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The 25 best movies to watch on Netflix: October 2021

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This article originally appeared on www.polygon.com

What’s the best movie I can watch on Netflix? We’ve all asked ourselves the question, only to spend the next 15 minutes scrolling through the streaming service’s oddly specific genre menus, and getting overwhelmed by the constantly shifting trend menus. Netflix’s huge catalogue of movies, combined with its inscrutable recommendations algorithm, can make finding something to watch feel more like a chore than a way to unwind when really what you want are the good movies. No… the best movies.

We’re here to help. For those suffering from choice paralysis in September, we’ve narrowed down your options to 25 of our favorite current movies on the platform. These run the gamut from taut thrillers to eccentric comedies to newly minted classics. We’ll be updating this list monthly as Netflix cycles movies in and out of its library, so be sure to check back next time you’re stuck in front of the Netflix home screen.


The American

george clooney runs up stairs in rome in The American

Photo: Focus Features

In 2010, George Clooney starred as an aging man with a gun who was ready to hang up his scope. Very few people saw the movie, and based on the movie’s “D-” Cinemascore in exit polls, those who did were caught off guard. Instead of a slick, Bourne-esque espionage thriller, The American was a Euro-mood piece in which photographer-turned-director Anton Corbijn descended deeper and deeper into Clooney’s ice-cold gaze. Set in Rome, the film is steamy and noir-ish, finding exhilaration in the assassin’s attempts to complete one last job with as little emotion as possible. But for all the seriousness and atmosphere, there’s still a pulpy, page-turner quality to the film’s second half — think of the whole package as Bond for the art house crowd. —Matt Patches


Awakenings

Robin Williams and Robert De Niro in Awakenings.

Image: Columbia Pictures

Based on Oliver Sack’s 1973 memoir of the same name, Penny Marshall’s 1990 drama Awakenings stars Robin Williams as Dr. Malcolm Sayer, a neurologist working to treat catatonic patients in a hospital in Brooklyn. After learning of experimental drug that may alleviate the effects of catatonia, Sayer elects to provide the treatment to his own patients starting with Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro), a man who quickly falls in love with the daughter of another patient. When the drug’s effects begin to falter, Leonard must reckon with the closing window of opportunity for him to live out his life, while Sayer grows a newfound appreciation for life through his relationship to his patient’s awakening. With stirring lead performances courtesy of Williams and De Niro, Awakenings is a beautiful and captivating film about making the most out of life. —TE


At Eternity’s Gate

Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate

Photo: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Julian Schnabel’s 2018 biographical drama stars Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh, following the late Impressionist master in the final years of his life as he struggles with aspersions towards his artistic career and ability as well as his own tortured psyche. Named for van Gogh’s 1890 painting, At Eternity’s Gate is a dreamlike work of art, diving into the painter’s point of view as the picture violently spasms and shakes as his life becomes increasingly more dire. Dafoe’s performance was celebrated at the time of the film’s release, earning him his fourth Oscar nomination at the 91st Academy Awards. —TE



Circle

Several people standing in an ominously lit room in Circle (2015)

Image: Felt Films/Taggart Productions/Votiv Films

Not to be confused with Netflix’s reality competition series The Circle, Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione’s 2015 psychological thriller Circle centers on fifty strangers who mysteriously awaken to find themselves standing inside a mysterious black room with an ominous black orb at its center. If any of the strangers move from their designated spot or touch one another, they are instantly killed. As they are killed off one by one, the strangers eventually realize they themselves are inadvertently voting for who will be the next person to die. So yeah, it’s actually a lot like Netflix’s The Circle, only instead of losing a contest you get murdered. If you’re aching for some more kill-or-be-killed drama in the vein of Squid Game with a surreal sci-fi bent à la 1997’s Cube or Hiroya Oku’s Gantz, then Cube is certainly worth a watch. —TE


Do The Right Thing

Bill Nunn as Radio Raheem in Do The Right Thing.

Photo: Universal Pictures

Taking place over the course of a swelteringly hot day in Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing follows a rotating cast of characters as it traces the fault lines of racial tension between the neighborhood’s African-American locals and the Italian-American owner of a local pizzeria. From the film’s iconic shadowboxing opening featuring Rosie Perez, the beautiful and intimate cinematography of frequent Lee collaborator Ernest Dickerson, to its explosive and heart-wrenching finale, Do The Right Thing is unquestionably not only one of the greatest films the director has ever produced, but one of the most essential entries in the canon of American cinema. —TE


Django Unchained

King (Christoph Waltz) and Django (Jamie Foxx) walk down a muddy street in Django Unchained

Photo: Andrew Cooper/Columbia Pictures

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx as a former slave who is liberated by King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a benevolent bounty hunter who takes the newly freed man under his wing and teaches him the ways of bounty hunting. Django and Schultz proceed to hunt down the men who enslaved and sold his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), eventually coming into conflict with Broomhilda’s new slavemaster Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Packed with thrilling gunfights, tense drama, memorable quippy dialogue, and an impressive collection of breakout performances (minus Tarantino’s weird cameo), Django Unchained easily ranks among the very best films Tarantino has ever produced. —TE


