The 100 Best Movies on Hulu Right Now

Movies Lists Hulu
Share Tweet Submit Pin
The 100 Best Movies on Hulu Right Now

Hulu has been quietly expanding and updating its film catalog ever since its deal ended with Criterion all those long years ago, before Filmstruck and before the Criterion Channel and before the vast, choked-out landscape of streaming content became yet another sign of the end times. Now the best movies on Hulu feature an unexpected variety of classics, indie gems and recent blockbusters—everything from a few picks on our Best Anime Movies of All Time list, to a healthy portion of our favorite movies from 2018, to very recent titles from our Best Movies of 2019 (so far) list, including The Beach Bum, which just hit the service.

Although Hulu is known for its variety of TV, don’t be fooled into thinking it can’t stand metaphorical toe to metaphorical toe with services like Netflix or Amazon Prime—especially since Hulu and Amazon seem to lap up anything Netflix has recently discarded.

Here are the 100 best movies on Hulu right now:

power-rangers-2017-movie-poster.jpg 100. Power Rangers
Year: 2017
Director: Dean Israelite
The Power Rangers franchise was never in need of a gritty reboot (Joseph Kahn saw to that with a short film and James Van Der Beek in 2015), and director Dean Israelite obviously never had one in mind. Instead, his big budget Power Rangers re-focuses the early ’90s Mighty Morphin TV series on the five misfit teenagers coming to grips with the ways in which their new, vaguely defined superpowers can maybe make their troubled young adult lives better—or just exacerbate the problems they already have. The Red Ranger, Jason (Dacre Montgomery), is hell-bent on wrecking his guaranteed athletic route out of small-town Angel Grove, while the Blue Ranger, Billy (RJ Cyler), confesses he’s on the spectrum, and so has trouble making friends, what with his inability to identify most social cues. Yellow Ranger, Trini (Becky G), is the new girl at school, her outsider status compounded by her questions over her sexuality; Pink Ranger, Kimberly (Naomi Scott), is a popular cheerleader, but suffering some major social blowback; and Zack (Ludi Lin), the Black Ranger, suppresses the fear of his ailing mother’s impending death by living on the fringe. Brought together by the discovery of a secret alien lair, lorded over by giant floating head Zordon (Bryan Cranston, able to make anything work), and the powers they’re gifted because of that happenstance, the newly appointed Power Rangers go on to learn how to harness their abilities and, above all, work as a team to defeat cosmic menace Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks, delightfully chewing walls). Amidst the explosions and kaiju battles, Israelite never looks away from the lives of his multicultural pubescent posse, so that by the time their town really does seem like it’s in peril—soundtracked by Brian Tyler’s pretty-awesome Tron: Legacy-like score—we’re fully invested in the fates of these kids, whether their outcast status seems chosen by committee or not. —Dom Sinacola

punisher-war-zone-movie-poster.jpg 99. Punisher: War Zone
Year: 2008
Director: Lexi Alexander
A neon noir reveling in vulgarity, Punisher: War Zone may be the nastiest Marvel movie the company’s ever put their name behind—counting Deadpool—a venue for Ray Stevenson, who plays Frank Castle with enough gnarled dread to make any of film’s levity seem well earned, to annihilate without mercy every soul to stand in his way. Director Lexi Alexander of course doesn’t shy away from the franchise’s patented superhuman hyper-violence—witness more than one fully collapsed face within the course of three minutes—and her sense of space in otherwise straightforward action scenes is pretty impeccable. All in all, it’s tasteless, gross, visceral, endlessly surprising and totally without expectation—it is, in other words, the kind of superhero movie “they” just don’t make anymore—the kind of movie Kevin Feige wouldn’t want anywhere near his universe. —Dom Sinacola

year-spectacular-men-movie-poster.jpg 98. The Year of Spectacular Men
Year: 2017
Director: Lea Thompson
“Bubbly, clear-eyed sex comedy” is the last pitch a studio would expect from a writer shopping around a movie about depression, but The Year of Spectacular Men has a nifty hook: It’s a family affair, authored by and starring Madelyn Deutch, co-starring her younger sister Zoey and directed by their mom, Lea Thompson, focusing her daughters’ raucous sibling banter through paralytic sadness. Family is all about taking the bad with the good, the giddy, wisecracking banter and sororal love with the behavioral health troubles and personal tragedy. Paying for the lows alongside the highs feels like a bargain. Madelyn plays Izzy, older sister to Sabrina (Zoey), the adult children of Deb (Thompson). Their story isn’t totally unhappy. Sabrina is hitting her career stride and passionately committed to her boyfriend, Sebastian (Avan Jogia), while Deb has found love with a much younger woman, Amythyst (Melissa Bolona), years after the death of the girls’ father. Madelyn, in contrast to Sabrina and Deb, flounders, scraping through college by the skin of her teeth and exiting her relationship with her boyfriend Aaron (Jesse Bradford) by falling flat on her ass. The Year of Spectacular Men is a film about imperfection and the beauty of failure. It’d be a stretch to say the Deutch sisters and Thompson embrace or advocate for failure, but more that they, and the movie they’ve made, understand that nobody knows who they are, where they’re going, or what they want out of life when they’re in their 20s, newly sprung from an upbringing predominantly spent in school. Narratives about the world’s Izzys tend to look at them unflatteringly, writing them off as brats or know-nothings, or generally treating them like disposable punchlines. The Year of Spectacular Men wants us to laugh at her, no doubt about that, but as the film builds we realize we’re laughing with her. —Andy Crump

