7 Best Movies to Watch by Matthew Maher

Staff & contributors

Martin Scorsese — plus screenwriter Paul Schrader, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and cinematographer Robert Richardson — reimagine nocturnal New York City as an eternally flaming circle of hell in this darkly funny fever dream. Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage) is an insomniac paramedic who’s haunted by the ghosts of all the lives he couldn’t save and is on a nightmarish run of losing every patient he tries to help. There’s no respite for him anywhere; he’s so burnt out he begs to be fired, but the city is so desperate they won’t let him leave their tired ranks of medics, who are mostly jaded, sometimes sadistic, and yet still addicted to the euphoric high of saving a life.

As Frank is pushed ever closer to breaking point, the film takes on the hallucinatory qualities of his perspective, the cinematography growing feverish and the editing powered by a wild, manic energy. What stops the movie from feeling like a spiral into actual hell is the strange light that keeps Frank returning to work — the perpetual need for redemption and grace that prevents him from becoming cold to his job but makes his sanity fragile. In typical Scorsese-Schrader style, this is a raw, visceral, and very human search for grace in an unsparing urban hellscape.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Afemo Omilami, Aida Turturro, Aleks Shaklin, Andy Davoli, Antone Pagán, Arthur J. Nascarella, Bernie Friedman, Betty Miller, Brian Smyj, Bronson Dudley, Catrina Ganey, Charis Michelsen, Cliff Curtis, Craig muMs Grant, Cullen O. Johnson, David Zayas, Ed Jupp Jr., Floyd Resnick, Frank Ciornei, Fuschia!, Graciela Lecube, Jack O'Connell, James Hanlon, Jesse Malin, John Goodman, John Heffernan, Jon Abrahams, Joseph P. Reidy, Judy Reyes, Julyana Soelistyo, Larry Fessenden, Leonid Citer, Lia Yang, Marc Anthony, Mark Giordano, Martin Scorsese, Mary Beth Hurt, Mary Diveny, Marylouise Burke, Matthew Maher, Melissa Marsala, Michael Carbonaro, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michael Mulheren, Mtume Gant, Nestor Serrano, Nicolas Cage, Omar Scroggins, Patricia Arquette, Phyllis Somerville, Queen Latifah, Raymond Cassar, Richard Spore, Sonja Sohn, Sylva Kelegian, Terry Serpico, Theo Kogan, Tom Cappadona, Tom Riis Farrell, Tom Sizemore, Ving Rhames

Director: Martin Scorsese

Rating: R

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac star in this slow-burning but impeccable crime thriller.

Abel Morales (Isaac) owns a fuel distribution company in 1980s New York. His competitors are violent and corrupt, and the feds are after him. The temptation to resort to unlawful methods is high, especially that his wife (Chastain) is the daughter of a mobster.

A Most Violent Year is about how this temptation of corruption unfolds and whether Abel will surrender to it or not.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Albert Brooks, Alessandro Nivola, Annie Funke, Ashley Williams, Ben Rosenfield, Bill Walters, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Chester Jones III, Chris Cardona, Christopher Abbott, Daisy Tahan, David Margulies, David Oyelowo, Elizabeth Marvel, Elyes Gabel, Giselle Eisenberg, Glenn Fleshler, Jason Ralph, Jerry Adler, Jessica Chastain, Jimmy Palumbo, John Dinello, John Douglas Thompson, John Procaccino, Kathleen Doyle, Linda Marie Larson, Lorna Guity Pruce, Lorna Pruce, Matthew Maher, Myrna Cabello, Nat DeWolf, Nick Bailey, Oscar Isaac, Patrick Breen, Peter Gerety, Pico Alexander, Quinn Meyers, Robert Clohessy, Russell G. Jones, Stephen Reich, Susan Blackwell, Suzanne Cerreta, Taylor Richardson, Teddy Coluca, William Hill

Director: J. C. Chandor

Rating: R

«When comedians get a bit older they do a movie with “emotions” in it. Here’s mine.» Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement on Twitter. People Places Things is exactly that, a funny yet heartfelt comedy. Will Henry, A New York City graphic novelist walks in on his girlfriend cheating on him at their kids’ birthday party. A year later, Will is struggling to define his new life as a single parent while still getting over his breakup. Smart, honest, and led by Jemaine Clement, this film will strike you in its simplicity but will hold you with its charm.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Aundrea Gadsby, Celia Au, Derrick Arthur, Dionne Audain, Gavin Haag, Gia Gadsby, Jemaine Clement, Jessica Williams, Matthew Maher, Michael Chernus, Nancy Eng, Paul Castro Jr., Regina Hall, Samantha Posey, Stephanie Allynne