Desperado

Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas walking away from an explosion in Desperado (1995)

Image: Columbia Pictures

Robert Rodriguez’s neo-Western action thriller Desperado stars Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi, a mysterious wandering gunslinger dressed in all black who journeys across Mexico hunting drug lords. When his campaign of vengeance brings him to Bucho (Joaquim DeAlmeida), the ruthless kingpin of a seedy border town responsible for murdering his girlfriend, Mariachi enlists the help of his ally Buscemi (Steve Buscemi) and a beautiful book store owner to take Bucho down and bring order back to the town. Packed with intense action, over-the-top gunfights, massive explosions, and effortless style, Desperado is a brilliant action film and an enduring favorite among fans of Rodiguez’s oeuvre. —TE


Gladiator

Russell Crowe in Gladiator shouting at a Coliseum full of people

Image: DreamWorks Pictures

Ridley Scott’s historical drama Gladiator follows the story of Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russel Crowe), a celebrated Roman general and favorite of Emperor Marcus Aurelius whose family is murdered by Aurelius’ son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) before being enslaved as a gladiator in the arena. Fueled by rage and a burning desire for revenge, Maximus rises through the ranks of battle with the sole intent of taking revenge on Commodus and regaining his freedom. Filled with epic battles, thrilling action, and memorable performances, Gladiator is a sword and saddle epic for the ages and one of Ridley Scott’s most terrific cinematic achievements. —TE


Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman channeling James Brown on the set of “Get On Up” in Natchez, Mississippi.

Photo: Gasper Tringale

Before he won the hearts of audiences worldwide for his role as King T’Challa in 2018’s Black Panther and his riveting portrayal as Thurgood Marshall in Reginald Hudlin’s 2017 biopic, Chadwick Boseman delivered an electrifying performance as the legendary funk musician James Brown in Tate Taylor’s 2014 musical drama Get on Up. The film recounts Brown’s journey from his humble beginnings in Augusta, Georgia to his meteoric ascent to fame and fortune to his turbulent personal life. Told in an occasionally fourth wall-breaking, asynchronous style narrated by Boseman as Brown himself, Get on Up is a thoroughly entertaining drama with Boseman shining at its center. —TE


Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Julian Dennison, left, and Sam Neill in Taika Waititi’s “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.”

Credit: The Orchard

The truly rare family film that’s safe for kids, funny and acerbic enough for adults, and surprising enough to keep everyone absorbed, Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople is one of cinema’s great underseen gems. An authentically refreshing take on the usually cloying “orphan kid melts surly senior’s heart” subgenre, Wilderpeople follows initially sullen foster-system kid Ricky (Julian Dennison) as he blossoms in a new environment, then winds up on the run in the woods with an older man (Sam Neill) who has no idea what to do with him. Waititi’s startling, wryly straight-faced humor in films like Thor: Ragnarok and What We Do In The Shadows is on full display here, and the film starts out sweet and hilarious, then gets recklessly wild. —TR


Inside

Bo Burnham in Bo Burnham: Inside.

Photo: Netflix

Recorded entirely from his own home over the course of year during the COVID-19 pandemic, comedian Bo Burnham’s 2021 comedy special Inside is a biting piece of gallows entertainment that not only documents the deteriorating effects of the isolation brought about by quarantine but the deleterious emotional impact of performativity in our always-online world. With over a dozen catchy earworm music numbers and memorable skits expertly shot and edited by Burnham himself, Inside is as entertaining as it illuminating as a time capsule for one of the most challenging and terrifying periods in recent human history. And it’s cinematic enough that we’re bumping it up to “movie pick” status. —TE


Labyrinth

David Bowie as the Goblin King Jareth in Labyrinth

Photo: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Jennifer Connelly stars opposite of David Bowie in Jim Henson’s classic 1986 musical fantasy Labyrinth as Sarah Williams, a 16-year-old girl who inadvertently casts a spell that results in her baby brother Toby being abducted into another world by the Goblin King Jareth (Bowie). With only 13 hours to spare, Sarah must navigate the treacherous corridors and traps of Jareth’s labyrinth in order to rescind her wish and bring Toby back home, all while defeating the challenges constructed by the Goblin King’s minions. The second collaboration between Henson and artist Brian Froud following 1982’s The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth is a fairytale adventure on par with Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride or Wolfgang Petersen’s The NeverEnding Story, bursting at the seams with memorable characters, beautiful set pieces, and an inimitable performance by David Bowie as a wily and verbose sorcerer with an irrepressible flair for the dramatic. —TE


A Knight’s Tale

Heath Ledger and Rufus Sewell in A Knight’s Tale

Image: Columbia Pictures

Inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Knight,” Brian Helgeland’s semi-anachronistic medieval adventure comedy A Knight’s Tale stars Heath Ledger as William, a young peasant with a gift for jousting who poses as a knight and embarks on a quest for fame and glory alongside his friends Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk). Along the way the trio meet Geoffrey Chaucer himself (Paul Bettany), a loquacious writer with a gift for theatrics who aids William on his journey of self-made fame and notoriety. An oddball comedy filled with surprising needle-drops, colorful characters, and a smoldering romance plot featuring Shannyn Sossamon as William’s love interest, A Knight’s Tale may have bombed when it premiered back in 2001, but has since become a cult favorite among a loyal contingent of fans. —TE


