About On Chesil Beach, a film about British sex in the 1960s, former SIFF chief curator and festival director Carl Spence writes, "I have two words on why you should see this film: Saoirse Ronan."
SIFF, America's biggest film festival, runs from May 17–June 10 this year, and we have a complete guide to its every aspect on our SIFF calendar, including showtimes, ticket links, trailers, and reviews from Stranger critics. During the 25 days of the 44th annual Seattle International Film Festival, there will be screenings of 433 films (many of which will play more than once and 89 of which are Stranger-recommended), plus about a dozen parties and special events. In case all of those numbers are overwhelming, we've picked the films you absolutely must see throughout the festival (32 of them!) and compiled them here. Click through to each film for ticket links, specific showtimes, and trailers. See you at the cinema!

MAY 15, 18-19

Sweet Country
This movie does not fuck around. It gets right to it: the brutal colonization of Australia. Set in the 1920s in the outback of the Northern Territory, the film is about a black man, his black wife, and their black daughter, and the family’s religious instructor, a white man. It’s not paradise, but they manage to get along. One day, an alcoholic and rock-hard racist ex-soldier shows up and makes the black man work for nothing, rapes his wife, and considers raping their daughter. Eventually, the black man kills the white man. And this begins a time of trouble that ends with this question: How will Australia survive this madness? (CHARLES MUDEDE)

MAY 18-19

Dead Pigs
A river full of mysteriously expired pork serves as the fulcrum for a series of loosely connected stories about getting by in modern China. Also, there’s a musical number or two. Chinese American director Cathy Yan’s debut is a daffy polyglot of a movie, quick-drawing between various moods and styles with zero hesitation. The film is very entertaining, with a wicked sense of humor—watch out for those end credits—and a downright hilarious performance by Vivian Wu, as an immovable object in a leopard spot bathrobe. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

MAY 18 & 20

Suleiman Mountain
The patriarch in this road-trip drama is a moodily charming con man with a gambling problem that drives him and his dysfunctional family through the Kyrgyzstan countryside as much as the Soviet-era truck they all call home. The matriarch is a religious woman who’s a swindler by marriage, earnest by trade, and shares her husband with a younger, pregnant second wife full of resentment about his divided attention and her situation. The former is willing to do anything it takes to remain in her position as first, if not preferred, wife, including hunting down her and her husband’s long-lost son (though what originally happened to him is never explained). Despite an ending that feels rushed and doesn’t fully address conflicts created at the film’s start, Suleiman Mountain is beautifully shot, poignantly wrought, and lovely overall. (LEILANI POLK)

MAY 18 & 22

First Reformed
Don’t make the mistake I made at the Telluride Film Festival when I skipped this unexpected magnum opus from the writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. Paul Schrader’s latest film is a return to form. Infused with elements from his Calvinist upbringing and 1950s art-house cinema (check out his newly reissued book Transcendental Style in Film on Bresson, Ozu, and Dreyer), First Reformed revolves around the Reverend Ernst Toller (portrayed with devastating restraint by Ethan Hawke). He is a former military chaplain ministering to a tiny congregation in upstate New York, and he can’t get past the deep grief and spiritual isolation caused by the ill-fated death of his enlisted son. When congregant Mary (Amanda Seyfried) asks him to counsel her troubled (and radical environmentalist) husband, Toller discovers his church’s distinguished financial savior is an amoral corporate polluter, and he becomes obsessed with saving a world he believes is destroying itself. The film also stars Cedric the Entertainer as a mega-church pastor and Toller’s overseer. (CARL SPENCE)

MAY 18 & 30

Tigers Are Not Afraid
In drug-war-torn Mexico, Estrella is in a battle against circumstance and time. As she runs from the gang and cartel leader who murdered her mother, the dilemma already appears to have fully surfaced, but darker forces soon come into play. A thin but ominous stream of blood follows Estrella’s every turn, and her mother’s ghostly instructions mix with the rustling plastic that coats her corpse. Equally imaginative, humanizing, joyful, and tragic, this film is a dark fairy tale with a light that burns even more savagely than the darkness of its very real horrors. (SOPHIA STEPHENS)

