Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream in October 2020
Cancel your plans to get stuck into Borat's latest antics, HBO's knotty new mystery and several top-notch documentaries.
October 26, 2020
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 watching anything, we're here to help. From the latest and greatest to old favourites, here are our picks for your streaming queue for October — and yes, we're guessing you've already hit up The Trial of the Chicago 7, Rebecca and On the Rocks.
NEW STUFF TO WATCH NOW
BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM
Of all that twists and turns that 2020 has delivered, the arrival of a new Borat movie ranks among the most unexpected. Watching Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, however, it's obvious why the famed fictional Kazakh journalist is making a comeback at this very moment — that is, just before the US election. Once again, Borat travels to America. Once again, he traverses the country, interviewing everyday people and exposing the abhorrent views that have become engrained in US society. Where its 2006 predecessor had everyone laughing along with it, though, there's also an uneasy and even angry undercurrent to Borat Subsequent Moviefilm that's reflective of these especially polarised times. It's worth noting that Sacha Baron Cohen's last project, 2018 TV series Who Is America?, also used the comedian's usual interview technique to paint a picture of the US today, and the results were as astute as they were horrifying. There are plenty of jokes in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, which bases its narrative around Borat's attempt to gift his 15-year-old daughter (instant scene-stealer Maria Bakalova) to Vice President Mike Pence and then ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani to help get Kazakhstan's own leader into President Donald Trump's good graces, but this is the unflinching work of a star passionate about making a statement.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is available to stream now via Amazon Prime Video.
THE GOOD LORD BIRD
In The Good Lord Bird's opening moments, the new seven-part mini-series tells viewers what'll happen to 19th-century US abolitionist John Brown (Ethan Hawke), its central figure. The audience sees Brown approach the gallows, with narration making plain that he's about to meet his end. Given that Brown was a real figure, the show is merely outlining his history in this regard. But even with the knowledge of his character's ultimate fate lodged firmly in viewers' minds from the outset, Hawke turns in a riveting performance every time he's on-screen. Brown not only opposed slavery, but was driven to use violence to liberate enslaved Black Americans — and the power of his conviction shines through in Hawke's blistering portrayal, as it does throughout the engaging series overall. The Good Lord Bird's voiceover and perspective comes from the fictional Henry 'Onion' Shackleford (Joshua Caleb Johnson), a boy that Brown saves but mistakes for a girl, and who also crosses paths with other historical personalities such as fellow reformer Frederick Douglass (Hamilton's Daveed Diggs) and Confederate general JEB Stuart (Wyatt Russell). As for this smart, irreverent, bold and vehement take on America's troubled past in general, it stems from the pages of James McBride's 2013 novel of the same name.
The first three episodes of The Good Lord Bird are available to stream now via Stan, with new episodes added weekly.
Written and directed by Josh Ruben, and starring him also, Scare Me doesn't just like scary movies — it loves scary stories. Indeed, this pared-back horror film understands that sometimes all that's needed to keep an audience on the edge of their seats is a great tale told well. Its characters, both writers, are all about unfurling creepy narratives. Fred (Ruben) falls into the aspiring category, while Fanny (You're the Worst and The Boys' Aya Cash) has an acclaimed best-seller to her name. With each taking time out in the mountains to get some work done, these two strangers end up in Fred's cabin telling each other disturbing stories when the power goes out (and trying to one-up each other). For its first two-thirds, Scare Me makes the most of that basic concept. Fred and Fanny perform their tales, sound effects and ominous lighting kicks in — it's a stormy night, of course — and the mood is suitably perturbing. The film also demonstrates its self-awareness, namedropping other genre titles with frequency and sending in a pizza from the Overlook. When this Sundance-premiering feature decides to ponder real-life horrors as part of its layered stories, however, it proves especially potent.
Scare Me is available to stream now via Shudder.
TOTALLY UNDER CONTROL
Perhaps the most frightening film of 2020, Totally Under Control isn't a horror movie filled with traditional bumps and jumps. For anyone who has been keeping a close eye on the constantly unnerving news served up by this hectic year, it also doesn't tell viewers anything that isn't already known. But this US-focused documentary unsettles from start to finish, all by exploring the American response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Comparisons with other countries — including South Korea, which initially had a similar caseload back at the beginning of the year — are particularly effective. To-camera interviews by officials involved in the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus, and from one volunteer given far too much responsibility for solving crucial PPE shortages, are just as telling. This isn't the first doco about COVID-19 and it won't be the last; however, as co-directed by Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief) with Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, it's absolutely essential viewing.
Totally Under Control is available to stream now via DocPlay.
If it was made less than a decade ago instead of now, The Undoing likely would've followed Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train to cinemas. This page-to-screen adaptation certainly has the cast for it — Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Donald Sutherland, A Quiet Place's Noah Jupe and Edgar Ramirez — as well as a knotty mystery premise and a tension-dripping tone. But hot on the heels of Big Little Lies, The Undoing is actually HBO's latest big-name mini-series. Kidman returns, obviously, as does well-known TV writer David E Kelley (LA Law, Ally McBeal, The Practice). The former plays a successful therapist, Grace Fraser, whose seemingly happy home life and marriage to Grant's paediatric oncologist Jonathan starts to collapse when someone linked to her son's ultra-wealthy private school turns up dead. Based on Jean Hanff Korelitz's novel You Should Have Known and directed by The Night Manager's Susanne Bier, this six-part series is the epitome of #richpeopleproblems — but whether exploring heated moments in lush surroundings, or noting the type of emotions and behaviours status and standing can both encourage and hide, it's firmly aware of that fact. Thanks to a twist at the end of each episode, it's also very addictive, even when it's predictable.
The first episode of The Undoing is available to stream now via Binge, with new episodes added weekly.
DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD
Mortality is no one's favourite subject. Confronting the certainty of our own demise is so difficult, we all just generally carry on as though it won't happen. And the reality that everyone we know and love will die, including our parents, is just as tough to deal with. Facing not only the fact that her father is advancing in age, but that he's suffering dementia — meaning that she'll lose him mentally before he passes away physically — cinematographer and documentarian Kirsten Johnson (Cameraperson) conjured up a playful and poignant project. In Dick Johnson Is Dead, she stages her dad's death over and over. He's very much alive and he takes part, with the father-daughter duo bonding during what time they have left together in the process. While it might sound morbid, this moving movie is anything but. As well as the scenes that give the film its title, it also provides an insightful chronicle of the Johnsons' lives. Tender, thoughtful, personal and intimate, and driven by both Dick and Kirsten's presence, the result is perhaps the most affecting feature of the year — and a very worth winner of the Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-Fiction Storytelling at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Dick Johnson Is Dead is available to stream now via Netflix.
FEELS GOOD MAN
If you've somehow managed to avoid Pepe the Frog over the past decade, then you clearly haven't spent enough time on the internet during that period. The green character became an online meme back in the 2000s, popping up on message boards and earning users' devotion. It was then was co-opted by the alt-right movement, not only becoming its symbol but getting quite a workout in the lead up to the 2016 US Presidential election. That's not how Pepe started out, however, as Arthur Jones' documentary Feels Good Man shows. Originally, Pepe was created by artist Matt Furie and featured in his Boys Club comics — and the kindly illustrator definitely didn't intend for his cute critter to become associated with prejudice, hate and offensive viewpoints. In addition to charting the history of Pepe, Feels Good Man works through Furie's ongoing fight to reclaim his creation. As you might expect given the above description, this is the type of tale that can only be true, and is also best understood by watching it unfurl. Feels Good Man does something else, though, documenting how online content can take on a life far beyond that initially envisaged, as well as offering a pivotal snapshot of how politicised every facet of American life seems to have become.
Feels Good Man is available to stream now via DocPlay.
Last month, SBS added the first three seasons of Fargo to its streaming platform, in preparation for the long-awaited fourth season's arrival. Based on the Oscar-winning Coen brothers' film of the same name, this is an anthology series, so watching previous seasons before starting the new one isn't essential — but, as the latest batch of episodes demonstrates, soaking in all things Fargo is highly recommended. Dropping fresh instalments weekly, Fargo season four is easy to devour. Set in 1950 in Kansas City, Missouri, it steps into its favourite territory: a turf war. While the first episode explains that different groups have been fighting to control the city's underworld for decades, this time it's Loy Cannon (Chris Rock) and his fellow Black Americans' turn to challenge the Italian crime syndicate led by Josto Fadda (Jason Schwartzman). As always, the story from there proves both twisty and blackly comedic, and appears on-track to deliver yet another cautionary tale about the perils of underhanded and illicit activities. There's gravitas to Rock's portrayal of a man trying to carve out his place, and he's joined by a similarly top-notch cast including Jessie Buckley (I'm Thinking of Ending Things) as a nurse with a secret and Ben Whishaw (No Time to Die) as one of Fadda's put-upon offsiders.
The first five episodes of Fargo's fourth season are available to stream now via SBS On Demand, with new episodes added weekly.
ONES TO WATCH OUT FOR
Travelling to a galaxy far, far away sounds rather nice at this point in 2020. If you're a Star Wars fan, that's actually quite easy, too. While this year won't deliver a new movie in the franchise for the first time since 2014, the second season of TV spinoff The Mandalorian is heading to Disney+ from Friday, October 30. For those that missed it or need a refresher — the Star Wars universe certainly does sprawl far and wide, both within its tales and in its many different movies, shows, books and games — the Emmy-nominated show follows the titular bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal). In the series' first season, which was set five years after Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi and aired last year, that meant tracking his latest gigs. And, it also involved charting his encounter with a fuzzy little creature officially known as The Child, but affectionately named Baby Yoda by everyone watching. Also on offer the first time around: Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito playing villain Moff Gideon, aka the ex-Galactic Empire security officer determined to capture The Child; everyone from Carl Weathers and Taika Waititi to Werner Herzog playing ex-magistrates, droids and enigmatic strangers; and plenty of planet-hopping. Yes, it was firmly a Star Wars TV series, and yes, it plans to continue in the same manner.
The Mandalorian's second season starts streaming via Disney+ from Friday, October 30,
CULT CLASSICS TO REVISIT AND REDISCOVER
THE HITCHCOCK COLLECTION
Fans of thrillers, and of the filmmaker who became a legend by directing them, have two choices this month. Eighty years after Alfred Hitchcock first brought the story to the screen, Netflix has produced a lavish-looking new adaptation of Rebecca — a movie that intoxicates visually, but doesn't ever quite match the heights reached by the Master of Suspense's Oscar-winning version all those decades ago. But for those who'd rather luxuriate in all things Hitch, Stan is streaming a collection of his greatest hits. It doesn't include Rebecca, but when you're watching classics such as Psycho, The Birds and Rear Window — and Rope and Saboteur, too — you aren't likely to mind. All five will always stand the test of time, but Psycho's tale of a troubled man obsessed with his mother and the unfortunate woman who crosses his path has always been innately unnerving. When you're not revelling in its twists, and its famed screech-heavy shower scene, Rear Window's voyeurism-fuelled storyline (and the fact that its protagonist, played by a commanding James Stewart, is stuck at home) feels particularly relevant this year.
Stan's Hitchcock collection is available to stream now.
Top images: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm courtesy of Amazon Studios.
Concrete Playground Trips
Book unique getaways and adventures dreamed up by our editors