While release dates and production schedules may be delayed, online streaming services haven’t been affected, luckily. That said, there’s no time like the present to catch up on your movie list. To help you sort the wheat from the chaff, we’ve rounded up some of the better new releases on the four most prominent streaming platforms, including Netflix and Amazon Prime. Whether you’re looking for an Academy Award winner or a twisted, arthouse film of the highest caliber, we have you covered.
District 9 (2009)
Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi story about humanity’s first alien encounter was nominated for four Oscars. Unlike other alien movies, in this one the aliens arrive not as invaders or helpers — they’re refugees from a dying planet. Rather than work with the aliens, humans segregate them into a South African area called District 9, where the aliens are managed by Multi-National United, a corporation obsessed with using the aliens to advance their proprietary technology. When a company field agent (Sharlto Copley) contracts a mysterious virus that begins to turn him into an alien himself, he must find refuge in District 9, where he discovers just how mistreated the aliens are.
A classic from comedic genius Mel Brooks, Spaceballs is an extremely worthy send-up of Star Wars and sci-fi tropes of the 1980s. With an all-star cast including Rick Moranis, John Candy, Joan Rivers, Bill Pullman, Dick Van Patten, and Brooks himself, Spaceballs is zany, ridiculous, and endlessly quotable. Brooks plays President Skroob, a ruthless leader who is determined to soak up all of the galaxy’s fresh air. With the help of the Spaceballs, led by Dark Helmet (Moranis), Skroob will use his giant vacuum ship to suck the air out of any atmosphere in his way. But first, he’ll have to get past Princess Vespa, Lone Star, and their sidekicks Barf and Dot — a half-man, half-dog and a droid.
Schindler’s List (1993)
Schindler’s List elevated legendary director Steven Spielberg from an action-adventure stalwart to a bonafide dramatic genius. Winner of seven Oscars, including Best Picture and a Best Director for Spielberg, Schindler’s List is one of the finest American movies about the Holocaust, and one of the most powerful films ever made. Liam Neeson stars as Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who heads to Poland to attempt to profit off the newly started World War II. He starts a cookware and utensil company and uses his contacts and clout in the Nazi party to win military contracts. By staffing his factories with a dependable unpaid labor force of Jews from Krakow’s ghetto, Schindler sees virtually no limits to his profits. However, when all of Krakow’s Jews are assigned to the Plaszow Forced Labor Camp, he also recognizes that his factories may be the only place where Jews are safe from persecution or death. Soon, Schindler demands more workers and continues to bribe Nazi leaders to keep Jews on his employee lists and out of the camps. By the end of the war, Oskar Schindler had lost his entire fortune but saved 1,100 people from likely death.
Uncut Gems (2019)
Many consider Uncut Gems a significant Oscar snub; many think those people are crazy. The Safdie brothers’ stressful, pulse-pounding story about a gambling-addicted jeweler (Adam Sandler) in New York City is very much a love-it-or-hate-it kind of movie. Adam Sandler turns in one of his best performances ever as the jeweler Howard Ratner, who despite his charisma and savvy, just can’t seem to get out of his own way. When Boston Celtic Kevin Garnett (playing himself) takes an interest in one of Howard’s highest-ticket items, believing it to be a good luck charm, Ratner plans to make a killing. However, he can’t resist also gambling on Garnett and the Celtics to make the windfall that much greater, putting off mounting debts and obligations to do so.
Da 5 Bloods (2020)
Spike Lee’s newest joint is a Netflix exclusive and couldn’t have come at a more politically important time. Da 5 Bloods tells the story of four African American Vietnam War veterans who return to the country after the war to seek the remains of their fallen squad leader and the fortune that he helped them hide. It’s a heavy, anguished look at Vietnam and the war that Black Americans have never been able to stop fighting — both in psychological and sociopolitical terms. It’s already garnering significant Oscars buzz despite the ceremony being months away.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
A nominee for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a brilliant period drama featuring powerful performances and engrossing direction. It’s 1770 in France and a young painter, Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). However, Héloïse is a reluctant bride who has just left the convent, and Marianne must paint her without Héloïse’s knowledge. Marianne paints secretly day by day, observing and spending time with Héloïse until they soon realize there may be more than friendship afoot. The two women grow closer and closer as they share Héloïse’s last moments of freedom before the wedding.
If not for Parasite, Portrait of a Lady on Fire may very well have won the Palme d’Or. Bong Joon-ho’s masterpiece, however, was the belle of awards season, winning the Palme d’Or and countless other awards on its way to four Oscar wins, including Best Picture and Best Director. Parasite is truly a masterful film, simultaneously a slow burn and constant car crash of conflict, keeping you on the edge of your seat. The destitute Kim family develops a symbiotic relationship with the wealthy Park family. As greed, discrimination, and manipulation seep into the arrangement, lines are blurred and lives are threatened.
My Cousin Vinny (1992)
Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei turn in all-time comedy performances in this fish-out-of-water tale about a Manhattan lawyer who is summoned to the deep South to help his cousin get off on a murder charge. Bill and Stan are a couple of Northern college boys on a road trip when they just happen to fit the suspect profile for a convenience store owner’s murder. Thrown in jail, penniless and friendless, Bill remembers he has a lawyer in the family: His cousin Vinny. Unfortunately, Vinny took six tries to pass the bar, and with his leather jacket, street-wise motormouth, and funny accent, could not possibly be more out of place in an Alabama courtroom. Much, much hilarity ensues.
Mr. Rogers had an extended moment in the final few years of the 2010s with the acclaimed documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Tom Hanks’ Oscar-nominated turn as the children’s show icon in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Both films are heartwarming in the extreme. When investigative journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is assigned a profile on Fred Rogers, he approaches the interview with skepticism. How could anyone be that good-natured? Meeting Mr. Rogers, however, and connecting with him throughout the interview process, chips away at Vogel’s jaded outlook on life. Through Mr. Rogers’ empathy and kindness, Vogel finds a way to reconcile with his own painful past.
