As Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, et al. add more content, it can be difficult to know what to look for amidst all of the new 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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What remains to be said about this, one of the greatest comedies of all time? Its near-endless supply of sight gags, absurdities, cameos, and slapstick humor is something for the ages. From Robert Stack’s battle with a bunch of Hare Krishnas to Lloyd Bridges’ glue-sniffing, from the epic disco battle to the jive translation, Airplane! has everything you could possibly want in a movie, and then some.
In the near future, Australia is a wasteland filled with roving motorcycle gangs. Law and order is maintained by the highway patrol, but just barely. Max Rockatansky is the patrol’s top officer, but when his family’s threatened by one of the gangs, he tosses aside the law for a rampage of revenge. Filmed in 1979 for a few hundred thousand dollars, Mad Max held the Guinness record for the world’s most profitable film — and helped reinvigorate Australia’s film industry. More importantly, though, it launched one of the most action-packed film franchises of all time.
Thanks in large part to Tom Cruise’s willingness to risk life and limb, the Mission: Impossible movies have arguably become our best modern action movie franchise (sorry, James Bond). Compared to the franchise’s most recent entry, the first Mission: Impossible movie might seem a bit sedate and underwhelming — but make no mistake, it’s still a solid spy flick in its own right.
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 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.
2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog was, to be perfect honest, far more enjoyable than it probably had any right to be. After the titular groundhog escapes to Earth from his own planet, he does his best to live in secret and under the radar. But when his super speed catches the eye of an evil scientist — played by Jim Carrey in all of his scene-chewing glory — he must use his powers to protect his new friends. The first Sonic movie was successful enough to inspire a sequel in 2022, and a third one’s on its way.
Richard Donner’s Superman wasn’t the first live-action incarnation of the Man of Steel, but it’s arguably the most well-known and beloved, due in large part to the Christopher Reeve’s performance as Superman and Clark Kent. The movie’s use of special effects was groundbreaking at the time, and received a “Special Achievement” Academy Award for them. The movie also stars Gene Hackman as criminal genius Lex Luthor, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, and Marlon Brando as Superman’s father, Jor-El.
Here’s everything arriving on Amazon Prime Video in January 2024.
Clive Owen stars as Dashiell Hammett’s legendary detective Sam Spade, who has now retired to southern France. But when a vicious crime at a nearby nunnery shocks the community, Spade is compelled to pick up his old detective ways. But things get even more complicated when he must protect a young child rumored to have supernatural powers.
Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman previously teamed up to produced Band of Brothers and The Pacific, two highly acclaimed WW2-inspired TV series. And now they’re back with Masters of the Air. Based on Donald L. Miller’s book, the series chronicles the exploits of a group of pilots and airmen flying bombing raids over Nazi Germany. Masters of the Air stars Austin Butler, Callum Turner, and Barry Keoghan.
Maya Lopez, aka Echo made quite an impression in 2021’s Hawkeye. So much so that the deaf assassin now has her own series, which finds her on the run from Wilson Fisk’s criminal organization and forced to return to her hometown in Oklahoma and her Native American roots. The series, which also stars Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk and Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock, is the first Marvel Studios title to receive a TV-MA rating for violence.
Here’s everything arriving on Disney+ in January 2024.
Chuck Norris struck TV gold with Walker, Texas Ranger, which ran for nine seasons and follows the exploits of the titular lawman. Cordell Walker is a seasoned Texas Ranger who served in the Vietnam War (and also a world champion kick boxer). Which comes in handy because Texas is filled with bad guys in sore need of a roundhouse kick to the head.
Empire Records is the coolest record store in town, but it’s in danger of being sold and going corporate. The store’s ragtag staff must hatch a crazy scheme to save their store while also celebrating Rex Manning Day. The film was a critical and commercial failure when it was released in 1995, but has since become something of a cult it. And its soundtrack is peak ’90s, with songs from Cracker, The Cranberries, Gin Blossoms, The Innocence Mission, and Toad the Wet Sprocket.
When it was released in 1995, Heat was widely promoted as the first film in which Al Pacino and Robert De Niro appear on-screen together. And while that’s cool, that overlooked the fact that Heat is a scorching (npi) crime thriller about a gang of elite thieves (led by De Niro) and the police officers (led by Pacino) trying to stop them. Directed with panache by Michael Mann, the film oozes style and atmosphere, and features one of the best shootouts in movie history. In 2022, Mann announced that a sequel was in the works.
Starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, The Mummy is a delightful throwback to the classic action serials of the ’30s and ’40s. When an Egyptologist discovers a map to a hidden city, she enlists the aid of an American soldier of fortune to help her, not knowing that they’re about to face a slew of supernatural threats. Filled with cutting edge (for the time) special effects, and more importantly, a sense of fun and adventure, The Mummy is popcorn cinema par excellence.
On paper, Halloween and Christmas don’t have much in common, but thanks to Tim Burton’s strange mind, we get this charming and delightfully weird movie about the king of Halloween Town who become fascinated with Christmas and kidnaps Santa. Originally planned as a Disney movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas was released by Touchstone Pictures because it was thought to be too dark for kids. It ended up being a smash hit and became the first animated film ever nominated for a “Best Visual Effects” Oscar.