The Lincoln Lawyer

Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe in The Lincoln Lawyer

Photo: Lionsgate

Based on Micahel Connelly’s 2005 novel, Brad Furman’s 2011 legal thriller The Lincoln Lawyer stars Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller, a charismatic defense attorney who does business literally from the back of his black Lincoln sedan. Don’t get it twisted though; working-class Cosmopolis this is not. After a career of mostly defending petty criminals, Haller gets his big break in the form of Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe), a hotshot Beverly Hills playboy accused of beating a sex worker. What at first seems like an open-and-shut case and a quick payday unravels into a murderous conspiracy that threatens the lives of his ex-wife Maggie (Marisa Tomei) and his young daughter. The Lincoln Lawyer marks the beginning of what many at the time characterized as the ‘McConaissance’, a period in McConaughey’s career in which the actor embraced a string of captivating dramatic roles which ultimately culminated in winning the Oscar for best actor in 2014. The Lincoln Lawyer may not have been the performance to win him that accolade, but it certainly set the groundwork for his later success. —TE


Magnolia

Tom Cruise in Magnolia

Photo: Ghoulardi Film Company

Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 ensemble drama Magnolia is sprawling mosaic of loosely related characters whose fates and stories are intertwined with one another as their respective search for love, forgiveness, and meaning unspools beautifully across the expanse of the San Fernando Valley. Boasting several masterful performances courtesy of William H. Macy, Jason Robards, Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Melinda Dillon, and many more, Magnolia is unlike anything that Anderson has produced before or since and as such, a vital watch for anyone claiming to be a fan of the director’s work. (And while you’re at it, go watch The Master, which is also streaming on the platform.) —TE


Middle of Nowhere

Omari Hardwick and Emayatzy Corinealdi in Middle of Nowhere.

Image: Participant Media

Ava DuVernay’s 2012 drama Middle of Nowhere centers on the story of Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi), a nurse living in Compton, California separated from her husband Derek (Omari Hardwick) who has been arrested and sentenced to eight years in prison. While regularly visiting Derek and attempting to negotiate his parole, Ruby meets Brian (David Oyelowo), a bus driver whom she eventually pursues a romantic relationship with. As she struggles to reconcile her growing attraction to Brian with her lingering attachment to Derek, new discoveries are brought to light that force Ruby to reckon with the consequences of both her and her husband’s choices as she attempts to move towards an uncertain future. Beautiful, evocative, and thoroughly heart wrenching, Middle of Nowhere is a stirring portrait of finding truth in love and vice-versa. —TE


Nocturnal Animals

Amy Adams as Susan Morrow in Nocturnal Animals

Photo: Focus Features

This movie is not for everyone, but we’re assuming you love provocative, weirdo cinema. Amy Adams (Sharp Objects) stars in Tom Ford’s gripping neo-noir psychological thriller Nocturnal Animals as Susan Morrow, a successful upper-class art gallery manager who receives a mysterious manuscript written by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), along with an invitation to dinner. As Susan pores over the manuscript, an insidious and violent saga unfolds involving a teacher whose family trip evolves into a nightmare that blurs the lines between fiction and reality, forcing her to confront the savage parallels between her own life and the story on the page. Nocturnal Animals is a dark, dense, and beautifully crafted thriller with a killer ending that will stick with you long after it’s over. —TE


Once Upon a Time in America

Once Upon a Time in America

Photo: Warner Bros.

Once Upon a Time in America is Sergio Leone’s final film and, by the director’s own insistence, his greatest. Based on Harry Grey’s novel The Hoods, the film follows the story of David “Noodles” Aaronson (Robert De Niro) and Max Bercovicz (James Woods), two lifelong friends who rise from the squalor of their lives in the ghettos of New York to become successful gangsters in the city’s criminal underworld. Leone’s film is epic spanning over 40 years of love, betrayal, loss, and estrangement as Aaronson and Bercovicz’s ambitions fork and diverge into direct opposition with one another. With beautiful set designs, a somber and memorable score by frequent collaborator Ennio Morricone, and magnetic performances by both De Niro and Woods, Once Upon a Time in America is a tremendous work that captures the animating ambition and sorrow at the heart of the American Dream. —TE


The Piano

thepiano

Photo: Miramax Films

An eloquent love story with erotic overtones, Jane Campion’s 1993 drama is required viewing for anyone whose list of favorite films is lacking female perspective. After sailing from Scotland to New Zealand, Ada (Holly Hunter), a mute pianist, and her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin) are dumped on a beach with all of their luggage — and a big-ass piano! Ada’s new husband, who bought her and isn’t terribly up for dragging a musical instrument into his house, leaves the piano for the waves, crushing Ada’s spirit. But her new husband pal Baines (Harvey Keitel) comes to her rescue, and the two strike a relationship that puts the movie firmly into the gothic romance realm. Deeply felt and entranced by Hunter’s near-silent performance, this is Campion at her best and great starting place to an underrated auteur’s career. —MP


Sankofa

Oyafunmike Ogunlano in Haile Gerima’s “Sankofa.”

