5 Best Movies to Watch From Ventureland

Staff & contributors

, 2023

For a short while in the ‘80s, the pop scene benefited from the sheer musical joy created by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, known together as Wham! With confectionary hits like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas,” the  British duo sang about the escapism that a generation desperately sought out. Their songs were dismissed by pundits as shallow (“How can the country be in love with these two idiots?”), but as young people flocked to their concerts in droves, it was clear that Wham! struck a chord with the worn-out youth. 

They were no Beatles or Bowie, not heavyweight enough to make a lasting impression in our collective pop culture memory, but theirs is a story rich with meaningful lessons. Wham!, the film, is as much about the personal lives of the duo as it is about the difficulty of making it as independent artists; about the saving grace of music; and about the importance of authenticity. 

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Andrew Ridgeley, Aretha Franklin, Bono, Boy George, David Bowie, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, George Michael, Helen DeMacque, Jerry Wexler, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Sting, Terry Wogan, Tony Hadley

Director: Chris Smith

Rating: NR

Freediving is a particularly cinematic sport because it taps into something beyond what the human body is capable of. Skilled divers hold their breath for long enough to reach more than 100 meters deep, and watching footage of that incredible feat is exhilarating, to say the least. The Deepest Breath capitalizes on that very spectacle—being exposed to death and conquering it—and banks on using archival footage of world records and training. It's a smart move, as it keeps the spectator on edge, but it can also be a cruel way to put thrills over ethics. The editing is kept suggestive, but sometimes, shamefully, at the cost of misrepresenting Alessia Zecchini and toying with the viewer's expectations to the point of callousness.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alessia Zecchini, David Attenborough, Natalya Molchanova, Stephen Keenan

Director: Laura McGann

Rating: PG

 As a result of the miraculous success of the famed Tham Luang cave rescue, which saw the return of 12 kids trapped in a cave for more than 15 days, you’ll find no shortage of documentaries about the mission. Some take the point of view of the children, even others the locals and loved ones. But National Geographic’s The Rescue largely focuses on the volunteer rescuers, all of whom were foreigners who flew from different parts of the globe to risk their lives for the young victims. The film dives into their personal lives and their psyches, even going so far as their childhood to explain the motivations behind the heroic decisions they made at that moment. In less deft hands, The Rescue might seem like yet another White Savior Complex story, but directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (the same creative couple behind the Oscar-winning doc Free Solo) prove that the divers’ expertise, skill, and personal stakes make for a story worth telling.   

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Anan Surawan, Chris Jewell, Craig Challen, Derek Anderson, Jason Mallinson, Jim Warny, John Volanthen, Josh Morris, Mikko Paasi, Mitch Torrel, Richard Harris, Rick Stanton, Siriporn Bangnoen, Somsak Kanakam, Thanet Natisri

Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

Rating: PG

With nearly a century to cover, If These Walls Could Sing had the daunting task of giving justice to the history of the iconic Abbey Roads Studios. In 89 minutes, Mary McCartney outlines the studio’s history through archival footage and a stacked selection of artist interviews, popping only in random moments to organize the timeline. With the wide selection of artists, the film can feel scattered, as it jumps from classical music, to rock and roll, and to film scoring. The documentary doesn’t really go in-depth into how the studio developed its sound, but there are some interesting insights into certain tracks, like how the studio approached contracts, experimentation, different genres, and technology. While the film relies too much on nostalgia, it’s still an interesting tour based on the subject matter alone.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, David Gilmour, Elton John, George Harrison, George Lucas, George Martin, Jimmy Page, John Legend, John Lennon, John Williams, Kanye West, Kate Bush, Liam Gallagher, Linda McCartney, Mary McCartney, Nile Rodgers, Noel Gallagher, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Roger Waters

Director: Mary McCartney