(Photo by Universal/ courtesy Everett Collection)

The 115 Best Black Movies of the 21st Century

Rotten Tomatoes is celebrating the work of Black filmmakers and performers and the stories they have brought to our theaters over the past 20-plus years. In this guide to the best-reviewed African American movies of the 21st Century – that’s from 2000 all the way to now – you’ll find some of the most incredible voices working in movies today, and some of the most game-changing, industry-shaking films to hit theaters in decades. Think titles like Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, the fourth highest-grossing movie of all time at the U.S. box office. Or Gina Prince-Bythewood’s seminal star-making romance, Love and Basketball. Or Moonlight, which made history as the first film with an all-black cast to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2017. Or Ava DuVernay’s Selma, one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time.

Alongside the work of longtime industry veterans like Spike Lee, you’ll find incredible debut features, like Dee Rees’ Pariah, Justin Simien’s Dear White People, Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, Phillip Youmens’ Burning Cane, which he directed while still in high school, and, of course, Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning social thriller Get Out and his follow-up, Us. You’ll also discover documentaries that have stirred the national conversation – DuVernay’s 13th, Ezra Edelman’s O.J.: Made In America – alongside recent mega hits that, like Black Panther, alerted Hollywood’s decision-makers to the fact that there was a huge audience for stories made by Black filmmakers, featuring Black actors, telling Black stories: Malcolm D. Lee’s Girls Trip, F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton.

To compile our list, we chose the top 100 Certified Fresh Black films, according to the Tomatometer, released in theaters since 2000. We defined Black films as those that centered on African American stories and African American characters, or – as in the case of Black Panther – were made by Black filmmakers and were embraced by African American audiences; there are instances of films here made by non-Black filmmakers (Django Unchained, Detroit, and Get On Up for example), but the top half of the list is dominated by Black writers and directors.

Finally, we ranked the movies using a weighted formula which takes into account each entry’s year of release and its number of reviews collected to weigh their Tomatometer ratings. And with 2020 releasing so many strong Certified Fresh contenders, expect plenty of movies from that year represented, including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Bad Boys For Life, One Night in Miami, Da 5 Bloods, Soul and more.

Below is the result of all that compiling: our guide to the best Black films of the century (so far!). It’s chock full of laughs, thrills, tears, and insight. Enjoy, and if you want to tell us what you think of the list, think we’ve missed a title, or want to celebrate a film that didn’t quite meet the Certified Fresh criteria, let us know in the comments.

#115

Antwone Fisher (2002)
78%

#115
Adjusted Score: 82763%
Critics Consensus: Washington's directing debut is a solidly crafted, emotionally touching work.
Synopsis: The touching story of a sailor (Derek Luke) who, prone to violent outbursts, is sent to a naval psychiatrist (Denzel... [More]
Directed By: Denzel Washington

#114

Drumline (2002)
82%

#114
Adjusted Score: 84223%
Critics Consensus: Essentially a sports movie with drums, the energetic Drumline somehow manages to make the familiar seem fresh.
Synopsis: Set against the high-energy, high-stakes world of show-style marching bands, "Drumline" is a fish-out-of-water comedy about a talented street drummer... [More]
Directed By: Charles Stone

#113

Fast Color (2018)
80%

#113
Adjusted Score: 84713%
Critics Consensus: A grounded superhero story with more on its mind than punching bad guys, Fast Color leaps over uneven execution with a singular Gugu Mbatha-Raw performance.
Synopsis: Hunted by mysterious forces, a young woman who has supernatural abilities must go on the run when her powers are... [More]
Directed By: Julia Hart

#112

Black Dynamite (2009)
83%

#112
Adjusted Score: 83720%
Critics Consensus: A loving and meticulous send-up of 1970s blaxsploitation movies, Black Dynamite is funny enough for the frat house and clever enough for film buffs.
Synopsis: After "The Man" kills his brother and poisons the neighborhood with tainted liquor, a kung fu fighter (Michael Jai White)... [More]
Directed By: Scott Sanders

#111

Keanu (2016)
78%

#111
Adjusted Score: 88036%
Critics Consensus: Keanu's absurd premise and compulsively watchable starring duo add up to an agreeably fast-paced comedy that hits more than enough targets to make up for the misses.
Synopsis: Recently dumped by his girlfriend, slacker Rell (Jordan Peele) finds some happiness when a cute kitten winds up on his... [More]
Directed By: Peter Atencio

#110

Dreamgirls (2006)
78%

#110
Adjusted Score: 86908%
Critics Consensus: Dreamgirls' simple characters and plot hardly detract from the movie's real feats: the electrifying performances and the dazzling musical numbers.
Synopsis: Deena (Beyoncé Knowles),Effie (Jennifer Hudson) and Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose) form a music trio called the Dreamettes. When ambitious manager... [More]
Directed By: Bill Condon

#109
#109
Adjusted Score: 85793%
Critics Consensus: Languid and melancholy, George Washington is a carefully observed rumination on adolescence and rural life.
Synopsis: Set in the landscape of a rural southern town, "George Washington" is a stunning portrait of how a group of... [More]
Directed By: David Gordon Green

#108

Marshall (2017)
81%

#108
Adjusted Score: 90699%
Critics Consensus: Marshall takes an illuminating, well-acted look at its real-life subject's early career that also delivers as an entertainingly old-fashioned courtroom drama.
Synopsis: Young Thurgood Marshall faces one of his greatest challenges while working as a lawyer for the NAACP. Marshall travels to... [More]
Directed By: Reginald Hudlin

#107

Ray (2004)
79%

#107
Adjusted Score: 86557%
Critics Consensus: An engrossing and energetic portrait of a great musician's achievements and foibles, Ray is anchored by Jamie Foxx's stunning performance as Ray Charles.
Synopsis: Legendary soul musician Ray Charles is portrayed by Jamie Foxx in this Oscar-winning biopic. Young Ray watches his 7-year-old brother... [More]
Directed By: Taylor Hackford

#106
#106
Adjusted Score: 86380%
Critics Consensus: Confident directing and acting deliver an insightful look at young athletes.
Synopsis: Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) are two childhood friends who both aspire to be professional basketball players. Quincy,... [More]
Directed By: Gina Prince

#105
Adjusted Score: 87143%
Critics Consensus: An innovative blend of samurai and gangster lifestyles.
Synopsis: Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) is a contract killer, a master of his trade who can whirl a gun at warp... [More]
Directed By: Jim Jarmusch

#104

Barbershop (2002)
83%

#104
Adjusted Score: 85772%
Critics Consensus: Besides bringing on the laughs, Barbershop displays a big heart and demonstrates the value of community.
Synopsis: A smart comedy about a day in the life of a barbershop on the south side of Chicago. Calvin (Ice... [More]
Directed By: Tim Story

#103

Get On Up (2014)
80%

#103
Adjusted Score: 87130%
Critics Consensus: With an unforgettable Chadwick Boseman in the starring role, Get On Up offers the Godfather of Soul a fittingly dynamic homage.
Synopsis: James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) was born in extreme poverty in 1933 South Carolina and survived abandonment, abuse and jail to... [More]
Directed By: Tate Taylor

#102

Rize (2005)
84%

#102
Adjusted Score: 86155%
Critics Consensus: The dances in Rize are electric even if the documentary doesn't go that deeply into the performers' lives.
Synopsis: Celebrated fashion photographer David LaChapelle makes his documentary filmmaking debut with a visually arresting film shot on the streets of... [More]
Starring: Tommy the Clown
Directed By: David LaChapelle

#101

Monsters and Men (2018)
84%

#101
Adjusted Score: 87253%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted and visually stylish, Monsters and Men tells its timely story with enough compassion and complexity to make up for occasionally uneven execution.
Synopsis: Tensions rise when a young man records a police officer shooting a black motorist in a Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood.... [More]
Directed By: Reinaldo Marcus Green

#100
#100
Adjusted Score: 85370%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to smart direction and a powerhouse performance from Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beyond the Lights transcends its formulaic storyline to deliver thoroughly entertaining drama.
Synopsis: Though she's been groomed for stardom all her life by an overbearing mother (Minnie Driver), singer Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is... [More]
Directed By: Gina Prince-Bythewood

#99

Chi-Raq (2015)
82%

#99
Adjusted Score: 90970%
Critics Consensus: Chi-Raq is as urgently topical and satisfyingly ambitious as it is wildly uneven -- and it contains some of Spike Lee's smartest, sharpest, and all-around entertaining late-period work.
Synopsis: The girlfriend (Teyonah Parris) of a Chicago gang leader (Nick Cannon) persuades other frustrated women to abstain from sex until... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#98
Adjusted Score: 88855%
Critics Consensus: The Gospel According to André offers an engaging overview of its fascinating subject, even if his accomplishments -- and outsize personality -- prove too expansive for a single film.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Kate Novack explores the life and career of fashion journalist André Leon Talley -- from his childhood in the... [More]
Directed By: Kate Novack

#97

Hustle & Flow (2005)
82%

#97
Adjusted Score: 88282%
Critics Consensus: Hustle & Flow is gritty and redemptive, with a profound sense of place and exciting music.
Synopsis: DJay (Terrence Howard) is a pimp living day to day on the tough streets of Memphis, Tennessee. Pushing 40, he's... [More]
Directed By: Craig Brewer

#96
#96
Adjusted Score: 89289%
Critics Consensus: American Gangster is a gritty and entertaining throwback to classic gangster films, with its lead performers firing on all cylinders.
Synopsis: Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) earns his living as a chauffeur to one of Harlem's leading mobsters. After his boss dies,... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

#95

42 (2013)
81%

#95
Adjusted Score: 87776%
Critics Consensus: 42 is an earnest, inspirational, and respectfully told biography of an influential American sports icon, though it might be a little too safe and old-fashioned for some.
Synopsis: In 1946, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), legendary manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, defies major league baseball's notorious color barrier by... [More]
Directed By: Brian Helgeland

#94

Monster's Ball (2001)
85%

#94
Adjusted Score: 90370%
Critics Consensus: Somber and thought provoking, Monster's Ball has great performances all around.
Synopsis: Hank, an embittered racist prison guard working on death row, begins an unlikely, emotionally charged sexual relationship with Leticia, a... [More]
Directed By: Marc Forster

#93
#93
Adjusted Score: 94664%
Critics Consensus: Loaded up with action and a double helping of leading-man charisma, Bad Boys for Life reinvigorates this long-dormant franchise by playing squarely to its strengths.
Synopsis: The wife and son of a Mexican drug lord embark on a vengeful quest to kill all those involved in... [More]

#92
#92
Adjusted Score: 89330%
Critics Consensus: Wise, compassionate, and beautifully acted, Middle of Nowhere offers an early testament to writer-director Ava DuVernay's startling talent.
Synopsis: A med student (Emayatzy Corinealdi) considers leaving her long-imprisoned husband (Omari Hardwick) for a charming bus driver (David Oyelowo).... [More]
Directed By: Ava DuVernay

#91
#91
Adjusted Score: 90717%
Critics Consensus: A warm, family-friendly underdog story, featuring terrific supporting performances from Keke Palmer, Laurence Fishburne, and Angela Bassett.
Synopsis: Akeelah, an 11-year-old girl living in South Los Angeles, discovers she has a talent for spelling, which she hopes will... [More]
Directed By: Doug Atchison

#90
#90
Adjusted Score: 90740%
Critics Consensus: This group of high school girls and their eccentric basketball coach easily win your heart with their unusual humanity and dynamism.
Synopsis: Filmed over a period of seven years, director Ward Serrill profiles Bill Resler, a university professor who coaches a basketball... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Ward Serrill

#89
Adjusted Score: 90392%
Critics Consensus: What Happened, Miss Simone? is a compelling -- albeit necessarily incomplete -- overview of its complex subject's singular artistic legacy and fascinating life.
Synopsis: Classically trained pianist, dive-bar chanteuse, black power icon and legendary recording artist Nina Simone lived a life of brutal honesty,... [More]
Directed By: Liz Garbus

#88
Adjusted Score: 91628%
Critics Consensus: This documentary focuses less on the music and more on the personality clashes and in-group tensions to great, compelling effect.
Synopsis: Actor Michael Rapaport examines the music of the 1990s hip-hop group as well as the conflicts that drove the band... [More]
Directed By: Michael Rapaport

#87
#87
Adjusted Score: 93145%
Critics Consensus: The warmth of traditional Disney animation makes this occasionally lightweight fairy-tale update a lively and captivating confection for the holidays.
Synopsis: Hardworking and ambitious, Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) dreams of one day opening the finest restaurant in New Orleans. Her dream... [More]
Directed By: Ron Clements, John Musker

#86
Adjusted Score: 93638%
Critics Consensus: Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey celebrates the yuletide season with a holiday adventure whose exuberant spirit is matched by its uplifting message.
Synopsis: Decades after his apprentice betrays him, a once joyful toymaker finds new hope when his bright young granddaughter appears on... [More]
Directed By: David E. Talbert

#85
#85
Adjusted Score: 93059%
Critics Consensus: Presenting Princess Shaw works as a uniquely uplifting look at internet stardom -- and a compelling glimpse of an artist whose gifts transcend the medium.
Synopsis: The extraordinary story of New Orleans singing sensation Princess Shaw and her collaborator Kutiman, a musician in Israel who uses... [More]
Directed By: Ido Haar

#84
#84
Adjusted Score: 93085%
Critics Consensus: A smart, well-acted, and refreshingly messy coming-of-age story, Selah and the Spades suggests a bright future for debuting writer-director Tayarisha Poe.
Synopsis: Five factions run the underground life of a prestigious east coast boarding school. The head of The Spades walks a... [More]
Directed By: Tayarisha Poe

