If you’re like me, you spend more time on Netflix considering the options for what to watch tonight than you do actually watching the selection. That is, if you even end up settling on something. Well I’m here to make your life even harder by suggesting 13 films and television series you should add to your Netflix watch list.
- Whiplash (2014)
Whiplash centers on a jazz drummer’s erratic relationship with his unconventionally brutal professor at an elite music conservatory. J. K. Simmons won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as music instructor Terence Fletcher. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, this film’s sharp intensity mirrors its title. The music is stellar, experience is immersive, and the tale of dangerous devotion to perfection is consuming. The intense final act will have you mesmerized.
- Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Ben Affleck directs a skilled cast of Casey Affleck, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and Michelle Monaghan in a thriller set in his hometown of Boston. Private detective Patrick Kenzie (Affleck) and his girlfriend (Monaghan) are tasked with locating a girl who goes missing. But in true thriller fashion, nothing is as it seems. Moral dilemmas plague Kenzie and the audience at every turn, and the ending leaves you with more questions than answers.
- The Good Wife (2009-2016)
This is not your typical procedural drama and; The Good Wife is a well-written TV series that will both entertain you and make you feel like you have sophisticated taste. The Good Wife tells a story you’ve heard many times from the perspective often overlooked. We’ve all heard countless politician sex scandals and seen the wife stand by their husbands (at least at first) at public events. Many commentators might ask why the wives stand faithfully by the husbands that have betrayed them. The Good Wife gives you one possible answer, while also making sure you realize that the “wife” has a name and is a person of her own. The series starts with Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) standing next to her husband, State Attorney Peter Florrick, at the press conference where he publicly apologized for a sex and corruption scandal. The rest of the series chronicles Alicia’s relationship with her now jailed husband, her endeavors to parent and provide for her family, and her experiences as she returns to practicing law at a Chicago law firm.
- Surviving Summer (2009)
[Also known as According to Greta]
Suicidal teenager Greta O’Donnell (Hilary Duff) is sent to spend the summer with her grandparents in the hopes that her rebellious spirit will be tamed. Here, she meets Julie Robinson, and embarks on a turbulent journey of love and self-discovery. Surviving Summer is a surprisingly dark film for Hilary Duff, and the performances are impressive (Evan Ross’ voice alone is worth it).
- An Education (2009)
16-year-old Jenny Mellor (Carey Mulligan) meets and begins a love affair with a charismatic older man, David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard), that at first exposes her to a whole new world of maturity and intrigue, but later begins to unravel. While the term “coming of age story” is so very overused, it is appropriate to describe the lessons Jenny learns about trying to grow up too early. Carey Mulligan’s powerful performance earned her a BAFTA for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
- Daredevil (2015-)
Based on the Marvel comic hero, Daredevil bears the hauntingly dark tone the “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen” deserves. Matt Murdoch, a blind lawyer in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, is fearless vigilante Daredevil by night. With incredible cinematography, sound design, and stunt coordination, Daredevil explores what sort of monster is required to hunt monsters. The writing and acting are especially commendable, as the second season successfully handled a problem many superhero TV shows have: When the first season arc is about defeating a villain, how do you introduce an antagonist in the second season without more or less regurgitating the first series? Series 2 of Daredevil found a way to both further character development and introduce a compelling antagonist. It is also worth noting that this series was the first installment in Marvel/ Netflix’s Defenders series which includes Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.
- The Skeleton Twins (2014)
This film opens with estranged twins Milo Dean (Bill Hader) and Maggie Dean (Kristen Wiig) both separately attempting suicide at the same time. …But this film is also a comedy. The Skeleton Twins brilliantly achieves a delicate and beautiful balance between poignant dramatic moments/ dark themes (suicide, depression, molestation) with truly funny moments. The performances by Wiig and Hader are commendable and the story is captivating. The Skeleton Twins is like no other movie you have ever seen, between the twist and turns, the tears at one moment and laughs the next, the great performances, and original script. It is definitely worth a watch.
- The Submarine Kid (2015)
The Submarine Kid is a film that addresses PTSD through Magical Realism. After returning from war US Marine Spencer Koll’s newfound reality and the legend of The Submarine Kid start to bleed.
- Hannibal (2013-2015)
Hannibal is a psychological-crime-thriller-horror-masterpiece. This TV series, based on Thomas Harris’ books Red Dragon and Hannibal, centers on the relationship FBI investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) has with psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) before he is known to be a cannibalistic killer. Mads Mikkelsen is perfect as the sophisticated, charming, perfectly tailored Dr. Lecter. The writing is superb, the acting impressive, the cinematography exquisite, and the score both beautiful and eerie. Plus, the murders and the food, the most gruesome parts of the story, are perhaps the most beautifully styled.
- Miss You Already (2015)
Miss You Already portrays an honest female friendship, as Jess (Drew Barrymore) struggles with fertility and Milly (Toni Collette) battles breast cancer. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, this film offers a mixture of comedy and drama, and brings us a cancer patient character who isn’t woefully sympathetic.
- We Were Soldiers (2002)
We Were Soldiers is a visceral war movie whose sustained drama and suspense keeps the audience on edge through the whole film. The film is based on the 1965 Battle of la Drang, the first major battle between US and North Vietnamese forces. When the credits role, you will truly appreciate the title of the book upon which this movie was based: We Were Soldiers Once… And Young.
- Brain Games (2011-)
Each episode of the National Geographic series stands alone and explores some part of how the way our brain works affects our lives. Every episode will help you understand how easily your brain misinterprets information, is susceptible to persuasion, makes snap judgments, and sometimes acts inefficiently. This how is interactive, as you will be invited to join in on tests (brain games) throughout each episode.
- Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Visionary director Darren Aronofsky brings us one of his finest films. Requiem for a Dream delves into a dark world of drug use and addiction, both intentional and accidental. Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Ellen Burstyn, and Marlon Wayans deliver excellent performances. Aronofsky’s style is distinct with its tight close-ups, quick cuts, Snorricam shots, split-screens, and montages. Clint Mansell’s transfixing score will haunt you long after the end.