The Best Movies on Netflix Right Now (December 2017)

[Last Updated: December 15th]

We’ve all been there. You’ve decided you’re going to watch a movie. You have the entirety of Netflix at your disposal, including even a pared down list of films you’ve already noted to watch at a future date. But then there’s the choosing. You’ve gotta find something that fits your mood, or something you and your friend/significant other/couch companion can agree on. You spend hours browsing, and by the time you stumble on something you think maybe is the one, it’s too late, you’re too tired, and indecision has won out.

Never fear, though, because we here at Collider have a guide to help you find the perfect Netflix choice. We’ve thumbed through the library and assembled a list of some of the best films currently available for streaming, so peruse our highlights below, which will be updated weekly and are currently up to date for December 2017. Maybe the perfect choice is right here.

RELATED: Best TV Shows on Netflix Right Now and Best Movies on Amazon Prime Right Now and Best Horror Movies on Netflix Right Now and Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now and Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime Right Now.

Mudbound

Directed by: Dee Rees

Written by: Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Rob Morgan, Jason Clarke, and Jonathan Banks

One of the best films of 2017, Dee Rees’ southern epic is a sprawling, rapturous piece that looks at the lives of two families, one black and one white, in the 1940s. Although a lesser film would have only looked at one of these families or only one perspective, Mudbound brilliantly examines the hardscrabble life of a white family who owns the land, the black family who must work the land, and the conflicts and kinships that arise from its various members. Aside from the masterful craftsmanship and outstanding performances, Mudbound is a brilliant meditation on race and power that transcends its time and place. While the rural Mississippi setting gives the film its flavor, the inequality and power dynamic feels painfully relevant without ever coming off as preachy or obvious. It’s an absolutely masterpiece, and while it may not be a Netflix film that’s perfect for relaxing, it’s one you’ll be grateful you experienced. – Matt Goldberg

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas

Directed by: Henry Selick

Written by: Caroline Thompson

Cast: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens, Ken Page, and Ed Ivory

It’s not fall/winter without Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The perfect movie to transition from that Halloween spirit into the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, director Henry Selick’s macabre and lovely 1993 stop-motion animated film still stands as a classic today. What stands out about Nightmare Before Christmas is that it doesn’t have any major stunt casting—composer Danny Elfman voices the main character! Each voice actor is perfect for his or her role, and it brings a richness and texture to the entire affair. It’s a joy from start to finish. – Adam Chitwood

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Director: Adam McKay

Writers: Adam McKay and Will Ferrell

Cast: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Amy Adams, Gary Cole, Leslie Bibb, Jane Lynch, and Michael Clarke Duncan

It’s tickling to no end that a Best Original Screenplay Oscar winner is the same mastermind behind such silliness as Anchorman and Step Brothers. But writer/director Adam McKay’s masterful hold over tone and subject matter in The Big Short is simply an extension of something he’d been doing for years, with Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby acting as one of the biggest dupings of general audiences in recent memory. On the surface, it’s a silly comedy starring Will Ferrell as a goofy race car driver. But at its heart, Talladega Nights is a searing takedown of corporate culture and “Southern pride.” It’s darn effective, with hilarious supporting turns by John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon upping the goof factor exponentially and the late Michael Clarke Duncan showing a side of himself audiences had never seen before. This is Adam McKay doing what he does best, only on a broader canvas and with considerably more Mountain Dew. – Adam Chitwood

Zodiac

Director: David Fincher

Writer: James Vanderbilt

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Chloe Sevigny, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, and John Carroll Lynch

In the mood for an impeccably crafted drama from a master filmmaker? Look no further than Zodiac, David Fincher’s 2007 chronicle of the hunt for the Zodiac Killer in 1960s and 70s San Francisco. Jake Gyllenhaal anchors a phenomenal ensemble as a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle who grows obsessed with figuring out the identity of the serial killer, to the detriment of pretty much everything else in his life. Buoyed by terrific performances from the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., and Anthony Edwards as well as Fincher’s knack for details, the film is an absorbing, darkly funny, and at times terrifying watch that stands as one of Fincher’s best. – Adam Chitwood

Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids

Director: Jonathan Demme

One might think a concert documentary on Netflix couldn’t be that exciting, and one would be wrong. Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids is an absolute blast from start to finish, as filmmaker Jonathan Demme captures the final two performances of Justin Timberlake‘s 20/20 Experience tour. It’s abundantly clear that Timberlake is a consummate entertainer—Demme’s camera marvels at the performer’s showmanship, and the effect is downright alluring. He also takes time to really showcase the musicians and dancers performing alongside Timberlake, which brings an air of family to the proceedings. Really it’s just an all-around great time. Throw it on during a party or small get-together, or just sit down watch Timberlake do his thing. – Adam Chitwood

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) isn’t Noah Baumbach’s first story about a dysfunctional family, but it’s his best one yet. The story follows the Meyerowitz family, specifically sons Danny (Adam Sandler) and Matthew (Ben Stiller) and their strained relationship with their egotistical father Harold (Dustin Hoffman), a retired art professor whose work as a sculptor never brought him the acclaim or recognition he felt he deserved.

