The 35 Best Movies on Epix Right Now (October 2021)

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The 35 Best Movies on Epix Right Now (October 2021)

Epix, the MGM-owned premium channel that also offers its service through digital platforms and the standalone Epix Now, has a library of films befitting its corporate owner. While its original offerings are squarely set in the TV realm (though Epix also has its fair share of exclusive stand-up specials), its movie catalog is worth digging into if you find yourself having access—either through the $5.99/month app or as a more traditional cable add-on.

The amount of films are more analogous to Starz or Showtime than a massive streamer like Netflix or even the similarly studio-owned Paramount+. At my last count, Epix has a nice round 250 films available and of those films, most are of a higher quality than the high percentage of filler that you’d find on a gigantic streaming service. It has a robust selection of horror, action, and drama—not to mention a slew of Westerns and the Star Trek films.

We’ve curated a list of the best of the best, updated for October 2021.

Here are the 35 best movies available to stream on Epix right now:

1. A.I. Artificial Intelligence

19-best-movies-stream-a-i-poster.jpg
Year: 2001
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, Brendan Gleeson, William Hurt
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 146 minutes

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A.I. may be Spielberg’s misunderstood masterpiece, evidenced by the many critics who’ve pointed out its supposed flaws only to come around to a new understanding of its greatness—chief among them Roger Ebert, who eventually included it as one of his Great Movies ten years after giving it a lukewarm first review. A.I. represents the perfect melding of Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick’s sensibilities—as Kubrick supposedly worked on the story with Spielberg, and Spielberg felt obliged to finish after Kubrick’s death—which allows the film to keep each of their worst instincts in check. It’s not as cold or distant as Kubrick’s films tend to be, but not as maudlin and manipulative as Spielberg’s films can become—and before the ending is brought out as proof of Spielberg’s failure, it should be noted that the film’s dark coda was actually Kubrick’s idea, adamant that the ending not be meddled with moreso than any other scene. A closer inspection of the film’s themes reveal a much bleaker conclusion—and, no, those aren’t “aliens.” —Oktay Ege Kozak


2. You’re Next

18. youre next (Custom).jpg Year: 2011
Director: Adam Wingard
Stars: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, Rob Moran, Barbara Crampton
Rating: R
Runtime: 94 minutes

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Between A Horrible Way to Die, The Guest and You’re Next (let’s forget about the Blair Witch remake entirely), it’s easy to understand why Adam Wingard is still considered an upcoming director of interest. His films have a verve and sense of pacing that just crackles—they’re lean, mean and get to the point. You’re Next immediately sets up a premise that we’ve seen many times before, that of the “home invasion” style of horror-thriller, before subverting the genre’s expectations when our Final Girl proves to be far more adept and capable than any of the audience members realized—a moment that also transforms the film from “home invasion” into more of a pure slasher. From there, the story becomes more complex, as motivations and secret histories are revealed. The action, importantly, is viscerally shot and impactful, making for a film where each physical confrontation has real, concrete consequences. Hell, it’s even a little funny now and then. Given that The Guest is a bit more thriller than horror, You’re Next remains Wingard’s best pure horror work to date.—Jim Vorel


3. Ali

ali-poster.jpg Year: 2001
Director: Michael Mann
Stars: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight
Rating: R
Runtime: 157 minutes

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Michael Mann’s ambitious attempt to chronicle the sprawling and wildly admired life of Muhammad Ali is respectable, if not enthusiasm-inducing. Certainly it’s Will Smith’s finest moment as a serious screen presence. He and the director spent exacting periods of time closely studying Ali’s fights and hours of candid footage, resulting in plenty of technical accuracy but a slightly mechanical feel overall. Still, Mann’s films hits all the biopic beats and its first hour or so is compelling, never shying away from the glamour, controversy, or flaws of egotism. The main trouble, in the end, lies with the difficulty of capturing Ali’s quicksilver, larger-than-life charm. That’s a mean feat for any filmmaker.—Christina Newland


4. Star Trek Beyond

StarTrekBeyond232x345.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Justin Lin
Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 122 minutes

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Star Trek Beyond proves admirably willing to push the neo-film-series’ frontiers, at least in its eagerness to envision brand new, alien environments with incredibly imagined designs. Less compelling are the emotional stakes Director Justin Lin and screenwriters Simon Pegg and Doug Jung provide for the crew of the starship Enterprise. Lin’s fleet direction and the charismatic cast give dedicated fans their fix and the casual moviegoers a fun enough time, but Beyond offers a less memorable outing than its more ambitious predecessors, providing more for the eyes of its audience than for their hearts. —Curt Holman


5. Mad Max

mad-max-1979-poster.jpg Year: 1979
Director: George Miller
Stars: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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George Miller’s first foray into the dystopian world of Mad Max is distinctly less fantastical than the more colorful and grandiose films that would follow, ala Beyond Thunderdome—the original Mad Max by comparison is lean, mean, grounded and misanthropic in its aims. The world hasn’t quite to an end yet in this universe—rather, we are witnessing its death throes, which is actually significantly more disturbing. It’s a sentiment that feels frighteningly timely in just about any era, as mankind has nearly always felt perched on the brink of chaos in the last century. Mad Max pessimistically illustrates what that might look like, when all of our worst instincts are left to run roughshod over the ineffective handful of people who would defend us, but can’t even defend their own families. Failing that, all that’s left is bloody, spectacular revenge, which the film dishes out with some incredible car stunts and crashes that set a tough standard to surpass. —Jim Vorel


