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The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Cinema isn’t the sole mechanism for making our presence known, but it can be among the most powerful.

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The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time
Photo: The Criterion Collection

Last week, in the aftermath of the attack on Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, one call to action rose above the din: “Say their names.” New Yorkers chanted it steps from the Stonewall Inn. The mother of a child gunned down at Sandy Hook penned it in an open letter. The Orlando Sentinel printed the names. Anderson Cooper recited them. A gunman murdered 49 people and wounded 53 others in the wee hours of that awful Sunday, massacring LGBTQ people of color and their allies in the middle of Pride Month, and the commemoration of the dead demanded knowing who they were. “These,” as MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell urged his viewers, “are the names to remember.”

In the midst of mourning, the titles herein seem to me more essential than ever, a globe-spanning, multigenerational testament to our existence in a world where our erasure is no abstraction. From Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Michael to Todd Haynes’s Carol, naming and seeing emerge, intertwined, as radical acts—acts of becoming (Sally Potter’s Orlando) and acts of being (Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason), acts of speech (Marlon Riggs’s Tongues Untied) and acts of show (Jennie Livingston’s Paris Is Burning) that together reaffirm the revolutionary potential of the seventh art. “My name is Harvey Milk,” the San Francisco supervisor, memorialized in Rob Epstein’s The Times of Harvey Milk, proclaimed in 1978, less than one year before his assassination. “And I’m here to recruit you!”

The cinema isn’t the sole mechanism for making our presence known, but it can, if the films listed below are any indication, be among the most powerful, projecting the complexities of the LGBTQ experience onto the culture’s largest, brightest mirror. There’s rage here, and also love; isolation, and communal spirit; fear, and the forthright resistance to it. These films are essential because we are essential: The work of ensuring that we aren’t erased or forgotten continues apace, and the struggle stretches into a horizon that no screen, no matter its size, can quite capture. But this is surely a place to start. Matt Brennan

The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Michael (1924)

Many critics have chosen to downplay the film’s gay subtext, but to do so would deny the power of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s fastidious attention to the polarity of love’s vicissitudes. If stripped of the notion that the artist Zoret’s (Benjamin Christensen) attraction toward his titular muse (Walter Slezak), whose alleged bisexuality is clearly of a solely opportunistic strain, is physical as well as social, Michael essentially becomes an embittered (and fairly rote, despite the astonishingly suffocating mise-en-scène) tale of two cuckolds. Eric Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

The Blood of a Poet (1932)

Enrique Rivero’s shirtless torso remains the most enduring emblem of Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of a Poet, whether the actor is clutching his bare chest after witnessing his palm sprout a pair of lips or peering through keyholes while drifting through a gravity-free hallway. But this surrealist masterpiece isn’t merely about flesh; rather, the body becomes an entry point to memory and art, where hands and mouths breed images to defy the mind. Decades of close readings, whether along psychological or self-reflexive lines, have been unable to diminish or demystify the film’s effervescent sensuality. Clayton Dillard


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Fireworks (1947)

Fireworks inaugurates not merely Kenneth Anger’s own private mythology, but also the subversive expression of gay sensuality in American film, a torch carried into the early days of the New Queer Cinema. A veritable dictionary of homoerotic iconography, it is also, literally, a home movie shot while Anger’s parents were away for the weekend, and a transfixing view of the violence and seditious rapture of being “different” in the 1940s. Fernando F. Croce


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Un Chant d’Amour (1950)

Jean Genet’s overpowering 1950 short, Un Chant d’Amour, is a milestone not just of gay rebellion, but also of pure sensual expression in film, a polemical vision of desire forged with the provocateur’s randy ardor and the artist’s spiritual directness. Having never made a film before or after, Genet nevertheless had an in-the-bone awareness of the medium as a procession of raptures—visual, cosmic, sensual—that could match and expand the passion of words on a page. Croce


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Alfred Hitchcock knew what he was doing casting the plush-lipped Farley Granger as the straight man in his adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s cruise-baiting thriller. Robert Walker’s flamboyant Bruno Anthony gets all the ink, but it’s Granger’s poker-faced, blank-slate attractiveness as Guy that captures the illicit thrill of the chase. And the consequence. Once Bruno has availed Guy of his inconvenient woman and Guy refuses to return the favor, Bruno sets out to integrate himself into Guy’s social circle and carry with him the threat of exposure and public shame. Their erotic one-upmanship reaches its breaking point in one of Hitchcock’s gaudiest set pieces, a runaway-carousel climax depicting their rough trade of blows amid contorted petrified horses whose pinions look like they’re pornographically violating their sockets. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

The most complicated aspect of Rebel Without a Cause, and the thing that makes it seem daring even today, is its depiction of sexuality. Nicholas Ray brings Natalie Wood’s beauty into full flowering and gets a simple, touching performance from her. And with Sal Mineo, he craftily put together a portrait of a tormented gay teenager. Stewart Stern’s script tells us that Plato is searching for a father figure in Jim (and Plato’s famed locker photo of Alan Ladd shows that he wants a Shane-type father, not a lover), but the way Mineo looks at James Dean leaves no modern audience in doubt as to what his real feelings are. Dan Callahan


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Some Like It Hot (1959)

Punchline or not, “nobody’s perfect” may as well have been the “born this way” of the Eisenhower era. Billy Wilder’s cross-dressing parfait now feels like both a relic and also a carefree throwback to an era that, for all its copious and vindictive shortcomings, was more than a tad less solemn about identity politics and popular representation. Regardless of whether you believe the “humor” behind Daphne and Josephine’s deliberately crunchy drag feeds into the same mentality that gives a shit about which bathroom someone takes a piss in, it’s impossible to miss that Wilder’s true satiric target is the pathetic fragility of machismo. In that sense, few other contemporary drag movies can claim to be so modern. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Flaming Creatures (1963)

Flaming Creatures was Jack Smith’s first finished film. Well, in truth, it’s his only finished film, since it ricocheted out of his hands when a trend of underground film raids made his opus a trophy for either side of a decency debate. Seized at the same time as Jean Genet’s Un Chant D’Amour and Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising, it made it all the way to the Supreme Court, who could detect little value in its over-exposed rumpus of genitalia, transvestitism, baroque orgies, and dance dervishry. Meanwhile, Susan Sontag and Jonas Mekas heralded the film as high art, hijacking (so Jack saw it) his vehicle to bolster their tastemaker status. Bradford Nordeen


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

The Servant (1963)

If gayness remains figured as a malignant force in The Servant (a half-acknowledged deviance here mobilized in the pursuit of manipulation and personal gain), there’s also something undeniably thrilling about watching it wind its destructive path, vivified by Joseph Losey’s taut pacing, stylish formal play, and distressing-as-ever atmospherics. A film such as this probably couldn’t be made now without cries of protest over its representational politics, which is probably a good thing. Matthew Connolly


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Scorpio Rising (1964)

Scorpio Rising merges Kenneth Anger’s fascination with rough trade with his burgeoning interest in the Dark Arts, at least as it applies to the standard “sex, drugs, rock n’ roll” scene. What begins with references to James Dean and the soaring beefcake photography of Bob Mizer ultimately ends in a whirl of skulls, swastikas, the spiritual sacrilege of pissing on the Catholic altar, and the societal blasphemy of rubbing mustard into the crotch of a stripped leather geek. This is the Gospel according to Anger. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

My Hustler (1965)

The commodification of desire (and the desire in commodification) have rarely been examined with the cool wit of Andy Warhol’s landmark film. Whose hustler is Paul America, the blond stud whom we first see lolling about on a Fire Island beach? Men and women of various sexual orientations spend the film’s 67-minute running time lusting after, bitching about, probing into, and yearning for this midnight cowboy. Throughout, America remains a lanky libidinal enigma, or maybe just a chiseled blank slate. He embodies a distinctly Warholian vision of queer erotics that’s tantalizingly ambiguous, achingly aloof, and always connected to that essential bulge in your pants: your wallet. Connolly


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Portrait of Jason (1967)

Jason Holliday’s waning lucidity, for example, becomes a clever rhetorical weapon against Shirley Clarke’s occasional attempts to turn him into an icon of the gay black experience. But she wins out overall, and quite devilishly. As Jason sinks into disorientation, the clarity of the skull perched on the bookshelf behind him increases. When he breaks down after being harangued by off-screen voices, his tears feel nearly funereal. Jason exposes his self-destructiveness to Clarke because he intuits that the resulting object will outlive him—and that it will allow him to outlive himself, and his self-destructiveness. He’s correct. But the film is a conversation between two disadvantaged artists with indelible personalities, both of whom are unabashedly manipulating their way into at least the esoteric side of the everlasting. Clarke’s portrait immortalizes Jason in the same sense that a death mask—one covered in its sculptor’s quick, pithy fingerprints—might preserve its subject’s uncanny likeness. Lanthier


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)

Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses takes the thematic and stylistic template of Hiroshima Mon Amour—traumatic memory, documentary interests, elliptical editing—and further layers it with reflexive elements related to the nature of identity as it pertains to a group of queens in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. Matsumoto’s Oedipal tale has influenced directors from Stanley Kubrick to Tsai Ming-liang, but the film remains a singular work on the ways gender performance, whether in sexual practice or art, ubiquitously informs human behavior and interaction, right down to a trick who asks Eddie (Pîtâ) if she likes his muscles before lifting a chair to narcissistically show them off. Dillard


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Trash (1970)

With her googly eyes, a nest of burgeoning dreads atop her head, and a pronounced overbite that turns her lips into a pair of string beans, the transgender Holly Woodlawn’s untraditional sort of glamour lends a surprising poignancy to the wrenching scene when she unleashes a volcanic tantrum of violated trust, festering jealousy, and, ultimately, wounded pride at the realization that perhaps it’s her and not heroin that keeps Joe Dallesandro’s cock flaccid in bed. The frazzled, cracked-glass-Cassavetes close-ups Morrissey bequeathed to her talent caught the eye of none other than George Cukor, who started an ultimately unsuccessful petition campaign in support of an Oscar nomination. Oscars, schmoscars. To call Holly’s performance one of the very greatest in all of cinema would be an understatement. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Death in Venice (1971)

An aging composer, Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde), takes refuge in a resort to recharge his intellectual energies, only to be completely unsettled by the beauty of a blond adolescent boy who’s also staying at the resort. Luchino Visconti’s masterwork tackles complicated notions of idealization, adult-child affection, and the virtual impossibility of reciprocity with a philosophical depth that never feels immaterial. It also features a grand finale set to Gustav Mahler’s magnificent “Symphony Number 5” where beauty, and the desire it begets, is proven to not stand a chance before man’s propensity for annihilation. Diego Semerene


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Pink Narcissus (1971)

At this point in American underground cinema, gay directors were celebrating those sweet sticky things in contexts cerebral and performative (Flaming Creatures) and matter-of-factly declarative (Wakefield Poole’s bawdy of work). Photographer James Bidgood’s Pink Narcissus transcends any niche descriptor that applies—queer, camp, avant-garde, softcore, documentary expressionism—and plunges into the deep end of consciousness-annihilating erotic desire. If Cate Blanchett’s Carol marveled, to her romantic conquest, “I never looked like this” (a pretty hot line in its own right), Pink Narcissus flips the equation to explore the electric sexual charge of finding in others the things that are also available at one’s own fingertips. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)

