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i’ve heard of self-sabotage, but this is ridiculous! or, 8 time travel movies where a protagonist is literally their own worst enemy. [time travel 101]

There’s no doubt that when Nietzsche said, “The worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself,” he meant it figuratively. Yet, if our boy Freddy Wilhelm had taken time travel into account, I’m confident he would’ve expanded his meaning to include a literal interpretation.

The relationship each of us has with ourselves is a complicated thing. It’s often fraught and conflicted. For many of us it’s downright contentious. It’s a truth we see reflected in film, as the history of cinema is teeming with varied examples of self-sabotage. I’d say it’s harder to find movies where the main characters don’t act as one of the main obstacles they need to overcome as they fight for what they want or need.

Usually in movies, as in life, that struggle with self is internal. However, once you add time travel into the mix, the possibility arises for a character to encounter a past, future, or interdimensional version of themself. Suddenly, there’s a chance for this whole self-sabotage thing to slide decisively into the ‘external conflict’ column.

Obviously we’d all like to believe that, given the chance, all our various selves would be on the same team. After all, two, or three, or even ten heads are better than one. But sadly, if movies are any indication, the opposite is far more likely.

Needless to say, this is something any would-be time traveler needs to be prepared for! Whether it happens due to carelessness or necessity, once we start creating time loops that might bring us into contact with other versions of ourselves, dire consequences might be just around the corner.

The movies below can be a primer of sorts [hey, that’s the title of one of these movies!], as we explore one of the biggest hazards in time travel. There are so many dangerous characters we might meet out there in the spacetime continuum, but like Nietzsche (sort of) said, the most dangerous of all is probably you.

Here are eight time travel movies where a protagonist is literally their own worst enemy.

Spoiler Warning! For several of these movies, even finding out they belong on the list is a spoiler. As such, I implore you to proceed with the utmost caution. I’ve put them in ascending order of spoilerines, saving the most egregious examples for the end.

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Looper

“I don’t want to talk about time travel, because if we start talking about it then we’re going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.”

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In Looper, the whole ‘your own worst enemy’ thing is baked right into the cake.

The film imagines a future where time travel exists, but the murder and discreet disposal of bodies has become a virtual impossibility. Rather than just giving up on the whole homicide thing, crime syndicates send the unfortunate targets of their ire back in time, where they are executed by specialized hitmen, such as the one played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. 

It’s a highly lucrative gig for those with the necessary lack of conscience, but it comes with a terrible caveat: taking the job means agreeing to eventually ‘close your loop’ by executing your future self, with grizzly consequences if you fail to do so. 

As can be expected, our protagonist inadvertently lets his future self escape, kicking off a race against time. Joe needs to kill himself before it’s too late, sacrificing his distant future to salvage his present. 

Enter Emily Blunt and the wee mutant Cid. Complications ensue, pathos is added to the time travel mayhem, and Rian Johnson proves yet again that no matter what genre he tackles, he’ll never fail to do something interesting and well-crafted [and yes, I’m including The Last Jedi. Fight me!] 

If you’re trying to understand the whole ‘your own worst enemy’ time travel trope, Looper is where you begin. 

Time Travel 101 Lesson: Don’t kill people for money. [I really hope this is a lesson you’ve already learned, with or without time travel being involved!]

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Endgame

“You disgust me, but that doesn’t mean you’re useless.”

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Ahead of the film’s release, if you’d asked fans, “Which heroes will get the most screen time in Avengers: Endgame?,” I can’t imagine anyone would’ve had a hard time correctly identifying that Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America would comprise the top three spots. After that, however, is there single fan alive who could have guessed that Nebula would come in fourth?!

The Russo Brothers had the daunting tasks of closing out a decade’s worth of stories, providing satisfying farewells for some of the most beloved characters in modern cinema, and trying to balance screen time and narrative significance for a remarkably large cast. To say screen time and narrative weight were at a premium would be a considerable understatement. Yet somehow, a supporting player from a franchise at the fringe of the MCU played a central role in the events that closed out the Infinity Saga.

Yet for all her time in the spotlight, it’s easy to miss just how great Nebula’s time travel storyline is. We’re talking USDA Prime time travel goodness, as Nebula literally grapples with the person she used to be. It’s a story arc that easily could’ve been the basis for an entire standalone Nebula film, yet in Endgame, it’s just another layer in a remarkably satisfying lasagna. [That’s two back-to-back food references, apparently I need to go make a snack.]

All that to say that, with Endgame, Nebula has earned her place amongst the all time great characters in cinematic time travel history!

Time Travel 101 Lesson: If you used to be a blood-thirsty murder-cyborg obsessed with earning the approval of an evil god, time travel is probably going to be more perilous for you than it is for the rest of us.

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The Infinite Man 

Lana: “Why do you hate yourself so much?”
Dean: “Are you kidding? Look at him.”

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Proof that you can make a great time travel movie with a minuscule budget, The Infinite Man is one of my favorite discoveries from this cinematic time travel deep dive. It’s funny, smart, and full to the brim with airtight time travel fun. 

When a romantic weekend getaway goes horribly wrong, a man creates a way to go back in time for a second chance to get things right. Unfortunately, the insecurity and self-loathing that ruined the weekend in the first place only get worse as he adds more versions of himself into the mix. 

No other film I’ve seen does a better job of using the ‘own worst enemy’ trope as a metaphor for our own propensity for self-sabotage, and this won’t be the last you’ll hear from me about this gem of a film that too few people have heard of! For now, suffice it to say you should absolutely watch it! 

Time Travel 101 Lesson: If you hate yourself, using time travel to create even more of you is never going to be a good idea. Or, to put it another way, if you’re already your own worst enemy figuratively, it’s a terrible idea to risk making it literal. 

In any case, proceed with extreme caution if you make the ill-advised decision to use time travel as a way to work out your issues with intimacy and self worth. 

Time Travel 101 Bonus Lesson: If you run into trouble while traveling in time and need some help, you could do a lot worse than heading down to Oceania. Australia and New Zealand have created a disproportionately large percentage of time travel films over recent years, including three of the nine movies on this list! It shouldn’t be hard to find some experts in the field, cinematically speaking of course. 

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Mega Time Squad

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I’m a sucker for droll New Zealand comedy [Taika for life!], and Mega Time Squad delivers in spades. It even features What We Do in the Shadows’ Jonny Brugh as a “crime boss” in small-town New Zealand (and I mean smallllltown), whose entire gang is just a bunch of dumb, shiftless 20-somethings. 

One of those dumb, shiftless 20-somethings is John, our time traveling protagonist. During an inept robbery meant to be part of an even more inept double-cross, he winds up taking a bracelet that can zap him a short ways back in time. As they always are, the magical bracelet is cursed. As they always do, he ignores the warning.

As he tries to elude would-be murderers, John starts creating time loops to team up with two or three versions of himself at a time. Surprising no one, this quickly escalates. The result is the creation of so many Johns that they start their own gang: the Mega Time Squad! 

Trouble is, when all the Johns want the money, and all the Johns want to get the girl in the end, it’s not hard to see how the whole thing quickly devolves into an ‘own worst enemy’ scenario.

While it features a fair amount of murder, Mega Time Squad is still a bighearted comedy filled with dim-witted but lovable characters and all the offbeat, deadpan Kiwi comedy you could ask for. 

Time Travel 101 Lesson: Don’t use time loops to intentionally create a bunch of versions of yourself. Just don’t. 

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The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

“The winds were ferocious. The isolation, intense. I waited for my friends, seemed to last forever. That’s when I learned, there was no one I could trust but me.”

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Let’s be honest, the first LEGO movie was far better than anyone expected. The general, well-warranted assumption was that the film would be the sort of lazy kids movie that uses a familiar IP to make a bunch of money, even though the movie is shit. Think The Smurfs franchise, The Angry Birds MovieThe Emoji Movie, the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise, and on and on.

Instead, we got a smart, well-written, genuinely funny, feel good movie with an unexpected bit of emotional depth on the back end.

While it’s not as good as the original, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part is still a worthy successor, and this time there’s time travel! 

Who knew Undar of the Dryar System would turn the relentlessly optimistic and warmhearted Emmet Brickowski into such a huge dick? Well, it did, forcing present-day Emmet to face off against Rex Dangervest, a bitter, angry, badass future version of himself. 

Oh, and Rex also just so happens to be voice actor Chris Pratt’s movie avatar: “a Galaxy-defending archaeologist, cowboy, raptor trainer—who likes building furniture, busting heads, and having chiseled features previously hidden under baby fat!” It’s exactly the sort of silly but clever plot twist we can count on in a Phil Lord and Chris Miller joint. 

Time Travel 101 Lesson: No matter how great you are now, you still need to be wary of future versions of yourself. None of us are immune to turning into an asshole.

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One More Spoiler Warning: These last three are relatively even in spoiler factor, and that degree is significant. All three are must watch time travel movies, but knowing the characters wind up fighting themselves is a considerable spoiler.

