Highly-rated yet little-known movies

agoodmovietowatch suggests excellent movies (and recently shows) that you might not know about. Curated by humans, not algorithms. Read More.

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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

Shia Laboeuf and Stellan Skarsgård star in this true story about one of the greatest tennis matches in history: the 1980 Wimbledon final. The movie dissects what drives both competitors (one played by Laboeuf and the other by Sverrir Gudnason). Their personalities, considered opposites, are studied through their paths and how they got into tennis. All this leads to that one match, in this beautiful story of dealing with competition and fear of failure. Don’t stop watching when the credits roll, read what they say!

8.0

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac star in this slow-burning but impeccable crime thriller.Abel Morales (Isaac) owns a fuel distribution company in 1980s New York. His competitors are violent and corrupt, and the feds are after him. The temptation to resort to unlawful methods is high, especially that his wife (Chastain) is the daughter of a mobster.A Most Violent Year is about how this temptation of corruption unfolds and whether Abel will surrender to it or not.

8.0

Girl won four awards at the Cannes Film Festival last year and was nominated to 9 Magritte Awards. It was also Belgium’s entry to the Oscar for best foreign-language film. When a dance school accepts her, Lara has the opportunity to realize her dream and become a professional ballerina. The dancing takes a toll on her body, but her biggest obstacle is that she was born into the body of a boy. Girl illustrates the trans teenage experience with sensitivity, slowly and humanly making Lara’s anguish become the viewer’s. Based on a true story.

7.6

Thunder Road is both a single-shot 13 minute short and a 91-minute feature-film expanding the story. Both are excellent and award-winning, but I really recommend the full experience!Jim Cummings (above) is the director, writer, and main actor of this dark comedy. He plays a police officer having the worst day of his life as he tries to sing Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road at his mother’s funeral.This sight is funny, and so is most of the story. But it’s also cringe-inducing, and because the main character is so sincere in his decline, will make you feel guilty about laughing so much.

7.4

Philipp Seymour Hoffman stars in this family drama next to Laura Linney as siblings. They have to unite to support their father who after the death of his girlfriend finds himself alone. The Savages, after the family name, have dynamics that are all too common and easily recognizable. This is a beautiful and real movie.

7.2

Demian Bichir was nominated for an Oscar for his role in this movie where he plays an illegal immigrant and father. You might be wondering "who is that?", but trust me you won't after watching this movie. The kindness, complexity, and authenticity he brings to this story are unparalleled.A Better Life is about the illegal immigrant experience, about the line between the fear of being caught and the aspiration for a better future. It's an excellent and important movie.

7.6

An insightful and thoughtful Canadian coming-of-age drama, Giant Little Ones is about two seventeen-year-old best friends whose relationship changes after an incident one night. Spanning a quick 90 minutes, it manages to tell its story quickly and honestly, as it touches on themes of sexual identity not only for the teenagers but for their parents as well. And it has a great message about tolerance. It's a lovely and wholesome movie.

7.8

We all love Jeff Bridges. We all agree that we shouldn't leave a movie he won an Oscar for unwatched. That's enough reason to watch this movie, but there are so many others. The story is fantastic and based on true events: a country musician living rough and having a shot at happiness after he falls for a journalist who interviews him. The score is composed by T Bone Burnett. The journalist is played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and another musician is played by Colin Farrell.So many reasons to watch.

8.1

Russel Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Lucas Hedges (Manchester By the Sea) form an amazing pack of talent in this excellent drama. Crowe plays the father, a priest, and Kidman the mom, a religious person as well. When their son comes out as gay, they decide more or less with his acceptance to send him to a conversion therapy center. The movie is about the experience of the center but it's also about the family dynamic as a whole. Also stars Joel Edgerton, who also adapted the screenplay (a true story) and directed the movie.

9.0
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This true story of a white-supremacist and the civil rights unit that tried to stop his group was so gripping. You might recognize the title from the Oscars ceremony, as a shorter version of Skin (same director but different actors) won the Academy Award for Best Short Film. The longer movie provides much more time for the characters to develop, and room for more of a commentary on the current political situation in the U.S.Fun fact: see that scary man in the picture? That’s Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell who went through a transformation for the role, including always wearing a device to pull his ears closer to his head because they were “too cute”.