#83

Our Song (2000)
91%

#83
Adjusted Score: 91438%
Critics Consensus: Graced with such a realistic feel that it resembles a documentary, Our Song is a sensitive portrayal of three teenage girls.
Synopsis: Follows three friends, Lanisha (Kerry Washington), Maria (Melissa Martinez) and Joycelyn (Anna Simpson), best friends and members of their school's... [More]
Directed By: Jim McKay

#82

Top Five (2014)
86%

#82
Adjusted Score: 92788%
Critics Consensus: As smart, funny, and trenchant as writer-director-star Chris Rock's best standup work, Top Five is a career highlight for its creator -- and one of the comedy standouts of 2014.
Synopsis: Though he began in stand-up comedy, Andre Allen (Chris Rock) hit the big-time as the star of a trilogy of... [More]
Directed By: Chris Rock

#81

Burning Cane (2019)
92%

#81
Adjusted Score: 93152%
Critics Consensus: Burning Cane is a compelling look at weighty themes -- and a remarkably assured debut from an impressively talented young filmmaker.
Synopsis: An aging mother who lives in cane fields of rural Louisiana, is torn between her religious convictions and the love... [More]
Directed By: Phillip Youmans

#80

Queen & Slim (2019)
83%

#80
Adjusted Score: 95709%
Critics Consensus: Stylish, provocative, and powerful, Queen & Slim tells a gripping fugitive story steeped in timely, thoughtful subtext.
Synopsis: Slim and Queen's first date takes an unexpected turn when a policeman pulls them over for a minor traffic violation.... [More]
Directed By: Melina Matsoukas

#79

Uncorked (2020)
91%

#79
Adjusted Score: 93413%
Critics Consensus: Like a good wine, once you let Uncorked breathe, its heartfelt tenderness will yield a sweet time.
Synopsis: A young man upsets his father when he pursues his dream of becoming a master sommelier instead of joining the... [More]
Directed By: Prentice Penny

#78
#78
Adjusted Score: 92589%
Critics Consensus: Miss Sharon Jones! only captures a portion of its subject's power -- or her inspiring story -- but that's more than enough to offer absorbing, entertaining viewing for fans and newcomers alike.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Barbara Kopple follows rhythm and blues singer Sharon Jones as she tries to hold her band together while battling... [More]
Starring: Sharon Jones
Directed By: Barbara Kopple

#77
#77
Adjusted Score: 93903%
Critics Consensus: Madeline's Madeline proves experimental cinema is alive and well -- and serves as a powerful calling card for Helena Howard in her big-screen debut.
Synopsis: Madeline has become an integral part of a prestigious physical theater troupe. When the workshop's ambitious director pushes the teenager... [More]
Directed By: Josephine Decker

#76
#76
Adjusted Score: 93302%
Critics Consensus: Not just a powerful telling of the journey of exiled Sudanese boys, God Grew Tired of Us is also a poignant account of the determination of the human spirit.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Christopher Quinn observes the ordeal of three Sudanese refugees -- Jon Bul Dau, Daniel Abul Pach and Panther Bior... [More]
Starring: Nicole Kidman
Directed By: Christopher Quinn

#75
Adjusted Score: 93283%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Swedish journalists document the black power movement in America.... [More]
Directed By: Göran Olsson

#74
#74
Adjusted Score: 95185%
Critics Consensus: Heartfelt, thought-provoking, and above all funny, Barbershop: The Next Cut is the rare belated sequel that more than lives up to the standard set by its predecessors.
Synopsis: To survive harsh economic times, Calvin and Angie have merged the barbershop and beauty salon into one business. The days... [More]
Directed By: Malcolm D. Lee

#73

Inside Man (2006)
86%

#73
Adjusted Score: 94908%
Critics Consensus: Spike Lee's energetic and clever bank-heist thriller is a smart genre film that is not only rewarding on its own terms, but manages to subvert its pulpy trappings with wit and skill.
Synopsis: A tough detective (Denzel Washington) matches wits with a cunning bank robber (Clive Owen), as a tense hostage crisis is... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#72
Adjusted Score: 93526%
Critics Consensus: A toe-tapping tribute to the band that gave Motown its sound.
Synopsis: This documentary mixes performances, interviews and reenactments to celebrate the Funk Brothers, the 1960s soul hitmakers. As the musicians behind... [More]
Directed By: Paul Justman

#71

Premature (2019)
93%

#71
Adjusted Score: 95227%
Critics Consensus: Premature transcends its familiar trappings with sharp dialogue and a strong sense of setting that further establish Rashaad Ernesto Green as a gifted filmmaker.
Synopsis: On a summer night in Harlem during her last months at home before starting college, 17-year-old poet Ayanna begins a... [More]
Directed By: Rashaad Ernesto Green

#70
Adjusted Score: 93739%
Critics Consensus: Beasts of the Southern Wild is a fantastical, emotionally powerful journey and a strong case of filmmaking that values imagination over money.
Synopsis: Six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) lives with her father, Wink (Dwight Henry), in a remote Delta community. Wink is a stern... [More]
Directed By: Benh Zeitlin

#69

Baadasssss! (2003)
91%

#69
Adjusted Score: 93280%
Critics Consensus: An entertaining and intriguing tribute to a father from his son.
Synopsis: Director Mario Van Peebles chronicles the complicated production of his father Melvin's classic 1971 film, "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song." Playing... [More]
Directed By: Mario Van Peebles

#68
Adjusted Score: 95320%
Critics Consensus: The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution offers a fascinating -- if somewhat rudimentary -- introduction to a movement, and an era, that remains soberingly relevant today.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Stanley Nelson examines the rise of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and its impact on civil rights... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Nelson

#67
Adjusted Score: 93874%
Critics Consensus: Entertaining for longtime fans as well as casually interested viewers, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool burnishes the legacy of a brilliant artist.
Synopsis: An exploration of the musician's archival photos and home movies.... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Stanley Nelson

#66
#66
Adjusted Score: 94448%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Filmmakers Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon examine a 1989 case of five teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of... [More]

#65

Waves (2019)
84%

#65
Adjusted Score: 99677%
Critics Consensus: An up-close look at one family's emotional ups and downs, Waves captures complicated dynamics with tenderness and grace.
Synopsis: The epic emotional journey of a suburban African American family as they navigate love, forgiveness and coming together in the... [More]
Directed By: Trey Edward Shults

#64

Whitney (2018)
88%

#64
Adjusted Score: 96537%
Critics Consensus: Whitney shifts from soaring highs to heartbreaking lows with palpable emotion and grace befitting its singular subject.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Kevin Macdonald examines the life and career of singer Whitney Houston. Features never-before-seen archival footage, exclusive recordings, rare performances... [More]
Directed By: Kevin Macdonald

#63

Dope (2015)
88%

#63
Adjusted Score: 94208%
Critics Consensus: Featuring a starmaking performance from Shameik Moore and a refreshingly original point of view from writer-director Rick Famuyiwa, Dope is smart, insightful entertainment.
Synopsis: High-school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) bond over '90s hip-hop culture,... [More]
Directed By: Rick Famuyiwa

#62

Detroit (2017)
82%

#62
Adjusted Score: 104869%
Critics Consensus: Detroit delivers a gut-wrenching -- and essential -- dramatization of a tragic chapter from America's past that draws distressing parallels to the present.
Synopsis: In the summer of 1967, rioting and civil unrest starts to tear apart the city of Detroit. Two days later,... [More]
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow

#61
#61
Adjusted Score: 96044%
Critics Consensus: Dear White People adds a welcome new voice to cinema's oft-neglected discussion of race, tackling its timely themes with intelligence, honesty, and gratifyingly sharp wit.
Synopsis: A campus culture war between blacks and whites at a predominantly white school comes to a head when the staff... [More]
Directed By: Justin Simien

#60
Adjusted Score: 97097%
Critics Consensus: Dave Chappelle's Block Party is a raucous return to the spotlight for the comic, buoyed by witty, infectious humor and outstanding musical performances.
Synopsis: Actor, writer and comic Dave Chappelle loads up a bus with residents of his Ohio hometown and takes them to... [More]
Starring: Dave Chappelle
Directed By: Michel Gondry

#59

Creed II (2018)
83%

#59
Adjusted Score: 101857%
Critics Consensus: Creed II's adherence to franchise formula adds up to a sequel with few true surprises, but its time-tested generational themes still pack a solid punch.
Synopsis: In 1985, Russian boxer Ivan Drago killed former U.S. champion Apollo Creed in a tragic match that stunned the world.... [More]
Directed By: Steven Caple Jr.

#58

Sylvie's Love (2020)
93%

#58
Adjusted Score: 100127%
Critics Consensus: A romance for the ages, Sylvie's Love wraps audiences in the sweet embrace of its old-fashioned romance and celebration of Black love.
Synopsis: In Sylvie’s Love, the jazz is smooth and the air sultry in the hot New York summer of 1957. Robert... [More]
Directed By: Eugene Ashe

#57

Luce (2019)
90%

#57
Adjusted Score: 99636%
Critics Consensus: Luce brings a stellar ensemble to bear on a satisfyingly complex story that addresses its timely themes in thought-provoking fashion.
Synopsis: A liberal-minded couple are forced to reconsider their image of their adopted son after he writes a disturbing essay for... [More]
Directed By: Julius Onah

#56

Black Is King (2020)
94%

#56
Adjusted Score: 96823%
Critics Consensus: Beyoncé is King.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Starring: Beyoncé
Directed By: Beyoncé

#55

Good Hair (2009)
95%

#55
Adjusted Score: 97570%
Critics Consensus: Funny, informative, and occasionally sad, Good Hair is a provocative look at the complex relationship between African Americans and their hair.
Synopsis: Prompted by a question from his young daughter, comic Chris Rock sets out to explore the importance of hair in... [More]
Directed By: Jeff Stilson

#54
#54
Adjusted Score: 100023%
Critics Consensus: Support the Girls handles serious themes with wit and humor, and provides a strong showcase for Regina Hall and a talented ensemble cast.
Synopsis: Lisa is the general manager of Double Whammies, a sports bar that features skimpily dressed waitresses. Always nurturing and protective... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Bujalski

#53

Just Mercy (2019)
85%

#53
Adjusted Score: 105707%
Critics Consensus: Just Mercy dramatizes a real-life injustice with solid performances, a steady directorial hand, and enough urgency to overcome a certain degree of earnest advocacy.
Synopsis: After graduating from Harvard, Bryan Stevenson heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or those not afforded proper representation.... [More]
Directed By: Destin Daniel Cretton

#52
#52
Adjusted Score: 106179%
Critics Consensus: It Comes at Night makes lethally effective use of its bare-bones trappings while proving once again that what's left unseen can be just as horrifying as anything on the screen.
Synopsis: After a mysterious apocalypse leaves the world with few survivors, two families are forced to share a home in an... [More]
Directed By: Trey Edward Shults

#51
#51
Adjusted Score: 100775%
Critics Consensus: Southside With You looks back on a fateful real-life date with strong performances and engaging dialogue, adding up to a romance that makes for a pretty good date movie in its own right.
Synopsis: Future U.S. President Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) and lawyer Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) go on a fateful first date in... [More]
Directed By: Richard Tanne

#50

Clemency (2019)
91%

#50
Adjusted Score: 99982%
Critics Consensus: Clemency mines serious social issues for gripping drama, brought to life by an outstanding cast led by Alfre Woodard.
Synopsis: Years of carrying out death row executions are taking a toll on Warden Bernadine Williams. As she prepares for another... [More]
Directed By: Chinonye Chukwu

#49

Girls Trip (2017)
92%

#49
Adjusted Score: 103897%
Critics Consensus: Girls Trip is the rare R-rated comedy that pushes boundaries to truly comedic effect -- and anchors its laughs in compelling characters brought to life by a brilliantly assembled cast.
Synopsis: Best friends Ryan, Sasha, Lisa and Dina are in for the adventure of a lifetime when they travel to New... [More]
Directed By: Malcolm D. Lee

#48

Django Unchained (2012)
86%

#48
Adjusted Score: 98832%
Critics Consensus: Bold, bloody, and stylistically daring, Django Unchained is another incendiary masterpiece from Quentin Tarantino.
Synopsis: Two years before the Civil War, Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave, finds himself accompanying an unorthodox German bounty hunter named... [More]
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino

#47

Pariah (2011)
95%

#47
Adjusted Score: 99740%
Critics Consensus: Pulsing with authenticity and led by a stirring lead performance from Adepero Oduye, Pariah is a powerful coming out/coming-of-age film that signals the arrival of a fresh new talent in writer/director Dee Rees.
Synopsis: Teenage Alike (Adepero Oduye) lives in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood with her parents (Charles Parnell, Kim Wayans) and younger sister... [More]
Directed By: Dee Rees

#46
#46
Adjusted Score: 98274%
Critics Consensus: It's far more conventional than the life it honors, but John Lewis: Good Trouble remains a worthy tribute to an inspiring activist and public servant.
Synopsis: Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) fights for civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health care reform and immigration.... [More]
Starring: John Lewis
Directed By: Dawn Porter

#45
#45
Adjusted Score: 98058%
Critics Consensus: Straight Outta Compton is a biopic that's built to last, thanks to F. Gary Gray's confident direction and engaging performances from a solid cast.
Synopsis: In 1988, a groundbreaking new group revolutionizes music and pop culture, changing and influencing hip-hop forever. N.W.A's first studio album,... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray

#44
#44
Adjusted Score: 97927%
Critics Consensus: Offering keen observations and infectious warmth, Keep On Keepin' On is a joy for jazz buffs and novices alike.
Synopsis: Legendary jazz musician Clark Terry, who taught Quincy Jones and mentored Miles Davis, becomes the mentor of a blind 23-year-old... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Alan Hicks

