The Swimmers tells the true story of sisters Yusra and Sara Mardini (played by fellow sisters Nathalie and Manal Issa), Syrian swimmers trained to compete at the Olympics. When their athletic goals and overall safety are threatened by the increasing presence of war, the girls decide to take a chance and migrate to Europe, where they hope to live out their dreams and reunite with their family someday.

The Swimmers is a touching family drama that does right to center on the love and tension between the siblings. Yusra and Sara’s relationship perfectly encapsulates the envy and resentment but also the deep love and loyalty that are present in every sister bond. It’s tender in these moments, but it can also be equally searing—as a refugee drama, it chillingly tracks the complicated and inhumane processes of fleeing one’s country for a safer future.

Always follows the story of Jeong-hwa and Cheol-min, both very different individuals who are gentle in their own way. The story starts off by demonstrating how different the leads are in terms of their personality and their outlook on life. The plot can be a little predictable and cliche in some moments, but Always is not a complicated movie—though in addition to being a romance, it also includes some surprising violence that may intensify your viewing experience. Still, Always is about the two leads’ struggle against fate as they try to survive their tough situations, with strong chemistry between the lead actors from start to finish.

A recent holiday classic you likely haven't seen, Arthur Christmas uses its premise of the North Pole as a massive spy organization to touch on how commercialization tears people apart. It's a surprisingly smart film with a fascinating dynamic among its family of Santas, with an incredibly funny script full of dry, British wit. And while the animation may already look dated at first glance, Arthur Christmas more than makes up for its looks with truly imaginative art direction and director Sarah Smith's fast-paced set pieces. This is that rare Chirstmas movie that doesn't just surrender to schmaltz; the lessons learned by the characters here are unique, complex, and timeless.

The Sea Beast tells the story of Jacob, a legendary sea monster hunter, and Maisie, a wannabe monster hunter herself. When a dangerous encounter isolates them from the rest of the crew, they’re forced to team up and reconcile their opposing beliefs—Maisie believes there’s good in the beasts, but Jacob has yet to be convinced.

Action-packed, fast-paced, and thoroughly entertaining, The Sea Beast is a perfect weekend watch. The part-Moana, part-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean tale also has the added bonus of being age-appropriate (rated PG), making it suitable for those spending their precious movie time with kids.

Fire of Love is a documentary that follows Maurice and Katia Krafft, a scientist couple who’ve dedicated their entire professional lives to studying (and marveling at) volcanoes. The two met at university and have been inseparable ever since, chasing explosions around the world until their death at the Mount Unzen eruption in 1991. 

The fiery passion the title refers to is as much about Maurice and Katia as it is about their dedication to volcanoes. Like any love story, it tracks how they were first wonderstruck by the formation and how that awe shaped their lives and led them to each other, as well as how they came to discover hard truths about it and dealt with the heartbreak that soon followed. 

Combining the breathtaking footage the couple left behind with lovely writing and artful animation, director Sara Dosa creates a moving documentary about passion, adventure, and the world itself. 

Even if you’re a huge Broadway fan, you’ve probably never heard of the “industrial musical." While it no longer exists in practice, in the 1970s industrial musicals were shows that corporations commissioned for some of the biggest Broadway names to produce. The script would be based on the company’s offerings and history, and privately performed by real Broadway actors to audiences made up exclusively of company and factory staff.

Now, a documentary about industrial shows doesn’t scream “entertaining,” but to describe Bathtubs Over Broadway in such a manner would be selling it way short. It’s really about Steve Young, a comedy writer for David Letterman, and how his life changed when he found his first industrial musical LP when leafing through a crate of old records for a Late Night segment he was working on.

Ultimately, what makes this such an enjoyable watch is the protagonist’s enduring passion over what at first appears to be nothing but a niche obsession. But with time, as he connects with other collectors and the people who were involved in the original industrial musical productions, his passion breeds community and lifelong bonds. Even if you’re no fan of Broadway, this makes for a great pop culture documentary and an unexpectedly touching story of human connection.

Even if it follows nearly every trick in the playbook, American Underdog positions itself on a big enough scale that makes it work like a charm anyway. Following the story of legendary undrafted NFL quarterback Kurt Warner (Zahcary Levi), the film elevates its familiar beats through stunning, wide-angle football sequences that make the sport feel as thrilling as ever, and a particularly solid performance from Anna Paquin, as Warner's long-suffering partner. But what ultimately becomes American Underdog's real secret weapon is the fact that this isn't a sports movie about skill, strategy, or success; Warner becomes an inspiring figure because of how long he had to persevere with his dream just barely out of reach.

