Unsure what films to watch? Fear not. James King is back with his latest Netflix movie recommendations for May, featuring classics new and old plus some hidden gems we think you’ll love. Happy viewing!
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Octavia Spencer excels in this creepy tale of a lonely woman who befriends a group of party hungry teens. Is she all that she seems? Considering this is from the same people who made such awesome chillers as Get Out, The Purge and The Invisible Man, that’s not very likely is it. Delightfully unhinged.
WATCH: Octavia Spencer stars in Ma
The Woman in the Window (2021)
A lot has been written about all the delays and changes this Amy Adams movie has suffered (it was originally due to come out in October 2019) and it’s true that eighteen months later, it doesn’t come with the quite the buzz that the filmmakers would have liked. Nevertheless, with a cast that also includes Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, Julianne Moore and Jennifer Jason Leigh it’s still an enjoyably daft riff on old-school Hitchcock thrillers.
What would happen if a superhero decided to use their powers for evil rather than good? Brightburn has the answer, darkly twisting a Superman-style story with a macabre glee. Great to see Elizabeth Banks in there too.
Dad’s Army (2016)
Rebooting the classic BBC sitcom was never going to please everyone but a pitch-perfect cast including Toby Jones, Bill Nighy, Blake Harrison and a scene-stealing Catherine Zeta-Jones manage to both pay tribute to the original show as well as giving the characters their own spin. Don’t panic, Captain Mainwaring! This is great fun.
Shutter Island (2010)
With photos doing the rounds of Leo Di Caprio in his new film for legendary director Martin Scorsese (Killers of the Flower Moon, filming now), why not revisit one of their earlier collaborations - the brilliantly twisty Shutter Island? Leo plays Deputy US Marshal Teddy Daniels, a fifties cop investigating the disappearance of patient at a strange psychiatric facility.
Hope Springs (2012)
Meryl Streep being shouty and imposing is great but she’s also awesome in more gentle fare, like this sweet comedy about a long-married couple (Meryl and Tommy Lee Jones) looking to reignite the spark in their relationship. Time for a visit to Dr Bernie Field (Steve Carrell) in his coastal counselling retreat. Classy stuff.
Baby Driver (2017)
Mind-blowing car chases and big money heists elevate this cheeky action pic starring Ansel Elgort as a getaway driver dreaming of his escaping his life of crime. The fast and furious soundtrack rocks too, with title character Baby plugged into his music wherever he goes. Jamie Foxx, Lily James and Jon Hamm co-star.
Remember when Beyoncé was a movie star? This might not have been her best film (that title probably goes to the glittery musical Dreamgirls) but Obsessed is an enjoyably schlocky take on Fatal Attraction that sees her battling bad girl Lisa (Ali Larter) - an unbalanced office worker who’s caught the eye of B’s hubby Derek (Idris Elba).
Travel back to the eighties with this cult fantasy flick starring Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert, featuring a blazing rock soundtrack by Queen. Highlander might not quite be the ‘Kind of Magic’ that Freddie and the boys sung about but its story of immortal warriors meeting in 1985 New York for the ultimate showdown is flashy fun. Keep an eye out for the great Celia Imrie (Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, Calendar Girls, Bridget Jones) in an unlikely supporting role!
The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)
A family-friendly Netflix smash from the genius team behind Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Into the Spiderverse. The plot? A dysfunctional family on a road trip find themselves in the unlikely position of having to defend the earth from invading robots. In amongst all that craziness though is a film with genuine heart, as likely to bring a lump to your throat as make you chuckle. Awesome.
Men in Black International (2019)
This recent reboot might not have been a hit like its Will Smith predecessors but with Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson as the new leads - plus Rebecca Ferguson, Emma Thompson and Kumail Nanjiani - this fourth film about the top secret agents still has plenty to recommend it. In fact, it’s probably a fresher film than MiB2 or MiB3, despite reports of a troubled production. I really miss that original theme song though...
Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist (2021)
Heartwarming, if rather brief, celebration of the late actor (so electric in Netflix’s recent jazz-era drama Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) featuring friends and colleagues.
The Hulk (2008)
Ed Norton stars as Dr Bruce Banner in this unjustly forgotten take on the Hulk tale, released four years before Mark Ruffalo took on the role with much greater fanfare. The story sees Bruce hiding out in Rio, searching for a cure for his condition, until a spilled drop of blood alerts the authorities to his whereabouts. Enter Tim Roth as surly soldier Emil Blonsky, intent on capturing similar powers to the green giant.
