20. The End of the Tour (2015)
The movie: Rather than a straight adaptation - as if that's even possible with the book in question - of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, this movie delves into biopic territory. It's actually based on the non-fiction book by Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) who tags along for five days of Wallace (Jason Segel)'s book tour, hoping to get insight and perspective on the legendary author. Director James Ponsoldt, whose prior successes Smashed and The Spectacular Now dabbled with individuals on the fringe of their demographics, he’s the perfect person to decipher the story of Wallace’s process, in all of its beauty and struggle.
Why it's worth a watch: For fans of Wallace, it's the closest we'll ever get to an autobiography. For everyone else? It’s a glimpse into the non-starry side of the artistic journey, the down-to-earth grit of what it’s like to be a creator. Watching Segel tap into another side of his acting persona is mesmerising, and Eisenberg nails it as the reporter desperate to find himself in Wallace.
19. Jackie Brown (1997)
The movie: Quentin Tarantino's most understated and overlooked movie is an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch. It's nevertheless got Tarantino's stamp all over it, with lengthy monologues about mundane activities, but it feels somehow less interested in fancy narrative gimmicks and more concerned with telling a good story. Pam Grier stars as Jackie Brown, an air hostess who gets roped into a dodgy money-laundering scheme by Samuel L. Jackson's shifty gangstah, Ordell Robbie.
Why it's worth a watch: Smart, clever, and that’s just Jackie herself. Whatever your thoughts on Tarantino, Grier steals the movie with a self-assured performance, throwing plenty of winks at her own career along the way. Oh and how can I forget that opening sequence - glorious! Watching Jackie saunter down a moving walkway, coolly exiting the airport without a care in the world. It's a sign of what's to come.
18. Roma (2018)
The movie: All filmmakers put themselves in their work. It’s unavoidable. Alfonso Cuaron brings his past to the fore in his latest opus, Roma, that uses the director’s upbringing on the Mexico City streets as inspiration. An entirely no-name cast makes this exhilarating movie shine, with a story that follows live-in housekeepers for a middle-class family. Set during the 1970s, Roma spins on ideas of class and culture, and places them inside some of the most breathtaking shots you’ll likely ever watch on Netflix.
Why it’s worth a watch: Cuaron’s simply one of the most visually ambitious directors working today. Scratch that - he’s ambitious, period. After the likes of 2013’s Gravity – a complex space-set thriller, hung together by cutting-edge CGI – Roma is a breath of fresh air. A simplistic dive that’s already being heralded as a masterpiece, and one of the best movies ever made, why wouldn’t you want to see that?
Read more: The 25 best black and white movies that don't need colour to shine
17. Heathers (1989)
The movie: The high school experience in ‘80s cinema was growing stale. Enter Heathers. A black-as-night comedy that renovates and greatly improves that pre-existing formula, it spins the unseemly undertones of many teen films into a new tale where the popular kids get a taste of their own medicine. Winona Ryder and Christian Slater star as Veronica and JD, a mismatched couple whose shared hatred of Veronica’s friends, the elite clique of Heathers, unites them. As the trio of girls start to exhibit more revolting behaviour, Veronica and JD hatch a plan to silence them, and teach them a lesson: by murdering them and making them look like suicides. Yes, it’s dark. But dang, it’s funny.
Why it’s worth a watch: Arguably the teen movie which changed the face of teen cinema forever. No other film in the genre has so expertly carved up the very audience it is supposed to entertain. Whether through vicious one-liners, barbs so sharp they’d slice your skin (“Did you eat a brain tumour for breakfast?” or my personal favourite “Dear Diary, my teen angst bullshit has a body count”) or the horror these teenagers subject one another to, there’s no other movie this funny about a topic so tragic.
16. Black Panther (2018)
The movie: The MCU breaks new territory as we head to Wakanda, ancestral home of T’Challa (AKA Black Panther) as he’s torn between inheriting the role of leading his country in the wake of his father’s death and fighting off usurpers from all sides. Lurking in the shadows, too, is Erik Kilmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who places himself firmly among the pantheon of best Marvel villains by going toe-to-toe with T’Challa for control of the technologically-advanced African nation. All this leads to several climactic showdowns within Wakanda and beyond as T’Challa has to prove he has what it takes to become a king.
Why it’s worth watching: Simply put, this is Marvel at its very, very best. While the studio with the Midas touch can seemingly do no wrong, this projected undoubtedly represented a risk. It needn’t have. With Ryan Coogler behind the camera, this is a movie that pops with flair and colour as well as elevating Black Panther to the top tier of MCU heroes. No mean feat for the first (of presumably many) standalone movies. This being Marvel, there’s several cameos along the way to keep you entertained – and one heck of a final showdown.
