5 Best Movies to Watch by Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Staff & contributors

Named after the Celtic concept of heaven, Summerland is a rare queer period drama that feels hopeful rather than despairing. The film takes us to the countryside in World War II, where our protagonist, the reclusive writer Alice Lamb (Gemma Arterton), studies the folklore about Summerland. We know that her isolation wasn’t fully chosen; her refusal to marry causes adults to gossip and causes children to speculate that she’s a witch. But this all changes when a young evacuee is entrusted to Alice’s care.

Gemma Arterton shines as a reluctant guardian stifled by repressed grief, and she makes Alice’s dynamic with Frank (Lucas Bond) and her former lover Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) incredibly believable. And while it would have been lovely to see more of Vera, even just their first meeting easily captures that heady sense of pure enchantment with another person. It’s no wonder that Alice has to cling to folklore the same way we do. For many of us, it’s the only way we can express our hopes, fears, and dreams.

Genre: Drama, Romance, War

Actor: Amanda Lawrence, Amanda Root, Casper Allpress, Daniel Eghan, David Ajao, David Horovitch, Dixie Egerickx, Fergal McElherron, Gemma Arterton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jessica Gunning, Joshua Riley, Lucas Bond, Martina Laird, Nimmy March, Penelope Wilton, Rakhee Thakrar, Sally Scott, Siân Phillips, Thomas Coombes, Toby Osmond, Tom Courtenay

Director: Jessica Swale

Rating: N/A, PG

Jessica Chastain plays a driven Washington lobbyist called Elizabeth Sloane in this high-speed political thriller. After being pitched to work for the gun lobby, she decides to work for the opposition: an NGO trying to pass a background check bill. It's a long movie, and even if everything happens fast, it still lags. 

The events do wrap up by the end to explain the complex plot. Not to mention, Chastain's performance something to behold and is reason enough to watch. Her character's hidden motive and questionable methods make her an anti-hero, but Chastain always keeps a lure of hope that her character will redeem herself. That delicate balance might be the most thrilling aspect of Miss Sloan.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aaron Hale, Al Mukaddam, Alexandra Castillo, Alison Pill, Anand Rajaram, Andrew Moodie, Angela Vint, Austin Strugnell, Christine Baranski, Chuck Shamata, Courtenay J. Stevens, Craig Eldridge, David Wilson Barnes, Doug Murray, Douglas Smith, Dylan Baker, Ennis Esmer, Grace Lynn Kung, Greta Onieogou, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Gurdeep Ahluwalia, Helen Johns, Jack Murray, Jake Lacy, Jessica Chastain, Joe Pingue, John Lithgow, Kevin Jubinville, Kyle Mac, Lucy Owen, Mark Strong, Meghann Fahy, Michael Cram, Michael Stuhlbarg, Murray Furrow, Noah Robbins, Ola Sturik, Raoul Bhaneja, Sam Waterston, Sergio Di Zio, Zach Smadu

Director: John Madden

Rating: R

, 2013

When it comes to British period dramas, aristocrats are rarely portrayed as Black until relatively recently, with colorblind casting tending to focus more on acting talent rather than how race would affect and shape a character. That being said, while rarely acknowledged, Black descendants of British aristocracy actually did exist, and one of whom has been depicted in Belle. With the excellent Gugu Mbatha-Raw making her film breakthrough here, Belle reckons with the difficult questions of race and sex in 18th century Britain, contemplating the real woman’s options in a world determined entirely by blood and inheritance, a discussion brushed aside in other period dramas, but one that should be examined. While director Amma Asante does take plenty of liberties in the actual facts, she also excellently balances both the fictional romance and the historical realities Dido Elizabeth Belle had faced, making both parts as compelling and as essential as each other.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Emily Watson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sam Reid, Sarah Gadon, Tom Wilkinson

Director: Amma Asante

Rating: PG

, 2024

Sometimes, after a demanding work week, you want to watch a low-stakes, enjoyable movie with just enough plot to enjoy. Heist comedy Lift tries to be that film, with Kevin Hart as a smooth criminal who steals art in order to keep art from undeserving owners and improve the artist’s revenue from their work. It’s an interesting twist to the Robin Hood stereotype, one that could have hinted at concerns of screen artists last year when its release date was originally scheduled for. That being said, the film throws this idea away when Kevin Hart and his team are now forced to participate in a risky heist due to the Interpol. The events that play out amount to a fairly generic caper, but there are far better heist films to spend your weekend watching, with far better plots and stunts.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime

Actor: Amit Dhut, Andrew Wilson, Billy Magnussen, Burn Gorman, Caroline Loncq, David Proud, Erol Ismail, Gary Fannin, Gerard Monaco, Gordon Alexander, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jacob Batalon, Jean Reno, Jess Liaudin, Kevin Hart, Kim Yun-jee, Oli Green, Paul Anderson, Ross Anderson, Roy McCrerey, Russ Bain, Sam Worthington, Úrsula Corberó, Vincent D'Onofrio, Viveik Kalra

Director: F. Gary Gray

Rating: PG-13