March is a month for watching the best movies of 2016, according to your friendly local streaming services.
That includes a harrowing, Oscar-nominated documentary about the Syrian refugee crisis. It also includes one of the best comedy sequels in recent memory and a ribald, surprisingly poignant comedy about college baseball players. Oh, and it includes a movie where Kevin Spacey is reincarnated as a talking cat. (That last one might not be described as one of the “best” movies of 2016.)
But that’s not all! March also includes a variety of Hollywood classics, some of the best TV in recent memory, and a documentary about college basketball that should prove the perfect companion to the NCAA basketball tournament, to say nothing of new series, which include an adaptation of a recent YA classic.
And that’s just the stuff we highlighted.
Here are our streaming picks for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and HBO for the month of March. Spring might beckon, but you probably shouldn’t leave your house just yet.
New in March on Netflix
Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare) (available March 21)
Over the past few years, hundreds of African and Middle Eastern migrants have arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa every week. In Fire at Sea, documentarian Gianfranco Rosi shows what life looks like for the island’s residents and the rescue crews, cutting between scenes of life on the island (especially a young boy who is more interested in his slingshots and spaghetti) and the people who help receive and treat migrants. Beautifully shot and highly lauded on this year's festival circuit — the film was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Oscars — Fire at Sea is a deeply humane exploration of the human cost of the crisis, and how people live in the midst of it.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (available March 24)
Robert Zemeckis’s 1988 screwball toon-crime caper is often credited with kick-starting animation’s second golden age of the late ’80s/early ’90s, with its blockbuster success — and unprecedented conglomeration of famous animated properties from Disney, Warner Bros., King Features, and more — spurring renewed interest in the form. But beyond its landmark status, Who Framed Roger Rabbit remains a rip-roaring good time, pairing a never-better Bob Hoskins, as down-on-his-luck private dick Eddie Valiant, with the titular cartoon rabbit. Together they bumble through a wacky investigation into a grievous threat, in the form of Christopher Lloyd’s looming Judge Doom, to the happy Technicolor word of Toontown.
Better Call Saul, season 2 (available March 27)
This Breaking Bad prequel/spinoff, centered on Bob Odenkirk’s morally duplicitous lawyer, reached new heights in its second season, as Jimmy McGill — the man who will become Saul Goodman — attempted to go straight and join a big law firm, only to find out how poorly he fits in the corporate world. Meanwhile, his old pal Mike slowly gets drawn into the Albuquerque criminal underworld, and meets some familiar faces. This season suggests Saul could become the equal of its parent series — heady praise indeed.
The Carmichael Show, seasons 1 and 2 (available March 31)
Created by and starring comic Jerrod Carmichael, The Carmichael Show is a straightforward multi-camera sitcom in the tradition of All in the Family (which isn’t an accident, seeing as Norman Lear also produces The Carmichael Show). Every episode has Jerrod and his family hashing out whatever issue happens to come up that week, whether it’s something personal, like using Plan B, or something on the country’s mind, like whether you can still appreciate Bill Cosby’s contribution to comedy given the dozens of sexual assault allegations against him. The writing is always sharp, a fact that’s only amplified when delivered by pros like David Alan Grier and Loretta Devine as Jerrod’s opinionated parents.
13 Reasons Why, season 1 (available March 31)
Jay Asher’s visceral 2007 young adult novel was a sleeper hit from the moment it was published. An industry phenomenon, 13 Reasons Why gained word-of-mouth buzz from students, crept onto the New York Times best-seller list a few months after it was published, and remained there for a jaw-dropping 170 weeks. The titular “reasons” are a series of letters recorded on cassette tape, which narrator Hannah (Katherine Langford) delivers to the 13 people who pushed her to take her own life. The tragedy prompts her friend Clay (Dylan Minnette) to spend a marathon evening in pursuit of the truth surrounding her death. The Netflix adaptation promises to be a faithful rendering of a beloved story — tough to do when your subjects are bullying and harassment, depression and teen suicide — but we have high hopes.
