9 Best Movies to Watch by Ben Mendelsohn

Staff & contributors

The movie starts with Luke (Ryan Gosling) as a stunt driver who learns he has a newborn child. Luke wants to properly provide for him, so he turns to robbing banks. That causes conflict with the mother (Eva Mendes) and a police officer (Bradley Cooper), which ends up spanning two generations. The Place Beyond the Pines is gritty and emotional, and at the heart of it, a good take on father-son relationships and long-term consequences.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Angelo Anthony Pizza, Anthony Angelo Pizza, Anthony Angelo Pizza, Jr., Ben Mendelsohn, Bradley Cooper, Brian Smyj, Bruce Greenwood, Craig Van Hook, Dane DeHaan, Derek Cianfrance, Emory Cohen, Ephraim Benton, Eva Mendes, Gabe Fazio, Greta Seacat, Harris Yulin, Jennifer Sober, Luca Pierucci, Lynette Howell Taylor, Mahershala Ali, Mark McCracken, Michael Cullen, Olga Merediz, Patrick Husted, Ray Liotta, Robert Clohessy, Rose Byrne, Ryan Gosling, Shannon Plumb

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Rating: R

A cracking cast including Guy Pearce and Joel Edgerton elevate this dark and gripping Australian crime drama, which was received with glowing reviews from critics but was sadly forgotten with time.

Breakout star James Frecheville plays J, a teenager who goes to live with his grandmother, the head of a Melbourne crime organization. As the heat closes in and things go awry, J finds himself caught between his family and a detective who wants to save him.

Jacki Weaver is outstanding as the conniving grandma and the film put Ben Mendelsohn on the road to Hollywood stardom. Animal Kingdom is a superior crime saga with plenty of emotional depth to match the tense drama.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Andy McPhee, Anna Lise Phillips, Anthony Hayes, Ben Mendelsohn, Bert LaBonté, Brenda Palmer, Chris Weir, Christina Azucena, Clayton Jacobson, Dan Wyllie, David Michôd, Dom Phelan, Guy Pearce, Jack Heanly, Jacki Weaver, Jacqueline Brennan, James Frecheville, James Saunders, Joel Edgerton, Josh Helman, Justin Rosniak, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Laura Wheelwright, Luke Ford, Michael Vice, Mirrah Foulkes, Sullivan Stapleton, Susan Prior, Tim Phillipps

Director: David Michôd

Rating: R

This artistic Australian coming-of-age drama stars Eliza Scanlen (Little Women, Sharp Objects) as Milla, a teen from a dysfunctional family. The father is a psychologist and the mother suffers from depression, so he medicates her under the table. Meanwhile, Milla, a 16 year old, starts dating a charismatic almost-homeless 24 year old drug dealer. Unusual circumstances make the family tolerate the relationship in this story where every character feels like the main one. 

If you're looking for something different, you will love Babyteeth. Something happens to Milla in the 10 minute mark that descriptions and reviews online all mention - but is definitely a spoiler. Just know that it's not all romance and coming-of-age, there is slow-burning darkness to this movie. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Andrea Demetriades, Arka Das, Ben Mendelsohn, Charles Grounds, Eliza Scanlen, Emily Barclay, Essie Davis, Eugene Gilfedder, Georgina Symes, Jaga Yap, Justin Smith, Michelle Lotters, Priscilla Doueihy, Renee Billing, Toby Wallace, Zack Grech

Director: Shannon Murphy

Rating: MA-17, Not Rated

Based off the real life experiences of the film's writer, Jack Asser, Starred Up is a gritty crime drama set within a violent offenses prison in the UK. The film's name references a youthful offender who, by virtue of his crimes, is sent to an adult facility. The film hums along like a taut bit of wire, keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat as the enormity of the prison subculture is unfolded in front of them.  Unlike many other prison dramas, this film isn't afraid to break cliches and explore new ground, and is populated with disturbingly real character studies, slices of dark and broken humanity.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aisha Bywaters, Amma Boateng, Anthony Adjekum, Anthony Welsh, Ashley Chin, Basil Abdul-Latif, Ben Mendelsohn, C.C. Smiff, David Ajala, David Avery, Duncan Airlie James, Edna Caskey, Frederick Schmidt, Gershwyn Eustache Jnr, Gilly Gilchrist, Ian Beattie, Jack O'Connell, Jack O'Connell, James Doran, Jonathan Asser, Mark Asante, Paddy Rocks, Peter Ferdinando, Raphael Sowole, Rupert Friend, Ryan McKenna, Sam Spruell, Sian Breckin, Tommy McDonnell

Director: David Mackenzie

Rating: Not Rated

Slow West is a modern western about a young Scotsman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) trekking across America in search of Rose, the young woman he loves, while accompanied by a wayward outlaw named Silas (Michael Fassbender). Jay soon realizes that he is unwittingly leading a pack of nefarious bounty hunters toward Rose and her father as well, as a sizable reward rests on their heads for the accidental killing of a nobleman. It’s a melancholy yet clever and enjoyable film with a distinct Coen Brothers-esque sense of dark humor and quirky violence. In his debut feature, John Maclean gives the western a fresh spin and a nice creative twist, marking his territory as a promising new name in the film world.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller, Western

Actor: Aaron McGregor, Alex MacQueen, Andrew Robertt, Andy McPhee, Aorere Paki, Ben Mendelsohn, Brian Sergent, Brooke Williams, Caren Pistorius, David T. Lim, Eddie Campbell, Edwin Wright, Hayden Frost, Jeffrey Thomas, Kalani Queypo, Karl Willetts, Ken Blackburn, Kieran Charnock, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Madeleine Sami, Michael Fassbender, Michael Whalley, Rory McCann, Stuart Bowman, Stuart Martin, Tawanda Manyimo

Director: John Maclean

Rating: R

To Catch a Killer feels like a limited series shrunken down to fit a movie’s runtime: its many ideas, though potentially compelling on their own, are so underserved by the breezy treatment here that they lose all value. The film wants to hit every hot button — misogyny in the police force, demagoguery on TV news channels, high-level corruption, white supremacy, and the mental health crisis — but its frantic box-ticking makes it feel like a speed-run of topical issues rather than anything genuinely reflective. 

The characters feel similarly underdeveloped, not least star Shailene Woodley’s, a Clarice Starling wannabe who winds up delivering emotional counseling to the film’s bafflingly motivated serial killer in just one of many implausible scenes. Add to that the cringe-inducing dialogue, which is crammed to bursting point with clunky metaphors, and you can call off the manhunt —  the script is the real killer here.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alain Chanoine, Arthur Holden, Ben Mendelsohn, Benz Antoine, Christian Jadah, Daniel Brochu, Darcy Laurie, Dawn Lambing, Dusan Dukic, Frank Schorpion, Jason Cavalier, Jovan Adepo, Karine Dion, Luc Morissette, Marcello Bezina, Mark Antony Krupa, Mark Camacho, Mark Day, Maurizio Terrazzano, Michael Cram, Michael Dozier, Nabil Khatib, Patrick Émmanuel Abellard, Patrick Labbé, Ralph Ineson, Richard Zeman, Rosemary Dunsmore, Sean Tucker, Shailene Woodley, Ted Pluviose, Teneisha Collins

Director: Damián Szifron