Image: Array

Haile Gerima’s Ethiopian-produced drama Sankofa centers on the story of Mona (Oyafunmike Ogunlano), an African-American model on a film shoot in Ghana who finds herself spiritually transported into the body of a Ghanaian woman named Shola who is being kidnapped into the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Experiencing first-hand the brutal physical and psychological torture of chattel slavery, Mona joins her fellow slaves in an uprising as they seize their freedom. Dismissed by US distributors when it was initially released in 1993, Sankofa was recently acquired and restored by Array Releasing before being released on Netflix this year. While the film’s premise on its face may sound reminiscent to 2020’s abysmal horror thriller Antebellum, don’t come to Sankofa expecting Shymalan-like twists attempting to ape the cultural resonance of Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Gerima’s film is a bold, beautiful, and bracing depiction of the redemptive power of community and rebellion and a stirring cinematic call to embrace, understand, and most importantly remember the history of human struggle. —TE


School of Rock

Dewey Finn (Jack Black) in School of Rock

Image: Paramount Pictures

Richard Linklater’s 2003 comedy School of Rock stars Jack Black as Dewey Finn, a struggling rock guitarist who accepts a job as substitute teacher at a private elementary school in order to earn rent money. After overhearing his students playing their instruments in music class, Dewey hatches a hare-brained scheme to form a new band among the kids and enter an upcoming local Battle of the Bands contest to win the $10,000 prize money. Powered almost entirely by Black’s infectious charisma and eccentricity, School of Rock is raucous and heartwarming comedy about a man who grows as both a musician and a person through his relationship to students he mentors, aligning his love of rock in a new direction that spurs him to find his true calling in life. In a 2019 video interview with GQ, Jack Black went so far as to describe School of Rock as the movie he’s most proud to have been a part of. If that’s not a stirring endorsement, I don’t know what is. —TE


A Silent Voice

Shoko Nishimiya holds her nose as Shoya Ishida stares back at her in A Silent Voice

Photo: Kyoto Animation

Adapted from Yoshitoki Oima’s manga of the same name, Naoko Yamada’s A Silent Voice is a beautiful, bracing coming-of-age drama about a young man’s journey for redemption after being reunited with the deaf girl he once belittled and terrorized in childhood. Boasting gorgeous visual produced by Kyoto Animation and an emotionally-charged screenplay penned by Reiko Yoshida of Violet Evergarden fame, A Silent Voice is one of the best Japanese animated films of the past decade and an essential watch. —TE


Uncut Gems

adam sandler in uncut gems

Photo: A24

2019’s Uncut Gems is a contemporary crime drama shot through the frenetic rhythm and terror of a heart attack. Adam Sandler, far from just a simple case of stunt casting, delivers an electrifying performance as Howard Ratner, a New York jeweler and gambling addict who comes into possession of a rare black opal that might finally settle his outstanding debts once and for all. The only catch is that Howard’s worst enemy is himself, and his habitual attempt to fleece and manipulate everyone from his family, friends, and acquaintances in search of his next big score imperils both his life and the lives of those around him. With a powerful orchestral EDM score courtesy of Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), dazzling performances by Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, and Kevin Garnett as himself, Uncut Gems is an unforgettable film that plays out like a pulse-pounding Greek tragedy set in 2010s New York. —TE


Under The Shadow

Under the Shadow - Shideh

Vertical Entertainment

During a string of Iraqi airstrikes in late-1980s Tehran, the Iranian government bars medical student and political activist Shideh (Narges Rashidi) from continuing her studies. She retreats to her family’s apartment, and despite her husband’s wishes, remains with her young daughter in the war-torn capital — this is her home, and she’s not leaving. But when a missile blasts directly through her building, the normal life Shideh and her daughter knew becomes marked by an invisible, nefarious presence. Is it a djinn? Much like in The Babadook, first-time director Babak Anvari allows the question of the supernatural to orbit the action of Under the Shadow as he captures the erosion of his plain, main set, and Shideh’s very existence. —MP


White Girl

Morgan Saylor and Brian Marc, also known by his rapper name, Sene, in “White Girl.”

Credit: FilmRise

Elizabeth Wood’s White Girl caused quite a stir when it premiered back in 2016, earning comparisons to Larry Clark and Harmony Korine’s 1995 city portrait of teenage nihilism Kids. Starring Morgan Saylor, India Menuez, and Brian Marc, Wood’s film centers on the story of Leah (Saylor), a sophomore college student who strikes up a passionate love affair with Blue (Marc), a a young dealer after moving into an apartment with her friend Katie (Menuez). Things take a disastrous turn when Blue is arrested by an undercover police officer after been sold out by one of his regular customers, leaving Leah with over a kilo of cocaine he had recently acquired. With no other options and desperate to save Blue from prison, Leah attempts to sell the cocaine in order to earn enough money to afford a lawyer. White Girl is a shocking and frenetically paced movie, a nightmarish thrill ride comparable to the Safdie brothers’ 2017 Good Time that’s equal parts exhausting, exhilarating, and heartbreaking to watch. —TE

This article originally appeared on www.polygon.com

What’s the best movie I can watch on Netflix? We’ve all asked ourselves the question, only to spend the next 15 minutes scrolling through the streaming service’s oddly specific genre menus, and getting overwhelmed by the constantly shifting trend menus. Netflix’s huge catalogue of movies, combined with its inscrutable recommendations algorithm, can make finding something to watch feel more like a chore than a way to unwind when really what you want are the good movies. No… the best movies.

