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The best movies we saw at New York Film Festival, ranked (including ‘All of Us Strangers’)

NEW YORK − The Big Apple is the place to be for cinephiles this fall, with an especially stacked lineup at this year’s New York Film Festival.

The annual event officially kicks off Friday with “May December” starring Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore, with more movies on the docket led by Emma Stone (“Poor Things”), Bradley Cooper (“Maestro”), Adam Driver (“Ferrari”), Saoirse Ronan (“Foe”) and Glen Powell (“Hit Man”). The festival, which runs through Oct. 15, will see fewer A-listers on the ground celebrating their films amid the ongoing actors’ strike.

In the meantime, here’s the best of the fest offerings we’ve seen so far:

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5. ‘Strange Way of Life’

Pedro Pascal, left, and Ethan Hawke in "Strange Way of Life."

In Pedro Almódovar’s chic but slight new Western, a wistful rancher (Pedro Pascal) reconnects with the gruff sheriff (Ethan Hawke) he fell in love with 25 years earlier. Clocking in at just 31 minutes, the film is overstuffed with too many narrative threads, although Pascal’s lovely turn helps elevate this vibrant riff on “Brokeback Mountain.”

4. ‘Anatomy of a Fall’

Sandra Hüller in "Anatomy of a Fall."

A writer (Sandra Hüller) becomes the prime suspect in her husband’s mysterious death in Justine Triet’s intriguing courtroom thriller, which won the top prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in France. Ambiguous, painstaking and occasionally overwrought, the movie is grounded by Hüller’s astonishing performance, which flickers between tenderness and rage, and keeps you guessing until the very last frame.

3. ‘Evil Does Not Exist’

Ryo Nishikawa in "Evil Does Not Exist."

After the Oscar-winning “Drive My Car,” Ryusuke Hamaguchi is back with another stunning slow burn. The Japanese filmmaker turns his lens to a tight-knit rural community, which is upended when a Tokyo talent agency waltzes into town with plans to install a “glamping” site. At first a wickedly funny slice of life, the film gradually morphs into something far more chilling and resonant, showing how even the most peaceful creatures can strike back when threatened.

2. ‘The Zone of Interest’

Christian Friedel in "The Zone of Interest."

Jonathan Glazer (“Under the Skin”) delivers a harrowing gut punch with this singular Holocaust drama, which is set just outside the walls of Auschwitz concentration camp at the palatial house of a Nazi officer (Christian Friedel) and his wife (Sandra Hüller). What makes the film so uniquely stomach-churning is that the violence never plays out onscreen. Rather, distant screams, cries and gunshots puncture nearly every scene, as this wealthy family attempts to live their day-to-day in willful ignorance of the horrors happening right outside their door.

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1. ‘All of Us Strangers’

Andrew Scott, left, and Paul Mescal in "All of Us Strangers."

Andrew Haigh’s hypnotic tearjerker is nothing short of a masterpiece, following a lonely gay man (Andrew Scott) and his handsome new neighbor (Paul Mescal) as they help each other reckon with childhood trauma and grief. A sexy and shattering ghost story at its core, the film makes brilliant use of surrealist fantasy to explore larger themes of memory, parents and what it means to be truly seen. Scott delivers a career-best performance of aching vulnerability, and his scenes with the always-captivating Mescal are electric.

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