Concerns surrounding the worldwide spread of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, have delayed big movie release dates and production schedules, but they haven’t affected online streaming services. As major cities around the world shut down public gatherings and urge people to practice “social distancing,” many of us are confined to our homes for at least the next few weeks.
That means there’s no time like the present to catch up on your movie list. To help you sort the wheat from the chaff, we’ve put together the best new movies that are available to stream for free on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and HBO. That ought to help you navigate the days and weeks of self-isolation.
Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is one of a trio of Netflix original movies to earn a 2019 Best Picture nomination. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson star as a couple who love each other but nonetheless have come to the unfortunate realization that their desired futures are too incompatible to support their relationship. Their lives are literally pulling them in opposite directions as Nicole (Johannson) has a job offer in Los Angeles while Charlie (Driver) prefers to stay in New York. The escalation of this and many other disagreements ultimately lead them to file for divorce and move on with their lives however they can.
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2018’s Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature introduces the world to a brand new Spider-Man: Spider-Pig. Well, sort of. In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, we meet Miles Morales, a New York City kid who is bitten by a radioactive spider and forced to take up the mantle of Spider-Man. But when gangster and Spider-Man enemy Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) opens a portal between dimensions in an attempt to bring back his deceased wife and son, he also accidentally brings together a number of Spider-People from alternate universes: An older version of Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), anime-inspired Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), and, of course, Spider-Pig (John Mulaney). The crew has to work together to restore order to the universe and return each Spider-Person (-Pig) to his or her own universe.
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Another 2019 Best Picture nominee from Netflix, The Irishman marks Martin Scorsese’s return to his bread-and-butter topic: The gangster movie. Based on historical events, this gangster epic follows Frank Sheeran (Robert DeNiro), a soldier for crime boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and associate of union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). The Irishman is a slow burn, following Sheeran through his earliest days as an enforcer until he becomes a close bodyguard and confidante of Hoffa during the height of the mafia’s control over labor unions in the United States. However, when the mob decides Hoffa is more trouble than he’s worth, it puts Sheeran in a tough spot that tests his loyalties.
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You may say that Breaking Bad didn’t need a sequel. But you haven’t seen El Camino. Walter White may not be in the picture anymore but Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) carries on. El Camino picks up right where the show left off: With Jesse speeding away from the compound where he’d been held prisoner, now on the run from the law and the worst sorts in the meth world. El Camino keeps up the frantic pace of Breaking Bad, pitting Jesse against Murphy’s Law as he experiences one setback after another and tries to keep his wits about him, move on from his partnership with Walter, and become his own man.
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Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke team up in this Peter Berg-directed action comedy about a disgraced former Boston police officer and his roommate, who take it upon themselves to investigate the murder of two cops. Loosely based on the novel Wonderland by Ace Atkins, Spenser Confidential is a raucous deep dive into police and government corruption surrounding a casino project.
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A nominee for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a brilliant period drama featuring powerful performances and engrossing direction. It’s 1770 in France and a young painter, Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). However, Héloïse is a reluctant bride who has just left the convent, and Marianne must paint her without Héloïse’s knowledge. Marianne paints secretly day by day, observing and spending time with Héloïse until they soon realize there may be more than friendship afoot. The two women grow closer and closer as they share Héloïse’s last moments of freedom before the wedding.
If not for Parasite, Portrait of a Lady on Fire may very well have won the Palme d’Or. Bong Joon-ho’s masterpiece, however, was the belle of awards season, winning the Palme d’Or and countless other awards on its way to four Oscar wins, including Best Picture and Best Director. Parasite is truly a masterful film, simultaneously a slow burn and constant car crash of conflict, keeping you on the edge of your seat. The destitute Kim family develops a symbiotic relationship with the wealthy Park family. As greed, discrimination, and manipulation seep into the arrangement, lines are blurred and lives are threatened.
Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) worked really hard in school, avoided parties, and got into the Ivy League colleges they wanted to attend. Unfortunately, it turns out everyone else who did party and drink throughout high school also got in where they wanted to go. Discovering this, Amy and Molly decide to go out for one night of wild partying before graduation day. It’s a familiar concept but Booksmart puts the spotlight on the friendship of its female protagonists rather than sex and dating in high school. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is a refreshing take on the teen comedy.
Adam McKay went from directing Anchorman and Step Brothers to helming 2015’s Best Picture nominee The Big Short. He follows it up with 2018’s Vice, a chronicle of Dick Cheney’s (played by Christian Bale) long ascent to political prominence. Just like The Big Short, it’s a black comedy, exposing the shamelessness of the former vice president and the society than enabled him. Following him from his shiftless, drunken youth through his tenure pulling the strings of power in the U.S., Vice uses many of the same narrative techniques of The Big Short (explanatory skits, character interruptions) in a dynamic approach to satire.
LaKeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson shine in one of 2018’s stranger releases. The directorial debut of Boots Riley is a madcap, surrealistic satire of 21st-century capitalism. Cassius Green (Stanfield) is desperate for money, getting a job as a telemarketer by lying about his previous work experience. As Cassius struggles on the job, an older co-worker (Danny Glover) suggests that he use his “white voice.” The white voice (David Cross) empowers Cassius, who is suddenly racking up sales and climbing the corporate ladder. However, as he acscends, he begins to lose his soul and his grip on reality — something the film frequently reminds us of through eccentric visuals.