#43
Adjusted Score: 100433%
Critics Consensus: Intimate in scope yet thematically expansive, Hale County This Morning, This Evening draws extraordinary insights out of seemingly ordinary moments.
Synopsis: Filmmaker RaMell Ross captures small, but nevertheless precious, moments in black lives.... [More]
Starring: RaMell Ross
Directed By: RaMell Ross

#42

Night Comes On (2018)
98%

#42
Adjusted Score: 100534%
Critics Consensus: Steadily drawing viewers into its harrowing tale with equal parts grim intensity and startling compassion, Night Comes On heralds the arrivals of debuting director Jordan Spiro and her magnetic young stars.
Synopsis: Released from juvenile detention, a teen and her 10-year-old sister embark on a quest to avenge the death of their... [More]
Directed By: Jordana Spiro

#41

Loving (2016)
88%

#41
Adjusted Score: 106618%
Critics Consensus: Loving takes an understated approach to telling a painful -- and still relevant -- real-life tale, with sensitive performances breathing additional life into a superlative historical drama.
Synopsis: Interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving fell in love and were married in 1958. They grew up in Central Point,... [More]
Directed By: Jeff Nichols

#40

Step (2017)
96%

#40
Adjusted Score: 103087%
Critics Consensus: Step tells an irresistibly crowd-pleasing story in a thoroughly absorbing way -- and while smartly incorporating a variety of timely themes.
Synopsis: The senior year of a girls' high school step team in inner-city Baltimore is documented, as they try to become... [More]
Starring: Blessin Giraldo
Directed By: Amanda Lipitz

#39
Adjusted Score: 100815%
Critics Consensus: Precious is a grim yet ultimately triumphant film about abuse and inner-city life, largely bolstered by exceptional performances from its cast.
Synopsis: Pregnant by her own father for the second time, 16-year-old Claireece "Precious" Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) can neither read nor write... [More]
Directed By: Lee Daniels

#38

Farewell Amor (2020)
97%

#38
Adjusted Score: 101268%
Critics Consensus: A striking debut feature for writer-director Ekwa Msangi, Farewell Amor movingly captures the fallout from a long-separated family's reunion.
Synopsis: After 17 years apart, Angolan immigrant Walter is joined in the U.S. by his wife and teen daughter. Now absolute... [More]
Directed By: Ekwa Msangi

#37

13TH (2016)
97%

#37
Adjusted Score: 104644%
Critics Consensus: 13th strikes at the heart of America's tangled racial history, offering observations as incendiary as they are calmly controlled.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation's... [More]
Directed By: Ava DuVernay

#36
Adjusted Score: 104592%
Critics Consensus: An affecting story powerfully told, The Last Black Man in San Francisco immediately establishes director Joe Talbot as a filmmaker to watch.
Synopsis: Jimmie and his best friend Mont try to reclaim the house built by Jimmie's grandfather, launching them on a poignant... [More]
Directed By: Joe Talbot

#35
Adjusted Score: 102698%
Critics Consensus: Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am honors its acclaimed subject with a comprehensive, illuminating, and fittingly profound overview of her life and work.
Synopsis: Author Toni Morrison leads an assembly of her peers, critics and colleagues on an exploration of race, history, America and... [More]

#34

Whose Streets? (2017)
98%

#34
Adjusted Score: 102837%
Critics Consensus: Whose Streets? takes a close-up look at the civil unrest that erupted after a shocking act of violence in Ferguson, Missouri - and the decades of simmering tension leading up to it.
Synopsis: An account of the Ferguson uprising as told by the people who lived it. The filmmakers look at how the... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Sabaah Folayan

#33

Blindspotting (2018)
94%

#33
Adjusted Score: 104307%
Critics Consensus: As timely as it is overall impactful, Blindspotting blends buddy comedy with seething social commentary, and rises on the strength of Daveed Diggs' powerful performance.
Synopsis: Collin must make it through his final three days of probation for a chance at a new beginning in his... [More]
Directed By: Carlos López Estrada

#32

Strong Island (2017)
100%

#32
Adjusted Score: 102772%
Critics Consensus: Strong Island uses one family's heartbreaking tragedy to offer a sobering picture of racial injustice in modern America.
Synopsis: When filmmaker Yance Ford investigates the 1992 murder of a young black man, it becomes an achingly personal journey since... [More]
Directed By: Yance Ford

#31
#31
Adjusted Score: 102525%
Critics Consensus: O.J.: Made in America paints a balanced and thorough portrait of the American dream juxtaposed with tragedy and executed with power and skill.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Starring: O.J. Simpson
Directed By: Ezra Edelman

#30

Tangerine (2015)
96%

#30
Adjusted Score: 102208%
Critics Consensus: Tangerine shatters casting conventions and its filmmaking techniques are up-to-the-minute, but it's an old-fashioned comedy at heart -- and a pretty wonderful one at that.
Synopsis: After hearing that her boyfriend/pimp cheated on her while she was in jail, a hooker and her best friend set... [More]
Directed By: Sean Baker

#29
Adjusted Score: 103897%
Critics Consensus: All In: The Fight for Democracy lives up to its title as a galvanizing rallying cry for voters to exercise -- and preserve -- their right to be heard.
Synopsis: Filmmakers Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortes examine the history of voter suppression and the activists who fight for the rights... [More]
Starring: Stacey Abrams
Directed By: Lisa Cortes, Liz Garbus

#28
#28
Adjusted Score: 101627%
Critics Consensus: Passionate and powerfully acted, Fruitvale Station serves as a celebration of life, a condemnation of death, and a triumph for star Michael B. Jordan.
Synopsis: Though he once spent time in San Quentin, 22-year-old black man Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) is now trying hard... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Coogler

#27

Time (2020)
98%

#27
Adjusted Score: 105199%
Critics Consensus: Time delivers a powerful broadside against the flaws of the American justice system -- and chronicles one family's refusal to give up against all odds.
Synopsis: Entrepreneur Fox Rich spends the last two decades campaigning for the release of her husband, Rob G. Rich, who is... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Garrett Bradley

#26

Fences (2016)
92%

#26
Adjusted Score: 107959%
Critics Consensus: From its reunited Broadway stars to its screenplay, the solidly crafted Fences finds its Pulitzer-winning source material fundamentally unchanged -- and still just as powerful.
Synopsis: Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) makes his living as a sanitation worker in 1950s Pittsburgh. Maxson once dreamed of becoming a... [More]
Directed By: Denzel Washington

#25
Adjusted Score: 106715%
Critics Consensus: The Forty-Year-Old Version opens a compelling window into the ebbs and flows of the artist's life -- and announces writer-director-star Radha Blank as a major filmmaking talent with her feature debut.
Synopsis: A struggling New York City playwright finds inspiration by reinventing herself as a rapper.... [More]
Directed By: Radha Blank

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 104015%
Critics Consensus: Rich, insightful, and occasionally heartbreaking, 20 Feet From Stardom is an energetic tribute to the passion, talent, and hard work of backup singers.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Morgan Neville shines a long-overdue spotlight on the hit-making contributions of longtime backup singers like Darlene Love and Merry... [More]
Directed By: Morgan Neville

#23

Miss Juneteenth (2020)
99%

#23
Adjusted Score: 108664%
Critics Consensus: Like a pageant winner walking across the stage, Miss Juneteenth follows a familiar path -- but does so with charm and grace.
Synopsis: A former beauty queen and single mom prepares her rebellious teenage daughter for the "Miss Juneteenth" pageant.... [More]

#22

Mudbound (2017)
97%

#22
Adjusted Score: 111703%
Critics Consensus: Mudbound offers a well-acted, finely detailed snapshot of American history whose scenes of rural class struggle resonate far beyond their period setting.
Synopsis: Set in the rural American South during World War II, Dee Rees' Mudbound is an epic story of two families... [More]
Directed By: Dee Rees

#21

Da 5 Bloods (2020)
92%

#21
Adjusted Score: 112555%
Critics Consensus: Fierce energy and ambition course through Da 5 Bloods, coming together to fuel one of Spike Lee's most urgent and impactful films.
Synopsis: Four African American vets battle the forces of man and nature when they return to Vietnam seeking the remains of... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#20

Amazing Grace (2018)
99%

#20
Adjusted Score: 108282%
Critics Consensus: Brilliantly capturing a remarkable performer near the peak of her prodigious power, Amazing Grace is a thrilling must-watch documentary for Aretha Franklin fans.
Synopsis: Singer Aretha Franklin performs gospel songs at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972.... [More]
Starring: Aretha Franklin
Directed By: Alan Elliott

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 111982%
Critics Consensus: Fearlessly ambitious, scathingly funny, and thoroughly original, Sorry to Bother You loudly heralds the arrival of a fresh filmmaking talent in writer-director Boots Riley.
Synopsis: In an alternate reality of present-day Oakland, Calif., telemarketer Cassius Green finds himself in a macabre universe after he discovers... [More]
Directed By: Boots Riley

#18

The Hate U Give (2018)
97%

#18
Adjusted Score: 109455%
Critics Consensus: Led by a breakout turn from Amandla Stenberg, the hard-hitting The Hate U Give emphatically proves the YA genre has room for much more than magic and romance.
Synopsis: Starr Carter is constantly switching between two worlds -- the poor, mostly black neighborhood where she lives and the wealthy,... [More]
Directed By: George Tillman Jr.

#17

Hidden Figures (2016)
93%

#17
Adjusted Score: 117305%
Critics Consensus: In heartwarming, crowd-pleasing fashion, Hidden Figures celebrates overlooked -- and crucial -- contributions from a pivotal moment in American history.
Synopsis: Three brilliant African American women at NASA -- Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson -- serve as the brains... [More]
Directed By: Theodore Melfi

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 110302%
Critics Consensus: In dramatizing Rudy Ray Moore's stranger-than-fiction story, Eddie Murphy makes Dolemite Is My Name just as bold, brash, and ultimately hard to resist as its subject.
Synopsis: Performer Rudy Ray Moore develops an outrageous character named Dolemite, who becomes an underground sensation and star of a kung-fu,... [More]
Directed By: Craig Brewer

#15

Creed (2015)
95%

#15
Adjusted Score: 106968%
Critics Consensus: Creed brings the Rocky franchise off the mat for a surprisingly effective seventh round that extends the boxer's saga in interesting new directions while staying true to its classic predecessors' roots.
Synopsis: Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) never knew his famous father, boxing champion Apollo Creed, who died before Adonis was born.... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Coogler

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 113488%
Critics Consensus: I Am Not Your Negro offers an incendiary snapshot of James Baldwin's crucial observations on American race relations -- and a sobering reminder of how far we've yet to go.
Synopsis: In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, "Remember This House." The book... [More]
Directed By: Raoul Peck

#13

Widows (2018)
91%

#13
Adjusted Score: 116985%
Critics Consensus: Widows rounds up a stellar ensemble for a heist thriller that mixes popcorn entertainment with a message - and marks another artistic leap for director Steve McQueen.
Synopsis: A police shootout leaves four thieves dead during an explosive armed robbery attempt in Chicago. Their widows -- Veronica, Linda,... [More]
Directed By: Steve McQueen

#12

Soul (2020)
95%

#12
Adjusted Score: 119523%
Critics Consensus: A film as beautiful to contemplate as it is to behold, Soul proves Pixar's power to deliver outstanding all-ages entertainment remains undimmed.
Synopsis: Joe is a middle-school band teacher whose life hasn't quite gone the way he expected. His true passion is jazz... [More]
Directed By: Pete Docter

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 118330%
Critics Consensus: Framed by a pair of powerhouse performances, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom pays affectionate tribute to a blues legend -- and Black culture at large.
Synopsis: Tensions and temperatures rise over the course of an afternoon recording session in 1920s Chicago as a band of musicians... [More]
Directed By: George C. Wolfe

#10

12 Years a Slave (2013)
95%

#10
Adjusted Score: 110575%
Critics Consensus: It's far from comfortable viewing, but 12 Years a Slave's unflinchingly brutal look at American slavery is also brilliant -- and quite possibly essential -- cinema.
Synopsis: In the years before the Civil War, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is... [More]
Directed By: Steve McQueen

#9
Adjusted Score: 116323%
Critics Consensus: If Beale Street Could Talk honors its source material with a beautifully filmed adaptation that finds director Barry Jenkins further strengthening his visual and narrative craft.
Synopsis: In early 1970s Harlem, daughter and wife-to-be Tish vividly recalls the passion, respect and trust that have connected her and... [More]
Directed By: Barry Jenkins

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 116769%
Critics Consensus: A hauntingly powerful reflection on larger-than-life figures, One Night in Miami finds Regina King in command of her craft in her feature directorial debut.
Synopsis: On one incredible night in 1964, four icons of sports, music, and activism gathered to celebrate one of the biggest... [More]
Directed By: Regina King

#7

Selma (2014)
99%

#7
Adjusted Score: 111027%
Critics Consensus: Fueled by a gripping performance from David Oyelowo, Selma draws inspiration and dramatic power from the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. -- but doesn't ignore how far we remain from the ideals his work embodied.
Synopsis: Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it... [More]
Directed By: Ava DuVernay

#6

Moonlight (2016)
98%

#6
Adjusted Score: 123134%
Critics Consensus: Moonlight uses one man's story to offer a remarkable and brilliantly crafted look at lives too rarely seen in cinema.
Synopsis: A look at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami. His... [More]
Directed By: Barry Jenkins

#5
Adjusted Score: 121255%
Critics Consensus: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse matches bold storytelling with striking animation for a purely enjoyable adventure with heart, humor, and plenty of superhero action.
Synopsis: Bitten by a radioactive spider in the subway, Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales suddenly develops mysterious powers that transform him into... [More]

#4

Get Out (2017)
98%

#4
Adjusted Score: 128276%
Critics Consensus: Funny, scary, and thought-provoking, Get Out seamlessly weaves its trenchant social critiques into a brilliantly effective and entertaining horror/comedy thrill ride.
Synopsis: Now that Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend... [More]
Directed By: Jordan Peele

#3

BlacKkKlansman (2018)
96%

#3
Adjusted Score: 122720%
Critics Consensus: BlacKkKlansman uses history to offer bitingly trenchant commentary on current events -- and brings out some of Spike Lee's hardest-hitting work in decades along the way.
Synopsis: Ron Stallworth is the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Determined to make a name... [More]
Directed By: Spike Lee

#2

Us (2019)
93%

#2
Adjusted Score: 127318%
Critics Consensus: With Jordan Peele's second inventive, ambitious horror film, we have seen how to beat the sophomore jinx, and it is Us.
Synopsis: Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a... [More]
Directed By: Jordan Peele

#1

Black Panther (2018)
96%

#1
Adjusted Score: 128732%
Critics Consensus: Black Panther elevates superhero cinema to thrilling new heights while telling one of the MCU's most absorbing stories -- and introducing some of its most fully realized characters.
Synopsis: After the death of his father, T'Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Coogler

WALL-E

(Photo by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail image: 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.; Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection; MGM.)