Though it depicts an eventful week in the lives of two semi-swinging Londoners—Daniel, a gay doctor (Peter Finch), and Alex, a divorced civil servant’s scion (Glenda Jackson)—who begrudgingly share the affections of an aimless bohemian named Bob (Murray Head), Sunday Bloody Sunday is almost naïvely nonpolemical. No one needs to fight for the right to screw who they want, when they want, and with whatever paucity of adjoining obligations. It simply happens, with very little effort. Even the sex act itself is continually viewed as a compromise between two passive bodies; here director John Schlesinger foregoes the carnal thrusting that forced an X rating upon his previous film, Midnight Cowboy, instead showing blemished layers of flesh curled delicately and forgivingly up to one another. This calmness is never titillating, and thus never exploitative. But we soon learn that the characters are treating themselves and each other with such quiet unfairness that to exploit them visually would be crude and redundant. Lanthier


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972)

The central irony of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant is that the protagonist is an egomaniac who comes to be undone by objectifications that have previously served her. Petra is the kind of person who hides behind a devotion to “truth,” and to implicit gender equality, as an excuse to tear someone to pieces, and that’s precisely, of course, what Karin, the object of her tormented obsession, does to her. Petra fetishizes Karin as a downtrodden doll to be upgraded, and thusly opens herself up to the sort of catastrophic humbling that, in German cinema, at least goes as far back as The Blue Angel. Chuck Bowen


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Pink Flamingos (1972)

Roger Ebert said, after seeing the 25th anniversary restoration of Pink Flamingos, that his temptation to praise the film was a temptation he could resist, but I often disarmingly feel much like Divine’s Babs Johnson when I recall John Waters’s “filthiest” film: “Oh my god almighty, someone has sent me a bowel movement!” Yes, the gags in Pink Flamingos go straight to the entrails, but they’re also made exterior by putting both queer bodies and acts on display without reservation, including a sloppy blowjob that Babs gives to her son, Crackers (Danny Mills). Few films aimed at sexual transgression also make the prospect of communal inclusion seem so curiously tangible. Dillard


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Female Trouble (1974)

I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed harder in my life than the first time I saw Dawn Davenport (Divine) bury her mother under a Christmas tree, stomp several presents, and scream “Fuck you! I hate you!” to her parents after not receiving a much-desired pair of cha-cha heels. Such is director John Waters’s crude mastery, bridging queer sexual politics with ecstatic slapstick humor. On that front, Female Trouble is his masterpiece, a three-ring circus of scatological absurdities, epitomized Taffy’s (Mink Stole) line to Dawn: “I wouldn’t suck your lousy dick if I was suffocating and there was oxygen in your balls!” Dillard


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Fox and His Friends (1975)

For all of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s gripes with an elite gay culture’s many sexual hang-ups, Fox and His Friends is first and foremost a riveting evocation of social Darwinism in action. Not for nothing is Fassbinder’s Fox called “stupid and primitive” at one point. The film’s pessimism is far outweighed by Fassbinder’s humane indictment of Fox as an active participant in his own victimization, a familiar critique found in many of the director’s films. Fassbinder likens the abuse his character suffers at the hands of his “friends”” to that of a poor animal ravaged by carnivorous predators, and the smell of human hate is certainly far more crippling than the smell of urine that hangs from his clothes. Ed Gonzalez


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

It’s been said, to the point of triteness, that cinema is the stuff that dreams are made of. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom couldn’t be more cinematic, then, as it tells the ID-centric Sadean tale of unleashed perversion without pathologizing or punishing the unconscious for what it simply wants: the most beautiful buttocks in the world, barking teenagers on a leash, and feces as dinner entrée in this case. Pier Paolo Pasolini expands the limits of cinema through the logic of unbridled hedonism of the film’s main characters. All sexuality is perverse, all relations of power are unbalanced, and disgust is never much more than a defense mechanism against some kind of primary attraction. Semerene


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Je, Tu, Il, Elle (1976)

In the gap between her character’s behaviors as spoken and as performed, Chantal Akerman locates an incipient madness, a fracturing of identity that mirrors the dissociations of the film’s title. Whereas the filmmaker keeps Julie’s sexual relationship with a long-distance driver off screen, by Je, Tu, Il, Elle’s end she gives us the lesbian union between Julie and her initially reluctant ex-girlfriend in all its graphic tangling, as the two women tumble around on the bed, taking turns on top, and providing an antidote to the identity-effacing displacements of heterosexual interaction, however fleeting it may finally prove to be. Andrew Schener


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

A Place Without Limits (1978)

The treacheries of traditionalist masculinity pollute the small Mexican town at the heart of Arturo Ripstein’s 1978 stunner, which places several female characters in the crosshairs of a corrupt and violent patriarchy. The victims include La Manuela (Roberto Cobo), the cross-dressing owner of a dwindling brothel, whose sexually charged interaction with Pancho (Gonzalo Vega), a macho truck driver, leads to violence and tragedy. Ripstein’s endemic commentary on homophobia and male fear of emasculation takes an understated but pointed form throughout. Pancho’s line to La Manuela’s daughter is indicative of the film’s would-be hyperbolic dialogue: “I’ll kill you if you tell someone you saw me crying.” Dillard


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

In a Year of 13 Moons (1978)

“He says he’s not a man, but a woman,” says the man who beats Volker Spengler’s Elvira Weishaupt at a Frankfurt cruising spot for gays when he discovers she doesn’t have a penis between her legs. If the man and his posse of Wakefield Poole queens are largely archetypical, Elvira represents something more prototypical: a transgender woman who suffers so that all others who find themselves caught “in between” can flourish. In a Year of 13 Moons may be Fassbinder’s greatest triumph, because its kitchen-sink melodrama collectively addresses the domestic, cultural, psychological, spiritual, and existential hang-ups of the human condition his others films addressed individually. Gonzalez


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Nighthawks (1978)

Ron Peck’s debut feature offers a bracingly insightful look at the intricacies of, well, looking. Geography teacher Jim (Ken Robertson) cruises the London gay scene most nights, finding a fair amount of erotic success while weighing the costs and benefits of potential coupledom. Lingering long takes richly capture post-coital chats, drunken confessionals, and fraught public outings (in every sense of the term). And if images of pulsing gay club dance floors recall a past time and place, anyone whose eyes have ever scanned a room—or a screen—of bodies and faces just might feel that familiar twinge of thrilling, anxious, endless possibility. Connolly


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

Rob Epstein’s grandest coup, and what elevates The Times of Harvey Milk beyond being a stunning, emotional docudrama and into the realm of elegant social activism, is in the subtle parallels he draws between the Harvey Milk/Dan White dichotomy and the concurrent, controversial battle over Proposition 6, which would grant California public schools permission to fire openly gay teachers. The coalescing Moral Majority brigade (which would form the first significant American movement in backlash against the gay community’s gains since Stonewall) were putting all their chips on a wager that the American public’s tolerance would only go so far, and the line in the sand: “the children.” It was a bet that was paying off in elections across the country in the late ’70s—to a musical accompaniment from Anita Bryant. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

The Angelic Conversation (1985)

By the time he made The Angelic Conversation, avant-garde British filmmaker Derek Jarman had witnessed the same England he envisioned as an anarchic punk playpen a few years earlier in Jubilee become a conservative reformatory under Margaret Thatcher’s grip. Societal strictures scarcely blunted Jarman’s anger—the fulminating The Last of England was made in 1987, the year the Iron Lady entered her third term—yet The Angelic Conversation is one of Jarman’s most serene and lyrical works. It’s certainly his most romantic: While Shakespearean sonnets are read in Judi Dench’s dulcet tones, two boys (Paul Reynolds and Phillip Williamson) wander through densely layered tableaux of desolate, rocky landscapes in a sort of abstruse search for the “eternal touch.” Combining the Bard’s aural graveness with home-movie imagery (shot on Super 8 and blown up to 35mm for maximum grain), the film has the sense of subversive passion of a Jean Genet poem while anticipating the ineffable melancholy of Aleksandr Sokurov’s mood pieces. Croce


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

While Personal Best and Making Love have faded into obscurity as The Celluloid Closet footnotes, My Beautiful Laundrette has become a benchmark in the ’80s new queer cinema. The film’s approach to portraying homosexuality is as much grounded in raw, sensual realism as some of the film’s other themes are in buoyant fantasy. That those other themes—racism, immigration, and economic Darwinism in Thatcher’s England—don’t inherently lend themselves to a lighthearted interpretation is an example of how Stephen Frears adapts the worldview of the characters he presents. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Caravaggio (1986)

Swinging-London painter, music-video experimenter, outspoken gay-rights activist—the restless Derek Jarman got his start in films as a set designer for Ken Russell, and there’s something of the impudence (but not, thankfully, the hysteria) of Russell’s mock-biopics in Caravaggio . A pet project for the director (and also his first collaboration with muse and friend Tilda Swinton), it outlines the life of the 17th-century painter (played by Nigel Terry) with flesh-bound recreations of his most famous canvases and deflating anachronism—motorcycles, typewriters and boxing matches abound. The film is visually ravishing, frequently funny, and entirely accessible in its view of artistic longing and achievement reflecting the struggles of gay men. Croce


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Mala Noche (1986)

Physically and spiritually, the characters of Mala Noche are in constant stasis, whether en route from Mexico to the States or from one dank apartment room to the next. Gus Van Sant’s gritty, dirty, lyrical, altogether sensual debut feature frames their homosexual existence as one of nomadic isolation, an identity constantly in flux and only preserved through a perpetual sense of redefinition; life is a crapshoot and its many necessities (food, shelter, love, companionship) are but luxuries that some win, some lose. The title is explicitly invoked by the narrating protagonist the morning after a rough one night stand, but the film goes one further and suggests that his existence as a whole is not unlike one prolonged act of fumbling in the dark. Rob Humanick


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Law of Desire (1987)

Law of Desire is less a title than a rule in Pedro Almodóvar’s thriller about Pablo (Eusebio Poncela), a stage director, and the psychotic rapist/serial killer (Antonio Banderas) who becomes fixated on him. The pair’s dimly lit, sweaty sex scenes contrast Almodóvar’s otherwise candy-colored visual preferences, like the expressionistic greens and reds that load the mise-en-scène and bleed into Pablo’s production of Jean Cocteau’s La Voix Humaine. Containing two of Almodóvar’s recurring emblems of masculinity (the libidinous artist and the sex-minded, psychopathic stud), the film intersects art and fucking in a manner that is further explored in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! and Bad Education. Dillard


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Maurice (1987)

No one wants to admit the erotic fuel that repression provides. Because, as with all things, too much of a good thing quickly becomes a very bad thing. No one knows this better than the Brits, which is why Merchant-Ivory’s Maurice (based on an E.M. Forster novel that remained unpublished until its author had died and, thereby, escaped having to answer for its content) handily buries its closest American counterpart: Brokeback Mountain. Unlike with the Oscar-grubbing Ang Lee film (which, no matter what anyone’s great aunt thinks, decidedly did not scare the horses), Maurice’s veneer of prestige filmmaking exerts a mighty counterpoint to the drama it houses, always daring to match external order with impetuous internal contentment. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1988)

Semiotics camp with a ’70s soundtrack. Sounds like a blast and a half right? You want to program that right up against Xanadu and The Wiz, don’t you? Most of the writing surrounding Todd Haynes’s widely bootlegged 1987 stunner make it sound precious, impenetrable, and maybe even a bit obvious: the Karen Carpenter tragedy as reenacted by Barbie dolls, frequently interrupted with segments mimicking educational one-reels of the polyester years, and all juxtaposed against clips from the Holocaust and The Poseidon Adventure. Richard Carpenter’s objections (and slam dunk litigation against its unauthorized use of his music) sealed the movie’s notoriety, and it persists as a gay cult classic for, among other reasons, fighting against pop culture’s narrow definitions of art, entertainment, existence. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Looking for Langston (1989)

