We’re thrilled to launch a new feature on The Film Stage highlighting our top recommendations for films currently in theaters, from new releases to restorations receiving a proper theatrical run. While we already provide extensive monthly new-release recommendations and weekly streaming recommendations, as distributors’ roll-outs can vary, we thought it would be helpful to provide a one-stop list to share the essential films that may be on a screen near you. We’ll be updating this page weekly, so be sure to bookmark.

About Dry Grasses (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

Nuri Bilge Ceylan made a triumphant return to Cannes last year with About Dry Grasses, for which Merve Dizdar won Best Actress at Cannes, and now Turkey’s Oscar entry arrives this month. In his review, Leonardo Goi said, “The pastures in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s luminous new film are only dry at the very end. Save for that brief summery coda, the landscape in About Dry Grasses remains a snowcapped immensity where prairies are ringed by belittling peaks, people stand out as calligraphic silhouettes, and snow falls so heavy as to blot out everything. It’s as if it fell ‘to make oblivion possible,’ observes art teacher Samet (Deniz Celiloglu), and in a film populated with wanderers trying to start anew, those words echo like a prayer. Geographically and thematically close to the rest of Ceylan’s oeuvre, the film finds him working once again in a remote corner of Eastern Anatolia and revisiting leitmotifs in his preferred mode: long, talky symposiums that pit characters against each other in games of verbal fencing. But none of it feels like a retreading. If anything, About Dry Grasses is both a distillation of Ceylan’s recurrent tropes and a purification of his style, a film made of conversations that remain explosive even at their most forbidding, shivering with a sense of fluid emotions constantly at play.”

The Beast (Bertrand Bonello)

Where to begin with Bertrand Bonello’s wonderful The Beast? It’s been so gratifying to see the initial reaction to the French filmmaker’s tenth feature, after several decades of increasingly remarkable work––the majority of it dark, beautiful, and sleazy. In fact, for what a discomforting and despairing experience much of The Beast is, when I’ve thought back its moments of real, uncomplicated cinematic pleasure, its verve and sense of joyousness, are what mark my memories. It’s romantic, without a capital-R. – David K. (full review)

La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher)

While Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny perhaps garnered more press out of Cannes, another selection involving archaeologists and tomb raiders will have a longer shelf life. Alice Rohrwacher’s latest feature La Chimera (starring Josh O’Connor, Isabella Rossellini, and Alba Rohrwacher) ranked quite highly on our top 50 films of 2023 list for good reason. It’s a dreamy, magical odyssey in which the Italian director whisks viewers away with the kind of transportive vision she’s exuded in all her features thus far.

Civil War (Alex Garland)

While bound to spark hundreds of think pieces, Alex Garland’s stirring Civil War will undoubtedly go down, too, as one of the most provocative films of the year. It’s also an early contender for one of the best, offering a stunning warning: no matter what the cause, war is hell. Civil War is less interested in the causes of conflict and more about front lines as the Western Forces march towards the White House through the East Coast, turning small towns into battlefields. – John F. (full review)

Club Zero (Jessica Hausner)

Across her five previous features, Austrian director Jessica Hausner (Amour Fou, Lourdes, Little Joe) has developed a distinctly unique tone––one which carries through her sixth outing Club Zero. Led by Mia Wasikowska, the dark satire follows a nutrition teacher at an elite school whose relationship with five students takes a dangerous turn. While Hausner is perhaps intentionally poking the bear as it relates to eating disorders, one could swap out the subject of her new film to another topic du jour and still retain a cogent, one-of-a-kind look at cult mentality. Read my interview for more. – Jordan R.

Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World (Radu Jude)

Long before the formal somersaulting of his 2021 Berlinale winner Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, the Romanian director’s films have hopscotched across genres and tones, weaving together the vernaculars of essay films, documentaries, and archives into projects that unfurl like mosaics. Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World follows in their footsteps. A collage perched between road movie and black comedy, Jude’s latest is another effervescent study of life in the 21st century, a work that’s engineered to both sponge something of our screens-infested zeitgeist and interrogate its textures. Few filmmakers are so reliably able to conjure snapshots of modern capitalism and its neuroses; fewer still can douse those documents with so much playfulness and wonder as Jude. – Leonardo G. (full review)

Free Time (Ryan Martin Brown)

Few films capture the trials and tribulations of twenty-something waywardness rooted in economic realities of today so eloquently and humorously as Ryan Martin Brown’s feature debut Free Time. Led by Colin Burgess in a beautifully articulated performance of neurotic self-sabotage, this portrait of “the Great Resignation” more than makes up for its small scale with keen observations on what it means to have a creatively satisfying life. Accompanied by the strong supporting cast of Rajat Suresh, Holmes, James Webb, Eric Yates, Jessie Pinnick, and Rebecca Bulnes, Free Time feels the promising beginnings of a new era in NYC indie filmmaking.

