1. Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
A true story based film about three girls whose lives become a tragedy shaped by the Rabbit-proof fence, which runs along Australia splitting it to two parts. These girls, daughters of an aboriginal mother and a white father who worked on building the fence and then moved on, get taken from their mother to a so-called re-education camp. This is the story of their escape to find the fence and then their mother, a journey of 1500 miles that they can only do on foot. Tragic, yes, but this is an honest film that sends clear messages without any excessive emotional dwelling.
2. The Grand Seduction (2013)
The Grand Seduction, a remake of 2003 French-Canadian film La Grande Séduction (2003), is a lighthearted comedy about the residents of the small fishing village of Tickle Head, Newfoudland attempting to convince a young doctor to become its long-term caregiver in order to secure a contract for a new petrochemical facility. Desperate to guide the town out of its impoverished conditions and lack of employment opportunities, the citizens band together to pull ever bit out of deceit and chicanery out of their hats (in often laugh-out-loud fashion) in order to sway the young doctor Paul (Taylor Kitsch) into believing that Tickle Head is where he belongs. It's a lighthearted and funny story, despite undeniably familiar shades of The Shipping News, Doc Hollywood and Funny Farm. Brendan Gleeson is particularly good as the new mayor of town and Paul's head "seducer". He gives the film that extra bit of humanity and wry humor that lifts it above the familiar plot points and into "notable recommendation" territory.
3. Beasts of No Nation (2015)
An instant classic, Beast of No Nation is a unique and uniquely-paced war drama which ranges in patterns from explosive visual storytelling to calm character studies. A child joins a rebel group consisting almost entirely of children and led by a charismatic leader credited as Commandant. As you get to witness the conflict through the child's eyes, his own development and his commander's, the film unfolds as an exploration of the never ending, pathetic state of war in Africa. From there it takes you to varying conclusions, most of which you will have trouble admitting you've reached.
As Commandant, Idris Elba is transfixing, proving once more that he is one of the best actors of our time. The whole cast of almost entirely non-actors, as well as the deeply authentic staging by True Detective and Sin Nombre director Cary Fukunaga, are both mesmerizing.
4. What Maisie Knew (2012)
A rock singer (played by Julianne Moore) and an art dealer (Steve Coogan) start a battle for the custody of their daughter, Maisie, mainly to spite each other. When one of them marries, the other rushes a marriage as well. What Maisie Knew is all that and more from the perspective of the little child, Maisie. Written by two writers, directed by two directors, and sporting an excellent cast, you should not be surprised to learn that What Masie Knew perfectly portrays its complex and sad subject matter, giving an honest, bitter portrayal of dysfunctional families.
5. Headhunters (2012)
A nasty little chase film with dark humor and balls to the walls action sequences. It is slightly insane, has some brutal fights in it and is completely beyond belief. The thing that keeps it going is its sheer pace; often circumstances shift so quickly the whole film seems a little surreal, which is part of its charm. The only point at which the film does slow down is when it hits incredibly suspenseful moments, which are stretched to near infinity. As it's from the continental tradition, expect all the raw colors, emotion and slightly off kilter characters reminiscent of a violent Lars Von Trier.
6. Chef (2014)
A popular chef loses his job and respect after a bad review. He ends up with a food truck and tries to show the world he still has his creative side, while at the same time trying to fix his broken family. Chef is a heartwarming feel-good movie, after you finish it you will want to cook, love your family, travel, and spread the love. One of my favorite movies, I see myself happily watching it again numerous times.
7. Encounters at the End of the World (2007)
A film by legendary director Werner Herzog where he travels to Antarctica, or rather you travel with him to study the people, the places, and the wild life of the South Pole. And when I say people I mean scientists and researchers but also truck drivers, plummers, and basically everyone with an interesting dream. This is a film for all curious minds, whether suit-trapped in a big city or out there in contact with nature every day. It's a combination so deep of unbelievable scenery and tangible sequences, that it almost becomes intangible, almost a religious experience.
