The 20 Best Movies on Paramount+ Right Now (January 2022)

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The 20 Best Movies on Paramount+ Right Now (January 2022)

Paramount+, the streaming service that is to ViacomCBS what HBO Max is to WarnerMedia, is finally here. The company (and the studio that streamer takes its name from) is stuffing its library online. CBS All Access, which it is replacing, is dead. Yes, it’s another streamer and yes, it’s another streamer with a at the end of its name. But hear us out: Paramount might be the new kid on the block, but it’s a heck of a deal. Either $9.99 a month for the ad-free tier or $4.99 for ads gets you “2,500 movie titles,” and that’s not even mentioning the slew of TV shows that’re coming along for the ride.

Between the Comedy Central Roasts, stand-up specials and seemingly endless documentaries, it can be hard to sift through. Never fear, though, because we’re here to sort through it all and find the cream of the crop—updating every month. The plethora of dramatic classics, martial arts movies, Star Trek entries and forgotten favorites make Paramount+ worth checking out—especially considering its relatively low price point.

Here are the 20 best movies available to stream on Paramount+ right now:

1. Devil in a Blue Dress

devil-in-blue-dress-twilight-time.jpg Year: 1995
Director: Carl Franklin
Stars: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals, Don Cheadle, Maury Chaykin
Rating: R
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Devil in a Blue Dress perfectly casts Denzel Washington as a down-on-his-luck WWII veteran who relocates to L.A. to start a new career as a private investigator. As tends to happen with PIs in this subgenre, the man inevitably finds himself embroiled in a complicated murder investigation. Adding his own spin to the well-trodden noir plotlines, writer/director Carl Franklin uses his film’s detective story as a launching pad to explore the racial landscape of 1940s America. Philip Marlowe certainly had his share of rough encounters, but he had the benefit of never being instantly judged on the basis of his skin color. Mix in a scene-stealing turn from Don Cheadle and Devil in a Blue Dress makes for one tantalizing riff on the film noir formula. —Mark Rozeman

2. Amistad

amistad-poster.jpg Year: 1997
Director: Steven Spielberg

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As a group of slaves, led by the strong-willed Cinque (Djimon Hounsou), fight back against their captors with fully warranted violence, the opening sequence to Amistad becomes a testament to Spielberg’s full command of his unique visual language. The torrential rain represents a force of blind revenge, the pitch black surface of the slave ship lit only with sparks of thunder: Once again, the director makes sure what we can’t see is just as effective as what we can. After this terrific hook, Amistad settles into a patient and emotionally potent courtroom drama wherein a group of white men decide whether or not a group of Black men have any claim to being considered human beings. In the ’90s, Spielberg still couldn’t deny his nature, to pull heartstrings by any means necessary, so we get some moments of unearned sentimentalism (the “Give us free” scene). Nevertheless, it’s one of the director’s most striking dramas—beginning with that harrowing opening sequence, which may’ve been a dress rehearsal for the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, released less than eight months later.—Oktay Ege Kozak

3. Beavis and Butt-Head Do America

beavis_butt-head_do_america_poster_netflix.jpg Year: 1996
Director: Mike Judge
Stars: Mike Judge, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Robert Stack, Cloris Leachman
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 80 minutes

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Mike Judge was at the top of his powers in the mid to late ‘90s, when he was juggling Beavis and Butt-Head with King of the Hill and also developing Office Space. Although it lacks the music video commentary that was often the funniest part of the MTV series, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America is the rare feature-length adaptation of a TV show that’s actually better than the source material. A higher budget resulted in the best animation ever associated with Beavis and Butt-Head, while the extra length of a movie let Judge and his co-writer Joe Stillman take the cultural satire the show was known for in deeper and wider ranging directions. It also features Robert Stack’s best animated performance since that time he got to cuss in the Transformers movie.—Garrett Martin

4. Hugo

hugo-214.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Chloë Grace Moretz
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 126 minutes

