The 21st Century’s 100 Best Movies that Remain Overlooked

Image: Mud (2012), number 39.

Yes, The Shawshank Redemption and Mulholland Drive are both fantastic movies, but what is the point of reminding you of that in every list?

Beyond frequent cult overstatements and box office revenue correlations, we decided to count down the 100 best and most unjustly little-known movies. A list of real suggestions you can make your way through.

Our purpose at agoodmovietowatch is to reference movies you haven’t yet seen, that you can watch immediately and love. To do this, we only recommend movies that have received a high rating on IMDb combined with a high score on Rotten Tomatoes. This means that these movies have been appreciated by both critics and viewers, so you can trust that they’re awesome. We also only suggest movies that didn’t make a huge splash at the box office or which didn’t get the attention they deserved, so there is little chance you have already seen them.

Directed by: Ethan Coen, 2009

A Serious Man is an almost inexplicable and philosophically dark comedy from the Cohen Brothers. Its protagonist, Larry, is a professor at a quiet university whose wife decides to leave him for one of his more successful colleagues. His unemployed brother moves on to the couch and both of his kids start acting out. He starts a quest for meaning and clarity within his Jewish community. The movie’s aesthetics and comedy will be appreciated by all Cohen Brothers fans. However, the intricacies and struggle of the protagonist will hit home for anyone who has had a religious upbringing: Jewish guilt, and by extension Catholic guilt (or any other religious guilt) are big themes here. An original, weird, hard to understand masterpiece. Other than the prologue, you’ll feel like you have to watch it many times to understand it. The film earned itself many nominations for the Oscars, including Best Picture.

Directed by: Nicole Holofcener, 2013

Enough Said is a realistically sweet movie that handles serious emotions without compromising its comedic chops. It portrays the difficulties and doubts that come with post-divorce relations in a somewhat goofy and original way. James Gandolfini is impeccably wonderful in his last lead role, and joined by Julia Louis-Dreyfus they generate exquisite chemistry right from their first scene together all the way until the movie ends.

Like many other beautiful movies such as Your Sister’s Sister, Enough Said is hilarious, romantic, but to that it adds being smart and realistic. You’ll love it.

Directed by: Larysa Kondracki, 2010

Based on a true story, The Whistleblower is the biography of a once Nebraskan police officer who volunteers for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in post-war Bosnia. Once there, she uncovers a human trafficking scandal involving peacekeeping officials, and finds herself alone against a hostile system in a devastated country. Rachel Weisz plays the whistleblower in a powerful lead role, but the true star of the movie is its director, Larysa Kondracki, who thanks to near documentary-style film-making delivers a perfectly executed political thriller with utmost authenticity.

Directed by: Ryan Coogler, 2013

The true story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old black man on the last day of 2008, where his will to change is challenged by his past and the police. You’ve probably read and heard a lot about young black mens’ encounters with the police, and for this reason you might feel like skipping this film. Don’t. Produced by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, it is compassionate and powerfully told, that it surpasses the sadness of its subject matter to be a celebration of life. It is an extraordinary film and important watch.

Directed by: Ron Fricke, 2012

In the grand tradition of the ethnographic world tours like Mondo Cane, Samsara hits you in the face with the diversity and wonder of human life on earth. Unlike many of its predecessors, which often descended into colonialist gawping, Samara maintains a non judgmental gaze. This film uses no words or narration to travel the world showing you the breathtaking beauty of various countries, cultures, religions, cities, industries and nature. Shot on 70mm film, the definition and clarity has to be seen to be believed.

Directed by: Raymond De Felitta, 2009

City Island is a lighthearted comedy/drama about the Rizzo family, residents of the titular fishing community in The Bronx, New York. Andy Garcia plays the patriarch of the family who works as a corrections officer, and who decides one day to bring home a young ex-con named Tony under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Tony soon becomes entwined in the dysfunctional household as he develops varying relationships with each family member, even as each of them lives their own secret life apart from the rest. This secrecy drives much of the plot, as their personal mysteries play out in an unexpected and often amusing ways. It’s a lively slice-of-life full of boisterous characters, comedic misunderstandings and ultimately a warm embrace of family unity.

Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino, 2015

Youth is a film about Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) a famous composer vacationing at a resort in the Swiss Alps with his friend Mick (Harvey Keitel), an accomplished filmmaker, and his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz). While Fred shuns his work (including an opportunity to play for the Queen of England) and muddles himself in disillusionment, Mick works fervently on his final film, intended to be his life’s crowning achievement. Their remaining time is spent intermingling amongst the guests and reminiscing upon their lives, their achievements, their failures and their undying yearnings. From writer/director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), Youth is another charming work offering an array of eccentric characters and quirky scenarios, while also serving as a touching examination of age, wisdom and ultimately personal reckoning.

Directed by: Steven Spielberg, 2005

From Steven Spielberg, Munich is the sharp and thrilling depiction of Mossad agents on a mission to avenge the Munich Massacre, the killing of 11 Israeli Olympic team members at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Despite being based on real events, it’s a work of fiction. This allows the film to stand on clear yet nuanced grounds, focusing on the moral dilemmas that may rise for the secret agents and the perpetrators, now targets. The ensemble cast including Daniel Craig and Eric Bana allow Spielberg to deliver the film you can tell he wanted to make. A personal and striking effort.

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky, 2006

The Fountain is a highly compelling science-fiction/fantasy film told in three interwoven parts related to the mythical concept of the Tree of Life. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz star in a triad of roles that alternate along the film’s narrative: 1) an ancient conquistador assigned by the Queen of Spain to locate the legendary tree within the jungles of South American, 2) a modern medical doctor desperately striving to find a cure for his wife’s terminal brain cancer, and 3) a futuristic space traveler transporting the sacred tree across the cosmos with spectral images of his wife as his companion. In this, his 3rd feature feature-length film, writer/director Darren Aronofsky has crafted a strikingly ambitious depiction of the search for, manifestation of and preservation of the oft-fabled key to eternity. It’s highly philosophical and at times strikingly abstract visual storytelling, aided immeasurably by Jackman’s and Weisz’s heartfelt, aggrieved performances. The passion and the earnestness they deliver helps to buoy a complicated plot that isn’t always entirely cohesive, but comes together as a wonderfully compelling amalgamation of sights and sounds bound to inspire the viewer. Kudos to Aronofsky for eschewing simple fantasy in lieu of something so dynamic, original and emotionally commanding.

Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan, 2000

Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) and featuring the ever-reliable Mark Ruffalo as well as a fantastic performance from Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me is a beautiful and beautifully told story of siblings growing apart and later finding each other again. Sammy (Linney) helped raise her younger brother Terry (Ruffalo) after they were orphaned at an early age. Now a single mother, her life turns around when Terry comes back after a long time of being absent, with the two having become almost completely different people in between. Such an honest, genuine exploration of unconditional love, think of it as much more hopeful The Skeleton Twins.

Directed by: Gregg Araki, 2005

When Brian was eight years old he lost five hours of his life to a black out. Now ten years later he is searching for the truth. His search leads him to Neil, a boy who was on his little league team the summer of the blackout. Brian has always believed he was abducted by aliens from the dreams he had with Neil in them. Neil however knows the truth. Neil had just left the small town life and moved to New York. When he comes home for Christmas and meets Brian will he finally tell him the answers he has been looking for? This is the story of one boy who can’t remember and a boy who can’t forget.

