These are scary times. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has caused economic uncertainty on a global scale, forced us into an unfamiliar state of social distancing, confronted us with our collective mortality, and has left us all with many generalized fears for the future. What better way to deal with our fears than to face them head-on by watching films that attempt to articulate these negative feelings in an entertaining way? Plus, despite these trying times, we still love good cinema here at CinemaWays!
Here are the top 10 movies to watch while in quarantine.
I’m getting shivers down my spine just thinking about how real this movie feels. As a card-carrying member of the hypochondriac club, this scenario is my living nightmare. Steven Soderbergh does a great job capturing the fear, isolation, frustration and the sense of helplessness. It is hard to create a defense against an enemy you can’t see. The movie boasts great performances by Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne and an uncharacteristically dark turn by Gwyneth Paltrow. Definitely give this one a watch if you want to seriously inflame your already buzzing tension over COVID-19.
This is the 90’s version of Contagion, complete with helicopter chases, government conspiracy and Dustin Hoffman storming around from scene to scene trying to get to the bottom of it all. It’s a mix of camp and grit, with some truly horrifying scenes of a deadly disease run rampant and some good ol’ fashioned 90’s blockbuster hijinks. This is a good film to watch if you’re interested in escaping your real-life fears but still like to stay topical in your Netflix viewing history.
3) THE SEVENTH SEAL
Classic Ingmar Bergman. This is a dark, poignant, thoughtful, emotional allegory for our constant struggle against our own mortality. A knight, brilliantly portrayed by Max von Sydow, challenges Death to a game of chess to save his own life. This is a slow burn and deals with some pretty big questions about the universe and our place within it. The fearful residents of a plague-struck Europe collectively mourn the dying world while a lone knight hopes to outwit the inevitable. If you haven’t seen this film yet, do yourself a favor and watch it. It is an enriching and timeless experience.
4) 12 MONKEYS
If you’re a fan of Terry Gilliam, you’ll enjoy 12 Monkeys. The story mixes a sci-fi time travel plot with a feeling of impending doom, and adds a heavy dose of gaslighting the main character for a wonderfully manic experience. Bruce Willis does his best to hang onto his sanity while trying to uncover the truth behind who unleashed a contagion that ended the world, while a decidedly insane Brad Pitt trolls him. Inspired by the short experimental French film, La Jetée, 12 Monkeys is a modern classic that can’t be missed.
5) 28 DAYS LATER
This post-apocalyptic zombie horror by Danny Boyle follows Cillian Murphy through a destroyed England as he searches for sanctuary alongside a group of other survivors. One of the first films to employ the “running zombie” trope, 28 Days Later is a gritty, stylish, nightmarish take on an otherwise played out genre. Using an extremely fast-acting “rage” contagion as its zombification device, this film mixes plague-horror, zombie-horror and human vs human survival horror together for a unique experience. If you’ve ever been a fan of zombie movies, I’m sure you’ve strategized in your head about how you’d survive in a zombie apocalypse scenario. I know I have. When I first saw running zombies in 28 Days Later, I remember thinking, “Well, there go all of my plans out the window. It’s clearly impossible to survive running zombies.”
6) IT COMES AT NIGHT
This film is moody, atmospheric, beautifully shot by director of photography, Drew Daniels, and masterfully directed by upcoming auteur director, Trey Edward Shultz. Starring Joel Edgerton, It Comes at Night follows two families forced into cohabitation after a mysterious infection disassembles society as we know it. The threat of infection slowly closes in as the two families struggle to trust one another and maintain their humanity. Definitely not a feel-good movie, but enjoyable for lovers of good indie cinema.
7) TAKE SHELTER
Take Shelter follows Michael Shannon, a possibly schizo/possibly not, family-man prepper who is compulsively building a bunker to survive some catastrophic end of the world event he can’t define but that he knows in his heart is coming. Jeff Nichols‘ quiet and stoic directing style contrasts with Michael Shannon’s stressed out main character, who is about to break at any moment. The film also stars Jessica Chastain, who does a great job with her character: an every-woman trying to anchor her husband in reality and preserve a sense of normalcy as his behavior becomes increasingly more erratic. This is an interesting story that tries to define what it means to dread an enemy you can’t see, taste, touch smell or hear, but that you know is approaching with malevolent intentions.
8) 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
Mary Elizabeth Winstead wakes up after surviving a car crash to find herself in a doomsday prepper’s bunker. John Goodman, with his dominating physical and emotional presence, does a great job riding the line between friend and foe in his performance. He might be holding her hostage with lies or he might be telling the truth about the world ending while she was out of commission, we don’t know. He claims the air outside is unbreathable, which keeps them locked inside his passion project: a cozy, homestead style apocalypse bunker. The story is compact, just like the space they’re in, and the actors play off of one another with believable tension and distrust.
9) THE NAVIGATOR: A MEDIEVAL ODYSSEY
There is a pretty good chance you haven’t seen or heard about this film. Released in 1988, this film follows a boy who has visions of how his village can escape the black plague ravishing Europe. The solution is to dig a tunnel so deep that death can’t reach them. The characters end up digging a tunnel into the 20th century, and in their confusion facing the wonders of the modern world, they choose to erect a cross at the top of a church as a symbol of their resilience and dedication to God. What sounds like a ridiculous B-movie premise is actually quite emotional and well made. This film is a strange gem, something not a lot of people talk about, but one that is most certainly worth the time for those who are interested in finding overlooked films buried in cinema history that have great artistic voicing.
This is another one for hardcore cinema buffs. Tarkovsky’s atmospheric, expressionistic sci-fi follows a group of characters on an expedition to an apocalyptic wasteland featuring ruins of an extraterrestrial event called The Zone, where a person might find the Room. The Room may grant its entrants their innermost desires. The guidelines of reality don’t apply when traversing The Zone. This film is slow and deliberate, with many long-takes and subtle camera movement. Viewers will need to be patient for this one, but it is definitely worth it.
BEST MOVIE TO WATCH AFTER QUARANTINE IS OVER
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
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