It was a very good year for movies. It seems like everyone made a movie, this year. We got new movies from veteran auteurs like Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders, Michael Mann, Sofia Coppola, Paul Schrader, Todd Haynes, Kelly Reichardt, Christopher Nolan, Alexander Payne, Ava DuVernay, Wes Anderson, Hayao Miyazaki, Greta Gerwig, David Fincher, Frederick Weisman, . We got a slate of masterpieces from new-in-town filmmakers like A.V. Rockwell, Celine Song, Nida Manzoor, Cord Jefferson, Kitty Green, Daniel Goldhaber, and
There were a lot of TV-sequel movies, too. Luther and Monk came back, this time on film.
For my money, the three best movies of the year are Oppenheimer, The Holdovers, and May December or Past Lives. That third place-spot has had a lot of occupants as I’ve attempted to refine my personal list. But the list you see before you isn’t that list: no, this is a list of the best CRIME movies of the year because this is, after all, a crime website.
Okay, let’s roll.
Anatomy of a Fall
Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or-winning courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall, about a woman who may or may not have murdered her husband (by pushing him out a window in their Alpine chalet), is one of this year’s absolute best, a riveting film that will make you doubt everything, including whether our protagonist is guilty OR innocent.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline
Don’t sleep on How to Blow Up a Pipeline, the engrossing heist-ish thriller adaptation of Andreas Malm’s groundbreaking nonfiction book. Malm’s book argues that that peaceful protests have proven themselves ineffective in stopping the widespread annihilation of the earth and its inhabitants by climate change, and the only thing that can make any real change is property damage. The film follows a group of young people (mostly early 2os but a couple people around 30) as they band together with a specific mission: destroying a new oil pipeline that has been built in Texas. They all have different reasons for coming to this decision, but their effort will be both a symbol of resistance and a real, practical hindrance to the environmental ravaging posed by the pipeline.
Killers of the Flower Moon
Martin Scorsese’s epic three-and-a-half-hour film about the Osage killings of the 1920s is a truly spectacular achievement, both for the tender way in which it was made and the historical events which it helps bring to light. Filled with gorgeous cinematography and featuring an especially brilliant performance from Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon‘s best feature is how clearly invested it is in doing right by the Osage people of then and now. The Osage’s participation in the making of the film has been well-publicized, but it’s clear, when viewing the film, that Scorsese not only wants to get the historical details right without exploiting the Osage or their suffering but that he also wants to tell the story in the most respectful, collaborative way possible.
The Killer, David Fincher’s hitman-centric sort-of-comedy thriller, didn’t get a wide theatrical release (really, screw you, Netflix) and that’s a shame. I had the good fortune to grab a viewing on the big screen and man, I’m so glad I did. The movie might settle on you in different ways; for example, you might be annoyed, rather than entertained, that the movie is fundamentally about a guy who messes up at his job and who then makes that everyone else’s problem. But you can’t deny that the film’s first act, a lavish sequence set in Paris, is one of the most beautiful film sequences ever made. Have you seen stills of the scenes featuring the apartment building our killer protagonist is watching? That apartment is a composite shot made up of tiny little individually-filmed soundstages all tiled together. Gorgeous. Glorious. I’m dead, and Fincher, not his slipping-up assassin antihero, killed me.
They Cloned Tyrone
Where was the fanfare for this fun, smart, pulpy Blacksploitation-style, Nancy-Drew-referencing whodunnit when it came out? Juel Taylor’s film, featuring scintillating performances from John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, and Teyonah Parris, also didn’t get a wide theatrical release (again, screw you, Netflix!!!) but you should really treat yourself to an at-home viewing. It’s about a motley group of Black neighbors in a depressed urban community who realize a government conspiracy is afoot. A smart and groovy time. Have I sold you on this yet?
I don’t know if May December is a genuine crime movie but it’s sure ABOUT a crime, and based on a crime that had a true-crimey kind of cult fame. So it’s going on here, dammit. This film ALSO didn’t get didn’t get a wide theatrical release (NETFLIXXXXX!!!!!!!), but please watch it. Julianne Moore plays Gracie, a woman who was convicted, as a thirty-six-year-old, of having sex with a thirteen-year-old boy. Nearly twenty years layer, she is married to him and they have three, nearly adult kids. Gracie and Joe (Charles Melton) have weathered prison, a tabloid firestorm, and are now braving the visit from an actress (Natalie Portman) who is researching playing Gracie for a movie role. Except, and not to boil her down to merely a plot device because she is not, Elizabeth’s presence begins to expose cracks in the married couple’s ostensibly happy life together. And yes, Charles Melton is really as good as you’ve heard.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One
Ah, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One, otherwise known as Mission Impossible 7, otherwise known as the movie that shook Joe Biden to his core. Tom Cruise, one of Hollywood’s most outspoken critics of computerized cop-outs and a champion of handmade, practical moviemaking and effects, as well as his best friend, director Christopher McQuarrie, have made the best installment of the franchise yet, a mind-boggling, adrenaline-fueled anti-AI fable with the greatest stunts I’ve ever seen put to film. They should have done focus group screeners of this movie with the participants strapped to blood pressure monitors. You’ll know why when you see it.
Nida Manzoor’s girl-power kung-fu fantasy was one of this year’s biggest delights, a lively, empowering, thoroughly fun movie. In it, a preteen girl in London named Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) dreams of being a stuntwoman, and finds herself putting those skills to use to rescue her older sister Lena (Ritu Arya) from her imminent marriage into a wealthy family… who might be more sinister than they let on.
The Royal Hotel
The Royal Hotel, the new film from director Kitty Green, flew under the radar a bit, but it’s really worth your time. (Also, no one’s really talking about how it is based very clearly on a documentary, but it is.) Anyway, it’s about Canadian backpackers Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) who wind up in the remote Australian outback, bartending at a hotel in the middle of nowhere. But, as two women (almost) all alone in the desert, they begin to feel that something is… off about the whole place. Talk about tension! My goodness.
A Haunting In Venice
Look, even if you don’t like Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot, you can’t deny that A Haunting in Venice was the clear best of his three Agatha Christie adaptations, an elegant supernaturally-tinged mystery loosely adapted from a lesser-known Christie novel. But visually, the film was a carnival(e) of cinematography and camerawork, a spooky, aesthetic extravaganza you don’t want to miss.
Eileen! This thriller, which is basically perfect almost all of the way through, snuck onto our radar only a few weeks ago. Anne Hathaway rocks her portrayal of a sultry, secretive psychologist at a young men’s prison in Massachusetts. She, Rebecca, is the first bright spot in a while that Eileen (Thomasin McKenzie), who works in the prison, has experienced, and it’s not long before Eileen begins to grow veeeeeery interested in her. The movie builds well and is really interesting, but a late-in-the-film monologue from Marin Ireland brings the house down.