Since it’s 2020, not even a home quarantine has to be boring. There’s an ocean of entertainment available online.
On a plethora of streaming services, you can find a whole lot of films and television shows to keep your mind busy and help you pass time until we’re all more prepared to deal with the COVID-19 virus.
This past weekend, I scanned all the providers I have access to and put together some recommendations for you to consider as you’re stuck at home.
Hulu has changed with the times in admirable ways over the years, growing into the No. 2 streaming service after Netflix. The two services are ultimately pretty similar, with Hulu striving to keep up with the ever-growing behemoth that is Netflix.
One of my favorite recent Hulu additions is the BuzzFeed Unsolved: Sports Conspiracies series, which kicks off with an interesting dissection of Michael Jordan’s mysterious retirement.
Hulu also archives some of the best TV out there, including Anthony Bourdain’s incredible No Reservations, Saturday Night Live, South Park, Good Girls, Atlanta, Archer, Broad City, Seinfeld, Homeland, Drunk History, Rick and Morty, Daria, Fargo, Nathan for You, my beloved It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and many more. All great watches.
For movies, Hulu plays it a lot more niche than Netflix or Amazon Prime do, offering a lot of movies you’ve maybe heard of but never have seen. Hulu takes on a sort of “fell-through-the-cracks” curational role, featuring movies like The Interview, The Myth of the American Sleepover, Ingrid Goes West, Drinking Buddies, Sorry To Bother You, The Art of Self-Defense, Killer Joe, Good Will Hunting, Eyes Wide Shut, 50/50, Vice, If Beale Street Could Talk, and Concrete Kids.
These are all movies I really enjoyed, especially Good Will Hunting, Eyes Wide Shut, and the forever underrated Drinking Buddies.
Netflix has a deep library of shows and films for you to stream, and they employ a learning algorithm that tailors the Netflix experience to each individual user.
With that in mind, it’s impossible for me to do the sort of deep dive overview that Netflix probably deserves.
But I can tell you that there are a whole lot of movies on Netflix that I love dearly, and here is a ranked list of those:
1. Marriage Story and The Squid and the Whale (dir. Noah Baumbach double feature)
2. There Will Be Blood and The Master (dir. P.T. Anderson double feature)
3. Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (dir. Quentin Tarantino double feature)
4. Zodiac (dir. David Fincher)
5. Drive (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
6. A Serious Man (dir. Coen Brothers)
7. The Talented Mr. Ripley (dir. Anthony Minghella)
8. Sling Blade (dir. Billy Bob Thornton)
9. Good Time (dir. Safdie Brothers)
10. Maps to the Stars (dir. David Cronenberg)
11. The End of Tour (dir. James Ponsoldt)
12. Team Foxcatcher (dir. Jon Greenhalgh)
13. Blade Runner: The Final Cut (dir. Ridley Scott)
In addition to these more-serious picks, Netflix also has a whole lot of worthwhile horror, comedy, and action films. Some of my horror picks are The Craft, Candyman, What Lies Beneath, Green Room, Rosemary’s Baby, The Evil Dead, The Witch, Carrie, and Kiss the Girls. All great movies, all good escapism.
Of course, Netflix has a lot of TV options, including go-tos like The Office, Jeopardy, Stranger Things, Parks and Recreation, and Mad Men.
Add in lots of excellent true crime and comedy with plenty of offerings for kids. And even a new series called Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak — no kidding.
Overally, maybe not a television collection as prestigious and rewatchable as Hulu’s, but a deeper collection.
Here are a few programs I’d highly recommend watching if you’ve not yet seen them (or just need to revisit an old friend you haven’t thought of in a while): I Am Not Okay with This, The Good Place, Better Call Saul, Hip-Hop Evolution (all but the most recent season, which is garbage), The West Wing, Don’t F*@# with Cats, F Is for Family, Master of None, The Confession Killer, Making a Murderer, Twin Peaks, I Think You Should Leave, and finally, my beloved The Inbetweeners.
That’s a whole lot of good television.
For $4 you can stream Steven Soderbergh’s outbreak classic Contagion on Prime. You can also stream it on iTunes. This is a film a lot of people are watching and talking about at the moment, and that’s because what we’re all experiencing is best represented in that film.
Other pandemic-themed films worth watching: Outbreak, Perfect Sense, Children of Men, and The Host. Or, if you just want some stupid fun, Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever. Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia might even be an interesting watch right now.
But I digress, back to the offerings of Amazon’s Prime service. If you’re a Prime member, you get a whole lot of movies and TV shows for free. And that’s great.
But Amazon Prime also offers a whole lot of movies for rent that aren’t available elsewhere.
So let’s say that, for example, you want to watch something a little more underground like Robert Downey Sr.’s Putney Swope. Prime would be the place to look first. If they don’t have it for $4, try iTunes.
As far as movies and shows currently available for free streaming via the Prime service goes, here are 20 movies and shows I’d highly suggest checking out, ranked in order of how much I liked them:
1. The Wire
2. The Sopranos
3. The Florida Project
5. True Romance
7. Honey Boy
8. You Were Never Really Here
9. My So-Called Life
10. Last Week Tonight
14. Escape at Dannemora
16. Curb Your Enthusiasm
17. The Americans
19. The Farewell
20. A Simple Favor
More than anything else that I recommend in this week’s column, if you’ve not yet seen The Wire, I recommend that. It’s my favorite TV series of all time. In fact, I feel safe saying that I don’t like any other show nearly as much. It’s a little bit hard to get into, but once you’re in, it’ll own you.
Do it. Dig in. commit. You won’t regret it.
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