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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One of the very best sci-fi films in recent years, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is a thought-provoking film unlike any alien invasion film you’ve seen. When strange alien ships appear around the globe, the military asks a linguist (Amy Adams) to help decipher the alien’s strange language. But as she begins to understand it, the language begins to affect her in mysterious ways. Arrival’s slow pace may frustrate some, but Villeneuve’s direction is masterful, the cinematography is gorgeous, the concepts are fascinating, and the soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson is incredible.
In this hilarious parody/homage to classic blaxploitation films, Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is the baddest mofo in the hood. But in order to defeat The Man who killed his brother, the dealers pumping heroin into the streets, and the fiendish Dr. Wu’s kung fu treachery, Black Dynamite will have to unleash his full martial arts fury… and show the ladies some love, too.
Mel Brook’s satire of the Western film is a comedy classic — though its treatment of racism (and flatulence) may be jarring for modern audiences. When a new sheriff rides into the small town of Rock Ridge, its citizens are shocked to learn that he’s black. However, he may just be their best hope when a greedy lawyer wants to destroy their town to make way for a new railroad.
Nicholas Angel is London’s best cop. He’s so good, in fact, that he makes all of the other cops look bad. Which is why he gets transferred to the sleepy town of Sandford, where the crime rate is zero and nothing bad ever happens. But when locals start disappearing, Angel’s convinced something’s going on. Has Sandford cracked him, or has he cracked the biggest case of his career? Inspired by classic buddy cop films like Lethal Weapon, Hot Fuzz is action comedy of the highest sort (read my review).
Directed by Rob Bowman, 2002’s Reign of Fire depicts a world where dragons are real and have driven humanity to the brink of extinction. The film works as well as it does because it plays the fantastical premise straight and gritty, from the heroes’ medieval existence to the gritty American troops, led by a bulked up Matthew McConaughey, who try to reclaim the skies. And of course, it has some awesome dragon effects.
On its surface, Robocop seems like a pretty straightforward action/sci-fi movie: dedicated cop gets gunned down by vicious thugs and is reborn as an unstoppable cybernetic enforcer. But this being a Paul Verhoeven movie, it’s no surprise that Robocop also packs a darkly satirical edge that skewers corporate greed.
Byron Haskin’s 1953 film is arguably the best adaptation of H.G. Wells’ iconic novel, thanks to its groundbreaking special effects (which still look great to this day) and a real sense of dread and hopelessness as Martian invaders lay waste to the Earth. Combine that with Cold War-era concerns of nuclear war, and you have one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time.
The Duggar family hit the cultural zeitgeist thanks to the TLC reality TV show that chronicled their large family. TLC canceled the series in 2015 after Josh Duggar admitted to molesting several girls, including some of his sisters. In Shiny Happy People, several of the Duggar children discuss their experiences, and in particular, the ultra-conservative theology that their family subscribed to.
I don’t mean this as an insult, but Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is worth watching for the visuals alone. Of course, it has an emotional storyline, as an astronaut is forced to leave his family in order to find a new home for humanity. And Hans Zimmer’s score has become increasingly iconic. But the film’s visuals are simply jaw-dropping. Fun fact: Nolan worked with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne to make the black hole effects as realistic as possible, which ultimately advanced the scientific understanding of black holes and led to the publishing of several scientific papers on the topic.
Here’s everything arriving on Amazon Prime Video in June 2023.
It only took James Cameron thirteen years to release a sequel to 2009’s Avatar, one of the most successful films of all time. Not surprisingly, the sequel — which is set sixteen years after the original, and finds the alien inhabitants of Pandora once again battling the humans trying to exploit their home’s resources — was another massive critical and commercial success.
Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as Nick Fury, the former director of S.H.I.E.L.D. who returns to stop a new conspiracy that involves placing Skrulls — shapeshifting aliens — in positions of power around the world. The series, which looks a good deal grimmer and grittier than most MCU titles, also stars some familiar faces like Cobie Smulders, Ben Mendelsohn, Don Cheadle, and Martin Freeman, while introducing Emilia Clarke and Olivia Colman to the MCU.
Here’s everything arriving on Disney+ in June 2023.
Long before he was Finn in Star Wars, John Boyega burst on the scene in Attack the Block as Moses, the leader a London street gang who find themselves facing off against deadly alien invaders. Attack the Block was the directorial debut of Joe Cornish, and with the aid of Boyega, Nick Frost, and Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who, Broadchurch), he delivered a rollicking film that blends sci-fi, action, horror, and comedy with some pointed social commentary on racism and poverty.
