The 100 Best Free Movies to Stream (April 2021)

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The 100 Best Free Movies to Stream (April 2021)

Monthly expenses for streaming services can add up quickly. Fortunately for movie-lovers, there are plenty of films streaming for free—and legally—across a variety of sites. These range from public domain classics on YouTube to more recent selections available to watch on the vast world of AVOD. These ad-based sites (you’ll watch for free, but with commercials) include the likes of Crackle, IMDBtv, Popcornflix, Pluto and tubi. And if you’ve got a student ID or a public library card, there’s a huge selection of movies available for free check-out at Kanopy and Hoopla.

We’ve gathered up the best of the best from these services to bring you the 100 best movies to stream, updated for April 2021.


The 20 Best Free Movies on Crackle

Crackle has one of the best selections of free films, from classics to cult favorites to more recent hits.

1. 99 Homes

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Year: 2014
Director: Ramin Bahrani

Watch free on Crackle

99 Homes is strongest when it captures the anger and desperation of those affected by the recent collapse of the housing market. Andrew Garfield stars as Dennis Nash, an Orlando single father whose family home is about to be foreclosed on. The man who comes to his door to deliver the bad news is Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), a shady realtor who carries a concealed weapon because of past altercations. Nash despises Carver, but because he’s desperate for a job he accepts work from the realtor. Nash is handy—he used to work in construction—so he starts off doing manual labor, but soon he graduates to being Carver’s right-hand man, becoming more involved in the realtor’s unscrupulous business practices. 99 Homes stays with you. The agony it depicts and the almost inarticulate rage it expresses are too insistent to shake off. The betting is that this film won’t be remembered as one of Ramin Bahrani’s best. But when we look back at the Great Recession years from now, 99 Homes may be one of those films we point to and say, “That was sort of what it felt like at the time. ”—Tim Grierson


2. The Wailing

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Year: 2016
Director: Na Hong-jin

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The U.S. title of Na Hong-jin’s new film, The Wailing, suggests tone more than it does sound. There is wailing to be heard here, yes, and plenty of it, but in two words Na coyly predicts his audience’s reaction to the movie’s grim tableaus of a county in spiritual strife. Na trades in doubt and especially despair more than in what we think of as “horror.” He isn’t out to terrify us. He’s out to corrode our souls, much in the same way that his protagonist’s faith is corroded after being subject to both divine and infernal tests over the course of the film. The Wailing unfolds in Gokseong County, an agricultural community nestled among South Korea’s southern provinces. It’s a lovely, bucolic setting that Na and his cinematographer, the incredible Hong Kyung-pyo, take fullest advantage of aesthetically and thematically. The hushed serenity blanketing The Wailing’s opening images creates an atmosphere of peace that Na is all too happy to subvert (similar to how he subverts Bible verses). The film’s first full sequence shatters the calm as Sergeant Jeon Jong-gu (Kwak Do-won, turning in a knockout performance) is called to the scene of a savage multiple murder. When Jong-gu shows up, all is bedlam; people are screaming and crying, emergency workers litter the area like ants at a gory picnic, and the killer sits in a stupor, unaware of neither the mayhem nor the vicious boils coating their skin. This is an incredibly creepy and oft-unsettling film, but Na finds the tug of disbelief far more upsetting than the sight of bodies cut apart and blood splattering the wall. What do you do when your holy authority figures fail you? What do you do when you can’t trust your perception? Na has made these ideas, though hardly new in the horror canon, his film’s full purpose, and his conclusions are devastatingly bleak. When The Wailing arrives at its final, spectacular half hour, you’ll vow never to ask these questions about your own life, ever. You may not leave the theater scared, but you will leave it scarred, which is by far a more substantive response than naked fear. —Andy Crump


3. Black Christmas

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Year: 1974
Director: Bob Clark
Stars: Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea, Andrea Martin, John Saxon
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Rating: R
Runtime: 98 minutes

Watch free on Crackle

Fun fact—nine years before he directed holiday classic A Christmas Story, Bob Clark created the first true, unassailable “slasher movie” in Black Christmas. Yes, the same person who gave TBS its annual Christmas Eve marathon fodder was also responsible for the first major cinematic application of the phrase “The calls are coming from inside the house!” Black Christmas, which was insipidly remade in 2006, predates John Carpenter’s Halloween by four years and features many of the same elements, especially visually. Like Halloween, it lingers heavily on POV shots from the killer’s eyes as he prowls through a dimly lit sorority house and spies on his future victims. As the mentally deranged killer calls the house and engages in obscene phone calls with the female residents, one can’t help but also be reminded of the scene in Carpenter’s film where Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) calls her friend Lynda, only to hear her strangled with the telephone cord. Black Christmas is also instrumental, and practically archetypal, in solidifying the slasher legend of the so-called “final girl.” Jessica Bradford (Olivia Hussey) is actually among the better-realized of these final girls in the history of the genre, a remarkably strong and resourceful young woman who can take care of herself in both her relationships and deadly scenarios. It’s questionable how many subsequent slashers have been able to create protagonists who are such a believable combination of capable and realistic. —Jim Vorel


4. Train to Busan

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Year: 2016
Director: Yeon Sang-ho

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Love them or hate them, zombies are still a constant of the horror genre in 2016, dependable enough to set your conductor’s watch by. And although I’ve probably seen enough indie zombie films at this point to eschew them from my viewing habits for the rest of my life, there is still usually at least one great zombie movie every other year. In 2016, that was Train to Busan, a film that has since been added to our list of the 50 Best Zombie Movies of All Time. There’s no need for speculation: Train to Busan would undoubtedly have made the list. This South Korean story of a career-minded father attempting to protect his young daughter on a train full of rampaging zombies is equal parts suspenseful popcorn entertainment and genuinely affecting family drama. It concludes with several action elements that I’ve never seen before, or even considered for a zombie film, and any time you can add something truly novel to the genre of the walking dead, then you’re definitely doing something right. With a few memorable, empathetic supporting characters and some top-notch makeup FX, you’ve got one of the best zombie movies of the past half-decade. —Jim Vorel


5. Drinking Buddies

drinking-buddies.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Joe Swanberg
Stars: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes

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If you feel compelled to go full indie and can’t stand love stories with tidy, happy endings, Drinking Buddies should be your pick. It’s an unconventional romance in that most of the characters never commit to the relationships or infidelities we expect them to. Instead, it’s about temptation, the lies we tell ourselves in a relationship and the boundaries between friendship and romantic feelings. A scion of—but not full-fledged entry into—the mumblecore genre, its largely improvised dialog lends an air of reality to the conversations, but those expecting typical genre conventions may find themselves perplexed when you don’t get anything resembling the “wedding bells” ending of the typical romantic comedy.—Jim Vorel


6. I Am Not Your Negro

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Year: 2017
Director: Raoul Peck

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Raoul Peck focuses on James Baldwin’s unfinished book Remember This House, a work that would have memorialized three of his friends, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. All three black men were assassinated within five years of each other, and we learn in the film that Baldwin was not just concerned about these losses as terrible blows to the Civil Rights movement, but deeply cared for the wives and children of the men who were murdered. Baldwin’s overwhelming pain is as much the subject of the film as his intellect. And so I Am Not Your Negro is not just a portrait of an artist, but a portrait of mourning—what it looks, sounds and feels like to lose friends, and to do so with the whole world watching (and with so much of America refusing to understand how it happened, and why it will keep happening). Peck could have done little else besides give us this feeling, placing us squarely in the presence of Baldwin, and I Am Not Your Negro would have likely still been a success. His decision to steer away from the usual documentary format, where respected minds comment on a subject, creates a sense of intimacy difficult to inspire in films like this. The pleasure of sitting with Baldwin’s words, and his words alone, is exquisite. There’s no interpreter, no one to explain Baldwin but Baldwin—and this is how it should be. —Shannon M. Houston


7. Layer Cake

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Year: 2004
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Stars: Daniel Craig, Colm Meany, Kenneth Cranham, George Harris, Jamie Foreman, Sienna Miller, Michael Gambon
Rating: R
Runtime: 105 minutes

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“Everyone likes to walk through a door marked ‘private.’” So narrates Daniel Craig’s unnamed criminal protagonist (designated “XXXX” by IMDb) at the start of the dense and propulsive Layer Cake, the confident debut that launched Matthew Vaughn’s career. Since then, the director has gone on to helm the screen adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, the ultraviolent superhero spoof Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class and the two Kingsman movies. In other words, Vaughn is clearly drawn to the quixotic and the cartoonish, a tendency that Layer Cake doesn’t evince—not at first, anyway. The film’s lineage most obviously incorporates gritty gangland pictures like Goodfellas, whose interest in pulling back the curtain on criminal operations is shared by Layer Cake from its very first scene. There, a montage takes us through the supply chain of the mobsters for whom XXXX works as a middleman; his superiors include big brass Jimmy (Kenneth Cranham) and a couple lower-level associates, Morty (George Harris) and Gene (Colm Meaney). Craig, in a casual voiceover accompanied by music that wouldn’t feel out of place in a hotel lobby, gives us the rundown via the well-rehearsed, vaguely self-satisfied spiel of a man who knows the ropes and is aware of it. In mood, this introductory segment pulls as much from Soderbergh as it does Scorsese, revealing that, for XXXX and the movie he holds together, the modus operandi is calm, cool and collected. On paper, the film sounds like it’s about gangsters, but it’s really about a panicked babysitter trying to keep a mob of children in line. The catch: These are tough-as-nails man-babies who would pump you full of lead at the drop of a hat. In other words, the film’s a riotous comedy about one man’s life turning into a nightmare, with the greatest punchlines being Craig’s expressions of incredulity—everything from exasperated shouting to blank staring—when his management efforts backfire. In the end, Layer Cake is all about delivery—of drugs into the hands of eager buyers, but also, on the part of XXXX, of an attitude of cool that will both reassure his clients of his reliability and, reaching beyond the proverbial fourth wall, invite viewers into an elite, rarefied position from which they can look down on some shenanigans. Through his candid, confiding narration, XXXX waves us into the milieu of organized crime—while remaining above it all. No wonder Craig ended up being tapped for the new Bond. —Jonah Jeng


8. Ginger Snaps

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Year: 2000
Director: John Fawcett

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Ginger Snaps is a high school werewolf story, but before you go making any Twilight comparisons, let me state for the record: Where Twilight is maudlin, Ginger Snaps is vicious. A pair of death-obsessed, outsider sisters, Ginger and Brigitte, are faced with issues of maturation and sexual awakening when Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) is bitten by a werewolf. As she begins to become bolder and more animalistic in her desires, the second, meeker sister (Emily Perkins) searches for a way to reverse the damages before Ginger carves a path of destruction through their community. Reflecting the influence of Cronenberg-style body horror and especially John Landis’s American Werewolf in London, Ginger Snaps is a surprisingly effective horror movie and mix of drama/black comedy that brought the werewolf mythos into suburbia in the same sort of way Fright Night managed to do so with vampires. It also made a genre star of Isabelle, who has since appeared in several sequels and above average horror flicks such as American Mary. Even if the condition of lycanthropism is an obvious parallel to the struggles of adolescence and puberty, Ginger Snaps is the one film that has taken that rich vein of source material and imbued it with the same kind of punk spirit as Heathers. – —Jim Vorel


9. Bernie

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Year: 2011
Director: Richard Linklater

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Bernie is as much about the town of Carthage, Texas, as it is about its infamous resident Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), the town’s mortician and prime suspect in the murder of one of its most despised citizens, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Unlike Nugent, Bernie is conspicuously loved by all. When he’s not helping direct the high school musical, he’s teaching Sunday school. Like a well-played mystery, Linklater’s excellent, darkly humorous (and true) story is interspersed with tantalizing interviews of the community’s residents. Linklater uses real East Texas folks to play the parts, a device that serves as the perfect balance against the drama that leads up to Bernie’s fatal encounter with the rich bitch of a widow. The comedy is sharp, with some of the film’s best lines coming from those townsfolk. —Tim Basham


10. The Proposition

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Year: 2005
Director: John Hillcoat

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If you’ve ever sat and wondered what Hell might look like, check out John Hillcoat’s The Proposition, in which Hell happens to look an awful lot like the Australian outback. You may not anticipate that shifting locales from one arid and unforgiving ecosystem to another would lend that much impact to a film’s visual texture, but The Proposition feels like a distinctly Aussie production even before you hear the accents. Nationality isn’t what makes the picture feel so utterly accursed, though; it’s the sheer unrelenting brutality. There’s a thematic nugget at The Proposition’s core that links it to John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a movie about lawful men trying against all good sense to tame wild lands and civilize lawless men. But Ford’s film never even tries to ascend the peaks of barbarity that The Proposition comes to rest upon through its final moments, where blood is answered with more blood and violent action can only be stopped by a violent response. —Andy Crump