Love Lies Bleeding (Rose Glass)

This is a Rose Glass movie, which means it packs a killer, multi-faceted punch and resists easy classification. Her second feature after St. Maud is a stylized neo-noir love story, a drama about addiction, an athletic underdog tale, and a bloody thriller compounding genres and narratives that overlap and blend into each other without any wrinkles. It takes place in rural New Mexico circa 1989, where Lou (Kristen Stewart) helps manage a warehouse gym, plunging toilets and defending the advances of a co-worker named Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov). Lou has a bad smoking habit, a chopped-up mullet, and some dark secrets from her past. But her life changes when Jackie (Katy O’Brian) rolls into town from Oklahoma and starts maxing-out on weights. She’s looking to get to Las Vegas to compete in a bodybuilding competition and needs some money and a place to bulk before the big day. Jackie has a certain look and quiet demeanor that attracts Lou, who quickly gifts her new friend a bottle of steroids to gain a little edge. It’s not long before the pair start up a feverish romance that Glass portrays sensitively and seductively, then ferociously. – Jake K.S. (full review)

The Old Oak (Ken Loach)

While the 87-year-old Ken Loach is still with us, the legendary director has indicated The Old Oak, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, will be his last work. Following a pub owner in a dilated mining town, the film tells the story of tensions rising when Syrian refugees join the community. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “In The Old Oak, an English man and a Syrian woman become unlikely friends on one side of a simmering culture war. It’s the latest from Ken Loach and, if reports are true, it will be the 86-year-old director’s last. The Old Oak is, of course, a timely story about modern Britain, immigration, and xenophobia. It’s also a parting statement from Loach––one last rallying cry for solidarity––and a fitting coda to his six-decade long career.”

On the Adamant (Nicolas Philibert)

For the second in a row, the Berlinale jury has awarded the top prize of Golden Bear to a documentary. Before Mati Diop’s Dahomey this year, Nicolas Philibert’s On the Adamant picked up the prize and now Kino Lorber has released it in theaters. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “A lot of what’s good about On the Adamant can be found in that opening sequence: how François seems to channel his frustration through a creative outlet; how expression seems to focus him, if only for a minute. In another scene, a man with more apparent disabilities than François presents a drawing to the other members of his class, explaining that the two girls pictured are his daughters. When asked why he isn’t included in the scene, he charms the crowd by flipping it over to reveal another sketch of them together at the zoo. Those kinds of moments are what’s on offer in Philibert’s compassionate, calmly observed, at times intermittent film: an invitation to board the Adamant and meet its crew, enjoy their company, get some idea of their vantage, and appreciate the Art Brut energies of their craft.”

The People’s Joker (Vera Drew)

It’s a genuine miracle that The People’s Joker has managed to make it to screens unscathed, especially considering the legal battles which dogged the 2023 TIFF premiere could easily have left it trapped in the vault forever. Many of the rave reactions from that festival were written solely within the context of such lingering threat, with many critics doubling-up as armchair legal experts, not analyzing the qualities of Vera Drew’s film so much as they were assessing the likelihood of whether anybody else would ever see it. Now that this unauthorized take on the DC mythos is defiantly arriving on screens––albeit with a lengthy legal scrawl preceding the action itself––it’s immediately obvious that writing about it solely within the context of whether it constitutes a serious copyright violation is something of an insult. – Alistair R. (full review)

Perfect Days (Wim Wenders)

Watch an exclusive clip above.

