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5 Best Movies to Watch by Asghar Farhadi

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Not one but two Oscars as well as a Golden Globe are among this movie’s never-ending list of accolades. It was the first Iranian film ever to get an Oscar and the first non-English film ever nominated for Best Screenplay. Originally titled The Separation of Nader from Simin in Persian, it homes in on the dissolving relationship of a middle-class couple from Teheran – and the unintended consequences of tragic events. However, this film is so intense, well-acted, and well-written, it defies categorization. To be sure, the movie does offer a painful look at a deteriorating marriage. It’s also timely, dealing with the politics of theocracy, economic underdevelopment, and social alienation. It presents tense moral dilemmas without pointing a finger. If you’re curious to learn about the humans of Iran and, by cultural extension, the humans of the Middle East beyond the scope of global politics, A Separation is also for you. But please don’t call it world cinema, because this is no Slumdog Millionaire. Above all, it is a searing portrayal of human conflict, relationships, and morals. It is an almost perfect depiction of how many bad people are simply good people running out of options.

9.7

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In The Salesman, Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, About Elly), tells the story of a happily married couple who live in Tehran: Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti). When they are forced to move to a new apartment, something about the previous tenant causes a sudden eruption of violence that turns their lives upside down, causing strain on their relationship. Farhadi does what he does best here: deliver on complex issues that characterize his society through ordinary events. Every scene is a privileged look into Iran's collective consciousness. And even with all that aside, the film still stands as an extraordinary drama, with a tense plot and amazing performances across the board.

9.1

Beautiful story-telling and powerful acting boost the story of an Iranian man returning to France to finalize his divorce. He finds that his wife has a new lover. A lot more happens that I wouldn't want to spoil for you, the film is in fact directed by Iranian legend Asghar Farhadi, so expect twists and subtleties you're probably familiar with from A Separation or About Elly. That said, The Past remains to some extent different from his previous work since it focuses on romantic relationships, failed ones, and the toll they take on the humans involved. Learning about the characters is a lot like meeting them in real life and hearing their stories: it's hard to take sides or tell who's wrong - you'd rather stay silent and try to make sense of it all.

9.0

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.

9.0

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Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem star in this mystery by Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian Oscar-winning director of A Separation and The Salesman. When Laura returns to her small Spanish hometown with her two daughters, she is greeted with the warm welcome worthy of someone who once was a loved member of the community. However, when an event concerning one of her daughters happens at a wedding, secrets come to the surface about her history that threaten the fabric of the whole village. Laura is masterfully played by Penélope Cruz, who seems to shift gears in this Spanish-language movie. Farhadi is outside of his usual territory, but he does what he does best: deliver a rich, thrilling family drama.

7.2
Also see: The Very Best
The Very Best are our staff picks, they're all rated 8.0 and above. Here, we selected a few for you.

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Shot in black and white to be the best dialogue-driven, character-study film it can be; Blue Jay stars Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass in a cozy, slow-burning film. Their characters, respectively Amanda and Jim, are former high-school sweethearts who run into each other in their hometown 20 years later. They talk, they get coffee, and then beer and jelly beans, until they find themselves to Jim’s mother’s house. As they familiarize themselves again, and the movie moves forward, it abandons its romantic chops to become a truly heartfelt and real film. A revelation of a movie.

9.1

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Much like Berlin’s infamous nightlife, which serves as the backdrop to the plot, this daring German real-time drama will eat you up and spit you out. After leaving a nightclub at 4am, Victoria, a runaway Spanish girl, befriends a gang of four raucous young men, climbing rooftops and drinking beers among the city’s moon-lit streets. The gang’s light-hearted banter is impressively improvised from a skeleton script, offset by Niels Frahm’s ominous original score. But what starts out as late-night high jinks swerves into darker territory. Driven by her infatuation with the pack leader Sonne, played by Frederick Lau, Victoria ends up being recruited as a get-away driver for an ill-prepared bank robbery and loses herself in a sinister spiral of events. What sounds like a standard-issue crime drama is, in fact, a staggering cinematic experiment. Filmed in one take, on location, and in real time, the movie’s production is indeed a gamble, but director Sebastian Schipper more than pulls it off. The claustrophobic camerawork of cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen leaves the viewer feeling like a hapless accomplice to Victoria’s plight. With Laia Costa giving an awe-striking lead performance, the high wire acting of the entire main cast only adds to this effect. Victoria is a stellar directorial debut, heart-stopping drama, and a truly immersive experience.

9.8

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A beautifully crafted film about the unrequited love of two people renting adjacent rooms in a Shanghaiese territory in Hong Kong in the 1960s. The main characters, played by Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, struggle to stay true to their values rather than give in to their desires although they both suspect their spouses of extramarital activities. The flawless acting and stunning visuals and editing wonderfully represent the melancholia of repressed emotions, and help the audience truly "feel" the film's "mood".

9.2
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