(Welcome to Now Stream This, a column dedicated to the best movies streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and every other streaming service out there.)
It’s time for a fresh batch of streaming titles, hot from the oven. As usual, I’ve scoured the streaming service landscape to bring you back the goods. In this edition, you’ll find the best Bond movie ever, a ground-breaking horror anthology film, a mind-blowing documentary, a strange slasher flick, a wuxia masterpiece, a water-logged action film, and more.
These are the best movies streaming right now, and beyond. Let’s get streaming!
The Best Movies Streaming Right Now
1. Casino Royale
Now Streaming on Netflix
Release Date: 2006
Genre: Spy Thiller
Director: Martin Campbell
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench
Here’s what is sure to be a controversial opinion: Casino Royale is the best James Bond movie. Yes, yes, I know. I know there are people who think picking any non-Sean Connery Bond film as the best is sacrilege. And I also know that when it comes to the Daniel Craig Bond-era, Skyfall seems to be the favorite. But Martin Campbell‘s 2006 Bond reboot remains, to me, the best of the bunch. The film reinvents Bond from a smooth operator to a blunt instrument – he literally smashes through a wall like the Kool-Aid man at one point. Craig’s Bond is a borderline sociopath – cold, calculated, and very good at killing people. Here, he gets mixed up in a somewhat convoluted plot involving a terrorist (a scene-stealing Mads Mikkelsen) and a poker game. Of course, there’s a Bond girl, played by the always-welcomed Eva Green. And unlike other Bond girls, she and 007 actually develop something close to a real relationship. Action-packed, and endlessly entertaining, Casino Royale is a reboot done right.
For fans of: Batman Begins, Bond movies in general, Daniel Craig running around a lot.
2. Blue Ruin
Now Streaming on Netflix
Release Date: 2013
Genre: Indie Thriller
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Eve Plumb
Jeremy Saulnier‘s sophomore effort Blue Ruin still remains his best film. This stripped-down, brutal mix of character study and thriller is like a Coen Brothers movie by way of John Carpenter. Macon Blair plays Dwight, a vagrant who gets word that the man who killed his parents two decades ago is being released from prison. Dwight makes up his mind to get revenge. This kicks off a chain of events that upend Dwight’s life even further, and send him down a dangerous – and often absurd – path. Saulnier makes great use of silence here, and in keeping with that, Blair’s haunted eyes say more than dialogue could. I’ve enjoyed Saulnier’s films after this – particularly Green Room. But so far, none of have come close to capturing the power of Blue Ruin.
For fans of: No Country For Old Men, A Simple Plan, bloody surprises.
3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Streaming on Netflix March 1
Release Date: 2000
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Che
Ang Lee brought the wuxia film to mainstream and art house audiences alike with this gorgeous, heartbreaking epic from 2000. Poetic, mournful and possessed with a breathtaking aura, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is set in 18th China, and follows warrior Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) and the woman he loves, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh). The two have obvious feelings for each other, but have refused to act on them out of loyalty to Yu Shu Lien’s dead fiancé. Elsewhere in the film, a Governor’s daughter (Zhang Ziyi) longs to escape her impending marriage, and has secretly aught herself to be a fierce warrior. These stories, and more, collide across the film, with Lee’s steady, painterly hand guiding it all towards a conclusion that will burn right to your soul.
For fans of: Hero, A Touch of Zen, House of Flying Daggers, avoiding the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel at all costs.
Streaming on Hulu March 1
Release Date: 1995
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction Action
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Cast: Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tina Majorino, Michael Jeter
Waterworld has a bad reputation. Its production was plagued with problems, and it bombed at the box office. But is it really as bad as some people say, or think, it is? No! In fact, it’s highly entertaining. Does it have problems? Oh, heavens yes. The script is uneven, and Kevin Costner‘s performance is bland. But this is a solid post-apocalyptic action flick with exciting set-pieces. Arrow Video recently released a special Waterworld Blu-ray packed to the gills, but if you can’t afford to snap that up, or just don’t like physical media, the film is headed to Hulu! In this epic adventure, the polar ice caps have melted, flooding the planet. A mutated man (Costner) may or may not hold the secret to finding the fabled dry land, but first he has to deal with pirates, lead by a gloriously over-the-top Dennis Hopper. I promise you: Waterworld isn’t as bad as you remember. Watch it and see.
For fans of: The Mad Max Franchise, The Postman, whatever the hell accent Dennis Hopper is doing here.
5. Three Identical Strangers
Now Streaming on Hulu
Release Date: 2018
Director: Tim Wardle
This shocking documentary has a truly unbelievable premise. In the 1970s, three strangers discover they’re long-lost brothers. But that’s not all: they’re also identical triplets. They’ve gone almost their entire lives unaware of this fact, and when they learn the truth, they’re understandably shocked and excited. This kicks off a media frenzy, and the results are charming and amusing…at first. Then Three Identical Strangers takes a dark turn, and grows only increasingly darker. To say anymore would rob this film of much of its impact, but as Three Identical Strangers unfolds, it goes in uncomfortable, unexpected directions that will make your jaw drop.
For fans of: Having their dang minds blown.
