived some sort of apocalypse in the 2020s—expecting one to come that late almost seems optimistic these days—and now lives in the “stacks” in Columbus, Ohio, basically a future version of a trailer park. Like everyone else, he escapes from his grim reality by visiting “the Oasis,” a virtual reality world where you are represented only by your avatar and you can visit any virtual landscape you wish, collecting “coins” and trying not to “zero out” and have to start the “game” over. The Oasis was invented by a man named Halliday (Mark Rylance, wonderfully mumbly as ever) who, when he died, revealed that he had hidden three keys as Easter eggs in the game, with the person who finds them first awarded with control of his company and the Oasis, and thus the future. This leads an evil corporation called IOI, headed by an evil CEO played by a reliably shady Ben Mendlesohn, to invest all their resources in trying to win the game while Wade (called “Parzival” in the online world) and a group of rebel gamers try to stop them to save the world. That’s a lot of plot, and we haven’t even got into the killer drones and the virtual chopshops and T.J. Miller’s bounty hunter character. The real-world characters aren’t drawn particularly well, basically just a Gaggle of Rebellious Kids that we’ve seen in countless other movies, many of them drawn from old Spielberg movies themselves. The world’s dystopia is oddly sunny, as dystopias go, and the anger about the current state of the world in The Post is mostly absent here. He’s too busy keeping all the plates spinning to worry about the planet in this one. This is just a big fuzzy good time. —Will Leitch


land-before-time-movie-poster.jpg 39. The Land Before Time
Year: 1988
Director: Don Bluth
It’s hard to overstate what a major development it was for Don Bluth to leave Disney in 1979 to form his own studio. Working during the actual reign of Walt Disney, starting as an in-betweener—the crucial artist whose job it is to fill in the frames of animation that add detail to the movement between poses—in 1955, he chafed under the cutbacks that hit the company in the ’70s just as he was about to direct films of his own. Ultimately he, Gary Goldman and 14 other animators jumped ship to start Don Bluth Productions. An American Tail (1986), the heartbreakingly true and important story of an immigrant family coming to America, was an incredible success from the standpoint of animation and storytelling. The company marketed the hell out of it and, for an animated film, it pulled decent numbers. It set the stage for The Land Before Time two years later in 1988, but already, the studio was struggling: Tail may have reached eyeballs and won acclaim, but it didn’t turn the studio a profit. Setting any story in the age of the dinosaurs is asking for tragedy, but you can still tell some tales of that era without focusing on the unavoidable fact that all their hopes and dreams and everything that they ever were is destined to be washed clean by nature. So what did Bluth and his team decide to do? Set the story during the end of days, of course.

Beginning with a wonder-filled tour of the prehistoric landscape through which we’ll be roaming, The Land Before Time introduces our hero, a baby dino named Littlefoot (voiced by Gabriel Damon), paired with narration that tells us his herd is dying and the plants are shriveling. Bluth’s creative team and their financiers fought over the tone of the movie, and it’s easy to see why the money men were alarmed. Who wants a light-hearted kid’s movie to grapple with childhood orphaning and abandonment, all set while the inevitable end of the world plays out? Littlefoot is orphaned in the first few minutes of the film when a T-Rex violently kills his mother, then is joined on his journey by other orphaned or abandoned dino babies with their own neuroses. Littlefoot struggles at the head of his little band to keep the faith and continue plodding onward toward the legendary Great Valley when every circumstance along the way taunts them with doubt. The Land Before Time clearly wanted to be a movie that was about coping with loss, being changed by it, but it ended up an adventure movie with a happy ending that leaves most of that solemnity as weighty subtext. It’s debatably one of Bluth’s best movies, and I’d even argue one of the best animated movies of the ’80s. It was also one of the last bright spots of Don Bluth’s film catalogue. —Ken Lowe


the-post-movie-poster.jpg 38. The Post
Year: 2017
Director: Steven Spielberg 
The Post begins as a restrained procedural, sticking only to the facts surrounding The Washington Post obtaining, in 1972, top secret Pentagon Papers showing (without a doubt) that the American resolve for winning the war in Vietnam was severely diminished—the exact opposite mood the U.S. administration was claiming at the time. This strictly matter-of-fact approach would have made directors like Gosta Gavras and, yes, Alan J. Pakula proud. Of course, this being a Steven Spielberg joint, The Post can’t help but gradually bring heavy emotional tension to the film’s forefront, easing us moment by moment into a fairly manipulative yet exhilarating finale. None of that should come as a surprise: “Manipulative but exhilarating” might as well be the director’s calling card. The fact that The Post doesn’t stick to its apparent predecessors’ (All the President’s Men, Spotlight) dogged dedication to never clearly extracting strong emotional responses out of its audience might come across as a clear criticism of this otherwise airtight, tautly-paced drama with some of the best acting of the year. However, we are not living in subtle times. With the rise of authoritarianism here in the U.S. severely pushing back on the first amendment, explicitly declaring the free and open press an enemy of the people, the people need a populist piece of art with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face. That’s why, in 2017, Spielberg is the perfect director to handle this story. Who better to rouse us, give us the passion and motivation we need to not only keep up the fight against such tyranny, but to hold out some hope for salvation as well? Depending on one’s politics, then, The Post could be the most important film of the year, or a pathetic piece of left-wing agitprop, but its effectiveness in eliciting a strong emotional response cannot be denied. —Oktay Ege Kozak