50 Essential Movies For Kids

Looking to enrich your kid’s viewing habits? Or if you’re under 13 yourself, love movies, and you want to watch some of the best ever made, take it from us when we list 50 Essential Movies For Kids!

These are not just great children’s movies, but movies that play well for the curious and growing mind. While all these movies are classics and can be seen at any age, some have stronger themes than others that would play better during upper years. So, we separated the movies in suggested age categories:

Ages 1-5: Kids may not actively recall everything from this age, but a good baseline is fundamental in developing a healthy appetite for movies. Here we feature colorful classics (The Wizard of Oz), fun adventures (Chicken Run), and tales as old as time (Beauty and the Beast).

Ages 6-9: As more time is devoted to school and outside life, movies become more of an escape, and their power to transport starts to become apparent. Don’t miss out on epic quests (Star Wars), wish fulfillment (Home Alone), and dazzling fantasies (Spirited Away).

Ages 10-12: The magic window, the time in life when movies can move and change tweens, and stick for the rest of time. A good era for the classic portrayals of youth (The 400 Blows), face-melting action (Raiders of the Lost Ark), and romance (Romeo & Juliet).

Whether you’re a parent looking for a moral, entertaining movie night with your kids, or you’re a young student of movies making the leap on your own, check out these 50 Essential Movies For Kids!


Ages 1-5

#50
#50
Adjusted Score: 103577%
Critics Consensus: Enchanting, sweepingly romantic, and featuring plenty of wonderful musical numbers, Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney's most elegant animated offerings.
Synopsis: An arrogant young prince (Robby Benson) and his castle's servants fall under the spell of a wicked enchantress, who turns... [More]
Directed By: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

#49

Chicken Run (2000)
97%

#49
Adjusted Score: 103668%
Critics Consensus: Chicken Run has all the charm of Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit, and something for everybody. The voice acting is fabulous, the slapstick is brilliant, and the action sequences are spectacular.
Synopsis: This engaging stop-motion, claymation adventure tells the story of an American rooster who falls in love with a gorgeous hen... [More]
Directed By: Peter Lord, Nick Park

#48

Frozen (2013)
90%

#48
Adjusted Score: 100194%
Critics Consensus: Beautifully animated, smartly written, and stocked with singalong songs, Frozen adds another worthy entry to the Disney canon.
Synopsis: When their kingdom becomes trapped in perpetual winter, fearless Anna (Kristen Bell) joins forces with mountaineer Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and... [More]
Directed By: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

#47
#47
Adjusted Score: 98717%
Critics Consensus: Kiki's Delivery Service is a heartwarming, gorgeously-rendered tale of a young witch discovering her place in the world.
Synopsis: In this anime feature, 13-year-old Kiki moves to a seaside town with her talking cat, Jiji, to spend a year... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki

#46
#46
Adjusted Score: 98719%
Critics Consensus: Alfonso Cuarón adapts Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel with a keen sense of magic realism, vividly recreating the world of childhood as seen through the characters.
Synopsis: When young Sara (Liesel Matthews) is sent to a boarding school by her well-meaning World War I-bound father (Liam Cunningham),... [More]
Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón

#45

The Muppet Movie (1979)
88%

#45
Adjusted Score: 92295%
Critics Consensus: The Muppet Movie, the big-screen debut of Jim Henson's plush creations, is smart, lighthearted, and fun for all ages.
Synopsis: After Kermit the Frog decides to pursue a movie career, he starts his cross-country trip from Florida to California. Along... [More]
Directed By: James Frawley

#44
#44
Adjusted Score: 95572%
Critics Consensus: My Neighbor Totoro is a heartwarming, sentimental masterpiece that captures the simple grace of childhood.
Synopsis: This acclaimed animated tale by director Hayao Miyazaki follows schoolgirl Satsuke and her younger sister, Mei, as they settle into... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki

#43

The Red Balloon (1956)
95%

#43
Adjusted Score: 96991%
Critics Consensus: The Red Balloon invests the simplest of narratives with spectacular visual inventiveness, making for a singularly wondrous portrait of innocence.
Synopsis: A red balloon with a life of its own follows a boy around Paris.... [More]
Directed By: Albert Lamorisse

#42
Adjusted Score: 99232%
Critics Consensus: With its involving story and characters, vibrant art, and memorable songs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs set the animation standard for decades to come.
Synopsis: The Grimm fairy tale gets a Technicolor treatment in Disney's first animated feature. Jealous of Snow White's beauty, the wicked... [More]
Directed By: David Hand

#41

Toy Story (1995)
100%

#41
Adjusted Score: 106146%
Critics Consensus: Entertaining as it is innovative, Toy Story reinvigorated animation while heralding the arrival of Pixar as a family-friendly force to be reckoned with.
Synopsis: Woody (Tom Hanks), a good-hearted cowboy doll who belongs to a young boy named Andy (John Morris), sees his position... [More]
Directed By: John Lasseter

#40

WALL-E (2008)
95%

#40
Adjusted Score: 105657%
Critics Consensus: Wall-E's stellar visuals testify once again to Pixar's ingenuity, while its charming star will captivate younger viewers -- and its timely story offers thought-provoking subtext.
Synopsis: WALL-E, short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class, is the last robot left on Earth. He spends his days tidying... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Stanton

#39

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
98%

#39
Adjusted Score: 115182%
Critics Consensus: An absolute masterpiece whose groundbreaking visuals and deft storytelling are still every bit as resonant, The Wizard of Oz is a must-see film for young and old.
Synopsis: When a tornado rips through Kansas, Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her dog, Toto, are whisked away in their house to... [More]
Directed By: Victor Fleming


Ages 6-9

#38

Babe (1995)
97%

#38
Adjusted Score: 101437%
Critics Consensus: The rare family-friendly feature with a heart as big as its special effects budget, Babe offers timeless entertainment for viewers of all ages.
Synopsis: Gentle farmer Arthur Hoggett (James Cromwell) wins a piglet named Babe (Christine Cavanaugh) at a county fair. Narrowly escaping his... [More]
Directed By: Chris Noonan

#37
#37
Adjusted Score: 103093%
Critics Consensus: Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, Back to the Future is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit.
Synopsis: In this 1980s sci-fi classic, small-town California teen Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is thrown back into the '50s when... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#36

Coco (2017)
97%

#36
Adjusted Score: 123816%
Critics Consensus: Coco's rich visual pleasures are matched by a thoughtful narrative that takes a family-friendly -- and deeply affecting -- approach to questions of culture, family, life, and death.
Synopsis: Despite his family's generations-old ban on music, young Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol Ernesto de... [More]
Directed By: Lee Unkrich

#35
Adjusted Score: 110804%
Critics Consensus: Playing as both an exciting sci-fi adventure and a remarkable portrait of childhood, Steven Spielberg's touching tale of a homesick alien remains a piece of movie magic for young and old.
Synopsis: After a gentle alien becomes stranded on Earth, the being is discovered and befriended by a young boy named Elliott... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#34

Elf (2003)
85%

#34
Adjusted Score: 90697%
Critics Consensus: A movie full of Yuletide cheer, Elf is a spirited, good-natured family comedy, and it benefits greatly from Will Ferrell's funny and charming performance as one of Santa's biggest helpers.
Synopsis: Buddy (Will Ferrell) was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised to adulthood among Santa's elves.... [More]
Directed By: Jon Favreau

#33
#33
Adjusted Score: 102147%
Critics Consensus: Fantastic Mr. Fox is a delightfully funny feast for the eyes with multi-generational appeal -- and it shows Wes Anderson has a knack for animation.
Synopsis: After 12 years of bucolic bliss, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) breaks a promise to his wife (Meryl Streep) and raids... [More]
Directed By: Wes Anderson

#32

The Goonies (1985)
77%

#32
Adjusted Score: 80852%
Critics Consensus: The Goonies is an energetic, sometimes noisy mix of Spielbergian sentiment and funhouse tricks that will appeal to kids and nostalgic adults alike.
Synopsis: When two brothers find out they might lose their house they are desperate to find a way to keep their... [More]
Directed By: Richard Donner

#31
Adjusted Score: 89062%
Critics Consensus: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone adapts its source material faithfully while condensing the novel's overstuffed narrative into an involving -- and often downright exciting -- big-screen magical caper.
Synopsis: Adaptation of the first of J.K. Rowling's popular children's novels about Harry Potter, a boy who learns on his eleventh... [More]
Directed By: Chris Columbus

#30

Home Alone (1990)
68%

#30
Adjusted Score: 71393%
Critics Consensus: Home Alone uneven but frequently funny premise stretched unreasonably thin is buoyed by Macaulay Culkin's cute performance and strong supporting stars.
Synopsis: When bratty 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) acts out the night before a family trip to Paris, his mother (Catherine... [More]
Directed By: Chris Columbus

#29
#29
Adjusted Score: 106011%
Critics Consensus: Boasting dazzling animation, a script with surprising dramatic depth, and thrilling 3-D sequences, How to Train Your Dragon soars.
Synopsis: Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a Norse teenager from the island of Berk, where fighting dragons is a way of life.... [More]

#28

Inside Out (2015)
98%

#28
Adjusted Score: 113968%
Critics Consensus: Inventive, gorgeously animated, and powerfully moving, Inside Out is another outstanding addition to the Pixar library of modern animated classics.
Synopsis: Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is a happy, hockey-loving 11-year-old Midwestern girl, but her world turns upside-down when she and her parents... [More]
Directed By: Pete Docter

#27

The Karate Kid (1984)
89%

#27
Adjusted Score: 91186%
Critics Consensus: Utterly predictable and wholly of its time, but warm, sincere, and difficult to resist, due in large part to Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio's relaxed chemistry.
Synopsis: Daniel (Ralph Macchio) moves to Southern California with his mother, Lucille (Randee Heller), but quickly finds himself the target of... [More]
Directed By: John G. Avildsen

#26

The Iron Giant (1999)
96%

#26
Adjusted Score: 101302%
Critics Consensus: The endearing Iron Giant tackles ambitious topics and complex human relationships with a steady hand and beautifully animated direction from Brad Bird.
Synopsis: In this animated adaptation of Ted Hughes' Cold War fable, a giant alien robot (Vin Diesel) crash-lands near the small... [More]
Directed By: Brad Bird

#25

The LEGO Movie (2014)
96%

#25
Adjusted Score: 105889%
Critics Consensus: Boasting beautiful animation, a charming voice cast, laugh-a-minute gags, and a surprisingly thoughtful story, The Lego Movie is colorful fun for all ages.
Synopsis: Emmet (Chris Pratt), an ordinary LEGO figurine who always follows the rules, is mistakenly identified as the Special -- an... [More]

#24

Little Manhattan (2005)
77%

#24
Adjusted Score: 77385%
Critics Consensus: Little Manhattan is a sweet story of young love that provides an enlightening if pragmatic view on love and courtship.
Synopsis: Gabe (Josh Hutcherson), a sixth grader, is partnered with Rosemary (Charlie Ray) in his karate class. Though he's known her... [More]
Directed By: Mark Levin

#23

Matilda (1996)
90%

#23
Adjusted Score: 90504%
Critics Consensus: Danny DeVito-directed version of Matilda is odd, charming, and while the movie diverges from Roald Dahl, it nonetheless captures the book's spirit.
Synopsis: This film adaptation of a Roald Dahl work tells the story of Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson), a gifted girl forced... [More]
Directed By: Danny DeVito

#22
#22
Adjusted Score: 82899%
Critics Consensus: A magical journey about the power of a young boy's imagination to save a dying fantasy land, The NeverEnding Story remains a much-loved kids adventure.
Synopsis: On his way to school, Bastian (Barret Oliver) ducks into a bookstore to avoid bullies. Sneaking away with a book... [More]
Directed By: Wolfgang Petersen

#21

Paddington 2 (2017)
99%

#21
Adjusted Score: 113870%
Critics Consensus: Paddington 2 honors its star's rich legacy with a sweet-natured sequel whose adorable visuals are matched by a story perfectly balanced between heartwarming family fare and purely enjoyable all-ages adventure.
Synopsis: Settled in with the Brown family, Paddington the bear is a popular member of the community who spreads joy and... [More]
Directed By: Paul King

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 103682%
Critics Consensus: A delightfully postmodern fairy tale, The Princess Bride is a deft, intelligent mix of swashbuckling, romance, and comedy that takes an age-old damsel-in-distress story and makes it fresh.
Synopsis: A fairy tale adventure about a beautiful young woman and her one true love. He must find her after a... [More]
Directed By: Rob Reiner

#19

The Sandlot (1993)
64%

#19
Adjusted Score: 68719%
Critics Consensus: It may be shamelessly derivative and overly nostalgic, but The Sandlot is nevertheless a genuinely sweet and funny coming-of-age adventure.
Synopsis: When Scottie Smalls (Thomas Guiry) moves to a new neighborhood, he manages to make friends with a group of kids... [More]
Directed By: David Mickey Evans

#18

Spirited Away (2001)
97%

#18
Adjusted Score: 103385%
Critics Consensus: Spirited Away is a dazzling, enchanting, and gorgeously drawn fairy tale that will leave viewers a little more curious and fascinated by the world around them.
Synopsis: 10-year-old Chihiro (Daveigh Chase) moves with her parents to a new home in the Japanese countryside. After taking a wrong... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki, Kirk Wise

#17

Spy Kids (2001)
93%

#17
Adjusted Score: 97787%
Critics Consensus: A kinetic and fun movie that's sure to thrill children of all ages.
Synopsis: Two young kids become spies in attempt to save their parents, who are ex-spies, from an evil mastermind. Armed with... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez

#16
Adjusted Score: 105728%
Critics Consensus: A legendarily expansive and ambitious start to the sci-fi saga, George Lucas opened our eyes to the possibilities of blockbuster filmmaking and things have never been the same.
Synopsis: The Imperial Forces -- under orders from cruel Darth Vader (David Prowse) -- hold Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hostage, in... [More]
Directed By: George Lucas

#15
Adjusted Score: 95387%
Critics Consensus: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is strange yet comforting, full of narrative detours that don't always work but express the film's uniqueness.
Synopsis: The last of five coveted "golden tickets" falls into the hands of a sweet but very poor boy. He and... [More]
Directed By: Mel Stuart


Ages 10-12

#14

The 400 Blows (1959)
98%

#14
Adjusted Score: 104417%
Critics Consensus: A seminal French New Wave film that offers an honest, sympathetic, and wholly heartbreaking observation of adolescence without trite nostalgia.
Synopsis: For young Parisian boy Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), life is one difficult situation after another. Surrounded by inconsiderate adults, including... [More]
Directed By: François Truffaut

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 90717%
Critics Consensus: A warm, family-friendly underdog story, featuring terrific supporting performances from Keke Palmer, Laurence Fishburne, and Angela Bassett.
Synopsis: Akeelah, an 11-year-old girl living in South Los Angeles, discovers she has a talent for spelling, which she hopes will... [More]
Directed By: Doug Atchison

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 99265%
Critics Consensus: Louis Malle's autobiographical tale of a childhood spent in a WWII boarding school is a beautifully realized portrait of friendship and youth.
Synopsis: In 1943, Julien (Gaspard Manesse) is a student at a French boarding school. When three new students arrive, including Jean... [More]
Directed By: Louis Malle

#11

Hugo (2011)
93%

#11
Adjusted Score: 100995%
Critics Consensus: Hugo is an extravagant, elegant fantasy with an innocence lacking in many modern kids' movies, and one that emanates an unabashed love for the magic of cinema.
Synopsis: Orphaned and alone except for an uncle, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a train station in... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 78235%
Critics Consensus: A charming, quirky, and often funny comedy.
Synopsis: In small-town Preston, Idaho, awkward teen Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) has trouble fitting in. After his grandmother is injured in... [More]
Directed By: Jared Hess

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 89484%
Critics Consensus: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure brings Paul Reubens' famous character to the big screen intact, along with enough inspired silliness to dazzle children of all ages.
Synopsis: Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens), an eccentric child-like man, loves his red bicycle and will not sell it to his envious... [More]
Directed By: Tim Burton

#8

Queen of Katwe (2016)
94%

#8
Adjusted Score: 104629%
Critics Consensus: Queen of Katwe is a feel-good movie of uncommon smarts and passion, and outstanding performances by Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo help to elevate the film past its cliches.
Synopsis: Living in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle for 10-year-old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) and her... [More]
Directed By: Mira Nair

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 102224%
Critics Consensus: Featuring bravura set pieces, sly humor, and white-knuckle action, Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most consummately entertaining adventure pictures of all time.
Synopsis: Dr. Indiana Jones, a renowned archeologist and expert in the occult, is hired by the U.S. Government to find the... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#6

Romeo and Juliet (1968)
95%

#6
Adjusted Score: 98016%
Critics Consensus: The solid leads and arresting visuals make a case for Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet as the definitive cinematic adaptation of the play.
Synopsis: In the Italian city of Verona, the Montague and the Capulet families are perpetually feuding. When Romeo (Leonard Whiting), a... [More]
Directed By: Franco Zeffirelli

#5

Rudy (1993)
78%

#5
Adjusted Score: 81459%
Critics Consensus: Though undeniably sentimental and predictable, Rudy succeeds with an uplifting spirit and determination.
Synopsis: Rudy Ruettiger (Sean Astin) wants to play football at the University of Notre Dame, but has neither the money for... [More]
Directed By: David Anspaugh

#4
Adjusted Score: 121255%
Critics Consensus: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse matches bold storytelling with striking animation for a purely enjoyable adventure with heart, humor, and plenty of superhero action.
Synopsis: Bitten by a radioactive spider in the subway, Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales suddenly develops mysterious powers that transform him into... [More]

#3

Time Bandits (1981)
90%

#3
Adjusted Score: 92686%
Critics Consensus: Time Bandits is a remarkable time-travel fantasy from Terry Gilliam, who utilizes fantastic set design and homemade special effects to create a vivid, original universe.
Synopsis: Young history buff Kevin (Craig Warnock) can scarcely believe it when six dwarfs emerge from his closet one night. Former... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam

#2

West Side Story (1961)
93%

#2
Adjusted Score: 103980%
Critics Consensus: Buoyed by Robert Wise's dazzling direction, Leonard Bernstein's score, and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, West Side Story remains perhaps the most iconic of all the Shakespeare adaptations to visit the big screen.
Synopsis: A musical in which a modern day Romeo and Juliet are involved in New York street gangs. On the harsh... [More]

#1

The Witches (1990)
93%

#1
Adjusted Score: 95740%
Critics Consensus: With a deliciously wicked performance from Angelica Huston and imaginative puppetry by Jim Henson's creature shop, Nicolas Roeg's dark and witty movie captures the spirit of Roald Dahl's writing like few other adaptations.
Synopsis: While staying at a hotel in England with his grandmother, Helga (Mai Zetterling), young Luke (Jasen Fisher) inadvertently spies on... [More]
Directed By: Nicolas Roeg

London Has Fallen arrives in theaters this weekend, returning Gerard Butler to action as intrepid Secret Service agent Mike Banning — and bringing back Angela Bassett as his boss, Director Lynne Jacobs. It’s always a treat seeing Ms. Bassett on the big screen, so in honor of her return, we decided to dedicate this week’s list to a fond look back at some of the brighter critical highlights in her formidable filmography. It’s time for Total Recall!


Boyz N the Hood (1991) 96%

Boyz-N-The-Hood

One of the most sadly prescient films to come out of Hollywood in the last 25 years, writer-director John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood illustrated the conditions in South Central Los Angeles during a time when most filmgoers didn’t know anything about the area. Singleton, who was 24 when Boyz was released and would ultimately go on to become the youngest person (and first African-American) to earn a Best Director Academy Award nomination, outlined the area’s struggles through the stories of a group of young men: Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.), Ricky (Morris Chestnut), and Doughboy (Ice Cube). As Tre’s mother, Bassett made the most of an opportunity to play an overmatched single mom — and delivered her share of memorable moments in an early 1990s classic about the growing list of problems facing urban American communities. A hit at Cannes, the box office, and multiple awards associations, Boyz presaged the “hood film” genre — as well as endless cycles of the violence it depicted. “Singleton had his fingers on the pulse of South Central at a time when it desperately needed help,” wrote Filmcritic’s Matt McKillop. “It’s too bad we didn’t listen to him soon enough.”

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Malcolm X (1992) 89%

Malcolm-X

Producer Marvin Worth struggled for years to mount a film adaptation of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, with a long list of on- and offscreen talent filtering through the project over a period of several decades before director Spike Lee finally came aboard in 1991. Fortunately, he found himself with the bones of a solid script — and ended up commanding a strong cast that included Denzel Washington as the slain activist and Bassett, who earned an Image Award for her appearance as his wife Betty Shabazz. For all the difficulties leading up to its release, Malcolm X ultimately ended up reaping almost universal critical acclaim; as David Ansen wrote for Newsweek, “Lee and company have performed a powerful service: they have brought Malcolm X very much to life again, both as man and myth.”

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What's Love Got to Do With It (1993) 97%

WhatsLoveGotToDoWithIt
Bassett earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Tina Turner in this hit 1993 drama, which paired her with Laurence Fishburne (as Turner’s ex-husband and former musical partner, Ike) and offered an unsparing look at one of the most dramatic — and enduring — success stories in the history of modern American music. Even before the curtain went up audiences knew they were in for a killer soundtrack, but What’s Love Got to Do with It? offered a layered narrative and full-bodied performances to match the Turner tale’s impressive musical heft; as David Sterritt argued for the Christian Science Monitor, “Angela Bassett gives a superbly versatile performance as the heroine, and Laurence Fishburne’s portrayal of Ike Turner consolidates his status as one of the most expressive and intelligent actors in movies today.”

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Waiting to Exhale (1995) 60%

Waiting-to-Exhale

After proving she could carry a picture with What’s Love Got to Do with It, Bassett continued her successful mid-1990s run with Waiting to Exhale, an adaptation of the Terry McMillan novel about the unsettled love lives of a group of female friends. Part of a talented ensemble that included Whitney Houston, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon (not to mention Gregory Hines and Dennis Haysbert on the other side of this battle between the sexes), Bassett helped propel Exhale to over $81 million at the box office, marking first-time director Forest Whitaker as a talent to be reckoned with behind the cameras and setting the stage for her subsequent starring role in the McMillan-inspired How Stella Got Her Groove Back three years later. Although it wasn’t as popular with critics as it was with audiences, it did earn a number of positive reviews, including one from Roger Ebert, who called it “An escapist fantasy that women in the audience can enjoy by musing, ‘I wish I had her problems’ — and her car, house, wardrobe, figure and men, even wrong men.”

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How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998) 50%

How-Stell-Got-Her-Groove-Ba

Any discussion of Angela Bassett’s filmography would be incomplete without a look at How Stella Got Her Groove Back, the 1998 romantic dramedy — inspired by author Terry McMillan’s best-selling autobiographical novel — about a woman who falls for a much younger man (played by Taye Diggs) while on a Jamaican vacation. While critics were largely reluctant to groove along with the picture, it proved a somewhat modest success at the box office, turning in just under $40 million against a reported $20 million budget, and it did earn a share of acclaim, including Bassett’s NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture. If reviews were ultimately largely negative, Bassett’s work received plenty of critical acclaim; as Margaret A. McGurk wrote for the Cincinnati Enquirer, the movie “Gives Angela Bassett the full star treatment, and she gives it right back.”

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Music of the Heart (1999) 63%

Music-Of-The-Heart

After rejuvenating his career with the first two chapters in the Scream trilogy, director Wes Craven took a surprising turn into uplifting, reality-based drama with 1999’s Music of the Heart, the story of a Harlem violin teacher (played by Meryl Streep) whose dogged determination (and incredible luck) helped save a school arts program — and put her fundraising concert on stage at Carnegie Hall. It’s just the kind of true story that Hollywood loves to coat with corny melodrama, and while most critics agreed that Craven wasn’t immune to that impulse, they ultimately felt that Streep’s Oscar-nominated performance — along with solid work from a talented ensemble that included Bassett as her character’s principal — helped distinguish Music from similar films. “Some movies you want to see. Some movies you need to see,” wrote Liz Braun for Jam! Movies. “Music of the Heart is one of the latter.”

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Sunshine State (2002) 80%

Sunshine-State

Writer-director John Sayles offered Bassett a pair of early film roles in City of Hope (1991) and Passion Fish (1992), and while her appearances in both movies were brief, they helped give her a springboard into projects like Boyz N the Hood — so even if Sayles’ script for 2002’s Sunshine State had been subpar, it’s easy to imagine that Bassett would have jumped at the opportunity to work with him again. Happily, quality wasn’t an issue with this ensemble dramedy, which surveys events at pivotal moments in an array of intertwining lives in a small Florida town. Bassett won an Image Award for her work in the film, which the Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday described as “A densely layered, always absorbing whole.”

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Akeelah and the Bee (2006) 85%

Akeelah-And-The-Bee

From the instant you look at the poster, you know Akeelah and the Bee is going to be another one of those feel-good pictures about someone (in this case, a cute little girl) overcoming the odds to achieve an unlikely triumph in the final act. But as Roger Ebert is fond of pointing out, it isn’t a formula unless it works, and this is a perfect example of familiar ingredients being used in all the right ways. The story of Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer), an 11-year-old girl whose gift for spelling earns her a shot at national acclaim — but places stress on her relationship with her widowed mom (Angela Bassett) — Bee gave Bassett a chance to reunite with frequent co-star Fishburne, who played Akeelah’s coach. We probably don’t need to tell you how it all turns out, but what it lacks in surprises, it more than makes up in a smart script, some sensitive direction from Doug Atchison, and typically strong work from its cast. As the Denver Post’s Michael Booth put it, “Akeelah and the Bee carefully diagrams every cliche we’ve absorbed from sports movies, urban dramas, mentor flicks and precocious-children portraits. Yet it works.”