the-hero-210.jpg 97. The Hero
Year: 2017
Director: Brett Haley
One of the pleasures of Brett Haley’s previous film I’ll See You in My Dreams was its elevation of Sam Elliott to romantic leading-man status. The relish with which Elliott (a veteran who has mostly been typecast as cowboys and authority figures throughout his career) tackled this rare dreamboat role was sparklingly palpable throughout, and his performance exuded seemingly effortless charisma and gravitas in equal measure. It was enough to make us all wonder why it had taken so long for anyone, in Hollywood or outside of it, to see his potential in movie romances. In his follow-up, The Hero, Haley gives Elliott a showcase all his own, and he comes through with a performance that is similarly dazzling in its easy authority and emotional breadth. This shouldn’t be a surprise, really, especially because of the way Haley has drawn on the actor’s own life in conceiving of Lee Hayden, the character Elliott plays here. First introduced in a soundstage repeating the same voiceover line for a beef commercial, one immediately senses that Lee is, to some degree at least, meant to be reflective of Elliott himself, especially once we get to know the character more. Lee is an actor who is still being celebrated for the iconic Western roles in his past—in particular, his performance in the motion picture that gives Haley’s film its name—even as he enters his twilight years and finds parts harder to come by. The Hero is Haley’s second film in a row to focus on the physical and emotional struggles of elderly protagonists, and it confirms that he has a knack for doing so with empathy, sensitivity and affection. If anything, he could be accused of having a bit too much affection. Most questionable is the May-December romance he introduces, as Lee develops a romantic affection for the much younger Charlotte (Laura Prepon), the friend of his neighbor/former co-star/weed dealer Jeremy (Nick Offerman). Though Haley treats this potentially dicey plot development sensitively (with Lee himself commenting at one point about how “weird” the relationship is), his best efforts don’t quite banish the sense that the film is essentially a male fantasy, with a self-pitying mess of a central figure at its heart. Still, if The Hero works at all, it’s because Elliott brings a measure of emotional truth to even the most sentimental of plot developments, and because Haley exudes such warm patience for his lead actor’s rhythms and cadences. Perhaps the real hero here is Haley himself, who deserves plaudits for giving veteran actors like Elliott opportunities to address their age and mortality with grace and beauty. —Kenji Fujishima

vox-lux-movie-poster.jpg 96. Vox Lux
Year: 2018
Director: Brady Corbet
A film about Lady Gaga that’s better than the film that stars the shape-shifting pop icon? In the same year? Maddening, but true. Once a darling of Euro auteurs, Brady Corbet turned his focus to filmmaking with a 2014 debut called The Childhood of a Leader, and returned with Vox Lux, auspiciously subtitled “A Twenty First Century Portrait,” a bifurcated Faustian portrait of a singer whose relationship with cultural tragedy is an intimate part of her identity and career. After surviving a school shooting in 1999, Celeste (played in the first act by Raffey Cassidy) rises from the ashes to pen an anthem that catapults her to fame. Her background is illustrated as such: “Celeste was born in America in 1986.” And in 2017, Celeste’s (now played by Natalie Portman) star threatens to dim, but her cultural reach is enough to inspire terrorists in Croatia to use masks reminiscent of the ones featured in her first music video. She has survived personal and public shame, and she is ready to reemerge with her new studio album. Maybe to heal herself, or provide solace for the ones around her, or her legions of fans. She’s ready to be watched. “They wanted a show, I gave ‘em a show.” Corbet provocatively connects the fall of western culture and the music machine to one pop star who rises to fame after a cultural and national tragedy, but the most audacious thing in Vox Lux is its ambivalence—that Celeste can be a product of tragedy and trauma, that the culture that created her is sick and has grown sicker, that, in spite of all this, her art and her work can still be a valid way to feel and be felt. Celeste’s identity, as person and as artist, is so heavily defined by trauma that it becomes the DNA guiding her music. One could say the same of Gaga. If A Star is Born has, to whatever degree, an antagonistic view of pop, Corbet’s Vox Lux is not only a tonic, but a film as much about Lady Gaga as the former. It asks: What if she’s telling the truth and pop music is the format in which she can be most sincere? What if artifice can reveal authenticity after all? What if a pop star could be both goddess and mortal? —Kyle Turner