As a spiritual successor to Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks, Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston visualizes a black, gay sexuality that refutes tepid histories of both the Harlem Renaissance and poet Langston Hughes—histories that would deny each of their homosexual identities. In doing so, Julien not only produces elliptical imagery that owes a great deal to Anger and Jean Cocteau, but questions the work of white, gay artists like Robert Mapplethorpe, whose imaging of nude black men positions them as fetishized, statuesque emblems of exotic fantasy. On the contrary, Julien places black men together within the frame and allows for the possibility of an embrace between bodies instead of objectifying them. Dillard


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Tongues Untied (1989)

Midway through Tongues Untied, director Marlon Riggs asks the film’s epitomizing question in verse: “Mother, do you know I roam alone at night? Wearing colognes, tight pants, chains of gold, searching for men to come back to candlelight…there is no tender mercy for men of color, for sons who love men like me.” In less than an hour of monologues about oppression, sequences of voguing set to house music, and lessons on how to snap like a diva, Tongues Untied furiously maintains a sense of performance art-as-activism by refusing to speak its outrage in any compromised or conventional manner. Dillard


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Paris Is Burning (1990)

In Jeannie Livingston’s celebrated snapshot of the late-’80s New York drag-ball scene, such terms as “beauty” and “reality” become loose mercury, blurred like the identities of the black and Hispanic gay men hitting the drag houses every night. The documentary is right away upfront about the racial, social, and sexual politics of tucking in cocks and putting on dresses: “You’re black, you’re male, and you’re gay,” one queen says early on, recounting the three-strikes-you’re-out fringe status pressed on him since birth. The world of flaming, cross-dressing theater, then, can stand for an enclosed universe not just of communal acceptance, but also of mockery of the gender-rigidity of “normal” society. Croce


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

My Own Private Idaho (1991)

In My Own Private Idaho’s greatest and most legendary scene, Mike tries to tell Scott by a campfire that he loves him without telling him that he loves him. River Phoenix’s naked, halting rhythms are a thing of ineffable beauty, and Keanu Reeves, an intuitive, underrated actor, fulfills the demanding task of subtly taking the measure of his co-star as the latter forges a trail toward behavioral profundity. At times, it seems as if Gus Van Sant and Reeves are forming a protective fence around Phoenix, and it’s this impression that gives this deeply moving film a tint of hope. Bowen


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Poison (1991)

“Queerness” is not an intrinsic state of being, but a differential relationship to normative culture. So in an important sense queerness is identical with hegemonic oppression and social abjection. But the main characters in Poison aren’t simply casualties of an unjust world, the kind of lambs-to-the-slaughter you find in liberal prestige pictures about homophobia. Though all are victims of persecution and physical violence, each one internalizes and reproduces that hatred by becoming victimizers themselves. Their stories hash out a complex moral calculus. They’re sympathetic, but not at all saintly, and most often are impenetrable, antisocial, and repulsive. And no, they’re not “just like you.” That’s the last thing they want to be. Paul Brunick


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

The Living End (1992)

Whether in the guerilla eruptions of The Living End or the pothead reveries of Smiley Face, Gregg Araki has long displayed a keen interest in young characters whose restless sexuality is but one element in the volatile cultural landscapes they find themselves in. A New Queer Cinema guiding light whose “Teenage Apocalypse” trilogy (Totally F***ed Up, The Doom Generation, Nowhere) lent the indie ’90s much of its anarchic energy and danger, his films have often given the feeling of an armageddon bubbling underneath their brash surfaces, a sense of dread nevertheless kept at bay by spiky humor and compassion. Croce


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

The Long Day Closes (1992)

Instead of the continuous threat of frustrated male violence represented by the abusive father in Distant Voices, Still Lives, Terence Davie’s The Long Day Closes offers the tender, feminine cocoon personified by 11-year-old Bud’s (Leigh McCormack) beatified mother and a slew of affectionate brothers and sisters. Despite the warm communal setting, however, Bud is essentially a solitary figure, a shy, grave child who, like the filmmaker, experiences the first stirrings of homosexual desire along with the weight of Catholic guilt. And Davies braids the two elements by having the same actor appear as a shirtless bricklayer who responds to Bud’s gaze with a wink and the crucified Jesus who screams during one of the boy’s daydreams. Croce


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Orlando (1992)

It’s less than shocking to say that Tilda Swinton—by now America’s favorite androgyne—slips effortlessly into the role of the titular male nobleman who awakens halfway through the film to find himself a woman. Orlando’s novelistic structuring devices play second fiddle to Sally Potter and Virginia Woolf’s dominant double vision of gender as both an ever-malleable construction shaped by the specific historical moment, and an enduring method of social control wielded by those in power (i.e. men). The film bustles with soprano-voiced male singers, unwieldy wigs, and costumes paraded by both sexes, and a memorably commanding Queen Elizabeth I played by Quentin Crisp. A world of pageantry and primping, its members nevertheless divorce the porous boundaries between male and female social codes from the unequal levels of respect bestowed on each. Connolly


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Blue (1993)

Blue is Derek Jarman’s last film, made in 1993 when the filmmaker was blind and dying of AIDS. In addition to its bold jests (the defiance of a dying man hanging on to humor to face the pearly gates), it features ruminations, remembrances, and assorted pensées spoken by Jarman over an unchanging blue screen. What keeps it from becoming a Warholian abstraction is its clear-eyed toughness, the way the words modulate from plummy to morbid to ethereal and the color of the screen seems to undulate with feeling (it alternately suggests the ocean, the sky, a burnt retina, the chill of death and transcendence). In this profoundly felt film, the contrast isn’t just between sound and image, but between its auteur’s failing body and his still-ardent mind. Raging and humbled, Jarman stares into the darkness and finds unlikely bliss—a fitting requiem for an artist who insisted on dying as he had lived, a searching maverick. Croce


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Totally F***ed Up (1993)

Gregg Araki’s Brat Packers, far ruder and more vociferous than John Hughes’s, are a rainbow batch of teens muddling through the triple-whammy of adolescence, boredom, and uncloseted homosexuality in an unmellowed Los Angeles. For all the mumbled rants about AIDS and shitty relationships, most of Totally F***ed Up’s tone is spiky in its compassion and humor. The endings of the director’s “Teen Apocalypse” trilogy may seem utterly desolating, yet they all move toward a rejection of negativism in favor of the harsh but inescapable complexities of the world. Life is fucked up, Araki is saying, but it’s worth living. Croce


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

The Celluloid Closet (1995)

Vito Russo’s invaluable research made for one hell of a book, but being a book about movies, it took filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman to make its predominately devastating points sting. At no point did Russo mince words, but similarly, at no point did his book reach a crescendo of outrage as pointed as the moment Epstein and Friedman string together a revolting and epic montage of the countless times Hollywood punished its pathetically infrequent homosexual characters with death. As a testament to Clinton-era optimism for a brighter future, it’s cute. (The roster of talking heads guiding the tour—Tom Hanks, Whoopi Goldberg—is so ’90s it hurts.) As an illustration of just how deep a hole Hollywood had to dig its way out of, it’s invaluable. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Beautiful Thing (1996)

Hettie MacDonald’s Beautiful Thing is grounded in a realistic sense of adolescent agony and how it gives way to the rapture of new romance that. For all their attempts to paint gay life as being carefree, many of the beloved gay-youth movies released in the late ’90s (such as Edge of Seventeen and Get Real) completely missed this point. Instead of simply pinning it on his developing notions of his own sexuality, screenwriter Jonathan Harvey’s scenario makes the torment that only child Jaime (Glen Berry) goes through a much more universal and generic toil. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

The Delta (1996)

Ira Sachs’s debut feature may have the look and atmosphere of a seductive summertime daydream, but the spontaneous gay fling at the film’s center lies within a complex nexus of class, race, and sexuality. As the white, middle-class, and closeted teen Lincoln (Shayne Gray) and the poor, half-black/half-Vietnamese immigrant John (Thang Chan) journey down the Mississippi and away from a rigorously “traditional” Memphis, every one of the characters’ touches, kisses, libidinous urges, and other assorted actions (including a startling final act of violence) is born out of an unyielding social marginalization. Wes Greene


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Happy Together (1997)

Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together is a mass of contradictions. It’s a film mostly sour on love, but shot as though filtered through the vehement rush of a newfound romanticism. It’s both fragmented and cyclical. It’s stiflingly claustrophobic and also brashly international. And it’s an intimate, interpersonal look at the forces that keep two men simultaneously joined and repelled like whirring magnets, filmed (at least subconsciously) on the cusp of a major national moment. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Ma Vie en Rose (1997)

This is one of the only cinematic accounts of the gender non-conforming child that focuses on identification instead of sexuality per se. Ma Vie en Rose is as much the story of a seven-year-old’s failure to adhere to his/her parents’ impossible demands as it is an indictment of hetero-centric parenting in general. While the brutality of child rearing is most evident in the queer child, it makes us wonder where the other kids of the family, Ludovic’s siblings, must be hiding the corpses of the inner children they’ve had to kill in order to conform to the self-serving wishes of Mommy, Daddy, and the entire neighborhood. Semerene


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

The River (1997)

Hsiao-Kang’s (Lee Kang-sheng) mysterious pain on his neck gives way to a series of incestuous encounters which begins with his mother rubbing lotion on him and culminates in an accidental father-son handjob session at a bathhouse in Taipei. Tsai Ming-liang is known for deliciously long takes where, drop by drop, one is drowned by the symbolic weight of a sequence. The bathhouse scene is no different, but it’s particularly haunting because father and son are oblivious to the literality of the incest for most of its duration, making the viewer the sole bearer of what seems to be at once a ticking time bomb and Hsiao-Kang’s only opportunity for paternal affection. Semerene


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Fucking Åmål (1998)

Åmål, a small Swedish town, is an emblem of oppression in director Lukas Moodysson’s 1998 feature debut, since the socially conservative hovel becomes a prison for the blossoming sexual relationship between a pair of teenage girls longing to escape for Stockholm. The film might still be Moodysson’s greatest expression of youthful strife, creating a world where you can be slitting your wrists at one moment and making out in a backseat to Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” in the next. Moreover, the film’s end credits offer Robyn’s “Show Me Love” as a definitively queer anthem of compassion in response to surrounding hatred. Dillard


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Beau Travail (1999)

The French Foreign Legion soldiers in Claire Denis’s update to Herman Melville’s Billy Budd walk a tightrope between animal instinct and “unit cohesion,” a fascinating push and pull that Denis exploits for erotic tension between an officious sergeant and a hot-headed (and, well, hot) troop who faces the jealous wrath of his higher-up. At times, Beau Travail plays like an experimental film version of the sweaty workout sequences in Madonna’s “Express Yourself” music video: The Legion soldiers circle each other in a balletic rhythm that suggests either lovers getting ready to fuck or a hunter preparing to attack his prey. Denis sympathizes greatly with the daily turmoil of military life, and she likens the troops’ flux of emotions (like war itself) to a kind of dance. Schrodt


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Being John Malkovich (1999)

Unlike American Beauty and Fight Club, Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman aren’t content to merely score glib points on entitled, piggy Americans who’ll do anything to evade taking responsibility for their own lives. Being John Malkovich satirizes showbiz obsession while also successfully diagnosing self-loathing as the root of that obsession. John Cusack’s Craig wants the strange portal that leads to John Malkovich’s mind so that he can bed a woman that represents the epitome of his wildest erotic longings. Meanwhile, Cameron Diaz’s Lotte yearns for Malkovich so she can realize her repressed desires to be a man. The film is full of seemingly off-the-cuff jokes that enforce a poignant understanding that most people long to be famous because they otherwise don’t feel they deserve to have what they want. Bowen


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

O Fantasma (2000)

Desire is unabashedly compulsive and bestial in one of the finest films ever made about perversion. Sergio (Ricardo Meneses) is a garbage man in a perpetual state of cruising, whether cladding a catsuit to fuck a man in handcuffs, climbing rooftops like a feline on the prowl, or using a shower hose like a leash to choke himself while masturbating. He surrenders to a violence that’s directed both at himself and astoundingly willing others, ending up literally digging his own hole in a remote garbage dump like an irrational organism retreating into the earth. Not even Freud provided such a vivid account of the death drive as João Pedro Rodrigues does here. Semerene


