1) There Will Be Blood
“I drink your milkshake” has become a goofy meme, but that doesn’t lessen the relentless pacing and bubbling dread of There Will Be Blood. Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 exploration of single-minded oilman Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), who becomes entangled with single-minded young preacher Eli (Paul Dano), is epic in scope and lets its wide shots breathe. Once their their competing greed is ignited, the film cuts the brakes. Pair that with Jonny Greenwood’s prickly score and you’ve got a drama that unfolds more like a horror movie.
2) No Country For Old Men
We meet killer Anton Chigurh within the first two minutes of No Country For Old Men, the Coen brothers’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel. The first murder we witness sets off a domino effect across West Texas, as dirty money, small-town law enforcement, and a dead-eyed killer engage in a deadly dance.
3) The Usual Suspects
If you’ve never seen this film and have managed to avoid spoilers about the ending, congrats. Still, 20 years later, this whodunnit remains an expertly constructed exploration of truth, fiction, and unreliable narrators, even without that infamous twist. Kevin Spacey plays a much different character than in House of Cards, but they’re both fantastic manipulators.
Trainspotting is a movie about the depths of addiction, but as Roger Ebert put it in his review of the 1996 film, “The reason there is a fierce joy in Trainspotting, despite the appalling things that happen in it, is that it's basically about friends in need.” Those five friends dive into some truly surreal and shitty (literally) holes in Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel, and we might see more of that in a forthcoming sequel.
5) A Teacher
For some reason, this film also shows up under romantic comedies on Netflix, and it’s neither of those things. Hannah Fidell’s 2013 film follows the slow descent of a high school teacher (played by Lindsay Burdge) into obsession with her student. What starts out as a flirtation, built upon furtive glances and secret meetings, gradually shifts the power dynamic between the two. Burdge is especially deft at balancing normality and self-destruction, even as we know she’s veering towards the latter.
6) Short Term 12
As Grace (Brie Larson), a counselor at a group home for teens, says early on in Short Term 12: “You have to be an asshole before you can be their friend.” The film spends much of its time exploring the inner lives of these kids as well as the counselors. The Newsroom’s John Gallagher Jr. plays Grace’s boyfriend and co-worker, and their relationship provides some emotional resonance. Keith Stanfield (Atlanta) is a standout as Marcus, a young man about to turn 18 and leave the home. All these lives collide, and unexpected friendships form from shared pain.
7) Fruitvale Station
Ryan Coogler’s debut feature film tells the story of Oscar Grant, who was shot by police outside a Bay Area Transit Station on Jan. 1, 2009. Michael B. Jordan plays Grant, as we follow him on the last day of his life, and watch events unfold through his eyes.
8) A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Shot in stunning black-and-white, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a revision on the vampire story, set in an Iranian town called Bad City. The girl, played by Sheila Vand, floats through the streets at night, sometimes on a skateboard. She has her carefully chosen targets, but the film doesn’t linger on blood-splattered scenes; instead, it focuses on those souls lingering in Bad City, and the humanity left within them.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance