The 20 Best Movies on Cinemax Right Now

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The 20 Best Movies on Cinemax Right Now

HBO Max may have begun dominating the Max title among movie streaming apps since its release, but before it burst onto the scene, Max Go was one of the premium ways to watch movies. While its website is still active, the Cinemax streaming companion has since taken a backseat to the HBO parent streamer. That doesn’t mean, however, that Cinemax isn’t still offering up hundreds of great movies. From great action flicks, war movies, and westerns to comedy and drama, the premium channel still has the hits. In our curation efforts, we’ve skipped over Max After Dark options, so those after “Skinamax” offerings will have to venture into that territory on their own. Let us know whether Bikini Avengers or College Coeds vs. Zombie Housewives need to make the list.

This list covers the best on offer, up to date.

Here are the 20 Best Movies on Cinemax and Max Go:

1. City of God

Year: 2003
Director: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lun
Stars: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Phellipe Haagensen, Douglas Silva, Alice Braga, Seu Jorge
Rating: R
Runtime: 129 minutes

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Originally released in January 2003 to critical praise, Fernando Meirelles’ masterful yet brutal City of God receded from view until Miramax re-released it for Oscar consideration. And while it failed to even garner a foreign-language-film nomination that year, the alternately intense and intimate depiction of Rio’s desperate favelas has only grown in stature and power. Based on the novel by Paulo Lins (and adapted by Bráulio Mantovani), Meirelles turned an unflinching eye on a world forgotten by the wealthy and powerful, ignored by police and indifferent to law and order. City of God set the template for other shocking urban films to follow (not to mention a revival of “favela funk” by music-marauders like Diplo and M.I.A.), but whereas other cinematic studies like Gomorrah (about modern Sicily) and the documentary Dancing with the Devil wallow in such viciousness, this film plunges deeper, grips harder, and yet always allows glints of humanity into such darkness. City of God’s harrowing depiction of daily violence in the favelas exemplifies in shocking detail the Hobbesian view of life as “nasty, brutish and short,” but the film never casts judgment. While chaos and bloodshed rule the world of protagonist Rocket and those of his generation—psychotic druglord Li’l Zé, groovy playboy Benny and solemn Knockout Ned (singer Seu Jorge, in his breakout role)—City of God elucidates an underlying symmetry, exhibiting if not poetic justice, then the street version of the same. —Andy Beta

2. Moonstruck

Year: 1987
Director: Norman Jewison
Stars: Cher, Nicolas Cage, Danny Aiello, Olympia Dukakis, Vincent Gardenia
Rating: PG
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Snap out of it! A rom-com with a genuinely romantic sensibility (the hopeless kind), Moonstruck is an undeniably adorable comedy about chance, family and what it means to “settle.” Pragmatic widow Loretta (Cher) agrees to marry a nice sensible guy (Danny Aiello), but soon finds herself in a sitch with his passionate and mercurial younger brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage). Cher’s comedic chops are not insignificant, and the chemistry between her and Cage is great. The film has an incredible wealth of wonderful supporting performers (perhaps most notably Olympia Dukakis, who plays Cher’s mother). Norman Jewison’s directorial sensibility here might not qualify as “high art” but it’s a damn fine rom-com, with crackling dialogue, tons of energy and seductively likable characters: A paean to the joys and inevitable sorrows of dealing with your family, this film has spirit and smarts and soul. And a certain image of Cher in opera garb kicking a beer can up a silent Brooklyn street that one could be forgiven for characterizing as “iconic.” —Amy Glynn

3. 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

4. 28 Days Later

Year: 2002
Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns, Brendan Gleeson
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

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The classical zombie film was effectively dead by the time 28 Days Later came along in 2002 and completely reanimated the concept. (And yes, we all know that the “infected” in this film aren’t technically zombies, so please don’t feel that you have to remind us.) The definition of “zombies” is fluid, and always expanding. Here, they’re living rather than dead, poor souls infected by the “rage virus” that makes them run amok, tearing through whatever living thing they see. It’s a modernization of the same fears that powered Romero’s ghouls—unthinking assailants who will stop at nothing and are now more dangerous than ever because they move at a full-on sprint. It’s hard to overstate how big a quantum leap that mobility was for the zombie genre—the early scenes of 28 Days Later where Jim (Cillian Murphy) tries to navigate a deserted London in hospital scrubs, chased by fast-moving zombies, did for this genre what Scream did for the slasher revival, sans the humor. Indeed, 28 days Later is a dead-serious horror film, marking a return to seeing these types of creatures as a legitimate, frightening threat. It’s indicative of another trend of the 2000s, which was to reimagine the classic rules of zombie cinema to fit the needs of the film. The Zack Snyder Dawn of the Dead remake replicated a lot of this film’s DNA when it was released two years later, although it marries the concept with the more traditional Romero ghoul. Together, those two movies gave birth to the concept of the 21st-century serious zombie film. —Jim Vorel