We’re here to help. For those suffering from choice paralysis in September, we’ve narrowed down your options to 25 of our favorite current movies on the platform. These run the gamut from taut thrillers to eccentric comedies to newly minted classics. We’ll be updating this list monthly as Netflix cycles movies in and out of its library, so be sure to check back next time you’re stuck in front of the Netflix home screen.


The American

george clooney runs up stairs in rome in The American

Photo: Focus Features

In 2010, George Clooney starred as an aging man with a gun who was ready to hang up his scope. Very few people saw the movie, and based on the movie’s “D-” Cinemascore in exit polls, those who did were caught off guard. Instead of a slick, Bourne-esque espionage thriller, The American was a Euro-mood piece in which photographer-turned-director Anton Corbijn descended deeper and deeper into Clooney’s ice-cold gaze. Set in Rome, the film is steamy and noir-ish, finding exhilaration in the assassin’s attempts to complete one last job with as little emotion as possible. But for all the seriousness and atmosphere, there’s still a pulpy, page-turner quality to the film’s second half — think of the whole package as Bond for the art house crowd. —Matt Patches


Awakenings

Robin Williams and Robert De Niro in Awakenings.

Image: Columbia Pictures

Based on Oliver Sack’s 1973 memoir of the same name, Penny Marshall’s 1990 drama Awakenings stars Robin Williams as Dr. Malcolm Sayer, a neurologist working to treat catatonic patients in a hospital in Brooklyn. After learning of experimental drug that may alleviate the effects of catatonia, Sayer elects to provide the treatment to his own patients starting with Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro), a man who quickly falls in love with the daughter of another patient. When the drug’s effects begin to falter, Leonard must reckon with the closing window of opportunity for him to live out his life, while Sayer grows a newfound appreciation for life through his relationship to his patient’s awakening. With stirring lead performances courtesy of Williams and De Niro, Awakenings is a beautiful and captivating film about making the most out of life. —TE


At Eternity’s Gate

Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate

Photo: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Julian Schnabel’s 2018 biographical drama stars Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh, following the late Impressionist master in the final years of his life as he struggles with aspersions towards his artistic career and ability as well as his own tortured psyche. Named for van Gogh’s 1890 painting, At Eternity’s Gate is a dreamlike work of art, diving into the painter’s point of view as the picture violently spasms and shakes as his life becomes increasingly more dire. Dafoe’s performance was celebrated at the time of the film’s release, earning him his fourth Oscar nomination at the 91st Academy Awards. —TE



Circle

Several people standing in an ominously lit room in Circle (2015)

Image: Felt Films/Taggart Productions/Votiv Films

Not to be confused with Netflix’s reality competition series The Circle, Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione’s 2015 psychological thriller Circle centers on fifty strangers who mysteriously awaken to find themselves standing inside a mysterious black room with an ominous black orb at its center. If any of the strangers move from their designated spot or touch one another, they are instantly killed. As they are killed off one by one, the strangers eventually realize they themselves are inadvertently voting for who will be the next person to die. So yeah, it’s actually a lot like Netflix’s The Circle, only instead of losing a contest you get murdered. If you’re aching for some more kill-or-be-killed drama in the vein of Squid Game with a surreal sci-fi bent à la 1997’s Cube or Hiroya Oku’s Gantz, then Cube is certainly worth a watch. —TE


Do The Right Thing

Bill Nunn as Radio Raheem in Do The Right Thing.

Photo: Universal Pictures

Taking place over the course of a swelteringly hot day in Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing follows a rotating cast of characters as it traces the fault lines of racial tension between the neighborhood’s African-American locals and the Italian-American owner of a local pizzeria. From the film’s iconic shadowboxing opening featuring Rosie Perez, the beautiful and intimate cinematography of frequent Lee collaborator Ernest Dickerson, to its explosive and heart-wrenching finale, Do The Right Thing is unquestionably not only one of the greatest films the director has ever produced, but one of the most essential entries in the canon of American cinema. —TE


Django Unchained

King (Christoph Waltz) and Django (Jamie Foxx) walk down a muddy street in Django Unchained

Photo: Andrew Cooper/Columbia Pictures

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx as a former slave who is liberated by King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a benevolent bounty hunter who takes the newly freed man under his wing and teaches him the ways of bounty hunting. Django and Schultz proceed to hunt down the men who enslaved and sold his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), eventually coming into conflict with Broomhilda’s new slavemaster Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Packed with thrilling gunfights, tense drama, memorable quippy dialogue, and an impressive collection of breakout performances (minus Tarantino’s weird cameo), Django Unchained easily ranks among the very best films Tarantino has ever produced. —TE


Desperado

Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas walking away from an explosion in Desperado (1995)

