Twelve Stellar Streaming Films From the Past Year That You Can Watch Right Now
Check out an exceptional thriller starring Adam Sandler, a compelling true tale featuring Adam Driver or a heartwarming real-life story about a very good dog.
In this age of seemingly endless streaming platforms — with newcomers vying for your eyeballs every week, or so it seems — there's never a shortage of things to watch. New movies hit the likes of Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+ and DocPlay all the time, as well as the plethora of other online viewing services, all ready to be watched and enjoyed by your ravenous eyeballs.
With such an ongoing onslaught of content fighting for everyone's attention, it's easy to miss the highlights. Or, to put a new film in your queue, then keep watching Tiger King and completely forget all about it. To help, we round up the best streaming highlights each and every month. But, in case you've missed any of our movie picks, we've also compiled a list of the standout flicks we've recommended over the past year that are still available for you to stream — and are well worth your attention — this very moment.
The best film of 2020, based on Australian release dates, might only screen on Netflix on our shores. That might seem a big call, but the anxiety-dripping, riveting Uncut Gems is a stone-cold masterpiece, complete with one of the greatest performances of Adam Sandler's career (alongside Punch-Drunk Love and The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)). Far, far removed from his Netflix comedies of late, the actor is all hustle and bustle as Jewish American diamond-district jeweller Howard Ratner. A compulsive gambler who is deeply in debt, about to get divorced and being shaken down by a loan shark (Eric Bogosian) he's related to by marriage, he's always trying to lure in high-profile clientele. When he comes into possession of a rare black opal — the uncut gem of the title — basketballer Kevin Garnett becomes interested, sparking a wild chain of events. Writer/directors Josh and Benny Safdie last worked their gritty, vivid and relentlessly tense magic with the Robert Pattinson-starring Good Time to exhilarating and mesmerising effect, and this uncompromisingly chaotic thriller and all-round exceptional character study is even better.
Uncut Gems is available to stream via Netflix.
One of 2019's late highlights is based on a US Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture. No, that's not a sentence that comes up very often. Directed by Contagion, Side Effects and The Laundromat screenwriter Scott Z. Burns, The Report recreates the experiences of real-life Senate staffer Daniel Jones, who, from 2009–2015, delved into the scandalous treatment of terrorist suspects by America's key intelligence agency. It mightn't sound riveting on the page, but as Jones dives deeper into a dark part of recent American history, weathers hefty opposition and dedicates himself to ascertaining the truth, The Report makes for gripping viewing. Adam Driver serves up his latest stellar performance as the committed investigator and, while the film belongs to its star and its subject matter, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Michael C. Hall and Corey Stoll also leave an imprint.
The Report is available to stream via Amazon Prime Video.
I LOST MY BODY
Forget the latest version of The Addams Family — the best movie to feature a detached hand scrambling around on its own five fingers is French animation I Lost My Body. A deserved winner of the Critics' Week Grand Prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival, Jérémy Clapin's rich and textured picture adapts a novel by Amelie screenwriter Guillaume Laurant's and intertwines two narrative threads. Imbued with a bittersweet mood, the film charts the efforts of pizza delivery pizza Naofel (Hakim Faris) to earn the attention of young librarian Gabrielle (Victoire Du Bois), while also following the exploits of the aforementioned autonomous appendage as it roams around town. The imagery, including visuals framed from the hand's perspective, is sumptuous. The emotional journey, complete with thrills, spills and ample melancholy, finds the balance between whimsical and weighty. Poetic, ruminative and entertaining, this is the best animated movie of the year.
I Lost My Body is available to stream via Netflix.
THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE
Talk about perfect casting. If you're going to make a movie about a meek, mild-mannered accountant who spends the bulk of his time alone, doesn't fit in with his frat boy co-workers and is struggling to cope with being violently attacked — and you're making a black comedy that firmly and sharply skewers toxic masculinity, too — then you want Jesse Eisenberg as your lead. Drawing upon experience in the likes of The Social Network and the Zombieland films, he's pitch-perfect as the aforementioned Casey, including when he seems to find solace in the teachings and classes of a local karate dojo. Also starring Imogen Poots (Eisenberg's co-star in Vivarium), and written and directed by filmmaker Riley Stearns (Faults), this smart blend of satire, statement and thrills never makes the obvious choice; however it does drum up plenty of laughs.
The Art of Self-Defense is available to stream via Amazon Prime Video.
EL CAMINO: A BREAKING BAD MOVIE
Six years after he was last seen driving off into the night, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) finally made a comeback. That's how long it was for Breaking Bad fans; however, for the character, absolutely no time passed. Picking up where the show's grim finale left off, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie explores what comes next for Walter White (Bryan Cranston)'s former meth-cooking partner. The cops are on his trail, but Skinny Pete (Charles Barker) and Badger (Matt Jones) are on hand to help. As Jesse tries to find a way forward, plenty of flashbacks also flesh out and reshape his story. While El Camino might be superfluous — Jesse didn't really need this lap of honour, and viewers didn't really need such a definitive conclusion — it's still an immense pleasure to return to the Breaking Bad realm, especially with series creator Vince Gilligan at the helm. Of course, Better Call Saul has been letting audiences do that since 2015, but every BB aficionado has a soft spot for Jesse, his love of saying "yo", and his fondness for science and magnets.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is available to stream via Netflix.
ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE
It's a little unfair to say that Always Be My Maybe is worth watching for Keanu Reeves. He's not the film's star, with those honours going to writers and comedians Ali Wong and Randall Park; however, he's an unmissable force of nature not only playing the man who could thwart the movie's central romance, but also playing a heightened, exaggerated, ultra sensual version of himself. Yes, it's as glorious as it sounds. Always Be My Maybe is never as entertainingly chaotic when Reeves isn't around, but it's a charming, topical rom-com from start to finish, albeit one that hits familiar genre beats. A little charisma goes a long way, however, and Wong and Park (and Reeves, obviously) have it in spades in a movie that also marks the film directorial debut of Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23's Nahnatchka Khan.
Always Be My Maybe is available to stream via Netflix.
As moving a dog-focused movie as you're ever likely to see, Togo tells an extraordinary true tale. You might've already heard of Balto, the sled dog who came to fame for running 53 miles in a snow storm to help fetch diphtheria anti-toxin for a small Alaskan town back in 1925. That canine is clearly a hero — but another Siberian Husky named Togo actually led the pack that ran the bulk of the distance, covering a huge 260 miles over ice and snow. So, this heartfelt and action-packed movie tells the latter's story. Starring Willem Dafoe as his owner Leonhard Seppala, it's endearing from start to finish. In earnest mode, Dafoe is typically excellent, while the cute pooch acting is first-rate as well. And while director Ericson Core did a terrible job of 2015's needless Point Break remake, he does exactly what he needs to here.
Togo is available to stream via Disney+.
With Get Out and now The Perfection, Allison Williams appears to have an on-screen type, playing ambitious women who'll do whatever it takes to get what they want, including getting their hands dirty. But this Netflix horror film doesn't just throw the Girls star into familiar territory and ask her to follow in her own footsteps, even if that's how it initially seems. Williams plays cello prodigy Charlotte Willmore, who, after her career is cut short, befriends her replacement Lizzie (Logan Browning) during a trip to China. Where the narrative twists and turns from there is best discovered by watching, but filmmaker Richard Shepard has made a feistily immersive genre piece with thrills, body horror and a timely statement.
The Perfection is available to stream via Netflix.
MINDING THE GAP
When Free Solo took out this year's Academy Award for Best Documentary, it was a thoroughly deserving winner, as anyone who's sweated through the true rock-climbing tale can attest. If the trophy had been handed to Minding the Gap instead, however, the Oscars wouldn't have made a mistake. Directed by Bing Liu and also featuring the filmmaker on-screen, this intimate doco steps into the lives of three Illinois residents as they cope with life's stresses, endeavour to find solace in skateboarding, and wrestle with society's expectations of them as young men. While every kickflip and ollie looks and feels equally raw and astonishing, the action footage has nothing on the film's real rollercoaster ride: the film's three subjects and their stories of domestic and substance abuse, living on the margins, and trying to navigate both economic and racial oppression.
Minding the Gap is available to stream via DocPlay.
After exploring the life of writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette in last year's Keira Knightley-starring biopic Colette, British writer/director Wash Westmoreland jumps from late 19th- and early 20th-century France to Tokyo circa 1989. That's where Swedish expat Lucy Fly (Alicia Vikander) lives, works and starts to date Japanese photographer Teiji (Naoki Kobayashi). And, with the film framed through a police interrogation, that's where she also becomes a suspect in a missing persons case that could also be a murder. Based on Susanna Jones' 2001 novel of the same name, Earthquake Bird charts the fallout after American Lily Bridges (Riley Keough) arrives in town, befriends Lucy and then disappears — after getting close to Teiji. The film takes its time to solve its central mystery, but that patient approach comes packaged with sumptuous visuals, appropriately contrasting portrayals by its female stars (Vikander is icy and restrained, Keough is lively and vibrant), and a considerable command over its slow-burn thrills and tension.
Earthquake Bird is available to stream via Netflix.
Last year, when Coachella hit, Donald Glover delivered audiences everywhere a treat — whether you were at the Californian festival or not. The artist also known as Childish Gambino teamed up with his Atlanta director Hiro Murai, his screenwriter brother Stephen Glover, Black Panther's Letitia Wright, Game of Thrones' Nonso Anozie and, oh, none other than Rihanna, for a new film called Guava Island. Filled with Glover's music (naturally), it premiered at a specially built theatre at the fest to tie in with Glover's headlining set, and it's also available to stream via Amazon's streaming platform. The thoughtful and delightful film follows Deni Maroon (Glover), a Cuban musician trying to put on a festival on the titular island, all while battling his tyrannical employer.
Guava Island is available to stream via Amazon Prime Video.
Since he came to widespread fame in Call Me By Your Name, Timothée Chalamet has become cinematic royalty. In The King, he embraces that status. Stepping into both historical and Shakespearean territory, he plays Hal, aka King Henry V, in a slow-building but astute drama based on the Bard's Henriad plays. Perfectly content never to take 15th-century England's top job, Hal nonetheless finds himself donning the crown — and, thanks to a war with France, following in his father's (Ben Mendelsohn) footsteps in more ways than one. Directed by Australian filmmaker David Michod and co-written with his Animal Kingdom star Joel Edgerton, The King plays up the internal and external conflict, tones down the language and, when it comes to political manoeuvring, finds much to muse on. Michod and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw particularly revel in the film's battle scenes, while, cast-wise, the sight of Chalamet facing off against a long-haired, French-accented, almost-comedic Robert Pattinson is the stuff that the internet's dreams are made of. Edgerton, Sean Harris (Mission: Impossible – Fallout ), Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace) and Lily-Rose Depp all also make an impact.
The King is available to stream via Netflix.
Published on April 19, 2020 by Sarah Ward