6. Silence

silence.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano
Rating: R
Runtime: 161 minutes

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Silence conveys with utter focus of its gestalt one of the greatest narratives that literature’s given us in the past 100 years. Like Endo’s book, the film is both text and subtext of our most difficult and challenging discussions as human beings: on the substance of our beliefs; the substance of our fears; the substance of our aggression and violence and of our seeking to control and/or protect ourselves and our people; the substance of the silence that surrounds all of this and on which we dare to impart meaning. Silence is a film about the plurality of belief, perspective and experience—-and about how, in the culmination of this plurality, these pieces cancel each other out. When that cancellation happens, one hears what really lies beneath all the barrage of noise: silence. This is not an atheist’s or nihilist’s creed, however; here silence sounds like peace and absolution. A voice speaks in the silence and it could be Jesus or it could be one’s own mind responding to the silence, transformed into the voice of Christ—when Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) finally hears Christ speak it sounds like a merging of his own voice with that of his mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson)—because Christ carried the purity of that same silence within. All divisions are melted down to nothing. Selfishness ceases because the self is no longer a thing, or is extant to the self recognized in all others. Perfection is the sound of the black between the stars, absolute and whole. Orthodox Christian thought typically associates God with light, life, being, paradise, the Word. But it would seem that any concept of God—-the supposed source of everything—-that hopes to be cogent has to include in that concept the opposites that compose our reality: darkness, death, negation, oblivion, the non-Word. At the root of the language of the universe and existence is this binary. Perhaps God really is Alpha and Omega. In an interview with Scorsese, Film Comment noted that Silence is like an “apostate apotheosis.” In his foreword to a recent edition of the book, Scorsese himself mused that Silence was a gospel of Judas, on the surface referring to the weak Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka), a guide for the priests who ends up repeatedly betraying them, but in truth referring to nearly every character in the story, especially Rodrigues. Especially Scorsese himself. It couldn’t be more clear why Scorsese connects with this material the way he does: It describes him and everything his art represents. It is the core of who he is, a believer who believes to the point that he must doubt. Scorsese has stated that his entire life’s work has been about religion and film. This is obvious: If his oeuvre has been a perpetual cycle of profession and denial, sin and confession, damnation and redemption, Silence is the point where the needle drifts off the vinyl. One stands transfixed, watching the record spin, no sound in the air other than incidental noise and the murmur of one’s own breath. —Chad Betz


7. The Avengers

the-avengers.jpg Year: 2012
Directors: Joss Whedon
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 142 minutes

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Nestled amongst the gaudy box office numbers ($1.55 billion) of Joss Whedon’s blockbuster is a much simpler achievement. Yes, The Avengers should evoke a deserved appreciation of Whedon’s directorial skills. And yes, the film’s release and reception make for a natural “And that’s when it was official” moment that the MCU took over Hollywood. But for comic book fans especially, The Avengers represents the first instance of the superhero team dynamic truly captured and sustained on film. Even though the X-Men (four times) and the Fantastic Four (twice) had received big screen treatment, those films were all still pretty static. The interaction between both heroes and villains were slow, separate vignettes rather than two-way, three-way or more-way battles. If Raimi’s Spider-Man showed why comic book superheroes are fun, The Avengers showed why superhero teams are. (The X-Men franchise fared much better at this with X-Men: Days of Future Past. Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot, not so much.)—Michael Burgin


8. Dredd

dredd-2012-poster.jpg Year: 2012
Director: Pete Travis
Stars: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, Lena Headey
Rating: R
Runtime: 95 minutes

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Karl Urban—who’s no stranger to tightly wound sci-fi fare (including the unfairly maligned The Chronicles of Riddick) provides the scowl and chin of Judge Joseph Dredd—a total-law package professional who is clearly as disinterested in humoring his rookie partner as the script is in coddling its audience. A few lines of raspy Man with No Name narration, coupled with a superbly bleak establishing shot from cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, are all the generosity afforded by the filmmakers toward understanding this world before it unleashes chase sequences and bursting heads. This is a film that aims squarely at respecting its source’s established fan base, and cares little for casualties who can’t hang on through its grindhouse paces. Though the competent, workmanlike approach to achieving the visceral thrills of the source material is excellently realized, it comes at the expense of sidelining writers Wagner and Ezquerra’s satirical background radiation of fascism’s consequences. While a few moments of gallows humor emerge—typically of the “Ouch!” variety—any subtext that might get in the way of servicing its adrenalized momentum is cordoned off, so as not to disturb the thrilling crime scene. Nothing more to see here, folks. Move along. But this is not even an offense punishable by three days in an Iso-Cube. The rule of law by which audiences are meant to abide is laid out immediately and authoritatively, and—just in case you needed reminding—Dredd is the law. —Scott Wold


