(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: 84712%
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: 83716%
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: 88037%
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: 85791%
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: 90698%
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: 86387%
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: 87142%
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: 85777%
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: 86156%
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: 85369%
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: 90973%
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: 88285%
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: 94672%
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: 90763%
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: 93148%
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: 93642%
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: 93088%
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: 91437%
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: 92783%
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: 93151%
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: 95697%
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: 92591%
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: 93523%
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: 93742%
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: 95323%
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: 93871%
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: 99672%
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: 104866%
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: 96052%
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: 101853%
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: 100131%
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: 99635%
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: 96825%
Critics Consensus: Beyoncé is King.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Starring: Beyoncé
Directed By: Beyoncé

#55

Good Hair (2009)
95%

#55
Adjusted Score: 97566%
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: 105705%
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: 106177%
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: 99978%
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: 103896%
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: 98844%
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: 99745%
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: 98272%
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: 98072%
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: 97928%
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: 100533%
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: 106616%
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: 103086%
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: 100832%
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: 104636%
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: 104591%
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: 102697%
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: 102830%
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: 103900%
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: 101626%
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: 105201%
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: 107956%
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: 106725%
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: 104012%
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: 108690%
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: 112556%
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: 108279%
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: 109456%
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: 117280%
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: 110298%
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: 113487%
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: 116986%
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: 119524%
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: 118344%
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: 110567%
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: 116705%
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: 111031%
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: 123133%
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: 121248%
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: 128249%
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: 127302%
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: 128729%
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

There’s something so exciting about the arrival of a new voice on the movie scene. Sure, we love to see the veterans and masters do their thing, but it’s that adrenaline rush that comes with discovery and potential that really drives a lot of film lovers. When we see an amazing debut, we not only appreciate it on its own, but we can imagine all the great movies to come from people like Jordan Peele, Greta Gerwig, Ryan Coogler, and Ari Aster. It’s a glimpse of the future.

This list of some of the greatest directorial debuts of the 2010s offers a vision of the future of filmmaking that’s diverse, ambitious, daring, and brilliant. We chose the directors based on Tomatometer scores, the impact of their work (awards, box office, general adulation), and, in many cases, the work they would go on to make after their debut or the projects they have teed up. Names like Barry Jenkins and Damien Chazelle may seem like omissions, but they actually had films released pre-2010; other names, like this year’s Phillip Youmans, who made his Certified Fresh debut while still in high school, arguably deserved a place, but we kept to a strict 30 slots. It could have been a much, much longer list.

Without further ado or caveat, here are 30 incredible directing debuts from the last decade. We may be looking back, but it’s because we’re so excited about what’s ahead.


Derek Cianfrance: Blue Valentine (2010) 86%

(Photo by Davi Russo/©The Weinstein Company/courtesy Everett Collection)

When he was barely more than a teenager, Derek Cianfrance wrote and directed a small project called Brother Tied that didn’t get a theatrical release, so most consider this 2010 drama his debut. And what a debut! It helps to have two of the best actors of their generation delivering at the top of their game, which is what Cianfrance got from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling as a couple whom we watch disintegrate in front of our eyes. Both were nominated for Golden Globes and Cianfrance would go on to work with Gosling again in 2012’s Certified Fresh The Place Beyond the Pines.


Ava DuVernay: I Will Follow (2010) 82%

I Will Follow

(Photo by ©AFFRM/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Given how much she would go on to accomplish with acclaimed works like Selma, 13th, and When They See Us – not to mention as a producer and mentor – it’s almost hard to believe that Ava DuVernay’s directorial debut came just this decade. The former publicist turned heads with this independent drama about a woman (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) forced to take care of a sick aunt (Beverly Todd). Shot in only 11 days on a shoestring budget, it’s easy to see the talent that would turn DuVernay into a household name over the next 10 years.


Dee Rees: Pariah (2011) 95% 

PARIAH, Adepero Oduye, 2011 (Focus Features/ Everett Collection)

(Photo by Focus Features/ Everett Collection)

Long before her Oscar-nominated Mudbound, Dee Rees wrote and directed this 2011 Sundance gem, a film about a young woman dealing with her emerging homosexuality. Adepero Oduye stars as Alike, a 17-year-old who becomes more comfortable with her lesbian identity, even as she faces pushback from her family and community. It’s a tender, honest film that only makes one wish that Rees would work more often – it was six years between Sundance premieres for the filmmaker.


J.C. Chandor: Margin Call (2011) 87% 

Margin Call

(Photo by Jojo Whilden/©Roadside Attractions/courtesy Everett Collection)

Sometimes a great new director is announced with a small, intimate cast – sometimes it’s with a ridiculous ensemble that includes more than one Oscar winner. J.C. Chandor was blessed enough to find himself directing Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto, and more in this riveting look at the beginning of the financial crisis that was still fresh in investors’ minds when the film was released in 2011. Chandor used this well-received film as a launchpad and directed three other Fresh films before the decade was over – All is Lost, A Most Violent Year, and Triple Frontier.


Benh Zeitlin: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) 86% 

Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild (Copyright Fox Searchlight./Courtesy Everett Collection)

(Photo by Fox Searchlight./Courtesy Everett Collection)

Most Sundance veterans will tell you that they remember specific world premieres, one of them being the 2012 launch of Beasts of the Southern Wild, a heartfelt, poetic look at childhood that would go on to land Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director. (It would also gift us with an incredible on-camera talent in Quvenzhané Wallis.) There’s something transcendent about this film, which announced a major new talent who took way too long to make a follow-up. The good news is that Zeitlin finally has finally done that: Wendy will also have its world premiere at Sundance in January 2020, and it will likely be the hottest ticket of the festival.


Drew Goddard: The Cabin in the Woods (2011) 92% 

Cabin in the Woods

(Photo by Diyah Pera/©Lionsgate)

Fans of Drew Goddard’s writing on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lost weren’t too shocked to discover he could also write and direct a kick-ass movie too, but even they were a little blown away by this modern horror classic. Subverting the tropes of most scary stories about beautiful people in remote cabins, Goddard’s directorial debut was a much-needed jolt of genre adrenaline at a time when audiences weren’t really taking horror movies all that seriously. He would go on to write The Martian and write and direct another subversive puzzle film, 2018’s Bad Times at the El Royale.


Lorene Scafaria: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012) 55% 

Seeking A Friend For the End of the World

(Photo by Darren Michaels/©Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Before she gave the world Hustlers, Lorene Scafaria wrote and directed this quirky comedy starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley in what’s basically a pre-apocalyptic buddy movie. When it’s announced that an asteroid is going to hit the planet, Carell’s sad sack goes on a road trip with his neighbor to find the true love of his life before it’s too late. Scafaria proved adept at directing performers, a skill further deployed in 2015’s The Meddler and 2019’s Hustlers, which is starting to rack up awards this season.


Joshua Oppenheimer: The Act of Killing (2012) 95% 

Act Of Killing

(Photo by ©Drafthouse Films/courtesy Everett Collection)

After producing films in Indonesia in the 2000s, Joshua Oppenheimer decided to make his first feature documentary about the open wound in that country, namely the mass genocide that took place from 1965 to 1966, the perpetrators of which were never brought to justice. His masterstroke is in allowing the violent war criminals to reenact their own crimes, using the power of the camera against them. The final scenes, in which one of the leaders of the death squad finally comes to terms with his own sinful past, are unforgettable. Don’t miss the companion film, The Look of Silence.