MAY 19-20

Blindspotting
It took winning a Tony Award for his dual roles as the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the musical phenomenon Hamilton for Daveed Diggs to get his long-gestating dream project to the big screen. It was worth the wait. Blindspotting is timely, explosive, poetic, and provocative. In rapidly gentrifying Oakland, Collin (Diggs) is trying to survive his last three days of probation when the slightest infraction will send him back to jail. He is also trying to make things work with his ex-girlfriend and keep his job. However, his best friend Miles (Rafael Casal) is white, wild, and reckless. Collin should avoid Miles, but he doesn’t. While trying to get home before curfew late one night, he witnesses a rogue cop pursue and shoot a fleeing black man. This sets in motion a chain of events that spirals out of control. (CARL SPENCE)

MAY 19, 24 & 30

Prospect
Is this the first major work of Northwest science fiction? Indeed, it imagines a moon that is like the evergreen forests that surround Seattle. The whole planet is green—gothic green. And the light on this strange moon is sharply slanted like Northwest light. The superb film is about prospectors (a father and daughter) looking for a root-made gem that will make them rich. The daughter, however, is keen to get off the planet because the line to it is about to be shut down. But her father is money-mad. If he does not make it here, he will never make it anywhere in the galaxy. Translucent insects float through the air. There are other money-mad prospectors in the endless forest. You do not leave this planet without paying a big price. Money is the root of all evil. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

MAY 20-21

Beast
A perfect thriller has to have the right balance of suspense, threat of danger, lust and sex, and melodrama. Beast wonderfully has all of these things and a great cast. At the center of the plot is Moll, who lives at home with her controlling mother. While celebrating her birthday, which her family doesn’t seem to care about at all, she drifts into town, has a wild night of partying, and finds herself being rescued by the piercing-blue-eyed Pascal. The inexplicable attraction between these two damaged souls is immediate and palpable. Their euphoric rush of first love and sexual attraction is uncontrollable. Meanwhile, a string of murders across the island has the locals looking for a suspect, and Moll and Pascal both already have black marks against them. Beast utilizes a cinematic canvas that recalls the works of Jane Campion and Lynne Ramsay to create an intoxicating psychosexual journey unlike any other. (CARL SPENCE)

Disobedience
I didn’t expect Rachel Weisz would ever produce and star in a film with hot lesbian sex set in an Orthodox Jewish community. Ever. (Maybe I was misled by the fact that she is married to Daniel Craig, aka James Bond.) However, I wasn’t surprised that this film is directed by Sebastián Lelio, the award-winning director of the equally stirring A Fantastic Woman. Lelio has a proven knack for tackling stories with strong female characters. Loosely based on Naomi Alderman’s novel and co-scripted with playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Disobedience revolves around two passionate women torn apart by their secular and devout lives. Ronit (Weisz) is happily single and living a vibrant life as a photographer in New York, but she is estranged from her highly respected Orthodox rabbi father in London. When she comes back for her father’s funeral, the flame for her former lover Esti (Rachel McAdams) is reignited and threatens to upend their lives and the entire community. (CARL SPENCE)

MAY 21 & 23

Luna
Is Luna a shitty person, or is she just covered in the shit spatter from her toxic group of friends? The answer seems clear in the first 20 minutes of the film, when she steals a puppy, nearly gets into a catfight over her good-for-nothing boyfriend, and enjoys a night of frivolous partying that peaks with a horrible act committed almost off-handedly with her participation. She doesn’t distance herself from it exactly, but her actions come full circle soon enough, and she’s left questioning her judgment and decisions, and the people she’s chosen to surround herself with. Though it could have easily become a cautionary tale, Luna ends up being a powerful film about redemption and forgiveness. (LEILANI POLK)

MAY 22 & 25

Edward II
The late Derek Jarman came fully, ragingly into his own with this adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s play about a king (Steven Waddington) who scandalizes his wife (Tilda Swinton, naturally), appalls the court, and sets palace intrigue in full-tilt motion by taking a male lover. This was truly one of the breakthrough works of contemporary queer cinema. And though you can see the 1991 on it, the performances, design, and whole sensibility of the film remain really magnificent. (SEAN NELSON)

MAY 23-24

The African Storm
The African country in this very entertaining film is, like Black Panther’s Wakanda, fictional. Also like Wakanda, it’s run by an enlightened leader, played by the director Sylvestre Amoussou. But whereas the leader of Wakanda is in the process of opening his country to the world, the leader of Tangara wants to close his by nationalizing all the major industries and imposing capital controls. Western corporations hire a French economic hit woman to destabilize Tangara’s democracy and incite a civil war. Innocent people are raped and killed, politicians are bought, and the free press is threatened. Will Tangara’s experiment with black economic independence survive this ferocious attack? The film’s ending is as real as the country. (Those who watch this must also watch Silas.) (CHARLES MUDEDE)

