I’ve seen 160 movies this year. Here are the best (and the rest).

People have been dealing with the pandemic in lots of different ways. I deal with it by watching movies. Here are the best and the rest. To be clear up front, I like lots of movies and lots of different kinds of movies. Some I’ve watched on my own, some with my spouse, some with my kids. Some of these I’d never seen before (City of Joy); others I’ve seen twice (Parasite) or many times (Groundhog Day).

I’ve grouped the movies into batches, from those I adored to those (few) that were definitely not for me. Within batches, I haven’t ordered by preference but perhaps to highlight movies that you may not have encountered.

These are the movies I just adored…

City of Joy, to be clear, is the 2016 documentary that takes place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, not an earlier film of the same name.

Here are movies that I loved!

Here are the movies I really liked!

Here are the movies I also liked, just not quite as much.

I enjoyed these ones too!

Okay, these are movies I enjoyed some aspects of even if, on net, I didn’t think they were GREAT.

Okay, this next batch was a bit meh, but hey, they still distracted me from the pandemic! And they all had at least some entertaining element.

Okay, these last ones were really not for me.

I saw 83 movies in 2019. Here are the ones I loved and the ones I didn’t.

I enjoy movies! I watch movies alone, with my spouse, with my kids, with friends, with my parents, with my siblings. (I haven’t watched a movie with an archenemy yet, but I’m working on it.) Here is what I saw this year. Some are first-time watches; some are rewatches. A few movies appear twice, which indicates that I saw them more than once this year.

Movies I adored

Movies I loved (just, you know, a little less)

Movies I didn’t love but still really enjoyed

Movies I enjoyed reasonably well

Movies that I enjoyed at least some even though they weren’t that great

Movies I hated

Null set. What can I say? I enjoy movies!

My top movies of 2018

I watched 76 movies in 2018. Here are my 8 favorites.

movies i loved

RBG — This documentary provides a compelling, inspiring portrait of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and her consistent fight for equal opportunities.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor — Fred Rogers was also a warrior for the good, albeit working in a very different medium. This document was beautiful and moving. I watched his show faithfully as a child and still learned a great deal.

I want to be either RBG or Fred Rogers when I grow up. But if I can’t pull that off, at least I can re-watch these excellent movies about them.

The Great Buster: A Celebration — Buster Keaton is best known for a series of silent comedy films that he created in the 1920s. But he worked right up until his death in the 1960s. This is a hilarious retrospective of this amazing filmmaker.

Leave No Trace — Beautiful movie about a father and daughter who seek to live completely off the grid in the woods of Oregon.

I Am Not a Witch — This is a powerful film about the exploitation of a vulnerable group — accused witches — in Zambia.

Border — A Swedish border guard seems to have a supernatural sense of smell, allowing her to smell fear and more. She meets one man who confounds her ability, and very strange events unfold. The less you know, the better. I love it when a movie swings big on the surprising and pulls it off (even mostly).

Paddington — This was a re-watch, but such a delight! Sally Hawkins is one of my favorite actors, and she’s part of a wonderful ensemble here.

Paddington 2 — This film will envelop you in good feelings. The title character is sweet but not syrupy, and Hugh Grant — as a washed-up actor — plays a delightful villain.

Here are some other movies that I loved (albeit a little less).

movies i loved less

And here are some movies that I really enjoyed — just, you know, a little less. 

movies i enjoyed

Lest you think I like everything, here are some movies that I thought were actively bad. (I’m skipping a bunch of movies that I enjoyed just a bit.)

movies i thought were bad


The Best Movies I Saw in 2017 (and the Rest)

I saw 134 movies in 2017, across a variety of media – on planes, in cinemas around the world, and in snatches on my phone. (They did not all come out in 2017.) Movies are listed alphabetically within category, although Ixcanul really was my favorite film of the year.

Here are my absolute favorites:

Ixcanul A young woman rebels against the dreary life ahead of her and inequalities of all sorts manifest. Starts out seeming predictible but then is anything but. (My full review.)
Lady Bird Wonderful coming of age story. Funny and real.
Maudie Sally Hawkins is wonderful as a woman in a small town with few opportunities who makes beautiful art.
Okja Korean girl and Superpig on the run. Awesome.
Queen of Katwe A young school dropout in Uganda is inspired by chess. Inspiring and engaging. (My blog post.)
Sunset Boulevard The cruelty of Hollywood in 1950s noir.
The Big Sick Sweet, funny, surprising romantic comedy.
Thor: Ragnarok I love a film that is surprising and hilarious. This is that film.

Here are a bunch more that I loved, just not quite as much.

Baby Driver
Battle of the Sexes
Captain Fantastic
Get Out
Guardians of the Galaxy — Volume 2
Ha’khata’im [Past Life]
Hidden Figures
Human Flow
I Am Not Your Negro
I, Daniel Blake
Ingrid Goes West
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Le tout nouveau testament [The Brand New Testament]
Little Men
Logan Lucky
Midnight in Paris
Mr. Holmes
Mulholland Drive
Que Horas Ela Volta? [The Second Mother]
Song of the Sea
Still Mine
The Founder
The Incredible Jessica James
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
The Other Side of Hope [Toivon Tuolla Puolen]
The Red Turtle
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Wedding Crashers

Here are a bunch that I really liked.

Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont [The African Doctor]
Blade Runner [Final Cut]
Blade Runner 2049
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Despicable Me 3
Don’t Think Twice
Dr. Strange
Force Majeure
Guardians of the Galaxy — Volume 2
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Mr. Mom
On Golden Pond
Ruby Sparks
Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Dressmaker
The Fly
The Little Hours
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
The Squid and the Whale
The Town
Tropic Thunder
Uma História de Amor e Fúria [Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury]
Upstream Color
Wonder Woman

And here are a bunch that I liked reasonably well.

Bridget Jones’s Baby
Café Society
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Frances Ha
Friends with Benefits
La dame dans l’auto avec des lunettes et un fusil [The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun]
Lady MacBeth
Lost in London Live
Marjorie Prime
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates [airplane edited]
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Nocturnal Animals
Ocho apellidos vascos [Spanish Affair]
Saneamento Básico: O Filme [Basic Sanitation: The Movie]
Sky High
Sleeping with Other People
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Star Trek Beyond
The Last Man on Earth
The Lego Batman Movie
The Spy Next Door
The Tempest
Their Finest
To Catch a Thief
Tô Rica! [I’m rich!]
Trading Places
Un peu, beaucoup, aveuglément [Blind Date]
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Here are a bunch that I thought were so-so. I don’t regret watching them, but I wouldn’t recommend them.

Bad Santa
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Daddy Day Care
Dr. No
Fast & Furious 6
Home Again
Mes Trésors [Family Heist]
Ocho apellidos catalanes [Spanish Affair 2]
Terminator Genisys
The Fast and the Furious
The Fate of the Furious
The Lego Ninjago Movie
Viy or Spirit of Evil
A Seed of Memories
Around the World in 80 Days
Boss Baby
Justice League
Nancy Drew
O Homen do futuro [The Man from the Future]
Suicide Squad

Here are four that I thought were pretty bad (especially Runner Runner)…but I still watched them through to the end. Make better life choices than me; avoid these films.

Des vents contraires [Headwinds]
Ghost in the Shell
Why Him?
Runner Runner

Ixcanul: A celebration and a caution around indigenous culture

This week I saw Ixcanul (a word in the Mayan language Kaqchikel for “volcano”), a beautiful, compelling movie about a young Mayan woman in rural Guatemala who seeks to rebel against the life laid out for her. Just when I though the plot was unfolding in predictable ways, it surprised me again and again.

Maria and her family are tenant farmers, speak only Mayan, and observe traditional practices, which the film observes and admires. But at the same time, each encounter with the Spanish-speaking world reveals the enormous disadvantage this family is at. They can never speak for themselves, as demonstrated in this exchange when a woman comes to take the population census.


The ultimate results of this communication barrier — which parallels a massive socioeconomic gap — are disastrous. The film is devastating and gorgeous. See it.

Other reviews: 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with 28 reviews and 83/100 on Metacritic (“Universal acclaim”) with 16 reviews.

The trailer

In the US, it’s currently streaming on Netflix and is rentable on Youtube and Amazon, at least.

I Saw 100+ Movies in 2016: The Best and the Rest

Over the course of the year, I saw many movies in many forms – in the theater, on planes, while exercising, during my commute, and at home with my family. I rate each movie on a scale of 1 to 5:

  • 1 = Bad
  • 2 = Okay
  • 3 = Good
  • 4 = Great
  • 5 = Absolutely fabulous!

I generally enjoy movies, so of the 108 movies I’ve seen (so far!) this year, 81 received a good rating or above. Note that I rate movies within genre, so a silly comedy that’s great at being a silly comedy may get the same rating as a serious mediation on war violence that great at being that.

My top six movies for the year (with direct links so you can watch them right now) were Cinema Paradiso (1988 – Amazon/YouTube), Embrace of the Serpent (2016 – Amazon/YouTube), About Elly (2015 – YouTube), Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016 – Amazon/YouTube), Sing Street (2016 – Amazon/YouTube), and The Wizard of Oz (1939 – Amazon/YouTube). The children’s movie that you probably didn’t see but should is Kubo and the Two Strings (2016 – Amazon/YouTube

Below is the full list, ordered by rating – and then alphabetically within ratings. Links are to Rotten Tomatoes, which gives a synthesis of critical reviews. Bolded titles are the 35 movies I saw in the theater. I occasionally include the movie’s release year to add clarity. Lastly, I didn’t re-calibrated the list at the end of the year, so some ordering may be affected by my mood or the quality of popcorn at the theater.

What did I miss? What did you love?