Ryan Coogler: Fruitvale Station (2013) 94% 

Fruitvale Station

(Photo by ©Weinstein Company/courtesy Everett Collection)

Few directors have made as much of an impact in a relatively small amount of time as Ryan Coogler, who has directed three films and has yet to notch a Tomatometer score under 94%. Everyone on Earth knows about Creed and Black Panther, but his debut was back in 2013 with Fruitvale Station, the true story of the tragic murder of Oscar Grant, a young man killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer in 2009. It was also the first major film role for Michael B. Jordan, who would go on to star in all of Coogler’s films. Their relationship seems likely to produce quality through the next decade and beyond.


Andy Muschietti: Mama (2013) 63% 

Mama

(Photo by George Kraychyk/©Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

The life of Argentinian filmmaker Andres Muschietti changed forever when Guillermo del Toro saw a three-minute short he made with his sister called Mama — he would go on to develop it into a feature under the eye of del Toro. Jessica Chastain gives a fearless performance as a woman trying to deal with two children found in the woods, protected by a supernatural entity known only as Mama. Muschietti proved he had enough of a gift with atmosphere here that WB tapped him to direct two of the biggest horror movies of the decade in the It flicks. And it all started with the right person seeing just a few minutes of film.


Jennifer Kent: The Babadook (2014) 98% 

(Photo by ©IFC Midnight/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Australian writer-director Jennifer Kent shook Park City and then the rest of the world in 2014, when she dropped her fable of parental grief and fear in the amazing The Babadook. Adapting her own short film, Monster, Kent directed Essie Davis in the story of a single mother trying to deal with the sudden loss of her husband while raising a troublesome child. Oh, and there’s a horrible creature in the basement too. (Or is there?) The wave of highbrow horror that ended the 2010s likely doesn’t crest as high without The Babadook, a masterpiece of tension that weaves relatable emotions into a ghost story and felt like an instant classic the first time we saw it. Kent followed it with this year’s Certified Fresh The Nightingale.


Justin Simien: Dear White People (2014) 91%

(Photo by ©Roadside Attractions/courtesy Everett Collection)

Don’t take just our word for it: Sundance named Justin Simien a “Breakthrough Talent” by giving him a special award after the world premiere of his brilliant 2014 dramedy about life on a black campus in the 2010s. Tessa Thompson plays Samantha White, a student at Winchester University, a mostly white school. Simien uses White to branch off and introduce us to a fascinating ensemble of players, instantly becoming one of the most interesting young voices in cinema on modern issues of race and class. He adapted the film into an acclaimed Netflix series – all three seasons are Certified Fresh – and has finally directed a follow-up that will premiere at Sundance 2020, Bad Hair.


Ana Lily Amirpour: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) 96% 

(Photo by ©Kino Lorber/Courtesy Everett Collection)

What do most of these breakthrough debuts have in common? They announce distinct new voices. No one else on Earth could have made A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, a black-and-white “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western.” It’s not like we get one of those movies every weekend at the multiplex. The minute Ana Lily Amirpour landed on the scene, we knew that her voice was going to be her own, something proven further by The Bad Batch, her even crazier follow-up. Love or hate her films, they aren’t like anything else.


Dan Gilroy: Nightcrawler (2014) 95% 

(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/©Open Road Films/Courtesy Everett Collection)

It’s actually less common than you think for successful screenwriters to segue smoothly into the director’s chair, as the two roles sometimes take different skill sets. It turns out that it wasn’t a problem for Dan Gilroy, who may be an even better director than he was a writer, as proven by this 2014 award-winner that stars Jake Gyllenhaal as an L.A.-based man who gets hooked on getting raw and often bloody footage for local news. Gilroy directed Gyllenhaal to one of the best performances of his career in a film that feels just as timely now as it did five years ago.


Alex Garland: Ex Machina (2014) 92% 

Ex Machina

(Photo by ©A24/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Alex Garland wasn’t your typical newcomer when he dropped his 2014 directorial debut. After all, he had been a regular collaborator with Danny Boyle as the writer on 28 Days Later… and Sunshine, and even dabbled in video game writing. And yet Ex Machina still felt like an introduction to a major new talent. The story of a man who develops a doomed relationship with a daring new form of A.I. was so well-received that Garland landed an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. And there are people who will tell you that his follow-up, 2018’s Certified Fresh Annihilation, was even better.


László Nemes: Son of Saul (2015) 96% 

(Photo by ©Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Hungarian director László Nemes proved that there are still stories to tell about the Holocaust with this terrifying vision of life in Auschwitz near the end of World War II. Géza Röhrig plays Saul, a man deeply numbed by the horror of what he’s had to do as a Sonderkommando, the Jewish prisoners who were forced to assist the SS. When he becomes determined to give a murdered child a proper burial, Son of Saul becomes a story of purpose in a place designed to crush the human spirit. With impeccable sound design and a visual style that puts viewers in Saul’s shoes, this was a debut admired around the world, all the way to an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.


Marielle Heller: The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) 95% 

(Photo by Sam Emerson /© Sony Pictures Classics / courtesy Everett Collection)

Marielle Heller has been so successful this decade that it’s hard to believe that her debut was only four years ago. Since then she’s directed two films with Tomatometer scores above 95% in Can You Ever Forgive Me? and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. She’s clearly one of the most interesting directors working today, and it all started with this adaptation of the Phoebe Gloeckner novel, starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, and Kristen Wiig. Heller has had a gift with character from the beginning, presenting people who feel three-dimensional without ever sinking to melodrama.


Chloé Zhao: Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015) 94% 

Songs My Brothers Taught Me

(Photo by Joshua James Richards/©Diaphana Films/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Chloé Zhao earned raves and awards nominations for her Certified Fresh 2017 drama The Rider, but that film wouldn’t have happened were it not for her debut two years earlier with 2015’s Songs My Brothers Taught Me. Developed through the Sundance Institute, Zhao’s film takes place in a setting we don’t often see even in independent cinema: an Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It’s the veracity of Zhao’s filmmaking that really put her on the map and made her one of the most interesting directors of the 2010s. Her debut was so well-received that it was selected for the Directors Fortnight at Cannes. Oh, and she caught the eye of Marvel, too.


Robert Eggers: The Witch (2015) 90%

(Photo by ©A24)

With only two films under his belt, Robert Eggers has already developed his own distinct voice, playing with sound design and American history in The Witch and The Lighthouse. When the former premiered at Sundance, it had unsuspecting viewers literally crying in their seats with its suffocating use of atmosphere and dread. Eggers helped usher in what many consider a new golden age of horror, and he did so with a period piece that uses almost entirely natural lighting and slow builds without jump scares. Audiences were polarized, but critics fell in love with Eggers instantly.


