James King is back with his latest Netflix recommendations! As we get closer to March, the days are getting a little longer, the nights are getting a little shorter... while the streaming service platform and our resident film critic are here with top February choices to see us through it all! Check out these must-see movies for February...
MORE: 24 shows to get excited about in 2021
Prepare yourself - this smart, scary and socially aware thriller starring Lupita Nyong’o as a mother and wife terrorised by doppelgängers of her own family will blow your mind. If you manage to take the cushion away from your eyes, you’ll have never seen anything quite like it. From the makers of the equally awesome Get Out.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019)
Max the Jack Russell and Duke the Newfoundland return in this sequel to the 2016 animated hit about our furry friends and their hidden secrets. New hound Rooster, a Welsh Sheepdog voiced by Harrison Ford, has some great lines and whilst this isn’t as fresh as its predecessor it’s still energetic enough to keep both kids and parents happy.
Another eye-opening documentary from Netflix, this one looking at the life of legendary Brazilian footballer Edson Arantes do Noscimento, aka Pelé. Now eighty years old, the boy from the slums of São Paulo went on to become his country’s leading goalscorer and has been regularly voted the greatest to ever kick a ball. An icon.
Made You Look (2021)
Netflix mix true crime and high art in this gripping look at a nineties scandal. It was 1995 when a gallery in New York purchased what they thought was a previously unknown painting by modernist artist Mark Rothko. What followed was lengthy forgery scam totalling $80 million.
The peerless Tina Fey and Amy Poehler go all out in this wild tale of adult siblings planning one final party in their childhood home before it’s sold. Some of the gags might make you blush but Tina and Amy are so cheeky and charming they can get away with anything. With Maya Rudolph, Dianne Wiest and a scene-stealing John Cena.
An awards favourite from a few years back, Mudbound tells the dramatic (and rain-soaked) story of two families - one black, one white - in post-World War 2 Mississippi. Carey Mulligan is the big name but it’s soul superstar Mary J Blige who really delivers the goods as cotton picker Florence. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, she sings the soaring theme tune too.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018)
Motorbike chase? Check. Helicopter crash? Check. Fisticuffs in a toilet with Henry Cavill? Check. Fallout may be number six in the Mission: Impossible franchise but it’s also the best, star Tom Cruise still fighting longer and harder than anyone else as super spy Ethan Hunt.
It may not be as well remembered as the eighties version of the famous Broadway musical but this more recent, bubbly take on Annie still has a lot to recommend it. The stars - Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx and eleven year old Quvenzhané Wallis - are all impressive whilst the new music by Sia works sweetly with old classics like ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’.
Revolutionary Road (2008)
Starring Leo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road feels like two actors deliberately moving on from their Titanic history as much as a careful drama about a marriage break-up in mid-50s. It’s all exquisitely done too; a heartbreaking portrait of a couple struggling with unachievable expectations and broken dreams.
What Men Want (2019)
The great Taraji P Henson from Hidden Figures stars in this gender swap reimagining of the old Mel Gibson rom-com What Women Want. As sports agent Ali she’s a female in a male world but a sudden ability to hear men’s thoughts changes everything. Some fun co-stars (Twilight’s Kellan Lutz, comedian Tracy Morgan and basketball hero Shaquille O’Neal) plus some decent laughs make this an enjoyably easy watch.
WATCH: Films coming to Netflix in 2021
The Meg (2018)
Sometimes only a dumb Jason Statham movie will hit the spot. And with The Meg you don’t just get The Stath at his snarliest, there’s also a prehistoric giant shark that pops up from the floor of the Pacific (obviously). Don’t watch it for scientific logic. Just enjoy the campy action.
Definitely Maybe (2008)
A cast that would go on to big things (Ryan Reynolds, Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Banks) lead this charming romance from the makers of Notting Hill. Reynolds plays Will, an ad man telling his young daughter all about his past loves - and it’s up to us to decide which of them might be her mum. It’s a long way from Deadpool but even back then Ryan had some serious charm.
28 Days (2000)
Sandra Bullock really gives it some in this under-appreciated story of an alcoholic writer who goes into rehab. It’s not heavy-going though, boasting that lightness of touch that you’d expect from Sandy, not to mention co-stars Dominic West and Viggo Mortensen keeping what could have been a depressing film full of charisma.
Now You See Me (2013)
Eisenberg! Harrelson! Fisher! Ruffalo! If the all-star cast doesn’t get you interested then the film’s plot - about a group of brilliant magicians pulling off jaw-dropping heists - should whet your appetite. It’s all ridiculous, of course. But it’s ridiculousness done with some serious style.
