¡Three Amigos! (1986)

Being famous has its perks but at some point the novelty wears off. Still, it’s best to give the people what they want. After all, without fans you’re nobody, which is exactly the position in which three near-broke actors find themselves. Real-life legends are perfectly cast as they bring their natural chemistry and impeccable comedic timing to the roles of former legends of the silver screen, who misunderstood a plea for help from a fan in rural Mexico, who believes they’re the iconic heroes they play in the movies. Desperate for a gig, The Three Amigos arrive in character to a Western-style showdown to face a violent bully, who’s been threatening to take over the tiny village.

Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story (2005)

Yes, an unlikely competitor defies the odds by overcoming a significant injury. However, when it comes to Sonador, his main backer is a child. Though Cale Crane grew up around horses, racing is actually in her blood; the ranch on which she grew up may be empty but it hasn’t seen its last horse, yet. Training a potential champion becomes a family affair, which garners more than luck and money.

Grizzly Man (2005)

A fair & balanced tribute to a quirky guy obsessed with wildlife, especially bears. To some he was a troubled soul seeking purpose; to others he seemed inspirational. To a few he was simply a nuisance. No matter how you regard his passion, there’s no doubt he died doing what he loved: living like a Grizzly.

Dark River (2017)

Respectfully and effectively capturing the process of healing from childhood trauma is no simple endeavor. This depiction of a sexual abuse survivor is equal parts bitter and sweet and The Moors provide the perfect backdrop for a brooding woman to return to the scene of many painful memories. Her brother is reluctant to surrender control of their late father’s farm, especially to someone he never understood. But their differing approaches– modern clashing with traditional– leaves precious little breathing room; eventually, unexpressed questions and insightful explanations bubble to the surface.

The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story (2019)

Contributions from professional talent spanning 5 continents produced a stunning work of art in tribute to the legacy of an Australian who moved his family to India to tend to lepers there. Every effort was made to maintain authenticity, including casting real-life sufferers for a scene shot at an original setting. Regardless of your religious affiliation, this is a genuinely compelling story about humanity, forgiveness, truth, faith, hope and ultimately love filmed with breathtaking cinematography.

The Way Way Back (2013)

No matter how old you are, it can be hard to fit in. That’s why a sleepy vacation town can provide a safe space to explore who you want to be. In fact, the same setting in which adults shed their inhibitions for the summer can allow an awkward teenager to lose his insecurities and feel independent.

Part of growing up is learning life lessons you didn’t want to know, such as how to convince yourself that what you end up with is what you wanted, anyway. No adult likes to admit their disappointment; sometimes it’s easier just to keep going. But at least there will always be a sullen dorky teenager around, who’s eager for encouragement. He won’t judge you for being a loser; to him you’re living the dream.

The Little Stranger (2018)

A fast- fading mansion with seemingly temperamental qualities is as much a character as the moody people that pass through its rooms. Both lend a consistently brooding tone without resorting to typical genre tropes (e.g. explanatory soliloquies or intrusive graphic flashbacks). The few instances of blood are preceded by obvious horror to the characters, who see it before the audience; the lack of shock value in such a familiar element serves to heighten the film’s uneasy tone. Periodic disclosure of important details keeps the story engaging, despite being enigmatic, and by the end manages to deliver a satisfying revelation.

Money Train (1995)

If you like action, buckle up. Two NYC cops, who also happen to be former foster brothers, are thick as thieves despite incessant bickering about the one’s gambling addiction. All bets are off when they both fall for their beautiful new coworker, a fellow undercover sting agent who knows exactly which brother she wants. Sparks fly as a tangle with the transit authority ups the ante in a turf war for control of the subway. The arrogant director doesn’t care who lives or dies so long as he makes his money– an irresistible temptation to a chronic gambler…

The Mermaid (2016)

Revenge is a dish best served salty and wet. Impressive effects enhance a hyper-stylized modern fish tale. With the same wry disposition as Kung Fu Hustle, a young mermaid finds herself in a love triangle as she unexpectedly develops feelings for the businessman she’s been tasked with seducing then assassinating. Consequently, a battle ensues between her aquatic family and her new boyfriend’s business partners, in whose lucrative waters they’re dying.

Don’t Go (2018)

I’m not one for existential metaphors so I took a risk. Fortunately, this one paid off. Rather than another angsty cliche about loss, it turned out to be layered, nuanced poetry. As the main character teeters between delusion and spiritual experience, the story keenly walks a fine line between heavy-handed symbolism and enigmatic meaning. Other films have explored the effects of grief over time but this is by far the most beautifully written and superbly acted.