Trey Edward Shults: Krisha (2015) 95%

Krisha

(Photo by © A24 / courtesy Everett Collection)

The holidays bring out the best and worst in us. Few modern films capture this with as much harrowing truth as Trey Edward Shults’ 2015 debut, a drama that could just as easily be classified as a horror film. Shults cast his real-life aunt Krisha Fairchild in the title role, a woman who comes home on Thanksgiving to reconnect with a family that really doesn’t want her there. As animosities bubble to the surface and turkeys crash to the floor, it becomes clearer that you’re watching a major new talent, one who would go on to direct two more Certified Fresh films before the end of the decade in It Comes at Night and Waves.


Julia Ducournau: Raw (2016) 92% 

Raw

(Photo by © Focus World /courtesy Everett Collection)

A young vegetarian develops a taste for human flesh in one of the most striking horror movie debuts in a generation. Garance Marillier plays Justine, a new student who stumbles into a hazing ritual in which she’s forced to eat raw meat, and things go very downhill from there. Moving from rabbit to chicken to her sister’s finger, Justine enters a downward spiral of body horror that owes a debt to genre masters like David Cronenberg or George A. Romero but signals the arrival of a unique talent at the same time. We’re just hungry for another movie.


Jordan Peele: Get Out (2017) 98% 

Universal Pictures

(Photo by © Universal Pictures)

Arguably the most critically acclaimed directorial debut of the entire decade, Jordan Peele’s Get Out was an earthquake in the movie scene, shaking up the industry in ways we haven’t seen in years. Have you wondered why horror movies are everywhere to end the decade – including in the form of Peele’s Certified Fresh follow-up, Us? One of the main reasons is that this half of Key & Peele won an Oscar for writing and directing arguably the best one in a generation, a movie that distills modern issues of race into a narrative that Rod Serling would have adored.


Kogonada: Columbus (2017) 97% 

(Photo by ©Superlative Films/courtesy Everett Collection)

An unusual character study that’s also kind of about architecture isn’t an easy sell for audiences, but Kogonada’s Columbus has been building a loyal fanbase since the day it premiered at Sundance. John Cho does career-best work as a man named Jin who comes to Columbus, Indiana after his estranged father falls ill there. Unable to leave until his father recovers, he’s stuck in a small town that isn’t even home, drawn to a young woman named Casey, the wonderful Haley Lu Richardson. How we move through this world and how we sometimes get stuck in strange places are themes of Kogonada’s masterfully nuanced debut.


Greta Gerwig: Lady Bird (2017) 99% 

Lady Bird

(Photo by © A24)

Actress Greta Gerwig technically co-directed Nights and Weekends with regular collaborator Joe Swanberg, but this Oscar-nominated film was her solo directorial debut, and it was one of the most impactful of the decade. Saoirse Ronan stars as the title character, a Sacramento-based teenager trying to figure out what’s next in her life. Gerwig displayed a remarkable gift with performance and character right out of the gate and has already proven that she’s no one-hit wonder in that regard with her Certified Fresh adaptation of Little Women.


Ari Aster: Hereditary (2018) 89% 

Toni Collette in Hereditary

(Photo by © A24)

The movement of high-quality horror arguably reached its apex with 2018’s Hereditary, the directorial debut of Ari Aster, a filmmaker who distilled influences like Roman Polanski and John Carpenter into something that felt new and terrifying. Toni Collette does some of the best work of her notable career as Annie Graham, a woman dealing with grief before being blindsided by unimaginable tragedy. There are a lot of horror directors who are good with tension and atmosphere, but Aster balances that half of his skill set by being a deft director of performance too, drawing daring work from Collette, and then again from Florence Pugh in his acclaimed follow-up Midsommar.


Boots Riley: Sorry to Bother You (2018) 93% 

(Photo by © Annapurna Pictures)

The genius behind the legendary rap group The Coup used the same subversive energy he brought to that project when he made his first feature film, a stunning satire that feels like the love child of Terry Gilliam and George Clinton. Lakeith Stanfield stars as a young man who climbs the corporate ladder of a telemarketing company to discover the poisonous culture that lives on top. The plot is smart, but what makes this such a stunning debut is the style and ambition Riley brought to it. It’s the kind of project that makes one instantly curious about what the filmmaker does next.


Bradley Cooper: A Star Is Born (2018) 90% 

(L-R) BRADLEY COOPER as Jack and LADY GAGA as Ally in the drama "A STAR IS BORN," from Warner Bros. Pictures, in association with Live Nation Productions and Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

(Photo by © Warner Bros.)

Some actors segue to the director’s chair with more grace than others. Bradley Cooper not only took to that chair with ease, but he did so in a film he also co-wrote, produced, and starred and sang his heart out in. Remaking the classic William Wellman film for another generation, Cooper knew exactly how to make this classic story connect with modern audiences, stepping out of the spotlight so Lady Gaga could dominate it in the way only she can. The big moments in A Star is Born are already iconic, but what makes this so promising is the way Cooper directs the small, character-driven scenes too. It feels like he could do literally any kind of film he wants for his follow-up.


Nia DaCosta: Little Woods (2018) 95% 

Little Woods

(Photo by © Neon / courtesy Everett Collection)

Brought to life through the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs with the help of backing from Kickstarter, Nia DaCosta’s debut was so well-received that Jordan Peele tapped her to direct his anticipated remake of Candyman. What did he see in this debut? A balance of character work with greater themes about the state of large sections of a country that has been devastated by the drug trade. Tessa Thompson stars as a former drug runner in North Dakota who is forced into one final job across the Canadian border.


Mati Diop: Atlantics (2019) 96% 

Atlantique

(Photo by © Netflix)

Breakthrough filmmaker Mati Diop clearly learned a thing or two about filmmaking by working with the legendary Claire Denis, but what elevates Atlantics beyond its dreamy visuals is the sense that this is a deeply personal story for the French-Senegalese actress/director. The story of an oceanside community in Senegal, and the class and gender issues that seem to control it, led Diop to become the first black female director ever to appear in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, where her film won the Grand Prix.


Olivia Wilde: Booksmart (2019) 96% 

Booksmart

(Photo by Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Pictures)

It’s hard to make a memorable directorial debut with a teen comedy. Most of them are pretty disposable, and they don’t often allow for a director to really show their skills. That’s one of the reasons that Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart felt like such a splash of cold water this year – it’s fresh, new, daring, and wonderfully directed. Not only does Wilde fully embrace the flaws of her teenage characters, she proves that she knows how to use music, editing, and composition to turn what could have been an average comedy into something extraordinary.


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Thumbnail image: Chuck Zlotnick/©Open Road Films/Courtesy Everett Collection, @A24

While the first season of Netflix’s Dear White People introduced the characters and conflict at the center of the series — a group of black students at a mostly white, faux–Ivy League college navigating a campus simmering with racial tension, social injustice, cultural bias, and more — the second dove much deeper into the inner lives of these hard-working Winchester University students — overachieving future politicians, future investigative journalists, and more.

Rotten Tomatoes met with stars Logan Browning (Sam), Ashley Blaine Featherson (Joelle), Antoinette Robertson (Coco), Brandon P. Bell (Troy), Marque Richardson (Reggie), DeRon Horton (Lionel), and John Patrick Amedori (Gabe), who discussed their characters’ pivotal moments in season 2 and what they’re most excited to see in a potential third season.


SPOILER ALERT! Stop reading if you haven’t finished watching the Netflix comedy’s second season.


