Spring has sprung. The weather is nice; you can go outside again without a coat; and the days have literally grown sunnier. All things considered, it’s perhaps less a “Netflix and chill” month than others over the long winter. Even so, every once in a while, it’s nice to kick up your feet and watch or discover an old favorite.
For that reason, Netflix has (lightly) updated its content for the month with a small string of new releases, and we’re here to tell you which are the best ones. Enjoy.
Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
In real-life, would an out-and-about player like Ryan Gosling’s Jacob take a sad, lonely, middle aged divorcee like Cal (Steve Carell) under his wing? Probably not. But it makes for a hell of a movie!
That movie is Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s chilled vibes rom-com, Crazy, Stupid, Love. Written by Dan Fogelman before his conventions became cloying on This Is Us, there’s an understated breeziness to Crazy as it weaves a vast ensemble tapestry of romance that is a little more nuanced than, say, Love, Actually in how it views the work necessary in maintaining relationships and… love. It also is the movie where Gosling first met Emma Stone, and their chemistry has sparkled ever since.
Dirty Harry (1971)
Released just as the revolutionary 1960s were giving way and curdling into the more cynical ‘70s, Dirty Harry became the prototype for untold numbers of “rogue cop” movies in which the violent, fascist methods of the protagonist were not just permitted but glowingly approved. In perhaps his second most iconic role (following the many variations of the Man with No Name he played in Westerns), Clint Eastwood is all snarling rage as police inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan, who never met a protocol or regulation he didn’t want to break or a “punk” he didn’t want to shoot dead.
Drawing upon the real-life Zodiac Killer case that was still in the news at the time, Dirty Harry played upon real fears of crime that were rapidly increasing in America’s big cities. Its moral and ethical stance can continue to be debated—especially with the U.S. teetering ominously on the edge of fascism today—but Don Siegel’s direction and Eastwood’s performance still make it one of the most influential crime thrillers of all time.
Harold & Kumar Go White Castle (2004)
A raunchy, low-brow comedy of the highest order—in terms of drugs, not prestige—Harold & Kumar the First is not exactly what one would designate as a classic. Yet there is something still progressive and forward-thinking about this bro-fest from nearly 20 years ago that stars a Chinese-American actor (John Cho as the bookish Harold) and the son of Indian immigrants (Kal Penn as stoner Kumar). They’re a couple of kids whose weed-fueled night takes on mythical proportions as they quest their way to White Castle cheeseburgers.
It’s dumb, but cleverly so (at least in the scenes it stays out of the bathroom). It is also where the legend of New Patrick Harris as a sex addict began. At the very least it might trigger your own cheeseburger cravings.
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America is one of the great crime epics of motion picture history. It has the gore of Goodfellas, the street cred of Mean Streets, and the scope of the first two Godfather movies combined. Stars Robert De Niro and James Woods make up a dream gangster film pairing, on par with Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney in The Roaring Twenties. One did jail time, taking a murder rap for the gang, and wants to live a normal life of crime. The other is an ambitious sociopath, who wants to rob the Federal Reserve Bank and buy himself a shot at respectability.
Burdened with a rep for being too long, the film opens in the heated action of a fatally botched liquor delivery and ends with the sound of a woodchipper grinding the flesh and bones of a mob mastermind. In between is a peak into wise guy behavior so unflinching, some believe it killed any romantic notions the gangster genre still inspired. Yet, it still takes the time to savor misspent childhood like so much Charlotte Russe.
Road to Perdition (2002)
Here is the Tom Hanks as a grumpy gangster movie. Actually a little more artful than its reputation, Road to Perdition came at a point where Hanks tried to break free of audience expectations by working with director Sam Mendes, then fresh off of American Beauty, to craft a poignant father and son tale about a muscle man for the Irish mob who must take his boy Peter (Liam Aiken) on the run after the lad sees something he shouldn’t.
Melancholic, elegiac, and achingly beautiful to look at, this is a surprisingly quiet essay of wise guys with tommy guns, including Paul Newman in one of his final roles and a surprisingly sniveling Daniel Craig in his pre-007 days. It is not the energetic shot of adrenaline to the heart that one might expect after watching a lot of Martin Scorsese gangster flicks, but 20 years later it’s still evocative and memorable.
War of the Worlds (2005)
Steven Spielberg took H.G. Wells’ turn-of-the-century science fiction milestone, already filmed once before in 1953, and quite effectively, and brilliantly updated it. This turns into an exploration of post-9/11 America and the fear that gripped the nation in the aftermath of that horrific day. One of the director’s darkest films, it faithfully follows the trajectory of Wells’ story for the most part, but imbues it with an anger and dread that Spielberg has rarely deployed in such intense fashion.
Tom Cruise does solid work as the story’s working-man hero, but War of the Worlds will continue to be remembered for its often stunning imagery: people running and being blasted out of existence by the alien tripods; burning bodies floating down a clogged river; a downed airplane lodged into the middle of a suburban neighborhood, corpses dangling everywhere. Spielberg may slightly pull his punches toward the finish, but this remains one of the most terrifying sci-fi movies of the past 20 years.
When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
The classic romantic comedy of its time, When Harry Met Sally… follows the two title characters, played to perfection by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, as they meet in college and continue to interact with each other over the next 12 years—studiously avoiding the fact that they are not meant to be just friends but are actually each other’s soulmates.
Rob Reiner’s direction (he was in the middle of a legendary run that included This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, Misery, and A Few Good Men—damn!) and Nora Ephron’s screenplay, based on interviews with Reiner himself and many of her friends, may skim lightly over the deeper issues of male/female relationships that the film addresses. But it’s still a hilarious, truthful, and touching exploration of dating, love, and sexual politics. One iconic scene follows another, climaxing (so to speak) with the yet-to-be-topped diner sequence.