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With Hugo, director Martin Scorsese has created a dazzling, wondrous experience, an undeniable visual masterpiece. In his adaptation of Brian Selznick’s novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Scorsese weaves together his many passions and concerns: for art, for film, for fathers and father-figures. He retells the story of a boy (Hugo Cabret, played by Asa Butterfield) in search of a way to complete his father’s work. Alongside Hugo’s tale is the true story of Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), one of the world’s first filmmakers. By film’s end, Hugo makes a persuasive case that the art of film is as Méliès defines it—the invention of dreams. (And conversely, there’s a case to be made that, in our modern world, dreams are now the invention of film.) Regardless, as an ode to the history of movies, this film is a success. Indeed, it soars in visual achievement, which is what the moving pictures were originally about. Martin Scorsese has made a 3D film in an attempt to point to that lifelike quality in movies that has always existed—even before 3D. This quality is the very essence of film, and it is glorified—and rightly so—in Hugo, a cinematic tribute to the art of movies and to art itself. —Shannon M. Houston

5. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Year: 2003
Director: Peter Weir
Stars: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 138 minutes

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The pilot for one of the greatest movie franchises that never was, Peter Weir’s Napoleonic War adventure plays a long game of cat-and-mouse over two oceans, between a French vessel and the British HMS Surprise. The film takes great pleasure in old ways: it luxuriates in the myths and salty humor of Georgian mariners, gets swept up in the pre-WWI mentality of war as a flag-waving lark and, in a brief excursion to the Galapagos Islands, pines for the days of analog exploration. This is a feel-good film with a high body count—Weir and his cast of character actors take great pains to ensure the dozens of seamen are keenly and affectionately drawn to a man, so that each limb-endangering injury, each fatality is felt—thanks in large part to the squabbling chemistry between Russell Crowe as the ship’s driven Captain Aubrey, and Paul Bettany as its stern doctor. Through them it very nearly becomes a buddy movie, with the pair constantly nit-picking and bantering, but at the end of the day always reaffirming their friendship with a violin/cello jam. A match this good deserved a sequel, but the one movie we got is good enough to savor. —Brogan Morris

6. Interstellar

Thumbnail image for interstellar2.jpg Year: 2014
Director: Christopher Nolan

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Whether he’s making superhero movies or blockbuster puzzle boxes, Christopher Nolan doesn’t usually bandy with emotion. But Interstellar is a nearly three-hour ode to the interconnecting power of love. It’s also his personal attempt at doing in 2014 what Stanley Kubrick did in 1968 with 2001: A Space Odyssey, less of an ode or homage than a challenge to Kubrick’s highly polarizing contribution to cinematic canon. Interstellar wants to uplift us with its visceral strengths, weaving a myth about the great American spirit of invention gone dormant. It’s an ambitious paean to ambition itself. The film begins in a not-too-distant future, where drought, blight and dust storms have battered the world down into a regressively agrarian society. Textbooks cite the Apollo missions as hoaxes, and children are groomed to be farmers rather than engineers. This is a world where hope is dead, where spaceships sit on shelves collecting dust, and which former NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) bristles against. He’s long resigned to his fate but still despondent over mankind’s failure to think beyond its galactic borders. But then Cooper falls in with a troop of underground NASA scientists, led by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), who plan on sending a small team through a wormhole to explore three potentially habitable planets and ostensibly secure the human race’s continued survival. But the film succeeds more as a visual tour of the cosmos than as an actual story. The rah-rah optimism of the film’s pro-NASA stance is stirring, and on some level that tribute to human endeavor keeps the entire yarn afloat. But no amount of scientific positivism can offset the weight of poetic repetition and platitudes about love. —Andy Crump

7. Election

Thumbnail image for 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

8. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run

the-spongebob-movie-sponge-on-the-run-poster.jpg Year: 2021
Director: Tim Hill
Stars: Tom Kenny, Awkwafina, Matt Berry, Snoop Dogg, Bill Fagerbakke, Clancy Brown, Tiffany Haddish, Carolyn Lawrence, Mr. Lawrence, Keanu Reeves, Danny Trejo, Reggie Watts
Runtime: 91 minutes