5. News of the World

Year: 2020
Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Bill Camp, Elizabeth Marvel
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 118 minutes

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Paul Greengrass and screenwriting partner Luke Davies may have adapted Paulette Jiles’ 2016 Western novel News of the World at least in partial consideration of how far the United States hasn’t come as a nation—around the time of the book’s publication, such cursed phrases as “fake news” and “alternative facts” were inducted into popular language by fascists and crooks attempting to pull a fast one on the American people. Neither of these terms, nor their equally grotesque cousins, make their way into Greengrass’ film, but the spirit that conjured them into being four years ago is alive and well in his recreation of the American frontier. His hero is Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Hanks), a Confederate Civil War veteran who, having stood on the losing side of history, moseys across the Lone Star State and reads out-of-town papers to the locals at each stop on his journeys. The movie doesn’t exactly ask the viewer to overlook which side of the war Kidd stood on: In fact, the truth of his old allegiances becomes more unavoidable the less directly they’re spoken of. This is Texas. An erstwhile soldier in Texas could only have fought on one side of the aisle. News of the World damns Kidd without having to say a word. But as soon as the film judges him, it presents him with a chance at redemption in the form of a girl, Johanna (Helena Zengel). Zengel is a fresh spark in an otherwise old-fashioned production, but old-fashioned here is a compliment. News of the World has no interest in subverting or updating classic Western formulas: It is content with its function as a handsomely-made studio picture, built ostensibly around Hanks but with plenty of room for its young star to make her mark. What modernizes the movie has more to do with context than content. Anyone trapped in indentured servitude to social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or worse, other people’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts—should appreciate this calming two-hour reprieve from the unavoidable din publishers and platforms make in our lives today. There’s such a thing as too much news, whether for better or worse, and News of the World only tries to give us the best. —Andy Crump

6. The Aviator

Year: 2004
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Jude Law, Alan Alda, Alec Baldwin, Frances Conroy, Ian Holm
Rating: R
Runtime: 171 minutes

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With Howard Hughes’ larger than life personality and those action-packed scenes of him flying (and crashing) planes, it’s hard not to first think of the famous businessman and aviator as a sort of superhero: a man capable of almost any feat, of withstanding any sort of struggle. But a movie that only captures that side of Hughes’ life would be an incomplete one. A hollow one. What makes The Aviator one of the greatest biopics of all time is that it shows Hughes’ vulnerabilities as well, most notably of which was his battle with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Hughes at his lowest, during Hughes’ anxiety-ridden spirals is far more compelling and suspenseful than the Beverly Hills plane crash scene itself.—Anita George

7. Best in Show

Year: 2019
Director: Christopher Guest
Stars: Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Christopher Guest, Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, Michael Hitchcock, John Michael Higgins, Michael McKean, Bob Balaban, Ed Begley Jr., Fred Willard
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 91 minutes

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The genius of Christopher Guest’s particular style of mockumentary is in his cast’s complete commitment to character, and none of his films are inhabited by a more hilarious ensemble than Best in Show. Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock as Meg and Hamilton Swan project their own neuroses on their poor Weimaraner. Eugene Levy’s Gerry Fleck is outrageously outmatched by his wife Cookie, played by Catherine O’Hara—the secret weapon of most Guest films. The director himself plays Harlan Pepper, a Southern gentleman with no self-awareness and an ability to name all kinds of nuts. The more inane his rambling gets, the harder it is to keep from laughing. Finding the ridiculousness in something like the world of dog shows might not be difficult, but there’s no mocking tone to the subject, just to the quirks of human nature. The improvisation and dead-pan delivery from Jane Lynch, Bob Balaban, Jennifer Coolidge, Michael McKean and especially Fred Willard as the sports announcer who knows nothing about the subject he’s paid to talk about, elevate the medium by giving surprising dimension to their characters. It’s a symphony of creation from a troupe of performers at their peak. —Josh Jackson

