20 Best New Movies to Rent

20 Best New Movies to Rent

April 10, 2024

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Gone are the days of browsing VHS copies on your nearest Blockbuster. Today, if you want a good watch, your best bet is to subscribe to a streaming platform or rent a movie online. The former is the more common option (and if you’re still on the lookout for the best service, we got you covered here), but the latter is preferable if your goal is to stay on top of the latest releases. Whether that’s a Hollywood hit, a festival front-runner, or the latest indie darling, you’ll likely find what you’re looking for on VOD rental platforms like Amazon, iTunes, and Vudu.

There are many to choose from for sure, but below, we list the very best new movies to rent and enjoy in the comfort of your own home.

1. Return to Seoul (2022)

best

9.5

Country

Belgium, Cambodia, France

Director

Davy Chou

Actors

Guka Han, Heo Jin, Hur Jin, Kim Dong-seok

Moods

Character-driven, Emotional, Lovely

In both documentaries and films, adoptees meeting their biological parents for the first time is an event often painted in a sweet light. Never mind the child’s mixed feelings about it or the tragic reality that caused the split in the first place—it’s a reunion between family members, so it must be unequivocally special. In Return to Seoul, director Davy Chou doesn’t just debunk that myth, he subverts it by making the adoptee, Freddie, as unapologetically complex and emotionally enigmatic as possible. She resists affection but wallows in loneliness. She craves reinvention but stays in the same place for years. She’s in constant motion while being absolutely stuck in life. In other words, she’s a realistic embodiment of a person struggling to find some semblance of home. Chou displays an intimate understanding of the foreign experience, and he couples it with captivating cinematography, a rousing soundtrack, and fantastic performances across the board to make a daring, inventive, and thoroughly exciting film. 

2. Aftersun (2022)

best

9.0

Country

Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Charlotte Wells, Female director

Actors

Celia Rowlson-Hall, Frankie Corio, Harry Perdios, Kieran Burton

Moods

Character-driven, Dark, Depressing

In Aftersun, Sophie recalls a holiday she took as an eleven-year-old in the ‘90s with her father. Video recordings help jog her memory, but she’s looking for more than just a blast from the past. Rather, she seems to be seeking answers to fill in the gaps between who she knew as her father and who he really was: an immensely nice but deeply troubled man.

At first, Aftersun looks like a simple but beautiful story about father and daughter bonding over the course of a summer trip. But within minutes, it’s clear that there are layers to Aftersun, emotionally and editorially, that aren’t always explained but nonetheless enrich the movie with profound meaning. Stirring, complex, and surprisingly inventive, it’s not surprising that Aftersun is one of the most beloved films of the past year. 

3. Saint Omer (2022)

best

9.0

Country

France

Director

Alice Diop, Female director

Actors

Adama Diallo Tamba, Alain Payen, Aurelia Petit, Charlotte Clamens

Moods

Challenging, Emotional, Intense

Nothing about Saint Omer is easy. A female Senegalese migrant (Guslagie Malanga) is put to trial for committing infanticide, but throughout the film, it becomes clear how much of a victim she is too, of an uncaring and deeply prejudiced society. “What drove her to madness?” Her attorney asks at one point. We’re not sure. We’re not necessarily asked to side with her, nor answer the many hard-hitting questions brought up in the film, but we sit with the uneasiness of it all and, in that silence, confront our ideas about motherhood, womanhood, personhood. 

This confusion is what makes the film so compelling. Despite the court’s best efforts, Laurence isn’t meant to be understood. She’s meant to be an example of the ever-ambiguous, forever-complicated, always-hurt person. It’s human nature after all to be this complex and messed up. The film shows us that the best that we can do in situations like this is to listen, understand, and as our protagonist Rama (Kayije Kagame) does, make peace with the noise. 

4. All The Beauty And The Bloodshed (2022)

best

9.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Laura Poitras

Actors

Annatina Miescher, Bernard Herrmann, Cookie Mueller, David Wojnarowicz

Moods

Gripping, Thought-provoking

In All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, documentarist Laura Poitras (Citizenfour, My Country, My Country) lends her empathetic and incisive lens to a subject so passionate and imaginative, she ends up collaborating with Poitras to co-create the documentary about her life. The subject is Nan Goldin, one of the most influential photographers of the late 20th century. 

The documentary captures Goldin’s work as a queer artist and anti-opioids activist, intertwining both aspects to tell a nuanced and incredibly important story about freedom, identity, and self-expression. This incredibly complex, encompassing, and vibrant feature won the top award at the Venice Film Festival, besting 19 other films from around the world.

5. No Bears (2022)

best

9.0

Country

Iran

Director

Jafar Panahi

Actors

Jafar Panahi, Mina Kavani, Narges Delaram, Naser Hashemi

Moods

Gripping, Mind-blowing, Original

The Iranian director Jafar Panahi has faced constant persecution from his country’s government for over a decade, for his career of sharply political films speaking truth to power. In fact, No Bears—which was shot in secret, in defiance of the government banning him from filmmaking for 20 years—had its initial festival run in 2022 while Panahi was in prison. Evidence of Panahi’s drive to keep making his movies, no matter what, are clear in this film’s limited resources and occasionally inconsistent video quality. But even those obstacles can’t get in the way of his vaulting ambition.