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There are many reasons why SpongeBob SquarePants has endured more than two decades of steadfast love and pop culture relevance. Part of it is the enduring positivity and ridiculousness of SpongeBob (Tom Kenny), Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) and the entire populace of their world. The characters are self-referential, consistent to their defining traits and the writers have always created a duality of experience: Silliness for kids and a sly ascendance of wit that appeals directly to the older viewers. The mode in which the funny is served needs to have all of that present to work. Director/writer Tim Hill (who also wrote 2004’s original The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie) understands that in this first, all-3D presentation. Hill and his team of artists—including Mikros Image, which is responsible for the CGI animation—play it smart by introducing a subtle transition for the view in the opening of Sponge on the Run. Gorgeous, photorealistic CGI of the underwater world transitions to the familiar color palette and stylized look of Hillenburg’s corner of the ocean, just with more presence and tactile flourishes. From Gary’s snail slime coming across as tangible goop to scratches in Sandy Cheeks’ breathing dome, the movie doesn’t aim to overwhelm audiences with overt tech bells and whistles. Instead, it presents the characters and world as an opportunity to experience the familiar in a new light, like appreciating the miniscule scale of a 3D-generated Plankton in comparison to his explosive rage—which makes him all the more hilarious. As another evolution in the ongoing SpongeBob universe, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run is a graceful and well-executed dip of the yellow toe into 3D waters. There’s overall respect for the characters and tone, and artistic merit to how they integrate the medium into the show’s standards for presenting the surreal and strange. Does it push the sponge forward? Probably not, and that’s ok. There’s something timeless about Bikini Bottom remaining as it is, with spin-offs and new series serving as the appropriate playgrounds for new outlets of storytelling. Sponge on the Run lovingly splits the difference, but doesn’t take anything away from what many know and love.—Tara Bennett

9. Bumblebee

bumblebee-210.jpg Year: 2018
Director: Travis Knight

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Paramount actually made a Transformers movie that’s a lovely, exciting and wholly engaging gem of a sci-fi adventure for teenagers. I guess it’s time for me to finally go into my dream business of exporting the newly formed ice from hell using my army of flying pigs. Bumblebee is an ’80s set spin-off/prequel to Michael Bay’s migraine-inducing, often infuriating, and always head-slappingly stupid five Transformers flicks. It wisely scales down Bay’s love of random mayhem in favor of a fairly respectful and inventive throwback to those Spielbergian family sci-fi/adventure movies about the friendship between a nerdy, lonely teenager (Hailee Steinfeld) and a friendly and protective alien/robot/magical being. Their bond teaches the teenager to come out of her shell and face her fears. Of course since we also need an action-heavy third act, the big bad military that’s unfairly threatened by the creature goes after it, forcing the teenager and the creature to defend each other against all odds, learning lessons about the importance of love in the process. Sure, Bumblebee doesn’t really bring much that’s especially new or daring to that formula, but at least all the ingredients really work. It’s hard enough to have a fully CG character as your co-star, and it’s even tougher when an actor is tasked with creating a deep emotional connection with something she can’t even see during production. Steinfeld is up to the challenge, making us believe in Bumblebee’s existence almost as much as the animators who worked on bringing him to life. Just like death and taxes, it’s a certainty of life that we will get a new Transformers in theaters once every few years. If they’re more like Bumblebee going forward, the thought of that doesn’t depress me nowhere near as it used to. —Oktay Ege Kozak

10. Panic Room

panic-room-poster.jpg Year: 2002
Director: David Fincher
Stars: Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto, Kristen Stewart
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

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A nasty thriller that puts David Fincher’s visual flourishes to tension-raising use, Panic Room is a show-offy yet modest piece of pulp that knows exactly what it is and sees everyone giving their all to the (at times silly) home invasion film. Fincher’s CG-aided long takes and meticulous shot design are there to wow us, but they’re also there to orient us in space and within the magnificent home welcoming our wealthy divorcee (Jodie Foster) and her diabetic daughter (Kristen Stewart). The perfectly cast pair (not only do they play desperate, angsty and tough excellently, but they also have great parental chemistry) struggle against scummy Jared Leto and his burglar buddies (Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam) in ways that are sometimes contrived due to the blustery “it’s a movie, c’mon!” plotting of David Koepp’s script, but never bland or unengaging. The set-up is clear, the motivations are simple, and the joy lies in the execution. Panic Room might be Fincher having a dirty little lark, but it’s as careful and nasty a lark as you’d expect from a meticulous craftsman like him. Plus, Jodie Foster gets a sledgehammer.—Jacob Oller

