Continuing this miniseries on the best 25 movies I've stumbled upon in my 25 years of watching, here's a few outstanding pictures featuring amazing directors, brilliant performers, dazzling visual effects and brilliant plot twists.
Read on to find out what #15-#6 are, and get some inspiration for your next Neflix marathon!
Michael Clayton (2007)
In Michael Clayton, George Clooney is a divorced, gambling, indebted-up-to-his-ears lawyer. His big break seems to be right around the corner, though, as he gets retained as a defendant for U-North, a pesticide producer, in a large class action lawsuit. But just as the case is about to go to trial, his best friend and mentor Arthur has a nervous breakdown and Michael is called in to clean up the mess.
Michael Clayton is a legal drama, a conspiracy thriller and a brilliant psychological study all rolled into one. Clooney's performance is flawless, the script and direction (both by Tony Gilroy) are spot on, and James Newton Howard's soundtrack is thumping, relentless and powerful just like the movie itself.
Below this movie's polished photography and controlled dialogues lies a brooding, succession of thrilling confrontations, amazing character studies and tantalizing ethical questions. A resounding success, and definitely one of the best movies of the late 2000's.
Movies also featuring Gloomy George Clooney: Syriana, The Descendants, Up In The Air, Tomorrowland, Solaris
Movies featuring Goofy George Clooney instead: Burn After Reading, Ocean's 11 (and 12, and 13), O Brother Where Are Thou
After this watch: The International, The Gambler
Paprika is Satoshi Kon's final masterwork - an extremely weird movie bursting at the seams with incredibly rich visuals and a convoluted story that delivers on all of its promises and premises.
In this animated feature, brilliant scientist Atsuki Chiba and her dream-world alter ego Paprika strive to uncover a major conspiracy by using a cutting edge machine that allows them to inhabit other people's dreams. If the story sounds familiar, it's because Christopher Nolan's Inception lifted large parts of it, down to its visual elements. Ultimately, however, Paprika is a completely different beast with respect to Inception's western appeal. It is, once again, an incredibly weird movie, with a few scenes that will leave you utterly confused, cultural references that western audiences will most likely miss, and a story that is as interesting as it is convoluted.
But if you can put up with the different sensibilities on display here, Paprika will reward you with a never-ending stream of absolutely amazing visual inventions, with perfect art direction, and a lovable cast of brilliant, human characters unlike anything else you've seen so far. A must watch!
After this watch: Inception, Paranoia Agent, Perfect Blue
Another criminally underrated film - and the only hard sci-fi movie on this list - Sunshine is director Danny Boyle's take on the genre, and boy, does it deliver.
Sunshine's premise: our sun is dying. A massive spaceship - Icarus - is sent towards the dying star carrying a nuclear payload to re-ignite it. After Icarus disappears, a second spaceship is sent as humanity's final bid to save the Sun from its demise. After all, what could possibly go wrong?
Sunshine's really good visual direction, brilliant soundtrack and masterful sound design hold the movie together, but it's the stellar cast and performances that really bring this film into the pantheon of great movies. An ensemble psychological thriller masquerading as sci-fi, Sunshine will keep you rooting for its characters and at the edge of your seat for its entire runtime.
Known Faces: Cillian Murphy (Inception, Dunkirk), Chris Evans (Captain America), Mark Strong (Zero Dark Thirty, Kingsman), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Benedict Wong (Prometheus, Annihilation), written by Alex Garland (Never Let Me Go, Ex Machina!)
Watch this: with friends, with popcorns, even if you don't like science fiction.
Do not watch this: if you're stoned, in the dark, if you're afraid of space.
If you thought Memento had a few clever plot twists up its sleeve, just wait until you see Stay. Directed by visual master Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Quantum of Solace) and starring an incredible cast, spot-on editing and photography, great visuals and a stupidly clever ending, it's hard to believe this one flopped so hard.
In fact, this is one of the most obscure films in this list - and it's a shame, because Stay will keep you at the edge of your seat for its 100-minutes runtime. Will doctor Ewan McGregor and nurse Naomi Watts be able to save a very trouble troubled Ryan Gosling from the rabbit hole of his mind, or is Ryan actually the sane one? To say more would spoil the fun - just go in blind, you won't be disappointed
Movies also featuring Dark Ryan Gosling: Only God Forgives, Drive, The Place Beyond The Pines
Movies featuring Happy Ryan Gosling instead: La La Land, The Big Short, Crazy Stupid Love
An early masterpiece by director Rian Johnson (Star Wars VIII, Looper), Brick was shot in 2005 for an incredibly low budget - and yet manages to fire on all cylinders as one of the best noir movies ever produced.
Joseph Gordon Levitt's girlfriend has disappeared after a frantic phone call - the only clues she left behind are a few disjointed words: 'Tug", "poor Frisco" and the eponimous "Brick". What is she talking about? And can Joseph find her before it's too late?
If you think you've seen this before, think again. The topical noir structure is shaken up by the suburban setting and the sheer mass of connections Joseph (and the viewer) need to make to piece together the puzzle. The script is downright perfect, and everything clicks together at the last moment - just in time for one last huge plot twist. But it's the direction and sound design here that really bring home the goods: Brick has become a cult classic in the last few years, and rightly so: it's a great movie, and one you shouldn't miss out.
Bonus: guesss who's a Brick character and who's a Pokémon? Dode, Groudon, V.P. Trueman, Gary Oak, The Pin, Clemont, Tugger, Straggler, Diglett, Tangles.