New in March on Amazon Prime
What We Do in the Shadows (available March 1)
Celebrated director and actor Taika Waititi gets his long-overdue mainstream break with the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok, and it’s largely due to this savvy vampire mockumentary, a breakout cult favorite that skewers horror tropes, reality TV, and bad roommates. Waititi joined forces with fellow New Zealand comedian Jemaine Clement (one half of folk parody duo Flight of the Conchords) to co-write, co-direct, and co-star in this eminently GIFable spoof about a nest of vampires — okay, an apartment of bloodsucking roommates — trying to navigate modern life. You’ll be watching this one several times, so you might as well get started now, if only to understand why your friends are giggling over “swearwolves.”
Nine Lives (available March 1)
What are you doing this month? Whatever it is, don’t pretend you don’t have time to watch this film about evil businessman Kevin Spacey dying, then being reincarnated as a talking cat. YOU KNOW YOU DO.
Emma (available March 2)
Gwyneth Paltrow may be the weakest part of this ensemble comedy built around her, but Emma is still an endearing adaptation of the classic Jane Austen novel about a blithely oblivious matchmaker, famously billed as Britain’s first detective story. Stocked with British comedy elites, Emma dwells on the foibles of small-town neighbors struggling to get along, and features particularly winning turns from Alan Cumming and Juliet Stevenson as the officious couple who set out to one-up Emma at every turn. Though it’s billed as a romance, and does contain a stomach-swoopingly romantic declaration of love, this adaptation allows Emma to be the English garden mystery it wanted to be all along, and the result is a film that’s stayed surprisingly fresh through the years.
Everybody Wants Some!! (available March 17)
It’s overly simplistic to call Richard Linklater’s 2016 hangout comedy a spiritual sequel to 1993’s Dazed and Confused — but it’s also pretty hard not to. Focusing on a group of baseball teammates at a smallish regional Texas college in 1980, Everybody Wants Some!!’s setting and characters undeniably evoke those of Linklater’s coming-of-age high school classic, and where the earlier film is structured around the last day of school, the new one uses the start of the semester as its organizing principle. But the biggest similarity between the two films really comes down to vibe: Both largely eschew matters like plot and conflict, taking an almost anthropological approach to hanging out with its undeniably bro-y, but strangely lovable, central cast of jocks.
Gimme Danger (available March 23)
For a documentary by a figurehead of independent, semi-abstract cinema about a notoriously raw, controversy-stoking rock group, Gimme Danger is surprisingly conventional — even, dare we say it, tame. Which isn’t to say it’s a waste: Director Jim Jarmusch opts to mostly let the band — primarily iconic frontman Iggy Pop — tell their own story through interviews, crafting a mostly chronological account of the Stooges’ early-’70s heyday and musing on its impact on the impending punk scene. Approached as a piece of music history education, it’s tremendously fun, thanks primarily to its liberal deployment of high-energy clips of the Stooges doing what they did best: blowing the roof off wherever they were playing.
New in March on Hulu
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (available March 1)
Nobody makes action movies like James Cameron, and it’s entirely possible he’s never made an action movie as great as this one. (Okay, maybe Aliens.) Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as the murderous robot from the future, now reprogrammed to protect his former targets; Edward Furlong steps into the role of John Connor (who just might grow up to save humanity); and Linda Hamilton returns as Sarah Connor, one of Cameron’s signature mother warriors.
Up in the Air (available March 1)
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a suave and self-assured frequent business traveler, owing to his job as a euphemistically named “corporate downsizer.” He spends a lot of time alone, and likes it. Then he meets his match, Alex (Vera Farmiga), and their flirting evolves into a fling. Meanwhile, Natalie (Anna Kendrick) is the bright young upstart at his company who proposes cutting costs by firing people via videoconference. Ryan is cold-hearted, but maybe not that cold-hearted. Up in the Air is all swanky fun at first, but grows into a drama that questions how we conduct our relationships in an age where we can work from anywhere.
