An often wry but equally grim look at modern life, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World is perhaps best summed up by the shady Chris Rumack (Robert Longstreet) asking Ruth “What do you want?” with her reply being a blunt “For people to not be assholes.” A treatise on apathy, Macon Blair’s 2017 directorial debut is one of Netflix’s earlier forays into producing exclusive film content for the streamer, but it remains one of the smartest dark comedies on the platform today.
In Bigbug, Jean-Pierre Jeunet—the director of Amélie, Delicatessen, and City of Lost Children—presents a near-future where AI and robots are omnipresent, making life smoother and simpler for their organic masters, but humans themselves are every bit as messy and complicated as ever. A locked-room drama that would be as comfortable on stage as it is in Jeunet’s heightened unreality, Bigbug follows a group of splintered family members and interfering neighbors, their fractious relationships coming to a boil while trapped in a household security lockdown initiated by domestic helper robots. Meanwhile, the military-industrial Yonyx androids are taking over the outside world—a robot apocalypse drowned out by human neuroses. Any movie from Jeunet is worth a look, and with its satirical flair, exquisite set design, and sharp performances from French cinema royalty, the latest addition to his filmography is no exception.
There’s something fitting about Netflix dropping Day Shift in the middle of the hottest August on record—headed by Jamie Foxx, this horror-action-comedy hybrid juxtaposes the night-bound tropes of the vampire genre against a sun-drenched Los Angeles, with Foxx’s struggling slayer Bud Jablonski stuck on the vampire hunter union’s lower-paying day shift. Overseen by bureaucratic union rep Seth (Dave Franco), the bickering buddy cop vibe gives way to a battle to save Bud’s family from a vampire with ambitions of godhood, as director J.J. Perry shows off the tricks he picked up as stunt coordinator on the John Wick and Fast & Furious franchises. With an awareness of its own ludicrous concept and a willingness to go wildly over the top—Snoop Dogg steals scenes as rotary cannon-wielding veteran slayer Big John—Day Shift delivers some of the most inventive fanger fights committed to film. It’s no Oscar contender, but for a delightfully dumb summer action flick, this is one of the freshest in years.
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood
Written, directed, and produced by Richard Linklater and using a style of rotoscope animation similar to that used in his films A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life, Apollo 10 1/2 is a mix of lazy summers, Saturday morning cartoons, and idealized memoir. Loosely based on Linklater’s own childhood growing up in Houston in the midst of the Space Race, the coming of age story follows a young boy named Stanley as he’s recruited to pilot the lunar lander—which NASA accidentally built too small for full-grown astronauts. Blending period social tensions (“Yeah, that’s a hippy.”) with childhood imagination and excitement for the future, this is a distinctive piece of filmmaking dripping with an almost innocent sense of nostalgia.
Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus
Nickelodeon never quite knew how to handle Invader Zim. Back in 2001, Jhonen Vasquez’s sci-fi comedy about an inept alien attempting to take over the Earth was a massive underground hit, but skewed a bit too dark for the kid’s network. Fast forward two decades, and Zim—along with deranged robot companion GIR—is back to continue his invasion, with Vasquez let loose to create an animated movie without restraint. Channeling the classic series’ ludicrous sense of humor but with an even darker edge, this update sees Zim become a serious threat for once, and the Earth’s only hope is his arch enemy Dib—a paranoid schoolboy who’s spent the years since the show obsessively waiting for Zim’s resurgence. Packed with laugh-out-loud moments, big sci-fi ideas worthy of blockbuster franchises, and even some oddly touching—if appropriately nihilistic—moments exploring Dib’s family, Enter the Florpus is a very welcome return for a cult classic. Hopefully we won’t be waiting another two decades for Zim’s next invasion.
