7 Best Movies & Shows Released in 20th Century

Staff & contributors

, 2022

It's rare to see a prequel surpass its antecedent, but Pearl is that exception. You can watch it before or after X and still get the same satisfaction from piecing together the puzzle of Mia Goth's many roles (three in total across the trilogy). If the first film owed a lot to slasher classics like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the second (surprise!) channels The Wizard of Oz and nods to the splendiferous melodramas of Douglas Sirk. The jarring form-content opposition here makes sense, as we're seeing through the eyes of the main character, who most of all dreams of being in a movie. Because of that very same whimsy, everything has to change: the violence is not as explicit and the role of sex is brought to the forefront. All hail the new kind of final girl: a farm girl-turned-star.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alistair Sewell, Amelia Reid, David Corenswet, Emma Jenkins-Purro, Matthew Sunderland, Mia Goth, Tandi Wright, Todd Rippon

Director: Ti West

Rating: R

Millennium Actress, from famed animation director Satoshi Kon, is about lives lived and unlived. It follows Chiyoko Fujiwara, an actress from Japan’s golden age of cinema, as she recounts her life to two documentarians making a film about the history of the now-defunct Ginei Studios. Kon employs a metafilm narrative approach, framing Chiyoko’s lifelong search for her great love through the movie roles she has played, all interweaved through Kon’s stunning genre switches and signature match cuts. Millennium Actress poignantly explores the bittersweet irony of “larger-than-life” cinema, how it can contain a multitude of lifetimes and still be lacking, and how films serve as extensions of memories and yearning.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Fumiko Orikasa, Hisako Kyoda, Koichi Yamadera, Mami Koyama, Masane Tsukayama, Masaya Onosaka, Minagawa Junko, Miyoko Shoji, Showko Tsuda, Shozo Iizuka, Tomie Kataoka

Director: Kou Matsuo, Satoshi Kon

Rating: PG

Abel Ferrara's protagonists have always searched for higher meaning in a flawed, messed-up world of pain and violence. If 1992's Bad Lieutenant took Harvey Keitel to church for one of American indie cinema's most spectacular endings, Padre Pio doesn't offer such solace. Ferrara (who's been living and working in Rome for years now) teamed up with Italian screenwriter Maurizio Braucci to direct a period piece that brings together the real life of a Catholic Church saint (the titular Padre Pio) and the rise of socialism after WWI. What seems like a straightforward historical approach turns first gruesome and then profound to capture the contradictions at the heart of Italy as a nation. A character study that breaks free of its biographical chains, Padre Pio shows that Ferrara has still got it, 50 films in. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alessandro Cremona, Anna Ferrara, Asia Argento, Brando Pacitto, Cristina Chiriac, Ermanno De Biagi, Federico Majorana, Ignazio Oliva, Luca Lionello, Marco Leonardi, Martina Gatti, Michelangelo Dalisi, Roberta Mattei, Salvatore Ruocco, Shia LaBeouf, Stella Mastrantonio, Vincenzo Crea

Director: Abel Ferrara

Rating: R

Partially based on the 860-page memoir, "A White House Diary", and on the actual audio recordings Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson made during her time as first lady, The Lady Bird Diaries is an intimate reworking of a past we still know very little about. Told from the vantage point of First Lady Johnson candidly and in detail, the audio track shapes the whole film. All the archival footage is nicely complemented by hand-drawn animations to fit the missing images, but all the visuals are always in service of the narration. In this way, the documentary becomes a piece of history and an archive in itself, its illustrative functions – a crucial storytelling tool for posteriority.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Dawn Porter

, 2023

Golda Meir was Israel's only female Prime Minister and that's already reason enough a biopic celebrating her historical importance would be made. Oscar-winning Israeli director Guy Nattiv rose to the task and Meir's own grandson requested British actress Helen Mirren to play the role of his grandmother (a decision that was not left undisputed). However, Miren is a virtuoso of stoic, physically confined acting and delivers a strong performance as the elderly Golda in the wake of a militarized attack on Israel coming from Egypt and Syria. Instead of being caught in the web of global politics between the Arab world, Russia, and the United States, she navigates the terrain with sustained empathy, although not without failings. The film itself describes Golda as a hero outside of Israel and controversial in her own land, and it does well enough in embodying that very same controversy.

 

 

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller, War

Actor: Ben Caplan, Camille Cottin, Daniel Ben Zenou, Dominic Mafham, Dvir Benedek, Ed Stoppard, Ellie Piercy, Emma Davies, Helen Mirren, Henry Goodman, Jaime Ray Newman, Jonathan Tafler, Kit Rakusen, Liev Schreiber, Lior Ashkenazi, Mark Fleischmann, Muneesh Sharma, Ohad Knoller, Olivia Brody, Rami Heuberger, Rotem Keinan, Sam Shoubber, Sumit Chakravarti, Zed Josef

Director: Guy Nattiv

Rating: PG-13

Loosely based on the 1909 novel, Martin Eden is a stunning film about the hollow success of individualism. The plot points remain the same: Eden, a self-taught sailor, wants to win the heart of the wealthy Elena Orsini. To do this, he strives to break into the upper class with his writing. However, in this film, writer-director Pietro Marcello adds another dimension to the anti-individualist story: he transports Eden from his original California setting to Naples—allowing for views of different cultures, languages, and classes. By intercutting between old film stock and lingering close-ups, Marcello draws from his documentary background to masterfully evokes the process of remembering. And in refusing to define the time period, Marcello recognizes that Eden's struggle is still ongoing today—and that his success is still hollow.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aniello Arena, Carlo Cecchi, Carmen Pommella, Chiara Francini, Edoardo Sorgente, Elisabetta Valgoi, Franco Pinelli, Gaetano Bruno, Jessica Cressy, Lana Vlady, Luca Marinelli, Marco Leonardi, Maurizio Donadoni, Pietro Ragusa, Rinat Khismatouline, Sergio Longobardi, Vincenza Modica, Vincenzo Nemolato

Director: Pietro Marcello

Rating: TV-PG

Prior to being defined by that fateful bombing in 1945, Hiroshima was like any other city outside of Tokyo; small but full, quiet but busy, and in the midst of a slow-but-sure journey to modernization. We experience the rich and intimate details of this life through the kind-hearted Suzu, who herself is stuck between the throes of old and new. She is an ambitious artist but also a dedicated wife; a war-wearied survivor and a hopeful cheerleader. 

Set before, during, and after the Second World War, the film starts off charmingly mundane at first, but it quickly gives way to inevitable grief in the second half. One stark tragedy follows another as it becomes increasingly clear how much we lose our humanity in war.

In This Corner of the World is the rare film outside of the Hayao Miyazaki canon that captures the latter's heart for detail while still being graciously its own.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Family, History, Romance, War

Actor: Asuka Ohgame, Barbara Goodson, Christine Marie Cabanos, Daishi Kajita, Daisuke Ono, Hisako Kyoda, Kei Tomoe, Kenta Miyake, Kira Buckland, Kohei Kiyasu, Kosuke Sakaki, Manami Sugihira, Manami Tanaka, Mayumi Shintani, Megumi Han, Miki Hase, Minori Omi, Nanase Iwai, Natsuki Inaba, Non, Nozomu Sasaki, Rena Nōnen, Rio Kawakami, Risa Sakurana, Shigeru Ushiyama, Sunao Katabuchi, Tengai Shibuya III, Tomoko Shiota, Tsubasa Miyoshi, Tsuyoshi Koyama, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Yukitomo Tochino, Yuuki Hirose

Director: Sunao Katabuchi

Rating: PG-13