Movie Midterm - My Favorite Movies of the First Half of 2024

We are only 6 months into the year, and the cinematic landscape has been jam packed. In a pleasant surprise, there have been great documentaries and original movies so far this year too.

Quick Note: Due to my location and/or financial situation, I haven't been able to watch every movie released this year that I wanted to, so there will be gaps in this list. Some of those films were not available to me, and some were just too expensive to justify the cost. I'm sure at least a few of those would have made the list, but they were not one of the 22 films released so far in 2024 that I have seen (which also includes short films and documentaries). There will be three honorable mentions, and 10 of my favorite films of the year. After that, I will list every film that was released this year that I have seen, that way you can see what I had to choose from!

Honorable Mention 3 - Jim Henson: Idea Man

Ron Howard's documentary on Jim Henson hits all the sweet spots. It not only shows what a visionary he was, but what a sweet man he was as well. With interviews from his family, and coworkers like Frank Oz, Howard paints a memorable, vivid picture. There is some rare footage of things a lot of people haven't seen (like some ads he did with a puppet that you can see would become Kermit), and lots of great stories. Howard tries to tug at your heartstrings, and for the most part succeeds. If this sounds like something you would like, go seek it out on Disney+.

Honorable Mention 2 - Suncoast

Remember the story of Terri Schiavo in the 90s? Suncoast isn't that story. But it is an adjacent story about a family dealing with a similar situation in the same facility Schiavo was housed in. Nico Parker anchors this film as a teenage girl who wants to be just that, but can't because her mother is solely focused on her brother and is she is expected to be the same. Woody Harrelson has a strong supporting turn, though sometimes it feels like he is in a different movie than everyone else. But there are some powerful things at play here, about identity, family vs self, responsibility vs discovery, and the balance of relationships. If you are looking for something a little heavier with a bit of depth but still optimistic and thought provoking, then go to Hulu and find this.

Honorable Mention 1 - Remembering Gene Wilder

Another documentary! This time about a comedic genius, and an actor who is well known as one of the most iconic literary characters of all time. This Netflix Documentary is narrated by...Gene Wilder. The filmmakers took big chunks of his audio book to frame the documentary. It doesn't work as well as if they used a different framing device, but it gets the job done. What makes up for it though, are the interviews. The two that stand out most are Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket in Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, Richard Pryor's daughter, who talked about her dad's relationship with Wilder, and of course, Wilder's frequent collaborator, Mel Brooks, who anchors the entire thing. Wilder had an odd childhood, and his journey into showbiz is chronicled in great detail. But the most powerful part, was of course his declining health and eventual death. The story his wife tells of his last few days is a powerful, emotional moment that brings the documentary over the finish line.

10. Monkey Man

Ever since we saw him answer trivia questions on Slumdog Millionaire the world knew Dev Patel was a special talent in front of the camera. But in this he also showed his skill behind the camera. While his directorial debut is a bit uneven and manic in places, he crafts a really fun revenge action thriller. Patel wrote and produced, as well as starred and directed, so Monkey Man is his at every turn. A little bit John Wick with a more spiritual element, Monkey Man is a bloody, violent, emotional good time. If you are looking for an adrenaline fueled, claustrophobic, brutal action movie that has some depth, look no further. You can watch this on Peacock, or rent it anywhere you get your digital flicks. 

9. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

The Ghostbusters franchise had a resurgence a few years back, and now has no signs of slowing down. Frozen Empire is a stronger entry in the franchise than Afterlife was, but still lacks the magic that the original movie had. While no sequel (yes, even II) in the franchise is anywhere near as good as the first, Frozen Empire did a lot correct. It had an original story, (no ghost rehash), it gave the legacy cast more to do, (proper roles not cameos), and the stakes felt real. Bill Murray had some great Venkman one-liners, and the Afterlife cast felt like they belonged. The signature blend of action and humor was on full display, but some times missing a few obvious dramatic story beats is what hurts this more than anything. This entry firmly plants them back in New York, so anything after this will hit the ground running, and hopefully expand the franchise in cool and interesting ways.

8. Hit Man 

Remember the name Glen Powell. If you don't know him yet (he's in such things as Top Gun: Maverick, Anyone But You and the upcoming Twister sequel) you will. He is becoming a bona fide movie star. He gets to showcase a lot of his talent here, in a movie about a real life person who pretends to be a Hit Man. Richard Linklater crafts an intriguing (albeit somewhat predictable) story, but the character performances are a lot of fun. The relationship between Powell's Gary Johnson and Adria Arjona's Madison is the highlight the entire movie. Hit Man is best when they are on screen together. But even when they are not, it is fun to see the many montages of Powell in various disguises pretending he is willing to kill someone. The movie deviates from the actual story of Gary Johnson, in some pretty severe ways, but it makes for a better fictional piece of entertainment this way. You don't need to know about him or the true story to make this work, just go for the ride, and you will (probably) not be disappointed.

7. Bad Boys: Ride Or Die

For how long it took for a third Bad Boys movie to come to fruition, it is amazing that there is even a fourth film, and already talks about a fifth. But with how much fun this movie was, it is welcome news. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence return as the Miami cops they've been playing throughout 4 decades now. The franchise is better out of Michael Bay's hands, as they can have more story and character moments, and less egregious explosions. Smith and Lawrence know how to do the buddy cop thing. It is nice to see Lawrence exercise his comedy chops again, as he has the best comedic stuff in the movie. He hasn't done much as of late, so its nice to see he can still pull off the big moments. Smith on the other hand, has been in the news quite a bit since the last Bad Boys movie. Ride or Die actually addresses the slap in a really funny, fitting, and somewhat meta way. It was done perfectly, and it didn't linger. They dealt with it and moved on. The guys are older now, so it is unclear how much longer they will do this, but this movie plants the seeds of what the future of the franchise could be, which is a little less comedic, but a little more action packed. Someone who has been a franchise staple as a folly for Smith and Lawrence, gets their time to shine, and it is a spectacular look at what could be in the future.

