6 Best Movies to Watch by Conan O'Brien

Staff & contributors

There’s a lot of good to be found in the charming, poignant, and endlessly quotable Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. It follows a documentarian named Dean, who has as his subject the one-inch talking shell that is Marcel. Marcel looks after an empty house along with his grandma Connie, and together they run a delightfully intricate system subsisting on electric mixers, tennis balls, and the occasional human hair.

Despite his small size, Marcel unwittingly makes big observations about life and the world around him, often moving Dean (and this writer) close to tears. It’s a simple film with a grand message, with lots to say about the importance of participating in life as opposed to merely observing it. But ultimately this is a movie with a precocious talking shell at the heart of it all, so really, what’s not to like?

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy, Kids

Actor: Andy Richter, Avan Jogia, Blake Hottle, Brian Williams, Conan O'Brien, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Isabella Rossellini, Jamie Leonhart, Jenny Slate, Jeremy Evans, Jessi Klein, Joe Gabler, Lesley Stahl, Nathan Fielder, Peter Bonerz, Rosa Salazar, Samuel Painter, Sarah Thyre, Scott Osterman, Shari Finkelstein, Thomas Mann, Victoria Justice

Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp

Rating: PG

This charming documentary about one of the most brilliant, groundbreaking comedians alive strikes a delicate balance between accessible and deeply appreciative, making it both a great gateway for those yet to be uninitiated into the Albert Brooks fan club and a satisfying retrospective for us confirmed devotees. It’s directed and fronted by Rob Reiner, celebrated director himself and one of Albert Brooks’ oldest friends, and the choice is perfect: his rapport with Brooks is warm and easy, extracting real sincerity from the famously deadpan comedian-writer-actor-director.

Defending My Life features plenty of talking heads gushing about Brooks’ dazzling multi-hyphenate talents (among them Steven Spielberg and Sharon Stone), a standard convention for documentaries of this kind. But what elevates this into a portrait worthy of its subject are the scenes from a dinner shared by Brooks and Reiner, during which the former opens up about his childhood, reflects on his career, and divulges the autobiographical elements that informed his work. Their tete-a-tete flows with all the unforced rhythm of conversation between good friends; Reiner’s presence coaxes illuminating insight from Brooks, which makes watching the documentary feel as close to pulling up a seat at their table as you’d hope for. The 90 minutes just fly by.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alana Haim, Albert Brooks, Anthony Jeselnik, Ben Stiller, Brian Williams, Chris Rock, Conan O'Brien, David Letterman, James L. Brooks, Jon Stewart, Jonah Hill, Judd Apatow, Larry David, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nikki Glaser, Rob Reiner, Robert De Niro, Sarah Silverman, Sharon Stone, Steven Spielberg, Tiffany Haddish, Wanda Sykes

Director: Rob Reiner

Rating: PG-13

For the longest time, it was always about how wrestling was affected by David Arquette; this documentary finally turns it around and asks how Arquette was affected by pro wrestling. We get interviews from his family that mostly look down on his silly wrestling phase; and from established wrestling personalities that, despite dated fan perceptions, welcome him at every turn. We really get in the weeds of Arquette’s motivations, anxieties, and training for a comeback tour on the indies. The audio levels may be a little erratic, but the intangible rawness combined with its polished nature make this a very fitting film for the wild man.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: André Roussimoff, Aurelian Smith Jr., Bill Goldberg, Billy Corgan, Booker Huffman, Booker Huffman, Jr., Brett Giehl, Brian Yandrisovitz, Brian Zachary Pillman, Chris Jericho, Chris Klucsarits, Coco Arquette, Conan O'Brien, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, David Penzer, Dusty Rhodes, Elizabeth Hulette, Ellen DeGeneres, Eric Bischoff, George Murdoch, Harvey Levin, Hulk Hogan, Jack Perry, James Ellsworth Morris, Jay Leno, Jeffrey Jarrett, Jerome Saganovich, Jerome Young, Jerry Lawler, Jim Cornette, Jim Fullington, Joe Rogan, Joseph Ryan Meehan, Julian Micevski, Karen Yu, Ken Anderson, Kevin Nash, Kurt Russell, Lewis Arquette, Luke Perry, Mark LoMonaco, Maxwell Friedman, Michael Lee Alfonso, Mick Foley, Monty Sopp, Mr. T, Nathan Blauvelt, Nicholas W. Wilson, Noah Nelms, Oprah Winfrey, Page Falkinburg Jr., Patricia Arquette, Randy Poffo, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Richmond Arquette, Rob Strauss, Rosanna Arquette, Scott Colton, Scott Hall, Timothy Moura, Tony Schiavone, Vince Russo, Virgil Runnels, Wendy Williams