8.1

A razor-sharp script and beautiful scenery make this one of the best road movies in recent memory.When their cynical best friend dies, Seph and Alex embark on a journey to scatter his ashes over four spots he wants to go back to. Tupperware of ashes in the glove-box, they start their big adventure.Burn Burn Burn, an expression their friend quotes from Kerouac, is a chance for the two friends to escape their hectic city life and to discover themselves. It’s a beautiful movie.

8.0

This is a slightly weird and not so slightly quirky movie to be avoided by anyone with a low tolerance to the weird or quirky. Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Frances Ha) and Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, also Frances Ha) write the story, while Gerwig plays a lead role. Two girls, one a New Yorker and the other having just arrived in New York for a writing program, get in touch because their parents will marry. The writer is fascinated by the personality of the New Yorker and follows her everywhere to understand her more, and eventually write about her. Mistress America is their journey through friendship and through New York. Stick around the first 40 minutes or so, because the second half of this 82-minute movie is hilarious.

7.0

This is a gorgeous Danish period drama that’s based on a famous story and book in Denmark called Lykke-Per (or Lucky Per) by Nobel Prize-winning author Henrik Pontoppidan.Per, the son of an overbearing catholic priest, leaves his family house in the country side to seek a new life in Copenhagen. His passion about engineering was at the time contrary with the Christian faith, but manages to introduce him to the capital’s elite, and a chance at social ascension.Lykke-Per and A Fortunate Man are about nature versus nurture. Per’s passion about engineering and renewable energy (back in the 1920s) is set against his need to emancipate and the pride that was instilled in him by his upbringing.

7.5

Graduation is a Romanian movie from the director of the Palme d’Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (also number 15 in the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.)Romeo is a 49-year-old doctor in the city of Cluj-Napoca. He is immensely proud and dedicated to his daughter, Eliza, who gets awarded a scholarship to go to Cambridge provided that she does well in her last high-school exam.The day before this exam, Elisa is sexually assaulted outside her school, and her wrist is broken. The event haunts the family and jeopardizes Elisa’s chances of succeeding in her exam.Romeo, still determined to ensure his daughter’s success, vows to do anything to not let the assault ruin his daughter’s future. Graduation is about this father and daughter duo as they go against a corrupt but quickly changing Romanian system.

7.9

This Netflix production is based on a case that rocked public opinion in Italy. Stefano Cucchi was arrested for a minor drug charge and died five days later from police brutality.The movie takes its time to expose what Cucchi went through, which might lead some viewers to find On My Skin slow, and rightfully so. Thinking about the issues at hand here, it’s easy to understand why the director made that choice. In fact, Italians’ complex relationship with the Carabinieri, a division of the Italian army that carries out domestic policing, is delicate to explain and requires meticulous unveiling.Nominated to nine David di Donatello Awards (the equivalent of the Academy Awards in Italy), of which it won three.

7.7

Shoplifters is the Winner of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival from Japan. It's about a poor family made of small-time outlaws who live from shoplifting amongst other petty crimes. They take in a new girl they find outside in the cold and introduce her to their otherwise happy family. But when the second-youngest member of the family finds himself teaching her how to shoplift, he faces a moral dilemma that threatens the fabric of the family.From renown director Hirokazu Koreeda, and if you don't know who that is - I really recommend checking out his other movies. Namely, Still Walking, Like Father, Like Son and After the Storm.Koreeda is often referred to as the best Japenese filmmaker alive, and Shoplifters is solid proof that he deserves that title. Its affecting story and slow-burning nature are sure to stay with you for a long time.

9.1

A gritty and realistic thriller set in France’s notorious capital city of crime - Marseille. Zachary is released from Juvenile prison to learn that his mother has abandoned him. He finds kinship in an underage sex worker by the name of Shéhérazade. This seems like the set-up for a tough watch, but Shéhérazade plays like a romance when it’s slow, and a crime thriller when it’s fast (it’s mostly fast). Everything about the story and two leads’ relationship rings true. Added to the fact that it has no interest in emotionally manipulating you, the movie is more gripping and thought-provoking than sad.A great story, fantastic acting from the cast of first-timers, and outstanding direction give the feeling that Shéhérazade is bound to become a modern classic. If you liked City of God, you will love this.