Image: Columbia Pictures

Robert Rodriguez’s neo-Western action thriller Desperado stars Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi, a mysterious wandering gunslinger dressed in all black who journeys across Mexico hunting drug lords. When his campaign of vengeance brings him to Bucho (Joaquim DeAlmeida), the ruthless kingpin of a seedy border town responsible for murdering his girlfriend, Mariachi enlists the help of his ally Buscemi (Steve Buscemi) and a beautiful book store owner to take Bucho down and bring order back to the town. Packed with intense action, over-the-top gunfights, massive explosions, and effortless style, Desperado is a brilliant action film and an enduring favorite among fans of Rodiguez’s oeuvre. —TE


Gladiator

Russell Crowe in Gladiator shouting at a Coliseum full of people

Image: DreamWorks Pictures

Ridley Scott’s historical drama Gladiator follows the story of Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russel Crowe), a celebrated Roman general and favorite of Emperor Marcus Aurelius whose family is murdered by Aurelius’ son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) before being enslaved as a gladiator in the arena. Fueled by rage and a burning desire for revenge, Maximus rises through the ranks of battle with the sole intent of taking revenge on Commodus and regaining his freedom. Filled with epic battles, thrilling action, and memorable performances, Gladiator is a sword and saddle epic for the ages and one of Ridley Scott’s most terrific cinematic achievements. —TE


Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman channeling James Brown on the set of “Get On Up” in Natchez, Mississippi.

Photo: Gasper Tringale

Before he won the hearts of audiences worldwide for his role as King T’Challa in 2018’s Black Panther and his riveting portrayal as Thurgood Marshall in Reginald Hudlin’s 2017 biopic, Chadwick Boseman delivered an electrifying performance as the legendary funk musician James Brown in Tate Taylor’s 2014 musical drama Get on Up. The film recounts Brown’s journey from his humble beginnings in Augusta, Georgia to his meteoric ascent to fame and fortune to his turbulent personal life. Told in an occasionally fourth wall-breaking, asynchronous style narrated by Boseman as Brown himself, Get on Up is a thoroughly entertaining drama with Boseman shining at its center. —TE


Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Julian Dennison, left, and Sam Neill in Taika Waititi’s “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.”

Credit: The Orchard

The truly rare family film that’s safe for kids, funny and acerbic enough for adults, and surprising enough to keep everyone absorbed, Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople is one of cinema’s great underseen gems. An authentically refreshing take on the usually cloying “orphan kid melts surly senior’s heart” subgenre, Wilderpeople follows initially sullen foster-system kid Ricky (Julian Dennison) as he blossoms in a new environment, then winds up on the run in the woods with an older man (Sam Neill) who has no idea what to do with him. Waititi’s startling, wryly straight-faced humor in films like Thor: Ragnarok and What We Do In The Shadows is on full display here, and the film starts out sweet and hilarious, then gets recklessly wild. —TR


Inside

Bo Burnham in Bo Burnham: Inside.

Photo: Netflix

Recorded entirely from his own home over the course of year during the COVID-19 pandemic, comedian Bo Burnham’s 2021 comedy special Inside is a biting piece of gallows entertainment that not only documents the deteriorating effects of the isolation brought about by quarantine but the deleterious emotional impact of performativity in our always-online world. With over a dozen catchy earworm music numbers and memorable skits expertly shot and edited by Burnham himself, Inside is as entertaining as it illuminating as a time capsule for one of the most challenging and terrifying periods in recent human history. And it’s cinematic enough that we’re bumping it up to “movie pick” status. —TE


Labyrinth

David Bowie as the Goblin King Jareth in Labyrinth

Photo: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Jennifer Connelly stars opposite of David Bowie in Jim Henson’s classic 1986 musical fantasy Labyrinth as Sarah Williams, a 16-year-old girl who inadvertently casts a spell that results in her baby brother Toby being abducted into another world by the Goblin King Jareth (Bowie). With only 13 hours to spare, Sarah must navigate the treacherous corridors and traps of Jareth’s labyrinth in order to rescind her wish and bring Toby back home, all while defeating the challenges constructed by the Goblin King’s minions. The second collaboration between Henson and artist Brian Froud following 1982’s The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth is a fairytale adventure on par with Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride or Wolfgang Petersen’s The NeverEnding Story, bursting at the seams with memorable characters, beautiful set pieces, and an inimitable performance by David Bowie as a wily and verbose sorcerer with an irrepressible flair for the dramatic. —TE


A Knight’s Tale

Heath Ledger and Rufus Sewell in A Knight’s Tale

Image: Columbia Pictures

Inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Knight,” Brian Helgeland’s semi-anachronistic medieval adventure comedy A Knight’s Tale stars Heath Ledger as William, a young peasant with a gift for jousting who poses as a knight and embarks on a quest for fame and glory alongside his friends Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk). Along the way the trio meet Geoffrey Chaucer himself (Paul Bettany), a loquacious writer with a gift for theatrics who aids William on his journey of self-made fame and notoriety. An oddball comedy filled with surprising needle-drops, colorful characters, and a smoldering romance plot featuring Shannyn Sossamon as William’s love interest, A Knight’s Tale may have bombed when it premiered back in 2001, but has since become a cult favorite among a loyal contingent of fans. —TE