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American Horror Story 77%

America-Horror-Story

Bassett‘s made a number of TV appearances throughout her career, both as an episodic series guest and as a cast member in network movies, but she’s become more of a fixture in recent years. After booking a 16-episode arc on ER, she joined the cast of American Horror Story: Coven in 2013 — and evidently had quite a bit of fun, as she returned for AHS: Freak Show the following year and again for AHS: Hotel in 2015-’16. Of course, she’s far from alone on that front — Horror Story‘s long list of talented performers includes Jessica Lange, James Cromwell, Kathy Bates, and Connie Britton — and critics have largely enjoyed the ride; as an appreciative Brian Lowry wrote for Variety, “Where too many TV series become stale after a season or two, Horror Story has a proven ability to transform itself — not just season to season, but also episode to episode and sometimes even scene to scene — built into its creative DNA.”

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Chi-Raq (2015) 82%

Chi-Raq

More than 20 years after they united to award-winning effect with Malcolm X, Bassett and director Spike Lee teamed up again for Chi-Raq, a politically motivated satirical musical drama that uses Aristophanes’ Lysistrata as the basis for a story that imagines the gangbanger molls of Chicago banding together to deny their significant others sex until they agree to halt the city’s endless cycle of violence. It’s a story that seeks to balance an unwieldy assortment of tones, and its occasionally light treatment of real-life tragedies left some pundits disgruntled even before the movie made its premiere, but the end result enjoyed widespread critical acclaim. “It’s messy in places, as Lee’s movies tend to be. But there isn’t a moment that Chi-Raq isn’t alive,” wrote Stephanie Zacharek for TIME. “This is a deeply serious, biting picture that also has joy in its heart.”

Watch Trailer

For the fourth consecutive weekend, four or more new wide releases will cram into multiplexes trying to get at their piece of a dwindling box office pie.

Nicolas Cage targets his second trip to the top spot this year with the action film "Next," rival actioner "The Condemned" counters with Stone Cold Steve Austin in the lead, horror fans get yet another creepy tale with "The Invisible," and Jamie Kennedy goes for some laughs with "Kickin’ It Old Skool."

Mostly garbage titles were programmed into this weekend’s menu since any studio with a decent film would not risk getting crushed on the second weekend by the webslinger sequel. Including these newest films, the first four months of 2007 boasts 64 wide releases hitting the marketplace, up slightly from last year’s 60 but up sharply from the 42 over the same period in 2005. With a mass quantity of weak April films, look for the North American box office to plunge to its lowest point of the year this weekend during what is essentially the calm before Sandman’s storm hits next Thursday night at midnight.

Following his Marvel Comics hit "Ghost Rider," Nicolas Cage once again plays the action hero card with the sci-fi thriller "Next." The PG-13 film finds the Oscar winner playing a man with the ability to see into the future who is called in to foil a terrorist plot before it happens. Directed by Lee Tamahori ("Die Another Day," "Along Came A Spider"), "Next" has the advantage of having the most screens and the most starpower of any new release this weekend. Plus with current films rotting away quickly (9 of the 16 holdovers in the Top 20 last weekend plunged by more than 55%), competition will not be too fierce. Paramount has been giving "Next" a decent amount of marketing, that is for a film being dumped into the final weekend of a month starting with the letter A. In almost any other time of year this would get clobbered, but given the current alternatives it will make for the only reasonable choice for many moviegoers. Hence, a number one opening by default and quite possibly the weakest one of the year. Crashing into over 2,500 theaters, "Next" could reach the top with around $13M.


Cage and Biel required an escort when exiting the "Next" premiere.

"The Condemned" offers a reality show idea not likely to be on any network’s fall schedule. In the weekend’s sole R-rated film, death row inmates duke it out to the death in order to avoid being executed, all while television cameras capture every brutal moment. World Wrestling Entertainment head Vince McMahon produces behind the scenes while former superstar grappler Steve Austin stars in front of the camera. Other WWE stars who headlined recent feature films include Kane in last May’s "See No Evil" ($4.6M debut) and John Cena in last fall’s "The Marine" ($7.1M bow). Both films averaged less than $4,000 on their opening weekends. Young men will make up the only audience segment for the new Lionsgate title and "Next" will provide some direct action competition. Still some hardcore wrestling fans will turn up to theaters since a movie ticket will be cheaper than ordering a pay-per-view event. But overall, prospects seem bleak. "The Condemned" will attack 2,310 theaters and may end up with $6M.


Steve Austin and some unfortunate soul in "The Condemned."

As if moviegoers don’t have enough scary films to choose from, Buena Vista offers up one more with the supernatural thriller "The Invisible." The PG-13 film follows a high school student whose spirit wanders after a brutal accident. Fright flicks have been flopping left and right recently and there is no reason to believe that this one will turn things around. The marketing volume has been stuck on low as this remake of a Swedish pic is more of a spring cleaning film tossed into the marketplace hoping to be forgotten soon. With no starpower, there will be almost nothing driving in traffic. "The Invisible" will appear in over 2,000 theaters this Friday, but might only collect roughly $5M.


One of them is "The Invisible."

Jamie Kennedy headlines the new comedy "Kickin’ It Old Skool" playing a 1980s breakdancer that falls into a coma and awakens two decades later to a much different world. Yari Film Group is targeting teenagers with this PG-13 pic which essentially offers the same laughs as the comedian’s 2003 film "Malibu’s Most Wanted." That modest hit bowed in late April to $12.6M from 2,503 theaters on its way to a $34.4M domestic final. "Skool" does not have a big studio marketing push behind it but it may grab the attention of some young dudes killing time before Peter Parker busts into theaters. DVD is where most people will find this one. Breaking into 1,600 theaters, "Kickin’ It Old Skool" could find itself with around $5M over three days.


Jamie Kennedy and Webster kick it "Old Skool."

Among holdovers, two-time champ "Disturbia" will find it difficult to hold onto its crown given the arrival of Nicolas Cage. But Paramount won’t care as it should still claim the number one film for the fifth consecutive weekend. A 40% decline would give the Shia LaBeouf pic about $8M for the frame and a healthy $51M after 17 days. The Anthony HopkinsRyan Gosling thriller "Fracture" has been well-received and competition is not too fierce so a 40% drop could be in order as well. That would leave New Line with $6.5M and a ten-day tally of $21M.

LAST YEAR: Three new flicks topped the charts led by the family comedy "RV" starring Robin Williams which opened at number one with $16.4M. The Sony hit enjoyed stellar legs and went on to collect $71.3M. Universal followed in second with the 9/11 thriller "United 93" which debuted in half as many theaters with $11.5M. The critically acclaimed pic went on to gross $31.5M. Buena Vista’s gymnastics film "Stick It" bowed in third with $10.8M on its way to $26.9M. Rounding out the top five were "Silent Hill" with $9.3M and "Scary Movie 4" with $7.8M. Also opening was the spelling drama "Akeelah and the Bee" with a weak $6M leading to a $18.8M final for Lionsgate and its promotional partner Starbucks.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies brings us the profound discoveries of a great Kazak journalist ("Borat," starring Sacha Baron Cohen), a battle between Santa and Jack Frost ("The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," starring Tim Allen), and a tale of rats in the sewer ("Flushed Away," featuring the voice work of Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman). What do the critics have to say?

Jagshemash! Here in U.S and A., what do critic say about "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan?" They like! In fact, the scribes are almost universally pleased with the film, and some are going as far as calling it one of the funniest comedies ever. Part satire, part shockumentary, "Borat" follows the gleefully sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic title character (Cohen) on a cross-country trek to learn more about our strange nation; along the way he dredges up the seamy underbelly of American prejudice and ignorance. At 95 percent on the Tomatometer, "Borat" is not only Certified Fresh, it’s the best reviewed wide release of the year, topping such acclaimed movies as "Dave Chappelle’s Block Party," "The Departed," and "United 93." That’s a good thing, since Borat himself has said if the movie doesn’t do well, he will be execute.


Borat loves the U.S. and A.

It doesn’t sound like the most auspicious subject for a film: mice and rats are flushed down a toilet, where they find a bustling municipality in the sewer. However, in the hands of Aardman Productions, the endlessly imaginative company responsible for "Chicken Run" and "Wallace and Gromit," anything is possible. And so it is with "Flushed Away," which tells the upstairs-downstairs tale of a coddled mouse who finds action and adventure after a trip through the plumbing. Critics say that while "Flushed Away" may not achieve the dizzying heights of "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" (which scored 95 percent on the Tomatometer), it’s an eccentric, inventive family film with plenty of laughs. At 76 percent on the Tomatometer, "Flushed Away" is critically sanitized for your viewing pleasure.


Dive in! It’s fresh!

"The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," was barely screened for critics, much like star Tim Allen‘s last flick, "Zoom." The big difference is that "Clause" at least has a couple good reviews, whereas "Zoom" had none. The story of Santa’s duel with Jack Frost for control over Christmas, "Clause" hasn’t exactly enchanted the critics who have seen it; they say the movie is labored and mostly mirthless. It’s currently at 29 percent on the Tomatometer.


Yes, Virginia, there is a "Santa Clause 3."

Also opening this week in limited release: "Commune," a documentary about the Black Bear Ranch in California, is at 100 percent; "Romantico," a heartbreaking documentary about a musician working illegally in the U.S., is at 100 percent; Pedro Almodovar‘s "Volver," starring Penelope Cruz in a complex tale of womanhood, is Certified Fresh at 90 percent; "Wondrous Oblivion," the story of a boy and his neighbor who bond over the game of cricket, is at 60 percent; "Death & Texas," a death penalty satire, is at 60 percent; the twisty thriller "Unknown," starring Greg Kinnear, is at 29 percent; "Shottas," a based-on-true-events Jamaican crime flick, is at 20 percent; and "Zerophilia," a gender-bending rom-com, is at 18 percent.


Pedro Almodovar and Penelope Cruz take a spectral walk down memory lane with "Volver." Check out our retrospective of the Spanish director’s work here.

Finally, we’d like to bestow props upon the whimsically monikered killthemall4444, who correctly predicted that the equally whimsical "Saw III" would wind up with a Tomatometer of 28 percent. Congrats, ktm4444.

Best Reviewed Wide Releases of 2006:
————————————————
95% — Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
93% — Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
93% — The Departed
90% — United 93
88% — Inside Man
84%– Akeelah and the Bee
83% — Slither
83% — The Descent
80% — A Prairie Home Companion
79% — Catch a Fire

Recent Tim Allen Movies:
——————————–
0% — Zoom (2006)
28% — The Shaggy Dog (2006)
4% — Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
55% — The Santa Clause 2 (2002)
22% — Who Is Cletis Tout? (2002)

Recent Sacha Baron Cohen Movies:
———————————————
72% — Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
55% — Madagascar (2005)
55% — Ali G Indahouse: The Movie (2002)

This week at the movies, we’ve got cops and robbers in Boston ("The Departed," starring Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matt Damon), chainsaw massacres in Texas ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," starring Jordana Brewster), and retail employees in New Mexico ("Employee of the Month," starring Jessica Simpson and Dane Cook). What do the critics have to say?

Is Martin Scorsese America’s greatest living filmmaker? He’s certainly bolstering his case with "The Departed." The film, which is a loose remake of the Hong Kong thriller "Infernal Affairs," tells the story of two moles, one of whom (DiCaprio) a cop undercover within a Boston crime family led by Jack Nicholson, and the other (Damon) a hood who has infiltrated the police department. Critics say Scorsese has created a crime drama with the gritty authenticity and soupy morality that infused such past triumphs as "GoodFellas," with outstanding work from an excellent cast. At 96 percent on the Tomatometer, "The Departed" may signify a new arrival for the master director; Scorsese’s best reviewed wide release since "GoodFellas." And it’s not only Certified Fresh, but it’s also the best reviewed wide release of the year.


"Wait a minute… you’re telling me I ripped that ‘how do you like them apples’ line off from you?"

The lives of wage slaves are often grist for the cinema’s mill, whether comic ("Clerks"), dramatic ("One Hour Photo") or both ("The Good Girl"). Now comes "Employee of the Month," starring Cook as a slacker at a Costco-like box store who whips himself into shape when attractive new hire (Simpson) comes on board. Critics say the movie has a few good laughs, but Cook and Simpson lack chemistry, and the film doesn’t do much beyond showing employee antics. At 25 percent on the Tomatometer, audiences may want to hire a different "Employee."


"And these are called ‘numbers.’ I know, it’s confusing."

For horror fans who are interested in the origin of Leatherface, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" provides some back story on the Lone Star State’s scariest resident. It also provides oodles of gore, and a style reminiscent of the original. Unfortunately, the critics say it doesn’t provide enough scares to make the experience worthwhile. The plot involves a group of young adults headed to Mexico for a good time before two brothers go to fight in Vietnam; naturally, Leatherface curtails their enjoyment in a hurry. The scribes say the film is a little too rote, and at 14 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Chainsaw" doesn’t cut very deep. (Read RT’s interview with director Jonathan Liebesman here.)


"The unsuspecting teenagers wail/ along the trail/ deep in the heart of Texas"

Also opening this week in limited release: "Blood Tea and Red String," a handmade stop-motion fairy tale 13 years in the making, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; "So Goes the Nation," a documentary about the 2004 election season in Ohio, is at 100 percent; "49 Up," the latest in Michael Apted‘s remarkable documentary series about growing and changing in England, is at 94 percent; "Black Gold," a documentary about the global effects of the coffee trade, is at 88 percent; "Little Children," a tale of suburban angst starring Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Connelly, is at 79 percent; "Shortbus," John Cameron Mitchell‘s warmhearted exploration of unconventional sexuality, is at 68 percent; and "Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner," a documentary about the eponymous Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning scribe, is at 55 percent. And "The Queen," which is expanding this week, is at 98 percent, making it the third best reviewed limited release of the year.