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Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes)

“We still have a while before it starts raining.”

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Nacho Vigalondo’s 2007 time travel horror/thriller is an indisputable must-watch title if you’re taking a tour of the genre. It’s also required viewing for the educational purposes of Time Travel 101.

Hector’s day is horrifying enough when he’s stabbed by a mysterious man in a trench coat and a face wrapped in pink bandages. That day gets significantly worse when, while trying to hide from said villain, he inadvertently gets in a time machine.

His trip to earlier that day kicks off an ever-worsening nightmare scenario. Every time he gets back in the machine, hoping to preclude the day’s tragedies, he only continues to reveal a horrible truth: the tragedy is worse than he realized, and he played a larger role in it than he could’ve imagined.

Los Cronocrímenes is a great example of the ‘own worst enemy’ trope, and it’s on my shortlist of the greatest time travel films of all time.

Time Travel 101 Lesson: It may only take a few hours to transform you into someone you barely recognize, both literally and figuratively.

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Primer

Abe: “I’m not into the whole destiny ‘there’s-only-one-right-way’ thing.”
Aaron: “Abe, I’m not either, but what’s worse, you know, thinking you’re being paranoid, or knowing you should be?”

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This microbudget-mumblecore-sci-fi gem is the platonic ideal of DIY filmmaking. There are no special effects, the most exotic location is a storage facility, wardrobe most likely came directly out of the actors’ closets, the main cast could fit in a sedan, and the time travel machine props were probably built with supplies from a quick trip to Home Depot. Long story short, the entire film cost $7k to make!!

It’s the story of two men who inadvertently create a time machine, then struggle to come to terms with how to use it responsibly, while still using it for personal gain. As their philosophies on time travel continue to diverge, their relationship devolves into a web of mistrust and betrayal. This not only pits them against each other, but against alternate versions of themselves – some of whom they don’t even know exist!

The film’s tension is primarily powered by how tightly crafted the mind-bending time travel chicanery is. The budget for the pens and paper you’ll go through trying to track the time loops will likely approach what it cost for writer-director-star Shane Carruth to make the movie in the first place!

Time Travel 101 Lesson: Time travel is a powerful thing. You suddenly have the ability to act in the past with knowledge of the future, or interfere with events over and over until you get a desired outcome. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how easily this might begin to feed our darker impulses,

Proceed with caution, because as the adage goes, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and time travel power corrupts time travelly.

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Triangle

“Downstairs right now is a copy of me. Me! Walking and talking with Greg!”

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With this entry, Triangle officially becomes the first movie to be featured on two different lists! [Spoiler alert: it won’t be the last time the movie shows up!]

The film features three iterations of the same time loop, overlapping each other as they repeat simultaneously in the same physical space, albeit in staggered sequence. Needless to say, it’s up there with Primer as the two mind-bendiest films on the list. Every time you think you’ve figured things out, the movie rocks beneath your feet, shifting your perspective to reveal nothing is what you thought it was. Even for the seasoned cinephiles among us, who pride ourselves on seeing reveals coming a mile away, the movie has a habit of turning those reveals upside down later in the film.

The sole character aware of what’s happening quickly finds herself at odds with the versions of herself from the other loops (I told you, it’s mind-bending!), leaving her desperately trying to figure out what the fuck is actually happening in time to save her friends in spite of herself. Literally.

The possible causes of the time loop in Triangle are more mysterious and supernatural than any time travel we might get up to, but it still most definitely offers a worthwhile case study in just how horrifying interactions with alternate versions of one’s self can get.

Time Travel 101 Lesson: [Significant additional, but theoretical, spoiler! Do not read if you ever plan to watch this movie!] If the reason you’re at odds with yourself is a repeating time loop kicked off when you did something truly monstrous, you just might be in hell!

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Bonus: Deadpool 2

“You’re welcome, Canada.”

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Deadpool 2’s main story doesn’t feature any characters battling themselves, but the post-credits scene sure does. Wade Wilson uses Cable’s time travel device to right wrongs as he hops back and forth along multiple timelines. After making sure to retroactively save his girlfriend from her tragic demise, he breaks the fourth wall long enough to correct two infamous Ryan Reynolds career choices. He kills the horrible Deadpool adaptation from X-Men Origins: Wolverine (right before he has a chance to kick off the terrible final battle), then murders the actual Ryan Reynolds just after he decides to accept the eponymous role in Warner Bros’ Green Lantern. Are they examples of a character at odds with other versions of himself? Yes. Would ridding the world of those two abominations be a gift to humanity? Definitely! However, as far as ridding the world of abominations goes, he does ultimately fail to find the nerve to kill baby Hitler.

Time Travel 101 Lesson: Be careful about the embarrassing mistakes you make, or else a vindictive, smart-ass version of yourself might come back and kill you just to get a laugh.

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And there you have it, 8.5 time travel movies to help us navigate one of time travel’s greatest perils. Happy watching!

Additional viewing: Bill & Ted Face the Music, Hurok, Reset, Army of Darkness, Predestination, +1.

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you know, like ‘groundhog day’ – or – 9 automatically resetting time loop movies (and two shows) you should totally watch. [time travel 101]

To begin our cinematic time travel journey, we begin with Hollywood’s most favoritest temporal anomaly: automatically resetting time loops (we’ll call them ARTLs for short). It’s a hyper-specific trope that just keeps showing up again and again (and again). By now, it would be reasonable to assume that, much like a day that keeps repeating over and over, the plot device would’ve stopped leading to anything new or interesting ages ago. The films below attest to the fact that, somehow, filmmakers (and showrunners) keep finding ways to create fresh new entries into the resetting time loop canon.

Now, first off, let’s be clear about what we’re talking about here. Time travel cinema is rife with all sorts of time loops, from the straightforward closed loops like the ones in Looper (that is, when things are going according to plan), to the convoluted sort in films like Primer (you know, the kind that make you break out a pencil and paper to figure out what the hell is going on). We’ll talk about some of those in a future list, but this time around we’re only talking about movies where a time loop keeps automatically resetting to the same moment over and over again.

I suppose for some, this may be a surprising place to start our studies in time travel, instead of, say, Back to the Future or 1960’s The Time Machine, but friends, you have to walk before you run, and we haven’t even started crawling yet. We can’t just jump straight in and learn how to build and operate a time machine immediately. That would be foolhardy at best, nay, downright irresponsible! There are so many dangers and pitfalls out there waiting for us. When shit goes sideways – and shit will definitely go sideways at some point – we need a good grasp of how to survive. Think of it like learning to put out a grease fire before being taught how to turn on the stove.

Toward that end, automatically resetting time loops – again, we’ll call them ARTLs – are the perfect place to start, because they’re basically one big closed course where we can get our legs under us as we prepare for all the mishaps we might encounter, and shenanigans we might get up to.

So, without further ado, let’s jump into some time loops. And don’t forget your booties, because it’s cooooold out there today!

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Groundhog Day

“Well, what if there is no tomorrow?! There wasn’t one today!”

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If we’re gonna learn how to survive a never-ending time loop, there’s only one place to begin: Phil Connors.

Groundhog Day is the one loop to rule them all. It didn’t invent the premise, but it’s the gold standard, and it always will be. A fact that’s proven every time someone is trying to describe any other automatically resetting time loop movie, and they say, “It’s like Groundhog Day, but…”

[Fun fact: Not only was Groundhog Day not the first film to explore the premise of a man being trapped in a time loop, but legal action was actually taken by writer Richard A. Lupoff and filmmaker Jonathan Heap. Turns out, they didn’t appreciate Groundhog Day’s similarity to Lupoff’s short story “12:01 P.M.” – which Heap adapted as a short film – in which a man is the only one who notices that the same hour keeps repeating over and over. I’ll tell ya what, compared to a mere hour, an entire day seems like paradise!]

We don’t know exactly how long Phil was stuck in his loop, but fans have put a lot of time into trying to figure it out. On the low end, the studio apparently claimed the loop lasted for two weeks, which is the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard. At the other extreme are claims Phil was trapped for up to 10,000 years! That, too, is absolutely bonkers. If Phil lived for 10,000 years, I have to imagine he’d have lost anything connecting him to his humanity. He wouldn’t have wound up a better version of himself by the end of the film, but something more like an alien or a god, an unaffected saint or a stark-raving lunatic.

What we know for sure is that Phil was stuck long enough to become a master ice sculptor, a talented pianist, and a veritable superhero, saving the citizens of Punxsutawney from death, injury, heartbreak, and mild inconvenience. The majority of more reasonable estimates seem to land anywhere between 30 to 100 years. Either way, the poor guy was in that loop for a really long time.

Speaking of which, can you imagine how much therapy Phil will need to readjust? To go back into the chaos of real life after spending so many years knowing exactly what was going to happen from moment to moment?! To suddenly live in a world where anything that goes wrong doesn’t reset the next day?! As wonderful as his new relationship with Rita may be, that’s going to be a hell of a transition.

