What a stimulating, multidisciplinary weekend you can spend in movie theaters this weekend! The ByDesign Festival offers documentaries, workshops, and performances, while The 20th Annual Animation Show of Shows screens creative visions from around the world. But there's plenty of high drama too, from the acclaimed "narco-epic" Birds of Passage to the tense refugee drama Styx. For suspense and elation drawn from real life, don't miss the unbelievable found-footage documentary Apollo 11 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Follow the links below to see complete showtimes, tickets, and trailers for all of our critics' picks, and, if you're looking for even more options, check out our film events calendar and complete movie times listings.
Note: Movies play Thursday–Sunday unless otherwise noted.
The 20th Annual Animation Show of Shows
Celebrate the art of animation at the 20th Annual Animation Show of Shows, a six-day-long event that will feature 15 international shorts.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Alita: Battle Angel
I have never recommended seeing a movie in 3-D, let alone IMAX 3-D, because films should either succeed in 2-D or they aren’t worth seeing. But for Alita: Battle Angel, I will—for the first time—tell you to splurge on the IMAX. I can’t stop dreaming about the glimmering city in the clouds that hovers above the film’s sci-fi setting. The story (cyborg woman is found comatose in trash heap, makes heroic journey to rediscover her past and her martial arts skills) lovingly smooshes at least three story arcs’ worth of plot into a single 122-minute film. I have no idea how Alita could have been done better. I’ve read all the Battle Angel comics, which manga artist Yukito Kishiro started publishing in 1990, and I could rattle off all the differences and references in director Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation. But I’d rather talk about what this film is: a fun, exhilarating realization of a sci-fi story that, even now, audiences may not be ready for. Salazar’s sensitive portrayal—enhanced by Alita’s robotic limbs and oversized, anime eyes—only strengthens the focus on conflict and competition that makes Alita so exciting. From the very start, Kishiro’s Alita was a battle comic—a serialized story to entertain young people with artful fight scenes. SUZETTE SMITH
3D listings here
All About Eve
In All About Eve, Margo Channing, a Broadway diva—unforgettably played by Bette Davis—is initially charmed by pretty aspiring actress Eve. But Eve has her eyes on Margo’s role… and beyond. This gloriously written, affecting backstage drama was nominated for 14 Oscars and remains one of Davis’s most celebrated films. Scarecrow Video offers this free screening.
Todd Miller's superbly edited new documentary on the Apollo 11 mission, which put Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the moon (and sent Michael Collins around its dark side), adds no narration or talking heads, other than contemporaneous sources. Although you know how things turned out, you're plunged into the suspense of the moment, when even the slightest miscalculation could have doomed the astronauts to a lonely or fiery death. Listen to that amazing sound design!
Birds of Passage
Selected by Colombia as its entry for the Oscars’ best foreign language film category, Birds of Passage has received several excellent reviews for coupling stark images of rural life with an epic narrative. Directed by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra (they’re also the pair behind the surreal and gorgeous Embrace of the Serpent), the film concerns the impact of the drug trade on a family. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott describes Birds of Passage as “an epic narco tale that will open your mind.” CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Based on retired police detective Ron Stallworth’s 2014 memoir Black Klansman, director Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman stars John David Washington (son of Denzel Washington) as the first Black cop on the Colorado Springs police department in the early 1970s. Answering a recruitment ad in the local newspaper—and a knack for talking on the phone using his best “white guy” voice—Stallworth gets in good with the local Klan in Colorado Springs. But his attempt to infiltrate the organization hits an obvious stumbling block when it comes time to meet in person. Enter fellow police officer Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), a nonpracticing Jew who agrees to pretend to be Stallworth in person. It’s difficult to know what to make of Lee’s latest joint. As with many of his other films, BlacKkKlansman constantly feels like Lee’s not sure what tone he wants to hit, so he hits them all, often with the subtlety of a brick to the face. It’s a solid work, albeit one that’s flawed in the same ways that nearly all of Spike’s best films are flawed. DAVID F. WALKER
Why is it a good movie? Because it depicts and embodies the complicatedness of artistic collaboration, because it shows the downsides and the virtues of a brilliant person's out-of-control ego, because it dramatizes the way repression warps people, because it suggests what the world lost with an entire generation of gay artists who were wiped out (this was only one person, and yet the loss here alone is huge), because the music's fantastic (duh) and it was written by the characters we're seeing depicted on-screen, and because it manages to depict an artist who died of AIDS without ending with him on his deathbed succumbing to AIDS. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE
Regal Meridian 16 & AMC Seattle 10
As Charles Mudede has written, "One of the richest institutional collaborations in this city is that between the ByDesign Festival and Northwest Film Forum. Here, two arts that are very similar, film and architecture (both are capital intensive), meet in the theater." This year, AIA Seattle's initiative Design in Public will collaborate with the two institutions to show films, host workshops, and stage performances. Highlights include Pablo Pivetta's film Endless Letterpress (with the director in attendance), workshops in "typography and moving image," and the performance piece 100 Year Plan by Bailey Hizakawa and Scotty Wagner.
