If you can, you should head down to the Tacoma Film Festival this weekend, where you can see hits from the US and around the world like the undocumented immigrant drama The Infiltrators, Charles Mudede and Robin Devor's Police Beat, and the very dark comedy The Death of Dick Long. But if you're chilling in Seattle, don't worry: You can attend the Social Justice Film Festival and the Seattle Latino Film Festival. Alternatively, catch the release of the morally ambiguous Joker, trip out at A Field in England, or escape the spooky stuff with Legally Blonde. See all of our film critics’ picks for this weekend below, and, if you're looking for even more options, check out our film events calendar and complete movie times listings (which are now location-aware!).
Note: Movies play Thursday–Sunday unless otherwise noted
Heading to Portland or Tacoma? Check out EverOut to find things to do there and in Seattle, all in one place.
28 Days Later
For one session of Campout Cinema, MoPOP outsourced its film curating to its audience on social media. They chose the fast-zombie flick 28 Days Later, so Cillian Murphy and rabid biters are what you get!
Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
The 42nd Film Noir Series: Detour
Don't miss the museum's annual revisitation—billed as "the world's longest-running film noir series"—of some of America's darkest cinematic delights, full of crime, smoke, and sex appeal. This week's dark treasure is Detour, about which Charles Mudede writes, "Noir is rarely better than the 1945 film Detour, which is not a good film. Indeed, it’s actually very bad. Shot in just six days, Detour’s acting is comically flat, its story is a mess, and it is plagued with continuity errors. But it nevertheless gets to the dark heart of a form of filmmaking that emerged after the disaster of the Second World War. Detour’s badness and low-budget quality capture the confused state of a society, a civilization that had lost complete faith in progress."
Seattle Art Museum
Abbas Kiarostami Retrospective
Four treasured Seattle arthouse cinemas will revisit the masterpieces of one of the most important filmmakers of the 20th and 21st centuries: the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who died in France in 2016. During his long career, he explored the fine line between documentary and fiction, the relationship between spectator and image, and the mysteries of life and death. The theaters are showing eight of his extraordinary movies, including this week's Palme d'Or-winning The Wind Will Carry Us, a mysterious existentialist drama about a jaded engineer who arrives in a remote village to await his elderly relative's death; and Problems with Many Solutions, a collection of Kiarostami's rarely seen short films.
Writer/director James Grey's follow-up to 2016's excellent, underrated The Lost City of Z is a clunkier affair, with sad-sack Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) embarking on an almost-certainly doomed voyage through the solar system to track down his MIA astronaut father (Tommy Lee Jones). Along the way, he fights battles both external (space pirates!) and internal (daddy issues!), and he also spends a whole lot of time monologuing, thanks to an unnecessary, on-the-nose voiceover that rivals Harrison Ford's awkward ramble in Blade Runner. But it's when the movie shuts up—when Gray's camera skims the plains of the Moon, when an antenna towering into Earth's atmosphere begins to shudder, when the screen is filled by the shadow-blue rings of Neptune or the churning storms of Jupiter—that Ad Astra hits the profundity and scope that all McBride's monologuing fails to get at. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Brittany Runs a Marathon
Me, for the first 70 minutes of Brittany Runs a Marathon: “This is some fat-shamey nonsense and I hate it.” When Brittany (Jillian Bell in a freakin’ fat suit) visits a doctor in hopes of scoring Adderall, she instead gets a lecture on her weight—despite the doctor knowing nothing else about her health. But anyway, Brittany decides to get her life together by losing weight and training for a marathon. I’m happy this wasn’t actually a feature-length film about how losing weight can change your life (vomit), because once she's out of the problematic prosthetics, Bell is hilarious. There are plenty of enjoyable things in this movie, but I can't recommend it to anyone who's struggled with disordered eating. ELINOR JONES
AMC Seattle 10
Chained for Life
Aaron Schimberg trenchantly examines othering and exploitation in this meta film about an able-bodied, traditionally attractive actress (Jess Weixler) cast in a problematic horror-ish movie featuring disabled and disfigured actors (including the romantic lead, played by Adam Pearson of Under the Skin).