X2-movie-poster.jpg 37. X2
Year: 2003
Director: Bryan Singer
From its incomparably stunning opening sequence, demonstrating the full power of the best reasons for humans to fear mutants, to its ending grace note of bittersweet victory, X2 represented a full step forward in legitimizing comic books as a valid source of drama and excitement on the silver screen. The returning cast from director Bryan Singer’s 2000 X-Men, including Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellen and—of course—Hugh Jackman’s iconic portrayal of Marvel favorite Wolverine are complemented beautifully by Alan Cumming’s haunted Catholic teleporter, Nightcrawler, and Brian Cox’s brilliantly villainous turn as the mutant-hating military scientist, Col. Stryker. Even with so many beloved characters to juggle, Singer never loses focus on which one works in any given scene to propel the thrills and emotional center of the story. It’s an awesome ensemble action movie as much as it is a movie about a marginalized but powerful population of people struggling to take the high road in the face of bigotry. —Scott Wold


uncle-drew-movie-poster.jpg 36. Uncle Drew
Year: 2018
Director: Charles Stone III
Uncle Drew is proof positive that a solid execution, deft handle on tone and a genuine emotional connection with characters can turn even the most cynical premise into (at least) a fun time at the movies. Based on a series of Pepsi commercials in which NBA superstar Kyrie Irving plays a cranky old man who turns out to be a nimble, expert basketball player, Uncle Drew somehow transcends all of its prejudices to be a funny, affable, by-the-numbers but genuinely warmhearted sports underdog story that finds a way to take its silly gimmick—look at those old, frail men at the basketball court…oh wait, turns out it’s Shaq and Chris Webber!—and wrap it around a well-paced, inspirational narrative that earns almost every bit of its schmaltz. In it, Lil Rey Howery, breakout comic relief from Get Out, plays Dax, the high-strung coach of a street ball team getting ready for the prestigious Rucker Classic tournament. A lover of the game since his days growing up in an orphanage, he has given up on playing after his rival Mookie (Nick Kroll) blocked a winning shot. Does Dax’s character arc revolve around him coming to terms with his past failures, leading to some inspirational moments during the third act? Yes, the script sticks close to the Mighty Ducks template, but the characters and their bond keep our interest. After Mookie steals Dax’s star player, the desperate coach comes up with a plan to get back in the tournament: He recruits the reclusive ’60s streetball star Uncle Drew (Irving) and his team of senior goofballs for one last shot at the championship. this is one of those rare occasions in which a movie uses the dusty trope of turning a group of oddball misfits into a “family” and actually pulls it off in an emotionally satisfying way. —Oktay Ege Kozak


miseducation-cameron-post-movie-poster.jpg 35. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Year: 2018
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Maybe one would not have guessed it from word of mouth or a logline, but The Miseducation of Cameron Post is one of the funniest films of the year. With a sense of humor that is knowingly in debt to Jamie Babbit’s But I’m a Cheerleader, though more subtle, Desiree Akhavan’s second feature length functions as a teen film about challenging authority first and a film about conversion therapy second. Chloe Grace Moretz’s Cameron and her friends, Jane Fonda (Sasha Lane) and Adam Red Eagle (Forrest Goodluck) are clear-eyed about both the ridiculousness and the terrifying consequences at the gay conversion camp they’re all forced to attend. And in spite of their situation, they must find solace where they can, be it on the kitchen tables singing 4 Non Blondes or in the backwoods smoking weed. Cameron Post has, above all, a clear, lived-in perspective about being a teen, being queer and what trauma can mean in the context of both. —Kyle Turner


dances-with-wolves.jpg 34. Dances With Wolves
Year: 1990
Director: Kevin Costner 
Overlooking the fact that this is the story of a white male savior, Kevin Costner’s directorial debut was something of a milestone in Hollywood’s historically terrible depiction of “cowboys and Indians.” Kevin Costner plays Lt. John Dunbar, a Civil War hero serving in an isolated outpost in Sioux territory. When he returns a young woman to her tribe—again, an adopted white woman, Stands With Fist—his presence there is finally accepted, and he learns the Lakota language and customs. With the U.S. army pressing upon all Native Americans in the late 1800s, Dunbar’s loyalties become clouded. The film was beautifully shot by Dean Semler and dominated the Oscars with seven awards, including Best Picture. Costner’s passion for the project showed when he put $3 million of his own money towards finishing production when the shoot ran over its $15 million budget. It paid off when the film went on to gross $424 million globally. And while there were plenty of critics about the authenticity of a film starring only one native Lakota speaker, Costner was adopted as an honorary member of the Sioux Nation. —Josh Jackson


