This might be a bit of a hot take, but I hate movies. The concept of an uninterrupted hour and a half (give or take) just feels like a weird length of time to establish world building, tell a story, and develop the characters. Too long to capture my attention and engross me for the entire duration of the film, but too short to truly flesh out the concept. I much prefer TV shows or limited series as a more ideal medium for telling a story and laying out a plot. When I’m in the mood for some entertainment, nine times out of ten, you’ll find me binging two hours worth of television rather than queuing up a two hour movie. That being said, there are a few movies that had me hooked from beginning to end, or that felt like the movie format was an appropriate mechanism to tell the story. In no particular order, here are my top five favorite movies that I believe everyone should see. If they won me over, they’ll win you over, too.
- Knives Out
Knives Out is a murder mystery film about the death of the wealthy and successful mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey. While his death is declared a suicide, something still seems fishy, so his wealthy, eclectic family are all called into questioning — many of whom have sufficient motive to have done the deed.
This whodunit holds its own in an already-saturated genre because the alleged killer’s identity and methods are revealed at the beginning of the movie. Despite this, this riveting movie still has twists and turns that will keep you hooked. The fact that every detail is accounted for and comes back full-circle in the end will blow your mind. Not only that, but there is also the mystery of who hired private investigator Benoit Blanc to inquire about a supposedly closed case. While the entire cast is star-studded, relative newcomer Ana de Arnas portrays the lead, nurse Marta Cabrera, with such depth, perfectly balancing the character’s timidness with her brilliance and bravery. Aesthetically, the movie is far prettier than any murder mystery has any business being — both set and shot in Massachusetts, the film highlights the beauty of fall in New England. The film is artfully done, both in terms of the visuals and the story arc, but it’s not at all pretentious.
- Palm Springs
Palm Springs introduces us to the goofy yet jaded Nyles and the guarded, disappointment of the family, and sister of the bride, Sarah, who meet at a wedding in Palm Springs. The pair hit it off at the reception, and Sarah gets sucked into a time loop — one that Nyles had already been in. As they replay the wedding day over and over again, antics ensue as the pair try to stretch the limits of what they’re able to do before they wake up in the same bed as the day before. Here are two major reasons to watch this movie: 1) Andy Samberg, and 2) Cristin Millioti. That’s all you need to know. I say that somewhat in jest, but these two leads are honestly the duo I never knew I needed. Their dynamic and charm brings so much heart and humor into the film. Their performances keep this common trope of feeling stale, and keeps the absurdist plotline from feeling too out-of-touch. At first a casual hook-up, as Nyles and Sarah realize that they are stuck together in an infinite time loop, their relationship fluctuates from being adversarial to being friendly and intimate in a platonic way. Despite their unconventional circumstances, the inevitable chemistry and romance builds in an artfully organic way.
The time-loop premise is also really well done. As viewers, we slowly become keyed in as to how the time-loop works; we don’t have to suspend our disbelief in order to follow the plotline, yet the movie also doesn’t just announce the time-loop in a broad-strokes, on-the-nose type of way. Moreover, a prominent theme of the movie is that the characters are faced with the choice of whether or not to accept their fate and enjoy the lack of consequences that come with being stuck in a time loop, or if they want to try to escape it. The movie premiered on Hulu this past July, so the issue of re-living the same day over and over again felt very quarantine-appropriate.
- Sorry to Bother You
In this sci-fi, fantasy, somewhat absurdist film, Cassius “Cash” Green works as a telemarketer, and through using his “white voice,” finds success in his job and moves up the ranks in his company, later uncovering his company’s sinister motives and the truth about what he’s selling. While the somewhat futuristic, alternative universe the movie takes place in is a lot to take in, the film serves as thinly-veiled, yet effective commentary on union politics, workers’ rights, and how capitalism exploits lower-class workers and people of color.
I actually watched this movie twice — upon first watch, I appreciated the message of the movie but didn’t enjoy the plot nor the artistic stylings of the film; it was a lot to take in and I felt as though not everything landed (For instance, it’s hard to tell whether the movie takes place a few years in the future, or in a parallel present-day universe). However, upon second watch, I was able to enjoy the film in its entirety and I liked it a lot better. I gained a newfound appreciation for not only the plot, but for the artistry and creative direction. My original critique, that Sorry to Bother You felt like two movies in one, still stands. However, it’s a movie I think about a lot, and its mesage still sticks with me, which to me feels like the mark of a powerful, impactful film.
Booksmart revolves around two nerdy, overachieving high schoolers, Amy and Molly. When they realize that their peers, who spent their time having fun yet still achieving the grades to get them into prestigious schools, Molly realizes that she and Amy could have enjoyed their high school experiences more, setting out to break the rules and party for the first — and last — time, on their last day of high school. As predicted, an unanticipated, roundabout adventure ensues, but the wholesome, accurate portrayal of Amy and Molly’s friendship make the characters and their motives feel real. Their quirky, witty banter is hilarious and feels like real conversations between best friends.
When I first saw the trailer and publicity for this movie, I initially felt deterred from it because it looked like any other coming-of-age, “dorky teens do rebellious things” movie. Especially given the fact that the lead actress, Beanie Fieldstein, is Jonah Hill’s sister, this movie really seemed like the girl version of Superbad. While the basic plot of the film, “nerds try to get into a cool high school party and things go awry,” doesn’t seem that innovative, what makes this film unique is how hilarious it is, without relying on slapstick comedy the way other coming-of-age films do. The idea that people can be multidimensional and that high schoolers can be school-smart and high achieving while also being rebellious, partying, or just having other non-academic interests, is often not well-portrayed in movies. Audiences have long been fed high school characters that fit into little categories of “the nerds,” “the jocks,” “the popular kids,” etc., so Booksmart’s portrayal of the high school experience feels refreshingly honest and accurate to real life — even the side characters, like Triple-A, feel human and fleshed-out. Not to mention, the somewhat unfounded superiority complex of the notably “smart kids” in high school is so real, and I could definitely relate to Amy and Molly’s binary, closed-minded idea of the high school experience.
- Spiderman: Far From Home
I’ve seen some superhero movies here and there, but I’m not at all invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But the Spiderman movies have such charm and heart that anyone will enjoy them, even if you know nothing about Marvel or don’t enjoy action movies in general. I love both Homecoming and Far From Home because the humorous dialogue feels very true-to-life and the comedy is effective without trying too hard. Despite the inherently fantastical premise of a world in which superheroes exist, and some of the more subtly unrealistic plotlines, like the high school going on multiple elaborate, expensive field trips that would in no way happen IRL, the movie still pretty accurately captures what it’s like to be in high school through the character dynamics. The friendships between Peter Parker, his classmates, and his best friend Ned, feels very relatable and endearingly awkward. I also really enjoy Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker.
While I was very impressed by both Spiderman movies, I’m including Far From Home on this list as opposed to Homecoming, for a few reasons: it’s funnier, and Zendaya has a bigger role. It’s also an effective sequel that builds on the first movie without being too elaborate and straying too far from the essence of Homecoming. Without divulging any spoilers, I really liked the twist that came with the villain reveal. It lent itself to striking, trippy visuals, as well as social commentary about how the media can manipulate people’s perceptions of reality.