8. Deerskin

Year: 2020
Director: Quentin Dupieux
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Adèle Haenel
Rating: R
Runtime: 77 minutes

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Christianity counts the following among the signs of the Apocalypse: Death saddling up a pale horse, stars plummeting from the sky, kings hiding under rocks, and seven angels making a racket on their trumpets. “Quentin Dupieux making an accessible film” doesn’t show up in the Book of Revelations, but lo, death abounds all the world over, an asteroid 1.5 miles wide recently hurtled by Earth, and Dupieux’s latest bizarro ode to cinema, Deerskin, is screening virtually while the angelic host’s brass remains silent. John of Patmos got it all wrong. Out of context, “accessible Dupieux” is oxymoronic, like “jumbo shrimp,” “bittersweet,” and “compassionate conservative,” but Deerskin, though every bit as strange as is to be expected from the Parisian DJ-cum-electronic musician-cum-filmmaker, makes sense without undercutting the qualities that define Dupieux’s body of work. It’s entirely unlike every other movie presently enjoying a last-minute VOD release, being a well-made, proudly weird, genre-agnostic commentary on themes ranging from middle age male vanity to navel-gazing, self-obsessed independent cinema. Unlike Dupieux’s prior work, à la Rubber, Wrong and Reality, Deerskin’s determination to explain itself as little as possible is complemented by its internal logic. The delight the film takes in the script’s eccentricities is inviting rather than alienating.—Andy Crump

9. Lars and the Real Girl

Year: 2007
Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner, and Patricia Clarkson
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 107 minutes

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Lars and the Real Girl’s premise should have been cringe-worthy: Ryan Gosling dates a life-size sex doll, and the entire town goes to great lengths to protect the fairy tale. But Nancy Oliver’s Oscar-nominated script is so gentle, and so melancholic, that it becomes a quietly powerful story of a stunted man who finally comes of age. Darkly funny but sweet-natured, Lars is a small treasure.—Jeremy Medina

10. Freaky

Year: 2020
Director: Christopher Landon
Stars: Kathryn Newton, Vince Vaughn, Alan Ruck
Rating: R
Runtime: 102 minutes

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On its face, the prospect of resurrecting two franchise IPs which have been endlessly re-made decade after decade teeters on the banal and unimaginative. Yet director Christopher Landon’s Freaky effortlessly weaves together the conventions of Freaky Friday and Friday the 13th, eschewing the confines of “remake,” instead creating a unique genre hybrid that’s slick and endlessly entertaining—all the while maintaining a clever self-awareness which enlivens the film’s jump-scares and punchlines without descending into the horror-comedy pitfall of self-referential metaness. What follows is a binary-bending comic exercise in sexual fluidity and gender expression which juxtaposes Vince Vaughn’s hefty stature with Kathryn Newton’s petite frame in order to prod at the horror genre’s previously held notion of who is perceived as weak, both in attitude and appearance. Vaughn and Newton give stellar performances, channeling the other’s mannerisms while poking fun at their own corporeal limitations and their immediate (dis)comfort within their new vessels. It’s heartening to see that the horror genre—still undeniably male-dominated—persists in its commitment to pushing boundaries. Whether those boundaries demarcate what we are able to stomach in terms of violence or what we are able to unpack within our own internal concepts of gender and sexuality, Freaky joins these tenets in order to craft a horror story rife with unexpected, imaginative kills all while subverting societal expectations of who we should really be afraid of—and why.—Natalia Keogan

11. The Empty Man

Year: 2020
Director: David Prior
Stars: James Badge Dale, Owen Teague, Stephen Root, Marin Ireland
Rating: R
Runtime: 137 minutes