And that’s to say nothing of the fact that he would have been away from his entire life for decades. He’s been separated from nearly everyone and everything he knew, not experiencing anything outside the same day in Punxsutawney for decades! How sharp is your memory of your day to day life ten years ago? How about 30?! I sincerely hope that WPBH had good mental health coverage.

Another thing we know for sure is that the movie is a certified classic. That’s really saying something when you account for a troubled production that permanently ruined the longtime friendship and working relationship between Harold Ramis and Bill Murray. That, along with the fact that upon release few involved seemed particularly satisfied with the end result, and it’s a small miracle that Groundhog Day would become so beloved. And deservedly beloved at that! 

I imagine they were even more surprised by how intensely the film has been pored over for its religious and philosophical significance. People from a diverse range of faiths and philosophies have weighed in on how Phil’s experience pertains to their own worldview. Just take a look at Wikipedia’s section on all the various thematic analyses of the film. People got thoughts!

Time Travel 101 Lesson: With relatively low stakes and no risk of permanent death and/or destroying all of time and space as we know it, Groundhog Day is the perfect place to ease into our time travel education. Even if the only thing we learn is that we may find ourselves in a situation where all we can do is accept our fate and make the best of it.

Time Travel 101 Bonus Lesson: Don’t drive angry.

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Palm Springs

“It’s one of those infinite time loop situations you might have heard about.” 

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In a case of accidentally perfect timing, Palm Springs hit Hulu in July of 2020, as the world was hitting the four month anniversary of total Covid lockdown. The movie found us all essentially waking up in a nightmare time loop of our very own.

Of course, the loop in Palm Springs is waaaaaay more fun that the one we’ve been subjected to. My time loop was spent eating my feelings and wondering how long was too long to go without showering, while protagonists Sarah and Nyles spent their endlessly repeating day wreaking havoc on a wedding reception, raiding the homes and pools of absent neighbors, and getting up to all kinds of assorted mischief, all with no fear of consequences. If I’m being honest, what I envied most was watching them patronize local bars and restaurants, but maybe that’s just me.

But don’t get it wrong, Palm Springs‘s fortuitous release date isn’t what makes it great. Riding the irresistible chemistry and likability of leads Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg, it’s a charming, consistently funny film that leaves you happier than when you started.

Instead of attempting a major overhaul of the Groundhog Day blueprint, it brings fresh energy and updated comedic sensibilities to the well-established formula. More significantly, it adds a female protagonist who has agency and a three dimensional personality, as opposed to a static foil to help Nyles learn to grow.

Long story short, Palm Springs is most definitely a delightful entry in the ARTL tradition. 

Spoilery Time Travel 101 Lesson: Sarah offers the best possible role model we could ask for, should we find ourselves trapped in a time loop of our very own. When she decides she can’t take it anymore, she buckles down and uses her endless days to take a deep dive into quantum science and time travel theory. She resolves to escape the loop or die trying. Sometimes, all you can do is put in the work until you figure shit out.

Good news: you’ve got all the time in the world to become an expert. Bad news: You still might have to risk exploding yourself out of existence.

Time Travel 101 Bonus Lesson: It’s much easier to survive being stuck in an endless time loop if you have someone to fall in love with.

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Live. Die. Repeat. (aka, Edge of Tomorrow)

“What I am about to tell you sounds crazy, but you have to listen to me. Your very lives depend on it. You see, this isn’t the first time that we’ve had this conversation.”

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If any lessons from Live. Die. Repeat. become relevant to you in your travels through time, things have gone terribly, terribly wrong. I sincerely hope none of us find ourselves up against extraterrestrial, hive-minded murder monsters, but it’s best to be prepared.

Tom Cruise’s Major William Cage keeps dying in the same battle over and over – a battle against seemingly unbeatable alien invaders, mind you – only to find himself resetting to that morning every time. He joins forces with Emily Blunt’s Sergeant Rita Vrataski, she trains him into becoming a super-soldier, and he dies again and again as he attempts to survive long enough to discover a way to defeat the pesky alien megapredators trying to wipe out all life on earth.

I suppose, in fairness, he deserves to share the title of best ARTL role model with Sarah from Palm Springs.

As miserable as the whole thing was for poor Major Cage, it was a damn good time for the rest of us! Which is why it sucks that the film only pulled in a weak domestic haul of just over $100 million at the box office. By all rights, the film should have done better. It’s a Tom Cruise action vehicle, it’s got mech suits, explosions, wonderfully designed alien baddies, and most importantly, Emily Blunt. The movie also received near-universal praise from critics. Yet, something went wrong on the way to release, and American viewers weren’t sold on the movie. 

I’m going to go out on a limb and say the real culprit for the film’s weakness at the box office was the inexplicable decision to release the film as Edge of Tomorrow, instead of the vastly superior title, Live. Die. Repeat. (which was originally relegated to the poster tagline).

Whatever the reason(s), it’s a real shame, because nearly everything in this movie works (the pointless, narratively messy inclusion of J-Squad during the film’s climax not withstanding). The action is visually thrilling, it’s sneakily funny, and Cruise and Blunt give pretty compelling performances during breaks in the action. Most importantly for the purposes of this list, the clever premise – adapted from Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s book All You Need is Kill – is a genuinely fresh iteration of the ARTL trope. 

Fortunately, the film’s box office saga has a happy ending. The movie had serious legs once it hit on-demand and streaming services, as a broader audience realized the movie’s actually pretty great, then told all their friends. Its streaming success is so considerable, in fact, that there’s likely a sequel on the horizon.

Fun fact: Director Doug Liman fought hard for the superior title; a fight he obviously lost. Now that he’s been vindicated, the sequel will reportedly be called, Live, Die, Repeat… and Repeat. A fact that retcons the original title, correcting a tragic, horrible mistake.

Seriously though, On the Edge of Tomorrow sounds like the title of a self-serious period romance epic. Live. Die. Repeat. sounds like the title of a story about someone who keeps dying, only to reset every time they die. They live, they die, it repeats. It’s a straightforward, catchy, easy to remember title, and it explains the premise right there in the name! Fucking studio execs, amirite?

Still, whatever you choose to call it, Live. Die. Repeat. is a greatly entertaining addition to the ARTL canon, even if we desperately hope we never find ourselves in a situation where its lessons are relevant.

Time Travel 101 Lesson: A time loop that kills you over and over again is definitely the worst kind of time loop (see also: Russian Doll, and Koko-di Koko-da). If you have the misfortune to find yourself in such a loop, your only real hope may be to lean into it. You’re gonna need to do whatever it takes to level up enough to survive the day.

Bonus Time Travel 101 Lesson: Edge of Tomorrow was a stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid title for this movie.

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The Incredible Shrinking Wknd (El increíble finde menguante)

It’s not a loop. It’s a countdown.

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Okay, so by this point we’re getting a pretty good sense of how to survive in an infinitely repeating time loop. But what if your time loop isn’t infinitely repeating? What if it’s shrinking instead?! 

The Incredible Shrinking Wknd is a 2019 Spanish film following Alba, a directionless, irresponsible 30-year-old woman-child who finds herself stuck repeating the day her boyfriend broke up with her. That’s a shitty situation to begin with, but it gets infinitely worse when she realizes that her loop shrinks by one hour every time it resets. 

[Bonus twist! Unlike other ARTLs, Alba doesn’t reset when the timeline does. For example, if she hasn’t showered for three resets, she smells like she hasn’t showered for three days.]

I realize that could easily be the synopsis for a zany, broad, high concept romcom setup. A movie with a trailer that’s like, “Her weekend is turning out to be a lot more than she bargained for, but it’s getting smaller by the hour!” 

This is definitely not that movie. The Incredible Shrinking Wknd is subtle, understated and smart. Writer-director Jon Mikel Caballero slowly increases the urgency and desperation, pulling viewers further into Alba’s plight with each reset.

Most filmmakers would use the ‘time loop countdown’ premise as the core of a sci-fi thriller; a race against time as Alba tries to figure out what’s happening so she can free herself from the loop. Instead, Caballero uses it as the core of an emotional drama that touches on the rudderless ennui so many of us feel in our 30s. The urgency of Alba’s race against time comes from her attempts to see her life for what it is, and connect with those she loves before she quite literally runs out of time. Powered as it is by Iria del Río’s quietly captivating performance, it totally works.

The Incredible Shrinking Wknd is well worth your time. It would also be right at home on a list of great time travel/temporal anomaly movies you’ve never heard of, or perhaps a list of great foreign language entries. [Foreshadowing!] 

Time Travel 101 Lesson: If you’re stuck in an endless, shrinking time loop, it might be the universe trying to tell you you’re stuck in a state of arrested development, and you risk being left behind by those you love.

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Triangle

“It’s starting over again, that’s what’s going on! Everything that happened to you happened to you before!”

