6. Miami Vice
Streaming on Amazon Prime September 1

Release Date: 2006

Genre: Crime Drama

Director: Michael Mann

Cast: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Justin Theroux, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Ciarán Hinds

Michael Mann turns the ’80s pastel hues of Miami Vice – a show he was an executive producer on – into a melancholy, often brutal crime drama. Some audiences had trouble separating the TV show from the film, and I get that. But once you move beyond the jarring juxtaposition, you find Mann firing on all cylinders. Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are two detectives who go undercover to try to stop a drug lord. Along the way, neo-Nazis and other bad people enter the mix. In the midst of it all, Farrell’s character finds himself falling for the drug lord’s financial advisor and possible lover, played by Gong Li. Amidst all the shootouts and occasionally distracting digital photography, the real draw here is the romance between Colin Farrell and Gong Li. There’s something sorrowful about their love affair – the unmistakable reality that their budding relationship is doomed, even when they boat off to get some mojitos. The finale of the film has Gong Li’s character running through a hail of bullets, screaming “Who are you!?” at Farrell, and it’s romantic and tragic and wonderful. Miami Vice isn’t often hailed as one of Mann’s best, but I urge you to check it out, or give it another chance. You might be surprised at how good it is.

For fans of: CollateralBlackhatThief, mojitos.


7. Enemy
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 2013

Genre: I don’t even know. Mystery? Horror? Just watch it!

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini

What’s better than Jake Gyllenhaal? How about two Jake Gyllenhaals? The actor, resplendent in a finely groomed beard, plays a college professor who makes a shocking discovery: he has an exact double. And the double just happens to be living near him. Gyllenhaal 1 tracks Gyllenhaal 2 down, and then things start to get really, really weird. What’s going on here? Is any of this really happening? Is Gyllenhaal playing someone with a multiple personality? And what’s the deal with all the terrifying spider imagery? Enemy doesn’t provide easy answers, but it’s so brilliantly crafted – full of jarring camera angles and bathed in a sickly yellow light – that it doesn’t matter. Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 filmmaker Denis Villeneuve helms this nightmare, and he has a knack for creating scenes laced with crushing dread. You may come away from Enemy confused, but I guarantee you won’t forget the film anytime soon.

For fans of: The DoubleArrival, spiders.


8. Outland
Now Streaming on FilmStruck

Release Date: 1981

Genre: Sci-fi Western Thriller

Director: Peter Hyams

Cast: Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, and Frances Sternhagen

A unique blend of Alien-like sci-fi and High Noon-like Western (with a little gritty cop thriller action thrown in for good measure), Outland stars Sean Connery as a cop stationed on a lonely, dreary mining colony on one of Jupiter’s moons. His wife has left him and taken their son with her, unable to put up with the isolation of space-living. In the midst of all this, workers at the colony suddenly begin killing themselves in extremely gruesome ways (the opening scene of the movie involves some guy’s head exploding). Are these accidents, or is there foul play afoot? Connery begins to investigate, coming up against bureaucratic push-back and all manner of violence. Inventive, bleak and wildly entertaining, Outland isn’t what I’d call a “smart” movie, but it sure makes for one heck of a film. The world building here is deftly handled, and Connery turns in a surprisingly melancholy, wounded performance.

For fans of: Alien, High NoonMoon, Sean Connery kicking everyone’s ass.


9. The Canal
Now Streaming on Shudder

Release Date: 2013

Genre: Horror

Director:  Ivan Kavanagh

Cast: Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Rupert Evans, Steve Oram

In The Canal, a film archivist suspects his wife of having an affair. That’s only the start – there’s also the prospect of a ghostly presence in the couple’s house, due to a murder that happened there long ago. Ivan Kavanagh‘s spooky ghost story works its way under your skin and directly into your bones. Using a highly impressive sound design, created through a complex multi-layered soundtrack, The Canal is a shock to the senses. There aren’t really jump-scares here, but every sound in the film is so tensely applied that it manages to invoke a feeling of unease. You might end up guessing the film’s big twist before it happens, but that doesn’t matter. Everything before it is so effectively scary that you’ll be hooked, and might consider sleeping with the lights on.

For fans of: Angel HeartJacob’s LadderThe Babadook, extremely spooky stuff.


10. Grave Encounters
Now Streaming on Shudder

Release Date: 2011

Genre: Found Footage Horror

Director: The Vicious Brothers

Cast: Sean Rogerson, Ashleigh Gryzko, Mackenzie Gray, Juan Riedinger, Merwin Mondesir, Matthew K McBride

Found footage has lost its edge, but you should never write a sub-genre off completely. Every now and then, a title will come along that proves there’s still some gas left in the tank. Grave Encounters is found footage done right – a scary, effective tale of TV ghost hunters who run afoul of some truly pissed-off spirits. Locked-down in an abandoned mental asylum (what a great idea!), several ghost hunters think they’re about to engage in a routine, uneventful excursion. Instead, the dead come calling, and then some. Blending found footage tricks with creative, believable special effects, Grave Encounters does a great job making its premise work. And best of all: the found footage angle actually makes sense. Most horror found footage has trouble justifying why the characters keep filming while all the scary stuff is going down. Here, the characters are ghost hunters with a TV show, so of course they’d keep filming when the supernatural ramps up.

For fans of: Session 9The InnkeepersRec, ghosts with warped faces.

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