THIRTY MORE – Because I can (Part Two)
26. RRR (D: S. S. Rajamouli)
Arguably the year’s most talked about movie is a maximalist marvel that’s so unrelentingly massive that watching it all the way through in one go is almost exhausting. Emphasis on “almost.” Nothing can prepare the viewer for the rip-roaring primal scream of a climax.
27. Avatar: The Way of Water (D: James Cameron)
James Cameron returns us to Pandora and, once again, delivers spectacle unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. An old-school narrative adventure filled with cutting-edge sights and sounds, this is as impressively immersive an action epic as any I’ve ever had the pleasure to see.
28. Marry Me (D: Kat Coiro)
Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson make beautifully endearing music together in director Kat Coiro’s heavenly romantic comedy. A breezy romp that’s blissfully rewatchable.
29. Kimi (D: Steven Soderbergh)
Zoë Kravitz shines in director Steven Soderbergh and writer Dave Koepp’s suitably minimalistic cyber-thriller. The film moves as if it were shot out of a cannon and is filled with sublime moments of tension. Another winning Soderbergh throwback in the vein of Haywire, Side Effects, and Unsane.
30. X (D: Ti West)
If Pearl was the gleefully gruesome main course, X is the 1970s-style, Texas chainsaw meatgrinder appetizer of sex, drugs, and pitchforks to the face. An absolute barnburner of dread, mayhem, and sexual freedom.
31. Decision to Leave (D: Park Chan-wook)
Park Chan-wook’s Hitchcockian mystery of love, death, and obsession run amok, this is a tense character study masquerading as a run-of-the-mill thriller. Park Hae-il and Tang Wei give two of the year’s best performances.
32. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (D: Tom Gormican)
Nicolas Cage is Nicolas Cage forced to masquerade as the various iconic characters of Nicolas Cage in Tom Gormican’s hysterically loopy action-comedy. Cage is unsurprisingly superb, but it is Pedro Pascal who steals the show as the maybe all-powerful drug kingpin who’s the actor’s biggest fan.
33. You Won’t Be Alone (D: Goran Stolevski)
Moody and melancholic, writer-director Goran Stolevski unleashes a time-bending yarn of humanity that’s a primal scream for acceptance and understanding. An esoteric, thought-provoking stunner.
34. Emily the Criminal (D: John Patton Ford)
Minimalist thriller reminiscent of hard-boiled classics like Th Friends of Eddie Coyle, Aubrey Plaza gives the performance of her career as a struggling artist who discovers she’s very, very good at credit card fraud.
35. Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. (D: Adamma Ebo)
Regina Hall does it again. Her performance as the “first lady” of a Southern Baptist Atlanta megachurch is so monumental, so triumphantly complex, I sit in awe at the very thought of it.
36. The Fabelmans (D: Steven Spielberg)
Steven Spielberg reaches into his never-ending bag of tricks to produce a cinematic memoir where dreams and heartbreak mingle together into one. A loving celebration that’s also an elegiac warning, making art has never looked so gorgeous and yet cost so much.
37. Barbarian (D: Zach Cregger)
Don’t go into the basement of this Airbnb. Don’t open the hidden door. Don’t descend even deeper into the Earth by going down the mysterious staircase. But definitely watch this inventive movie. You’ll scream in terror-fueled satisfaction.
38. My Father’s Dragon (D: Nora Twomey)
Nora Twomey, one of the creative minds behind The Secret of the Kells and The Breadwinner, does it again, delivering a colorfully kid-friendly fantastical extravaganza that’s impossible to resist. This film just makes me happy.
39. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (D: Sophie Hyde)
Emma Thompson strips herself emotionally naked in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, and newcomer Daryl McCormack comes close to matching the Academy Award-winning icon beat-for-beat. This one deserves a heck of a lot more exposure. Here’s hoping in the future it gets it. [Interview with director Sophie Hyde and writer Katy Brand]
40. Hellbender (D: Toby Poser, John Adams, Zelda Adams)
My goodness, what a fearlessly miraculous low-budget indie supernatural thriller! The family Poser-Adams-Adams (The Deeper You Dig) do it again, this time delivering a rambunctiously vicious saga of mothers, daughters, and the demons they can become that’s so effortlessly entertaining I’m simply in awe as to what they’ve accomplished.