The film is at turns deeply funny and incredibly heartbreaking as we see how Harold has emotionally damaged his sons in different ways. With Danny, he’s always harping on how great Matthew is while never acknowledging how much Danny does as a son and as a father, and with Matthew, he’s always distracted or demanding credit for making more of a commitment than he did with Danny. It’s insightful, smart, and features outstanding performances from the entire cast, especially Sandler and Stiller, who turn in some of their best work while never leaving behind their comic gifts. Credit is also due to Hoffman who, at 80 years old, is still delivering magnificent performances that make you laugh and seethe in equal measure. – Matt Goldberg

13th

Director: Ava DuVernay

Writers: Spencer Averick and Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay follows up her acclaimed film Selma with a searing documentary that looks at the mass incarceration of minorities following the passage of the 13th amendment. As the documentary points out, it’s not just ingrained cultural racism that results in the widespread incarceration of African-Americans and other minorities.  There’s a financial incentive as well, and it’s good business to lock people up.  13th systematically goes through the decades following the passage of the 13th amendment to show how black people were targeted by the media, by the government, and by businesses to create a new form of slavery.  It is a movie that will infuriate you, depress you, and hopefully spur you to action against a system that done egregious harm to our fellow citizens.  – Matt Goldberg

The Prestige

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writers: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Andy Serkis, and David Bowie

The Prestige is the most essential film to unlocking Christopher Nolan the filmmaker. It speaks to his overall philosophy when it comes to storytelling, and its themes are prevalent in nearly every single one of his films. It’s also one of his best movies to date. Set in London at the end of the 19th century, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are dueling magicians with very different approaches to their craft. When Bale’s character unveils a seemingly impossible trick, Jackman’s character is driven mad trying to figure out how it works. It’s a story of obsession, devotion, and priorities, and the film’s non-linear structure makes for a wildly compelling watch. – Adam Chitwood

Y Tu Mamá También

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Writers: Alfonso Cuarón and Carlos Cuarón

Cast: Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal, and Diego Luna

Before he made Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban or Children of Men or Gravity, filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón directed the erotic masterpiece Y Tu Mamá También. The Spanish-language coming-of-age drama follows two teenage best friends who go on a road trip with a woman in her late twenties, only to discover much more about each other and themselves. It seems like a trite premise, but the film is lovingly crafted and gorgeously shot by Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Cuarón captures teenage ennui brilliantly, and while this is a “coming-of-age” story, the focus isn’t entirely on the young boys—Maribel Verdú’s chararacter is fully realized as Cuarón explores the anxieties and fears of adulthood, all set against the backdrop of a sunny, sex-filled roadtrip. This is undoubtedly one of the best films of the 21st century so far. – Adam Chitwood

Kubo and the Two Strings

Director: Travis Knight

Writers: Marc Haimes and Chris Butler

Cast: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, and Matthew McConaughey

The folks at LAIKA Studios have been crafting gorgeous and wholly unique stop-motion animated films for years, but Kubo and the Two Strings might be their most visually stunning yet. The film is a fable of sorts revolving around a young boy named Kubo who must set out on a quest with Monkey (Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) to defeat his mother’s corrupted sisters and his power-hungry grandfather. The film at heart is a story about loss and legacy, and the LAIKA team does a tremendous job of keeping the story emotionally grounded as the visuals astound. This is an animated film that doesn’t talk down to its audience, and doesn’t rest on easy fart jokes or sight gags to keep kids’ attention. It’s all about story, and it’s wildly compelling. – Adam Chitwood

The Place Beyond the Pines

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Writers: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn, Ray Liotta, Emory Cohen, and Dane Dehaan

For his follow-up film, Blue Valentine filmmaker Derek Cianfrance went with a highly ambitious crime saga told in three parts. The Place Beyond the Pines has a triptych structure, beginning with a chapter in which Ryan Gosling plays a bank robber with a baby son, continuing with a chapter following a cop played by Bradley Cooper, and concluding with a chapter revolving around the sons of these two men. The result is something epic, thrilling, and highly emotional, with a narrative unlike any you’ve seen before. – Adam Chitwood

Magic Mike

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Reid Carolin

Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn, Matt Bomer, Olivia Munn, Joe Manganiello, and Matthew McConaughey

While the prospect of a male stripper movie based on the real life story of Channing Tatum sounds like a recipe for disaster, in the hands of a master filmmaker like Steven Soderbergh, it’s a work of art. Magic Mike is immensely entertaining offering up some truly dazzling set pieces, but it’s also incredibly funny and genuinely poignant. While Soderbergh certainly has an eye on giving folks a good time, at heart Magic Mike is a film about chasing the American Dream. It’s surprisingly dark in places, and Tatum is actually pretty terrific in the lead role here, offering up some of the complexity that has made him a truly talented actor. And, of course, there’s Matthew McConaughey in the first puzzle piece of his McConaissance, giving an Oscar-worthy turn as the charismatic Dallas, owner of the film’s central male strip club. Don’t let the subject matter fool you: Magic Mike is a true film for cinephiles. – Adam Chitwood

Hercules

Directed by: John Musker, Ron Clements

Written by: John Musker, Ron Clements, Donald McEnery, Bob Shaw, Irene Mecchi

Cast: Tate Donovan, Susan Egan, Danny DeVito, James Woods, Rip Torn, Frank Welker, Bobcat Goldthwait, Amanda Plummer, Paul Shaffer, Wayne Knight, Keith David, and Hal Holbrook

Hercules came at an interesting time for Walt Disney Animation Studios, which was still trying to recapture the same zeitgeist-commanding fame of films like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. And while Hercules isn’t a home run like those early 90s Disney films, it’s a pretty delightful double. The animated retelling of the Hercules story is incredibly funny and colorful as we follow the young Hercules trying to find his place in the world, knowing he was meant for something greater. It’s almost something of a Superman remake, but with gods instead of superheroes. The songs are fantastic, and Megara is a refreshingly independent female lead. Who puts the glad in gladiator? – Adam Chitwood

Chicago

Director: Rob Marshall

Writer: Bill Condon

Cast: Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah

While La La Land put a grounded spin on the musical format, there’s something to be said for the opulence of Chicago. This 2002 film from director Rob Marshall was the first musical to win Best Picture since 1968’s Oliver!, and for good reason. It’s a lavish, thrilling, and gorgeous adaptation of the stage musical of the same name, with Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon finding an ingenious way to stage big musical numbers that don’t feel out of place in the film’s 1920s Chicago reality. Renee Zellwegger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere deliver phenomenal performances, the costumes and production design are to die for, and John C. Reilly sings! What more could you ask for? — Adam Chitwood

