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The 50 Best Movies on HBO Go and HBO Now (May 2018)

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The 50 Best Movies on HBO Go and HBO Now (May 2018)

HBO lost a buttload of great films last month. So, to help make sure you get the most out of your subscription, we’ve chosen our 50 favorite movies available on HBO in May, ranging from new 2017 classics like (Oscar-winning) Get Out, Girls Trip, John Wick: Chapter 2 and (Oscar-nominated) Logan, to all of the Harry Potter and Back to the Future movies. No matter your tastes, there’s a great movie waiting for you on HBO GO or HBO Now.

You can also check out our guides, some more updated than others, to the best movies on other platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, On Demand, and The Best Movies in Theaters. Visit the Paste Movie Guides for all our recommendations.

Here are the 50 best movies on HBO in May:

purge-election-year-movie-poster.jpg 50. The Purge: Election Year
Year: 2016
Director: James DeMonaco
The horror film America needs right now, or perhaps the horror film it deserves. There’s nothing elegant about DeMonaco’s third chapter in the franchise he began back in 2013 with The Purge, but that’s OK: Elegance is overrated, and if The Purge: Election Year is a broad, sloppy film that hits with all the subtlety of a hammer to the crotch, then in 2017 it’s the broad, sloppy, hammer-to-the-crotch all of us need. The movie doesn’t bother to hide its politics or disguise its social inclinations, taking equally to task America’s culture of narcissism, its ongoing struggle to relieve itself of white supremacy’s grasp, its obsession with “might makes right” ideologies, and its ever-increasing political instability and polarization. If shitty kids wearing shittier homemade masks aren’t busy busting into your store to steal your candy and kill you, then Murder Tourists, assholes from around the globe who fly to the U.S. of A. to partake in legalized murder, are hunting you down in packs to make a point about America’s patriotic disaster, and then also kill you. Feels about right.

But the scariest detail of The Purge: Election Year is its coda, in which we realize that once the genie is out of its bottle, it can’t be put back inside, whether the genie is a system that permits nationwide carnage on an annual basis or, speaking to our sad reality, a president-elect who doesn’t think he should have to waste his time on intelligence briefings. —Andy Crump


wonder-woman-poster.jpg 49. Wonder Woman
Year: 2017
Director: Patty Jenkins
Considering that the character of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) was the only one in Batman v Superman who didn’t want to yank your eyeballs out of your head with a spork, it perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise that Wonder Woman is lightyears better than anything else the newfangled DC cinematic universe has produced. It’s not quieter necessarily, but it is more measured, more comfortable in its own skin, less fanboy desperate to keep waving keys in front of your face—exploding keys—to make sure it has the full attention of all your assaulted senses. It feels almost old-fashioned in its themes of the goodness of humanity—and the debate alien outsiders have about whether or not humans are worthy of redemption—and the selflessness of one for a greater good. It still has too many skyscraper-sized god-monsters blowing up whole acres in hackneyed super slo-mo, and it doesn’t have much you haven’t seen before, but that it simply tells one story in linear order with logical progression…man, when it comes to these movies, it almost feels like a miracle. —Will Leitch


austin-powers.jpg 48. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Year: 1999
Director: Jay Roach
I have a theory about Mike Myers: If you were not a teenage boy growing up in the late ’70s or early ’80s, you’re going to miss so much of his humor. With the “Powers” films and the two “Wayne’s World” films, Myers brilliantly, and hilariously captured something, that hodgepodge of pop culture from the ’60s that permeated the ’70s and morphed into something else in the ’80s. Essentially variations on one joke, a spoof of ’60s spy movies, the ’60s themselves and, by extension, the ’90s, the series began to run out of steam mid-way through this second installment but it certainly has its charms, notably the opening musical sequence. —David J. Greenberg


