September 2018’s Best Streaming Titles: Groundhog Day, Black Panther, The Good Place, Ghostbusters & more
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.
If you’d like to receive my streaming recommendations even sooner, become an Opus subscriber today.
Groundhog Day (September 1)
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.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (September 1)
While it’s doubtful that any movie could ever truly capture the zaniness of Douglas Adams’ classic sci-fi series, Garth Jennings’ 2005 adaptation does an admirable job. After Earth is destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Arthur Dent finds himself traveling the galaxy with an alien journalist, a former crush, the President of the Galaxy (played with gusto by Sam Rockwell), and a clinically depressed robot.
Unforgiven (September 1)
Clint Eastwood’s award-winning Unforgiven — among other things, it earned Oscars for “Best Picture” and “Best Director” in 1993 — works as both a deconstruction of the Western epics that helped make Eastwood’s career, as well as an excellent Western in its own right. Eastwood plays a reformed bandit and murderer who returns to his violent ways in order to save his family, but at what cost to his soul?
The Emperor’s New Groove (September 2)
It might not get as much notice as Disney’s other movies, but The Emperor’s New Groove is still a fun watch. This is largely due to the inspired casting of David Spade as an arrogant Incan emperor who is transformed into a llama by an evil sorceress. The film then becomes a buddy comedy as the emperor teams up with a peasant (voiced by John Goodman) and learns valuable life lessons along the way.
Black Panther (September 4)
Not only is Black Panther one of the most successful Marvel films of all time, earning $1.3 billion and breaking numerous box office records, but it’s also something of a cultural movement. Sure, it has the requisite super-powered action sequences, but Black Panther also features a gorgeous aesthetic that celebrates African culture and touches on themes of Western colonization. In other words, it’s a superhero film with substance to boot. Also, it inspired a killer OutKast mash-up.
The Dragon Prince (September 14)
There’s been some controversy (because everything’s a controversy on the internet) over The Dragon Prince’s artwork and animation — which, to be honest, does look a little choppy to my eyes. However, I can overlook sub-optimal animation if the story’s good, and this Netflix series was created by one of the men behind Opus fave Avatar: The Last Airbender, which bodes well.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (September 16)
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim is an awesome comic book about a slacker who must defeat his new love’s evil ex-boyfriends. So it only made sense that it was adapted by Edgar Wright, one of the most interesting visual directors working today. The result is a film that is pure hyper-stylized fun (read my review).
Click here for a list of everything arriving on and leaving Netflix in September 2018.
Blow Out (September 1)
Inspired by Michelangelo Antonioni’s seminal Blowup, Brian De Palma’s Blow Out follows a sound technician (played by John Travolta) who is working on a horror film and accidentally records evidence of an assassination. But did he? Or was it all part of a conspiracy? Blow Out has also been compared to Francis Ford Coppola’s thriller The Conversation.
Rushmore (September 1)
Rushmore tells the story of one Max Fischer, a student at the titular private school. Despite being involved in countless extracurricular clubs, most notably the drama club, he’s a terrible student. Rushmore was one of Wes Anderson’s earliest films, but his aesthetic was fully realized even then. Rushmore is also one of his funniest films — read my review — from Fischer’s rivalry with Bill Murray’s character for the affections of a new teacher to the Vietnam War-inspired high school production that ends the film.
Signs (September 1)
M. Night Shyamalan’s alien invasion picture has been roundly criticized for plot holes concerning the alien invaders. But if you can look past those, it’s worth watching Signs to appreciate Shyamalan’s ability to generate mood and tension (read my review). Rarely has a video of a child’s birthday party ever been so suspenseful. (Watch it and you’ll see what I mean.)
Unbreakable (September 1)
After the massive success of 1999’s The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan had cart blanche to do whatever he wanted. And so, for a followup, he made Unbreakable, a downbeat and — as is Shyamalan’s wont — atmospheric film about a sad sack of a man (played by Bruce Willis) who comes to discover that he might be a superhero. But if he’s a superhero, then there must be a super-villain out there, too. Unbreakable was the first film in a trilogy, with the second (Split) receiving considerable acclaim in 2016, and the final film (Glass) coming in 2019.
Higher Power (September 13)
I’m always a sucker for interesting-looking indie genre films, and that’s exactly what Higher Power looks like. After being experimented on by a mad scientist, a recovering alcoholic discovers that he has god-like abilities — abilities that he must use, not only to save his estranged daughters, but the whole world. Higher Power is the directorial debut of Matthew Charles Santoro, who did special effects on various Marvel films, which shows in his film’s impressive-looking visuals. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this ever since I first found out about it.
Moonrise Kingdom (September 16)
Released in 2012, Moonrise Kingdom is a sweet coming-of-age drama about two young children who fall in love and decide to run away together. And because it’s a Wes Anderson film, it’s hyper-stylized with a skewed ’60s-inspired look — which only adds to the film’s dreaminess. Oh, and because it’s a Wes Anderson film, it’s also hilarious, with his inimitably dry, deadpan dialog delivered by a star-studded cast (e.g., Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray).
The Good Place, Season 3 (September 28)
After Eleanor Shellstrop dies, she’s assured that she’s arrived in the Good Place, which is great except for one tiny thing: Eleanor was a terrible person while she was alive. And so she starts learning what it means to be a good person so she won’t get sent to the Bad Place. That’s the basic premise behind The Good Place, which balances heady philosophical discussions about ethics and morality with hilarious comedy courtesy of a fantastic cast that includes Kristen Bell and Ted Danson (who plays Michael, the Good Place’s bumbling creator).
Click here for a list of everything arriving on and leaving Hulu in September 2018.
Ghostbusters (September 1)
Apparently, September is Bill Murray month. Netflix gets Groundhog Day, Hulu gets some Wes Anderson movies, and Amazon gets Ghostbusters. In this supernatural comedy classic, Bill Murray leads a group of intrepid paranormal investigators who find themselves in over their heads when an ancient god of destruction threatens New York with eternal doom. Also stars Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, and Rick Moranis.
Miami Vice (September 1)
If you’re my age, then Miami Vice brings to mind pastel jackets, sports cars and speedboats, and big hair. But for his 2006 big screen adaptation, director Michael Mann went for a grittier, rawer feel — and it worked pretty well. A lot of that had to do with some great casting, especially Luis Tosar as a drug kingpin and Gong Li as his paramour. But Mann’s striking use of digital photography also played a big role, giving the film a very immediate and distinctive look.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (September 1)
Oh wow, talk about a blast from the past. I can’t tell you how many times I watched this movie when I was in middle school. Sure, Kevin Costner may not be the greatest cinematic Robin Hood (he’s no Cary Elwes, that’s for sure) but it does feature some beautiful production design, an Alan Rickman performance for the ages (as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham), and that theme song.
Smokey and the Bandit (September 1)
Sometimes all you need to make a great movie is an iconic car, and it doesn’t get much more iconic than the Firebird Trans Am that Burt Reynolds drives in Smokey and the Bandit, as he tries to deliver a shipment of bootleg Coors beer without getting caught by the police. So in this movie, you’ve got a bitchin’ car, Burt Reynolds at his most Burt Reynolds-est, and Jackie Gleason as Sheriff Buford T. Justice (who delivers some of the greatest insults in cinema history). What else could you possibly want?
Click here for a list of everything arriving on and leaving Amazon in September 2018. As usual, there’s a lot of overlap between Hulu and Amazon Prime’s offerings.