8 Best Movies to Watch by Michael Stuhlbarg

Staff & contributors

Earnest, beautiful, and tender, Luca Guadagnino's Bones and All is many things: a road trip movie that sweeps the midwest deserts of 1980s America; a coming-of-age story that brings together two outsiders into an understanding world of their own; and a cannibal film that is unflinchingly flesh deep in its depiction of the practice. Bizarrely, these seemingly disparate elements work harmoniously to create a film that you won't soon forget, not least because of its rawness. 

As the aforementioned outsiders, Maren and Lee (Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet, respectively) are bewitching—individually sure but especially when they're together. They have a bond that is quite difficult to replicate onscreen, charged as it is with so much chemistry and warmth. The background players also bring their a-game when called for, especially Mark Rylance as the disturbing stalker Sully, Michael Stuhlbarg as the creepy but good-willed Jake, and Chloë Sevigny as Maren's stark mad mother. 

It's worth repeating that this movie goes all in on the gore, so steer clear if you don't have the heart for these sorts of things. But if you do, the viewing experience is rewarding. Bones and All is as romantic as they get, and rather than bury its message, the many layers on top of its core serve as a meaningful puzzle to unpack and unravel long after the credits roll.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Romance

Actor: Andre Holland, Anna Cobb, Brady Gentry, Chloe Sevigny, Christine Dye, David Gordon Green, Hannah Barlow, Jake Horowitz, Jenny McManus, Jessica Harper, Johanna McGinley, Madeleine Hall, Marcia Dangerfield, Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg, Sean Bridgers, Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Tom O'Brien

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Rating: R

If you like any of the following: Irish accents, Woody Harrelson, Pulp Fiction, or dark comedy;  then this is the movie for you. This mix of violence, mafia, existential talk, and painfully comical situations might not be for everyone, but it has every component to make its target audience very pleased. And given how chaotic and crazy it can get, it should be enjoyed one take at a time, focusing on each delightful scene rather than the overall plot. Directed by Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths makes a perfect comeback after In Bruges, without veering very much from it (consequently if you like this movie make sure you check out In Bruges too).

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Actor: Abbie Cornish, Amanda Warren, Brendan Sexton III, Christian Barillas, Christine Marzano, Christopher Gehrman, Christopher Walken, Colin Farrell, Crispin Glover, Frank Alvarez, Gabourey Sidibe, Harry Dean Stanton, Helena Mattsson, James Landry Hébert, John Bishop, Johnny Bolton, Joseph Lyle Taylor, Kevin Corrigan, Kiran Deol, Linda Bright Clay, Long Nguyen, Martin McDonagh, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg, Olga Kurylenko, Patrick O'Connor, Richard Wharton, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Sam Rockwell, Samantha Cutaran, Tai Chan Ngo, Tom Waits, Woody Harrelson, Zeljko Ivanek

Director: Martin McDonagh

Rating: R

This is an inexplicably and philosophically dark comedy.

Its protagonist, Larry, is a lackluster professor at a dull university. Then his life starts to unravel: his wife decides to leave him for one of his more successful colleagues; his unemployed brother moves in to stay on his couch.

So Larry ventures on a quest for meaning and clarity within his Jewish community.

All Cohen Brothers fans will appreciate the movie's aesthetics and comedic strength. The protagonist’s struggle will resonate with anyone who has had a religious upbringing: guilt is a big theme here.

I felt like I had to rewatch it to understand it. But I also enjoyed that weird sense of not understanding everything that's going on. Much like life itself.

The film rightfully earned itself two nominations for the Oscars, including Best Picture.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aaron Wolff, Adam Arkin, Alan Mandell, Allen Lewis Rickman, Amanda Day, Amy Landecker, Brent Braunschweig, Claudia Wilkens, Fred Melamed, Fyvush Finkel, George Wyner, James Cada, Jessica McManus, Joel Thingvall, Katherine Borowitz, Landyn Banx, Michael Lerner, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Breitmayer, Punnavith Koy, Raye Birk, Richard Kind, Sari Lennick, Scott Thompson Baker, Simon Helberg, Stephen Park, Steve Park, Tim Russell, Tyson Bidner, Yelena Shmulenson

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Rating: R

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 Rosser, 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, Lee Smart, Lucy Owen, Mark Strong, Meghann Fahy, Michael Cram, Michael Stuhlbarg, Murray Furrow, Noah Robbins, Ola Sturik, Raoul Bhaneja, Rick Campanelli, Sam Waterston, Sergio Di Zio, Zach Smadu

Director: John Madden

Rating: R

Pawn Sacrifice is a period drama about famed chess player Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire), following Fischer’s rise from his childhood in Brooklyn through to his famed matchup with Soviet Grandmaster Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) at the 1972 World Chess Championship. The film captures Fischer’s adolescence as a time of burgeoning mastery of the game, while struggling in a fatherless home and beset by early signs of mental illness. Set during the height of the Cold War, tensions between the United States and Russia play a critical role in the story, as they fuel many of Fischer’s fears and anxieties over perceived Russian spying and surveillance. His paranoia reaches a fever pitch in Reykjavik, Iceland, the site of his famous duel with Spassky for the world championship, leading to a remarkably compelling finale. Writer director Steven Knight and director Edward Zwick have crafted a striking depiction of a real-life genius grappling with fraying sanity, and Maguire is stunningly evocative as the abrasive and acerbic Fischer. For the viewer, no advanced knowledge of chess is necessary to enjoy this vivid depiction of one man’s historical achievement in the face of profound mental disturbance.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aiden Lovekamp, Al Dubois, Al Vandecruys, Alain Goulem, Aleksandr Gorchilin, Alexandre Gorchkov, André Sogliuzzo, Andreas Apergis, Andrew Peplowski, Arthur Holden, Benoit Priest, Bobby Fischer, Bobo Vian, Brent Skagford, Brett Watson, Carlo Mestroni, Conrad Pla, David Pryde, Dennis Staroselsky, Edward Yankie, Edward Zinoviev, Ellen David, Eric Lee Huffman, Eugene Nomura, Evelyne Brochu, François Ducharme, Glen Bowser, Igor Ovadis, Ilia Volok, Joe Cobden, John Maclaren, Jonathan Dubsky, Katie Bird Nolan, Liev Schreiber, Lily Rabe, Lydia Zadel, Mark Slacke, Matt Keyes, Maurice Demers, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mohsen El Gharbi, Natalija Ugrina, Nathaly Thibault, Norman Lehnert, Peter Janov, Peter Sarsgaard, Raphael Grosz-Harvey, Richard Jutras, Robin Weigert, Roc LaFortune, Sam Stone, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Shanmugasunder Chetty, Shawn Campbell, Sophie Nélisse, Spiro Malandrakis, Tobey Maguire, Vitali Makarov, Vito DeFilippo, Zach Fraser

Director: Edward Zwick

Rating: PG-13