11. Paranormal Activity

paranormal activity poster (Custom).jpg Year: 2007
Director: Oren Peli

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Here’s a statement: Paranormal Activity is the most wrongly derided horror film of the last decade, especially by horror buffs. That’s what happens in the wake of massive overnight success, and immediately derivative, inferior sequels: The original gets dragged down by its progeny. The original Paranormal Activity is a masterful piece of budget filmmaking. For $15,000, Oren Peli made what is probably the most effective “for the price” horror movie ever released, surpassing The Blair Witch in terms of both tension and narrative while pulling off incredibly unnerving minimalist effects. Yes, there are some stupid, “I’m in a horror movie” choices by the characters, and yes, Micah Sloat’s “get out here so I can punch you, demon!” attitude is irritating, but it’s calculated to be that way. Sloat is a reflection of the toxic “man of the house” attitude, a guy who would rather be terrorized than accept outside help. Meanwhile, Katie Featherston’s realistic performance as a young woman slowly unraveling is a thing of beauty. But beyond performances, or effects, Paranormal Activity is a brilliant case study in slowly building tension, and in raising an audience’s blood pressure. I know: I saw this film in theaters when it was still in limited release, and I can honestly say I’ve never been in a movie theater audience that was more terrified. How could I tell? Because they were so loud in the moments of calm before each scare (the most dead giveaway of all: when a young man turns to his friends to assure them how not-nervous he is). This was just such an event—there were actually ushers standing at the entrance ramps throughout the entire film, just watching the audience watch the movie. I’ve yet to ever see that happen again. Deride all you want, but the arrival of Paranormal Activity scared the hell out of us. —Jim Vorel

12. 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

13. 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

14. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Year: 1987
Director: John Hughes
Stars: Steve Martin, John Candy, William Windom, Michael McKean, Edie McLurg
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) Neal Page and Del Griffith go through. Planes, Trains and Automobiles pits a petulant Steve Martin (Neal) against the usually mirthful John Candy (Del) as they travel home for the holidays. Weather and time are stacked up against them, so they end up traveling together with some disastrous results. Of course, nothing goes according to plan as Thanksgiving gets closer and closer. —Bonnie Stiernberg and Pete Mercer

15. The Foot Fist Way

foot_fisT_way_poster.jpg Year: 2006
Director: Jody Hill
Stars: Danny McBride, Mary Jane Bostic, Ben Best, Spencer Moreno, Carlos Lopez, Jody Hill, Collette Wolfe
Rating: R
Runtime: 87 minutes

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Before The Righteous Gemstones, before Kenny Powers, even before his role in Hot Rod, Danny McBride made his mark with The Foot Fist Way. Together with his long-time collaborator Jody Hill and co-writer Ben Best, McBride introduced us to Fred Simmons, a Taekwondo instructor in a small Southern town with a huge ego and an anger problem. Consider Fred the proto-Kenny Powers, with McBride diving into the same reservoir of toxic masculinity and extreme arrogance undercut by insecurity and a barely understood depression. Rough around the edges, and visibly low budget, The Foot Fist Way isn’t as refined or powerful as McBride and Hill’s later HBO shows, but it’s still a hilarious character study with a keen eye for place and an understanding of the modern South rarely seen in movies or TV.—Garrett Martin

16. To Catch a Thief

to-catch-a-thief-movie-poster.jpg Year: 1955
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, John Williams
Rating: PG
Runtime: 106 minutes

