(Welcome to Now Stream This, a column dedicated to the best movies streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and every other streaming service out there.)
There’s too much streaming content out there these days. You know it, and I know it. With so many options to choose from, you can easily get overwhelmed at having to pick something to watch. So why not sit back and let me pick for you? My latest streaming column is here to help you find the perfect title to kick back with as the weekend rolls in. These are the best movies streaming right now. Let’s get streaming!
The Best Movies Streaming Right Now
1. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
Now Streaming on Hulu
Release Date: 2019
Director: Henry Dunham
Cast: James Badge Dale, Brian Geraghty, Patrick Fischler, Happy Anderson, Robert Aramayo, Gene Jones, Chris Mulkey, Bret Porter, Cotter Smith
Unrelentingly tense and consistently jolting, The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is proof positive that you can do so much with so little. Henry Dunham‘s taught thriller utilizes one prime location and only a handful of actors – and yet it never feels cheap, or malnourished. With shadowy, ominous direction and cinematography, and a cast that continuously brings their A-game, Sparrow Creek is nothing short of incredible. After an armed man attacks a police officer’s funeral, members of a local right-wing militia suspect that one of their own is the culprit – and they need to find out who it is before every cop in the county comes barreling down on them. James Badge Dale plays a militia member who used to be a cop, and who is therefore tasked with trying to snuff out who the guilty party is. A blend of Reservoir Dogs and locked-room mystery stories, The Standoff at Sparrow Creek grabs hold of you and refuses to let go.
For fans of: Reservoir Dogs, Assault on Precinct 13, biting your nails down to the quick.
2. First Man
Streaming on HBO Go/Now 7/20
Release Date: 2018
Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciarán Hinds, Christopher Abbott, Patrick Fugit, Lukas Haas
Damien Chazelle‘s First Man is not the Neil Armstrong biopic most audiences expected. Chazelle avoided most biopic trappings, and instead crafted a reticent, intimate, and unexpectedly somber portrait of an emotionally stunted man. As played by Ryan Gosling, Neil Armstrong is a tight-lipped, closed-off man haunted by the death of his young daughter, and determined to land on the moon no matter what. Chazelle does a great job displaying how terrifying space travel is, while also presenting Armstrong as someone seemingly unaffected by all that danger. He gets in one perilous situation after another, brushes himself off, and then does it again. He’s so unconcerned with the consequences that he has to be bullied by his wife (Claire Foy) into explaining to his kids that he’s going to the Moon, and that he might not come back. Viewers may be taken aback at how quiet First Man is, but once you get in tune with its wavelength, you’ll find it intermittently moving.
For fans of: The Right Stuff, Apollo 11, Ryan Gosling silently looking at things.
Now Streaming on Netflix
Release Date: 1982
Director: Tobe Hooper
Cast: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, Beatrice Straight
I won’t spend much time here debating who directed Poltergeist – credited producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg or officially credited director Tobe Hooper. I think there’s a case to be made for both filmmakers, but I will say the flick has a distinct Spielbergian vibe to it much different than Hooper’s other movies. Whomever helmed Poltergeist, the end result is a whiz-bang carnival haunted house – a showcase for creepy special effects and some bona fide scares. A family in California quickly discovers their house is haunted, but that’s the least of their problems. Their youngest daughter has vanished into thin air, and is being held hostage in some nether-realm that exists outside of our reality, but still somewhere in the house. Don’t get too hung up on the scientific explanations that the movie throws around – just sit back and enjoy both the heart-pounding horror and the honest-seeming family dynamic at the center of it all.
For fans of: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Insidious, skeletons – lots and lots of skeletons.
4. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Release Date: 1989
Genre: Sci-fi Comedy
Director: Stephen Herek
Cast: Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, George Carlin
Dim-witted but well-meaning slackers/wannabe rockstars Bill S. Preston Esquire (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) may seem like losers in the 1980s, but in the very, very distant future, the music they created resulted in a utopia. The duo just need a little nudge to get their act together. That nudge comes in the form of a time machine inside a phone booth, which Bill and Ted promptly use to gather up historical figures in order to help them put together one killer final report. Yes, this concept is incredibly stupid. But Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is also surprisingly sweet (save for one homophobic joke that’s aged very poorly), and bolstered by the charming, likable performances of Winter and Reeves. It’s hard to not love a movie that has Abraham Lincoln telling a crowd to “Be excellent to each other.”
For fans of: Back to the Future, Men in Black, 100% scientifically accurate films.
5. Robin and Marian
Now Streaming on The Criterion Channel
Release Date: 1976
Director: Richard Lester
Cast: Sean Connery, Audrey Hepburn, Robert Shaw, Nicol Williamson, Denholm Elliott, Ian Holm, Richard Harris
There are a ton of Robin Hood movies, but Robin and Marian is unique. Rather than tell the traditional Robin Hood story everyone knows by heart, this Richard Lester adventure-drama is a sequel of sorts. It picks up with a much older Robin Hood (Sean Connery), who returns from the Crusades and learns that his love Maid Marian (Audrey Hepburn) has become a nun. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Robert Shaw) is still around too, and he still has a grudge against Robin. Robust and romantic, boasting marvelous performances from Connery, Hepburn, and Shaw, Robin and Marian is a great example of how to give a familiar story a new spin, and make it seem fresh.
