Our annual compilation of overlooked films. Each reviewer chose five films to highlight.
“The Endless”: Two brothers are drawn back to the apocalyptic wilderness cult of their youth in this beguiling science-fiction/horror hybrid. The writing/directing/producing/editing/acting team of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead find the inherent creepiness in their characters’ unreliable memories as they explore how nostalgia can become a kind of trap. Netflix; VOD
“Lean on Pete”: An especially heartbreaking entry in the “hard-luck kid scrambles to survive” subgenre, writer-director Andrew Haigh’s adaptation of a Willy Vlautin novel follows an impoverished, neglected teen (played by Charlie Plummer) who forms an emotional bond with a washed-up racehorse and takes to the road to save the animal’s life. Amazon Prime; Kanopy; VOD
“Mandy”: Writer-director Panos Cosmatos mixes hazy psychedelia and bloody heavy metal in this twisted revenge thriller. Nicolas Cage goes all out as a resourceful lumberjack seeking payback from a freaky religious cult and its motorcycle-riding demon hordes. Shudder; VOD
“Nancy”: The formidable Andrea Riseborough gives a career-best performance in writer-director Christina Choe’s haunting debut film, playing a moody loner who shows up at an upscale couple’s doorstep, claiming to be their long-lost daughter. Is she lying? Delusional? Does it matter if she makes these grieving parents happy? Amazon Prime; Kanopy; VOD
“Tyrel”: In a year when racial identity was the central theme of several popular indie films (and blockbusters), more people should have seen writer-director Sebastián Silva’s social satire. Jason Mitchell is excellent as the only black man at a Catskills house party, becoming increasingly paranoid as he realizes how little he has in common with his white friends when they’re all together. VOD
More, please: Smash-hit documentaries. Wasn’t it heartening this year to live in a world where “Three Identical Strangers,” “RBG,” “Free Solo” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” all made over $10 million at the box office?
Enough already: Star-studded, straight-to-VOD shoot’em-ups. Bruce Willis and other ’80s/’90s action stars sacrifice some of their legacy every time they make glorified cameos in crummy, generic crime pictures.