Long Shot

Director: Jacob LaMendola

The less you know about Jacob LaMendola’s 40-minute documentary Long Shot the better because its twists and turns are absolutely shocking even if its larger point should be burned into viewers memories by now. Overall, the documentary focuses on Juan Catalan, who was accused of a murder he didn’t commit and the lengths he had to go to in order to prove his innocence. While our justice system likes to tout that the accused are “innocent until proven guilty,” Long Shot shows in its brief runtime that the truth is just the opposite. Despite the flimsy evidence against Catalan, he had to be extraordinarily lucky to prove his innocence and that we have a system that incentivizes detectives and prosecutors simply to close cases rather than find justice. The brilliant thing about Long Shot is that it never has to come right out and say it. The case speaks volumes on its own. – Matt Goldberg

Clouds of Sils Maria

Writer/Director: Olivier Assayas

Cast: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloe Grace Moretz, Lars Eidinger, Johnny Flynn, Brady Corbet

Olivier Assayas (Carlos, Irma Vep) might be slyly gleeful if you call his Clouds of Sils Maria “pretentious.” Like a cloud, Maria lays a thick haze over what we talk about when we talk about movies vs. film. This film stars Juliette Binoche as a respected actress who, now in her 40s, is receiving less juicy roles and has been asked to play the older part in the very adaptation that made her famous (an 18 year-old intern seduces her 40-something female boss; Binoche’s Maria Enders came to fame playing the intern, she’s about to embark on the older character). Her assistant, played by Kristen Stewart, runs lines with her and they argue about whether or not the older woman is layered and redeemable or pitiful and pathetic.

The dialogue from the play is haughty, stiff and dead on arrival. Off the clock, the dialogue in which these two characters relate to each other as women—and mentor to mentee—is invigorating, instinctive, energetic. It’s an absolute joy to watch Binoche and Stewart act against each other, free of the play and what we consider high art. It’s natural. Whenever they’re sucked into creative work and discussions of what each other values from creative enterprises (Stewart’s assistant sees the melodramatic parallels in Hollywood superhero films), that their natural state of personhood gives way to tension. This very film vs. movie discussion creates a tension that erases the fun of movies by putting friction between the two, between art and perceived lesser art. Assayas’ Maria, perhaps pretentiously, says all movies have artistic value. Great! That this statement comes from the innate chemistry between Binoche and Stewart, lifts Clouds into some beautiful terrain. — Brian Formo

Sing Street

Director/Writer: John Carney

Cast: Lucy Boynton, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Aidan Gillen, Jack Reynor, and Kelly Thornton

If you’re looking for a pure feel-good movie, you can’t go wrong with Sing Street. This 80s-set musical/coming-of-age story hails from Once and Begin Again filmmaker John Carney and follows a young Irish boy who starts a band in order to impress a girl. In writing their original musical, they cover the various trends of the decade—there are songs that sound like Duran Duran and there are songs that sound like The Cure. At heart, it’s a story about young love and discovering who you are while not shying away from the harsh realities of real life. The songs are genuinely great, the performances are incredible (especially from newcomer Lucy Boynton), and the ending is a humdinger. I dare you to watch this movie and not smile. – Adam Chitwood

Zootopia

Directors: Byron Howard and Rich Moore

Writers: Jared Bush and Phil Johnston

Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Jenny Slate, Idris Elba, Nate Torrence, J.K. Simmons, Bonnie Hunt, and Octavia Spencer

Walt Disney Animation Studios found itself lagging behind when Pixar’s track record was pristine, but look no further than Zootopia for evidence that the tables have turned. While Pixar is more hit-or-miss nowadays, Disney Animation is on a roll with 2016’s Zootopia proving to be a pleasantly surprising hit both commercially and critically. While talking animal stories have been done to death, Disney dared to use the colorful, vibrant, and diverse world of Zootopia to tackle issues of inherent bias and racial prejudice head on, resulting in a viewing experience that’s both entertaining and thought-provoking. The movie is funny and gorgeous, with top-notch world building, but it also has something to say, which ensures that it’s much more than a lazy cash grab. With any luck, this one’s gonna have a lengthy shelf life. – Adam Chitwood

Following

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell

Christopher Nolan’s first feature film is still one of his best, and it will make you a little sad that he’s unlikely to return to such small-scale storytelling. While the director clearly excels at set pieces and big ideas, Following is a neat little noir that feels like it was plucked out of the 1940s, complete with femme fatale and hapless stooge. The story of a man who randomly follows people only to be chosen by one of his targets for an elaborate scheme, Following is clearly the first step in Nolan’s development as a director, but damn what a confident step it is. You have no problem believing this is the work of a director who would go on to tell a story in reverse or use Batman as a parable for the War on Terror. – Matt Goldberg

Moonrise Kingdom

Director: Wes Anderson

Writers: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola

Cast: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Jason Schwarztman, Bob Balaban, and Tilda Swinton

Wes Anderson’s ode to summer lovin’ is quite possibly his most romantic film yet, as the filmmaker perfectly encapsulates what it feels like to be young and head-over-heels in love. It’s a delightful picture with an undercurrent of sadness running throughout, and it features some of the most stunning production design of Anderson’s oeuvre—and that’s saying something. Moonrise Kingdom also features the anachronistic casting of Bruce Willis and Edward Norton, who turn out to be absolute perfect fits for Anderson’s brand of auteurism. As fall begins, say goodbye to summer with this melancholic treat. – Adam Chitwood

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Director: Banksy

Although it’s easy to refer to Exit Through the Gift Shop by the short hand of ‘That Banksy Movie’, it goes far beyond the famous, anonymous street artist. What begins as a story about the rise of street art eventually morphs into a fascinating documentary about the meaning of art and how that art is produced. Banksy ingeniously turns the camera back on subject Thierry Guetta aka “Mister Brainwash” to reveal that while inspiration may be pure, the result of that inspiration can be as crassly commercial as anything else that’s mass produced. It’s one of the sharpest films ever made about the nature of art, and blisteringly funny as Banksy’s work gives way to the controversial Guetta. Even if you’re not a fan of Banksy’s art, you’ll still be fascinated by his Oscar-nominated documentary. – Matt Goldberg

Inglourious Basterds

Director/Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger, Michael Fassbender, B.J. Novak, Daniel Bruhl, Eli Roth

There are no bad Quentin Tarantino movies, only levels of “good” to “great”. This pick falls into the latter category, as Inglourious Basterds boasts some of the best filmmaking of Tarantino’s career. The World War II-set story revises history and revolves around a special service force of soldiers dropped behind enemy lines who are there to do one thing and one thing only: kill Nazis. Tarantino threads multiple storylines here masterfully, separated into his signature chapters, but it’s Christoph Waltz who steals the show as Hans Landa in a star-making (and Oscar-winning) turn. Packed with tense dialogue, hilarious performances, and a very on-brand finale that takes place in a movie theater, Inglourious Basterds is a fun-filled work of art.

