When Apple TV+ first launched in late 2019, there weren’t a lot of original films available. That’s beginning to change. The streaming service is busy recruiting big names and big talent to bring subscribers more feature films.
If you enjoy documentary films, Apple TV+ has a wealth of content for you, especially if you love to rock. Among their more recent features are documentaries made by some of the music industry’s most celebrated artists. But if you’re more in the mood for drama or comedy, the service has some great picks for you too. Keep scrolling for the best movies Apple TV+ has to offer.
The Banker (2020)
Based on the real-life story of two Black businessmen who not only thrived in the Jim Crow era, but managed to help other Black business owners who had nowhere else to turn, The Banker asks “How do you win a rigged game?” While Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) is a brilliant financial prodigy, his skin color stops him from making the kinds of high-level deals he was built for. So Garrett and his street-smart business partner Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson) recruit Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult) to be the white face of their investments. The money rolls in, but things get a lot more complicated when Garrett convinces his partners to follow him to Texas to buy up white banks so they can offer loans to Black businesses. The Banker is a worthy drama with humor, an eye-opening crash course in business, and a message that sadly remains relevant.
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Stars: Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, Nicholas Hoult
Director: George Nolfi
Runtime: 120 minutes
Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You (2020)
Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You feels less like a documentary and more like a music video for an entire album, and that’s OK. Presented in black and white, Letter to You chronicles the making of the album of the same name — the first Springsteen has recorded with his old friends in the E Street Band since 2014’s High Hopes. Springsteen narrates the documentary with stories from his life, memories from the E Street Band, and lead-ins to each song. It’s an intimate look at the construction of an album, complete with brief and always friendly disagreements between Springsteen and the E Streeters. It often feels less like they all came together to make an album, and more like they got together for drinks, occasionally plugged in their guitars just for fun, and eventually forget to do anything else.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Genre: Documentary, Music
Stars: Bruce Springsteen, the E Street Band
Director: Thom Zimny
Runtime: 90 minutes
On the Rocks (2020)
One of the best pieces of news any film fan could get in 2020 was that Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray — who collaborated on 2003’s Lost in Translation — were working together again, this time with the Apple TV+ original comedy On the Rocks. Rashida Jones stars as Laura, a wife and mother who doesn’t know whether or not her marriage is in trouble. She begins to think her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her, and it’s her charming, restless father Felix (Murray) who pokes at those fears and manipulates her into nightly adventures speeding through New York City in a dying convertible and even secretly following her husband to Mexico. While at heart the film is a comedy, there is an unspoken but brilliantly conveyed sadness to Felix, who seems to care less about whether or not his son-in-law is faithful and more about spending time with his daughter. On the Rocks is funny, sweet, and quietly heartbreaking.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Stars: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans
Director: Sofia Coppola
Runtime: 96 minutes
Boys State (2020)
In the 2020 documentary Boys State, one thousand boys descend on Austin, Texas, to build a mock representative government, and sadly their youth doesn’t make things any less divisive than they are on the floors of the actual Congress. As a result, you probably won’t leave Boys State feeling particularly hopeful about the future of politics. Still, it’s an incredibly compelling look at boys learning to become young men, and if nothing else, it’s both a sobering portrayal of the political landscape the youth are in store for and a reminder of how badly things need to change.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Ben Feinstein, Steven Garza
Director: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss
Runtime: 109 minutes
Beastie Boys Story (2020)
If you’ve been around long enough to remember hits like “Fight for Your Right” or “Sabotage” when they were first released, there is something surreal about watching Beastie Boys Story. For example, yes, that really is Mike D and Adam Horovitz, aka Ad Rock, up there on stage narrating things, but you may have to keep reminding yourself that Ad Rock in fact is not being played by Martin Freeman. The documentary presents one night of a stage show in which the rappers present the history of their group, from their early days as a hardcore punk act to the passing of their absent friend Adam Yauch. For already invested fans, it’s fun to see the group’s history retold from their perspective, and for the uninitiated, it’s a treasure trove. Make sure to keep watching through the credits for surprise celebrity cameos and some hilarious clips that include old MTV appearances, and at least one heated argument about dog-washing.
Stars: Beastie Boys, Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz
Director: Spike Jonze
Runtime: 119 minutes
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