diana-our-mother.jpg 47. Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy
Year: 2017
Director: Ashley Gething
This HBO original documentary falls in the “pathologically respectful” category, but it at least has a focus that makes clear that it understands its own purpose. It’s Diana’s life story as recalled by her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. While not especially substantive or deep, it is pleasantly intimate and gives viewers a legitimate peek at a point of view they probably haven’t had access to until now, as Diana’s sons have not spoken much about her in public. You can feel A Lot of Stuff getting glossed over, but it’s lightweight versus insincere. This particular documentary does a good job of reinforcing one of those through lines: Diana was, by all accounts, a loving and deeply engaged parent. This is a warm-hearted look at a couple of boys who are now men and who have never gotten over the untimely and sudden loss of one of their parents because, generally speaking, you don’t get over that. It’s… not typical, at least it wasn’t, for the British royal family to expose much about their private lives or their feelings (Charles and Diana’s incredibly public divorce changed that a bit), and William and Harry are restrained and circumspect in their remembrance of their mother. It’s kind of obvious that there’s a certain amount of reputation damage control going on here, and fair enough: The woman was so dogged by tabloid journalists and accused of everything from being an unfaithful bad-wife attention-seeking troublemaker to being downright mentally ill. This documentary does a really good and arguably needful job of reminding people that this adored and beleaguered public persona was also a human being and the mother of two other human beings who miss her. —Amy Glynn


observe-report-movie-poster.jpg 46. Observe and Report
Year: 2009
Director: Jody Hill
Marketing for Jody HIll’s Observe and Report misleadingly pegged the film as a bawdy, sophomoric comedy, drawing obvious parallels to the work Seth Rogen was best known for at the time, principally Knocked Up and Pineapple Express. It seemed to promise a “boys behaving badly” vibe in a workplace setting, an R-rated variation upon Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which had come out only a few months earlier. In reality, Observe and Report is a far more deranged film, a quasi-comedy (at best) about a character whose mental instability will probably end up getting someone hurt or killed. Seth Rogen plays Ronnie, a mall security guard who we first perceive as a well-intentioned doofus, clearly playing off Rogen’s well-established “teddy bear” demeanor—until it becomes clear that Ronnie’s delusions of grandeur are not only unrealistic, but borderline psychotic, laced with a streak of cruelty and paranoia that transforms the film into more of a dramedy about mental health than anything with which Rogen had been involved before. Decades later it stands as one of the late 2000s’ bleakest satires of toxic masculinity and undiagnosed mental illness. Hell, it’s practically a riff on Taxi Driver at heart. Just don’t go in expecting a barrel of laughs. —Jim Vorel


the-normal-heart.jpg 45. The Normal Heart
Year: 2014
Director: Ryan Murphy 
Among HBO’s most prestigious—and star-studded—recent efforts is this 2014 adaptation of Larry Kramer’s seminal 1985 stage play about the earliest, darkest days of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City. It’s also among the most necessary. Kramer adapted the teleplay, directed by Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story), which casts a brilliant Mark Ruffalo as Kramer’s onscreen alter ego, a gay writer who consults with a local doctor (Julia Roberts) about this mysterious, fatal new “cancer” that’s devastating the community and his inner circle of friends (portrayed by Jonathan Groff, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, all excellent). Just as devastating is the ignorance and inhumanity shrouding what was then viewed as a death sentence and, worse, a deserved retribution. Some 35 years after the HIV/AIDS epidemic hit critical mass, and in light of a generational complacency accompanying new medical breakthroughs like PrEP, The Normal Heart is a timely reminder of the physical, emotional and psychological ravages of the disease. Murphy and co. revisit a not-too-far-away era of fear, in which the basic function of breathing the same air—let alone holding someone’s hand—was a gesture of dangerous courage, and compassion. Though it obviously plays much differently four decades vs. four years after Kramer’s original play, the relevance is undeniable, as is his still-coursing anger at the systemic and individual indifference to those affected. Murphy dials down his own flourishes for a harrowing document that needs to be seen. —Amanda Schurr


harry-potter-half-blood-prince-movie-poster.jpg 44. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Year: 2009
Director: David Yates
The first thing you’ll notice about Half-Blood Prince is that it’s gorgeous. Director Yates found his footing in Order of the Phoenix, and this follow-up displays a stylishness that elevates his best contribution to Rowling’s cosmos. Cinematographer Bruo Delbonnel desaturates the color palette while adding casts of green, gray, auburn and crimson. It’s a timeless, high-drama approach which calls to mind the claustrophobic surrealism of Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari when the action escalates, as well as the wartime romance of films like Casablanca as the emotions flood. While the Deathly Hallows films may offer the most Wagnarian spectacle, Half-Blood Prince remains the personal climax of the Potter saga. It’s a trippy, bold descent into the psyches of the characters and a statement to the complexities that separate them from their imitators in less nuanced fantasy. Snape and Dumbledore—respectively embodied by Alan Rickman and Michael Gambon—etch out a dynamic that never stops surprising, and the films become infinitely less interesting with their respective exists. —Sean Edgar