SIFF Film Center
The Cranes Are Flying
One of the most famous films to emerge from Russia, Mikhail Kalatozov's gorgeous 1957 love story (here presented in a new restoration) takes place in Moscow on the night of Operation Barbarossa, the Third Reich's invasion of the Soviet Union. It's a simple plot filmed with Kalatozov and cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky (I Am Cuba)'s daring camerawork: dizzying crane and handheld shots abound.
You could classify director Stuart Swezey's Desolation Center documentary as a vanity project, as it focuses on his efforts as an events organizer and includes him on camera talking about the logistics and meaning of throwing off-the-grid concerts in the '80s. But in this case, the vanity is earned. From his Southern California home base, Swezey facilitated some of the most extraordinary multimedia extravaganzas of the pre-internet/pre-smart-phone era. The five shows he memorializes in Desolation Center went on to inspire such well-known festivals as Lollapalooza, Coachella, and Burning Man. And he did it with no corporate sponsorships. Swezey and crew were true DIY entrepreneurs, and their risks paid off much more in cultural capital than actual currency. DAVE SEGAL
Northwest Film Forum
A Field in England
Let's see how easy it is to talk you out of seeing A Field in England. First of all, it's in black and white. Second, it takes place in the 17th century, and all the characters speak in impenetrable dialect while being covered in varying degrees of filth and shit. Finally, it's a self-consciously arty, virtually plotless exercise that's capped by a bug-nuts trip-out sequence in which one of the characters shovels handfuls of psilocybin mushrooms into his mouth like they're Girl Scout Cookies. Now let me try something harder: persuading you that A Field in England—the fourth feature from English director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers)—is not merely worthwhile, it's among the most challenging and astonishing pieces of cinema around, transcending any "drug movie" clichés in favor of something fascinating, terrifying, and unique. NED LANNAMANN
French Cinema Now
For one week, Seattle turns into a center for French and Francophone cinema culture, offering some of the best movies you'll see all year. On the last day, don't miss an autobiographical culture-clash drama by Nadav Lapid, Synonyms, and As Happy as Possible, a portrait of wayward youth in southern France.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
You know the deal. It's some snarky paranormal investigators/ghost removers—played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson—versus all the ghouls of Manhattan in this gooey, goofy send-up of horror and monster movies.
Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, Hustlers is based on the true story documented in "Hustlers in Scores," a 2015 New York magazine article by Jessica Pressler. The movie kicks off in 2007, before the effects of the recession were fully felt, and when things were still fun and business was still good. Wall street guys were making bank, and a considerable amount of that dough made it into the hands of strip club workers. But in 2008, the financial crisis started to affect the club’s clientele, which also meant a decline in the dancers’ pay. Hustlers shows how an all-out class war ensued, with a group of four stripper friends (played by Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, and Lili Reinhart) targeting their rolodex of wealthy clients, drugging, and guiding them to a club where the women had negotiated a percentage of their spending. Once there, the women would easily persuade their drunken victims to hand over their credit cards, racking up thousands of dollars in expenses. Ultimately, the funny, fleshy Hustlers is solid because the strippers are uniquely portrayed as real women with full lives, but also, let’s be honest: It’s just fun to watch Wall Street pervs get taken advantage of for their money. JENNI MOORE
It: Chapter Two
It: Chapter Two gets better as it goes, but be warned that it goes for 169 minutes. It’s hard to argue with the film’s length, given the complicated, sprawling underbelly of lore and symbolism in Stephen King’s novel, but what does director Andy Muschietti do with all this time? Like the first film, Chapter Two has high points, but Muschietti also drags scenes out for far too long. This is an above-average blockbuster, and audiences who go to Chapter Two looking for a monster movie will find something much better than usual. But King fans will be left wanting—though perhaps in a way that makes them want to reread It and remember why they loved it so much in the first place. SUZETTE SMITH
Joker isn’t really the story of a good man gone bad; clown for hire Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is troubled from the outset. He’s barely scraping by, living with his mother (Frances Conroy), and coming undone due to cuts in social services. Sure, Phillips overdoes it with long, panning explorations of Fleck’s bruised, skinny ribs, but then again, men with insecurities about being skinny are presumably the film’s target audience. The first half hour unfolds like a dog-whistle symphony for insecure guys who think they have it bad. Fleck berates his black social worker (Sharon Washington) for not listening to him when she’s obviously doing her best. He fixates on a black single mother (Zazie Beetz) after the briefest sign of camaraderie. Yet there are a series of trap doors throughout Joker that unexpectedly drop its audience into new perspectives. Early on, an obvious foreshadow shifts Fleck onto a new path, and as that plotline plays out, Joker offers some surprisingly rewarding reflections on the relationship between the villain and Batman. (Oh yeah! This is a Batman movie, remember?) Both men, Joker suggests, might be equally deranged, making sweeping moves against the world without regard for those who become collateral damage for their respective manias. SUZETTE SMITH