In Waltz with Bashir, director Ari Folman grapples with the trauma and dehumanization of war by examining the role he played in the 1982 Invasion of Lebanon. But his memories are fractured, so in an attempt to piece them back together, he visits his comrades and has them recall the events for him. The result is both poignant and painful, a horrific tell-all of what happens on both sides of the battleground. The film is a documentary, chillingly honest and straightforward, but it's also an animation gem that continues the legacy that Persepolis started and Flee continues. By combining the harshness of war with the lightness of animation, all three films effectively deliver their anti-war message with a much-needed human and personal touch. 

“It is better to live miserable than to die happy,” or so says one of the characters in Jia Zhangke’s anthology film A Touch of Sin. On its surface, the “sin” referenced in the title might pertain to the acts of murder that the four protagonists commit, but in the context of China’s rapidly changing capitalist landscape (a theme explored in the director’s other pictures), it reveals itself as a malady shared by Chinese laborers treated as dispensable resources by the powers-that-be. Murder, then, is explored as an extremity, the effectual breaking point of people no longer able to contain the injustice within themselves. Beneath the splatters of blood is a plea for empathy and understanding, at once remorseful and full of conviction.

Stutz is Jonah Hill’s loving tribute to his therapist Phil Stutz, a smart and empathetic man who’s dedicated his entire life to helping people. The conversations between them, deeply personal and vulnerable, are meaningful in themselves, but Stutz also works as a helpful instruction on how to be your best self and as a metanarrative on telling honest stories on a medium as seemingly artificial as film (it is similar to Bo Burnham’s Inside in that way).

Stutz is at once experimental and comforting, a real gem especially for people with an interest in psychoanalysis and alternative psychiatry. It’s at its best when the two men deal with uncomfortable truths in the kindest of ways, and it's sure to be something people will return to often for advice and solace. Fun fact: the documentary was co-produced by Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara.

Perhaps the most depressing but vital movie produced by animation giant Studio Ghibli, Grave of the Fireflies is a searing and sweeping drama that covers the horrors of World War II through the eyes of teenager Seita and his young sister Setsuko. Between the violence of war and the tragedy of loss, the siblings struggle to preserve not just their lives but their humanity. In typical Ghibli fashion, there are moments of gentle beauty to be found, but instead of conflicting with the overall stark tone of the film, they successfully underscore war's futility and brutality, making Grave of the Fireflies one of the most important anti-war narratives ever told. 

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner just doesn’t give up. After a 2011 scandal that had him resign from office, Weiner tries to make a comeback in this documentary that follows his 2013 mayoral campaign. His passion for public service is indisputable, and despite his shortcomings, it’s hard not to root for his go-getter attempts at a second chance. To this end, he wins and fails, with each outcome feeling more dramatic and consequential than the last. Things culminate upon the revelation of a fresh, new scandal, which disrupts his unlikely rise as a top candidate as well as the film’s production flow, which then takes a turn for the better (or worse, depending on your sympathies for Weiner). 

Fast paced and brilliantly stitched, Weiner is a compelling account of a man who won’t back down, and of the people surrounding him who suffer from his obstinacy. The documentary is proof that even in our hypercritical age, it’s still possible to both humanize and criticize a “canceled” subject, all while maintaining level-headed humor and allure.  

Meditative, slow, and peppered with mysticism and subtle humour, Syndromes and a Century is a truly unique Thai drama. With a male and female doctor as the central protagonists, the story is split into two settings, in different hospitals and 40 years apart. This is not a plot-driven movie by any means. Patiently paced scenes weave together the protagonists’ memories with their current lives, in a hypnotic thread that touches on Buddhist themes as it explores the timeless human experiences of love, relationships, illness, and death.

The movie was originally intended to be a tribute to the parents of writer and director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, himself the son of physicians who worked in a hospital. Though he went on to claim that the movie took a different path eventually, it does recall the enigmatic spirit and ethereal quality of childhood memories. Despite—or maybe thanks to—the absence of narrative, Syndromes and a Century remains a beguiling watch from start to finish.

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a parody of a parody, a multilayered confection of silliness that befits the musician it celebrates. It's the origin story of Weird Al Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe) but with the surreal and satirical levels cranked up to a hundred. It's easy to get lost then, in the movie's freewheeling giddiness, but Radcliffe has a way of grounding the ultra-heightened comedy with his conviction and charm. The movie also doubles as a who's who in the 1980s music and comedy scene, and the unlikely pairings it brings together keep you entertained and nostalgic for a simpler, weirder time. 

One of the most overlooked films in recent years, Boiling Point is an intense British drama about the life of a head chef. We get to view his world for exactly 90 minutes and, yes, it is all shot in one go. No camera tricks or quirks, just pure filmmaking. Many other movies have tried to capture the chaotic life inside the restaurant business, but none have worked quite well as Boiling Point.

Working alongside the phenomenal actor Stephen Graham, director Philip Barantini hits it out of the park in his second feature-length film. Together, they bring to life some of the most unnerving 90 minutes ever put to film. Think Uncut Gems but with Gordon Ramsay as the lead.