On Film

Essays

1207 Results
Menace II Society: The Truth Hurts

With the candor and rage of many hip-hop albums of the nineties, the Hughes brothers’ controversial debut feature depicts Watts as a pitiless urban war zone with no exit.

By Craig D. Lindsey

Uncut Gems: “Taking It to the Rack”

The Safdie brothers explore money, basketball, and racial tensions in this manic tale of a New York City jewelry dealer’s existential meltdown.

By J. Hoberman

Citizen Kane: The Once and Future Kane

Modern in conception but postmodern in effect, the film hailed by many as the greatest ever made has been the subject of cinephilic passion and intense critical analysis since its release in 1941.

By Bilge Ebiri

Once Upon a Time in China: The Complete Films: Past Master

Tsui Hark’s epic martial-arts saga revolutionized Hong Kong cinema by presenting a complex portrait of modern Chinese history and setting a gold standard in action choreography.

By Maggie Lee

Life of a Legend: A Brief History of Wong Fei-hung On-Screen

Starting with his first movie, in 1949, the Cantonese folk hero became a pop-culture phenomenon whose personality evolved to suit the times.

By Grady Hendrix

La strada: Beauty and the Beast

Federico Fellini’s earliest masterpiece is a story of despair and optimism, cruelty and salvation, that occasioned the director’s ascent to stardom.

By Christina Newland

Devi: Seeing and Believing

Considered his first directly political film, Satyajit Ray’s 1960 masterpiece explores how the denial of self-knowledge, a void neither religion nor Western rationalism can fill, takes a toll on women in Indian society.

By Devika Girish

The Incredible Shrinking Man: Other Dimensions

This uncanny tale of existential anxiety stands out as the most rigorously pared-down American science-fiction film of the 1950s.

By Geoffrey O’Brien

Ratcatcher: A Flashlight Cinema

In her astonishing debut feature, Lynne Ramsay synthesizes narrative drama and poetic exploration, the social and the surreal.

By Girish Shambu

Ratcatcher: Spine Number 162

The Academy Award–winning director remembers a formative and eye-opening encounter with Lynne Ramsay’s feature debut.

By Barry Jenkins

High Sierra: Crashing Out

In Raoul Walsh’s elegy for the Depression-era archetype of the noble outlaw, Humphrey Bogart plays an old-fashioned desperado who has outlived his time.

By Imogen Sara Smith

Onibaba: Masks and Faces

Kaneto Shindo’s visceral erotic-horror film centers on a dangerous duo of women fighting to survive while men are away at war.

By Elena Lazic

The Damned: Damned if You Do It

Luchino Visconti’s scandalous antifascist melodrama envisions the liquidation of desire with expressionistic panache.

By D. A. Miller

Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films

The Story of a Three Day Pass: Ordinary Love

Melvin Van Peebles’s feature debut riffs on the French New Wave to tell a love story that portrays interracial intimacy and unflinchingly confronts the distortions of racism.

By Allyson Nadia Field

Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films

Watermelon Man: Melvin in Hollywoodland

Melvin Van Peebles takes aim at Hollywood’s way of representing race in this blistering satire about a white man who wakes up one morning to discover that he has turned Black overnight.

By Racquel J. Gates

Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song: “I’m Gonna Say a Black Ave Maria For You”

Eschewing the accommodationist tendencies of social-problem films of the sixties, Melvin Van Peebles’s second feature launched blaxploitation film but also stands as a challenge to the blanket presumptions about the genre that exist today.

By Michael B. Gillespie

Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films

Don’t Play Us Cheap: The Sacredness of Saturday Night, or the Gospel According to Melvin Van Peebles

The first Black-directed movie musical of the modern film era, Melvin Van Peebles’s drama illuminates the cultural and political concerns of working-class Black people with delight and fancy.

By Lisa B. Thompson

Love & Basketball: For Your Heart

Gina Prince-Bythewood’s iconic debut portrays Black love without forcing its heroine to compromise herself and her ambitions.

By Roxane Gay

Throw Down: Down but Not Out

Johnnie To pays homage to Akira Kurosawa in this martial arts drama about the virtue of struggle and self-improvement.

By Sean Gilman

Mona Lisa: Underground Errand

A staple of 1980s British cinema, Neil Jordan’s crime drama considers the slippery characters that inhabit the London underworld.

By Ryan Gilbey

Beasts of No Nation: A Different Kind of African War Film

Cary Joji Fukunaga’s devastating child-soldier movie unflinchingly captures the shock of war without forsaking the complexity of human experience.

By Robert Daniels

Ashes and Diamonds: What Remains

Andrzej Wajda’s masterful portrait of postwar Poland pits Communist ideals against the bitter realities of a new order.

By Paul Coates

Original Cast Album: “Company”: The Little Things You Do Together

D. A. Pennebaker turns his camera on Stephen Sondheim and the cast of his breakthrough musical in this revelatory documentary about artists at work.

By Mark Harris

After Life: In Memoriam

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s international breakthrough is a bittersweet meditation on mortality, memory, and the movies.

By Viet Thanh Nguyen