11. Four Lions

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Year: 2010
Director: Chris Morris

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


12. Chinatown

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Year: 1974
Director: Roman Polanski
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Hillerman, Perry Lopez, Burt Young, John Huston
Rating: R
Runtime: 131 minutes

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When you look at Jack Nicholson’s run of films in what could be referred to as the “New Hollywood” era, starting with Easy Rider in 1969 and ending with The Shining in 1980, it’s truly astounding: There’s barely a dud on the list, so it’s really saying something that Chinatown, Roman Polanski’s crime classic, stands out among the best. The film’s central mystery is bold for its complexity, revolving around water rights in 1930s Southern California—a plot that remains relevant today, alongside which, like in much of Polanski’s work, an ominous atmosphere creeps, shadowing every character in doubt and undermining the possibility of a clean conclusion. In Polanski’s world, the mere fact that a mystery is solved doesn’t mean there’s a happy ending, and his incredible powers of ambiguity have never been so strong as in Chinatown. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, it won for Robert Towne’s original screenplay; add Nicholson at his most essential, along with a young Faye Dunaway and an aging John Huston, and this is more than an excellent film noir, but an American cinematic triumph. —Shane Ryan


13. The Love Witch

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Year: 2016
Director: Anna Biller

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If you watch The Love Witch with no knowledge of its production or point of origin, you might assume it’s a lost gem of 1960s or 1970s supernatural filmmaking that’s only recently been recovered, restored and released to the public for niche consumption. This isn’t the case, of course, but nobody would fault your logic. Biller’s style is set in the bygone days of B-movie camp, though unlike similar faux-retro productions, à la 2012’s disingenuously nostalgic The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, there’s unabashed joy to her mimicry that reminds us how much fun the flicks The Love Witch emulates can be in spite of, or maybe because of, their badness. The film’s cheese factor is its single most obvious element next to Biller’s enthusiasm for kitsch and her emphasis on superb production design. Samantha Robinson’s ravishing (but equally deluded) witch in search of “true love” never stops to consider whether she has any idea of what those words truly mean, or what personal freedoms are okay to trample in the process. Unsurprisingly, there’s a horror element present in giving so much magical power to a person with such an infantile grasp of right and wrong—like the little boy in The Twilight Zone’s “It’s a Good Life,” you’d be wise not to upset her. —Andy Crump


14. I’m Still Here

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Year: 2010
Director: Casey Affleck
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck
Genre: Documentary, Music
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 53%
Rating: R
Runtime: 107 minutes

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In 2009, Joaquin Phoenix grew out his beard to cult-leader length and announced he was quitting acting to pursue a career as a rapper. When this film, directed by his brother-in-law Casey Affleck, premiered nearly a year later, critics still didn’t know what to make of the whole thing. Was it all just a joke? An elaborate year-long prank? Beginning with Phoenix’s early childhood as a performer with his siblings, the film then shows the now-Oscar-winning actor ranting, “I’m just fucking stuck in this self-imposed prison of characterization… I don’t want to play the character of Joaquin anymore.” The film, which is shot messily with a handheld camera, is barely watchable, but the length of time that Phoenix and Affleck maintained the ruse lends this hoax legendary status. Despite the backlash, the movie didn’t actually destroy their careers: Phoenix won the Best Actor Oscar for The Joker and Affleck won the Best Actor Oscar for 2016’s Manchester by the Sea.—Josh Jackson


15. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

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Director: Stephen Chow and Derek Kwok
Year: 2013

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No list like this would ever be complete without an entry care of Stephen Chow, and so while the Hong Kong director’s Western breakthrough, the bonkers Shaolin Soccer, is also available to stream, the even bonkers-ier Journey to the West is a better place to start. Monumentally popular in China, breaking all-time box office records (even beating out Transformers 4, so you know this shit means business), Journey is based on a Chinese literary classic of the same name, but saturated with Chow’s now infamous wit, slapstick, and barely-containable glee at the possibility of fantasy filmmaking. Every scene is an elaborate tour de force of stunts and battles and exaggerated athleticism—just like every scene in every film of his to come before—but Journey takes that extra step to imbue its traditional genre tropes with grotesquerie and phantasmagorical imagination, transforming a pretty basic story about one monk’s path to enlightenment into Terry Gilliam’s wet dream, replete with pig monsters and monkey spirits and steampunk and practically everything in between. So much more than a martial arts flick, this feels like a super-gifted filmmaker doing exactly what he was born to do. —Dom Sinacola


16. In a Lonely Place

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Year: 1950
Director: Nicholas Ray

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One of the great noirs of all time and one of the great feel-bad movies of all time. In a Lonely Place treats redemption as a cruel joke, a spell of relief that lasts only long enough for us to view its obsolescence. The film takes jabs at Hollywood and celebrity while telling the kind of dangerous love story E.L. James wishes she could write; Humphrey Bogart is a bad, bad man, but he’s also grossly compelling. He plays Dixon Steele, a Tinseltown screenwriter fallen on hard times whom we sympathize with in spite of ourselves. Apart from being a sad sack, he’s also an explosive lunatic with a frighteningly short fuse, which makes him dangerously alluring bait for his new neighbor, Laurel (Gloria Grahame). Theirs is an ill-fated romance, and through it, Nicholas Ray makes a hauntingly grim study of masculinity, set against the ratcheting suspense of a murder mystery yarn. —Andy Crump


17. We Are the Best!

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Year: 2014
Director: Lukas Moodysson

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In 1980s Sweden, everything that’s happening in the world—the fear of Soviet submarines invading, the gradual industrialization of the country, the Moderate Party gaining control of parliament—doesn’t really include Bobo (Mira Barkhammer), an aspiring punk rocking tween with a lush of a mother. Spending most of her evenings in her room listening to tapes of her favorite punk band, the short and curly-haired Bobo teams up with her best friend and mohawk-sporting Klara (Mira Grosin) to create a band of their own. Wrangling a guitar-playing Christian girl, Hedvig (Live LeMoyne) into their quest to join the school talent show, they’re met with nothing but skepticism from their peers and parents. But Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best!, adapted from graphic novelist Coco Moodysson’s memoir Never Goodnight, is hardly a conventional coming-of-age film. Though it features recognizable tropes from the genre—Boys! Neglectful parents! Angst!—We Are the Best! is filled with such joy and ebullience that it feels liberated from the restrictive structure of so many teen films. With a freewheeling, quasi-improvisatory style, Moodysson imbues his film with a gorgeous ease and tenderness, crafting a little world for these girls and their audience to negotiate their politics, find their voice and fumble along the way. —Kyle Turner


18. We Need to Talk About Kevin

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Year: 2012
Director: Lynne Ramsay

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We Need To Talk About Kevin concerns the experience of a mother struggling with the aftermath of a school massacre carried out by her son. In its narrative construction, it draws upon two key tropes: that of the “whydunnit” thriller, in which the the mystery of the perpetrator’s motivations are a driving factor, and that of the family horror, in which some dark element tears a traditional household apart. Indeed, the real horror is not that a teenager chose total negation over the banality of normative family life—it’s that these appeared to be the only two choices available. —Donal Foreman


19. Meek’s Cutoff

meeks-cutoff.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Kelly Reichardt

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Leave it to Kelly Reichardt to reclaim the Western for women. Western movies tend to be seen as “guy” affairs, less so now in 2017 than in years past; they are manly products about manly men doing manly things and pondering manly ideas, though that’s an oversimplified critique that erases the impact women have had on Westerns in front of and behind the camera. What Reichardt does in Meek’s Cutoff is shunt the men to the side and confront the bullshit macho posturing that is such an integral component of the Western’s grammar (the only man here worth his salt is Stephen Meek [Bruce Greenwood], and even he is kind of an incompetent, entitled scumbag). So it’s up to Emily Tetherow, played by the great and luminous Michelle Williams, to challenge his self-appointed authority and take responsibility for the people in the caravan he has led so far astray from their path. Meek’s Cutoff is a stark, minimalist film, which is to say it’s a Kelly Reichardt film. The stripped-down, simmering austerity of her aesthetic pairs perfectly with the sensibilities of Western cinema. —Andy Crump


20. Troll Hunter

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Year: 2010
Director: André Øvredal

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There’s no denying that at its beginning, Troll Hunter seems like another Blair Witch Project knock-off. The first 20 minutes show us a young camera crew investigating some unexplained bear deaths and a suspicious man who may be poaching them. But rather than drawing out the mystery, it takes a sharp turn and tells us matter-of-factly that of course it was trolls killing the bears, and not only that, here’s one of them ready to bonk you on the head. The titular Troll Hunter extraordinaire is played by the affable comedian Otto Jespersen, who brings the entire monster premise to an entirely different level through his nonchalant attitude. In every sense, Troll Hunter lives up to its ridiculous name and premise. —Sean Gandert

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The 20 Best Free Movies on IMDBtv

IMDB moved into the streaming world, offering almost 2,000 movies to stream for free—and you can find out everything about your favorite stars just a click away.

1. Memento

17.Memento.NetflixList.jpg Year: 2000
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano, Carrie-Anne Moss
Genre: Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Rating: R
Runtime: 116 minutes

Watch free on IMDBtv

During a brutal attack in which he believes his wife was raped and murdered, insurance-fraud investigator Leonard Shelby (played with unequivocal intensity, frustration and panic by Guy Pearce) suffers head trauma so severe it leads to his inability to retain new memories for more than a few minutes. This device allows Nolan to brilliantly deconstruct traditional cinematic storytelling, toggling between chronological black-and-white vignettes and full-color five-minute segments that unfold in reverse order while Pearce frantically searches for his wife’s killer. The film is jarring, inventive and adventurous, and the payoff is every bit worth the mind-bending descent into madness. —Steve LaBate


2. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

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Year: 2007
Director: Tim Burton

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Whoever said murder couldn’t be wonderfully melodic? Although the Tony-winning Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was right up Tim Burton’s alley, his 2007 film took his macabre look at a homicidal English barber and made it fun. Here’s another Burton flick that relies on the tested chemistry of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, but we also see great performances from Alan Rickman as the corrupt Judge Turpin and Sasha Baron Cohen as a rival barber. The film sees Burton’s on-screen gruesomeness at an all-time high, but it’s all balanced out by some infectious musical numbers.—Tyler Kane


3. Kung Fu Panda

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Year: 2008
Director: John Stevenson

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Kung Fu Panda isn’t just a good movie—it’s a good kung fu movie. The title isn’t pandering, because the film truly respects its source material. Jack Black’s character may as well be Sammo Hung or Jackie Chan in one of his early roles. All of the classical elements are there—an obnoxious pupil who becomes a fighting machine. A team of (literally) animal-based martial artists with varying styles. An unbeatable, rampaging villain in the vein of the Ghost-Faced Killer from Mystery of Chessboxing. And a secret technique that the hero needs to learn in order to conquer that villain. It’s a funny, vibrant film as easily enjoyed by children as adults, and one that the adult viewers should feel no embarrassment for enjoying as much as they do. If you like classical martial arts filmmaking, Kung Fu Panda is probably the most faithful animated twist on the genre that anyone has pulled off so far. Too bad the same can’t be said of its overblown sequels. —J.V.