The Lincoln Lawyer

Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe in The Lincoln Lawyer

Photo: Lionsgate

Based on Micahel Connelly’s 2005 novel, Brad Furman’s 2011 legal thriller The Lincoln Lawyer stars Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller, a charismatic defense attorney who does business literally from the back of his black Lincoln sedan. Don’t get it twisted though; working-class Cosmopolis this is not. After a career of mostly defending petty criminals, Haller gets his big break in the form of Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe), a hotshot Beverly Hills playboy accused of beating a sex worker. What at first seems like an open-and-shut case and a quick payday unravels into a murderous conspiracy that threatens the lives of his ex-wife Maggie (Marisa Tomei) and his young daughter. The Lincoln Lawyer marks the beginning of what many at the time characterized as the ‘McConaissance’, a period in McConaughey’s career in which the actor embraced a string of captivating dramatic roles which ultimately culminated in winning the Oscar for best actor in 2014. The Lincoln Lawyer may not have been the performance to win him that accolade, but it certainly set the groundwork for his later success. —TE


Magnolia

Tom Cruise in Magnolia

Photo: Ghoulardi Film Company

Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 ensemble drama Magnolia is sprawling mosaic of loosely related characters whose fates and stories are intertwined with one another as their respective search for love, forgiveness, and meaning unspools beautifully across the expanse of the San Fernando Valley. Boasting several masterful performances courtesy of William H. Macy, Jason Robards, Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Melinda Dillon, and many more, Magnolia is unlike anything that Anderson has produced before or since and as such, a vital watch for anyone claiming to be a fan of the director’s work. (And while you’re at it, go watch The Master, which is also streaming on the platform.) —TE


Middle of Nowhere

Omari Hardwick and Emayatzy Corinealdi in Middle of Nowhere.

Image: Participant Media

Ava DuVernay’s 2012 drama Middle of Nowhere centers on the story of Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi), a nurse living in Compton, California separated from her husband Derek (Omari Hardwick) who has been arrested and sentenced to eight years in prison. While regularly visiting Derek and attempting to negotiate his parole, Ruby meets Brian (David Oyelowo), a bus driver whom she eventually pursues a romantic relationship with. As she struggles to reconcile her growing attraction to Brian with her lingering attachment to Derek, new discoveries are brought to light that force Ruby to reckon with the consequences of both her and her husband’s choices as she attempts to move towards an uncertain future. Beautiful, evocative, and thoroughly heart wrenching, Middle of Nowhere is a stirring portrait of finding truth in love and vice-versa. —TE


Nocturnal Animals

Amy Adams as Susan Morrow in Nocturnal Animals

Photo: Focus Features

This movie is not for everyone, but we’re assuming you love provocative, weirdo cinema. Amy Adams (Sharp Objects) stars in Tom Ford’s gripping neo-noir psychological thriller Nocturnal Animals as Susan Morrow, a successful upper-class art gallery manager who receives a mysterious manuscript written by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), along with an invitation to dinner. As Susan pores over the manuscript, an insidious and violent saga unfolds involving a teacher whose family trip evolves into a nightmare that blurs the lines between fiction and reality, forcing her to confront the savage parallels between her own life and the story on the page. Nocturnal Animals is a dark, dense, and beautifully crafted thriller with a killer ending that will stick with you long after it’s over. —TE


Once Upon a Time in America

Once Upon a Time in America

Photo: Warner Bros.

Once Upon a Time in America is Sergio Leone’s final film and, by the director’s own insistence, his greatest. Based on Harry Grey’s novel The Hoods, the film follows the story of David “Noodles” Aaronson (Robert De Niro) and Max Bercovicz (James Woods), two lifelong friends who rise from the squalor of their lives in the ghettos of New York to become successful gangsters in the city’s criminal underworld. Leone’s film is epic spanning over 40 years of love, betrayal, loss, and estrangement as Aaronson and Bercovicz’s ambitions fork and diverge into direct opposition with one another. With beautiful set designs, a somber and memorable score by frequent collaborator Ennio Morricone, and magnetic performances by both De Niro and Woods, Once Upon a Time in America is a tremendous work that captures the animating ambition and sorrow at the heart of the American Dream. —TE


The Piano

thepiano

Photo: Miramax Films

An eloquent love story with erotic overtones, Jane Campion’s 1993 drama is required viewing for anyone whose list of favorite films is lacking female perspective. After sailing from Scotland to New Zealand, Ada (Holly Hunter), a mute pianist, and her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin) are dumped on a beach with all of their luggage — and a big-ass piano! Ada’s new husband, who bought her and isn’t terribly up for dragging a musical instrument into his house, leaves the piano for the waves, crushing Ada’s spirit. But her new husband pal Baines (Harvey Keitel) comes to her rescue, and the two strike a relationship that puts the movie firmly into the gothic romance realm. Deeply felt and entranced by Hunter’s near-silent performance, this is Campion at her best and great starting place to an underrated auteur’s career. —MP


Sankofa

Oyafunmike Ogunlano in Haile Gerima’s “Sankofa.”