Director: David Darg, Price James

Rating: R

Animated in every sense of the word, The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a fun and lively watch for anyone of any age. On the surface, it’s about a tech company’s AI going haywire as it turns against humans and takes over the world (an obvious and much-deserved dig at Big Tech). It also immediately stands out as an energetic and inventive film bursting with love for the animation genre.

But at its core, it's about family and learning to love them even and especially when the going gets tough. Teenager Katie and her father Rick are at that precarious moment in their relationship where everything they do seems to annoy the other, while Katie's mother Linda tries and fails and tries again to keep the peace. The Mitchells are filled with love, but they’re not quite sure how to express it to each other, and it's both funny and relatable how it takes a literal apocalypse for them to realize that. This is a family story elevated by dynamic animation and a bizarro storyline. Expect it to go off the rails in the best possible way.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Abbi Jacobson, Adam Wylie, Alex Hirsch, Alison Rich, Andrew Morgado, Ashley Peldon, Beck Bennett, Blake Griffin, Caitlin McKenna, Charlyne Yi, Chrissy Teigen, Conan O'Brien, Danny McBride, Doug Nicholas, Elle Mills, Eric André, Fred Armisen, Greg Levitan, Grey DeLisle, Griffin McElroy, Illya Owens, Jay Pharoah, Jeff Rowe, Jim Pirri, John Legend, Juan Pacheco, Justin Shenkarow, Lex Lang, Lisa Wilhoit, Madeleine McGraw, Maya Rudolph, Melissa Sturm, Michael Rianda, Michelle Ruff, Mike Rianda, Natalia del Riego, Natalie Canizares, Olivia Colman, Sasheer Zamata, Shane Sweet, Todd Hansen, Will Allegra, Zeno Robinson

Director: Jeff Rowe, Michael Rianda, Mike Rianda

Rating: PG

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a parody of a parody, a multilayered confection of silliness that befits the musician it celebrates. It's the origin story of Weird Al Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe) but with the surreal and satirical levels cranked up to a hundred. It's easy to get lost then, in the movie's freewheeling giddiness, but Radcliffe has a way of grounding the ultra-heightened comedy with his conviction and charm. The movie also doubles as a who's who in the 1980s music and comedy scene, and the unlikely pairings it brings together keep you entertained and nostalgic for a simpler, weirder time. 

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Music

Actor: 'Weird Al' Yankovic, Akiva Schaffer, Andrew Steven Hernandez, Anthony N., Anthony Nanakornpanom, Arturo Castro, Chad Guerrero, Conan O'Brien, Constantine Rousouli, Daniel Radcliffe, David Bloom, David Dastmalchian, Dean Sharpe, Demetri Martin, Diedrich Bader, Dot-Marie Jones, Emo Philips, Eric Appel, Evan Rachel Wood, Gordon Tarpley, Jack Black, Jack Lancaster, James Brown III, James Preston Rogers, Jimmy Walker Jr., Johnny Pemberton, Jonah Ray, Jonah Ray Rodrigues, Jorma Taccone, Josh Groban, Julianne Nicholson, Julie Chang, Keanush Tafreshi, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michael McKean, Mike Escamilla, Nina West, Paloma Esparza Rabinov, Panuvat Anthony Nanakornpanom, Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins, Paul Riley Fox, Quinta Brunson, Rainn Wilson, Richard Aaron Anderson, Rocky Abou-Sakher, Scott Aukerman, Seth Green, Spencer Treat Clark, Thomas Lennon, Toby Huss, Tommy O'Brien, Trenyce, Will Forte, William Guirola

Director: Eric Appel

Rating: TV-14