Twelve Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream This Month

Spend your couch time watching the delicious return of 'The Bear', Glen Powell playing a fake hitman and Lily Gladstone's latest excellent performance.
Sarah Ward
Published on June 28, 2024

Not all that long ago, the idea of getting cosy on your couch, clicking a few buttons, and having thousands of films and television shows at your fingertips seemed like something out of science fiction. Now, it's just an ordinary night — whether you're virtually gathering the gang to text along, cuddling up to your significant other or shutting the world out for some much needed me-time.

Of course, given the wealth of options to choose from, there's nothing ordinary about making a date with your chosen streaming platform. The question isn't "should I watch something?" — it's "what on earth should I choose?".

Hundreds of titles are added to Australia's online viewing services each and every month, all vying for a spot on your must-see list. And, so you don't spend 45 minutes scrolling and then being too tired to actually commit to anything, we're here to help. We've spent plenty of couch time watching our way through this month's latest batch — and, from the latest and greatest through to old and recent favourites, here are our picks for your streaming queue from June's haul.


Brand-New Stuff You Can Watch From Start to Finish Now

The Bear

Serving up another sitting with acclaimed chef Carmy Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White, The Iron Claw), his second-in-charge Sydney (Ayo Edebiri, Inside Out 2) and their team after dishing up one of the best new shows of 2022 and best returning shows of 2023, the third season of The Bear is a season haunted. Creator and writer Christopher Storer (Dickinson, Ramy) — often the culinary dramedy's director as well — wouldn't have it any other way. Every series that proves as swift a success as this, after delivering as exceptional a first and second season as any show could wish for, has the tang of its prior glory left on its lips, so this one tackles the idea head on. How can anyone shake the past at all, good or bad, the latest ten episodes ruminate on as Carmy faces a dream that's come true but hasn't and can't eradicate the lifetime of internalised uncertainty that arises from having an erratic mother, absent father, elder brother he idolised but had his own demons, and a career spent striving to be the best and put his talents to the test in an industry that's so merciless and unforgiving even before you factor in dealing with cruel mentors.

Haunting is talked about often in this third The Bear course, but not actually in the sense flavouring every bite that the show's return plates up. In the season's heartiest reminder that it's comic as well as tense and dramatic — its nine Emmy wins for season one, plus four Golden Globes across season one and two, are all in comedy categories — the Faks get to Fak aplenty. While charming Neil (IRL chef Matty Matheson) is loving his role as a besuited server beneath Richie aka Cousin (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, No Hard Feelings), onboard with the latter's commitment to upholding a Michelin star-chasing fine-diner's front-of-house standards and as devoted to being Carmy's best friend as ever, he's also always palling around with his handyman brother Theodore (Ricky Staffieri, Read the Room). They're not the season's only Faks, and so emerges a family game. When one Fak wrongs another, they get haunted, which is largely being taunted and unsettled by someone from basically The Bear equivalent of Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Boyles. For it to stop, you need to agree to give in. In Storer's hands, in a series this expertly layered as it picks up in the aftermath of sandwich diner The Original Beef of Chicagoland relaunching as fine-diner The Bear, this isn't just an amusing character-building aside.

The Bear streams via Disney+. Read our full review.


Hit Man

The feeling that Glen Powell should star in everything didn't start with Top Gun: Maverick and Anyone But You. Writer/director Richard Linklater  (Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood) has helped the notion bubble up before as early back as 2006's Fast Food Nation, then with 2016's Everybody Wants Some!! — and now he riffs on it with Hit Man. When viewers want an actor to feature everywhere, they want to see them step into all sorts of shoes but bring their innate talents and charm each time. So, Linklater enlists Powell as Gary Johnson, a real-life University of New Orleans professor who wouldn't be earning the movie treatment if he didn't also moonlight as a undercover police operative with a specific remit: playing hitmen with folks looking to pay someone to commit murder, sting-style. Johnson doesn't just give the gig the one-size-fits-all approach, though. Once he gets confidence in the job, he's dedicated to affording every target their own personal vision of their dream assassin. So, Powell gets to be a polo shirt-wearing nice guy, a long-haired master criminal, a besuited all-business type and more, including the suave smooth-talker Ron, the persona he adopts when Madison Figueroa Masters (Adria Arjona, Andor) thinks about offing her odious husband.

