The 100 Best Free Movies to Stream

Completely free movies streaming on Crackle, IMDBtv, Popcornflix, Pluto, tubi & YouTube

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The 100 Best Free Movies to Stream

Monthly expenses for streaming services can add up quickly. Fortunately for movie-lovers there are plenty of films streaming for free on a variety of sites. These range from classics whose copyright has expired on YouTube to recent selections available to watch with commercials from sites like 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.

The 20 Best Free Movies on Crackle

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

1. Roman Holiday

roman-holiday.jpg Year: 1953
Director: William Wyler
Stars: Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert
Genre: Romance, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 118 minutes

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Start by casting the male lead with one the most honorable, decent leading men in the history of American cinema. Then cast the female lead with one of the most graceful, beguiling women ever to appear on screen. Add one of the most beautiful cities in the world and the music of Cole Porter and you’ve already got a world-beater of a film. But the tentative, demure performances by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, and the greatest bittersweet romantic ending this side of Casablanca, seal the deal. —Michael Dunaway


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. Bottle Rocket

bottle-rocket.jpg Year: 1996
Director: Wes Anderson
Stars: Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Robert Musgrave
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
Rating: R
Runtime: 95 minutes

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Bottle Rocket introduced us both to the singular world of Wes Anderson and the unique charm of the Wilson brothers. Anderson’s films have their critics, of course, but it’s hard to deny that Anderson’s sophisticated but clueless humor and joy in a world of stylistic quirks felt refreshing at the time, and still feels refreshing all these movies later. Most adults who’ve forgotten to grow up are either repulsive in their adolescent behavior or the butt of the joke, but Owen Wilson’s Dignan retains a certain boyish likability for all his crazy scheming. —Josh Jackson
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4. 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


5. Dr. Strangelove

dr-strangelove.jpg Year: 1964
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden
Genre: Comedy, Science-Fiction
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 95 minutes

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While attempting to adapt Peter George’s novel Red Alert for the big screen, director Stanley Kubrick found that he kept needing to cut out certain real-life details about the emergency nuclear bomb procedures because they were simply too absurd to work in a serious drama. Deciding to rewrite the project as a dark comedy, he recruited renowned satirist Terry Southern to help pen the script. From there, it’s all history. To this day, Peter Sellers’ three very different (and very funny) performances remain a feat by which few actors have matched. Moreover, the image of Slim Pickens riding the bomb to its destination as well as the final montage of destruction set to the wistful “We’ll Meet Again” are the stuff of movie legend. Worldwide Armageddon has never been so hilarious.—Mark Rozeman


6. All the King’s Men

kings-men.jpg Year: 1949
Director: Robert Rossen
Stars: Broderick Crawford, Mercedes McCambridge, John Derek, Joanne Dru
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 109 minutes

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Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Robert Penn Warren, derived almost wholesale from the outsize life of Louisiana governor Huey Long, Robert Rossen’s All the King’s Men, despite its expansive scope, wastes no time in plunging its seemingly idealistic characters into the deep morass of moral gray. It’s a trajectory that will seem pretty traditional when it comes to stories like this—a clear progenitor is Citizen Kane, replete with Rossen’s dedicated eye to following the film’s god-like politician, Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford), as he both attains and, especially, freefalls from grace—but with a contemporary sense of cynicism when it comes to the American political landscape, it helps to get a reminder, if melodramatic, that corruption and power have always been blasphemous bedfellows. Crawford’s performance as the phony voice of the common “hick” is especially captivating—and not only because he so closely resembles a certain nascent president who espouses the same flimsy schtick, openly lying to the people he supposedly represents. Crawford’s face holds multitudes: Even in the beginning of the film, when we briefly court a humble, hardworking Stark, we can see in Crawford’s eyes and jowls the beginnings of something deeply troubling. That this cherubic plebian finds public success only through discarding his teetotaling tendencies and becoming a much-loved, bloviating alcoholic is about as clear as the film can get with its fatalistic feelings toward American politics: They’ve always been this polluted, and that will never change. —Dom Sinacola


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. Moon

moon.jpg Year: 2009
Director: Duncan Jones
Stars: Sam Rockwell
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

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First-time director Duncan Jones is overt about his stylistic appropriations of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, right down to the sweeping orchestral music that frames the opening shots of the titular satellite and Earth. Yet, where Kubrick tapped into existential fears about human extinction and the future of civilization, Jones hypothesizes the logical conclusion of that dark vision: a world where the need for more energy has rendered humanity a manufactured cog of multinational corporations whose reach now extends beyond the boundaries of Earth. The film’s plot centers on Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), the only human on a lunar mining facility that harvests Helium-3, a clean fuel that can meet a near-future Earth’s ballooning energy demands. Base computer system GERTY (Kevin Spacey) is his sole companion on Sam’s three-year caretaking mission, since a supposed satellite failure means he can only send and receive pre-recorded messages. When an accident nearly kills Sam, he’s saved by a clone of himself and begins to unravel the sinister nature of the base, and his existence. Moon cribs heavily from the retro-futuristic look of ’60s and ’70s sci-fi for its claustrophobic and sanitized depiction of the moon base, but this high-tech eye candy is only the backdrop to a larger morality tale about humanity’s ever-shrinking position within a technologically saturated society. When the human experience can be synthesized (and thus made disposable), does such a thing as “humanity” even exist? There’s a host of challenging philosophical threads throughout—cloning, masculinity, energy, corporate power—but those individual issues complement rather than engulf the larger narrative. Moon is a superlative example of science fiction that hearkens to the genre’s roots: social commentary on the human condition, without the easy catharsis of overblown special effects and space opera. It’s the ultimate rarity in modern cinema: a mature, engaging and thoughtful sci-fi movie, and proof that there’s life yet left in the genre. —Michael Saba


9. 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


10. The Proposition

proposition.jpg Year: 2005
Director: John Hillcoat
Stars: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston
Genre: Western, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Rating: R
Runtime: 104 minutes

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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. Melancholia

melancholia.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexander Skarsgård
Genre: Drama, Science-Fiction
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Rating: R
Runtime: 135 minutes