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Mulholland Drive (2001)

Mulholland Drive’s famous audition scene is bookended when Laura Elena Harring’s Rita and Naomi Watts’s Betty have sex, the latter proclaiming her love for her new partner with an immediacy that’s movingly contrived until the truth imbues it with a deeper gravity. Like the audition scene, Rita and Betty’s coupling contains behavioral multitudes. Outwardly, it’s as erotic as Betty’s duet with Jimmy, the ultimate epitome of a fantasy of “lipstick” lesbians, featuring two of the most beautiful women in cinema. Inwardly, it’s a sick woman’s desperate re-contextualizing of a relationship, cast in the ironically glamorous, male-centric hues of a Hollywood romance, though said glamour, for Lynch and cinematographer Peter Deming’s considerable formal power, has such a ferocious life of its own as to elude the strictures of any singular qualification. Bowen


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Yossi & Jagger (2002)

In Yossi & Jagger’s spare running time, director Eytan Fox strips away almost anything that doesn’t present a dichotomy of conflict. He lets the simple divisions of gay/straight, men/women, fast/slow, adventurous/reserved become the essence of the film’s ultimately tragic take on Israel’s policy of mandatory military service. Just as Yossi isn’t the only character that opts to keep his true feelings locked deep inside himself, Jagger’s tendencies to pursue personal fulfillment shows up in other characters, not least of which the female soldier with a hopelessly futile crush on Jagger, but also including the burgeoning gourmet chef who spends his military days slumming over meatball sushi. The crucial point, and what ultimately helps the film stand tall amid the overpopulated gay cinema ghetto, is that youth simply cannot be contained into an institution that thrives on the total annihilation of psychological ambiguities. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003)

The darkened spaces of the Fu-Ho Grand Theater in Goodbye, Dragon Inn chart the meanderings of several patrons, including a furtive moviegoer seeking a homosexual encounter, but director Tsai Ming-liang’s film isn’t simply a sentimental ode to a bygone era of cinematic exhibition. In fact, it’s a partial refutation of François Truffaut’s presumptuous claim that the most beautiful sight in a movie theater is the light reflected on the upturned faces of the members of the audience. By taking the screen’s command away from viewer attention, Tsai queers cinematic desire by identifying how such images and places have been historically reliant upon the affirming perceptions of a dominant socio-economic and sexual class. Dillard


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Son Frère (2003)

In the elegiac Son Frère, Patrice Chéreau chronicles a desperate reconnect between two brothers when one is diagnosed with a mysterious blood disease. The man and woman at the center of Intimacy claw at each other like wild animals. In Son Frère, a straight man uses his failing body as a means to bridge the gap between himself and his younger gay sibling. In both films, skin becomes a kind of existential burden. However old, taut, hairy, saggy, or cut up, it’s all the same: a gratuitous barrier that too often prevents us from crawling inside each other. Gonzalez


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Bad Education (2004)

The best shot in Gus Van Sant’s Milk, of a stark-naked James Franco swimming in a pool, was taken from Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education, which was in itself an allusion to the paintings of David Hockney, whose pop-art riffs on gay love can be read in nearly everything the two directors have done. But Almodóvar’s pastiche isn’t nearly as delicate as Van Sant’s, shattering as it does the romanticized erotica of Hockney’s images and exposing it for the farce that it is. You could say that Bad Education, the story of two Catholic school boys’ burgeoning affection for each other and the crippling power that a pedophilic priest holds over their future lives, is the director’s most cynical film. But ugly though the subject matter may be, Almodóvar’s narrative is also alive with feeling. In the end, the antidote to misery is the director’s own love for the movies. Schrodt


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Tropical Malady (2004)

If you want to be precise about it, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s inscrutably gorgeous piece of jungle fever is a bifurcated, horny phantasmagoria stemming from within the animal urges of two young male lovers, as formally liberated as their surprisingly lick-happy interpersonal interactions. But there’s no reason to put too fine a point on a movie with this much poetry to offer. In keeping with the profile of a knowing sensualist who still insists you call him Joe, Tropical Malady is a mysterious object that contains, at its core, an emotional bull’s eye. If there’s a cure for this, I don’t want it. Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

The Raspberry Reich (2004)

The Raspberry Reich daringly conflates homosexuality and revolution in ways that question the Warholification of outsider class struggles. The film’s cute gay terrorists don’t exactly stake out territory as much as they stake each other out, frequently engaging in public sex. Director Bruce LaBruce uses this sex to confront the illusion of freedom in society, but he also understands the distraction it poses within the terrorist ranks, and as such the film works both as a counter-cultural assault on homosexist ideology and a comment on the way a revolution is often watered down and romanticized by the very media-obsessed bleeding hearts (like, say, Walter Salles) who are typically most interested in outsider politics. Gonzalez


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (2005)

It’s one of the great taboos, particularly in Western culture, to seriously consider the developing sexual feelings of children, a subject most easily infantilized, sensationalized, or brushed under the carpet, lest one become an unwitting Megan’s Law pariah. What’s often lost in this swirl of knee-jerk “adult” protectiveness are the feelings of the child, which—raw though they may be—deserve to be included in the discussion rather than subsumed by argumentation. It’s to director Auraeus Solito and screenwriter Michiko Yamamoto’s credit that they view their characters through a quietly revolutionary queer perspective, portraying young Maximo’s pursuit of an adult policeman, childish though it may be, as a fervently religious quest. Keith Uhlich


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Two Drifters (2005)

Like O Fantasma, perhaps the scariest film ever made about the compulsion of gay desire, Two Drifters’s sensual-spiritual plumbing is totally off the map; the former charts the topography of desire, the latter scopes the limits of our grief. João Pedro Rodrigues’s camera is mostly static, framed strikingly along every up-down-diagonal plane imaginable, evocative of his characters’ crash-into-me anxieties. After O Fantasma, Rodrigues continues to work on an almost elemental level, but his supposition of nature as a conduit for communication between people delves into deeper emotional terrain. Gonzalez


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Mysterious Skin (2004)

Swapping his usual gasoline rainbow of queer bacchanalia for a sultry, slowly simmering study of sublimated victimization, Gregg Araki nails both the surrealism and the subsequent aura of poison surrounding events of child abuse with Mysterious Skin. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbet—as the recklessly promiscuous, now-grown molestee and the nebbish sci-fi fan attempting to piece together one fatefully damaging night—excel at implying their hazily unholy union until the film’s anti-climax batters through the repressive floodgates, but it’s Araki’s strangely gentle imagery and eloquent comparison between the ineffability of pedophilia and extra-terrestrials that provide the movie’s poetry. A shower of earthbound Froot Loops has never seemed so beautifully alien. Lanthier


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

The Bubble (2006)

At a performance of Bent in Tel Aviv, two young men, Noam (Ohad Knoller) and Ashraf (Youself Sweid), lock hands during the crucial scene when Max and Horst make love to each other without touching. Noam and Ashraf’s intimacy, though, isn’t only an acknowledgement of the progress gays have made since the Holocaust, but a private expression of their own impossible love. Eytan Fox’s The Bubble is a kissing cousin of the British version of Queer As Folk, wittily dramatizing what it’s like for gay men to live and love in Tel Aviv while demonstrating a rare desire to rouse social and racial awareness. Gonzalez


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Before I Forget (2007)

Were Rainer Werner Fassbinder still with us, would his twilight films be anything like Jacques Nolot’s? Roughly the same age as the late, great German wunderkind, Nolot displays little of Fassbinder’s cinematic invention yet shares with him a tough, rigorously unsentimental eye for human intimacy and alienation, particularly when said eye is directed at his old queer self. Indeed, in Before I Forget, the third panel of Nolot’s informal trilogy of French gay life (following L’Arrière Pays and Porn Theater), the filmmaker places his naked, sagging body in front of the camera in a “Here I am, take me or leave me” display that deliberately brings to mind Fassbinder’s own fearless self-exposure in his segment of Germany in Autumn. Croce


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

To Die Like a Man (2009)

A morose musical with few proper songs, this elegy to an aging Lisbon transgender woman is possessed by many of the same qualities that made João Pedro Rodrigues’s first two features (the gay-cruising odyssey O Fantasma and the Almodóvar-esque romantic melodrama Two Drifters) so special: queer ennui, nocturnal carnality, and a flamboyant visual style. But there’s even more on offer in To Die Like a Man, which frames itself as above all an expression of one character’s fraught emotional and physical transfiguration. The film’s impressionistic feel for images lead to at least one stunning set piece: a magical-realist sequence, bathed in red light, in which inhabitants of a secluded forest bliss-out to Baby Dee’s hymnal-like “Calvary.” Together in a kind of exile, Rodrigues’s characters form a surrogate family and find solace in the shared experience of their community that music—and the musical—represents. Samuel C. Mac


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

In the Family (2011)

Patrick Wang’s In the Family is as intimate and affecting as it is sprawling and untamed. Nearly three hours in length, it’s characterized by carefully blocked, deeply focused scenes that unfold naturally, if perhaps uncomfortably, beholden only to life’s often overlapping, conflicting, and overwhelming emotions. The premise, concerning adoptive rights in a homophobic society, is unique for button-pushing potential, though Wang’s aims here are political only inasmuch as the political intersects with the moral. With no shortage of confidence, the film is remarkable for sidestepping bullet-point statements altogether to instead focus on the day-to-day causes and effects of our prejudices and the regulatory systems (social contracts, employment guidelines, family bonds) we frequently submit ourselves to. Rob Humanick


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Tomboy (2011)

Céline Sciamma renders visual some of the most complicated and elusive structures at work in the constitution of personhood (i.e. desire), and never in a sentimental or manipulative way. Tomboy’s ideas brew effortlessly before our eyes, as if it were too invested in its characters’ experiences to worry about “selling” us its story or “teaching” us its messages. Sciamma’s sensibility as a director along with the masterful performance by Zoé Héran keeps the film from making any overreaching or generalizing claims about gender, identity, or the sexuality of children. And yet we certainly “learn” from Tomboy just as much as we “like” it. The kind of sensuous apprenticeship borne out of the aftershock of an experience so emotional, so delicate, it refreshingly eludes us. Semerene


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Weekend (2011)

The quintessential tenet of romantic movies is that they feature characters who are either kept apart by their own deceptions or brought together by their total, yielding allowance of casting aside all that bullshit and opening up to another kindred soul. If this seems especially true in gay relationships, and I’m not saying it actually is, then it’s a mark of progress that the otherwise wholly naturalistic British drama Weekend chooses to embrace the fiction, especially given just how many other beacons of gay cinema opt to convey truth vis-à-vis the sorts of things we’ve been force-fed to accept as our reality (i.e. the pain of oppression, the tragedy of AIDS, the shallow escapism of candied softcore fantasies). Writer-director Andrew Haigh’s sensitive, unfailingly aware feature isn’t a fearless repudiation of the “meet cute” archetype, but rather a bold, specific revision: “meet right.” Henderson


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

How to Survive a Plague (2012)

While feature films like And the Band Played On portrayed gay activists as backdrop for bureaucratic squabbles and moral quandaries of straight politicians and epidemiologists, How to Survive a Plague sets the record straight: no one on Capitol Hill handed down salvation; it was fought for, fiercely, as ACT UP and other activists faced down bigoted politicians, government agencies, and pharmaceutical giants, with demonstrations, sit-ins, and boycotts. By offering us a glimpse into the activists’ public actions, taking us behind the scenes at their meetings, and mixing in intimate footage, of home and hospital visits, and frank “then” and “now” interviews, detailing stories of coming out and illness, David France delivers a haunting time capsule that captures survival and hope as much as it does despair. Ela Bittencourt