8.6

Vague statement alert: Burning is not a movie that you “get”; it’s a movie you experience.Based on a short story by Murakami, it’s dark and bleak in a way that comes out more in the atmosphere of the movie rather than what happens in the story.Working in the capital Seoul, a young guy from a poor town near the North Korean border runs into a girl from his village. As he starts falling for her, she makes an unlikely acquaintance with one of Seoul’s wealthy youth (played by Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, pictured above.)This new character is mysterious in a way that’s all-too-common in South Korea: young people who have access to money no one knows where it came from, and who are difficult to predict or go against.Two worlds clash, poor and rich, in a movie that’s really three movies combined into one - a character-study, a romance, and a revenge thriller.

7.7

This movie’s energy is completely intoxicating.It’s the directorial debut of renown British/Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, but it feels like the work of a veteran.In a true story told in English and Chichewa (a language from Malawi), a young boy is expelled from school because his parents couldn’t afford tuition. At the same time, his village is struck by a variety of natural circumstances that bring them the threat of drought and famine.The young boy sneaks into the library in the hopes of making a windmill and saving his village, and you can guess what follows from the title.The triumph of engineering and a boy with a dream; mix in an incredibly interesting culture, full of unique family dynamics and a thought-provoking intersection between religion, tradition, and technology. The result is a delicate but uplifting movie, not to be missed.

7.9

Cinematography is a big part of Cold War, the story moves through stunning shots of the Polish countryside and later on an incredibly delicate portrait of Paris. All of that would be a waste if you watch it on an iPhone, so I really recommend watching this on as big of a screen as you can get your hands on.In 1950s Cold War Poland, a band of folk musicians find themselves used as a tool for Soviet propaganda. Their travel through the country is hijacked by this agenda, but it remains an incredible journey. It goes through different seasons and aesthetics uncovering lost Polish songs and poems.The leader of the band falls in love with one of the dancers, and the limits imposed on the couple under communist rule make them seek alternatives. Cold War is a statement on how far artists go for their art, especially when they become constrained not only by politics but by romance.It’s a poetic yet quiet movie that doesn’t scream its point but rather invites you to come to your own conclusions.

9.2
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A powerful but quiet movie directed by Paul Dano and based on a novel of the same name by Richard Ford. It stars Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal as a couple who move to a new town with their only child during the 1960s. Their relationship transforms after Gyllenhaal's character loses his job as a butler and chooses to leave for a more dangerous profession, firefighting. This movie is about his wife's response to this event and the implications of both parents' behavior on their kid. There are no twists or turns, exciting action or plot; but Wildlife doesn't need any of that. This moving story about a decaying family unit is portrayed in the sadness that comes with such events. The only joy comes from watching the outstanding (but expected) performances of the cast.

8.1

This is a star-packed movie about two brother assassins played by John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix, and starring Jake Gyllenhaal. You might have read the book of the same name, and it is always hard to make a great film out of a great book but the brilliant director of A Prophet Jacques Audiard has done it (again). He is aided by a superb darkly comic script and fantastic acting from the entire cast. Audiard is French, but his take on the American Western is filled with epic violence but also witty dialogue, brotherly love, and male camaraderie.

7.9

Iceland is a country of vast lands but limited population - only about 300,000 people can call themselves Icelandic. On the other hand, 8 million people have connecting flights through Iceland every year. In this setting of mass movement, a single mother dealing with poverty is offered a chance to turn things around - a job as a border agent. One of her first days, she comes across an asylum seeker on a connecting flight from Guinea Bissau to Canada, trying to cross with a fake passport. Their stories don’t only intertwine as border agent and asylum seeker, but as two mothers. And Breathe Normally is about struggling with poverty both in Europe and coming from a place like Guinea Bissau. It’s a beautiful, plot-heavy statement on the importance of solidarity and of seeing the human behind the country of origin or race.

7.8

This film really satisfied my craving for an original thriller, despite the fact that I spent most of it thinking about how Logan Marshall-Green looks like a budget Tom Hardy.He plays a guy whose wife is killed during a violent mugging that also leaves him paralyzed in the aftermath. When a billionaire approaches him with an Artificial Intelligence solution that would "upgrade" his body, he has a chance to take vengeance.This is Robocop meets Ex Machina meets Blade Runner. It's original, low-budget without feeling low-budget, and honestly just so thrilling. It gives the genre of sci-fi a much needed upgrade.