Directed by: Spike Jonze, 2002

A film written by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, about screenwriter Charlie Kaufman as he struggles to adapt a book about poaching a rare plant into a successful movie. Through Kaufman’s clever writing and Spike Jones’ unique style of directing, the film unfolds using “mise en abîme” as the viewer sees the lessons the writer in film comes across to improve his script more or less subtly influence the events he encounters as the narrative advances. Nicolas Cage’s performance is also particularly good as a highly intelligent and self-obsessed screen writer with low self-esteem.

Directed by: Alex Garland, 2015

Ex Machina is the brilliant science fiction film from the writer of 28 Days Later (and 28 Weeks Later). It tells the story of a developer who is invited by his billionaire CEO to participate in a groundbreaking experiment with the artificially intelligent Ava. When the developer starts interacting with Ava, questions of trust and ethics collide with his own views and commitment to give an interesting and thrilling take on artificial intelligence from different angles. The visual effects are not only stunning but extremely efficient making Ex Machina feel as casually futuristic as Her, and in its emphasis on ideas as daringly simple as a David Fincher production.

Directed by: Tony Kaye, 2012

A very poetic film by Tony Kaye (American History X) about an English Literature teacher (Adrien Brody – “The Pianist”) who only works as a substitute in schools which are located in very poor urban areas. The reason behind his choice is that he doesn’t want to bond too much with his students and colleagues because he is trying to control his dark emotions about life and the triviality of our existences (although it sounds depressing it is absolutely not). He also takes care of his last family connection, his grandfather, to whom he is very close and who lives in an elderly home. Unsurprisingly, their relationship is very emotional and deep. Every time you think about your existence, your place in the world, your interactions with other people; watch Detachment.

Directed by: Rob Reiner, 2010

A seven year old Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) moves to a new neighbourhood across the street from a very spirited little girl named Juli (Madeline Carroll). She falls in love at first sight much to the dismay of the shy young lad. For the next six years, Juli overwhelms Bryce with her affections until a series of events and misunderstandings leaves her heartbroken and angry at him. Fed up, Juli begins to ignore him. However, her absence triggers a change of heart as Bryce realizes his fondness of her. He will do anything to win her back.

The whole film, set in the late fifties holds the warmth and charm of small town living. With a balance of passion and playfulness, the extraordinary young cast are brilliant in their roles. Based on the novel by Wendelin Van Draanen, this endearing story of young puppy love, will make your heart melt!

Directed by: Kogonada, 2017

What goes well with a love story? Creative architecture. Columbus the movie is such a great and genuine exploration of this idea, filmed in Columbus the city – a weird experimental hub for architecture that actually exists in real life! After his architect father goes into a coma, Jin (John Cho), a Korean-born man finds himself stuck in Columbus without a foreseeable end. In Korean tradition when a parent dies, the son should be in the same place physically otherwise they can’t mourn. While waiting to see what will happen to his father he meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), an aspiring architect herself, who’s also stuck in Columbus because of her mother. This is a beautiful movie with real-life issues and situations, to be especially appreciated by viewers who don’t mind a slow narrative in exchange for a meticulously-crafted movie.

Directed by: Alexander Payne, 2013

Nebraska is a poem distilled into a film. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone says “is it a comedy or a drama? Both at the same time, as life itself.” Everything about it is perfect: the acting, the photography, the story. In case that’s not enough and you need to know the plot to get convinced, I’ll tell you that it’s a road movie about a senile old man and his son. If you still want more information, you can Google it, but come on! You’ll just be wasting time that would be better spent on watching this masterpiece.

Directed by: Hun Jang, 2017

A cynical down-on-his-luck Seoul taxi driver is hired by a German journalist to go to another town called Gwangju. What seemed like an easy and overcompensated journey at first takes him into the heart of a city under siege by the military. This is in fact the student uprising that will be a very important event in South Korean history, known as 1980 Guangju Democratic Uprising. Both the journalist and the taxi driver confront life-threatening situations as they find themselves at the center of the movement. A true-story-based movie, it’s a heartfelt and entertaining political drama about one of the bleakest chapters of modern Korean history. In 2018 it was the country’s official submission to the Oscars.

Directed by: Daniel Lindsay, 2011

Undefeated won an Oscar but since it’s a documentary, few sadly paid attention to it. It tells the story of a football team in a poor area in Tennessee. Kids without a bright future, until the new coach arrives. Yes, that sounds like a very old, cliché tale. But keep in mind it is a documentary, and the story it tells is powerful, gripping, and any familiarity quickly becomes irrelevant. Even if you have no interest in American football, or in sports in general, you will love it and more than likely find yourself reaching for the Kleenex at least a few times before the credits roll.

Directed by: Haifaa al-Mansour, 2012

Wadjda is a smart, spirited 10-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to own her own bike, something that is frowned upon in the Saudi Arabian suburb where she lives. While it’s not technically illegal for women to own bikes, it is thought of as something that is “dangerous to a girl’s virtue,” and it’s worth noting that this is a society where women are also not allowed to drive their own cars. Wadjda devises numerous schemes to earn enough money to buy a bike (selling bracelets, making mixes of Western pop songs, delivering clandestine messages between men and women), before getting caught by the headmistress at her school. It is then that Wadjda hits on the ultimate money-making scheme: there is to be a Koran-reciting contest at her school with a hefty cash prize, and she’s determined to win. There is a subplot involving a growing rift between Wadjda’s parents; while there is clearly a lot of love between both parties, it becomes increasingly clear that her father may be leaving her mother for another woman who could potentially bear him a son (a common practice). This subplot is handled with respect and little judgement though, as it is simply the way things work in this culture. Yet, as Wadjda is coming-of-age and learning about the limitations placed on her as a girl, she is obviously negotiating ingenious ways of pushing back against those limitations. The film is subtle and humane in how it handles the slowly changing cultural and gender dynamics in a traditionally conservative, patriarchal society. It wouldn’t work without a strong central performance from first-time actor Waad Mohammed though — she is never less than believable as a clever, determined and joyful 10-year-old, and her journey towards adulthood is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Directed by: Andrew Haigh, 2015

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay both won Berlinale Best Actress and Best Actor for this movie. They play a couple who are only a few days away from their 45th marriage anniversary when they learn that the remains of the husband’s first lover have been found. He then starts obsessing about his previous relationship, to the extent that when the day of the anniversary comes, there might not be a marriage left to celebrate. This is a very ‘adult’ movie – it’s quiet, sometimes slow, very well-executed, and overall a fascinating look at marriage.

Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, 2015

A fish out of water coming-of-age story with an abundance of charm. Greg Gaines, a kid with few to zero close people finds himself obliged to befriend a girl recently diagnosed with cancer. She enters his seemingly balanced social life and he tries to adjusts to her new predicament, and the story goes from there. There is excellent cinematography and really funny sequences, but to me what is most amazing is that with three perfectly played and perfectly written characters, you are sure to see parts of yourself in either Greg, Earl, or Rachel – if not some parts in each one.

Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda, 2013

Like Father, Like Son is a profoundly interesting, multi-layered Japanese film about a young couple who come to learn that their son was unknowingly switched at birth with another boy, and begin a complicated relationship with their real son and his family. Both sides struggle to cope with the looming possibility of returning each boy to his true parents, while the differences between the two families in means and lifestyle lend further complications to their attitudes and their ability to find resolution. It’s an even-handed yet poignant story that examines the difficult emotions around parenthood and parental expectation, including a meaningful examination of the “nature versus nurture” argument. Very honest and real — you’ll enjoy it even more if you appreciate the intricate style of Japanese cinema. Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes.

