4 Best Movies to Watch by Shailene Woodley

Staff & contributors

Everybody loves a good coming-of-age movie, but they have their trappings. Their youthful characters are often cartoonish, or perfect, or insanely inept. This is where The Spectacular Now achieves something that is indeed spectacular: it feels incredibly real. The film features Miles Teller (from Whiplash) as a charming, but slightly lost, heavily partying high-school senior named Sutter Keely. After waking up on a strange lawn after a long night, he is awoken by Aimee, played by Shailene Woodley, whose performance is as spectacular as the depth of this movie's characters. What starts as a rebound fling for Keely eventually goes deeper and deeper, while his problems become more and more apparent to us, the viewers, to Aimee, and to his caring teacher, played by the incredible Andre Royo, who some of you might recognize as the iconic Bubbles from The Wire. If this premise sounds corny to you, think again, because this film has a deep respect for its characters and the journeys they must take. A sensitive drama with incredibly life-like performances.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex D'Lerma, Andre Royo, Bob Odenkirk, Brie Larson, Christopher Nathan, Dayo Okeniyi, Dina Sherman, Doug Haley, E. Roger Mitchell, Gary Weeks, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kaitlyn Dever, Karen Strassman, Keith Silverstein, Kyle Chandler, Levi Miller, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Masam Holden, Mike Hickman, Miles Teller, Nico Ford, Shailene Woodley, Valerie Payton, Whitney Christopher, Whitney Goin

Director: James Ponsoldt

Rating: R

Survivors are often painted in a brave light; they’re applauded for their resilience and toughness, and in the case of school shootings, many of them are also expected to take up arms and fight the good fight. While this is of course laudable, many survivors are simply trying to get by. Unable to process trauma and inexplicable loss, they become withdrawn, depressed, and reckless—not exactly noteworthy traits, but understandable and equally deserving of empathy.

The Fallout shifts the focus on this side of survival by following Vada in the aftermath of a school shooting. Unlike her peers, she fails to cope positively and becomes increasingly self-destructive. But it's through this unsentimental portrayal that The Fallout achieves a frankness and rawness that few films like it have. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Austin Zajur, Christine Horn, Elliott Roca, Jenna Ortega, John Ortiz, Julie Bowen, Lumi Pollack, Maddie Ziegler, Niles Fitch, Shailene Woodley, Will Ropp, Yindra Zayas

Director: Megan Park

Rating: R

To Catch a Killer feels like a limited series shrunken down to fit a movie’s runtime: its many ideas, though potentially compelling on their own, are so underserved by the breezy treatment here that they lose all value. The film wants to hit every hot button — misogyny in the police force, demagoguery on TV news channels, high-level corruption, white supremacy, and the mental health crisis — but its frantic box-ticking makes it feel like a speed-run of topical issues rather than anything genuinely reflective. 

The characters feel similarly underdeveloped, not least star Shailene Woodley’s, a Clarice Starling wannabe who winds up delivering emotional counseling to the film’s bafflingly motivated serial killer in just one of many implausible scenes. Add to that the cringe-inducing dialogue, which is crammed to bursting point with clunky metaphors, and you can call off the manhunt —  the script is the real killer here.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adam LeBlanc, Alain Chanoine, Arthur Holden, Ben Mendelsohn, Benz Antoine, Bobby Brown, Chip Chuipka, Christian Jadah, Daniel Brochu, Darcy Laurie, Dawn Lambing, Dusan Dukic, Erniel Baez, Frank Schorpion, Heidi Foss, Jason Cavalier, Joan Hart, Jovan Adepo, Karine Dion, Lesley Pahl, Leyda Aleyli, Lilou Roy-Lanouette, Luc Morissette, Marcello Bezina, Mark Antony Krupa, Mark Camacho, Mark Day, Martyne Musau, Maurizio Terrazzano, Michael Cram, Michael Dozier, Nabil Khatib, Patrick Émmanuel Abellard, Patrick Labbé, Ralph Ineson, Richard Zeman, Rosemary Dunsmore, Sean Tucker, Shailene Woodley, Ted Pluviose, Teneisha Collins

Director: Damián Szifron

, 2023

What a waste of a premise, and what a waste of Woodley’s talents. Based on the short story “The Robot Who Looked Like Me” by Robert Sheckley, Robots has some clever things to say about the state of advanced tech and its role in society, but its clumsy, heavyhanded approach fumbles the execution. There’s an awkward and unfinished feel to Robots that doesn’t make anything about it believable—not the technology, not the convoluted story, and certainly not the romance. And except for Woodley, none of the characters seem likable. The male-dominated cast makes constant jokes about fatness and femininity, presumably for the sake of satire, but they end up participating in the very things they’re supposedly calling out. It’s not nearly as smart nor as charming as it thinks it is, and if you’re looking for an alternative, I would recommend the far superior German film I’m Your Man, which accomplishes everything Robots tries to be and more. 

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Barney Burman, Case Matthews, Casey Messer, Charles Grisham, Chelsea Edmundson, David Grant Wright, Emanuela Postacchini, Hank Rogerson, Jack Whitehall, Jackamoe Buzzell, Keith Campbell, Kevin Foster, Leslie Fleming-Mitchell, Nick Rutherford, Paul Jurewicz, Paul Rust, Richard Lippert, Samantha Ashley, Samantha Gonzalez, Shailene Woodley, Tiffany Adams

Director: Anthony Hines, Casper Christensen

Rating: R