4. His Girl Friday

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Year: 1940
Director: Howard Hawks

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Special effects have become so sophisticated that many of us have probably forgotten how much pure amazement you can wreak with a great story and a script that doesn’t let up for one second. This amazing, dizzyingly paced screwball comedy by Howard Hawks stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, and takes us back into two of the decade’s hallmark preoccupations: The “remarriage comedy” and the intrigue and obsessiveness of the newspaper world. The minute Russell’s Lindy Johnson stalks into the newspaper office run by her ex-husband Walter Burns (Grant), you know it’s to tell him she’s getting remarried and leaving journalism to raise a family, and you know that’s not how it’s going to end. No high-suspense mystery here. What puts you on the edge of your seat in this film is how you get there. Hilariously acted and expertly filmed, His Girl Friday derives much of its comedic impact from the incredibly clever and lightning-fast banter of the characters. Don’t even think about checking your phone while you’re watching this. In fact, try to blink as little as possible. —Amy Glynn


5. Whale Rider

27.WhaleRider.NetflixList.jpg Year: 2002
Director: Niki Caro

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Whale Rider tells the story of a young girl, Paikea, who lives in New Zealand with a stern grandfather who, apparently, needs to get modern. Every scene tells us this and gives us an opportunity to tsk-tsk his staunch rejection of his granddaughter who he believes, despite her lineage, can’t inherit the leadership of this Maori village because of her gender. She’ll need to convince her grandfather she can lead just as well as the boys can, and she’ll need to do it before the end of the movie. But just when you think you have the film pegged, its sincerity manages to break through the thin characterizations and age-old plot. Young actress Keisha Castle-Hughes gives Paikea a richly expressive voice, and the turning point is an astonishingly heartfelt speech she delivers at a school program for parents. Castle-Hughes’ grace and beauty on the screen is probably the main reason Whale Rider became a surprise art-house hit. —Robert Davis


6. Cube

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Year: 1998
Director: Vincenzo Natali

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Cube is a quintessential cult horror film, with all that the descriptor implies: The film has a great premise, a fun (yet imperfect) execution, a scrappy underdog factor, and an unexpected franchise that follows in its wake. The strange geometry of the multi-room jail holding the film’s characters are filled with dangerous traps. Is it truly a cube? Or is that just what whoever’s captured them wants them to think? As the characters give in to paranoia and claustrophobia, one of the more creative and bare-bones indie horror movies to implement (and actually pull off) sci-fi elements finds its rhythm. Tense and scary, with the same kind of intentionally small scope as movies like Saw, Cube is one of those perfect video store movies that you rent based on the cover alone and come away satisfied. —Jacob Oller


7. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

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Year: 1974
Director: Tobe Hooper

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One of the most brutal mainstream horror films ever released, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, based on notorious Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, resembles art-house verité built on the grainy physicality of its flat Texas setting. Plus, it introduced the superlatively sinister Leatherface, the iconic chainsaw-wielding giant of a man who wears a mask made of human skin, whose freakish sadism is upstaged only by the introduction of his cannibalistic family with whom he resides in a dilapidated house in the middle of the Texas wilderness, together chowing on the meat Leatherface and his brothers harvest, while Grandpa drinks blood and fashions furniture from victims’ bones. Still, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre might not be the goriest horror film ever made, but as an imaginal excavation of the subterranean anxieties of a post-Vietnam rural American populace, it’s pretty much unparalleled. Twisted, dark and beautiful all at once, it careens through a wide variety of tones and techniques without ever losing its singular intensity. (And there are few scenes in this era of horror with more disturbing sound design than the bit where Leatherface ambushes a guy with a single dull hammer strike to the head before slamming the metal door shut behind him.) —Rachel Hass and Brent Ables


8. Monster

monster.jpg Year: 2004
Director: Patty Jenkins

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


9. The Brothers Bloom

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Year: 2009
Director: Rian Johnson

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“He writes his cons the way dead Russians write novels”—this line from The Brothers Bloom not only illustrates the skills of schemer Stephen (Mark Ruffalo), but it also perfectly describes director Rian Johnson’s gift for constructing neo-noir masterpieces that manipulate the emotions of his audiences with enthralling grift. Featuring a cast that can do no wrong, The Brothers Bloom stars Ruffalo and Adrien Brody as a pair of fraternal conmen who mark an eccentric heiress—the magnetic Rachel Weisz—for her fortune. After crafting an entire language of hard-boiled vernacular in his jarring debut, Brick, Johnson makes a more approachable film along a syncopated rhythm of saturated camera pans and clever plot beats. But Ruffalo, Brody and Weisz don’t rest on plot twists and double crosses alone; their melancholic and moving characterization dominates the film as much as the sleight-of-hand on the main stage. A near-perfect symphony of intellect and entertainment, The Brothers Bloom forms one the most memorable cinematic families this side of the Tenenbaums. —Sean Edgar


10. Blue Valentine

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Year: 2010
Director: Derek Cianfrance

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Most films about disintegrating marriages are grim, gray affairs, and filmmakers often use the device as an excuse to punish their audiences. But Blue Valentine is different—the story is told with such overwhelming tenderness and humanity that although the slow unraveling of Dean’s (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy’s (Michelle Williams) love is still heartbreaking, it feels like the director’s heart is breaking along with yours. That’s rare. It doesn’t hurt that Gosling is in top form, or that Williams gives the finest performance of her career. The script was promising enough to win the Chrysler Film Project even before those performances were turned in, and indie favorites Grizzly Bear contributed a haunting soundtrack. There was really nothing in director Derek Cianfrance’s resume to suggest he had such a nuanced, sensitive film in him, but we’ll certainly be watching his career with interest from here on out. —Michael Dunaway


11. Insidious

insidious-poster-inset.jpg Year: 2010
Director: James Wan

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A couple years before he essentially perfected the modern, big-budget haunted house movie via The Conjuring, Insidious was the film where James Wan proved once and for all that his genre success in the original Saw was no fluke. It’s a film that benefits from an audience’s low expectations for its complexity—the viewer goes in assuming that they’re seeing the same basic haunting/possession/poltergeist-type story they’ve seen before, and Wan then dazzles them with a mythos that is considerably more detailed (and batshit) than what they expected to receive. So too does the film benefit from a few key performances, whether that’s Patrick Wilson as the anxious father (and secret font of psychic energy) searching for his son, or the utterly essential Lin Shaye as the knowledgeable demonologist who is the family’s only hope. The near-starring role of Shaye really is something worth acknowledging, as the presence of older women as stars/protagonists in the horror genre is close to nonexistent—the Insidious series managed the odd task of taking a character who was in the supporting role of Zelda Rubinstein in Poltergeist and somehow turning her into the legitimate hero of the franchise. Today, the film still holds up well enough, undone a bit by its sequels’ insistence on constant canonical retconning, but featuring jump scares (especially that red-faced demon) that are as effective as anything in their era. —Jim Vorel


12. Donnie Darko

donnie-darko.jpg Year: 2001
Director: Richard Kelly

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Apparently, at some point in its burgeoning cult ascendency, director Richard Kelly admitted that even he didn’t totally get what’s going on in Donnie Darko—going so far as to release a “Director’s Cut” in 2005 that supposedly cleared up some of the film’s more unwieldy stuff. Yet another example of a small budget wringed of its every dime, Kelly’s debut crams love, weird science, jet engines, superhero mythology, wormholes, armchair philosophy, giant bunny rabbits and Patrick Swayze (as a child molester, no less) into a film that should be celebrated for its audacity more than its coherency. It also helps that Jake Gyllenhaal leads a stellar cast, all totally game. In Donnie Darko, the only thing that’s clear is Kelly’s attitude: that at its core cinema is the art of manifesting the unbelievable, of doing what one wants to do when one wants to do it. —Christian Becker


13. Battle Royale

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Year: 2000
Director: Kinji Fukasaku

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It’s OK to compare Battle Royale to The Hunger Games movies—or, rather, to find how the lasting accomplishments of the latter franchise were essentially done better and with so much more efficiency by the former—because you probably will anyway. Battle Royale, like the immensely successful four-film crash course in crafting an action star who is really only a symbol of an action star, chronicles a government-sanctioned battle to the death between a group of teens on a weird, weapon-strewn island. (There are even regular island-wide announcements of the day’s dead as the sun sets on the remaining children.) Yet, Battle Royale is so lean in its exposition, so uninterested in dragging out its symbolism or metaphor, that one can’t help but marvel at how cleanly Fukasaku (who had a full career behind him when he made this, only three years before he died) can lend depth to these children, building stakes around them to the point that their deaths matter and their doomed plights sting. What the director can do with such a tenuous premise (which The Hunger Games takes multiple films to do, and without a single ounce of levity) is astounding—plus, he wrangled Beat Takeshi Kitano to play the President Snow-type character, which Kitano does to near-perfection. That Battle Royale II sets out to up the stakes of the first film, especially given the first film’s crazy success in Japan, is to be expected, but stick to the first: Battle Royale will make you care about kids murdering each other more than you (probably) would anyway. —Dom Sinacola


14. But I’m a Cheerleader

22-but-im-a-cheerleader-best-youtube.jpg Year: 1999
Director: Jamie Babbit

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In our current climate, it feels strange to have a gay conversion therapy camp serve as the backdrop for a love affair between two young women. Especially now that we know the devastating psychological effects that those practices can have on the people sent to be “changed.” But the core message of this late ’90s gem is clear: our LGBT+ brothers and sisters were born this way and they deserve love just as much as we do. Luckily for our heroine Megan (Natasha Lyonne), she finds that love with Graham (Clea DuVall), another kid sent by her parents to be converted to heterosexuality. Their connection and chemistry is immediate, given life by the understated and thoughtful performances by the two leads. —Robert Ham


15. Atonement

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Year: 2007
Director: Joe Wright

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To say love hurts would be a devastating understatement for Robbie and Cecilia, the protagonists of Atonement. The British romance takes place on the brink of World War II and spans the war, following the story of two people who grew up together but never really showed any real affection towards one another until a secret note was discovered. Thus begins a sweeping love story that combines wartime romance and summer flings. Starring James McAvoy, Keira Knightley and a very young Saoirse Ronan, Atonement is an epic romance about betrayal, secrets, lies and the punishment for not telling the truth. It’s also a good reminder that when you do embark on a long-simmering affair, make sure the door to the library/study is locked. —Mike Mudano


16. The Hurt Locker

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Year: 2008
Director: Kathryn Bigelow

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Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty may have been more ambitious in its step-by-step chronicle of the efforts to find and kill Osama bin Laden, but her preceding War on Terror film, The Hurt Locker, remains the more resonant achievement. It’s essentially a character study in the guise of an action movie, with Bigelow’s subject Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner), a devil-may-care maverick who not only has a knack for disarming bombs, but loves doing it to a reckless degree. Beyond its hair-raising action and suspense set pieces, much of the film’s drama is driven by the tensions James’s hot-dog tendencies create between himself and everyone around him. But perhaps the film’s most noteworthy achievement lies in the way Bigelow uncannily inhabits James’s perspective while also standing outside of it. When, in its quiet epilogue, James finds himself immediately bored by suburban life and itches to return to the adrenalized theater of war, after nearly two hours of relentless nerve-wracking tension, we in the audience feel the same sense of stagnation he does. “War is a drug,” says journalist Chris Hedges in a quote that opens the film. In The Hurt Locker, Bigelow makes us understand that perspective in the most visceral way possible, to truly revelatory effect. —Kenji Fujishima


17. Charade

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Year: 1963
Director: Stanley Donen

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Cary Grant is the most charming male lead ever. Audrey Hepburn is the most charming female lead ever. Everything else is just bonus in this romantic thriller about a woman pursued in Paris for her late husband’s stolen fortune: the Henry Mancini score, the Hitchcock-ian suspense, the plot twists and Walter Mathau as a CIA agent.—Michael Dunaway


18. The Woodsman

the-woodsman.jpg Year: 2004
Director:Nicole Kassell

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Still a film student at NYU, first-time director Nicole Kassell selected an ambitious, harrowing drama for her feature debut. The Woodsman captures the struggle of a convicted pedophile upon his return to society after more than a decade in prison. It’s not exactly the stuff of a feel-good Hollywood blockbuster. But Kassell’s introspective script, full of unexpected nuance, won the 2001 Slamdance Screenplay Competition and caught the attention of Hollywood. Adapted from an off-Broadway play by Steven Fechter, the film is an unflinching portrayal of a man who must confront his demons in an unwelcoming society. Recently paroled, Walter (Kevin Bacon) moves into an apartment across from an elementary school and takes a job at a lumberyard where he builds an unlikely relationship with Vickie (Bacon’s wife Kyra Sedgwick). His estranged sister, a suspicious co-worker (Eve) and an embittered detective (Mos Def) deliver constant reminders that he doesn’t deserve a second chance. With a well-trained eye and minimalist sensibilities, Kassell deftly navigates a world with undefined boundaries, where good and evil aren’t easy to pigeonhole. And Bacon’s gut-wrenching performance as a deeply tormented soul is a testament to the actor’s impressive range and the director’s raw ingenuity. —Jennifer Soong


19. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

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Year: 1986
Director: John McNaughton

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Henry stars Merle himself, Michael Rooker, in a film which is essentially meant to approximate the life of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, along with his demented sidekick Otis Toole (Tom Towles). The film was shot and set in Chicago on a budget of only $100,000, and is a depraved journey into the depths of the darkness capable of infecting the human soul. That probably sounds like hyperbole, but Henry really is an ugly film—you feel dirty just watching it, from the filth-crusted urban streets to the supremely unlikeable characters who prey on local prostitutes. It’s not an easy watch, but if gritty true crime is your thing, it’s a must-see. Some of the sequences, such as the “home video” shot by Henry and Otis as they torture an entire family, gave the film a notorious reputation, even among horror fans, as an unrelenting look into the nature of disturbingly mundane evil. —Jim Vorel


20. Iverson

iverson.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Zatella Beatty

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For some of us, a great sports documentary is the kind of film that makes you forget you’re not that interested in sports—or better yet, the kind of film that makes you wonder why you’re not that into sports. Iverson starts out as a portrait of a young black man nearly lost to a criminal justice system that seemed determined to derail his life. Allen Iverson would go on to survive this attempt on his life and become one of the greatest basketball players of all time, as well as a representative of the dangers of respectability politics, which seep into all American organizations, including the NBA. Iverson invites you to sit with the complexities of fame, especially for black men and women who are expected to represent much more than their individual selves, and it also demands that—even if you don’t fall in love with the great Allen Iverson by the end, you have to respect his game. —Shannon M. Houston

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The 10 Best Free Movies on PlutoTV

Pluto TV is best-known for its livestreaming of TV shows and movies, but it also has some good on-demand movies available, including tons of Oscar-winners, Bruce Lee movies and Star Trek films. Its user interface might be a bit clunky, but the selection is on point.