Based on events in the life of acclaimed horror author Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House), Shirley follows the titular character (played by Elisabeth Moss) and her husband Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg). After moving to a small Vermont college town where Stanley will be a professor, he offers Fred and Rose (Logan Lerman and Odessa Young) free room and board as long as they look after his wife. As Jackson finds her creative process disrupted by the new environs and her husband’s philandering, she’ll find inspiration in the new couple.
You’d be excused if you saw the trailers full of massive, man-eating alligators swimming through floodwaters and hunting people seeking refuge on floating doors, and you thought, “Maybe I’ll skip this one.” However, that’s overlooking that Crawl is a product of The Hills Have Eyes director Alexandre Aja and Evil Dead creator Sam Raimi. A surprise critical and commercial hit, Crawl is a nature-horror blockbuster that is well worth seeing. When a massive hurricane hits her Florida town, Haley (Kaya Scodelario) ignores the evacuation order to search for her missing father (Barry Pepper). When she finds him gravely injured in their family home, they become trapped by floodwaters. As the water rises, however, they discover an even greater threat: a relentless pack of enormous alligators.
The Goldfinch (2019)
Although it received a theatrical release, Amazon acquired The Goldfinch to repackage as an Amazon Original. Based on Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the film follows Theodore Decker, a young man who lost his mother at age 13 in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The tragedy follows him throughout his life, sending him on an odyssey of grief, guilt, reinvention, and redemption. Through it all, he holds onto a tangible piece of hope (and a harrowing anchor of guilt) in the form of a priceless painting of a goldfinch chained to its perch.
Knives Out (2019)
Writer-director Rian Johnson’s frenetic whodunit was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 92nd Academy Awards. When celebrated crime novelist Harlan Thrombey dies of mysterious causes, renowned Private Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) arrives to investigate the case. The normally sure-footed sleuth discovers there’s more to this case than meets the eye, however, and all he knows for sure is that everyone in Thrombey’s greedy, dysfunctional family is a suspect. Sifting through a web of lies, half-truths, and red herrings, Blanc must use every resource available to him, including Thrombey’s nurse Marta (Ana de Armas), to uncover the truth. Knives Out is unlike any mystery novel you’ve read or film you’ve seen, working with a disjointed timeline and narrative that both gives and takes information at will.
The Lighthouse (2019)
Robert Eggers follows up his surprising horror hit The Witch with this equally haunting, atmospheric film about isolation and torment. Set on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s, the film follows two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) as they try to maintain a lighthouse and their sanity before they’re relieved of duty. Dafoe and Pattinson make the most of the opportunity to carry the entire script while Eggers’ eerie, intentional direction makes this one alternately batty and unnerving.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Audrey Hepburn cemented her status as a style icon as eccentric Holly Golightly in the 1961 classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Winner of two Oscars, the story follows socialite Holly on her determined quest to marry a Brazilian millionaire. Her new next-door neighbor, Paul, a writer “sponsored” by the wealthy Patricia Neal, however, may complicate things. Both long on ambition but short on cash, Holly and Paul may find that they don’t need the cash to find happiness.
Todd Phillips’ original origin story for Batman’s greatest villain was nominated for 11 Oscars, including a Best Actor win for star Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix is outstanding as usual, but Joker shines brightest when it’s exposing the hypocrisy of philanthropy and the subjugation of the mentally ill. Set well before the rise of the Caped Crusader, in this Gotham, Bruce Wayne’s father, Thomas Wayne, pulls the strings, and he’s not the paragon Bruce will one day make him out to be. After being fired from his street clown job, Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) finds himself caught up with Wayne and the corrupt society he represents, sending Fleck into a downward spiral of revolution and crime; a path that will ultimately bring him face-to-face with the Joker alter ego.
Bad Education (2019)
Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney shine in this TIFF standout that HBO acquired for a simultaneous theatrical and streaming release. Based on a true story, Bad Education follows the beloved superintendent (Jackman) of New York’s Roslyn school district and his staff, friends, and relatives, as they become the prime suspects in the largest public school embezzlement scandal in American history.
Spike Lee’s take on the true story of an African American police officer from Colorado Springs, Colorado, who manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch received five Oscar nominations, including a win for Best Adapted Screenplay. John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth, a savvy cop who manages to work over the local KKK over the phone and gain admission into the club. However, he’ll need the help of a surrogate, his Jewish partner (Adam Driver), to get any face time.
Ready or Not (2019)
After 2017’s Get Out set a new bar for horror movies, 2019 and 2020 saw a strange run of The Deadliest Game spin-offs, with movies centered around humans staging ritualistic hunts of other humans. Ready or Not was one of the first and best in this run. Samara Weaving plays a newlywed whose wedding night takes a turn when she’s forced to take part in a game of hide-and-seek at her extremely wealthy, extremely eccentric in-laws’ home. Their version of hide-and-seek, however, is deeply, deeply disturbing and significantly higher stakes.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
This rom-com adaptation of the international bestseller was a massive box office and critical hit. Constance Wu stars as Rachel Chu, a New York professor who accompanies her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) to Singapore to meet his family for the first time. Turns out, however, he’s Singapore’s most eligible bachelor, and his family is one of the wealthiest in the country. The family — especially Nick’s mother — are instantly suspicious of Rachel, believing her to be beneath Nick’s station and unworthy of him. Meanwhile, socialites keep throwing themselves at Nick while his family attempts to shame Rachel out of the picture. Rachel, however, is tougher than they all think.
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