Author: Matt Cebreros
It’s 2013. Everyone who’s anyone has a Netflix Instant Watch account. You use it to watch The Office. Your nerdy, painfully nostalgic parents use it to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. Your 14-year-old little sister uses it to watch awful horror movies and Gossip Girl on repeat (let’s be honest, you probably do, too).
Netflix has revolutionized the way we watch movies and television, providing access to thousands of both with the click of a button. And yet, I always hear people complain that there’s nothing good available for streaming. Those people clearly have no idea what they’re talking about. There’s more to Netflix than Marvel movies and overrated AMC dramas (I’m looking at you, Mad Men and The Walking Dead). Just because you haven’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching. Here are just a few of the hundreds of excellent titles on Netflix that you may not be familiar with.
Oslo, August 31st. (Joachim Trier, 2012)
This one came out in 2012, and it’s one of the best of the year. The second feature-film from Trier (his first being Reprise, which is also available for streaming) features a grounded performance from Anders Danielsen Lie as a recovering addict visiting Oslo, where he relives memories from his past, leaving his future up in the air. It’s a powerful, visceral exploration of addiction and relationships that’s sure to please any fan of drama (assuming you aren’t a douche who refuses to watch movies with subtitles).
Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2008)
I’m sure you’re familiar with a little movie called Drive. If you aren’t, what are you doing reading this?! Go watch it on Netflix. Ok, you’re back? Great. Here’s a movie from the same director. Refn is an artist fascinated by violence. Bronson tells the fictionalized true story of notorious British criminal Michael Gordon Peterson, better known as Charles Bronson. There’s brutal violence from start-to-finish, with dark comic undertones throughout. It’s stylish, entertaining, and features an incredible performance from Tom Hardy’s penis. You need to see this one to believe it.
The Puffy Chair (Jay Duplass, 2005)
You probably know them from the FX television series The League, but husband-wife duo Mark Duplass and Katie Aselton got their start in this charming indie flick, one of the earliest in the mumblecore genre. The Duplass brothers have been hitting it out of the park recently (their film Jeff, Who Lives At Home is also available for streaming), but their first movie is still probably my favorite. It’s heartwarming, funny, and its realistic portrayal of the various nuances in a relationship is refreshing. The no-budget aesthetic may turn away some viewers, but I find that there’s a lot to like with this one.
Every Michael Haneke Film Ever
His name is mostly unknown to casual movie-goers, but Michael Haneke is one of the best directors working today. His films explore the darker side of human nature, dealing with everything from psychopathic killers to violent fetish. His most widely recognized films are probably the shot-for-shot identical versions of Funny Games, both of which are excellent. If you haven’t seen either, the original foreign-language version is still on Instant Watch. Everything in his filmography is stellar, and most of it used to be available for streaming (including the devastating The Seventh Continent and The White Ribbon, winner of the Palme d’Or). Now only three remain: The Piano Teacher, Code Unknown, and the aforementioned Funny Games. All three are incredible, and you are doing yourself a disservice if you ignore this man’s work.
The Snowtown Murders (Justin Kurzel, 2012)
If I had to choose one word to describe this film, it would be “uncomfortable.” This one is not for the faint of heart. It chronicles the rise of Australia’s most notorious serial killer, John Bunting, and his intrusion into and subsequent manipulation of a family. There are graphic scenes of torture, incestual rape, and animal cruelty. The pace is slow and deliberate, with a suitably bleak atmosphere. It requires a certain amount of patience and a tolerance for harsh material, but it makes for a powerful viewing experience.
Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2012)
This is one that for some reason flew under the radar this year. I caught it at the Pickford Film Center (Bellingham, WA) over the summer, and it’s easily one of the best of the year. Jack Black was born to play the role of Bernie Tiede, a man convicted of murder in Carthage, Texas in 1996. Richard Linklater has been making quality movies for over 20 years now, but this is one of, if not his best yet. You can read my review of it here.
The Burning (Tony Maylam, 1981)
If you are a fan of low-budget, excessively bloody and hilarious horror, this is a must-watch. This is one of my absolute favorite slasher flicks, second to only Halloween. The ’80s produced many awesomely terrible horror movies, but this is one that I only see brought up by horror aficionados. It takes awhile to really get going, but once it does it never lets up. The raft massacre scene is iconic, and one of the best moments ever in a horror movie. Call your friends over, gather round the TV, and have a blast. You can read my review of this one here.
Other movies on Instant Watch that demand your immediate viewing: Everything by Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful), Point Blank, Them, Dogtooth, The Innkeepers, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Far From Heaven, 13 Assassins.