The 5 best films screening around San Francisco this week

Image: The Rider/Sony Pictures Classics

If you're looking to forgo the latest franchise mega-blockbuster in favor of the best-reviewed movies in theaters, this week presents a handful of top options around San Francisco.

From a pair of bighearted documentaries to an indie mind-bender, here are the movies to see in and around the city this week, based on critical scores sourced from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
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The Judge



"The Judge" provides rare insight into Shari'a law, an often-misunderstood legal framework for Muslims, told through the eyes of the first woman judge to be appointed to the Middle East's religious courts.

With a 100 percent approval score on Rotten Tomatoes, "The Judge" is a must-see. It's playing at the Roxie (3117 16th St.) through May 3. Get tickets here.

Summer in the Forest



Like countless others Philippe, Michel, Andre and Patrick were labeled 'idiots', locked away and forgotten in violent asylums, until the 1960s, when the young philosopher Jean Vanier took a stand and secured their release - the first time in history that anyone had beaten the system. Together they created L'Arche, a commune at the edge of a beautiful forest near Paris. A quiet revolution was born.

Another 100 percent positive score puts "Summer in the Forest" at the top of this week's theatrical offerings. You can catch it at Opera Plaza (601 Van Ness Ave.) through May 3. Get tickets here.

The Endless



Acclaimed filmmakers Moorhead and Benson return with this mind-bending thriller that follows two brothers who receive a cryptic video message inspiring them to revisit the UFO death cult they escaped a decade earlier. Hoping to find the closure that they couldn't as young men, they're forced to reconsider the cult's beliefs when confronted with unexplainable phenomena surrounding the camp. As the members prepare for the coming of a mysterious event, the brothers race to unravel the seemingly impossible truth before their lives become permanently entangled with the cult.

With a97 percent critical score, this indie flick has garnered plenty of positive attention. It's playing at Alamo Drafthouse (2550 Mission St.) through May 3. Get tickets here.

The Rider



After a tragic riding accident, young cowboy Brady (Brady Jandreau), once a rising star of the rodeo circuit, is warned that his competition days are over. Back home, Brady finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete. In an attempt to regain control of his fate, Brady undertakes a search for new identity and tries to redefine his idea of what it means to be a man in the heartland of America.

"The Rider" has a 96 percent critical score; it's showing at Embarcadero Center (1 Embarcadero Center Promenade Level) through May 10. Get tickets here.

The Death of Stalin



The one-liners fly as fast as political fortunes fall in this uproarious, wickedly irreverent satire from Armando Iannucci (Veep, In the Loop). Moscow, 1953: when tyrannical dictator Joseph Stalin drops dead, his parasitic cronies square off in a frantic power struggle to be the next Soviet leader. Among the contenders are the dweeby Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), the wily Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), and the sadistic secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale). But as they bumble, brawl, and backstab their way to the top, just who is running the government?

"The Death of Stalin" enjoys a 96 percent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes; it's playing at UA Stonestown Twin (501 Buckingham Way), Embarcadero Center (1 Embarcadero Center Promenade Level) and the 4 Star (2200 Clement St.). Get tickets here.
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