tickled-movie-poster.jpg 43. Tickled
Year: 2016
Directors: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve
It’s safe to assume that most people have never heard of “competitive endurance tickling,” so when David Farrier, a New Zealand-based television reporter and actor, was sent a link to a bizarre video of young men tickling other men for “sport,” it was only natural that it piqued his curiosity. So, he did what any other reporter would have done: He sent a Facebook message to Jane O’Brien Media, the U.S.-based company that produced the aforementioned videos. While his inquiry was routine, the response he received from company representative Debbie Kuhn was anything but. In fact, it was jaw-droppingly hostile. She wrote, “To be brutally frank, association with a homosexual journalist is not something that we will embrace,” and then continued, assuring Farrier that Jane O’Brien Media would pursue legal action should he take his inquiry any further. So begins the fascinating documentary Tickled, directed by Farrier and Dylan Reeve, the latter largely remaining off-camera. What might have been a tongue-in-cheek examination of a subculture—a fluff piece of the kind on which Farrier’s built his career—quickly becomes a trek down the fetish rabbit hole, the filmmakers uncovering a larger, more nefarious operation. With hidden cameras, ambush interviews and Dateline-esque gotcha segments, the film segues into a bona fide thriller as they explore the dark, seamy corners of the internet, hunting for the Keyser Söze of the competitive tickling world. —Christine N. Ziemba


gran-torino-movie-poster.jpg 42. Gran Torino
Year: 2008
Director: Clint Eastwood 
Eastwood has never been shy about expressing his Republican views, yet he used to be more in tune with inserting more “positive” conservative ideals—personal responsibility, zero tolerance against violent crime, the protection of one’s property—into his work, rather than simple-minded or destructive mores. Gran Torino, a stern but compassionate drama about a racist, lonely old man (Eastwood in his last great role so far) in Detroit who befriends a Hmong family and uses his last bit of strength to protect them from rampant gang violence, is one of Eastwood’s films that errs toward the “good” side of his ideological spectrum. In many ways, one can look at Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino as an extension of Harry Callahan: a grumpy loner with the soul of Wild West vigilantism. Perhaps as a rebuttal to Callahan’s violent tendencies, his philosophy to shoot first and ask questions later, Eastwood ends Gran Torino with a surprisingly pacifist solution. —Oktay Ege Kozak


sugar-movie-poster.jpg 41. Sugar
Year: 2009
Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Sugar, the second film by writer-director duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, follows promising baseball pitcher Miguel (Algenis Perez Soto)—nicknamed Sugar—from his home in the Dominican Republic through a series of minor league teams in the U.S. This isn’t The Natural, but simply naturalistic, a non-judgmental glimpse into the rigors of professional baseball, where young outsiders chase the American dream in its most iconic form, facing culture shock and loneliness in the process. Yet, Sugar is, more than anything else, a character study of a particular young man, not an indictment of a system, and as you might expect from the writers and directors of Half Nelson, the film spends far more time studying the intricate details of Miguel’s life than it does designing a dramatic arc. Sugar, though, is a subtler film than Half Nelson, in many ways resembling the 1966 first feature by Ousmane Sembène, Black Girl, about a young woman who moves from Senegal to the south of France and feels domesticated by a white upper class. Fittingly, the political barbs are softer in Sugar, as I suspect they are in Miguel’s own thoughts. Miguel is an innocent who barely speaks English, wholly unprepared for the nest of confusion that he’s about to foment in his heart. Whether you find the film’s conclusion a frustrating side step or a personal triumph depends on whether you’ve taken the film’s many opportunities to understand that heart. I found it sublime. —Robert Davis