A biopic about the last months of famed entertainer and Wizard of Oz star Judy Garland, Judy features an uncanny, spot-on performance from Reneé Zellwegger that’s unfortunately paired with a script that veers from affecting to eye-rollingly ham-fisted. Bouncing back and forth from Judy’s famed London Palladium gigs six months before her death and her childhood that was crushed under the abusive thumb of Louis B. Mayer while filming The Wizard of Oz, Zellwegger gives an honest, raw performance that lays bare Garland’s crippling depression and addiction. However, her valiant attempts at subtlety are betrayed by a shallow script that relies too heavily on emotional manipulation. That aside, Zellwegger’s gloriously accurate hair and makeup is almost reason enough to see this film, and when she belts out “The Trolley Song,” you'll long for the days when consummate pros like Garland pushed past their personal demons to bring audiences to their feet. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
America’s #1 lawyer, Elle Woods, built an empire. Not only did Woods spite her ex-boyfriend by earning a Juris Doctor degree in Legally Blonde in 2001, she went on to inspire a Legally Blonde sequel, TV series, musical, and, in 2020, a Legally Blonde 3, which will continue to star Reese Witherspoon as Woods. The film franchise never went away, but it’s getting a cultural resurgence thanks to Witherspoon’s Big Little Lies character, Madeline Mackenzie, basically being a carbon copy of Elle Woods. The rumor is that the real big little lie is that Mackenzie will pull off her mask to reveal she was Woods all along. Big Little Lies needs a new plot, so I like to believe this conspiracy. CHASE BURNS
In 2011, economist Yanis Varoufakis posted an essay on his blog titled “The Trouble with Humans: Why is labour special and especially targeted at a time of crisis” that provides an interesting interpretation of the science-fiction classic The Matrix. The film’s basic plot: In the year 1999, a computer hacker named Neo (Keanu Reeves) learns from a mysterious figure, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), that the world he lives in is not real, but a sinister computer simulation designed by machines to keep humans content while farming their bodies for energy. He is also told the year is not 1999, but closer to 2199. After dealing with the shock of this revelation, Neo decides to leave the simulation, enter “the desert of the real” (the real world, which is dark, grim, and gothic), and join the human rebellion against the machines. In Varoufakis’s opinion, this film is so close to the way things actually are in our world that it is basically a documentary. CHARLES MUDEDE
Regal Meridian 16
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool
Miles Davis was one of the greatest musicians ever. He was also a nasty motherfucker. Stanley Nelson’s documentary Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool pivots on these two immutable elements of the jazz trumpeter’s existence with a penetrating, analytical approach that doesn’t stint on emotion. It’s about as rewarding a dissection of a great artist and problematic human as one could hope for in under two hours. Nelson enlists an elite cadre of Davis’s bandmates, wives and lovers, childhood friends, family members, promoters, music critics and historians, managers, label bosses, and Carlos Santana to provide key insights into this tormented genius. They’re generous with praise, but not afraid to call out the man’s faults, of which there were plenty. While the film’s commenters deem Davis the epitome of a hip black man who took no shit, he was also physically and mentally abusive to some of his wives and girlfriends, actions that would likely get him “canceled” today. Nelson fairly presents Davis’s blemishes and virtues, but he ultimately can’t help elevating Davis to godhead status. DAVE SEGAL
SIFF Cinema Egyptian & Uptown
Memory: The Origins of Alien
Erik Henriksen of the Portland Mercury wrote: "Alongside archival interviews with Scott and the late artist H. R. Giger, Memory boasts a dude-heavy lineup of film scholars, filmmakers, and actors, many of whom offer smart contributions, even as others suggest theories that can charitably be described as stretches. Memory never acknowledges the existence of Alien's increasingly lousy sequels (and it barely acknowledges Scott's increasingly lousy prequels), but only one omission is truly unforgivable: While Memory's talking heads are happy to discuss the movie's brutal, discomfiting reflections on gender, hardly anything is said about Sigourney Weaver's Ripley—Alien's unmistakable backbone, and the reason for much of the film's success." Absolutely true, and a big disappointment, but Memory is still worth catching for diehard fans of the first and best installment in the franchise.