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From the start, everything about The Empty Man is misleading. Its title sounds like the absolutely terrible Bloody Mary-esque The Bye Bye Man or the botched adaptation of Slender Man, where spooky too-long shadow dudes creep up on some doltish teens. Those bad high school urban legend films (that this trailer is cut oh-so-specifically to evoke) don’t usually stray from the 90-minute mark. Even Candyman, maybe the best and most ambitious example of this type of film, is barely 100 minutes. The Empty Man’s 137-minute runtime clearly has more to do than kill off a couple of kids for failing to be superstitious enough. Rather than falling into that traditional type of stock schlock, The Empty Man follows a troubled ex-cop investigating the root causes of an incident that could’ve been the entire plot of one of those movies. “We knew we weren’t making that movie and nobody wanted to make that movie,” writer/director/editor David Prior told Thrillist. “But it turns out, the people who inherited the movie wanted that kind of movie.” It makes sense that the ever-expanding, ever-spiraling photos-and-folders paranoid conspiracy of The Empty Man can feel a bit like getting sucked into the kind of heady, hyper-specific hell that festers in the underbellies of Zodiac, Se7en or Mindhunter. That ‘70s thriller structure, dedicated to the paper trail, merges in The Empty Man with a downright otherworldly horror (used here in the literal sense, as opposed to terror) aesthetic that’s sheer scope makes a mockery of the movie’s shoe-leather detective work. But even The Empty Man’s start is a delightful little horror film all its own, a mythological amuse-bouche set on snowy Bhutan peaks where set design and some solidly naturalistic acting sell the scares. Great! Solid. Sold. And then the movie keeps going, as if to literally push past your expectations. Its narrative evolves into something increasingly strange and engaging. It’s like A Cure for Wellness, another cult favorite, in its dedication to piling on an investigator’s hallucinogenic obsession and repulsion as he finds himself suddenly so deep that climbing back out—or, perhaps, out for the first time—proves impossible. Prior’s grasp of tone and savvy subversion of different modern monster tropes, alongside a staggering and committed James Badge Dale performance, position the film as one that understands and appreciates studio horror movies, but has much bigger things on its mind. In short, it rules.—Jacob Oller

12. Dead Ringers

Year: 1988
Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Jeremy Irons, Geneviève Bujold, Heidi von Palleske, Barbara Gordon, Shirley Douglas
Rating: R
Runtime: 115 minutes

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In Dead Ringers, David Cronenberg reins in the extremities of his earlier genre works into something resembling a chamber drama—except there’s always a catch with Cronenberg, and this time he almost cruelly toys with the identities of identical twins, gynecologists Elliot and Beverly Mantle (very loosely based on Stewart and Cyril Marcus), played by a Jeremy Irons who is doubled on himself through black movie magic. Cronenberg also plays with the audience’s perception of the duo, taking steps to establish Beverly as the “good” twin (more sensitive) and Elliot as the “bad” one (more bullish) before eventually degrading those categorizations and blurring the lines between the two characters, in more ways than one. A troubled relationship with actress-patient Claire Niveau (a fierce Genevieve Bujold) creates fissures in the relational dynamic of the twins, which in turn creates fissures in their minds; things get to a point where freakish gynecological tools are created due to imagined mutation spreading. The later scenes of the film take on a haunting quality as Elliot and Beverly become untethered from each other and, thus, their reality. They do manage to find each other again, but this is a David Cronenberg joint; don’t expect a happy ending. Dead Ringers is a brooding rumination on the external realities we use to define ourselves, what happens when our duality is divided and the subconscious ways in which we plant the seeds of our own destruction. More, it’s about doubling our Jeremy Irons intake in one sitting, which is always a worthy cause. —Chad Betz

13. Cloverfield

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Year: 2008
Director: Matt Reeves

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When Matt Reeves dropped Cloverfield on unsuspecting multiplex audiences in 2008, it quickly became painfully clear that the average viewer wasn’t quite ready to absorb what he was dishing out. Today, the same film would no doubt arrive as a streaming original feature from the likes of Netflix or Amazon, where its genre-redefining camera perspective would be less of a risk. That Cloverfield hit theaters in wide release at all is actually something of a marvel, considering how profoundly different it was in a visual sense from anything that the majority of its viewers had ever seen before. The film is of course on some level a “monster movie,” but it’s one where the primary creature is never the center of the film’s attention, precisely because we spend our time following regular folks who are in no way responsible for or connected to its rampage through New York City. For the film’s entire duration, we see only what they see, cleverly capturing one aspect of the true horror present in disaster situations—the very likely reality that no one present will have any idea what is happening, or any idea of what to do about it. Cloverfield puts its characters into some insane situations, but never breaks the trust it establishes that this is a bystander-eye’s view. No four-star general suddenly shows up to explain what’s going on, or empower our protagonists to take on the creature. No key to the creature’s origin is unearthed. It’s just a shaky-cam tribute to the idea that utter chaos can run rampant in one’s life, and there may not be a damn thing you can do about it. —Jim Vorel

