What To Watch On Netflix: Instant (February 2013)

It’s a tale as old as time. You’re home alone, or with a friend or loved one, and there’s nothing on TV. “Hey, we’ve got Netflix! We’ll watch something on there.”

And then, inevitably, perhaps yourself or your friend scoffs and says “I deleted my account. There was never anything good on there!”

That’s when you exhale deeply, with thoughts of strangling your companion dancing around in your head. Maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, after getting about 23432 e-mails asking me what “GOOD” movies are on Netflix: Instant, I’ve decided to cave in and do a fairly exhaustive list of the things you may find awesome.

I’ll break them up into a few categories for optimal viewing pleasure, starting with “SICK DAY” movies.

Sick Day Movies

See? These are movies that you can watch anytime because they don’t require anything of the viewer. They’re usually comedies that are fairly light on subject matter. Made exclusively for enjoyment.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

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Do I really have to explain this one? It’s the ultimate sick day movie. The ultimate escape. The ultimate teenage fantasy. And it is available to you anytime on Netflix. Now stop whining and live your day like Ferris would.

Trading Places / Coming To America / RAW / Beverly Hills Cop(s)

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You know that movie you’ve only seen on TV with commercials and all the funniest jokes censored? Now you can watch them on Netflix and remember why, at one point in time, Eddie Murphy was the biggest star in the world. He was the funniest man on the planet, and these are the films that made it so. Each one of these movies is a little comic masterpiece (especially his work with John Landis), and you really owe it to yourself to see them in all of their uncut glory.

They’re also insanely watchable.

The Rescuers: Down Under

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Don’t even talk to me about how the first Rescuers is a better film. Rescuers: Down Under is one of the best animated films Disney has ever produced, and the crime that barely anybody has seen it can finally be brought to justice. This movie is on Netflix, it is less than eighty minutes long, and it is a non-stop joyride the likes of which you’ve never seen.

Also, “PEA SOUP!”

UHF

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Before Tim & Eric put their anti-humor closer on the map to the realm of mainstream comedy, Weird Al Yankovic made a profoundly strange comedy called UHF, which is essentially a string of bizarre short films starring Michael Richards as an increasingly insane janitor who has gotten a television job that isn’t unlike the one seen in Network. [Which is also on Netflix: Instant]

High-Energy Group Movies

These are movies that, you guessed it, are high-energy, and can be best enjoyed with a group of people. If you have more than two friends at your house, and you know there will be lots of distractions, here are the movies you should consider firing up.

Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol

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The best and most exciting film of the series is available now for you to watch anytime. It’s full of action set-pieces that rate among the best I’ve ever seen, and you don’t really have to pay that much attention to enjoy them. Perfect for crowds.

Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil

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If you’ve got a bunch of people at your house demanding a horror film, but you know that nobody is in the mood to actually be scared, this is the perfect movie to put on. It’s funny, gory, strange, paced perfectly, and gives all the joy of a horror movie without asking the audience to really even pay much attention.

Jackass 2 & 3

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These movies were made to be watched by mildly interested crowds of people. And you already knew that. Good day.

Movies for “Movie Night”

These are films that, like The Shawshank Redemption, can be watched by most people, if they are in the mood, and be considered worthy of basing an entire night around. Most of these movies are fairly comforting, but they’re also quality enough to make you pay attention. I call these “Oscar Movies.”

The King’s Speech

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Here’s a movie about war, death, tolerance, necessity, and confidence that is simultaneously a fairly high-brow period piece. It has all of the ingredients for what your mom calls a “good movie.” I would agree. This is a good movie. It’t inoffensive, safe, and a little sterile, but it’s also good enough for you to confidently show a group of people who are ready to watch an “important” movie that garnered lots of awards buzz without much risk of them hating it.

Warrior

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Warrior is a shockingly good movie for its subject matter. It’s about two brothers who, through a strange twist of fate, have to fight each other for a UFC national title. It’s a moving, well-acted film about brothers who were raised by a monstrously terrible father played by the monstrously terrible person Nick Nolte. It’s also a movie that few people would ever admit to not liking after having watched it.

The Untouchables

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One of the all-time most beloved action-dramas ever made is on Netflix right now. It’s suspenseful, visually intoxicating, and well-acted all around from the cast. It’s a great movie worthy of any moviegoing audience, and it’s also perfectly suited for an audience of friends who just want to have a good time at the movies.

Rabbit Hole

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This one is slightly more obscure, but it’s also the best film on this list. Rabbit Hole is an emotionally taxing journey of mourning with the parents of a recently deceased four year old boy who was hit by a car. It features powerhouse performances from Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, and it deserves to be seen. This one is for a group that is not ashamed to cry in front of their friends.

