The 25 Best Movies on Cinemax Right Now

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The 25 Best Movies on Cinemax Right Now

HBO Max may have begun dominating the Max title among movie streaming apps since its release, but before it burst onto the scene, Max Go was one of the premium ways to watch movies. While its website is still active, the Cinemax streaming companion has since taken a backseat to the HBO parent streamer. That doesn’t mean, however, that Cinemax isn’t still offering up hundreds of great movies. From great action flicks, war movies, and westerns to comedy and drama, the premium channel still has the hits. In our curation efforts, we’ve skipped over Max After Dark options, so those after “Skinamax” offerings will have to venture into that territory on their own. Let us know whether Bikini Avengers or College Coeds vs. Zombie Housewives need to make the list.

This list covers the best on offer, up to date for January 2021.

Here are the 25 Best Movies on Cinemax and Max Go:

25. Crimson Peak

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Year: 2015
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Crimson Peak is a deeply human picture where the ghouls shuffling in the back of del Toro’s mind happily serve as window dressing instead of as antagonists. People, not monsters, have always been del Toro’s central fascination. He just happens to have a pronounced fetish for all things ectoplasmic and phantasmagoric, though his supernatural tastes match his preference in thespians. Here, he has assembled the comely trio of Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain to play out his film’s mortal conflicts, which makes good sense: In del Toro’s world, the dead necessarily look just as stunning as the living. Sue the man for placing high aesthetic value on the visual scheme of the fiends haunting his pictures. Like The Devil’s Backbone, used here as del Toro’s self-reference point, Crimson Peak takes the “haunting” part to heart, with a ghost yarn wrapped up in Victorian-era romance that’d make du Maurier, Brontë, Bava, and Perrault beam with pride from beyond the grave. —Andy Crump


24. Alita: Battle Angel

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Year: 2019
Director: Robert Rodriguez

Alita: Battle Angel begins with Dyson Ito (Christoph Waltz), doctor to cyborgs, scavenging through a junkyard full of spare parts in order to find anything he can use. What better way to start a film than with a metaphor about itself? Just like Dr. Ito, director Robert Rodriguez and co-writer/co-producer James Cameron sift through the remnants of established sci-fi and cyberpunk properties in order to glue together a recognizable and cohesive narrative within the confines of its genre. Considering the talent involved, it’s not surprising that the finished product is a frequently fun and kinetic, visually pleasing sci-fi/actioner, albeit one that doesn’t have a single new or fresh part embedded in it. Again considering the talent involved, that feels like a lost opportunity. Based on the popular manga, Gunnm, Alita: Battle Angel mostly takes its visual cues and narrative structure from a 1993 anime adaptation. That anime is barely an hour long, yet manages to pack in a sprawling cyberpunk universe with a deep and complex lore that supports whatever over-the-top tech fetish cyber action it throws at you. The story follows Alita (Rosa Salazar), whom Dr. Ito finds during his junk hunt and brings back to life. Her brain is human, but the rest of her is artificial. Just like a cyborg version of Jason Bourne, she doesn’t remember her past, but has supreme ass-kicking instincts, leading Ito to suspect some sinister military use in her past. The future world that Battle Angel inhabits is the lovechild of Blade Runner and Mad Max, a grimy post-apocalyptic city that’s also a grand, overpopulated cyberpunk metropolis. Apart from Alita gradually figuring out her ass-kicking skills, there’s another clear reason for giving the character amnesia: So she can be used as an exposition dump to settle the audience into the story’s world and the hodgepodge of various sub-plots that co-screenwriters James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis and Robert Rodriguez cram into a two-hour runtime. However, when the fighting finally begins, Battle Angel gets its metallic ass in gear. Rodriguez pushes the confines of the PG-13 rating to create some genre- and source-material-appropriate hack-and-slash gruesomeness with a significant amount of cyborg bodies split in half, decapitated and torn to pieces. For fans of the manga and anime, there isn’t much in the way of new material to be found here, though nor is it likely to grate on one’s fandom to the extent that the Ghost of the Shell live-action adaptation did. For fans of futuristic sci-fi/action, it should provide an engaging experience. —Oktay Ege Kozak


23. Glengarry Glen Ross

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Year: 1992
Director: James Foley