Logan Browning as Sam

(Photo by Netflix)

After a season of dancing around each other post-breakup, Sam and her ex-boyfriend Gabe finally hooked up again.

“But even after we were together and we don’t know what we’re doing,” she says. “Which honestly, it’s almost like a full circle, and sometimes relationships do that. We’re laying in a bed, what are we?”

In the final episode, the outspoken Sam faced off against a popular conservative commentator during an on-campus debate. The commentator was played by none other than Tessa Thompson, who originated the role of Sam in the Dear White People movie.

“I’ve been a fan of Tessa’s for a really long time. I’ve always been able to see myself in the characters she plays, this one included, so to just play opposite her was dope,” she said. “I feel like from an outside perspective, watching someone who is literally having a scene with a person playing a role that they did already, that was incredible. That was so cool! To be honest, I think the three of us, me, myself, Justin [Simeon, creator], and Tessa just wished we had more time because we had to shoot that scene so quickly.”


DeRon Horton as Lionel

DEAR WHITE PEOPLE DeRon Horton (Patrick Wymore/Netflix)

After budding journalist Lionel teamed up with radio host Sam to investigate the mysterious Xes they’d seen around campus, they came face-to-face with Giancarlo Esposito — the series’ narrator.

“Lionel and Sam, they are seeing a lot of Xes, and Lionel is realizing that there is a lot of hidden things at Winchester that he wants to uncover. He’s realizing that a lot of the systematic racism is stemming from the secret societies — or at least he thinks so. So, I think Sam is going to help him uncover that and now there is this elite group of people … and the narrator’s come in. I guess that’ll be a window into what the secret societies are about. I would hope!”


Brandon P. Bell as Troy

Dear White People - Brandon P. Bell, DeRon Horton (Netflix)

(Photo by Netflix)

No longer a buttoned-up future politician, Troy hasn’t been the same since he threw a chair through the window in a riot that ended the first season. In the second season, Troy embraced the slacker life and even tried his hand at stand-up comedy.

“I like the different dynamic — the dynamic of, like, picture perfect versus just a mess and unsure. As an actor its fun because it’s two sides of the same person. It was great to play, because even though he has a sense of liberation when he shattered the window, he’s still in turmoil. He’s masking that by drinking, partying, because he doesn’t want to deal.”

As for the stand-up, “Me and Marque, who plays Reggie, took stand up classes just as an exercise. It’s extremely difficult. You have to really like, not care, and its easier said than done. Because when you get up there and nobody laughs at what’s funny with your friends, you instantly get insecure. Instantly. And there’s nothing you can do to mask that other than to practice it. So, I’ll say out of respect for the medium, I suck at stand up comedy. It is so hard.”


Antoinette Robertson as Coco

DEAR WHITE PEOPLE - Antoinette Robertson (Saeed Adyani/Netflix)

Coco’s episode focused on her decision of whether or not to have an abortion. And after a flash-forward, fantasy future in which she had the child, she snapped back to the present and decided to terminate her pregnancy.

“I’m super proud of her for being courageous enough to listen to her heart and her feelings and not let anyone else — not society, her family, whatever the case may be — dictate what she decided to do with her body. I think that’s a big deal. Especially when we see through the flash-forward episode, the Sliding Doors [moment], you see that she could either live vicariously through her daughter, or she could choose herself and give herself the potential to reach the height of success that she’s always dreamt of, so I’m happy that she chose herself. And I’m super proud of her for being courageous and doing so.”


Ashley Blaine Featherson as Joelle

(Photo by Netflix)

Joelle not only repaired her friendship with roommate Sam, but she also (finally!) hooked up with Reggie.

On Joelle and Reggie: “As a fan of the show, I was happy that they finally got together. And I don’t know what’s going to happen going forward, but I think that moment was still pretty satisfying. And I like that it wasn’t so easy. It wasn’t just like, oh now they’re [together]. They had a conversation, they still went through nine episodes in the second season playing at it.”

On Joelle and Sam: “Logan and I are really good friends in real life, so it just is always a joy to play besties. … You realize that now that they live together, despite how close they were in season one, that they were hiding things that just have to come up and have to be addressed because they’re four feet away from each other.”


John Patrick Amedori as Gabe

Dear White People - Logan Browning, John Patrick Amedori (Saeed Adyani/Netflix)

On Gabe and Sam’s future: “I don’t know where it’ll go, but I do think they’ll both be a little bit mature in how those situations with each other from now on. It really broke down a lot of emotional walls with each other.”

On what he learned about his character: “I just learned more about Gabe’s conviction, his motivation. He’s an emotional person. He’s very susceptible to Sam’s emotions and her struggles even though he doesn’t understand it. I just learned more about how much he’s willing to put himself out there to be an example, which may or may not come into play later on in season 3 or something, but I think that’d be cool to explore more, because I feel like that’s a strength of his, is his empathy, and his willingness to put himself out there.”


Marque Richardson as Reggie 

(Photo by Netflix)

On what he learned about his character: “I learned that Reggie really doesn’t know who he is at all, or who he wants to be, which I think is blocking his healing — especially going through the PTSD and still having that façade of badass, tough guy, whatever, and not fully leaning in to his vulnerability with other people and even himself. He hasn’t even gone there yet, so we’ll see how it all plays out.”


What does everyone want to see in season 3?

DEAR WHITE PEOPLE - PICTURED (Left to Right), Ashley Blaine Featherson, Logan Browning, Antoinette Robertson (PHOTO CREDIT Adam Rose/Netflix)

Bell: “I want to see more about Lionel’s heritage. Because it’s obvious how important and influential our upbringing is. Like, Coco not getting enough from her mother. Troy’s dad, this is the result of that, and Lionel is still kind of a mystery. We found out in season 1 his dad left really early.”

Howard: “I want to see that! I mean, I feel like a lot of times for people of that demographic, who find themselves later on, find out, ‘Oh, I like this rather than that.’ I think there’s a coming-to-Jesus moment sometimes, or that’s what I’ve heard and studied. And, I feel like there’s a certain point in life they realize, ‘Oh, that’s it.’ I’m curious to see when did he discover that?”

Robertson: “I want to see Coco have more fun. I just do. I feel like everything was so heavy this season that when you saw her with Kurt there was this moment that you saw this giggly Coco that you really haven’t ever seen before. You saw Colandrea, maybe, a little bit more. The guard was down more, but seeing Coco, still vixen outside, but giggle when a boy kissed her, even though its not serious, was nice to see her life after an abortion. She made a decision, and she wasn’t in a room with her head down and super depressed. It was, ‘I’m going to go out, and I’m going to live my life, and I’m going to be true to myself and what I want.’ And I love that.”

Dear White People - Logan Browning, Antoinette Robertson, Ashley Blaine Featherson (Saeed Adyani/Netflix)

Richardson: “More car chases.”

Featherson: “I’m excited about the Order of X, and I’m also excited to see what happens with Giancarlo.”

Browning: “I’m excited for more group scenes because in season 1, the groups were all pitted against each other. Season 2, there was all of us coming together. So with season 3, now we get to play. It would be fun to have more group scenes where everyone is interacting again in a space where they’re not butting heads.”

Featherson: “I’m excited to see if Coco and Sam stay friends, or if they are friends. I don’t really know what’s going on. That’s exciting. Oh, Joelle and Coco too.”