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The loop in Triangle is another ARTL absolutely no one would choose if they were forced to pick a loop to live in. There’s murder, mayhem, a masked killer, a creepy deserted cruise ship, and a plot twist around every corner.

[Real quick, I just need to point out how great it is that they set Triangle on a cruise ship, just like the classic time travel episode of The X-Files that bears the same name!] 

Every time you think you’ve got stuff figured out, Triangle pulls back another layer, changing most of what you thought you knew. Even for the seasoned cinephiles among us, who pride themselves on seeing reveals coming a mile away, the movie has a habit of turning those reveals upside down later in the film. 

For those of us watching, that’s really fun! For a person trying to survive the ordeal, it would be… less fun. 

Now, it’s about to get spoilery. Simply knowing this is a time loop movie is a bit of a spoiler, but I’m about to turn the spoiler knob up to eleven. All my fellow spoilerphobes out there should STOP READING, jump down to the next movie, and come back after you’ve watched Triangle – and you should definitely watch Triangle!

Still here? Okay! 

The most wonderful thing Triangle does to turn the trope on its head is obviously the fact that there isn’t just one loop resetting over and over in a vacuum. Instead, there are always at least three loops repeating simultaneously! (I’m pretty sure it’s three at a time, the film is called Triangle after all.) 

That’s right, three overlapping iterations of the same loop repeating at once! Each interacting with the others! Not only that, but each loop actively causes the next reset to begin! I guess it’s a little bit like Timecrimes crossed with a version of Groundhog Day that takes the spiritual purgatory theory and cranks it way up.

This is one of those films I’d love to talk about with anyone out there who’s seen it. I’m definitely looking forward to some repeat viewings, as well as the inevitable theory rabbit holes I’ll be falling down!

Time Travel 101 Lesson: I’m gonna be honest, if you find yourself in an ARTL like this one, you’re most likely fucked. I guess the only lesson I can offer is, stay away from boats? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Koko-di Koko-da

“Easy does it. We’re only playing.”


Koko-di Koko-da is probably the most obscure movie on this list. It’s definitely the weirdest. Dark and bizarre, it trades a straightforward narrative for surreal metaphor. To say it’s not for everyone is the height of understatement.

Three years after losing their daughter, in a marriage strained to the breaking point, a couple goes camping in what I’d imagine was an attempt to rediscover the equilibrium stolen from them by such a boundless tragedy. Equilibrium is most certainly not what they find, as they wake up stuck in a time loop where they are terrorized by a twisted version of storybook characters with a penchant for cheerful menace and murder.

While at first disconcerting, and seemingly weird for the sake of weird, Koko-di Koko-da slowly reveals itself to be a poignant, even beautiful metaphor for the effects profound grief has on one’s relationships and identity, as well as the very different ways we experience and respond to its aftereffects.

Time Travel 101 Lesson: Even if our time travel gets really weird, I can’t imagine we’ll be thrown into a world where life as we know it is thrown out the window in favor of a purely metaphorical existence. Still, Koko-di Koko-da is yet more proof you should never go camping.

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The Map of Tiny Perfect Things 

M: “You could be a force for good.”
H: “Like Batman?”
M: “Yeah, like Batman.”
H: “But are we talking Dark Knight Batman, or Ben Affleck Batman? Because…”
M: “Dude, The Animated Series, obviously!”

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Another brand new time loop romance thrown into the mix, this one is part of the ever popular young adult variety. With a script written by Lev Grossman (the celebrated book critic, journalist, and author of the excellent Magicians trilogy), The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is a breezy, skindeep-yet-enjoyable movie, anchored by an endearing chemistry between its two genuinely likable leads. 

It certainly makes no attempt to reinvent the Groundhog Day wheel. Like Palm Springs, the most obvious difference is that two protagonists are aware of what’s happening. The unique thing it brings to the table is that it nonchalantly – but very much intentionally – subverts the typical formula for romcoms with a male lead.

Check this one out next time you’re looking for a bit of YA romance with a time loop twist.

Time Travel 101 Lesson: Sometimes, being unwilling to surrender to grief and acceptance means being stuck on the other side of life, looking in. Not really a time travel lesson, but, you know, a pretty valuable one.

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ARQ

“You don’t have to believe me, but I need you to trust me.”

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Critics didn’t particularly like this low budget Netflix Original, but I think that’s a bad rap. It may pale in comparison to many of the other movies on this list, but it deserves better than its 43% Rotten Tomatoes score.

It’s a fun, compact, tightly paced action/sci-fi flick that’s both an ARTL movie and a bottle movie (as in, everything takes place in a single location). The film, which features under-appreciated performances from Robbie Amell and Rachael Taylor, offers some great twists and tweaks to the formula.

It’s definitely well worth an 88 minute stream next time you’re looking for something to watch.

Time Travel 101 Lesson: When it comes to time loops, or anything else for that matter, always take critical opinion with a grain of salt.

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A Day

Let’s change everything we can.

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In this 2017 Korean thriller, two strangers find themselves stuck in a time loop, desperately fighting the clock – over and over, of course – in an attempt to stop a deadly accident that kill’s one man’s young daughter, and the other’s wife.

While much of the internal logic and timing doesn’t add up, and it can get pretty silly in its melodrama at points, it’s still a really fun watch. It’s twisty and exciting, and the solid lead performances are earnest enough that the melodrama actually lands much of the time.

If you can find it, this is definitely a time loop worth jumping into.

Time Travel 101 Lesson: Even when time travel is involved, your past can still come back to haunt you.

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As Seen on TV!

Automatically resetting time loops aren’t just for the big screen! Here are two great TV (aka streaming) time loops.

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Russian Doll

Alan: “You promise if I don’t jump I’ll be happy?”
Nadia: “No, man, absolutely not! But, I can promise you that you’ll not be alone.”

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I adore this show. I watched it twice the week it came out, then again earlier this month (ostensibly for the purpose of this post). Two of those three viewings were in a single sitting (the other took about 12 hours, instead).

[In a fun bit of kismet, the day of my most recent rewatch it was announced that Schitt’s Creek’s Annie Murphy has signed on for Russian Doll‘s second season!]

At the end of the day, any storytelling device is just a tool to say something worthwhile. I’m not saying every single story has to be profound, worthwhile can include making people laugh, or jump, or cry, or scream, or feel something they wouldn’t otherwise have felt. In this particular case, however, what Russian Doll uses the resetting time loop trope to say actually is profound. It certainly makes me laugh more than enough to justify, say, the combined 12 hours I’ve spent willfully reentering the loop, but it’s also life-affirming and hopeful without being trite or flippant about how hard it is to be a person sometimes.

Overall, I’m pretty sure Russian Doll is my favorite ARTL. (To watch! It’s only my favorite ARTL to watch! I would NOT want to be trapped in that loop!)

Time Travel 101 Lesson: You’re not paying attention if you’re unfamiliar with despair. But you’re also not paying attention if you think you’re alone. 

Time Travel 101 Bonus Lesson: Watch out for sidewalk cellars. Those things are a menace.

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The X-Files – “Monday” (Season Six, Episode Fourteen)

“Scully, did you ever have one of those days you wish you could just rewind and start over from the beginning?”

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Let’s say you’re stuck in a time loop. You’re the only one aware it’s happening, and your boyfriend blows up a bank full of people at the end of every go ‘round. It sure would help if someone else realized what was going on!

If this happens to you, Fox Mulder is definitely the person most likely to believe you. The guy has never met a theory too farfetched to believe (aside from Christianity, but the contradictions of Mulder and Scully’s religious views are a subject for a very different post).

Co-written by Vince Gilligan, the man would famously go on to create Breaking Bad, “Monday” is a great X-Files episode you should hop over to Hulu and watch right now.

Time Travel 101 Lesson: I can’t believe I’m going to type these words, but you should do whatever you can to avoid The X-Files. I really wish I could say that any paranormal experience, temporal anomalies included, are better if you have Mulder and Scully along for the ride. Trouble is, those who make guest appearances in ‘Monster of the Week’ episodes don’t have a particularly encouraging survival rate. As exciting as it would be to spend time with Fox and Dana — and as quickly as Mulder may buy into whatever craziness is happening — bumping into them might not be the best development.

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Those ten movies are barely the tip of the ARTL iceberg. Other titles include: The Endless; Source Code; Hurok; Reset; Happy Death Day and Happy Death Day 2U; The Fare; Blood Punch; Run Lola Run (sort of); Before I Fall; If Only; Repeaters; Naked; Premature; When We First Met; Camp Slaughter (aka Camp Daze); Boss Level; and Game Over.

Plus, The Final Girls has some fun with a time loop, and Doctor Strange gets up to some time loop hijinks in his battle with Dormammu.

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welcome to time travel 101, or, i’m about to watch waaaaaay too many time travel movies.

I don’t think anyone will accuse me of hyperbole when I say that the last twelve months have been, to use the scientific term, an absolute fucking nightmare.