9. Election

Election285x400.jpg Year: 1999
Director: Alexander Payne
Stars: Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein
Rating: R
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Tom Perrotta writes novels that strip the veneer from polite and “civilized” mid-American suburban life to expose it as the Starbucks-ian jungle that it is: The most reptilian impulses of human nature can strike at any time to dismantle the weak ones in the pack, or to at least flirt with pure narcissistic and hedonistic behavior. In fact, two great films based on his work outline this thematic connection—in Todd Field’s Little Children, the sexual indiscretions of small town characters are narrated like an old school National Geographic documentary, and in Alexander Payne’s Election, the soundtrack blares with a screeching, angry tribal chant whenever a character feels slighted, preparing for an attack to socially destroy an enemy. Perrotta and Payne’s narrative covers a rift between a high school teacher, Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), who isn’t self-aware enough to realize how much of a selfish prick he really is, and a student, Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), the embodiment of blind and ruthless ambition, during the election to appoint the new student body president. Underneath this simple story rides a precise and nimble exploration about the lengths anyone might go to on the road to success to protect their fragile ego while stabbing many backs. Witherspoon’s now-iconic take on Tracy Flick is the embodiment of that person we’ve all encountered who will do and say literally anything to get ahead in life. However, Broderick’s seemingly caring and guiding teacher also succumbs to his own basest desires. Which one perishes, and which one comes out on top depends not on any preconceived cosmic hierarchy of good morals (or ethics—what’s the difference?), but on who can be the shrewdest and cleverest animal in the pack. —Oktay Ege Kozak


10. Arrival

arrival.jpg Year: 2016
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg
Genre: Sci-Fi
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 116 minutes

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Your appreciation of Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival will hinge on how well you like being led astray. It’s both the full embodiment of Villeneuve’s approach to cinema and a marvelous, absorptive piece of science fiction, a two hour sleight-of-hand stunt that’s best experienced with as little foreknowledge of its plot as possible. Fundamentally, it’s about the day aliens make landfall on Earth, and all the days that come after—which, to sum up the collective human response in a word, are mayhem. You can engage with Arrival for its text, which is powerful, striking, emotive and, most of all, abidingly compassionate. You can also engage with it for its subtext, should you actually look for it. This is a robust but delicate work captured in stunning, calculated detail by cinematographer Bradford Young, and guided by Amy Adams’ stellar work as Louise Banks, a brilliant linguist commissioned by the U.S. Army to figure out how the hell to communicate with our alien visitors. Adams is a chameleonic actress of immense talent, and Arrival lets her wear each of her various camouflages over the course of its duration. She sweats, she cries, she bleeds, she struggles, and so much more that can’t be said here without giving away the film’s most awesome treasures. She also represents humankind with more dignity and grace than any other modern actor possibly could. If aliens do ever land on Earth, maybe we should just send her to greet them. —Andy Crump


11. Judy

judy-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Rupert Goold
Stars: Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 118 minutes

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The standard “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” takes on a powerful new meaning in Judy, the latest drama from director Rupert Goold and writer Tom Edge. In the biopic, aging legend Judy Garland (Renée Zellweger ) runs across New York, and eventually across the globe, to keep working. Based on the play End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter, Judy works as a subdued rehashing of some of Garland’s most scandalous moments. Flashing back and forth between the alcoholic final haze of Garland’s career and the pill-popping days of her youth, Garland’s darkest and loneliest days frame her existence. Frequently bordering on melodrama, Zellweger centers the film on the individual, not the celebrity. In her best performance since Chicago, she disappears into the icon. Her usual on-screen traits—the curled lips, stamping feet and balled-up fist—are replaced with a justified rage that she wields like a whip. Every insult slung lands precisely and without mercy, though she gets as good as she gives. When faced with the crackling loathing of ex-husband Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell), she swells like a pufferfish at the indignation that she was ever anything less than a wonderful mother. But, when she asks her daughter if moving to her father’s would make her happy and her daughter replies yes, she caves in on herself at the perceived loss of the last person who made her feel needed and loved. The Garland-obsessed fan won’t learn a lot from watching this biopic, but education doesn’t appear to be the main goal of the filmmakers. The impact of the once golden girl on her family and her fans carries the most emotional punch. In the case of the latter, especially, Judy does a spectacular job highlighting Garland’s connection to the gay community. In the hands of Goold, Edge and Zellweger, the story blossoms into a heartbreaking journey of one abused soul reaching out to, and rejecting, nearly everyone that will have her. —Joelle Monique


12. El Dorado

ElDorado210x310.jpg Year: 1967
Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Ed Asner, James Caan, Paul Fix, Charlene Holt
Rating: PG
Runtime: 126 minutes

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Easily one of the best Westerns ever made, and perhaps one of the best movies ever made period, El Dorado is Howard Hawks at his best and most self-referential. In case the obvious question need be asked: Might this be Hawks’ re-do of his own 1959 masterwork, Rio Bravo? In many ways, yes, absolutely, 100%, hands-down. Both are about ragtag teams of heroes joining in defiance against arrogant ranchers, greedy men with varying nefarious aims, and both star John Wayne. When you strike gold, you strike gold, and Rio Bravo being a hit, maybe we can understand why Hawks decided to rehash it twice over the next 10 years and change. (Note: Avoid the second of these, 1970’s Rio Lobo. It’s sort of a dud.) If El Dorado is the lesser version of Rio Bravo, though, it’s still excellent, seasoned with a nimble sense of humor, superb action, and strong performances bolstered by the chemistry of Hawks’ cast, expanding beyond Wayne to include Robert Mitchum, Arthur Hunnicutt and James Caan. (The perspective shift helps, too.) El Dorado willingly engages with perfectly Western concepts of death and mortality, perhaps reflecting the span of time separating it from Rio Bravo. —Andy Crump


13. Once Upon a Time in the West

once-west.jpg Year: 1968
Director: Sergio Leone
Stars: Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Frank Wolff
Genre: Western, Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 165 minutes