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If you want a really, really disturbingly beautiful apocalypse, you can’t go wrong with Lars von Trier. Melancholia is the second of a trilogy of films in which the director dives into the nature of depression. It revolves around two sisters, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg)—after a staccato series of prologue images set to Wagner (if you’ve ever experienced severe depression you’ll recognize the choppy, distanced, “underwater” quality of this first section), we open on Justine’s wedding reception. There is something seriously wrong with these people. Or is there? It seems like Justine’s boss is actually harassing her for ad copy in the middle of her own wedding toast. It seems like her father is a raging narcissist and her mother is “honest” in a way that makes you want to never take a phone call from her, ever. Everything seems off. And that’s before anyone realizes a runaway planet called Melancholia might be on a collision course with Earth. —Amy Glynn


12. 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


13. Big Fish

BigFish.jpeg Year: 2003
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 125 minutes

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


14. Adaptation

adaptation.jpg Year: 2002
Director: Spike Jonze
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton, Brian Cox
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes

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As utterly gonzo as Kaufman’s characters and stories are, they’re only as outrageous as the errant, obsessive rhythms of thought going clickety-clickety-click inside our own heads. It’s just that Kaufman has more immediate access to all those idiosyncratic brainwaves. He can’t stop himself. Kaufman—not unlike his anxious, lovestruck and artistically fraught heroes—compulsively thinks outside the box. And then he builds a bigger box. Adaptation is an adaptation of New Yorker writer Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief that centers on a Hollywood frustrated screenwriter’s efforts to adapt the book into a movie. —Steve Dollar


15. House of Flying Daggers

flying-daggers-210.jpg Year: 2004
Director: Zhang Yimou
Stars: Ziyi Zhang, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau
Genre: Martial Arts, Action, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 119 minutes

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Zhang Yimou enjoys a certain notoriety in arthouse circles for ravishing dramas like Raise the Red Lantern and To Live, but he burst into the mainstream with Hero, the long-delayed and eagerly awaited martial-arts spectacular. While House of Flying Daggers is hardly Hero’s sequel, it negotiates similar territory, combining romance, lush cinematography and enough martial arts to satisfy even the most zealous fight-enthusiast. Yimou effortlessly tempers his characters’ ferocious martial-arts capabilities with heartfelt emotion—something missing from Hero. Zhang Ziyi’s acting wows (as expected), and she exhibits real chemistry with Takeshi Kaneshiro. Yimou knows how to combine color and set design to breathtaking effect, and assemble a top-notch cast. If only the film’s final act delivered on the script’s initial promise.—J. Robert Parks


16. Thumbsucker

thumbsucker.jpg Year: 2005
Stars: Lou Taylor Pucci, Tilda Swinton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vince Vaughn, Keanu Reeves, Kelli Garner
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Rating: R
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Mike Mills directed music videos for Air, Moby and Yoko Ono before he began making movies. Adapted from Walter Kirn’s novel, his debut feature Thumbsucker tells the story of Justin Cobb, an awkward suburban teenager who can’t shake the habit of sucking his thumb. He tries dousing it with ink, being hypnotized by his New Age orthodontist and medication. The film speaks to a culture that tries too hard to use age as a definition and tackles the slippery idea of addiction gracefully. While Justin’s habit appears on the surface to be an addiction, they’re also a symptom of a much deeper dependence the film’s characters share. The music of the film supports the sense of fragility and exposure with songs by the exuberant 20-plus member Polyphonic Spree, and three songs by melancholic singer/songwriter Elliott Smith, who died just before he could complete his tracks for the film. —Staff


17. 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


18. 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


19. Young Adult

young adult movie poster.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Jason Reitman
Stars: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Four years after Juno Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody reteamed for the smarter, funnier, and all around less annoying Young Adult. Charlize Theron clearly savors the chance to play the kind of disastrous midlife crisis typically reserved only for men, as a formerly successful young adult novelist struggling with alcoholism, depression and writer’s block. Patton Oswalt delivers the kind of tragicomic turn he excels at as the the bullied nerd Theron used to look down at in high school. Young Adult explores how paralyzing life can be when you lose sight of a future and regret everything in your past, in a poignant and darkly hilarious fashion. —Garrett Martin


20. Bellflower

bellflower.jpg Year: 2010
Director: Evan Glodell
Stars: Evan Glodell, Jessie Wiseman, Tyler Dawson, Rebekah Brandes
Genre: Action, Drama, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
Rating: R
Runtime: 105 minutes

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The best recommendations at Sundance always seem to come from random strangers, and they usually come on one of the shuttle buses festivalgoers spend so much time on. A few years back, someone described Bellflower this way: “It’s kind of like an edgier 500 Days of Summer, except when she leaves him, instead of getting all sad and mopey, he starts building a monster car with flamethrowers and blowing shit up, and then the whole film turns into this crazy acid trip.” She paused. “Oh, and there’s lots of fire.” The man behind Paste’s favorite debut of the year is the sweet, goofy, awkward, audacious, brilliant figure of Evan Glodell. His debut is like seeing a Tarantino or Rodriguez film for the first time, and he’s certain to have many, many doors open up as a result.—Michael Dunaway


The 20 Best Free Movies on IMDBtv

IMDB moved into the streaming world, offering a wide range of moies streaming 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

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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. Airplane!

airplane-movie.jpg Year: 1980
Director: Jim Abrahams
Stars: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges
Genre: Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 88 minutes

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The writing trio of Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams and David Zucker (ZAZ) defined a genre with their disaster-movie spoof in 1980. The jokes fly fast and furious, from the “Who’s on First” confusion of a crew that includes Roger and Captain Oveur (“Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?”) to Oveur (Peter Graves) asking a kid in the cockpit, “Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?” to an old lady translating jive (“Jive-ass dude don’t got no brains anyhow! Shiiiiit!”) to “stop calling me Shirley!” Ridiculous and ridiculously quotable, it’s the funniest spoof film of all time. —Josh Jackson


3. Blade Runner 2049

blade-runner-2049-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas
Genre: Science-Fiction
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Rating: R
Runtime: 164 minutes

