7 Best Movies to Watch by Annette Bening

Staff & contributors

Sit back, relax, and wait for the feels. With amazing performances from an ensemble cast, including Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and Annette Bening, as well as excellent directing; The Kids Are Alright is a highly realistic yet entertaining take on families, growing up as children, and growing as parents. Moore and Bening play a gay LA couple, whose two kids meet their biological father, a goofy, laid-back sperm donor, portrayed perfectly by Ruffalo. Nominated for four Oscars and awarded with two Golden Globes, The Kids Are Alright is an arresting, authentic, and astute indie comedy-drama, and a pleasure to watch. Director Lisa Cholodenko and her talented cast have really created something special here!

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Amy Grabow, Annette Bening, Diego Calderón, Eddie Hassell, Eric Eisner, James MacDonald, Joaquin Garrido, Josh Hutcherson, Julianne Moore, Kunal Sharma, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Rebecca Lawrence Levy, Sasha Spielberg, Stuart Blumberg, Yaya DaCosta, Zosia Mamet

Director: Lisa Cholodenko

Rating: R

One of Shakespeare’s most indelible works is brought roaring to life in this explosive adaptation. The action is transposed from the 1400s to brutalist 1930s England, with the bloody civil war between the houses of Lancaster and York being waged by tanks and planes instead of cavalry. The switch isn’t merely cosmetic, though: in an inspired move, usurper Richard is reimagined here as the fascist head of an army of Nazi-esque Blackshirts (an analog of real militant far-right leader Oswald Mosley). Ian McKellen, who also co-wrote the screenplay, gives an odious but brilliant performance as the titular Machiavellian schemer who will stop at nothing to seize the crown, even betraying his own blood.

McKellen is joined by a gluttony of acting talent: Maggie Smith plays the King's despairing mother, Annette Bening and Robert Downey Jr. are the unfortunate American queen and her brother, while the likes of Jim Broadbent, Bill Paterson, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Jim Carter fill up the royal court. All the richness of Shakespeare’s original writing is retained, charging the performances and the film around them with a grand sense of drama. Peter Biziou’s ostentatious cinematography is a perfect frame for it all, and helps cement this as much, much more than a piece of filmed theater.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: Adrian Dunbar, Andy Rashleigh, Annette Bening, Bill Paterson, Christopher Bowen, Denis Lill, Derek Lyons, Dominic West, Donald Sumpter, Edward Hardwicke, Edward Jewesbury, Ian McKellen, James Dreyfus, Jim Broadbent, Jim Carter, John Wood, Kate Steavenson-Payne, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Michael Elphick, Nigel Hawthorne, Robert Downey Jr., Roger Hammond, Tim McInnerny, Tres Hanley

Director: Richard Loncraine

Rating: R

Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano), a young and promising novelist imagines and writes about his idea of a perfect female companion. Somehow, his words manifest into reality - the beautiful and corky Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan). Soon, however, his magical love turns shallow as his creation begins to think for herself and wrestle against her creation. This romantic comedy has the right amount of wit and emotion with a deep message of loving people just the way they are.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Aasif Mandvi, Alia Shawkat, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Casey Genton, China Shavers, Chris Messina, Claudia Bestor, Deborah Ann Woll, Diana Parros, Eden Brolin, Eleanor Seigler, Elliott Gould, Emma Jacobs, Jane Anne Thomas, Janine King, John F. Beach, Kai Lennox, Mark Roman, Mary Jo Deschanel, Michael Berry Jr., Paul Dano, Rick L. Dean, Rightor Doyle, Steve Coogan, Tatiana Sarasty, Toni Trucks, Wallace Langham, Zoe Kazan

Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Rating: R

Adam Driver, Annette Bening, and Jon Hamm are among the many recognizable faces of this star-packed political drama.

Driver, pictured above in his ‘I’m goofy but I will save the world’ signature stare 😍, plays Daniel J. Jones, an investigator working with the Senate. He is assigned to write a report (“the” report) about the CIA torture program post 9/11.

If you so much as liked Vice, the hit movie from earlier this year, you will love The Report. It covers similar grounds: incompetency, unclear intentions, confusion, etc; but in a way that is more to-the-point (which might make it feel dry to some). It also helps in understanding or getting a refresher on, how the Senate works and how organizations like the CIA interact with (bully) other branches of government. 

