Skip the introduction and go straight to the list
This is a list of movies I watched and liked and would recommend other people watch. Every now and then I'll include a movie that's already quite popular, but I generally don't see the point in recommending movie-that-everyone's-seen-already-and-already-loves. That doesn't mean every movie on this list will be obscure, but it means there may be certain large chunks of the populate who may not have heard of these, or these movies may have been popular in their time but largely forgotten now, or they were box office bombs but actually quite good.
Yes, I know a lot of sexual predators and assholes are involved in some of these films, but they've always been in Hollywood. Think of it more as the cast and crew and other people involved making the film great and not "Famous rapist attached to this picture."
And, these are not all "high art" cinema. Some of these are just fun to watch and not super deep.
Just for having some kind of organization, I'm ordering them by release year.
This list is dynamic... I'll keep adding to it as I think of more stuff.
Alita: Battle Angel
Nothing revolutionary here. Interesting characters, good battle scenes, nice special effects.
Blinded by the Light
At times funny, at times serious, this is based on a true story and enjoyable even for people who don't dig Bruce Springsteen that much.
Cute. Funny. Some things kind of don't make sense in the beginning. They make more sense later.
Awkwafina showing her acting chops. Charming and heart-wrenching.
Another movie that didn't perform as well in the box office as it should have. Constance Wu was great in this, and Jennifer Lopez was totally robbed of a well-deserved Oscar.
I Am Mother
Almost like a really long episode of Black Mirror
, this is disturbing, engaging, and thought-provoking.
Yes, LaKeith Stanfield is totally under-utilized in this film, but otherwise, it's a chef's kiss from me.
See You Yesterday
Overall a great film. I wish it weren't yet another film about Black trauma. The first half is really a teenagers-having-fun time-travel adventure, and we don't have that many films like that that aren't just white people. Still solid... just ultimately about Black trauma.
Terminator: Dark Fate
I realize there's Terminator-movie fatigue, but this was probably the worthiest sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Fairly brainless but fun action movie.
I debated including any Marvel movies, but Black Panther
was really revolutionary cinematically for an action and superhero film.
I honestly hated the previous Michael Bay Transformers movies, but Bumblebee
has all the action and fight sequences with a lot more character development and good storytelling—plus one of the best uses of Stan Bush's "The Touch."
Unfortunately, movies featuring Black women with super powers are rare. This one starts off a bit slowly, but the narrative builds satisfyingly.
I have to confess I've never seen the original, but this remake is an excellent romantic comedy, Anna Faris kills it here.
Even though Crazy Rich Asians
got all the hype (and box office) that summer, Searching
was an excellent (and sadly overlooked) film, starring John Cho.
Sorry to Bother You
Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman
got all the hype that summer, but... okay, apart from a super weird ending, Boots Riley's Sorry to Bother You
is an excellent commentary on race and class in our capitalist society.
The Big Sick
A fairly simple but compelling based-on-a-true-story story.
Disney/Pixar doesn't always do it right, but they did it right with Coco
—the animation, the music, the characters...
I don't often like horror movies, but this is a slasher film, and Jordan Peele really gets deep into his metaphors here.
The LEGO Batman Movie
This movie is so silly and clever and good, I can enjoy it even with the sound off. I'm not kidding.
Everyone raves about Parasite
(which was excellent but not as amazing as everyone says) and Snow Piercer
(which was actually terrible). Don't forget about Okja
! Ahn Seo-hyun gives a stellar performance.
I'm a child of the 80s and loved the original Ghostbusters
, but this was better.
Super cute Turkish documentary about the cats in Istanbul.
You may remember Nelsan Ellis (RIP) from True Blood
. Here he shows his versatility as an actor. Melanie Lynskey is great as usual, too.
I wasn't a huge fan of the music (even though the main song is catchy), but this is a solid finding-who-you-are story.
Yes, everyone's heard of this movie, and it's all hyped up, but it is actually that good.
Super trippy and cute and heartbreaking.
Romantic comedy, mystery thriller, imaginative anthropomorphism, lots of humor.
Beautiful film. Saoirse Ronan kills it.
Kind of box-office-bombed, but it was still a fun movie!
Alex of Venice
Little known. One of Mary Elizabeth's strongest performances.
Big Hero 6
"On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rate your pain?"
Again, I don't love horror movies, but I couldn't stop thinking about this for days afterwards. The premise is intriguing.
Funny. Actually allows the main character to have an abortion.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Actually a better experience than the comic book it's adapted from, since there is no narration from Batman. It's all show, not tell.
Haven't really liked Soderbergh after Sex, Lies, and Videotape
, but this was an excellent little film, and Gina Carano kicks ass in it.
Another lesser known but dynamite performance from Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Clever, modern adaptation of The Scarlet Letter
Let Me In
Creepy, compelling vampire movie. Honestly, much better than the original, which I couldn't even finish. Bullying scenes are bit too realistic.
Chilling and disturbing social commentary.
Lots of great performances in this major introduction to Zoe Bell.
I Am Legend
Kind of intense, so you have to be in the mood, but this is solid.
Really changed my mind about jump barriers on bridges.
Better known for Hedgwig
, John Cameron Mitchell does a great job representing a diversity of sex positivity here.
Sleeping Dogs Lie
Romantic comedy by Bobcat Goldthwait? It's ridiculous, but it works.
One of the few Miyazaki movies that plays okay dubbed.
Love & Sex
You probably didn't think Famke Janssen and Jon Favreau could do a cute romantic comedy together, but this is it.
The Color of Paradise
Honestly, I don't even remember the plot of this movie, and it was so intense that I don't want to watch it again, but I just know it was very moving and great.
Two movies in one. The first story is intriguing but doesn't resolve in a satisfying way. The second is a solidly constructed narrative. Little-known gem starring Melanie Lynskey (1st part) and Corin Nemec (2nd part).
Yet another coming-of-age story about a white boy, but still good.
John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, and Angelina Jolie are in this movie, but Cate Blanchett really steals the show.
I know people don't often associate Janeane Garofalo with rom coms or they associate her only with The Truth About Cats and Dogs
, but I promise you this one is better.
This movie is terrible, but if you watch it through a camp lens, it's terribly entertaining.
I Love Trouble
I know everyone hated this, and it's a bit cheesy, and Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte have no chemistry, but it's weirdly charming.
Compelling docudrama about C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham.
Great dramedy, including an excellent rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight."
La Femme Nikita
Even though Americans started to become aware of Luc Besson because of Léon: The Professional
, this film is far superior to Léon
and also to all the American TV shows spun off later.
This traffics majorly on stereotypes of the Soviet Union, but it's still a compelling thriller and buddy comedy/action film. Young Laurence Fishburne looks great in this, too.
Full Metal Jacket
This is kind of a first-half / second-half movie. The first half is a compelling drama. The second half is a meandering mess. You can actually just stop watching after the first half.
The Lord of the Rings
The Peter Jackson versions got all the hype (and special effects), but this animated version is subtler and more compelling (and not nearly as long).
If you've heard the term gaslighting
before, it comes from this movie. Excellent thriller with a great performance from Ingrid Bergman. A young Angela Lansbury plays a supporting role in this as well.
The Shop Around the Corner
Jimmy Stewart may be more of a household name now than Margaret Sullavan is, but he was super intimidated by her (she has a fascinating life, by the way), and the chemistry between the two here is great.
Classic Cukor film with an all-female cast. Clever and fun.
Daughter of Shanghai
Sadly, much better roles (yes, plural) for Asian Americans than most movies from the 80s and 90s. Anna May Wong and Philip Ahn are terrific in this.