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Blade Runner 2049 is undoubtedly the most gorgeous thing to come out of a major studio in some time. Roger Deakins has inculcated Jordan Cronenweth’s lived-in sense of a future on the brink of obsolescence, leaning into the overpowering unease that permeates the monolithic Los Angeles Ridley Scott built. The scale of the film is only matched by the constant dread of obscurity—illumination shifts endlessly, dust and smog both magnifying and drowning the sense-shattering corporate edifices and hyper-stylized rooms in which humanity retreats from the moribund natural world they’ve created. There is a massive world, a solar system, orbiting this wretched city—so overblown that San Diego is now a literal giant dump for New L.A.’s garbage—but so much of it lies in shadow and opacity, forever out of reach. What Scott and Cronenweth accomplished with the original film, placing a potboiler within a magnificently conceived alternative reality, Villeneuve and Deakins have respected as they prod at its boundaries. There’s no other way to describe what they’ve done other than to offer faint praise: They get it. —Dom Sinacola


4. The Natural

the-natural.jpg Year: 1984
Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Wilford Brimley
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 132 minutes

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Baseball has inspired more movies than any other sport, but the greatest of them all is The Natural. Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) is a promising, young prospect with a bright career ahead of him in the 1930s when a troubled femme fatale guns him down at age 19. Sixteen years after the fact, he isn’t ready to let go of his love of the game, getting signed to a fictional scrub team called the New York Knights. It’s more than a story about baseball; it’s about a middle-aged man living his dream despite the naysayers. It’s a tale about a guy distracted by the glitzy glamorous babes all famous people gravitate towards, only to discover a happier life with his high-school sweetheart (Glenn Close). But when Hobbs hits the big two home runs—the one that breaks the clock, and the showstopper at the end that kills the lights, literally—and Randy Newman’s beautiful score triumphantly takes over, you know this is the ultimate take on the summer classic. —Joe Shearer


5. Whale Rider

27.WhaleRider.NetflixList.jpg Year: 2002
Director: Niki Caro
Stars: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Vicky Haughton
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 105 minutes

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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. Spotlight

spotlight.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Tom McCarthy
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Jamey Sheridan
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: R
Runtime: 129 minutes

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Always a director who’s drawn great performances from his ensembles—we’ll set aside the disastrous The Cobbler for a moment—actor-turned-filmmaker Tom McCarthy has made his best drama since his first, 2003’s The Station Agent, with this stripped-down depiction of the Boston Globe’s 2001 investigation into the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sexual misconduct. Starring the likes of Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber and John Slattery, Spotlight is about nothing more than watching smart, passionate reporters do their job, digging into a story and using their savvy and moxie to bring it to the world. The cast lets its characters’ jobs fill in the backstory of their lives, and in the process Spotlight does what Zodiac, The Insider and All the President’s Men did before it: let us appreciate the difficulty and rigor required for good journalism. Special kudos to best-in-show Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes, a ruthless bloodhound of an investigative reporter who may inspire a lot of impressionable high school juniors in the audience to take up the profession. —Tim Grierson


7. Elf

elf.jpg Year: 2003
Director: Jon Favreau
Stars: Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Mary Steenburgen
Genre: Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 107 minutes

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In a sense, making Christmas “funny” can be as easy as responding to something meant to be sincere and joyful with cynicism and darkness. Is there any comedic Christmas character that embodies a genuine love of Christmas? Thankfully, we have Will Ferrell’s fearlessly committed performance as the titular elf to answer this question with a resounding yes. Nothing represents Christmas cheer better than Will Ferrell in yellow tights, a green parka and cone-shaped cap. He wrings a ton of comedy out of responding to everything with wide-eyed, childlike wonder. Arguably our generation’s classic Christmas movie, watching Buddy the Elf makes you laugh, makes you smile and, to paraphrase from the Grinch, makes your heart grow three sizes bigger. Even if the movie devolves into a formulaic, race-against-the-clock flick in the last 30 minutes, its myriad gifts outweigh its problems. From endlessly quotable nuggets like “cotton-headed ninnymuggins”; the hysterical fruit spray scene; Zooey Deschanel showcasing her pre-She & Him singing chops; Mr. Narhwal and the arctic puppets (a band name if I ever heard one); to, finally, Ferrell’s infectious enthusiasm, Elf is instant holiday merriment. —Greg Smith & Jeremy Medina


8. Monster

monster.jpg Year: 2004
Director: Patty Jenkins
Stars: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%
Rating: R
Runtime: 109 minutes

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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. Bull Durham

bull-durham.jpg Year: 1988
Director: Ron Shelton
Stars: Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: R
Runtime: 107 minutes

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I believe in ridiculous names like Crash Davis and Nuke LaLoosh. I believe in romantic comedies about giving up on a certain phase of your life where characters stand up and deliver cliched “I believe” speeches that, despite being borderline cheesy, somehow ring completely true. And yes, I too believe there should be a Constitutional Amendment banning Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in Bull Durham. The most engaging presentation of the minor-league life on film—and a pretty salute to baseball, in general—this first installment in the unofficial Kevin Costner Baseball Trilogy proved that baseball could equal big box office. Costner and Susan Sarandon anchor this film that does its part to engender a love for the game and the people who court it. —Bonnie Stiernberg & Michael Burgin


10. The Big Short

the-big-short.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Marissa Tomei, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro, Melissa Leo
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Rating: R
Runtime: 130 minutes

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The Big Short, Adam McKay’s kaleidoscopic look into the months leading up to the 2007 financial meltdown, is an angry film. And rightfully so—the amount of callous thievery characters uncover here is enough to make any rational person’s blood boil. It’s also, unquestionably, a funny film, tempering its acerbic leanings by highlighting just how blatantly surreal the whole ordeal truly was. McKay looks to counteract the inherently dry, impenetrable subject matter on display with boatloads of vibrant, cinematic style. The Big Short may not always succeed, but it stands as an essential film nonetheless. —Mark Rozeman


