September is an auspicious month in the entertainment industry. Fall TV launches, bringing with it promises of your favorite new show. The film industry gradually turns toward more adult-oriented fare, in hopes of winning an Oscar or two. Even the book industry launches most of its biggest titles between now and mid-December.
Consequently, September’s options on various streaming services seem that much more disappointing. Yes, there are some exciting original series coming up — like Netflix’s Luke Cage and Amazon’s One Mississippi — but this is one month when the streaming world mostly seems to get out of the way of more traditional media.
Of course, there are still more than enough delights to go around. Here are five September picks for each of the top four streaming services — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Now.
New in September on Netflix
Jaws (available September 1)
Bid another beach season adieu with this “humans meet shark, shark eats humans” classic. Steven Spielberg’s breakthrough work is still a quintessential summer film — and in the event that you crave more shark action once it’s over, Netflix has also added its three (mostly disappointing) sequels.
Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (available September 16)
In 1982, two 11-year-old boys, blown away by Raiders of the Lost Ark, committed themselves to creating their own shot-for-shot remake of Indiana Jones’s first adventure. In this charming documentary, the two reflect on their friendship (and its eventual souring as they grew up), then find surprising fame when their fan film is discovered by those who can boost it to greater prominence.
New Girl, season 5 (available September 20)
Even at its best, New Girl is a little uneven — but it’s also rarely achieved highs as lofty as the ones it hit in season five. When protagonist Jess moved out of the apartment because she was sequestered during jury duty (a plot point orchestrated while Zooey Deschanel, the actress who plays her, took time off to have a baby), Megan Fox moved in to replace her temporarily. And while the comedy was at its best when the show’s terrific cast could just riff off each other, Fox proved an unlikely comic force.
Zootopia (available September 20)
Netflix’s deal with Disney has slowly but surely been kicking in over the past few months, but September is where it really begins to bear fruit, with the addition of two of the studio’s early 2016 releases, The Finest Hours and Zootopia. That latter film, in particular, is well worth a watch; it’s an entertaining detective story, a funny talking animal film, and a surprisingly effective introduction to ideas about systemic prejudice.
Luke Cage, season one (available September 30)
The superhero with the bulletproof skin finally gets his own series after proving a sneaky scene stealer in 2015’s Jessica Jones. But instead of a straightforward superhero tale, Luke Cage plays in the tradition of black detective novels, from writers like Walter Mosley. Luke is simultaneously trying to keep his neighborhood safe and solve the mystery of who’s causing so much chaos in it. The series is a bit of a slow burn, but it comes complete with energetic fight sequences that don’t disappoint.
New on Hulu in September
The First Wives Club (available September 1)
Twenty years after its release, The First Wives Club feels like something of a miracle. The gleefully misandrist comedy follows three freshly divorced wives with rage to spare — and since they’re played by Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, and Diane Keaton, their respective meltdowns and triumphs are so much fun to watch that it takes a while before you realize the movie’s premise is a little messed up. A supporting cast including (and not even limited to!) Victor Garber, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Stockard Channing doesn’t hurt.
Young Adult (available September 1)
Charlize Theron stars as a young adult ghostwriter in an incredibly bleak but pointedly funny look at what it means to grow up — or, in her character’s case, stubbornly reject maturity as something only boring people accept. It’s not exaggerating to say that Theron’s fierce and desperate performance here is one of her best, and her co-stars Patton Oswalt and Patrick Wilson stepped up their games accordingly. Proceed with caution: Young Adult will make you feel either great or terrible about your choices.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (available September 1)
You might already love this seminal 1978 sci-fi classic, starring Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, and Veronica Cartwright. But maybe you’ve never seen it, and have been faking your way through Invasion of the Body Snatchers references for years. Either way, the movie is now available to stream on Hulu for your pleasure and/or education.
Bridget Jones’s Diary / Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (available September 15)
The September 16 release of Bridget Jones’s Baby will officially make Bridget Jones’s story a trilogy. And starting the day before Baby arrives, you’ll be able to watch the first two installments to gear up for whatever horrifying exploits the acerbic Bridget (Renée Zellweger) and her suitors (Colin Firth and Patrick Dempsey) get up to next. While we wouldn’t necessarily vouch for Edge of Reason — which took almost everything that was wonderfully witty about Bridget Jones’s Diary, threw it into a Thai prison, and stomped on its still-beating heart — the first movie is still fantastically funny and unique, 15 years later.
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years (available September 17)
Ron Howard’s found-footage documentary about the early years of the Beatles’ success — compiled with approval and help from surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono — kicks off Hulu’s attempt to get into the documentary game. (The movie will be released in theaters on September 15, and will begin streaming exclusively for Hulu subscribers shortly thereafter.) If you’re sick of seeing the same three clips of the Beatles playing valiantly on in the face of a hundred screaming girls on Ed Sullivan, this film should have you covered with some deeper cuts.
New on Amazon Prime in September
Any Given Sunday (available September 1)
Oliver Stone’s shaky-cam, characters-talking-over-each-other sports fable was a little too dissonant and disjointed in 1999, when we still wanted sports tales to have us at hello, but time has only seasoned this cynical story of a struggling football franchise and the plucky new (blond) co-owner who’s determined to turn it around. Standout performances by the cast, particularly Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx, make it a surprisingly good time at the stadium.
