Ever find yourself itching with the desire to plant your ass on the couch all day, but facing the dilemma that you can’t find anything in the endlessly scrolling Netflix menu worth watching? We’ve all been there. They don’t make it easy on us, do they? There’s no need to worry though, because there are actually always plenty of movies on Netflix well worth watching, and here we have a list of 18 of them that have either been added or re-added to the service (these things do tend to come and go, don’t they?) in recent months.
Click on the titles to be taken to the films’ Netflix pages, where they can be easily added to your queue. You’ll thank yourself next time the concept of leaving your house and interacting with other humans seems unthinkable.
Pick of the Month: Mud (2013)
By the time Mud was released last year, its director Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter) was on such a roll that it arrived as one of the most hotly anticipated new movies of the year. At least in the circles that matter. That it starred Matthew McConaughey right as he was on the verge of a complete career rebirth was just the icing on the cake. But what’s kind of surprising about the movie is that, even though it’s just as authentic and affecting as you would imagine thanks to Nichols’ direction, and even though McConaughey is great playing the goofy-toothed carny who serves as the title character, it’s actually young Tye Sheridan who comes out of it looking the most impressive.
Mud is a coming of age tale, a telling of an idealistic young man’s loss of innocence, so it’s Sheridan’s character Ellis who shoulders the weight of the drama and who gets the bulk of the development—and the kid is really strong in the role. He gets quite a lot of emotional material to deal with, and he never has an off moment.
At this point in his young career he’s already worked with Nichols and Terrence Malick, and the next time he hits theaters it’s going to be in David Gordon Green’s new film, Joe, so if he keeps things up at this pace he’s likely to become one of the most important working actors over the next decade or so. Might as well get in on the ground floor by watching him in Mud now. It’s one of the very best films of last year.
20 Feet From Stardom has probably been getting beaten up in some circles recently, considering it won the Best Documentary Oscar over everyone’s favorite doc from last year, The Act of Killing. But that’s kind of a shame, because all of the docs about underappreciated musicians that have come out over the past few years have been well-received so far, and this one certainly isn’t the worst of the bunch. The film is about backup singers, the unsung heroes of the music industry, and the struggles they face while trying to transition into becoming feature acts.
Some try and fail and make peace with that, some try and fail and seem to get heartbroken over it, and others even manage to find contentment being at the back of the stage. Or, in the case of Darlene Love (you know, Murtaugh’s wife from Lethal Weapon), sometimes there’s even a success story to be told. As a rule, 20 Feet From Stardom tends to be at its most interesting when it’s focusing on the heartache though, which means the second half is where it starts getting good.
It’s not very often that one gets the opportunity to recommend a comedy that stars Brendan Fraser, but seeing as he was the star of Airheads (okay, and Encino Man and George of the Jungle), the situation isn’t completely unheard of. If you were young or young at heart in the mid-90s and you don’t have any kind of nostalgia for Fraser, Adam Sandler, and Steve Buscemi playing a struggling metal band called The Lone Rangers in this movie, then probably you should check your pulse, because it’s likely you’re an inhuman monster.
If you haven’t seen this one in a while, you might not remember the extent of its amazing supporting cast, but—oh my god—Michael Richards, Chris Farley, Michael McKean, Ernie Hudson, Harold Ramis, Lemmy, Rob Zombie, and the list goes on. You owe it to yourself to watch this one in order to see where the Sandler and Buscemi bond was first formed, or at least to understand why I answer, “swimming pools,” whenever anyone asks me what I’m thinking about.
As fans of Newsies can tell you, Christian Bale has been acting basically since he was still in the womb. It was Mary Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel that really launched his adult career as an A-list actor though, and that doesn’t come as much of a surprise, because good lord is he memorable as the sociopathic but hygienic lead character Patrick Bateman.
That disingenuous grin, the condescension in his eyes—his performance single-handedly takes that twinge of annoyance everyone feels when they overhear a Yuppy conversation and elevates it to terror. This is white male privilege taken to horror movie extremes, and anyone who’s ever tried to get a drink in a financial district right after work has gotten out on a weekday will be chilled to their bones while watching it.
If you’re one of those people who blows hard about the fact that romantic comedies are never good, yet you haven’t seen Billy Wilder’s classic, The Apartment, then hang your head in shame because you have no clue what you’re talking about. The Apartment has all of the essential elements of the romantic comedy—the hopeless romantic (Jack Lemmon), the quirky object of affection (Shirley MacLaine), the detestable romantic rival (Fred MacMurray)—but it also manages to be consistently funny, heartbreaking in its portrayal of human frailty, and insightful in its exploration of man’s constant desperation to connect with something outside of himself. It’s one of the very best movies you can watch, period, so please do so.
If you like John Carpenter, or Kurt Russell, or anything from the 80s at all, then you should be absolutely overjoyed to hear that Big Trouble in Little China is available for streaming on Netflix. This slightly racist but nonetheless charming action comedy is about as entertaining as movies get. It’s quotable, it’s ridiculous, and it contains enough exploitation-heavy mayhem that you almost don’t even mind that Kim Cattrall gets a featured role.
I mean, really, you’ve got Victor Wong and James Hong in the same movie here. You can handle one blank-faced Sex in the City alum. Big Trouble in Little China is a modern classic, and it’s basically your duty as a human being to watch it at least once a year.
Perhaps you’ve seen a Joe Swanberg movie before and decided that his naturalist sort of low budget, loosely scripted, sometimes meandering moviemaking isn’t your thing. If that’s the case, then take my word that the guy deserves to be given a second chance, and his movie Drinking Buddies from last year is probably the perfect second chance for you to give him.
This is a great entry point for what Swanberg does, not just because it features a tremendously charming and terribly attractive ensemble cast that includes names like Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston, but also because it just may be the best thing Swanberg has ever done. It’s a love quadrangle type story and a will they/won’t they tension-builder, but the behavior on display here so anti-cliché and so painfully true to shit you probably did while young that it gets a little uncomfortable to watch at times. But in a good way.
You’d never know it from watching his last few ventures into the world of science fiction, In Time and The Host, but writer/director Andrew Niccol’s debut film, Gattaca, was actually a good movie. It gets extra points for having brought us interesting sci-fi in the 90s too, because the genre as a whole was going through a bit of a drought during that decade. The basic story is about a future where genetic manipulation of humans has become a reality and class divisions have sprung up around whether a person was born with designer DNA, or whether they were just whipped together naturally.
Ethan Hawke plays a normal dude trying to pass himself off as a designer dude in order to fight the system and force himself into some upward mobility and whatnot, and man does the movie do a great job of having him go from looking squirrelly and recessive to looking slick and dominant. It’s amazing what a haircut and a new wardrobe can do for a guy. Folk like Jude Law and Uma Thurman also star.
Even for people who can’t normally handle the, let’s say, more deliberate pace of your typical Jim Jarmusch movie, Ghost Dog should still have enough going on in it to keep them interested. First off, it’s a hitman movie, and the best hitman movies tend to build slowly and meditate on a single character anyway. Secondly, it stars Forest Whitaker as said hitman, and if there’s any actor weird enough to play a modern day hitman who lives by the code of the ancient samurai, is obsessed with hip hop, and whose only friend is a French-speaking ice cream truck driver without making it seem contrived, then Whitaker is that man.
Ghost Dog has some flavor to it, even if it’s a quiet and small movie for most of its run time. And, if for nothing else, it’s worth checking out for its top notch rap soundtrack and its original score from the RZA.