11. Gremlins

gremlins.jpg Year: 1984
Director: Joe Dante
Stars: Zach Galligan, Hoyt Axton, Frances Lee McCain
Genre: Horror, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: %
Rating: PG
Runtime: 120 minutes

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In the same vein as Die Hard, Joe Dante’s Gremlins is a yearly Christmastime argument waiting to happen: Both are annually tossed onto “best Christmas movie” lists, but when it comes to the latter, at least, those debates often overlook the dark comedy of an expertly crafted ‘80s horror film from Dante at the height of his powers. Taking the lessons he learned as a ‘70s Roger Corman protege, Dante borrows character actors like Dick Miller to create a cynical, biting rebuke of maudlin sentimentality and children’s entertainment. The film’s surprising counterpoint between comedy and graphic violence was a source of consternation that led directly to it being in the early class of genre films that led to the PG-13 rating, but its more important impact was shaping the aesthetic of nearly every horror comedy to come. —Jim Vorel


12. Donnie Darko

donnie-darko.jpg Year: 2001
Director: Richard Kelly
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell
Genre: Science-Fiction, Thriller, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

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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. Ghost World

ghost-world.jpg Year: 2001
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Stars: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: R
Runtime: 111 minutes

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Terry Zwigoff’s appropriately somber, stylish, brutally honest yet surprisingly tender Ghost World, adapted by Daniel Clowes and Zwigoff from Clowes’ comic, intimately captures the post-high school struggles of Enid (Thora Birch in perhaps the best performance of her career), a too-cool-for-school type who puts on a seemingly impenetrable exterior of ironic detachment as an attempt to hide her ever-growing insecurities regarding the adult life that’s rearing its ugly head more and more each passing day. She’s so “cool,” that she’d call Ellen Page’s Juno a poser who sold out to a corrupted mainstream ideal of teen rebellion. When Enid and her equally non-chalant BFF Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) see a missed connections ad in the classifieds (remember those, printed on actual paper?), they decide to pull a prank by setting up a date with the poster. What shows up is a shell of a man, a middle-aged dork named Seymour (Steve Buscemi) whose inherent sadness immediately attracts Enid. At first, she becomes friends with Seymour because of a hint of guilt, but eventually comes around to realize that she might have feelings for him. This scares her more than anything, since it also implies that maybe, just maybe, the perfect Ms. Enid, who’s above everyone else, might not be that different from this lovable weirdo who’s into collecting old Americana and blues records. Zwigoff and Clowes, together toeing the comic’s fine line between exaggerated cartoon characterizations and grounded regular people as protagonists, occupy Ghost World with eccentric people, to be sure, but people we all know well. Some of us even are those people. —Oktay Ege Kozak


14. Total Recall

total-recall-1990.jpg Year: 1990
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone
Genre: Science-Fiction, Action, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

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Very loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (and aren’t all PKD adaptations “very loose”?), Total Recall functions as a construct for Paul Verhoeven to take a high-concept premise about memory implants and lost identity and motivational uncertainty and turn it into an Arnold Schwarzenegger schlock-fest. It should be bad, but it’s not; it should be, at best, cheesy fun—but it’s even more than that. Unlike many of it’s sci-fi action peers, Total Recall never runs out of steam or ideas; it starts with the memory implant stuff, but on the back end gives us a vividly imagined Mars society with an oppressed mutant population (which is, like, the best special make-up effects portfolio ever) and a secret alien reactor that’s a MacGuffin but also a deus ex machina. The plot’s a mess but so is Arnold. It all works. Total Recall’s $60 million production budget was absolutely huge for its time, but unlike similar Hollywood ventures that put money towards glitz (like the 2012 remake, so slick it slips right out of one’s head), Verhoeven uses the loot to give us more dust, more grit, more decrepit sets, more twisted prosthetics and maximum Arnold. Verhoeven, in fact, uses Arnold as much as he uses anything else in the budget to tell this darkly exuberant story, from the contorted confusion of the set-up right on through to the eye-popping finale. It results in a sci-fi screed written in the form of a hundred Ahh-nuld faces, absurd and unforgettable. For as many times as Dick has been adapted, this is perhaps the one time the go-for-broke energy and imagination of his work has made it into the cinema (Blade Runner is something else entirely). Total Recall may have little in common with the actual content of the story it blows up, but it knows the vibe. And PKD vibes are the best kind. —Chad Betz


15. Starship Troopers

starship-troopers.jpg Year: 1997
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Stars: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards
Genre: Science-Fiction
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%
Rating: R
Runtime: 129 minutes

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Glistening agitprop after-school special and gross-ass bacchanalia, Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers delights in the ultraviolence it doles out in heavy spurts—but then chastises itself for having so much fun with something so wrong. Telling the story of a cadre of extremely attractive upper-middle-class white teens (played by shiny adults Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Nina Meyers, Jake Busey and Neil Patrick Harris) who get their cherries popped and then ground into hamburger inside the abattoir of interstellar war, Verhoeven cruises through the many tones of bellicose filmmaking: hawkish propaganda, gritty action setpieces and thrilling adventure sequences, all of it accompanied by plenty of gut-churning CGI, giant space bugs and human heads alike exploding without shame or recourse or respect for basic physics and human empathy. As much a bloodletting of Verhoeven’s childhood trauma, forged in the fascist mill of World War II Europe, as a critique of Hollywood’s cavalier attitude toward violence and uniformly heroic depictions of the military, the sci-fi spectacle can’t help but arrive at the same place no matter which angle one takes: geeked out on some hardcore cinematic mayhem. —Dom Sinacola


16. Chef

chef.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Jon Favreau
Stars: Jon Favreau, Sofía Vergara, John Leguizamo
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Rating: R
Runtime: 115 minutes

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Jon Favreau took a break between the $163 million dollar Cowboys & Aliens and Disney’s live-action remake of The Jungle Book to write, direct and star in a small indie comedy-drama about a celebrated chef rediscovering his love for food. When the owner of his restaurant (Dustin Hoffman) won’t let him experiment in the kitchen and his social-media ignorance leads to a very public feud with a food critic (Oliver Platt), he quits and buys a food truck. The road-trip that follows is the sweet, earnest heart of the film—reconnecting with his son as he reconnects with a passion for food. There’s not much to the straight-forward plot, but the film’s humor and mouth-watering food porn make it a treat. —Josh Jackson


