As Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, et al. add more content, it can be difficult to know what to look for amidst all of the newly added titles. Every month, I compile a list of particularly noteworthy and interesting movies and TV shows to add to your streaming queues.
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Ridley Scott’s Gladiator was one of 2000’s biggest and most successful films, thanks to an epic plot, incredible special effects, and thrilling action sequences. Russell Crowe stars as Maximus Decimus Meridius, a disgraced Roman general who is enslaved and forced to compete in Rome’s brutal gladiatorial exhibitions. Gladiator also stars Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed (in his final film appearance), Djimon Hounsou, Richard Harris, and Joaquin Phoenix as the corrupt Roman emperor.
Set during the ’50s, The Iron Giant blends classic sci-fi and Cold War-era paranoia into a charming coming-of-age story between a boy and a gigantic robot. I unashamedly wept the first time I saw the film’s heart-wrenching finale, and I still get chills whenever I think of the word “Superman.” The film did poorly during its initial release due to the studio’s poor promotion, but the ensuing years have been very kind to its legacy, and for good reason: it’s a classic in every sense of the word.
Released at the height of Will Smith’s box office dominance in the ’90s, Men in Black stars Smith as the latest recruit of a shadowy organization that monitors extraterrestrial life on Earth. Paired with a veteran agent (played with cranky glee by Tommy Lee Jones), he must prevent an alien menace from destroying the world. Men in Black is topnotch Hollywood blockbuster entertainment, filled with sci-fi action, imaginative alien designs, and most importantly, Smith and Jones’ wise-cracking comedy chemistry.
In this harrowing adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, a hunter discovers a bunch of drug money and decides to keep it — which puts him in the sights of a psychotic hitman (Javier Bardem, in a chilling performance). Meanwhile, the only one who might save him is an aging, world-weary sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones, also giving a fantastic performance). No Country for Old Men may not have the quirky humor that the Coen Brothers are best known for — O Brother, Where Art Thou? this most certainly is not — but its depiction of human evil and darkness is captivating and provocative in its own right (read my review).
I certainly didn’t have Bob Odenkirk on my “Next Great Action Star” bingo card, but his performance in Nobody as a sad-sack middle-aged dude who is suddenly revealed to have a deadly side sealed the deal. Written by Derek Kolstad, the man responsible for bringing us John Wick, Nobody certainly has a lot in common with Keanu Reeves’ films, from the slow-burning character study to the inventive action sequences. But Odenkirk’s performance and commitment very much makes it its own thing, as well.
George Clooney gives the performance of a lifetime as Ulysses Everett McGill, a fast-talking convict who escapes from chain gang with a couple of dim-witted fellas (John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson, also great) in search of a treasure. But their search takes them all over Great Depression-era Mississippi, where they land in one hilarious, outlandish scrape after another. As well-known for its gorgeous cinematography as its award-winning soundtrack, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is one of the Coen Brothers’ most beloved films.
When people think of “comic book adaptations,” they probably think about our current glut of superhero movies. But this delightfully quirky film was adapted from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s celebrated graphic novels, which follow the titular slacker as he attempts to woo the girl of his dreams — and his epic battles with her evil ex-boyfriends. Directed by the one and only Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is packed with visual panache, not to mention a bevy of on-screen talent including Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Evans, Aubrey Plaza, and Jason Schwartzman.
Here’s everything arriving on Amazon Prime Video in July 2023.
The first season of Foundation had its flaws, but I appreciated its sense of ambition and scale as it tried to adapt one of sci-fi’s greatest works: Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. (Read my review.) The first season ended with the Galactic Empire beginning to show cracks as a ragtag group of individuals traveled to a remote planet to find a way to save humanity. Season two takes place a century after the first season, and as the trailer makes clear, the conflict between the Foundation and the Empire show no signs of abating. Having never read any of Asimov’s stories, I don’t know how faithful the adaptation it looks, but it does look pretty epic and entertaining.
This anthology of ten shorts by African animators and filmmakers follows its characters through a dystopian sci-fi future filled with time travel and aliens — and all of them seen through the lens of African culture.
Here’s everything arriving on Disney+ in July 2023.
Ridley Scott’s 1979 film is both a sci-fi and horror classic, as a small spaceship crew finds themselves hunted down by a vicious creature after they discover the wreckage of a derelict spaceship. Alien spawned several sequels and prequels as well as a crossover with the Predator franchise, and established Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley as one of the genre’s most bad-ass heroines.
One of the greatest action movies of all time, period. Bruce Willis stars as John McClane, a sardonic detective from New York who’s visiting his estranged wife in Los Angeles for a Christmas party at her office. And then, wouldn’t you know it, a bunch of terrorists break up the party and hold everyone hostage. It’s up to McClane to take on the terrorists — who are lead by Alan Rickman at his most suave — armed with little more than some one-liners. Suffice to say, the terrorists don’t stand a chance.
