2020s

Armageddon Time (2022)

In his light sepia filter and lavish retro design of 1980s New York, James Gray infuses Armageddon Time with a nostalgia that could only exist in the eyes of a child as innocent as him, thoughtfully examining a survivor’s guilt that echoes across generations of inherited privilege, prejudice, and the cultural weight of Jewish history.

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

The outpouring of grief felt in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a refreshingly sincere change of pace for Marvel Studios, as Ryan Coogler’s heartfelt eulogising for his late friend underscores new political tensions in Wakanda and the sophisticated world-building of a hidden, underwater kingdom, delivering a visual majesty that sensitively reflects on what has been lost.

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The Woman King (2022)

Within The Woman King’s historical setting of 19th century West Africa, the familial bonds built between the Dahomey tribe’s warrior women feel viscerally alive, as Gina Prince-Bythewood brings both a feminist sensitivity and tactile practicality to sweeping battle set pieces that revel in the awe of its fierce female fighters and leaders.

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Barbarian (2022)

The thrill of seeing three tangential storylines wind around one unassuming house and its chilling, subterranean dungeons in Barbarian makes for a truly shocking piece of horror cinema, as through Zach Cregger’s agile, perspective-shifting narrative we learn to discern which monsters hiding in its depths deserve either our utmost disdain or sorrowful pity.

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We Are Who We Are (2020)

Though the episodic storytelling of We Are Who We Are leads to some shagginess in Luca Guadagnino’s narrative, its wandering pace offers his complex characters all the time they need to explore questions of sexuality, gender identity, and grief, foregrounding the vague but sweet relationship between two teenagers living on a U.S. military base in Italy.

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Decision to Leave (2022)

Soaring mountaintops and deep oceans become fitting metaphors for the dangerous longing between detective and suspect in Decision to Leave, as Park Chan-wook follows this obsession with a keen, stylistic precision and melancholic ambiguity that threatens to topple both in their pursuit of love.

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