Mulan

Directed by: Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft

Written by: Rita Hsiao, Philip LaZebnik, Chris Sanders, Eugenia Bostwick-Singer, and Raymond Singer

Cast: Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, DB Wong, Miguel Ferrer, Harvey Fierstein

Inarguably the most feminist film of Disney’s Second Golden Age, 1998’s Mulan is also one that holds up considerably well. The story of a woman posing as a man in order to fight in her father’s place is compelling from the get-go, but directors Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft also absolutely nail the dynamic Ancient China aesthetic, bringing a rush of red and chilling landscapes to the big screen in fascinating fashion. Mulan is a story about honor and family, but also about learning to see beyond one’s limited perspective. All the men in China have been told that women are not fit to fight or stand in a man’s place, but Mulan as Ping shows that when a man doesn’t know it’s a woman he’s fighting alongside, it makes no difference. So while Mulan certainly deals with ancient traditions, it’s also a highly relatable and relevant film in terms of theme and character. – Adam Chitwood

The Homesman

Director: Tommy Lee Jones

Writers: Tommy Lee Jones, Kieran Fitzgerald, and Wesley A. Oliver

Cast: Hilary Swank, Tommy Lee Jones, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, William Fichtner, John Lithgow, Tim Blake Nelson, James Spader, Hailee Steinfeld, and Meryl Streep

If you like Westerns, The Homesman is a must-see. This underrated gem from 2014 flew under the radar and got lost a bit in the awards shuffle during its fall release, but it really is an essential entry in the genre. Swank plays a pious, independent-minded woman who volunteers to transport three women who have been driven mad by pioneer life across the country. She’s accompanied in her journey by a low-life drifter, played by Jones, whom she enlists to assist. Somewhat reductively dubbed a “feminist Western”, the film does indeed have a female-centric bent, but it’s really just a subversive Western on the whole, chronicling the hardships of pioneer life with a hardened, striking point of view. The cast is phenomenal, the story is surprising, and the cinematography and score (by Rodrigo Prieto and Marco Beltrami, respectively) are on point. If you missed The Homesman once, don’t miss it again. – Adam Chitwood

How to Survive a Plague

Director: David France

Maybe this isn’t necessarily a “feel-good” movie, but director David France’s stunning documentary How to Survive a Plague is required viewing. The film chronicles the early days of the AIDS epidemic, as two coalitions—ACT UP and TAG—were formed to shine a light on an issue that our own government was reluctant to admit had major repercussions. It’s one of the most moving documentaries you’re likely to see, as archival footage captures author/activist Larry Kramer and others in action, juxtaposed with those lucky few who managed to survive the deadly outbreak in present day interviews. Devastating, infuriating, eye-opening—How to Survive a Plague is one of the best documentaries of the 21st century. – Adam Chitwood

It Follows

Director/Writer: David Robert Mitchell

Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, and Lili Sepe

It Follows is not only one of the best horror movies of the last few years, it’s also one of the most handsomely crafted indies in recent memory. Filmmaker David Robert Mitchell conjures the story of an unseen force that “follows”, unflinchingly, until it catches up with its target. It can only be passed on through sex, one person giving it to another, and after a fateful one night stand Maika Monroe’s character Jay finds herself in its path. Mike Gioulakis’ cinematography favors elegantly composed wide angles to unsettling effect, and Disasterpiece turns out an 80s-infused score that evokes nostalgia for that horror-filled decade while standing on its own as a uniquely creepy piece of movie music. Terrifying, gorgeous, and striking, It Follows is damn fine entertainment for any occasion. – Adam Chitwood

Pete's Dragon

Director: David Lowery

Writers: David Lowery and Toby Halbrooks

Cast: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Oona Laurence, Robert Redford, Karl Urban, and Wes Bentley

Disney has been knocking it out of the park with its live-action adaptations of classic movies recently, and Pete’s Dragon is no different. While it may not be as flashy as The Jungle Book or Beauty and the Beast, what makes Pete’s Dragon stand out is compassion. Director David Lowery lovingly crafts this tale of a boy raised by a dragon in the Pacific Northwest who soon becomes the target of the local authorities. There’s a strong E.T. vibe here as the movie has a big heart, and Lowery really nails the sense of awe and wonder that coming face to face with a giant furry dragon would inspire. The soundtrack is great, the performances are great—basically, Pete’s Dragon is great, and it’s very much worth checking out. – Adam Chitwood

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Melissa Mathison

Cast: Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote, C. Thomas Howell, and Robert MacNaughton

It’s easy to forget just how good E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is. Obviously it’s one of Spielberg’s classics, but there’s an inclination to just assume E.T.‘s greatness without considering just how incredible this really movie is—it’s a downright masterpiece. It’s not enough for Spielberg to simply tell a story about an alien. He had done that already with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. No, this is a deeply personal work for the filmmaker, and one that’s just as much the story of a family torn apart by divorce as it is the tale of friendship between a lonely boy and a homesick alien. These plot devices go hand-in-hand, one informing the other, and it’s a testament to Spielberg’s genius that they blend so perfectly together. This is a movie filled with wonder, imagination, and adventure, but it’s also a considerably dark film that doesn’t shy away from the realities of a broken family. It’s that mix of pure movie magic and a grounded emotionality that make this a quintessential Spielberg film. If you need a reminder that Spielberg is one of the best there’s ever been, or simply want to watch a masterpiece, give E.T. a spin. And bring Kleenex. – Adam Chitwood