MAY 23 & 25, JUNE 3

The Last Suit
An extremely handsome and well-dressed Holocaust survivor from Argentina embarks on what feels like a final adventure to Poland to fulfill a promise he made during the Shoah. Though he’s charming and sympathetic, our hero is also a stubborn old man who has deeply disappointed all he’s sired. The quality and variety of the silk cravats in this film is enough to recommend it. But powerfully good acting and the heart-melting story of a survivor reckoning with an incomprehensibly painful past makes the film a must-see. (RICH SMITH)

MAY 25 & 27

The Captain
Breathtaking black-and-white cinematography enlivens and ennobles this unbelievably brutal, disturbingly brilliant psychological study of the corrupting influence of power. Two weeks before the end of WWII, a lowly, starving German soldier, probably a deserter, scavenges a meager existence near the front. He comes upon a suitcase that contains a captain’s uniform. Initially, he puts it on to help guard against the cold. Then he gets an idea, which sets him on a course of impersonation that grows darker, more violent, and, troublingly, more credible as his path through the nearly defeated Reich proceeds. Before long, his bluff becomes a more sinister kind of performance. He wears the mask long enough for it to become his face. Many people have expressed a desire in the past couple of years to understand not merely the fact of fascism, but the process of it. The Captain isn’t exactly easy to watch (though, again, nearly every frame is beautiful), but as a window onto that process—the way people wield, dread, and capitulate to power—it’s indispensable. (SEAN NELSON)

MAY 25 & 30

Angels Wear White
Remarkable youth performances anchor Vivian Qu’s rigorous procedural about the adults who exploit children—and the systemic misogyny that protects them. Mia, who is undocumented, is working at a seaside motel when a prominent citizen checks in with two underage girls. When their parents find out, the police launch an investigation, but at every turn, women take the blame for the actions of men. Even Wen’s mother holds the 12-year-old responsible, but these girls—like this film—are tougher than they look. (KATHY FENNESSY)

MAY 25 & JUNE 2

On Chesil Beach
I have two words on why you should see this film: Saoirse Ronan. She is radiant; she is a chameleon-like actor. Maybe you forgot she was in Atonement, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Loving Vincent. She was even in Lady Bird?! Based on Ian McEwan’s novella and directed by Dominic Cooke, longtime artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre, this is a film about British sex in the 1960s, just before the sexual revolution. On Chesil Beach is the story of Florence and Edward, young university graduates getting married without ever having slept in the same bed together. Billy Howle (Dunkirk) stars as the hapless husband-to-be. When they meet on their wedding bed, things do not go as planned and everything they’ve been keeping together emotionally for their entire lives unravels with devastating consequences. (CARL SPENCE)

MAY 27-28

Luk'Luk'I
This hauntingly beautiful and oddly compelling documentary follows unlikely figures living on the fringes, including a roller-skating street performer with delusions that she is world-famous and a dad so addicted to drugs that he has virtually no relationship with his adult son. The five characters live in Vancouver, BC, and their stories play out as the 2010 Winter Olympics are going on in the background. They are real people, but here they are acting for the camera as themselves—so you get the most intense, revealing, dramatic versions of them possible. It’s an uncategorizable film and a masterful piece of nonfiction art. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)

MAY 28

Belle De Jour
If you have seen Luis Buñuel’s 1967 film about a beautiful but bored bourgeois housewife, Séverine Serizy (Catherine Deneuve), who suddenly and secretly becomes a prostitute and has all of her predictable fantasies fulfilled by rough and ready strangers, there is no need to watch it ever again. But if you have not seen Belle De Jour, you must attend this screening. I do not like Buñuel (too much Freud and not enough Marx in his work), but as a lover of the art of Plato’s cave, I cannot ignore his most acclaimed films. And this is certainly one of them. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