Hit Man is as a screwball rom-com-meets-sunlit film noir, and an excellent one, as well as a feature based on a situation so wild that it can only stem from fact. Alongside charting Gary's exploits in the position and the murkiness of falling for Madison as Ron, it's also an acceptance that the kind of darkness and desperation needed for a person to want to hire a stranger to kill to make their life better isn't a rarity — if it was, Gary's services wouldn't have been needed. Linklater has been in comparably blackly comic but also clear-eyed territory before with Bernie, the past entry on his resume that Hit Man best resembles. The also-ace 2011 Jack Black (Kung Fu Panda 4)-led picture similarly told a true tale, and also sprang from an article by journalist Skip Hollandsworth. This time, Linklater penned the script with Powell instead of Hollandsworth, but the result is another black-comedy delight brimming with insight. Hit Man is a movie about finding one's identity, too, and Powell keeps showing that he's found his: a charismatic lead who anchors one of the most-entertaining flicks of the year.

Hit Man streams via Netflix.


Fancy Dance

Lily Gladstone might've won the Golden Globe but not the Oscar for Killers of the Flower Moon, but her exceptional resume shows every sign of more awards coming her way. Fancy Dance, the other movie to join her filmography in 2023 — it premiered at Sundance that year, but only makes its way to streaming worldwide now — is yet another example of how the Certain Women and First Cow star is one of the very-best actors working right now. Where Gladstone's time in front of Martin Scorsese's lens showcased her mastery of restraint, playing an aunt trying to do what's best for her niece and a sister searching for her absent sibling benefits from her equal command of looseness. Jax, her character, is a pinball. When she bounces in any direction, it's with force and purpose as well as liveliness and determination, but the choice of where she's heading is rarely her own. All she wants is to find Tawi (debutant Hauli Sioux Gray) and protect 13-year-old Roki (Isabel Deroy-Olson, Three Pines), but set against the reality that law enforcement mightn't look as enthusiastically for a missing Indigenous woman — or treat one with a record attempting to do right be her family with consideration — that's far from an easy task.

Writer/director Erica Tremblay hails from the Seneca–Cayuga Nation, where much of Fancy Dance is set. As Gladstone is, she's also an alum of Reservation Dogs — including helming two episodes — and so is experienced at depicting everyday reservation life with authenticity. Accordingly, her first fictional feature after documentaries Heartland: A Portrait of Survival and In the Turn takes a social-realistic approach in its details, especially when it's simply surveying the space and empathy that First Nations versus white Americans aren't given. Because Jax has a criminal history, child services deems her unfit to look after Roki, or even to take the teen to the powwow where the girl is certain her mum will attend to again steal the show in the mother-daughter dance competition; instead, Jax's white father (Shea Whigham, Lawmen: Bass Reeves) and stepmother (Audrey Wasilewski, Ted) are their choice of guardians. Fancy Dance's protagonist isn't one to simply acquiesce to that decision, and Gladstone makes both her fire and her pain palpable — and her tenderness for Roki, who is weightily portrayed by her Under the Bridge co-star Deroy-Olson, as well.

Fancy Dance streams via Apple TV+.



When the words "DO NOT MESSAGE" greet someone that's looking through their friend's phone, curiosity kicks in. When that mysterious contact is spied, plus a list of deleted texts and apologies for unintended hurt, immediately after your best mate has taken her own life and left you to find their body, uncovering the person on the other end of the thread becomes an obsession. Twenty-seven-year-old photographer Jacs (Alice Englert, Bad Behaviour) is all impulse and immediate gratification when Exposure begins, when she's at a rave hooking up with a stranger and dancing with her lifelong BFF Kel (Mia Artemis, Anyone But You). The next morning, everything changes forever, except a haunting truth that no one likes realising when tragedy strikes: our worst moments alter us forever, but they can't fix our worst traits or paper over our other traumas. So Jacs keeps being Jacs as she heads home from Sydney to Port Kembla, where she'll barely let her mother Kathy (Essie Davis, One Day) and Kel's ex Angus (Thomas Weatherall, Heartbreak High) lend their support, and where her self-sabotaging spiral only gains momentum as she attempts to turn amateur, fixated, dogged detective.