bourne-identity-movie-poster.jpg 33. The Bourne Identity
Year: 2002
Director: Doug Liman
The years immediately following 9/11 shifted American action movies away from fireworks shows like Independence Day, and toward muddy uncertainty. The Bourne Identity kicked that movement off in earnest, telling a tightly paced story of a single amnesiac assassin, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), as he comes to the realization that he’s the result of some shadowy government program built to eliminate politically inconvenient targets. At its core the story is one of woeful incompetence and hubris, as the g-men immediately assume losing contact with Bourne must ipso facto mean he has defected or snapped. Rather than talking to him, they hurl every resource available at trying to just kill him, and the fun is in watching them be undone by their own wayward pawn’s absurd hyper-competence. The Bourne Identity can be blamed in part for the put-the-camera-in-a-blender school of action movie filming that would define the years immediately following, but it also put Damon’s star power and Chris Cooper’s exacting character acting opposite one another in a straightforwardly exciting action drama that delivered again and again in the years to come. As the first installment of the Bourne trilogy of the ‘00s, it’s also the foundation of a remarkably consistent story. The sharp-eyed will note that even something as fleeting as a glimpse at the name on one of Bourne’s alias passports comes up again in subsequent sequels, and every time a character reprises his or her role in the films years later, the original actor returns. It’s great craft in service of solid films. —Kenneth Lowe


wonder-woman-poster.jpg 32. Wonder Woman
Year: 2017
Director: Patty Jenkins
Considering that the character of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) was the only one in Batman v Superman who didn’t want to yank your eyeballs out of your head with a spork, it perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise that Wonder Woman is lightyears better than anything else the newfangled DC cinematic universe has produced. It’s not quieter necessarily, but it is more measured, more comfortable in its own skin, less fanboy desperate to keep waving keys in front of your face—exploding keys—to make sure it has the full attention of all your assaulted senses. It feels almost old-fashioned in its themes of the goodness of humanity—and the debate alien outsiders have about whether or not humans are worthy of redemption—and the selflessness of one for a greater good. It still has too many skyscraper-sized god-monsters blowing up whole acres in hackneyed super slo-mo, and it doesn’t have much you haven’t seen before, but that it simply tells one story in linear order with logical progression…man, when it comes to these movies, it almost feels like a miracle. —Will Leitch


inception-movie-poster.jpg 31. Inception
Year: 2010
Director: Christopher Nolan 
In the history of cinema, there is no twist more groan-inducing than the “it was all a dream” trope (notable exceptions like The Wizard of Oz aside). With Inception, director Christopher Nolan crafts a bracing and high-octane piece of sci-fi drama wherein that conceit isn’t just a plot device, but the totality of the story. The measured and ever-steady pace and precision with which the plot and visuals unfold, and Nolan mainstay wally Pfister’s gorgeous, globe-spanning on-location cinematography, implies a near-obsessive attention to detail. The film winds up and plays out like a clockwork beast, each additional bit of minutia coalescing to form a towering whole. Nolan’s filmmaking and Inception’s dream-delving work toward the same end: to offer us a simulation that toys with our notions of reality. As that, and as a piece of summer popcorn-flick fare, Inception succeeds quite admirably, leaving behind imagery and memories that tug and twist our perceptions—daring us to ask whether we’ve wrapped our heads around it, or we’re only half-remembering a waking dream.

Director Andrei Tarkovsky wrote a book about his philosophy towards filmmaking, calling it Sculpting in Time; Nolan, on the other hand, doesn’t sculpt, he deconstructs. He uses filmmaking to tear time apart so he can put it back together as he wills. A spiritual person, Tarkovsky’s films were an expression of poetic transcendence. For Nolan, a rationalist, he wants to cheat time, cheat death. His films often avoid dealing with death head-on, though they certainly depict it. What Nolan is able to convey in a more potent fashion is the weight of time and how ephemeral and weak our grasp on existence. Time is constantly running out in Nolan’s films; a ticking clock is a recurring motif for him, one that long-time collaborator Hans Zimmer aurally literalized in the scores for Interstellar and Dunkirk. Nolan revolts against temporal reality, and film is his weapon, his tool, the paradox stairs or mirror-upon-mirror of Inception. He devises and engineers filmic structures that emphasize time’s crunch while also providing a means of escape. In Inception different layers exist within the dream world, and the deeper one goes into the subconscious the more stretched out one’s mental experience of time. If one could just go deep enough, they could live a virtual eternity in their mind’s own bottomless pit. “To sleep perchance to dream”: the closest Nolan has ever gotten to touching an afterlife. —Michael Saba and Chad Betz