Movies To Impress Your Friends

These are slightly more obscure movies you whip out for your friends interested in “serious art,” but not interested in being particularly offended or in something so weird it’ll make them cringe. Think about your friends who really, really liked all the Wes Anderson movies, Fight Club, Garden State, and Beginners because “they’re just not like that Hollywood crap.”

Blue Valentine

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This one is for your friends who are into short stories and were way too cool to admit to liking The Notebook, which is just a universally delightful movie. Blue Valentine is about real people who have to make serious choices about their relationships. It’s emotionally draining, beautifully written, terrifically acted, and it shows two sides of a relationship that should be familiar to anybody. This one will impress them with its attention to detail and raw performances.

Bonus: Ryan Gosling fat and balding is still more attractive than your boyfriend.

Glengarry Glen Ross

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Here’s something I would call The Bruce Springsteen of Movies. What I mean when I say that is that your dad has probably told you about this movie, and you never bothered to watch it because your dad told you about it. However, when you show it to your friends, they will a) love it completely and b) admire the fact that you’re intimately familiar with a (not obscure at all) relatively obscure movie starring all the awesome dudes at one time.

Bonus: the awesome Alec Baldwin monologue pre-30 Rock that all of your guests can find a youtube clip of and share with their friends!

Melancholia

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Melancholia is for your friends who ask “What’s the most depressing movie you’ve ever seen?” Your actual answer will always be Breaking the Waves or Days of Thunder, but the answer that will most impress your friends (and leave you off the hook for not having to watch it again and want to kill yourself) is Melancholia, which is a beautifully photographed movie about crippling depression that can only be cured by the planet’s impending collision with a rogue planet.

Bonus: Your friends can now defend Kirsten Dunst when somebody makes fun of her with an “obscure” movie.

Barton Fink

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This is for your friends who love The Big LebowskiNo Country for Old Men, and Fargo, but never realized that the same directors made all of those movies. It seems preposterous that a friend of yours doesn’t know the entire Coen Brothers filmography by heart, and it is, but don’t take it for granted. They’ve probably never seen Barton Fink, and that’s good for you, because it’s their most overwhelmingly brilliant movie on its first viewing.

Bonus: Your friends can shout “I’ll show you the life of the mind!” and know that they’re being as cool as you.

 The Thin Blue Line

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The Errol Morris masterpiece about a wrongfully accused death row inmate was the ultimate documentary game-changer when it was released, and it was also the world’s introduction to a supremely powerful voice in filmmaking. For your friends would “rather watch a documentary than some fake charade of ego,” then turn their precious eyes to this magnificent piece of cinema.

Bonus: Film can change the world

The Trip

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The Trip is an effortlessly hilarious and delightful film. I quote it almost every day. The story follows two comedians through the British countryside as they try different restaurants for a magazine review. To say more is to disservice the surprises of the film.

Bonus: You will be able to use the amazing amount of quotes with your friends, creating a true bond of friendship that cannot die.

Movies For Risk-takers, Loners, and Miners of Truth

Here are the movies you will probably want to watch on your own. If you do decide to join a friend with one of these films, be aware that they might violently react to it in some way. This is for the risk-taker in you.

Life During Wartime / Dark Horse

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Todd Solondz, the man responsible for the great Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, has two of his lesser-known titles on Instant right now, but they are not for the faint of heart. They are surreal, uncomfortable, funny, frank, and sad. But if you’re interested in something that is heady, bizarre, and thought-provoking, you’re not going to do much better than these picks.

Bonus: You can say “Happiness is good, but her later, stranger films are far better”

Antichrist

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Yeah, there are two Lars Von Trier films on here, but this one could not have possibly been in any other category. If you’re going to watch this with somebody, make sure they have a strong stomach. It has unsimulated close-ups of sex, terrifying violence, and its themes and arguments are so profoundly unsettling and controversial that I can’t imagine any of your friends really staying with the movie until the end with you.

Bonus: You will be able to say you’ve seen it.

Dogtooth

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Dogtooth is a Greek film about the very worst kind of helicopter parents. It’s a thought-provoking, painful, and fascinating film that may leave some viewers perplexed, some viewers enthralled, and most viewers physically upset.

Bonus: More explicit sex? But not the sexy kind. Not at all, really.

Honorable Mentions

I didn’t get very obscure or strange in this list, but there are many, MANY, many more lists of Netflix films to come. They’ll probably be monthly.

  • Drive
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
  • Insidious
  • The Fly
  • Beyond the Black Rainbow
  • Compliance
  • Eight and a Half
  • The Man Who Fell To Earth
  • Valhalla Rising
  • Dead Man
  • Into the Abyss
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Primer
  • Bronson
  • Santa Sangre
  • Broken Flowers

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