As I publish this, we’ve just passed the one year anniversary of the full Covid-19 lockdowns around the globe, and even a worldwide pandemic that killed millions was just the most notable entry on a long list of deadly disasters. I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail, you were there after all, but 2020 featured earthquakes, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, a tsunami, hurricanes, flash floods, and an explosion in Beirut so big it was felt in at least five other countries. Throw in increasingly draconian tactics by governments and police in response to unconnected protests in countries around the world – United States, India, Myanmar, and Nigeria to name a few – and its clear the word apocalyptic isn’t a hyperbolic adjective for the last year. And it didn’t begin with 2020, with at least the last five years revealing themselves to be a series of ever-worsening hellscapes. Every time we think we’ve reached the bottom, we find out we’ve only just begun our descent.

Seeing as how all indicators point to a forecast of shitty with a chance of catastrophe, it’s well past the time for me to devise an exit strategy to get out of this mess. In truth, I should have had a go-bag packed by the front door ages ago, so it’s time to get my shit together. The last thing I’d want is to be caught unprepared when things go from worse to worst to holy fuck this is bad!

Here’s the thing, though, where does one escape when the chaos and clusterfuckery is everywhere? There’s certainly no quarter to be found by merely fleeing to a new locale.

No, the way I see it, there are only four real options.

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Option 1: Gear up, train hard, and try to survive in an apocalyptic wasteland.

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I’ll just be straight with you, I am very much not a survivalist. But even if I had more of the necessary qualities, this option is still a hard sell. By definition, any attempt to survive beyond Thunderdome is a nightmare scenario.

I mean, who knows, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find a remote and undiscovered safe haven. Maybe you can even build a nice little life for yourself as you try to ride out the apocalypse, but how long could that really last before someone stumbles across your idyllic post-apocalyptic oasis? Sorry to my fellow spoiler-phobes out there, but that story doesn’t have a happy ending.

The opposite alternative would be to head out on the road and never stop moving, trying to survive by your wits on an unending search for the resources you need to survive another day. I’d say this strategy is the epitome of the whole ‘prolonging the inevitable’ thing. Your best chance of surviving would be finding a cannibal murder cult willing to let you join up, maybe because you have the same taste in music or books or something.

Even with all the zombie movies I’ve watched in preparation, I don’t see myself surviving long in either of these scenarios.

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Option 2: An underground bunker or shelter

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Now, I’m talking here about the sort of fallout shelter you lock yourself into and don’t leave for years or decades while you hope everything up top blows over. As far as bunkers you stay in for safety at night while living your daily life above ground, that would be covered above, under Option 1.

The whole full-time underground scenario is going to be a hard pass for me for so many reasons, the most urgent of which is my severe claustrophobia. Now, maybe I could make this option work if I had access to one of those massive fallout paradises created exclusively for the uber-wealthy (which was also stocked with an indefinite supply of powerful psychiatric medications), but let’s be honest, I’ll never qualify for one of those. If I end up trapped in anything smaller, breathing nothing but recycled air indefinitely, I’d have a series of increasingly intense panic attacks before finally succumbing to a stroke or heart attack. No joke.

Sorry, Ben Folds, I can’t be happy underground.

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Option 3: Space travel

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Again, claustrophobia! It would take quite the colossal generational space ark for me to survive even the early weeks of the voyage without having a complete meltdown, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t see any colossal generational space arks in our near future.

Alternatively, I’m also a no-go on the whole cryogenic hibernation thing. I mean, how many happy endings have you heard for stories about subzero space slumber? There’s always some sort of catastrophic system failure, after which some people die in their pods while others go space mad and turn on each other, or die of some horrifying alien virus, or are picked off one by one by a super-predator. It’s never, “And then the brave explorers were awoken ahead of schedule, because they’d been discovered by aliens who wanted to share space cupcakes and the secret to immortality.”

So, space travel? No-thank-you-please.

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Option 4: Time travel

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And here we come to the correct answer. I mean, come on, this is obviously the best option! When all else fails, it’s best to just grab your flux capacitor, kick that DeLorean up to 88 mph, and party like it’s… well, whatever fucking year you want!

And as we’ve established, for me it’s not simply the best option, but the only option.

Good, so that’s settled. Now the real work begins. I’ve got so much to learn to make this dream a reality. This isn’t the sort of endeavor where you just wing it and hope for the best.

For one, there’s the question of how one travels through time. I mean, are we talking a traditional Wellesian time machine? Maybe a vehicle of some sort, or some wearable tech? Will there be dimension hopping, or black holes, or maybe some wormholes? Will some fourth-dimensional alien technology play a role? A deal with the gods or some other mysterious mystical tomfoolery? Maybe the trick is surrounding myself with artifacts of an earlier time and using self-hypnosis to convince myself I’m in the past (I know that one sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it worked for Christopher Reeve).

Once a method of travel is finally settled on, there is still so much to account for. This is time travel we’re talking about, and it’s certainly nothing to be taken lightly. There’s so much that can go wrong, not just for me, but for all of human history, all of time and space for that matter! If I’m going to safely navigate the space-time continuum, and help all my loved ones do the same – while avoiding destroying the entire universe or whatever – I’m going to need to become a bonafide expert.

I bet you’re out there asking, “But Scott, how will you become such an expert? Will you spend a decade-plus getting multiple doctorates related to quantum physics? Will you spend thousands of hours exploring the relationship between speed, gravity, and time, whilst studying theories of negative energy density, wormholes, and cosmic strings?”

No, of course not. First off, I have more than enough student debt as it is before heading back for the masters level post-graduate work I’d need to get me started. Besides, that just seems like a whole fucking thing. Pass.

I’ve got an even better idea. I’m going to watch an absurdly long list of movies and see if that does the trick. I’m fairly confident a crash course in the storied history of time travel cinema will teach me everything I need to know to execute, survive, and even thrive during my temporally flexible adventures. Trust me, the logic checks out.

I’m certainly not entering my studies as a complete neophyte, but while I’m already relatively well-versed in the subgenre, the time for half measures has come and gone. I’m going all-in, whole-hog, full-bore! We’re talking a deep dive into the celluloid space-time continuum, and I’m inviting all of you to come along.

And what a deep dive it will be! It turns out there are a lot of time travel movies. Like, I knew there was a sizable catalogue, but when I started doing research for this series there were soooo many more than I could’ve guessed. Like, every time I reached the bottom of a rabbit hole of obscure time-travel films, it’s not that the hole would get deeper, it’s that I’d find another rabbit hole. I guess I really shouldn’t have been surprised. Time travel stories date back to at least the 1700s, and 2021 marks the 100 year anniversary of time travel in film (that’s not the reason I’m doing this, but it’s a nice little bit of kismet).

So far – and knowing me, I’ll keep searching – I’ve compiled a list of over 180 movies, that I’ll be using to watch my way to time travel expertise.* And because I’m nice like that, I’ll share conveniently organized movie lists with all of you, both for your viewing pleasure, and to aid you should you choose to devise a time hopping exit strategy of your very own.

I do hope you’ll join me on my cinematic time travel odyssey, beginning next week with a movie list all about resetting time loops.

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*Full disclosure: I won’t watch or rewatch every film on the list. Even taking a mastery of time itself into effect, life’s way too short to spend 96 minutes watching the 2002 adaption of The Time Machine.

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the first ‘shadow and bone’ trailer exceeded ALL of my expectations!

Wowowowowowowowowowow!

I’ve never been particularly quiet about my love for Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels. As infrequently as I post here, I’ve still managed to rave repeatedly about these books – most notably here. I have no shame when it comes to bragging that I’ve been a part of this fandom from the very beginning, bringing others into the fold when I can.

Yet, in spite of, or perhaps because of, my love for the books, I really wasn’t holding out much hope for the upcoming Netflix adaptation. I was worried it would follow other YA novel adaptations into the CW-esque cheesy teen melodrama territory, the variety where editing, slow motion segments, and musical cues are used to compensate for absolutely horrid writing and acting. Too often, especially when it comes to fantasy and sci-fi, adaptations are nothing more than a shitty show cosplaying as superior storytelling.

But I tell ya what, this first look at Shadow and Bone is fucking dooooooooooope!

I told you in the final weeks leading up to the first season of Game of Thrones (although I never, ever imagined just how obsessed the world would become with that show), and I’m telling you now: if this trailer is a true indication of this adaptation‘s quality, prepare to meet pop culture’s next big obsession. We’re talking memes and gifs and shipping and crushing and cosplaying and character fan clubs and gasp-inducing episode endings and widespread agonizing while we wait for season two! [Oh, and if the Game of Thrones comparison scares you, because we got burned so badly, the endings of these stories are already written. No inherent risk of your favorite show go through a nightmarish death spiral before your very eyes.]

For realz, tho. The Grisha scenes were *chef’s kiss*, and getting to see the Crows in action warmed my little nerd heart. Also, I’m pretty sure this means the portion of the series set in Ketterdam will all be prequel to the Six of Crows duology, which means entirely new heists-cons-thieving-etc. from Kaz, Inej, and Jesper!! Fuck yes! [Update: turns out, this is absolutely true!!!]