Memento

Director/Writer: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano, Carrie-Anne Moss

While his debut feature Following is noteworthy, the film that really put Christopher Nolan on the map was his Oscar-nominated second feature Memento. In what would be a hallmark of his filmmaking to come, the film presents a narrative in a unique form, as it’s a story told in reverse. Guy Pearce plays a man with no short-term memory, trying to piece together details minute-by-minute that will lead him to the man who murdered his wife. The film is wholly unique and features some dynamite performances (Pearce and Nolan are overdue for a reunion), and despite having made films like The Dark Knight and Inception, it still stands today as one of Nolan’s best films. – Adam Chitwood

Spotlight

Director: Tom McCarthy

Writers: Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy

Cast: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, and John Slattery

Winner of the Best Picture Oscar for 2015, Spotlight is a tremendous achievement and a magnificent example of the tightrope walk many filmmakers must do when tackling touchy or controversial subject matter. In chronicling the Boston Globe’s investigation into systemic sexual abuse in the Catholic church, Spotlight never relishes in putting down the church itself, nor does it shy away from the horrible crimes perpetrated (and facilitated) by those in power. It’s an incredibly engaging and compelling story of good people trying to do a good thing, and all the challenges that come with standing up to a massive superpower. Moreover, the ensemble in this thing is one of the best in recent memory. Whether you’re a Best Picture completionist or not, Spotlight is well worth your time. – Adam Chitwood

Newtown

Director: Kim A. Snyder

The documentary Newtown is not an easy film to watch, nor should it be, but it is absolutely essential. The film is a tactful, powerful look at how the community of Newtown, Connecticut came together in the aftermath of the largest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history. It is a deeply personal film, focusing on the parents, brothers, and sisters who were affected by this act of terrorism, and how it has impacted not just them but the community as a whole. The film forces the viewer to confront the consequences of gun violence in an unflinching, almost overwhelmingly emotional manner. It is not preachy and it has no agenda other than showing human truth. If I had my personal druthers, this film would be required viewing for every single American citizen. – Adam Chitwood

Hot Fuzz

Director: Edgar Wright

Writers: Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright

Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, Olivia Colman, Rafe Spall

Filmmaker Edgar Wright certainly turned heads with his work on the beloved UK series Spaced and then broke out in a big way with the “zomromcom” Shaun of the Dead, but how to follow up that success? With a whip-smart twist on the action genre, of course. With Hot Fuzz, Wright captures the world of everyday police work with the same urgency and explosiveness as Michael Bay shoots his big chase sequences, resulting in a hilarious action film all its own that never delves into parody. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are excellent as the two lead policemen, but the entire ensemble truly shines as the film moves towards a delightful turn at the top of the third act. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the fun. – Adam Chitwood

Girlhood

Director/Writer: Celine Sciamma

CastKaridja Touré, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoah

Director Celine Sciamma’s (Tomboy) greatest strength is capturing teenagers’ natural language, both physical and verbal. Following a clique of teen girls in Paris she magnificently navigates the moments of individuality and group closeness. Each girl has their own idea of self and desire, and each girl hides things from the group, but the boisterous moments when they shed their individuality and band together to sing Rihanna, run through the streets—moments of impulse—are expertly realized by Sciamma in this aching, natural coming of age tale called Girlhood. – Brian Formo

Burn After Reading

Directors/Writers: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Cast: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, and J.K. Simmons

How did the Coen Brothers cash in on their clout from winning Best Director and Best Picture with No Country for Old Men? With an absurdist comedy that adds up to a punchline, of course. Burn After Reading is a hilarious romp of sorts played very, very straight, as the Coens pack this espionage story to the brim with idiots, but shoot, edit, and score it as if it’s a Michael Clayton-esque thriller. It’s a brilliant subversion of expectations, and while some certainly felt slighted by the ending, the way the story abruptly deflates is precisely the point. This is a movie that gets better and better with each watch, and though it may feel slight in the shadow of something as rich and complex as No Country, the range it displays from the Coen Brothers only solidifies them as two of America’s greatest directors of all time. – Adam Chitwood

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Director/Writer: Richard Linklater

Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, and Lorelai Linklater

Boyhood is a masterpiece, not just because it’s a groundbreaking piece of cinema, but because it so fully and completely captures the experience of growing up. It’s a film entirely made out of scenes that would be cut out of most family dramas. But it’s those little pieces—the conversations about nothing, the screwing around with friends—that we remember the most. Shot over 12 years with the same cast, we watch as Mason grows into the kind of man he’s going to be. It happens in fits and spurts, and not every phase sticks as Mason tries out different personalities, but it’s a wonder to behold. We also see how aging affects parents, as Arquette turns in a phenomenal Oscar-winning performance as Mason’s single mom. This is a long one, so buckle in, but it’s a film that demands to be seen. – Adam Chitwood

Tangerine

Director: Sean Baker

Writers: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch

Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan, and James Ransone

If you’re in the mood for a comedy of a different sort, or maybe just something energetic and colorful, Tangerine is a must-watch. Shot entirely on an iPhone to tremendous results, the film follows a day in the life of two transgender prostitutes on the streets of Los Angeles, as fresh-from-jail Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) goes on the hunt to find the woman her boyfriend (James Ransone) has been shacking up with in her absence, all the while her quiet, aspirational friend and co-worker Alexandra (Mya Taylor) tries her best to put out the fires. It’s a hilarious, heartfelt, and surprisingly emotional little film that’s a breath of fresh air from the cliché-ridden comedies that Hollywood tends to churn out year after year. – Adam Chitwood

Pulp Fiction

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Writers: Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary

Cast: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel, Maria de Medeiros, Rosanna Arquette, Bruce Willis