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Laurence Anyways (2012)

Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways is so moving and romantic because Dolan has the daring to nearly toss off the issue of transsexuality between the couple at its center, Laurence (Melvil Poupoud) and Fred (Suzanne Clément), after a while. He treats Laurence’s desire to live as a woman as it would be treated in a perfect world: As no big whoop, and so the problems that remain between Laurence and Fred are the problems of…an everyday couple. In the tradition of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who was in turn inspired by Douglas Sirk, Dolan takes you so deeply into Laurence and Fred’s world that you begin to see other, “normal,” characters as vicious interlopers. We don’t want these outsiders to break the spell these two cast and be denied this unmistakable passion. Bowen


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Eastern Boys (2013)

Robin Campillo’s shapeshifting gay romance offers a penetrating interrogation of human nature, belonging, and the social structures that shape and constrain us. The bracing formalism of the film’s long, masterful opening scenes establish the complex transactional relationships at the film’s core, before Eastern Boys gradually yields to an impeccably shaded brand of humanism. It’s a film of unclear motives and ever-shifting boundaries, but Campillo continues to grasp toward comprehension even as answers become more elusive. Eastern Boys finds the personal and the political helplessly bound together, caught in a morally fraught tangle that neither well-intentioned authorities nor mere human compassion can straighten out. Christopher Gray


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Stranger by the Lake (2013)

For those who think of the Internet as the big bad enabler of a gay culture full of apathetic sex fiends perennially in cruising mode, Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake reminds us that there’s nothing necessarily digital about the will to cruise ad infinitum. More significantly, it portrays cruising as a danger-seeking and astoundingly repetitive affair, intimately linked to death itself—or the qualities that it promises. And though its characters have a fondness for barebacking, this isn’t a film about HIV as fetish or as the ghostly monster hovering over gay sex. Desire itself, unattached to viruses or specificity of conduct, appears as monstrous enough. Semerene


The 75 Greatest LGBT Films of All Time

Carol (2015)

There are images in this tale of two women in love that seethe with desire in ways that Todd Haynes has only hinted at before, from a flexing, bare back to the titular housewife eating forkfuls of creamed spinach with impossible poise. Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara summon an immediate sense of kinship, empathy, and hunger for each other’s characters, communicated through practiced, graceful deliveries, eloquent gestures, and glances and gazes that seem to be understood as code. Haynes’s luminous aesthetic both suggests the old-fashioned nature of the romance that’s portrayed here, and a modern world stuck in the past, still unable to fully accept passions as simultaneously unique and familiar as those felt, and shared intimately, by Carol and Therese. Chris Cabin


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Features

The 20 Best Music Videos of 2018

The year’s best music videos reflect the way we live now: the technology we use, the power we wield, and the places we carve out for ourselves.

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The 20 Best Music Videos of 2018
Photo: YouTube

The year’s best music videos reflect the way we live now: the technology we use (“Vince Staples’s “Fun!”), the power we wield (the Carters’ “Apeshit”), and the places we carve out for ourselves (“Anderson .Paak’s “Til It’s Over”). They also acknowledge the state of the world, from systemic racism (Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”) to institutional corruption (Jack White’s “Corporation”). Notably, a clear majority of the videos on our list were created by or for artists of color, whose stories serve as an act of resistance against a racist regime. The year in music video wasn’t all gloom and doom, though, as both identity and resistance manifested in profoundly joyous ways in Chaka Khan’s “Like Sugar” and Kali Uchis’s “After the Storm.” And Bruno Mars and Migos embraced playful, nostalgic visions of the past—though it’s hard not to question whether even those ostensibly frivolous throwbacks are rooted in self-care and a need to romanticize a seemingly simpler time. Sal Cinquemani

20. Prince, “Mary Don’t You Weep”

There are no guns or mass shootings in the clip for Prince’s posthumously released “Mary Don’t You Weep,” but their absence isn’t conspicuous. Gun violence is, more than anything else, about the aftermath—the loss, the grief, the haunted lives left in the wake of a fleeting shot. Amid politicians’ perpetual handwringing over when the “right” time is to talk about solutions to this epidemic, Salomon Ligthelm’s exquisitely lensed video testifies to the notion that, at least for tens of thousands of Americans this year, it’s already too late. Cinquemani


19. Rosalía, “Malamente”

Barcelona-based collective Canada marries the traditional with the modern—as in an eye-popping freeze-frame of a bullfighter facing off with a motorcycle—in this spirited music video for Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalía’s flamenco-inspired hit “Malamente.” Alexa Camp


18. Ariana Grande, “God Is a Woman”

The music video for Ariana Grande’s sultry, subtly reggae-infused slow jam “God Is a Woman” finds the pop princess bathing in a milky swirl of vaginal water colors, fingering the eye of a hurricane, and deflecting misogynist epithets, a visual embodiment of her declaration that “I can be all the things you told me not to be/When you try to come for me, I keep on flourishing/And he sees the universe when I’m in company/It’s all in me.” Directed by Dave Meyers, the video mixes animation, digital eye candy, and references to classical artwork, as well as a few WTF moments, like a set piece in which a group of moles emerge from their holes and scream bloody murder. Pointed metaphors abound, from scenes of Grande walking a tightrope to literally breaking a glass ceiling. At one point, pop’s original feminist queen, Madonna, makes a cameo reciting the Old Testament by way of Pulp Fiction—with her own characteristic twist, of course, swapping “brothers” for “sisters.” Cinquemani


17. Bruno Mars featuring Cardi B, “Finesse (Remix)”

Bruno Mars directed the video for “Finesse” himself, and its note-perfect homage to the opening sequence of In Living Color shows him to be as adept a visual pastiche artist as he is a musical one. As with the song, however, it’s guest Cardi B who steals the show, dominating every second she’s on camera as the flyest of Fly Girls in tube socks, cutoffs, and larger-than-life hoop earrings. Zachary Hoskins


16. LCD Soundsystem, “Oh Baby”

Featuring masterful performances by Sissy Spacek and David Strathairn, LCD Soundsystem’s “Oh Baby” is a stirring saga of lovers venturing into the unknown. Directed by Rian Johnson, the video follows an aging couple who build a set of strange, inter-dimensional doorways. Enter one, and you can exit out of the other, but it’s never clear what reality exists between them. Simple, cinematic, and heart-wrenching, the clip is the perfect accompaniment for James Murphy’s ponderous, uplifting electro-pop. Paired together, Spacek and Strathairn convey love’s capacity to obliterate all barriers: loneliness, old age, even death. Pryor Stroud


15. Migos featuring Drake, “Walk It Talk It”

Migos’s “Walk It Talk It” takes place on a fictional television program called Culture Ride—a clear homage to the iconic show Soul Train. This isn’t the first music video to conceptually riff on the vintage variety show format; both OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” and the Strokes’s “Last Nite” are set in Ed Sullivan Show-style sound stages. But the video is still a triumph of flashy, vintage style. Offset, Quavo, and Takeoff surround themselves with dancing spectators and major stars, notably Jamie Foxx and Drake, all of whom are transfixed by the music they’re hearing. And just as they are today, Migos is the center of attention. Stroud


14. Azealia Banks, “Anna Wintour”

Yes, those really are Azealia Banks’s nipples. At least according to the New York singer-rapper-lightning-rod’s perennially deleted Twitter account. But the music video for Banks’s single “Anna Wintour” is striking not just because of the artist’s ample bosom. Directed by Matt Sukkar, the clip was filmed in an empty warehouse using understated faux-natural lighting, an apt visual milieu for Banks’s declaration of independence: “As the valley fills with darkness, shadows chase and run around…I’ll be better off alone, I’ll walk at my own pace.” Shots of a scantily clad Banks strutting on a metal catwalk, posing in a full-length mirror, and striking a pose in front of a backlit gate pay homage to Janet Jackson’s “The Pleasure Principle,” an iconic video by another female artist who was once determined to assert control. Camp


13. Flasher, “Material”

The internet has rendered media consumption so isolating that it takes a work of profound ingenuity to remind us that art is inherently a shared experience—even if that experience is one of infuriating data buffering, inescapable clickbait, and micro-targeted advertising. Directed by Nick Roney, Flasher’s meta visual for “Material” proves that YouTube has become so engrained in the fabric of modern life that the simple action of clicking out of a pop-up advertisement is now part of our brains’ cache of muscle memory. Though the video isn’t actually interactive, you just might find yourself unconsciously reaching to take control of what’s happening on your screen. Cinquemani


12. Jennifer Lopez featuring Cardi B and DJ Khaled, “Dinero”

The music video for Jennifer Lopez’s “Dinero” is as over the top as the song itself, which finds J. Lo alternately singing over a tropical rhythm and rapping atop a trap beat—sometimes both—while fellow Bronx upstart Cardi B boasts of their borough-based bona fides. Directed by Joseph Kahn, the black-and-white clip brazenly takes the piss out of Lopez’s dubious Jenny from the Block persona—and she’s clearly in on the joke, bowling with a diamond-covered ball, barbecuing in lingerie and pearls while sipping a crystal-encrusted Slurpee, toasting marshmallows over a burning pile of cash, and walking a preening pet ostrich on a leash. The video also features a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo by a Casino-era Robert De Niro. Camp


11. Tierra Whack, “Whack World”

One of the most ambitious music video projects of the year, “Whack World” is a full-length accompaniment to Tierra Whack’s debut album of the same title. Like the album, it’s 15 minutes long, with the Philadelphia-based rapper and visual artist performing a wildly different vignette in each minute. Both album and video make for an impressive sampler of Whack’s versatility as a performer—which, in visual form, translates to her inhabiting a range of quirky and inventive characters, from a facially disfigured receptionist to a rapping corpse in a sequined coffin, a sentient house, and others that defy description. With a highlight reel like this, it’s hard to image there being anything Whack can’t do. Hoskins


10. Janelle Monáe, “Make Me Feel”

Every segment of the “emotion picture” released by Janelle Monáe to accompany her third album Dirty Computer is visually striking and thematically rich in its own way. But it’s the segment for lead single “Make Me Feel” that arguably stands best on its own. Directed by Monáe’s longtime collaborator Alan Ferguson, the video features the singer and 2018 It-girl Tessa Thompson at what may be the year’s coolest party captured on screen. Widely viewed as a coming-out moment for Monáe—her pansexuality is dramatized in her interactions with both Thompson and co-star Jayson Aaron—the clip is rife with references to two recently canonized icons of sexual fluidity, Prince and David Bowie. Monáe’s choreography with Thompson and Aaron echoes Prince’s with dancer Monique Mannen in the video for “Kiss,” while the dynamic of a bold, flamboyant alter ego performing for the singer’s more reserved self is borrowed from Bowie’s “Blue Jean.” As with her music, however, Monáe is capable of wearing these influences on her sleeve (and her silver bikini top) while still making them wholly her own. Hoskins


9. Chaka Khan, “Like Sugar”

The music video for R&B legend Chaka Khan’s first single in five years giddily foregrounds a multiplicity of black bodies via vibrant, kinetic montage. The joyous clip represents a celebration of identity and persistence in the face of adversity, a thread that shoots through many of the year’s best videos. Camp


8. Anderson .Paak, “Til It’s Over”

The music video has always sat at an awkward intersection of art and commerce, having originated as short film clips serving quite literally as “promos” for new singles. It’s thus only a little strange that Spike Jonze’s video for Anderson .Paak’s “Til It’s Over” isn’t a conventional one at all, but rather an extended commercial for Apple’s HomePod smart device. In the short vignette, FKA Twigs comes home from a long work day and asks Siri to play something she’d like. After a few seconds of .Paak’s voice coming out of her HomePod speakers, she discovers that her dancing can make the physical properties of her apartment stretch and shift. Both the simple, human joy of Twigs’s movements and the technical wizardry of the expanding room are so arresting that you’ll almost forget you’re being sold something. Hoskins