Surely somewhere on the Internet there’s a catalog of all the potboiler plays that have been turned into lifeless movies, wherein their minimal settings came off as flat rather than intimate or claustrophobic, and the surgically written prose came off as stilted rather than impassioned. Glengarry Glen Ross is the exception and the justification for all noble stage-to-screen attempts since. This adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning play about workingman’s inhumanity to workingman still crackles today, and its best lines (there are many) have become ingrained in the angrier sections of our collective zeitgeist. James Foley directs the playwright’s signature cadence better than the man himself, and the all-star cast give performances they’ve each only hoped to match since. Mamet, for his part, managed to elevate his already stellar material with his screenplay, adding the film’s most iconic scene, the oft-quoted Blake speech brilliantly delivered by Alec Baldwin. This is a film worthy of a cup of coffee—and, as we know, coffee is for closers only. —Bennett Webber


22. Reality Bites

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Year: 1994
Director: Ben Stiller

Directed by Ben Stiller (who also stars), Reality Bites centers on four friends (Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn) who live in Houston and have just recently graduated college. This film covers a range of classic twenty-something dilemmas, including how we handle those dreams of achieving something big, coming out of the closet to your parents and dealing with STDs. Of course, there’s the whole “long-time friends who realize they might have feelings for each other” thing, as well, though I suppose that can happen in any decade. —Michael Burgin


21. Rush

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Year: 2013
Director: Ron Howard

James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is a charming ne’er-do-well. He’s lazy, an alcoholic and oversexed. In the first moment of the film, he stumbles into a hospital waiting room, barefoot and covered in blood. He’s just arrived from a nasty racing accident. A nurse takes him to an examination room to tend his wounds and wouldn’t you just know it—they end up having sex. Hunt lives for the moment, which is one of the reasons he’s such a good driver. Niki Lauda (played with precision by Daniel Brühl) lacks Hunt’s instincts but makes up for them with hard work. Though he doesn’t have as many victories or sponsors as Hunt, Lauda buys his way onto a Formula One team and proceeds to demonstrate his expertise by outsmarting the team’s mechanics. Lauda can tell what’s wrong with a car just by sitting in it. In order to win, he has made it his business to know all the statistics, machinery and laws governing his sport. If Ron Howard’s film was just about cars, the film’s 123 minutes might prove a pretty tedious drive. It’s not just about cars, though—it’s about how we interact with people different from ourselves, what we learn from them, and how those experiences can enrich our lives. As a result, Rush is worth the trip.—Lee Tyler


20. Her Smell

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Year: 2019
Director: Alex Ross Perry

Her Smell chronicles the fall and rise of Elisabeth Moss’s Becky Something, a Courtney Love surrogate and frontwoman of the punk rock band Something She; Becky talks like a Wonderland character but acts like an uncaged animal. Moss being an actress whose greatest asset is her eyes, and Perry being a filmmaker who fixates on the human gaze, Becky spends the movie staring either at other characters or into the camera. Her eyes burn like toxic twin moons. The movie’s first three quarters light the match of her self-immolation. In the punk rock world there’s little more stultifying than commercial success; add in a poisonous personality and an enthusiastic drug habit and Becky’s unmaking—by her own hand—is assured. Yet, the film’s final act redeems her, such as Perry’s movies redeem anyone. In contrast to his other work, Her Smell is compassionate, even tender; Becky, later seen sober, washed up and repentant for her years as a monster fed on abusing her ex-husband (Dan Stevens), her bandmates (Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin) and her mother (Virginia Madsen), sings a devastatingly moving cover of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” to her daughter in a moment equally as gentle as it is painful. Even in the recovery phase, Her Smell delicately walks a perilous tightrope and arrives on the other side as the masterpiece of Perry’s career. —Andy Crump


19. Murder on the Orient Express

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Year: 1974
Director: Sidney Lumet