Directed by: Andrea Arnold, 2009

A sincere portrayal of the gritty British working class life through the coming-of-age story of a girl who loves rap music and dancing to it. It features a stunning and powerful performance from newcomer Katie Jarvis who had no acting experience whatsoever, and who was cast in the street after she was spotted fighting. She plays Mia, a 15 year old teenager whose world changes drastically when her mother’s new boyfriend (played by Michael Fassbender) turns his eyes to her. Don’t watch this movie if you are looking for a no-brainer, definitely do watch it if you are interested in films that realistically portray others’ lives and let you into them.

Directed by: Peter Mullan, 2002

This is a touching saga based on the plight of the women labelled as “fallen” that the Magdalene Laundries housed in Ireland. The movie grips you by the throat right from the first minute and the sense of injustice to women that characterizes the entire length of the film only rarely eases up to give you room to appreciate the emotional complexities that each individual character represents.
The stories of Margaret, Bernadette and Rose and the people they meet inside the Magdalene Laundry will force you to ask time and again during the movie, “Why?” and “Who are they to?”. You will share in Bernadette’s sense of outrage, in Rose’s compassion and Margaret’s acute fear of the church, of speaking up and asking for justice. So much so, that you may even find yourself identifying with (or at least understanding) Crispina’s questionable grasp on reality. Worst of all, the devout Catholic establishment that this was, hypocrisy and corruption ran through its every vein, adding to the shock and resentment that builds towards the, for the lack of a better word, captors of our protagonists.
The Magdalene Sisters is a tribute to one of the forgotten chapters in a long history of injustice to women and an absolutely moving one at that. It does not fail to utterly horrify while it also warms your heart.

Directed by: Susanne Bier, 2006

There is a unique emotional approach to Danish films rarely matched by anything else, that has to be seen to be understood. Oscar-nominated After The Wedding perfectly embodies that. Jacob Peterson (played by Mads Mikkelsen) is an idealist who runs a financially struggling orphanage in India. He returns to Copenhagen to seek a large donation when he discovers that in order to get the money he will be unveiling dark secrets about his own personal past. Scenes are stretched, and feel incredibly realistic. But because of the great plot and premise as well as the fantastic cast, they’re never boring — on the contrary, After the Wedding is thrilling and at all times interesting. You will also feel that it is capturing every emotion you’ve ever encountered, or will ever encounter in the short two hours it spans.

Directed by: Francisco Vargas, 2007

TRIGGER WARNING: THIS FILM IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. CONTAINS VERY GRAPHIC SCENES. In fact, the movie opens with rape. While definitely not an easy watch, it is an incredible story and it should definitely be seen by more people.

Set in the 1970s during the peasant revolts, a group of locals in the rural areas organize a rebellion against the government. The movie starts with the government fighting this insurgency by sending soldiers to the village, where they rape, torture, beat, and kill the villagers. The soldiers unknowingly cut off the locals from their ammunition supply by occupying the fields in which the ammunition is secretly hidden. Don Plutarco, an old man and violinist (who is missing a hand), attempts to pass this checkpoint though, in order to “check on his corn crops.” The soldiers agree, but only if he stays for a daily music lesson.

As Plutarco comes every day, he secretly smuggles the ammunition into his violin case, right under the guards’ noses. The story is incredibly moving, showing the heart wrenching tragedies the peasants go through, as well as the way music moves the guards, despite what they think of the peasants. I’d highly recommend it, but only for those with strong stomachs.

Directed by: Mark Herman, 2008

You’ve probably watched and heard about enough Holocaust films to expect a formula, but you might want to put all that aside going into The Boy in Striped Pajamas. Bruno, the son of a WWII Nazi commandant forms an unlikely friendship with a Jewish kid his age in his father’s concentration camp. The film is World War II told through Bruno’s eyes, and while you might not get why this movie is so highly praised in its first scenes, the twisting and profound second half will have you recommending it to everyone in need of a moving story well executed, or quite simply a good cry.

Directed by: Cary Fukunaga, 2015

An instant classic, Beast of No Nation is a unique and uniquely-paced war drama which ranges in patterns from explosive visual storytelling to calm character studies. A child joins a rebel group consisting almost entirely of children and led by a charismatic leader credited as Commandant. As you get to witness the conflict through the child’s eyes, his own development and his commander’s, the film unfolds as an exploration of the never ending state of war in Africa. It takes you to varying conclusions, most of which you will have trouble admitting you’ve reached. As Commandant, Idris Elba is transfixing, and the whole cast of almost entirely non-actors, as well as the deeply authentic staging by True Detective and Sin Nombre director Cary Fukunaga, are enthralling.

Directed by: Raoul Peck, 2017

In a stunning (re)introduction to James Baldwin, intellectual, author, and social critic, this movie digs very deep into the American subconscious and racial history. It is based off a book idea that would have studied the famous assassinations of three of Baldwin’s friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., he wrote about 30 pages of it before he passed away in 1987. Raoul Peck picked up the project and made it into this movie, highlighting at the same time Baldwin’s genius, his unique and always eloquent perspective as well as the beauty of his soul as a human being. A mesmerizing experience, it is an immensely sad fact that the narrative still feels as relevant now as it was in 1979, and as such this movie serves as a reminder on how far America still has to go.

Directed by: Dave Grohl, 2013

First-time filmmaker Dave Grohl captures nothing less than the full spirit of a place which would otherwise appear as a dump. The spirit of Sound City Studios was fostered by Rock-And-Roll greats such as Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Metallica, Tom Petty, Rick Springfield, Nirvana and many others. In this regard, sound City is a fascinating display of Rock history, from the major talents of the era to how the industry has changed over the years. However it is more than just a well made documentary; its story is a very entertaining thing to watch, and the way it portrays characters is both sweet and intimate.

Dave Grohl’s creation resembles in many ways the F1 documentary, Senna. You do not need to be a fan of their themes or have much knowledge around them to appreciate what tremendous and enjoyable pieces of film-making these movies are.

Directed by: Thom Fitzgerald, 2011

Cloudburst is the very funny and heartwarming story of two old ladies, Stella (played by Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis) and Dotty (played by another Academy Award winner, Brenda Fricker) who escape their nursing home and drive to Nova Scotia, Canada to get married. Along the way they meet Prentice, a hitchhiker on his way home to Nova Scotia as well. Cloudurst is the story of their road trip. Dotty is lascivious and loving. Expect to be shocked by Stella’s potty mouth. The whole film is a great love story about devotion, acceptance and living life to the fullest.

Directed by: Andrew Jarecki, 2003

This documentary… man, where do I even begin? It captures the lives of the Friedmans and how their world turned upside down when their father, Arnold, and brother, Jesse, were both convicted of sexually abusing children. The filmmaker interviews victims, family members, and experts to strike you with the two sides of the story. The Oscar nominated film shows real footage from the family which makes it even more of an authentic experience. I won’t tell you much more about it- but let me just say, this documentary will leave you speechless.

Directed by: Walter Salles, 2004

Let’s fight! I’m not a fan of “Into the wild” okay okay, calm down… Maybe we can fix this. Maybe we could watch “The Motorcycle Diaries” together. Watching this heartwarming movie, you will get the travel bug. I got it and I never got rid of it. I even want to go on a motorcycle tour through South America although I would have never dreamed of getting on a motorbike. Have fun with it. Oh and… this film is about the young Che Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado by the way.