Jennifer Lawrence earned an Oscar nod for her role as real-life shopping channel entrepreneur Joy Mangano in what’s surely one of the more eccentric mainstream hits of recent years. That’s not to do it down though. J-Law once again radiates star quality while Joy’s rags-to-riches tale is an inspiring one.
Indecent Proposal (1993)
A real water-cooler movie from the naughty nineties this one, asking the big question ‘Would you sleep with a stranger for a million dollars?’ In this case it’s Robert Redford as the moneybags willing to stump up the cash, while Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson are the hard-up couple mulling the offer. Watching today, Indecent Proposal feels far from ‘woke’ but as a glossy snapshot of another era it’s irresistible.
The Green Mile (1999)
A Tom Hanks classic from the team behind The Shawshank Redemption. The running time might be an epic three hours but there’s so much going on in this story of a death row prison officer and the strange run of miracles he witnesses. Magic, mystery, love and spirituality - it’s all here. Unforgettable.
AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
The legendary Steven Spielberg wows again with this futuristic fantasy about a child android (Hayley Joel Osment) and the family who adopt him. The effects are jaw-dropping, of course, but it’s a flamboyant turn from Jude Law and the story’s warm heart that really stick with you.
News of the World (2021)
The ever-reliable Tom Hanks hits Netflix with the premiere of this moody Western about a Civil War veteran returning a long lost girl to her family. The great man is suitably heavyweight as Captain Jefferson Kidd of course, but it’s co-star Helena Zengel - just twelve years old and hailing from Germany - who’s already picking up the awards nominations. Majestic stuff.
To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021)
Lana Condor returns in the third and final part of the addictive teen trilogy, with her character LJ now facing up to life after high-school. A worthy conclusion to the series that’s turned Condor from a former ballet student into a ten-million-follower Instagram sensation.
Finding Ohana (2021)
If you grew up watch The Goonies then you’ll appreciate this new Netflix adventure that’s clearly influenced by the Spielberg classic. Plus, Hawaii’s island of Oahu looks stunning. Newcomer Kea Peahu and YouTuber Alex Aiono play the New York brother and sister rediscovering their roots in the South Pacific whilst also trying to track down hidden treasure.
Beyoncé stars in this Fatal Attraction-esque guilty pleasure, playing a wife suspicious of her hubby’s relationship with a co-worker. It’s cheesy for sure - plus, is Beyoncé ever going to be convincing playing someone called Sharon?! - but a delightfully smarmy turn from man-eater Ali Larter keeps things enjoyably trashy. Co-starring Idris Elba.
Bird on a Wire (1990)
Retro action fun starring Hollywood legends Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn as old flames reunited and on-the-run from corrupt crops and drug dealers. There’s a motorbike chase that still thrills whilst the chemistry between the two leads is packed with nineties sizzle.
The Debt (2010)
Jessica Chastain plays Israeli spy Rachel, working in sixties Berlin and on the hunt for a Nazi war criminal. But when her team’s plans go awry, they have to decide what to tell their bosses back home. Gripping political thrills, co-starring Dame Helen Mirren as an older Rachel trying to come to terms with her past life.
Late Night (2019)
The multi-talented Mindy Kaling co-writes and stars in this cheeky look at life behind-the-scenes of an American chat show - especially the atmosphere of sexism in the writers’ room. Mindy does nerdy enthusiasm brilliantly and casting the great Emma Thompson as out-of-touch show host Katherine Newbury is a masterstroke. Not every joke hits but Late Night is comedy with a conscience.
Captain Fantastic (2016)
You might just rethink how you live your life after watching this delightfully off-the-wall drama starring Viggo Mortensen. He plays Ben, an unconventional father of six who lives with his family out in the wilderness and off-the-grid. But when a tragedy means Ben has to head into the real world, his children’s outlook on life is changed forever. Unforgettable drama co-starring George McKay that was rightfully Oscar-nominated.
The Woman in Black (2012)
Daniel Radcliffe shed his Harry Potter cloak once and for all in this creepy chiller based on the classic novel by Susan Hill. As Victorian lawyer Arthur Kipps, Dan’s perfectly cast - a naïve city dweller sent out to the foggy marshlands of the North East to wind up the estate of a recently deceased widow. It’s no simple job though, with the ghost of a scorned local haunting his every moment. Prepare for jumps!
Mean Girls (2004)
The classic teen pic hits Netflix still feeling as fresh as it did all those years ago. The reason? The sparkling script by Tina Fey (who also co-stars) is a big help, loosely based on a high-school self-help book and full of cheeky insight into the lives of everyday adolescents. But the cast is a treat too, led by an innocent-looking Lindsay Lohan but brilliantly supported by future big stars Amanda Seyfried and Rachel McAdams. So fetch!