Pain ran in the family in the aforementioned Bad Behaviour, the 2023 New Zealand film — not to be confused with the 2023 Australian miniseries that streamed via Stan, as Exposure also does — that Englert made her feature directorial debut with, plus penned and co-starred in. The movie told of a former child actor (Jennifer Connolly, Dark Matter) and her stunt-performer daughter working through their baggage around the former's attendance at a new-age retreat. Filmmaking talent also ran in the family, given that Englert is the offspring of Oscar-winner Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog). While she's solely on-screen this time, with Lucy Coleman (Hot Mess) scripting and Bonnie Moir (Love Me) helming, Englert is superb again, including at excavating life's agonies once more. Exposure's moniker applies in multiple ways, spanning the controversial contents of an award-winning snap, facing past distresses, playing sleuth and confronting your own chaos — and it equally fits the raw and rich performance at the centre of this six-parter, which also showcases Davis and Weatherall's typically excellent work.

Exposure streams via Stan.


Under Paris

Creature features are often humanity-did-wrong features. Under Paris doesn't have Godzilla stomping around as a scaly, fire-breathing, Tokyo-destroying embodiment of nuclear devastation's reach and impact, but it does set a giant shark on the loose beneath the French capital due to pollution, specifically the Great Pacific garbage patch, making its natural saltwater terrain uninhabitable. This genre of film doesn't restrict its badly behaving people to merely causing the source of their misery, either, often surveying a range of terrible reactions that exacerbate the issue as well. Underestimating the situation is one such response, which has a well-known history in flicks about killer sharp-toothed fish. The mayor of New England's Amity Island in Jaws wasn't great, and now the the City of Light's equivalent (Anne Marivin, Rebecca) is just as uncaring when she refuses to shut down the city's waterways — despite the pleas of marine researcher Sophia Assalas (Bérénice Bejo, The Movie Teller), police chief Angèle (Aurélia Petit, Saint Omer) and law-enforcement diver Adil (Nassim Lyes, All-Time High) — because it'll disrupt a billion-dollar triathlon with its swimming leg in the River Seine.

The chomping shadow of Steven Spielberg's (The Fabelmans) summer blockbuster lingers over Under Paris heavily, as it has over all shark movies for almost five decades now. Rare is the film that lives up to the Hollywood great as well as this, however, even though oh-so-much of the story plays out as expected. As Sophia first witnesses calamity when her research crew falls victim to Lilith, the shark they've been tracking, and then is forced to help save Paris three years later when environmental activist Mika (Léa Léviant, Mortel) advises that the creature has made its way to the city, it helps immensely that this shark-in-the-Seine picture isn't a Snakes on a Plane-esque comedy. Fresh from directing episodes of Lupin, Farang and Budapest director Xavier Gens is firmly making a thriller, not playing the scenario for laughs. The setpieces, many in the Parisian catacombs, are both efficient and effective. The film's visuals overall earn the same description. And while nodding to Free Willy as well is a touch clunky, The Artist Oscar-nominee Bejo is never anything less than committed.

Under Paris streams via Netflix.


Am I OK?