17. Bloodsport

bloodsport-movie-poster.jpg Year: 1988
Director: Newt Arnold
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Leah Ayres, Donald Gibb
Genre: Martial Arts
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 40%
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

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There are tomes to be written and classes to be taught on the perplexing existence of Bloodsport—purportedly our current President’s favorite movie, if one were to fast-forward through the talking parts, directed by an adult man named Newt—but perhaps the film is best summarized in one moment: the infamous Scream. Because in these 40 seconds or so, the heart and soul of Bloodsport is bared, with little concern for taste, or purpose, or respect for the physically binding laws of reality—in this moment is a burgeoning movie star channeling his best attributes (astounding muscles; years of suppressed rage; the juxtaposition of grace and violence that is his well-oiled and cleanly shaven corporeal form) to make a go at real-live Hollywood acting. Although Bloodsport is the movie that announced Jean-Claude Van Damme and his impenetrable accent to the world—as well as serving as the crucible for (seriously) every single plot of every Van Damme movie to come—it’s also a defining film of the decade, positioning martial arts as certifiable blockbuster action cinema. Schwarzenegger and Stallone? These were beefy mooks that could believably be action stars. Van Damme set the bar higher: his body became a better and bloodier weapon than any hand-cannon that previous mumbling, ’80s box-office draws could ever wield. —Dom Sinacola


18. The Woodsman

the-woodsman.jpg Year: 2004
Stars: Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Yasiin Bey
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Rating: R
Runtime: 85 minutes

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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. Eight Men Out

eight-men-out.jpg Year: 1988
Director: John Sayles
Stars: John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, D.B. Sweeney
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 121 minutes

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Try to imagine for a second a world in which baseball players didn’t get paid millions and millions of dollars. Back in 1919, the members of the Chicago White Sox had problems paying their bills just like the rest of us, and so they decided to throw the World Series in exchange for some gambling winnings. Unlike most sports movies, Eight Men Out isn’t a glorious tale of victory or redemption; it’s a sad story about desperate men who are forced to live with the dishonor of their actions for the rest of their lives. Say it ain’t so, Joe. —Bonnie Stiernberg


20. Something’s Gotta Give

gotta-give.jpg Year: 2003
Director: Nancy Meyers
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Frances McDormand
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 123 minutes

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When you’ve got two giants of cinema exploring love later in life, you can expect great chemistry. That’s what happens with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton when the former breaks his streak of dating women in their twenties and falls for the mother of one of his girlfriends (Amanda Peet). With a soundtrack that spans genres and generations (Badly Drawn Boy, Jimmy Cliff, Paul Simon and Django Reinhardt, to name just a few), it’s a worthwhile take on the opposites-attract rom-com. —Josh Jackson


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 several James Bond films. There’s no way to link directly to the movies, so these play buttons will take you to the on-demand streaming page at Pluto.

1. The Quiet Man

quiet-man.jpg Year: 1952
Director: John Ford
Stars: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Rating: G
Runtime: 129 minutes

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Seen today, John Ford’s 1952 Ireland-set comedy/drama/romance plays as both squarely of its time and enchantingly outside of it. On the minus side, there are its thorny gender politics. Though the female love interest, Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), exhibits a feistiness and a desire for agency that could be seen as proto-feminist to modern eyes, she’s ultimately put at the mercy of the hyper-masculine ex-boxer Sean Thornton (John Wayne), who is finally forced to tap into the violent side he’s so desperate to escape in order to consummate their marriage. The fact that Sean is an American—though of Irish origin, having been born in Innisfree, the village he returns to in the film—and Mary Kate a lifelong Irishwoman gives their dynamic a faint imperialist air as well. And yet, Ford, more often than not, disarms criticism by sheer virtue of his lyrical sensibility, reserves of deep feeling, and humane attention to character detail. The Technicolor Ireland of The Quiet Man is clearly a lush dreamscape: an out-of-time haven of hearty romance and even heartier community. Not that it’s a paradise, necessarily, as Sean finds himself stymied to some degree by Irish traditions that go against his much-more-forthright American upbringing. But this is not the dark and brutal vision of Ford’s later 1956 masterpiece The Searchers, with an outlaw outsider finding himself perpetually unable to fit into any established order. Here, in the looser-limbed and lighter-hearted The Quiet Man, Sean and the Irish locals eventually find common ground, albeit through a perversely extended brawl that plays as a purifying male-bonding session. —Kenji Fujishima


2. 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


3. The Big Short

the-big-short.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Marissa Tomei, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro, Melissa Leo
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Rating: R
Runtime: 130 minutes

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The Big Short, Adam McKay’s kaleidoscopic look into the months leading up to the 2007 financial meltdown, is an angry film. And rightfully so—the amount of callous thievery characters uncover here is enough to make any rational person’s blood boil. It’s also, unquestionably, a funny film, tempering its acerbic leanings by highlighting just how blatantly surreal the whole ordeal truly was. McKay looks to counteract the inherently dry, impenetrable subject matter on display with boatloads of vibrant, cinematic style. The Big Short may not always succeed, but it stands as an essential film nonetheless. —Mark Rozeman


4. King of New York

king-of-ny.jpg Year: 1990
Director: Abel Ferrara
Stars: Christopher Walken, David Caruso, Laurence Fishburne
Genre: Thriller, Action
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%
Rating: R
Runtime: 106 minutes