split-movie-poster.jpg 40. Split
Year: 2017
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Split is the film adaptation of M. Night Shyamalan’s misunderstanding of 30-year-old, since-discredited psychology textbooks on Dissociative Identity Disorder, but if we deign to treat it with scientific scrutiny, we’ll be here all night. Suffice it to say, don’t go looking at anything in this film as psychologically valid in any way. But do go see Split, because it’s probably M. Night Shyamalan’s best film since Signs. Or maybe since Unbreakable, for that matter. And if there’s one way that Split reinvigorates Shyamalan’s stock most, it’s as a visual artist and writer-director of tension and thrilling action. The film looks spectacular, full of Hitchcockian homages that remind one of Vertigo and Psycho, to name only a few. It’s a far scarier, more suspenseful film in its high moments than Shyamalan’s last film, The Visit, ever attempted to be, and it may even be funnier as well, although these moments of levity are sown sparingly for maximum impact. Mike Gioulakis deserves major props for cinematography, but the other thing that will stick in my mind is the unexpectedly great sound design, full of rumbling, groaning metallic tones. After so many films that relied on the kind of overwrought twist ending that made The Sixth Sense so buzzy in 1999, it seems like Shyamalan has finally gotten over the hump to make the kinds of stories he makes best: atmospheric, suspenseful potboilers. Here’s hoping that this newfound streak of humility is here to stay. —Jim Vorel


atomic-blonde-movie-poster.jpg 39. Atomic Blonde
Year: 2017
Director: David Leitch
The background of the fight scene that makes Atomic Blonde worthy of seeing regardless of everything that comes before and after it is not particularly relevant. All that matters is that it happens. The details: There’s a man (Eddie Marsan) at the bottom of the stairs super-spy Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) must protect. There are four men, with guns, at the top of the stairwell that she must vanquish before they get to the bottom. The camera won’t turn away, at any point. She’s just gotta fight her way down there. The scene, a 10-minute-long bravura sequence—it’s not shot in one-take, but it feels like it, Birdman-style—is a sweaty, grunting, exhausting, absolutely exceptional sequence that instantly becomes one of the more iconic fight scenes of the last two decades. Think the corridor fight from Oldboy, only three times as long, and in knee-high boots, and ending with a car chase. By the end, you’ll be gasping for air as much as everyone fighting is. We’ve seen Theron be tough before (most famously in Mad Max: Fury Road), but she’s fascinatingly formidable yet vulnerable here. She’s both more perfect and more furious than everybody else but also not impervious to pain. She’s given more flaws, more fighting weaknesses, than John Wick ever had; she takes a bunch of hits, and you feel them. It makes her, and every scene she’s in, that much more mesmerizing. Broughton has no superpowers, which makes her victories and persistence all the more impressive. She’s a true warrior. I’d watch Leitch direct Theron kicking ass for plenty of movies to come. If the world reacts to that stairs sequence the way I think they will, I’ll get the opportunity. —Will Leitch


lady-macbeth-movie-poster.jpg 38. Lady Macbeth
Year: 2017
Director: William Oldroyd
Director William Oldroyd can’t be faulted for not keeping his tone straight throughout Lady Macbeth, a bleak thriller that only gets bleaker and more suffocating the more freedom it affords its main character. Katherine (Florence Pugh) is a young woman sold into marriage in 19th century rural England, and though her much older husband has no interest in spending time with her, let alone acknowledging her, she’s kept practically in amber, her time spent falling asleep on the couch while staring at the wall or holding long, pregnant silences while her servant (Naomi Ackie) sees to the various exigencies of keeping Katherine alive: dressing, cleaning, feeding, waking. Not until her husband goes away on business—of some short, because it’s beyond her lot as a woman to know any details—does she begin to enjoy her days, eventually starting up a clandestine relationship with a thick-necked stable boy (Cosmo Jarvis) her age. Unwilling to give up her new way of life and newer love, she pretty much puts aside all else to keep what she wants. Less an obvious horror movie than something more subtly unnerving, Lady Macbeth offers little clarity as to whether the vile actions Katherine inevitably takes are really her fault, or if that’s what was bound to happen with such a stifled life. Oldroyd is skilled at keeping clean answers just out of reach the further Katherine devolves into desperation, but at some point near the end of this gorgeous black heart of a film (props to cinematographer Ari Wegner for drawing endless shades of gray out of Britain’s landscape), Alice Birch’s screenplay pulls back from Katherine’s perspective to provide little sign of what’s going on behind her glazed-over stare. Pugh is captivating, allowing just enough madness to shine through a few cracks in her bemused exterior, never quite giving us enough to really chart the degree of her character’s moral decline. —Dom Sinacola


