11 Netflix Original Movies to Watch Over the Holiday
Ah, Thanksgiving. A time to enjoy the company of friends and family, take stock of what you're grateful for and, at the earliest possible moment, make a hasty retreat to the nearest corner, your iPad tucked under your arm. And it's for moments like that that Netflix has you covered, with an absolutely amazing assortment of original films (seriously -- they've been killing it).
British filmmaker Paul Greengrass might have found mainstream success with his "Bourne" films, but he's always been drawn to dramatizing harrowing real-life stories, from "Bloody Sunday" to "Captain Phillips." His latest based-on-true-events thriller concerns the 2011 Norway terrorist attacks (in which Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in two sequential attacks, including a mass shooting at a youth camp) and their immediate aftermath. This might not be the lightest viewing option but chances are it'll be the most impactful.
Sure, Halloween is over but a good, spooky romp is good year 'round. In "Apostle," Dan Stevens travels to a remote Welsh island to rescue his sister from a sinister cult (led by an unrecognizable Michael Sheen). And from there, well, you just have to watch … This is an unbelievable, phantasmagorical freak-out of the highest order, paying due tribute to "The Wicker Man" and similarly "naturalistic" folk horror tales. Don't watch this with any older family members or people who are squeamish (at all).
'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs'
Originally conceived as a limited series, the latest offbeat offering from the Coen Brothers is a darkly comic western anthology that features James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Kazan, Liam Neeson, Tim Blake Nelson, and Tom Waits. The film is based on a bunch of short stories that the Coen Brothers wrote over a 25-year-old period and, let's be honest, any new Coens-related project is worth celebrating.
'Hold the Dark' (2018)
Things are very snowy in "Hold the Dark," the new ultra-bleak thriller from Jeremy Sualnier ("Green Room," "Blue Ruin"), so in a weird way it makes perfect sense to watch while you're sliding from your Thanksgiving turkey hangover into your full-on Christmas blitz. (The movie also takes place in December 2004.) The movie starts with a young woman (Riley Keough) who reports that her young son was abducted by a wolf and hires an expert (Jeffrey Wright) to track down the wolf that was responsible. Of course, things get considerably weirder and more violent from there, especially when the boy's father (Alexander Skarsgard) returns from Iraq. Hang on tight.
Fair warning: this movie might not be for everyone. But adventurous viewers will want to check out this wildly uncomfortable remake of a 2014 Israeli film of the same name. Maggie Gyllenhaal, in one of the year's finest performances, plays the titular teacher, who struggles to write her own poetry but discovers that one of her young students can come up with beautiful poems on his own. She soon takes an unnatural interest in the child and things go from bad to worse. Sure, you'll cringe, but you'll also be dazzled.
Scottish filmmaker David Mackenzie chose to follow-up his widely acclaimed western "Hell or High Water" with a more personal epic, this time documenting the story of Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) who waged a war of liberation against the English occupying Scotland. When the film premiered at Toronto this fall, it was much longer, but Mackenzie said he listened to the audience and trimmed 20 minutes. But don't worry ladies, Pine's full-frontal nude scene remains. Talk about epic.
Proof that movies don't have to star superheroes or special effects, "Private Life" (a sensation when it debuted earlier this year at Sundance) is the latest film from the great Tamara Jenkins ("The Savages"), this time focusing on the plight of a pair of New York writers (Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn) who are broke, depressed, and desperate for children. With tenderness and warmth, Jenkins is able to give fully fleshed out characters great emotional depth in a story that feels deeply personal and real.
Netflix original documentary series get so much attention, but they also release great documentary features too – we've got two on this list! "Shirkers" is fascinating, as adorable as it is nail-biting, the tale of Sandi Tan, who in 1992 shot Singapore's first indie movie with a small group of friends. (Sandi was still a teenager.) When their mysterious mentor, an American named Georges Cardona, disappeared after shooting the movie was completed, it started a nearly lifelong question to figure out what happened and have the footage returned to the filmmakers.
'The Land of Steady Habits'
This movie can be recommended, sight unseen, for a couple of reasons: one, it's the latest film from the brilliant Nicole Holofcener ("Enough Said," "Lovely and Amazing") and it's the rare film where Ben Mendelsohn doesn't play an oversized psychopath. It's the type of movie Holofcener specializes in: tiny dramas. In this one, Mendelsohn plays a recent divorcee coping with his new lifestyle and general ennui in the secluded enclave of Westport, Connecticut. It features dizzyingly good performances (Edie Falco, Connie Britton, and Thomas Mann also star) and truly relatable emotions.
'The Other Side Of The Wind'
For some, this is the most hotly anticipated movie not only of the year but possibly ever. "The Other Side of the Wind" was, infamously, Orson Welles' last, uncompleted film, which he shot, on and off, for six years in the early 1970's. Thanks to close friends, advisors, and a diligent team of archivists, they have pieced the movie back together, which is a loosely autobiographical tale of an aging film director (played by John Huston) and his young apprentice (Peter Bogdanovich), as he embarks on an ambitious new project (also called "The Other Side of the Wind"). However this turns out, it'll be a fascinating conversation piece.