6 Best Movies to Watch by Ann Dowd

Staff & contributors

Former activists Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Leslie drop out from modern consumerist society to raise their six children in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. They teach them how to raise and kill their own food, to survive in nature through boot-camp-like workouts, and homeschool them in literature, music, and left-wing philosophy. Instead of Christmas, they celebrate Noam Chomsky's birthday. Then, one day, this unusual family life is shaken by a phone call and they are forced to leave their life of adventure to reintegrate into American life.

Directed by Matt Ross, who also brought you Good Night, and Good Luck, the film offers a poignant look at alternative living, the effects of modern technology, and the nature of good parenting. Viggo Mortensen is indeed fantastic as the grizzled father and was rightly nominated for a Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Actor. George MacKay and the entire cast of “children” also deliver terrific performances. As emotionally raw and thought-provoking as it is funny, Captain Fantastic will have the viewer decide if Ben Cash is the best father in the world or the worst.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alan Humphrey, Ann Dowd, Annalise Basso, Charlie Shotwell, Elena Stecca, Elijah Stevenson, Erin Moriarty, Frank Langella, George MacKay, Greg Crooks, Hannah Horton, Kathryn Hahn, Matt Ross, Mike Miller, Missi Pyle, Nicholas Hamilton, Rex Young, Richard Beal, Samantha Isler, Shree Crooks, Steve Zahn, Teddy Van Ee, Trin Miller, Viggo Mortensen

Director: Matt Ross

Rating: R

, 2021

In the first few minutes of Mass, hushed tones, solemn movements, and awkwardly averted eyes hint at an unspoken tragedy that haunts everyone in the film. The four main characters discuss it during a sit-down, but even then it remains unspeakable; such is the dedication of first-time full-length director Fran Kranz in depicting the reality of tragic events. Not much is done in the way of plot twists and shocks, but in place of those, Mass makes clever use of close-up shots and unmoving settings to portray the privacy and paralysis of grief. For this reason, Mass often feels like a masterful play brought to life, but also more than that, a brilliant portrait of healing—or at the very least, coping with the everlasting aftermath of loss. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ann Dowd, Breeda Wool, Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Michelle N. Carter, Reed Birney

Director: Fran Kranz

One of The Drop's many strengths is its dark, clever, yet compassionate script. It will take you into the heart of the Brooklyn crime scene through the characters and their respective more or less fragile lifestyles. The extremely good performances, however, soon become the focus and attire of the film. James Gandolfini couldn't be more at home in this context and excels with his usual menace, yet somehow relatable presence. Tom Hardy, however, surprises in unfamiliar grounds, sharply portraying a vulnerable character, whose vulnerability you will keep doubting. The Drop is consistent from start to finish, and with jaw-dropping moments here and there, it is both an interesting and enjoyable film.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Alex Ziwak, Ann Dowd, Chris Sullivan, Danny McCarthy, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Erin Darke, Jack Dimich, James Colby, James Frecheville, James Gandolfini, Jeremy Bobb, Jessica Tate, John Di Benedetto, John Ortiz, Khan Baykal, Lucas Caleb Rooney, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michaël R. Roskam, Michael Aronov, Michael Esper, Michael O'Hara, Mike Houston, Morgan Spector, Noomi Rapace, Patricia Squire, Robert Turano, Ross Bickell, Scott Johnsen, Tobias Segal, Tom Hardy

Director: Michael R. Roskam, Michael Roskam

Rating: R

In this comedy/drama, Bill Murray plays an aged, dispirited war veteran named Vincent who openly disdains most people and gives little attention to anything beyond alcohol and horse racing. Living a life of solitude in Brooklyn, everything takes a turn when a young single mother (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver move in next door. Vincent eventually takes on the responsibility of watching over Oliver when Maggie is at work. Murray is perfectly unpleasant in his darkly comedic role, as his relationship with Oliver evolves despite his own misgivings, providing young Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) with the fatherly/grandfatherly presence he desperately needs. Though somewhat formulaic, St. Vincent rises above expectations by way of great dialogue, favourable performances from all of the leads, and an unbelievably touching finale that will melt your heart. Much better than you probably expect—definitely check this one out.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexandra Fong, Amber Clayton, Ann Dowd, Bill Murray, Brenda Wehle, Brian Berrebbi, Chris O'Dowd, Chris O'Dowd, Dario Barosso, David Iacono, Deirdre OConnell, Donna Mitchell, Elliot Santiago, Frank Wood, Greta Lee, Jaeden Lieberher, Jaeden Martell, James Andrew O'Connor, Jeff Bowser, Josh Elliott Pickel, Katharina Damm, Kerry Flanagan, Kimberly Quinn, Lenny Venito, Maria Elena Ramirez, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Melanie Nicholls-King, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Nate Corddry, Niles Fitch, Orlagh Cassidy, Portia, Ray Iannicelli, Reg E. Cathey, Ron McLarty, Scott Adsit, Terrence Howard, Tim Wilson

Director: Theodore Melfi

Rating: PG-13

This crazy heist movie is told in a very original way. Because it's based on a true story, the movie (with actors and a story) is sometimes interrupted by the people it's about. The opening scene even reads: "this movie is not based on a true story, it is a true story". Two friends decide to rob their local library from rare books worth millions. They're driven by money but also by wanting something different than their monotonous everyday lives in Kentucky. The need for a change is a big theme in this movie, but the story and the way it's told never cease to be breathtakingly thrilling. American Animals stars amazing actors like Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk), Evan Peters (Kick-Ass), and many more; but perhaps equally as notable is the director: Bart Layton, who is fresh from his amazing 2012 sleeper-hit The Imposter.

Genre: Crime, Documentary, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Al Mitchell, Ann Dowd, Barry Keoghan, Ben McIntire, Blake Jenner, Bobby Akers, Debby Handolescu, Dorothy Reynolds, Drew Starkey, Elijah Everett, Eric Borsuk, Evan Peters, Fedor Steer, Gary Basaraba, Gretchen Koerner, Jack Landry, Jane McNeill, Jared Abrahamson, Jason Caceres, JD Demers, Josh Jordan, Josh Royston, Karen Wheeling Reynolds, Kelly Borgnis, Kevin L. Johnson, Lara Grice, Lauran Foster, Marlo Scheitler, Pamela Bell Mitchell, Pamela Mitchell, Spencer Reinhard, Steven 'Trainset' Curtis, Udo Kier, Warren Lipka, Wayne Duvall, Whitney Goin, William Cowboy Reed

Director: Bart Layton

Rating: R

A chilling and dark movie to be especially appreciated by true suspense lovers. At the funeral of the family’s matriarch, no one is emotional except the granddaughter, whose grieving is disturbing, to say the least. When both grieving and not grieving are unsettling, you can tell what kind of family (and movie) this will be.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alex Wolff, Alexis Long, Ann Dowd, Ari Aster, Austin R. Grant, Brock McKinney, Bus Riley, Christy Summerhays, Gabriel Byrne, Gabriel Monroe Eckert, Harrison Nell, Heidi Mendez, Jake Brown, Jarrod Phillips, Jason Miyagi, John Forker, Kathleen Chalfant, Mallory Bechtel, Marilyn Miller, Mark Blockovich, Milly Shapiro, Moises L. Tovar, Morgan Lund, Pat Barnett Carr, Toni Collette, Zachary Arthur

Director: Ari Aster

Rating: R