Image: Array

Haile Gerima’s Ethiopian-produced drama Sankofa centers on the story of Mona (Oyafunmike Ogunlano), an African-American model on a film shoot in Ghana who finds herself spiritually transported into the body of a Ghanaian woman named Shola who is being kidnapped into the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Experiencing first-hand the brutal physical and psychological torture of chattel slavery, Mona joins her fellow slaves in an uprising as they seize their freedom. Dismissed by US distributors when it was initially released in 1993, Sankofa was recently acquired and restored by Array Releasing before being released on Netflix this year. While the film’s premise on its face may sound reminiscent to 2020’s abysmal horror thriller Antebellum, don’t come to Sankofa expecting Shymalan-like twists attempting to ape the cultural resonance of Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Gerima’s film is a bold, beautiful, and bracing depiction of the redemptive power of community and rebellion and a stirring cinematic call to embrace, understand, and most importantly remember the history of human struggle. —TE


School of Rock

Dewey Finn (Jack Black) in School of Rock

Image: Paramount Pictures

Richard Linklater’s 2003 comedy School of Rock stars Jack Black as Dewey Finn, a struggling rock guitarist who accepts a job as substitute teacher at a private elementary school in order to earn rent money. After overhearing his students playing their instruments in music class, Dewey hatches a hare-brained scheme to form a new band among the kids and enter an upcoming local Battle of the Bands contest to win the $10,000 prize money. Powered almost entirely by Black’s infectious charisma and eccentricity, School of Rock is raucous and heartwarming comedy about a man who grows as both a musician and a person through his relationship to students he mentors, aligning his love of rock in a new direction that spurs him to find his true calling in life. In a 2019 video interview with GQ, Jack Black went so far as to describe School of Rock as the movie he’s most proud to have been a part of. If that’s not a stirring endorsement, I don’t know what is. —TE


A Silent Voice

Shoko Nishimiya holds her nose as Shoya Ishida stares back at her in A Silent Voice

Photo: Kyoto Animation

Adapted from Yoshitoki Oima’s manga of the same name, Naoko Yamada’s A Silent Voice is a beautiful, bracing coming-of-age drama about a young man’s journey for redemption after being reunited with the deaf girl he once belittled and terrorized in childhood. Boasting gorgeous visual produced by Kyoto Animation and an emotionally-charged screenplay penned by Reiko Yoshida of Violet Evergarden fame, A Silent Voice is one of the best Japanese animated films of the past decade and an essential watch. —TE


Uncut Gems

adam sandler in uncut gems

Photo: A24

2019’s Uncut Gems is a contemporary crime drama shot through the frenetic rhythm and terror of a heart attack. Adam Sandler, far from just a simple case of stunt casting, delivers an electrifying performance as Howard Ratner, a New York jeweler and gambling addict who comes into possession of a rare black opal that might finally settle his outstanding debts once and for all. The only catch is that Howard’s worst enemy is himself, and his habitual attempt to fleece and manipulate everyone from his family, friends, and acquaintances in search of his next big score imperils both his life and the lives of those around him. With a powerful orchestral EDM score courtesy of Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), dazzling performances by Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, and Kevin Garnett as himself, Uncut Gems is an unforgettable film that plays out like a pulse-pounding Greek tragedy set in 2010s New York. —TE


Under The Shadow

Under the Shadow - Shideh

Vertical Entertainment

During a string of Iraqi airstrikes in late-1980s Tehran, the Iranian government bars medical student and political activist Shideh (Narges Rashidi) from continuing her studies. She retreats to her family’s apartment, and despite her husband’s wishes, remains with her young daughter in the war-torn capital — this is her home, and she’s not leaving. But when a missile blasts directly through her building, the normal life Shideh and her daughter knew becomes marked by an invisible, nefarious presence. Is it a djinn? Much like in The Babadook, first-time director Babak Anvari allows the question of the supernatural to orbit the action of Under the Shadow as he captures the erosion of his plain, main set, and Shideh’s very existence. —MP


White Girl

Morgan Saylor and Brian Marc, also known by his rapper name, Sene, in “White Girl.”

Credit: FilmRise

Elizabeth Wood’s White Girl caused quite a stir when it premiered back in 2016, earning comparisons to Larry Clark and Harmony Korine’s 1995 city portrait of teenage nihilism Kids. Starring Morgan Saylor, India Menuez, and Brian Marc, Wood’s film centers on the story of Leah (Saylor), a sophomore college student who strikes up a passionate love affair with Blue (Marc), a a young dealer after moving into an apartment with her friend Katie (Menuez). Things take a disastrous turn when Blue is arrested by an undercover police officer after been sold out by one of his regular customers, leaving Leah with over a kilo of cocaine he had recently acquired. With no other options and desperate to save Blue from prison, Leah attempts to sell the cocaine in order to earn enough money to afford a lawyer. White Girl is a shocking and frenetically paced movie, a nightmarish thrill ride comparable to the Safdie brothers’ 2017 Good Time that’s equal parts exhausting, exhilarating, and heartbreaking to watch. —TE

Source link Author Toussaint Egan on date 2021-10-22 15:02:58 Polygon is a gaming website in partnership with Vox Media. Their culture focused site covers games, their creators, the fans, trending stories and entertainment news. Follow them for more

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