MAY 28 & JUNE 1

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
After seven bandits invade her home, a widow hits the road with justice on her mind and five and three-quarters bodies in her wake. This astonishing neo-western begins with a sequence that will bring jaded grindhouse patrons to their feet, and then it blazes its own trail from there, incorporating some potent feminist themes along the way. Intoxicating viewing, really, with a director that knows when to pause for a languid long shot and when to slam forward into nastiness. Once heard, the soundtrack’s blending of traditional Indonesian folk songs and Ennio Morricone’s electric coyote yelps will never leave your head. (ANDREW WRIGHT)

MAY 30-31

This Is Home
As American missiles fell near Damascus in mid-April, you may have seen a number begin to circulate in your social-media feeds: 11. That’s the total number of Syrian refugees the United States has accepted so far in 2018, a minuscule amount compared to the same period two years ago. Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies are a prominent undercurrent in This Is Home, a documentary following several Syrian refugees settling in Baltimore. But the film’s central conflict is even more systemic. It brings viewers along for the profoundly disorienting experiences—both big and small—that come with fleeing to a new country: struggling with the language, watching destruction in your home country on the evening news, realizing you’re on the wrong bus. It engenders both empathy for its subjects and anger at the system that gives them a brutally short eight months to become self-sufficient. And it quietly reveals how quick white Americans are to play the savior and how their good intentions can morph into condescension. This Is Home is a powerful story that turns away from familiar footage of migrants fleeing violence and toward the loneliness of what happens next. (HEIDI GROOVER)

MAY 31 & JUNE 1

Nona
When a poor girl from Honduras meets Hecho—a charming, handsome stranger who offers to rescue her from the everyday violence of her homeland and take her to be with her mother in the United States—she thinks her prayers have been answered. And for a while, this seems to be true. But as they approach their destination, Hecho’s intentions for her are revealed, and her nightmare, she soon realizes, is just beginning. With Sulem Calderon, Jesy McKinney, and Kate Bosworth, Nona is a horror film disguised as a romance. (KATIE HERZOG)

JUNE 1

Leave No Trace
Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone) has never made I film haven’t loved and has the distinction of being the only American filmmaker to have her work presented at this year’s Directors Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival (and the only American woman filmmaker at Cannes, period). The film also has Seattle roots in the talented producer and co-screenwriter Anne Rosellini. Based on Peter Rock’s 2009 novel My Abandonment, Granik moves her filmmaking from the Ozarks to the Pacific Northwest, with a story about the growing chasm between a father/widower/veteran afflicted with PTSD who insists on living apart from the world and his teenage daughter who yearns to join it. Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie are sublimely cast, creating nuanced and indelible characters that will leave you in suspense about how they can come to terms with the world without breaking each other’s hearts. (CARL SPENCE)

JUNE 2

Being There
One of the most brilliant, turbulent, and frustrating actors of the 20th century, Peter Sellers, pretty much gave his goodbye to the world and fame with this 1979 film. It’s directed by the great Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude). It’s a masterpiece of cinema. And though the last scene in the movie refers to one of Jesus’s miracles, the core of its story owes everything to the life of Buddha. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

JUNE 2-3


Johann Lurf has made a film that can be watched only while one is stoned. It’s a 99-minute journey through 110 years of starry skies in cinema. We see shot after shot after shot of stars and more stars. The film will not easily grip a mind that is sober, and will certainly lose one that is drunk. But a mind that is totally baked will be filled with that feeling Walt Whitman once described as the awe of the all. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

JUNE 2, 5 & 6

Naples in Veils
To the fortysomething Seattle housewives holding a glass of wine right now while reading this: This film is for you, and, yes, grab your Hitachi. When Adriana meets Andrea at an occult Neapolitan ceremony at her aunt’s house, it seems like lust at first sight—that is, until Andrea turns up eyeless and dead on Adriana’s autopsy table the next day. In an aggressively sensual mix of murder, sex, and mystery, this film is an enthralling story of violence that masks itself with the exquisite. Nipples—I mean, Naples—may be in veils, but the veils can always be torn off. (SOPHIA STEPHENS)

JUNE 3

The Crime of Monsieur Lange
The 1930s were good to French director Jean Renoir. In that decade, which was between the world-historical stock-market crash and the war that would break Europe’s back, Renoir directed two classics of cinema: The Rules of the Game and Grand Illusion. The year before the former was completed, 1936, Renoir directed a very lovely comedy about Parisian pulp writers, a capitalist publisher (and sex predator), and a socialist project (a cooperative of pulp writers) that seemed promising. The photography in The Crime of Monsieur Lange is often mesmerizing, and when Renoir’s characters walk down a street, or into a room, or up a staircase, they move with the lightness and sway of dancers. (CHARLES MUDEDE)