Directed by: Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013

Emma, a free-spirited girl with blue hair, influences Adele’s life dramatically, teaching her how to be honest with herself and discover her true desires about love. The film beautifully and realistically portrays the Adele’s evolution, from a highschool girl to a grown-up woman. The spirit Emma lights up in her never dies. Blue Is the Warmest Color or La Vie d’Adèle is an honest, intense, and charming picture, prepare not to blink and have your face glued to screen from start to finish.

Directed by: Sylvain Chomet, 2003

This French film, written and directed by the filmmaker Sylvain Chomet, is in the strictest sense an animated foreign comedy film but it is unlike anything I have ever seen. It has a unique surrealist animation style that manages to stay oddly grounded. In other words, it wasn’t some psychoactive drug trip but more like taking a look at the world through Salavador Dali’s eyes. However what struck me the most while watching this film was how everything was animated to extenuate ugliness and imperfection. None of the surroundings and characters look like you see in most animated films, either hyper-realistic or like unblemished porcelain dolls; everything is drawn with blatant, over-exaggerated, and warped features. These features define each character as well as instantly evoking what thoughts and feelings the director wants you to associate with them. The characters’ exaggerated features also allow the film to progress without almost any actual dialogue. Contextual clues and facial expressions were more than enough to conduct entire conversations as well as progress the story line without ever saying a word. This makes the movie accessible to people of all tongues without the subtitle stigma that many people have with watching foreign films. In conclusion, while this film is not for the causal movie watcher, it is still a beautifully imperfect work of hand-drawn art that is an experience that goes far beyond mere entertainment.

Directed by: Kim Jee-woon, 2010

I Saw the Devil is a South Korean psychological thriller/horror film. IT IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!!! It has a lot of blood and gore that could make even the strongest stomachs turn. A young woman is kidnapped from her car while waiting for a tow truck and the kidnapper murders her far from her car and scatters her body parts around. Her fiancé, a secret service agent of the National Intelligence Service, sets out to track down her murders and extract his revenge. If you’re looking for a thrill ride, look no further- but don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Directed by: James Marsh, 2008

Man on Wire is a true technical masterpiece. You can almost feel the director telling the cameraman what angle to choose, or thinking about the questions that will generate the most resounding answers. However, this does not diminish the story this documentary tells one bit. It’s one that is glorious, riveting, and fun. It’s one where you feel like an insider to a world lived on and below wires, with high-stake risks. Hopefully the edge of your seat is comfortable, because this is where the movie will keep you till the very end.

Directed by: Fatih Akin, 2009

A delightfully screwy comedy about a guy and his struggling bar (of the title). The film is full of food, music, dancing, romance, and crazy coincidences. Our hero, Zinos, has just be abandoned by his girlfriend. On top of that his bar is struggling, he’s recently thrown his back out, he desperately needs to find a new chef, and his shady brother has just come to the Soul Kitchen looking for a job after being let out of on “partial parole.” Will it all work out in the end? Of course it will! This film is a lot lighter than Akin’s previous features, but maybe after all those challenging pictures he just felt the need to have a good time, which this film definitely delivers.

Directed by: Roger Donaldson, 2005

You know Anthony Hopkins as the evil Hannibal Lecter, but in this film he gives a warm and heartfelt performance portraying real life New Zealand motorcycle legend Burt Munro who set a land speed record in 1967 on a hand-built 1920 Indian. It’s a story of never giving up on your dream even in the face of ridicule and opposition. Hopkins’ performance turns what could have been just another schmaltzy formulaic story line into true gold. You’ll be cheering for Burt/Anthony by the end!

Directed by: Fatih Akin, 2007

This is a hard movie to describe, but I’ll do my best without giving too much away. The movie takes place in three separate segments that eventually come together. Half of the story takes place in Germany, half in Turkey, with almost all of the central six characters spending time in both countries while either searching for each other or trying to redeem themselves. Daughters search for their mothers (and vice versa) and one character’s actions will eventually bring everything more-or-less full circle. The film is as much about the characters though as it is about the cultural exchange happening between the two countries. If you have even a passing interest in films from this part of the world, I recommend giving this one a try.

Directed by: Dan Gilroy, 2014

The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, an impromptu freelance videographer who begins covering the crime world in LA for a local TV station. Almost as dark as a mystery can get, it is disturbing, and plays out as a combination of “Drive” and “The Network”.

The film is visually stunning as well as immensely suspenseful. It then becomes almost impossible to look away, even when you’re the most horrified by just how far Bloom is willing to go to reach success. Gyllenhaal’s performance is widely compared to that of Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, which should give you an idea of its caliber.

Directed by: Jaco Van Dormael, 2009

Based on a beautiful premise, sprinkled with artistic vision, it is an intelligent sit back and relax movie. The film explores the life and times of Nemo Nobody, the last mortal man on earth, as he reflects on the important choices he’s made. Each of these choices are presented as branching pathways of what could have been, utilizing innovative non-linear cinematography. In addition to the film’s winning structure, its soundtrack is considered a masterpiece, perfectly fitting the plot via looping and trilling melodies. The film garnered 6 Margaritte awards, and has slowly been developing into an indie cult classic.

Directed by: David Gelb, 2011

This surprising documentary follows Jiro, an 85 year old Japanese chef, his Michelin-starred restaurant in the Tokyo underground, and his eager sons. While ostensibly about sushi – and believe me, you’ll learn about sushi and see absolutely gorgeous images of the raw-fish creations – the film’s dramatic impetus is carried by the weight of tradition, the beauty of a labor of love, obsession, and the relationship between father and son. Truly a must-watch.

Directed by: Tarsem Singh, 2006

Filmed in 28 countries over a period of four years, The Fall is a modern-day epic with haunting undertones. After a young girl is hospitalized by a fall, she meets an injured stuntman bedridden following a failed stunt. He begins to tell her a magical story of five men and their quest to kill an evil dictator. But as the tale progresses a darkness threatens to destroy both the fantasy and reality. The film is incredible due to its art direction and the fact that it’s all shot on location without the use of digital effects. The story is a wonderful mixture of fantasy and action with a darkly realistic edge that ends up resonating with you more than the traditional fantasy film. It’s a movie that satisfies nearly every genre and mood and remains captivating in the process. A testament to the art of storytelling. Tarsem Singh directs a masterpiece which words cannot do justice in describing.

Directed by: John Carney, 2007

Once is about a vacuum cleaner/repairman/street musician and a florist in a boy-meets-girl-then-makes-music tale of love, friendship, family, and freaking great music. You can just feel the passion from this simple but charming low-budget movie capturing the chemistry of music making. The film’s music will make your skin tingle and hair stand on end. How good is it? In addition to the film winning an Oscar for its music, the Broadway musical version has won 8 Tonys. In short – get ready for a sonic masterpiece!

Directed by: Luc Jacquet, 2005

An extraordinary documentary full of drama, comedy and heartbreak. It follows two penguins, a couple, for a year as they migrate, give birth and face hardships and tragedy. It captures never seen before moments that stand as a perfect illustration of survival in particular and life in general. All in a very well crafted documentary that you will find both instructive and deeply moving. Won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky, 2008

Darren Aronofsky delivers yet another unforgettable allegory, starring Mickey Rourke as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, an aging professional wrestler long past his prime. He is struggling to retain a sense of identity, purpose and dignity. The audience can see in Rourke the story of all men, that we will one day grow old, regret mistakes that it’s too late to fix, and mourn the end of our successes.