The Equalizer (2014)
The ever-watchable Denzel Washington is at his most intense in this reboot of the old eighties TV show about a former marine and intelligence officer, persuaded back into work after the disappearance of a young girl that he befriends one night in a Boston diner. Brutal, yes - but with a class act like Denzel at the helm this is way more than just another revenge movie.
The Overnight (2015)
Hilariously cheeky comedy starring Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling as a couple who find their new neighbours rather more ‘friendly’ than they’d anticipated. Not one for the kids to watch but The Overnight is made by people smart enough to know when to drawn the line too. Funny stuff.
Wild Things (1998)
Steamy, Southern-set drama about two high-schoolers (Denise Richards and Neve Campbell) who set-up their guidance counsellor (Matt Dillon), only for an inquisitive detective (Kevin Bacon) to start asking questions. Forget the dodgy sequels, this original still has the power to shock - as well as be shamelessly entertaining.
Saint Frances (2020)
One of the best films of last year tells the story of drifting Chicago girl Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) and how her life changes when she lands a job as nanny to precocious six year old Frances (Ramona Edith Williams). It’s a warts-and-all look at thirty-something life but be prepared - you’ll laugh and cry too. Beautiful.
Falling Down (1993)
One of the most talked about films of the nineties, this. Why? Michael Douglas’ role as lonely William Foster, a man who can take no more of modern life, captured an audience similarly frustrated by the pace of the world around them. The result is a haunting, hard-hitting look at a day in Foster’s life when tensions boil over, leading to an unforgettable finale. A controversial classic.
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Hilarious, heartbreaking and hugely inventive, this Elton John biopic is a singalong riot - much like the great man himself. A movie about the former Reg Dwight should never be predictable and that’s Rocketman’s strength. We might know the story but this a film so full of fantasy and magic it always keeps you gripped. Plus, Taron Egerton is flawless as the title character.
School of Rock (2003)
It was a big hit back in the day and it’s great to see Jack Black’s greatest role - as substitute music teacher Dewey Finn - ride a new wave of popularity thanks to some recent love on social media. Yes, the music kicks but so do the emotions. Away from the jokes this is a heartwarming story of being proud of who you are.
J-Lo and The Statham in a movie together? Yep, it happened eight years ago with this enjoyably silly thriller about a professional thief and an estate agent (!), teaming up to defeat the bad guys. Jenny and Jase might have zero chemistry together but there’s still enough tension to keep this above average, with awesome stunts all done by Statham himself.
Tamara Drewe (2010)
The great Gemma Arterton wows once again as the seductive title character in this cheeky comedy, playing a London journalist returning to her Dorset home and causing havoc at a local writer’s retreat. Based on a long-running newspaper comic strip, Tamara Drewe is Bridget Jones with a literary twist. Dominic Cooper, Luke Evans and Tamsin Greig co-star.
The Italian Job (2003)
The 1960s original (starring Michael Caine) is a British classic so the idea of remaking The Italian Job in America was always going to frustrate some people. Nevertheless, this isn’t bad. Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron star, playing criminal masterminds out to steal gold bullion from their enemies, but it’s the car chases (featuring modern day Minis) that really wow.
Burn After Reading (2008)
All hail Frances McDormand, recent recipient of her third Leading Actress Oscar for an inspiring turn in the gorgeous Nomadland. Here she is in more comical mode, featuring alongside Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton and George Clooney - as well as being directed by husband Joel Coen - in a crazy tale of gym instructors who discover secret CIA files. As bonkers as it sounds... and laugh-out-loud funny.
Angels & Demons (2009)
The best of the three Dan Brown adaptations starring Tom Hanks as Harvard art boffin Robert Langdon, mainly because of a deliciously ripe turn from Ewan McGregor as Vatican bigwig (and former helicopter pilot) Father McKenna. Is the story of secret codes all nonsense? Probably. But Hanks and his cast sure know how to make this kind of nonsense irresistibly watchable.
Eagle Eye (2008)
Long before his well-publicised problems, Shia LaBoeuf was Hollywood’s hottest young leading man, as shown in this hyperactive blockbuster that pits two seemingly regular people against mysterious surveillance technology that knows their every move. Michelle Monaghan and Bill Bob Thornton provide excellent support.