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Let’s get this out of the way: Once Upon a Time in the West is as great as they come, and one of the most influential Westerns of its day. But after the film’s opening 20 minutes or so dribble by, it’s hard not to wonder how the remaining 150 will match them. Sergio Leone’s film is so deliberately paced and so unhurried in getting where it needs to that as soon as the moment passes when we first meet Charles Bronson’s harmonica-playing gunman, we feel as though we’ve already sat through an entire feature. That doesn’t sound like much of a compliment, but Leone’s talent for stretching seconds into minutes and minutes into hours is made all the more amazing by how little we feel the passage of time. Once Upon a Time in the West is truly cinematic, a wormhole that slowly transports us into its world of killers and tycoons, bandits and landowners, revenge and rightness. There’s a reason that Leone’s masterpiece is considered one of the greatest movies ever made and not just one of the great Westerns: Once Upon a Time in the West is an enduring monument of its era, its genre and filmmaking itself. —Andy Crump


14. Sonic the Hedgehog

sonic-the-hedgehog-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Jeff Fowler
Stars: Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter
Rating: PG
Runtime: 99 minutes

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The simplicity of Sonic the Hedgehog, a generic family-friendly action/adventure based on Sega’s flagship videogame character, is both its saving grace and its downfall. It doesn’t overcomplicate the run-and-jump platformer source material by cramming in a ton of schlocky blockbuster lore (see 1993’s Super Mario Bros), but the script by Patrick Casey and Josh Miller is so by-the-numbers that it comes across as a Mad Libs genre template with the infamous blue hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz) inserted as the kooky alien archetype. You know the drill: The alien, or creature from an alternate dimension, somehow ends up on Earth while escaping from bad guys in their home turf. The creature forces an alliance with a group of human characters who are reluctant to help it at first, but eventually build a strong bond with it. Which of course leads to an overblown special effects climax with the alien and human characters facing the bad guys together, teaching the kids a lesson on the importance of teamwork or something. Yet the movie’s real joy, if there is any, lies with Carrey fully embracing his ’90s rubberface days. Director Jeff Fowler makes the right decision by letting Carrey’s signature madness loose on such a vanilla scoop of family entertainment. Carrey chews the scenery until there isn’t a crumb left. Only he could get away with coming across as the true cartoon character in a film that has an actual cartoon character as its hero. May the comedy gods bless him for that.—Oktay Ege Kozak


15. Escape From Alcatraz

escape-from-alcatraz-poster.jpg
Year: 1979
Director: Don Siegel
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Fred Ward, Jack Thibeau, Larry Hankin
Runtime: 112 minutes

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Clint Eastwood plays bank robber Frank Morris, who is sent to Alcatraz after already having escaped from several other prisons. Morris eventually realizes that some of the concrete in his cell can be chiseled away, so he and some of the other inmates he befriends start chipping away with sharpened spoons. The actual escape will have you looking at raincoats in a different light. —Ryan Bort


16. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

planes-trains.jpg Year: 1987
Director: John Hughes
Stars: Steve Martin, John Candy, William Windom
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

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Anyone who’s ever endured holiday traffic on their way home for Thanksgiving can relate to this John Hughes tale—although hopefully you’ve never had to endure the sheer number of transportation mishaps (not to mention some accidental spooning) Steve Martin and John Candy go through. Wonderful performances from two of the finest comedic actors to grace the big screen. —Staff


17. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

the-man-who-shot-liberty-valance-poster.jpg Year: 1962
Director: John Ford
Stars: John Wayne, Lee Marvin, James Stewart, Vera Miles
Rating: PG
Runtime: 123 minutes

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In the hands of any director other than John Ford, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance would probably read as Western navel-gazing. This is a film that directly interrogates the themes and tropes that give the genre its identity while celebrating both at the same time. On paper that sounds self-indulgent to the point of abhorrence. In practice, at least under the mastered hand of Ford, it plays. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of the last great Westerns to come out of Hollywood in the genre’s classic mode, one with clearly drawn good guys and bad guys who resolve their frontier beef in the designated courtroom of their time and place: their town’s main drag. But Ford isn’t interested in boilerplate cowboys and varmints having a good old-fashioned shootout as bystanders look on like a crowd watching a tennis match. He wants to do more than pit revolver against revolver. With The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, he instead presents a clash of ideologies at the center of a changing world, all while dissecting the mythmaking that is so central to what makes Westerns so satisfying. It’s a contest between the rule of law vs. rule of arms, discourse against brute force. You can savor the performances of James Stewart and John Wayne, co-starring alongside each other in a Western for the first time, or Lee Marvin, a man seemingly born to play ruthless and brutal heavy types; you can relish the supporting efforts by the film’s excellent secondary cast, which includes the likes of Woody Strode, John Carradine, Lee Van Cleef and Edmond O’Brien. But the names, big and small alike, all fall under the umbrella of Ford, who asserts himself as the film’s true principal with the authority of his peerless craft. —A.C.