No Bears operates on several different layers that all express Panahi’s growing frustration with—but also his commitment to—making art that only ever seems to put himself and other people in harm’s way. At its base level, this is a suspenseful small-town thriller, as an exiled Jafar Panahi (playing himself) tries to evade suspicion from the villagers around him. At the same time, Jafar is struggling to direct a film remotely, which creates a strain on his production crew. On top of that, the characters in his film undergo their own drama, seeking asylum out of Turkey. All of this is edited together under a stirring screenplay written with heart, humor, and the hope that the institutions that try to scare us will never keep us in the dark forever.

6. Inu-oh (2021)

best

9.0

Country

Japan

Director

Masaaki Yuasa

Actors

Avu-chan, Chikara Honda, Gota Ishida, Haruki Nakagawa

Moods

Character-driven, Gripping, Mind-blowing

Inu-oh is a visually stunning and thought-provoking anime that reimagines a Japanese folk tale as it explores themes of artistic freedom, individuality, and the consequences of challenging societal norms. The movie’s striking imagery, original music, and captivating story make it a memorable viewing experience, delving into issues of identity and the prejudices faced by disabled individuals with sensitivity. While the catchy music may not appeal to everyone, the film’s unique blend of ancient and contemporary storytelling creates a creative triumph that anime fans will appreciate, offering social commentary and a reflection on the power of staying true to oneself.

7. Nothing Compares (2022)

best

8.9

Country

Ireland, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Female director, Kathryn Ferguson

Actors

Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Thought-provoking

Nothing Compares weaves a poignant story about one of the most misunderstood artists of our time, Sinéad O’Connor. The iconoclast first made waves in the ’80s with her catchy music, but she quickly reclaimed the reins of her own fame and used her platform to champion marginalized causes, long before pop stars were expected to do so. 

The documentary zeroes in on this part of O’Connor’s life: what prompted her to music and how she used it as a tool of activism. The answers are multi-faceted and handled here with extreme grace. Like the many from her generation, O’Connor struggled with religion and abuse, such was the Catholic Church’s hold on Ireland at the time time. 

The film contextualizes her once-shocking moments and reveals how they were all grounded on things she cared about. It’s a beautiful piece of work that reassesses and redeems a wronged artist who was ahead of her time.

8. Living (2022)

best

8.7

Country

Japan, Sweden, United Kingdom

Director

Oliver Hermanus

Actors

Adrian Rawlins, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Barney Fishwick

Moods

Dramatic, Emotional, Heart-warming

Adapted from the Japanese film Ikiru, which in turn was adapted from the Russian story The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Living is a parable about, well, living. Specifically, it’s about the importance of wonder and the magic of the mundane. It’s also about legacy and the stories we leave in our wake, which live on long after we’re gone. This familiar premise could have very easily been turned into another trite and cheesy movie that warns you to make the most out of your life, but thanks to a lean script, assured camerawork, and powerfully restrained performances, Living is elevated into something more special than that. It’s a technically beautiful, well told, and profoundly moving film, with Bill Nighy giving a career-best turn as a repressed man aching for meaning in his twilight years. 

9. Riceboy Sleeps (2022)

best

8.6

Country

Canada

Director

Anthony Shim

Actors

Aiden Finn, Anthony Shim, Bryce Hodgson, Choi Jong-ryul

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Dramatic, Emotional

Riceboy Sleeps looks like a fairy tale. Taken in 16mm and colored to pastel-grain perfection, it’s a captivating picture that moves like a happy memory. And occasionally, the action matches the air. Mother So-young (Choi Seung-yoon) and son Dong-hyun (Ethan Hwang) share a fierce, us-against-the-world bond as they strive to make it in a Canadian suburb without a lick of help. 

The film is beautiful that way, but it also importantly doesn’t spare us from the harsh-edged realities of immigrant life. There are assimilation attempts, cultural divides, and on Dong-hyun’s part, a perpetual longing to know about an unknowable past. It’s a lovely picture, to be sure, but it’s also a tear-jerker, as heartbreaking as it is heartwarming. 

Coupled with writing and performances that are resonant but restrained (they never verge on melodrama), Riceboy Sleeps makes for a powerful debut and a truly unforgettable watch.

10. To Leslie (2022)

best

8.5

Country

United States of America

Director

Michael Morris

Actors

Alan Trong, Alan Wells, Allison Janney, Andre Royo

Moods

Challenging, Character-driven, Dark

To Leslie follows the eponymous Leslie (Andrea Riseborough), a Southern woman who finds herself at the bottom of the barrel after finally using up every penny of her $190k lottery win. Out of work, friends, and family, she drowns herself in alcohol—that is until a kind soul in the form of motel owner Sweeney (Marc Maron) takes her in and gives her a shot.

To Leslie starts off a bit slow, and its premise may seem like it’ll give way to weepiness, but it’s worth sticking by till the end. The film only gets better, especially with the arrival of Maron, whose presence lends the film a much-needed buoyancy. It’s also worth noting that unlike many of its kind, To Leslie avoids the poverty porn trap by depicting issues like addiction and indigence with nuance, honesty, and humanity.

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