Northwest Film Forum
A 12-year-old boy, played by real-life Syrian refugee Zain Al Rafeea, sues his parents for the “crime” of giving him life in this awful world. This film from director Nadine Labaki reportedly does an incredible job of dramatizing life for refugee children condemned to non-personhood by their lack of identity papers.
Ark Lodge Cinemas
What you need to know is that Captain Marvel is a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, and MCU movies are generally good-to-excellent, and Captain Marvel is no different. It’s smart, funny, and deliriously self-aware, and there’s a bunch of cool explosions. There’s also a young Agent Coulson, an explanation of how Nick Fury lost his eye, and a goddamn kitty-cat named Goose. It is an all-around successful comic book movie, like the 5,000 MCU movies that came before it. “But wait,” you say. “It is different. Aren’t you going to mention… [points at boobs, from one to the other, back and forth, maintaining eye contact, making things weird]?” Ugh, FINE. I'll say it. Yes, Carol is a woman, and this is the first Marvel movie centered on a woman. I’ve really enjoyed my Bruce Bannerses and Steve Rogerses, but I liked my Carol Danvers even more. It was great to see someone who looked like me straight-up destroy alien bad guys. ELINOR JONES
3D screenings here
One of two stars to emerge from Barry Jenkins's 2016 film Moonlight is Ashton Sanders—the other being, of course, Mahershala Ali. Sanders, who is 23, has a face that communicates the struggle of a soul that is continually torn between rage and submission. It is this quality that gave the final classroom scene (attacking a bully) in Moonlight its electrifying power. In Captive State, directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Sanders plays a young man who is considering joining a resistance movement against an alien power that rules in the United States in much the same way that the Trump administration does: with lies. CHARLES MUDEDE
AMC Pacific Place & AMC Seattle 10
With Climax, controversy-courting director Gaspar Noé—the enfant terrible behind Irreversible, Enter the Void, and Love—does everything within his power to fuck with viewers’ perceptions. But here, the jarring visuals and strange interruptions serve a greater narrative purpose, embedding viewers deep within the mindset of a modern dance troupe led by Selva (Sofia Boutella). Chaos ensues when the troupe is unwittingly dosed with high-octane LSD, with the psychedelics unleashing the dancers’ underlying tensions. But the biggest mindfuck in Climax is how Noé creates what's easily the most entertaining and palatable film, in spite of his usual predilections for both pretension and forcing his female characters to suffer constant violence and abuse. Free of the fantastical elements found in other trippy horror stories—Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, for example—Climax ends up being a lot harder to easily shake off or dismiss through an ironic remove. If you can stomach Noé’s worst tendencies, this one will stick with you. ROBERT HAM
SIFF Cinema Egyptian & AMC Seattle 10
There are two films that critics can’t stop singing about today: Roma and Cold War. These films have the air not of cinematic originality, but cinematic importance or grandeur. Cold War is set in the heart of the Cold War, the period in the 20th century when all nations had two main geopolitical choices: to side with either the Eagle (the United States) or the Bear (the USSR). Poland was close to the Bear, and so was caught in its political and military orbit, but it somehow managed to develop its own distinct, non-socialist realist cinema. Post-Soviet Cold War is certainly a part of that rich cinematic tradition. CHARLES MUDEDE
AMC Seattle 10
Miles Lagoze, a very young Marine, took his camera to Afghanistan when he was deployed as his unit's official videographer for recruitment and documentation. After his discharge, he made his own documentary, described by David Schwartz of the Museum of the Moving Image as "Full Metal Jacket as directed by Private Joker." It's a rare glimpse into a war zone, and it certainly looks harrowing.
One of John Waters's somewhat more mainstream (read: less poop) movies is a spoof of 1950s teen dramas starring Johnny Depp as a bad-boy greaser and Amy Locane as the well-behaved lovely he sets out to woo.
