By Jason BaileyUpdated April 28, 2020Sign up for our Watching Newsletter to get recommendations on the best films and TV shows to stream and watch, delivered to your inbox.The sheer volume of films on Netflix — and the site’s less than ideal interface — can make finding a genuinely great movie there a difficult task. To help, we’ve plucked out the 50 best films currently streaming on the service in the United States, updated regularly as titles come and go. And as a bonus, we link to more great movies on Netflix within many of our writeups below. (Note: Streaming services sometimes remove titles or change starting dates without giving notice.)Here are our lists of the best TV shows on Netflix, the best movies on Amazon Prime Video and the best of everything on Disney Plus.
“Contagion,” Steven Soderbergh’s smart, spooky thriller about a thicket of contemporary plagues — a killer virus, rampaging fear, an unscrupulous blogger — is as ruthlessly effective as the malady at its cool, cool center. Set in the world-is-flat now, the movie tracks a mystery pathogen after it catches a ride on a flight from Hong Kong to Chicago, an early hop for a globe-sprinting pandemic that cuts across borders and through bodies as effortlessly as Mr. Soderbergh moves among genres, styles and eras, this time by updating 1970s paranoia freakouts like “All the President’s Men” for the anti-government, Tea Party age.
Among the first casualties is an executive, Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), who, shortly after returning home from Hong Kong, is twitching on her Minneapolis kitchen floor, mouth foaming and eyes glassing over. Was it the moo goo gai pan? Not exactly, her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon in a small, crucial, sympathetic performance), soon learns. And that’s something you learn quickly in turn: Nothing moves slowly here, especially the disease, which, within days, cuts down seemingly everyone who’s been within touching, kissing, handshaking, dice-blowing distance of a carrier. Like the ladies in the old shampoo ads (“I told two friends about it and they told two friends and so on”) Beth just keeps on giving.
Working with regular collaborators like the writer Scott Z. Burns, the composer Cliff Martinez and the editor Stephen Mirrione, Mr. Soderbergh invests the story with visceral urgency, opening it with a screen steeped in black — an intimation perhaps of the looming abyss — and the sounds of a few hard, rasping coughs. This almost deviously funny overture is followed by a close-up of Beth wearing a sheen of sweat and no visible makeup, the image stamped “Day 2.” Listing forward, as if she was about to throw up on the camera tilted up at her, she looks about as bad as Ms. Paltrow probably can, given the ugly situation and the queasy-beautiful yellowish light that Mr. Soderbergh expressionistically employs throughout.
She doesn’t vomit, but your own gorge may rise when the camera shifts from Beth — who takes a flirty call from her unseen lover, her wedding ring gleaming in the shot — to linger briefly on a jar of shelled peanuts set on the airport bar in front of her. Beth may be (relatively) bad, but those peanuts are murder, as is the credit card she hands to the waitress. The story subsequently hopscotches to several other people — a young man stumbling through a Hong Kong market, a Japanese salaryman grimacing on a plane and a model staggering in London — who flash in and out of the movie . Like Beth, whose young son, Clark (Griffin Kane), welcomes her home with open, vulnerable arms, each proves to be part of the lethal puzzle.”
“. . . The virus seriously rattles your nerves, and you may want to start stockpiling antibacterial soap now. Yet what’s really scary in “Contagion” is how fast once-humming airports and offices, homes and cities empty out when push comes to shove comes to panic in the streets.
“Contagion” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). It contains gun violence, multiple on-screen if nongory deaths and a graphic autopsy during which a human head is peeled like a banana. “
“The title of Davis Guggenheim’s three-part Netflix documentary Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates (which debuts on Friday, September 20th) speaks to its subject’s opacity. What makes one of the world’s wealthiest people tick? What formed him? How did he come to dominate a fiercely competitive industry so thoroughly that the US government sued Microsoft under antitrust statutes?
Guggenheim gets into all that… sort of. Over the course of nearly three hours, Inside Bill’s Brain covers the basics of Gates’ life: his childhood, education, Microsoft stewardship, marriage to his wife Melinda, and the charitable foundation they co-manage.
At times, though, it seems like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is this doc’s real subject. Each episode of Inside Bill’s Brain focuses on one of the foundation’s major initiatives: improving sewage conditions in developing countries, eradicating polio, and developing a cleaner, safer form of nuclear power. Each of the three parts shifts rapidly between interviews, biographical material, and fly-on-the-wall footage of the Gates team’s philanthropic missions. Guggenheim eschews traditional transitions, and instead jumps from subject to subject, even when there’s no clear connection between them.”
Oscar-winning documentary director Davis Guggenheim enlists Gates’ cooperation for a three-part Netflix series on some of the billionaire’s passion projects.
“One of the hottest tickets at this year’s Telluride Film Festival was not one of the eagerly awaited narrative features but the first showing of a Netflix docuseries on Bill Gates. Patrons lined up for the screening of Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates, with the subject himself on hand for a discussion. The series was directed by Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman, He Named Me Malala), and it contains some of the filmmaker’s best work.
No doubt Gates trusted the director enough to provide candid interviews on his personal life, along with information on his ambitious projects to use his wealth to build a better world. Although the docuseries does not skirt controversial episodes in Gates’ past, it gives him credit as a visionary thinker while also painting a surprisingly human portrait of the computer geek turned philanthropist and concerned citizen.
The three parts of the series encompass Gates’ efforts to provide clean drinking water for people in the poorest countries of the world, his battle to eradicate polio and his efforts on behalf of safe nuclear power as an alternative to climate-destroying fossil fuels. Along with exploring these potent issues, the film delves into Gates’ early family life and his marriage to Melinda, who is partnered with him on his charitable foundation, which he has focused on since stepping down from Microsoft in 2008.