One of India’s biggest films of all time, RRR (or Rise, Roar, Revolt) redefines the notion of cinematic spectacle. Set in 1920, the historical epic follows real-life Indian revolutionaries Alluri Sitrama Raju (Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (N. T. Rama Rao Jr), but fictionalises their lives and actions. Although drawn from very different walks of life, both men prove to be opposing the colonialist forces of the British Raj in their own way, their similarities drawing them together as they ultimately face down the sadistic Governor Scott Buxton (Ray Stevenson) and his cruel wife Catherine (Alison Doody). No mere period piece, RRR is a bold, exciting, and often explosive piece of filmmaking that elevates its heroes to near-mythological status, with director S. S. Rajamouli deploying ever-escalating, brilliantly shot action scenes—and an exquisitely choreographed dance number—that grab viewers’ attention and refuse to let go. Whether you’re a long-time fan of Indian cinema or just looking for an action flick beyond the Hollywood norm, RRR is not to be missed.
Always Be My Maybe
Written by and starring Ali Wong and Randall Park, Always Be My Maybe tells the story of two inseparable childhood friends whose lives veer dramatically apart after a grief-stricken rendezvous in their teenage years. Wong plays Sasha Tran, a superstar chef whose stratospheric career barely papers over the cracks in her faltering relationship. Park, meanwhile, plays Marcus Kim, whose ambitions have taken him no further than the local dive bar and his father’s air conditioning firm. Fate—and a bizarre cameo from Keanu Reeves—conspire to bring the two leads back together in a film that at long last lifts Asian Americans outside of Hollywood’s clichéd casting and into a thoughtful and hilarious romantic comedy.
A stop-motion animated anthology film, The House is a dark, strange, borderline experimental piece where the eponymous domicile is the main character. The first chapter follows a young girl called Mabel, whose impoverished parents are offered free residence in the impressive home, but never seem to notice the shifting layout or their own increasing resemblance to the furniture. Things only get weirder as the house next appears in a world populated by anthropomorphic rats, where a property developer is trying to renovate it for sale but is plagued by very peculiar buyers, before shifting to a seemingly flooded world where its new inhabitants struggle to leave even as the waters around them continue to rise. A deliciously eerie triptych of tales, all centered on themes of loss and obsession, The House will delight fans of Coraline or The Corpse Bride.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
You either ‘get’ the Eurovision Song Contest or you don’t—and chances are, if you’re outside of Europe, you don’t. But whether you can recite every winner back to 1956 or have only maybe-sorta heard of ABBA, this Will Ferrell passion project (his Swedish wife, actress Viveca Paulin, hooked him on the contest) will entertain both crowds. Following Icelandic singer-songwriter duo Fire Saga—Ferrell as Lars Erickssong and Rachel McAdams as his besotted bandmate Sigrit Ericksdóttir—as they aim for superstardom, for the Eurovision faithful it’s a loving nod to the long-running music competition, packed with gleefully camp in-jokes and scene-stealing cameos from Eurovision royalty. To the uninitiated, it’s a wild, weird, comedy with plenty of hilariously farcical turns and enough catchy tunes to convert newcomers into Eurovision acolytes. Bonus: You’ll finally understand the “shut up and play Ja Ja Ding Dong!” meme.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
An icon and figurehead of the gay rights movement, Marsha P. Johnson is perhaps best known for being at the Stonewall Inn the night of the infamous uprising, but went on to become a noted activist, forming STAR with Sylvia Rivera and helping pave the way for LGBTQ+ progress—until her body was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992. Johnson’s death was ruled a suicide, and never officially investigated, despite occurring during a peak of homophobic attacks in New York City. Director David France’s documentary, produced a quarter-century after Johnson’s suspicious demise, follows trans activist Victoria Cruz on a quest to uncover the truth, while incorporating archival footage and interviews with Johnson’s peers to reflect on their life and celebrate their legacy. Powerful, poignant, and timely viewing.
I Lost My Body
An award winner at Cannes in 2019, this tale of burgeoning young love, obsession, and autonomous body parts is every bit as weird as you might expect for a French adult animated film. Director Jérémy Clapin charts the life of Naoufel, a Moroccan immigrant in modern day France, falling for the distant Gabrielle, and Naoufel’s severed hand, making its way across the city to try and reconnect. With intersecting timelines and complex discussions about fate, I Lost My Body is often mind-bending yet always captivating, with brilliantly detailed animation and a phenomenal use of color throughout. Worth watching in both the original French and the solid English dub featuring Dev Patel and Alia Shawkat, just to try to make the most sense of it.
tick, tick… BOOM!