14. The Ruins

Year: 2008
Director: Carter Smith
Stars: Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey
Rating: R
Runtime: 91 minutes

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The Ruins is a swift and vibrant tale that’s been impressively concocted from recycled material. It’s a collage of pasted pieces, but it proves once again that the flow of a dance is not always in its originality but in its grace. The plot follows four beautiful Americans—two guys and two girls—vacationing in Mexico when they decide to take a trip off the map to see a rumored archaeological dig. Blah, blah, blah. The film doesn’t waste much time explaining the unnecessary lore, but it carefully lays out the important details—the maps, the jeep, the personalities, the locations. After some efficient setup, things quickly get creepy, then gross, then both creepy and gross. Director Carter Smith alternately reconfigures his elements—torches, pulleys, out-of-control plants and backwoods emergency surgery—for a series of increasingly gruesome, weirdly creative set pieces. It’s the kind of film that Sam Raimi might have directed 20 years ago, except that Carter plays it straight, even though he seems to assume the audience won’t, offering them ample opportunities to shriek and hoot at the wounded heroes. (Screenwriter Scott B. Smith wrote Raimi’s film A Simple Plan, and cinematographer Darius Khondji has shot films by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Michael Haneke and Wong Kar-Wai. This helps.) Just when The Ruins begins to feel too inert, too tied to its little mound, too hemmed in by an intractable problem, it leaps free of its bounds. —Robert Davis

15. The Dead Zone

Year: 1983
Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom, Anthony Zerbe, Colleen Dewhurst, Martin Sheen
Rating: R
Runtime: 103 minutes

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As expected from a King adaptation, we’re once again dealing with a protagonist who has telekinetic powers he doesn’t want. Will that gift become a curse, or the curse a gift? For the first half of The Dead Zone, David Cronenberg’s twist-filled thriller, the first outcome seems to be the case, as Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) uses his newfound powers of touching people to see into their secrets and pasts to help those in need. Then the latter outcome presents itself, as Johnny is forced to dispose of a presidential candidate (Martin Sheen) who will certainly bring about nuclear holocaust. Sound familiar? Also, minor spoiler: Does anyone really think Trump won’t use a baby as a human shield to save his own life? Perhaps The Dead Zone itself has powers of premonition. This is one of Cronenberg’s most accessible films, with a fairly straightforward mystery-horror structure, but this doesn’t stop him from building a mood full of dread and confusion, right from the terrifically enigmatic opening titles. Walken had the ability to come across as a likable conduit for the audience before his oft-imitated mannerisms turned him into a caricature. He displays that side of his work really efficiently here.—Oktay Ege Kozak

16. Fast Company

Year: 1979
Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: William Smith, John Saxon, Claudia Jennings and Nicholas Campbell
Rating: R
Runtime: 91 minutes

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While David Cronenberg typically focuses on the blurring lines between bodies and technology, it’s in his relatively atypical Fast Company that he first allows himself to get into the gut-like innards of machinery. The filmmaker’s personal interests don’t quite make the solid drag racing B-movie into a fetish object like so many of his works, but they do color a completely competent actioner while introducing Cronenberg to his frequent cinematographer Mark Irwin, editor Ronald Sanders and art director/production designer Carol Spier. A slimy turn by John Saxon as a racing team’s slick business boss focuses an otherwise loose and hippy-like cast whose characters love having sex and going fast. The well-intentioned team and their peers must stand up to corruption for the love of the sport and for the love of each other. And race. A lot. It’s a primal film, exciting and muscular in construction, and indicative of its maker’s passions—or at least the passions that are most palatable to a general audience. This is about as normcore as Cronenberg gets, but it proves that a skilled enough director can slot himself in as a journeyman despite his auteurish leanings.—Jacob Oller

17. The Birdcage

Year: 1996
Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane
Rating: R
Runtime: 119 minutes