Asghar Farhadi first gained international notice with his intense drama of interrelational alienation, About Elly, which he followed up with the Oscar-winning A Separation. His follow-up, The Past, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and his next film, The Salesman, netted him a second Academy Award. But he did not come to the United States to receive the award, given that Donald Trump had just signed an executive order barring Iranians (among others) from entering the country. Our country's loss, but you can still see his latest film, Everybody Knows, starring Penelope Cruz as a woman returning from Buenos Aires to her Spanish hometown and reuniting with her lover (Javier Bardem). When Cruz's daughter goes missing, past secrets start overshadowing the present.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos knows how to get under the skin of emotions and situations in a way that’s surreal, but it makes his observations feel closer to actual truth. The Favourite is a historical period piece that pulls less heady tricks than his previous efforts, its focus on the relationship between two cousins (played by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) vying for the favor of Olivia Colman’s sickly Queen Anne in early 18th century England. The actresses churn out incredible performances, hysterically and humorously jockeying for control over each other, the palace, and themselves. Lanthimos still manages to throw in a few strange elements, like the use of a fisheye camera lens and silly dancing sequences, but in a way, it only heightens the characters’ believability. JASMYNE KEIMIG
AMC Seattle 10 & Meridian 16
Fighting with My Family
It’s really weird to look back at The Office now, knowing that Ricky Gervais would become an insufferable vial of smug poured into a bag of loose skin, Martin Freeman would end up being both John Watson and Bilbo Baggins, and Stephen Merchant would end up directing a Dwayne Johnson-produced biography of WWE superstar Paige. By many accounts Merchant’s directed the best film about rasslin’ since The Wrestler, but without all the unrelenting, leathery misery that film trafficked in.
This highly praised, dizzying documentary—an Oscar winner—reveals the heart-stopping journey of Alex Honnold as he conquered Yosemite's El Capitan wall without ropes or safety gear. You don't need to be a climber to be thrilled at this glimpse into human accomplishment.
Majestic Bay & Ark Lodge Cinemas
Green Book tells the supposedly true story of a Black jazz pianist, Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), and his white driver, Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), as they go on a concert tour through the segregated South in 1962. Although they’re both from New York, they’re from entirely different worlds: Shirley moves through the rarified air of highbrow culture. Tony, on the other hand, is an Italian American stereotype made sentient, a “whattsamattayou” tough guy with a tenderly soft underbelly. Green Book’s biggest red flag is that it’s essentially another Driving Miss Daisy story about how to solve racism in three convenient acts. But the movie’s really nice, and it’s hard to get too mad at it. Ali and Mortensen are both awfully good, and the script, for all its familiarity, is kind of comforting in its shtick-y predictability. NED LANNAMANN
If you wanna see the Monkees entangled in silly, nonsensical psychedelia, this film is for you.
Heard of Ötzi the Iceman? He's a 5,000-plus-year-old mummy found in the Alps in 1991. This movie imagines his life before his entombment in the snow, fashioning a Copper Age revenge drama about a murdered family and an enraged father. Reviews have been mostly favorable thanks to the gorgeous scenery and archeological dramaturgy (the movie is in a dead language, Rhaetian), despite the clichéd plot.
The Image Book
Yes, you have to watch The Image Book. Why? Because it is by Jean-Luc Godard. Even if the film is a bit odd and abstract and heady, it matters not. The movie is not about the movie. It’s about Jean-Luc Godard, the director, the cinema geist. And if you do not know who Jean-Luc Godard is, then you should just sneeze, because that’s about as much as you know about cinema. CHARLES MUDEDE
Isn't It Romantic
In Isn’t It Romantic, Natalie (Rebel Wilson) is unlucky in love... until she suffers a blow to the noggin that transforms her world! Natalie’s brain injury transforms the world around her to a glossy romcom version of New York City, complete with Adam DeVine as her platonic (?) male friend, Priyanka Chopra as her stunning competition, Brandon Scott Jones as her gay bestie, Betty Gilpin as her office nemesis, and Liam Hemsworth as Natalie’s impossibly handsome love interest who deserves some sort of trophy for his performance (or, at the very least, a kiss on the mouth from me). The film mocks every cliché of the romcom while simultaneously delivering a flawless execution of the genre, something that's both brilliant and entertaining. And it checks my "Is Liam Hemsworth Playing a Saxophone Bare-Chested?" box, which is just the icing on the cupcake. ELINOR JONES
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Lego 2 picks up immediately where the first film left off: The Lego universe faces invasion from the girly Legos of Bianca (Brooklynn Prince), the younger sister of Finn (Jadon Sand). Lisp-laden challenges are uttered, glitter is thrown, and a battle of clicking plastic ensues until the toy metropolis of Bricksburg resembles a post-apocalyptic landscape. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part squarely occupies (sorry!) a middle ground between the first The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie: The premise is played, but there's still some fun to be had, and you can see it with your kids. The bold messaging of the first film isn't present here, and the morality slides off after 15 minutes so. But it's nice that Maya Rudolph tried to teach me how to share, even though the message probably won't stick. SUZETTE SMITH
The Magic Lantern of Ingmar Bergman
Swedish visionary film director Ingmar Bergman would have been 100 this year. His deeply introspective, unabashedly emotional, despairing yet strangely life-affirming oeuvre will once again be onscreen at Seattle Art Museum (in association with the Nordic Museum). The last feature is the incredibly well-filmed, well-acted, touching family saga Fanny and Alexander, which you should absolutely see if you have the fortitude to have your heart wrung out over three hours on a weekday.