8.7

When asked about starring in First Reformed, Ethan Hawke said it’s the kind of role he would have never dared to audition for 10 years ago. This is coming from the same goatee icon who did Gattaca 22 years ago, and Training Day 18 years ago. Needless to say that his performance in this movie is exceptional, and we hope that it will be rewarded with an Oscar. The film centers around his character, a reverend of a church in New York, who is trying to help a couple with marital issues (deciding the fate of a pregnancy). Instead, he uncovers a deeper story and becomes unexpectedly involved. Religion intersects with ethical questions on activism, abortion, and environmental issues. I know that sounds like a lot, but First Reformed delivers on everything. The writing by Paul Schrader is delicate yet ensures that the movie keeps a gripping pace.

8.8

Steve Carrell delivers an amazing performance here. Beautiful Boy is a movie that is based on a true story that first appeared as a best-selling serialized memoir. It’s about a son’s journey through drug abuse and how his relationship with his father evolves. The son is played by Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name), Carrell is the dad. As you can probably guess, the themes of drug addiction and family are made to induce tears, which this movie manages to do in a lot of ways. It can come across as somewhat emotionally manipulative at times. In those moments, it helps to remind oneself that it is based on a true story. The performances and the exploration of the limits of the father-son relationship remain the reasons why you should consider watching this movie.

8.2

It wouldn't be too far of a reach to evoke Kids (1995) while diving into Mid90s. But instead of taking on the HIV crisis, Mid90s is a much more tender, poignant reflection on coming of age in 90's skate culture. Jonah Hill, writer and director, examines the complexities of trying to fit in and the difficult choices one has to embrace individualism. From an opening of physical abuse to scenes of drug usage and traumatic experiences, Mid90s is a meditation not only on culture, but also a subtle examination of what it means to be human, to reach emotional and physical limitations, and to seek acceptance. Filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio, Mid90s doesn't concern itself with grandiose filmography, but instead the aspect ratio almost reflects the tonal and metaphorical aspects played out on screen. With a smaller dynamic range of color and the familiar dust/scratches, the 16mm film compliments gritty and emotional moments of Mid90s. The emotional range of the film will take the audience from the depths of empathy to laughing out loud, but there is no compromise to the weight of each moment. Jonah Hill's directorial debut is beautiful in every sense of the word.

8.0

A relevant and deeply entertaining movie that only has the appearance of being about politics. In reality, it is about television, and one brilliant journalist’s pursuit of the perfect interview. Richard Nixon stepped away from the public eye after the Watergate scandal, and was counting on a series of interviews three years later to redeem himself. His team assigns an unlikely reporter to sit in front of him, a British reality TV host named David Frost. Both men have everything to gain from this interview by going against each other, as Frost tries to extract a confession of wrongdoing in Watergate that Nixon never gave. Who will win? The master manipulator or the up-and-coming journalist? Frost / Nixon was originally a play, and this adaptation is full of drama and boosts great dialogue.

8.8

It’s hard to pin point exactly what makes this movie so good. It’s an all-around “movie” movie. I think it can be called a buddy comedy because it is about two best friends who are also movers. It’s about their day-to-day, their families and their relationships. They’re both from the underclass of Oakland, and one of them is black, the other is white. And that’s where it stops being a comedy and becomes a more hard-hitting film. It illustrates gentrification better than any other movie I’ve ever seen. It has relevant and striking commentary on the main characters’ race, upbringing, and identity. But at the end of the day, it has a great plot, and for the most part it’s an easy-flowing movie. It’s half entertainment, half social commentary, and both parts are equally well-done. It’s like movie unicorn, and it’s perfection. One of the two friends is played by Daveed Diggs, who you might know from Hamilton.

8.0

Finnish director and megastar Aki Kaurismäki hits with yet another absurd but poignant movie. The Other Side of Hope is about a Syrian refugee and his journey across Finland, both the country and the culture, in hopes for a fresh start. It's a genuine and simple movie, played masterfully by a cast of newcomers. But in its simplicity, it elicits empathy on a subject that most of us choose not to dwell on nowadays. Aki Kaurismäki has the unbelievable skill of distilling tragic events into their humane component. A movie to give credit to, and to watch without any prior expectations - unless you're familiar with Aki Kaurismäki's previous work.

7.6

I always seek out Icelandic films; something about the quality of light and quirky sensibility that appeal to me. Having developed a fondness for sheep on a recent Welsh trek, "Rams" had a double attraction. A tale of brothers divided by life but ultimately united in and by their deep, tender, inspiring love of their rams. Close to perfection. Sigurdur Sigurdurjonsson is luminous in the lead role.

