1). Thunder Road (2018) Dir. Jim Cummings
A Texan police officer delivers a moving eulogy for his late mother. The divorced officer suffers a psychological breakdown while trying to save his relationship with his daughter. This film is the debut feature from Jim Cummings, one of the most promising young independent filmmakers working in the industry right now. It was adapted from his short film of the same title which took the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. It’s the only film I have seen that will make you laugh and cry in the first ten minutes. Never mind, I forgot about “Up!”
2). Boy (2010) Dir. Taika Waititi
A New Zealand youth finds that his father is a far cry from the heroic adventurer he’s imagined the man to be. This sophomore film from Taika Waititi is arguably his best and most personal film of all. Its tender look at youth in New Zealand is heart-breaking, touching and visually stunning.
3). The Squid and the Whale (2006) Dir. Noah Baumbach
A pair of brothers living in Brooklyn are caught in the middle of, and deeply affected by, the divorce of their erudite parents. This subtle dramatic comedy is Noah Baumbach’s first divorce movie, which is every bit as rich as “Marriage Story.” After trying to get his friend Wes Anderson to direct, Baumbach eventually decided to helm the film himself, which yielded a very touching family drama.
4). La Haine (1995) Dir. Mathieu Kassovitz
Three Parisian men wander aimlessly about their home turf as they try to come to grips with their outrage over a brutal incident. This French film from last century is oddly relevant to American viewers for its poignant portrayal of issues with police brutality. While it is intense and deeply dramatic at times, it is a pleasant viewing with a handful of laughs.
5). The Guard (2008) Dir. John Michael McDonagh
A vulgar Irish cop (Brendan Gleeson) and a straight-laced American FBI agent (Don Cheadle) uncover police corruption among the former’s superiors while probing a drug-trafficking ring. This is the debut feature from Martin McDonagh’s brother (“In Bruges,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), which proves that their parents did something right. The film has an abundance of philosophy, humor, and brevity which makes it a delight to watch. Plus, Cheadle and Gleeson are a duo that you don’t know you need in your life.
Fine: most of these films are technically not American, but they’re still a great time.