valley-of-violence-movie-poster.jpg 37. In a Valley of Violence
Year: 2016
Director: Ti West
One of the most heartbreaking scenes of any film of 2016 was one of the most heartbreaking scenes of any film in 2014—then it was in slickly excellent Keanu Reeves mass-slaughter vehicle John Wick, and two years later it’s in Ti West’s otherwise pretty fun-filled neo-Western, In a Valley of Violence. To even mention the former means sauntering smugly into spoiler territory with the latter, but West, who’s proven he’s one of our deftest genre handlers still figuring out what he wants to do when he grows up, knows you can’t really spoil such an archetypal plot anyway. Instead, with his latest film, by giving up scares for shoot-outs, the typically horror-centric writer-director isn’t interested in re-configuring classic tropes as much as he is in rubbing those tropes against reality to see what sparks. And while In a Valley of Violence doesn’t burn the traditional Western formula to dust, it does give a cadre of impeccable character actors a wide-open sandbox to squat over and dump into. More, maybe, than any other recent revisionist Westerns, like Bone Tomahawk or The Hateful Eight, In a Valley of Violence is built around interrogating the genre’s tried and true archetypes—its cinematic language even—rather than upholding, modernizing, or (in the case of Tarantino’s take) obliterating them out of existence. Ethan Hawke finds the perfect workmanlike take on the Man With One Name, Paul, a gunslinging drifter and former Union soldier, by playing him as blankly as he can, owing his opaque demeanor to the Eastwoods and Bronsons of Sergio Leone’s classics. Meanwhile, the film is far funnier than any of its pedigree would suggest, aided in part by the arrival of John Travolta as the surprisingly rational U.S. Marshal. Like Kurt Russell in Bone Tomahawk, Travolta’s is a reassuring presence, as effortless as it is wearied, the anchor which the film’s increasingly stylized violence can never totally lift. Still, West is an impeccable craftsman, his storytelling chops as fatless and near-faultless as ever. As much could be expected from any genre director these days, really, and West is, undoubtedly, up to the task of trying his hand at any of the kinds of films he loves. —Dom Sinacola


ouija-origin-movie-poster.jpg 36. Ouija: Origin of Evil
Year: 2016
Director: Mike Flanagan
While the first Ouija was a workmanlike, paint-by-numbers cash grab without a single original touch, its prequel, directed by tried-and-true horror fan and prolific genre filmmaker (with three quality releases in 2016 alone) Mike Flanagan, bears the aesthetic of ’60s horror. From the use of the era’s Universal logo to a faded, sepia-pastel look, Origin of Evil bears witness to Flanagan having fun with the creative possibilities of the project. As intriguing as all that stuff is for genre purists and cinephiles, the whole thing would still crumble if the overall tone and performances didn’t match Flanagan’s ambitions. Thankfully, he delivers a wholly satisfying piece of PG-13 horror that deftly mixes the modern sensibilities of the genre with tried and true stylistic approaches from its, er, origins. —Oktay Ege Kozak


war-planet-apes-poster.jpg 35. War for the Planet of the Apes
Year: 2017
Director: Matt Reeves
War for the Planet of the Apes is an absorbing, intelligent finale. The film builds to an ending that, although not particularly surprising, feels appropriate—even inevitable—considering all that’s come before. When Rise of the Planet of the Apes hit theaters in the late summer of 2011, it suggested a franchise in which humanity—flawed, noble, susceptible to its worst tendencies but trying to live up to its highest ideals—would eventually find itself under attack by an enemy of its own making. But rather than suggesting that apes deserve to overthrow us, this series has instead wondered if there’s something inherently broken about the way communities operate that will always endanger their well-being. Caesar was raised by humans who loved him but didn’t understand him. The slow-motion tragedy of War is that Caesar has struggled to reconcile his simian essence with the emotional complexity of the people he’s encountered. He’s the embodiment of what may supplant us—but, poignantly, in the end he may be too much like us to find a peaceful resolution. The real war is going on within him. —Tim Grierson


shattered-glass-movie-poster.jpg 34. Shattered Glass
Year: 2003
Director: Billy Ray
On paper (pun intended?), Shattered Glass doesn’t sound like a particularly exciting film: New Republic wunderkind Stephen Glass (Hayden Christiansen) fabricates much of his work for the magazine, winning praise from colleagues until he’s finally exposed. Still, somehow, Billy Ray’s film makes for incredibly compelling viewing—partly due to two strong central performances: Christiansen, perfectly cast as our main sociopath, telegraphs a sense of desperation from the first moment he’s onscreen, and Peter Sarsgaard silently simmers with frustration as Chuck Lane, the newly hired editor of the magazine and the only one who suspects that something is up. The film treats its subject with the utmost seriousness—this is nothing less than one journalist’s utter betrayal of his profession and his colleagues. Tension slowly escalates as Lane investigates Glass’s story about a teenage hacker and a suspicious-sounding software company (memorably named “Jukt Micronics”), and when Sarsgaard spits at the film’s climax, “He handed us fiction after fiction and we printed it all as fact…just because we found him ‘entertaining,’” Shattered Glass becomes a true horror story for editors everywhere. —Maura McAndrew