Liar Liar (1997)
Jim Carrey was at the peak of his comedic and box-office power in this story of a sleazy lawyer cursed to spend a day telling only the truth. The jokes might not be clever but they are certainly big, plus there’s Princess Bride star Cary Elwes being wonderfully smarmy as Jim’s love rival Jerry.
The ever watchable Anna Kendrick and Toni Collette star in the creepy tale of a Mars-bound spaceship and an on-board stowaway who threatens the crew’s survival. Expect breathtaking visuals, moral dilemmas and a haunting soundtrack.
Love & Monsters (2021)
Maze Runner star Dylan O’Brien leads this enjoyably cheeky tale of a young man searching for his high-school crush in the aftermath of a ‘Monsterpocalypse’. Whilst it would have been great to see this on the big screen, as originally intended, this is still lot of fun (with great special effects). If you enjoyed Zombieland, give it a go.
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WATCH: Love and Monsters trailer
My Octopus Teacher (2020)
This Oscar-favourite is bound to warm your heart, telling the true story of filmmaker Craig Foster and the bond he forms with a young octopus on his diving expeditions off the coast of South Africa. Ten years in the making, here’s a film that asks us to reevaluate our own relationships with nature, boasting some stunning underwater photography along the way.
The Mask (1994)
Long before superhero movies were the norm, Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz (in her breakthrough role) starred in this comic-book adaptation about a hapless bank clerk who discovers a magical mask. With a swinging soundtrack and zany FX, The Mask might be old but it’s still smmmokin’!
Inside Man (2006)
Powerhouse performances from Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster and Clive Owen fuel this cracking thriller about a cop, a robber and a fixer all involved in a New York bank heist. The plot might be verging on the ridiculous but with this much wit and style, who cares?!
Last Breath (2019)
The edge-of-your-seat true story of diver Chris Lemons who, back in 2012, was trapped 100 metres under the sea without heat or light, and with only a small amount of oxygen to keep him alive. It’s the stuff of nightmares, yes, but this is also an exhilarating and life-affirming piece of film-making.
Fancy a bit of nineties cheese? Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Robert de Niro and William Baldwin star in this action-packed blockbuster about the life and loves of Chicago firefighters, complete with dramatic rescues, shouty drama and a shameless love scene on top of a firetruck. They don’t make them like this anymore.
Wuthering Heights (2011)
Kaya Scodelario plays legendary literary character Cathy Earnshaw in this mean and moody adaptation of the Emily Brontë classic. Shot in the North Yorkshire moors and featuring songs by Mumford & Sons, this earthy take on the romance between Cathy and Heathcliff (James Howson) was a little too downbeat for some but perhaps gets closer to the grittiness of the book than previous versions.
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Hollywood legend Danny De Vito directs and stars in this take on the Roald Dahl book, made fifteen years before the stage musical wowed audiences worldwide. Nineties child star Mara Wilson plays the title character, a book-loving genius who uses her special powers to get her own back on those who’ve mistreated her. The result? Wickedly eccentric fun.
Charming animated film about the mysterious Yeti, with Channing Tatum, Zendaya, Common and Danny DeVito voicing a group of the mythical Himalayan creatures whose world is turned upside down by arrival of a hapless documentary maker (James Corden). Cute.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Did you know this spring is the twentieth anniversary of Renée Zellweger first pulling on Bridget’s big knickers? Naturally some moments feel dated and we can only imagine how Miss Jones would deal with today’s world of dating apps. Overall though, this remains a romantic comedy classic with killer lines, dashing suitors (Colin Firth and Hugh Grant) and a smart understanding of singleton life.
Fed up with dumb fantasy films? Arrival is the extra-terrestrial puzzler with brains and beauty that you need in your life. Amy Adams plays a linguist hired by authorities to communicate with visiting UFOs, eventually discovering that these aliens have an important message for the world. Stunning.
Angelina Jolie’s career as a director is less celebrated than her acting but with Unbroken - the true story of 2nd World War prisoner and eventual Olympian Louis Zamperini - she more than proves herself behind the camera. Tough but uplifting, prepare to be wowed by a gutsy leading performance from Jack O’Connell.
With Britain’s Riz Ahmed currently winning plaudits for his stellar turn in Sound of Metal, here’s a chance to see him in supporting mode alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo in a cult classic. Ever wondered how American TV news crews are always so quick to the scene of every incident? Nightcrawler has the gripping - and disturbing - answer.
The Strangers (2008)
Atmosphere-packed chiller starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as a couple whose holiday home is invaded by a trio of masked criminals. Why? The answer might just give you some sleepless nights.