As the title implies, King of the Monsters finds the Big G squaring off against some of his biggest foes, including Rodan and Kong Ghidorah, as an eco-terrorist organization seizes technology that allows them to control the Titans. Meanwhile, the Titan-studying organization Monarch races to learn the true origins of King Ghidorah while aiding Godzilla in his struggle. Suffice to say, King of the Monsters is filled to the brim with kaijū spectacle.
Here’s everything arriving on Hulu in January 2024.
In this pitch-black comedy by Stanley Kubrick, America is faced with the threat of nuclear combat when an American general decides to preemptively attack the Soviet Union in order to protect Americans’ precious bodily fluids. Meanwhile, the President confers with his frantic — and increasingly ineffectual — staff in the Pentagon War Room. Starring Peter Sellers in three roles, George C. Scott, James Earl Jones, and Slim Pickens as Major T. J. “King” Kong, Dr. Strangelove is widely considered one of the greatest comedy films of all time.
The third film in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly finds three gunslingers — Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach — racing against time and each other to find a hidden cache of Confederate gold in the midst of the Civil War. Leone’s film was notable for its striking cinematography and stylized violence, as well as Ennio Morricone’s iconic theme. Although critics initially dismissed it upon its release in 1966, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is now considered one of the greatest films of all time, and the definitive spaghetti Western.
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.
Of all of the Star Trek movies, The Voyage Home is probably my favorite. When an alien probe threatens Earth, James T. Kirk and the Enterprise crew travel back in time to find the one thing that might save humanity: humpback whales. Directed by Leonard Nimoy, The Voyage Home is arguably the funnest Star Trek movie, as the Enterprise crew find themselves forced to navigate 20th-century San Francisco.
Here’s everything arriving on Max in January 2024.
One of the better DCEU movies, Aquaman stars Jason Momoa as the titular hero, a role he really was born to play. Divided between the surface world and ocean world, Momoa’s character must reconcile his two sides even as he tries to prevent war from breaking out, battling a dangerous new foe, and searching for his longlost mother. Aquaman adroitly balances all of these storylines with some truly stunning visuals to boot.
Jim Carrey plays a beleagured TV reporter whose ambitions are constantly squashed. Frustrated by the turn his life has taken, he criticizes God (Morgan Freeman, naturally) — Who promptly tells him to try and do a better job as the universe’s supreme being. Not surprisingly, given that this is a Jim Carrey film, outrageousness and hilarity ensue, but Bruce Almighty has some deeper things on its mind beyond Carrey’s hijinks. Bruce Almighty was subsequently followed by Evan Almighty, starring Steve Carell.
On paper, John Wick’s premise is pretty silly: a retired assassin returns to a life of violence to avenge his dead puppy in spectacularly bloody fashion. But of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the film boasts some of the best action filmmaking of the last ten years and a sense of style that’s only enhanced by Keanu Reeve’s dedication and intensity. John Wick spawned three sequels, each more outrageous than the last, and a truly fascinating mythology.
Scientists figure out a way to clone extinct dinosaurs, and the first thing they do? Why, create an amusement park on a remote island, of course. What can go wrong? Plenty, as it turns out, and it’s up to some paleontologists and Jeff Goldblum’s chaos mathematician to find a way to survive when life, uh, finds a way. Jurassic Park is a summer blockbuster in the best way possible.
All Dewey Finn wants to be is a rock star. Unfortunately, his antics have left him without a band and soon, without a place to live. But when he impersonates his roommate to land a teaching gig at a prestigious prep school, he discovers that the school is home to musical prodigies. Suddenly, his dreams of stardom seem more attainable than ever… so long as no one finds out that he’s not actually a teacher. Directed by Richard Linklater and starring Jack Black in one of his best roles, School of Rock is a deeply satisfying comedy about the power of rock n’ roll.
In this Netflix original, Michelle Yeoh plays the matriarch of a Taiwanese crime family who travels to America to make a fresh start. But her family’s darker side isn’t so easily left behind, and with her two sons — of whom has no knowledge of their family’s crimes — she must deal with the past.
When it was released in 2016, Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan became one of the most popular Korean films of all time, setting box office records and receiving widespread acclaim from around the world. The action horror film follows the efforts of the passengers on a high-speed train to survive a zombie outbreak. Train to Busan launched a franchise, including an American remake that’s currently in development.
Produced by Kevin Smith, 2021’s Masters of the Universe: Revelation transformed He-Man into an epic saga filled with elaborate world-building and mythology. Although I was never a big He-Man fan as a kid — I was more into G.I. Joe and Transformers — I loved this modern retelling. Revolution picks up where Revelation left off, with a new threat facing Eternia that’s even worse than Skeletor. The animated series features the voices of Diedrich Bader, Keith David, Lena Headey, William Shatner, and Mark Hamill as Skeletor.
Here’s everything arriving on Netflix in January 2024.