Read more: Black Panther ending explained - everything you need to know after watching
15. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The movie: The first of Peter Jackson’s SIX movies set in Middle-Earth is a jaw-dropping piece of cinema. It remains even now, nearly two decades after its initial release, a captivating tale. The story of an unlikely hero, the young Hobbit Frodo, as he bands together a fellowship to journey across the world to save all of Middle-Earth is… well, it’s about as cookie-cutter as you can get. But there’s nothing common about Jackson’s fantastical retelling of the Tolkien classic.
Why it’s worth watching: Bold, exciting filmmaking that weaves character, action, plot, heart, and some mightily ambitious world-building? That’s what you’re getting with the first chapter of the Rings trilogy. It’s a reminder that despite The Hobbit trilogy’s misfire, Fellowship is the real deal.
14. Indiana Jones Trilogy (1981-1989)
The movie(s): Action adventures don’t come as iconic as this. Steven Spielberg’s trilogy charts the escapades of archeologist Indiana Jones, who, aside from owning *the* coolest name ever, does double duty as a professor and treasure hunter. Thrown into scrapes during his globe-trotting antics is simply part of the job. Raiders of the Lost Ark is often heralded as the best of the bunch, hitting every point spot on, but if you’re in the mood for a darker edged hero’s journey, go with my favourite - Temple of Doom.
Why it’s worth a watch: This entire trilogy embodies the spirit of pure popcorn cinema. Never silly or dull, the love and attention paid to each aspect of the production shows. And, while Star Wars fans may argue, it’s these films that highlight Ford at his matinee idol peak, cementing his status as a smooth, action hero. This trio of movies certainly waver in tone throughout, but taken together, they’re damn near perfect.
13. The Endless (2017)
Region: UK, US
The movie: Ever feel as if there is nothing new under the cinematic sun? I'm almost certain that's what led filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead to craft each of their films, including their latest, The Endless. A seemingly "normal" tale of two brothers who, as teenagers, escaped the clutches of a cult, is flipped into a realm David Lynch would feel right at home in. This is not your normal genre outing, folks, as the siblings decide to return to their former homestead and discover that the cult is the least of their worries.
Why it's worth a watch: First of all, watch this right now so you can say you saw one of Benson and Moorhead's earliest movies before the rest of the world caught on. Their horror sci-fi genre mash-up is a glorious headfuck of a movie, a deep dive into the human condition and how we respond to the monstrous - whether it’s a towering beast, or something inside of us.
12. Hell or High Water (2016)
The movie: Say the word Western and your brain will likely conjure images of John Wayne genre pics of yesteryear. Hell or High Water brings back that same central conceit - cops and robbers hashing it out on the frontier - and locates the action elsewhere. How so? Well, the frontier of this Taylor Sheridan-penned flick reflects modern times, with Chris Pine and Ben Foster cast as two brothers out to commit as many bank robberies as possible. Their justification? It’s the banks’ fault for giving their family a reverse mortgage.
Why it’s worth a watch: Old school Western stylings with a modern twist, anyone? A rugged throwback to a different era of movie-making, the visuals and plottings could be nabbed from any number of golden oldie Westerns. What makes this such a delight is the “cop on his last day” trope, brought to life by Jeff Bridges, whose almost-retired Texas Ranger is one of his most understated roles.
11. Annihilation (2018)
The movie: Annihilation featured Total Film and GamesRadar's best movies of 2018 list. Very loosely based on Jeff Vandermeer’s novel of the same name, it revolves around a parcel of land referred to as ‘Area X’. After something crash lands in Florida, the area develops and grows, gobbling up land at an alarming rate, cut off from the world by an enormous barrier called the Shimmer.
All previous exploration groups bar one survivor have failed to return from Area X and the government body in charge, Southern Reach, has no idea why. Still, why not try sending yet another expedition into its fatal clutches? Enter Lena, a scientist whose husband was the sole returnee from the previous mission, who joins four other women desperate to figure it out.
Why it’s worth a watch: A gloriously trippy jaunt into a world previously hinted at in Garland’s Ex Machina, Annihilation bursts at the seams with ideas. With less emphasis on a traditional plot, go into this film with the willingness to soak up the mood, feeling and gorgeous visuals. Part body horror, part survivalist thriller, this stands out for its stellar all-female lead cast, who bring a feminine edge to the traditionally male sci-fi genre. Combine that with the daring, WTF aspects of the story, and you’ll find the hairs standing up on the back of your neck several times throughout. Do not miss this.
Read more: Annihilation ending - 5 questions we need answered