i-am-divine.jpg 95. I Am Divine
Year: 2014
Director: Jeffrey Schwarz
Jeffrey Schwarz’s I Am Divine covers the life of Divine (born Harris Glenn Milstead) from his early childhood in conservative Baltimore through his rise to fame as the “most beautiful woman in the world.” As I watched the documentary unfold, all my opinions and preconceived notions about Divine slowly vanished. What Schwarz uncovers in his movie—or at least, what he illuminates—is how kind, quiet and generous Milstead was, despite his outrageous alter ego. Through a series of interviews with former collaborators, friends and family, Schwarz helps paint a picture of an extraordinary boy who lived so far outside what was considered “normal,” he had no choice but to blaze his own trail. The story of Divine is intertwined with the story of the Dreamlanders—Divine’s adopted family. This was a group of people who, like Divine, joined forces to create a safe space to express who they were without fear of judgement from the rest of the world. I Am Divine leaves one with was a sense that all things are possible. After all, John Waters and Divine—without experience, without contacts, without money—accomplished what Hollywood continually fails to do. They created iconic, timeless movies that are as powerful now as they were in the 1970s. —Leland Montgomery

joshy.jpg 94. Joshy
Year: 2016
Director: Jeff Baena
In the movies, when a bunch of bros meet up at a vacation house for some R&R, it usually results in a weekend blast of bacchanalia or somebody getting killed. Or both. Thankfully, Joshy isn’t like most movies. Yes, it has the trappings of a buddy hangout film, but it’s far more mature than the genre it leans on, and more entertaining, too. With five main characters, a host of cameos and a precipitous balance between comedy and darkness, Joshy gets a lot done, and does it very well. Writer-director Jeff Baena doesn’t have us thinking about partying at first. The title character (Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch) arrives home to his fiancée, unaware that by night’s end their relationship will meet its harsh, abrupt end. Months later, with the deposit to their Ojai bachelor party house in the balance, Joshy invites his pals to get together anyway. Only three show up, and they’re a study in contrasts: Ari (Adam Pally) is a stoner who’s married with a new baby, Adam (Alex Ross Perry) is a hesitant nerd, and Eric (Nick Kroll) is an overconfident, overly outspoken partier. Sure, there’s drinking and drugs and silliness in Joshy, but they’re rarely the focal point of the action. They’re a natural part of the environment, which makes sense once you’re in your thirties and dealing with the realities of life. For as much as I enjoy a good Seth Rogen pukefest, it doesn’t have to be the cinematic blueprint of what it means to hang with the guys. —Norm Schrager

i-trapped-devil-movie-poster.jpg 93. I Trapped the Devil
Year: 2019
Director: Josh Lobo
Merry Christmas! Have some family dysfunction and possibly an untimely visit from the Prince of Darkness. The man locked up in Steve’s (Scott Poythress) basement might well be Satan himself. He might also be an innocent man, or at least a man innocent of being the devil, but Steve’s brother, Matt (AJ Bowen) and sister-in-law Karen (Susan Burke) don’t really know what to make of Steve’s situation. Is he deluded, or still grieving a loss that at first goes unspoken and later is made explicit? Or does he really genuinely have Old Scratch imprisoned in his home? Director Josh Lobo toes the slow-burn line, doing very little at the start to meaningfully terrify viewers, but he rapidly layers I Trapped the Devil with mood and dread, his finger looped through the pin of a grenade in every interaction Steve has with Matt and Karen, as if at any moment their tentative atmosphere could descend into straight-up chaos. The film’s central question hangs over all until, at long last, Lobo gives an answer, but the answer is so chilling that we might wish he’d kept us in the dark all along. —Andy Crump

standoff-sparrow-creek-movie-poster.jpg 92. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
Year: 2018
Director: Henry Dunham
Rarely do movies show potential viewers as much consideration as Henry Dunham’s The Standoff at Sparrow Creek does through title alone. Everything a viewer needs to know about the plot, the story, and the setting is baked right in the name in just five words: There’s a creek, there’s a standoff happening by the creek, and the creek somehow relates to passerine birds. The details left out of the title are small potatoes compared to the basic structure outlined by the film’s self-summarizing appellation, not just to a prospective audience but to Dunham himself. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is as stripped down as thrillers get: An ex-cop turned militiaman meets up with his fellow militiamen after hearing of a shooting at a police funeral ostensibly perpetrated by one of their number. Packed into one confined space, each grows suspicious of the others and increasingly keen on saving their own asses. Resist the temptation to compare The Standoff at Sparrow Creek to Reservoir Dogs, or even The Hateful Eight—one-room movies populated by characters severely lacking trust in one another. Dunham doesn’t exhibit Tarantino’s flair for colorful, punchy dialogue and pop culture referentialism but nor should he, necessarily—this is a film anchored to here and now, unfolding so briskly that borrowing Tarantino’s elements of style would rob the experience of immediacy. Desperation is oxygen to The Standoff at Sparrow Creek, not snappy, cuss-laden banter. Dunham’s carves out his aesthetic in sudden, tense silences, where viewers can smell paranoia and see the air crinkling between his characters. In the tradition of all great crime dramas, from Heat to Mean Streets to Fargo, the wicked pleasure of The Standoff of Sparrow Creek is the time spent with dangerous people; accordingly, the movie’s masculine energy is off the charts. Everyone metaphorically paws the ground in every verbal altercation, ready to charge at his cohorts with the slightest provocation. But Dunham’s filmmaking remains disciplined throughout, building pressure within that’s eventually released in explosive violence. That’s what the title promises, after all. But that promise doesn’t blunt the jolting effect of The Standoff at Sparrow Creek’s storytelling or the gutpunches dealt in its climax. —Andy Crump