1. The Wolf of Wall Street

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Year: 2013
Director: Martin Scorsese

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The decade’s been both kind and not so kind to good ol’ Marty, ten years of bad takes questioning his credentials for directing Silence, for denying Marvel movies the honorific of “cinema,” for forcing audiences to showers en masse following screenings of The Wolf of Wall Street. And yet it’s impossible to keep him down; he’s immune to controversy and he thrives on lively debate, which is why, at 70 years old, his chronicle of the life, times and crimes of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio)—a stock broker and inveterate fraudster who bilked over 1,000 schlemiels, suckers and saps out of billions (and got off easy)—feels like something an artist half his age directed. The Wolf of Wall Street is a pissed off film. It’s also a horny, pervy, brutal, an impeccably made and fundamentally hideous film. At every passing image, Scorsese’s white-hot rage burns around the edges of the frame. The director has his own beefs and conflicts with his Christian faith, but here his presence is felt as a furious deity sitting in judgment on the fun Belfort has screwing over his clients, two-timing his first wife, jerking around his second wife and doing more blow in three hours than Scorsese himself did in the 1970s and ’80s. The easy knock to make against this movie is that it endorses the finance bro culture it navigates over the course of its running time, because at no point does Scorsese impose manufactured morality on what happens in front of us; instead he plays the hits as Belfort wrote them, showing the audience exactly what Belfort did while running his company, Stratton Oakmont, and while running around on his spouses. That the film ultimately ends with Belfort out on the prowl again is the ultimate indictment: Being rich allowed this man to get away with financial murder, because being rich, in the end, makes everything better. “Being rich makes everything better,” for some, is the movie’s embraced philosophy, but The Wolf of Wall Street doesn’t appreciate displays of wealth unhinged. It reviles them. Scorsese puts energy into the film, a spring in its every greedy step; one could call such debauchery without consequences a “good time.” But The Wolf of Wall Street doesn’t care about that kind of time as much as it cares about hanging Belfort out to dry. —Andy Crump


2. The Truman Show

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Year: 1998
Director: Peter Weir

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Peter Weir’s delightful, hilarious The Truman Show wouldn’t get made anymore. It’s a star-studded event film centered around a simple and dystopian premise: Jim Carrey’s eponymous character has unwittingly been raised from birth as a reality TV star and only now has begun to suspect that everybody in his life is a hired actor. Carrey’s clear-eyed acting is worlds away from the zany roles that catapulted him to fame a few short years prior, though, as was typically the case with Carrey roles in the ’90s, copious amounts of special effects work go toward creating a believable simulated reality for Carrey’s endearing everyman to be trapped within. The heartfelt monologues and devastating revelations as he fights to escape his gilded cage shine all the brighter for it. The fight to break away from control, from a sanitized and curated existence dictated by a literal white father figure in the sky, rings alarmingly two decades years later, when social media has made performative brand managers of us all. Truman is an unlikely and often hapless hero in his own story, but his eventual hijacking of his own narrative—and his final defiance of his literal and figurative creator figure—form one of the most heroic cinematic arcs of the last 20 years. —Kenneth Lowe


3. Minority Report

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Year: 2002
Director: Steven Spielberg

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The more we become connected, the more any sense of personal privacy completely evaporates. So goes Steven Spielberg’s vision for our near future, couched in the signifiers of a neo-noir, mostly because the veil of safety and security has been—today, in 2002 and for decades to come—irrevocably ripped from our eyes. What we see (and everything we don’t) becomes the stuff of life and death in this shadowed thriller based on a Philip K. Dick story, about a pre-crime cop John Anderton (Tom Cruise) whose loyalty and dedication to his job can’t save him from meaner bureaucratic forces. Screenwriters Scott Frank and Jon Cohen’s plot clicks faultlessly into place, buoyed by breathtaking action setpieces—metallic tracking spiders ticking and swarming across a decrepit apartment floor to find Anderton, the man submerged in an ice-cold bathtub with his eyes recently switched out via black market surgery, immediately lurches to mind—but most impressive is Spielberg’s sophistication, unafraid of the bleak tidings his film prophecies even as it feigns a storybook ending. —Dom Sinacola


4. The Aviator

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Year: 2004
Directors: Martin Scorsese

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With Howard Hughes’ larger than life personality and those action-packed scenes of him flying (and crashing) planes, it’s hard not to first think of the famous businessman and aviator as a sort of superhero: A man capable of almost any feat, of withstanding any sort of struggle. But a movie that only captures that side of Hughes’ life would be an incomplete one. A hollow one. What makes The Aviator one of the greatest biopics of all time is that it shows Hughes’ vulnerabilities as well, most notably of which was his battle with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Hughes at his lowest, during Hughes’ anxiety-ridden spirals is far more compelling and suspenseful than the Beverly Hills plane crash scene itself.—Anita George


5. The Birdcage

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Year: 1996
Director: Mike Nichols

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You know what’s awkward? When you’re a middle-aged gay Jewish South Beach drag club owner (Armand, played by Robin Williams) and your straight son shows up and asks for your blessing to marry his girlfriend who is the daughter of a Neocon senator (Gene Hackman) who heads something called “The Coalition for Moral Order.” You want to support your kid, but you don’t love being closeted by him, and the dinner meet-up ends up meaning you and your partner, Albert (Nathan Lane), are forced into a whole new level of drag in which you are straight, a cultural attaché to Greece, and married to the one-night stand straight-sexperiment (Katherine, played by Christine Baranski) that led to the conception of your son. Your partner’s offended, the Senator’s being investigated by the tabloids, tensions are running high and your houseboy Agador (Hank Azaria) has agreed to transform into a Greek butler named “Spartacus,” but let’s face it, tensions are running high on all sides-and that’s before your baby-mama gets caught in traffic and Albert sees the opportunity for the drag role of a lifetime. Fully Shakespearean hijinks ensue. The 1996 Mike Nichols remake of Edouard Molinaro’s La Cage Aux Folles was not really blistering social commentary, but beneath its glib feel-good star-vehicle exterior there are some depths you could easily miss while you’re distracted by the batshit-crazy and heavily sequined antics of Williams and Lane. It’s actually not only rambunctious and witty but, as with many of Robin Williams’ film roles, The Birdcage has a serious streak where a genuine investigation of personal identity is underway, and hypocrisy, acceptance, snobbery, and most of all, everyone’s individual style of “drag” (and hey, we all have one, even if we don’t always express it by putting on fake lashes and singing Sondheim) gets taken out for a much-needed exam. —Amy Glynn


6. Election

Election285x400.jpg Year: 1999
Director: Alexander Payne

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Tom Perrotta writes novels that strip the veneer from polite and “civilized” mid-American suburban life to expose it as the Starbucks-ian jungle that it is: The most reptilian impulses of human nature can strike at any time to dismantle the weak ones in the pack, or to at least flirt with pure narcissistic and hedonistic behavior. In fact, two great films based on his work outline this thematic connection—in Todd Field’s Little Children, the sexual indiscretions of small town characters are narrated like an old school National Geographic documentary, and in Alexander Payne’s Election, the soundtrack blares with a screeching, angry tribal chant whenever a character feels slighted, preparing for an attack to socially destroy an enemy. Perrotta and Payne’s narrative covers a rift between a high school teacher, Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), who isn’t self-aware enough to realize how much of a selfish prick he really is, and a student, Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), the embodiment of blind and ruthless ambition, during the election to appoint the new student body president. Underneath this simple story rides a precise and nimble exploration about the lengths anyone might go to on the road to success to protect their fragile ego while stabbing many backs. Witherspoon’s now-iconic take on Tracy Flick is the embodiment of that person we’ve all encountered who will do and say literally anything to get ahead in life. However, Broderick’s seemingly caring and guiding teacher also succumbs to his own basest desires. Which one perishes, and which one comes out on top depends not on any preconceived cosmic hierarchy of good morals (or ethics—what’s the difference?), but on who can be the shrewdest and cleverest animal in the pack. —Oktay Ege Kozak


7. Zodiac

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Year: 2007
Director: David Fincher

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I hate to use the word “meandering,” because it sounds like an insult, but David Fincher’s 2007 thriller is meandering in the best possible way—it’s a detective story about a hunt for a serial killer that weaves its way into and out of seemingly hundreds of different milieus, ratcheting up the tension all the while. Jake Gyllenhaal is terrific as Robert Graysmith, an amateur sleuth and the film’s through line, while the story is content to release its clues and theories to him slowly, leaving the viewer, like Graysmith, in ambiguity for long stretches, yet still feeling like a fast-paced burner. It’s not Fincher’s most famous film, but it’s absolutely one of the most underrated thrillers since 2000. There are few scenes in modern cinema more taut than when investigators first question unheralded character actor John Carroll Lynch, portraying prime suspect Arthur Leigh Allen, as his facade slowly begins to erode—or so we think. The film is a testament to the sorrow and frustration of trying to solve an ephemeral mystery that often seems to be just out of your grasp. —Shane Ryan


8. I Am Not Your Negro

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Year: 2017
Director: Raoul Peck

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Raoul Peck focuses on James Baldwin’s unfinished book Remember This House, a work that would have memorialized three of his friends, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. All three black men were assassinated within five years of each other, and we learn in the film that Baldwin was not just concerned about these losses as terrible blows to the Civil Rights movement, but deeply cared for the wives and children of the men who were murdered. Baldwin’s overwhelming pain is as much the subject of the film as his intellect. And so I Am Not Your Negro is not just a portrait of an artist, but a portrait of mourning—what it looks, sounds and feels like to lose friends, and to do so with the whole world watching (and with so much of America refusing to understand how it happened, and why it will keep happening). Peck could have done little else besides give us this feeling, placing us squarely in the presence of Baldwin, and I Am Not Your Negro would have likely still been a success. His decision to steer away from the usual documentary format, where respected minds comment on a subject, creates a sense of intimacy difficult to inspire in films like this. The pleasure of sitting with Baldwin’s words, and his words alone, is exquisite. There’s no interpreter, no one to explain Baldwin but Baldwin—and this is how it should be. —Shannon M. Houston


9. We Are the Best!

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Year: 2014
Director: Lukas Moodysson

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In 1980s Sweden, everything that’s happening in the world—the fear of Soviet submarines invading, the gradual industrialization of the country, the Moderate Party gaining control of parliament—doesn’t really include Bobo (Mira Barkhammer), an aspiring punk rocking tween with a lush of a mother. Spending most of her evenings in her room listening to tapes of her favorite punk band, the short and curly-haired Bobo teams up with her best friend and mohawk-sporting Klara (Mira Grosin) to create a band of their own. Wrangling a guitar-playing Christian girl, Hedvig (Live LeMoyne) into their quest to join the school talent show, they’re met with nothing but skepticism from their peers and parents. But Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best!, adapted from graphic novelist Coco Moodysson’s memoir Never Goodnight, is hardly a conventional coming-of-age film. Though it features recognizable tropes from the genre—Boys! Neglectful parents! Angst!—We Are the Best! is filled with such joy and ebullience that it feels liberated from the restrictive structure of so many teen films. With a freewheeling, quasi-improvisatory style, Moodysson imbues his film with a gorgeous ease and tenderness, crafting a little world for these girls and their audience to negotiate their politics, find their voice and fumble along the way. —Kyle Turner


10. Rabbit Hole

rabbit-hole.jpg Year: 2010
Director: John Cameron Mitchell

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While some subjects seem absolutely natural to film, others are just the opposite. The death of a child is so personal and so interior that it’s ill-suited to a form that allows us to see what characters are doing but never get inside their heads. But that’s the challenge confronted by Rabbit Hole. Eight months after their son Danny is killed in a car crash, Howie (Aaron Reckhart) and Becca (Nicole Kidman) are still living one day at a time with their grief and struggling to return their lives to anything approximating normalcy. Howie turns to a support group for other parents of deceased children, eventually taking up smoking pot with a woman there in order to cope with reality, while Becca begins following around the teenager who accidentally killed her son, eventually confronting him when it becomes obvious what she’s doing. Rabbit Hole is unsurprisingly subdued, but it’s a remarkable tone for director John Cameron Mitchell, whose previous films Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus wouldn’t imply he had something like this in him. Mitchell lets his stars control the picture, and they bring out a full range of emotion with particularly great performances by Eckhart and Dianne Wiest who plays Becca’s mother. These performances give the film the intensity of a Cassavetes picture but with a more controlled director who gives every frame of the movie thematic potency. That may sound heavy-handed, but it reflects the viewpoints of Rabbit Hole’s two distraught parents, who are in fact seeing every aspect of their lives shaded by their son’s death—whatever they do, the inescapable loss follows them around. It’s a beautiful tribute to those coping with loss and trying to make sense of the world. —Sean Gandert

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The 20 Best Free Movies on PopcornFlix

PopcornFlix has been streaming free movies supported by ads since 2011. You can access it via the web or your Roku, Xbox, Amazon Fire Stick or PlayStation.

