A young girl finds a finds a secret door in her new house leading to an alternate world similar yet better than ours. Everything goes swimmingly until Other Mother tries to keep her in the alternate world forever. Written by fantasy author Neil Gaiman (American Gods) and directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) Coraline is an animated delight for both parents and children.
Everybody’s got to start somewhere. For Chris Nolan, AKA the man who single-handedly remolded the DC Universe with his Batman series, this began with Following. A neo-noir borrowing heavily from Carol Reed and Orson Welles, the film follows a writer who begins tailing strangers until things, as you might imagine, go very wrong.
23. Boogie Nights
There’s nothing quite like seeing all of Mark Wahlberg’s… talents. Boogie Nights introduced to world to the genius of Paul Thomas Anderson and reintroduced a charming young, upstart actor named Burt Reynolds. This is not to mention the incredible cast, which, for many of whom, the film was their first major role: William H. Macy, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, John C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
22. The Invitation
The Invitation mostly flew under the radar when it came out last year but it might have been one of the tensest psychological thrillers in recent memory. Starring Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus and the upcoming Spiderman: Homecoming) plays Will, a Los Angeles hipster who goes to a party hosted by his ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard). The less you know about this film the better.
21. It Follows
The horror genre isn’t for everybody. Some folks just don’t have the stomach for all the slashes, gashes and blood that comes with today’s splat pack of horror films. It Follows harkens back to the horror films of the 1980’s—gripping and suspenseful with a healthy dose of teens in heat. Jay (Maika Monroe) learns that a fatal, following curse gets passed via sexual intercourse and she’s the latest victim. She must pass it along or learn how to defeat it.
The Best Picture-winning docudrama of the Boston Globe team that, in 2001, blew wide open the Catholic Church pedophilia scandals. Equal parts eye opening and repellant, Spotlight is a fantastic meditation on the power of journalism and the systems of suppression.
19. The Big Short
In the same vein as Spotlight, The Big Short details how exactly America ended up in the Great Recession of 2008. Hint: Lots of powerful people were taking advantage of working-class Americans and nobody was watching them. Now, in 2017, The Big Short takes on new significance. Watch for fantastic performances by Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Christian Bale.
18. Clouds of Sils Maria
This is one of those plotless difficult-to-describe films but one that is both beautifully filmed and expertly acted by the almost all-female leading cast. Juliet Binoche (The English Patient) plays an actress cast as the older character in an adaptation of a play she made famous years ago, the sultry starring role going to a younger, more scandalous actress (Chloë Grace Moretz). The film tackles many themes and isn’t afraid to court a little controversy.
Filmed with the same cast over the course of 12 years, Richard Linklater’s loving ode to his childhood in Texas is not only a fine film but also a full-blown art piece like the world had never seen before. Starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette (who took home an Academy Award for her role) and Ethan Hawke, Boyhood is proof of the auteur at the height of his power.
16. Burn After Reading
Burn After Reading often gets filed under “lesser” Cohen Brothers but it’s got an unmistakable charm. The memoirs of a former CIA analyst (John Malkovich) fall into the hands of Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt), two gym employees who see the accidental finding as a possibility to get Litzke her desired cosmetic surgery. As with many Cohen Brothers films, things go so far off the rails, you’ll be hard pressed to figure out how the hell you got there in the first place.
The conceit for Tangerine is simple but effective: A hooker and her best friend set out to find her pimp ex-boyfriend to teach him and his new lover a lesson after she finds he cheated on her while she was in prison. The movie was filmed entirely on an iPhone, using mostly non-actors for a budget of just around $100k.
Frailty puts both Matthew McConaughey and Bill Paxton at their absolute best. A serial killer who goes by the name “God’s Hands” eludes the FBI until Fenton Meeks (McConaughey) claims he knows the identity of the killer—his brother Adam. The film is chock full of twists, turns and sleights of hand. You will not be disappointed. Bonus: Paxton directs.
13. The Prestige
Another Chris Nolan film but this one written in collaboration with his brother Jonathan Nolan (Westworld). Two 19th century magicians, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman), are engaged in a bitter rivalry when an illusion goes awry. If you’re a fan of either of the Nolan brothers, you know to expect a taught and winding narrative.
12. Cool Runnings
The film is based on the incredible true story of four Jamaican bobsledders and their Olympic dreams. John Candy co-stars as their down-on-his-luck coach.
11. Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Sure, Wes Anderson has made the same film more than a few times over, but The Life Aquatic was, and remains, the film that set him apart. Despite defining roles by Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum and Willem Dafoe, the film only holds a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. Some people just don’t know how to have a good time.
10. Mystery Science Theatre 3000
The classic b-movie-trashing, robots-in-space show familiarly known as MST3K returns to offer a bit of respite from the every day doldrums and maddening state of current events. Boasting some new faces in the writer’s room (Community’s Joel McHale and Dan Harmon) but the same great cast, the new season of MST3K is sure to delight fans both old and new.
9. A Nightmare on Elm Street
In this timeless representation of horror cinema, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) haunts sexy teenagers while they dream, which kills them in reality. Can Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and her boyfriend Glen (Johnny Depp) solve the puzzle of the mangled man who haunts them? What secrets to the parents of the town keep?
8. Literally Anything Starring Hannibal Buress
Let’s face it: Hannibal Buress is probably one of the funniest working comedians in the world today. Netflix has graciously provided us with three stand-up specials featuring Hannibal—Animal Furnace, Comedy Camisado, and Live in Chicago as well as the featurette Hannibal Takes Edinburgh.
7. Voltron 84
The newest (and slightly cringe-inducing) Power Rangers reboot left us hankering for a simpler time of giant robots that come together to create… another, bigger robot. The animated precursor, and still wholly amazing, to the mighty morphing teenagers was Voltron. Netflix asked the creators of the seminal show to pick their favorite 12 episodes and arrange them into a greatest-hits like mega-season.
You might not know it, but the Independent Film Channel actually has some killer original programming. Rectify follows Daniel Holden (Aden Young) as he readjusts to life outside of death row, where he’d been imprisoned for 20 years for a murder that he may or may not have committed. The show doesn’t seek to solve the mystery. Instead, it remains an understated drama about a broken family in the American South. Netflix just posted the final season and it’s a good one.
5. Hap and Leonard
Another IFC original set in the South. Hap (James Purefoy, Rome) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams, The Wire) find themselves at the center of the search for sunken treasure at the behest of Hap’s ex-wife Trudy (Christina Hendricks, Mad Men) in this adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s award-winning novels.
4. Grace and Frankie
Two rivals find themselves hopelessly intertwined when their husbands come out of the closet, fall in love with each other and decide to get married. When things start to spin out of control, the women realize they only have each other to rely on. Grace and Frankie stars national treasures Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as the titular characters and Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston as their husbands.
3. Trailer Park Boys
There’s no doubt about it—the boys are back in town. Everyone’s favorite Canadian white trash waste cases return to Netflix for their 11th season!
2. Louis CK 2017
A new comedy special from the brilliant comedian filmed this past year in Washington D.C. We’re not sure what jokes he’ll be rolling out for this new special, but you can expect the same, great off-kilter comedy the man is known for.
1. Dear White People: Season 1
The show will follow closely to the basic template of the film: a college radio DJ deals with micro-aggressions (and full-on aggressions) on an Ivy League campus. Expect hilarious and intelligent satire.