Amedori: “Troy doing his stand-up.”


Dear White People seasons 1 and 2 are now available on Netflix.

To be “woke” is to be aware of racial injustice and work for change, and new Netflix series Dear White People uses comedy and drama to help its audience get there. Justin Simien created the show based on his own Certified Fresh debut film of the same name about the lives of black students at a predominantly white Ivy League university.

“Dear White People” is also the name of the college radio show that Samantha White (Logan Browning) hosts, in which she clues in her white classmates on their contributions to racism. Does she actually have to tell a fraternity not to throw a blackface party? Lionel (DeRon Horton) covers it for the school paper. Student body president Troy (Brandon P. Bell) works the official channels and Coco (Antoinette Robertson) supports by any means necessary from protests to elections.

Simien and Browning spoke to Rotten Tomatoes by phone before the premiere of the 10 half-hour episodes. Here are eight ways Dear White People stays woke about social issues that affect everyone in 2017.


1. IT’S A STORY FIRST

Simien knows that the way to get people to pay attention to racism is to make them care about people who suffer it.

“If you just watch the show from an entertainment perspective, I think that you’ll be invested in these stories,” Simien said. “You kind of can’t help at that point then be open to the conversation.”

Fans of the movie get to see Sam, Lionel, Troy, and Coco again, even if they are played by different actors on the show. (Bell reprises his role.)

“I wasn’t done with them,” Simien said. “There was so much more to say about all of them at the end of the movie. I really never considered rebooting it or doing it with different characters.”

The blackface party happened in the movie, but the show takes it in new directions.

“At the end of the movie, Sam physically let her hair down,” Browning said. “She finally was at that point of I can let go. I can be me. At the end of season 1, Sam is not at that place. I don’t know when she would get to that place.”


2. IT HAS EMPATHY FOR OPPOSING VIEWS

Each episode of Dear White People is told from a different character’s perspective. Viewers are bound to identify with someone, and if they disagree with certain characters, Simien hopes to present those characters with empathy.

“I think that for every point the show makes, there’s a counterpoint,” Simien said. “The reason for that is because the truth is messy. Racism is really messy. It’s not black and white, pardon the pun. It’s a very complicated issue that’s really hard to dissect and if we pretend it’s simple or easy, we’re really not going to get very far.”

Even Sam can be wrong sometimes. She assumes a black caller to her radio show is white because of his voice and his point of view.

“I think that’s part of what the whole show is about,” Browning said. “You can be both. What is right? What is wrong? And assuming. That was assuming on Sam’s part based on what he said, based on how he sounded. Sam can be prejudiced and have biases and she does.”


3. IT KNOWS THE R-WORD IS TOUCHY

Touchy conversations about racism get even touchier when someone is accused of being racist. An episode of Dear White People demonstrates people getting defensive about it when they were trying to help.

“I do think it’s a lot of people with really good intentions,” Simien said. “There are absolutely racists out there and bigots, but there’s also just a lot of poorly informed people who mean well but don’t know how to do better. To try to portray those people with empathy as well is important. If we’re going to get someplace else, we have to see all those little mistakes that we’re not aware of that bring us to these results that we don’t like as a society.”

Browning herself couldn’t remember ever calling someone a racist, but she speaks out against racist assumptions and comments, which often leads to explaining what exactly racism is.

“The conversation I have more often than not is the argument about the idea of reverse racism,” Browning said. “That argument dwindles down to defining racism. Racism is defined differently by many people. It’s also that thing of not wanting to own the history of our country because we all have to. No matter what race you are, we function by understanding the nation’s past.”


4. IF YOU FEEL LEFT OUT, DEAR WHITE PEOPLE HEARS YOU

In speaking out for the rights of black students, Sam finds that other people want to protest their own perceived injustices. Browning herself had empathy for people who wanted to appropriate civil rights protests for themselves, but asserted this is not about them.

“No one thinks that just because you’re white, you don’t have to struggle,” Browning said. “Everyone understands that. Everyone in this life has some kind of turmoil. It’s one thing. Why would you want to claim this thing that’s been the death of so many people? Literally, racism has been the death of so many people in this country. Why do you now want to claim that it’s being reversed on you?”

Browning feels it would be counterproductive to begin every conversation about racism with the assurance that she understands everybody suffers too; however, she’s willing to occasionally remind people she understands.

“If I’m doing interviews for Dear White People, it doesn’t hurt every now and then to throw in something that is reassuring because we’re human,” Browning said. “We do need to be reassured and comforted, but it doesn’t need to be every time.”


5. IT’S ABOUT 21ST CENTURY ACTIVISM

In 2017 people have more tools than ever to communicate, but is just speaking out enough? The characters of Dear White People have to “figure out how to be activists in the 21st century,” Simien said.

Browning elaborated on the different angles each character proposes.

“Some think we should rally,” Browning said. “Some think it’s silly, and we should reserve ourselves and let it work itself out. Some think we should be very formal. I don’t know if the show necessarily gives you what the right answer is on any topic.”


6. IT TACKLES POLICE VIOLENCE, EVEN ON CAMPUS

Simien wanted to tackle police violence against black men. In Dear White People, campus police come to bust a rowdy party and draw guns on an innocent character.

“It just didn’t feel right to do this show without talking about those things,” Simien said. “No matter how much money you have or level of access or education, at the end of the day being black is still fatal in certain parts of this country. Things can always escalate no matter who you are. The fact that you are a member of an oppressed group does affect you differently than it affects other people.”

Browning said filming the scene was intense.

“The whole show felt real but actually filming the [campus security] scene was almost traumatizing,” she said. “We took a lot of breaks and it was very heightened for everyone to film. I don’t think that any of us were the same after.”


7. IT’S ALSO DEAR RICH PEOPLE

On an Ivy League college campus, the families who make the biggest donations often get to influence policy. That’s true of both the black and white elite.

“We were fascinated in the writers room by how much finances really do drive not only the college experience but the American experience,” Simien said. “There really is a financial interest in keeping systemic racism alive. It really does benefit people. Whether they know it or not, there are a lot of people out there who are encouraging the system so that they can stay rich.”


8. THEY’RE READY FOR THE HATERS

Simien wrote an articulate response to commenters protesting the name of the show. He’s ready for anything that comes his way once the show airs.

“I find them interesting and I find them sad now,” Simien said. “It doesn’t sting as much because you just realize how much people need to hold onto their hatred.”

Haters might just be giving Simien material for season 2.

“Honestly, as a storyteller, I find it fascinating,” Simien said. “I think that the internet world of the alt-right is both frightening but also really rich in terms of a storyteller and a satirist, of mining things about the culture to tell stories about. It is hurtful, but it’s also really interesting to me. It definitely emboldened me in terms of why I made the show and why I want to continue doing the show.”

Browning too is ready for volatile conversations. Of course, the more people Dear White People reaches, the better, but every single person they reach will be worth it.

“You can’t diminish conversations that come out of these serious topics,” she said. “Even if it’s just three people, that conversation still matters. You don’t know which one of these three people may go on to be a senator or a politician or start a foundation.”


Dear White People premieres April 28 on Netflix.