descent-movie-poster.jpg 30. The Descent
Year: 2005
Director: Neil Marshall
True camaraderie or complex relationships between female characters isn’t so much “rare” in horror cinema as it is functionally nonexistent, which is one of the things that still makes The Descent, nominally about a bunch of women fighting monsters in a cave, stand out so sharply all these years later. But ah, how The Descent transcends its one-sentence synopsis. The film’s first half is deliberately crafted to fill in the personalities of its group of women, while slowly and almost imperceptibly ratcheting up the sense of dread and foreboding. As the characters descend deeper into the cave, passageways get tighter and the audience can feel the claustrophobia and dankness creeping into their bones—and that’s before we even see any of the resident troglodytes. Neil Marshall’s screenplay makes masterful use of dubious morality, infusing its protagonists, particularly the duo of Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) and Juno (Natalie Mendoza), with numerous shades of gray. Not content to simply paint one of the two as flawed and the other as resourceful and ultimately vindicated, he uses a series of misunderstandings to illustrate human failing on a much more profound and universal level. Ultimately, The Descent is as moving a character study as it is terrifying subterranean creature feature, with one hell of an ending to boot. —Jim Vorel


blockers-movie-poster.jpg 29. Blockers
Year: 2018
Director: Kay Cannon
John Cena, wrestler and employee of the Daddy’s Home franchise, is in the Jingle All the Way era of his career, and, as Buzzfeed columnists would say, We’re here for it. All of us. There’s hardly a more reasonable way to respond to Blockers, in which Cena plays fastidious, incomprehensibly beefy dad Mitchell, who is unable to deal with the revelation that his daughter, high-schooler Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), plans to lose her virginity at her senior prom. Blockers is a second-generation teen romp openly owing its lineage to Superbad and American Pie while trying something new: not as consumed by its vulgarity, treating its teens who actually look like teens as the over-jaded post-Millennials they supposedly are, and having most of the film’s nudity provided by men, i.e., Gary Cole going full frontal, unashamed of his nice dick. In other words, no one wants to cheer for the toxic privilege of rich, white, horny, suburban high-school boys anymore, but we do want to cheer for best friendship and young people starting to figure their shit out and parents who learn how to give them the space and respect to do that. And if John Cena is the paternalistic He-Man—the Jim’s Dad of the Dwayne the Rock Johnson Generation, if you will—to guide the youth through their cinematic, sex-positive formative years, then let Blockers test his mettle. If the film’s direction is workmanlike and the writers’ plotting flimsy, then the better to focus on the cast. They’re a joy to watch together, everyone unironically playing unironic characters packed to the gills with backstories that go nowhere, revealing little painful, relatable details amidst all the electrocutions and butt-chugging and occasional car explosion and full close-up violent testicle squeezing. If this is what a popular sex comedy can be in 2018, something forward-thinking and empathetic and crowd-pleasing, then let the box office show it. And may John Cena be with you. —Dom Sinacola


BigFish.jpeg 28. Big Fish
Year: 2003
Director: Tim Burton 
It is hard to take a dysfunctional father/son relationship and make it into a magical fantasy world, but that’s just what Burton did in Big Fish. The director takes viewers on a journey of the life of Edward Bloom, an ordinary man who through his own storytelling has lived an extraordinary life. In just two hours Burton addresses death, infidelity and the feelings of estrangement with ease, but he never loses his sense of fantasy. By the end of the movie, Burton has you seeing magic in even the most mundane events and believing in the impossible. —Laura Flood


last-days.jpg 27. 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


something-about-mary-movie-poster.jpg 26. There’s Something About Mary
Year: 1998
Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
...and it’s not just hair gel. Cameron Diaz’s titular character is the object of affection for a wide range of guys, not all of whom are NFL quarterback Brett Favre. Not without reason: She combines a certain Audrey Hepburn winsomeness with a certain Ava Gardner crassness, plus a sensibility that is as ’90 as anything this side of Jennifer Aniston’s haircut in Friends Season 1. Throw in a splash of Ben Stiller cringe-theater, Chris Elliott creepypants-comedy and cameos by both Jonathan Richman and a certain football star, and you have a Farrelly Brothers classic—raunchy, ridiculous, and somehow guffaw-inducing even when you know better. It’s sort of like if Otto Preminger’s masterpiece Laura were set in 1990s Florida and made into a comedy by drunk frat boys. What’s not to love? —Amy Glynn

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