Directed by: Fabián Bielinsky, 2000

One of the best, twistiest con movies in recent memory. Seasoned con artist Marcos takes young Juan under his wing after witnessing him pull a bill-switching scam in a deli. Soon Juan is learning the game and the two are roped into trying to pull off the largest scam in Marcos’ storied career, the selling of a set of incredibly rare stamps (the “nine queens” of the title). Along the way they will have to deal with a rotating cast of schemers, thieves, crooks — and Marcos’ estranged sister. A superior little crime thriller, this one will have you guessing right up until the end.

Directed by: Eugene Jarecki, 2012

The House I Live In is a truly exceptional documentary, directed and narrated by Eugene Jarecki, focused on America’s long-standing “War on Drugs”. Jarecki travels America to interview various individuals and families on both sides of the law, examining many personal experiences related to drug offenses, unjust legal policies and excessive incarceration. He further provides a fascinating historical account of the political and socioeconomic developments that brought about the formation of many depressed communities overrun by drug trade, as well as the interrelated political, legal and private-interest infrastructures that continue to both depend upon and profit from drug-related sentencing. An utterly stunning film that every American should see to truly understand all of the elements at play in the ongoing prohibition against drugs in America.

Directed by: Rian Johnson, 2005

Elizabeth:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a high schooler trying understand his girlfriend’s disappearance. Film noir style with excellent dialogue.

Ian:

Murder mystery from the perspective of an oddball kid in high school. All of the evidence seems to point him back to one person in town.

Karch: 

A new-age noir film follows a high-school detective trying to unravel what happened to his ex-girlfriend through the mysterious underground drug ring at his school.

Directed by: James Ponsoldt, 2015

A summer’s night, it’s around 2 AM and you’re outside talking with a close friend about life, happiness, and the human condition. That quality and depth of conversation, which you reach at best a couple of times a year is present throughout the 106 minutes of The End of the Tour. The film depicts the story of David Foster Wallace, as played by Jason Segel, and his interactions with then Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky, as played by Jesse Eisenberg. It’s like being with two smart friends and discussing your life and theirs in the sense that it is deeply personal, very smart while being simple, and unpretentiously relevant. Performances are nothing short of perfect as Segel completely transforms into the character, and everything is authentically orchestrated with the deft hand of The Spectacular Now director James Ponsoldt. A rare and important film.

Directed by: Fatih Akin, 2004

Two strangers in Germany deal with their Turkish identity in separate ways but are joined together when they agree to a fake marriage in order help each other break free. This is a dirty, gritty and heart-wrenching story about culture, love and the violence that unites them. Winner of a Golden Bear and “Best Film” as well as “Audience Award” at the European Film Awards.

Directed by: Stephen Chbosky, 2012

In many ways, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a modern masterpiece. It is not just a movie, but a psychological experience – one that is sincere to its premise and the troubled nature of the human beings in it. You will be surprised by the depth of its many layers, and the extents to which a similar movie can go. However as you get busy being surprised, it will make you a very happy person.

The perfect word to describe it is “satisfying”. Its character-driven chemistry will catch you even more as its reaches its perfect mix between comedy, warmth, tragedy and depression.

Directed by: Banksy, 2010

What happens when Banksy, one of the most famous ambassadors of street art, meets Mr. Brainwash, an egocentric aspiring French artist? Well, one of the funniest, interesting and exciting documentaries ever made about art, commercialism and the apparent gulf between them. But is it really a documentary? This confident and zany film will leave you guessing.

Directed by: Julian Schnabel, 2007

Directed by celebrated artist-turned-fillmmaker Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the true story of French journalist and fashion editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), who suffered a devastating stroke at the age of 43. Almost completely paralyzed by what is termed “Locked-in Syndrome”, Bauby was left with only the operation of his left eye intact, leaving him forced to communicate via partner-assisted scanning (selection of each letter of the alphabet via blinking). Ultimately, Bauby employed this painstaking procedure to dictate his own memoir “Le Scaphandre et le Papillon”, which became a number one bestseller in Europe. The film alternates between Bauby’s interaction with his visitors and caretakers (including the dictation of his book) and his own dream-like fantasies and memories of his life prior to paralysis. With the title, Bauby uses the diving bell to represent his self-perceived state of isolation, akin to a deep-sea diver encased in an oxygenated chamber, and the corresponding butterfly to represent the freedom he enjoys as he often journeys quite magically through his own mind’s eye. It’s a somber yet engaging film full of heart and vision, featuring wonderful performances by the entire cast across the board.

Directed by: Alejandro Amenábar, 2004

There are movies that make you a bit more mature when you watch them. This movie is one of them. They took very hard and controversial topic, but presented in so you do understand both sides and agree with them. Winner of an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, it tells the true story of a man who spent 28 years campaigning for the right to end his own life. Now you get why I said it was a hard topic, right? It’s a heart-wrenching watch to say the least, but thanks to a perfect performance from Javier Bardem the complex story gains such a big grasp that it ends up having uplifting and even funny moments.

Directed by: Chris Morris, 2010

Four Lions is as black and as dark as a movie can ever get, mixing cultural relevancy with humor and ridiculousness. It is insensitive to Islam, insensitive to terrorism and insensitive to the viewer. But it is hilarious.

The director spent three years talking to Imams, terrorism experts and basically everyone. The result? A legit 97 minutes that will dazzle even extremists with its knowledge of Islam and the accuracy of its lines. Needless to say that it will upset quite a few people, but that is always a good sign for black comedy movies, right?

Directed by: Chan-wook Park, 2016

From Park Chan-wook (maker of Oldboy) comes The Handmaiden, a great movie in line with his now mastered style of portraying the beautifully weird. A rich Japanese lady isolated from the world accepts a new handmaiden, a shrewd young Korean girl with hidden motives. The men around them, full of greed and lust, complete the grand Victorian tale of deception, romance or lack thereof, and dark humor. You will find yourself at times screaming “what?”, and at times bewildered by the general aesthetic of the film including clothes, traditions, and the stunning nature of both Korea and Japan. If you love cinema, you can’t miss this movie. It’s just too big of an achievement.

Directed by: José Padilha, 2010

Get ready for one hell of a journey. From the writer of City of God, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is a poignant and powerful action-packed movie. Set in Brazil, the film follows two seemingly opposed characters (one a police officer, one a professor) as they both work to treat the systemic social ills that corrupt the country. As much a social commentary as it is an action-packed drama (think The Departed and The Wire), Elite Squad will take you on a whirlwind journey that will leave you considering the larger issues of poverty, crime, and “doing good” in the world.

Directed by: John Carney, 2016

In 1980s Dublin, a young Irish catholic-school boy, whose family is facing financial problems starts his own band with the sole objective of impressing a mysterious femme fatale. The film takes you on a beautiful and witty journey through the band’s path to success and our protagonist’s quest in conquering his love all to the rhythm of some of the biggest 80’s pop-rock hits and the band’s own original soundtrack. Without a doubt this film is the long awaited passion project of filmmaker John Carney (Once, Begin Again).

Directed by: Jeff Nichols, 2012

Authentic and filled with great performances, Mud is a beautiful tale of love, loss, and growth. While you had probably thought you couldn’t be more impressed with him than in Dallas Buyers Club, Interstellar, or True Detective, Mathew McConaughey’s performance here is probably his best, and is nothing short of a masterpiece. It takes the entire movie to an unprecedented level of authenticity and power as well as give his character’s interaction with two young boys in the South the perfect balance between uneasiness and sorrow. The story is also very thrilling, and will keep you at the edge of your seat more times than not.

Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson, 2015

An exploration of the complex and loving relationship between a mother and her son that will take you through a variety of extremely perceived emotions: it’s uplifting, disturbing, provocative, sad, and hopeful among many other things. We don’t get many of these middle-class-budget films anymore, and this one might be its category’s best. A kidnapped girl (Brie Larson) has a son (Jacob Tremblay in an electrifying performance) with her abductor and tries to provide a “normal” environment for the kid in the room where they’re being held captive, until they attempt to escape. Brie Larson won an Oscar for Best Actress in Room, so make sure to also check out Short Term 12, an equally impressive performance by her in an equally amazing movie.

Directed by: Dito Montiel, 2006

Robert Downey Jr., Channing Tatum, and Shia LaBeouf star in this powerful drama about growing up in 80’s Astoria, New York. It follows the memoirs of the author, director and musician Dito Montiel as he visits his ailing father after 15 years in Los Angeles, away from home. Told via flashback and present-day exposition, as well as several fourth-wall bending monologues,  A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is a coming of age film that leaves a deep impact, with two Sundance awards and heaps of nominations to its credit. 

Directed by: Gabriela Cowperthwaite, 2013

A striking and revelatory documentary focused on the behaviour of captive Orcas and their treatment within SeaWorld and other theme parks around the world. At the center of the story is Tilikum, a bull Orca that has been responsible for the death of three individuals, and the legal and ethical challenges that have arisen from apparent cover-ups by officials. What happened to Tilikum to make him adopt such behavior? First-hand accounts by former whale trainers and experts deliver fascinating truths about Tilikum and the species as whole, with particular attention on their remarkable intelligence and advanced social behaviors. Blackfish will undoubtedly change your perspective on whale captivity indefinitely. It’s certainly not to be missed by anyone who appreciates top-notch documentary film-making as honest historical record.

Directed by: Asghar Farhadi, 2015

Having only made its way to the U.S. 6 long years after its initial release, this is the long-awaited film from the Oscar-winning director of A Separation– and it is in every way extraordinary. It’s a movie stripped down of almost everything to keep only its humans in focus, it is honest and realistic beyond belief and quite simply a must-watch. A group of old friends and relatives reunite for vacation in northern Iran with one of them bringing a new person to the group, Elly, in hopes of her marrying one of the friends, Ahmad. When Elly vanishes without notice, the questions that follow expose the group to unexpected levels, and eventually pose subtle yet sincere questions about gender, politics, and the delicate balance modern-day Iranians live in.

Thanks to the perfect performances and the director’s unparalleled talent, About Elly will feel interesting at times, thrilling and devastating at others, but above all, and because of it being so… human, it will feel familiar to you no matter where you are from.

Directed by: Richard Linklater, 2014

A masterpiece in every possible way: its striking balance between simplicity and effectiveness, its innovative value, the commitment of its maker, and just overall beauty. Boyhood was filmed over a span of 12 years, something never attempted before in film. The result is a captivating, breathtaking tale with almost unparalleled plausibility. The emotions it incites as well as the natural flow it has will feel a lot like life itself, and will leave you with ideas you can dwell on for long after the credits roll. Directed by Richard Linklater, and nominated for 6 different Oscars.

Directed by: Tom McCarthy, 2007

This is a low-scale, intimate, almost minimalist movie that speaks volumes about the misconceptions that westerners have regarding the Middle-East. And the performance of Richard Jenkins is absolutely exceptional (earned him a nomination for the Oscars). He plays a professor who comes back to his New York apartment only to find two immigrants living in it. What a great role and what a great film.The Visitor is from the director of The Station Agent and very recently Spotlight, Tom McCarthy.

Directed by: Tom McCarthy, 2003

The Station Agent is about loneliness, change and friendship. Sounds corny right? It’s not. The characters are developed, they have their own reasons for the choices they make and nothing feels forced, neither actions or conversations. It’s a small and wonderful movie about a little man that moves out of the city and his comfort zone when his only friend dies, moves to said friend’s old train station and sets his life there. From there on it follows his social interactions with a slew of people, the relationships he forms with them. Oh, and the little man? Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), who pulls off a great performance, albeit a quiet one.

Directed by: Adam Elliot, 2009

A heartwarming and (ironically) heartbreaking indie film based around the lives of Mary, an 8-year old girl from Australia, and her pen pal Max, a 44-year old man from America. The film follows these two as they deal with life’s complications, from the perspective of a child and an autistic man. One of the most riveting and diverse films I’ve seen, with many joyous moments and cold plot twists. Would recommend 8 condensed milks out of 10.

Directed by: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, 2014

The Salt of the Earth is a 2014 biographical documentary about famed Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. Directed and narrated by Wim Wenders in collaboration with Salgado’s son, Juliano, the film tells Salgado’s life story from his childhood in northern Brazil, his early career as an economist, and ultimately the shift to photography that would lead him to over 120 countries as a world-renowned photojournalist. Shot in stunning black and white by Juliano and Hugo Barbier, The Salt of the Earth is a mesmerizing exhibition of one man’s lifelong dedication to capturing humanity and nature in remarkable states of peril, compromise and elegance. From the Brazilian gold mine of Serra Pelada to the Yali Tribe of Papua New Guinea to the war-ravaged people of Rwanda (to name just a few), the film follows Salgado’s career through his photography, accompanied by his personal accounts of his many encounters and impressions. It’s Salgado’s grace, empathy and kindness that shine the brightest—remarkable for a man who has seen (and photographed) the worst of humanity over the course of his lifetime. It’s an utterly enthralling experience, upsetting at times in its frank display of war and death, but it ultimately serves as an exemplary presentation of Salgado’s work and his intimate reflections upon a career dedicated to truth, awareness and beauty.

Directed by: Mamoru Hosoda, 2012

If you’re living alone and just came back home from a bad day, it could make you feel like everything’s alright again. This is the kind of movie that feels like a warm hug, that you’d keep in your hard drive to watch over and over again, just because it makes you feel so damn good! The story offers a realistic yet ultimately forgiving view of maternity, and growing up in general. From director Mamoru Hosoda, who’s known for his other works like “The Girl Who Leaps Through Time”, “Wolf Children” is another kind of beautiful that can only be fully understood after you watched it.

Directed by: Don Hertzfeldt, 2015

How often does a short film get picked as movie of the year? The answer: not often but it happened with World of Tomorrow. The 2016 Oscar nominated masterpiece is an insight-packed journey of a little girl who gets a peek into her distant future. It is directed by Don Hertzfeldt, the genius who also gave us the other mind-bending stick-figure animation It’s Such a Beautiful Day. The little girl in question? Hertzfeldt’s young niece who also contributed lines to the film! World of Tomorrow is a must-watch – a piece of art so beautiful it will revive your love for cinema for a long time.

Directed by: Jared Leto, 2012

Telling harsh truths about the music industry, this documentary gives intimate access to singer/actor Jared Leto and his band Thirty Seconds to Mars as they fight a relentless lawsuit with record label EMI whilst recording their third studio album “This Is War.” Opening up his life for the camera during months of excruciating pressure, he reveals the struggles his band must face over questions of art, money and integrity.

Directed by: Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012

An Academy Award nominated documentary about the genocide committed against nearly a million “communists” in Indonesia in 1965. Still in power, the paramilitary of Indonesia commonly known as the gangsters, call themselves “free men” and glorify their acts of government-sanctioned blatant extortion and heinous cruelty while the film cleverly juxtaposes them against the nation’s scarred history. The corruption, fear and violence that characterizes the figures of authority in the Indonesian military government are revealed in a raw manner in the film.

