The Best Movies I’ve Watched Over the Last Three+ Years


Over the pandemic, many of us started new projects and adopted new hobbies, myself included. One of the weirder things I decided to do was rate every single movie I’ve ever watched. I used a website/app called Letterboxd and got started giving films anywhere from five stars (for the best of the best) to half a star (as Letterboxd doesn’t allow you to give the Star Wars Holiday Special, or any other movie, zero stars). If this feels familiar to you, that’s because I shared it back in April 2021. At the time, I had rated about 450 movies; a bit more than three years later, I’m at about 630. I, apparently, watch a lot of movies. (And that doesn’t include rewatches.)

One really cool side effect of doing this is that I can now say, definitively, which movies I’ve watched somewhat recently — I can’t actually peg down a specific “rated on or after” date — and liked enough to recommend. All I need to do is play around with Letterboxd settings and look at my own ratings. So, let’s do that!

Before I get started, though:

  • If you want an explanation of my rating system, I shared that in detail on that April 2021 post. You can click here if you don’t want to scroll up.
  • Want to see my whole list? You can view every movie I’ve watched/rated, with the fifteen 5-star films first, here. Within each star rating cohort, I think they’re ordered by release date (oldest first); Letterboxd sets that, I do not. And as much as I’d like to tease out which is #1 and which is #15, every attempt I’ve made to rank them has been a frustrating disaster, so I’m not going to bother.
  • If you want to help me discover new movies, create a Letterboxd account, go to my profile, add me as a friend/follower, and start rating movies on your own. Thanks!
  • Oh, and here’s my list of movies that I plan to watch in the future (but likely never will).

And with that, onto the list:

4 Stars

I give most good or even very good movies three stars — those are movies that are worth watching but if you skip them, it’s fine. Three and a half stars is reserved for movies I’d actively recommend, even if I don’t remember a lot of the key details a year or so later. If you look through my list, you’ll find a lot of them, so I’m only sharing 4+ stars here. These are listed in order of when I watched them, most recent ones last.

  • All The President’s Men: It’s older than I am, so I don’t blame myself for only getting around to watching it recently. It goes a lot faster than its two hour-18 minute run time. I know it’s not a documentary but it definitely feels true-to-life.
  • North by Northwest: Over the past few years, I’ve watched a lot of movies that are 50+ years old, and most of them — Citizen Kane, Arsenic and Old Lace, The 400 Blows — are hard to give the due because the movie industry has built upon their successes. (I’ve rated each 3.5 stars). This one was different for me, as if other movies have tried to do what it has done but failed to reach its peak. I’ve described it as the best James Bond movie ever made, even though it’s not a Bond movie.
  • The Batman: I went into this one with a ton of skepticism. The Dark Knight is one of my favorite movies of all time and I doubted that I could find another Batman movie to be worthwhile, but what I learned is that I just really love Batman movies. (I also watched The Joker over the last few years; it’s great and I gave it 3.5 stars, and when I get around to rewatching it, I could see it making it to 4 stars.) This one is more of a detective story than an action film, which is a throwback to Batman’s roots, and it’s very well done — worth every second. I have one quibble, but it’s a spoiler, so I won’t share it here. (Sorry!)
  • Good Will Hunting: I should have watched this years ago. Every character is great.
  • Arrival: I have a penchant for sci-fi movies but all too often, they end up with lots of stuff blowing up. I had no idea which way this was going throughout, figured it could go that way, but it didn’t. I’m not sure I love the way it ultimately went, but it’s fantastic storytelling. I also watched Interstellar a few weeks later, and it’s a similarly great movie (3.5 stars for me). Arrival is better — it just hit differently.
  • One Life: The story of a British stockbroker who, before World War II broke out, put himself in peril to help Czech Jewish children escape the Nazis. I didn’t know his story beforehand and this was a particularly moving one.

4.5 Stars

These are movies that almost everyone should see, even if you’re not a huge fan of the genre.

  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: You need to see the first one for this to make sense, and it’s better going in if you know that there’s going to be a part three. I saw this in the theaters and midway through found myself wanting to rewatch it — it was that good in the moment. Rewatching it was still good, but not as much as I’d hoped. It feels so, so close to a five-star film for me, but not quite there.
  • Everything Everywhere All At Once: I watched this one a plane a few weeks ago. It had been on my to-watch list forever (well, since 2022 when it came out) and its reputation is well deserved. I’m sure I’ll rewatch this a few times and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ultimately makes my five-star list.

5 Stars

Only one movie to share here:

  • The Prestige: I went into this movie (on a plane) knowing nothing about it, other than a few people had recommended it to me. I was blown away — thinking about it for days later and telling many, many people to watch it. Now, I’m telling you 🙂 But I won’t say anything substantive about it because it’s best if you go in cold.

That’s it! Anything I should be watching? Let me know.

The Now I Know Week In Review

Monday: A Bad Way to Get a Woman’s Motor Running: A marketing campaign goes bad.

Tuesday: The Problem With Flying With Marshmallows: A snack goes boom.

Wednesday: D-Day’s Doomed Dry Run: Yesterday was the 80th anniversary of D-Day; this is the story of the test invasion… and how it was a disaster.

Thursday: The Case of the Mousey Soup: A found a picture of the “wine” mentioned in the bonus item on this one and decided not to share it, because it’s super gross looking. But if you really want it, it’s on Wikimedia’s servers (the organization behind Wikipedia) and only a Google search away.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend:

1) “The Last Days of Target” (Canadian Business, 31 minutes, January 2016). To be clear, we’re talking about Target Canada here — the U.S. stores are very much still open and not nearing their last days (or at least I hope not, there’s some stuff I need). The Canada-specific Targets are a crazy tale; the first one opened in March 2013 and by January 2015, there were 133 of them throughout the nation. But they didn’t last — the subsidiary was bleeding money and had no clear path to profitability, and all 133 stores were shut down by mid-April of that same year.

2) “How the arrival of iodized salt 100 years ago changed America” (Washington Post, 6 minutes, May 2024). The link is a gift link; you should get past the paywall. The subhead: “On May 1, 1924, the first iodized salt appeared on shelves, quickly solving an iodine deficiency crisis that plagued the northern U.S. ‘goiter belt.’” And I think this understates the impact. Iodized salt is one of those inventions that we take for granted now, but it had an incredible positive public health impact.

3) “A day in the life of (almost) every vending machine in the world” (The Guardian, 27 minutes, April 2022). Someone wrote a 27-minute love letter to the vending machine and it’s as good as finding a machine with that one last Snickers bar amongst a sea of fruit leathers.

Have a great weekend!