4 Best Movies to Watch by Mike Miller

Staff & contributors

Former activists Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Leslie drop out from modern consumerist society to raise their six children in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. They teach them how to raise and kill their own food, to survive in nature through boot-camp-like workouts, and homeschool them in literature, music, and left-wing philosophy. Instead of Christmas, they celebrate Noam Chomsky's birthday. Then, one day, this unusual family life is shaken by a phone call and they are forced to leave their life of adventure to reintegrate into American life.

Directed by Matt Ross, who also brought you Good Night, and Good Luck, the film offers a poignant look at alternative living, the effects of modern technology, and the nature of good parenting. Viggo Mortensen is indeed fantastic as the grizzled father and was rightly nominated for a Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Actor. George MacKay and the entire cast of “children” also deliver terrific performances. As emotionally raw and thought-provoking as it is funny, Captain Fantastic will have the viewer decide if Ben Cash is the best father in the world or the worst.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alan Humphrey, Ann Dowd, Annalise Basso, Charlie Shotwell, Elena Stecca, Elijah Stevenson, Erin Moriarty, Frank Langella, George MacKay, Greg Crooks, Hafid Abdelmoula, Hannah Horton, Kathryn Hahn, Matt Ross, Mike Miller, Missi Pyle, Nicholas Hamilton, Rex Young, Richard Beal, Samantha Isler, Shree Crooks, Steve Zahn, Teddy Van Ee, Trin Miller, Viggo Mortensen

Director: Matt Ross

Rating: R

In 2008, legendary and controversial director Darren Aronofsky delivered yet another unforgettable allegory, starring Mickey Rourke as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, an aging professional wrestler long past his prime, who is struggling to retain a sense of identity, purpose, and dignity later in life. Rourke, who worked as a professional boxer in his 90s and, like his protagonist, almost hung his hat at the time the movie was shot, delivers a once-in-a-lifetime performance that rightly earned him a Golden Globe. Everybody talked about this movie when it came out! Marisa Tomei's performance, who plays the mid-40s stripper The Ram pursues a serious relationship with, was also deemed iconic by some critics. Shot on 16mm film, The Wrestler's cinematography, like its acting, feels incredibly raw, intimate, and realistic. It is essentially about bouncing back, making amends, and growing old and features acting performances that will be remembered for a long time. One for the books!

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Abraham Aronofsky, Ajay Naidu, Alex Whybrow, Alyssa Bresnahan, Andrea Langi, Anna-Karin Eskilsson, Armin Amiri, Ben Van Bergen, Bernadette Penotti, Bill Walters, Brandon DiCamillo, Brian Heffron, Charlotte Aronofsky, Claudio Castagnoli, Cobian, Daniel Healy Solwold Jr., Daniel Solwold Jr., Darnell Kittrell, David John Markland, Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Douglas Crosby, Dustin Howard, Dylan Keith Summers, Dylan Summers, E.J. Carroll, Emmanuel Yarborough, Eric Santamaria, Erika Smith, Ernest Miller, Evan Rachel Wood, Felice Choi, Giovanni Roselli, Gregg Bello, Henry Kwan, Jamar Shipman, Jeff Chena, Jen Cohn, Jess Liaudin, John Corson, John D'Leo, John L. Sullivan, John Zandig, Jon Trosky, Judah Friedlander, Lloyd Anoa'i, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Marisa Tomei, Mark Margolis, Matt Cannon, Michael Drayer, Mickey Rourke, Mike Miller, Nate Hatred, Nicholas K. Berk, Nick Papagerio, Olivia Baseman, Paul E. Normous, Paul Thornton, Peter Conboy, Rebecca Darke, Rob Strauss, Robert D. Siegel, Robert Oppel, Ron Killings, Ryan Lynn, Ryan Tygh, Sakinah Bingham, Scott Franklin, Steven Haworth, Sylvia Kauders, Todd Barry, Tommy Farra, Vernon Campbell, Wass Stevens

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Rating: R

On the one hand, How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a tense thriller—an excellently set-up heist that makes you wonder, until the end, whether the low-budget operation succeeds or not. On the other hand, it’s a thoughtful rumination on the evil and influence of Big Oil, which despite its relentless destruction of environments and communities, continues to run scot-free. 

Together, these parts make for a powerful, nerve-racking film about both the danger and necessity of eco-terrorism—a radical act that is impressively humanized and spared from caricature here. How to Blow Up a Pipeline's themes may be big and its means explosive, but its rich characterizations of the young activists ground it into a relatable reality. One is dying due to toxins released by the nearby plant, another is forced to give up his property to make way for the construction of a pipeline. All are tired of the fruitlessness of government promises and peaceful protests. Rousing and relevant, there's never been a more timelier film than this. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Ariela Barer, Brian Landis Folkins, Calhoun Koenig, Christopher Hagen, Clint Obenchain, Forrest Goodluck, Giancarlo Beltran, Grayson Berry, Irene Bedard, Jake Weary, Jasper Keen, Jayme Lawson, Kim S. Monti, Kristine Froseth, Loren Anthony, Lukas Gage, Marcus Scribner, Mark Dalton, Mary Kay Riley, Melissa Chambers, Mike Miller, Paris Peterson, Sam Quinn, Sarah Minnich, Sasha Lane, Travis Hammer

Director: Daniel Goldhaber

Rating: R

This is a fun genre mashup B-movie, in the vein of old John Carpenter films or those movies you used to run across on late-night cable in the 80s and early 90s. Dan Stevens (that handsome chap from Downton Abbey) gives a knock-out performance as the titular guest (David), who in the movie’s beginning has just shown up on the doorstep of the Peterson family. He says he’s there to pay his respects to the family -- he served with their son, who died in action -- but there is something just a little bit off about him. Everyone in the family is charmed by David except for daughter Anna (Maika Monroe), who approaches him with extreme caution even though she’s clearly impressed by his six-pack abs. The films starts at a slow burn before devolving into nutty, violent chaos, but maintains a dark cheeky sense of humor throughout. The goth pop soundtrack is also killer.

Genre: Action, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adam Wingard, AJ Bowen, Alex Knight, Brendan Meyer, Brenden Wedner, Candice Patton, Chase Williamson, Chris Ellis, Dan Stevens, Darlene Kellum, Ethan Embry, Frank Bond, J. Nathan Simmons, Jesse Luken, Joel David Moore, Justin Yu, Katie Anne Mitchell, Kelsey Leos Montoya, Lance Reddick, Leland Orser, Lonnie Lane, Maika Monroe, Matthew Page, Mike Miller, Nancy Jeris, Sheila Kelley, Steven John Brown, Tabatha Shaun, Tina Borek

Director: Adam Wingard

Rating: R