The Lists

The Top Films You Need to see this May

films you need to see this may

What movies are the best to see this May? Every month, our correspondent Abbie Martin Greenbaum shares her insights and tips on all things cinematic. From film festivals to must-see new releases – and of course, the awards season – she’ll be our expert guide to the silver screen. In this dispatch, Greenbaum shares her list of the top films you need to see this May. These are the movies people will talking about this month.

may can be a blockbuster month in film

Summer is only a month away. And that means the cinemas are already jam-packed with excellent films of every variety, from all over the world. Some are global block-busters, like Avengers’ Endgame, which is breaking every record at the box office. Others are cool indies. The Tribeca Film Festival has just wrapped up, and Cannes begins on May 14, 2019. There’s a lot happening. However, with lots of choices comes one big dilemma: what films do you really need to see this May?

family fare

Well, if you have little ones, you can take the kids to see Detective Pikachu.  It’s the first live-action film based on the massively popular Pokémon game. Ryan Reynolds stars as the voice of Pikachu, an unusually intelligent and perceptive Pokémon creature.

Later this month, there’s also the family-friendly Disney’s Aladdin, starring Will Smith as the Genie.

studio releases

There’s lots of buzz around a new biopic. After starring alongside Sir Elton John in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Taron Egerton is playing the Crocodile Rock singer in Rocketman.

top films you need to see this May

Taron Egerton as Elton John in the film Rocketman. Courtesy Photo.

Horror fans might want to check out Brightburn, a superhero horror film starring Elizabeth Banks from producer James Dunn.

the top films you need to see this May

If that list doesn’t fully satisfy you, here are some films that are just slightly below-the-radar that we think should be on the list of films you need to see this May.

1. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Making a film about a well-known serial killer presents an interesting challenge. If everyone already knows the ending to your story, how do you make a movie that resonates, alarms and allows its audience to invest in its outcome? In Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, director Joe Berlinger’s take on the life and crimes of Ted Bundy. And he succeeds at doing all three, as well as showing how monstrous Bundy really was.

Bundy’s long-term girlfriend Liz (played by Lily Collins) provides an effective lens for the audience. It’s because of her original mis-perception of Bundy that his eventual unmasking is so effective. Similarly, Zac Efron’s natural charisma allows his performance as Bundy to disturb us more deeply. He is undeniably frightening in the role, and the unexpected turn from the actor is enough to elicit gasps from the audience.

fims you need to see this May

Zac Efron in Extremely Wicked Shockingly Evil and Vile. Courtesy Photo.

2. Knock down the House

This year’s Audience Award winner at the Sundance Film Festival was Knock Down the House, a documentary about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s rise in politics. Since it was filmed before anyone knew what a phenomenon she would become, the fact that this film exists at all feels very special.

Director Rachel Lears focuses not only on Cortez, but on several candidates who ran in the same election  – all of them women, and all of them ordinary citizens who dreamed of helping their communities. Lears covers these campaigns from beginning to end. Watching as the various candidates work, struggle and hope to make the world a better place is an incredibly moving experience.  Since it’s a documentary, it’s not a spoiler to say that not all of the endings are happy ones. Not every candidate manages to win in their district. However, Cortez’s triumph is electric on screen, and the film is worth watching for the way it captures this specific moment in time.

film you need to see this May

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is one of the candidates in the documentary film Knock Down the House. Photo Courtesy.

3. The Souvenir

On paper, The Souvenir sounds like a typical coming of age film: a young aspiring filmmaker, Julie (played by Honor Swinton Byrne), struggles to survive a tumultuous relationship with the complicated Anthony (played by Tom Burke). But despite the description, nothing about the film feels remotely familiar.

Joanna Hogg is a masterful director, and somehow paints a relationship that feels both more and less authentic than your average couple in cinema. The world of The Souvenir is our world, and yet it feels like a totally unique universe, with its own tone, rules and with characters who could not exist in any other story. It is the kind of movie that will stick with you long after you see it. Julie’s relationship with her mother (played by the actress’s real life mother, Tilda Swinton) offers a very real emotional center to the film, rounding it out so there is not one piece missing.

what to see in May

Honor Swinton Byrne and Tom Burke in The Souvenir. Courtesy Photo.

4. Rafiki

Wanuri Kahiu directs a perfect modern-day Romeo and Juliet. The Kenyan love story Rafiki centers on two girls, Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) whose fathers are political rivals. In a community where everyone is watching them, the two young women first become friends and then quickly fall in love, only to have their secret relationship discovered.

The consequences of the homophobia they face are brutal. Mugatsia and Munyiva deliver aching performances as two young people who are only trying to find happiness. The film manages to beautifully walk a difficult line between a lively, sweet coming of age story – bright colors, fun music – and an authentic portrait of discrimination and violence. The film first premiered at Cannes in 2018, and has now been released to a wider audience.

films you need to see this May

Sheila Munyiva and Samantha Mugatsia, stars of Rafiki, at the Cannes Film Festival 2018. Photo Credit: Reuters Africa.

5. Little Woods

Written and directed by Nia DaCosta, Little Woods is about two sisters living on the border between North Dakota and Canada. It’s a bleak but satisfying picture about desperate times. Ollie (played by Tessa Thompson) and Deb (played by Lily James) are each struggling with problems well beyond their control. Ollie is finishing parole for a series of drug charges. And Deb, essentially a single mother, is pregnant with her second child.

Though it is a story about family bonds, DaCosta manages to eschew any sentimentality, or the warm fuzziness (or mawkishness) one might expect from such a film. Instead, there are grounded and raw portrayals from both Thompson and James, who manage to evoke a place in time that feels utterly specific and full of hardship.

Films you need to see this May

Tessa Thompson and Lily James in Little Woods. Photo Credit: Rolling Stone

6. Hail Satan?

Forget everything you thought you knew about The Satanic Temple. At first, the topic of Penny Lane’s new documentary Hail Satan? may seem like a surprising choice. But the film manages to be self aware, educational and also a genuine joy to watch.

It takes pains to paint the group as a political movement rather than a religious one, and examines the question its core members often ask themselves: where is the line between church and state in America? The movie is several steps ahead of the viewer at all times, and plays knowingly with some of the preconceptions, wrong or right, its audience may have. In this way, Lane allows the film to be funny and open to its audience, as well as ultimately building empathy and teaching its viewers something new.

Photo Courtesy: Magnolia Pictures

7. Photograph

Ritesh Batra’s film Photograph is a romantic comedy that is not overly romantic or comedic. But it is a lovely, worthwhile treat throughout. Its premise is that of the perfect classic film: a photographer named Rafi (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) takes a picture of a perfect stranger, Miloni (played by Sanya Malhotra). Then, through a series of amusing events, he ends up convincing his grandmother that he and Miloni are in a relationship.

Of course, she agrees to go along with the lie, and the rest of the film goes from there. Batra does a beautiful job of playing down any stereotypical tropes, and the film is better for it. In places where the film could have been full of slapstick and miscommunication, it takes a quieter approach. The result is a truly original meet-cute and a wonderful cinematic experience.

Films you need to see this May

Photograph. Courtesy Photo.

Those are our recommendations for the top films you need to see this May. Have a great month!

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Abbie Martin Greenbaum grew up in New York City and currently lives in Brooklyn, where she drinks a lot of coffee and matches roommates together for a living. At Oberlin College, she studied English and Cinema, which are still two of her favorite things, along with dessert and musical theater. She believes in magic.

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