1. Sabrina

sabrina.jpg Year: 1954
Director: Billy Wilder
Stars: Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Humphrey Bogart
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: G
Runtime: 113 minutes

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While boasted two of the most popular leading men of all time in Humphrey Bogart and William Holden, as well as the brilliant Billy Wilder (The Apartment, Some Like It Hot) as director and Ernest Lehman (Sweet Smell of Success, West Side Story) as one of its writers, it owes virtually every ounce of its justifiable status as a classic to the luminous Audrey Hepburn. I first saw Sabrina in my mid-30s but I already had had a crush on Audrey Hepburn for 20 years, since some friends and I rented the excellent late-career Hepburn-Sean Connery starrer Robin and Marian, thinking that James Bond as Robin Hood had to be fun. Imagine four teenaged boys bawling their eyes out at the end of that great but three-hanky weeper. But I digress … Hepburn was already a star, having won an Oscar for her breakout role in 1953’s Roman Holiday and here she shines once again. Often described as a romantic comedy, Sabrina has far more dramatic chops than giggles, and the 25-year-old Hepburn more than holds her own against heavyweights Holden and Bogart, taking the Cinderella archetype to new levels. If you can ignore the May-December aspect of the romantic pairings on offer, I dare you not to fall in love with this winning look at romance. The perfect example of the old axiom “sometimes what you want is right there in front of you.” —Amy Glynn


2. Dead Man Walking

dead-man-walking.jpg Year: 1995
Director: Tim Robbins
Stars: Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Robert Prosky
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Rating: R
Runtime: 120 minutes

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Any film that addresses one of the big, divisive issues of our day (abortion, immigration, homosexuality, etc.) runs the risk of being preachy. But the subject of this death-penalty film isn’t some wrongly accused saint. Sean Penn’s Matthew Poncelet is a murderer and the point of view of the victims’ family isn’t belittled. Still, the story’s heroine, the nun played by Susan Sarandon, finds empathy for all involved, and seeing that play out in all its cosmic difficulty is wonderfully redemptive. —Josh Jackson


3. Sunset Boulevard

sunset-boulevard.jpg Year: 1950
Director: Billy Wilder
Stars: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Rating: G
Runtime:111 minutes

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Billy Wilder’s meta noir is a doozy, an unfailingly cynical critique of showbiz and a portrait of postwar alienation projected on the microcosm of Hollywood. It’s also wickedly funny in Sahara dry fashion, from the opening words of our dead narrator—floating facedown in his killer’s swimming pool—to Norma Desmond’s concluding descent down her staircase, and the rabbit hole. Gloria Swanson is magnificent and sad as Ms. Desmond, a fading beauty of the silent screen who manipulates broke, hackish screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) into becoming her boy toy. Theirs is a fated relationship from the get-go, she of the wordless era, he dependent on them for his very livelihood. They’re on the outs with their industry, and each other, yet coexist out of desperation. Wilder, who co-wrote with Charles Brackett and D. M. Marshman Jr., layered the script with in-joke upon self-referential wink, perhaps the least of which is Desmond’s passion project, about that OG of femme fatales, Salome. There’s a parade of Hollywood cameos, namechecks, and behind-the-scenes instances of “art imitating life” (and vice versa); for example, Erich von Stroheim, who portrays Desmond’s former director/first husband-turned-still lovestruck butler Max, directed Swanson in 1929’s Queen Kelly (excerpted here) before she as the film’s producer fired him, much like her Sunset Blvd. character discards his. Many of these nods were in less-than-good fun, so it’s no shock that Sunset Boulevard met with local disdain, yet Wilder doesn’t flinch. Norma, Joe, Max … they’re all unwanted souls who, try as they might to live in the past, have succumbed to the present—in Joe’s case, most finally. The smoke and mirrors of Tinseltown, of life, don’t do the job anymore (though cinematographer John Seitz, who also lensed Double Indemnity, most certainly did, sprinkling dust into the air for the lights to catch). Desmond may be a seductress past her sell-by date, but Hollywood is the ultimate femme fatale, who chews suckers up and spits them out. Sunset Boulevard gives L.A. its close-up, alright. —Amanda Schurr


4. Once Upon a Time in the West

once-west.jpg Year: 1968
Director: Sergio Leone
Stars: Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Frank Wolff
Genre: Western, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 165 minutes

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Let’s get this out of the way: Once Upon a Time in the West is as great as they come, and one of the most influential Westerns of its day. But after the film’s opening 20 minutes or so dribble by, it’s hard not to wonder how the remaining 150 will match them. Sergio Leone’s film is so deliberately paced and so unhurried in getting where it needs to that as soon as the moment passes when we first meet Charles Bronson’s harmonica-playing gunman, we feel as though we’ve already sat through an entire feature. That doesn’t sound like much of a compliment, but Leone’s talent for stretching seconds into minutes and minutes into hours is made all the more amazing by how little we feel the passage of time. Once Upon a Time in the West is truly cinematic, a wormhole that slowly transports us into its world of killers and tycoons, bandits and landowners, revenge and rightness. There’s a reason that Leone’s masterpiece is considered one of the greatest movies ever made and not just one of the great Westerns: Once Upon a Time in the West is an enduring monument of its era, its genre and filmmaking itself. —Andy Crump


5. The Adventures of Tintin

tintin-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg
Genre: Action & Adventure, Animation
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 107 minutes

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It’s actually amazing that The Adventures of Tintin marks the first big screen treatment of the immensely popular comic book character in nearly 40 years (and, really, the first one of note originating from Hollywood, ever). After all, the intrepid carrot-topped reporter/sleuth stands with fellow Franco-Belgian characters Asterix and Obelix as a titan of European comics. Created by Belgian artist Georges Remi (under the pen name Hergé), Tintin’s adventures have been translated into more than 50 languages and inspired a decently rabid following of “Tintinologists” who have discussed, debated, critiqued and theorized on virtually every imaginable aspect of Tintin and his friends. (For proof, check out www.tintinologist.org.) Part of that can be attributed to careful guardianship of the property, first by Hergé himself and then by his estate. How else can one explain how a series started in 1929 and involving a resourceful boy and his resourceful and cuddly dog has escaped the clutches of the Disney merchandising behemoth? But then there’s also the fact that the new film’s director, some guy named Steven Spielberg, has held the film rights for nearly 30 years, waiting for the right moment to give Tintin his cinematic due. The Adventures of Tintin does just that. Not since Rob Reiner’s pop culture quote font, The Princess Bride, or perhaps Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, has a film worked so hard—and so successfully—to capture the spirit of the source material. —Michael Burgin


6. Short Term 12

short-term-12.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Destin Cretton
Stars: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Alex Calloway, Keith Stanfield
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

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As it progresses, Short Term 12 remains rigorously structured in terms of plot; yet it never feels calculated. In fact, the film serves as a fine example of how invisible screenwriting can be. By allowing his characters’ irrational emotions to influence events and instigate key turning points, Cretton capably masks the film’s finely calibrated story mechanics. And while everything seemingly comes to a head during a key crisis, it’s only fitting that the story ends with a denouement that bookends its opening. Cretton’s clear-eyed film is far too honest to try and convince us that there’s been any sort of profound change for Grace or anyone else. Instead, it’s content to serve as a potent reminder that tentative first steps can be every bit as narratively compelling as great leaps of faith. —Curtis Woloschuk


7. Star Trek: First Contact

st-first-contact.jpg Year: 1996
Director: Jonathan Frakes
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn
Genre: Science-Fiction, Adventure
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 105 minutes

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First Contact wasn’t the first Star Trek film incorporating time-travel, though the plot device was used only sparingly on the show—it’s not really kosher with the Prime Directive. But we’ll take the Next Generation crew and The Borg over the whale watchers in the fourth movie, A Voyage Home. While the first film from this iteration of space explorers—the crossover Generations—got a little mired in the novelty of having two Enterprise crews together, First Contact let Patrick Stewart and company tackle their most iconic villain on their own. When the Borg create a temporal vortex to conquer Earth before humanity discovers they’re not alone in the galaxy, the Enterprise rides its wake and must preserve the timeline or face extinction. It’s a tight story carrying the weight of Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s personal abduction and assimilation by the Borg, driving him with an Ahab-like determination. It also conveys a hope for humanity in the wake of world war that would have made Gene Roddenberry proud. —Josh Jackson


8. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

planes-trains.jpg
Year: 1987
Director: John Hughes
Stars: Steve Martin, John Candy, William Windom
Genre: Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

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Anyone who’s ever endured holiday traffic on their way home for Thanksgiving can relate to this John Hughes tale—although hopefully you’ve never had to endure the sheer number of transportation mishaps (not to mention some accidental spooning) Steve Martin and John Candy go through. Wonderful performances from two of the finest comedic actors to grace the big screen. —Staff


9. Anomalisa

7a.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Stars: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan
Genre: Animation, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: R
Runtime: 96 minutes

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


10. Night of the Living Dead

night-of-living-dead.jpg Year: 1968
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Judith O’Dea, Russell Streiner, Duane Jones
Genre: Horror
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes

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It’s not really necessary to delve into how influential George Romero’s first zombie film has been to the genre and horror itself—it’s one of the most important horror movies ever made, and one of the most important independent films as well. The question is more accurately, "how does it hold up today?", and the answer is "okay." Unlike, say Dawn of the Dead (not on Shudder), Night is pretty placid most of the time. The story conventions are classic and the black-and-white cinematography still looks excellent, but some of the performances are downright irritating, particularly that of Judith O’Dea as Barbara. Duane Jones more than makes up for that as the heroic Ben, however, in a story that is very self-sufficient and provincial—just one small group of people in a house, with no real thought to the wider world. It’s a horror film that is a MUST SEE for every student of the genre, which is easy, considering that the film actually remains in the public domain. But in terms of entertainment value, Romero would perfect the genre in his next few efforts. Also recommended: The 1990 remake of this film by Tom Savini, which is unfairly derided just for being faithful to its source. —Jim Vorel


11. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Enron.jpg Year: 2005
Director: Alex Gibney
Stars: Peter Coyote
Genre: Documentary
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: R
Runtime: 110 minutes

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In a cautionary tale of corporate greed, negligence and diffusion of responsibility, the leaders of Enron defrauded employees and investors out of millions, encouraging others to stay aboard a sinking ship while they were quietly bailing themselves out. Among the highlights of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is Alex Gibney’s montage that cross-cuts footage of Stanley Milgram’s 1961 social experiment with images of the chaos caused by Enron in the 2000 California energy crisis, narrated by phone calls between ruthlessly jovial Enron traders, all set to Los Straightjackets’ “California Sun.” The unexpected wit and verve with which this documentary tells its infuriating tale is what sets it apart. —Emily Riemer


12. Nebraska

nebraska.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Alexander Payne
Stars: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, Bob Odenkirk, June Squibb, Stacy Keach
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: R
Runtime: 115 minutes

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The first question at the Cannes press conference for Nebraska, the new film from Alexander Payne, was about why the director decided to shoot his comedy-drama in black and white. It’s an understandable query. Studios don’t like black-and-white movies from a commercial perspective and, because Payne’s films emphasize character and dialogue, they’re not necessarily thought of as being grandly cinematic, which might require such a striking look. But after seeing the film, the choice makes more than a little sense. Payne doesn’t use black and white to make his movie grand. Quite the contrary, he uses the lack of color to illustrate his characters’ tiny, quiet existence. To paraphrase a line from Paul Simon, their lives are so common they practically disappear. —Tim Grierson