I would almost go as far as to say that if you are a U.S. citizen, watching this movie, with its many goofy Adam Driver moments, is your civic duty.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adam Driver, Alexander Chaplin, Annette Bening, April Rogalski, Ben McKenzie, Carlos Gómez, Corey Stoll, Daniel London, Dominic Fumusa, Douglas Hodge, Evander Duck Jr., Fajer Kaisi, Guy Boyd, Hope Blackstock, Ian Blackman, Jake Silbermann, James Hindman, Jennifer Morrison, Joanne Tucker, John Rothman, Jon Hamm, Joseph Siravo, Julia K. Murney, Kate Beahan, Linda Powell, Lucas Dixon, Matthew Rhys, Maura Tierney, Michael C. Hall, Noah Bean, Pun Bandhu, Ratnesh Dubey, Sandra Landers, Sarah Goldberg, Scott Shepherd, Sean Dugan, T. Ryder Smith, Ted Levine, Tim Blake Nelson, Victor Slezak, West Duchovny, Zuhdi Boueri

Director: Scott Z. Burns

Rating: R

Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and many other big names star in this comedy-drama directed by Mike Mills (Beginners, Thumbsucker.) The story spans multiple generations but starts in 1979, where Dorothea Fields (Bening) is finding it increasingly difficult to raise her son alone. She enlists the help of two other women, one her son’s age and the other a New Yorker in her twenties who is very active in the punk scene. The three women, of three different generations and personalities as well as takes on the concept of “only a man can raise a man,” play different roles in this kid’s life. 20th Century Women is based on director Mike Mill’s own upbringing in Southern California.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Wexo, Alia Shawkat, Alison Elliott, Annette Bening, Billy Crudup, Britt Sanborn, Cameron Gellman, Cameron Protzman, Christina Offley, Christopher Carroll, Curran Walters, Daniel Dorr, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Elle Fanning, Eric Wentz, Finn Roberts, Gareth Williams, Greta Gerwig, J. Francisco Rodriguez, John Billingsley, Joshua Burge, Kai Lennox, Kirk Bovill, Laura Slade Wiggins, Lucas Jade Zumann, Matthew Cardarople, Matthew Foster, Mike Mills, Nathalie Love, Olivia Hone, Paul Messinger, Paul Tigue, Randy Ryan, Rick Gifford, Thea Gill, Toni Christopher, Victoria Bruno, Victoria Hoffman, Vitaly Andrew LeBeau, Waleed Zuaiter

Director: Mike Mills

Rating: R

, 2023

After winning Oscars for their documentary work, filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin make their narrative feature debut with Nyad. The move to narrative fiction isn’t a monumental jump for the director duo, whose cinematic documentaries (among them Free Solo and The Rescue) play like nerve-shredding action thrillers and intense human dramas. Nor does Nyad’s subject — another extreme feat of human daring and endurance — make this feel a million miles away from their most famous works.

The most obvious departures from the directors’ documentary strengths — Nyad’s flashbacks and hallucination scenes, for example — do sometimes highlight their newness to narrative filmmaking, however. These scenes feel shallow and therefore disconnected from the movie’s otherwise deeper treatment of its subject, just as the performances dip into outsized cliches at times. Mostly, though, Nyad manages to float above the trap of trying too hard to be an inspirational sports drama thanks to its confrontation of Diana’s prickly personality. This flips the film’s perspective onto that of Diana’s team (including her coach and former girlfriend, played by Jodie Foster), who ultimately suffer the consequences of her stubbornness. That refusal to submit to hagiographic impulses gives the film a documentary-like edge of truth, making the rousing moments here feel genuinely earned.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Anna Harriette Pittman, Annette Bening, Carolyn McCormick, Diana Nyad, Eric T. Miller, Erica Cho, Ethan Jones Romero, Garland Scott, Jeena Yi, Jodie Foster, Johnny Solo, Karly Rothenberg, Katherine Klosterman, Luke Cosgrove, Marcus Young, Melissa R. Stubbs, Nadia Lorencz, Rhys Ifans, Stephen Schnetzer, Tisola Logan

Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

Rating: PG-13

In this neo-noir crime drama, John Cusack, Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening play a trio of con-artists in modern day (1990) California. Roy (Cusack) is a small-stakes hustler prone to swindling bartenders and drunken sailors for pocket money, while Lilly (Huston) plays his estranged mother who reappears in his life while working a series of horse track bluffs. Myra (Bening) notches in between the two of them as Cusack’s boisterous yet conniving girlfriend, and the instant mutual dislike between her and Lilly sets the film’s course of action in motion. It’s a fun, edgy thriller that will leave you guessing up until it's shocking finale. Elevated immeasurably by Elmer Bernstein’s old-fashioned, hard boiled music score, The Grifters is a real feather in the hat for both director Stephen Frears and producer Martin Scorsese.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Anjelica Huston, Annette Bening, Billy Ray Sharkey, Charles Napier, David Sinaiko, Eddie Jones, Frances Bay, Gailard Sartain, Gregory Sporleder, Henry Jones, Ivette Soler, J.T. Walsh, Jan Munroe, Jeff Perry, Jeremy Piven, Jimmy Noonan, John Cusack, Jon Gries, Juliet Landau, Lou Hancock, Martin Scorsese, Michael Laskin, Micole Mercurio, Noelle Harling, Pat Hingle, Paul Adelstein, Richard Holden, Robert Weems, Sandy Baron, Stephen Tobolowsky, Steve Buscemi, Sy Richardson, Teresa Gilmore, Xander Berkeley

Director: Stephen Frears

Rating: R