8. Fruitvale Station (2013)
The true story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old black man on the last day of 2008, where his will to change is challenged by his past, surroundings, and the police. You've probably read and heard a lot about young black men's sad recent encounters with the police, and for this reason you might feel like skipping this film. Don't.
Produced by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, it is so compassionate and powerfully told, that it surpasses the sadness of its subject matter to almost be a celebration of life. It is an extraordinary and important watch.
9. Blackfish (2013)
A striking and revelatory documentary focused on captive Killer Whales and their treatment and behavior within SeaWorld and other theme parks around the world. At the center of the story is Tilikum, a bull orca whale that has been responsible for the death of three individuals, and the legal and ethical challenges that have arisen from apparent cover-ups by officials. What happened to Tilikum to make him adopt such behavior, and more simply, what are Killer Whales? First-hand accounts by former whale trainers and experts deliver fascinating truths about Tilikum and the species as whole, with particular attention on their remarkable intelligence and advanced social behaviors. Blackfish will undoubtedly change your perspective on whale captivity indefinitely. It's certainly not to be missed by anyone who appreciates top-notch documentary film-making as honest historical record.
10. Goon (2012)
Goon is funny, violent, and sweet as hell. You'll be surprised by how nasty it is but you will not care. What you will want to do, on the other hand, is rip through the screen, hug the main character and smack all the other ones. Goon is also a great example of a feel-good movie that isn't solely focused on being a feel-good movie, as well as a great love story, with all its absurdities and high emotional load
11. Begin Again (2013)
John Carney who directed Begin Again, and before that the critically and commercially successful Once, may be the world's best captor of charm. Begin Again tells the story of a brokenhearted singer who gets discovered by a failed showbiz executive. Their ideas and love for music are all they have to face their failures and bring their creativity to life. The original songs are charming and from Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo to Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Adam Levine, and Cee-Lo Green, the cast generate sparkling chemistry and portray the story beautifully. Begin again is sweet and an effortless watch, yet very far from being your classic rom-com.
12. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)
You will not come out of this movie the same person you were going into it. Get ready to cry your eyes out, scream in anger, and rejoice that such a powerful love can exist in our world. DO NOT READ ANY SPOILERS OR SUMMARIES BEFORE VIEWING! This loving documentary about the father of a young boy is one of the best movies of this decade
13. The House I Live In (2012)
The House I Live In is a truly exceptional documentary, directed and narrated by Eugene Jarecki, focused on America's long-standing "War on Drugs". Jarecki travels America to interview various individuals and families on both sides of the law, examining many personal experiences related to drug offenses, unjust legal policies and excessive incarceration. He further provides a fascinating historical account of the political and socioeconomic developments that brought about the formation of many depressed communities overrun by drug trade, as well as the interrelated political, legal and private-interest infrastructures that continue to both depend upon and profit from drug-related sentencing. An utterly stunning film that every American should see to truly understand all of the elements at play in the ongoing prohibition against drugs in America.
14. Dope (2015)
At the same time a fun, crazy, and meaningful movie about Malcom and his friends, high school teenagers and proud geeks who suddenly find themselves immersed in the underground LA drug scene. It's a 2015 Superbad meets Boyz in the Hood. But in its essence it mostly resembles another beautiful film, Juno, in the way it evolves around a character played perfectly who you get to know, agree and disagree with, and ultimately learn from and relate to. Above all it's an outright enjoyable film, a smart one too, with a great soundtrack to boot.
15. The Station Agent (2003)
The Station Agent is about loneliness, change and friendship. Sounds corny right? It's not. The characters are developed, they have their own reasons for the choices they make and nothing feels forced, neither actions or conversations. It's a small and wonderful movie about a little man that moves out of the city and his comfort zone when his only friend dies, moves to said friend's old train station and sets his life there. From there on it follows his social interactions with a slew of people, the relationships he forms with them. Oh, and the little man? Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), who pulls off a great performance, albeit a quiet one.