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You know what’s awkward? When you’re a middle-aged gay Jewish South Beach drag club owner (Armand, played by Robin Williams) and your straight son shows up and asks for your blessing to marry his girlfriend who is the daughter of a Neocon senator (Gene Hackman) who heads something called “The Coalition for Moral Order.” You want to support your kid, but you don’t love being closeted by him, and the dinner meet-up ends up meaning you and your partner, Albert (Nathan Lane), are forced into a whole new level of drag in which you are straight, a cultural attaché to Greece, and married to the one-night stand straight-sexperiment (Katherine, played by Christine Baranski) that led to the conception of your son. Your partner’s offended, the Senator’s being investigated by the tabloids, tensions are running high and your houseboy Agador (Hank Azaria) has agreed to transform into a Greek butler named “Spartacus,” but let’s face it, tensions are running high on all sides-and that’s before your baby-mama gets caught in traffic and Albert sees the opportunity for the drag role of a lifetime. Fully Shakespearean hijinks ensue. The 1996 Mike Nichols remake of Edouard Molinaro’s La Cage Aux Folles was not really blistering social commentary, but beneath its glib feel-good star-vehicle exterior there are some depths you could easily miss while you’re distracted by the batshit-crazy and heavily sequined antics of Williams and Lane. It’s actually not only rambunctious and witty but, as with many of Robin Williams’ film roles, The Birdcage has a serious streak where a genuine investigation of personal identity is underway, and hypocrisy, acceptance, snobbery, and most of all, everyone’s individual style of “drag” (and hey, we all have one, even if we don’t always express it by putting on fake lashes and singing Sondheim) gets taken out for a much-needed exam. —Amy Glynn

18. American Psycho

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Year: 2000
Director: Mary Harron
Stars: Christian Bale, Jared Leto, Justin Theroux, Willem Dafoe, Chloë Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon
Runtime: 96 minutes

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There’s something wrong with Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale)—really wrong. Although he writhes within a Christopher Nolan-esque what-is-a-dream conundrum, Bateman is just all-around evil, blatantly expressing just how insane he is, unfortunately to uncaring or uncomprehending ears, because the world he lives in is just as wrong, if not moreso. Plus the drug-addled banker has a tendency to get creative with his kill weapons. (Nail gun, anyone?) Like anybody needed another reason to hate rich, white-collar Manhattanites: Mary Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ is a scintillating portrait of corporate soullessness and disdainful affluence.—Darren Orf

19. Jackie Brown

Year: 1997
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro
Rating: R
Runtime: 160 minutes

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Quentin Tarantino’s gem Jackie Brown sees Pam Grier as the title character who shakes up the world of bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster). Jackie is the pawn used by everyone from big-time smugglers to the ATF and LAPD. In a world of shifting alliances, unexpected romances and too many double-crosses to keep track of, the charismatic flight attendant finds herself in the middle of it all. One of the most brilliant notes in both the main actors’ performances is the stillness that each brings to their characters—but if the actors are part of the orchestra, so is the music. —Michael Dunaway

20. Adventureland

Year: 2009
Director: Greg Mottola

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As far as films set in Pennsylvania are concerned, they can’t all be steel mill layoffs and dark political plots: Adventureland is a pitch-perfect coming-of-age story. In the summer of 1987, twenty-somethings James (Jesse Eisenberg), Em (Kristen Stewart) and Joel (Martin Starr, who steals the movie) find each other in the purgatory of the Adventureland Amusement Park (actually Pittsburgh’s historic Kennywood), passing their days operating rides and un-winnable games when they’d rather be anywhere else. Writer-director Mottola’s success lies in his resistance to romanticizing his characters—Eisenberg’s James, in particular, is just as annoying and self-absorbed as a real 22-year-old Oberlin grad, and gets called on it. Likewise, the Pittsburgh of Adventureland is real, an insider’s city, not a city of landmarks. The film explores the day-to-day Pittsburgh of neighborhoods, of patchy, unruly yards, of dive bars, of wood-paneled basements in old brick houses teetering on strenuous hills. To these characters, it’s also a dead-end town from which escape is the best option, lest they wind up like Ryan Reynolds’ maintenance man Connell, committing adultery in his mother’s basement and bragging endlessly about meeting Lou Reed. “Your life must be utter shit, or you wouldn’t be here,” Joel observes to James at the beginning of the film. But Adventureland’s fondness for its city and its flawed characters shines through such self-deprecation. —Maura McAndrew