As I’ve had time to reflect – aka, pace with antsy and impatient expectation since this show doesn’t come out until late April – the takeaway from this trailer that encourages me most were the many brief flashes of scenes that will make fans swoon. Not over-the-top fan service, but nods that let those already initiated know, “Hey, we get what you love about these stories and characters. We’ve got this.”

My only complaint is that it wouldn’t have killed them to release the show two weeks earlier for my birthday.

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‘tampopo’ is an absolutely delicious movie.

Have you ever been in the middle of watching a movie and realized you’re watching one of your new favorite films? The credits haven’t even rolled yet, but you know – like really, really know – that you’re watching an all-timer. It only happens to me once in a very great while, and there are only a small handful of experiences in life that bring me as much joy

I’m delighted to say that magic struck again for me last week as I watched Tampopo for the first time, and instantly fell in love.

The movie is an ode to food that weaves isolated vignettes around the core story of Tampopo and her sad little ramen shop. It had me from the very first scene and never let me go.

The various vignettes mine comedy from the modern human relationship to food, with all the beauty, community, absurdity, artistry, and sensuality it brings to our lives – often with a focus on the more food obsessed among us. From the recurring scenes of an epicure gangster and his lover, to the band of homeless men who are actually gastronomic geniuses, nearly every minute strikes gold.

Then, the central narrative is like Seven Samurai, but instead of a ragtag group of ronin, it’s a ragtag group of amateur food lovers; and instead of helping poor farmers fight off bandits, they’re trying to help a woman create an amazing ramen shop; and instead of a sweeping action epic, it’s a hilarious comedy.

There’s sex, death, crime, family drama, joy, jabs at sociocultural roles and assumptions, and lots of glorious silliness. Also, as I discovered when I looked up the cast after the fact, Ken Watanabe was in the movie the whole fucking time!

You should watch Tampopo. Or we should watch Tampopo together virtually. Or after quarantine we can all watch Tampopo in the same room. Or, better yet, all of the above, in whatever order suits you. What I’m saying is, please watch Tampopo.

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five things i loved in january.

Somecrazyhow, it’s already February, and we’re nearing the 11 month mark of being trapped in our homes!! That’s quite a bit of time we’ve all had to watch, binge, read, and play all of the things.

We can finally say that the end is in sight, like, for really real, but even as the vaccine rolls out, getting back to some semblance of normal is still a long way off. So, I guess you’re still going to need some quality titles to keep you sane and keep you company, and it’s been a while since I shared any sweet, sweet RtM recommendations.

Well, good news – for all three of you reading this – the wait is over! For your consideration, here are five things I loved in January to help you fill the hours you’ll still be trapped at home for the next few months – not new releases, but things I enjoyed for the first time.

Watch! Read! Enjoy! Or don’t. You know, do your thing or whatever.

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The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

In case you haven’t heard yet, N.K. Jemisin is pretty incredible. And you don’t have to take my word for it, as she is easily the most celebrated and decorated speculative fiction writer of the last decade.

If you’ve already read her work, you know it’s powerful, fresh, socially resonant, and constantly surprising. If you haven’t, it’s time to start.

In short, The City We Became is the story of six people who become the personifications of New York City – the five boroughs, as well as the City as a whole – in order to fight an ancient evil hellbent on destroying NYC, followed by our entire dimension. As is the case with all of her work, I’ve never read anything like it before, and I can’t wait for the next installment in the series.

The book is an expansion of one of my favorite short stories from her award-winning collection, How Long ‘Til Black History Month, which is another great place to start if you’re a neophyte. It’s a great way to get a sampling of some of the remarkable places her imagination takes us, and it, too, is an award winner. Then again, it’s a bit redundant to call an N.K. Jemisin book ‘award-winning,’ because they all bring home hardware.

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The Last Dance

And speaking of bringing home hardware, I finally got around to watching this docuseries that so many – even some non-sports fans – freaked out about last year. With all that hype, it still exceeded my expectations. I threw on an episode late one night, and it took a concerted effort to resist bingeing the entire thing well into the morning.

Jordan’s golden years covered my pre-teen through mid-teen years, and revisiting how special that era was for sports fans brought me more joy than I’d expected. As a Knicks fan, Jordan was the bane of my existence, costing the Knicks multiple NBA Finals appearances. Still, I’ve always known I was blessed to be witness. For a time, Jordan ran the world, becoming a global phenomenon no other athlete ever has, before or since.

The be honest, I’d come to take for granted that the real reason I think Jordan is the best ever is purely the generational. He was the icon of my young life, so, obviously I’ll be partial to him, right? Watching The Last Dance showed me that my opinion has nothing to do with a mind’s-eye blurred by nostalgia. Jordan was every bit the god I remember him being.

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Apollo 11

Another critically acclaimed, universally adored documentary I finally got around to, Apollo 11 takes viewers through the days surrounding the first moon landing, but using only video and audio from the event – no commentary, no talking heads, no narrative tom-foolery for effect. The result is a beautifully crafted, immersive look at one of the most remarkable moments in human history.

If you think there is no way that a collection of newsreel footage and glorified home movies and audio edited together into a seamless whole could be absolutely captivating entertainment, Apollo 11 is ready to prove you wrong.

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The Vanishing

This celebrated 1988 Dutch film takes viewers on a dark journey. The story centers on a man’s obsessive attempts to discover what happened to his girlfriend, who went missing when they were on holiday three years earlier. The story not only follows the obsessed Rex, a man now incapable of healthy relationships or living a normal life, but also the unlikely killer and his voyeuristic curiosity about Rex’s unyielding need to solve the mystery. It’s a beautifully crafted piece of cinema, with a haunting ending you won’t forget any time soon. Or ever.

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Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I love some good Gothic horror, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s newest novel is exactly that. The story follows protagonist Noemí Taboada as she investigates the seemingly deranged and desperate letters received from her cousin, which plead that her life is in danger and that voices speak to her from the walls. Noemí must travel to the once glorious mansion where her cousin lives with the mysterious and reclusive family she’s married into.

Ghosts? Gaslighting? Supernatural evil? Vengeful houses? The eternal residue of tragic romance? It’s Gothic horror, so it could be any or all of the above (it’s not all of the above).

Mexican Gothic is a dark, twisted story full of mystery, creepy atmosphere, ancestral curses, and (possibly) otherworldly peril… sooo, Gothic horror.

Also, when looking for an image I came across Kelly McMorris’s fan art for the book, which I quite liked!

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cinefix’s favorite movies of 2020.

Cinefix is one of my very favorite YouTube channels. If you love movies and haven’t watched any of their videos, you should start today. From their series sharing Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know about various films, to their What’s The Difference videos, which explore the differences between books and their movie adaptations, the content is consistently a cut above the other film-centric channels I’ve found. [If you know of any other great YoutTube movie channels, let me know!]

For my money, of all their lists, nothing beats the Top [Insert Category Here] of All Time lists, where they insightfully heap praise on all their favorite films, scenes, lines, moments, and filmmakers throughout history. The team of writers, whoever they may be, are clearly really smart, adore film, and have a great affinity for coming up with creative ways to organize lists of great movies.

They eschew both pretension and pandering, so they have no problem featuring Tarkovsky and Die Hard on the same list. And while the writers have certainly earned a significant degree of authority in regard to film, they are totally cognizant of the subjectiveness of our experience with film, or any sort of art for that matter. They obviously stand by their lists, but never pretend they are definitive, objective conclusions, closing the conversation for all time. It’s a depressingly uncommon tack to take, especially on a medium like YouTube, where the shitty commenters are legendary, and channels like CinemaSins exist, *gulp* sorry, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

It should come as no surprise that I always look forward to their Top Movies of the Year lists, where they not only praise their official favorite films, but mention a bunch of other worthwhile titles along the way. Like any other year, their 2020 list showed me movies I’d never heard of before, like The Collective, Last and First Men, and The Platform; shamed me by pointing out some films still unforgivingly on my to-watch list, like The Sound of Metal and the Small Axe anthology; and surprised me with praise for films I thought were terrible, like The Old Guard. And if I’m being honest, what I really love is when they pick a bunch of my favorite movies from the year for their list, especially when they are movies that are popular films that don’t get enough credit, like Extraction, or great films that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve, like The Vast of Night.

Long story short, aka tl;dr, Cinefix’s lists are great, and you should watch this one.

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my year in shows, 2020.

Due to the love for film and books that beats in my breast like an eternal flame, I’ll never get to all the shows everyone else watches. A superpower enabling me to freeze time, or perform the limited sort of time travel from About Time, still eludes me, and with it, the freedom to watch and read and listen to and play all of the things. And so, everything that isn’t a movie or a book is relegated to the fringes of my free time.