As its name suggests, the film will take you through the actual act of forcing a human to die. The gangsters that committed all those murders speak about and recreate the gruesome details of the circumstances, methods and experience of taking a life. Even more interestingly, they explore whether they believed it to be the right thing and how their conscience copes with the aftermath.

In its dark and abstract ways, it will have you question what you know not only about war crimes and government corruption, but on a much grander plane, about the treatment of the truth in history.

Directed by: Gavin O'Connor, 2011

Do you know those movies where you just look at the poster and you go “damn this will be good”? This is absolutely not one of those, but I promise, it’s still great. Warrior is surprisingly sophisticated for its genre, awesomely executed and what about the acting you say? Hardy and Edgerton are strong together (pun intended). Warrior is a movie filled with authentic emotions designed to give you hope that something unconventional can still come out of the genre.

Directed by: Malik Bendjelloul, 2012

This is the story of an almost unknown musician of the let 60’s early 70’s. His name? Rodriguez. He was shunned in his native US, but beloved in the most unlikely of countries, South Africa under Apartheid. His bootleg albums circulated among his fans reaching amazing fame, however, the mysterious Rodriguez was across the globe, unaware. Winner of an Academy Award, it’s somehow a feel-good documentary that’s also very sharp when it needs to be.

Directed by: Juan J. Campanella, 2009

A slow-burning Argentinian thriller about a retired legal counselor and the one case he investigated that just would not die, The Secret in Their Eyes is a taut and sharp mystery. As layers of mystery unfold, the story draws the viewer in and becomes entangled with the deteriorating political situation in Argentina. Notably, the film features a single-take 5 minute shot – a fantastic technical achievement and a testament to the directorial vision and skill.

Directed by: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2014

An absolutely beautiful film about superficiality, arrogance, and heartbreak. It focuses on the life of Aydin, a retired actor who now lives very comfortably managing a small hotel and a number of other small properties. Throughout the film Aydin’s image shifts as he tackles the problems of his rather typical life. Having said this, there is nothing else typical about this film. It captures human relationships with an almost frightening precision. It almost feels as though you have an inside view into someone’s actual life as Aydin battles it out with his sister Necla and his young wife Nihal. To me this is easily one of the best dramas of the decade, and if you so much as like movies that focus on humans and their interactions, it will be that for you too.  Nuri Bilge Ceylan will make 3 hours pass more quickly than they ever have before.

Directed by: Don Hertzfeldt, 2012

Two-time Oscar nominee Don Hertzfeldt crafts this provocative film in the most skillful way. With only stick figure drawings and some stock footage, he compellingly walks you through the crumbling mind of a man. It is funny. It is sad. It is unsettling. Unlike most movies – or perhaps any movie – there is no point in the film where you feel safe. Unpredictable. Engrossing. Disturbing. By the end of it, you will not be sure what you’ve just seen, but you will feel as if it has changed you. **Personal suggestion: do not watch alone late at night**

Directed by: Ritesh Batra, 2013

“Sometimes even the wrong train takes you to the right destination”. An Indian housewife dealing with her cheating husband and dying father seeks love, attention and appreciation through her cooking. By mistake, the lunchbox she sends to her husband through the famous delivery system of Mumbai is delivered to the wrong address, sparking an unlikely and unique romance through letters packed along with lunch every day. A very sweet, emotional and refreshing movie.

Directed by: Charles Ferguson, 2010

This Oscar winning documentary is no standard film. Even by being beautifully crafted and having an amazing soundtrack–soundtracks are important–it does not miss its core story for a second. A delivery so good and so crisp that it will make you go “the sons of b” and “those motherf” more times than Joey from Friends got laid in 1999.

On a more serious note, Inside Job is a great and complete technical overview of the financial meltdown. I know the word “technical” scared you there, but it shouldn’t! The movie is simple, uses charts and colors for all of us who once thought figures and formulas were too complicated to understand — it even makes you go, “hey, this is not so difficult to understand. Them motherf.’ The movie is also very exciting: no spoilers but all I can say is that there are b*s trippin in there.

Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg, 2013

Once again, Mads Mikkelsen gives us an unforgettable performance in this Danish thriller. Lucas is a new teacher in a small town. He is just starting a new life after a divorce and the loss of his last job. One day, a child from the class he is teaching accuses him of an unforgivable act. The lie will spread throughout the small community and will tear Lucas’ life apart. The Hunt, or “Jagten” in its original version, is one of those rare thrillers that will haunt you for days, and make you question everything in its aftermath. Extraordinary!

Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki, 2001

This is director Hayao Miyazaki and producers Studio Ghibli at their best. On the surface level, it’s a film about a young girl who stumbles into an abandoned theme park with her parents. She accidentally finds herself in a creepy spiritual world wherein she must find a way to save her parents and escape. More broadly, however, this is a film about the struggle for Japanese cultural identity in the wake of the economic crisis of the early 90’s. A deep and deeply hypnotizing movie about a little girl’s journey.

Directed by: Joshua Oppenheimer, 2015

The Look of Silence is an incredible documentary from Director Joshua Oppenheimer, a follow-up/companion piece to his award-winning documentary The Act of Killing. Both films focus on the Indonesian Genocide of 1965-66, where the military government systematically purged up to one million communists. In this film an optician named Adi Rukun meets with various members of the death squad that murdered his brother, under the guise of providing them eye examinations. As he questions them about their participation in the killings, they show little remorse and in fact provide lurid details to the many executions. It’s a stunning and provocative look at the legacy of historical violence, along with the insidious propaganda that provoked it then and continues to justify it to younger generations.

Directed by: Taika Waititi, 2016

Taika Waititi’s follow-up to the (also great) What We Do in the Shadows, is a pure delight and the perfect antidote after a bad day or a steady diet of too many sad movies. “Bad egg” Ricky Baker has been bounced out of more foster care situations than he cares to remember until he’s given his last chance with a couple living on a rural New Zealand farm. After tragedy strikes early in the film Ricky and his foster uncle (Hec) find themselves on the run in the bush while a nationwide manhunt is initiated on their behalf. Hip-hop enthusiast Ricky and crusty, cantankerous Hec make quite the inspired pairing; this is a very funny film full of the deadpan humor that has become emblematic of Waititi’s work (Flight of the Conchords, Boy) but it is also oddly touching and full of heart.

Directed by: Park Chan-wook, 2003

On his daughter’s birthday, Oh Dae-su gets drunk and is arrested by the police. His friend bails him out of jail and while he is making a phone call Oh Dae-su disappears, and is held by unknown captors, in a room for 15 years only to see the outside world through a television. But one day he’s released. That’s all that can be revealed, without telling too much of this intense and twisted film. All I can add, and this is precisely how I recommend Oldboy to new viewers: “You’re welcome & I’m sorry.” It is truly a twisted film, one that is mesmerizing in it’s directing, acting, and plot, all of which will stay with you whether you like it or not.

Directed by: Marius A. Markevicius, 2012

Another fantastic documentary from 2012, this one tells the remarkable story of the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic Men’s Basketball team that received scant attention in the shadow of the renowned U.S. “Dream Team” of NBA superstars (Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, etc.). The Lithuanians’ story is all the more fascinating in that it comes immediately on the heels of their country’s freedom from Communist rule. With little hope of participating in the Barcelona games, they received the most unlikely last-minute assistance from the Grateful Dead, of all sources. A really great true-life story, told with an exuberance and a verve not often expected from non-fiction filmmaking. I challenge anyone watch this one and walk away uninspired.