Bronson (available September 1)
In the movie that put both Tom Hardy and director Nicolas Winding Refn on Hollywood’s map, this loose take on the life of Charles Bronson — thought to be the most violent man in the British penal system — is still one of Hardy’s most mesmerizing performances. Easily careening from whimsical and theatrical to explosive and brutal, the actor’s ruthless criminal is one of the most charming film sociopaths you’re likely to meet.
Man on Wire (available September 1)
In 1974, a French man named Philippe Petit achieved one of the most terrifying feats in human history — not to mention one of the most logistically improbable — when he managed to stretch a steel cable across the 138-foot gap between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and then spend 45 minutes walking back and forth across it, more than 1,300 feet above the ground. Petit’s high-wire stunt took six years of planning and involved an extraordinary amount of subterfuge, the kind you ordinarily only find in a heist movie. This fantastic documentary allows you to relive all the meticulous planning and the thrill of the final moment — without actually enduring the unbearable suspense of wondering whether our hero makes it out alive.
The Witch (available September 17)
Robert Eggers’s first film blew us all away when it finally landed in wide release earlier this year after burning up the horror film circuit in 2015. The Witch is much more than a film about Colonial religious dogma; it’s a steady, excruciatingly patient study in psychological terror born from the deepest primordial fear of the unknown and what might be waiting for us out there in the woods. It’s also a tour de force of production and visual design, crafted with a meticulous period touches — from historically accurate dialogue to historically accurate wool — that provide a complete immersion in the film’s universe.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (available September 19)
David Gelb’s charming 2011 documentary follows the lives of Jiro Ono, the 90-year-old sushi master widely considered to be the greatest sushi chef alive, and his son — who, at the age of 50, still patiently toils for his father in his father’s Michelin-starred restaurant. The real subject of this gentle, hypnotic film is passion, and what drives a man to devote his life to a single purpose. The Philip Glass score is the crowning aesthetic touch.
New on HBO Now in September
High Maintenance (available September 1)
Following in the footsteps of Broad City, Drunk History, and other successful web series turned TV series, the long-running (by internet standards) High Maintenance is making the jump to television with a six-episode season that premieres September 16. In the lead-up to the show’s official TV debut, the original 19 episodes of the web series — which clock in between five and 12 minutes in length — have been scrubbed from their original online host, Vimeo, and rehomed on HBO Go.
It’s as good an excuse as any to catch up with Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld’s collection of loping New York character studies: Each episode follows a weed dealer (known only as the Guy) on a home delivery, giving him (and us) a brief glimpse into his customers’ exploits, foibles, and neuroses. Each High Maintenance entry varies a bit in terms of tone and humor (or sometimes lack thereof), but as a whole, it functions as an engrossing, easily digestible anthology of modern New Yorkers.
Ghost World (available September 1)
A paragon of dark teen comedy, Ghost World is a touchstone for a certain type of disaffected teenager, the sort that disapproving adults might call too smart for their own good. A regular feature on internet lists of best comic book movie adaptations, Ghost World is Terry Zwigoff’s 2001 take on one of cartoonist Daniel Clowes’s most celebrated graphic novels; Clowes and Zwigoff co-scripted the film, which accounts for its keen grasp of the former’s one-of-a-kind tone and unique strain of poignant irony. Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson star as world-weary teen outcasts and best friends Enid and Rebecca, whose disaffected bond is tested by the strange intrusion into their lives of a loser played by Steve Buscemi. Watch it with your favorite weirdo teenager.
Rushmore (available September 1)
Speaking of weirdo teens, Wes Anderson’s Rushmore is another high-ranking entry in the eccentric-adolescent canon. It’s also one of Anderson’s most beloved films, possibly because it’s also one of his most approachable, funny and tweaked without tipping over into the highly stylized sensibility that some can find alienating.
Jason Schwartzman’s Max Fisher, an arrogant, extracurriculars-obsessed student at the prestigious Rushmore Academy, is a quintessential Anderson character, and Max’s unlikely bond with bored millionaire Herman Blume (Bill Murray, in one of his best later-career roles) makes for a wonderfully rich, off-kilter relationship. Rushmore is one of those films that warrants a revisit every five years or so, just as a reminder that good and pure cinema still exists in the world.
The Larry Sanders Show (available September 23)
For years now, the only reliable way to watch the late Garry Shandling’s comedic television masterpiece, The Larry Sanders Show, was to own one of the several DVD sets featuring the series’ six seasons. So the March announcement that the onetime HBO show would be returning to its network home in September was met with great excitement from fans eager to drop in on the late-night television exploits of talk show host Larry Sanders (Shandling), producer Artie (Rip Torn), sidekick Hank “Hey Now” Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor), and their many celebrity guests, without having to handle cumbersome physical media (ptooey!). Hopefully the newfound availability will also help introduce a new generation of comedy lovers to one of the most beloved and influential series of the past quarter-century.
The Revenant (available September 17)
Alejandro Iñárritu’s 2015 Best Picture nominee (which won an Oscar for the director) will go down in the annals as the film that finally netted star Leonardo DiCaprio his elusive Best Actor Oscar. It will also go down as one of the most self-consciously Intense-with-a-capital-“I” movies in recent memory, a visually gorgeous but heavy-handed study of extreme masculinity and revenge told by a filmmaker with a tendency to fetishize both. It’s a lot of movie to take in during a single sitting in front of a big screen, so a smaller-scale revisit — or first-time viewing — in the comfort of one’s own home may be an appealing proposition for the easily overwhelmed/grossed-out.