13. Serpico

serpico.jpg Year: 1973
Director: Sidney Lumet
Stars: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe
Genre: Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Rating: R
Runtime: 129 minutes

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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


14. Mr. Nobody

mr-nobody.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Jaco Van Dormael
Stars: Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, Linh-Dan Pham, Rhys Ifans, Natasha Little, Toby Regbo, Juno Temple
Genre: Science-Fiction, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%
Rating: R
Runtime: 155 minutes

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So much of our lives is out of our control: Shouldn’t that fact terrify us? What makes Mr. Nobody work so well is that Belgian writer-director Jaco Van Dormael balances both the awe and terror of that eternal mystery. This existential sci-fi drama stars Jared Leto as Nemo Nobody. Waking up one morning, Nemo discovers he’s an elderly man living in the late 21st century—and that he’s the last mortal left alive in an advanced civilization that views him as a fascinating oddity. Nemo has no memory of how he got so old—last he remembers, he was born in 1975 and living his life in the early 21st century. The film is structured around old Nemo’s stories to a journalist who’s writing a story on him. We see much of Nemo’s younger life, but the problem is that we’re not sure which version of his life is correct. According to the old man, he either grew up in the U.K. and fell in love with a woman named Elise (Sarah Polley) or he moved with his mother to Canada and fell in love with a woman named Anna (Diane Kruger). But even those versions have their own divergent narratives: Did Nemo meet Anna as a teen (Juno Temple) and then never reconnect with her in adulthood, or did they find each other again? This storytelling complexity is not new for Van Dormael, who helped make his name on the world stage with 1991’s Toto the Hero, which also told the story of a man’s life in flashbacks that weren’t always accurate. Fantasy and reality mix just as readily in Mr. Nobody; in one plot strand, Nemo adventures to Mars to be part of a colony, although we assume what we’re seeing is a product of Nemo’s imagination as a boy. In Mr. Nobody, despite the myriad variations of Nemo he’s playing, there’s a consistent damaged quality to the character that binds them together. Leto isn’t trying to essay distinct personalities for each Nemo—they’re really all versions of the same soul. —Tim Grierson


15. The Void

the-void-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2017
Directors: Steven Kostanski, Jeremy Gillespie
Stars: Aaron Poole, Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Wong, Evan Stern
Genre: Horror
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Viewers should grade writer-directors Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie’s The Void on a curve: While the low-budget Canadian production earns an “A” for ambition, its mélange of The Thing-inspired body horror, ‘80s nostalgia and Lovecraftian cosmic terror doesn’t quite cohere into a satisfying whole by the time its chief antagonist peels away his skin to reveal a bodysuit that looks like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ Lord Zedd. The first half of the film demonstrates much more restraint, building tension as triangle-branded cultists isolate a mismatched group of (mostly) innocent people—led by Aaron Poole as an out-of-his-depth small-town cop—in a (mostly) vacant hospital. Kotanski and Gillespie build in too many potentially conflicting twists—who, exactly, is impregnated with what?—but the grotesque practical effects and descent-into-Hell structure at times pass for a solid Silent Hill adaptation. Some of horror’s most recent, popularly memorable features (say: It Follows, The Babadook) have wisely employed relatively narrow scopes. Instead, The Void attempts to push audiences into another dimension, but manages at least a few successful frights along the way. —Steve Foxe


16. Prince Avalanche

prince-a-210.jpg Year: 2013
Director: David Gordon Green
Stars: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch, Lance LeGault
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Rating: R
Runtime: 94 minutes

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Prince Avalanche finds David Gordon Greene perfecting the balance between his work in easy comedy and Terrence Malick-inspired dreamscape territory. The film, based on an Icelandic movie from 2011 called Either Way, is at times funnier than some of his straight-up comedies. It’s also a thoroughly enjoyable relationship movie about two men, one young, one old(ish), that is utterly devoid of sap—not an easy task when clichés are so easy to lean upon. The story takes place sometime after a severe wildfire has claimed a wide swath of forest near Austin, Texas, in the mid-1980s. Lance (Emile Hirsch) and Alvin (Paul Rudd) are spending the summer working as a two-man road crew in the burned-out state park, painting yellow lines on roads, planting posts, and camping out in the woods each night. Lance is barely present; he’s an airhead whose attitude defines “working for the weekend,” as he single-mindedly longs for a chance to go back into town and hook up with girls. A chunky, longhaired Emile Hirsch channels Jack Black in the role, smartly playing dumb the whole way through. Alvin, on the other hand, is a pretentious pseudo-intellectual who fancies himself something of a modern-day Thoreau. Once again, Rudd plays the straight man hilariously, as the two fight over whether Alvin’s German-language lesson tapes or Lance’s ’80s hair metal cassettes should be the soundtrack to their tedious and rather Zen-like work. Lance and Alvin talk and talk and get drunk and clash and make up, and the film never gets boring in the meantime. Their final, drunken dust-up is hilarious and berserk, offering a release of tension for characters and audience alike. —Jonah Flicker


17. The Hunt

the-hunt.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrøm
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: R
Runtime: 111 minutes

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Thomas Vinterberg’s harrowing drama serves as a companion piece of sorts to the documentaries concerning the travails of the West Memphis Three. Whereas the non-fiction work of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (The Paradise Lost trilogy) and Amy Berg (West of Memphis) examined how deep-seated prejudice could spawn a protracted miscarriage of justice, Vinterberg’s nerve-fraying character study investigates the lingering ramifications of rash actions and rushes to judgement. But first, it sets a scene not all that unlike West Memphis, Arkansas. The Hunt unfolds in a small, rural community where the jocular men view each other as brothers and the children wander the streets unattended, their safety taken for granted. Our introduction to Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) comes as he’s rescuing a burly, naked friend from a frigid lake. Rest assured, Lucas will suffer mightily because of Klara (Annika Wedderkopp), a little girl who has a crush on him. When he gently scolds her for being overly affectionate, she responds by intimating to another teacher that Lucas exposed himself. What follows is a witch-hunt that Denmark hasn’t seen the likes of since the reign of Christian IV. Vinterberg and co-writer Tobias Lindholm (A Hijacking) have no interest in detailing the legalities at play here. Instead, they’re fascinated with the way in which conservative communities are willing to close ranks at the slightest provocation. Brilliantly written and masterfully staged, the climax arrives with the entire town gathered in a warmly lit church on Christmas Eve. As Vinterberg allows the scene to methodically unfold, we watch Mikkelsen’s stony countenance become consumed with indignation. Even within the walls of an institution that hinges on blind faith, there’s not a single person who will give him the benefit of the doubt. The rank hypocrisy glimpsed in the sequence is galling. And yet, Vinterberg never allows his evident disdain for such flock mentalities to affect his steady directorial hand. Fittingly for a film that deals with actions that can’t be undone, The Hunt leaves you with a sickening feeling that’s almost impossible to shake. —Curtis Woloschuk


18. Drinking Buddies

drinking-buddies.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Joe Swanberg
Stars: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes

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If you feel compelled to go full indie and can’t stand love stories with tidy, happy endings, Drinking Buddies should be your pick. It’s an unconventional romance in that most of the characters never commit to the relationships or infidelities we expect them to. Instead, it’s about temptation, the lies we tell ourselves in a relationship and the boundaries between friendship and romantic feelings. A scion of—but not full-fledged entry into—the mumblecore genre, its largely improvised dialog lends an air of reality to the conversations, but those expecting typical genre conventions may find themselves perplexed when you don’t get anything resembling the “wedding bells” ending of the typical romantic comedy.—Jim Vorel


19. We Need to Talk About Kevin

we-need-to-talk-about-kevin-australian-poster.jpg Year: 2012
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Stars: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%
Rating: R
Runtime: 112 minutes

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We Need To Talk About Kevin concerns the experience of a mother struggling with the aftermath of a school massacre carried out by her son. In its narrative construction, it draws upon two key tropes: that of the “whydunnit” thriller, in which the the mystery of the perpetrator’s motivations are a driving factor, and that of the family horror, in which some dark element tears a traditional household apart. Indeed, the real horror is not that a teenager chose total negation over the banality of normative family life—it’s that these appeared to be the only two choices available. —Donal Foreman


20. Hello I Must Be Going

hello-going.jpg Year: 2012
Director: Todd Louiso
Stars: Melanie Lynskey, Blythe Danner, Christopher Abbott, John Rubenstein, Julie White
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%
Rating: R
Runtime: 95 minutes

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New Zealander Melanie Lynskey remains woefully underrated as an actress, and her work in Hello I Must Be Going is characteristically subtle and tender. Devastated by her recent divorce, Amy (Lynskey) moves back into her parents’ suburban Connecticut home. She’s left everything behind—her photo negatives, her clothes, her alimony—and so depends entirely on them as if she were a kid again. She hasn’t left the house—or changed her red T-shirt—for three months, sleeping late after staying up late watching Marx Brothers movies. Dad Stan (John Rubinstein) is supportive, but Mom Ruth (Blythe Danner) wants her to shape up and find something nice to wear to an important dinner party. The house is under constant renovation, her dad would like to retire, and her mom wants to take a trip around the world, but they’ve been hit hard by the recession, and her dad needs to land an important client. At the dinner, Amy meets Jeremy (Christopher Abbott), the stepson of her dad’s prospect and soon embarks on an ill-advised affair with the 19-year-old actor. As sweet and sympathetic as Lynskey plays Amy, there’s only so much moping about one can take before starting to wonder where it’s going. But just then, Amy herself wails, “Where’s the fucking bottom!” Turns out she hasn’t quite hit it, but it doesn’t take much longer for her to turn things around in an epiphany that’s natural and credible. Screenwriter Sarah Koskoff and director Todd Louiso fold into this reinvigorating but ultimately untenable romance more complex themes about love and marriage and how even seemingly loving marriages can subsume the hopes and dreams of the individuals in them. —Annlee Ellingson

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The 10 Best Free Movies on tubi

Tubi’s biggest strength is in the documentary and classic categories.

1. Stalag 17

1-best-movies-stream-stalag-17-poster.jpg
Year: 1953
Director: Billy Wilder

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Tonally, Billy Wilder’s prisoners of war story is a true dramedy, fitting into an odd post-war space when American cinemagoers were apparently content to laugh at the horrors faced by prisoners, even while being reminded of the deadly results of incarceration, which were obviously even more dire for victims of the Holocaust. It’s William Holden who makes the film click and hum, portraying American airman Sefton as a somewhat sleazy but clever profiteer who figures that if he’s going to spend time in a POW camp, he might as well be an enterprising big shot while he’s there, living as comfortably as he can. In comparison with a film like The Great Escape, which would later come along and tell a story ringing with many of the same tropes, albeit without the screwball sense of humor, Stalag 17 is both an escape story and a light mystery, centered around the identity of the German informant who is sabotaging each attempt by the Americans to flee the camp and defy the Germans. With a cast of colorful characters and good-natured humor, Stalag 17 somehow takes a horrific premise and mines it for laughs more successfully than one would have thought possible. —Jim Vorel


2. Taxi Driver

Taxi-driver.jpg
Year: 1976
Director: Martin Scorsese

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Taxi Driver was Scorsese’s breakthrough: a seething condemnation of alienation—not to mention New York’s descent in the 1970s into a crime-ridden hellscape—delivered with such clinical coldness that when Scorsese’s star (and longtime collaborator) Robert De Niro finally explodes, it’s unspeakably upsetting. If Taxi Driver now feels slightly overrated, it’s only because the movie’s DNA has crept into so many subsequent filmmakers’ efforts. Scorsese grew up loving Westerns, and Taxi Driver could just as easily be his version of The Searchers—except his man-out-of-time finds no redemption. —T.G.