6. Tales From the Hood
Now Streaming on Shudder
Release Date: 1995
Genre: Horror Anthology
Director: Rusty Cundieff
Cast: Corbin Bernsen, Rosalind Cash, Rusty Cundieff, David Alan Grier, Anthony Griffith, Wings Hauser, Lamont Bentley, Paula Jai Parker, Joe Torry, Clarence Williams III
Rusty Cundieff’s ground-breaking horror anthology film Tales From the Hood was imporant when it opened in 1995, but it feels even more prescient here in the 21st century. Cundieff approached horror tropes through the eyes of the African-American community, creating an anthology film unlike any other before (or since, really – skip Tales From the Hood 2; it’s almost unwatchable). The stories deal with police brutality, gang violence, domestic abuse, and racist politicians – a topic that unfortunately remains prevalent today. There’s an air of comedy throughout the proceedings, which often keeps the film from being entirely scary. But there are several genuinely frightening moments throughout the film that knock the viewer for a loop.
For fans of: Creepshow, V/H/S, Clarence Williams III literally chewing the scenery.
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime
Release Date: 1983
Director: Richard Ciupka
Cast: John Vernon, Samantha Eggar, Linda Thorson and Lynne Griffin
Curtains! This is one of the odder ’80s slasher films, primarily because it’s aimed more at “older” audiences instead of rambunctious teens. It’s also just a weird movie in general, with a tone that’s all over the place, and a blend of slasher hijinks with potentially supernatural elements. The story focuses on a group of young actresses sequestered in the mansion of a famous film director (John Vernon). The women are all hoping to land the lead role in the director’s new film – a role that was originally promised to his lover, actress Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Eggar). But the filmmaker left Samantha locked away in a lunatic asylum – a fact Samantha, who is now free, isn’t particularly happy about. Meanwhile, a killer wearing a hideous old lady mask is out and about, bumping the actresses off after giving them the creeps with a hideous doll. Is this all going somewhere? Kind of! But Curtains is the type of film you watch for its atmosphere, and its often surprising kills.
For fans of: Tourist Trap, Theater of Blood, yelling “It’s Curtains for her!” every time a character is killed.
8. The Mexican
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Release Date: 2001
Director: Gore Verbinski
Cast: Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, J. K. Simmons
The Mexican is the type of mid-budget, original movie that Hollywood just doesn’t make anymore. Would I call it a great movie? No, but it’s dependably solid, and loaded with style, thanks to director Gore Verbinski. The Mexican was marketed as a kind of rom-com starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, but the truth is, the two big stars spend most of the movie apart. Pitt plays a fuck-up who is tasked with heading to Mexico to retrieve an antique pistol known as The Mexican. Meanwhile, Pitt’s frustrated girlfriend (Roberts) ends up kidnapped by a oddly polite hitman (James Gandolfini). But nothing here is as it seems, and Pitt and Roberts’ characters eventually end up in the same location, after a surprisingly large body count has piled up. Quirky, off-beat and featuring one of the late, great Gandolfini’s many wonderful performances, The Mexican deserves to be rediscovered.
For fans of: Mouse Hunt, Ocean’s Eleven, Killing Them Softly, watching James Gandolfini out-act literally everyone.
9. Return of the Living Dead 3
Streaming on Hulu March 1
Release Date: 1993
Genre: Horror Sequel
Director: Brian Yuzna
Cast: Melinda Clarke, J. Trevor Edmond, Kent McCord, Basil Wallace
The first two Return of the Living Dead movies have fun mixing comedy with their horror. But Return of the Living Dead 3 goes for something different. The story focuses on two young lovers – Curt (J. Trevor Edmond) and Julie (Melinda Clarke). When Julie is killed in a motorcycle accident, Curt finds a way to bring her back from the dead using a gas developed by the government. Julie is now a zombie, but she’s no lurching, mumbling ghoul. She can still talk, and think, but she also can no longer feel pain, and she’s hungry for brains. This kicks off a tragic, twisted saga in which the bodies pile up and Julie starts to mutilate herself in hopes of staving off her brain-hunger. The end result is a film that’s weird, tragic, and unforgettable.
For fans of: Bride of Re-Animator, Life After Beth, Return of the Living Dead, gore galore.
Now Streaming on Shudder
Release Date: 2001
Genre: Blaxploitation Horror Homage
Director: Ernest Dickerson
Cast: Snoop Dogg, Pam Grier, Khalil Kain, Clifton Powell, Bianca Lawson, Katharine Isabelle, Michael T. Weiss
Do people remember Bones? This 2001 blaxploitation throwback has Snoop Dogg as Jimmy Bones, a benevolent criminal in the 1970s who is also neighborhood hero. Everyone loves Jimmy Bones! Well…almost everyone. Bones gets betrayed by people close to him, and murdered by a corrupt cop. Over twenty years later, Bones’ old neighborhood has seriously gone down hill. When a group of teens end up in Bones’ crumbling old house, they inadvertently awaken his vengeful ghost. It’s all a bit goofy, but gosh is it fun to watch. Here is a film where Snoop Dogg turns into a demonic dog. And then the dog pukes up an absurd amount of maggots. Poetic cinema!
For fans of: Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight, J.D.’s Revenge, Pam Grier!
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