So this year, like every year, I was a far cry from keeping up with everyone else’s TV habits. Fortunately, the quality of what I watched more than compensated for the lack of breadth. From catching newly premiered shows to catching up on fare that I’ve taken far too long to get around to, my joys far outweighed the disappointments.

Below are all the seasons and limited series I sat down and watched start to finish last year, chronologically as to when I finished them. And of course, these were all in addition to the regular stream of rewatches and whatnot of 30 Rock, Bob’s Burgers, Sunny, Archer, Arrested Development, Seinfeld, Community, and Parks and Rec.

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The Good PlaceSeasons Three & Four – We start with The Good Place, which, as if 2020 wasn’t heartbreaking enough already, joined Schitt’s Creek and Steven Universe in ending this year (granted, Steven Universe was ending for the second time). It was so hard to say goodbye, but bittersweet, in that all three ended so beautifully.

I’m not sure The Good Place gets enough credit for how ambitious it was. *Spoilers* They got an audience to keep caring about characters, while literally resetting them and their progress repeatedly. They took a deep dive into ethics and philosophy, all while remaining silly, playful, and light on their feet. And most ambitious of all, they found a way to stick a landing that should have been impossible to stick. As an atheist with a Master’s in Divinity, let’s just say that I would have had some internal reactions if they went off the rails in the later episodes, but they fucking nailed it. They easily could have snuck a shallow or disjointed conclusion onto the end of the show. Instead, they created a final season that was poignant, moving, and retroactively made a great show even better.

The Chef Show – Season One, Vol. Three – Season Two, Vol. One – I already went on and on about my love for this one. With its unending curiosity, art, and joy – all rooted in the delightful rapport between Favs and Choi – it was exactly the sort of thing I needed this year.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Season Fourteen – How on earth have Bob’s Burgers and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia not run out of steam after ten and fourteen seasons respectively?! By all rights, they should have jumped the shark ages ago, and yet both shows still produce great episodes, even as they’ve weathered inevitable shifts in the writers’ room and directorial staff over the years, as talented creators move on to other projects.

Tiger King – Remember nine million years ago, when Tiger King was all anyone talked about?

The Outsider – At its best, it’s really, really good. Even in its uneven bits, I didn’t dislike the second half the way some people seemed to.

Schitt’s CreekSeason Six – As sad as it was to say goodbye to the Rose family for the last time, it was so very satisfying to see the well-deserved acclaim, awards, and unadulterated praise the show has finally received. Before watching it, I assumed it was a cheap ripoff of Arrested Development. In reality, the world was gifted with a brilliant, important, resonant, hilarious show that would make me cry happy tears repeatedly over its six year run. Dan Levy 4 Eva!

Sex EducationSeasons One & Two – Even with a relatively large cast of characters, I fell in love with every single one of them. That meant a great deal in a year where the real life people I love weren’t allowed in my living room. This show is an absolute delight, and can’t wait for season three! And that soundtrack, tho!!

Silicon ValleySeason Six – Remember how good this show was in early seasons? Aside from that, I have no comment.

Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet – Season One – A solid, enjoyable show overall, but the real gift was the absolutely beautiful virtual Covid episode that offered viewers a remarkable degree of empathy, kindness, and care in a really dark moment for all of us.

Bob’s Burgers – Season Ten – Like I said about It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, this show has no business continuing to be so good. If anything, the show gets better as it ages. And this year we get a Bob’s Burgers movie!

Cowboy Bebop – Super curious to see how the live action Netflix show featuring the egregiously underutilized talent (and handsomeness) of John Cho turns out.

Rick and Morty – Season Four – While it’s often shadowed by one of the most toxic fanbases out there, I love this fucking show.

What We Do in the Shadows – Season Two – I was so hesitant to start this show back in 2019. I’m always wary of adaptations – especially the movie to TV variety – and I love the movie so, so, so, so, so, so much, the idea of it being spoiled was almost too much to take. But I needn’t have worried, What We Do in the Shadows is hilarious. And season two is even better than season one!

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Devs – From what I can tell, too many of you are sleeping on this show. It’s a tense, dark, relatively slow burn tech-sci-fi-mystery-thriller-reality bending show created, written and directed by Alex Garland [the guy who wrote and directed Ex Machina and the adaptation of Annihilation, and who wrote 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and the adaption of Never Let Me Go]. You should watch it.

Steven Universe [Complete] & Steven Universe: Future – My most important pop culture development of 2020 was finally getting around to watching Steven Universe. Of all the things getting me through this nightmare, this show has played the biggest role. I’ve already written about my new obsession here.

Fleabag – This show absolutely blew me away, even for all of its adoring fanfare and exaltation, it still exceeded my expectations. Thank Glob for the rise of Phoebe Waller-Bridge!! I can’t wait to see all the things she does next.

Perry Mason – Season One – A solid first season, anchored by consistently great performances by the entire cast. I hope there’s a second season, because the show was clearly an origin story.

Harley Quinn – Seasons One & Two – While I’m pretty sure most of you are sleeping on Devs, I KNOW most of you are sleeping on Harley Quinn. Without my friend Josué, I’d still be sleeping on it, too. If you at all enjoy irreverent, R-rated cartoons, you need to watch this show.

Central Park – Season One – Created as it was by Loren Bouchard, I went in thinking it was going to be an occasional musical like Bob’s Burgers. So I was surprised to find that it was actually just a full-on musical. And a pretty damned good one at that!

Brooklyn 99 – Seasons One – Three – This was certainly a weird year to re-watch the early seasons of a show about cops. I’m really curious to see what the show-makers do next, as the cast and writers have all been transparent about how seriously they are taking this moment, and the growing awareness by the general public of how remarkably problematic and toxic policing is in this country.

The Haunting of Bly Manor – The first season is still first in my heart, but this was a solid chapter for this burgeoning anthology series. I’m going to be honest and say I hated the epilogue of sorts, and the narrative framing, centered in “present-day” scenes that seem like they were produced for an entirely different, entirely inferior show. Even with that being the case, I still really enjoyed the time I spent in Bly Manor.

Last Week Tonight – Season Seven – God bless John Oliver, and the entire Last Week Tonight team. Who could’ve guessed that a comedy news show would quickly become the most deeply and meticulously researched show on television? From rat erotica to the transcendent conclusion of the running Adam Driver joke, the show brought all the humor and entertainment one would hope for. But there were also a number of surprisingly poignant, human moments, making the show another bright spot in a dark year. All whilst being thoughtful, sharp, and informative. And they topped the whole thing off with a truly cathartic explosion.

Archer – Season Eleven – Even in the more uneven state it finds itself in at this point, I still love Archer.  

Lovecraft Country – Speaking of uneven Lovecraft Country. It certainly had its brilliant moments – even whole episodes – but overall I was disappointed. The big surprise is that the truly great, timely antiracist HBO show is actually Watchmen.

The Mandalorian – Season Two – I really liked first season of Mando. I loooooooved season two. To be honest, after The Last Jedi I was pretty fatigued on Star Wars, but The Mandalorian pulled me back in. As a guy who is all in on the western and samurai DNA of the show, this season was a genre-worshipping wet dream. I sure hope Favs doesn’t expect us to survive with more Grogu, though. This is a Grogu world now. We can never allow ourselves to return to a non-Grogu one.  

Adventure Time: Distant Lands – “BMO” and “Obsidian”Adventure Time has returned with what will eventually be four hour long specials, each focusing on different characters from the show. So far, we’ve gotten a BMO episode, along with a Princess Bubblegum and Marceline episode. They are both so, so good. If this is the quality we get when they drop a few new stories here and there for the rest of time, I am definitely here for it.

Lots and lots of Seth Meyers – Similarly to Last Week Tonight, watching someone pick apart the absurd, stupid, evil, gaslighting reality of this administration, and the state of the country, played a huge role in helping me preserve at least some small vestige of my sanity.

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my year in movies, 2020.

A new year is officially underway, which means it’s time for my annual tradition of sharing every movie I watched the previous year. You know, the list which absolutely no one asked for, but that keeps on coming back just the same. [I did miss 2018 somehow. I’m still not sure how that happened.]

This year was, quite predictably, unprecedented as far as my movie-watching habits went. I watched 221 movies this year! Mostly because once quarantine began, depression and anxiety became my only daily obligations, resulting in 2020 being my biggest movie-watching year since I started keeping track back in 2008. [If you’re curious, the tally for previous years is: 150 in 2008 – 200 in 2009 – 200 in 2010 – 203 in 2011 – 200 in 2012 – 167 in 2013 – 105 in 2014 – 125 in 2015 – 125 in 2016 – 144 in 2017 – 104 in 2018 – 126 in 2019]  

I love publishing these lists, so I hope someone out there likes ‘em. And if any other nerds out there kept track of the movies they watched last (or any) year, I’d love to see the list! I genuinely like this sort of thing, whether it’s my list or anyone else’s.

Anyway, here you go, every movie I watched in 2020.

