After a busy July, the streaming world slows down a bit in August — as does seemingly everything else. There are fewer original programming debuts and fewer big exclusives, as both the film and TV worlds take deep breaths before the start of Oscar season and fall TV in the months ahead.
But there’s still plenty of good stuff to check out, especially if you’re willing to venture off the beaten path. This month, look out for rapping teenagers on Netflix, grown men drinking wine on Hulu, and lots more.
Here are our top five picks for each of the top four streaming services — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Now.
New on Netflix in August
In the Shadow of the Moon (available August 1)
If you’re a NASA geek, you’ll be in heaven with this 2007 documentary, which marks the first time lots of footage from the Apollo missions to the moon was ever made available to the public. The whole point of the film is, “Hey, we went to the moon! Isn’t that cool?!” which isn’t a hugely nuanced argument. But it is really cool, and it makes a sneaky argument for future space exploration too.
Slow TV (available August 5)
Slow TV is a movement out of Norway that uses your television to display every minute of some mundane thing — like a long train trip, or a knitting competition, or a crackling fire. Most of these installments (which Netflix seems to be packaging as individual entities) are several hours long. If this approach appeals to you, it can be surprisingly meditative. And even if it doesn’t, the train footage will offer you a free trip to Norway, so, hey.
No Country for Old Men (available August 11)
The Coen brothers’ dark crime thriller about a drug deal gone wrong and the ordinary guy who finds the money turns Cormac McCarthy’s already cinematic novel into one of the best movies of the last 25 years. It won four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Javier Bardem’s terrifying killer Anton Chigurh.
The Get Down, season one, part one (available August 12)
The month’s biggest Netflix original series is a staggeringly ambitious, surprisingly entertaining mess. The Get Down traces the coming of age of five teenagers and the birth of hip hop in the late 1970s in the Bronx, as director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, among others) brings his signature collage filmmaking style to a project that perhaps tries to do too much but always feels deeply, deeply human.
Ku’damm 56, season one (available August 31)
German TV has been coming on strong in the last several years, particularly with period pieces that explore the era of division between the country’s East and West halves. This series, set in 1956 Berlin, uses that complicated political world as the backdrop for a story about a mother trying to raise three daughters and run a dance studio.
New on Hulu in August
You’re the Worst, season two (available August 1)
FX’s bittersweet romantic comedy — emphasis on the “bitter” — is sharp, mean, and somehow still deeply heartfelt. Its cast is quietly and confidently turning out some of the best comedy performances on TV, from Aya Cash and Chris Geere’s crackling chemistry as central couple Gretchen and Jimmy, to Kether Donohue’s turn as Gretchen’s enthusiastic trainwreck friend Lindsay, to Desmin Borges’s heartfelt performance as Jimmy’s long-suffering roommate, Edgar. Now, you can watch both seasons on Hulu before the series comes back for a third on August 31. Trash juice for everyone!
The Silence of the Lambs (available August 1)
There have been so many Hannibal takes since this 1991 landmark film that it’s easy to forget where the fervor began. But if you’re in a place where you won’t mind letting the skin crawl straight off your body, consider revisiting The Silence of the Lambs, if only to watch the acting master class that is Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster facing off against and snarling at each other.
Steven Universe, season two (available August 4)
You can hardly ask for a stranger and delightful distraction than Steven Universe, Cartoon Network’s animated series about an earnest boy and his family of alien warrior guardians. (Seriously!) In any given episode — all of which clock in at a bite-size 11 minutes — you might find Steven and the Crystal Gems chasing down a spaceship, saving the world, or simply splitting a pizza and singing a song about it. You never quite know if you’re in for an otherworldly adventure, or a sweet coming of age story, or both, which is what makes the show so special. (Beware: Hulu has autoplay, so you just may end up lost in Steven’s universe for longer than you meant to.)
Shaun the Sheep Movie (available August 10)
From Aardman — the determinedly odd animation studio that brought you Wallace and Gromit — this claymation tale of a plucky sheep and his loyal flock makes for a particularly witty adventure. (It even nabbed an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature in 2015, though it never had a chance of winning against Pixar’s Inside Out.) If you need your heart warmed and/or laughs in surprising places, Shaun the Sheep is a solid bet.