tremors-movie-poster.jpg 33. Tremors
Year: 1990
Director: Ron Underwood
Twenty-eight years after the original hit theaters, the Tremors series refuses to go to its grave, as a sixth installment, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell, arrives in the spring of 2018. Faded from the public consciousness at this point is the Kevin Bacon- and Fred Ward-starring first Tremors, an odd little fusion of monster movie and action comedy that first introduced us to Michael Gross’s “Burt Gummer,” who went on to become the de facto hero of the franchise in subsequent installments, minus one Reba McEntire. Tremors is likely a bit more visceral a film than one may remember, a fairly gory, silly yarn about the giant worms known as Graboids that infest the deserts of Nevada and threaten Ward’s ability to score a date with attractive young seismologists. It effectively transplants the psychology of a Jaws-like creature feature to dry land, wondering what exists just outside of our sight. This is most memorably demonstrated in the sequences wherein our cast is trapped on a series of boulders, the Graboids patrolling the edges: As in films like Night of the Living Dead or Cujo, the film creates claustrophobia by confining its characters to a small island of safety that is rapidly becoming untenable. —Jim Vorel


hitcher-movie-poster.jpg 32. The Hitcher
Year: 1986
Director: Robert Harmon
In horror films, there’s something alluring to a relentless and unstoppable killer whose motivation is only to destroy innocent life with nihilistic, almost supernatural fervor. Part of the reason the original Halloween is still so frightening lies in its chillingly effortless ability to present Michael Myers as a figure of death itself: no reason, no rhyme, he won’t stop until you stop breathing. The original The Hitcher operates on many of the same levels, as the simplicity of its premise about a couple (C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who takes on a dual role, as the top and bottom halves of her body) hounded by a murderous maniac hitchhiker (Rutger Hauer) takes full advantage of the unresolved mystery surrounding the killer’s motivations. (Transform the truck from Duel into Rutger Hauer, and you get The Hitcher.) Director Robert Harmon’s film casts an appropriately icky, low-grade aura, perfectly fitting the killer’s philosophical point-of-view, an aesthetic approach that eludes the makers of the ill-fated 2007 remake, which looks too glossy to work on a visceral level. Also, with all due respect to Sean Bean, he’s no Rutger Hauer. —Oktay Ege Kozak


scott-pilgrim-movie-poster.jpg 31. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Year: 2010
Director: Edgar Wright 
The films of Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto trilogy” may get more emphasis as the core of the director’s oeuvre, but allow me to submit that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is the “most Edgar Wright” film we’ve witnessed yet in the still-young filmmaker’s career. A brilliant adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic book series of the same name, Scott Pilgrim is a perfectly cast wonder of an action comedy that translates with preternatural ability the comic tension between banality and bombast present on the page. Scott’s (Michael Cera) existence as a slacker musician in a crappy Toronto indie rock band isn’t exciting or glamorous, which makes it all the funnier when his day-to-day romantic life is a series of climactic, overly dramatic videogame boss battles. Each Wright presents with a hyperkinetic style that revels in its joyful disconnect from reality or consequences. Freed from such trivial matters, Wright can present dynamic action sequences that still have time for clever asides and the type of workplace humor that wouldn’t be out of place on The Office, simultaneously getting the absolute best out of every person he casts. Really: When has Brandon Routh, as an actor, been put to better use than as an egomaniacal vegan with psychic powers in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World? An early-career Brie Larson as rock singer Envy Adams is a bonus. —Jim Vorel