MORE: Mean Girls: where are the cast now?
Strip Down, Rise Up (2021)
An original Netflix films that celebrates women of all ages and backgrounds as they learn to celebrate their bodies through the art of pole-dancing. It’s a sensual past-time, yes, but it’s also great for mental and physical health - and that’s the eye-opening thing about this film. You’ll be ordering a pole for your lounge by the time the credits roll.
Magic Mike (2012)
The film that spawned a sequel and stage-show features a career-high turn from Channing Tatum as the hunky builder who alternates bricks and cement with Prosecco and whipped cream, working as a stripper. It’s not just about the pecs though. This is also a look at big dreams and showbiz nightmares, with Matthew McConaughey at his laconic best playing strip-club boss Dallas. You’ll never be able to hear Ginuwine’s track ‘Pony’ in quite the same way again.
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
An early internet sensation this one, Snakes on a Plane is the ultimate ‘does what it says on the tin’ movie, with Samuel L Jackson taking no-nonsense when his flight gets overrun with a bunch of pythons and rattlesnakes. It’s certainly not art but watch it in the right mood and you’ll be laughing as much as squirming.
In the Line of Fire (1993)
Tough guy legend Clint Eastwood showed the youngsters how to do it in this nineties hit about a presidential bodyguard protecting his boss from a potential killer (menacingly played by John Malkovich.) Some of it may look dated but there’s still no-one out there quite like Clint; strong, silent and focused. Tense and thrilling.
La La Land (2016)
The awards season may be a whole lot different this year but it’s still a good time to revisit winners from the past, like this musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as Los Angeles performers looking for their big break. Sure there’s been a backlash since its release but you can’t deny the polish and emotion of this hipster love story, including a powerful payoff that may well just break your heart. Unforgettable.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
It was nice to see Kate Hudson happily reference this noughties hit in a recent magazine interview. Why? Well it might be cheesy - this is a Matthew McConaughey rom-com after all - but there’s a genuine chemistry on show between Matt and Kate that most love stories would dream of, not to mention a strong supporting cast (you’ve got to love Kathryn Hahn). Certainly nothing to he embarrassed about.
Filling this movie adaptation of the old lifeguard TV show with jokes might not have been the best idea (especially when the jokes aren’t that great) but as the plot kicks in, this new incarnation of Baywatch just about does what we all wanted it do: show off beautiful people (Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra) in beautiful surroundings (Emerald Bay, Florida). If that’s not an easy tonic for a cold British winter in lockdown then I don’t know what is.
Stirring stuff featuring Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman as members of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the North’s first African-American unit in the American Civil War. The visuals are rich, the music is majestic and Denzel rightly won his first Oscar for his turn as the heroic Private Silas Trip.
The Dig (2021)
Ralph Fiennes soars yet again in this true story of Anglo Saxon treasure uncovered in 1940s Suffolk and the man whose quiet genius inspired its excavation. Basil Brown might have been looked down on by the archaeology elite but, with the help of local landowner Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan), his discovery has been described as one of the greatest finds of all time. Uplifting stuff.
Penguin Bloom (2021)
In need of some feelgood? Naomi Watts and Andrew Lincoln star in this adaptation of the bestselling book about a paralysed mother and how looking after an injured magpie chick helps her own recovery. Full of heart, this one. It’s also been a number one hit in its native Australia.
The Hangover (2009)
Some of the jokes might now feel like they’re from a different era (plus Bradley Cooper quickly moved on from being mere eye candy) but there’s a reason why The Hangover is still one of the biggest comedies of all time. Hilariously eccentric and entirely unpredictable, here’s a film about the ultimate bachelor party that’s unafraid to be big, bad and bonkers. Look out for that tiger!
A groundbreaking teen movie that breathed new life into Jane Austen rom-coms by switching the action of her novel Emma from Regency England to nineties Beverly Hills. It was also the film that (briefly) made Alicia Silverstone the hottest young star in Hollywood but it’s Paul Rudd (playing her ex step-brother Josh) who’s had the real longevity. And yes, he hasn’t changed a bit. 97 minutes of joy.
From back in the day when director Guy Ritchie was first linked to Madonna (there’s even a little bit of her song ‘Lucky Star’ featured in the film), Snatch has all the ingredients that made Guy an A-List filmmaker: guns, gags, style and (Jason) Statham. As a sign of his growing reputation, he also signed up Brad Pitt (plus his abs) to play bare-knuckle boxer ‘One Punch’ Mickey O’Neil - a wickedly funny turn in a wickedly funny film.