Seeing your daughter get married is a bittersweet experience, but Steve Martin also turns it into a comedy of errors in this 1991 film. The minute George Banks (Martin) sees his future son-in-law, he’s skeptical — and that skepticism soon lands him in all manner of embarrassing situations. Throw in an eccentric wedding planner (Martin Short, stealing ever scene he’s in), some swans, and hot dog buns, and you’ve got a lighthearted comedy classic.
OK, let’s be honest: Shanghai Noon doesn’t quite stand up to Jackie Chan’s classic Hong Kong work. Then again, what could? That said, Shanghai Noon is still a pretty fun caper that finds Chan’s disgraced Chinese soldier teaming up with Owen Wilson’s would-be train robber to save a captured princess in the American Old West. Chan and Wilson make a great duo, and the film’s as much fun to see for their camaraderie as it is to see a Western take on Chan’s trademark stunts.
Here’s everything arriving on Hulu in July 2023.
I consider my first viewing of Caddyshack a foundational experience. Granted, I didn’t understand everything that went on — I just thought it was funny when Bill Murray tried to blow up the golf course — but I’ve since come to appreciate Chevy Chase’s screwball humor, the endless site gags and puns, and of course, that sweet, smooth Kenny Loggins soundtrack.
One of the great buddy cop movies. No, scratch that… Lethal Weapon is the buddy cop movie. Written by Shane Black and directed by Richard Donner, this movie has it all: a by-the-books officer close to retirement, his new partner (who happens to be unhinged), a crazy conspiracy that pushes them to the edge of the law and beyond. Basically, it created the template for all buddy cop movies to follow… and it’s still the best one ever.
The Road Warrior is one of the prototypical post-apocalyptic films, featuring nomads trying to eke out a living in the blasted wastelands of the Australian outback. Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) is a lonely survivor who falls in with a group of settlers fighting over precious resources with a vicious gang, with the result being some of the greatest and most intense action scenes of all time.
I was a college freshman when Pulp Fiction arrived in theaters, and it was everywhere. Tarantino’s twisty, twisted morality play about hitmen, gangsters, drug addicts, boxers, and a mysterious briefcase blew everyone away with its snappy dialog, retro aesthetic, and celebrated performances (including John Travolta in a career-resurrecting performance). In particular, the diner conversation between Jules and Vincent is one of my favorite movie scenes of all time.
The Matrix was heavily inspired by anime, especially Ghost in the Shell. So it only made sense to release an anime anthology that was inspired by The Matrix. The nine shorts here feature the talents of some of the world’s best animators (e.g., Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Mahiro Maeda, Shinichirō Watanabe) and studios (e.g., Madhouse, Square USA, Studio 4 °C).
Also airing on Adult Swim, this animated series chronicles Superman’s earliest days, as Clark Kent arrives in Metropolis, gets a job at the Daily Planet, meets Lois Lane, and figures out how to become the world’s greatest superhero. I dig the series’ lighter, anime-influenced look — it looks like a relief from the grimmer-than-grim live-action Supes — and creator Jake Wyatt previously worked on Steven Universe and the 2017 reboot of the classic DuckTales.
Here’s everything arriving on Max in July 2023.
Wax on, wax off… Daniel is the new kid at school who quickly runs afoul of a local gang that’s well-versed in karate thanks to the vicious Cobra Kai dojo. Fortunately for Daniel, his apartment complex’s handyman happens to be a karate master himself, and he begins training Daniel for an eventual confrontation with Cobra Kai. This movie inspired every kid in my school to become a master of the crane kick (which, to my dismay, turned out to not actually be a thing in karate).
J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the vaunted sci-fi franchise casts Chris Pine as a young James T. Kirk. Brash and arrogant, but also running from the expectations placed upon him by his father’s sacrifice, Kirk is convinced to join Starfleet just in time to come face-to-face with a dangerous foe seeking revenge. Although the subsequent films in the Kelvin timeline were rather meh, this first Star Trek movie is a fun reimagining of the Enterprise’s beloved crew (read my review).
Written and directed by John Hughes, Uncle Buck stars the late, great John Candy as a confirmed bachelor who is called upon to care for his brother’s kids. And because this is a John Candy film, nothing goes right — and hilariously so. Uncle Buck was one of several celebrated collaborations between Hughes and Candy, with the others including Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Great Outdoors, and Home Alone.
The duo of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, better known as Wham!, was one of the biggest musical groups of the ’80s, thanks to chart-topping hits like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Careless Whisper,” and “Last Christmas.” Netflix’s original documentary traces the band’s origins and meteoric rise as well as the impact of Michael’s sexuality on his songwriting and Wham!‘s music.
Originally scheduled for release in December 2020, They Cloned Tyrone stars John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, and Teyonah Parris as a hustler, pimp, and sex worker who realize that a government conspiracy is cloning people in their neighborhood — and they decide to do something about it. The Netflix original film also stars David Alan Grier and Kiefer Sutherland.
Here’s everything arriving on Netflix in July 2023.