last-days.jpg 30. Gus Van Sant’s Last Days
Year: 2006
Director: Gus Van Sant 
Actor Michael Pitt portrays the lost figure at the center of Last Days, a stark walk through a dying artist’s final moments inspired by the death of one of rock history’s great tragic figures. Like Van Sant’s prior films, Gerry and Elephant, an improvised script and freedom from routine cinematic language gives Last Days a hyper-real, oddly poetic flow of events. Pitt plays Blake, first seen stumbling alone in the wilderness, a caveman in pajamas and sunglasses. Through a random series of events we learn that he’s a rock musician living in a once-elegant mansion gone seedy with neglect, with a small entourage of housemates who incessantly seek him for advice, money and affirmation. Presumably stoned beyond repair, Blake spends Last Days dodging so-called friends, bandmates and other intrusions of the outside world, unable to secure the peace he craves. There’s no doubt that Blake is intended to recall the late Kurt Cobain; Pitt’s emaciated frame, bedraggled blonde shag, pink sunglasses and general demeanor is sometimes uncanny in its resemblance to the long-mourned star. But the Last Days story has little in common with the facts of the case, keeping, with Thurston Moore also on board as music consultant, only the essential themes Van Sant believes we should take away from Cobain’s demise. —Fred Beldin


good-morning-vietnam.jpg 29. Good Morning Vietnam
Year: 1987
Director: Barry Levinson
If any role was tailor made for Williams’ manic comedic timing, it’s his turn as a wartime DJ, frustrated at the U.S. Army’s censoring of his broadcasts in Vietnam. As off-the-wall as any of Williams’ roles, playing Adrian Cronauer gives Williams the chance to improvise most of the radio segments. But the best comedy relies on truth-telling, and that’s where the movie’s tension comes from. Cronauer feels deeply for the soldiers who are putting their lives on the line for a losing war far from home and doesn’t want to betray their trust with disingenuous morale boosts that ignore the harsh realities of the war. Williams won a Golden Globe for the performance. —Josh Jackson


informant!-movie-poster.jpg 28. The Informant!
Year: 2009
Director: Steven Soderbergh 
Matt Damon stars as a real-life, decidedly non-movie-star-wielding white-collar executive named Mark Whitacre who turned FBI informant against his employer—aggro-business giant Archer Daniels Midland—to reveal a price-fixing scandal. Rather than a straight comedy, though, The Informant! is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a singularly odd man, one who tried to scam the FBI even as he was providing them information, ending up in jail right alongside his bosses. Featuring plenty of on-location scenes in Decatur, a mid-size, blue-collar city that is indicative of Illinois’ past prominence in the manufacturing industry, the film is a respectful, unblinking look into the kinds of cities that dot the interior of Illinois, islands of buildings surrounded by fields of corn and soybeans, where Chicago is all-too-often considered a sort of separate province supposedly populated by the effete bourgeois. —Jim Vorel


mohicans-movie-poster.jpg 27. The Last of the Mohicans
Year: 1992
Director: Michael Mann
On one of his many jaunts through American history, Daniel Day-Lewis stops off in 1757 in the middle of the French and Indian War, playing a white man raised by a Native American chieftain and beholden to no one side in the fight engulfing the then-British colony of New York. Director Mann does not delve too deeply into the tangled politics of this particular American war, instead focusing on the general antagonism felt by American Indians towards white colonists—whether French or British, Europeans scrap for land that never belonged to them in the first place—and their perpetual thirst for conflict. The romance between Day-Lewis’ Nathaniel Hawkeye and Madeleine Stowe’s English debutante Cora Munro may be tepid, but typical for Mann the action is marvelously arranged, from the explosive siege at Fort Henry (first spied from a distance as a storm of fire in the night, just one of many spellbinding images courtesy of DoP Dante Spinotti) to the rousing, emotionally charged showdown between the last Mohicans and a rival tribe led by a glowering, damaged Wes Studi. —Brogan Morris


lego-batman-movie-poster.jpg 26. The Lego Batman Movie
Year: 2017
Director Chris McKay
It goes without saying that this isn’t a serious movie, but it does take its material seriously. There’s a distinct feeling here that McKay—plus the team of writers gathered to write the script—genuinely cares about the Batman mythos, that he’s a bona fide Bat-fan and that he can not only write a joke but take a joke, because to make fun of Batman is to make fun of Batman’s legions of fans. McKay’s immense understanding of the character lets him get away with relentless parody, and also positions The Lego Batman Movie as one of the most surprisingly authentic Batman movies ever made. It gets that Bruce Wayne is Batman’s alter ego and not the other way around, that at the end of the day the real persona is the one shaped by childhood trauma. The playboy is more of a mask than that iconic cowl. —Andy Crump

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