April is an interesting time for movies. If January and February are months that never get respect, while March is caught in no man’s land, April is when things perk up. No longer part of the early year dumping ground, it’s the first inklings of summer blockbuster season. Mostly, it’s time for mid-level fare and some experimentation. Distributors are figuring out what the year will look like, so they took chances. Last year, Disney and Marvel decided to open one of the biggest films of all-time with “Avengers: Infinity War.” They’re doing that again in 2019, but today we’re looking backward, not forwards.
Today, we’re going to be looking at ten of the best April releases ever. In a marked difference to the previous months, there are some real massive titles here. Less in the way of Academy Award players, but there’s an Oscar nominee among the bunch. Who knows, in a future version of this list, perhaps “Avengers: Endgame” could make the cut? The group here skews newer, so it’s definitely possible.
10“The Girl Next Door” (2004)
dir: Luke Greenfield
This pseudo-update of “Risky Business” got a raw deal. With more heart than you’d expect, a phenomenal soundtrack, a ton of actors soon to break out (like Paul Dano and Olivia Thirlby), and Emile Hirsch‘s empathetic turn, there’s tons to love about this comedy. Anyone who dismissed this as an “American Pie” ripoff or a pale imitation of the raunchy Tom Cruise classic was doing themselves and the film a huge disservice.
dir: Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, Rob Zombie
Not just full-length features from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, “Grindhouse” also had some killer fake Trailers. This highly experimental throwback to cinema of yore didn’t catch on in theaters and still hasn’t quite been reevaluated. Rodriguez’s feature “Planet Terror” is some of his best work, while Tarantino’s “Death Proof” is massively underrated. Throw in Eli Roth‘s Trailer “Thanksgiving” and this is a full cinematic meal. Nothing will match its initial theatrical run, but all the same, it deserves a second look.
8“Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (2008)
dir: Nicholas Stoller
Few comedies understand grief and heartbreak like this one. That “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is also an absolutely hilarious raunchy comedy only makes the achievement even more special. Jason Segel‘s performance and screenplay hit on so many raw moments of a breakup, tinging all the laughs with a bit of a burn. Few romcoms are as real and relatable as this one happens to be.
7“American Psycho” (2000)
dir: Mary Harron
There were tons of ways for a filmmaker to adapt Bret Easton Ellis‘ controversial novel. Most of them wouldn’t have translated well to the big screen. Mary Harron, however, had the perfect take. Armed with Christian Bale‘s committed turn, she crafted a definitive satirical horror movie. Funny and horrifying in equal measure, it wasn’t properly appreciated almost 20 years ago. Luckily, now it has truly gotten its due as a modern classic.
6“Mean Girls” (2004)
dir: Mark Waters
An iconic teen movie, Tina Fey‘s script is incredibly perceptive about the high school experience. Watching Lindsey Lohan and Rachel McAdams spar with each other is a catty joy. Oscar missed the boat in not nominating Fey for her adaptation. Beyond that, this has become a cultural touchstone for a whole generation. Without question “Mean Girls” has become a classic, and for good reason too.
5“Kill Bill Vol 2” (2004)
dir: Quentin Tarantino
Another effort by Tarantino that makes it on to this list. In concluding his two-part “Kill Bill” epic, QT made the second volume far more contemplative than the first. Giving more juice to Uma Thurman‘s physical turn in “Kill Bill Vol 1,” this also showcased David Carradine in a way he hadn’t for years. Tarantino’s specialty, to be sure. Undeniably a cool film, it also has a conclusion that brings emotion and humanity to his work, something we don’t always see.
4“The Cabin in the Woods” (2012)
dir: Drew Goddard
After sitting on the shelf for seemingly forever, expectations were low for “The Cabin in the Woods.” My how wrong that presumption was. A meta-genre mashup, this film deconstructed the very nature of horror cinema. Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon came up with one of the most creative premises of the past 20 years. Furthermore, they executed their vision perfectly, much to our benefit.
3“Say Anything…” (1989)
dir: Cameron Crowe
Filmmaker Cameron Crowe and star John Cusack established their romantic comedy bonafides with this wonderful tale. Look at that image above and try not to hear the chorus of Peter Gabriel‘s song “In Your Eyes” playing in your head. You can’t, can you? Didn’t think so. Crowe’s ability to mix music with emotion to enhance both first showcased itself here. An 80’s movie staple, it holds up brilliantly still to this day. April was lucky to have it.
2“United 93” (2006)
dir: Paul Greengrass
Paul Greengrass‘ most emotional film by far, “United 93” is incredibly difficult to watch. Greengrass and his immersive style of filmmaking has never felt this tragic. You truly feel like you’re on that doomed plane. Knowing what must eventually happen means there’s incredible amounts of tension throughout. Audiences arguably were not ready when this one hit theaters. Those who stayed away didn’t know what they were missing.
1“Chasing Amy” (1997)
dir: Kevin Smith
In a just world, “Chasing Amy” would have gotten Kevin Smith an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Proving he could do emotion, in addition to comedy, he also directed Joey Lauren Adams, Ben Affleck, and Jason Lee to career best turns. Adams especially was Oscar worthy, scoring a Golden Globe nomination for her work. Tremendously funny, it also has a huge heart. Smith’s crowning achievement so far to date, it’s the crown jewel of April releases. Arguably, had it come out a little later on in 1997, it could have gotten Academy attention. Instead, it will have to settle for this top April honor.