Gaga: Five Foot Two (2017)
The music icon blasted into 2021 with a belting performance at the inauguration of Joe Biden as US President but this documentary goes back to the recording and release of her fifth album Joanne, still her most personal record and the moment when a pop star blossomed into a true artist.
Out of Sight (1998)
George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez were the coolest kids on the block when this super-chic crime pic was released at the end of the nineties. It’s aged well too, boasting off-the-scale chemistry between the two leads (as a charming robber and an uptight cop) and an edgy style that’s been often copied but rarely equalled. Prepare yourself for one of the steamiest seduction scenes in movie history, too!
The Duff (2017)
One of the best teen movies of recent years sees high-schooler Bianca (Mae Whitman) discover that she’s seen as a Designated Ugly Fat Friend by her classmates, leading to her plotting revenge. Bad girl Bella Thorne co-stars as twelfth-grade diva Madison but it’s Alison Janney, as Bianca’s mum, who steals scenes. It’s funny, of course, but there’s also an important message too: be yourself, because everyone else is taken.
West Side Story (1961)
In normal times we’d have already enjoyed Steven Spielberg’s new big-screen version of this classic musical by now. Coronavirus, alas, had other ideas (it’s now due out this Christmas). On the plus side, this original is still well worth a watch - an epic snapshot of immigrant gangs in New York that riffs on Romeo & Juliet as well as boasting umpteen singalong treats, such as ‘Somewhere’ and ‘I Feel Pretty’.
The White Tiger (2021)
Based on the bestselling novel from 2008, this is the fabulously colourful tale of Balram, a lowly boy in rural India who, over many years, works his way up from servant to boss. If you love a Dickens-type story, full of comedy, social comment and wonderfully vivid characters, check this out. Major Bollywood player Priyanka Chopra Jonas co-stars but its lead actor Adarsh Gourav who really wows.
One of the best teen films of recent years, this. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever play geeky besties out to party during their final few days of high-school - with surprising results. Open-minded, inclusive and (crucially) very funny, Booksmart also marks the directing debut of actress Olivia Wilde.
Whitney: Can I Be Me? (2016)
With February marking the ninth anniversary of her untimely death, Can I Be Me? offers a fascinating insight into the star’s troubled private life as well as celebrating that unique talent and powerful voice which led to Whitney becoming the most awarded female performer of all time.
The irrepressible Amy Schumer writes and stars in this not-for-kids comedy about a hard-partying writer who may just be falling in love for the first time. Bill Hader, Brie Larson and John Cena co-star (the former wrestler’s bedroom scene with Amy is something else!) but it’s a wickedly OTT Tilda Swinton, as magazine boss Dianna, who grabs all the best lines.
Young Victoria (2009)
Category: Costume Drama
If you’ve gorged on ‘The Crown’ and loaded up on ‘Bridgerton’, why not wallow in this fellow period drama starring the peerless Emily Blunt as Britain’s iconic 19th-century monarch? Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent also feature in this biopic penned by ‘Downton Abbey’ creator Julian Fellowes - and which rightly won an Oscar for its sumptuous costumes.
The Judge (2014)
Outside of his turns as Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr teamed up with Hollywood heavyweight Robert Duvall for this gripping drama about a hotshot lawyer defending his estranged father on a case of second-degree murder. It might boast some clichéd moments but watching the two Roberts slugging it out in a courtroom is a joy.
WATCH: Netflix's 2021 film highlights
An almost forgotten sci-fi thriller featuring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kinglsey that gets past its ridiculous premise - a dying billionaire transfers his consciousness into a young man’s body - with flashy visuals and a never-less-than-appealing turn from the future Deadpool star.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013)
Another jaw-dropping slice of Japanese animation, this tells the fairytale of a young girl discovered in a bamboo shoot who grows up to be a princess. Based on an ancient legend, this is dreamy, magical stuff - as much for adults as it is for children. It’s also the most expensive Japanese film of all time.
Boy Erased (2018)
The heartbreaking true story of a young man given an ultimatum by his religious parents: attend a gay conversion therapy program or be cast out by the family. A sensitively handled drama with spot-on performances from Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe.
British-born David Oyelowo shines in this gutsy and gripping drama based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches in the US, led by - among others - legendary activist Martin Luther King Jr. Produced by Oprah Winfrey.
Don’t know anything about baseball? Fear not. This true story of Oakland Athletics coach Billy Beane and his groundbreaking method of building a team is exciting even for those of us who can barely understand rounders. Brad Pitt stars - giving one of his most electric performances - plus there’s Jonah Hill as his brainbox assistant manager Peter Brand, proving there’s way more to the Superbad actor than comedy.
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