Though never considered a true dumping ground like January, the month of February rarely gets much respect, cinematically speaking. It makes some degree of sense that studios have their attention elsewhere. Holiday offerings from December are wrapping up, the Oscar season is coming to an end, and Valentine’s Day has its own built-in audience. Still, the second month of the year has had more quality than you might realize. Believe it or not, there’s a Best Picture winner among the best of the bunch this time around.
Today, we’re going to be looking at ten of the best February releases ever. It may not surprise you like the January list did, but there’s some real gems to be found here. We even have some Academy Award winners in the mix. The group skews recent, but that does go to show that things are really changing. Even just a few years ago, something like “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part” would never opt to hit this month. However, “The LEGO Movie” blew everyone away in February back when it opened. Times truly have changed, as you’ll see below.
dir. Alex Garland
One could easily make the case that 2018 was the best February ever for movies. You’ll see another entry form the second month of last year shortly, but this misunderstood science fiction epic entranced the mind of those who ventured out to see it. Alex Garland didn’t make it easy on audiences, but “Annihilation” is the sort of gem that the years to come will look incredibly kindly on.
dir. Gavin O’Connor
This week brings a strong sports flick in “Fighting with My Family,” but back fifteen years ago, one of the most underrated ones debuted. This tribute to Herb Brooks and the “Miracle on Ice” is a brilliant showcase for Kurt Russell. It also really does make you stand up and cheer, despite completely knowing the result of this Olympic matchup between the Soviet Union and the United States. Hockey stood in for the Cold War, giving the film some extra heft. It’s under-seen, but “Miracle” is truly terrific.
dir. Tim Miller
February doesn’t seem like the ideal time to launch a massive franchise, and yet, here we are. “Deadpool” had long been in development, a passion project for Ryan Reynolds, but never seemed like it would get off the ground. Would audience go for a filthy superhero? They sure did, to the point where it seemed viable that this could be an Academy Award nominee. It didn’t happen, but the character became a pop culture icon, with the sequel continuing his assault on good taste last year. He’s lewd and crude, but also absolutely hilarious.
7“Black Panther” (2018)
dir. Ryan Coogler
The third highest grossing film of all time hit almost exactly a year ago and began shattering records. The new crown jewel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been an absolute sensation, capturing the zeitgeist in a way that few things can. Now nominated for seven Oscars, “Black Panther” is the first superhero endeavor up for Best Picture. That success with the Academy is a watershed moment for cinema. February also happens to be Black History Month, so it was a bit of synergy to put it out when Disney did, but the results speak for themselves.
6“Shutter Island” (2010)
dir. Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese is more closely associated with the prime awards season releases than this early point in the year. In fact, this was originally an October release, before being pushed back. That delay was initially cause for concern. Luckily, all that meant is that this was simply a pulpy genre exercise from the master. Would “Shutter Island” have potentially struggled in the fall? Sure. Did it stand out as something special at the start 2010? You bet it did.
5“The Breakfast Club” (1985)
dir. John Hughes
A teen movie classic and arguably filmmaker John Hughes‘ best work, this would seem out of place in the doldrums of the winter. School-related pictures usually shoot for the fall or spring, when a class is either beginning or ending, as opposed to when students are right in the thick of it. That being said, this is so on point about being a teenager, whenever it came out, it was going to connect with a whole generations. “The Breakfast Club” continues to speak to a great many, even to this day.
4“Get Out” (2017)
dir. Jordan Peele
When “Get Out” hit in February of 2017, nobody expected it to be a legitimate Best Picture player a year later. Well, it came up short there, but its four Oscar nominations did end up winning Jordan Peele a statue for Best Original Screenplay. Original doesn’t begin to do this one justice, as the satirical horror film tore up the rule book. Some years, a movie can come along and give the calendar an early jolt. This was a definite example of just that.
3“Groundhog Day” (1993)
dir. Harold Ramis
One of the funniest films of all time, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis give a masterclass in comedy here. “Groundhog Day” could have been a gimmicky release only timed to take advantage of a silly pseudo-holiday. Instead, it’s a genre classic that even managed to win Ramis a BAFTA for co-writing the picture. Comedies have long come out in February, but none can come close to matching this one.
2“Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986)
dir. Woody Allen
Woody Allen is a filmmaker unafraid of early year releases. Mentioned multiple times in the January piece, he put out one of his most beloved works in the month of February. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, it took home three Oscars, for Michael Caine in Best Supporting Actor, Dianne Wiest in Best Supporting Actress, and Allen for Best Original Screenplay. This sort of smart dramedy would soon be moved closer to awards season, but back in the mid 80’s, Allen could contend in any month. “Hannah and Her Sisters” would be a top choice whenever it came out, but it stands even taller here.
1“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
dir. Jonathan Demme
Yes, not only did “The Silence of the Lambs” sweep the major Oscar categories, it did so nearly twelve months after first hitting theaters. Now positively a classic, the serial killer procedural managed to defy the prejudice against early year releases. Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster, and Anthony Hopkins all have Academy Awards to show for it. Not only is it a February release that won Best Picture, it stands as one of Oscar’s best choices to date.