7. Travis Scott featuring Drake, “Sicko Mode”

The album cover for Travis Scott’s Astroworld painted a vivid picture of the eponymous theme park as a psychedelic, vaguely sinister landscape, dominated by a giant inflatable model of Scott’s head and decidedly not to be confused with the real-life (and long-defunct) Six Flags AstroWorld. But it’s the video for single “Sicko Mode,” directed by Dave Meyers, that really brings the place to life, turning the bleak landscape of Houston’s inner city into a post-apocalyptic playground of talking train graffiti and video vixens on bicycles while Scott rides past a prowling police cruiser on horseback. Much like the multi-part song, the clip isn’t cohesive, as the scenes during Drake’s guest verse almost seem to be cut in from an entirely different video. But the abundance of bizarre imagery, both menacing and absurd, ensures that it’s never boring. Hoskins


6. A$AP Rocky featuring Moby, “A$AP Forever”

The camera is the star of Dexter Navy’s video for “A$AP Forever”: whirling in dizzy circles above A$AP Rocky’s head and pulling in and out of a seemingly endless series of television monitors, street signs, smartphone screens, and other images within images. In the final sequence, the camera moves one last time into Rocky’s eyeball, revealing a reflected image of the rapper rotating in an anti-gravity chamber. Also, Moby is there. What it all means is anyone’s guess, but the trippy effect is a perfect complement to the strain of 21st-century psychedelia in Rocky’s music. Hoskins


5. Vince Staples, “Fun!”

Directed by Calmatic, the video for Vince Staples’s “Fun!” is both an astute condemnation of racial tourism and a (perhaps unintentional) auto-critique of hip-hop’s exportation of the black experience to middle America. Like Flasher’s “Material,” it’s also a bleak commentary on the ways technology—in this case, satellite mapping—has simultaneously united and divided the human race. Cinquemani


4. Jack White, “Corporation”

Jack White’s “Corporation” is just as oblique, ambitious, and political as the artist himself. Over the course of seven minutes, a series of surreal, seemingly disjointed events occur: a cowboy puts on lipstick, a rave starts in a diner, a little boy steals a car. By the end, you learn that all of the characters are simply different manifestations of White himself, revealing the alt-blues pioneer as someone we already knew him to be: a complex, multifaceted artist whose neuroses are intimately tied to his genius. Stroud


3. Kali Uchis featuring Tyler, the Creator and Bootsy Collins, “After the Storm”

Like the contemporary surrealist photos of its director, Nadia Lee Cohen, the video for “After the Storm” pairs a rich Technicolor palette with a playfully elastic approach to everyday banality: bringing P-Funk icon Bootsy Collins to (animated) life as a cereal box mascot and making rapper Tyler, the Creator grow from a garden like a literal “Flower Boy.” That these whimsical images appear alongside shots of singer Kali Uchis, dolled up in mid-century attire and staring blankly into the distance, suggest that they’re meant to dramatize the daydreams of a bored 1950s suburbanite. This makes the video’s final image, of Uchis and a fully sprouted Tyler acting out an idyllic nuclear family scene while their own disembodied Chia-pet heads look on from the window, as vaguely disquieting as it is humorous. Hoskins


2. The Carters, “Apeshit”

The Carters’s Everything Is Love may not have achieved the same cultural ubiquity as Beyoncé‘s Lemonade, or Jay-Z’s 4:44, but it spawned one of the year’s most poignant videos. In “Apeshit,” the power couple performs in a vacant Louvre, commandeering the world’s most famous museum without breaking a sweat. It’s a radical testament to their influence as artists, business people, and political players, as well as a bold statement about the overlooked primacy of blackness in the Western canon. Stroud


1. Childish Gambino, “This Is America”

Surprise-released to coincide with Donald Glover’s double duty as host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live in May, the provocative video for “This Is America” was already inspiring breathless think pieces by the following morning. Directed by Hiro Murai, Glover’s principal collaborator on FX’s Atlanta, “This Is America” shares with many of that show’s best episodes a knack for getting under viewers’ skins, presenting highly charged images with just enough ambiguity to encourage social media reactions of the “WTF did I just watch” variety. But if the last seven months of critical dissection and memetic recycling have inevitably dulled some of its shock value—and, by extension, its power as a political statement—the video remains an astounding artistic achievement. In a series of long shots cleverly disguised as one uninterrupted take, Glover pulls dances and faces from the intertwined traditions of pop culture and minstrelsy, seamlessly juxtaposed with eruptions of sudden, graphic gun violence. In both extremes, it’s impossible to take your eyes off of him—which is, of course, the point. Like the never-ending train wreck that is American history itself, “This is America” offers entertainment and grotesquerie in equal measure. Hoskins


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The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

These performances share a commitment to achieving emotional vitality by any means necessary.

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The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018
Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures

This year offered a feast of cinematic acting that pivoted on surprise, in terms of unconventional casting that allowed performers to add new shades to their established personas, as well as in blistering work by newcomers. These performances share a commitment to achieving emotional vitality by any means necessary, shattering the banality of expectation to elaborate on universal feelings that are too easily submerged by us on our day-to-day toils. Which is to say that the finest film acting of 2018 was less indebted to the representational “realism” that often wins awards than to fashioning a bold kind of behavioral expressionism. Like many of their filmmaker collaborators, these actors are master stylists. Chuck Bowen
 

The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Sakura Ando, Shoplifters

As Nobuyo, the default “mother” of an informal family of hustlers on the margins of present-day Tokyo, Sakura Ando enriches Hirokazu Kore-eda’s gentle social drama with her bracing articulation of her character’s self-discovery. Nobuya’s melodramatic arc—a woman with dark secrets whose hard-won redemption is inevitably undone by higher forces—culminates in an agonizing one-shot unraveling, but what makes her fate so devastating is the sense of surprise and liberation that Ando brings to Nobuya’s acceptance of new responsibilities, passions, and her own self-worth. Christopher Gray


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Juliette Binoche, Let the Sunshine In

For all of her versatility, Juliette Binoche has never particularly been noted for her comic skills, but she displays a subtle wit as the middle-aged and single Isabelle in Claire Denis’s Let the Sunshine In, often dismissing petulant, needy men with scarcely more than a mocking glance or a passive-aggressive comment. Binoche truly shines, though, in scenes that play up Isabelle’s feelings of panic and loneliness over having to date again, such as when Isabelle reminisces about her ex-husband and, in the process, a whole panoply of emotions, including resentment and wistfulness, flit anxiously across the actress’s face. Most moving of all is the outright panic that Isabelle betrays when a wonderful date urges her to take things slowly, triggering an existential attack over her perceived lack of time to find another partner so late in life. Jake Cole


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Emily Browning, Golden Exits

Golden Exits sustains a lingering aura of futility that’s counterweighted by the film’s beauty and by the exhilaration of seeing Alex Ross Perry realize his vast ambitions, as he’s made a modern film about relationships and social constrictions that clears the bar set by the work of John Cassavetes and Woody Allen. Perry also ultimately empathizes with Naomi, who’s paradoxically diminished by her status as the narrative’s center of attention. Regarded by her American acquaintances as a barometer of their own personal failures, Naomi is never truly noticed. She’s the gorgeous woman as specter, played by Emily Browning with an ambiguity that carries a heartbreaking suggestion: that Naomi’s unknowable because no one wishes to know her. Bowen


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Nicolas Cage, Mandy

Mandy‘s smorgasbord of indulgences is held together by Nicolas Cage, who gives one of the best performances of his career. Director Panos Cosmatos understands Cage as well as any director ever has, fashioning a series of moments that allow the actor to rhythmically blow off his top, exorcising Red’s rage and longing as well as, presumably, his own. In the film’s best scene, Red storms into the bathroom of his cabin and lets out a primal roar, while chugging a bottle of liquor that was stashed under the sink. Cage gives this scene a disquieting sense of relief, investing huge emotional notes with a lingering undercurrent that cuts to the heart of the film itself. Bowen


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Toni Collette, Hereditary

Flashes of insanity and malaise factor into Toni Collette’s performance in Hereditary, yet Annie cannot be defined by such traits often linked to the trope of a hysterical woman. Instead, Collette’s glares of frustration suggest a world of complicated emotions that extend well beyond pain. Terror and intense focus become indecipherable in Collette’s eyes as Annie, a diorama artist, is torn from her profession by conspiring forces, making the film’s outcome feel even more like a cross between a cruel joke and a rebuke of society’s stacking the deck through maternal guilt and shame against Annie’s aspiring career. Clayton Dillard


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

As Queen Anne and her rival sycophants, Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz, respectively, establish a delicious series of manipulative, barbarous, and poignant emotional cross-currents throughout The Favourite. Stone and Weisz verbally parry and thrust at lightning speed, one-upping one another in an escalating series of duels that inspire the actresses to give among the finest performances of their careers, while Colman expertly operates at a slower, daringly draggy and exposed speed, painting a portrait of a woman imprisoned by entitlement. Collectively, this superb acting also achieves the near miraculous feat of rendering a Yorgos Lanthimos film authentically human. Bowen


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Matt Dillon, The House That Jack Built

It’s no secret that Jack (Matt Dillon), the viciously misogynistic serial killer at the heart of Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built, is at least partially a stand-in for the director himself, and the genius of Dillon’s interpretation of the character is that he never seems to be sucking up to the man who created it. He plays Jack as ruthless, self-pitying, and disturbingly empty—Hannibal Lecter without the wit or charm. No mere pawn of the Danish provocateur’s autocritical schema, Dillon both deepens and challenges von Trier’s intended self-portraiture with the uncanny blankness of his performance, creating in the process an absolutely chilling embodiment of evil. Keith Watson


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Adam Driver, BlackKklansman

Though BlackKklansman was marketed as the story of an African-American police officer impersonating a member of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s, it also concerns a Jewish cop’s efforts to do the same by offering a white face to accompany a vocal charade. As said cop, Flip Zimmerman, Adam Driver deliriously plumbs head-first into a disturbing irony, acknowledging the catharses that can be had by indulging in disgusting epithets secretly at one’s own expense. Or, simply: Flip insults himself, and those close to him, and Driver elucidates the character’s disgust as well as the weird spiritual purging that can occur by indulging one’s basest instincts. One of America’s best and most sensitive actors offers perhaps his finest portrait yet of a soul twisted in contradictory knots. Bowen


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

It’s a testament to the authenticity of Elsie Fisher’s performance in Eighth Grade that you’d never have guessed she’d been in front of a camera before, much less that she’s been acting consistently for years. As Kayla, the awkward, unpopular tween protagonist of Bo Burnham’s film, Fisher infuses every stammered “umm” and stumbling “like” with a palpable sense of self-loathing and social anxiety. For anyone who ever felt like Kayla in middle school, Fisher’s painfully real performance is liable to induce PTSD. Watson


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace

Finally shedding his tick-laden parlor games, Ben Foster comes to life as an actor, connecting with Will and giving him a fearful thickness of being that’s only occasionally leavened by Tom, whom Thomasin McKenzie invests with the trembling, negotiating intelligence of an unformed prodigy. Will and Tom and Foster and McKenzie’s energies are beautifully in and out of sync, simultaneously. Foster confidently cedes the film to McKenzie, which parallels Will’s gradual relinquishing of authority to Tom. Both characters know that it’s unfair to expect Tom to inherit Will’s alienation, as she has the right to give this potentially doomed society a chance, to fight for it as well as herself. In Leave No Trace‘s heartbreaking climax, a relationship dies so that an individual, and maybe even a society, may be reborn. Bowen