Seattle Art Museum
Mysterious Doctor Satan
Grand Illusion's pulpy Saturday programming, which aims to resurrect the tradition of the serial matinee, is starting up again. This time, it's going to be The Mysterious Doctor Satan (1940), shown, as always, on 16mm. The serial involves a mad genius, an army of robots, and a hero known as "the Copperhead." But that's not all! After the episode, there'll be a secret cult, adventure, sci-fi, or art house film.
Never Look Away
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck made the Academy Award-winning The Lives of Others some years ago; then-Stranger writer Annie Wagner called it "the best German film I've seen in years." His new film may be even more ambitious: It's an emotional look at the upheaval German history seen through the eyes of an art student. As a child, he witnesses the rise of Nazism; as a young man, he falls in love with a fellow student in repressive East Germany—the daughter of a professor with a terrible secret. Incidentally, while critics have been appreciative, Gerhard Richter, on whose life this film is loosely based, is reportedly very unhappy with the film.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Stranger alum, Stranger Genius Award Winner, writer, and dazzlingly funny person Lindy West will be on hand to watch the screen adaptation of her memoir Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, starring Aidy Bryant. Enjoy snacks and cocktails and bask in her company! This screening is sold out, but all episodes of the new series will be available to stream on Hulu on the same day.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
Mashing up the bombast of Marvel with the glory days of Pixar, Spider-Verse feels decidedly different—funnier, weirder, more daring—than most American animated movies. This is almost a meta, post-modern take on Spider-Man: Instead of being all about Peter Parker, Spider-Verse stars Miles Morales (excellently voiced by Shameik Moore), a kid who also gets bit by a creepy spider and also gets creepy spider-powers. But Miles—a Afro-Latino teenager who, for all his cleverness and heart, feels out of place at his fancy Brooklyn school—not only has a different perspective on the whole "great power, great responsibility" thing, but has his own obstacles to becoming a hero. Luckily for Miles, a whole slew of other spider-people from alternate dimensions show up to help him out. This is a big, fun blockbuster, but it's also the rare big, fun blockbuster that dares to have a strong point of view and a fresh, exciting personality. As Spider-Verse dazzles and twists, thumping to a hip-hop soundtrack and glimmering with every color in the universe, it captures the thrill, smarts, and irreverence that mark Spider-Man's best stories. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Regal Meridian 16 & Thornton Place
Seeking solitude, a German ER doctor sails alone toward Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. But when she stumbles across a ship full of refugees that's taking on water, she must stop at nothing to bring them help. Wolfgang Fischer's bleak and gripping drama takes on Western apathy toward non-Western suffering and the monumental challenges facing those who care.
SIFF Film Center
Prove to yourself once again that nothing in the universe is better than dogs by watching the premiere of this documentary on doggy heroes in 3D. Onscreen, you'll encounter search and rescue dogs, emotional support animals, endangered species protectors, and others—but get to the theater at 5 and you'll meet rescue dog Ruger and his trainer Robert Calkins in the flesh!
Pacific Science Center
A damning, decades-spanning portrait of former Vice President Dick Cheney, Vice is a far cry from the genial comedies Adam McKay used to make, like Anchorman and Step Brothers. Instead, it’s an angry, messy, overbearing, and frequently brilliant film—one that's indulgent in ways that are simultaneously admirable and irritating. At worst, it feels like a mashup of Oliver Stone's and Michael Moore’s worst tendencies. At its best, though, Vice is an elaborate juggling act of ideas and techniques, including broad comedy, documentary footage, propaganda, fourth-wall-busting, vicious satire, expository narration, and reworked Shakespeare. It’s impressive. It’s also exhausting. NED LANNAMANN
The Wild Pear Tree
The Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan has finally made a masterpiece. It’s also a comedy—not the kind that makes you belly-laugh, but one that rouses a small smile now and then. The Wild Pear Tree is about a young man, Sinan, who has just finished college and wants to become a writer of literary or serious novels. But his small town, his father and family, and his community keep holding him back. Sinan reads a lot, and flirts with a local girl who is also oppressed by small-town life. As expected, there are sequences in this movie that break with the plot and enter the region of pure cinematic poetry. Ceylan’s movies are always gorgeous. CHARLES MUDEDE
Northwest Film Forum
Our critics don't recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.