For fans of: Pretty much all of the Robin Hood movies (even Men in Tights!).
6. Con Air
Now Streaming on Hulu
Release Date: 1997
Director: Simon West
Cast: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack and John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, Colm Meaney, Mykelti Williamson, Ving Rhames, Danny Trejo
Cinema can be lots of things. It can be Bergman, Fassbinder, Scorsese, Varda. It can also be Con Air, a movie in which Nicolas Cage sports both a mullet and a questionable accent, and has to fight an entire plane full of convicts. In Con Air, Cage plays Cameron Poe, an Army Ranger who fights off a bunch of drunks who attack him and his pregnant wife. One of the drunks dies in the scuffle, and even though it’s clear Poe could’ve easily gotten off the hook, since it was a clear-cut case of self-defense, he gets sent to jail anyway – because his hands are lethal weapons, you see. Poe serves his time, and when his release finally comes, he gets to fly home on a giant plane full of convicts much, much worse than him. And those convicts, led by the evil Cyrus the Virus (John Malkovich), end up hijacking the plane. Since Poe is a good guy, it’s up to him to stop these bad guys, while also working with hippie U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack). This all makes for some truly delicious junk food cinema – trash of the highest caliber, with director Simon West borrowing heavily from the Michael Bay playbook. Long live movies.
For fans of: Die Hard, Passenger 57, really goofy shit.
7. The Childhood of a Leader
Now Streaming on Hulu
Release Date: 2016
Genre: Psychological costume drama
Director: Brady Corbet
Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Liam Cunningham, Stacy Martin, Robert Pattinson, Tom Sweet
Brady Corbet‘s directorial debut is a terrifying portrait of a future dictator as a young boy. Think of it like a weird cross between Barry Lyndon and The Omen, blending costume drama with horror movie atmosphere. It’s 1919, and a young American boy has moved to France with his family due to his father’s job as a diplomat helping with Treaty of Versailles. It becomes clear very quickly that the boy isn’t…normal. As The Childhood of a Leader progresses, we witness the boy grow more and more unhinged, as the people around him grow more and more concerned. All of it is set to Scott Walker’s furious, tension-building score.
For fans of: The Omen, Barry Lyndon, creepy kids.
8. Mission: Impossible III
Now Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video
Release Date: 2006
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q, Laurence Fishburne
Mission: Impossible III gets a lot of guff. In fact, I’d say that after Mission: Impossible II, this is the sequel most people tend to shrug off. But they shouldn’t! J.J. Abrams‘s feature directorial debut is a little close-up heavy, yes. But it also boasts some surprisingly nasty, ghastly stuff – deadly devices implanted in brains; likable characters brutally killed. It also features the best villain of the series, black market arms dealer Owen Davian, played with smug, terrifying menace by the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman. The plot involves Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team trying to get ahold of something called the Rabbit’s Foot. What does it do? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Tom Cruise runs around a lot, and is constantly one-upped by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
For fans of: Mission: Impossible, of course.
9. Bad Lieutenant
Now Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video
Release Date: 1992
Director: Abel Ferrara
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Victor Argo, Paul Calderón, Leonard Thomas, Robin Burrows, Frankie Thorn, Victoria Bastel, Paul Hipp
Abel Ferrara‘s ultra-gritty drama has Harvey Keitel as the ultimate corrupt cop, high on drugs, prone to sexual harassment, and an all-around piece of shit. He’s also in the hole for $30K, and needs to cough up the cash or get killed. The potential solution to his problems presents itself in the form of a reward offered to anyone who helps catch two guys who raped a nun. But Keitel’s lieutenant finds himself at a moral crossroads when the nun tells him she’s forgiven her attackers. Brutal, unflinching, and all together unpleasant, Bad Lieutenant is not for the squeamish. But it also boasts one of the best performances of Keitel’s career.
For fans of: King of New York, Mean Streets, movies that make you want to take a shower after they’re over.
10. The Vault of Horror
Now Streaming on Shudder
Release Date: 1973
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Cast: Terry-Thomas, Dawn Addams, Denholm Elliott, Curd Jürgens, Tom Baker, Michael Craig, Terence Alexander, Glynis Johns, Mike Pratt, Robin Nedwell, Geoffrey Davies, Daniel Massey, Anna Massey.
Based on the EC comics series of the same name, this eerie anthology film concerns five strangers trapped in a room together. With nothing to do but wait for rescue, they do what any normal person would do: tell each other scary stories. Each story gets its own segment, ranging from creepy to funny, and beyond. The production values aren’t the best, but that somehow makes The Vault of Horror extra spooky, as does the fact that the film is so very British – foggy, stiff, and only a bit rumpled at horrors that slither and creep in the darkness. It’s not as good as the Tales from the Crypt movie from the same producers, but it gets the job done.
For fans of: Tales from the Crypt, Creepshow, plastic vampire fangs.
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