But of course. Pulp Fiction, the film that simultaneously shot Tarantino into “superstardom” status and spawned a slew of imitators that would be churned out of Hollywood for the next decade. To find the extent of Tarantino’s influence, look no further than the fact that non-linear storytelling is now not only common, it’s become a staple of high-end television. Tarantino found himself in a neck-and-neck battle with Forrest Gump all throughout awards season, and while he lost out on Best Director and Best Picture to Robert Zemeckis’ fable, he at least took home Best Original Screenplay. Oscars aside, though, Pulp Fiction is an enduring classic that has solidified it’s place in film history as an incredibly influential—and just cool—piece of work. – Adam Chitwood

The Imposter

Director: Bart Layton

A documentary that falls under the “Stranger Than Fiction” category, Bart Layton’s The Imposter dives into the true story of Frédéric Bourdin, a deeply twisted individual who, in order to find safe harbor, stole the identity of 16-year-old Nicholas Barclay, a boy that had been missing for three years. The twists and turns of the story are beyond belief, but Layton manages it with a deft hand, weaving in dramatizations that almost feel required because otherwise the story would feel too outlandish. It moves with the pace of a thriller, but it’s all wrapped around the too human story of how far we’re willing to go to believe something, especially when that “something” could be the return of a lost loved one. – Matt Goldberg

The Awakening

Director: Nick Murphy

Writers: Stephen Volk and Nick Murphy

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, and Isaac Hempstead-Wright

Director Nick Murphy delivers a terrific, brooding period horror film in The Awakening, with a great central performance by Rebecca Hall as Florence Cathcart, a paranormal debunker working in 1921 England.  When a boys boarding school claims they’re being haunted by a ghost, Cathcart goes to investigate and discovers that this time there might actually be a specter in her midst.  The film features some wonderful twists and turns, and at its best is reminiscent of The Sixth Sense.  This is a film that slipped by too many people when it was released, but you should definitely carve out some time for it. – Matt Goldberg

Blue Is the Warmest Color

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche

Writers: Abdellatif Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix

Cast: Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos

While Blue Is the Warmest Color got plenty of press for its explicit sex scenes and the subsequent rift between its stars and director, the film remains an epically intimate portrait of love that is among the most engrossing and effective romances of all time. The movie tracks the life of a young woman named Adele (Adèle Exarchopoulos), who falls in love with another girl (Léa Seydoux) while in high school and develops a complex and deeply emotional relationship. This is a deeply felt love drama that, while long, feels wholly complete and personal. Exarchopoulos turns in a brilliant lead performance that deserved much more recognition upon release, and the cinematography is hauntingly beautiful. If you’re in the mood for a love story that feels real, human, and epic, go for Blue Is the Warmest Color – Adam Chitwood

Life Itself

Director: Steve James

If you’re a cinephile, then the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself is required viewing. Based on Ebert’s memoir of the same name, the film began as a chronicle of Ebert’s life, career, and contribution to the world of film criticism, but as filming began Ebert faced severe health issues. As a result, director Steve James—who helmed the documentary masterpiece Hoop Dreams—juxtaposes footage focusing on Ebert’s life and career with present day-set footage of Ebert in the hospital, as the film critic giant continues to display a passion for films and filmmaking up through his final days. It’s a moving, ultimately hopeful documentary that’s also incredibly fascinating, as many friends, colleagues and filmmakers—from Martin Scorsese to Ava DuVernay—weigh in on Ebert’s contribution to the medium. The film is also candid about Ebert’s somewhat prickly personality, with the segment on the animosity between Ebert and Gene Siskel particularly engaging. Again, if you call yourself a fan of movies, this documentary is a must-see. – Adam Chitwood

Amelie

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Writer: Guillaume Laurant

Cast: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz

Still one of the most visually unique and gorgeously crafted stories on film, the 2001 French film Amelie is sweet, surreal, haunting, and joyous. Propelled by Yann Tiersen’s spellbinding score, the whimsical tale focuses on young Amelie Poulin (Tautou), who tries to counterbalance her quiet and lonely life with a keen sense of observation, and an elaborate belief in exacting justice for those around her in order to ensure their happiness. But what of her own?

Eventually, Amelie becomes caught up with a cat-and-mouse game with a potential love interest, the quirky Nino (Kassovitz), which twirls them through Paris as they ascertain whether or not they should ever actually speak to one another. The dazzling movie is a visual feast and an emotional story about romance, shyness, colorful vigilantism, and connecting with the smallest pieces and pleasures of the world around us in ways that add up to something wonderful. — Allison Keene

Sunset Boulevard

Director: Billy Wilder

Writer: Charles Brackett

Cast: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough, Jack Webb

Billy Wildler’s 1950 film noir is a classic for a reason. The film tells the story of Joe Gillis, an unsuccessful screenwriter who stumbles upon a seemingly deserted mansion that’s inhabited by a long-forgotten silent film star, Norma Desmond. He is subsequently lured into her world of seclusion, where she harbors delusions of returning to Hollywood glory and he incrementally begins to feel more like a prisoner than a guest. This thing is engrossing from the first frame and features a tremendous performance by Gloria Swanson as a tragic casualty of the film world’s evolution to sound. If you like movies about people who make movies, or you’re simply in the mood for one hell of a story, get to Sunset Boulevard ASAP. – Adam Chitwood

Cartel Land

Director: Matthew Heineman

While you should already want to watch Cartel Land simply because it’s nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Oscar this year, the movie is incredibly compelling regardless. The film chronicles the battle against Mexican drug cartels by two vigilante groups on opposite sides of the border: the Arizona Border Recon in the U.S., and a rebel uprising group in the Mexican state of Michoacán. What begins as a seemingly simple story of two groups ultimately fighting for the same thing slowly turns into a deeply unsettling look at the corruption that permeates throughout Mexico, and how the process of rebellion breeds its own kind of corruption and power struggles. The film features some of the most harrowing and intense scenes I’ve ever seen on film, with the electricity and plot twists of a fictional drug war thriller made all the more disturbing for the fact that this is real life. Fascinating, searing, dark, and deeply unsettling, Cartel Land is essential viewing. – Adam Chitwood