The Midnight Hour
LeVar Burton and Shari Belafonte-Harper appear in this cute, not-terribly-scary PG horror film about kids who ill-advisedly break into a witchcraft museum.
This is one strange beast of a movie. Set in the fog-enshrouded mountains of Colombia, the action centers on the scrappy, Lord of the Flies–like members of a guerrilla operation called The Organization. When they aren’t dancing around bonfires, firing assault rifles into the air, and beating up on each other, the soldiers are training to do… something (the politics are intentionally vague). Their companions include a compact drill sergeant, a milk cow named Shakira, and a POW they call Doctora (Julianne Nicholson, fully invested in a physically demanding role). If you insist on likability in your movie characters, Monos isn’t for you, because these kids are basically assholes. Recommended mostly for the jaw-dropping topography, Mica Levi’s synapse-scrambling score, and the Apocalypse Now–level cinematography. KATHY FENNESSY
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Writer/director Justin Chon (Man Up, Gook)’s low-key family drama, set in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, deals with childhood traumas of abandonment. A woman working a depressing job as a karaoke host and her estranged brother have to mend their relationship in order to care for their dying father, who left the family when they were growing up. Andee Tagle of NPR writes, "This newest endeavor is just as ambitious as Gook in its portrayal of the Asian American family outside of the 'the model minority' stereotype, and is more focused, if not always balanced."
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Movie endings leave you feeling either satisfied or unsatisfied. David Lynch's endings, particularly the one for his new film, Mulholland Drive, have an altogether different power: They send the viewer hurtling into a tizzy of desperate calculus, trying to figure out what the hell has been happening for the last two-and-a-half hours. Lynch films are largely resolution-free, and spill over with possible meanings, merging identities, and dream-reality crossovers so elaborate that it takes several viewings to decide whether the tricks add up. There's always a sense that the film could be a big practical joke on the cult of seriousness; Lynch, after all, is one funny bastard. Not only is Mulholland Drive no exception to this principle, it's his freaky ne plus ultra. SEAN NELSON
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Beautiful and twisted, The Nightmare Before Christmas remains one of the greatest holiday flicks ever created. BRADLEY STEINBACHER
No Man's Land
No Man's Land Film Festival is a series of films about women exploring the outdoors. See bike riders, climbers, sailors, and other intrepid women in stupendous natural environments. Proceeds benefit Washington Wild.
Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood
Once Upon a Time doesn't have the self-conscious, This Is a Quentin Tarantino Film™ feel of the filmmaker's past few movies. Make no mistake: Nobody besides Tarantino could have made Once Upon a Time—it's a singular thing, uniquely dialed in to his obsessions and quirks. But like Tarantino's best movies, it feels neither reliant nor focused on those obsessions and quirks. We spend the bulk of our time with three people: Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an earnest, anxious, B-list actor whose career is right about to curdle; Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), Rick's toughed-up, chilled-out former stuntman and current BFF; and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), a bubbly, captivating actress who's just starting to enjoy her first taste of success in show business. How Tarantino plays with history in Once Upon a Time is one of the more intense and surprising elements of the film—and, thankfully, it's also one of the best. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Picnic at Hanging Rock
A gaggle of beautiful Australian schoolgirls and one of their teachers disappear during a Victorian-era Valentine's Day picnic in Peter Weir's sexually charged, animistic, unsettling meditation on the power of place.