The question in Am I OK?'s title is indeed existential: is Lucy (Dakota Johnson, Madame Web) coping with being a thirtysomething in Los Angeles treading water emotionally, romantically and professionally? From there, more queries spring. Can she — or, more accurately, will she — shoot for more than not quite dating the smitten Ben (Whitmer Thomas, Big Mouth), right down to shaking his hand at the end of their evenings out together, and also for something beyond working as a day-spa receptionist while putting her passion and talent for art on the back burner? Is she capable of breaking free of a comfort zone padded out with spending all of her spare time with her best friend Jane (Sonoya Mizuno, House of the Dragon), including being so predictable that she always orders the same thing at their brunches at their favourite diner? Regarding the latter, she gets a push when Jane agrees to a lucrative transfer to London, splitting the pair for the first time since they were teenagers. Am I OK? is an arrested-development coming-of-age movie, then, and a film about being honest about who you are and want to be.

Change comes for us all, even when we've built a cocoon to protect our happy status quo — and, at the heart of this romantic drama, change clearly comes for Lucy. She's forced to consider a path forward that doesn't involve solely being defined as half of a platonic duo. She also confronts the feelings for her coworker Brittany (Kiersey Clemons, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters) and the truth about her sexuality that she's never previously admitted. Am I OK? is a coming-out tale, too, but it treats Lucy's stuck-in-a-rut existence and at-first-tentative attempts to embrace how she truly feels holistically, seeing how life's passage inevitably shifts how we see ourselves. If the movie feels more honest than it might've been, that's because screenwriter Lauren Pomerantz (Strange Planet) spins a semi-autobiographical story. Also, the directing team of real-life couple Tig Notaro (2 Dope Queens) and Stephanie Allynne (who helmed Notaro's 2024 special Hello Again) — who met making 2015's In a World… — demonstrate the ideal light-but-delicate touch. Plus, Johnson and Mizuno exude genuine BFF chemistry, with the former again showing why fare such as this, Cha Cha Real Smooth, How to Be Single, The Peanut Butter Falcon, A Bigger Splash, Suspiria and The Lost Daughter, a diverse group of pictures, is a better fit than the Fifty Shades trilogy or a Spider-Man spinoff.

Am I OK? streams via Binge.


Lumberjack the Monster

Spanning big-screen releases, TV and straight-to-video fare, Takashi Miike has notched up 115 directorial credits in the 33 years since making his helming debut. Lumberjack the Monster isn't even the latest — it premiered at film festivals in 2023, which means that miniseries Onimusha and short Midnight have popped up since — but it is Miike back in horror mode, where 1999's Audition and 2001's Ichi the Killer famously dwelled. Here, the inimitable Japanese filmmaker and screenwriter Hiroyoshi Koiwai (Way to Find the Best Life) adapt the eponymous 2019 Mayusuke Kurai novel. Its namesake character also exists on the page in the movie itself, in a picture book. This is a serial-killer picture, though, and with more than one person taking multiple lives. A mass murderer wearing a bag over their head and swinging an axe is on a rampage, and lawyer Akira (Kazuya Kamenashi, Destiny) and surgeon Sugitani (Shôta Sometani, Sanctuary) aren't averse to dispensing death themselves. A clash is inevitable, not that the slick Akira expects it, or that his costumed attacker anticipates that their current target will survive his blade, sparking a cat-and-mouse game.

Lumberjack the Monster doesn't just weave in fantasy boogeyman stories, offings upon offings, and characters with dark impulses going head to head. The police are on the case, giving the film a procedural layer, as well as Akira motivation to hunt down his assailant first. Science fiction also washes through, with brain-implanted chips and modifying human behaviour both for worse and for better part of the narrative. There's also a moral-redemption element weaved in. Consequently, it's no wonder that this tale is Miike joint. As well as being prolific, Miike loves making his resume the ultimate mashup. To name just a few examples, see: the yakuza action of Dead or Alive, superhero comedy Zebraman, titular genre of Sukiyaki Western Django, samurai efforts 13 Assassins and Blade of the Immortal, period drama Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, video-game adaptation Ace Attorney, romance For Love's Sake, thriller Lesson of the Evil, vampire movie Yakuza Apocalypse and the crime-driven First Love. Unsurprisingly, Lumberjack the Monster is specifically the engrossing — and bloodily violent — Frankenstein's monster of a flick that Miike was always going to relish making when splicing together such an array of elements came his way.