The Big Short

Director: Adam McKay

Writers: Adam McKay and Charles Randolph

Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Finn Wittrock, and Brad Pitt

Who knew the guy behind Anchorman and Step Brothers had this movie in him? Perhaps The Big Short is a better fit for filmmaker Adam McKay than one might think on first glance, as this visceral, hilarious, and heartbreaking film chronicling the events that led to the U.S. financial crisis of 2007-2008 is at once a sharp-witted critique of capitalism gone awry and a hilarious character study. McKay’s passion for politics has always been clear, and he directs The Big Short with extreme confidence as we zip from character to character expelling financial jargon in a way that is made incredibly easy to understand. The film is both entertaining and infurating, hilarious and heartbreaking, and while it’s a cast filled with impeccable actors, it’s Steve Carell who steals the show with some of the best work of his career. – Adam Chitwood

Grease

A crowd-pleaser if there ever was one, Grease is the word for a reason. Forgive me for going all Stefon here, but Grease has everything: a sweeping romantic duo at its core, double entendres galore, and some of the catchiest musical numbers ever put to screen. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are dynamite together, but the entire ensemble is terrific under the direction of Randal Kleiser, who nails the 1950s vibe throughout. And what better time to watch Grease than now? Summer lovin’ indeed. – Adam Chitwood

Beasts of No Nation

Director/Writer: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Cast: Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, Kurt Egyiawan, Jude Akuwudike, Emmanuel “King Kong” Nii, and Adom Quaye

Netflix’s first major foray into original film territory was an ambitious awards play, as the streaming service acquired writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s passion project Beasts of No Nation after the film had been completed. The drama chronicles the journey of a young boy in an unnamed West African country who becomes a child soldier, and while the subject matter should tell you that this isn’t necessarily a “cheery” watch, it’s a tremendous and incredibly powerful piece of filmmaking. Young Abraham Attah is phenomenal as the young Agu, while Idris Elba delivers a terrifying performance as the charismatic leader Commandant. Fukunaga serves as his own cinematographer to hauntingly beautiful results, and the film culminates in a tough and thought-provoking conclusion. It’s one of the best films of 2015 that went criminally underseen, but it’s a terrific film that deserves to be experienced. – Adam Chitwood

The Last Unicorn

Directors: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin, Jr.

Writer: Peter S. Beagle, based on his novel

Voice Cast: Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Tammy Grimes, Robert Klein, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee

The Last Unicorn is a haunting fantasy tale that both children and adults should find appealing. It can be scary, sweet, heartwarming, and even satirical at times, as it follows a unicorn on a journey to find her lost brethren, who were supposedly driven out of existence by a red bull controlled by a mad king. The voice cast brings life to the movie’s distinct animated style (created by a studio whose core members went on to form Studio Ghibli), and the score is wonderfully composed by the legend Jimmy Webb, with memorable songs performed by the folk band America. It’s a strange and beautiful story of love, loss, and magic that has a truly unique sensibility. — Allison Keene

The Overnighters

Director: Jesse Moss

Writer: Jesse Moss

Jesse Moss’ documentary The Overnighters is a current and searing look at not only the shortcomings of the American Dream and the current economy, but also a larger story about how difficult it is just to do good by your fellow man. Pastor Jay Reinke allows men to sleep in his church, but runs up against opposition from his community and the town government. It’s also a touching look at how hard it is to do right by each other when we’re such flawed creatures. It’s a somber, melancholy picture that shows the difficulties of doing right by your fellow man, especially in present-day America. – Matt Goldberg

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Director: David Gelb

Even if you don’t like sushi, you’ll be salivating over the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which not only lovingly photographs Jiro Ono’s $500/plate delicacies, but also goes deep into his work ethic and passion. Gelb’s exploration of one man’s pursuit of total perfection, and the personal cost of that pursuit, is utterly captivating regardless of your food cravings. Gelb could have made a documentary about any person who is at the top of their field, but focusing on Jiro Ono opens up the door to not only a feast for the senses (you can almost taste the sashimi), but also a fascinating look at Japanese culture, especially with regards to Jiro’s complicated relationship with his two sons. It’s a filling documentary even if it leaves you physically hungry for such delicious-looking food. – Matt Goldberg

The Overnight

Director/Writer: Patrick Brice

Cast: Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godrèche

If you’re in the mood for a raunchy comedy that really goes there, then The Overnight might be right up your alley. The film stars Adam Scott and Orange Is the New Black star Taylor Schilling as a somewhat conservative couple who, while at the park with their son, meet a nice and somewhat mysterious parent named Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), who invites them and their son over to his family’s house for a playdate. All is going somewhat normal until the kids are put to bed, at which point Kurt and his wife Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) pull Scott and Schilling’s characters out of their shells, taking them to sexually adventurous places with plenty of humor to boot. For anyone who’s been itching to see Scott and Schwartzman don some hilariously exaggerated prosthetic genitals, The Overnight is for you. – Adam Chitwood

Frank

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Writers: Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Scoot McNairy

Filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson is now an Oscar-nominated director for his work on Room, but his previous film, Frank, proves the director’s range as he stretches into truly strange territory. Based on true events, the film follows a young aspiring musician played by Domhnall Gleeson who joins an eccentric pop band fronted by the mysterious Frank, a character played by Michael Fassbender who wears a giant mask over his head for almost the entire film. It’s a truly spectacular performance from Fassbender, who must use only his voice and body to convey the character’s complex emotions, and Gleeson is terrific as a naïve musician who, at heart, is just not very talented. This is an incredibly weird movie about art, music, and trauma, but it’s also delightful and wickedly funny. So for something off the beaten path, check out Frank. – Adam Chitwood