18. Crawl

crawl-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Alexandre Aja
Stars: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper
Rating: R
Runtime: 87 minutes

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Crawl, unlike Jaws, is actually just a movie about people vs. a natural predator. It is simple. It is effective. It is the most fun I’ve had in a theater since John Wick 3. Directed by Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, High Tension, Horns) and written by Shawn and Michael Rasmussen, Crawl is a horror-thriller set in the heart of Florida. In it, Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) returns home from college during a category 5 hurricane, searching for her father, Dave Keller (Barry Pepper), whom she’s unable to get a hold of. Luckily for Haley, she is an aspiring collegiate swimmer so she probably won’t drown while she trudges through flooded street after flooded street. Not so luckily, she finds her dad stuck in a crawl space where the water is slowly rising. There is also their cute family dog, Sugar. And, as advertised, there are alligators—toothy and ravenous. Crawl’s heart thrums with the unique beat that is Florida itself. In the age of “Florida Man” stories that go viral on a near-daily basis, Florida is a seemingly mythic place. There, a man can rob a bank wielding two raccoons, so it just makes sense that a father and daughter could be beset by alligators in a house during a category 5 hurricane. It is just another day in our collective projection of what that humid little state can offer. Still, Crawl embraces the absurd with intense seriousness. There is very little levity to be found in the film, and emotions, blood and viscera flow forth when Crawl really kicks into gear. In the sweaty, latter months of the season, in an age in which such horror is relegated to Syfy drivel, Crawl is a brilliant ode to the magical realism of Florida and how, when made with craft and care, few movie-going experiences are as good as creature-features in the hottest month of the year. —Cole Henry


19. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

star-trek-ii.jpg Year: 1982
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan, George Takei
Rating: PG
Runtime: 113 minutes

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Come for the “KhaaAAHHHHHN!” and stay for the surprisingly emotional treatise on aging without wisdom—as well as one hell of a potent, humbling gut punch of an ending. Anyone arguing for any other film in the Trek franchise will find themselves speaking into a black hole chewed in the matte canvas by the film’s exquisitely potent villain, played by Ricardo Montalbán. That director/co-writer Nicholas Meyer also somehow coaxes a performance from William Shatner that’s only barely unkosher makes this movie a space opera with broad, lasting appeal—and the clear crème of the Trek. —Scott Wold


20. Gretel & Hansel

gretel-hansel-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Oz Perkins
Stars: Sophia Lillis, Samuel Leakey, Alice Krige
Genre: Horror
Rating: PG-13

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Director Oz Perkins’ first two features, The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, are meticulously constructed examples of slow burn horror, favoring ever-building, chilling atmosphere over quick scares. He begins Gretel & Hansel with a traditional fairy tale structure, only for it to degenerate into an otherworldly, hopeless tone, Perkins liberally playing with space and time. Accordingly, production and costume designs borrow from multiple time periods—slightly resembling medieval Europe—while characters speak in Shakespearean prose, their body language still distinctly modern. Instead of the usual sea of white faces for such a tale, different races that seem to have equal social standing populate this world. Perkins purposefully juxtaposes Galo Olivares’s classically picturesque cinematography, imbued with the illusion of natural light, against Robin Coudert’s synth-heavy score that resembles Wendy Carlos’s work for Stanley Kubrick. The film thrives within a dream-logic vibe, especially in Olivares’ cinematography, with its heavy emphasis on symmetrical framing, stark contast and lush use of yellows and blues, evoking subliminal terror. Gretel & Hansel continues the director’s streak as a unique voice in modern horror filmmaking. —Oktay Ege Kozak / Full Review


21. The Wolf of Snow Hollow

the-wolf-of-snow-hollow-poster.jpg
Year: 2020
Director: Jim Cummings
Stars: Jim Cummings, Robert Forster, Riki Lindhome, Chloe East, Jimmy Tatro, Kevin Changaris, Skyler Bible, Demetrius Daniels
Rating: R
Runtime: 83 minutes

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Snow Hollow police officer John Marshall (Cummings) unsteadily balances Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with the travails of raising his teen daughter, Jenna (Chloe East), looking after his ailing father, Hadley (Forster), maintaining diplomatic relations with his ex, and keeping a lid on his volcanic temper. When a woman (Annie Hamilton) is torn to shreds on a weekend visit to John’s ski resort hometown, just moments before her boyfriend (Jimmy Tatro) planned to propose to her, John stretches to his limits and beyond in his pursuit of the killer, who everyone concludes with baffling swiftness is a werewolf rather than a man. His peers’ and subordinates’ stumblebum character and the ass-backwardness of Snow Hollow itself act like gasoline as is. The consensus that the town is under attack from a mythical creature is the straw that makes the vein in John’s neck go taut with anger. The Wolf of Snow Hollow lands in the space where horror and humor meet, mining laughter in mourning and custody battles. Cummings’ laughs are the sort that signal discomfort: His punchlines are razor sharp, which make the movie’s surrounding unpleasantries go down more easily. Watching a policeman get physical with anybody who sufficiently pushes his buttons induces squirms. When fellow officer Bo (Kevin Changaris) accidentally says too much about the murders in front of reporters, John calls him over to a snowbank and starts smacking the poor schmuck around, a moment that would tip over into pure darkness without the aid of a lighthearted soundtrack and the slapstick of their scuffle. Regardless, the point is made: John’s on edge, and his edge is surprisingly amusing. The wry, snappy banter gives The Wolf of Snow Hollow a prickly skin, and the restrained application of FX gives it tension. At just under 80 minutes, that economy is key. It’s not so much that the horror is elevated as controlled. But rather than clang with the innate savagery of the werewolf niche, Cummings’ command over his material gives the film a certain freshness. He tames the monster in the man so that the man is all that’s left, for better and for worse. John isn’t perfect, but an imperfect man need not be a beast.—Andy Crump


22. Johnny Guitar

johnny-guitar.jpg Year: 1954
Director: Nicholas Ray
Stars: Joan Crawford, Mercedes McCambridge, Sterling Hayden, Scott Brady
Genre: Western
Rating: PG
Runtime: 110 minutes

