121 Best Well-acted Movies to Watch (Page 5)

The self destructive, substance abusing history teacher Dan (Ryan Gosling) works in a Brooklyn middle-school and is constantly at odds with the curriculum, preferring to teach 13 year old kids Marxist theory in class. Meanwhile, his student Drey (Shareeka Epps) has to go through struggles of her own, her brother being in jail on drug charges and her single mother having to work long hours to make ends meet. Slowly, an unlikely and tender friendship between teacher and student evolves, in which it becomes less and less clear who of them is the adult part. Steering away from cliches, Half Neslon is not your typical social drama. Its intelligent plot twists, great cast (with outstanding performances by both Gossling and Epps) and slow, non dramatic storytelling makes this a highly underestimated movie that, although treating depressive topics without any easy relief for the viewer, will leave with an inner smile, albeit a sad one.

From the director of Moneyball, Foxcatcher is a true-story-based thriller centered around Olympic wrestlers and brothers Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) and multimillionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell). When the latter invites both brothers to move to his estate and train there, with seemingly patriotic motives, only Mark accepts. As training for the 1988 Olympic Games starts, and Du Pont's motives become clearer, tragedy hits. This film is a slow-burning celebration of the exceptional talent it features, both Ruffalo and Carell received Oscar nominations for their roles.

Chances are good you missed this movie the first time around due to the studio's big mishandling of it's promotion. The posters and trailers were squarely aimed at the lowbrow audience, ironically turning off the kind of viewers that would have appreciated the film. They promised an exploitation flick about an old black man keeping a sexy half-naked young white girl chained up in his shack. Which is, to be fair, exactly what you get - minus the exploitation. Samuel L. Jackson absolutely nails the role of Lazarus, a retired bluesman. He finds and rescues Rae (Christina Ricci) after she's left for dead in the road, and yeah, there's a chain, but.. well, you'll just have to see. Black Snake Moan is funny, sexy, tense, and (surprisingly) heartwarming. And oh hey by they way, its a helluva music-lovers' film in the bargain. Sporting a tremendous soundtrack full of that lowdown dirty blues (some performed by Jackson himself), you owe it to your ears to watch this someplace you have a decent sound system.

In my own wished-for parallel universe, French actors Vincent Cassell and Emanuelle Devos are voted the sexiest actors alive. I find them both transfixing and appealing in every role they’ve performed, and they are quite the pair here. Devos plays Carla, a put-upon assistant at a property management company. While good at her job, there is little room for her to advance her career, as she is one of the only women at her company and also has a hearing deficiency. Into her humdrum life walks ex-convict Paul (Cassell), who Carla hires as a personal assistant. It turns out that what Paul lacks in secretarial skills he makes up for in other ways. The first half of the film plays almost like a dark workplace comedy, before taking a dangerous turn towards psychological crime thriller. Overall, it’s a dark and sexy character study of two mismatched outsiders who turn out to complement each other perfectly.

The Siege of Jadotville is a different kind of war movie. It doesn’t recount famous battles or portray renowned heroes - instead, it’s about heroes and events that went completely unnoticed. Namely, the Irish 35 Battalion ‘A’ Company - a group of youngsters who are sent out on a U.N mission to the Congo. What was supposed to be a simple positioning quickly becomes one of the most sought-after locations and the battalion of 150 ‘war-virgins” find themselves up against 3000 mercenaries led by experienced French commandants. And what a tribute this film is: it’s well-paced, powerfully shot, and the acting, led by Jamie Dornan on one side and Guillaume Canet on the other, is absolutely perfect.

A beautiful and touching story about staying true to your inner morals and humanity in the middle of a raging war. Set during the conflict between Abkhazia and Georgia, Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak), an old Estonian farmer, takes in two wounded soldiers from opposite sides, who agree to not kill each other as long as they stay under Ivo's roof. It's not "Saving Private Ryan" heroic nor "Pianist" heartbreaking. Tangerines is instead a powerful movie in its simplicity, as the story evolves around 4 men and a crop of tangerines. Yet for some reason, it still tells the story of every war, and the people in it.

The original Swedish mystery thriller that was later remade by David Fincher. It's the same story of a wealthy man hiring a journalist and scrappy hacker to solver a murder, but told better. This version is slower, has more attention to detail and pace. In casting, authenticity triumphs over good looks. In staging, aesthetics are given as much importance as thrills. And in the story, intelligence wins over plot. This gives the main character of Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace) better space to deploy her full mysticism and enigmatic nature. Danish director Niels Arden Oplev masterfully brings everything together to make for a movie that will forever be remembered.

Wadjda is a smart, spirited 10-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to own her own bike, something that is frowned upon in the Saudi Arabian suburb where she lives. While it’s not technically illegal for women to own bikes, it is thought of as something that is “dangerous to a girl’s virtue,” and it’s worth noting that this is a society where women are also not allowed to drive their own cars. Wadjda devises numerous schemes to earn enough money to buy a bike (selling bracelets, making mixes of Western pop songs, delivering clandestine messages between men and women), before getting caught by the headmistress at her school. It is then that Wadjda hits on the ultimate money-making scheme: there is to be a Koran-reciting contest at her school with a hefty cash prize, and she’s determined to win. There is a subplot involving a growing rift between Wadjda’s parents; while there is clearly a lot of love between both parties, it becomes increasingly clear that her father may be leaving her mother for another woman who could potentially bear him a son (a common practice). This subplot is handled with respect and little judgement though, as it is simply the way things work in this culture. Yet, as Wadjda is coming-of-age and learning about the limitations placed on her as a girl, she is obviously negotiating ingenious ways of pushing back against those limitations. The film is subtle and humane in how it handles the slowly changing cultural and gender dynamics in a traditionally conservative, patriarchal society. It wouldn’t work without a strong central performance from first-time actor Waad Mohammed though -- she is never less than believable as a clever, determined and joyful 10-year-old, and her journey towards adulthood is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

A slow-burning US political drama, The Ides of March is a character-driven film with great performances from Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney (who is also the director and in part the writer) among many others. Taking place during the last days of the primaries, Stephen Meyers (Gosling) is an aspiring campaign staffer who uncovers a dirty truth about his candidate (Clooney). When Meyers confronts his boss (Hoffman), moral issues arise that collide with the political profession but which are not only limited to it. A smart film, The Ides of March is less of a political thriller and more of a really well made drama that delivers.

From Steven Spielberg, Munich is the sharp and thrilling depiction of Mossad agents on a mission to avenge the Munich Massacre, the killing of 11 Israeli Olympic team members at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Despite being based on real events, it’s a work of fiction. This allows the film to stand on clear yet nuanced grounds, focusing on the moral dilemmas that may rise for the secret agents and the perpetrators, now targets. The ensemble cast including Daniel Craig and Eric Bana allow Spielberg to deliver the film you can tell he wanted to make. A personal and striking effort.

One of the best, twistiest con movies in recent memory. Seasoned con artist Marcos takes young Juan under his wing after witnessing him pull a bill-switching scam in a deli. Soon Juan is learning the game and the two are roped into trying to pull off the largest scam in Marcos’ storied career, the selling of a set of incredibly rare stamps (the “nine queens” of the title). Along the way they will have to deal with a rotating cast of schemers, thieves, crooks -- and Marcos’ estranged sister. A superior little crime thriller, this one will have you guessing right up until the end.

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