Groundbreaking British teen movie from the pen of Noel Clarke (who also stars). Fifteen years old it may be but Kidulthood is still a fast and furious snapshot of a West London youth culture rarely seen before on screen. Explosive stuff.
Hearts in Atlantis (2001)
Starring Anthony Hopkins - now the oldest actor to ever win a leading BAFTA (for his performance in the heartbreaking The Father) - Hearts in Atlantis is a gently eerie Stephen King adaptation about a man with psychic powers featuring plenty of twists. Co-starring Hope Davis and the late Anton Yelchin.
The Change-Up (2011)
From a time when ‘lad comedies’ were all the rage (see also: The Hangover, Wedding Crashers, Superbad), The Change-Up still manages to exude charm largely thanks to its two stars: comedy maestros Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman. In true Freaky Friday-style they play chalk-and-cheese best mates who magically body swap after a night on the town.
Thunder Force (2021)
Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer send-up superhero movies as two average women who accidentally get injected with special powers. Don’t expect this to be an awards frontrunner but Melissa and Octavia - plus co-stars Jason Bateman and Bobby Cannavale - know how to milk laughs for all they’re worth. Perfect for anyone who thinks comic book films have gotten a little too serious of late.
The ever-awesome Sarah Paulson (last seen in the Netflix smash series Ratched) stars as the over-protective mother of 17-year old Chloe (Kiera Allen), still guilt-ridden for giving birth to her daughter prematurely. Imagine a mix of Room and Misery, as Chloe desperately tries to escape her mother’s chilling clinginess.
A Star is Born (2018)
Bradley Cooper proves he’s not just a pretty face by directing, producing, co-writing and starring in this latest update of the classic rags-to-riches story. Playing fading rockstar Jackson Maine, Brad’s a brilliantly beardy bundle of insecurities but it’s female lead Lady Gaga who really hit the headlines. As Jack’s muse and lover, it’s a heartbreaking turn from the former Stefani Germanotta which led to an Oscar nomination for her acting and a win for belting out the breathtaking ballad ‘Shallow’.
Sixty Six (2006)
With a cast like this - Helena Bonham-Carter, Eddie Marsan, Catherine Tate - the signs were always good for Sixty Six and it doesn’t disappoint. Telling the story of 12-year Bernie, looking forward to his bar-mitzvah but also knowing it clashes with England’s legendary World Cup final, this is a nostalgic British family comedy full of loveable eccentrics.
Concrete Cowboy (2021)
Strong new Netflix outing from producer/actor Idris Elba, about a teenage boy who leaves his home in Detroit to stay with his estranged father in Philadelphia, falling in with a crowd of city cowboys once he’s there. Sometimes traditional, sometimes surprising (who knew about city cowboys?), this is a great father/son watch about the importance of family bonds and brotherhood.
Love Story (1970)
Over fifty years old it may be, but Love Story wasn’t a cultural phenomenon back in the seventies for nothing. Its Romeo & Juliet-style college romance is impeccably played by retro icons Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal whilst the fashions are still a blueprint for preppy style. If you enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars and The Notebook, this is where it all began.
The Game (1997)
Brilliantly bonkers edge-of-your-seat drama starring Michael Douglas as a lonely millionaire given the ultimate gift by his brother (Sean Penn): to become the star of his own made-to-measure adventure. Questions of what’s real and what’s all part of the game will keep you guessing whilst the film’s moody style makes for an enjoyably nightmarish couple of hours.
Hope Springs (2012)
Deliciously cheeky laugher starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as a long-married couple looking to reignite the fireworks in their love life. Enter Steve Carell as Dr Bernie, a relationship therapist ready to help - if they can only open up to him... and each other.
The concept is an odd one - an interplanetary traveller wakes up early from space hibernation and falls in love with one of his still-sleeping shipmates - but with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as the two leads, Passengers patches over its many plotholes with sheer star power and glossy production values. Look out for regular scene-stealer Michael Sheen too, as the spacecraft’s on-board android barman (yes, you read that right).
Molly’s Game (2017)
Another flawless performance from Jessica Chastain headlines this explosive true story. Playing Molly Bloom, a former world-class skier who starts up underground - and hugely illegal - high-stakes poker games for Hollywood celebrities, JC is a force to be reckoned with. No wonder her turn earned multiple awards nods. Kevin Costner, Idris Elba and Michael Cera co-star.