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Johnny Guitar is a film that barely hangs onto its genre trappings—and is one of the strangest and rarest of fifties Westerns. Nicholas Ray specialized in borderline-hysterical, hyper-magnified psychological drama, regardless of the setting. Here, he pits tough saloon keeper Vienna (a hard-faced Joan Crawford) against wrathful rival Mercedes McCambridge. Sterling Hayden sidles in as Vienna’s love interest and the catalyst for the witch hunt, but he’s hardly the driving force of the film. That showdown belongs to the women of Johnny Guitar—and the fearsome, small-minded community that surrounds them. —Christina Newland


23. Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

gunfight-at-the-ok-corral-poster.jpg
Year: 1956
Director: John Sturges
Stars: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Jo Van Fleet, John Ireland
Runtime: 110 minutes

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John Sturges’ initial foray into portraying the events behind the monolithic historic shootout is fairly epic in scope, spanning multiple settings (Fort Griffin, Texas, Dodge City, Kansas and ultimately ending in Tombstone, Ariz.), and showcasing a large cast including Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, DeForest Kelley, Rhonda Fleming, Jo Van Fleet, John Ireland, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Dennis Hopper and Martin Milner. At its heart though, the film is ultimately a straightforward story of brotherly love between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, showing how the two men grow to respect one another by keeping each other in check and helping each other grow as men in the face of violent turmoil. While Sturges and screenwriter Leon Uris reportedly heavily researched the incidents, the film is still a fairly fanciful treatment of the events in Tombstone. Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is at times emotionally overwrought, teeming with cinematic open vistas and eye-poppingly lush color used for the interior sets; it’s not hard to see why Sturges later referred to the film as “a slick horse opera with the accent on opera.” In his interpretation of Doc Holliday, Kirk Douglas is quite compelling and yes, overheated, playing him as a volatile, manipulative, emotionally abusive, yet ultimately loyal rapscallion of a dandy. Frankly, he steals the show from top-billed Burt Lancaster’s dour, stoic portrayal of Wyatt Earp. —J.P.


24. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

sweeney-todd-poster.jpg Year: 2007
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen
Rating: R
Runtime: 117 minutes

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Whoever said murder couldn’t be wonderfully melodic? Although the Tony-winning Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was right up Tim Burton’s alley, his 2007 film took his macabre look at a homicidal English barber and made it fun. Here’s another Burton flick that relies on the tested chemistry of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, but we also see great performances from Alan Rickman as the corrupt Judge Turpin and Sasha Baron Cohen as a rival barber. The film sees Burton’s on-screen gruesomeness at an all-time high, but it’s all balanced out by some infectious musical numbers.—Tyler Kane


25. The Rhythm Section

30-the-rhythm-section-poster-itunes.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Reed Morano
Starring: Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown, Raza Jaffrey
Genre: Thriller, Action
Rating: R
Runtime: 109 minutes

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A straight genre exercise that mixes revenge fantasy with a globetrotting assassin adventure, The Rhythm Section may not dig deep, but director Reed Morano handles an impressive balance between the genre’s prerequisite set pieces—full of intense hand-to-hand combat and pulse-pounding action—and an honest examination of how hard it truly is to take a life no matter how much we believe that life deserves to be taken. Screenwriter Mark Burnell, who adapted his novel with the same name, wisely skips typical first act, overindulgent exposition, spending time in the protagonist’s happy home before it’s violently taken away. When we meet Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively), the trauma has already occurred. Years ago, her entire family died in a plane crash, and, unable to cope with the insurmountable sorrow, Stephanie turned to a dead-eyed existence of addiction and sex work. Lively, always somber, captures the numbing nature of grief. The Rhythm Section certainly doesn’t rewrite the structure of the revenge movie. The usual plot twists can still be seen coming a mile away. None of which keeps it from being a smart and insightful genre exercise in an already promising director’s young career. —Oktay Ege Kozak


26. Bill & Ted Face the Music

bill-ted-face-the-music-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Dean Parisot
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, William Sadler
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 91 minutes

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Our enjoyment of Bill & Ted Face the Music may only be the direct result of living with a kind of background-grade dread for what feels like the whole of our adult lives. Those of us who will seek out and watch this third movie in the Most Excellent Adventures of Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted (Theodore) Logan (Keanu Reeves) are bound by nostalgia as much as a desire to suss out whatever scraps of joy can be found buried in our grim, harrowing reality. Sometimes, death and pain is unavoidable. Sometimes it just feels nice to lounge for 90 minutes in a universe where when you die you and all your loved ones just go to Hell and all the demons there are basically polite service industry workers so everything is pretty much OK. Cold comfort and mild praise, maybe, but the strength of Dean Parisot’s go at the Bill & Ted saga is its laid-back, low-stakes nature, wherein even the murder robot (Anthony Carrigan, the film’s luminous guiding light) sent to lazer Bill and Ted to death quickly becomes their friend while Kid Cudi is the duo’s primary source on quantum physics. Because why? It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. There may be some symbolic heft to Bill and Ted reconciling with Death (William Sadler) in Hell; there may be infinite universes beyond our own, entangled infinitely. Cudi’s game for whatever. A sequel of rare sincerity, Bill & Ted Face the Music avoids feeling like a craven reviving of a hollowed-out IP or a cynical reboot, mostly because its ambition is the stuff of affection—for what the filmmakers are doing, made with sympathy for their audience and a genuine desire to explore these characters in a new context. Maybe that’s the despair talking. Or maybe it’s just the relief of for once confronting the past and finding that it’s aged considerably well. —Dom Sinacola