JUNE 3 & 5

Number One
Emmanuelle Devos plays Emmanuelle Blachey, a powerful woman in the corporate world who is recruited by a French matriarch to run for CEO of a state-owned energy company. Blachey, and the posse of women supporting her, are at the top of their fields, but that doesn’t matter to the men around them—be it fathers, husbands, or colleagues—who treat women as alternately something to look at, something to conquer, or something to use. A film with enough deceit and intrigue to qualify as a light thriller, its essentially feminist message is not lost in the drama—it’s only made stronger. (KATIE HERZOG)

JUNE 6

Sadie
The latest from local filmmaker Megan Griffiths (Lucky Them, Eden) has a perfect Northwest feel. Sadie is 13 and lives with her mother in a dilapidated trailer park. Sadie worships her absent father, while being impossible with her harried mother. She is smart and precocious, trying to come to an understanding of how the world works, but the adults around her have their own problems. The film shows the way adults communicate with kids, never talking to them directly, trying to fool the kid and themselves. This leaves young people with half-ass ideas, and they run with them without really understanding the situation, with mixed results. The film has a great cast: The wonderful Melanie Lynskey plays the mom, with Sophia Mitri Schloss (from last year’s SIFF favorite Lane 1974) as Sadie. Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black), John Gallagher Jr. (Short Term 12), and Tony Hale (Arrested Development) ably round things out. (GILLIAN ANDERSON)

JUNE 8-9

Puzzle
I occasionally try to finish puzzles on the ferry to Orcas Island, but I never knew there was a world of competitive puzzling. Marc Turtletaub (producer of Little Miss Sunshine, Safety Not Guaranteed, and Loving) wonderfully directs this sweet journey of a woman who discovers her uncanny knack for puzzles and has an awakening to pursue a more extraordinary life beyond the confines of her ordinary family. Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire, Trainspotting) is pitch-perfect as Agnes, and Bollywood star Irrfan Khan makes a great puzzle partner and protagonist to open Agnes’s mind and heart to explore her dreams and desires. Midlife crisis stories have so rarely focused on a woman character, and Macdonald refreshingly illuminates Agnes’s spirit as she discovers how to live, love, and make her own path for the future. (CARL SPENCE)

Rush Hour
A documentary about everyone’s least favorite thing: commuting to work. The film follows three individuals in Istanbul, Los Angeles, and Mexico City as they make their mind-numbing way to their respective daily grinds. Each person says they’re commuting long hours, or sometimes putting themselves in dangerous situations, out of necessity and not by choice. They must provide for their loved ones, afford a house in the suburbs, make ends meet. But what are we sacrificing as we spend our lives in between here and there? This is the madness of the Anthropocene. (KAIA CHESSEN)

This One's For The Ladies
The New Jersey Nasty Boyz, a group of black “dom” dancers founded by twins Tyga and Raw Dawg, make a lot of women horny at the Dojo, a karate studio by day and a male strip club by night. But director Gene Graham’s documentary isn’t for the Boyz, it’s for the ladies who have been coming together and throwing dollars at the boys’ penises for years. (Heads-up: The documentary shows lots of big hard naked dicks.) There are so many ways these stories could have been mishandled or misrepresented, and yet the cast is treated with dignity and humor. It’s funny. It’s hot. And many of the interviews are so compassionate and complex, they could easily be iconic if the documentary gets a large enough audience. It feels like the Paris Is Burning of underground male strippers in New Jersey, and it’s astonishing how much humanity can come out of a little dick dancing. (CHASE BURNS)

JUNE 9-10

Eighth Grade
The best way to understand and experience eighth grade for today’s 13-year-olds, along with all of its joys and terrors, is to watch this charming film. Eighth Grade made me remember those days when wanting to be popular or cool or merely accepted felt more important than any of the life-and-death tragedies of the world that were happening around me. Elsie Fisher as Kayla is destined to be a new star with her performance as a sweet, vulnerable, and outcast YouTube personality with no followers who is mostly ignored by her peers. All Kayla wants is to be the coolest girl in the world, and what she doesn’t realize is that she already is (and will someday find this out)! (CARL SPENCE)