This week in TV news, Dear White People is coming to TV, Ryan Murphy has a new limited series, you can buy Oprah’s furniture, and more!


EUROVISION SONG CONTEST FINALS COMING TO LOGO

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Since 1956 the European nations have been sending their liveliest, sometimes campiest, musical acts to represent them in the Eurovision Song Contest — launching careers like those of ABBA, Celine Dion, and Conchita Wurst. Now, for the first time in the show’s history, American viewers will be able to enjoy this international festival of song. Logo has struck a deal with the European Broadcasting Union to carry this year’s live finale on May 14th.

SUNDANCE DARLING DEAR WHITE PEOPLE IS HITTING THE SMALL SCREEN

dear white people
Justin Simien’s breakout movie Dear White People has just scored a straight-to-series order from Netflix. Simien has helmed all 10 episodes and will direct the pilot. Like his 2014 crowd-funded film, the series will follow a group of college students navigating their way through a predominantly white Ivy League university in “post-racial” America. Simien shared, “During the film’s release, I had the pleasure to speak with hundreds of students and faculty across a variety of college campuses dealing with these very issues in real time,” Simien said. “I’m so grateful to have this platform — not only to give a voice to those too often unheard in our culture, but to also tell great stories from new points of views.”

FX ORDERS NEW RYAN MURPHY LIMITED SERIES FEUD

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FX announced that it has placed an order for Ryan Murphy’s (American Horror Story, American Crime Story) latest anthology franchise, Feud, a series that will explore the bouts and blows of epic conflicts. The first installment of Feud stars Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, and tells the story of the legendary rivalry between two of the greatest movie stars of all time — Joan Crawford and Bette Davis — during the filming of cult classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Murphy will direct several episodes of the series, which will also feature Alfred Molina as director Robert Aldrich, and Stanley Tucci as studio titan Jack Warner. Feud is set to debut in 2017.

BIDDING IS NOW OPEN ON HISTORIC OPRAH WINFREY AUDIENCE CHAIRS

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Fans can bid on a bit of TV history in the form of a classic audience chair from The Oprah Winfrey Show.  The auction is in celebration of the show’s final telecast on May 25 on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Proceeds will benefit the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Foundation. Commemorative plaques accompany the more than 200 chairs that are being auctioned. Fans can bid until May 12 at oprah.screenbid.com.

This week in streaming video, we’ve got two hit comedies available for purchase, as well as a brand new Netflix original series. There’s also some acclaimed indie films, noteworthy television, award-winners, and certified classics available on subscription services. Read on for the full list.


Available for purchase:

 

Spy (2015) 95%

When an arms dealer identifies several of the CIA’s top field agents, desk-bound analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) gets her chance to go undercover in Paris. But during the course of her mission, Cooper must endure a string of indignities, from an unflattering cover story to a borderline-psychotic fellow agent (Jason Statham) who questions her competence at every turn.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu


Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) 65%

This time out, the Barden Bellas a cappella group is in hot water after an embarrassing performance in front of a distinguished audience. In search of redemption, our heroines journey to Denmark to compete in an international vocal tournament, and wackiness follows them wherever they go.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play


New on Netflix:

 

Revenge: Season 4 (2014) 88%

ABC’s drama centers on a woman (Emily VanCamp) who moves to the Hamptons but harbors a secret vendetta: she’s out for revenge on the people who framed her father for treason when she was young.

Available now on: Netflix


White God (2014) 88%

This Certified Fresh Hungarian drama centers on a dog named Hagen, who is abandoned by his master’s father and subsequently begins a trek home, inciting a seemingly organized mongrel revolt in the process.

Available now on: Netflix


Narcos: Season 1 (2015) 78%

This Netflix original series chronicles the rise of notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and the Medellín Cartel. As with other Netflix shows, all 10 episodes of the first season are available to stream.

Available now on: Netflix


Once Upon a Time: Season 4 (2015) 62%

ABC’s Disney-themed drama centers on a fictional town called Storybrooke, whose residents are all classic fairy tale characters. Season four incorporates the latest Disney sensation, Frozen, by working Elsa and Anna into its plot while continuing its ongoing narrative.

Available now on: Netflix


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) 21%

The evil Foot Clan has taken control of New York City’s politicians and police force, so it’s up to our sewer-dwelling heroes — along with intrepid TV journalist April O’Neil (Megan Fox) — to save the day.

Available now on: Netflix


New on Amazon Prime:

 

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) 91%

Woody Allen’s directs and stars in this classic comedy-drama that chronicles the separate but connected lives of a woman named Hannah (Mia Farrow) and her two sisters (Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest) over the course of two years.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Dear White People (2014) 91%

This Certified Fresh a comedy is the story of an African American college student whose no-holds-barred radio show shakes up the predominantly white campus.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


The Blair Witch Project (1999) 86%

Full of creepy campfire scares, mock-doc The Blair Witch Project keeps audiences in the dark about its titular villain — thus proving that imagination can be as scary as anything onscreen.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) 84%

Madonna and Rosanna Arquette star in this comedy about a bored New Jersey housewife who becomes obsessed with a mysterious New York woman whose life she’s been following via ongoing correspondence in the personals section of a tabloid.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988) 76%

In this shlocky 1980s cult favorite, evil aliens who look like disfigured clowns arrive in a small American town and terrorize its citizens with deadly shadow puppetry, killer popcorn, and cotton candy cocoons.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


New on HBO Now:

 

Manhattan (1979) 94%

One of Woody Allen’s most acclaimed films, this Certified Fresh romantic comedy stars Allen, Mariel Hemingway (in an Oscar-nominated role), Diane Keaton, and more in a story about a neurotic writer who has difficulty choosing between the 17-year-old ingénue he’s dating and the mistress of his married best friend.

Available now on: HBO Now


In the Heat of the Night (1967) 95%

Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger star in Norman Jewison’s Best Picture-winning thriller about an African American detective who pairs with a racist sheriff to solve a murder in the Deep South.

Available now on: HBO Now


Her (2013) 94%

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombly, a lovelorn writer who falls in love with OS1, his computer’s highly intelligent operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).

Available now on: HBO Now


The Departed (2006) 90%

Martin Scorsese’s Best Picture winner tells the story of two moles, one of whom (DiCaprio) is a cop undercover within a Boston crime family led by Jack Nicholson, and the other (Damon) a hood who has infiltrated the police department.

Available now on: HBO Now


Blade Runner (1982) 89%

Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, and Daryl Hannah, Ridley Scott’s stylishly noir sci-fi tale of replicants and blade runners remains a favorite for its art-deco look and its haunting, mysterious ambience.

Available now on: HBO Now


Titanic (1997) 89%

In James Cameron’s multiple Oscar-winning romance, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet play star-crossed lovers who meet aboard the ill-fated ocean liner. He teachers her how to spit.

Available now on: HBO Now


Thelma & Louise (1991) 85%

Ridley Scott directed this 1991 hit about a pair of women (played by Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis) who leave behind their regular lives for a road trip that quickly goes awry.

Available now on: HBO Now


Beetlejuice (1988) 85%

Tim Burton’s offbeat comedy stars Michael Keaton as the titular ghoul, a chaotic wildcard whose services are called upon by a newly deceased couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) to help rid their home of its new occupants.