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Abel Ferrara’s modern day take on Robin Hood transposes the crusader of the common man to the scum-infested streets of the Big Apple, where Christopher Walken’s formerly incarcerated drug lord Frank White returns to his old stomping ground. His strategy for social (and personal) reform: Eliminate competing kingpins and their rackets, and channel profits to the lower classes while funding a hospital in the South Bronx. A win/win, albeit a perverted one, right? Except that we know better. When the cops (David Caruso and Wesley Snipes among them) are just as morally flexible as the crooks (as Walken’s associate, “Larry” Fishburne is unhinged), none of these figures on the margins are going to wind up any closer to a fighting chance. As unapologetic judge and jury, Walken is never better, nor cooler: “I must’ve been away too long because my feelings are dead. I feel no remorse,” he states flatly. B-movie vet Ferrara (Ms. 45, China Girl) revels in the extremes in textures, juxtaposing the inner city guts and grime with the blinged-out glamour of White’s penthouse lifestyle—this gangster film wound up a gangsta touchstone for ’90s hip-hop. King of New York’s standing on this list could arguably be swapped with Ferrara’s even more corrosive follow-up two years later, Bad Lieutenant, another pitch-black fable about attempts at redemption gone spectacularly awry—it’s hardly surprising that, exceptional as Harvey Keitel was in the 1992 film, the lead role was originally intended for Walken. —Amanda Schurr


5. A.I. Artificial Intelligence

ai.jpg ai-movie.jpg Year: 2001
Directors: Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg
Stars: Haley Joel Osment, Frances O’Connor, Jude Law
Genre: Science-Fiction, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 145 minutes

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A.I. may be Spielberg’s misunderstood masterpiece, evidenced by the many critics who’ve pointed out its supposed flaws only to come around to a new understanding of its greatness—chief among them Roger Ebert, who eventually included it as one of his Great Movies ten years after giving it a lukewarm first review. A.I. represents the perfect melding of Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick’s sensibilities—as Kubrick supposedly worked on the story with Spielberg, and Spielberg felt obliged to finish after Kubrick’s death—which allows the film to keep each of their worst instincts in check. It’s not as cold or distant as Kubrick’s films tend to be, but not as maudlin and manipulative as Spielberg’s films can become—and before the ending is brought out as proof of Spielberg’s failure, it should be noted that the film’s dark coda was actually Kubrick’s idea, adamant that the ending not be meddled with moreso than any other scene. A closer inspection of the film’s themes reveal a much bleaker conclusion—and, no, those aren’t “aliens.” —Oktay Ege Kozak


6. The Big Chill

big-chill.jpg Year: 1983
Director: Lawrence Kasden
Stars: Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Mary Kay Place, Kevin Kline
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Rating: R
Runtime: 103 minutes

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Seven thirty-somethings gather for a funeral and spend a weekend trying to make their counter-culture dreams come true in Lawrence Kasdan’s tightly written, emotionally charged tribute to Baby Boomers. Kasdan transforms his all-star ensemble cast into a single living thing, dynamic, ever changing, and infinitely fascinating. Set to a finger-popping Motown soundtrack, The Big Chill’s tight dialogue, smart humor and almost uncomfortable intimacy made the post-counterculture set realize that it’s okay to grow up.—Joan Radell


7. Rabbit Hole

rabbit-hole.jpg Year: 2010
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne West, Sandra Oh, Tammy Blanchard
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 91 minutes

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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


8. Layer Cake

layer-cake-movie-poster.jpg 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


9. Child’s Play

childs play poster (Custom).jpg Year: 1988
Director: Tom Holland
Stars: Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon
Rating: R
Runtime: 87 minutes

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Child’s Play is one of those late ’80s gimmick slashers where it’s all too easy to feel as if you’ve already seen the film, without actually having sat down to watch it. Killer doll, very cheesy, plenty of one-liners, right? Well yes, and no. The original (and pretty obviously best) entry in the Child’s Play series is the most serious-minded (at least slightly) and grounded of the movies, and it goes out of its way to humanize its iconic killer Chucky—or the spirit within him, that of serial killer Charles Lee Ray—more than one might expect. If you’ve never seen a film in the series, ask yourself this: Did you know that the plot of Child’s Play is technically all about voodoo? Because it is. In the end, though, its greatness and inherent watchability boils down to the charms of the wonderful Brad Dourif, who found in Chucky the vessel he needed to become a genre legend forevermore. Like Robert Englund did with Freddy Krueger, Chucky becomes the most beloved aspect of the series because Dourif’s voiceover just oozes charisma and character—he’s more alive than any of the flesh-and-blood characters in this series could ever be. It’s just one of those sublime moments of perfect casting—it’s easy to imagine that no one would remember the Child’s Play series today if that one aspect had been different. —Jim Vorel


10. Bloodsport

bloodsport-movie-poster.jpg Year: 1988
Director: Newt Arnold
Stars: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Leah Ayres, Donald Gibb
Genre: Martial Arts
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 40%
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

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There are tomes to be written and classes to be taught on the perplexing existence of Bloodsport—purportedly our current President’s favorite movie, if one were to fast-forward through the talking parts, directed by an adult man named Newt—but perhaps the film is best summarized in one moment: the infamous Scream. Because in these 40 seconds or so, the heart and soul of Bloodsport is bared, with little concern for taste, or purpose, or respect for the physically binding laws of reality—in this moment is a burgeoning movie star channeling his best attributes (astounding muscles; years of suppressed rage; the juxtaposition of grace and violence that is his well-oiled and cleanly shaven corporeal form) to make a go at real-live Hollywood acting. Although Bloodsport is the movie that announced Jean-Claude Van Damme and his impenetrable accent to the world—as well as serving as the crucible for (seriously) every single plot of every Van Damme movie to come—it’s also a defining film of the decade, positioning martial arts as certifiable blockbuster action cinema. Schwarzenegger and Stallone? These were beefy mooks that could believably be action stars. Van Damme set the bar higher: his body became a better and bloodier weapon than any hand-cannon that previous mumbling, ’80s box-office draws could ever wield. —Dom Sinacola


The 20 Best Free Movies on PopcornFlix

PopcornFlix has been streaming free movies supported by ads cince 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

The 10 Best Free Movies on tubi

Tubi’s biggest strength is in the documentary category.