16. The Hunt (2013)
Once again, Mads Mikkelsen gives us an unforgettable performance in this Danish thriller. Lucas is a new teacher in a small town. He is just starting a new life after a divorce and the loss of his last job. One day, a child from the class he is teaching accuses him of an unforgivable act. The lie will spread throughout the small community and will tear Lucas' life apart. The Hunt, or "Jagten" in its original version, is one of those rare thrillers that will haunt you for days, and make you question everything in its aftermath.
17. Short Term 12 (2013)
Short Term 12 is exactly like being injured in a part of your body where you didn't think it was possible to get injured before. It will hurt but it will make you care.
Natural and understated by budget and by purpose, it is powered by perfect performances that will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride you will never forget. It is at times sweet, at times depressing and at times hilarious.
The thing is, without even taking into consideration its small budget or the importance of the issues it talks abou
18. The Butler (2013)
Equally heartwarming and gut-wrenching, this is the real-life story of Cecil Gaines, a butler who served eight presidents in the White House. Portrayed sincerely and flawlessly by Academy Award Winner Forest Whitaker, the film takes place during tremulous times for both Cecil and the country — and gives you the world from his perspective, his struggles, and his opinions. It's a beautiful and affecting film that will leave you with a simple yet deep emotional impact.
19. Cloudburst (2011)
Cloudburst is the very funny and heartwarming story of two old ladies, Stella (played by Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis) and Dotty (played by another Academy Award winner, Brenda Fricker) who escape their nursing home and drive to Canada to get married. Dotty is lascivious and loving. Expect to be shocked by Stella's potty mouth. The whole film is a great love story about devotion, acceptance and living life to the fullest.
20. The Imposter (2012)
The impossibly true story of a mysterious Frenchman that claims to be the 16 year old son of a family from Texas that went missing three years prior. This movie is shot so well with a story so unbelievable that I had to look it up to believe that it was a real documentary instead of a fiction film played as true. Expect twists and turns at every corner, with brilliant storytelling from the real life people that lived through the whole thing. If Christopher Nolan created a 48 hour story, it would pale in comparison to this film.
21. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2012)
Adapted from the Lionel Shriver novel of the same name, We Need to Talk About Kevin is the story of a mother (Tilda Swinton) that never quite bonds with her child, but not by her choice. The son grows up to do a heinous act that begs the question: nature or nurture? This film is an uncompromising view on the development of an unloved child. Silent pain gets voice. Feelings are shown by actions not emotions in an authentic, comprehensible and aesthetic manner.
22. Jane Eyre (2011)
A sleek revision of the classic Charlotte Brontë novel, the 2011 version of Jane Eyre features Mia Wasikowska as the titular governess and Michael Fassbender as her employer-and-lover-with-a-secret,
Rochester — both lending stunningly aggrieved performances to the tale of their burgeoning love affair. The film is somber yet wonderfully polished as it plays out their individual complexities and growing passions. This film is also notable as the sophomore directorial effort of Cary Fukunaga, who would go on to great acclaim for his work on the first season of True Detective as well as Beasts of No Nation. Fans of Fukunaga's work are just a likely to enjoy this one as are devotees of well-crated adaptations of classic literature.
23. Omar (2013)
Ask yourself how many Palestinian movies you have seen before. You will want to give this smart and twisty Academy Award nominee by Golden Globe winning director Hany Abu-Assad a chance to change your answer. Omar, a Palestinian baker, climbs the West Bank Wall to see his lover, Nadia, whom he wants to marry. When Israeli soldiers catch and humiliate him, he gets involved in the shooting of an Israeli soldier, and eventually gets arrested facing an extremely lengthy sentence. Later, his captors' motives and his own get tangled up in politics, friendship, trust, and love. Omar is a highly realistic, compelling crime drama you don't want to miss.