If ever there was an argument for subscribing to one of the top four video streaming services, July 2016 is it.
All of them will be packed with new arrivals worth watching this month, to the degree that selecting just five choices to recommend from each service proved far more difficult than it usually does. (I even kinda cheated with Netflix, as you’ll soon see.)
So, plan to stay inside for the next several — and probably cripplingly hot — days. There’s plenty of entertainment to be had.
New on Netflix in July
The Back to the Future trilogy (Available July 1)
I’ve already explained at length how Back to the Future is a perfect blockbuster. Fortunately for you, Netflix has added the movie to its roster, and brought along the two sequels as an added bonus. The trilogy offers diminishing returns, but all three films are at least good, and the first one is tremendous fun.
The films of Albert Brooks (Available July 1)
If you’ve never watched any of the legendary comedian’s movies, you’re in for a treat. As a director, he’s made everything from high-concept comedies (the afterlife-set Defending Your Life) to existential examinations of Baby Boomer malaise (Lost in America). And now Netflix is streaming all seven of them. What a great idea! (See? I warned you I kinda cheated with my Netflix picks. Maybe just stay away from The Muse.)
Mustang (Available July 9)
Mustang was one of my favorite films of 2015, at once deeply moving and surprisingly action-packed for a movie about teenage girls in rural Turkey. Five sisters who are reaching adulthood are locked away from the world, thanks to their conservative religious upbringing, and things only get tougher for them from there. And yet despite that potentially depressing premise, Mustang is surprisingly life-affirming. It’s great.
Stranger Things, season one (Available July 15)
Are you tired of pointless nostalgia? I mean, yes, I am, too, but let’s all make an exception for this new series, a Winona Ryder vehicle that’s an homage to the spooky kid film classics of the 1980s. When a young boy goes missing from his small Indiana town, it’s up to everybody else to solve the mystery. Is it aliens? I bet it’s aliens.
BoJack Horseman, season three (Available July 22)
BoJack’s second season was the best original programming that Netflix aired in 2015, and if the show’s season three trailer is any indication, it’s on track to claim that title once again. You should know the premise by now: There’s this horse who was a sitcom star in the '90s, and more than two decades later, he’s got more money than he knows what to do with, and he’s depressed. Don’t worry — it’s hilarious!
New on Hulu in July
Fish Tank (Available July 1)
The list of genuinely great films about teenage girls is smaller than you’d think, an unfortunate consequence of Hollywood’s general bias against films about women. But somewhere near the top of that list is this terrific coming-of-age tale about a lower-class British teenager, played by Katie Jarvis. It marked the arrival of the promising director Andrea Arnold.
In the Loop (Available July 1)
Fans of Veep will probably enjoy this 2009 film from many of the same people; it reimagines the build-up to the Iraq War as the ultimate comedic farce, with just as much creative swearing as the aforementioned HBO sitcom and the comedic stylings of the always terrific Peter Capaldi.
The Last Alaskans, season one (Available July 1)
If you write off reality television as nonsense, then you really need to watch this show, which features some of the most jaw-dropping images I saw on TV in 2015. The series follows the people who live in the farthest reaches of the Alaskan frontier, far away from the comforts of civilization, and it perfectly captures how hard — and how rewarding — it is to live off the land.
Difficult People, season two (Available July 12)
Not everybody likes this sitcom about two awful individuals and the people in their lives who are forced to tolerate them, but if you can get on its adrenaline-fueled wavelength (and/or don’t mind jokes that sound like tweets), it just might be the show for you. Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner play the aforementioned awful people beautifully.
The Last Panthers (Available July 17)
Have you been wondering when you’ll get to see a movie about a jewel heist that also doubles as an examination of Europe’s increasingly restrictive political ties in the post-European Union world? Well, here you go! And it’s from the United Kingdom, so it accidentally sort of predicted Brexit a couple of months before it happened.
New in July on Amazon Prime
Pulp Fiction (Available July 1)
Quentin Tarantino’s second film was also his breakthrough into the mainstream, with a story that mashed up the best of pulpy crime stories with the sorts of long, rambling (but entertaining) conversations that have become the director’s stock in trade. If you somehow haven’t seen it, now’s the time.
Stir of Echoes (Available July 1)
This Kevin Bacon ghost story is pretty good, as creepy Kevin Bacon ghost stories go. Based on a novel by the great Richard Matheson, it details what happens when a man is hypnotized and then starts to see the spirits of the dead. Which is a thing that can absolutely happen.
Hannibal, season three (Available July 5)
The last season of the acclaimed serial killer series — at least for now — is at once the show’s most ambitious and its most occasionally enervating. But it all wraps up with an adaptation of the classic novel Red Dragon (the first story to ever feature serial killer Hannibal Lecter), and it’s a great reminder of how good Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen were as the show’s lead characters.
The Shining (Available July 7)
Hey, if there’s any way to beat the heat, it’s to watch a movie about a family waiting out the winter in a hotel that’s slowly driving one of them murderously insane.
Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, season two part two (Available July 15)
This charming children’s comedy about a group of kids growing up in seemingly boring, actually magical suburbia captures some of the feel of early '90s Nickelodeon shows like The Adventures of Pete and Pete. If you have kids, stick them in front of this for a few hours.
New on HBO Now in July
28 Weeks Later (Available July 1)
It’s no 28 Days Later, in terms of genre-redefining zombie films, but this sequel is still worth watching. Picking up, uh, 28 weeks after the initial outbreak of the rage virus (which turns people into bloodthirsty cannibalistic monsters), the film examines how society might try to rebuild in the wake of such a terrifying tragedy.
The Bourne Ultimatum (Available July 1)
With a new Jason Bourne film arriving at the end of the month, now is a good time to refresh your memory on what Bourne was up to in the 2000s. This 2007 release capped off the original trilogy, with sterling work from director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon. Its chaotic method of shooting action scenes changed how Hollywood films such things.
The Night Of (Available July 10)
Since True Detective season two fizzled, HBO has been looking for a new entrant in the "every season tells one story" genre, and the network just might have found it with The Night Of, which follows one person through the New York justice system after they’re accused of a crime. That premise might make the show sound like a really slow version of Law & Order, but the first episode (which you can watch here) is riveting.
Vice Principals (Available July 17)
Danny McBride’s last HBO series, Eastbound & Down, was a weird comedy masterwork, so it’s only natural to be excited for his new series, which will pair him with Justified’s Walton Goggins (who’s no slouch in the comedy department himself). They play, you guessed it, vice principals.
Looking: The Movie (Available July 23)
After HBO canceled its lovely little look at gay men living in San Francisco after the show’s second season, the network was kind enough to greenlight a movie that would wrap up any ongoing storylines. Here is that movie, and I hope that all of you are #TeamRichie, as all right-thinking people are.