1. Muscle Shoals

muscle-shoals.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Greg “Freddy” Camalier
Stars: Gregg Allman, Bono, Bob Dylan
Genre: Documentary, Music
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 1111 minutes

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Freddy Camalier’s masterly Muscle Shoals is about the beginnings and heyday of the recording scene in Muscle Shoals, Ala., a tiny town that improbably changed the face of rock ‘n’ roll forever. First-timer Camalier is obviously a natural storyteller, but there’s so much more to the doc than promise—the cinematography is lush and beautiful, the editing is crisp and precise, and it’s in turns heartbreaking, inspiring, wry, thought-provoking, nostalgic and genuinely funny. It’s simply a stunning debut film. It helps that Camalier and his producing partner Stephen Badger are after more than just a lesson in musical history: They delve into the Civil Rights Movement and its effect specifically on Alabama, especially as it relates to a Muscle Shoals music scene that was, shockingly enough, lacking in any racial tension. They return again and again to the ancient Native American legend about the river that flows through the town, and the water spirit who lived there, sang songs and protected the town. Not to mention that the personal life of Fame Records founder Rick Hall, the protagonist of the film, is itself worthy of a Faulkner novel. Muscle Shoals is thrilling, it’s engaging, it’s fascinating, it’s stirring, it’s epic—whether you’re a music lover or not. —Michael Dunaway


2. The Big Short

the-big-short.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Marissa Tomei, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro, Melissa Leo
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Rating: R
Runtime: 130 minutes

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The Big Short, Adam McKay’s kaleidoscopic look into the months leading up to the 2007 financial meltdown, is an angry film. And rightfully so—the amount of callous thievery characters uncover here is enough to make any rational person’s blood boil. It’s also, unquestionably, a funny film, tempering its acerbic leanings by highlighting just how blatantly surreal the whole ordeal truly was. McKay looks to counteract the inherently dry, impenetrable subject matter on display with boatloads of vibrant, cinematic style. The Big Short may not always succeed, but it stands as an essential film nonetheless. —Mark Rozeman


3. Grizzly Man

2-Netflix-Docs_2015-grizzly man.jpg Year: 2005
Director: Werner Herzog
Stars: Timothy Treadwell, Timothy Treadwell, Amie Huguenard
Genre: Documentary
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Leave it to Werner Herzog to take on a subject as peculiar and tragic as that of Timothy Treadwell, the bear enthusiast who, along with his girlfriend, was killed by his wild obsession in 2003. A sing-songy, pleasant, dangerously deluded man who believed his beloved grizzly companions knew and trusted him, Treadwell, over the course of 13 summers spent in Alaskan national parks, approached bears with both a religious reverence and folksy casualness—the latter of which arguably cost him his life. Treadwell self-anoints himself “kind warrior” and, alternately, “samurai,” and at one point tellingly declares that animals rule, but “Timothy conquered.” Rooted in Treadwell’s own footage, Grizzly Man will divide camps between those who find him a reckless idiot and those who enjoy him as a kooky nature lover, or both. For his part, Herzog is a sympathetic yet level-headed narrator, his even voice and expositional asides setting the tone for a restrained, expertly crafted film. Far from exploitative—existing audio footage of the couple’s death is not heard onscreen, just reacted to and discussed—Grizzly Man is a sensitive, supremely fascinating glimpse of the primal forces within us and apart from us, and what happens when they can’t be reconciled. —Amanda Schurr


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

dear-zachary-cover.jpg Year: 2008
Director: Kurt Kuenne
Stars: David Bagby, Kathleen Bagby, Heather Arnold
Genre: Documentary
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Rating: NR
Runtime: 95 minutes

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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. Total Recall

total-recall-1990.jpg Year: 1990
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone
Genre: Science-Fiction, Action, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

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Very loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (and aren’t all PKD adaptations “very loose”?), Total Recall functions as a construct for Paul Verhoeven to take a high-concept premise about memory implants and lost identity and motivational uncertainty and turn it into an Arnold Schwarzenegger schlock-fest. It should be bad, but it’s not; it should be, at best, cheesy fun—but it’s even more than that. Unlike many of it’s sci-fi action peers, Total Recall never runs out of steam or ideas; it starts with the memory implant stuff, but on the back end gives us a vividly imagined Mars society with an oppressed mutant population (which is, like, the best special make-up effects portfolio ever) and a secret alien reactor that’s a MacGuffin but also a deus ex machina. The plot’s a mess but so is Arnold. It all works. Total Recall’s $60 million production budget was absolutely huge for its time, but unlike similar Hollywood ventures that put money towards glitz (like the 2012 remake, so slick it slips right out of one’s head), Verhoeven uses the loot to give us more dust, more grit, more decrepit sets, more twisted prosthetics and maximum Arnold. Verhoeven, in fact, uses Arnold as much as he uses anything else in the budget to tell this darkly exuberant story, from the contorted confusion of the set-up right on through to the eye-popping finale. It results in a sci-fi screed written in the form of a hundred Ahh-nuld faces, absurd and unforgettable. For as many times as Dick has been adapted, this is perhaps the one time the go-for-broke energy and imagination of his work has made it into the cinema (Blade Runner is something else entirely). Total Recall may have little in common with the actual content of the story it blows up, but it knows the vibe. And PKD vibes are the best kind. —Chad Betz


6. Let Me In

let-me-in.jpg Year: 2010
Director: Matt Reeves
Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz , Richard Jenkins
Genre: Horror, Romance
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Rating: R
Runtime: 116 minutes

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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. The Conjuring

conjuring.jpg Year: 2013
Director: James Wan
Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
Rating: R
Runtime: 112 minutes

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Let it be known: James Wan is, in any fair estimation, an above average director of horror films at the very least. The progenitor of big money series such as Saw and Insidious has a knack for crafting populist horror that still carries a streak of his own artistic identity, a Spielbergian gift for what speaks to the multiplex audience without entirely sacrificing characterization. Several of his films sit just outside the top 100, if this list were ever to be expanded, but The Conjuring can’t be denied as the Wan representative because it is far and away the scariest of all his feature films. Reminding me of the experience of first seeing Paranormal Activity in a crowded multiplex, The Conjuring has a way of subverting when and where you expect the scares to arrive. Its haunted house/possession story is nothing you haven’t seen before, but few films in this oeuvre in recent years have had half the stylishness that Wan imparts on an old, creaking farmstead in Rhode Island. The film toys with audience’s expectations by throwing big scares at you without standard Hollywood Jump Scare build-ups, simultaneously evoking classic golden age ghost stories such as Robert Wise’s The Haunting. Its intensity, effects work and unrelenting nature set it several tiers above the PG-13 horror against which it was primarily competing. It’s interesting to note that The Conjuring actually did receive an “R” rating despite a lack of overt “violence,” gore or sexuality. It was simply too frightening to deny, and that is worthy of respect. —Jim Vorel


