You know the drill. You’re all set for movie night with your wife or some friends. You fire up Netflix. And then you spend the next two hours browsing your queue, looking for something that everyone can agree on.
Next time, save yourself the trouble and go right for these new streaming options. Ranked in no particular order, they’re all worth checking out.
Matthew Mcconaughey is the man right now, having just snagged an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club. But those awards are often given for a body of work, and certainly Academy voters had this southern gem in mind when they started to heap praise on the Texas native. Mud is a slow-boiling thriller, with Mcconaughey playing a surrogate father to a Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn like pair of boys. The atmosphere of the film is great, the performances by the kids ring true, and Mr. Dazed and Confused himself is pitch perfect. This is one you can throw on with a crowd and have everyone stay interested ‘til the violent climax.
This isn’t the feel-good movie of the year, but it’s a stunner. You won’t be able to stop watching it. And by the end, you may be rooting for the whale to eat the Seaworld staff. Already, California Assemblyman Richard Bloom of Santa Monica introduced act AB 2140, the Orca Welfare & Safety Act, which would end performance-based entertainment and captive breeding programs in California for good. “There is simply no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes,” said Bloom. After watching this, you’ll probably agree. Give it ten minutes, if you’re not hooked, you’re not human.
Denzel Washington blows this roll out of the water, and it’s made with some stunning visual effects. From the director of Forest Gump and Back to the Future, this was an under-appreciated gem a year ago. Denzel was nominated for Best Actor but for some reason it didn’t take the box office by storm. John Goodman rolls along for the ride with his usual gusto. A mini-fridge full of little cocktail bottles never looked so good. A must see.
The Silver Fox himself (Richard Gere) shines in one of his best rolls in years, for which he received a Golden Globe Best Actor nomination. This is a cautionary tale of the times, taking shots at the 1%, NYC, Wall Street, money managers, excess — you know, the “bad guys”. Whether you subscribe to its politics or not, one thing’s for sure: Arbitrage is a gripping movie. Susan Sarandon elevates the ensamble.
5. Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN
You know that guy who made Gravity? And Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? He’s a pretty frickin’ good director, and one of his early films set a gold standard in sexy, provocative filmmaking. If you haven’t seen it, Y Tu Mama Tambien is a perfect date night movie that will put you both in the mood, with the added bonus of making you feel intellectual and cultured for watching a foreign film. If you don’t remember what it was like to be a young man with sexual energy bursting out of your ears, this will remind you.
6. VANILLA SKY
One of the worst marketing campaigns in modern history kept this movie from catching fire the way it should have. Jerry Maguire director Cameron Crowe reteamed with Tom Cruise to film this very trippy, very twisty thriller with a fantasy spin. It’s definitely a genre jumper, and hard to pin down, and that’s probably why it was a hard sell. That’s too bad, because the cast brings their A-game, including a very f’d up Cameron Diaz doing her best batshit crazy. It may leave you scratching your head, but ye shall be entertained.
7. END OF WATCH
If you like cop movies, they don’t get much better than this. A gritty, realistic look at life as an L.A. police officer, and one of the only times you might be able to tolerate Jack Gyllenhall. This isn’t date night though. This is wife-and-kids-are-asleep and you’re alone on the couch night. It will grip you ‘til the end.
8. LOVE, ACTUALLY
You probably saw it when it came out. If you didn’t it’s a classic. If you did, it’s worth revisiting. The writing is ridiculously sharp and it’s one of the few sentimental movies you might be able to tolerate. If your wife won’t sit down to chill on the couch with you, put this on. By the time Hugh Grant bust out these dance moves, she’ll be right up beside you with a glass of wine.
9. THE CLONE WARS (Movie & Series)
Yeah, yeah. The prequels suck. Jar-Jar should be taken out back and double-tapped execution style. Lucas ruined your childhood. Say what you want about Episodes I-III, but you can’t deny that Lucasfilm hit a home run with this awesome animated series on the Cartoon Network. And they just uploaded the whole thing to Netflix: the original 2 hour movie, plus all 6 seasons of the show. If you have kids who are even a little bit into Star Wars, there is a ton of content here for them to devour over many months. The series wraps up with a focus on Yoda, giving insightful information about the Force that compliments the entire saga. Check it out with little ones. Enjoy it, they will.
One more for the kids. A high-profile Dreamworks animation release that just hit Netflix and should be more than enough to keep the young ones entertained for a movie night. It’s not the cleverest animated film to come down the pike, but nowadays, simply not sucking is enough to get the stamp of approval when it comes to kids’ content. Throw it on and feel confident you’re not ruining your child’s brain.