What is it? A black comedy featuring an all-star ensemble cast, where a weekly game night amongst a group of friends takes a dark, hilarious turn for the worse. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are the leading married couple at the story’s centre, hopelessly stumbling from one crime scene to the next as they attempt to apply their board game skills of deduction to solve a real life whodunnit.
Why you should watch it? On the face of it, Game Night doesn’t look particularly exceptional. Another R-rated US comedy with a high concept conceit and Jason Bateman’s bemused face plastered across the poster? Hmm… But, in a surprise to almost everybody, Game Night turns out to be one of the best comedies of the year, thanks to a pointed script, stellar performances from all of its cast, and a genuinely intriguing story that could easily have worked as a straightly played David Fincher crime thriller. With more twists and turns than a round of Snakes and Ladders, you owe it to yourself to watch Game Night as soon as possible, particularly if you need to break the tension after a high-stakes match of Christmas Monopoly with the family… Alex Avard
What is it? Resolutely analogue mechanic Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) suffers a tragic car crash and finds himself recovered by way of cybernetic upgrades to his body and mind. Connected to his digital world on a level never before imagined, he discovers that he’s on the precipice of a very deep rabbit hole.
Why should you watch it? Packing Matrix-level ideas and action choreography alongside the wit and charisma of an MCU movie, Upgrade is about the freshest, most exciting and energetic sci-fi movie of the year. Making reverent nods to the genre’s late ‘80s and early ‘90s heyday while delivering a resolutely modern, refined story treatment amid all the chunky, stylised, cyberpunk world-building, and gloriously creative violence, Upgrade is a perfect balance of exhilarating excess and warm humanity. Driven by a magnetic central performance from Logan Marshall-Green, it walks a whole bunch of tightropes perfectly, dancing between dark hilarity, staggeringly cool action, potent pathos, cleverly layered storytelling, and a drum-tight pace with absolute finesse. It’s one of the zestiest, most effervescently ideas-driven action movies in a long time, and will become an instant favourite as soon as you see it. David Houghton
Crazy Rich Asians
What is it? Based on the popular books, this romantic comedy is a Hollywood rarity thanks to its all-Asian cast. Things are getting serious between Rachel (Constance Wu) and her beau Nick (Henry Golding), so they’re taking things to the next level with a trip to Singapore to meet Nick’s family. What he fails to mention is that his family is… crazy rich, and his mother (Michelle Yeoh) is an ice-cold matriarch who will not give up her son so easily.
Why should you watch it? It can’t be overstated how refreshing it is to see so much positive Asian representation in an American-made film, which was a hit with audiences and at the box office. For many, Crazy Rich Asians is more than just a fun rom-com full of glitzy, obscenely expensive galas – it taps into deep cultural touchstones like filial devotion and the tension that arises when old traditions clash with new values. If you’ve ever fawned over an extravagant wedding or a life-changing party, some scenes are pure wish fulfillment, and there are plenty of juicy subplots surrounding Rachel and Nick’s drama. Personally speaking, I could watch an entire movie revolving around Rachel’s hilarious friend Peik Lin (played by rapper Awkwafina) and her madcap dad (Ken Jeong). Plus, how many movies can lay claim to working in a climactic mahjong scene? Lucas Sullivan
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
What is it? The sixth spy thriller following Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), this time he must save the free world from international terrorists the ‘Apostles’. Ethan’s joined by his loyal cohorts Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg), but must also contend with a ruthless CIA agent (Henry Cavill) who’s been unwillingly assigned to the team by high command.
Why should you watch it? Mission: Impossible movies are mainly about two things – incredible stunts and delightful bits of masked misdirection – and Falloutdelivers the goods in every regard. The action spans the globe in some gorgeous locations, with set piece scenes that’ll leave you in awe, wondering ‘How on Earth did they do that without dooming Tom Cruise to an untimely death?’ Fallout is also a welcome continuation of story threads from the previous film, Rogue Nation, though Jeremy Renner is nowhere in sight. Between the breakneck pacing, intense stunt work, and some perfect bits of comic relief, Fallout fires on all cylinders, and stands as a high point for the series and action flicks at large. Lucas Sullivan
To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved Before
What is it? Only the most perfect teen romantic comedy since John Hughes put down his pen. Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) writes letters to all her crushes – including her sister’s ex-boyfriend – and stores them safely in a box in her bedroom. Guess what happens next?
Why should you watch it? It’s warm and wholesome, and tinged with just enough heartache to stop the sweetness from rotting your teeth. Lara Jean is a relatable heroine, her little sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart) is a scene-stealer, and no matter your sexual preference, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) will make your knees feel funny. It’s hilarious, it’s hot in a PG-13 way that means you can watch it with your mom without being scarred for life, and it’ll take you back to a time when you crushed so hard on people that you thought you’d never recover. Even better, this is the first of a trilogy by author Jenny Han, so there could be more on the way. Rachel Weber
What is it? Four high school girls are at the centre of a hack, which reveals the secrets of almost half their town with murderous consequences. While the townsfolk take out their rage on the younger generation who are ‘always on their phones,’ the girls must try and survive the night as the town goes Purge-style mad.