27. Child’s Play

childs play poster (Custom).jpg Year: 1988
Director: Tom Holland
Stars: Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon
Rating: R
Runtime: 87 minutes

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Child’s Play is one of those late ’80s gimmick slashers where it’s all too easy to feel as if you’ve already seen the film, without actually having sat down to watch it. Killer doll, very cheesy, plenty of one-liners, right? Well yes, and no. The original (and pretty obviously best) entry in the Child’s Play series is the most serious-minded (at least slightly) and grounded of the movies, and it goes out of its way to humanize its iconic killer Chucky—or the spirit within him, that of serial killer Charles Lee Ray—more than one might expect. If you’ve never seen a film in the series, ask yourself this: Did you know that the plot of Child’s Play is technically all about voodoo? Because it is. In the end, though, its greatness and inherent watchability boils down to the charms of the wonderful Brad Dourif, who found in Chucky the vessel he needed to become a genre legend forevermore. Like Robert Englund did with Freddy Krueger, Chucky becomes the most beloved aspect of the series because Dourif’s voiceover just oozes charisma and character—he’s more alive than any of the flesh-and-blood characters in this series could ever be. It’s just one of those sublime moments of perfect casting—it’s easy to imagine that no one would remember the Child’s Play series today if that one aspect had been different. —Jim Vorel


28. Night of the Living Dead

24. night of the living dead (Custom).jpg Year: 1968
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Judith O’Dea, Duane Jones, Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman, Judith Ridley, Keith Wayne
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 96 minutes

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What more can be said of Night of the Living Dead? It’s pretty obviously the most important zombie film ever made, and hugely influential as an independent film as well. George Romero’s cheap but momentous movie was a quantum leap forward in what the word “zombie” meant in pop culture, despite the fact that the word “zombie” is never actually uttered in it. More importantly, it established all of the genre rules: Zombies are reanimated corpses. Zombies are compelled to eat the flesh of the living. Zombies are unthinking, tireless and impervious to injury. The only way to kill a zombie is to destroy the brain. Those rules essentially categorize every single zombie movie from here on out—either the film features “Romero-style zombies,” or it tweaks with the formula and is ultimately noted for how it differs from the Romero standard. It’s essentially the horror equivalent of what Tolkien did for the idea of high fantasy “races.” After The Lord of the Rings, it became nearly impossible to write contrarian concepts of what elves, dwarves or orcs might be like. Romero’s impact on zombies is of that exact same caliber. There hasn’t been a zombie movie made in the last 50-plus years that hasn’t been influenced by it in some way, and you can barely hold a conversation on anything zombie-related if you haven’t seen it—so go out and watch it, if you haven’t. The film still holds up well, especially in its moody cinematography and stark, black-and-white images of zombie arms reaching through the windows of a rural farmhouse. Oh, and by the way—NOTLD is public domain, so don’t get tricked into buying it on a shoddy DVD. —Jim Vorel


29. Rushmore

Thumbnail image for Rushmore.jpg Year: 1998
Director: Wes Anderson
Stars: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Rushmore introduced the world to Jason Schwartzman and helped pivot Bill Murray’s career from broad comic to art-house juggernaut. An unlikely inter-generational love triangle leads to one of the most entertaining feuds in filmdom. Schwartzman’s Max Fischer is an ambitious yet academically underachieving student at the prestigious Rushmore Academy in Houston, and Bill Murray plays wealthy industrialist Herman Blume. The two strike up an unexpected and unconventional friendship, but both end up falling for Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), a teacher at Rushmore. When Max goes too far in trying to prove himself to Ms. Cross by breaking ground on a new building without the school’s permission, he’s finally expelled and ends up in a soul-crushing public school. To make matters worse, he finds out that Herman has begun dating the object of his desire. As with Bottle Rocket, Ruhsmore was co-written by Owen Wilson who, like Max, was expelled from a prep school. He and Anderson began work on the script long before Bottle Rocket was filmed, and Rushmore contains even more of the DNA found in the rest of Anderson’s catalog. Few films remain re-watchable into the double digits, but this one just keeps getting funnier. —Josh Jackson


30. The Little Hours

the little hours movie poster.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Jeff Baena
Stars: Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon
Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Raunchy comedies rarely cop to such well-regarded sources: The Little Hours claims its basis lies within Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th-century novella collection The Decameron, which makes its structure, bawdiness and characterizations all feel appropriately pithy. A series of incidents involving three horny nuns—Alessandra, Genevra, and Fernanda (Alison Brie, Kate Micucci and Aubrey Plaza, respectively)—and sexy farmhand-on-the-run Massetto (played by Dave Franco in full romance novel cover mode), The Little Hours finds writer/director Jeff Baena (who minored in Medieval and Renaissance Studies at NYU) delighting in updating The Decameron’s light and witty stories, helped by the fact that Boccaccio’s language was opposed to the flowery erudition of most of the period’s texts. That translates to a very vulgar (and funny) movie both indebted to and different than a wide spectrum of vulgar nun and nunsploitation movies that have spanned porn, hauntings and thrillers promising both nude nuns and big guns.—Jacob Oller


31. Shane

shane-poster.jpg Year: 1953
Director: George Stevens
Stars: Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin
Rating: TV-G
Runtime: 135 minutes