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s feature directorial debut sees Andrew Garfield as playwright Jonathan Larson, the real life creator of Rent, struggling to finish his signature work while approaching his totemic 30th birthday. An adaptation of Larson’s own semi-autobiographical stage musical—produced posthumously, premiering in 2001—Miranda’s cinematic take perfectly captures the tortures of the creative process, charting Harper’s years-long battle to cement a legacy, and exploring how perfectionism can be a demon. In reality, Larson passed away in January 1996, the same day as Rent’s preview performance Off-Broadway, a sad fact that lends tick, tick… BOOM! a sense of even greater urgency amidst its joyous musical performances.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Aspiring filmmaker Katie Mitchell (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) has a strained relationship with her technophobic father Rick (Danny McBride)—not helped by his accidentally destroying her laptop right as she’s about to begin film school in California. In an effort to salvage their relationship, Rick decides to take the entire Mitchell family on a cross-country road trip to see Katie off. Unfortunately, said road trip coincides with a robot uprising that the Mitchells escape only by chance, leaving the fate of the world in their hands. Beautifully animated and brilliantly written, The Mitchells vs. the Machines takes a slightly more mature approach to family dynamics than many of its genre-mates, with the college-age Katie searching for her own identity and having genuine grievances with her father, but effortlessly balances the more serious elements with exquisite action and genuinely funny comedy. Robbed of a full cinematic release by Covid-19, it now shines as one of Netflix’s best films.
Don’t Look Up
Frustrated by the world’s collective inaction on existential threats like climate change? Maybe don’t watch Don’t Look Up–director Adam McKay’s satirical black comedy. When two low-level astronomers discover a planet-killing comet on collision course with Earth, they try to warn the authorities–only to be met with a collective “meh.” Matters only get worse when they try to leak the news themselves, and have to navigate vapid TV news hosts, celebrities looking for a signature cause, and an indifferent public. A bleakly funny indictment of our times, bolstered by a star-studded cast fronted by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, Don’t Look Up is, somewhat depressingly, one of the best examinations of humanity since Idiocracy.
The Power of the Dog
In 2022, Netflix made its biggest play yet to win a Best Picture Oscar with The Power of the Dog. It lost to Apple TV+’s CODA, making it seem as though the streaming giant had lost to a much newer, younger player. It had, of course, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Jane Campion’s film is a wildly evocative tale about a brash rancher (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) in 1920s Montana who horribly mistreats his brother’s new wife and son. A critique of masculinity, Dog is beautifully shot and masterfully tense. While it didn’t win Best Picture, it’s still a great one—and nabbed Campion an Oscar for Best Director.
Fleeing war-torn South Sudan, Bol (Ṣọpẹ Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) are now living in a run-down house at the edge of London, harassed by their neighbors even as they try to fit in. The couple are also haunted by the lives they left behind—both figuratively and (possibly) literally, with visions of their late daughter Nyagak, who did not survive the journey, fading in and out of the walls of their dismal new home. The real horror of His House isn’t the strange visions, haunted house, or potential ghosts, though—it’s the bleakness of the lives Bol and Rial are forced into, the hostility and dehumanization of the UK asylum process, the racism both overt and casual, all coupled with the enormous sense of loss they carry with them. Blending the macabre with the mundane, director Remi Weekes delivers a tense, challenging film that will haunt viewers as much as its characters.
Based on the life of alleged mob hitman Frank Sheeran, captured in Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses, The Irishman essentially functions as a Martin Scorsese greatest-hits album. Featuring digitally de-aged Robert De Niro (as Sheeran) and Al Pacino (Jimmy Hoffa), the movie was trapped in development hell for years before Netflix arrived with the willingness to give Scorsese the creative license (and money) to make the movie his way. It’s perhaps too long, at three and a half hours, and that de-aging technology still needs a little improvement, but the 10 Oscar nominations speak for themselves.