Lumberjack the Monster streams via Netflix.


New and Returning Shows to Check Out Week by Week


With Fantasmas, creator, writer, director and star Julio Torres welcomes viewers into a world that couldn't have been conjured up by anyone else but the former Saturday Night Live scribe, who then became the co-guiding force behind Los Espookys and filmmaker responsible for Problemista. Torres also leaves his audience grateful that they exist in this particular world, where HBO has given him the means and support to make a comedy series so singular, so clearly the work of a visionary and so gloriously surreal. Fantasmas has no peers beyond Torres' work, other than the patron saint of spilling the contents of your mind and heart onto the screen with zero willingness to compromise or hold back: David Lynch. That said, even that comparison — and the utmost of praise that comes with it — can't prepare viewers for a show where clear crayons are one idea whipped up by the on-screen Julio, another sees Steve Buscemi (Curb Your Enthusiasm) playing the letter Q as an avant-garde outsider, Santa Claus is taken to court by elves (including SNL's Bowen Yang), and series-within-a-series MELF riffs on 80s and 90s hit sitcom ALF but starring Paul Dano (Spaceman) and featuring quite the twist on its alien-adopting premise.

As the sets appear like exactly sets but with a DIY spin, star-studded cameos stack up, and absurdist vignettes pop in and out to flesh out Julio's mindscape as much as the futuristic realm imagined by the IRL Torres, there is an overarching narrative at the core of Fantasmas. The series' take on Julio trades in concepts, plus in being unflinchingly himself, but doing anything is impossible without a Proof of Existence ID card in this dystopia. He's on a quest to secure one, which isn't straightforward. In the process, he's also searching for a tiny gold oyster earring, and pondering whether to upload his consciousness and jettison his body. By his side: robot companion Bibo (Joe Rumrill, The Calling) and agent Vanesja (Martine Gutierrez, returning from Los Espookys and Problemista), who is really just a performance artist playing an agent. As phantasmagorical as everything that the show flings at the screen can get, which is very, it also tears into relatable issues such as societal status, class clashes, housing, capitalism's many woes and inequities, and the treatment of immigrants. As purposefully eager as it is to show its crafting and creativity, too, it does so to stress the fact that it's being made by people chasing a dream rather than corporations bowing to an algorithm. 

Fantasmas streams via Binge.


Presumed Innocent

When Presumed Innocent begins, Rusty Sabich (Jake Gyllenhaal, Road House) has devoted his career to putting away Chicago's criminals. He isn't expecting to be soon treated the same way. Audiences with an awareness of both film and literary history know what's coming, though, with the eight-part Apple TV+ series the latest page-to-screen show from David E Kelley — and also another program with a story that already made the leap from bookshelves to the big screen before getting the television treatment. In recent years, Kelley has ushered A Man in Full, Anatomy of a Scandal, Nine Perfect Strangers, The Undoing and Big Little Lies down the first route. He's taken The Lincoln Lawyer down the second as well. His pedigree spinning legal narratives dates back to LA Law, The Practice, Ally McBeal and Boston Legal, too. Now, he's adapting author Scott Turow's debut 1987 novel, which initially became a hit 1990 Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny)-starring feature. Turning the tale into a series and the passage of more than three decades are a gift to Presumed Innocent's complexity; there's more time, obviously, to fill out the intricacies of a scenario where a hotshot prosecutor is now a suspected murderer, and to ensure that the misogyny of the 80s and 90s doesn't still shine through.