Wim Wenders’ serene, Oscar-nominated character study gives Kōji Yakusho one of his best roles, portraying the everyday routine of a toilet cleaner in Japan. (Don’t worry, it’s slightly more exciting than that sounds.) Luke Hicks said in his review, “With Perfect Days, a passion project he’s wanted to make for decades, Wenders has constructed a daydream of minimalist living (which I don’t mean fashionably) and humanist perspective that has more legs than his past five fiction films combined.”

Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus (Neo Sora)

In a heartbreaking work that feels like a private home movie with which the world is being graced, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s son, filmmaker Neo Sora, captured his father’s final performance. Shot in beautifully austere black-and-white, Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus focuses solely on the music, capturing a man contending with his physical limitations during the last gasp of astounding talent. It’s a treasure. – Jordan R.

Sasquatch Sunset (David and Nathan Zellner)

Life in the wilderness––breathing in the mountain air, basking in the sun, and foraging for the perfect meal––can also be punishing and unforgiving. Particularly if you are a Sasquatch family. This simple premise is the foundation of David and Nathan Zellner’s most experimental gamble yet, Sasquatch Sunset, which captures a year in the Sasquatch way of life. Set in the vast expanse of Northern California––not far from where the infamous Patterson–Gimlin film was shot––we witness the circle of life for these creatures in all their birth, playfulness, territorial drive, fornication, and death. The result is almost exactly what one may expect from the logline––with perhaps a bit more bodily fluids and Sasquatch phalluses––and while it’s impressive that the Zellners stay steadfast in their conceit, one wishes the overall effect added up to something with a bit more impact. – Jordan R. (full review)

The Shadowless Tower (Zhang Lu)

One of the most-acclaimed films on the festival circuit last year, premiering at Berlinale and stopping by Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, and New York, Zhang Lu’s meditative drama The Shadowless Tower is now in theaters. Leonardo Goi said in his Berlinale review, “Watching over Beijing’s Xicheng district is an enormous white pagoda, a relic of the Kublai Khan rule, so majestic and otherworldly in looks and stature it might as well have been dropped on Earth from a far-flung planet. Legend has it the monument casts no shadow––not in its immediate vicinity, at least––though its silhouette is said to stretch as far as Tibet. No other corner of the megalopolis features as prominently as this one in Zhang Lu’s The Shadowless Tower, a film to which the 13th-century wonder lends its title as well as a metaphor for the kind of permanence its drifters fumble after. And no one among them is as drawn to it as Gu Wentong (Xin Baiqing).”

The Taste of Things (Trần Anh Hùng)

One of the most purely pleasurable films of last year, Trần Anh Hùng’s The Taste of Things brings Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel together one of the best culinary cinematic experiences since Babette’s Feast. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “Last time Benoît Magimel appeared in the Cannes competition, a vision in Albert Serra’s Pacifiction, he played a foreign diplomat who stalked an island of French Polynesia like a trashy king. If Serra’s otherworldy film told a cautionary tale about feckless Euro-decadence, Magimel’s latest is more like a revelry. Adapted from Marcel Rouf’s 1924 novel The Passionate EpicureThe Taste of Things is a film about the pleasures of preparing food and consuming it, the idea of cooking as an act of giving and even of love––if a leitmotif exists in this film’s script, it is the sigh of ecstasy.”

The Tuba Thieves (Alison O’Daniel)

A singular viewing (and listening) experience, the documentary The Tuba Thieves explores what it means to listen and how sound––particularly its absence––figures into everyday life. A fascinating counterpart to a fellow recent Sundance premiere, 32 Sounds, Alison O’Daniel’s film opens up the world of the d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing community to invite audiences to see and hear the experience. With a rather radical use of captions and subtitles, it’s among the essential documentaries of 2024 thus far. John Fink said in his Sundance review, “A film that rewards patience, The Tuba Thieves, despite its title, is not a quirky heist picture but rather a meditation on the presence and absence of sound framed by both recent and further-removed history.”

More Recommended Films Now Playing in Theaters

The Best New Restorations Now Playing in Theaters

The below list features newly restored films receiving a theatrical release run. For NYC-specific repertory round-ups, bookmark NYC Weekend Watch.

  • The Films of Lee Chang-dong
  • Lumumba: Death of a Prophet
  • My Heart Is That Eternal Rose
  • Nostalghia
  • Le Samouraï
  • The Third Man
  • West Indies

Read all reviews here.

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