The Wine Show (available August 13)
One day, actors and best friends Matthew Goode (The Good Wife, Downton Abbey) and Matthew Rhys (The Americans, Brothers and Sisters) decided to make their drinking habits productive … by traveling to Italy to learn more about the wine they love so much, and then filming the entire adventure. Such a project might sound self-indulgent (and hey, it probably is!) but judging by the teases we’ve seen so far, the two Matthews are so charming together that it’s hard not to grin right alongside them — or at least live vicariously through them — as they clink glasses on some sun-soaked veranda, the wonderful jerks.
New on Amazon Prime in August
The Others (available August 1)
Overshadowed at its release in 2001 by The Sixth Sense, which came out two years earlier and explored similar themes, director Alejandro Amenábar’s Edwardian ghost story has only seen its reputation grow over time, thanks to fantastic acting by Nicole Kidman, plenty of genuinely creepy moments that still manage to feel fresh and undated, and the delightfully melodramatic grand guignol feel of every spooky set piece.
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (available August 1)
Sure, you could watch A Clockwork Orange or the Matrix trilogy — both out this month on Amazon — for the umpteenth time; or you could curl up and revisit this macabre childhood classic. Featuring a handful of blackly comedic tales about a mummy, a killer cat, gargoyles, and a demon, this 1990 anthology is one of the last gasps of what made ’80s horror so great. It’s funny, teeming with old-school special effects, and outrageously over-the-top.
Marathon Man (available August 1)
This ’70s thriller starring Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier as an evil Nazi dentist is one of the best spy movies ever made. Unprecedented in its depiction of the life of a spy as an unglamorous mess, Marathon Man features the wonderful Roy Scheider, who gets his younger brother, Hoffman, embroiled in a disturbing cat-and-mouse game of espionage and conspiracies. Olivier is honestly terrifying in one of his greatest roles.
Melancholia (available August 20)
Lars von Trier’s film about a family reckoning with a wedding and the simultaneous end of the world is an unexpectedly tense, suspense-filled work. Thanks to a fierce, desperate performance from Kirsten Dunst, a sense of humor and energy that emerges at unexpected moments, and the sheer scenery porn of the gloomy European mansion that serves as the setting, this film is full of surprises.
13 Assassins (available August 29)
There are samurai assassins, and there are 13 of them. What more do you need? Directed by Takashi Miike (perhaps most famous for Audition and Ichi the Killer), who should direct everything, this dazzling, high-octane action film is the perfect ninja fighting flick.
New on HBO Now in August
Hotel for Dogs (available August 1)
This is a movie about a hotel for dogs. Arf.
One Hour Photo (available August 1)
Director Mark Romanek, who’s possibly best known for his music videos (including Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”), doesn’t make nearly enough films. Indeed, this 2002 psychological thriller was his debut film, and he’s only made one other (2010’s Never Let Me Go) in the many years since. But don’t sleep on this unsettling drama, which boasts one of the late Robin Williams’s best performances — as a creepy guy who works in a photo lab and becomes obsessed with one of the families whose film he develops.
Say Anything... (available August 1)
If you’re wondering why so many people seem willing to forgive director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire and such less-memorable films as Aloha) and actor John Cusack for just about anything, this hugely winning 1989 teen rom-com (featuring Ione Skye, whose career sadly struggled from here, as the other half of the central couple) is the primary reason. It’s the one where Cusack holds the boombox over his head.
The Peanuts Movie (available August 6)
Is this film adaptation of Charles Schulz’s iconic comic strip the adaptation the comic deserves? It’s not quite to that level, but it’s still enjoyable to watch, particularly if you already like Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the gang. And the animation, from Blue Sky, does an amazingly nice job of wedding Schulz’s two-dimensional drawings to 3D computer animation.
Brooklyn (available August 13)
It’s possible that Brooklyn was made just so that old people would walk out of screenings saying, “They don’t make them like that anymore.” A winning period romance, it’s about a young Irish woman who moves across the Atlantic to the titular borough, then finds both love and herself — and its Oscar-nominated star, actress Saoirse Ronan, is terrific.