A legendary actor in his own right, Albert Finney still holds the distinction of being the only Hercule Poirot performance that’s nominated for an Oscar. In director Sidney Lumet’s graceful yet surprisingly gritty star-studded 1974 adaptation of Murder on The Orient Express, Finney’s take on Poirot is that of an eccentric oddball who’s predictably excellent at solving crimes, but is a bit weird and ill at ease when it comes to interacting with people on a social level. He’s also brash, somewhat impulsive, and doesn’t suffer fools lightly. Tony Randall might come closest to creating a comedy character out of Poirot, but it’s Finney’s exaggerated mannerisms that truly resemble Peter Sellers’ Clousau on a sheer performance level. Since Lumet is a director who loves digging deep into each character, him and Finney must have come to the conclusion that any person whose life revolves around so much murder must eventually turn into a bit of a weirdo. Traditionalist Poirot fans are not very fond of this performance, but for those who are not familiar with the character, it comes across as fascinating and refreshing—as does the Agatha Christie adaptation. —Oktay Ege Kozak


18. They Came Together

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Year: 2014
Director: David Wain

They Came Together is director David Wain’s giddily absurd, brilliant dissection of romantic comedy tropes. Wain and co-screenwriter Michael Showalter take the baseline structure of a typical rom-com and intentionally fill it with inane, vague details to expose how so many similar movies pretty much only adhere to a paint-by-numbers formula, hoping to extract some degree of charm out of the “hot but accessible and quirky” casting. Their script requires our hapless but lovable leads (Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, having a blast as they mug for the cameras) to be attracted to each other after the obligatory introduction in which they despise one another. Their mutual point of magnetism: They both like fiction books. This biting spoof is full of digs like this, from the obnoxious cliché of New York City being a third character in the story—repeated 20-something times—to the way the dialogue points out how each of the best friend characters fit certain strict archetypes. As opposed to Wain and Showalter’s ’80s camp movie parody Wet Hot American Summer, demonstrating the duo’s clear affinity for the films they skewered, one wonders just how much they hate the kinds of cookie-cutter rom-coms they go after, if they’re being mean-spirited or just honest about films of which they’ve obviously seen a lot. —Oktay Ege Kozak


17. The Return of the Living Dead

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Year: 1985
Director: Dan O’Bannon

One of the greatest zombie films of all time, from the year that undoubtedly was the greatest year in zombie history, The Return of the Living Dead is a perennial classic that begs to be a late night selection for your Halloween party—likely after everyone has had a few drinks. This film was deeply influential on the genre in the ‘80s, for the first time establishing the idea that zombies specifically craved human brains, but it’s also just a blast in terms of its silly characters and outstanding practical effects. Even more so than in Night of the Demons, the camp value of the 1980s pop culture references and fashion is at its zenith here, but the campiness of these aspects is balanced by genuinely hilarious comedy and effects that are still appreciably gross all these years later. It’s even set to one of the most gloriously hard-rocking soundtracks of the era … and yes, there’s nudity. Lots of nudity. Don’t say you weren’t warned, but this is one of the most wildly entertaining films you can put on at any Halloween party.— Jim Vorel


16. The Station Agent

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Year: 2003
Director: Thomas McCarthy

One of the early breakout roles for Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage was this warm, funny story of a reclusive man who moves into an abandoned train depot. Director Thomas McCarthy has made a career of caring deeply for his characters in films like The Visitor and Win Win, and here it’s to slowly convince Dinklage’s Finbar McBride that his low view of humanity might just be wrong. It’s a contemplative, tender, hilarious film that feels both real and uplifting. If only George R.R. Martin would give Tyrion this kind of break.—Josh Jackson


15. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

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Year: 1974
Director: Michael Cimino

Clint Eastwood was so impressed with filmmaker Michael Cimino’s talent, showcased in the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force, that he hired Cimino to make his directorial debut with the buddy crime movie Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, starring Jeff Bridges opposite Eastwood. It’s a solid, modest picture and features gorgeous widescreen cinematography of the Montana countryside. A charming bank heist film with lots of heart and a killer central relationship, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is almost as good as its wild title.—Derek Hil


14. The Warriors

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Year: 1979
Director: Walter Hill

Walter Hill’s The Warriors is the cinematic exploration of what a Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic future might look like if it existed right alongside our own urbanized populace, on the fringes and outside the notice of polite society. Set on the mean streets of late ‘70s New York, back when the city was known for its mortality rate as much as its tourist destinations, The Warriors is an action-meditation on tribalism, honor and respect. After an influential gang leader is gunned down during a peace summit, blame is falsely placed on the titular Warriors, who must survive a gauntlet of deadly foes standing between them and their home on Coney Island. It’s those colorful tribal groups that are the film’s highlight, each bedecked in their own colors and of varying capabilities, from the all-girl Lizzies to the murderous Rogues to the absurdity of the face-painted, bat-wielding “Baseball Furies.” In the years since 1979, The Warriors has become an essential cult film for its portrayal of how youth culture of the ‘70s elected to leave society behind and go underground, reemerging as something completely new. —Jim Vorel