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The key is mostly the same as always:
(#) Movie I saw in the theater.
[#] Movie I saw for the first time.
E# – Movies I watched with Emily.
Favorites — Underlined titles are then ones that have stood up, after repeated viewings, and still keep me coming back for more. They’re the ones I’ve seen before, and will certainly watch again.
**Best new (to me) movies — Titles with an asterisk are the films I loved the most out of those I’d never seen before.

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January 

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**1. Her Smell [1]

2. Brittany Runs a Marathon [2] E1

**3. Maiden [3] E2 

4. Missing Link [4] 

**5. I Lost My Body [5] 

6. Long Day’s Journey Into Night [6] 

7. Good Boys [7] 

8. Ash is Purest White [8] 

9. Alita: Battle Angel [9] E3 

10. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – E4 

11. Paddington 2 

12. The Adventures of Tintin

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February 

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13. The Gentlemen [10] (1) E5 

14. Beginners 

15. Inside Llewyn Davis – E6

16. Win Win

17. The Other Guys

18. Birds of Prey [11] (2) E7

19. Shame

20. The One I Love 

21. Bad Boys for Life [12] (3) 

22. Safety Not Guaranteed 

23. About Time 

24. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

25. My Own Private Idaho [13] 

26. Blinded by the Light [14] E8

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March 

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**27. Ford v Ferrari [15] E9 

**28. Midsommar [16] 

29. Fast Times at Ridgemont High [17] 

**30. The Invisible Man [18] (4) 

31. Onward [19] (5) E10  

32. Color Out of Space [20] 

33. Mission: Impossible – E11 

34. Frozen II [21] E12 

35. Sleuth (1972) [22] 

36. Yesterday [23]  

37. The Avengers – E13 

38. On the Town [24] E14

39. The Sandlot – E15 

40. The Battered Bastards of Baseball – E16 

**41. Pain and Glory [25] 

42. No No: A Dockumentary – E17 

43. 61* – E18 

44. Knives Out – E19 

45. The Battery [26] 

46. The Natural – E20 

47. Everybody Wants Some!! – E21 

48. Damn Yankees [27]  

49. The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings [28]  

50. The Pride of the Yankees [29]  

51. For the Love of the Game [30] E22 

52. Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story [31] 

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April

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53. Bull Durham – E23 

54. Pelotero [32] 

55. Sugar – E24 

56. Brothers in Exile [33] 

57. Fear Strikes Out [34]  

58. Moneyball – E25 

59. Field of Dreams – E26 

60. A League of Their Own – E27 

61. Iron Man 3 – E28 

62. Take Me Out to the Ballgame [35] E29

63. Off the Black [36] 

64. Cobb [37] 

65. Thor: The Dark World – E30 

66. The Stratton Story [38] 

67. The Phenom – E31 

68. The Bad News Bears 

69. Major League – E32 

70. Eight Men Out – E33 

**71. I Will Buy You [39] 

72. Bang the Drum Slowly [40] E34 

73. Love Wedding Repeat [41] E35

74. Captain America: Winter Soldier – E36 

75. Holy Motors [42]  

76. Guardians of the Galaxy – E37 

77. Avengers: Age of Ultron – E38 

78. Zombieland: Double Tap [43] 

**79. Kagemusha [44] 

**80. Police Story [45] 

81. Rocketman [46] E39 

82. Minority Report 

83. Ant-Man – E40 

84. His Girl Friday – E41 

85. Diamantino [47]

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May

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86. Captain America: Civil War – E42 

87. Doctor Strange – E43 

88. Drugstore Cowboy [48]

**89. Sex, Lies, and Videotape [49] 

90. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – E44

91. Seven Samurai – E45 

92. Spider-Man: Homecoming – E46 

**93. Sword of Doom [50]  

94. Peanut Butter Falcon [51] E47 

**95. The Handmaiden [52]

96. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – E48

97. The Night Comes For Us [53] 

98. Thor: Ragnarok – E49 

**99. Transit [54] 

100. McCabe and Mrs. Miller [55] 

101. Black Panther – E50 

102. Under the Skin [56] 

**103. Extraction [57] E51 

104. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood [58] E52 

105. Y Tu Mama, Tambien [59] 

106. 3:10 to Yuma (1957)[60] 

107. Avengers: Infinity War – E53 

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June

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**108. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown [61]

**109. Queen & Slim [62] 

**110. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans [63] 

**111. Blindspotting [64] 

**112. Emma. [65] 

113. Local Hero [66] 

**114. Vast of Night [67] 

115. Malcolm X [68] 

116. She’s Gotta Have It [69] 

117. Foxy Brown [70] 

118. The Favourite [71] 

119. The Royal Tenenbaums [Commentary: Wes Anderson] 

120. Doctor Sleep [72] 

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July

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**121. Hamilton [73] E54

122. Plus One  [74] E55 

**123. Beauty and the Beast (1946) [75]  

124. Abominable [76] E56 

125. House of Flying Daggers [77] 

**126. Palm Springs [78] E57 

127. I Am Not Your Negro – E58 

**128. Steven Universe: The Movie [79]  

129. Avengers: Endgame – E59 

130. Soylent Green [80] 

131. Cold Case Hammarskjöld [81] 

**132. Thunder Road [82] 

**133. All About My Mother [83] 

134. Aniara [84] 

135. Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am [85] E60 

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August

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136. One Cut of the Dead [86] 

137. The Souvenir [87] 

138. Extra Ordinary [88] 

**139. Da 5 Bloods [89] E61 

140. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof [90] 

**141. Blindspotting – E62 

**142. Volver [91] 

143. Short Cuts [92] 

**144. Kwaidan [93] 

145. Guns Akimbo [94] 

146. Class Action Park [95] E63  

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September 

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147. Get Duked [96]  

148. First Love [97] 

149. The Old Guard [98] E64 

**150. Three Colors: Red [99] 

151. Climax [100] 

152. MFKZ [101] 

153. Happy Death Day [102] 

154. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 

**155. Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé [103] E65

156. Point Break – E66

157. Prospect [104] 

158. 13th [105] E67 

159. The Lure [106] 

160. Tigers Are Not Afraid [107] 

161. WolfCop [108] 

162. Get Out – E67 

**163. The Skin I Live In [109] 

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October

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164. They Live [110] 

165. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer [111] 

166. Grave Encounters [112] 

167. Under the Shadow [113] 

168. Nightbreed [114]  

169. Night of the Living Dead – E68 

170. Straw Dogs [115] 

171. Shaun of the Dead 

172. 1408 [116] 

173. The Howling [117] 

174. [REC] 

175. ParaNorman – E69 

176. Return of the Living Dead [118] 

177. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit – E70 

178. Vampires vs. The Bronx [119] 

179. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon [120] 

180. Save Yourselves! [121] E71 

181. The Hunger [122] 

182. Lake Mungo [123] 

**183. Audition [124] 

184. Juan of the Dead [125] 

185. Cabin in the Woods – E72 

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November

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186. Enola Holmes [126] E73 

187. Tale of Tales [127] 

188. Molly’s Game [128] 

189. The Lovebirds [129] E74 

**190. Uncut Gems [130] 

**191. All In: The Fight For Democracy [131] E75

192. Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) [132] 

193. Three Identical Strangers [133] E76 

194. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

195. The Endless [134] 

196. The Happiest Season [135] E77 

197. Home Alone – E78 

**198. Black Christmas [136] 

199. Knives Out – E79 

200. Better Watch Out [137] 

201. Elf – E80 

**202. Matador [138] 

203. Tenet [139] E81 

204. Manhunter [140] 

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December 

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**205. Uncorked [141] E82 

206. Krampus [142] 

207. Bad Education (2020) [143] E83 

208. The Brothers Bloom 

209. The Nightmare Before Christmas – E84 

210. The Night Before [144] E85 

211. Rare Exports 

212. A Muppet Christmas Carol – E86

**213. Christmas Evil (You Better Watch Out) [145] 

214. A Christmas Horror Story [146] 

**215. The Wolf of Snow Hollow [147] 

216. A Christmas Story – E87 

217. Get Santa [148] E88 

**218. Klaus [149] E89 

219. Wonder Woman 1984 [150] E90 

**220. Soul [151] E91 

221. Miss Bala [152] 

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‘raya the last dragon’ gets its first real trailer!

For nearly a decade, Disney Animation Studios had completely lost its mojo. The once groundbreaking, trendsetting, undisputed champion of animation had become a factory for bland, uninspiring films that elicited a collective ‘meh’ from the general public. Granted, they were distributing Pixar’s, but as far as in-house creativity, the well seemed dry.

Then, beginning in 2009 with The Frog Prince, they’ve gone 11 years with an impressive track record, proving there’s still magic in the mouse house. It’s obviously too early to tell, but Raya and the Last Dragon looks like it may be another solid offering.

And with a supporting role in the film, it will continue Awkwafina’s complete takeover of Hollywood.

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