Day of the Outlaw (André De Toth, 1959)
An exceptional western, stark and relentless, with an unforgettable Burl Ives performance. You’ll recognize it as the primary blueprint for The Hateful Eight.
Posse (Mario Van Peebles, 1993)
It’s annoying that the Netflix western The Harder They Fall prompted so many articles about how finally a movie is straightening out the truth about the west and showing us that there were black cowboys. There are so many black westerns! This is not a new thing! Posse is a terrific example, and I greatly enjoyed revisiting it recently. Psychedelic style, Big Daddy Kane, and let’s not overlook the single best Stephen Baldwin performance.
Phantasm: Remastered (Don Coscarelli, 1979)
An all-time banger, restored for your viewing pleasure in all its oddball glory.
Too Late for Tears (Byron Haskin, 1949)
What might have been a minor noir is juiced up by Lizabeth Scott’s incredible femme fatale performance opposite Dan Duryea. I really love this one.
The Brain (Ed Hunt, 1988)
Avoid the RiffTrax version like the plague (and let me take another opportunity to say: fuck RiffTrax). This is sort of a Videodrome/They Live/Bodysnatchers mashup with effects out of Invaders From Mars. So, it’s highly derivative, but of some terrific stuff.
The Butcher (Jesse V. Johnson, 2009)
Low budget crime movie, not for everyone. The question you’ve gotta ask yourself is, “how interested am I in watching Eric Roberts drive around LA doing errands?” Because that’s what most of this movie is. I’m a fan.
Alien Intruder (Ricardo Jacques Gale, 1993)
Also not for everyone. I’ve been very pleased to see on Twitter that the younger generation of cinephiles have found their way to PM Entertainment– some of the finest trash this country has ever produced. Don’t be deterred by the advertised PG-13 rating. Amazon has it wrong: this is definitely a hard R. Bargain basement Lifeforce meets Nightmare on Elm Street, starring Billy Dee Williams.
London (Hunter Richards, 2005)
Also not for everyone. This features one of the most outside-the-box Jason Statham performances. It’s in the highly unfashionable zone of probing the most pathetic depths of the injured male psyche, but it’s a very good version of this (the 14% tomato score shows you that it’s doing something right). Most of the movie is Statham and Chris Evans doing cocaine and talking about an involuntary breakup and other pathetic bro shit. Works for me.
Titane (Julia Ducournau, 2021)
Just letting you know that Titane is on Hulu! It’s a highly divisive movie which you may very well hate, but I vote that you watch it. I am writing an essay on it still, I swear, though it’s slow going and I’ve had a lot of distractions. I absolutely vehemently reject the main criticisms that have been circulated and it’s one of my favorite movies in recent memory.
Devil in a Blue Dress (Carl Franklin, 1995)
Superior neo noir with an outstanding cast. This is something everyone should see.
The Edge (Lee Tamahori, 1997)
I’ve seen this movie so many times. I like Lee Tamahori in general, and this was written by Mamet. It’s a terrifically fun and engaging “lost in the wilderness” story, with a killer bear, Anthony Hopkins as a survival manual expert with no practical experience, and Alec Baldwin as his sleazeball frenemy.
Love and Monsters (Michael Matthews, 2020)
Not exactly a masterpiece, but I recommend it because it stands out amidst contemporary mainstream cinema. It succeeds because it fully commits to being what it is and because the monsters are really cool and someone put loving attention into designing them. Infinitely better than something like A Quiet Place.
My Brother’s Wedding (Charles Burnett, 1983)
Underseen Charles Burnett family drama, rough in certain ways (arguably more of a feature than a bug) but full of rich detail and withering observation of class dynamics.
News from Home (Chantal Akerman, 1976)
Chantal Akerman reads her mother’s letters over long takes of mundane city scenes. One of the greatest NYC movies in the way it conveys so much about the immigrant’s experience without ever breaking away from its rigorous concept.
Opening Night (John Cassavetes, 1977)
One of the more underseen titles among Cassavetes’ essential masterpieces. Absolutely see it if you haven’t.
Pump Up the Volume (Allan Moyle, 1990)
One of the key movies for my generation. I saw it so many times in the 90’s, and it absolutely holds up. Christian Slater gloriously conveys the ecstasy of transgressive performance.
Netfix is still mostly bad (I’ve already recommended most of the good stuff several times over), so I’m lining up some safe favorites for anyone who may not have noticed them.
Michael Mann trifecta: Ali (2001), Public Enemies (2009), Blackhat (2015)
I rewatch most of Michael Mann’s movies regularly, and these are all just getting better and better with age. Ali is a rare attempt to do something creative and bold with a terrible genre (the biopic). The digital textures of Public Enemy are more bracing now than ever. Miami Vice gets more attention at this point, but while Public Enemies might not have quite the same level of shaggy evanescence, it is fascinating in its integration of aspects of classic Hollywood style. And, of course, you know how I feel about Blackhat.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Coppola, 2001)
I’m blow away every time I watch it (and it’s my wife’s favorite movie, so I watch it a lot). One of the greatest modern examples of the Méliès/Cocteau lineage of cinema. Would take this opportunity to note that “Keanu Reeves is a detriment here” is one of my least favorite opinions.
Anaconda (Luis Llosa, 1997)
I’m well known for my enduring love of Anaconda. My siblings still tell the story about the time when they had a party in my parents’ cellar and I got stoned and passed out watching Anaconda in the other room. When the revelers emerged and woke me up, I saw the credits rolling on the TV and lamented, “Aw, man, Anaconda’s over?!!!” Seriously though, what a cast: Jon Voight (the MVP), J-Lo, Owen Wilson, Ice Cube, Eric Stoltz, Danny Trejo.
Wild Things (John McNaughton, 1998)
I remember finding this unremarkable when it was released, but that was a different time. We were absolutely glutted with erotic thrillers and it was easy to take them for granted. Now, in the new era of cultural puritanism, this looks a lot better. Fun and trashy, with a great Matt Dillon performance. It looks like there are some even trashier sequels (three of them!), which I intend to check out.