13. Winter’s Bone

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Year: 2010
Director: Debra Granik

Watching Winter’s Bone is like entering into an entirely different world, vividly capturing the sights and sounds of the Ozark mountains in a way that’s stylized yet feels completely natural to the setting. But that’s all just beautiful wrapping around Jennifer Lawrence’s stunning performance as a 17-year-old raising her two younger siblings, supporting her mother, and trying to find the whereabouts of her deadbeat father before their house is taken away. Debra Granik takes this search plotline in dreadful new directions, and while Lawrence may end up battered by her community and nearly starved by an indifferent society, she never loses her dignity. Winter’s Bone is simultaneously the most depressing and uplifting film of the year, showing us the worst of humanity without ever giving in to it. —Sean Gandert


12. Saw

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Year: 2004
Director: James Wan

Whether you love or hate entries in the so-called “torture porn” subgenre of horror, one at least has to admit how influential Saw was, not only in the films it so clearly inspired but in the fact that it gave us a first look at director James Wan. If not for Saw, we wouldn’t have everything from Insidious, to The Conjuring, to even Furious 7, which proved that Wan is now a major Hollywood director. The first of the Saw films isn’t even all that “torture”-heavy; rather, it’s more of a criminal mystery of figuring out how these poor characters ended up in such a terrible predicament and who’s thrusting these terrible choices on them. A little overwrought and twisty, perhaps, but still a grounded story compared to the increasingly crazy and gimmick-heavy nature of the many sequels. —Jim Vorel


11. Apocalypse Now

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Year: 1979
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Let’s invoke Truffaut, because his spirit feels as relevant to a discussion of Francis Ford Coppola’s baleful adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as to a discussion of a war film like Paths of Glory, and to considering war films in general. Maybe, if we take Truffaut at his word, Apocalypse Now can’t help but endorse war merely through the act of recreating it as art. Maybe that doesn’t stop the film from conveying Coppola’s driving theses: War turns men into monsters, leads them on a descent into a primal, lawless state of mind, and war is itself hell, an ominous phrase now made into cliché by dint of gross overuse between 1979 and today. If the film innately sanctions war by depiction, it does not sanction war’s impact on the humanity of its participants. In fact, Apocalypse Now remains one of the most profound illustrations of the corrosive effect nation-sanctioned violence has on a person’s spirit and psyche. It’s cute that in 40 years later we’re OK with quoting this movie in gratingly awful AT&T commercials, or repurposing its period backdrop for the sake of making King Kong happen for contemporary audiences for a second time, but there’s nothing cute, or even all that quotable, about it. Apocalypse Now sears, sickens and scars, branding itself in our memories as only the grimmest displays of human depravity truly can. —Andy Crump


10. Sling Blade

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Year: 1996
Director: Billy Bob Thornton

I once read that in Greek mythic tragedy, once you understand the setup and the characters, everything that will happen in the drama is already determined. All that remains is for everything to play itself out. From very early on in the film, Sling Blade feels just that way. Everything that happens in the film must happen—could not do other than happen. And yet watching it unfold is a thing of beauty.—Michael Dunaway


9. Serpico

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Year: 1973
Director: Sidney Lumet

You could have a great debate about who had the best acting decade between Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, and Dustin Hoffman, and while my vote goes to Nicholson (with Hoffman a close second), Pacino has a terrific argument. In Serpico, he plays the complicated figure of a detective who went undercover to rat out corrupt cops. His decision to turn against his own is as fraught as you might imagine, and he faces death at every turn from cops who’d love to shut him up. It’s an exciting street drama with the decrepit-yet-energetic look of urban ‘70s films. —Shane Ryan


8. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

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Year: 2019
Director: Chad Stahelski