Cinema Paradiso 5
Embrace of the Serpent 5
About Elly 4.5
Hunt for the Wilderpeople 4.5
Sing Street 4.5
The Wizard of Oz 4.5
10 Cloverfield Lane 4
Batman: The Movie (1966) 4
Brooklyn 4
Captain America: Civil War 4
Dirty Pretty Things 4
Divines 4
Doctor Strange (2016) 4
Eye in the Sky  4
Finding Dory 4
Ghostbusters (2016) 4
States of Grace 4
Guardians of the Galaxy 4
Inside Out 4
Kubo and the Two Strings 4
Kung Fu Panda 3 4
Kung Fu Panda 3 (Yes, I saw this in the theater twice. Boom!) 4
La La Land 4
Les Visiteurs 4
The Measure of a Man 4
Moana 4
Moonlight 4
Mustang 4
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 4
Roman Holiday  4
Sullivan’s Travels (1941) 4
Tell No One 4
The Bourne Ultimatum  4
The Eagle Huntress 4
The Usual Suspects 4
Zootopia 4
13 Going on 30 3.5
A Cat in Paris 3.5
A Monster in Paris 3.5
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 3.5
Creed 3.5
Denial 3.5
Inside Man 3.5
Le Chef 3.5
Love Actually 3.5
Meet the Robinsons 3.5
Once I was a Beehive 3.5
Oscar nominated animated shorts (2016) 3.5
Romantics Anonymous 3.5
Sleepwalk with Me 3.5
Trolls 3.5
The Finest Hours 3.5
The Little Prince (2015) 3.5
The Lobster 3.5
Man from Reno 3.5
The Rock 3.5
X-Men (2000) 3.5
Candleshoe (1977) 3
Casa Grande 3
Deepwater Horizon 3
Gone in 60 Seconds 3
Hot Girls Wanted 3
How to Steal a Million (1966) 3
I Married a Dumbass (Me casé con un boludo) 3
In Search of the Castaways (1962) 3
Marie’s Story 3
Miss Granny 3
Pete’s Dragon (2016) 3
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies 3
Sliding Doors 3
Spectre 3
Spy 3
Swiss Family Robinson 3
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby 3
The Italian Job 3
The Jungle Book (1967) 3
The Jungle Book (2016) 3
The Night My Mother Killed My Father 3
The Parent Trap (1961) 3
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep 3
Zoolander 2 3
Fan 2.5
Hail, Caesar! 2.5
Jason Bourne 2.5
Midnight Special 2.5
Pee Wee’s Big Holiday 2.5
Pete’s Dragon (1977) 2.5
The Good Dinosaur 2.5
The Intern 2.5
Lion 2.5
The Secret Life of Pets 2.5
X-Men: Apocalypse (dubbed into Italian) 2.5
Zathura 2.5
Casa de Mi Padre (2012) 2
Deadpool 2
High School Musical 2
High School Musical 2 2
Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) 2
L’age d’or 2
Mother’s Day (2016) 2
Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace 2
Storks 2
Wonderful Nightmare 2
Barbecue (2014) 1.5
Daddy’s Home 1.5
Mascots  1.5
The Do-Over 1.5
All Creatures Big and Small 1

Hyenas (film, Senegal, 1992)

thought-provoking story of justice, money, and vengeance served very, very cold

Dramaan Drameh is a shopkeeper and the mayor elect of Colobane, a poor town. Then Linguère Ramatou returns after decades away, having accumulated fabulous wealth and seeking vengeance for a long-past but deeply grievous wrong carried out by Dramaan.

The film explores fascinating issues of justice and money and the relationship between the two. It also explores how the promise of money changes people. The pacing is pretty good. The film is in Wolof with English subtitles. The DVD has no special features: Just the movie and the option of scene selection.

My favorite line: “She has more money than the World Bank!”

Note on content: No swearing, no sex. Mention of prostitution and an adolescent pregnancy. No visual violence.

what i read and saw in June


19. Best of the month!!!  Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl, by Donald Sturrock.  I thought this biography was completely compelling and fascinating and fun.  Wonderfully well documented.  I wrote a longer review, which you can read here: my longer review.  9/10

18. A Savage Place, by Robert Parker (audiobook).  Spenser (#8) goes to L.A. to help a TV reporter bust a big story.

17. Promised Land, by Robert Parker (audiobook).  Spenser (#4) goes up against militant feminists and loan sharks.  (And we meet his long-term buddy Hawk.)

16. The Judas Goat, by Robert Parker (audiobook).  Spenser (#5) goes to Europe to track down terrorist assassins!


22. Beginners (theater) – Sweet movie about falling in love and the courage to start a new life, played out in two generations by Ewan McGregor and his father (in the film), Christopher Plummer.  It reminded me of when I fell in love, nine years ago.  8/10

21. Lost (Season 2) – Compulsive viewing.  Two groups of survivors meet up.

a short montage that captures how i feel when i go to the movies

I went to see Tron Legacy the other week, and to be honest, I didn’t think it was a very good movie.  But the company was great, and there is something about that darkened room and the other world you enter. (Hat tip to Linda Holmes.)

If you happen to understand Portuguese, the beginning of this lovely movie Lisbela e o Prisionero captures that same feeling.