On Film


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Three Routes Through Thelma & Louise

How the West Was Won

Seamlessly blending an array of cinematic traditions, Thelma & Louise is more than anything a western—one that takes advantage of the genre’s elasticity and reflects its preoccupation with justice, liberty, and self-determination.

By Jessica Kiang

Three Routes Through Thelma & Louise

Bringing to Life

What makes Thelma & Louise truly a film for women, despite the fact that it was directed by a man, are its stars, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, who imbue their iconic performances with tender, unwavering specificity.

By Rachel Syme

Three Routes Through Thelma & Louise

At the Wheel

Arriving at a fulcrum moment in women’s history in the United States, Thelma & Louise stoked controversy by delivering a boldly feminist worldview in a funny, warm, and sexy package.

By Rebecca Traister

Petite maman: Au revoir l’enfance

In one of her most moving explorations of youth, Céline Sciamma offers the gently radical and reparative chance for a mother and child to share a perspective.

By So Mayer

Targets: American Sniper

Inspired by golden-age monster movies and the story of a real-life mass murderer, Peter Bogdanovich’s debut feature evokes the psychic dread of America in the 1960s, a decade defined by long-distance and increasingly high-profile gun violence.

By Adam Nayman

Triangle of Sadness: The Captain’s Dinner Is Coming Up

In his second Palme d’Or–winning film, Ruben Östlund uses familiar reality-television tropes to stage a deeply unnerving spectacle of obscene wealth and class outrage.

By A. S. Hamrah

Small Axe: Seared into Consciousness

Steve McQueen’s monumental, five-film portrait of London’s West Indian community is a howl of endorsement for political resistance and a vivid indictment of institutional malaise.

By Ashley Clark

Chilly Scenes of Winter: Nowhere Fast

Described by director Joan Micklin Silver as “a kind of weird romantic comedy,” this defiantly ambiguous exploration of amour fou presents its obsessive antihero in all his contradictions.

By Shonni Enelow

Last Hurrah for Chivalry: Long Live Chivalric Brotherhood

A pivotal early film from legendary Hong Kong director John Woo, this martial-arts classic explores the heroic ethos of youxia, Chinese warriors willing to sacrifice their lives to fight for justice and fulfill their promises.

By Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park

India Song and Baxter, Vera Baxter: In the Thrall of Duras

One of the towering figures of postwar French literature, Marguerite Duras was also an innovative filmmaker whose rarefied cinematic style dared audiences to see less and listen more.

By Ivone Margulies

Hollywood Shuffle: Against Type

In his directorial debut, Robert Townsend channeled his frustrations with the typecasting of Black actors, resulting in a satire whose hilarious critique of Hollywood still resonates today.

By ​Aisha Harris

Romeo and Juliet: Star-Crossed Spectacle

Entrenched as an authoritative adaptation, this Oscar-winning hit is still admired, taught, and studied today for its spectacular re-creation of the past and its reinvention of the Shakespearean spoken word.

By Ramona Wray

Bergman Island: Form and Feeling

In this shape-shifting exploration of creativity, couplehood, and artistic influence, Mia Hansen-Løve offers a glimpse at the existential heavy lift required by her deceptively simple autofictions.

By Devika Girish

This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection: Staying Power

Filled with evocative images and guided by the unique aesthetic sensibility of the landlocked kingdom of Lesotho, Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s film is an exploration of the power of grief that is paradoxically uplifting.

By Zakes Mda

Lars von Trier’s Europe Trilogy: Straight to the Bottom of the River

One of contemporary cinema’s most provocative filmmakers launched his career with three deeply unnerving, deliriously genre-blending portraits of Europe.

By Howard Hampton

Imitation of Life: On Passing Between

In its ambivalence toward its provocative themes, John M. Stahl’s groundbreaking exploration of racial identity demonstrates the insolubility of Hollywood’s representational conundrum.

By Miriam J. Petty

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: A Reason to Believe

A work of pure, rigorous enchantment, the final film in Terry Gilliam’s “Trilogy of Imagination” employs old-fashioned technical wizardry to bring about its wall-to-wall visual astonishments.

By Michael Koresky

Cooley High: Young, Gifted, and Black

A departure from the tales of sex and violence that defined Black cinema in the early 1970s, Michael Schultz’s beloved coming-of-age film celebrates the emotional bonds among a group of young Black men.

By Craigh Barboza

Mai Zetterling: Cinema Artist

A pioneering feminist artist drawn to universal themes, the Swedish director mined the complexity and humor of human behavior in films that courted controversy and cultivated a sense of detachment.

By Mariah Larsson

Michael Haneke’s Alienation Effect

Known for their austerity and shocking moments of violence, the Austrian director’s first three films cultivate a kind of humanism in their dogged refusal to coddle the viewer.

By John Wray

Malcolm X: Painting Superman Black

Spike Lee’s transcendent portrait of an American hero is an urgent call for the nation to live up to everything it claims to be.

By Barry Michael Cooper

WALL•E: Whoooooaaaaaaahhh . . .

Deeply influenced by the classics of silent-era comedy, this vision of a postapocalyptic future celebrates cinema as a universal language that offers us a sense of common ground.

By Sam Wasson

The Infernal Affairs Trilogy: Double Bind

A box-office success that buoyed Hong Kong’s beleaguered movie industry in the early 2000s, this suite of crime films combines narrative intricacy and moral complexity with an abundance of megastar charisma.

By Justin Chang

The Power of the Dog: What Kind of Man?

In her first film that places a male character front and center, Jane Campion trains her unsparing gaze on the brutality of patriarchal power and the pain of repressed homoerotic desire.

By Amy Taubin