"Blood Tea and Red String":"The King of Cartoons!"

Recent Martin Scorsese Movies:
—————————————
92% — No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005)
89% — The Aviator (2004)
77% — Gangs of New York (2002)
100% — My Voyage to Italy (2001)
72% — Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

Texas Chainsaw Massacres:
———————————-
86% — The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
50% — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
23% — Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1989)
16% — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
37% — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Best Reviewed Wide Releases Of 2006
————————————-
(Releases with at least 40 reviews)
96% — The Departed
93% — Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
93% — Little Miss Sunshine
90% — United 93
88% — Inside Man
84% — Akeelah and the Bee
83% — Slither
83% — The Descent
80% — A Prairie Home Companion
78% — The Devil Wears Prada

Best Reviewed Limited Releases Of 2006
—————————————
(Releases with at least 40 reviews)
98% — Kekexeli: Mountain Patrol
98% — The War Tapes
98% — The Queen
96% — Army of Shadows
95% — Wordplay
93% — Fateless
93% — Little Miss Sunshine
92% — The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
92% — An Inconvenient Truth
92% — Lassie

Magneto and his fellow mutants attracted a record-breaking audience to theaters across North America as the super hero sequel X-Men: The Last Stand became a juggernaut at the box office opening at number one over the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend.

No other studio dared to debut a competing film in wide release so last week’s top movies The Da Vinci Code and Over the Hedge placed second and third with muscular numbers of their own. Playing to different audience segments, the three hits joined forces to sell nearly $200M worth of tickets over the long Friday-to-Monday span making it the second largest Memorial Day weekend ever trailing 2004’s record frame by a slim margin.

Blasting past expectations, the third X-Men film dominated the scene grossing an estimated $120.1M over the long weekend from an ultrawide 3,690 venues. The Fox sequel averaged a jaw-dropping $32,554 over four days and set a new record for Memorial Day weekend beating two previous giants. Steven Spielberg‘s The Lost World held the opening record for this holiday with $92.7M over four days (including Thursday night previews) in 1997 while Shrek 2 held the record for the biggest overall gross for the frame when it brought in $95.6M while in its second weekend in 2004. Last Stand’s gross, which included roughly $5.9M from the first midnight shows on Thursday night, easily crushed both figures to claim the new record. However, based on ticket price increases over the years, Lost World still sold more tickets over its holiday bow. Utilizing the industry’s average ticket prices for today and 1997, the dinosequel sold about 20 million tickets compared to roughly 19 million for the new mutant pic.

During the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the holiday weekend, the new X-Men pic grossed a stunning $103.1M making it the fourth largest bow in history after three other May smashes – Spider-Man ($114.8M in 2002), Star Wars Episode III ($108.4M in 2005), and Shrek 2 ($108M in 2004). According to Fox, Friday opened with $45.5M which ranks as the second largest opening day in history (after the $50M Thursday debut for Episode III) and the biggest Friday gross ever. Saturday saw sales slump a troubling 29% to $32.1M while Sunday experienced a reasonable 20% drop to $25.5M. Monday is estimated to bring in about $17M. The three-day average soared to an amazing $27,947. Super hero sequels typically draw immense numbers on the first day due to fan hysteria so a Saturday drop was expected. But, the decline was extraordinarily large and could indicate that fans are not liking the new film as much as the first two.


2002’s "Spider-Man"

The latest X-Men tale flexed more muscle than industry watchers had predicted opening above the highest of expectations. As Tom Cruise learned recently, many fans can often lose interest in a franchise by its third installment. But Wolverine and pals kept getting mightier beating the $85.6M debut of 2003’s X2: X-Men United and the $54.5M of 2000’s X-Men. Those films went on to reach $214.9M and $157.3M, respectively. Given its gargantuan start, The Last Stand stands an excellent chance of becoming the highest-grossing pic in the trilogy joining rare hits like The Return of the King and Austin Powers in Goldmember which were also tops in their franchises.

Fox and Marvel Entertainment managed to reteam the major players from the previous X-Men films to star in the third installment. Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Rebecca Romijn all were back once again and were joined by two new players. Kelsey Grammer appeared on screen as the blue mutant Beast while behind the scenes, Brett Ratner took over the director’s chair from Bryan Singer who was hired to helm Superman Returns which opens in a month. The production cost for The Last Stand was $165M. Overseas, the mutant sequel launched in almost all markets and grossed an estimated $80M giving Fox a $200M global debut. Unlike most action films, the X-Men films have actually grossed more domestically than internationally with the first two installments both collecting 53% of their global grosses from North America.

The road ahead is not too bumpy for The Last Stand. Large drops are expected, of course. However, next weekend will see only one new film enter wide release – The Break-Up starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. In fact, studios have filled the June weeks between X-Men and Superman with a string of comedies so as to not compete against the comic book titans. June 9 will have the animated comedy Cars open, Jack Black‘s Nacho Libre launches on June 16, and Adam Sandler‘s Click debuts on June 23. Fox is hoping the lack of action and sci-fi competition will help X-Men: The Last Stand hold up in the weeks ahead to surpass the studio’s other hit sequel, Ice Age: The Meltdown, to become the year’s top-grossing film.

After a mammoth opening weekend of its own, Sony’s The Da Vinci Code slipped to second place in its sophomore frame but still managed to sell an estimated $43M in tickets over four days boosting its stellar 11-day cume to $145.5M. Over the Friday-to-Sunday portion however, the Ron Howard blockbuster tumbled a disturbing 56% indicating that the religious thriller may not last too long. Last year, Star Wars Episode III, which also launched on the weekend before the Memorial Day holiday frame, dropped 49% in its sophomore session while 2004’s Shrek 2 dipped 33%.


Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in "The Da Vinci Code"

Still, Da Vinci continues to be a major force in the industry here and abroad where it hauled in an additional $92M this weekend. That boosted the international total to $320M giving the Tom Hanks film a jaw-dropping worldwide tally of $465M in less than two weeks. Overseas, the holds have been better even though Code has had to battle X-Men in most major markets. France was down 30%, Japan slipped just 19%, Germany was off only 18%, and Holland was actually up 9%, according to studio data. Domestically, the $125M production should find its way past the $200M mark while globally, it may shoot past the $700M milestone.


"Over the Hedge"

Kidpic Over the Hedge enjoyed a terrific second weekend raking in an estimated $35.3M from families with extra time off for the holiday. The three-day portion witnessed a decline of only 30% for Paramount which is good news since the animated film did not open as powerfully as other recent digital toons. After 11 days, Hedge has collected a solid $84.4M. By comparison, 2004’s Shark Tale grossed $87.4M in its first ten days on its way to $160.8M while last year’s Chicken Little took in $80.4M in its first ten days leading to a $135.4M final. Hedge, which will have no real competition to deal with until the June 9 release of Cars from Disney and Pixar, could be on a course to reach the neighborhood of $150M from North America.

A pair of underperforming action flicks from early May rounded out the top five. Paramount’s Tom Cruise vehicle Mission: Impossible III dropped to an estimated $8.6M to boost its cume to $115.8M. Warner Bros. followed with the disaster film Poseidon which took in an estimated $7M in its third voyage to put its total at just $46.6M to date.

Sony saw its four-day gross for the family comedy RV rise 6% compared to last weekend’s three-day take. The Robin Williams hit laughed up an estimated $5.3M pushing the sum to $57.2M. Seventh place went to the Lionsgate horror entry See No Evil which grossed an estimated $3.2M giving the fright pic a modest $9.2M in 11 days.

The Lindsay Lohan flop Just My Luck collected an estimated $2.3M in eighth place giving Fox only $13.9M to date. Universal took in an estimated $1.1M with its 9/11 thriller United 93 lifting the cume to $29.9M. The spookfest An American Haunting rounded out the top ten with an estimated $937,000. The total for the Freestyle Releasing title is a mere $14.9M.


Al Gore in "An Inconvenient Truth"

Setting the limited release box office on fire was the global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth which opened in only four theaters but grossed a hefty $366,000, according to estimates. That gave the Al Gore pic a stunning average of $91,447 per location over four days. Distributed by Paramount Vantage, the new incarnation of Paramount Classics, Truth collected $282,000 over the Friday-to-Sunday portion averaging a scorching $70,585. Total since Wednesday stands at $489,000. Opening this weekend on multiple screens at a pair of theaters in both New York and Los Angeles, Truth will add about 60 more playdates on Friday and expand throughout June hoping to become the dominant doc of the summer.

The spelling bee drama Akeelah and the Bee dropped out of the top ten after a decent four-week run. In its fifth frame, the Lionsgate release grossed an estimated $830,000 over four days to boost its cume to $17M. The distributor teamed up with Starbucks to finance and promote Akeelah which did not perform especially well. However, the PG-rated film had low expectations to begin with so it is difficult to tell whether the involvement of the coffee giant had any real impact.

The top ten films over the four-day span grossed an estimated $226.8M which was up 1% from last year when Star Wars Episode III remained at number one with $70M over the holiday; but off 4% from 2004 when Shrek 2 stayed in the top spot with a then-record $95.6M in four days.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Tom Cruise‘s spy sequel Mission: Impossible III remained the most popular film in North America for the second straight weekend while the big-budget disaster film Poseidon opened in second place to disappointing results.

The frame’s other new releases, the Lindsay Lohan comedy Just My Luck and the soccer drama Goal! The Dream Begins, opened miserably as well giving the industry little to celebrate. Overall ticket sales fell behind those of the comparable weekend in each of the last four years as a sluggish marketplace waits for that one true summer blockbuster that draws the masses into the multiplexes.

Despite a weaker-than-expected opening weekend, Paramount’s MI3 enjoyed a respectable sophomore frame dropping 49% to an estimated $24.5M to retain its standing as the number one film. Playing in an ultrawide 4,059 theaters, the Ethan Hunt actioner averaged a solid $6,039 per location and raised its ten-day total to $84.6M. The decline was very similar to the 48% second weekend fall for last summer’s big spy flick Mr. & Mrs. Smith which grossed $26M in its sophomore shot after a $50.3M bow. The Pitt-Jolie vehicle, however, captured a more muscular $96.7M in its first ten days thanks in part to a June release when more students were out of school.

With so many action sequels tumbling by 55% or more on the second weekend, Mission: Impossible III managed to hold up relatively well. Competition from Poseidon was not formidable so moviegoers were not drawn away to another big event pic. The latest Ethan Hunt film will face its true test this Friday when the much-anticipated thriller The Da Vinci Code starring that other Tom opens followed a week later by the mutant juggernaut X-Men: The Last Stand. At its current pace, look for MI3 to reach $130-140M domestically making it the lowest grossing installment of the decade-old franchise. The first Mission: Impossible grossed $181M in 1996 while MI2 took in $215.4M in 2000. Overseas, MI3 jumped to $129.2M in foreign sales putting the worldwide tally at $213.8M in under two weeks. The global box office gross looks to be on a trajectory to hit $350M.

Failing to sink Cruise’s ship, the ocean liner disaster pic Poseidon settled for the runner-up spot this weekend opening with an estimated $20.3M from 3,555 locations. Warner Bros. generated a decent but not impressive per-theater average of $5,717 with its first pricey entry of the summer movie season. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm, Air Force One), the PG-13 film was a remake of the 1972 picture The Poseidon Adventure and starred Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, and Richard Dreyfuss as passengers on a luxury ship who must fight to survive after a rogue wave capsizes the vessel. Poseidon opened weaker than other big-budget maritime action films like 2003’s Master and Commander ($25.1M), 2000’s The Perfect Storm ($41.3M), and even 1995’s infamous Waterworld ($21.2M).

Although audiences in years past have flocked to May disaster films like Twister, Deep Impact, and The Day After Tomorrow, this time Poseidon lacked the goods to draw in a paying audience. Reviews were not kind which also made the adult-skewing picture a tough sell. Varying reports on the film’s budget put the production cost in excess of $160M so a stellar run internationally and on DVD will be needed in order to turn a profit. Poseidon set sail in a handful of Asian countries to the tune of $4.4M this weekend, but will open in most foreign territories in June and July.

Once again scoring the best hold among all wide releases was the Robin Williams family comedy RV which dipped a mere 14% in its third weekend to an estimated $9.5M. The Sony hit has collected a solid $42.8M in 17 days.

Ticket buyers ignored Lindsay Lohan’s new film Just My Luck which flopped in its opening weekend grossing a mere $5.5M, according to estimates. The Fox release averaged an unlucky $2,165 per location and played almost exclusively to a teen girl audience. Studio research showed that the crowd for Luck was a remarkably high 80% female and 70% under the age of 25. Critics, not surprisingly, panned the film.

Horror flick An American Haunting enjoyed a solid sophomore session dropping only 36% to an estimated $3.7M for fifth place. Distributed by Freestyle Releasing, the PG-13 thriller has banked $10.9M in ten days and should scare its way to a mediocre $17-19M. Universal’s 9/11 thriller United 93 followed with an estimated $3.6M, down just 33%, lifting the cume to a decent $25.6M.

The teen gymnastics pic Stick It dropped 41% to an estimated $3.2M to land in the number seven spot with a total to date of $22.2M for Buena Vista. Fox’s animated sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown, still the top-grossing film of 2006, grossed an estimated $3M sliding just 29% in its seventh weekend. No other film has spent as many weeks in the top ten this year. Cume stands at $187.4M domestically and over $600M worldwide.