3. In a Lonely Place

3-best-movies-stream-in-a-lonely-place-poster.jpg
Year: 1950
Director: Nicholas Ray

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One of the great noirs of all time and one of the great feel-bad movies of all time. In a Lonely Place treats redemption as a cruel joke, a spell of relief that lasts only long enough for us to view its obsolescence. The film takes jabs at Hollywood and celebrity while telling the kind of dangerous love story E.L. James wishes she could write; Humphrey Bogart is a bad, bad man, but he’s also grossly compelling. He plays Dixon Steele, a Tinseltown screenwriter fallen on hard times whom we sympathize with in spite of ourselves. Apart from being a sad sack, he’s also an explosive lunatic with a frighteningly short fuse, which makes him dangerously alluring bait for his new neighbor, Laurel (Gloria Grahame). Theirs is an ill-fated romance, and through it, Nicholas Ray makes a hauntingly grim study of masculinity, set against the ratcheting suspense of a murder mystery yarn. —Andy Crump


4. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

dear-zachary-cover.jpg Year: 2008
Director: Kurt Kuenne

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Kurt Kuenne was childhood friends with a man named Andrew Bagby, who, in late 2001, was murdered by ex-girlfriend Shirley Turner. Relieved he’d finally put an end to a turbulent relationship, he had no idea Turner was pregnant. So she killed him, then fled to Newfoundland, where she gave birth to Bagby’s son, Zachary. This is how Dear Zachary begins: a visual testament to both Andrew Bagby’s life, as well as the enduring hearts of his parents, who, as Kuenne chronicles, moved to Newfoundland after their son’s murder to begin proceedings to gain custody of Zachary. Kuenne only meant the film to be a gift, a love letter to his friend postmarked to Zachary, to allow the baby to one day get to know his father via the many, many people who loved him most. Told in interviews, photos, phone calls, seemingly every piece of detritus from one man’s life, Kuenne’s eulogy is an achingly sad portrait of someone who, in only 28 years, deeply affected the lives of so many people around him. And then Dear Zachary transforms into something profoundly else. It begins to take on the visual language and tone of an infuriating true-crime account, painstakingly detailing the process by which Bagby’s parents gained custody and then—just as they were beginning to find some semblance of consolation—faced their worst nightmares. The film at times becomes exquisitely painful, but Kuenne has a natural gift for tension and pacing that neither exploits the material nor drags the audience through melodramatic mud. In retrospect, Dear Zachary’s expositional approach may seem a bit cloying, but that’s only because Kuenne is willing to tell a story with all the disconsolate surprise of the tragedy itself. You’re gonna bawl your guts out. —Dom Sinacola


5. House on Haunted Hill

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Year: 1959
Director: William Castle

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Every William Castle movie has its own campy charms, but House on Haunted Hill is the guy’s masterpiece. It’s got it all: Vincent Price at his goofiest, a big spooky house, a mystery and a profoundly non-frightening walking skeleton. The gimmick this time around was referred to by Castle as “Emergo,” and it amounted to a plastic skeleton on a pulley system being flown over the audience—not his most creative, but shameless enough that only Castle would stoop so low. To me, this is the quintessential 1950s horror film, even though it comes at the end of the decade. It’s totally tame by today’s standards but has some fun, over-the-top performances, a bit of witty dialog and a large helping of cheese. I can watch this thing over and over without ever getting tired of it. It’s like horror comfort food. The colorized version is even more fun, replacing the static black-and-white original with an unrealistic palette of color-coded characters you will remind you of the cast of Clue. —Jim Vorel


6. Let Me In

let-me-in.jpg Year: 2010
Director: Matt Reeves

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Practically more supernatural a creature than its starring monster, Let Me In is not only an Americanized adaptation of a foreign film that isn’t a waste of everyone’s time, it’s arguably superior in some ways than the film it’s based upon, despite the unfair stigmatization it received upon release. Like the original Swedish film, Let the Right One In, Matt Reeves’ update teases a remarkable amount of tension and intrigue through meticulous plotting and arresting imagery. Though set in Los Alamos, New Mexico, rather than Stockholm, the choice of place for relocation initially seems an odd one—but it turns out it’s not the icy Swedish darkness that harbors the sense of unease. It’s the isolation of a 12-year-old boy, neglected by parents and any real parental figure. Owen’s (Kodi Smit-McPhee) bond with the eternally youthful vampire Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) is as effective and chilling here as it is in the original, thanks in no small part to its two phenomenal young leads. No question there’s a modern horror classic here, from the unlikeliest of origins. —Scott Wold


7. His Girl Friday

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Year: 1940
Director: Howard Hawks

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Special effects have become so sophisticated that many of us have probably forgotten how much pure amazement you can wreak with a great story and a script that doesn’t let up for one second. This amazing, dizzyingly paced screwball comedy by Howard Hawks stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, and takes us back into two of the decade’s hallmark preoccupations: The “remarriage comedy” and the intrigue and obsessiveness of the newspaper world. The minute Russell’s Lindy Johnson stalks into the newspaper office run by her ex-husband Walter Burns (Grant), you know it’s to tell him she’s getting remarried and leaving journalism to raise a family, and you know that’s not how it’s going to end. No high-suspense mystery here. What puts you on the edge of your seat in this film is how you get there. Hilariously acted and expertly filmed, His Girl Friday derives much of its comedic impact from the incredibly clever and lightning-fast banter of the characters. Don’t even think about checking your phone while you’re watching this. In fact, try to blink as little as possible. —Amy Glynn


8. Young Mr. Lincoln

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Year: 1939
Director: John Ford

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John Ford—embodiment of the American ideal; institutional director favorited by hardened cinephiles, casual film lovers and old-school auteurs like Sergei Eisenstein alike—does not cater too obliviously to the iconography of Abraham Lincoln (played by Henry Fonda as if Lincoln could’ve been the most charming union organizer any budding socialist has ever seen). Instead, Ford studies the moral mettle of Lincoln from a functional perspective: How does someone become a beloved member of a community? How does a homey sense of logic carve out the crucible of justice? Which pie was better, the apple or the peach? In Ford’s film, which rides the rails of both biopic and a sort of ur-text for a true crime procedural, Fonda’s Lincoln both occupies each frame and limns it, serving as the literal centerpiece for a courtroom drama while defining how the many personalities of a burgeoning Illinois town come together to decide the proper way forward. An early scene, in which Lincoln decides the fate of a feud between a farmer and a tenant, the two men seeking legal guidance from young lawyer Mr. Lincoln orbiting Lincoln’s desk, cinematographers Bert Glennon and Arthur C. Miller keep the camera anchored to Lincoln’s long legs, which Fonda casually props up often throughout the film, plopping down on desk and chairs and assorted posts. It’s as if the filmmakers know that Lincoln’s presence—physically, but also more than physically—defines the space in which the future President reclines. The crux of every argument, every ethical dispute, revolves around the man’s body. Criterion’s HD transfer transforms these carefully-blocked scenes into a sumptuous depth of field, eking out every inch of every shabby room Lincoln stretches within. It’s breathtaking stuff, even as the film ends with the trepidation towards the kind of larger-than-life people we’re intent on—with the political world as transparently mutable as it is and history as fungible as it is—re-evaluating today. —Dom Sinacola


9. Citizenfour

citizen-four.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Laura Poitras

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Few documentaries have cameras rolling as history is being made. But director Laura Poitras found herself in the middle of momentous times while making Citizenfour, which takes us behind the scenes as NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden works with (among others) journalist Glenn Greenwald to expose the organization’s systematic surveillance of everyday Americans. From the worried initial meetings in a Hong Kong hotel room to the later fallout across the globe, Citizenfour has the rush of a thriller, humanizing its subjects so that we see the uncertainty and anxiety coursing through them, along with the guts and indignation.—Tim Grierson


10. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

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Year: 2005
Directors: Shane Black

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Both Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr. bounced back in this 2005 cult classic, featuring a petty thief (Downey) who falls into an audition for crime film, and is flown to Los Angeles for a screen test, where he meets “Gay” Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer), a P.I. hired to help him prepare for the role. Quippy and tongue-in-cheek, the self-aware mystery at its center is still drum tight, with third-act twists and turns to spare. And fans will appreciate the loose, unforced comedy that balances out its wackier elements. —Graham Techler

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The 20 Best Free Movies on YouTube

YouTube has a bunch of public domain movies available for free, along with its own catalog of ad-supported films.

1. Steamboat Bill, Jr.

steamboat-bill-jr.jpg Year: 1928
Director: Buster Keaton and Charles Reisner
Stars: Buster Keaton, Ernest Torrence, Marion Byron
Genre: Silent, Action, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 77 minutes

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Steamboat Bill, Jr.’s climactic cyclone sequence—which is at once great action and great comedy—would on its own earn the film a revered place in the canon of great all time silent film. The iconic shot of a house’s facade falling on Keaton is only one of many great moments in the free-flowing, hard-blowing sequence. But Steamboat Bill, Jr. also showcases some of Keaton’s marvelous intimacy as an actor, such as a scene in which his father tries to find him a more manly hat, or during a painfully hilarious attempt to pantomime a jailbreak plan. —Jeremy Mathews


2. Sunrise

sunrise.jpg Year: 1927
Director: F.W. Murnau
Stars: Janet Gaynor, George O’Brien, Margaret Livingston
Genre: Silent, Romance, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 110 minutes

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During the last few years of the 1920s, the excitement was palpable as brilliant filmmakers pushed to unlock the medium’s full potential. Sunrise was born of that ambition, as Fox brought German genius F.W. Murnau to Hollywood, where he and his cameramen used all the resources at their disposal to create some of the most stunning visuals ever put on celluloid. Telling the story of a husband who strays and then tries to redeem himself, Murnau’s camera flies over country fields, gets tangled in the bustle of the city and desperately looms over a lake in a storm, while his actors, George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor, radiate with sincerity. —Jeremy Mathews


3. Ghost in the Shell

ghost-in-the-shell.jpg Year: 1995
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Stars: Mimi Woods, Richard George, William Frederick
Genre: Anime, Science-Fiction
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: R
Runtime: 82 minutes

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It’s difficult to overstate how enormous of an influence Ghost in the Shell exerts over not only the cultural and aesthetic evolution of Japanese animation, but over the shape of science-fiction cinema as a whole in the 21st century. Adapted from Masamune Shirow’s original 1989 manga, the film is set in the mid-21st century, a world populated by cyborgs in artificial prosthetic bodies, in the fictional Japanese metropolis of Niihama. Ghost in the Shell follows the story of Major Motoko Kusanagi, the commander of a domestic special ops task-force known as Public Security Section 9, who begins to question the nature of her own humanity surrounded by a world of artificiality. When Motoko and her team are assigned to apprehend the mysterious Puppet Master, an elusive hacker thought to be one of the most dangerous criminals on the planet, they are set chasing after a series of crimes perpetrated by the Puppet Master’s unwitting pawns before the seemingly unrelated events coalesce into a pattern that circles back to one person: the Major herself. When Ghost in the Shell first premiered in Japan, it was greeted as nothing short of a tour de force that would later go on to amass an immense cult following in the states. The film garnered the praise of directors such as James Cameron and the Wachowski sisters (whose late-century cyberpunk classic The Matrix is philosophically indebted to the trail blazed by Oshii’s precedent). Everything about Ghost in the Shell shouts polish and depth, from the ramshackle markets and claustrophobic corridors inspired by the likeness of Kowloon Walled City to the sound design, evident from Kenji Kawai’s sorrowful score, to the sheer concussive punch of every bullet firing across the screen. Oshii took Shirow’s source material and arguably surpassed it, making an already heady science-fiction action drama into a proto-Kurzweilian fable about the dawn of machine intelligence. Ghost in the Shell is more than a cornerstone of cyberpunk fiction, more essential in this day and age than it was over 20 years ago: a story about what it means to craft one’s self in the digital age, a time where the concept of truth feels as mercurial as the net is vast and infinite. —Toussaint Egan


4. Our Hospitality

our-hospitality.jpg Year: 1923
Directors: Buster Keaton, Jack Blystone
Stars: Buster Keaton, Natalie Talmadge, Joe Keaton
Genre: Silent, Family, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 74 minutes

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Buster Keaton was never one for grandiose social commentary, but he loved observing absurd human behavior. So he had no trouble making Our Hospitality, about a generations-long family feud that comes head-to-head with a southern hospitality code. That code says that you can’t kill someone when they’re a guest in your house, so when Keaton’s character unknowingly stumbles into his enemy family’s home, he can’t leave. Keaton has a great time attempting escapes, with the inside of the house serving as his safe zone if things go wrong. The funniest moment is the dinner prayer, during which everyone is watching everyone else rather than actually praying. A river chase sequence, including a killer waterfall stunt, brings things to a perfect climax. And I didn’t even mention the first act’s use of Stephenson’s Rocket—the historically accurate, ridiculously puny train that transports our hero from New York City. This film also just entered the public domain on Jan. 1. —Jeremy Mathews


5. Big Trouble In Little China

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Year: 1986
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 99 minutes

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Next to The Thing or Halloween, Big Trouble in Little China feels like little more than a lark, one more toss-off showcase for John Carpenter’s genre-bending curatorial spirit. Part goopy menagerie of grotesque special effects, part super-cool fantasy adventure, Big Trouble follows an all-American truck driver as he falls ass-backwards into a plot involving an ancient Chinese sorcerer seeking to fulfill a prophecy that will restore him to human form. The flick eschews most building-blocks of horror or tension to focus on carefree action bro Jack Burton, the aforementioned trucker played to the hilt by Kurt Russell, who was pretty much at the height of his laid-back dude-ical powers back in the ’80s. In fact, Carpenter may be that decade’s best unheralded action director, and Russell his charming muse, way more fun to watch than a Schwarzenegger or a Stallone or a VanDamme—Adonises barely able to grimace out full sentences, let alone crack a smile—because there wasn’t much more to what he was doing, or what Carpenter was filming, than going mullet-first into whatever madcap caper struck his fancy. All one-liners, shameless machismo, shiny biceps and a gnarly pair of mom jeans, Jack Burton is comparable perhaps only to John McClane in his unflagging ability to take absolutely nothing seriously about the serious situations constantly surrounding him. —Dom Sinacola


