Amidst creating some of the more interesting films audiences have seen in years (Dolemite Is My Name or In the Tall Grass, just to name a couple), they’ve also acquired some that are well worn but no less streamable. This isn’t a column that’s merely celebrating great movies of time gone past. There are actually a bunch of films on this list that could be described as recent (or semi-recent classics). What other streaming service would be bold enough to essentially re-release the Kill Bill films, City of God, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the same place on the same day? Sit back and enjoy the “10 Best Movies Coming to Netflix” on January 1st, 2020.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
A new year can bring a bevy of mixed feelings. One of them isn’t, “Man, I’d sure like to not watch The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!.” Sure, seeing OJ Simpson as Nordberg kinda seems odd to laugh at given what’s happened to him, but to dismiss this hilarious movie (that still holds up!) because of that would be a travesty of cinema. Leslie Nielsen as the erstwhile Detective Frank Drebin is a pleasure to watch. This movie features Ricardo Montalban for crying out loud! Not to mention, George Kennedy as Drebin’s confused partner is truly a delight to behold. So, while this film might seem a little “unwoke” for these woke times, just know that it (and Netflix) have their funny bones in the right place.
Catch Me If You Can
Is there anybody that didn’t like this movie? Steven Spielberg’s well put together opus from 2002 about the exploits of con-man Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio), is a film for all seasons. DiCaprio gets an assist from everybody’s favorite actor Tom Hanks as the detective that is hot on his trail. Christopher Walken has a brief (but memorable) role as Frank Abagnale, Sr., and there isn’t a moment in this film that turns a sour note. Even in a time where it seems like there’s con artists working around every corner (both off and online), Catch Me If You Can is still one of the best times you can have streaming into your home.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang seemed like an ancient movie when I was growing up in the 1980s. In 2019, Netflix users are probably wondering why this title is even on this list. Well, Netflix isn’t in the business of not giving users what they want. So this tale from 1968 must surely have an audience on this platform otherwise it wouldn’t be here, right? Starring Dick Van Dyke in the role of Caractacus Potts, this 2 hour and 24 minute family, adventure, fantasy film is actually perfect for today’s millennial audience. It tells the story of how a beat up Grand Prix car is turned into a vehicle that takes some kids on an amazing adventure (probably not even leaving a carbon footprint!). With Star Wars ending it’s 9 film run (at least with the present characters and storylines), could Netflix be trying to fill the fantasy void by resurrecting Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? Who knows, however, this film has themes and ideas that may be from some time ago, but nobody could really call them “old” now could they?
City of God
Given how much press Netflix got for their backing of the 3 hour and 30 minute film The Irishman, City of God is a terrific choice to accompany viewers into 2020. Like Goodfellas before it, Fernando Meirelles City of God is a layered, 2 hours and 10 minutes of action, character development, and coming of age all wrapped up in a hyperkinetic story of youth on the rise. Considering how well The Irishman was received (26 million streams and counting can’t mean everybody hated the de-aging technology used in the film), City of God seems like the perfect counterpart to start the new year. Set in a the drug/gang fueled world of Rio de Janeiro, City of God may seem like a world away from the very American tale that is The Irishman, but it’s incredible how much it resembles the work of an American master like Martin Scorsese.
Dinner for Schmucks
A movie with the title Dinner for Schmucks just wants to make you laugh and what’s wrong with that? Starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd this film is an exclamation point to the statement, “You’re not as smart as you think you are.” Paul Rudd is a hotshot financial analyst who finds out about a monthly event that his boss holds. Basically, each invitee is tasked with bringing the biggest idiot to the meal. Enter Steve Carell as Barry, a guy you’d probably avoid if you went to high school with him. Tim thinks he can’t lose but soon realizes that Barry’s “stupidity” might be the key to living your best life. On the face of it this movie seems silly, juvenile, and low brow. Given the state of politics today, Netflix must’ve read the tea leaves and realized this was the perfect film to start an election year.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Is there ever a time that we don’t need Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Is there one film from the 1980s that truly is more timeless than this one? Matthew Broderick stars as the lovable hero who leads a charmed life. All of this is exemplified when he decides to take a day off and swings it so that his friends can join him. More than anything, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off celebrates the basic human decision to just shut down, turn off, and connect with those around you. Everybody, I don’t care who you are or what you do, loves to have day off. A whole 24 hours to yourself where you can do anything you want. The possibilities are endless and this gem of a film taps into that in such a specific way. It’s no wonder Netflix has added this timeless classic to its platform.
Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending dreamscape from 2010’s Inception still baffles viewers 9 years later. Which is why making it available on Netflix to watch, rewatch, and dissect is all the more necessary. This film deals in big ideas like corporate espionage, stealing dreams, planting ideas via dreams, etc. To try and break down everything that this movie is would be impossible in this piece of bite-sized content. If Nolan, dreams, and Leonardo DiCaprio (with an assist from Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy) don’t grab you, then you may want to ask yourself if you like movies at all. Inception is honestly that rare film that changes and rearranges itself every time you see it. Just like a dream…
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
Is there a better time to be had on any streaming service than Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle? The title in this case really says it all. Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) are jonesin’ to get some White Castle hamburgers. That goal is the crux of this saga that sees these guys get into all manner of trouble. Movies built around a simple premise are often the best kind of films. Give the players a simple goal, make that goal really hard to achieve, and fill it with all manner of comedy and outrageousness. Netflix has to know that many people of have seen this 2004 gem. They also probably know that they will continue to watch it and rewatch it for as long as the streaming service makes it available in queues the world over.
Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Kill Bill: Vol 2 are two delectable offerings from the finest director (aside from Martin Scorsese) working in American films today. Quentin Tarantino’s revenge opus stars Uma Thurman and a host of other Tarantino players, but Tarantino’s talent as an auteur is what is on display here. The tale is simple, The Bride (Thurman) wakes up after being in a coma for four years. Rather than recuperate she leaves the hospital with every intention of evening the score against the people that tried to do her in. What unfolds in this 4 hour odyssey is a lot of action, dialogue, and “chew the scenery” moments that were made to be enjoyed and streamed again and again. The Kill Bill movies are to die for and are welcome with open arms in my Netflix feed.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
You might be asking yourself, “Why of all the Lord of the Rings movies are coming to Netflix in January, did you choose to focus on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King?” This movie is truly the culmination of all the great work that went into this trilogy. Forget that it swept at the Oscars in 2004. Ignore the fact that (aside from the Star Wars trilogy), Lord of the Rings is probably the most perfect 3 film trilogy that there is. Not only is this movie filled with action, FX, and the kind of popcorn storytelling that dominated the first decade of the new millennium, it is actually a very deep film about the different paths we take in life. Whatever you want out of a movie The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King delivers it and more in 2020.