eating-animals-movie-poster.jpg 91. Eating Animals
Year: 2017
Director: Christopher Dillon Quinn
Documentaries tend to inhabit a spectrum that runs from “aesthete” to “infomercial” and from “Here’s what happened” to “Here’s what’s happening or going to happen, and we have a call to action for you.” Eating Animals is firmly on the latter end of that axis: While reasonably artful it is not about the art. While its production sensibility is perfectly fine, that probably isn’t what you’ll notice. Its narrative is coherent, its editing is fine, and its choices around interview subjects are wise (and include a fabulous and thoroughly classic outburst from the inimitable Dr. Temple Grandin on the subject of “ag-gag” legislation). But this film is basically 100% about message, and that message is a dire one. Eating Animals is less about the death of animals than the death of a way of life. Factory farming is unhealthy for animals, including people. There’s really no debating that. We can quibble about degrees, though I’d argue against going to the trouble. We are biological omnivores, like chickens, bears or rats. This does not mean we must eat animals; it means we can if we need to. We have decided that we need to, and in unsustainably large quantities. This film strongly suggests giving some thought to what you’re really buying at the grocery store, and using your food budget consciously. No arguments here. —Amy Glynn

ghost stories 2018 poster (Custom).jpg 90. Ghost Stories
Year: 2017
Director: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
Ghost Stories, a joint directorial effort by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, who adapted the movie from the successful stage play they wrote together back in the late 2000s, isn’t workaday horror hackery. For most of its duration, it’s confidently made, atmospheric and deliciously macabre, a movie that feels like a throwback to yesteryear’s horror without consciously acting like a throwback. Those acquainted with horror history might detect echoes of Nicolas Roeg, Robin Hardy, Michael Powell and the productions of Hammer Films, that beloved British outlet of all things gothic and spooky, but even knowledgeable horror geeks must trace Ghost Stories’ influences on a molecular level. They’re ingrained instead of inserted. It’s the difference between knowing homage and unconscious referencing. Nyman and Dyson love horror. You can sense that love in Ghost Stories’ embrace of classic multi-narrative structure, wrapping a triptych of horror subcategories around the labors of its lonely hero, Professor Phillip Goodman (Nyman), a man who tasks himself with exposing paranormal charlatans. (Think John Edwards, Theresa Caputo, or Ed and Lorraine Warren.) It’s tough being the guy who charges the stage during televised psychic readings to rain on the audience’s parade, but that’s Goodman’s life. Then he gets a letter from Charles Cameron, a famed paranormal investigator and Goodman’s boyhood idol. Now decrepit and living alone in a van by the ocean, Cameron challenges Goodman to explain three supernatural cases he couldn’t solve himself. We’re off to the races, but we always come back to sad sack Goodman, who throughout his investigations can’t help noticing weird phenomena in between visiting subjects (notably recurring and increasingly abrupt encounters with an ominous parka-clad figure). He’s haunted, too, but mostly by his memories of growing up with his rigid, borderline abusive and presently deceased father. That’s the hook on which Ghost Stories hangs its ghastly musings, the thing we expect the film to circle back to once Goodman completes his inquiries and renders his verdict on the authenticity of each incident. As an abstraction, that sounds like a stairway leading to Frank Capra levels of sentimentality: By wrestling with his skeptical biases, Goodman will confront his buried feelings about his dad and reconcile with his past. Maybe it’s for the best that the movie never goes there. —Andy Crump

29-Netflix-Docs_2015-ballet-422.jpg 89. Ballet 422
Year: 2015
Director: Jody Lee Lipes
In Ballet 422, director Jody Lee Lipes (who recently served as DP on Manchester by the Sea) does something remarkable: He cuts himself out of the equation entirely. He’s barely a fly on the wall in his own documentary, which chronicles New York City Ballet soloist and choreographer Justin Peck’s attempt to architect the company’s 422nd production. Lipes’s approach to capturing his subjects is about as modest as humanly possible, though describing his results as “modest” would be totally unfair. Ballet 422 lacks the traditional hallmarks of most standard documentary films, eschewing talking head interviews and recurring streams of title cards crafted to hand-hold the audience through learning, and that’s what makes it such a gem. —Andy Crump