Headline-hitting investigation into marine pollution and over-fishing that uncovers big scandals within the industry. Some of its claims may have been disputed but this is nevertheless seriously eye-opening, understandably earning it a place as the hottest documentary on Netflix right now.
The Imitation Game (2014)
With heroic 2nd World War code-breaker Alan Turing the new face of Britain’s fifty pound note, now’s the ideal time to revisit this much-loved biopic about his life - and the shocking treatment he received for being gay. Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley star.
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (2020)
A deserved Oscar nominee this one, highlighting the groundbreaking work of Camp Jened - a New York State centre for young people with disabilities, set up in the seventies. With its hippyish laidback attitude, Camp Jened was at the forefront of equality campaigning in the era, as a host of awesome archive footage shows. Plus the film’s produced by a couple you might have heard of: Michelle and Barack Obama.
Whilst we never did get to see the fourth part of this YA sci-fi series (which would have been called Ascendent but was scrapped for financial reasons) the first three are all available on Netflix and still worth a look. Divergent sets things up - Tris is a teenager in post-apocalyptic Chicago - whilst sequels Insurgent and Allegiant see her battle the authorities and escape her roots. Shailene Woodley stars, with Kate Winslet particularly nasty as cold-hearted leader Jeanine.
Seven Pounds (2008)
Bizarre but watchable Will Smith movie about a mysterious man determined to help seven strangers. Playing it much more subdued than usual, Big Will is charm personified although it’s co-star Rosario Dawson who steals scenes. You’ll have questions for sure, but there’s something oddly intriguing about this story of romance and redemption.
Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are chalk-and-cheese brothers who both enter a Mixed Martial Arts contest... and you can probably guess the rest. But Warrior still has plenty to offer. Yes, it’s often brutal yet there’s real human drama at the centre of it all, so even if you don’t cheer at the fight scenes you’ll find yourself weeping at the soppy bits.
Behind the Candelabra (2013)
A magnificent Michael Douglas plays camp-as-Christmas sixties superstar Liberace, a piano-playing heartthrob whose private life was as colourful as his clothing. Both Michael and co-star Matt Damon are acting against type - one is unusually fancy and flamboyant, the other goes blonde for his role as Liberace’s teenage lover Scott. Yet despite being full of the kitsch and comical, Behind the Candelabra is also a heartbreaking love story set in a time without so many of today’s freedoms.
Wild Bill (2011)
Not many people saw this British drama starring Will Poulter and Andy Serkis but that’s their loss. Directed by former actor Dexter Fletcher - who’s since made the smash-hit Rocketman - Wild Bill is an East End gangster pic with strong performances and a big, big heart.
Eighth Grade (2018)
Wonderfully awkward coming-of-age tale from influencer and comedian Bo Burnham, telling the story of young teen Kayla (a superb Elsie Fisher) and her hilariously painful attempts to hang out with the cool kids. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel as if you’re thirteen again.
Cast Away (2000)
One of Tom Hanks’ finest - and that’s saying something - Castaway is the eye-opening epic that saw him stranded on a remote island after a plane crash with only a volleyball for a friend. Altogether now: ‘Wilson!’
Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise deliver the goods in this dark drama about an LA cab driver and his mysterious passenger. Cruise plays the bad guy for once (with grey hair for added shock value) but it’s the late night moodiness of the story, all streetlights and sultry soundtrack, that really wows.
Death Becomes Her (1992)
A cheeky cult classic starring Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn as rival showbiz queens searching for eternal youth, whatever the down sides. The special effects were groundbreaking at the time and still have the power to dazzle, while the story’s tongue-in-cheek humour is still popular enough to have been honoured in an episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Camp heaven!
An all-star cast - De Niro, Pitt, Bacon and Hoffman - lead this gripping, often gruesome, exposé of life in a New York young offenders’ institute back in the sixties. Flash forward thirteen years and the boys spot a way to get revenge on the guards who once tortured them.
In the Name of the Father (1993)
The late, great Pete Postlethwaite steals scenes even from Daniel Day-Lewis in this true story of four people wrongly accused of a pub bombing back in 1974. Day-Lewis went fully method, of course, to play the falsely imprisoned Gerry Conlon but Postlethwaite’s grit and determination as his father is the heart and soul of the film.
Netflix ups its Shrek game even more by adding the original movie about an ogre with an attitude to its service. And if you can’t get enough there’s Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, Shrek Forever After, Shrek the Musical, Shrek Stories and the fabulously furry spin-off Puss in Boots to enjoy too.