At a time when being chief deputy under District Attorney Raymond Horgan (Bill Camp, who also appeared in A Man in Full) is already a fraught scenario — aka an election year — Sabich's life is turned upside down when his colleague Carolyn Polhemus (Renate Reinsve, 2021's Cannes Best Actress-winner for The Worst Person in the World) is found dead. The circumstances closely resemble a case that the two had previously worked on, so Rusty takes the lead. What only his supportive wife Barbara (Ruth Negga, Good Grief) knows is that the pair had an affair, which almost tore apart the Sabichs' marriage. A secret like that doesn't stay quiet for long, though, especially with Horgan's adversary Nico Della Guardia (O-T Fagbenle, Loot) and Rusty's ambitious counterpart Tommy Molto (Peter Sarsgaard, Memory) looking to appease the electorate, and quickly. Presumed Innocent hasn't skimped on casting, to its benefit — in a show that isn't painting its protagonist as a hero or anything as clearcut, Gyllenhaal is at his slippery best, while both Reinsve and Negga flesh out the women caught up in his mess, and Sarsgaard eats up the screen, especially when Rusty and Molto face off in court.

Presumed Innocent streams via Apple TV+.


The Boys

"Superheroes, they're just like us" has been an unspoken refrain humming beneath on-screen caped-crusader tales in recent decades. Possessing great powers doesn't mean knowing how to wield power, or greatness, or how to navigate the daily elements of life that don't revolve around possessing great powers, as movies and TV shows in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DC Extended Universe and beyond have kept stressing. Even as it dispenses a much-needed antidote to superhero worship's saturation of big- and small-screen entertainment — even as it has made distrusting the spandex-clad and preternaturally gifted its baseline — The Boys has also told this story. Across the entire extent of human history, what's more recognisable than power and dominance bringing out the worst in people? As adapted from Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's comics series of the same name by showrunner Eric Kripke (Supernatural) since 2019, this series has stared at the grimmest vision of a world with tights-adorned supposed saviours. It's a show where murder at the hands of supes, which is then covered up by the company profiting from elevating them above the masses, is an everyday reality. It's a dark satire. It's gleeful in its onslaught of OTT violence and sightings of genitals. 

What it means to grapple with the struggle to hold onto humanity has firmly been at The Boys' core since its first episode, however, making it a mirror. It has never been hard to see where art imitates life in this account of its namesake rag-tag crew (Thor: Ragnarok,'s Karl Urban, Oppenheimer's Jack Quaid, Wrath of Man's Laz Alonso, One on One's Tomer Capone and Bullet Train's Karen Fukuhara) saying "enough is enough" to the US' downward spiral. With flying, laser-eyed, super-strong, supernaturally speedy and otherwise-enhanced beings commercialised by a behemoth of a company called Vought International, The Boys has never been subtle at pointing its fingers at the many ways in which pop culture and the corporations behind it hold sway. The show's parallels with American politics in its portrait of a factionalised nation torn apart over a polarising leader who considers himself above the law are equally overt. Of course, the series is just as blatant in unpacking the consequences of letting the pursuit of power run riot. In its narrative, in chasing supremacy above all else, humans and supes really are just like each other — a truth season four doesn't ever let slip from view.

The Boys streams via Prime Video. Read our full review.


House of the Dragon

It's a chair made out of swords. So notes Daemon Targaryen's (Matt Smith, Morbius) description of the Iron Throne. Not one but two hit HBO shows have put squabbles about the sought-after seat at their centre so far, and the second keeps proving a chip off the old block in a fantasy franchise where almost everyone meets that description. If the family trees sprawling throughout Game of Thrones for eight seasons across 2011–19 and now House of the Dragon for two since 2022 (with a third on the way) weren't so closely intertwined in all of their limbs, would feuding over everything, especially the line of succession, be such a birthright? Set within the Targaryens 172 years before Daenerys is born, House of the Dragon keeps the black-versus-green factionalism going in season two, to civil war-esque extremes over which two offspring of the late King Viserys the Peaceful (Paddy Considine, The Third Day) should wear the crown and plonk themselves in the blade-lined chair. The monarch long ago named Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy, Mothering Sunday) as his heir. But with his last breaths, his wife Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke, Slow Horses) claims that he picked their eldest son Aegon II (Tom Glynn-Carney, Rogue Heroes) instead. In King's Landing, the response was speedy, with Rhaenyra supplanted before she'd even heard over at Dragonstone that her father had passed away.

