It's Oscar time, so here's a list of last year's movies that we think you shouldn't miss. Many of these you can currently find streaming on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Enjoy!
10. The Invitation
I feel the best way to of first experiencing a film is to go in knowing very little about it, so I don’t want to spoil any of the magic of The Invitation by telling you too much. It’s basically a movie about an awkward dinner party, starring a guy who looks a lot like Tom Hardy, but isn’t Tom Hardy. And, well, things get tense... Pour yourself some wine and stream this on Netflix.
9. World of Tomorrow
At just 16 minutes long, this animated short won’t take up much of your time. If you’re familiar with Don Hertzfeldt’s other work then you know you're in for a treat with this one. Stream it on Netflix.
8. Enter the Battlefield: Life on the Magic-The Gathering Pro Tour
The Kelleher Bros. just can’t resist a documentary on Magic: The Gathering, so this film makes the list...even though it focuses far too much on specific pro players instead of actual game. Arguably, there is a better MTG documentary you can simply watch on YouTube (below), but if you're fan of the game, why not check this out too?
Speaking of things the Kelleher Bros. can’t resist, here’s a documentary about the Roland TR-808 drum machine. There are interviews with everyone from Fatboy Slim to Phil Collins here, so if you’re a fan of electronic music, this one will be right up your alley.
A Spanish-language Irish film about a young drag queen trying to get by in Havana, and dealing with the surprise return of his absentee father, an alcoholic former boxer. Heavy stuff, right? On one level this is the age-old tale of a younger generation rebelling against the conservative demands of their elders, but Viva goes beyond well that to explore the troubled relationship between a father and son who couldn’t be more different. That father/son story is really the heart of the film and makes for some immensely compelling cinema.
5. Admiral (Michiel de Ruyter)
Looking for a historical drama about naval warfare in 17th-century Netherlands? Well you’re in luck! Admiral has all the seafaring Dutchmen you could ever ask for!
4. Sing Street
Another Irish film, Sing Street is a musical sleeper hit! In 1980s Dublin, a 14-year-old kid starts a band to impress a girl and learns the ways of rock and roll from his older brother. It’s a heartfelt movie filled with recognizable pop hits from the likes of Duran Duran and The Cure, as well as some great original songs that perfectly encapsulate the musical era. I'm still singing "Riddle of the Model" now.
3. The Eagle Huntress
A documentary about 13-year-old Mongolian girl who’s training to be the first female eagle huntress, this movie is a delight. If the gorgeous Mongolian landscapes aren’t enough to sell you, the inspiring family-friendly story will.
Maybe “hidden gem” doesn’t quite fit this film, as Moonlight has been nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award—and it definitely deserves to win the Oscar too. A coming of age story following a young man named Chiron growing up in Miami, Moonlight is told in three chapters, each one focusing on a different period of the character's life, with Chiron played by three different actors. The film is expertly directly and brilliantly acted, with the whole production executed flawlessly. It’s original and profound, definitely a must-see.
UPDATE: Moonlight did win Best Picture! Though the Academy truly bungled the presentation really badly, first giving the award to La La Land instead.
Easily the most important film of the year, 13th examines how a loophole in the 13th Amendment—which ended slavery—has been used to criminalize and oppress African Americans, leading up to today’s prison industrial complex. Educational and thought-provoking, this is film that should really be taught in schools.
Honors: Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Swiss Army Man were both great original films that probably should have been included in our list. Hunt for the Wilderpeople in particular is delightfully hilarious. Swiss Army Man is one of the single weirdest movies I've ever seen, but surprisedly charming and endearing. Plus the ending cleverly reframes the entire story, which made it that much better.
Dishonors: Speaking of weird movies, The Lobster is very strange. The story has an interesting concept—essentially a darkly comic critique of romantic relationships—but the director drives this home without subtly, escalating his negative premise up to the level of Greek tragedy by the end. The cast, stellar actors they may be, turn in stilted and awkward performances, so the whole thing ends up feeling like a really bad Wes Anderson movie. I'd skip it.