The Time Traveller’s Wife (2009)
The novel by Audrey Niffenegger sold millions but this movie version has always been a bit underrated in my opinion. It’s certainly not the easiest story to tell: a man with a rare genetic disorder which allows him to travel through time battles to save his relationship. Yet easy-going stars Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams keep even the most ridiculous plot twists sweetly enjoyable.
A nineties blockbuster classic starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as soon-to-be-divorced storm-chasers, battling a monster tornado - and flying cows! - in rural Oklahoma. You’ll never complain about a bit of a breeze again.
Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins and Gary Oldman sparkle in this black and white tale of real-life Hollywood screenwriter Herman J ‘Mank’ Mankiewicz, the troubled genius behind classic movie Citizen Kane. The recreation of 1930s LA is spot-on, whilst fans of old-school film star glamour won’t be disappointed either. A perfect 130 minutes for the cinema obsessive in your family.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Such was the success of this adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s novel there’s not just one but two sequels currently in development. What makes it so special? Watching Crazy Rich Asians is like watching your favourite reality show. It’s all fabulous clothes, flashy houses and fast cars. That might mean that there’s not exactly a lot of depth in this story of poor girl and rich boy but a cast including Constance Wu, Gemma Chan and Henry Golding pitch the laughs perfectly.
From the producers of Girls’ Trip and Night School comes this likeable twist on classic body-swap comedy Big. Regina Hall stars as hard-nosed businesswoman Jordan Sanders, magically transformed back into her 13-year-old self as a way to remind her that kindness achieves way more than bullying.
The Nun (2018)
Another entry in the The Conjuring franchise of spine-tinglers, The Nun goes back to 1950s rural Romania for this chilling tale of a demonic presence in a monastery. Don’t concern yourself too much with the story’s logic - just enjoy the spooky setting (much of the film was shot in actual Transylvania) and creepy performance from American actor Bonnie Aarons as the petrifying title character.
Into the Wild (2007)
Legendary actor Sean Penn is behind the camera for the unforgettable true story of Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch), a recent graduate who decides to escape the rat race and live as a nomad in the American wilderness. Both inspirational and heartbreaking, it’s easy to see why Into the Wild - both the film and the book on which it’s based - have become cult classics. With a haunting soundtrack by rocker Eddie Vedder, this is pure movie poetry.
Steel Magnolias (1989)
Julia Roberts! Dolly Parton! Shirley MacLaine! If that doesn’t whet your appetite for Steel Magnolias, a witty and weepy look at the lives of a handful of Louisiana women, then nothing will. Perfect for Sunday afternoon viewing with a Mint Julep in one hand and a tissue in the other.
The Lucky One (2012)
Zac Efron stars in yet another adaptation of a cheesily charming Nicholas Sparks novel (The Notebook and Dear John were also his), packed with beautiful bodies, tender romance and gorgeous scenery. The Lucky One sees former marine Zac track down the sister of a dead colleague, after falling in love with her from just a photo. Hmmm...
American Pie: Reunion (2012)
The gang’s all back - Jim, Michelle, Jim’s Dad, Stifler’s Mom - in this fun catch-up with the former naughty teenagers, now trying to be responsible adults. Some of the gags might be questionable (although one about the Spice Girls is painfully spot-on) but just like the old days, it’s the charm of the cast that wins you over. With Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Eugene Levy and Jennifer Coolidge.
The Town (2010)
Before he was Batman, Ben Affleck was carving out an intriguing career as director, including helming this gritty and gripping drama starring Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Blake Lively and Ben himself. Set in Affleck’s beloved Boston, The Town sees a bank robbing quartet plan one final job at the same time as dealing with a witness who knows their identity.
Yes Day (2021)
Jennifer Garner produces and stars in this Netflix adaptation of the popular children’s book about parents who give their kids twenty four hours of being in charge. What could possibly go wrong? Apparently Jen was so inspired by the story that she’s given her own little ones a few ‘Yes Days’ this past year, although none thankfully none were as eventful as the movie’s. Sprightly, family fun.
Pet Sematary (2019)
The Stephen King classic has already had one movie version, back in the eighties, but this even darker take is far superior. Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz star as a couple who move to a remote house in New England, surrounded by mysterious woods. Big mistake. Cue lots of strange occurrences and weird dreams, plus the legendary John Lithgow. A prequel’s on the way, too.