A woman wakes up in a cryonics cell after a few weeks in suspended animation. She doesn’t remember her name, age, or past except for a few disturbing flashbacks. But one thing she knows—courtesy of an annoying talking AI—is that she has just over an hour before she runs out of oxygen. Can she get out of the coffin-shaped chamber quickly enough? Oxygen is as claustrophobic a thriller as it gets, and manages to find that rare sweet spot of being static and unnerving at once. The actors’ strong performances help the film win the day, despite a ludicrously far-fetched ending.
Set against the backdrop of a Britain on the brink of war, The Dig chronicles one of the greatest archeological finds ever discovered in the Isles: the 1939 Sutton Hoo excavation. When wealthy landowner Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) hires archeologist Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) to dig up large mounds on her property, the pair make a startling discovery—a ship from the Dark Ages that turns out to be the burial site of someone of tremendous distinction. But as word of the treasure spreads, more high-profile archeologists move in on Pretty and Brown’s find to take ownership. A slow build but worthy of the acclaim it’s received, The Dig is a stunning, well-acted period drama about a largely untold piece of history.
An intricate study of a cinematic masterpiece? Or two hours and 11 minutes of Gary Oldman lying around and getting tanked in bed? Mank is both. After Roma, David Fincher gets his turn at a monochrome, prestige Netflick with this look at screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, otherwise known as the guy who wrote Citizen Kane with Orson Welles. Or, more accurately, as the film demonstrates, for Orson Welles. All that old Hollywood fancy and snappy dialog is here but Fincher’s also interested in movie moguls, fake news, the women behind the men, and creative credit. Bonus points for Amanda Seyfried’s wonderful turn as actress Marion Davies.
The Wandering Earth
A colossal hit in its native China, The Wandering Earth earned more than $700 million (£550 million) at the country’s box office, prompting Netflix to snap up the rights to stream the sci-fi sensation internationally. The film follows a group of astronauts, sometime far into the future, attempting to guide the Earth away from the sun, which is expanding into a red giant. The problem? Jupiter is also in the way. While the Earth is being steered by 10,000 fire-blowing engines that have been strapped to the surface, the humans still living on the planet must find a way to survive the ever changing environmental conditions.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Chadwick Boseman’s final film before his untimely death is one set almost entirely in a sweaty recording studio in 1920s Chicago. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom centers on the mother of the blues, played by Viola Davis, as she clashes with bandmates and white producers while trying to record an album. Davis delivers a stellar performance, perfectly reflecting the tensions of the time, but it’s Boseman who is completely electrifying onscreen, stealing every scene he’s in. The actor truly couldn’t have done any better for his final outing as trumpeter Levee.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
If you are not an American boomer, the juxtaposition of the city of Chicago and the number seven might mean little to you, but the formula stands for one of the causes célèbres of the ’60s. As anti-war, civil rights, and hippie activists involved in the protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, the Seven (theoretically eight) were picked as convenient scapegoats after the unrest was crushed at the behest of Mayor Richard Daley, and arraigned before a judge whose views and demeanor put him to the right of Vlad the Impaler. Happening at the very end of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency—with the US reeling from the John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, and Vietnam still devouring thousands of young people—the trial came to encapsulate the tensions tearing the country’s social fabric asunder. Director Aaron Sorkin takes a lot of liberties with historical facts (and leaves out some hilarious bits, like poet Allen Ginsberg’s testimony, which would have made for a showstopper), but The Trial of the Chicago 7 generally succeeds in conveying the sense of generational score-settling the court battle came to signify—and boffo acting by Eddie Redmayne and (albeit laughingly miscast) Sacha Baron Cohen seal this as a nice watch.