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Hugh Grant, Paddington 2

Hugh Grant may well be more cartoonish than the animated bear protagonist of Paddington 2. As the film’s villain, a has-been thespian with the world’s most convoluted scheme to finance a one-man show, Grant can scarcely utter a syllable without throwing his head back and exclaiming it to the rafters, and the actor’s body language—a series of shocked gasps, wild-eyed stares, and manic grins—is similarly absurd. As Phoenix dons a series of ever-more elaborate disguises throughout the film, Grant’s acting somehow gets even broader, resulting in a work of giddy panto and one of the finest comic performances in recent memory. Cole


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Regina Hall, Support the Girls

It’s not often that we see decency and level-headedness radiated on screen as convincingly as it is by Regina Hall in Support the Girls, much less a film centered around such a performance. As Lisa, a put-upon restaurant manager enduring a particularly hectic day on the job, Hall suppresses the comic histrionics that she’s become known for in mainstream comedy movies in order to inhabit the delicate naturalism that writer-director Andrew Bujalski consistently cultivates in his casts. Slipping into this mode with grace, the actress conveys the sheer exhaustion and frustration of nine-to-five existence with just the subtlest of disruptions to an exterior of buttoned-up professionalism. Carson Lund


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

As the great blackness of night swoops in, we reach for assurances of “the everlasting arms,” as sung about in First Reformed‘s concluding hymnal. Ethan Hawke’s staggering performance is one of Ecclesiastian sympathy, with watchful longing and hungry silences in between reminders of Toller’s own impotence to change the world. The man’s face suggests a tragic predicament that the only ark to save us from an impending flood is in our illusions. Niles Schwartz


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Bill Heck and Zoe Kazan, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Nearly every actor in the Coen brothers’ newest anti-western is remarkable, but Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck are particularly heartbreaking, partly because the audience has been so expertly rendered vulnerable to the vignette in which they appear. By the time that we get to “The Gal Who Got Rattled” in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, we’ve seen so much brutality and cynicism that we’re hardened for more of the same only to encounter tenderness. As potential lovers who never get to be, Kazan and Heck dramatize the unmooring vulnerability of feeling attraction just when you suspect that you’ve aged out of it, informing the Coens’ florid, beautiful dialogue with trembling pathos. Bowen


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Brian Tyree Henry, If Beale Street Could Talk

For this critic, the lovers at the center of Barry Jenkins’s newest parable of racism are too gorgeous, primped, fawning, symbolic, metaphorical, and seemingly straight out of a coffee-table book. As a man recently out of prison after serving a stretch he didn’t deserve, Brian Tyree Henry does for If Beale Street Could Talk what he did for Widows and continues to do for Atlanta: informing potentially self-conscious conceits with a jolting burst of common-sense machismo. If Beale Street Could Talk‘s most haunting scene is a monologue that’s hypnotically uttered by Tyree, allowing this film, for a few minutes, to actually capture the brutal poetry of the James Baldwin novel that inspired it. Bowen


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Helena Howard, Madeline’s Madeline

The center of a film about commitment and disassociation, Helena Howard’s Madeline evidently relishes the opportunity to change identities in the blink of an eye. Director Josephine Decker contrasts the aspiring actress’s easy mastery of improv exercises with Madeline’s harried life outside of rehearsal, where she’s regularly manipulated by her mother and an overeager director as she struggles to control her mental illness. Decker’s film is willfully alienating in its commitment to Madeline’s tortured interiority, but Howard steers it with an undeniable power and confidence, making Madeline’s rootless chaos feel entirely legible. Gray


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Bhreagh MacNeil, Werewolf

Werewolf belongs to the extraordinary Bhreagh MacNeil. The film derives quite a bit of its power from allowing Vanessa to unceremoniously wrest the spotlight away from Blaise (Andrew Gillis), a lost and bitter man whose quest for recovery is probably hopeless. MacNeil doesn’t project Vanessa’s determination in a manner that’s familiar to rehabilitation fables, but rather physically embodies it, and McKenzie doesn’t mar her with any screenwriterly speeches. We see Vanessa’s strength in the steel of her eyes, in her willingness to ask family for help, and in her ability to get a thankless job at an old-fashioned burger and soft-serve ice cream joint, in which she grinds imitation Oreo cookies into pieces with a machine that resembles a sausage grinder. The fierceness with which Vanessa grinds these cookies—or attempts to master an ice cream machine that resembles a liquid methadone dispenser—is haunting. Bowen


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Rachel McAdams, Disobedience

Esti (Rachel McAdams), at first glance, is another type: an obsequious adherent to orthodoxy. When she passionately kisses Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), you understood the gesture as compensatory, to convey that I’m just not that into her anymore. But then McAdams caps the moment by quickly playing with Nivola’s beard, and the actress subtly communicates the sense of the genuine love that exits between this husband and wife—an impression that’s confirmed when Esti later repeats the gesture with Ronit (Rachel Weisz). Only theirs is a different kind of love, and we finally get a sense of what that is when, during a tryst in a hotel room, Ronit casually sends a stream of her spit into Esti’s mouth. This moment feels organically, almost miraculously stumbled upon—arrived at by two great actors wanting to convey the singular nature of their characters’ communion. Ed Gonzalez


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The pairing of Melissa McCarthy, a Hollywood A-lister, with Richard E. Grant, a sublime arthouse presence, is one of the most invigorating surprises of this year’s cinema. McCarthy avoids the pitfall of comic actors appearing in unusually dramatic material. Rather than restricting her emotional catalogue to a few grim gestures of purposefulness, McCarthy expands her repertoire, elaborating on the sadness that’s inherent in even her blockbuster roles—a sadness that also fuels her comic virtuosity. And Grant is complicit with McCarthy’s tonal dexterity in every way. Together they offer an irresistible portrait of a bittersweet paradox of companionable alienation. Bowen


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Ben Mendelsohn, The Land of Steady Habits

The Land of Steady Habits benefits enormously from the casting of Ben Mendelsohn as an unexceptionally tormented upper-middle-class guy. Here, the actor submerges the aggression that’s often closer to the surface of his sleazy villain roles, giving Anders a mysterious internal tension that’s compelling and often funny. When writer-director Nicole Holofcener follows Anders around as he drifts in and out of the lives of Helene (Edie Falco) and his grown son, Preston (Thomas Mann), and their various friends, the film has a free-associational piquancy. Bowen


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Jason Mitchell, Tyrel

Sebastián Silva tasks Jason Mitchell with carrying the weight of Tyrel on the actor’s face; he’s asked to project toughness in reaction shots to aggressions both micro and macro from Tyler’s white bros, then later vulnerability as he steals away for moments of quietude to escape the ambiguous pain of social discomfort. While the scenario and performance is comparable to that of Daniel Kaluuya’s in Get Out, Mitchell’s Tyler isn’t given a catharsis of violent retribution. Mitchell’s expressions and gestures convey the betrayal of a daily life that never lets Tyler feel at ease, let alone at home. Dillard


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Michelle Pfeiffer, Where Is Kyra?

Michelle Pfeiffer’s ferociously vulnerable and intelligent performance elucidates the pain, resentment, and fear that springs from escalating disappointment. Pfeiffer informs Kyra with a fragile mixture of empathy and rage, which is particularly on display when Kyra cares for her mother, Ruth, who’s played by Suzanne Shepard with a wily and commanding dignity. Kyra is understood by Pfeiffer to be taking qualified pleasure in her own effacement, as it implies an escape from a world that has rejected her. Early in the film, we see Kyra preparing a bath for Ruth, and a mirror fashions a prism in which mother and daughter are cordoned off from one another yet simultaneously visible, evoking the punishing intimacy, and the comfort, of caring for a dependent. Bowen


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Meinhard Neumann, Western

Casting is everything, the saying goes, but that’s especially true when filmmakers elect to use nonprofessionals, in which case ineffable factors such as “presence” and “authenticity” become paramount. Meinhard Neumann, the grizzled, mustachioed brooder at the center of Western who director Valeska Grisebach came across on a whim at a horse market, has these qualities in spades, in addition to a seemingly preternatural capacity for playing to Grisebach’s roving handheld camera and finding his light. His taciturn, repressed Meinhard doesn’t have a wide expressive range, but when the character does undergo a few emotional breakthroughs in the latter half of the film, Neumann seems to be genuinely accessing reserves of pain and regret deep within himself. Lund


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Jesse Plemons, Game Night

John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein assembled one of the strongest comedic ensembles in recent memory for Game Night, but a single performer still managed to steal the show: Jesse Plemons as the weirdo Gary, a sad-sack cop with a broken heart whose self-pitying glumness could ruin anyone’s vibe. Pitched perfectly at the intersection of creepiness and pathos, Plemons earns big laughs without really seeming to try. The hilarity arises instead from his expertly discomfiting embodiment of one of those off-putting personality types we’ve all unfortunately encountered: the guy you feel bad for but desperately want to get away from as fast as humanly possible. Watson


The 30 Best Film Performances of 2018

Steven Yeun, Burning

Lee Chang-dong’s Burning is driven by a central mystery of purpose. To what genre does this film belong? Is it a horror film, a romantic triangle, a class critique, or a beguiling fusion of all of the above? Much of this mystery is embodied by Steven Yeun’s performance as a rich smoothie who’s far more appealing than the floundering hero, which strikes up a crisis in the audience’s empathy that resonates with our romantic preferences in real life. Turns out there’s a reason that confident people get all the lovers, because they are, well, confident. Yet Yeun laces his sexiness with the subtlest tint of passive aggression, so subtle that one wonders if it’s even there, investing Burning with a fleeting malignancy that’s worthy of Claude Chabrol. Bowen


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The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

Music, dance, action, rage, touch, rhyme, and blunt-force trauma—these are the moments that give films, and life, their staying power.

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The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018
Photo: Well Go USA

Watching a great scene for the first time is like confronting the reality of one’s mortality. As the scene unfolds, it can feel exhilarating in the moment, though it can only be fully understood in hindsight. Think of our selections of the best scenes of 2018, then, as flashes of memory connected to a larger whole. It’s not that the whole dies without the memories, but that the whole might, upon reflection, be primarily composed of such recollected flashes. Music, dance, action, rage, touch, rhyme, and blunt-force trauma—these are the moments that give films, and life, their staying power. Clayton Dillard
 

The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

Amazing Grace, Reverend Cleveland Weeps

There are a number of points throughout Sydney Pollack’s Amazing Grace where Aretha Franklin’s voice hits such astounding heights that members of Los Angeles’s New Temple Missionary Baptist Church congregation and choir can’t help but rise to their feet and shout “Amen” or dance like no one is watching them. But no single moment is more profoundly moving than when Reverend James Cleveland, the concert’s musical director and Aretha’s childhood friend, walks away from his piano, sits down on a pew, and quietly weeps into his handkerchief. In this moment, the church transforms into a sanctuary to revel in the power of Aretha’s singular, iconic voice. Derek Smith


Annihilation, Suicide Is Painless

The characters who enter the alien-terraforming Shimmer in Alex Garland’s Annihilation are all people who’ve lost the will to live, yet their survival instincts compel them to self-defense against the horrors thrown at them by the film’s creepy elements. The Shimmer responds in kind, folding the terrors of characters about to meet their deaths into the flora and fauna that form out of corpses and sport gnarled looks of frozen anguish. After watching a colleague “live on” in the mutant screams of the bear that killed her, Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson)—tacitly suffering from depression and knowing the odds of her survival—decides to leave a calmer imprint of herself on this alien region. Her blissful walk into oblivion is the film’s sole moment of quietude, and perhaps the most gorgeous display of justifiable suicide ever depicted on film. Jake Cole


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

BlacKkKlansman, “Too Late to Turn Back Now”

