I hope these recommendations are helpful: I really want to encourage my friends to watch more movies, because TV is trash right now. Netflix original content is ESPECIALLY trash. I would almost cancel my Netflix subscription if not for Jessica Jones and the damn BBC nature documentaries. The only current TV shows I’m watching are Ink Master and Crazy Ex Girlfriend. I’m excited for Homeland season 7. Whatever, though, I’m glad to be free of the ball and chain of keeping up with TV shows. More time for movies.
Josh collaborated on this list with me. We worked most of it out together. Blurbs written only by him are labeled with his initials, ‘JS’, while ones written only by me are labeled ‘MS’.
Amazon is by far the best of these three streaming services at the moment. It’s the only one that has an appreciable number of quality films made before 1980. We are sticking with titles that are available on prime, but we highly recommend the MUBI and Fandor channels for tons of incredible content, much of it previously hard to find.
Brawl in Cell Block 99
Exploitation heaven. One of the best genre movies of recent years. In a revelatory performance, Vince Vaughn kills a lot of people with his bare hands. Don Johnson is perfect as the ruthless warden and Udo Kier himself shows up as a creepy henchman. Warning: this movie is *violent*.
Cronenberg’s oddball DeLillo adaptation. Robert Pattinson is great. For Cronenberg fans only.
Battles without Honor and Humanity (MS)
Aggressively paced, frenetic 70’s yakuza flick. The central theme is fairly typical for Japanese films about the post-war era: moral degradation brought on by the necessities of self-preservation. The old yakuza bosses are protected only by a rapidly deteriorating code of honor. This is the first installment of Kinji Fukasaku’s Yakuza Papers series. The other installments are also on Amazon. If you like this, you’ll like those as well.
XXX: The Return of Xander Cage (MS)
I hate going to the movies in Missoula (because I hate listening to other people eat and crinkle bags while I’m trying to watch a movie), but you better damn well believe I went to see this. And then I watched it 10 times when it came out on video. This is Vin Diesel to the Vin Diesel power, complete with a crew of misfits and an utterly hilarious Nina Dobrev performance. One of my favorite action movies from recent years.
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
If you haven’t seen the original Gone in 60 Seconds, you should go for it. H. B. Halicki’s DIY passion project is one the best car movies ever.
Rio Lobo (MS)
Howard Hawks’ last film, a western starring John Wayne. If you like Westerns and haven’t seen it, definitely go for it.
A Quiet Passion (JS)
A bold and haunting Emily Dickinson biopic. Terence Davies’ second masterpiece in two years is hard to summarize because it is so full of complex emotions and transcendent moments. It’s a staggering and beautiful film. Cynthia Nixon’s performance is one of the best of the year.
We love Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy with our whole hearts. This is a Strohl brothers movie if there ever was one. Ultra-sleazy Florida noir. The sweatiest Florida noir since Body Heat. Exceptionally memorable performances from Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Zac Efron.
Bullet to the Head (MS)
One of the most under-appreciated movies from recent years, this is Walter Hill and Sylvester Stallone in fine form. I’ve watched it a dozen times and I don’t plan on stopping. It’s an odd couple hitman-and-cop buddy movie.
Lessons of Darkness
Our favorite Herzog documentary. He filmed burning oil fields during the Gulf War and added sci fi narration. It’s a companion piece to Fata Morgana and The Wild Blue Yonder (which are also great). It’s less than an hour long.
Battle Royale (MS)
The last complete film by Kinji Fukasaku, who directed the Yakuza Papers series (see Battles Without Honor and Humanity above). Ripped off by the Hunger Games, this movie– also about children in an island death match–is vastly superior and is as disturbing as the concept warrants.
Alexandre Aja’s remake of the Joe Dante horror classic pretty much nails it.
This is one of my favorite recent horror films. It’s inventive and terrifying. It centers on a creepy mirror that distorts reality.
I think I may have already recommended this, but it’s worth repeating. This is top shelf “Nicolas Cage can see two minutes into the future” kind of shit.
Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel. It’s pretty fucking out there.
Dog Eat Dog (JS)
Paul Schrader’s savage 2016 experimental film stars Nicolas Cage AND Willem Dafoe. It is completely batshit crazy and unhinged. Its audacity is truly something to behold.
Bertrand Bonello’s film was one of the best of 2017. A group of young French terrorists hide out in a mall and avail themselves of various consumer comforts. We appreciated the level of abstraction that the movie maintains. This would have been an easy premise to mess up. Memorable usage of Willow Smith’s Whip My Hair.
Person to Person (JS)
The kind of small indie film that gives small indie films a good name. Person to Person follows a variety of characters around NYC in several unrelated stories. This is a gentle, lovable film that reminded me of early Jarmusch.
This movie is really all about Harry Dean Stanton. It’s crafted as a farewell to the legendary actor, and he pours his heart and soul into the role. Lucky is a 90 year old man who smokes all day and wanders around a small town getting into misadventures and random conversations (including one with David Lynch about the wisdom of tortoises).
Like Someone in Love
The great Abbas Kiarostami’s second to last movie. Not for everyone. The digital photography is remarkable. It’s a French-Japanese production about a non-sexual connection between a young call girl and an elderly professor. It’s a slow burn with an ending that we found profoundly devastating.
Hobo with a Shotgun
Retro grindhouse splatter flick with an air of authenticity. Starring national treasure Rutger Hauer in the titular role as the Hobo with a Shotgun. This should be an easy decision: either you’re the kind of person who wants to see Hobo with a Shotgun or you’re not.
Black Rain (JS)
Awesome Ridley Scott thriller. It’s about a New York cop who plays by his own rules (Michael Douglas) transporting a prisoner to Japan. The prisoner escapes and Douglas has to track him down, leading to a conflict with the yakuza. Motorcycle races and decapitations ensue. Stellar art direction and cinematography. Scott makes Japan look like Blade Runner.
You Kill Me
We want more John Dahl movies. He was king in the 90’s, but now he mostly does TV (does TV really well). Alcoholic hitman in AA played brilliantly by Ben Kingsley. The portrayal of alcoholism (something we have experience with) resonates for us. Luke Wilson and Téa Leoni are great as well.