Yes, it’s yet another take on Sherlock Holmes, but this time the brooding detective takes a back seat as the plot focuses on his teenage sister Enola, played by Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown. Faced with her mother’s mysterious disappearance, Enola goes to London in an attempt to track her down—while running away from other Holmes brother Mycroft and his threats of boarding school. It’s a jaunty, family-friendly adventure with some fun action scenes and a feel-good, if rather un-nuanced, moral. Henry Cavill’s Sherlock is a man of few words and many meaningful looks, while Helena Bonham Carter makes for a sprightly and unconventional mother figure. The film seems to wholeheartedly embrace its tropes rather than getting too mired down in them, and the costumes and locations make for very enjoyable viewing.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Much like his previous films Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, director Charlie Kaufman created quite the head-spinner with this Netflix drama. In I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Lucy (Jessie Buckley) travels with boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents for the first time at their secluded farmhouse. But all the while Lucy narrates her desire to end things with Jake, and questions why she’s going on this trip in the first place. Cue an incredibly uncomfortable dinner with parents Toni Collette and David Thewlis (both excellent) and a confusing journey that flits through time. It should be noted that you simply won’t understand all (or frankly, any) of the elements of this mind-bending film. However, once you get all the answers, it’s hard not to admire and appreciate the complexities of loss and loneliness Kaufman has imbued in this drama.
The Old Guard
Netflix’s The Old Guard broke records on release, and it remains one of the streaming service’s most watched original films ever, reaching a whopping 72 million households in its first four weeks. But just how good of a watch is it? Charlize Theron leads a group of immortal mercenaries who use their self-healing powers to help those in need. When a new immortal joins their crew, they find themselves being chased down by scientists who want to experiment on them. The Old Guard’s action scenes are its strongest, with Theron and new recruit KiKi Layne having some serious fun dishing out and taking their fair share of hits. It may not be especially original in its plot, but The Old Guard delivers exactly what it promises.
Da 5 Bloods
After finding Oscar success with BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee returned with an even more powerful, violent, anguished take on another aspect of America’s history of racial injustice. This time it’s in Vietnam, where four Black military veterans have returned to find the remains of their fallen squad leader and a gold fortune they left behind. The film is a multilayered analysis of the racism suffered by the Black soldiers who were defending a country that simply did not value their lives, and the brutality the Vietnamese people were subjected to in the long, painful, and—as it’s known as in the film—American War. As you would expect, a film that focuses so closely on these difficult themes is no easy watch, and there are moments of intense brutality. But at the heart of Da 5 Bloods is an incredibly human story of friendship, humanity, and the inherited trauma our main characters experience.
Mari Gilbert is at war with the police. Her daughter is missin, and because of their bias against sex workers, they aren’t helping. Mari decides to start her own investigation, which leads her to the discovery of more than a dozen unsolved murders of sex workers. She joins together with their families to start a campaign to make sure these girls aren’t forgotten, holding the police to account for their negligence. Lost Girls is based on a tragic true story and shows how hard it is to get assistance from law enforcement when they simply don’t want to listen to you.
A Senegalese romance, a story of construction workers turned migrants, and a paranormal revenge tale—Mati Diop’s genre-busting Atlantics won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2019, and Netflix showed its impeccable taste in international films by picking it up. The first-time feature director takes her time as she follows 17-year-old Ada, who is in love with Soulemaine—one of the workers at sea—but obliged to marry another man, and Issa, a police officer who gets mixed up in the lives of Ada and other women left behind in Dakar. Diop uses genre tropes and traditional folklore to get under the skin of families, corruption, and class in urban Senegal.
This adaptation of Christopher Demos-Brown’s Broadway play, focusing on a Black mother’s anguish over her missing son, has changed little from its source material. Set, claustrophobically, inside the waiting room of a police station, Kenny Leon’s film follows Kendra (Kerry Washington) as she tries desperately to find out where her 18-year-old son is and gets blocked at every turn by an openly racist police officer. It tackles segregation, racism, sexism, and police brutality in one hour and 30 minutes in a way that will make your stomach churn. The film, like the play before it, has its share of critics who feel its sometimes labored dialog fails to adequately tackle modern racism, but you should watch it and decide for yourself.