8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

ben-button.jpg Year: 2008
Director: David Fincher
Stars: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond, Tilda Swinton
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 166 minutes

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Brad Pitt got a little help by this storyline so rich in charm and conflict that you’d swear it’s almost cheating, but his performance as the backwards-aging main character who falls in love with a normal, beautiful dancer (Cate Blanchett) was enough to earn him his second Academy Award nomination. Perhaps some credit is due to the film’s impressive CGI effects, but Pitt was every bit as convincing as a young-minded 70-year-old as he was a young kid plagued by Alzheimer’s. —Benjamin Hurston


9. Citizenfour

citizen-four.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Laura Poitras
Stars: Glenn Greenwald, Bill Binney, Jacob Appelbaum
Genre: Documentary
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes

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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. Shaun the Sheep

shaun-the-sheep.jpg Year: 2015
Directors: Mark Burton, Richard Starzak
Stars: Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes
Genre: Animation, Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 84 minutes

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Can a viewer die of excessive cuteness? That’s the most concerning question plaguing the otherwise adorable, slight Shaun the Sheep Movie, which does risk being cloying but mostly moves along with a wry smile on its face. The stop-motion film from Aardman Animations stars Shaun, the bug-eyed lamb who made his debut in the terrific, Oscar-winning 2005 Wallace & Gromit short, A Close Shave. As in his U.K. series spin-off, which started two years later, Shaun doesn’t speak a word throughout his big-screen premiere. Writer-directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzak sometimes strain to sustain the dialogue-free conceit, but one suspects they know that, even when the momentum flags, Shaun has plenty of cheerfulness and good will in reserves. —Tim Grierson

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 when it was released in the states. The film garnered the praise of directors such as James Cameron and the Wachowski siblings (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, taking an already heady science-fiction action drama and transforming it into a proto-kurzweilian fable about the dawn of machine intelligence. Ghost in the Shell is more than a cornerstone of cyberpunk fiction: It’s more essential in this day and age than it was over twenty-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. His Girl Friday

his-girl-friday.jpg Year: 1940
Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Gene Lockhart
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 92 minutes

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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. 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


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. Marnau
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. 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


10. 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


11. 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


12. 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


13. Red Cliff

red-cliff.jpg Year: 2008
Director: John Woo
Stars: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Fengyi Zhang
Genre: Action, Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%
Rating: R
Runtime: 148 minutes

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When we think of John Woo, we tend to think of gun ballads and Chow Yun-Fat. We’re not wired to think of large-scale portrayals of warfare, much less period dramas set during the end of the Han Dynasty. Magnolia split the film more or less in twain for its US release; you won’t find the full 288 version on Netflix Instant, but Red Cliff feels complete even with roughly half its content rotting on the cutting floor. This is a towering film, one that’s filled with allusion and metaphor, stratagem and scheming, sentimentality and philosophy, and eye-popping battle sequences that afford Woo plenty of room to harmonize historical accuracy with the signature flourishes that make him an action maestro. —Andy Crump


14. 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


15. 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


16. Muscle Shoals

muscle-shoals.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Greg “Freddy” Camalier
Stars: Gregg Allman, Bono, Bob Dylan
Genre: Documentary, Music
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 1111 minutes

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Freddy Camalier’s masterly Muscle Shoals is about the beginnings and heyday of the recording scene in Muscle Shoals, Ala., a tiny town that improbably changed the face of rock ‘n’ roll forever. First-timer Camalier is obviously a natural storyteller, but there’s so much more to the doc than promise—the cinematography is lush and beautiful, the editing is crisp and precise, and it’s in turns heartbreaking, inspiring, wry, thought-provoking, nostalgic and genuinely funny. It’s simply a stunning debut film. It helps that Camalier and his producing partner Stephen Badger are after more than just a lesson in musical history: They delve into the Civil Rights Movement and its effect specifically on Alabama, especially as it relates to a Muscle Shoals music scene that was, shockingly enough, lacking in any racial tension. They return again and again to the ancient Native American legend about the river that flows through the town, and the water spirit who lived there, sang songs and protected the town. Not to mention that the personal life of Fame Records founder Rick Hall, the protagonist of the film, is itself worthy of a Faulkner novel. Muscle Shoals is thrilling, it’s engaging, it’s fascinating, it’s stirring, it’s epic—whether you’re a music lover or not. —Michael Dunaway


17. 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


18. 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


19. Rabbit Hole

rabbit-hole.jpg Year: 2010
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne West, Sandra Oh, Tammy Blanchard
Genre: Drama
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 91 minutes

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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


20. The Lady Vanishes

lady-vanishes.jpg Year: 1938
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas
Genre: Thriller
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Rating: PG
Runtime: 99 minutes

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Pretty much predating every trope you’ve ever come to expect out of a genre that gets its name from keeping the audience keyed-up, The Lady Vanishes is both hilariously dated and a by-the-numbers primer on how to make a near-perfect thriller. Far from Hitchcock’s first foray into suspense, the film follows a soon-to-be-married woman, Iris (Margaret Lockwood), who becomes tangled in the mysterious circumstances surrounding the titular lady’s disappearance aboard a packed train. No shot in the film is extraneous, no piece of dialogue pointless—even the ancillary characters, who serve little ostensible part besides lending complexity to Iris’s search for the truth, are crucial to building the tension necessary to making said lady’s vanishing believable. The film is a testament to how, even by 1938, Hitchcock was shaving each of his films down to their most empirical parts, ready to create some of the most vital genre pictures of the 1950s. —Dom Sinacola

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