Why should you watch it? Writer and director Sam Levinson might be fairly new to the big blockbuster game, but with the Avengers: Infinity War directors producing and a talented cast that make it look easy, he manages to craft an elegantly simple yet scary tale about a town gone mad. Dealing with issues surrounding the fear of technology and the generational war which often becomes a part of it, it’s hard to think of a movie which is more of its time than Assassination Nation. Seriously disturbing in places and often hard to watch, it’s nevertheless a must-see movie of the year, if only for its relevance to current affairs. If you’re sick of the message that Millennials are to blame for everything, this is the movie for you. Or if you just like to watch films with a lot of blood and violence, it has that too. Lauren O’Callaghan
Read more: Assassination Nation is a young generation’s ‘f**k you’ from the directors of Avengers: Infinity War
Isle of Dogs
What is it? The second stop-motion animated film from Wes Anderson, set on a trash-covered island off the coast of Japan where all the nation’s dogs have been exiled. We follow the daring exploits of Chief (Bryan Cranston), a gruff stray and natural-born leader of the pack, who ends up helping a young boy named Atari (Koyu Rankin) in the search for his furry best friend.
Why should you watch it? This is a masterpiece of modern stop-motion work, right up there with Kubo and the Two Strings. As with any Wes Anderson movie, Isle of Dogs is jam-packed with lovably quirky characters, imaginative ideas, playful banter, and the kinds of perfectly framed shots you could easily hang on your wall as high art. The titular setting is rife with imagery recalling Akira Kurosawa’s timeless classics, and the animation work is impeccable, with staggering attention to detail and brilliant use of practical stop-motion effects. When you’re not in awe of the visuals, you’ll be giggling at the great voicework from a supremely talented cast, with particularly hilarious performances by Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Murray. If you’re looking for a pack of delightful doggos starring in a surprisingly stirring story, you need to enjoy Isle of Dogs ASAP. Lucas Sullivan
A Star is Born
What is it? The fifth big-screen adaptation of A Star is Born sees grizzled country-rock god Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) stumble upon reserved singer-songwriter Ally (Lady Gaga), and, one whirlwind romance later, Ally is on the road to stardom, while Jackson’s tumultuous inner demons threaten to bring them both crashing down.
Why should you watch it? You may have experienced the four existing versions of this tale, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying Cooper’s assured – and yes, very self-indulgent – directorial debut. This movie charges out of the gate and takes no prisoners. Seriously, it’s got a killer first act. Positioned as an R-rated relationship drama, in reality, it’s a pure, unadulterated soap opera that pulls you in like a darn good airport paperback and refuses to let you go until it’s wrung you dry of every single emotion. Dotted with a gazillion memorable moments, it’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s heart-wrenchingly sad. And I challenge you to not well up at all of them. A Star is Born simply doesn’t let up, from its opener – Cooper’s grunge country-rocker blasting out his Soundgarden-lite stadium anthem – to Gaga’s first moment on stage in front of thousands. Telling an age-old tale of what we give to become who we’re meant to be, and what we give up to help others achieve the same, this is popcorn cinema of the highest calibre. Gem Seddon
You Were Never Really Here
What is it? Lynne Ramsay’s brutal, beautiful, searing hot fever-dream of an action thriller, which follows emotionally traumatised ex-FBI mercenary Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) on a case that takes him down a nightmare rabbit-hole of bloodshed and psychological upset.
Why should you watch it? As much potent, psychological profile as it is exhilarating, sensory barrage, You Were Never Really Here might well represent career-best performances from both its writer-director and its star, a raging ball of fury and loathing moulded into the loose shape of Joaquin Phoenix. Emotionally and intellectually dense to a degree that punches far beyond the limits of its light, 90-minute running time, this is one of the most carefully layered yet most economically constructed character dramas in decades. Saying more with a carefully edited juxtaposition of images than many films do with pages upon pages of script – its profound and uncompromising imagery both jarring and poetic, and set to fly by Johnny Greenwood’s stunning score – You Were Never Really Here is one of the most unsettling films of the year, but also one of the most heartfelt, intelligent, and human. David Houghton
What is it? An uncomfortably plausible story of involuntary psychiatric commitment, Unsane starts out as a modern-day One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and ends like a standard (but satisfying) horror thriller. Oh, and it was all filmed on iPhones.
Why should you watch it? Unsane is at its best when you’re struggling to believe anything it’s showing you. Unsane’s first act steadily drains your faith in Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy), a woman whose reward for hesitantly seeking out therapy is 24 hours of “voluntary” commitment. We soon see just how unstable Valentini’s mental state has become as a result of her past trauma – maybe she really does need this strong of an intervention? But midway through it becomes clear that her fears were justified, and the film takes a sharp turn from institutional corruption into stalker horror. Though Unsane abandons the tension of its unreliable-narrator perspective too soon, that angle and its critique of America’s modern mental health system still set it apart from the usual ‘killer out to get me’ fare. Connor Sheridan