After watching Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins) speak about his vision for an equal society where African-Americans are accepted for who they are, undercover cop Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) and his impromptu date, activist Patrice (Laura Harrier), visit a nearby club. What follows is Spike Lee at his most observational and celebratory: an extended sequence of black Americans joyously dancing and singing along to the song “Too Late to Turn Back Now,” free of the prejudice they encounter in their daily lives. Echoing the kind of liberated society Ture outlined in his speech, the utopic vision of this scene becomes reason enough for Ture and his followers to want to fight the power. Wes Greene


Bodied, Behn Grymm vs. Adam

After months of training, Adam (Calum Worthy) finally faces off against his friend and mentor, Behn Grymm (Jackie Long), in a rap battle that quickly turns from two buddies trading barbs to something far more insidious and calamitous. For the African-American Grymm, rapping is a means to end, a way to put food on the table for his wife and daughter. But for Adam, a white boy and intellectual born with a silver spoon in mouth, there’s no greater purpose to spitting fire, only the unfettered joys of unabated verbal destruction. In his stomach-churning assault of Grymm, Adam sheds all semblance of kinship and morality, all but shattering a friendship simply in pursuit of a big win and pushing the phrase “don’t hate the player, hate the game” far past its breaking point. Smith


Burning, Jazz Dance at Sunset

Stoned, topless, and standing beneath the South Korean flag as it flaps in the wind, Haemi (Jeon Jong-seo) begins to emulate the Kenyan “great hunger” dance she described earlier in the film. Set to Miles Davis’s “Générique,” the sequence occurs only halfway into Burning, but it feels climactic in its power, especially for Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), who seems finally entranced with Haemi to the point of no return. The scene’s thematic complexity underlies the immediacy of Lee Chang-dong’s use of a long take to capture the dance, making the film’s larger mysteries, and Jong-su’s subsequent paranoia, all the more chilling. Dillard


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

First Man, Agena Spin

Damien Chazelle’s claustrophobic direction of spaceflight in First Man brutally undercuts idealized images of the Space Race with the abject terror of hurtling through the void in a rattling tin can launched into the skies using calculations performed on computers with less processing power than an Atari 2600. The film’s tensest scene is a depiction of the failed Gemini 8 mission, in which a routine spaceflight goes catastrophically wrong and sends the spacecraft into an unstoppable barrel roll. As Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) attempts to both stabilize the craft and get it back on its correct flightpath, we see him not only contending with high G-forces and dizzying spins, but also performing trigonometric calculations in long hand on graph paper. With the film’s camera firmly entrenched inside the capsule, Chazelle mines Armstrong’s claustrophobia—and rouses our—through the flashes of shaking plates of sheet metal and elaborate operating switchboards. The material reality of early space missions comes into sharp focus, clarifying the deadening trauma that weighs on Armstrong throughout the entirety of First Man. Cole


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

First Reformed, Magical Mystery Tour

In an act of compassion, and passion, Ethan Hawke’s Reverend Ernst Toller indulges Amanda Seyfried’s pregnant widow in a meditative ritual she had regularly performed with her now-deceased husband. After she lays on top of Toller, synchronizing her breathing with his, the two begin to levitate and hover over gorgeous images of outer space, snowy mountains, and lush green forests. But this extraordinary and uncanny transcendence is fleeting, as the sublime imagery abruptly gives way to visions of real-world problems, such as mass deforestation and pollution, pulling Toller violently out of this reprieve from his obsession with the world’s misery. What place do love and faith have in a world that’s crumbling around us? Smith


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

The Green Fog, Chuck Norris As Meme

About midway through The Green Fog, just as one is beginning to acclimate to its conceptual high-wire act—a reconstitution of Vertigo by way of clips from wide-ranging movies and TV shows set in San Francisco—directors Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson decide to entertain a ludicrous high-concept-within-a-high-concept: an entire lengthy sequence composed only of reaction shots of Chuck Norris. Staring, staring, and staring some more in a ridiculous sustained imitation of Scottie Ferguson’s paranoid daze, Norris’s blank mug becomes the best underappreciated meme of the year. Carson Lund


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Epic Jump Shot Drill

RaMell Ross’s evocative hymn to Hale County, Alabama and the indomitable spirit of its residents dedicates a portion of its attention to Daniel, a small-time college hoops player with big aspirations, but the actual sport of basketball only surfaces in fits and starts, interwoven as it is with the larger mosaic of Daniel’s life. The fragments that do emerge, however, show a sprightly athlete in firm command of his game, nowhere more evident than when he drains 10 of 11 long-range jumpers from around the arc in one breathless take, muttering affirmatively after each swish. Ross’s camera bobs along behind him, emphasizing the sheer force and persistence of Daniel’s motion over the shots themselves, in effect translating the feat into something more divine than worldly. Lund


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

Happy as Lazzaro, The Music’s Followed Us

A band of former sharecroppers relocated to an anonymous metropolis are lulled into a church by the sound of an organ and are promptly shooed out. This everyday affront is avenged by the lightest and most surreal of miracles as the music travels into the city, seemingly rebirthed from the sound of a passing train. Its ineffable quality leads the previously guileless Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) to an olive tree planted in artificial grass and a catharsis that’s at once unclassifiable and long overdue. Christopher Gray


Hereditary, Heads Will Roll

For its first hour, Ari Aster’s Hereditary is something akin to a relentless panic attack, rife with displays mental illness, disturbing familial follies, cryptic portents of doom that would curl Poe’s toes. The highlight of the film is a scene that’s tremendous for its artistic dexterity and shock value. In the throes of an allergic reaction, the young and socially awkward Charlie (Milly Shapiro) writhes in the back seat of the family car, her throat tightening while her brother, Peter (Alex Wolff), wildly drives them down a forlorn stretch of deserted asphalt. The brilliance of the scene isn’t just the visceral depiction of an unfathomable violent incident, but the patience with which Aster dwells on the consequence: The camera remains on Peter’s face, bathed in the red glow of the car’s tail lights, as he sits static, stoic, his eyes glazed over, while his sister’s body is slumped over behind him. After several agonizingly long, laconic moments, he starts the car, drives home, and goes to bed. Greg Cwik


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

If Beale Street Could Talk, Daniel’s Monologue

If Beale Street Could Talk is at its most potent in the scenes where human frailty and the specter of injustice come more elliptically to the surface, as in a long dialogue scene between Fonny (Stephan James) and Daniel (Brian Tyree Henry), an old school chum. At first it’s all soothingly friendly chitchat between the two men. Then things slip into dolefully dark territory as Daniel recalls his time in prison: “The white man’s got to be the devil. He sure ain’t a man. Some of the things I saw, baby, I’ll be dreaming about until the day I die.” What hits hardest about Daniel’s recollections is his overall sense of exhaustion. If constant subjugation doesn’t kill you, it’s suggested, then your soul is forever crippled, which is in many ways a worse fate. How can anyone walk through life with their spirit so completely paralyzed? Keith Uhlich


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

Let the Sunshine In, “At Last”

Etta James’s “At Last” is like “Also Sprach Zarathustra” or “Over the Rainbow”—a piece of music so deeply imbedded in popular culture that its use risks parody. Leave it, then, to Claire Denis, a modern master of needle drops, to find just the right implementation. In Let the Sunshine In, the song becomes an exemplification of the romantic nirvana pined after by middle-aged Isabelle (Juliette Binoche), a feeling crystallized in a sensuous slow dance with a bar patron that finds Denis’s camera pirouetting sinuously with her lead character. After a series of botched relationships, Isabelle’s ecstasy is cathartic and moving in the moment but ultimately illusory and hollow, a spell cast through the concise power of Denis’s montage and broken just as quickly by a hard, sobering cut back to reality. Lund


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

Mandy, Bathroom Meltdown

Mandy is a smorgasbord of indulgences held together by Nicolas Cage, who gives one of the best performances of his career. Director Panos Cosmatos understands Cage as well as any director ever has, fashioning a series of moments that allow the actor to rhythmically blow off his top, exorcising Red’s rage and longing as well as, presumably, his own. In the film’s best scene, Red storms into the bathroom of his cabin and lets out a primal roar, while chugging a bottle of liquor that was stashed under the sink. Cage gives this scene a disquieting sense of relief, investing huge emotional notes with a lingering undercurrent that cuts to the heart of the film itself. Chuck Bowen


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

A Star Is Born, “Shallow”

“Shallow” makes less sense as a song than Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) performs as a celebrity, but it’s perfectly structured for Ally’s (Lady Gaga) birth as an idol. Cooper makes goosebumpy magic of Ally and Jackson mooning in the backdrop of one another’s closeups, and their performance features two of the great half-seconds in the year’s cinema: first Ally covering her face in a rush of fear, embarrassment, and exhilaration, then catching up to the song’s chorus a half-beat late with unstoppable force. Gray


The Strangers: Prey at Night, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”

The ne plus ultra of The Strangers: Prey at Night‘s irony-tinged mayhem is a lengthy set piece at a secluded mobile home park’s pool. It’s there that Luke (Lewis Pullman) brutally dispatches Dollface (Emma Bellomy), then tussles with the Man in the Mask (Damian Maffei), all set rather perversely to the camp-operatic mood swings of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” The song almost subliminally primes the characters to perform a dance of death, a point that the camera devilishly underscores by jumping in and out of the water alongside Luke and the Man in the Mask, in the process muffling the sound of Bonnie Tyler’s protestations. Ed Gonzalez


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

Suspiria, Break Dance

As Susie (Dakota Johnson) dances, Olga (Elena Fokina) breaks—literally. The gist of the scene is that simple, yet Luca Guadagnino and editor Walter Fasano create an unforgiving series of images that approximates what it feels like for Olga to have her body being taken away from her. First Olga’s arms, then her torso and legs, and finally her face. By the end of Susie’s ascension within the dance company via her dexterous moves, Olga is but a urine-stained pretzel, helplessly writhing on the floor. All About Eve, eat your heart out. Dillard


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

Widows, A Drive Through Town

The numerous long takes sprinkled throughout Steve McQueen’s oeuvre tend to exude a shallow, posturing quality. This shot from the filmmaker’s Widows, however, is rich in meaning. With the film’s camera mounted to the hood of a car, Colin Farrell’s Chicago councilman candidate is seen leaving an event in a low-income, predominantly black neighborhood and riding to his posh townhouse on the other side of town. In one long take, McQueen cannily and succinctly catches glimpses of how the neighborhood has succumbed to the forces of gentrification. Greene


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

Wild Boys, Island Arrival

Upon landing on a mysterious island with their magisterial captor, the five wild boys of Bertrand Mandico’s film wander through the tropical jungle and discover a landscape rife with bizarre sexual pleasures. As the boys traverse through groping grass, quench their thirst with the juices of ejaculating trees, and satiate their hunger with hairy, testicular-shaped fruits, it’s as if the island is responding to their surging desires. Such an uninhibited and unhinged celebration of pure, impulsive sexuality, in a film driven by silent-film aesthetics no less, is capable of making even Guy Maddin blush. Smith


The 20 Best Film Scenes of 2018

Zama, The Ambush

Lucrecia Martel’s cinema dwells in languor and repressed energy, a wavelength for which she’s invented her own filmmaking grammar. In Zama, a tale of simmering tensions in Paraguay during Spanish colonial rule, that grammar gets audaciously applied to action scenes that briefly and violently materialize the friction felt between Spanish forces and oppressed natives elsewhere in the narrative. The first of these eruptions, a shockingly rapid and coordinated ambush in a boggy marshland at high noon, offers a stunning case study of Martel’s distinctive style in the context of frenetic action: The camera remains stagnant and the sound design sparse, but everything’s unnervingly sped-up and fragmentary, a technique that approximates the phenomenological jolt of danger. Lund


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