wolfpack.jpg 88. The Wolfpack
Year: 2015
Director: Crystal Moselle
Imagine a small, dingy Manhattan apartment; imagine you can’t leave; and imagine: The only contact you have with the outside world is through movies. Growing up like this, anyone could imagine that things could get pretty weird—and the Angulo family, a literal band of brothers raised in isolation by their paranoid parents, are indeed an interesting bunch. Their only outlet for creativity, undertaken as a way to basically stave off boredom, is to recreate their favorite films (like Reservoir Dogs, The Dark Knight and The Grand Budapest Hotel), crafting costumes out of cereal boxes, yoga mats and whatever other resources they can get their pale hands on. In The Wolfpack, director Crystal Moselle has nearly unlimited access to the Angulo brothers; at one point they inform her that she is the only person who has ever been invited over to their home, and is the only guest they’ve ever had. Sad and strange, funny and touching, powerful and unsettling, it is so wholly unusual, The Wolfpack may be like no truth you’ve ever seen before. —Brent McKnight

dancing-in-jaffa.jpg 87. Dancing in Jaffa
Year: 2014
Director: Hilla Medalia
It would be impossible for a single documentary to capture and explain all that has occurred in conflict areas in the Middle East. However, award-winning Dancing in Jaffa director Hilla Medalia goes in through the side door, using children’s ballroom dancing classes in Israel as a lens through which to understand the complex political, religious, and racial issues that still prevail. Following renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine, Dancing in Jaffa falls into many narratives categories, as a film about the healing power of art, the resilience of the young, and one amazing teacher who transforms a community. That it is a true story, makes it all the more incredible. Pierre Dulaine returns to his hometown of Jaffa, Israel, for the first time in decades to accomplish the impossible. In an area still rife with conflict, hatred and protests, he wants to bring Palestinian and Jewish children together for a ballroom dance competition. Even those of us who believe that art can change a young person’s life will be astounded at the visible effects of Dulaine’s work. But the film also paints an honest portrait of the long journey, and there are many troubling moments. War and violence is a fairly common subject in the schools, and the division between the Israeli-Palestinians and the Jews is very real. Children learn from their parents and from school administrators to distrust the “other” side. It is Dulaine who comes in and tries to create trust through dance, but this is beyond difficult, and he is not always successful. And just as the children are discussing war in the classroom—and appear to be of a world and time so outside of our own—one of them cracks a Justin Bieber joke, and it becomes clear that this is a contemporary story. And so the message of Dancing in Jaffa is twofold—at this very moment we should know that there are people fighting a war; and at this very moment we should also know that there are others dancing for peace. —Shannon M. Houston

clovehitch-killer-movie-poster.jpg 86. The Clovehitch Killer
Year: 2018
Director: Duncan Skiles
Life in small-town Christian America can have a stultifying effect on a person, sucking out all personality and vitality, replacing all individual identity with better living through dogma. In The Clovehitch Killer, director Duncan Skiles replicates this bait-and-switch through cinematographer Luke McCoubrey’s camera. The film is shot stock-still, the camera more or less fixed from one scene to the next, as if affected by the vibe of routine humming throughout its setting of Somewhere, Kentucky. Almost none of the characters we meet in the movie have a spark; they’re drones tasked with maintaining the hive’s integrity against interlopers who, god forbid, actually bother to be somebody. Caught up in this dynamic is Tyler (Charlie Plummer), awkward, quiet and shy, the son of Don (Dylan McDermott), a handyman and Scout troop leader, which brings no end of unexpressed consternation to Tyler as a Scout himself. On the surface, Don looks and acts like an automaton, too, with occasional hints of humor and warmth in his capacity as father and Scoutmaster. Beneath, though, he’s something more, at least so Tyler suspects: The Clovehitch Killer, a serial killer who once tormented their area with a horrific murder spree long completed. Or maybe not. Maybe Don just has a real kink fetish and keeps rope around for fun in the bedroom. Either way, fathers aren’t always who or what they appear.

Horror movies  are all about the squirm, the nerve-wracking build-up of tension over time that, done properly, leaves viewers crawling out of their skin with dread. In The Clovehitch Killer, this sensation is wrought entirely through craft instead of effects. That damn camera, motionless and unstirred, is always happy to film what’s in front of it, never one to pan about to catch new angles. What you see is what it shows you, but what it shows you might be more awful than you can stomach at a glance. This is a devilish movie that does beautifully what horror films are meant to—vex us with fear—through the most deceptively simple of means. —Andy Crump