6. The General

the-general.jpg Year: 1926
Directors: Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckham
Stars: Joseph Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavender
Genre: Silent, Comedy, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 79 minutes

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When Yankee spies steal his locomotive and kidnap his girlfriend, a Southern railroad engineer ("The Great Stone Face" Buster Keaton) is forced to pursue his two beloveds across enemy lines. While a few Charlie Chaplin pictures give it a run for its money, The General is arguably the finest silent comedy ever made—if not the finest comedy ever made. At the pinnacle of Buster Keaton’s renowned career, the film didn’t receive critical or box-office success when released, but it has aged tremendously. It’s a spectacle of story, mishmashing romance, adventure, action (chases, fires, explosions) and comedy into a seamless silent masterpiece. —David Roark


7. Safety Last

safety-last-poster.jpg Year: 1923
Directors: Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Stars: Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, Bill Strother
Genre: Silent, Comedy, Adventure
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 80 minutes

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“I shouldn’t have bothered scoring the last 15 minutes,” Rodney Sauer of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra told me after accompanying Safety Last at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. He said he and his ensemble couldn’t even hear themselves over the uproarious laughter in the Castro Theatre during Harold Lloyd’s famous building-scaling sequence. The scene, with its famous clock-hanging finale—is such a perfect mix of suspense and comedy that it doesn’t much matter that the rest of the film seems to exist merely as a lead-up to it. This film just entered the public domain recently. —Jeremy Mathews


8. Nosferatu

nosferatu-murnau-poster.jpg Year: 1929
Director: F. W. Murnau
Stars: Max Schreck, Alexander Granach, Gustav von Wangenheim
Genre: Silent, Horror
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 63 minutes

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F.W. Murnau’s sublimely peculiar riff on Dracula has been a fixture of the genre for so long that to justify its place on this list seems like a waste of time. Magnificent in its freakish, dour mood and visual eccentricities, the movie invented much of modern vampire lore as we know it. It’s once-a-year required viewing of the most rewarding kind. —Sean Gandert


9. Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons

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Director: Stephen Chow and Derek Kwok
Year: 2013

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No list like this would ever be complete without an entry care of Stephen Chow, and so while the Hong Kong director’s Western breakthrough, the bonkers Shaolin Soccer, is also available to stream, the even bonkers-ier Journey to the West is a better place to start. Monumentally popular in China, breaking all-time box office records (even beating out Transformers 4, so you know this shit means business), Journey is based on a Chinese literary classic of the same name, but saturated with Chow’s now infamous wit, slapstick, and barely-containable glee at the possibility of fantasy filmmaking. Every scene is an elaborate tour de force of stunts and battles and exaggerated athleticism—just like every scene in every film of his to come before—but Journey takes that extra step to imbue its traditional genre tropes with grotesquerie and phantasmagorical imagination, transforming a pretty basic story about one monk’s path to enlightenment into Terry Gilliam’s wet dream, replete with pig monsters and monkey spirits and steampunk and practically everything in between. So much more than a martial arts flick, this feels like a super-gifted filmmaker doing exactly what he was born to do. —Dom Sinacola


10. The Navigator

the-navigator.jpg Year: 1924
Directors: Buster Keaton, Donald Crisp
Stars: Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Fred Vroom
Genre: Silent, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 63 minutes

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The Navigator mines an ocean liner for every gag imaginable. Keaton plays a clueless rich young man who finds himself stranded on a giant, adrift ship with the clueless rich young woman who rejected him serving as his only company. These two spoiled upper-class twerps don’t know how to open canned food, let alone operate a ship, and have to improvise in hilarious ways to get things under control. The scene where the two characters each suspect someone else is on the boat, but can’t find anyone else, plays out in classic Keaton fashion: with perfectly timed wide shots that make it more believable that the two keep missing each other. The best moment may be a spooky night when the characters let the creepiness of the boat get the best of them. —Jeremy Mathews


11. The Scarecrow

the-scarecrow.jpg Year: 1920
Director: Buster Keaton, Eddie Cline
Stars: Buster Keaton, Joe Roberts, Joe Keaton
Genre: Silent, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 21 minutes

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There are Buster Keaton two-reelers with more ambitious special effects, more epic stunts and more elaborate chase scenes, but in my experience, none get more laughs than The Scarecrow. The film never stops to catch a breath as it moves from place to place, always setting up and paying off new laughs. The best moments include an ingeniously designed one-room house, an appearance from the great Luke the Dog, and some truly divine knockabout between Keaton, Joe Roberts and Keaton’s father, Joe. —Jeremy Mathews


12. Bernie

bernie.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Shirley MacLaine
Genre: Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 104 minutes

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Bernie is as much about the town of Carthage, Texas, as it is about its infamous resident Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), the town’s mortician and prime suspect in the murder of one of its most despised citizens, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine). Unlike Nugent, Bernie is conspicuously loved by all. When he’s not helping direct the high school musical, he’s teaching Sunday school. Like a well-played mystery, Linklater’s excellent, darkly humorous (and true) story is interspersed with tantalizing interviews of the community’s residents. Linklater uses real East Texas folks to play the parts, a device that serves as the perfect balance against the drama that leads up to Bernie’s fatal encounter with the rich bitch of a widow. The comedy is sharp, with some of the film’s best lines coming from those townsfolk. —Tim Basham


13. Blackmail

blackmail.jpg Year: 1929
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Anny Ondra, John Longden, Donald Calthrop
Genre: Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 86 minutes

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Alfred Hitchcock’s first sound film was also his last silent, as Blackmail was made in both formats. While the sound version is known for Hitchcock’s experiments with the new technology (most famously a scene that emphasizes the word "knife"), the silent version flows much smoother. And Donald Calthrop’s performance of the blackmailer feels even creepier with just his face and body language doing the job. —Jeremy Mathews


14. Hunt for the Wilderpeople


hunt-for-wilderpeople.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Taika Waititi
Stars: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata, Rachel House, Oscar Kightley, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Rhys Darby
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 101 minutes

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Bella’s (Rima Te Wiata) first encounter with Ricky (Julian Dennison), the new foster child she’s agreed to take on, doesn’t inspire confidence, especially with her clumsy jokes at the expense of his weight. In turn, with child-services representative Paula (Rachel House) painting Ricky as an unruly wild child, one dreads the prospect of seeing the kid walk all over this possibly in-over-her-head mother. But Bella wears him down with kindness. And Ricky ends up less of a tough cookie than he—with his fondness for gangsta rap and all that implies—initially tried to project. An adaptation of Barry Crump’s novel Wild Pork and Watercress, Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople thrives on upending preconceived notions. The director shows sympathy for Ricky’s innocence, which is reflected in the film’s grand-adventure style. Cinematographer Lachlan Milne’s sweeping, colorful panoramas and a chapter-based narrative structure gives Hunt for the Wilderpeople the feel of a storybook fable, but thanks to the warm-hearted dynamic between Ricky and Hec (Sam Neill), even the film’s most whimsical moments carry a sense of real underlying pain: Both of these characters are outsiders ultimately looking for a home to call their own. —Kenji Fujishima


15. The Kid

the-kid.jpg Year: 1921
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Stars: Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan, Edna Purviance
Genre: Silent, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 60 minutes

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Charlie Chaplin’s first full-length film and one of his finest achievements, The Kid tells the story of an abandoned child and the life he builds with The Little Tramp. Chaplin went against heavy studio opposition to create a more serious film in contrast to his earlier work. However, The Kid features just as much slapstick humor as his previous shorts, but placed within a broader, more dramatic context. —Wyndham Wyeth


16. Night of the Living Dead

night-of-living-dead.jpg Year: 1968
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Judith O’Dea, Russell Streiner, Duane Jones
Genre: Horror
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes

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It’s not really necessary to delve into how influential George Romero’s first zombie film has been to the genre and horror itself—it’s one of the most important horror movies ever made, and one of the most important independent films as well. The question is more accurately, "how does it hold up today?", and the answer is "okay." Unlike, say Dawn of the Dead (not on Shudder), Night is pretty placid most of the time. The story conventions are classic and the black-and-white cinematography still looks excellent, but some of the performances are downright irritating, particularly that of Judith O’Dea as Barbara. Duane Jones more than makes up for that as the heroic Ben, however, in a story that is very self-sufficient and provincial—just one small group of people in a house, with no real thought to the wider world. It’s a horror film that is a MUST SEE for every student of the genre, which is easy, considering that the film actually remains in the public domain. But in terms of entertainment value, Romero would perfect the genre in his next few efforts. Also recommended: The 1990 remake of this film by Tom Savini, which is unfairly derided just for being faithful to its source. —Jim Vorel


17. Troll Hunter

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Year: 2010
Director: André Øvredal

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There’s no denying that at its beginning, Troll Hunter seems like another Blair Witch Project knock-off. The first 20 minutes show us a young camera crew investigating some unexplained bear deaths and a suspicious man who may be poaching them. But rather than drawing out the mystery, it takes a sharp turn and tells us matter-of-factly that of course it was trolls killing the bears, and not only that, here’s one of them ready to bonk you on the head. The titular Troll Hunter extraordinaire is played by the affable comedian Otto Jespersen, who brings the entire monster premise to an entirely different level through his nonchalant attitude. In every sense, Troll Hunter lives up to its ridiculous name and premise. —Sean Gandert


18. The Last Man on Earth

last-man.jpg Year: 1964
Directors: Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow
Stars: Vincent Price, Tony Cerevi, Franca Bettoja
Genre: Horror
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 86 minutes

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Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend has proven notoriously difficult to adapt while keeping any of its ideas intact, but compared to the later Omega Man or 2007 version of I Am Legend with Will Smith, this is probably the best overall take on the story. Some have called it Vincent Price’s best film, featuring wonderfully gothic settings in Rome where the last human man on Earth wages a nightly war against the “infected,” who have taken on the characteristics of classical vampires. It doesn’t fully commit to the inversion of protagonist/antagonist of the source material, but it makes the use of Price’s magnetic screen presence and ability to monologue. No one ever watches a Vincent Price movie and thinks “I wish there was less Vincent Price in this,” and The Last Man on Earth delivers a showcase for the actor at the height of his powers. Night of the Living Dead director George Romero has stated that without The Last Man on Earth, the modern zombie would never have been conceived. —Jim Vorel


19. Cube

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Year: 1998
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Stars: Maurice Dean Wint, Nicole de Boer, Nicky Guadagni, David Hewlett, Wayne Robson, Andrew Miller
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%
Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Cube is a quintessential cult horror film, with all that the descriptor implies: The film has a great premise, a fun (yet imperfect) execution, a scrappy underdog factor, and an unexpected franchise that follows in its wake. The strange geometry of the multi-room jail holding the film’s characters are filled with dangerous traps. Is it truly a cube? Or is that just what whoever’s captured them wants them to think? As the characters give in to paranoia and claustrophobia, one of the more creative and bare-bones indie horror movies to implement (and actually pull off) sci-fi elements finds its rhythm. Tense and scary, with the same kind of intentionally small scope as movies like Saw, Cube is one of those perfect video store movies that you rent based on the cover alone and come away satisfied. —Jacob Oller


20. Sita Sings the Blues

sita-sings-the-blues.jpg Year: 2010
Director: Nina Paley
Stars: Deepti Gupta, Pooja Kumar, Annette Hanshaw
Genre: Family, Animation, Music, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 82 minutes

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Sita Sings the Blues is a study in cinematic obsession and a triumph of individual achievement for its creator, artist and animator Nina Paley. This is a feature animated film entirely undertaken by one determined woman, featuring four distinctly different styles of animation and storytelling, to wrap together the narrative of her own life with the millennia-old Hindu myth cycle The Ramayana after she noted the similarities between her own story and that of the myth’s heroine, Sita. A meditation on relationships and duty, it’s also set to the 1920s jazz vocals of Annette Henshaw, whose songs essentially become the soundtrack to animated music videos. It’s a beautiful, incredibly imaginative film that is equal parts funny, sobering and jaw-dropping as a technical achievement. It’s one of the most impressive animated features ever made by a single person. —Jim Vorel

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