6. Kedi
Now Streaming on Kanopy

Release Date: 2017

Genre: Documentary

Director: Ceyda Torun

Cast: A bunch of kitties!

On the surface, Kedi may look like a feature-length YouTube cat video. But that’s not what this is. This beautifully shot documentary follows some of the thousands of cats who live on the streets of Istanbul. But these cats aren’t ignored, or shooed away. Instead, the people of Istanbul care about them, and often even take care of them. Ceyda Torun‘s doc radiates empathy, telling stories of several people who interact with the cats. One of the most emotional segments involves a man recovering from a nervous breakdown who goes out of his way to bring hundreds of strays food. This film is like a warm blanket to wrap yourself up in. Even if you’re not really a cat person (sorry, I like dogs more), Kedi is worth experiencing.

For fans of: Cats! Not the Broadway musical, but actual cats.

 

7. A Most Wanted Man
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Release Date: 2014

Genre: Spy Thriller

Director: Anton Corbijn

Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Daniel Brühl and Nina Hoss

Holy heck, look at that cast! A Most Wanted Man features one of the final performances of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman, and watching him work here – playing a very weary, disheveled German spy – does not disappoint. Based on the novel by John le Carré (Tinker Tailor Solider Spy), A Most Wanted Man follows both U.S. and Germany agencies as they try to ascertain the identity of a half-Chechen, half-Russian immigrant who might be completely harmless, or who might in fact be a radical extremist. Tense, cerebral and loaded with great performances, A Most Wanted Man is just waiting for modern audiences to discover it.

For fans of: The Constant GardnerTinker Tailor Solider SpyThe Little Drummer Girl, haunting endings.

 

8. The Man Who Invented Christmas
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Release Date: 2017

Genre: Biopic (sort of)

Director: Bharat Nalluri

Cast: Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce

Mostly light and charming, The Man Who Invented Christmas tells the tale of how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) came up with A Christmas Carol. As the movie tells us, Christmas had gone out of fashion when Dickens began writing A Christmas Carol, and the popularity of the book helped revived interest in the holiday season. In the midst of all this, we learn about Dickens’ troubled past and his conflicting relationship with his father (played with a mix of humor and melancholy by Jonathan Pryce). The film also has a clever way of making Dickens’ writing process cinematic, but having the writer envision everything he’s putting to paper. The Man Who Invented Christmas probably won’t go down as a holiday classic, but it’s a nice peek into the history of A Christmas Carol.

For fans of: Every single version of A Christmas Carol, even the one featuring Mr. Magoo.

 

9. Christmas Evil
Now Streaming on Shudder

Release Date: 1980

Genre: Holiday Horror

Director: Lewis Jackson

Cast: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull, Andy Fenwick

There are a lot of Christmas horror movies about killer Santas, but how many of them can count director John Waters amongst their fanbase? Christmas Evil can! Waters has gone on record saying this is his favorite Christmas movie. This strange, quirky picture stars Brandon Maggart as Harry, a total loser who works at a toy factory. Harry is obsessed with Christmas and Santa Claus, and has taken it upon himself to become the real Santa. He wears the costume, he spies on kids, he paints a sleigh on the side of his van. And oh yeah, he also goes crazy and starts killing people who he sees as naughty. This premise is somewhat similar to the trashy Silent Night, Deadly Night, but Christmas Evil is so inherently weird and even surreal that it stands on its own.

For fans of: Silent NightDon’t Open Till Christmas, Santa’s Slay, whimsy laced with murder.

 

10. Maps to the Stars
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 2014

Genre: Satire

Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon

Maps to the Stars can’t capture the body-horror magic of director David Cronenberg‘s earlier films, but it still has his distinct touch, blending violence and kinkiness. Mia Wasikowska plays a pyromaniac who heads to Hollywood, and becomes the assistant of a troubled, aging actress, played with over-the-top zeal by Julianne Moore. Wasikowska’s character just wants to fit in and live in the middle of a Hollywood dream, but it’s clear she has mental problems. She’s not alone: almost everyone here is bonkers, from Moore’s frequently anxious actress, to John Cusack playing a TV psychologist. The only stable person might be Robert Pattinson, playing a limo driver. But he’s also an asshole, so there’s that. Bruce Wagner’s script can’t quite tie all these characters together, and Maps to the Stars feels more like a series of vignettes than an actual narrative. But there’s enough strange energy here to make it worth visiting. Bonus: look for a cameo from Carrie Fisher, playing herself.

For fans of: CosmopolisSunset Boulevard, wishing David Cronenberg would return to full-blown horror again.

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