Available now on: HBO Now


The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) 78%

This low-budget 1975 cult classic stars Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon as the unlucky couple who stumble into a secluded mansion on a rainy night and bear witness to a freakish party to end all parties, hosted by a transvestite named Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry).

Available now on: HBO Now


V for Vendetta (2006) 73%

V for Vendetta tells the story of a near-future dystopia, where a lone freedom fighter named V (Hugo Weaving) plots a series of revolutionary bombings to bring down a shady, secretly policed government. Along the way, V recruits young, frightened Evey (Natalie Portman ), shaves her head, and turns her into a proper young revolutionary.

Available now on: HBO Now


Blades of Glory (2007) 70%

Will Ferrell and Jon Heder star as rival figure skaters who, after an embarrassing throwdown at the World Championships, team up for a shot at redemption.

Available now on: HBO Now


New on Fandor

 

Breaker Morant (1980) 100%

Bruce Beresford’s 1980 Australian drama retells the 1902 court martial of the titular soldier, who was accused along with his fellow officers of murdering several prisoners of war while stationed in South Africa during the Second Boer War.

Available now on: Fandor


Stagecoach (1939) 100%

This John Ford western, which  follows a handful of strangers as they embark on a perilous stagecoach journey from Arizona to New Mexico through Apache territory, is the film that catapulted John Wayne to stardom.

Available now on: Fandor


Insomnia (1997) 95%

Erik Skjoldbjærg’s Norwegian thriller — which was remade in 2002 by Christopher Nolan — stars Stellan Skarsgård as a police officer who accidentally shoots his partner while in pursuit of a killer. He decides to keep mum about it, but the killer knows the truth, and psychological games ensue.

Available now on: Fandor


Night of the Living Dead (1968) 96%

George A. Romero’s iconic debut set the template for the modern zombie film, and features tight editing, realistic gore, and a sly political undercurrent.

Available now on: Fandor


Something, Anything (2014) 92%

This quiet drama centers on a newlywed woman who becomes a spiritual seeker and slowly alienates her family and friends in the process.

Available now on: Fandor


Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) 79%

One of Universal’s many iconic monsters, Gill-man (the creature’s infrequently used actual name) made his first appearence in this 1954 classic as a misguided amphibious humanoid, the last of his kind and prone to violence.

Available now on: Fandor


Love Hunter (2013) 86%

Milan Mumin stars in this musical drama about a Serbian rock star-turned-NYC cabbie trying to record one more album and dealing with relationship strife.

Available now on: Fandor

The biggest home video release this week is a surprisingly satisfying action flick starring Keanu Reeves, but outside of that, most of the big releases received pretty poor reviews. That said, the smaller films on this week’s list are the real highlights, with three acclaimed Certified Fresh picks and another trio of highly rated films. Read on for details:



John Wick

86%

John Wick is about as pure a revenge flick as you’re going to get, and critics were quite pleased with that. The story is simple: Keanu Reeves plays the titular former mob hitman, who’s mourning the death of his wife when the son of a local kingpin breaks into his home, kills his new puppy, and steals his car. This is the last straw for Wick, and he unleashes a most brutal temper tantrum upon anyone foolish enough to stand between him and the puppy-killing car thief. Directed by longtime stuntmen Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, John Wick is a stylish flurry of point blank shots to the face and brooding Keanu Reeves grimaces, and for most critics, the combination was a match made in heaven. Toss in a bit of the much talked-about “world-building” and a colorful cast of side characters, and you have the makings of an action franchise. At 83 percent on the Tomatometer, John Wick surprised a lot of folks and even took home the Golden Tomato Award in the Action/Adventure category.



Dracula Untold

25%

Though ostensibly not part of Universal’s plan to reboot all of their classic monsters in a shared universe (kind of like The Avengers of horror), Dracula Untold doesn’t bode well for the studio’s future efforts in the genre. Untold purports to tell the “origin story” of the famous literary bloodsucker, in which Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans), the prince of Transylvania, enters into a blood pact with a vampire to receive the power necessary to turn back a Turkish invasion and save his son. Critics didn’t buy it, for the most part; while the visuals were sometimes impressive, they also tended toward bad video game imagery, and the narrative lacked both the edge and the necessary dramatic heft to justify its epic scope. At 22 percent on the Tomatometer, Dracula Untold is a poor attempt to put a fresh spin on a familiar tale.



Ouija

6%

As long as you’ve got a working knowledge of horror movie mechanics, a decent cinematographer, and a few million dollars to spare, you stand a chance at making a tidy profit, regardless of what the critics say. At least, that was the case for last year’s Ouija, which was produced for about $5 million and earned a mere 7 percent on the Tomatometer but went on to gross over $95 million at the box office. This PG-13 tale of terror revolves around a group of young friends who use a Ouija board to make contact with a malicious spirit; as the participants of the original séance begin dropping one by one, the remaining survivors struggle to identify the spectre and figure out a way to defeat it. Critics found the film egregiously derivative of better movies, filled with telegraphed jump scares and bland storytelling, even if it did sport a nice professional sheen. This is probably the kind of fluff that teen horror novices might eagerly devour and quickly forget, but more discerning adults will find little in the way of a real scare here.



The Best of Me

12%

Don’t look now, but they’ve gone and made another Nicholas Sparks adaptation, and following recent tradition, it did not perform well with critics. At all. This would-be tearjerker stars James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan as star-crossed teenage lovers Dawson and Amanda, who are reunited after 20 years apart when a mutual friend passes away. Between flashbacks to their past relationship, the pair rekindle their romance, only to discover it’s not so easy to shake off the past and move forward. By now, most folks know where they stand with Sparks’s weepy formula, and critics agree that if you’re a fan, you’re in for more of the same, and you’ll likely be pretty satisfied with the final product. If you’re anyone else, though, you probably already know you’re going to avoid this like a snotty handkerchief, so the 8 percent Tomatometer score is somewhat irrelevant.

Also available this week:

  • Nas: Time Is Illmatic (100 percent), a documentary about the prolific and influential hip-hop artist and the creation of his seminal debut album.
  • Starred Up (99 percent), starring Jack O’Connell and Ben Mendelsohn in a Certified Fresh drama about a violent 19-year-old inmate who is transferred to the same prison as his estranged father.
  • The Overnighters (98 percent), a Certified Fresh documentary focusing on the rush to find jobs during the North Dakota oil boom and the hardships experienced by prospective workers there.
  • Dear White People (92 percent), a Certified Fresh satire of race politics about a mixed-race writer and radio show host at a mostly white university who causes a stir when she becomes the head of the all black house on campus.
  • The Retrieval (34 percent), a Civil War-set drama about a 13-year-old boy working with white bounty hunters who unexpectedly finds himself on the run with a runaway slave after he’s been sent to lure him back to the South.
  • ABCs of Death 2 (75 percent), the follow-up omnibus film featuring 26 horror segments — one for each letter of the alphabet — helmed by 26 different directors.