Dolemite Is My Name
After the credits roll on Dolemite Is My Name, we guarantee you’ll be 10,000 times more likely to go out and stage a horndog nude photo shoot for your next cult comedy record. The only person having anywhere near as much fun as Eddie Murphy, playing real life club comedian/singer Rudy Ray Moore, is Wesley Snipes, goofing around as the actor-director D’Urvill Martin. Together with a madcap crew, they make a truly terrible 1975 Blaxploitation kung fu movie based on Moore’s pimp alter ego, Dolemite. A brash showbiz movie with a heart of gold, there’s shades of The Disaster Artist and music legend biopics all over this film. Yet with the cast flexing in Ruth Carter’s glorious costumes—the suits!—and a couple of triumphant sex and shoot-out scenes, it’s a wild ride, whether you know the original story or not.
How did a Panamanian law firm orchestrate the biggest global tax evasion operation of all time? In The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh takes an incredibly dry (yet important) real story and makes it into one of the weirdest films released in recent memory. Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman play Ramón Fonseca and Jürgen Mossack, the despicable scoundrels running a scandal-ridden Panamanian law firm as it slowly collapses. Meryl Streep plays a widow turned amateur detective whose husband could not collect insurance because it was tied to a shell company that doesn’t exist—then bizarrely dresses up in disguise as a Panamanian employee. If you don’t know about the real-world scandal, this film won’t help to explain it, but it’s certainly entertaining.
Things seem rosy for all of five minutes in Marriage Story, which follows the protracted and heartbreaking divorce of a theater director (Adam Driver) and his actor wife (Scarlett Johansson). Driver and Johansson put on a master class in emotionally honest acting, so it’s little surprise the film picked up six Oscar nominations, including a win for Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern.
A breakup movie that is really about the joy of female friendship and the pain of growing old, Someone Great is powered by three great performances from Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow, and DeWanda Wise. Rodriguez stars as Jenny, a journalist who simultaneously lands her dream job in San Francisco and breaks up with her boyfriend of nine years. To lift her out of her gloom, Jenny enlists her two best friends for one last adventure in New York City. Although the film sets itself up as a series of comic capers (like Superbad or Dazed and Confused), it really finds its heart in the relationship between the three leads and their mutual support as they attempt to muddle through life. It’s like picking up with the cast of Booksmart and finding out they’ve really gotten into drugs in the intervening 13 years.
Roma is very different from any film that director Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) made before it. Set against the backdrop of unrest in Mexico City in the early 1970s, the film follows Cleo (Yalitizio Aparicia), who works as a housekeeper for a young, well-off family. Based on Cuarón’s real-life nanny, Libo, much of the movie’s mise-en-scène is derived from his own childhood, giving it an incredibly intimate feel. Fans of Cuarón who have watched Gravity or Children of Men might be surprised by this black-and-white family drama from the director, but it’s among his best, nabbing three Oscars and two BAFTA Awards.
A taut, clever crime thriller, Nightcrawler explores the world of “stringers,” freelance videographers who scour late-night LA for violent events to film and then sell to local TV stations. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou, who lucks into the trade and quickly discovers the profits to be made, especially when he bends the law for juicier material. Desperate to feed demand, a local morning news director (Rene Russo) doesn’t care how the footage is obtained so long as it’s good. An outstanding central performance from Gyllenhaal drives the action forward, and it features an early Hollywood appearance for Riz Ahmed as his sidekick, Rick.
Everyone in this period drama from director Dee Rees is trying to drag themselves out of the Mississippi mud in one way or another. Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) moves his young family to a farm on the Mississippi delta, although his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) is less than pleased by the news that he’s also bringing his horribly racist father to live with them too. Also on the farm are the Jackson family, led by Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan), who hopes he can work his way out of sharecropping and own his own slice of land one day. When Hap’s son and Henry’s brother return to Mississippi from World War II, the two men find themselves locked in a struggle against the ugly oppression of Jim Crow America.