As big-budget films like 2013’s The Lone Ranger and 2011’s Cowboys & Aliens have failed, Hollywood has transitioned to a different type of Western in recent years. The Sisters Brothers is a traditional Western in appearance, following two sibling guns-for-hire (Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly) during the gold rush era. But director Jacques Audiard is committed to tilting the genre, if not on its head, then off to the side. Gunfights happen in complete darkness, accidents happen at the exact points you don’t expect them to — it’s a comedy that has fun with Western tropes and benefits from the genius of its two stars.
Honey Boy is Shia LaBeouf’s semiautobiographical debut script, directed by Alma Har’el. The story follows the life of child actor Otis Lort (loosely based on LaBeouf) as he goes from youthful success to self-destructive Hollywood star. Plagued by an abusive relationship with his alcoholic father, Lort struggles to keep their contentious relationship afloat and his own interests in sight over the course of a decade. LaBeouf also stars as the elder Lort.
Mission: Impossible — Fallout continues to raise the bar in the M:I franchise. The sixth installment outpaces the earlier films with jaw-dropping action and high-octane filmmaking. Fallout opens with IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) attempting to secure some plutonium cores, but when the mission goes sideways, the cores fall into the hands of a terrorist group run by an old villain. The failure draws the ire of CIA Director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett), who deploys an assassin (Henry Cavill) to monitor IMF’s efforts to recover the cores.
Award-winning French filmmaker Claire Denis’ High Life defies classification. It’s describes as an erotic sci-fi horror film, which is as eyebrow-raising as it sounds. Juliette Binoche stars as Dr. Dibs, overseer of a damned space mission that is sending criminals to extract energy from a black hole to send back to Earth. On the journey, Dibs performs sexual experiments on the criminals that ultimately kill many of them until only murderer Monte (Robert Pattison) is left alone with his daughter, surviving for as long as possible.
This Amazon Original Film stars Adam Driver as Daniel Jones, a senate staffer who is chosen by Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) to investigate the destruction of CIA interrogation recordings in 2005. Based on true events, this political thriller focuses on the real life of politics: The tension of trawling through millions of pages of documents covered in redactions. All the while, Jones and his team are forced to dodge government officials trying to squash their efforts. Driver delivers an outstanding performance in this realpolitik thriller.
Long Shot is another entry in the marvelous subgenre of films where Seth Rogen dates women extremely out of his league. Rogen stars as Fred Flarsky, a writer who crosses paths with presidential candidate Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), only to realize that she is his former babysitter, with whom he was in love. This awkward recognition leads Field to begrudgingly invite Flarsky to join her team as a speechwriter. As you might expect, an “unexpected” romance blooms. Long Shot may be predictable, but it features two great comedic talents at the top of their game and who exhibit surprising chemistry.
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Produced by sci-fi legend James Cameron and directed by grindhouse stalwart Robert Rodriguez, Alita: Battle Angel is a high-octane, sci-fi thrill ride. Based on the popular manga series Gunnm and its original 1993 video animation adaptation, Battle Angel Alita, the film didn’t quite meet fans’ and critics’ enormous expectations, but it’s nonetheless an engaging visual experience that pushes the boundaries of special effects. Taking place several centuries in the future, the film follows Alita, a cyborg who is abandoned in a scrapyard of Iron City and revitalized by the kind cyber-doctor Ido. Alita has immense powers but no memory of who she is or recognition of the world she’s returned to. She sets off on a journey to navigate her new life and understand her past.
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Two fan-favorite characters of the Fast & Furious franchise team up in this action-packed spinoff that feels, well, nothing like a spinoff. Hobbs & Shaw keeps the same high-budget action sequences and jaw-dropping fight scenes in the mix while trimming the Fast and Furious team to just three: CIA enforcer Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), MI6 outcast Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), and MI6 special agent (Vanessa Kirby). Together, they must take on a cyber-genetically enhanced villain (Idris Elba) working on behalf of terrorist shadow organization Eteon. While Eteon is hell-bent on evolving the human race by whatever villainous means necessary, the trio of heroes must overcome personal differences and past grudges to save the world.
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Bradley Cooper directed this surprisingly massive hit that was nominated for eight Oscars — it earned a win for Best Original Song. A Star is Born has been made several times at this point, yet Cooper’s 2018 rendition seems to hit harder than its predecessors. With awe-inspiring performances of outstanding original music by Lady Gaga and Cooper himself, A Star is Born dominated the airwaves for months after exploding at the box office. You’ll still probably hear somebody sing Shallow at your local karaoke night the next time you can go.
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From acclaimed director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Yesterday asks the question, “What would the world look like if everybody suddenly forgot about the Beatles?” For one struggling musician named Jack (Himesh Patel), it means a massive opportunity. When Jack awakens to find that he’s the only person alive who remembers the Beatles, he begins to recreate their music and release it as his own. As he churns out hit after hit, however, he begins to wonder if all the fame and fortune are worth the life-defining lie.
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