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agoodmovietowatch recommends highly-rated yet little-known movies and shows. Currently available for 16 streaming services.

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45 Best Challenging Movies to Watch

Being challenged by a movie has to be one of the best experiences, period (not just of movie viewing). In this section, you will find recommendations that portray either: a harsh reality, complex or disturbing ideas, thought-provoking situations, or dark stories. Why watch them? Because in their portrayal of these things, they offer deeply human viewing experiences.

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Understated in budget and purpose but huge in its impact: Short Term 12 is passionate and immaculate film work. Lakeith Stanfield and Rami Malek had their start here, but it is Brie Larson who truly shines. She plays a social worker at an at-risk youth center, one which exists in real life and has the same name: Short Term 12. This is one of the best and most pivotal movies of the past 20 years, perfectly portraying the ups and downs of life, going from uplifting to depressing and back as well as everything in-between - like life itself.

10

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Winner of an Oscar and a Golden Globe among endless accolades, A Separation is a 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). A Separation is delicate, complex, and no one is truly a bad guy: it perfectly depicts the delicate interaction between high moral standards and the realities of underdevelopment in the Muslim world: how many bad people are only good people running out of options.

9.7

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Mommy is a movie that aims straight for the heart and doesn't miss. It's about a mom who tries to take care of an unpredictable teenager. The story is often joyous and funny but 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 Canadian director Xavier Dolan's impeccable staging. Think of Mommy as the most beautiful heartbreaking movie you will ever watch, it will hurt, but it's almost impossible to regret watching it.

9.7

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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.

9.6

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A heart-breaking examination of a decaying shell of a once-bright marriage, this sad yet erotic-seeming story mixes happy flashbacks of attraction and desire with the grim reality of a dull life. It boosts an electrifying performance from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, who seamlessly combine tenderness, rage, lust and sadness. This is a guaranteed tear-jerker, so make sure you've brought your Kleenexes!

9.5

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How far are you ready to go for a friend? You will find yourself puzzled with this question after you watch 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Set in Communist Romania, it's about a college student assisting her friend in arranging an illegal abortion. When things don't go as planned they find themselves in extremely tense and uncomfortable situations. Powerful performances and a realistic script drive a suspenseful and interesting experience. Won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

9.2

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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.

9.1

If you liked Netflix’ Stranger Things gloomy suspense, sit tight because there is a lot more of where that came from in Dark. Here is what they have in common: the aesthetic, great music, and they’re both about the disappearance of a child. Other than that, it is very difficult to compare Dark to anything else I’ve seen before.This German show is about a town with a long and dark history, which is brought to the forefront of the collective conscious when a child goes missing. The plot twists and turns through decades of history – and that’s as much as I will share without ruining the show for you. Dark uses beautiful aesthetic, both visually and musically, to be compelling and painfully tension-ridden. Season two has more bouncing between timelines and more dark and inexplicable events, as now six people are missing. 

9.0

It's often said that trying to make a comedy movie featuring a character with cancer is just a bad idea. And while there may be a good share of failed attempts in that category, 50/50 is not one of them. In a movie that comes closer to a believable real life situation than most, 50/50 manages to mine humor, pathos and simple honesty from a dark and traditional situation.  Starring Seth Rogan and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this film isn't afraid to 'go there' but you'll enjoy the journey.

9.0

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.

9.0