gemini-movie-poster.jpg 85. Gemini
Year: 2017
Director: Aaron Katz
With Gemini, director Aaron Katz is more than willing to divulge his already obvious Raymond Chandler influences and entertain his more oneiric Persona pulls to proclaim—pitch-perfectly balancing nervousness and some seriously confident swagger—his love for L.A., his home of the past four years. Appropriately, cinematographer Andrew Reed cushions Katz’s every manicured shot in somnambulance, while Keegan DeWitt’s score romanticizes the city’s smoggy haze. Katz pestle’d his name in the crucible of mumblecore, which keeps Gemini so assured in its looseness, as famous person Heather (Zoe Kravitz) and her assistant/best friend Jill (Lola Kirke) drive around a city seemingly built for them, their casual conversations juxtaposing woozily against pristine mansions and too-expensive vacation cabins. Katz might be exploring his own feelings about his new home, never judging the bougie nature of his characters, especially of Heather, whose celebrity has cocooned her from the reality of her privilege, even when that privilege plops Jill in the middle of a prototypical noir narrative, Detective Edward Ahn (John Cho) on her trail. Cho’s is an inscrutable character, as is much of Gemini’s tone, steeped in fantasy despite the dread that seems to hang over every moment. Which is maybe Katz’s impression of what it’s like to be famous, what it’s like to leave Portland behind for a place like L.A. Katz has said that he let Cho decide what his character really thinks about the truth of the case he’s assigned to, and in turn, Cho plays Ahn as suspiciously aloof. It’s not hard to imagine Katz trying to get over that suspicion himself so that he can keep making pretty movies with actors like Zoe Kravitz and Lola Kirke and John Cho in them. —Dom Sinacola

brink-movie-poster.jpg 84. The Brink
Year: 2019
Director: Alison Klayman
What could possibly possess anyone with a camera to tail Steve Bannon, that sentient cancerous tumor, across the United States during the build-up to the 2018 midterms and throughout Europe on a “unite the fascists” tour, buttressed from his unctuousness only by cinematic providence and the power of the lens? Alison Klayman is either the bravest or brashest documentarian to release new work this year, stoically shouldering the contentious but perhaps essential task of giving Bannon a stage equipped with rope enough to hang himself. The Brink is The Steve Bannon Show™, unfiltered for the most part, though Bannon being a shrewd manipulator and a filmmaker himself, he’s adept at tailoring his image enough to strike a disarming fascist figure. (Calling him a “filmmaker” feels like an insult to Klayman, so let it be said that he is a “filmmaker” the way that Kylie Jenner is “self-made.”) Watching The Brink will leave most with a powerful need to take a shower. It isn’t the filthiest movie of the year to date, but it’s the most repugnant, a naked look at the levers and pulleys Bannon maintains access to at different levels and in different environments of power. The man is a cockroach. No matter how many nukes the world drops on his head, the bastard won’t die, he won’t shut up, he won’t go away, and though he will try out green smoothies for health purposes, he’d probably be happier burrowing into a pack of Twinkies. Klayman’s disciplined anti-vanity approach keeps her from tainting the narrative she forms around Bannon—or rather, that Bannon forms around Bannon. Yes, he’s grimily charming if short on witty turns of phrase. (A fun but perilous drinking game: Take a shot whenever he utters the phrase “a rose between two thorns” to flatter fans, or potential donors, or allies.) Yes, he’s self-deprecating. No, none of this offsets or obfuscates his pro-fascist agenda, and Klayman makes no moves to stem the tide of his hideous politics. She wants us to see. Whether viewers want to watch is another question, but there’s no doubting the sheer unobtrusive balls of her filmmaking here. The Brink isn’t just necessary. It’s damn near heroic. —Andy Crump

baskin poster (Custom).jpg 83. Baskin
Year: 2016
Director: Can Evrenol
It is telling that the single scariest image in Baskin emphasizes creeps over carnage. It’s a shot of a boy standing alone in his living room, illuminated only by the static glow of his family’s television set, which has inexplicably turned itself on in the middle of the night. Nothing about the scenario is overtly terrifying—at least until he shuts the TV off—but it is memorably real in a film where it’s difficult to distinguish what is and isn’t imagined. Grand guignol-level spectacle where every character in the frame is streaked with viscera? That’s one thing. Domestic peculiarities that invoke nocturnal aberrations, though, are another thing entirely. But filmmaker Can Evrenol is pretty fixated on that guignol stuff, and so Baskin is best characterized as an off-kilter bloodbath by consequence. That’s great news for any horror fan with a fondness for displays of unbridled cruelty. Baskin indulges in nightmares and constructs itself from the disassembled pieces of the human form, arrayed across the screen in whichever artful ways Evrenol deems best. The film evokes the artistic sensibilities of both Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento with its lurid color palette, but it carves a gore-streaked path all its own. Baskin is a roundly unhinged film. Maybe Evrenol is a fully hinged person, but figuring out what, exactly, is happening in his movie is a fool’s errand. Where does reality begin and surreality end? How much of what we see on the screen in Baskin is actually happening? How much of it is spun from the characters’ memories and emotional phantasms? Is there any hope of untangling this genre movie Möbius strip? That last question is easy to answer: Not even a little. But if you’re trying to yank logic out of the film, you’re doing it wrong. —Andy Crump

