These movies should not be “last” on your watchlist.
It's surprising to realize just how many movies there are that begin with the word "last" (or "the Last.") ironically, the first thing you hear about these movies (their titles) instantly suggests finality, but there must be something intriguing about it. Otherwise, we probably wouldn't see so many movies use the word "last" at the start of their title.
Whether it's because it sounds ominous, interesting, dramatic, or all of the above, it has to work in grabbing an audience's attention. Many movies invoke this strange (and admittedly niche) phenomenon: these "last" movies may be the best you've ever seen.
At a point in his career, Arnold Schwarzenegger started frequently appearing in comedies. Truth be told, while a number of them may be nostalgic, they're not all necessarily great movies and tend to be more family-oriented, featuring less in-your-face action than some of his more explosive roles.
That makes Last Action Hero feel surprisingly refreshing, as it combines comedy and action well in a story about a young action fan entering the world of his favorite movie character, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's very silly in parts but undeniably funny, charming, and action-packed, making it both a very good action-comedy and a good "Last" movie.
A gritty dramedy starring Jack Nicholson, The Last Detail is about two men from the Navy who are asked to take another (younger) seaman to jail. They feel conflicted about their task, and a friendship develops between the three. The film then becomes about the trio enjoying their freedom and doing all they can to have a good time.
The Last Detail is the kind of movie that only really seemed to get made (and become popular) in the 1970s. It's deliberately slow, more focused on characters over plot, and feels overall gritty and down-to-earth. It's also notable for being one of the most profane movies of all time…at least at the time of its release. Certain movies released in its wake make The Last Detail's salty language look mild in comparison.
An unfairly overlooked film from 2021, Ridley Scott's The Last Duel shows the director still firing on all cylinders, well into his 80s. It's a film that shows a terrible crime and its aftermath from three differing perspectives, all building to a climactic duel to the death, ending the film in a tense, brutal fashion.
In showing one truthful recount of a horrific event and two warped ones, The Last Duel shows how memory (or perhaps arrogance, too) can distort the truth. Its refusal to shy away from violence and misogynistic behavior makes it difficult to watch. However, the way it reflects and comments on issues that are still relevant today makes it an essential and hard-to-forget film.
Winning a staggering nine Oscars, including Best Picture, The Last Emperor is a film that runs close to three hours in telling the life story of Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the final Emperor of China. It's a standard biopic at its core, but it is bolstered by a great score and beautiful visuals.
It also more than earns the "Last" in its title, given how it deals with the end of an era and the life of the last person to hold a particular title in China, one that went back over 2000 years. Puyi only had the title briefly as a child and wasn't technically an emperor for much of his adult life, though it's still an interesting story and should appeal to any fans of historical dramas.
A spiritual sequel of sorts to the similarly-titled The Last Detail, Last Flag Flying also concerns the friendship between three men and feels like a dramedy, too (though perhaps it emphasizes drama more than it does comedy).
It is a very sad film, with one of the men having to bury his son, who's recently died at war, with his two friends along for emotional support. Despite the heavy subject matter, it is a film that's easy to like and get absorbed in, and it benefits from the three central performances of Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, and Steve Carell.
Perhaps the best film directed by the late Peter Bogdanovich, The Last Picture Show is a moving (and often downbeat) coming-of-age drama. It takes place in a small, dying town and deals with a group of high-school seniors, their romances, and their interactions with their parents, all while they hope they can escape the town and its restrictive, even oppressive atmosphere.
For anyone who's felt stuck in life, The Last Picture Show may make for a cathartic watch…or it could just make the emotions that come with feeling stuck and without purpose even stronger. Either way, it's endured as a classic because of its bold black-and-white cinematography and for helping kickstart the careers of actors like Jeff Bridges, Ellen Burstyn, and Cybill Shepherd.
Controversial upon its release but better understood today, The Last Temptation of Christ isn't what one might consider a typical Martin Scorsese movie. It's set 2000 years in the past and doesn't involve any characters from the mafia, nor is it filled with catchy, iconic pop and rock songs.
It doesn't adapt text from the Bible exactly, even though it features Jesus and has some basic similarities. Instead, it aims to delve deep into Jesus' state of mind in the last few days of his life, becoming a psychological drama of sorts set in Biblical times. The last temptation of the title refers to the Devil trying to get Jesus to abandon his mission on the cross, and the extended, surreal sequence where Jesus is made to imagine what his life would be as a "normal" man is partly what landed the film in so much hot water upon release.
Michael Mann may be best known for his crime-thrillers and modern-day action movies, but he's also the director of The Last of the Mohicans, which is naturally very different. While it's pretty action-packed and maybe even "thrilling," the 18th-century setting—and focus on the conflict between the French, British, and Mohicans—makes it a far cry from something like the cops and robbers story in an L.A. setting found in 1995's Heat.
To Mann's credit, he does a great job at directing a very different film, with The Last of the Mohicans even being among his best directorial efforts. It's bolstered by a great lead performance from the always compelling Daniel Day-Lewis, its fast pace, and some visceral action sequences.
One of two films that Edgar Wright released in 2021, Last Night in Soho, sees the filmmaker moving further away from his comedy origins than ever before, albeit to moderate success. It's not a seamless or perfectly executed psychological thriller/horror film, but in large part, it works, with an engaging premise about a young woman being transported to the 1960s and finding it far darker and seedier than she'd imagined.
It's the look of the film that proves most intoxicating, with its trippy visuals and great use of color. Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy are also both very good, and it's overall the kind of movie where you can overlook some of its shortcomings, thanks to its stronger aspects being particularly strong.
The last "Last" film worth mentioning is The Last Seduction, from 1994. It's a film that time seems to have forgotten, to some extent, which is a little unfair: it's a gripping and very well-made neo-noir about a modern-day femme fatale and the various (usually shady) men she uses for her benefit.
As far as neo-noir films that directly capture classic film noirs go, The Last Seduction has to be one of the most directly inspired by black-and-white films from the 1940s and 1950s, though with a post-modern 1990s spin to the proceedings. With a committed central performance from Linda Fiorentino, The Last Seduction is a movie that should be on more people's radars if it wasn't already.
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Jeremy is an omnivore when it comes to movies. He'll gladly watch and write about almost anything, from old Godzilla films to gangster flicks to samurai movies to classic musicals to the French New Wave to the MCU. When he's not writing lists for Collider, he also likes to upload film reviews to his Letterboxd profile (username: Jeremy Urquhart) and Instagram account.
These movies should not be “last” on your watchlist.