A handful of films made their way to streaming video this week ahead of their DVD releases, including a reimagined take on the origin story of Dracula, an indie comedy with social satire on its mind, a relationship drama starring James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain, and a revived HBO comedy starring Lisa Kudrow. Read on for details:


Dracula Untold
25%

In 15th Century Romania, Vlad Tepes (Luke Evans) makes a deal with an old vampire in order to protect his kingdom from an invading army. He’s granted a variety of supernatural powers, but at the cost of developing a taste for blood.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play


Dear White People
91%

This Certified Fresh a comedy is the story of an African American college student whose no-holds-barred radio show shakes up the predominantly white campus.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play


The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
66%

Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy in this drama, which explores a couple’s relationship from both sides.

Available now on: iTunes


The Comeback: Season Two

Substantially similar to its predecessor in all the best ways, critics say this new season of The Comeback thrives on Lisa Kudrow’s starring performance as Valerie Cherish.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play

Awards season is on, and with everything that is going on from December through February, it’s difficult to keep track of who is getting what. To help you with that, we created the Awards Leaderboard, a ranking of movies by the number of awards won and their respective categories. Read on to find out where your favorite movies stand, and who is leading the pack.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) 91%

49 wins

Boyhood (2014) 97%

49 wins

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) 92%

25 wins

Whiplash (2014) 94%

24 wins

Citizenfour (2014) 96%

11 wins

The LEGO Movie (2014) 96%

11 wins

  • BAFTA – Animated Film
  • PGA – Animated Picture
  • Critics Choice – Best Animated Feature
  • Golden Tomato – Best-Reviewed Animation
  • CFCA – Best Animated Feature
  • SFFCC – Best Animated Feature
  • NYFCO – Best Animated Feature
  • WAFCA – Best Animated Feature
  • NBR – Original Screenplay
  • NYFCC – Best Animated Film
  • LVFCS – Best Animated Film

Still Alice (2014) 85%

11 wins

Ida (2013) 96%

9 wins

The Theory of Everything (2014) 80%

8 wins

Life Itself (2014) 98%

7 wins

The winners of the Gotham Independent Film Awards, which honor the very best in independent filmmaking every year, were announced on the evening of December 1st 2014, in a ceremony held at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman earned top recognition, winning Best Feature and earning Michael Keaton a Best Actor trophy. Scroll down for the full list of nominees and winners.

It’s that time of year again. The Gotham Independent Film Awards have announced their nominees for 2014, unofficially kicking the film industry into the beginning of the anual awards season. While we still have several prestige films yet to hit the big screen, acclaimed films from earlier in the year like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood and Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin are up for multiple Gotham Awards, alongside more recent releases like Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman and Justin Simien’s Dear White People. The awards ceremony is scheduled for December 1 in New York, but you can see the full list of nominees below:

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Ep. 065 – Movies, TV, and Yeah, Whassup Monolo?
When the boss is away, the team will play…lots of clips of Channing Tatum spouting catch phrases. They cover the usual movies in theaters, including Fury, The Book of Life, The Best of Me, Birdman, and Dear White People. New DVDs include X-Men: Days of Future Past, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, and Fargo. On television, Sarah discusses The Affair, The Walking Dead, Jane the Virgin, and Marry Me. Listen for Tim and Grae’s impromptu role play!

This week at the movies, we’ve got soldiers in a tank (Fury, starring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf), a princess and her suitors (The Book of Life, with voice performances by Channing Tatum and Zoe Saldana), and star-crossed lovers (The Best of Me, starring Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden). What do the critics have to say?



Fury

76%

Take the star of Inglourious Basterds, mix him in with a ragtag band of soldiers reminiscent of the crew in Saving Private Ryan, and what have you got? Fury, a World War II drama that critics say is a powerful document of the horrors of war that doesn’t quite meet its grand ambitions but still packs a wallop. Pitt stars as tank commander who leads a diverse band of brothers on a deadly mission behind enemy lines to stymie a Nazi attack; along the way, our heroes come face-to-face with the grim realities of life on the battlefield. The pundits say Fury is a rock solid war film, with bracing battle scenes and a feeling of you-are-there authenticity. (Check out Pitt’s 10 best-reviewed films here.)



The Book of Life

83%

Right off the bat, The Book of Life has a couple big things going for it: it’s a visually stunning fantasy that’s rooted in Mexican cultural tradition. And critics say that’s mostly enough, even if the story is never up to brilliance of the animation. It’s the tale of two childhood friends who fall in love with a princess, one of which must make a perilous journey through the land of the dead in order to win her heart. The pundits say The Book of Life is energetic and vibrant, a rare example of style winning out over substance.



The Best of Me

12%

Nicholas Sparks knows the value of corn better than anybody, and the films adapted from his novels (The Notebook, A Walk to Remember ) can extract tears from even the sternest souls. But critics say The Best of Me is so preposterous and bland that it’s more likely to inspire incredulity or boredom than sniffles. Two high school sweethearts are reunited at a mutual friend’s funeral, and find that they still have feelings for each other, before forces beyond their control intervene. The pundits say the actors do what they can with the paper-thin characters and silly dialogue, but ultimately, The Best of Me is too schmaltzy and absurd to resonate.

Certified Fresh on TV this week:


The dubious premise of Jane the Virgin (100 percent) is part of its unlikely charm, which critics say shines thanks to sharp writing and a knockout performance by Gina Rodriguez.

Thanks to a liberal dose of propulsive, bloody action and enough compelling character moments to reward longtime fans, critics say The Walking Dead‘s fifth season (97 percent) continues to deliver top-notch entertainment.

Critics say The Affair (96 percent) is a somber, bewitching exploration of truth and desire, thanks to some smart, creative storytelling and spectacular performances from Dominic West and Ruth Wilson.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya, an animated folk tale about a girl who’s found inside a bamboo stalk, is at 100 percent.
  • Dear White People, a comedy about an African American college student whose no-holds-barred radio show shakes up the predominantly white campus, is at 97 percent.
  • Birdman, starring Michael Keaton and Edward Norton in a comedy about an actor famous for playing a superhero who’s trying to mount a Broadway play, is Certified Fresh at 94 percent.
  • Housebound, a horror comedy about a woman sentenced to home confinement who discovers her house is occupied by a malevolent spirit, is at 94 percent.
  • Diplomacy, a historical drama about a plot to destroy Paris during World War II, is at 91 percent.
  • Listen Up Philip, starring Jason Schwartzman and Elisabeth Moss in a dramedy about a self-obsessed author burning bridges with the people around him, is at 87 percent.
  • Watchers of the Sky, a documentary about activists pushing for justice in the wake of mass atrocities, is at 87 percent.
  • Felony, starring Joel Edgerton and Tom Wilkinson in a thriller about three cops dealing with the potential fallout from a bust gone wrong, is at 79 percent.
  • Camp X-Ray, starring Kristen Stewart in a drama about a guard at Guantanamo Bay who develops a friendship with a detainee, is at 64 percent.
  • Rudderless, starring Billy Crudup and Anton Yelchin in a drama about a man who copes with his son’s untimely death by playing music, is at 61 percent.
  • Summer of Blood, a horror comedy about a schlubby guy who becomes a lady-killing vampire, is at 60 percent.
  • Young Ones, starring Michael Shannon and Elle Fanning in a sci-fi drama about a farming family struggling to survive in the midst of a global water shortage, is at 50 percent.

Finally, props to Andrew LaPlant for coming the closest to guessing Addicted‘s eight percent Tomatometer.

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