Directed by: Bill Pohlad, 2014

The main reason to watch Love & Mercy could be that it’s about the life of Beach Boys leader Bryan Wilson, but it shouldn’t. That wouldn’t do the film any justice. Yes it is a great rock biopic, but its reach goes way beyond that: it’s a compelling and beautiful character study performed in unparalleled perfection by Paul Dano and John Cusack. It gives an inside look into the mind of a genius in all its glory and obscurity. And so much of it rings true because, yes, it is about the life Beach Boys leader Bryan Wilson. Such a unique and beautiful film.

Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006

I saw this movie about a month ago, and I can’t stop seeing it again every weekend. It’s so heartbreaking. Wiesler, an officer of the Stasi, is designated to spy on a playwright and his girlfriend because the State Security has doubts about their loyalty. However after a while Wiesler becomes absorbed in Dreyman and his girlfriend’s lives and that’s when the empathy and the human component surge to be confronted with orders, and the realities of the time.

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s film is a melodrama , quietly affecting, quietly chilling, quietly quiet. It captures the drab architecture of totalitarianism, the soul-dead buildings of a soul-dead state and the haunted freedom in that time.

Directed by: Eric Toledano, 2012

A wealthy paraplegic needs a new caretaker. His choice is surprising — an ex-con down on his luck. Both of their lives are changed forever. Based on a true story, it is funny, touching, and very surprising.  It will have you rolling on the floor laughing one minute and reaching for your hankie the next. Intouchables is one of those perfect movies, that will easily and instantly make anyone’s all-time top 10 list.

Directed by: Kurt Kuenne, 2008

You will not come out of this movie the same person you were going into it. Get ready to cry your eyes out, scream in anger, and rejoice that such a powerful love can exist in our world. DO NOT READ ANY SPOILERS OR SUMMARIES BEFORE VIEWING! This loving documentary about the father of a young boy is one of the best movies of this decade! We can’t recommend this film enough!

Directed by: Asif Kapadia, 2010

You will be most astonished by this electrifying documentary if you are not a racing fan, and even more if you have never heard of Ayrton Senna. The movie matches this character in being captivating beyond belief; incredibly powerful and sublime.

Director Asif Kapadia develops a compelling and exciting picture of F1 and the man that was Ayrton Senna. At a time when F1 cars were +1000hp fire breathing monsters and the grid was stacked with world champions, Senna rose above the rest to take 3 world championships and win the fabled Monaco Grand Prix a record 6 times. Unfortunately Senna’s life was cut short at the age of 34 in a devastating racing crash. By many he is still considered one the best and most exciting racing drivers to have ever stepped into an F1.

Directed by: Xavier Dolan, 2014

The story of a single mother trying to raise an unstable teenager and their interactions with the world surrounding them, Mommy is a movie that aims straight for the heart and doesn’t miss. It is so intense that you are likely to feel a kind of emotional tiredness after watching it. However, it is a beautiful intensity so to speak. Because while it has many joyous moments as well as funny ones, its true brilliance is reached while you are being punched in the guts. This is the more impacting with perfect the performances from the cast, the elaborate soundtrack and Xavier Dolan’s impeccable staging. Think of Mommy as the most beautiful heartbreaking movie you will ever watch, it will hurt, but you will never regret watching it, and you will find yourself recommending it to everyone you know.

Directed by: Asghar Farhadi, 2011

Winner of an Oscar and a Golden Globe among endless accolades, A Separation is the much celebrated movie about an Iranian couple faced with the decision of leaving the country for better opportunities or staying to take care of a sick parent. If you’ve ever been curious about the humans of Iran beyond the politics, and by cultural extension, humans of Middle-Eastern countries, watch A Separation.

But hold it, “An interesting foreign movie” is not how A Separation should be viewed (it’s not Slumdog Millionaire). As someone who grew up in a middle-class Muslim family, this film may be the only one to thoroughly portray many integral aspects of my upbringing.  It perfectly depicts the delicate interaction between high moral standards and the realities of underdevelopment: how many bad people are only good people running out of options, and how parents raise their children in a shell of love and protection by keeping them away from the outside world while struggling to also introduce them to it. On a separate level, it also portrays how people live ready to have every privilege they have ever had revoked and how the constant need to “man up” transforms people, as well as the role of religion in all this.

A Separation is my movie, not yours. And so I am asking you to watch this film the same way I’d want you to come visit and get to know my home country.

Directed by: Destin Cretton, 2013

Short Term 12 is exactly like being injured in a part of your body where you didn’t think it was possible to get injured before. It will hurt but it will make you care. Natural and understated by budget and by purpose, it is powered by perfect performances that will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride you will never forget. It is at times sweet, at times depressing and at times hilarious. The thing is, without even taking into consideration its small budget or the importance of the issues it talks about – we would still consider Short Term 12 as one of the best movies of the past 20 years.

Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino, 2013

A critical favorite and award-show sweeper, The Great Beauty celebrates the sheer decadence of Italian cinema and the Italian capitol, Rome, in a tour de force of luxury and gorgeousness. Following an aging bon vivant and Roman socialite who squandered a youth of artistic promise for the simple pleasures of being, the film is a meditation on art, regret, pleasure and the beauty of the eternal city.

Directed by: Sebastian Schipper, 2015

In the mood for an impeccably crafted real-life thriller? This movie is for you. On the way out of a nightclub Victoria runs into four raucous German men who convince her to hang out with them. She is from Spain and has been temporarily living in Berlin. Her German isn’t very good, but her English is passable. She shares some drinks with her new friends, and strikes up a flirtation with one of them. But what starts out as light-hearted hijinks at 4:30am eventually swerves into darker and more dangerous territory, as Victoria is coerced into participating in her German companions’ dangerous plans. While the plot may sound like your standard issue crime drama, Victoria turns out to be something a little different, due to the thrilling and unusual way it was filmed – in a single shot. In interviews the director has talked about his process, and the challenges of filming an over 2-hour movie (it clocks in at 138 minutes) in over 20 different locations throughout the city of Berlin. The “one take” filming process could be viewed as a stunt, but in this case, I think it works well to serve the story. The tension built from the tightrope walk of the actors and filming crew adds to the ratcheting tension of the story line. Laia Costa give an astounding lead performance. There is not a single scene in Victoria where she is not present, and the movie would simply not work without her. A crazy, awesome movie.

Directed by: Damián Szifron, 2014

Six vignettes that test the limits of psychotic human extremes are masterfully woven with layers of irony and satire. Each story begins in a relatable situation, but the characters propel themselves into an incomprehensible circumstance. Lovers of dark comedy will be delighted, shocked, and awed by this emotional thrill ride all while laughing their asses off. Truly, nothing more needs to be said about this film, so sit back and let the insanity ensue.

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve, 2011

A movie which will catch you from the first second, with one of the best movie beginnings of all time, up until its outstanding end. It is a slow-burning and calm film with nonetheless a very powerful impact. Incendies is guaranteed to be one of those movies you will never forget. The story is about Jeanne and Simon who, to fulfill their mother’s last wishes, must journey to her birthplace in an unnamed Middle-Eastern country. There they discover her tragic and sad past life, and unveil a deeply disturbing secret which will change their lives forever. The movie contains a series of flashbacks telling the story of the mother, Nawal Marwan, while the rest is from the viewpoint of her children.