36. honeymoon (Custom).jpg 82. Honeymoon
Year: 2014
Director: Leigh Janiak
The cool thing about horror is that if you just have the vision, you can make something like Honeymoon with no more resources than an empty cabin and a few weeks of spare time. The film only has four actors, and two of them barely appear, leaving everything on the shoulders of the two young stars, Rose Leslie (Ygritte from Game of Thrones) and Harry Treadway. This is the right decision to make: If you’ve got a few solid, young actors, why not let the film just become a statement of their talents? The story is extremely simple, with a newlywed couple going on their honeymoon in a remote cabin in the woods. When Bea, the wife, wanders away one night and has some kind of disturbing event in the woods, she comes back changed, and it begins to affect both her memory and sense of identity. The next hour or so is a slow-burning but well-acted and suspenseful journey for the two as the husband’s suspicions grow and the warning flags continue to mount. By the end, emotions and gross-out scares are both running high. —Jim Vorel

experimenter.jpg 81. Experimenter
Year: 2015
Director: Michael Almereyda
Watching Experimenter is to realize how little life is in most biopics. Which is odd: Despite being based on a real life, the standard biopic feels freeze-dried, narrative conventions calcifying the subject matter and strangling any spontaneity out of the material. Most such movies carry the stench of rigor mortis, but Experimenter is alive and alert from its first moment. Where other biopics seem to have made up their minds about their famous figures before the opening credits roll, this remarkable study of social psychologist Stanley Milgram remains curious, exploring and questioning his life, career and findings. The man’s work may be more than 50 years old, but a film about his work couldn’t be timelier—partly because of that work’s still-resonant lessons, and partly because writer-director Michael Almereyda has crafted a bracing, daring drama that extrapolates it into every crevice of modernity. Many biopics simplify great lives; Experimenter enriches and enlarges one. —Tim Grierson

alchemist cookbook.jpg 80. The Alchemist Cookbook
Year: 2016
Director: Joel Potrykus
About a third of the way into The Alchemist Cookbook, Sean (Ty Hickson) dares his friend Cortez (Amari Cheatom) to eat a can of cat food. Cortez takes him up on the challenge, and even though he clearly can’t stand the taste on his first bite, he tries his best to hide this from his friend and takes an even bigger batch for his second helping, only for him to finally give up soon after. This moment is not only one of the most hilarious scenes I’ve seen in a movie in quite a while, but it’s also a pretty good encapsulation of writer/director Joel Potrykus’s methods, with Cortez’s commitment to a blatantly ridiculous dare a miniature version of Potrykus’s own ruthless commitment to chronicling the strangest of human behavior. Thankfully, condescension is as far from Potrykus’s black-comic sensibility as one could imagine. That is not to say, however, that his oddball protagonists—Sean here, and the characters Joshua Burdge played in the director’s previous two features, Buzzard and Ape—are likable characters by any means. Buzzard centered around a slacker named Marty Jackitansky who made it a badge of honor to try to scam the capitalist system in his own small ways, and who spent much of his free time perfecting a Freddy Krueger-like “Power Glove” with knives sticking out of it. Never does Potrykus try to make this main character appealing any more than he lets Sean off the hook for his increasingly crazy behavior out in the woods. And yet, Potrykus’s films seem animated by a genuine fascination with his eccentric main characters: a sincere desire to dissect them, to understand them, to present them to us in all their unadorned loopy glory for either our amusement or disdain. Potrykus’s directorial style is crucial to expressing this perspective. As Dave Kehr once noted about Luis Buñuel and the great Spanish filmmaker’s Simon of the Desert, he’s able to find exactly “how much realism is required in surrealism.” Perhaps The Alchemist Cookbook is also, in part, a religious allegory: a depiction of a man trying to understand a supreme being who is perhaps ultimately unfathomable. It’s a universal quest that, in this particular case, brings its seeker to the point of cheating Death before order is restored. —Kenji Fujishima

grace-jones-documentary-poster.jpg 79. Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami
Year: 2017
Director: Sophie Fiennes
Not a conventional beat-by-beat historical recap, and not a valedictory straining to extol the artist’s brilliance, Sophie Fiennes’s profile of Grace Jones is, instead, a rather frank assessment of show business—with the “show” element dedicated to the singer’s magnetic stage presence and the “business” revolving around the nitty-gritty negotiations that go into cultivating a career as a performer and professional survivor. Bloodlight and Bami travels with the now-70-year-old performer as she spends time with her family in Jamaica, these snapshots offering an impressionistic glimpse of the elements that helped shape her. Meanwhile, the angry hotel-room conversations, focused studio sessions, casual phone calls in taxis and tense TV shoots present a tapestry of Jones’s daily working life without adornment. The movie demystifies the singer while leaving her fundamental inscrutability intact—and the concert footage will remind you that her hits still have plenty of kick. —Tim Grierson