Guggenheim collected an impressive group of pundits to discuss some of these issues, including scientists and technical experts, along with New York Times correspondent Nicholas Kristof, who provides especially pithy interviews. But the series also includes interviews with Melinda, Gates’ two sisters and, of course, extensive talks with Gates himself. Some of the most revealing interviews concern Gates’ relationship with his mother, a strong woman and something of a community leader in Seattle; he describes her early death as the most difficult time in his life.
Gates’ developing relationship with Melinda also provides fascinating material. Clearly Bill had difficulty entering into personal relationships, and when he was debating whether to marry Melinda, he prepared a detailed chart listing the pros and cons of a union. She has proven to be an invaluable partner; for one thing, he acknowledges that she is much better at dealing with people, a crucial quality in accomplishing the goals that he wants his charities to produce.
One of the thorniest of these issues is Gates’ commitment to nuclear power. As the film indicates, he and his team were making progress on changing public opinion until the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011 once again incited widespread fears. There are also issues regarding the disposal of nuclear waste, and Trump’s trade war with China has made Chinese cooperation on this project more challenging.”
“In his relentless pursuit to try to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems around sanitation, disease eradication and climate change, Bill Gates is practically robotic in his quest for information and in his inability to give up. It’s glimpses of the Microsoft co-founder’s human side that help power “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates,” a three-part documentary series from Netflix.
Directed by Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”), the series is at times an intimate and revealing look at Gates’ life, from his upbringing to his education, his family and friendships, the drive to make Microsoft a global powerhouse, the transition to philanthropy, and his love for and partnership with wife Melinda Gates.
For those familiar with many of the benchmarks and anecdotes from Gates’ long life in the public eye, there are repeated tales of his accomplishments and idiosyncrasies. They are spliced throughout three 50-minute episodes with footage from his home and offices in Seattle to far-flung locations around the planet.”
Along with such pests as jackrabbits and kangaroos, Australia ”a few years from now” is being afflicted by predatory motorcycle gangs. An elite leather-clad highway police force has been established to oppose them.
This is the flimsy plot line of ”Mad Max,” which opens today at the Embassy 5, but it provides an adequate framework for some vivid chase-and-crash sequences across the unpopulated outback and a heavy dose of sadism with obvious homosexual overtones.
The title figure is a relatively normal member of the police force, played by Mel Gibson, who decides to take the law, such as it is, into his own hands after his wife, played by Joanne Samuel, is dreadfully injured and their young son is murdered by the bikers.
He sets his jaw like Clint Eastwood in ”Dirty Harry,” gets a supercharged black speedster out of the police garage and with a sawed-off shotgun in his holster wreaks a terrible vengeance. In the final sequence, for example, he gives the last survivor of the motorcycle gang his choice of sawing his own leg off or being burned to death.
”Mad Max” is ugly and incoherent, and aimed, probably accurately, at the most uncritical of moviegoers. It’s worth noting that much of the rudimentary dialogue in this Australian film has been dubbed from ”strine,” the thick dialect of the subcontinent, into country-andwestern English. You can tell because the lip movement and sound are often slightly out of synchronization.
MAD MAX, directed by George Miller with Mel Gibson; written by James McCausland and George Miller; cameraman, David Eggby; edited by Tony Paterson; music by Brian May; produced by Byron Kennedy; released by American International, a Filmways Company. At the Embassy 5, West 46th Street and Broadway. Running time: 93 minutes. This film is rated R.
Max Rockatansky . . . . . Mel GibsonJessie . . . . . Joanne SamuelToecutter . . . . . Hugh Keays-ByrneJim Goose . . . . . Steve BisleyJohnny the Boy . . . . . Tim BurnsFifi Macaffee . . . . . Roger Ward
Credit Max Guther
By Farhad Manjoo
Feb. 22, 2019, 56 c
For months after the 2016 election, I wanted nothing more than to escape America. I don’t mean literally — in the cliché liberal way of absconding to Canada — but intellectually, socially, psychically. Donald Trump was all anybody talked about, and I needed sanctuary. I wanted to find places where the American president-elect and his American opponents and their American controversies simply did not exist.
I found such a place in a British reality baking contest. By which I mean I found it on Netflix, which has become the internet’s most invaluable and intoxicating portal to the parts of planet Earth that aren’t America.
On Sunday, Netflix will compete for its first Best Picture Oscar for “Roma,” the Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón’s exploration of his childhood in Mexico City. A win by “Roma” would be a fitting testament to Netflix’s ambitions. Virtually alone among tech and media companies, Netflix intends to ride a new kind of open-border digital cosmopolitanism to the bank.
For me, it was nice British people politely baking against one another that offered one of the first hints of Netflix’s unusual strategy. “The Great British Baking Show,” for those not in the cult, is an amateur baking contest, and it is one of the least American things you will ever see on TV. It depicts a utopia: a multicultural land of friendly blokes and mums with old-timey jobs — Imelda is a “countryside recreation officer” — blessed with enough welfare-state-enabled free time to attain expertise in British confectionary. To an American, the show suggests a time and place where our own worries have no meaning. And that, more than baking, is what “The Great British Baking Show” is really about.
The show was first produced and aired on British broadcast television (as “The Great British Bake-Off”) and imported to the United States by PBS, which then licensed it to Netflix. But Netflix, which has 139 million paying members around the world, has lately become something more than a licenser of other countries’ escapist television.
In 2016, the company expanded to 190 countries, and last year, for the first time, a majority of its subscribers and most of its revenue came from outside the United States. To serve this audience, Netflix now commissions and licenses hundreds of shows meant to echo life in every one of its markets and, in some cases, to blend languages and sensibilities across its markets (see Marie Kondo’s half-in-Japanese tidying-up blockbuster).