Based on George RR Martin's Fire & Blood, House of the Dragon has also long painted Rhaenyra as the preferred type of chip off the old block. She too wants peace, not war. She also seeks stability for the realm over personal glory. If Viserys spotted that in her as a girl (Milly Alcock, Upright) when he chose her over Daemon, his brother who is now Rhaenyra's husband, he might've also predicted the dedication that she sports towards doing his legacy, and those before him, proud. Conversely, Aegon, also the grandson of Viserys' hand Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans, The King's Man), sees only entitlement above all else. Martin's tales of dynasties trade in the cycles that course through the bonds of blood, especially in House of the Dragon. Everyone watching knows what's to come for the Targaryens in Daenerys' time, right down to an aunt-nephew romance as the counterpart to Daemon and Rhaenyra's uncle-niece relationship. (No one watching has started this prequel series, the first spinoff of likely many to Game of Thrones, without being familiar with its predecessor). Ice-blonde hair, ambition that soars as high as the dragons they raise and fly, said flame-roaring beasts of the sky, the inability to host happy reunions: these are traits passed down through generations. Some are a matter of genes. Martin continues to explore why the others persist.

House of the Dragon streams via Binge. Read our full review.


The Acolyte

When you've just made two seasons of a time-loop TV show about reckoning with the past, what comes next? For Russian Doll co-creator Leslye Headland, another jump backwards beckons. The Star Wars franchise has been telling tales set not just in a galaxy far, far away but also a long time ago for almost five decades; however, across its 11 movies and five live-action Disney+ TV shows until now, it hasn't ever explored the events of as long a time ago as Headland's The Acolyte brings to the screen. Welcome to the High Republic era a century before Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace — and into a thrilling new angle into one of pop culture's behemoths. Stepping through the events before the events that it has already relayed to audiences isn't new for Star Wars, as went the prequels, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Andor, but so now goes The Acolyte as well. The key aspect of the latter isn't just that this eight-instalment series gains the space to jettison familiar faces and spin its narrative anew — it's also that it's traversing more of the world that George Lucas first envisaged in the 70s, and what the force means to more than the usual faces and those tied to them. And, it isn't afraid to question the heroes-versus-villains divide that's as engrained in all things Star Wars as lightsabers, having a bad feeling and droids.

Taking place in a period of peace and prosperity — well, for some — The Acolyte is still home to heroes. Villains are part of the tale, too. But the idea that the Jedi always fall into the first camp and their enemies can only sit in the second is probed. Similarly queried is the notion that anything in the Star Wars realm, let alone everything, is that binary. The premise: Jedi are being eliminated by a mysterious warrior, a setup that is pushed to the fore immediately and initially aligns its emotional response as audiences since 1977 know to expect. But as gets uttered three episodes in, "this is not about good or bad — it's about power and who gets to wield it". The Acolyte's opening showdown unfolds in the type of cantina that's hardly new to the saga, but the battle itself is. From beneath a mask, a warrior (Amandla Stenberg, Bodies Bodies Bodies) isn't afraid to throw down, throw knives and throw around her ability to use the force, with a Jedi her target. In the aftermath, the robe-adorned head honchos have ex-padawan Osha in their sights. Now working as a meknik, which entails undertaking dangerous spaceship maintenance tasks that robots are legally only supposed to do, she fits the description. Her old Jedi mentor Sol (Lee Jung-jae, Squid Game) isn't so sure, though, especially knowing her past.

The Acolyte streams via Disney+. Read our full review.


Need a few more streaming recommendations? Check out our picks from January, February, March, April and May this year, and also from January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December 2023.

You can also check out our running list of standout must-stream shows from last year as well — and our best 15 new shows of 2023, 15 newcomers you might've missed, top 15 returning shows of the year, 15 best films, 15 top movies you likely didn't see, 15 best straight-to-streaming flicks and 30 movies worth catching up on over the summer.

Top images: FX, Brian Roedel/Netflix, Apple TV+, HBO and Stan.

Published on June 28, 2024 by Sarah Ward
Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x