Director: Jim Strouse

Rating: R

Stressed by adolescence, 16-year-old Craig Gilner checks himself into a mental-health clinic. Unfortunately, the youth wing is closed, so he must spend his mandated five-day stay with adults. One of them, Bobby, quickly becomes his mentor -- and him his protege, while Craig finds himself drawn to a fellow teen, Noelle, who just may be the cure he needs to forget an unrequited crush. Starring Keir Gilchrist and Zack Galifianakis, It's kind of a Funny Story is based on a novel of the same name.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aasif Mandvi, Adrian Martinez, Alan Aisenberg, Ato Blankson-Wood, Bernard White, Billy McFadden, Dana DeVestern, Daniel London, Emma Roberts, Jared Goldstein, Jeremy Davies, Jim Gaffigan, Karen Chilton, Keir Gilchrist, Lauren Graham, Leo Allen, Lou Myers, Macintyre Dixon, Matthew Maher, Molly Hager, Morgan Murphy, Roddy Skeaping, Rosalyn Coleman, Stewart Steinberg, Thomas Mann, Viola Davis, Zach Galifianakis, Zoë Kravitz, Zoe Kravitz

Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

Rating: PG-13

, 2023

In 1984, Michael Jordan was a rising star and Nike had yet to make its mark in the basketball industry. With nothing to lose, Nike had to make a choice: settle behind the far more successful Adidas and Converse or shoot its shot and bet everything they have to win Jordan? 

You don’t have to be an NBA fanatic to know what Nike went with. The real-life story of how Air Jordans came to be is compelling in itself, but the dramatized version of it in Air is told with extra verve and charm, with director Ben Affleck and writer Alex Convery successfully turning a business pitch into something funny, moving, and highly watchable, predictable beats and all. 

Air covers the big hits and misses of business (which it buoys with lighthearted jokes and tender backstories), provides an addictive 80s soundtrack (without caricaturing the era), and gives us likable, rootable characters (an impressive feat given that this is, essentially, a Nike ad campaign). Matt Damon and Viola Davis, especially, turn in performances that elevate Air into something quite special. And while this film may be more about the Air than the Jordans, it is still a champion's story—familiar and cheesy at times, sure, but feel good, inspiring, and truly winning. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Al Madrigal, Albert Stroth, Andy Hirsch, Ari Davis, Asanté Deshon, Barack Obama, Barbara Sukowa, Ben Affleck, Billy Smith, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Damian Young, Dan Bucatinsky, Deloris Jordan, Dempsey Gibson, Gabrielle Bourne, Geoffrey Gould, Gustaf Skarsgård, Jackson Damon, Jason Bateman, Jay Mohr, Jerry Plummer, Jessica Green, Joel Gretsch, Joshua Funk, Julius Tennon, Mackenzie Rayne, Marlon Wayans, Matt Damon, Matthew Maher, Michael Jordan, Michael O'Neill, Richard Allan Jones, Tami Jordan, Tom Papa, Ure Egbuho, Viola Davis

Director: Ben Affleck

Rating: R

A beautiful coming-of-age story that is mixed with one of the best depictions of a mother character in movie history both make Lady Bird an absolutely exquisite film. Its slice-of-life story taps into the universal issues, dreams, and frustrations that almost every small-town kid has faced; and it manages to do all of this without feeling forced or cliché. This is because of the attention and care that were given to it but also because of how tightly it's based on the life of its writer / director Greta Gerwig. A wonderful movie.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Abhimanyu Katyal, Andy Buckley, Anita Kalathara, Bayne Gibby, Beanie Feldstein, Ben Konigsberg, Bob Stephenson, Carla Valentine, Chris Witaske, Christina Offley, Connor Mickiewicz, Daniel Zovatto, Danielle Macdonald, Georgia Leva, Ithamar Enriquez, Jake McDorman, Janet Song, John Karna, Jordan Rodrigues, Kathryn Newton, Kristen Cloke, Laura Marano, Laurie Metcalf, Lois Smith, London Thor, Lucas Hedges, Luisa Lee, Marielle Scott, Marietta DePrima, Matthew Maher, Monique Edwards, Myra Turley, Odeya Rush, Rebecca Light, Richard Jin Namkung, Roman Arabia, Saoirse Ronan, Shaelan O'Connor, Stephen Henderson, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts

Director: Greta Gerwig

Rating: 15, R