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Shane is another of the great Hollywood westerns and probably the most archetypal and mythical in its execution. The heroes are truly good, the villains badder than bad. It explores one of the classic Western expansion themes, cattle ranching—or the freedom and lawlessness of the open range—versus farming, which eventually leads to civilization and settling down in one place, bringing families and the laws of the city into play. Visually a character straight out of the Old Testament, Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer) is a shaggy bearded cattle baron hell-bent on driving farming families from the land he considers his. A mysterious rider named Shane (Alan Ladd) arrives in the nick of time to bolster the courage of a group of homesteaders led by Joe Starrett (Van Heflin). Shane and Ryker, along with their cohorts, are relics of the past, ultimately doomed to extinction once the wives and children move in. Unlike Ryker, Shane knows this, and spells it out in their final showdown. The future of the West is in cities and communities. There is no place for lawless men like them in these new frontiers. All these years later, we know that Shane was wrong. Killing and lawlessness still abound in the cities, and big business still tramples the rights of the common man. The film is a reminder, though, that if communities band together, holding strong in faith and trusting one another, they can take back what is rightfully theirs and shape a collective destiny.—Joe Pettit Jr.


32. Rocketman

rocketman-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Stars: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden
Rating: R
Runtime: 121 minutes

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Any major studio that gets its hands on the rights to a rock star’s music, desiring to retrofit it into a movie for the fans, has two options: Make a biopic that episodically lines up snippets of the artist’s life, like last year’s bafflingly popular Bohemian Rhapsody, or make a jukebox musical that integrates the beloved hits into an original story, like the gaudy Mamma Mia! or the sublime Across the Universe. Rocketman, a dazzlingly entertaining, heartbreaking, vulnerable, and delightfully exuberant biopic about the great Elton John (Taron Egerton) dares to ask a question so simple yet so smart: Why not do both? So we get an intimately dissected and well-acted biopic as well as a spectacularly visualized and choreographed musical. We begin with Elton, né Reginald, a child prodigy burying himself in his music to cope with the emotional hole in his heart brought on by his loveless father (Steven Mackintosh) and selfish mother (Bryce Dallas Howard). After finding true inspiration thanks to his lyric-writing partner Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), he enjoys the spoils of becoming an overnight smash. But of course the music, the money and the millions of fans turn out to be a temporary fix for the loneliness he has felt since childhood, so in comes the “dark period” full of drugs, sex, copious partying and the alienation of everyone who genuinely loves him, a period made worse by an abusive relationship with his life partner/manager (Richard Madden). This all sets up the third act, the long road to redemption. So the recipe is the same we’ve tried many times before, but writer Lee Hall and director Dexter Fletcher infuse it with delectable and previously unused ingredients. In a strictly audio/visual sense, the musical numbers are stunning, each new one managing to top what came before in uniqueness and whimsy. Most importantly, Taron Egerton embodies Elton with a captivating natural presence; his is a meticulously mannered performance in the best possible way, where even the tiniest facial tic becomes an irreplaceable detail that completes the big picture. Overall, it’s hard to imagine a better tribute to such a singular icon. —Oktay Ege Kozak


33. The Phantom of the Opera

the-phantom-of-the-opera-poster.jpg Year: 1925
Director: Rupert Julian
Stars: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin
Rating: NR
Runtime: 79 minutes

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Before Dracula and the official birth of Universal Horror, there was Phantom of the Opera. (By the way: It sucks that none of the major streamers, including Netflix and Shudder, have the rights to show all of the classic Universal Monster series. I want to be able to watch Son of Frankenstein or The Wolf Man streaming on demand some day, guys! Get those licensing deals in place!) Regardless, it’s nice that Shudder has at least one of these old classics, on account of it being in the public domain. This is the original version of Phantom, starring Lon Chaney Sr., the “Man of a Thousand Faces.” The pace is slow, the acting style on display is rather alien to watch today— overdramatic holdovers from the vaudeville era—and you know how the classic story goes, but man: Chaney’s face. t’s one of the truly iconic faces of horror, right alongside Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Chaney’s own son, Lon Chaney Jr., who would go on to play The Wolf Man. Phantom of the Opera is indispensable for Chaney’s self-devised makeup, which reportedly had theater patrons fainting in the aisles in 1925. —Jim Vorel


34. Snatch

snatch-poster.jpg Year: 2000
Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Brad Pitt, Jason Statham, Benicio del Toro, Dennis Farina, Jason Flemyng, Vinnie Jones
Rating: R
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Love or hate him, Guy Ritchie has redefined the gangster genre with his hyper-stylized touch. Snatch may be a lesser remix of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but it boasts a multifaceted plot, frenzied action and dazzling eye candy. And how can you not love characters with names like Franky Four Fingers, Bullet Tooth Tony and Doug the Head?—David Roark


35. Star Trek: First Contact

star-trek-first-contact-poster.jpg Year: 1996
Directors: Jonathan Frakes
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 111 minutes

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First Contact wasn’t the first Star Trek film incorporating time-travel, though the plot device was used only sparingly on the show—it’s not really kosher with the Prime Directive. But we’ll take the Next Generation crew and The Borg over the whale watchers in the fourth movie, A Voyage Home. While the first film from this iteration of space explorers—the crossover Generations—got a little mired in the novelty of having two Enterprise crews together, First Contact let Patrick Stewart and company tackle their most iconic villain on their own. When the Borg create a temporal vortex to conquer Earth before humanity discovers they’re not alone in the galaxy, the Enterprise rides its wake and must preserve the timeline or face extinction. It’s a tight story carrying the weight of Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s personal abduction and assimilation by the Borg, driving him with an Ahab-like determination. It also conveys a hope for humanity in the wake of world war that would have made Gene Roddenberry proud. —Josh Jackson