Sony’s fright pic Silent Hill placed ninth with an estimated $2.2M, off 45%, for a sum of $44.5M thus far. The New Line flop Hoot fell 37% to an estimated $2.1M in its second outing as the total inched up to a dismal $6.2M. Last weekend, the owl film had the distinction of suffering the worst opening in history for a film debuting in over 3,000 theaters. Hoot’s puny $3.4M bow in 3,018 sites beat out the dismal $6M launch from 3,006 theaters of 2004’s New York Minute starring the Olsen Twins for that unfortunate honor.

Another film failing to connect with kids was Buena Vista’s new soccer drama Goal! The Dream Begins which kicked off its run with a weak estimate of only $2M. The PG-rated film failed to qualify for the top ten this weekend and averaged a poor $1,989 from 1,007 locations.

Two April releases fell from the top ten this weekend. The spoof comedy Scary Movie 4 dropped 44% to an estimated $2.1M in its fifth frame. With $86.6M to date, The Weinstein Co. release looks to finish with roughly $90M which would not be far off from the $110M of its predecessor 2003’s Scary Movie 3. The Lionsgate family drama Akeelah and the Bee declined 41% to an estimated $2M in only its third turn. Cume sits at just $13.6M and should reach $16-18M.

Opening in limited release this weekend, Miramax’s family reunion comedy Keeping Up with the Steins grossed an estimated $621,000 from 138 locations for a respectable $4,500 average. The PG-13 film stars Garry Marshall, Jeremy Piven, and Daryl Hannah. The Swaziland-set drama Wah-Wah debuted in 25 theaters and grossed an estimated $57,000 for a mild $2,270 average. Starring Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, and Emily Watson, the R-rated film is distributed by Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Among indie films expanding into more markets, Sony Classics grossed an estimated $1.2M from its comedy Art School Confidential after widening from 12 to 762 theaters across the country. That left the John MalkovichAnjelica Huston starrer with a pitiful $1,593 average per venue as it failed to register with moviegoers on a national level. Cume is $1.4M. Fox Searchlight expanded its Indian drama Water from 36 to 62 locations and grossed an estimated $257,000 for a $4,138 average. Total sits at $593,000 with more markets opening on Friday.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $77.7M which was down 15% from last year when Monster-in-Law opened at number one with $23.1M; and down 23% from 2004 when Troy debuted in the top spot with $46.9M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, BoxOfficeGuru.com

Tom Cruise climbed into his usual number one spot at the box office with his heavily-hyped spy sequel Mission: Impossible III, however ticket sales fell below most industry expectations as the debut was not spectacular.

The weekend’s other new releases, the horror flick An American Haunting and the kid drama Hoot, both generated lukewarm openings. But thanks to a weak early May in 2005, the overall marketplace still beat out last year for the seventh consecutive frame.

Paramount claimed the top spot with MI3 which invaded a staggering 4,054 theaters collecting an estimated $48M in ticket sales over the Friday-to-Sunday period. The third installment in the decade-old franchise averaged a potent $11,846 per venue. But Tom Cruise’s box office muscles were expected to lift the tally much higher given all the factors that were working in the $150M film’s favor. The newest Mission pic obviously had plenty of starpower but with its early May bow, it had virtually no competition in the multiplexes to deal with. Plus the studio’s marketing hype was deafening, the pic opened in the second highest number of theaters in history for a live-action film (behind Spider-Man 2‘s 4,152), and even the reviews were mostly favorable. That was a welcome bonus as critics are rarely kind to big-budget action sequels.

According to studio research, MI3 connected with the same audience that the previous two did. Men made up 56% of the crowd and 64% were age 25 or older. Joining Cruise in the PG-13 film’s cast were Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, and recent Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Openings for other high-profile action films debuting on the first weekend of May include $68.1M for 2001’s The Mummy Returns, $85.6M for 2003’s X2: X-Men United, and $51.7M for 2004’s Van Helsing. MI3 didn’t even reach the level of Van Helsing. In fact, its opening gross was even weaker than that of Mission: Impossible 2 which launched over Memorial Day weekend six years ago with $57.8M over three days, $70.8M over four days, and $91.8M over its six-day Wednesday-to-Monday span. Even with higher ticket prices, a Friday bow, and hundreds of more theaters, MI3 still failed to reach the heights of MI2. Adjusting for inflation, MI3’s opening was the weakest among the Ethan Hunt flicks. The first Mission bowed to $74.9M over its six-day holiday frame in May 1996 including $45.4M over the Friday-to-Sunday span.

Instead, the new J.J. Abrams-directed IMF saga opened in the same neighborhood as other recent star-driven spy films like last summer’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith ($50.3M), 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy ($52.5M), and 2002’s James Bond film Die Another Day ($47.1M). Although opening near the $50M mark over three days is an impressive feat, Cruise’s new film was backed by one of the most expensive marketing campaigns in recent memory. The highly-paid star/producer attended premieres all around the world, popped up on major talk shows and magazine covers, and press coverage, not surprisingly, was non-stop.

Industry watchers must now wonder – was there too much marketing? Were audiences sick and tired of hearing and seeing Tom Cruise everywhere? Did they really want to spend money seeing even more of him? Media-saavy moviegoers voted with their dollars and those who seemed to have had enough chose to stay away. The MI3 hype machine brought back memories of Sony’s Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle from three years ago. That action sequel also arrived in theaters on a disturbingly loud wave of promotion revolving around its flamboyant stars and Demi Moore‘s relationship with Ashton Kutcher which was constantly covered on the airwaves. Despite the pricey marketing investment, Throttle debuted weaker than expected with $37.6M and crumbled 63% in its sophomore frame.


Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

Paramount was pleased with the international results for Mission: Impossible III as the actioner took in an estimated $70M over the weekend opening in almost all major markets around the world except for Japan. The spy sequel blanketed the globe with roughly 9,500 theaters in 55 markets putting its worldwide opening weekend tally at $118M. The ratio between sales outside and within North America remained the same as with previous Mission pics. The 1996 original grossed 61% of its $465M global tally overseas while MI2 took in 60% of its $538M internationally. This weekend, 60% of MI3’s dollars came from abroad.

With no major competition for the family audience, the Robin Williams comedy RV enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten easing just 32% to an estimated $11.1M. The Sony release dropped one notch following its top spot bow and has grossed a solid $31M to date. In just ten days, RV has already become the second biggest live-action grosser for Williams in the past seven years after the $67.4M of 2002’s Insomnia. Look for the $50M road trip flick to end its journey in the neighborhood of $60M.


R.V.

Opening in third place was the supernatural thriller An American Haunting which scared up an estimated $6.4M in ticket sales in its first three days. The PG-13 film averaged a decent $3,825 from 1,668 theaters. Reviews were mostly negative for the Donald SutherlandSissy Spacek starrer about a possessed young woman in the 1800s. Distributor Freestyle Releasing’s weekend estimate included an unusually low Saturday-to-Sunday decline of less than 5%. Final grosses released on Monday could see the figure come down.


"An American Haunting," "Stick It," and "United 93"

The gymnastics comedy Stick It tumbled 49% in its second weekend to an estimated $5.5M giving Buena Vista $18M in ten days. Look for the teen pic to reach $27-29M which is commendable for its genre. After a solid takeoff last weekend, the 9/11 hijack thriller United 93 declined a substantial 55% in its sophomore frame and grossed an estimated $5.2M. After ten days, Universal’s $15M pic has collected $20.1M and should find its way to roughly $30M domestically.

Fox’s Ice Age: The Meltdown dropped 45% to an estimated $4M in its sixth frame to boost its cume to $183.3M. Crumbling 58% in its third spook was Sony’s fright flick Silent Hill which grossed an estimated $3.9M lifting the cume to $40.8M.


"Ice Age: The Meltdown," "Silent Hill," and "Scary Movie 4"

The spoof sequel Scary Movie 4 fell 52% to an estimated $3.8M and brought its total to $83.7M. The Starbucks-promoted kid drama Akeelah and the Bee enjoyed a respectable second weekend hold dropping 43% to an estimated $3.4M. After ten days, the Lionsgate release has still only grossed $10.7M and seems likely to finish close to $20M.

Opening to dismal results with an estimated $3.4M from 3,018 theaters was the kid drama Hoot from New Line. The PG-rated story of a group of boys who set out to save endangered owls averaged a pitiful $1,127 per location. Fans of the best-selling book apparently avoided the film adaptation and critics for the most part were unimpressed.


"Akeelah and the Bee," "Hoot," and "The Promise"

A handful of films opened in limited release to mixed results. Warner Independent debuted the Chinese epic The Promise in 213 theaters but grossed only $271,000 according to estimates for a poor $1,272 average. The Golden Globe-nominated adventure was China’s official submission to this year’s Oscars and is reportedly that country’s most expensive film ever made. U.S. critics were not very pleased.

Sony Classics bowed its indie comedy Art School Confidential which grossed an estimated $142,000 from a dozen sites in New York and Los Angeles averaging a strong $11,833 per site. The Terry Zwigoff-directed film expands to nearly 800 theaters in most major markets on Friday. ThinkFilm debuted its Edward Norton starrer Down in the Valley to an estimated $26,000 from three New York houses for a solid $8,770 average. The film widens to three more cities on Friday before gradually expanding throughout May.


"Art School Confidential"

Among holdovers, Fox Searchlight expanded its widow drama Water from five to 36 theaters and grossed an estimated $188,000 for a $5,222 average. The ten-day total stands at $270,000 and this Friday the Deepa Mehta film will widen to about 60 sites. The distributor’s indie sensation Thank You for Smoking collected an estimated $1.1M, off 40%, for a $20M cume.

Three April releases were pushed out of the top ten this weekend. The Michael Douglas political thriller The Sentinel took a big hit from MI3 and crashed 62% to an estimated $3M putting its 17-day cume at $30.9M. Fox should find its way to about $36M. Disney’s underperforming toon The Wild slumped 46% to an estimated $2.6M. With only $32M in the bank, the animated film looks to conclude with $36-38M. Sony, on the other hand, has generated solid numbers for its sports comedy The Benchwarmers which grossed an estimated $2M this weekend. Down 54%, the Rob SchneiderDavid Spade film has taken in $55.6M thus far and is set to end with just under $60M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $94.7M which was up a healthy 24% from last year when Kingdom of Heaven opened at number one with $19.6M; but off 4% from 2004 when Van Helsing debuted in the top spot with $51.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, BoxOfficeGuru.com

Proving that farcical family vacations are more enticing than gymnastics, spelling bees, and historical plane crashes, Sony’s "RV" landed atop the weekend box office tally by grossing an estimated $16.4 million from over 3,600 theaters. Because nothing says "box office hit" like a good septic tank gag.

Debuting in second place (and 1,800 theaters) was Universal’s lauded and controversial "United 93," which managed about $11.6 million in its opening frame, while Disney’s gymnastics flick "Stick It" was a close third, grossing approximately $11.2 million from just over 2,000 theaters.

Fourth and fifth place went to a pair of horror-related hangers-on: Sony’s "Silent Hill" added another $9.3 million to its $34.2 million total, and Dimension’s "Scary Movie 4" yanked another $7.8 million out of moviegoers’ pockets, giving it a grand total of $78.1 million.

Lionsgate’s "Akeelah and the Bee" debuted to relatively meager numbers by pulling in only $6.2 million from 2,200 theaters.

The summer movie officially kicks off next weekend with the arrival of Paramount’s "Mission: Impossible III," New Line’s family flick "Hoot," and Freestyle’s fact-based chiller "An American Haunting."

For a closer peek at the weekend numbers, click on over to the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page.

This week we have "United 93," a somber movie about 9/11. We also have lighter fare in "RV," "Stick It" and "Akeelah." What do the critics have to say?

Is it too soon for the studios to make movies about the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001? Directed by Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday) with a cast of unknowns, "United 93" re-enacts the hijacking of United Airlines flight 93 and its eventual crash into a field in Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board. Critics say, while difficult to watch, "United 93" is made with skill and treats the subject matter with respect, never resorting to the aggrandizement Hollywood is known for. As of this writing, "United 93" is Certified Fresh with a Tomatometer reading of 93%, the best-reviewed drama of 2006 for movies with at least 50 reviews.

If you’ve been to a Starbucks lately, you’ll notice that you’re seeing more on the walls and chalkboards than art decor and beverage suggestions. It’s hard to miss those "Akeelah and the Bee" note cards and stickers. That’s because besides making caffeinated beverages, Starbucks is dabbling in movies as well. The movie centers on Akeelah who, through the tutelage of a mentor played by Laurence Fishburne, rises above the odds to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee contest. Despite its predictability, "Akeelah" is doing quite well with the critics, scoring 84% on the Tomatometer. Critics say its star Keke Palmer‘s winning performance makes it easy to forgive the film’s flaws.

If "Stick It" does well at the box office, will we see the writer of "Bring It On" pen a movie about sychronized swimming? For all we know, that script is probably done, just waiting for a greenlight from studio execs. While that movie may hold promise, "Stick It" fails to score well with the critics with a reading of 21% on the Tomatometer. Filled with teen speak and shopworn cliches, the movie may appeal to teenage mallrats, they say.

In Robin Williams‘ latest comedy "RV," his family dreads the prospect of taking an extended road trip with him in a Winnebago, and with a reading of 32% on the Tomatometer, so do the critics. The reason? The movie’s not that funny. While "RV" does have the occasional chuckle, it’s a mediocre effort at best.

Notable Paul Greengrass Movies:
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81% — The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
91% — Bloody Sunday (2002)
59% — The Theory of Flight (1998)

Recent movies about the Spelling Bee:
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41% — Bee Season (2005)
98% — Spellbound (2003)

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