Best reason to go back to the theatre:
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
Top Gun who? This wholly original action-comedy-kung-fu-sci-fi-family movie is our top pick to light up the big screen this year. The debut feature from directors The Daniels, Everything Everywhere uses multiverse storytelling for a high-octane but tender story of family, fate, and the path left untaken. Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu play a family reckoning with a curmudgeonly tax enforcer (Jamie Lee Curtis) who find all life’s possibilities converging upon them. From hot dog fingers to butt-plug kung fu, the movie is a sensory overload that proves why the clichéd saying “I laughed, I cried” exists.
Best movie about gaslighting:
With Resurrection, writer-director Andrew Semans translates post-abuse trauma and gaslighting into the palpable feeling of distorted paranoia and worst-case fever dream that it truly is. Here, Margaret (an excellent Rebecca Hall following up her last banger thriller, The Night House) has escaped an unspeakably vile trauma only to later thrive and reclaim all her lost power — until a peak-chilling Tim Roth shows up and unravels her all over again. As resurfaced abuse causes Hall to behave in shocking ways, we are forced to decide whether we’re concerned for her or afraid of her — or really what it means to be both at once.
Best cautionary tale for couples’ trips:
Maika Monroe (It Follows) and Jake Lacy (douchewad extraordinaire from The White Lotus season one) play a couple taking the first wilderness backpacking trip of their relationship. Her extreme anxiety at the prospect seems unwarranted at first, and to say much more is to spoil the fun. Scares and laughs follow as twists and turns take the viewer on a survivalist journey/couple’s spat for the ages that’s part Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Predator, with just a pinch of Jaws thrown in for good measure. Lacy is in a particularly fine form that can’t be explained without seeing it for yourself.
TRIANGLE OF SADNESS
From 2020 Oscar juggernaut Parasite to this year’s Will Ferrell and Adam McKay-produced The Menu, biting commentary on the ultra-rich is all over our screens as of late. For our money, Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness just might be the most effective of the bunch — at the very least, it’s the funniest. The story follows two model-influencers who end up on a #hosted cruise for the one per cent that includes an American Marxist and a Russian capitalist among the kooky seafarers. As disasters both gastrointestinal and explosive strike, the perceived givens of class divide are stripped away to barbaric and hilarious effect. Smart as it can be — and though it took the prestigious (and sometimes stuffy) Palme d’Or at Cannes this year — this is one of the most unapologetically juvenile, piss-yourself funny movies of the year.
Best movie to yell “don’t go down there” at:
This debut feature from Zach Creggers (The Whitest Kids U’ Know) is one of the most original horror movies to come out in years. Pretty much any spoiler kills the movie, but things begin when Tess (an exceptional Georgina Campbell) arrives at a vacation rental to find it double-booked with another occupant (the always creepy Bill Skargård). While it is plenty scary, the most rewarding surprises of the film come when Cregger experiments with how location, time, and the sudden injection of new characters can shape storytelling. At my screening, the audience screamed and gasped in unison throughout — including when a totally game Justin Long arrives for one of the most bizarre and enjoyable turns of his career.
Best antidote to romance:
SPIN ME ROUND
The initial conceit of this bizarro comedy from frequent collaborators Jeff Baena, Allison Brie, and Aubrey Plaza is a whirlwind romance in Italy. Brie plays a middle manager for a fast-casual Italian eatery who is chosen for an elite leadership conference in the motherland, where she dreams of meeting the chain’s dreamy founder and getting swept off her feet. From mysterious disappearances in the night, a steamy makeout between Brie and Plaza and suspected cult activity, things go awry early, often, and eye-poppingly. With a supporting cast of comedy all-stars like Fred Armisen, Tim Heidecker, Lil Rel Howrey, and Molly Shannon, Spin Me Round manages to skewer romantic fare like Under the Tuscan Sun while blending giallo and the sober/surreal experimentalism of previous Baena films. There’s no movie quite like it.
Best cautionary tale about motherhood:
YOU WON’T BE ALONE
Looking for a lush, gothic fairytale that makes you never want to have kids? Look no further than this tale of a shapeshifting young witch who murders her way across 19th Century Macedonia while dealing with mommy issues. As if Terrence Malick adapted a tale from the Brothers Grimm, the dreamy-but-grisly film follows its protagonist from childhood entrapment to training in the ways of witchcraft until she finally seizes her destiny and breaks free. The gag? Multiple actors of varying gender (including Noomi Rapace) all embody the main character with a deftness that will shock you. Bonus points are due for the gnarly, totally realistic practical effects used in gore sequences.
Best spiritual sequel to Grizzly Man:
FIRE OF LOVE
One of the great romantic dreams is to die for the thing you love. Usually and for good reason, it stays a dream. Not so in the case of French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, who lost their lives in the 1991 eruption of Mount Unzen. This documentary tells their incredible story with the visual flair you might expect for a film covering one of nature’s greatest wonders and most destructive forces. The throughlines here are love, majesty, and beauty. That it ends in oblivion isn’t exactly a cautionary tale, but that it’s been translated to the screen means you can experience something close to what the Kraffts did while putting yourself in no actual danger.
Best direct-to-streaming teen romp:
For a movie made almost entirely of references to beloved teen movies, this direct-to-streaming Netflix adventure is packed with genuinely surprising intrigue. Like a heist movie with the stakes of Gossip Girl, stars/Netflix darlings Camila Mendes (Riverdale) and Maya Hawke (Stranger Things) trade barbs and quips for an almost-deserved 118 minutes. Their chemistry carries the tonal shifts between venomous animosity and girlboss bestie vibes with dark comedy delivered unflinchingly throughout. If you have a younger cousin or sibling around this holiday season, this makes for an especially fun watch across generations. Whether you’ve been through the teen movie ringer or barely know what a Heather even is, this movie will win you over even if you try to resist it.
Best comedy of errors:
DON’T WORRY DARLING
Leading man (but, like, is he really?) Harry Styles put it best when he said, and I paraphrase: “This movie really feels like a movie.” A goofy one. One that’s ostensibly a Stepford Wives update that is somehow so garish, shallow and riddled with holes that you may be wondering how it made this list. This movie is a lot of pointless — pointless fun. It’s a release from the constraints of trying to understand what’s good about something. It’s permission to sit there, let your tongue fall out of your mouth and mindlessly start cackling — that’s what just about everyone in my screening did. And look, Florence Pugh is always good, Harry really gave it the old college try, and there are a bunch of medium-famous, above-average hotties in here to round it out. But don’t squint or you’ll spoil the fun. Just let in-cinema movies be mediocre again. Not every just-OK movie needs to be direct-to-streaming.