The promise of John Wick: Chapter 2 is in superposition. Depending on how one comes into John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, from which angle, that promise is simultaneously fulfilled and squandered. Chad Stahelski’s third and by no means last entry in the saga of laconic gentleman terminator John Wick (Keanu Reeves), the Baba Yaga of every gangster’s worst nightmares, either lives up to previous entries as far as setting the standard for visceral, eardrum-squelching violence, or it fails to take the series in the direction presaged by the apocalyptic cliffhanger of the previous chapter. No, every living human in New York is not a secret assassin, plunging John Wick into a race against time through a Dantean Hell of his own devising, but John Wick does pretty much murder everybody in the City before traveling to Morocco, where he murders even more people, before returning to New York, where he continues decimating the urban center’s population. As Continental Manager Winston (Ian McShane) puts it, John Wick needs to decide whether he’s the boogie man or, simply, a man. Whether John Wick is a videogame or something more existential. He chooses both: By the time we reach the final action spectacle, during which the forces aligned against John Wick wear the kind of body armor requiring an exorbitant amount of kill shots and then, halfway through the melee, a weapon upgrade, we’ve lapsed completely into the realm of the first-person shooter, realizing we’ve already made our way through numerous, ever-increasingly difficult levels and boss battles with an impeccable kill/death ratio. The limitless beauty of the John Wick franchise, crystalized in Chapter 3, is that alluding to videogames when talking about the movie doesn’t matter. None of this matters. As videogames and action movies parabolically draw closer and closer to one another, John Wick 3 may be the first of its kind to figure out how to keep that comparison from being a point of shame. Accordingly, each action set piece is an astounding feat, from the first hand-to-hand fracas in narrow library stacks, to a comic knife fight amidst cases of antique weapons, to a chase on horseback and, later, a chase on motorcycles care of katana-wielding meanies. John Wick 3 revels in its ludicrous gore without losing sight of the very real toll of such unmitigated havoc. It’s as much a blast of blood and guts as it is an immersive menagerie of pain, a litigation of the ways in which we imbibe and absorb and demand violence, in which we hyperstylize death. Every gun shot, body blow, shattering jaw and gut slicing rings out sonorously from the screen, so that even if yet another faceless henchperson loses their life, leaving this mortal plane unnoticed, at least the act of violence that ended them will be remembered. —Dom Sinacola


7. A Shot in the Dark

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Year: 1964
Director: Blake Edwards

Amazing to think that when the first film in the Pink Panther series was made, it was intended as a vehicle for its top-billed star David Niven. Wisely, director Blake Edwards realized the true star of the show was the bumbling French policeman Inspector Clouseau, as embodied by the brilliant Peter Sellers. So, they rushed another film into production (it was released in the States a mere three months after The Pink Panther) and comedy greatness was born. Ever the sport, Sellers quite literally threw himself into the part, crashing and stumbling through his investigation of murder and mangling the English language each step of the way. Try as they might to recapture the fire of this first sequel, nothing quite matched the freewheeling spirit of A Shot in the Dark. —Robert Ham


6. Planet of the Apes

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Year: 1968
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

“What will he find out there, doctor?” “His destiny” That’s what the conservative ape scientist Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) tells compassionate ape “veterinarian” Dr. Zira (Kim Hunter) at the end of the original Planet of the Apes, as misanthropic astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) sets out into the Forbidden Zone of this topsy-turvy planet—where intelligent, talking apes are the dominant species and humans are dumb beasts—in order to find out what really happened to his species. Unless you were living under a rock for the last 50 years, you know exactly what he will find. But why does Zaius call this literally earth-shattering revelation Taylor’s destiny, and not his past, which is technically the case? The answer for that lies within Zaius’s role in the ape society. Unlike all other apes, Zaius knows the history of the painful and complex relationship between apes and humans. He knows how humans’ natural attraction to war, persecution, prejudice and cruelty sealed their eventual doom, and is (perhaps vainly) attempting to keep that “intellectual virus” from spreading to his beloved apes. He knows that once an intelligent human like Taylor has a chance to restart yet another attempt at civilization for his species, the same ugliness and destruction that comes with his inner nature will certainly plague his descendants. Therefore, he knows that Taylor will find both his past and his future on that beach. Today, the Planet of the Apes franchise is still going strong. The timeless appeal of these films stems from the fact that they explore high-concept themes, like the inherent viciousness and frailty of human nature, with brutal clarity, told with a refreshing lack of condescension and philosophical hand-holding. By presenting a fable world where what we now consider to be animals are dominating humankind, they hold a mirror to our ugliness, arrogance and, just maybe, our chance for redemption. Co-written by Twilight Zone co-creator Rod Serling, the sci-fi fable structure of the novel’s adaptation fits Serling’s sensibilities so impeccably that the original Planet of the Apes might be the closest we’ll ever get to a single-story, feature-length Twilight Zone movie, creating a kind of balanced synergy between pure genre excitement and level-headed morality tale. —Oktay Ege Kozak