Directed by Richard Donner and produced by Steven Spielberg, The Goonies is about as good as a classic kids adventure film can get. When a group of social misfits on the verge of being kicked out of their homes discover a pirate treasure map, they see it as the perfect solution to their problems — if they can survive the elaborate booby traps and vicious criminals on their tail.
Everyone knows hillbillies are the bad guys in horror films. What Tucker and Dale vs. Evil presupposes is… maybe they aren’t. When the titular rednecks encounter a bunch of hot, young coeds on vacation, confusion ensues — with all sorts of hilarious and bloody ramifications. The film’s ending is a bit of a letdown, but it’s still worth watching for Tucker and Dale’s reactions to people accidentally offing themselves in all sorts of crazy ways.
After shutting down their celebrated comedy sketch show, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele returned with their first movie about a pair of friends who get mixed up with drug dealers and deadly assassins after one of the friends loses his kitten. It’s an absurd premise that riffs on gangster movies and buddy action flicks, but it works solely because of Key and Peele’s chemistry, hilarious script, and comedic timing. And having the likes of Tiffany Haddish, Luis Guzmán, Will Forte, and Method Man in the cast certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel wasn’t just a great sci-fi film; it was one of 2021’s best films, period. Villeneuve perfectly captured the far-future scope of Herbert’s novel with brilliant visual effects and stunning production design while his star-studded cast — which includes Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Zendaya, and Jason Momoa — delivered solid performances all around. Between Dune, Blade Runner 2049, and Arrival, Villeneuve has established himself a director of epic sci-fi movies par excellence.
Here’s everything arriving on Hulu in June 2023.
Back in May, HBO Max rebranded itself to Max.
In this quasi-sequel to Evil Dead II, Ash Williams (the iconic Bruce Campbell) is transported back in time to the Middle Ages, where he must fight off the Deadite hordes. Thankfully, he’s still got his “Boom Stick” and a boatload of quips to deal with the undead menace. Much like its predecessors, Army of Darkness has become a massive cult hit since its release in the early ’90s.
Now here’s a slice of prime ’90s Hollywood “so bad it’s good” cinematic fluff. In Demolition Man, criminals are reprogrammed while in cryogenic stasis, which leads to a utopian society. Until a psychopath breaks free, that is, and — of course — there’s only one man who can stop him. Come for the gratuitous violence and cheesy one-liners, stay for Wesley Snipes’ scene-chewing and Sylvester Stallone’s “man out of time” shtick.
Enter the Dragon was the final film that Bruce Lee completed before his untimely death at the age of 32, and it was the film that sealed Lee’s status as the greatest martial arts actor of all time. Enter the Dragon’s plot is pretty straightforward — Lee must use his skills to infiltrate a martial arts competition run by a ruthless crime lord — but it’s all about Lee’s charisma, lighting fast fists and feet, and superhuman skill with the nunchaku. Enter the Dragon also stars John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Angela Mao, and Bolo Yeung.
I didn’t really know what to expect the first time I watched Evil Dead II, but I don’t think I was expecting it to be as over-the-top funny as it is. The legendary Bruce Campbell — in his most iconic role — is Ash Williams, who just wanted a romantic weekend with his girlfriend in a remote cabin, only to find himself facing off against unimaginable evil with nothing but a shotgun, a chainsaw, and a perfect blend of gore and slapstick comedy.
When a crime-ridden city is faced with a shortage of police officers, the police department opens itself to all incoming applicants — with hilarious results. A comedy classic, Police Academy stars Steve Guttenberg (when he was at the height of his box office powers), Kim Cattrall, Bubba Smith, and Michael Winslow. (Several of the Police Academy sequels also arrive on Max, but your mileage may vary.)
Based on the limited edition comic series from the early ’00s, Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham follows Bruce Wayne as he travels the world trying to solve the murder of his parents. The story takes place in the 1920s and finds the Dark Knight teaming up with Green Arrow and Etrigan to battle an evil cult seeking to destroy Gotham City with Lovecraftian horrors.
Here’s everything arriving on Max in June 2023.
Jim Carrey plays the titular Bruce, a TV reporter who’s fed up with his life. When he finally complains to God about life’s unfairness, the Almighty (played by Morgan Freeman) grants Bruce His divine powers for a week to try and do a better job. (Three guesses on how well he does.) Bruce Almighty has a high-falutin’ premise allows Carrey to do his usual schtick with some hilarious results, but also with a bit more depth and substance attached. The film also stars Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell.