Speed Racer (2008)
Speed Racer is an extremely predictable movie. Its humor is quite childish, its characters are underdeveloped and it's based on an obscure animated series from the Sixties. It did not review well and quickly became a major commercial flop. So what is it doing in this list?
Put simply: Speed Racer takes all the reasons why we go to the movies, and sublimates them into a sizzling package of sheer visual brilliance. Speed racer is Fun, with a capital F - it's loud, flashy, pure Fun rumbling down a racing track at 300 kilometers per hour. It is Fun, Fun, Fun and you simply need to see it.
Featuring fantastic performances from Susan Sarandon and John Goodman, best-in-class visual effects and a wispy, light-hearted, brilliant soundtrack by Michael Giacchino, Speed Racer is a saturday morning cartoon in film format, a joyous, amazing experience that will sweep you away time and time again. Towards the end of the movie, one of the characters whispers "when I watch you do the things you do, you take my breath away". And that's exactly how I feel towards Speed Racer. An absolute must watch!
Known Faces: Emile Hirsch (Into The Wild), Christina Ricci (The Addams Family), John Goodman (The Big Lebowksy), Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise, In The Valley Of Elah, Cloud Atlas)
Movies this movie is not: Speed (1994)
Children of Men (2006)
Earth 2027: no children are being born anymore, the UK is a police state, and Clive Owen is a mourning, cynical, alcoholic former activist who gets called in for the most important assignment of his life - and of humanity itself. Children of men is, in short, a thrilling study on the worst possible future.
This is a very dark movie. It has a few plot twist that will leave you reeling for air, and Alfonso Cuàron's direction is so incredibly oppressing and heavy that you will be forced to remember to breathe every now and then.
And yet, Children of Men is, ultimately, a movie about hope. If you can keep up with the violent succession of very unfortunate events, you will be rewarded with one of the most moving endings in the history of movies, and with an ensemble of characters that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
Known Faces: Clive Owen (Closer, Shadowdancer, Elizabeth: The Golden Age), Michael Caine (Harry Brown, The Prestige, The Dark Knight Rises), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Inside Man, 12 Years A Slave), Susanne Moore (Still Alice, Freeheld, A Single Man), Danny Huston (Marie Antoinette, The Congress)
Scenes you will remember: the Ping Pong Ball scene, the Ark of Arts scene, the last 15 minutes.
The Hunt — Jagten (2012)
The Hunt is an absolutely heart-wrenching drama from Dogme 95 director Thomas Vinterberg. Mads Mikkelsen stars as Lukas, a divorced preschool teacher who's troubled but well loved by the tight-knit community he lives in.
But just as the Lukas' life is taking a turn for the best, his best friend's young daughter concots an innocent little lie about him, which snowballs into a veritable witch hunt threating to ruin their entire life, forever.
The Hunt is a tense, raw experience. It is a movie about society, roles, expectations and the weight that words carry with them. Vinterberg's direction is perfect, the editing is spot on and so is the dialogue. This is a movie that will keep you at the edge of your seat for longer than you can bear, and stay with you forever. An absolute masterpiece.
Movies also featuring Moody Mads Mikkelsen: 007 Casino Royale, Rogue One, Hannibal, Death Stranding.
Movies featuring Happy Mads Mikkelsen instead: Mads does not do happy movies.
Director Denis Villeneuve'sFrench-language stunner opens with an incredibly dull scene at a suburban open-air swimming pool in Toronto. This dullness is, however, only apparent: in the next 90 minutes, Incendies brings the viewer on a roller-coaster of emotions, throughout 30 years of Middle-Eastern history, only to finally circle back to that same swimming pool, which now has an entirely different meaning.
Indeed, without spoiling too much, it should be noted that Incendies' final moments - much like a few other movies in this list - are an incredibly hard punch to the gut. The whole story is a thrilling slow burner, that never gets boring thanks to the masterful cast, great photography and perfectly controlled direction (Villeneuve went on to direct a few other masterpieces, including Prisoners, Sicario and Blade Runner 2049).
But it's the ending here that will leave you absolutely gasping for air, as you try to wrap your head around the amazing masterpiece that Incendies is. An absolute must-watch.
The spectacular now (2013)
Amongst the flurry of mediocre young adult movies released every year, The Spectacular Now stands out as a unique coming of age movie, masterfully directed, edited and scored - hands-down one of the most beautiful, raw and real love stories ever brought to the screen.
The Spectacular Now is based on Tim Tharp's novel, which was released in 2008 to critical acclaim and went on to (almost) win a National Book Award. Miles Teller plays Sutter Keely, an incredibly complex character who hides his unhappiness and issues under a deep sheen of party-going fun and alcohol consumption. Shailene Woodley gives a masterful performance as Aimee Finicky, a shy but incredibly brilliant girl with a very promising future. The two characters collide in a romance that pierces through the screen and skewers you to your seat; an organic, beautiful, human story that will no doubt remind you of someone you know and/or love.
The movie deviates from the book in its final act. In one possible ending, Sutter manages to get his life together, apply for college and move on to adulthood. In the other ending, Sutter's self-destructive tendencies prevail, and he walks off into the night in one of the most depressing conclusions I've ever seen. Neither is your typical romance movie ending, but they're both equally great - and worth your time.
Known Faces: Shailene Woodley (The Descendants), Miles Teller (Whiplash), Brie Larson (Room, Short Term 12), Kyle Chandler (Argo, Manchester By The Sea), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight, Anomalisa), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed, The Beauty Inside), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul, Nebraska)
Did you like this article? read also the first part and the concluding top 5!