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But really—he didn’t do it. Cary Grant plays John Robie, a retired jewel thief who’s enjoying his golden years tending vines on the French Riviera. Just when the Grenache is hitting the perfect Brix level, a series of copycat heists put Robie back in the thiefly limelight. Seeking to clear things up, he compiles a list of locals who are known to have heistable jewels, and being a smart and wily guy, he starts tailing a very, very pretty one (Francie, played by Grace Kelly). Budding romance can be an accidental side-effect of these things, but when Francie’s ice does go missing, she suspects John and it sours their relationship, as one might expect. John goes on the proverbial lam to get to the bottom of it. Talk about jewels! Nothing ever sparkled quite like Cary Grant and Grace Kelly onscreen together, especially with the legendary Edith Head on costume design—and their peerless charisma is in amazing hands here. The film itself is a bauble, unapologetically so: light and frothy and absolutely not Rear Window (none of which is an indictment). Sometimes it’s enough for something to simply be charming and beautiful. This film proves it. —Amy Glynn

17. Annihilation

annihilation-poster.jpg Year: 2018
Director: Alex Garland

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Alex Garland’s meditative adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel Annihilation is perhaps not the first film you’d immediately associate with “Lovecraftian” horror, but it actually fits the descriptor quite well. The “Shimmer” itself seems deeply indebted to Lovecraft’s 1927 story “The Colour Out of Space,” itself adapted as another entry on this list. As in Lovecraft’s story, Annihilation sees a mysterious force of extraterrestrial origin fall to Earth, where it leeches into the countryside and begins to transform and warp reality around it, with one of the leading indicators being the otherworldly colors and visual distortion that spreads from the epicenter of what is essentially an alien infection. Annihilation takes a studious, philosophical perspective on the ramifications of entering such a zone, as biology grapples with the inherent spark of identity and humanity within all of us—it’s perhaps a bit more cerebral than many of Lovecraft’s works, but the influence is unmistakable. In particular, the film’s ultimate depiction of the extraterrestrials strikes a very appropriate tone for Lovecraft, in the sense that the alien intelligence is portrayed as truly alien, rather than as human in some other guise. The consciousness encountered by the characters here is genuinely unknowable, totally outside of our capacity to grasp, which reinforces the Lovecraftian tenet of humanity’s extremely meager understanding of our reality, and relative insignificance in the cosmic scheme of things.—Jim Vorel

18. Resident Evil

resident-evil-poster.jpg Year: 2002
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

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In the original Resident Evil, director Paul W.S. Anderson borrows from classic horror movie tropes made popular by films such as George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Ridley Scott’s Alien to depict a group of protagonists within an enclosed space fighting off monsters. Anderson makes heavy use of the kind of cheap jump scare tactics—loud banging noises, jarring music—that have become too predictable to startle any sci-fi horror fan. The protagonists are largely incompetent, following the “no man left behind” mentality and stubbornly protecting one character by the name of Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), who’s bitten by a zombie halfway through the movie anyway, leaving the confrontation between the crew and Zombie Rain a lot less shocking. Yet, there is one scene (which would later find its way into Resident Evil 4) that puts this movie above the pack and makes it well worth watching—one that amps up the gore and manages to be ingenious enough to overcome the lackluster action that surrounds it. Main badass Alice (Milla Jovovich) and her cronies find themselves facing off against a rather unfair game of laser dodging. In an ode to the classic security system scenes in heist films such as Mission: Impossible or Entrapment, our protagonists dare to challenge the technological prowess of the underground facility’s artificial intelligence system, appropriately dubbed the Red Queen. After venturing into a room that spells trouble, the door locks behind four members of the group, leaving them trapped in a narrow corridor. The claustrophobic setting of the underground facility is amplified by an immediate threat of death and a sickening method for killing the victims. In the film’s earlier action setpieces, everyone is going through the motions of a typical zombie-action film, but with the Laser Corridor, our disposable heroes face an unexpected challenge. The room seems to be almost toying with the soldiers: Lasers move without reason, shifting about to pick off victims one by one. In the last act of carnage, the lasers form a gridlock pattern, inescapable for the last person who has, until this point, managed to outsmart the room. Funnily enough, the sequence feels like a self-aware reincarnation of the opening scene from Cube (1997), a similarly constructed sci-fi horror film about an unfortunate group of people narrowly escaping traps like mice in a pseudo-sexual science experiment. But whereas the scene in Cube puts its one victim at ease rather quickly, the laser room scene gets its jollies out of teasing before pleasing. Hey, who ever said viewers can’t have fun watching people get diced into hamburger meat?—Turner Minton

19. 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

20. 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.

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