7.5

Paul Giamatti, man. Ever watched Win/Win? What a performance. I didn’t think he could do any better than that. But here he did.This movie is now on Netflix. It’s about a couple that is trying to have a kid but can’t. Their frustration grows, but so does their willingness to do whatever it takes to become parents. They try to adopt, go to fertility clinics and ultimately ask their niece to donate her eggs. To really work, such a plot requires well-written, multifaceted characters one can relate to. I did, and it really worked.

8.1

You live in a strange world. Or at least, that's what the generation before you thinks. Eight Grade is a movie that follows a girl going through her generation's strange world. Social media, selfies, Youtube; you name it. But also, the weight of her expectations (as shaped by the internet) versus her reality. Written and directed by famous comedian Bo Burnham, it's a gentle and often funny look at our anxieties and how they shape our growth. Prepare for a lot of cringes.

7.9

If you’ve never heard of Sonia Braga, you’re in for a ride with this movie.She is, in my opinion, one of the best actresses alive today. In Aquarius, she stars as a 65-year-old trying to keep the home in which she pledged to die. In a quiet, yet stoically powerful performance, she reminds us that identity often intersects with the spaces in which we live.

7.8

It’s 1984 and miners in England are on strike against Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s plans to close pits. Their cause has unlikely appeal for Mark Ashton, a human rights activists who decides to take a group of people who had joined an early Gay Pride parade in London to rural England to show support for the (often socially-conservative) miners.You can see how things might go wrong, but in this case they didn’t. This heartwarming tale is based on a true story. An easy, funny, and relevant movie about the bond that oppression brings to the oppressed. Super earnest, too.

8.1

A24 + Steve Buscemi = ?. In “Lean on Pete,” Buscemi plays a guy called Del Montgomery (of course), who is a racetrack horse owner in Portland, Oregon. He befriends a kid, Charley (Charlie Plummer in an amazing performance), who had been abandoned by his family and is new to Portland. Together they take care of Montgomery’s only horse, until the kid discovers that the horse is set to be slaughtered. He embarks on an impossible journey across the U.S. to try to save the horse while also looking for his family. This movie flew under most peoples’ radars. It is truly amazing. If you like “Lean on Pete” you should watch other A24 gems like “Lady Bird” or “The Florida Project.”

7.9

As heartbroken as you will be after watching this movie, you will feel nothing but triumph in the main actor's debut role. This movie has very little hope to offer the viewer, except the small amount felt every time the main character, Marina, gets up again to fight another day. This film depicts grief in such a profound and personal way within a character who must remain relatively silent and alone most of the movie. You will quickly know why the film is called "A Fantastic Woman".

7.8

This is the type of movie I completely fell in love with but cannot articulate exactly why. Maybe it's the mixture of beauty and pain portrayed, maybe it's the intricate sounds and beautiful imagery, maybe it's the story, maybe it's all of the above. A woman is hit with sudden disability after an accident and calls on an unlikely companion, a night club bouncer by the name of Ali. Together they explore her new predicament and its implications, while forming a special bond. This is a movie that will call upon your internal strength, while portraying how us humans can become strong together. Most of all it provides an immensely powerful, ultimately simple story that is both touching and will stay with you for a very long time. Directed by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet).

8.1

This movie is a dramatic masterpiece and a tribute to loving middle-aged women everywhere. It is unparalleled in the way it portrays its characters and the subtlety with which it tells their stories. The events are centered around a 52-year-old Georgian woman who decides to leave her family home and live alone without much of a notice. She trades chaos and domestic disputes for solitude, and the prospect of sad old age for an opportunity to build a new life for herself. In other words, she trades being the secondary character to her mother, husband, and children, to being the hero of her own story. A genuine and beautiful film. If like me you grew up with a mother who sacrificed everything for you, this will hit very close to home.

8.3

To All the Boys I've Loved Before is not only the best rom-com on Netflix, it's one of the best rom-coms in recent memory, period. It has all the originality and freshness of Juno, the inclusiveness and relevancy of The Big Sick, and the sweetness of all your favourite 2000s romantic comedies. Lara Jean is a high-schooler who's never been in a relationship and who, instead of communicating her feelings to her crushes, writes them letters that never get sent. Her world is turned upside down when those letters do end up in the hands of their recipients. Her first relationship, however peculiar, comes out of the incident. The acting is top notch, the characters are lovable and well-written. Just go watch it, OK? It's a true triumph and an innocent-fun movie, there is no scenario in which you will be disappointed.

9.0
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