Now with a slew of BAFTA nominations to its name, it’s worth giving this energetic and life-affirming British drama another push. Newcomer Bukky Bakray stars as determined London teen Olushola, forced to fend for herself and her younger brother when her mum unexpectedly leaves. Thankfully she’s got a gang of female friends to help her. An electrifying must-watch.
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Blinded by the Light (2019)
The inspirational songs of Bruce Springsteen prove a lifeline for teenager Javed in eighties Luton, despite his Pakistani family not being quite so keen on The Boss. The singalong scenes are the obvious highlights in this likeable coming-of-age tale, based on the memoir by Sarfraz Mansoor, but there’s an important social punch too. From filmmaker Gurinder Chadha, director of Bend It Like Beckham.
Trial By Fire (2018)
The peerless Laura Dern plays justice campaigner Elizabeth Gilbert in this true story of Texan father Cameron Willingham (Jack O’Connell), wrongly convicted of killing his family. Another weighty legal drama might not be everyone’s cup of tea right now but there’s an urgency to Trial By Fire that will keep you hooked even in the bleakest moments.
The Sisters Brothers (2018)
A heavyweight cast - Joaquin Phoenix, John C Reilly, Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal - ignite this enjoyably eccentric nineteenth-century drama about hitmen travelling across the Wild West. Ignore the fact that this flopped at the cinema. The Sisters Brothers is full of emotional moments and thrilling surprises.
From before the days when Netflix made its own romantic comedies, Hitch is big-name Hollywood fluff at its most easy-to-watch. Will Smith is the title character, a so-called ‘love doctor’ who’s great at sorting other people’s love lives, not so much his own. Until, that is, he meets workaholic reporter Sara (Eva Mendes).
Wine Country (2019)
If you’ve enjoyed Amy Poehler’s latest film, Moxie, on Netflix recently then why not give Wine Country a try too? She not only stars in it but directs and produces too, not to mention coming up with the story of a group of friends heading out to California’s Napa Valley to celebrate a 50th birthday. Sweet rather than laugh-out-loud, Wine Country is nevertheless a consistently smart celebration of female friendships, featuring Amy’s real-life pals Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph.
Just Friends (2005)
Another early Ryan Reynolds comedy from before his time as an A-Lister, Just Friends sees the future Deadpool in layers of latex, playing overweight high-schooler Chris who has a secret crush on his best friend Jamie (Amy Smart). Fast forward twenty years and Chris now looks like a superhero - but has he left it too late to woo Jamie? Cheeky, silly and hilarious.
Sparkling new teen film directed by and co-starring Amy Poehler, about high-schooler Vivian and the feminist fanzine that she secretly starts up. Amy is hilariously embarrassing as Vivian’s mom - although she’s not without activist tendencies herself - whilst the highs and lows of teenage life are perfectly captured. Fans of Mean Girls will love it.
Marriage Story (2019)
Scarlett Johansson gives her best ever performance in this relationship drama but be prepared for tears. This highly emotional look at the minutiae of a divorce will likely leave you reaching for your Kleenex. Adam Driver, as Scarlett’s soon-to-be ex-husband, gives an unforgettable performance too although it’s Laura Dern, as a high-heeled lawyer with some serious attitude, that won an Oscar.
Recent Golden Globe winner John Boyega delivers the goods as a security guard caught up in the real life 12th Street Riot in Detroit, Michigan, back in 1967. There might be multiple storylines but the tension never falters for the whole 140 minutes. So whilst this was an unexpected flop when released at the cinema, don’t let it pass you by on the small screen.
Paradise Lost (2006)
Missing your annual holiday? This gory thriller starring Melissa George might change your mind, telling the story of backpackers who think they’ve found their ideal vacation spot in Brazil, only to discover its very dark secret. Not for the squeamish.
A laugh-out-loud spoof of UFO obsessives and sci-fi nerds, Paul sees real-life best mates Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as space geeks forced to deal with a foul-mouthed alien (voiced by Seth Rogen) who they discover out in the American wilderness. Less ET - more OMG.
Coach Carter (2005)
Another peerless performance from Samuel L Jackson in this true story of Californian high-school sports coach Ken Carter. What made Carter special? He didn’t just want his basketball team to win games. He wanted them to be disciplined, successful students too. Uplifting stuff with a slick soundtrack to boot, plus early roles for Channing Tatum and Octavia Spencer.
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