5. Assault on Precinct 13

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Year: 1976
Director: John Carpenter

Assault on Precinct 13 launches into its action-packed second act with one of the more audacious, transgressive acts you’ll ever see in a film—it almost feels like a taboo you wouldn’t even see in a horror film today, and I wouldn’t dare ruin it for you. Suffice to say, that one moment of unthinkable violence is the starting gun on a gritty thriller from John Carpenter, two years before Halloween made him a much bigger name. As such, you might expect Assault on Precinct 13 to be a more conventional or safe film, but if anything, it’s significantly more complex a project than Halloween would have been. Taking inspiration from Night of the Living Dead, Carpenter weaves a criminal action tale about an officer holding down a decommissioned police station that comes under siege by dozens of gang members. The interpersonal dynamics between officer and prisoners almost reflects the suspicion and brotherhood that would later be displayed between the arctic residents of Carpenter’s The Thing, and the shootouts are just as bloody. Even on a budget, it’s one of the best action movies of the ‘70s. – Jim Vorel


4. La La Land

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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


3. Punch-Drunk Love

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Year: 2002
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

It may be hard to recall now that we’ve all rallied around his talent—allowing him to transcend the stigma of his Netflix deal while he still profits ludicrously off it—but there was once a time when the world doubted Adam Sandler. Long before the Safdies or even Noah Baumbach got their time getting tight with the Sandman, we have P.T. Anderson to thank for inspiring such hope. Compared to the scope of There Will Be Blood, or the melancholy of Boogie Nights, or the inexorable fascination at the heart of The Master, or the obsession and obfuscation of Phantom Thread, Punch-Drunk Love—a breath of fresh, Technicolor air after the weight of Magnolia—comes off like something of a lark for Anderson, setting the stage for the kind of incisive comic chops the director would later epitomize, and complicate, with Inherent Vice. A simple love story between a squirmy milquetoast (Sandler) on the verge and the woman (Emily Watson) who yanks him back to life, Punch-Drunk Love is as confounding as it is a delight, an expression of unmitigated, sputtering passion—sad and febrile and, most importantly, optimistic about what anyone is truly capable of doing. This might be as sincere as Anderson gets. —Dom Sinacola


2. Munich

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Year: 2005
Director: Steven Spielberg

By far the most politically daring work in Steven Spielberg’s filmography, Munich must not have been an easy story to tell for the devout member of the Jewish faith and a defender of Israel’s right to exist. It tells of the crack team of Israeli assassins who took blind revenge for the Palestinian act of terrorism during the 1972 Munich Olympics, how they gradually lost their humanity and plunged both sides into an uncomfortable moral grey area. It’s one of the rare Spielberg films that ends on a clearly bleak tone, without a glimmer of the silver lining the die-hard optimist usually inserts into the finales of even his toughest stories, a believer in humanity’s eventual appeal to their better nature, but Spielberg also recognizes that optimism must come with an understanding that cycles of violence only, eventually lead to destruction. Of course the simple application of a brave moral standing doesn’t automatically make for a great movie, but it’s also hard to deny how pulse-poundingly effective Munich is as an old-school political thriller. For proof, look to the tense sequence wherein the team tries to abort a bombing mission at the last second.—Oktay Ege Kozak


1. Raising Arizona

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Year: 1987
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Understated dramatic performances are all well and good, but it takes pinpoint control on behalf of both directors and cast to deliver the sustained overstated performances found throughout Raising Arizona. From its opening courtship sequence to the struggles of H.I. (Nicholas Cage) and Ed (Holly Hunter) to form a family by borrowing an “extra” from a family with a surplus to the final battle with the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse, the Coen brothers’ film remains an immensely beguiling and quotable farcical fable. —Michael Burgin

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