Clueless (available March 1)
We feel totally comfortable calling Clueless one of the greatest teen films of all time. Amy Heckerling’s high school update of Jane Austen’s Emma wraps its comedy in Southern California bubblegum-snapping slang that quickly became iconic. And while many teen movies have a sprawling cast, very few beat the one in Clueless, which includes Brittany Murphy as eager new girl Tai, Paul Rudd as pretentious college bro Josh, and Alicia Silverstone bringing equal parts naiveté and casual smarts to Cher, the movie’s matchmaking heroine.
Steven Universe, season 3 (available March 10)
Cartoon Network’s very adorable and wonderfully strange cartoon has gotten more and more serialized in a way we honestly couldn’t have predicted when it was just about a kid who likes cookies shaped like cats. In season three, Steven and his alien guardians discover new powers, ancient secrets, and corners of the beachside town they call home.
Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (available March 15)
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, a sly take on the usual high school movie tropes with a heart of gold and a love of pastel tube dresses. Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow are fantastic as the aimless but lovable Romy and Michelle (respectively), who want to impress their high school classmates for their 10th reunion, but the cast is packed with familiar faces like Alan Cumming, Janeane Garofalo, and even a brief and mysterious turn from Justin Theroux. The whole movie is a weirdo delight, but it’s also worth it solely for Sorvino, Kudrow, and Cumming performing one of film’s strangest dance sequences.
New in March on HBO Now
M.A.S.H. (available March 1)
Legendary director Robert Altman broke through with this 1970 black comedy about surgeons working to save lives during the Korean War. Yeah, it inspired the (very good) TV show, but it’s worth revisiting the film, which was a surprise hit and launched the careers of Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, and others. It’s a great reminder of the risks Hollywood routinely took in the ’70s.
Under Siege (available March 1)
The ’90s trend of taking the movie Die Hard and setting it in a completely different enclosed location (famously boiled down as “Die Hard, but on a/in a...”) met Steven Seagal, another thing that only could have been huge in the ’90s, in Under Siege. It’s one of the better Die Hard clones (it’s on a boat!) and probably the best Seagal movie, and its director went on to make the even-better The Fugitive. Seagal did ... not go on to better things.
The Cider House Rules (available March 1)
This gorgeous adaptation of John Irving’s controversial novel is perhaps even more controversial in the current political climate: It’s a sumptuous drama that lures you with the trappings of idyllic pastoral life in rural America and then blindsides you with a vehemently pro-choice narrative that is largely more culturally taboo today than it was nearly two decades ago. Under Lasse Hallström’s careful direction, The Cider House Rules is by turns a straightforward pastoral fantasy and a grim reminder of the reality of that life for anyone pushed to the margins of society. The film’s engagement with social issues slightly overshadows what an utterly charming cast it has, including fresh-faced babes Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron, plus Michael Caine in the Oscar-winning role that revitalized his career.
UConn: The March to Madness (available March 2)
The most dominant team in sports is the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team. Helmed by coach Geno Auriemma, the team has amassed a record spanning four consecutive championships and more than 100 wins — an NCAA record. That dominance has extended to 2017, where the still-unbeaten Huskies are going for their fifth NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship in a row. On March 1, HBO premieres an hour-long episode of a docuseries examining the Huskies’ winning ways and desire for excellence. Following the premiere, there will be new 30-minute episodes every Wednesday.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (available March 11)
The first Neighbors movie pitted a pair of new parents (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) against a power-tripping fraternity (headed by a maniacal Zac Efron), and was something of a surprise, since it boasted a level of self-awareness the R-rated frat movie genre rarely touches. That streak continues with Neighbors 2, with Rogen and Byrne taking on a sorority (headed up by Chloe Grace Moretz) that’s determined to be just as much of a hedonistic shitshow as any frat. It’s a whole lot of dumb fun, not to mention aware enough of the usual sexism that plagues raunchy comedies to avoid those pitfalls.