Byzantium

Director: Neil Jordan

Writer: Moira Buffini

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan, Sam Riley

Netflix is a great place to enjoy a film that might’ve flown under your radar and isn’t perfect but has a number of amazing moments. That sentence describes Neil Jordan‘s visually arresting but chillily distant return to the vampire genre (Interview with the Vampire), Byzantium. Told from the viewpoint of a forever young vampire (Saoirse Ronan)—who only preys on those already at death’s door—she writes about her vampire mother (Gemma Arterton) as half tragic, half inspiring, because she’s a woman who’s never been able to evolve beyond the world’s oldest profession (selling her body), but who also chose to become a vampiric being when that was reserved solely for men. Jordan’s film is eerie, feminist, and a bit meandering. What Jordan excels at with Byzantium is elaborately displaying blood—from decapitations, waterfalls, and bandages—with a can’t-look-away voyeurism POV. Blood has never looked so enticing—nor has the vampire’s desire to feast and bathe in it—than in this film. – Brian Formo

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Director: Eli Craig

Writer: Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson

A comedic spin on the “party-going youths meet backwoods sociopaths” subgenre of horror, a la Texas Chainsaw MassacreTucker and Dale vs. Evil is a straight up comedy of errors in horror movie clothing. The film follows the titular Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), two country bumpkins best friends renovating their dilapidated remote vacation home where they encounter a group of preppy, wildly biased college kids. When Dale’s attempt at friendly conversation is perceived as a threat, it sets off a series of ever-escalating confrontations that are only as hilarious as they are deadly. As far as I’m concerned, every Alan Tudyk performance is a gift, but it’s Tyler Labine’s soft-hearted Dale who steals the show as he tries to comprehend the fresh hell he somehow wandered into. Thanks to their on-point performances and some gore gags that are equal parts gruesome and guffaw-inducing, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is one of the most delightful horror comedies in recent memory.  – Haleigh Foutch

Young Frankenstein

Director: Mel Brooks

Writers: Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder

Cast: Gene Wilder, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn

Young Frankenstein is Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder’s ode to the classic Universal monster movies, but with this comedic duo’s signature spin. Wilder stars Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, a physician who is exhausted by rumors of his famous father’s attempts to raise the dead. But when he inherits his family’s estate, he discovers there may have been something to those rumors after all. This is a parody that’s so lovingly crafted it could almost pass as a genuine monster movie from the 30s—save for, you know, the tap dancing. – Adam Chitwood

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Director: Eli Craig

Writer: Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson

A comedic spin on the “party-going youths meet backwoods sociopaths” subgenre of horror, a la Texas Chainsaw MassacreTucker and Dale vs. Evil is a straight up comedy of errors in horror movie clothing. The film follows the titular Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), two country bumpkins best friends renovating their dilapidated remote vacation home where they encounter a group of preppy, wildly biased college kids. When Dale’s attempt at friendly conversation is perceived as a threat, it sets off a series of ever-escalating confrontations that are only as hilarious as they are deadly. As far as I’m concerned, every Alan Tudyk performance is a gift, but it’s Tyler Labine’s soft-hearted Dale who steals the show as he tries to comprehend the fresh hell he somehow wandered into. Thanks to their on-point performances and some gore gags that are equal parts gruesome and guffaw-inducing, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is one of the most delightful horror comedies in recent memory.  – Haleigh Foutch

Young Frankenstein

Director: Mel Brooks

Writers: Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder

Cast: Gene Wilder, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, Madeline Kahn

Young Frankenstein is Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder’s ode to the classic Universal monster movies, but with this comedic duo’s signature spin. Wilder stars Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, a physician who is exhausted by rumors of his famous father’s attempts to raise the dead. But when he inherits his family’s estate, he discovers there may have been something to those rumors after all. This is a parody that’s so lovingly crafted it could almost pass as a genuine monster movie from the 30s—save for, you know, the tap dancing. – Adam Chitwood

The Wolfpack

Director: Crystal Moselle

This utterly fascinating documentary first made waves at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and it’s certainly one of the most engrossing movies of the year. The film the lives of six brothers who grew up entirely within the confines of a New York City apartment, with movies serving as their only connection to the outside world. As the brothers grew restless in what was essentially a prison (with their father as the warden), they began finding a means of escape by not only watching films over and over again, but literally transcribing the screenplays and then acting out their own versions with costumes and all. The Wolfpack goes inside their NYC apartment as Moselle follows the brothers and their family, delving deeper into their passion for all things film. While the movie falls short when digging into the larger psychological issues at hand when it comes to the boys’ father, it does serve as an interesting (and, admittedly, entertaining) case study of sorts about how a human being is shaped when films are presented as “reality”. Those who grew up obsessively poring over the world of filmmaking would do well to check this one out. – Adam Chitwood

The Thin Blue Line

Director: Errol Morris

Writer: Errol Morris

You just finished Making a Murderer and you need your true crime fix. Now what? Your best bet is Errol Morris’ seminal 1988 documentary. The story focuses on wrongfully accused drifter Randall Adams, who was railroaded onto death row by false testimony and an overzealous prosecutor. The Thin Blue Line gets its edge not only from interviews with the real killer, David Harris, but also from Morris’ brilliant use of dramatization, close-ups, editing, and truly mastering the documentary form into his now unmistakable style. Making a Murderer may send you looking for more true crime, but The Thin Blue Line will also have you hungry to find another Morris film (I recommend The Fog of War and Standard Operating Procedure). – Matt Goldberg

White God

Call it Planet of the Dogs, except it’s so much more than that. This stunner, out of Hungaria, splits its action between Lili (Zsofia Psotta), an adolescent starting to feel the first pangs of, er, maturity, and Hagen, her dog, who is kicked out of her home when she’s sent to live with her cold, vicious father. Hagen’s brutal journey from a street dog to a contender in dog fights to the leader of a canine uprising parallels Lili’s first steps into adulthood, flirting with an older boy, going to booze-fueled parties, and acting out in school, and director Kornel Mundruczo gives both storylines a feverish immediacy. The reflective nature of these narratives renders White God at once a unique, emotionally effective action film with an animal-rights bend and a ferocious, sardonic satire of how women are often treated when they become mature and stop listening to adults – particularly men – so often. — Chris Cabin

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