overnight.jpg 78. The Overnight
Year: 2015
Director: Patrick Brice
Making new friends isn’t easy when you’re grown-up and married. It’s that kind of anxiety first felt by the leads in Patrick Brice’s sophomore feature, The Overnight, a dizzying, debauched, excruciatingly funny film about knitting new connections through discomfort. Brice has made the trend-forward sprawl of suburban Los Angeles his backdrop, and his story begins as one of displacement: Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling), freshly uprooted from Seattle, are strangers in a strange, meticulously chichi world, and they’re in desperate need of guiding companionship. After presenting its preamble, The Overnight introduces our yuppie heroes to Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), a man so painfully hip that he might as well be the mayor of the entire damn burg. Like Brice’s debut film, the two-man found-footage horror show Creep, The Overnight is a cautionary tale of stranger danger. The film offers tonal breeziness and terrific performances, especially from Schilling and Schwartzman, who vibe well together and stand out on their own. She’s our audience surrogate, surveying the narrative’s kink with her typical wild-eyed disbelief; he’s a larger than life bohemian stereotype whose charm lets Schwartzman wear his crown as the king of amicable jerks more snugly than he has in his last half dozen roles. They make up part of the picture’s backbone, with explorations of masculine insecurity, the crumbling infrastructure of a marriage and the truth of what really goes on behind the closed doors of the wealthy comprising the rest of the film’s whole. —Andy Crump

sisters-brothers.jpg 77. The Sisters Brothers
Year: 2018
Director: Jacques Audiard
The Sisters Brothers, Jacques Audiard’s eighth, and first English-language, film as director, begins with violence of mythical, gunslinger proportions—the voice of Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix) declaring the title of the film as a warning, followed by the yellow flash of gunshots between the opaque blackness of the American frontier—only to pull apart that myth as the film winds down to a warm end. A deconstructionist take on the Western is nothing starkly new, but Audiard pays careful attention not just to the moral repugnance at the heart of American expansionism, but to the physical repugnance as well, filling The Sisters Brothers with bad teeth, horse death, vomit full of spiders, sweaty surgery and the general sentiment that living in the Oregonian and Californian wilderness in 1851 was a mostly difficult, dangerous, gross-ass endeavor. For Charlie and Eli (John C. Reilly) Sisters, the West fits their lawless acumen well, at least to the extent that indiscriminate murder, bounty hunting, projected daddy issues and nature tracking provide them with a living wage. Though Charlie thrives in the outlaw lifestyle, drinking and whoring through one tiny town after another, Eli hopes for better things, whatever that may be—a family, perhaps, with the school teacher who gave him the red handkerchief he wears around his neck—fed up with fearing for their lives and sleeping on the ground and nursing his brother’s hangovers, despite how good they’ve become at what they do. Handsomely, Audiard finds salvation for the brothers via camaraderie and femininity (Carol Kane appears, as if from a half-remembered dream), which isn’t so much subversive as it is refreshing, his Western anti-Western gently lulling into something that operates less like a genre flick and more like Oscar bait. Too often, Eli speaks of his brother as someone who needs to change, who is changing, who has changed; the old ways are dying, and Charlie’s too easily trapped within a cycle of violence and degradation. Audiard wants to offer a way out—for his characters, and for us, too—but his way out is much too traditional to make a difference. —Dom Sinacola

skate-kitchen-poster.jpg 76. Skate Kitchen
Year: 2018
Director: Crystal Moselle
Crystal Moselle’s first film, The Wolfpack, is a work of observation: She mostly captures life in progress, that life being confined to an apartment in New York City’s Lower East Side. A fascinating enough premise, but the film says very little about it. Moselle’s follow up, Skate Kitchen, is similar in nature, a film borne from her real life encounters with real life characters, but here she architects a plot and furnishes it with a narrative about young Camille (Rachelle Vinberg), a lonely girl who stumbles upon an all-girl skateboarding crew (Skate Kitchen, in case you can’t guess) via Instagram and joins their number. Her friendships with the crew pressures her relationship with her mother (Elizabeth Rodriguez), and her eventual flirtation with a boy (Jaden Smith) from a rival crew jeopardizes her friendship with Skate Kitchen. The movie orbits relationships between women more than it focuses on skateboarding as an art an an aesthetic; it’s character based rather than action based. Still, the skating we do see is as real as the camaraderie and chafing we see more of, and both lead to their own kinds of injury—physical for the former, emotional for the latter. (We see Camille get “credit carded” at the start of the film, which frankly looks infinitely less preferable to workaday tiffs with your besties. You decide.) Moselle’s style is loose and unanchored, fostering an easy hangout vibe and a sensory experience. Watching Skate Kitchen, you can smell NYC’s summer air (a combination of sun baked trash, burnt rubber and gasoline), feel the heat rising off the asphalt and the sweat trickling down your back, taste the endless smorgasbord of the city’s food culture. More than Moselle’s evocation of New York, though, you’ll be struck by the raw honesty of the characters she’s culled from the city’s streets. —Andy Crump

Recently in Movies