6. The Fall Guy

If you don't know what people mean when they say "on-screen chemistry" watch Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt in this movie. They ooze chemistry in every scene they share. There are always 1 or 2 movies every year that are just plain cinematic fun. This is definitely one of those. There are laughs, a love story, an interesting mystery and action scenes and stunts you've never seen on the big screen before. It is a wonderful way to spend 2 hours, and you will have fun through the whole thing. Stunt performers do not get enough credit in the industry, (it is unreal that there is not a stunt category at the Oscars), so seeing a film that is essentially a love letter to that part of the business is heartwarming. Gosling's on screen presence paired with Blunt's charisma and charm elevates this movie to something it wouldn't be without them. If you want some movie magic, this is the one to seek out.

5. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

I am a big fan of movies, and how they are made. I've learned a lot about how certain things are done. I've read articles and watched interviews about hundreds of movies. George Miller however, does things on screen that are so incredible that I have absolutely no idea how he pulls them off. When Fury Road came out in 2015, it was a revelation. It instantly became one of the best action movies ever made. The standout character was Furiosa, and this movie is a prequel about her life. While it doesn't stand quite as tall as Fury Road did (despite the action, it takes a while to get going, and sags a bit in the middle), it is still an absolutely incredible ride. Anya Taylor-Joy is spectacular, and the action set pieces are mind blowing. George Miller is 79 years old and still on top of his game. The casting of Chris Hemsworth was a stroke of genius too, he was a ton of fun as the villain, and it was nice to see Hemsworth be able to be a little evil, after being known so well for hero roles. George Miller can't help but be cinematic at every turn, so the entire movie is a visual treat. If you are fan of big flashy action sequences that have substance to them, you can't go wrong with this.

4. Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

The Caesar trilogy of Apes movies are the best in the entire franchise. So when that story came to an end, whatever came next was going to have a high bar to clear. Kingdom doesn't try to be those movies. Instead it takes what those built, and uses it in its own distinct and interesting way. A large time jump (about 300 years) is what was needed to distance itself from the Caesar trilogy. The story and the world of Apes is barreling closer and closer to the ones we saw in the original 1968 movie, but there is still a lot to happen to get there. This feels like the next logical step. The story is smart and creative, and fits perfectly snug in the gaps of what was created before it. The CGI is well done, and not too off-putting. The world feels real, and the apes are distinct, so you get invested in them easier. I was surprised how well this was made and how much this resonated with me. If you are a fan of the franchise, this is a solid entry, that can be the beginning of an entirely new trilogy.

3. Civil War

I don't remember a film that was more unsettling to me as I was walking out of the theater. Horror movies don't really unsettle me, those have fantasy elements that will never come true. While this movie is fictional, we are a few short decisions from it becoming a reality. Kirsten Dunst puts up a career best performance here, as a war photographer during a modern US Civil War. The images are haunting. The idea is chilling. The way it plays out is uncomfortable. Everything about this is meant to challenge you. It is heavy, but it still finds time to let you get invested in the characters, and fear for them. I can't remember ever experiencing a film quite like this before. If you want some lighthearted and airy, this is not the one. If you want your art to challenge you, if you want it to make you a bit uncomfortable, if you want it to warn you about what could happen, then check it out. It will not be for everyone. But if you can handle it, I urge you to seek it out.

2. Dune II

Denis Villeneuve is a visionary filmmaker. Between the first Dune movie, the stunning Blade Runner sequel, and Arrival, he makes some of the most memorable sweeping epics in cinematic history. His first Dune movie came out at an unfortunate time. It went right to streaming as the global pandemic was still raging. I lament not seeing that on the largest screen humanly possible. So when the sequel came around, I was sure to do just that. Even with the hefty run time, the visual world Villeneuve put to screen was a treat for the senses. This is dense sci-fi, so it won't be for everyone. But if you like that genre, and complex worlds and relationships, you won't find a better showing of it than the this. The sequel definitely moved the story forward, and set things up for a climactic third film. Even if you don't get invested in all of the lore, just seeing desert dwellers surf on a gigantic worm through the sand is quite the spectacle.

1. Inside Out 2

Did I think this movie would make this list? There was a strong possibility. Did I think it was going to be number 1? Absolutely not. But here we are. Pixar fired on all cylinders here, and gave the world an antagonist that most people can relate to. Which is why Inside Out 2 is number 1. It is one of the most relatable pieces of entertainment I have come across in a long, long time. Riley's emotions are back, front and center in this sequel, but as she begins puberty, a new set of emotions join, including anxiety. Seeing Riley deal with anxiety at every turn was what sealed this. To be able to so accurately portray what anxiety feels like and what it can do to your body in such a colorful and innovative way is absolutely stellar storytelling. To be able to take such a complex feeling and make it accessible so kids can understand it is a stroke of genius. Every Pixar film is about existentialism (Who am I? What do I do now? Where do I belong?), but this one took it literally, and knocked it out of the park. If you struggle with anxiety, I highly recommend watching this. It might not change your outlook, but maybe it will make it so you know what you are feeling isn't odd, and that many people feel it too.


2024 Films I have seen so far (including 2 I saw early, that I can't talk about yet, so they are blurred out):


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