For fans of post-apocalyptic anime, Promare from Studio Trigger will deliver the maximalist visuals and frenetic action you desire (even if the story, about firefighters battling mutants, is a little thin).
Regal Meridian 16 & AMC Pacific Place
Do you know why everyone acts like Psycho is so great? Because it IS. A fun experiment while you're watching the film in a room crowded with people who know what's coming is to imagine it's 1960, when 95 percent of the film's likely audience would have been literally incapable of imagining that Norman Bates was anywhere near as fucked up as he turns out to be. Remembering that recasts Hitchcock's technique as a willful erosion of human innocence, which makes the whole thing even more powerful. SEAN NELSON
H.P. Lovecraft’s blasphemous resurrector gets the cinematic treatment in this schlock classic.
Seattle Latino Film Festival
This year's Seattle festival of Chicanx and Latinx cinema will feature 10 days of independent movies, filmmaker panels, workshops, and more, beginning with a splashy opening gala. The organizers say that this year's festival will feature "110 titles from 22 countries: films, short films, documentaries, and animation." There will be a special focus on young Latinx filmmakers in the US. At the opening gala, watch the short film Bibi followed by the North American premiere of the 2018 Mexican drama The Chambermaid.
Social Justice Film Festival
This film festival (Oct 3–12) highlights fierce and powerful progressive movements around the world. As social justice provides the only throughline, many of the movies have little in common. But the selection skews toward limber, on-the-ground filmmaking in the midst of protests and conflicts. This edition's theme is "Courage." This weekend, be sure not to miss the opening film, The Observer, a profile of the Chinese dissident artist Hu Jie. Other notable movies this weekend: The Condor & the Eagle (Saturday) and Complicit (Sunday).
Takashi Miike's Black Society Trilogy: 'Shinjuku Triad Society' and Ley Lines
Ahead of the release of Takashi Miike's new drama, First Love, revisit the auteur's hard-boiled '90s trilogy (in a new restoration) about crooked cops, a gay crimelord, hitmen, sex workers, and various unlucky folks. You can still see two of them. In Shinjuku Triad Society, a corrupt policeman chases his Chinese gangster quarry from Shinjuku to Taiwan; in Ley Lines, three Japanese young people of Chinese ancestry get into trouble in the big city.
Tasveer South Asian Film Festival
As Leilani Polk writes, "Seattle is lucky to have one of the largest South Asian-focused film festivals in the world, second only to Toronto." This weekend, see Reason, The Sweet Requiem, LGBTQ Shorts, Laal Kabootar, and more.
Vampire Hunter D
Toyoo Ashida's 1985 classic anime film, Vampire Hunter D, is the pinnacle of Japanese gothic future-fantasy. A woman must get help from a vampire to find the vampire who bit her, lest she turn into a vampire herself. The animation's all in stark purples and chiseled lines, seemingly surrounded by a grey cloud. It's no longer dorky to like anime OR be goth, so you should go! JULIANNE SHEPHERD
Be warned: If you associate Vincent Price movies with silly, macabre camp...well, there's some of that here, but Witchfinder General (aka The Conqueror Worm) is also a deeply nasty religious persecution drama. Price, in one of his best roles, plays Matthew Hopkins, a Puritan interrogator paid to identify witches by any means necessary. Naturally, he exploits his position to extort sex from the women in the towns he visits. It's up to one soldier whose fiancée has fallen victim to halt Hopkins's reign of terror.
Wrinkles the Clown
Allegedly, several Parents of the Year hired a grotesque old clown guy to scare their errant children into good behavior. While that might be nonsense, Wrinkles the Clown certainly morphed into a sinister Internet presence after a nannycam clip of him creeping out from under a child's bed emerged on YouTube. Find out more! Suspend your disbelief!
SIFF Film Center
Our critics don't recommend these films, but you might like to know about them anyway.
Heading to Portland or Tacoma? Check out EverOut to find things to do there and in Seattle, all in one place.