The original Dune may be a train wreck, but it’s a fascinating train wreck. Just start with the fact that it was directed by the one and only David Lynch, who was so disappointed by the final film that he’s completely disowned it. However, parts of it still hold up pretty well (Kyle MacLachlan’s performance, the production design) and the film has since developed a considerable cult following.
In this surprisingly existential comedy, Bill Murray plays an arrogant weatherman who finds himself reliving the same day over and over again in picturesque Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — and forced to confront who he is as a person. This is one of the classic Bill Murray movies, and was even added to the National Film Registry in 2006.
True story: When I was in high school, a friend let me borrow a copy of Terminator 2 that he’d recorded off HBO. Not only was the movie mind-blowing in terms of special effects and action, but it was one of my first brushes with fan obsession. I must’ve watched the movie ten times in a single week. (I’m surprised that VHS tape survived the ordeal.) The movie still holds up as an action masterpiece after all this time, and the unstoppable liquid metal T-1000 — played excellently by Robert Patrick — remains one of movie sci-fi’s best and most cleverly devised antagonists.
Christopher Nolan’s historical epic depicts one of World War II’s most pivotal moments: the Dunkirk evacuation, during which over 300,000 Allied soldiers were rescued after being trapped by German forces. Starring Harry Styles, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, and Cillian Murphy (to name a few), Dunkirk has since been called Nolan’s best film to date, and one of the greatest war films of all time. The film was nominated for numerous Oscars including “Best Picture” and won three for “Best Sound Editing,” “Best Sound Mixing,” and “Best Film Editing.”
Chris Hemsworth is back as Tyler Rake, the hard-to-kill mercenary who excels in taking (and dishing out) lots of punishment while rescuing — you might even say “extracting” — innocent people from really bad situations. The first Extraction had Rake saving the son of an Indian drug lord. This time around, he’s saving the entire family of a ruthless gangster from prison. Golshifteh Farahani also returns as Rake’s handler while stuntman-turned-director Sam Hargrave is back behind the camera.
Here’s everything arriving on Netflix in June 2023.
If you’re looking for the ultimate over-the-top ’80s action flick, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a better candidate than Commando. Directed by Mark L. Lester, Arnold Schwarzenegger is at his musclebound ’80s-est as Colonel John Matrix, a retired Green Beret who’s forced back into action after mercenaries kidnap his young daughter (Alyssa Milano). Commando is utterly ridiculous as Matrix tears through wave after mercenary wave with machine guns, rocket launchers, grenades, and gardening tools.
One of the most beloved movie musicals of all time, Fiddler on the Roof follows the trials and tribulations of a Jewish community living in early 20th-century Russia, and especially the efforts of a poor milkman trying to marry off his five daughters. Led by the performance of Topol as Tevye the milkman, Fiddler on the Roof was a critical and commercial success upon its release in 1971. The film was adapted from the acclaimed and award-winning Broadway musical, which itself was based on a series of Yiddish short stories written by Sholem Aleichem in the late 19th century.
Martin Blank (John Cusack) just wants to attend his high school reunion. But that’s easier said than done given that his old girlfriend (Minnie Driver) will be there. That, and he’s a highly skilled assassin with some dangerous people breathing down his neck. Grosse Pointe Blank is one of Cusack’s finest movies, thanks to Cusack’s inimitable charisma, a healthy dose of dark humor, and an excellent supporting cast that includes Alan Arkin, Joan Cusack, Jeremy Piven, and Dan Aykroyd as a rival assassin.
Say Anything features John Cusack in one of his signature roles as Lloyd Dobler, an underachiever who falls for his class’ valedictorian (Ione Skye) and begins an unorthodox relationship with her. But when her father rejects their relationship because of Lloyd’s social status, cue the melodrama. And the Peter Gabriel.
Written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, The Social Network explores the early days of the company that would eventually become Facebook. Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg, a brilliant computer student at Harvard University whose ambitions and callous attitudes soon threaten his relationships, personal and professional. The Social Network also stars Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and Rashida Jones, and won numerous awards — though many, including Zuckerberg, have disputed its historical accuracy.
I’ll be honest: I’ve yet to watch Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, though I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. It’s on my too-watch list, though. Season two continues the USS Enterprise’s mission to explore the galaxy, led by Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount). Among other things, the second season of Strange New Worlds will feature a crossover with Star Trek: Lower Decks.
Here’s everything arriving on Paramount+ in June 2023.