It’s October, which means exactly the same thing on your favorite streaming service as it does everywhere else: It’s time to get spooky.
Horror movies have been quietly crowding onto Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and HBO Now over the past few months, and early October ushers in several more, should you wish to spend the next 31 days binge-viewing scary material. It’s not a bad idea — even without the looming presence of Halloween, the longer, darker nights and brisk chill in the air make for the perfect scary movie season.
But maybe you don’t care about any of that. Maybe you can’t handle horror. Maybe you’d just rather watch something else. Well, our streaming recommendations for the month feature hearty recommendations of both the scary and non-scary varietals. Below, check out our top five picks on each of the top four streaming services for the month of October.
New in October on Netflix
Dheepan (available October 3)
This one creeps up on you. It starts as an outsider narrative — three Sri Lankan refugees, posing as a family in order to flee to France, try to assimilate into their new country. But as they start to understand the realities of everyday life, the movie (which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2015) eventually becomes a thriller with larger parallels to today’s conversations about immigrants in Europe.
The Grinder (available October 5)
In this, our era of Peak TV, it’s almost a shock when a would-be cult series is canceled soon after it hits its stride. But such was the fate of Fox’s one-season wonder sitcom The Grinder, in which Rob Lowe plays a TV actor whose legal drama is canceled, leading him to move back home and join his brother and father’s law firm — because surely he knows plenty about being a lawyer after playing one on TV. It’s a very funny series filled with great jokes about how stupid television can be.
Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids (available October 12)
In a bid to remind people that he’s more than Jimmy Fallon’s hype man, Justin Timberlake had Jonathan Demme, director of some of the greatest concert films ever made (like Stop Making Sense), create a documentary version of his final 20/20 tour date in Las Vegas. There are sure to be plenty of mic stand twirls, slick dance moves, and moments where Timberlake hypes up the crowd with a grin and a drawn-out falsetto note. If you’re a Timberlake fan already, this will probably be right up your alley.
Black Mirror, season three (available October 21)
This British anthology that’s now a Netflix original is still one of TV’s most inventive series, with every episode telling a new sci-fi or horror tale based on the technology that’s all around us. Black Mirror’s new season will feature double the number of episodes — seasons one and two had three episodes apiece, while this one will have six. We’ve screened two, and they’re both stunners, so get ready.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (available October 28)
The plot of this Netflix original is so simple as to seem almost like a myth or legend: A hospice nurse (Ruth Wilson) moves into a creepy old house to care for the older woman who’s confined to bed, where she’s slowly dying. Said older woman was a top horror novelist in her time, and the audience might start to wonder if some of her ideas have infected her home. The story may prove too slight for some, but it will be intensely terrifying for others.
New in October on Hulu
Brief Interviews With Hideous Men (available October 1)
John Krasinski wrote and directed this strange little film, based on David Foster Wallace’s short story collection of the same name. A series of guys tell their stories to a therapist (Julianne Nicholson), who’s got her own hideous man to tend to. It has a distinctly Wallace-y vibe, which is to say it’s seemingly disjointed until it all comes together at once.
Platoon (available October 1)
Part of Oliver Stone’s so-called “Vietnam trilogy,” this 1987 Best Picture winner tells the story of idealistic Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen), who goes to war and gets the crap kicked out of him, both physically and metaphysically, sometimes by Willem Dafoe.
Stage Beauty (October 1)
Hollywood darling Claire Danes and indie favorite Billy Crudup teamed up in 2004 for this genre-savvy, gender-bending take on Shakespeare and the crumbling norms of male-only theater in Restoration England, with Danes turning in a wonderfully giddy performance as a girl who longs to subvert the laws that prevent her from acting onstage. Featuring smart turns from a great ensemble, a heady Celtic-flavored soundtrack, and teasing pansexual chemistry all around, the story about a racy attempt to pull off Othello with an actual woman in the lead will make you wonder what the Elizabethans were thinking when they banned women from the stage.
Please Like Me, season 3 (available October 11)
The first word that Please Like Me brings to mind is “lovely.” The Australian series, loosely based on the life of creator and star Josh Thomas, is about friendship, dating, and mental illness, but also the day-in-and-day-out routine of living, in all its mundane glory. Thomas and his co-stars — most notably Caitlin Stasey, Thomas Ward, and Debra Lawrance — are so witty and effortless together that getting a peek into their characters’ ordinary lives never feels boring.
Shine a Light (available October 23)
Martin Scorsese’s concert documentary of the Rolling Stones’ 2006 tour isn’t quite as good as his epic Bob Dylan documentary No Direction Home, but it comes close. Scorsese follows the Stones through a long show that covers most of their hits, while also dipping into the band’s illustrious past. If you’ve wanted to see the Stones in concert but haven’t actually done so, here you go.
New on Amazon Prime in October
Before Sunrise/Before Sunset (available October 1)
Fall in love all over again — twice — with Jesse and Celine, the star-crossed couple whom director Richard Linklater returns to every nine years. The first two installments of their story, released in 1995 and 2004, are just about the most romantic (and, somehow, realistic) portraits of the way time messes with humans and our relationships. It doesn’t hurt that the films are set against the backdrop of beautiful European cities.
The Host (available October 1)
The Host is, for Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson’s money, the best monster movie ever made, straight from South Korea. It’s also maybe the best dark comedy, about a loser trying to live with his dysfunctional family — okay, yeah, and to avoid being eaten by the gigantic fish monster ravaging the country.
Married to the Mob (available October 1)
Before he was the guy who made The Silence of the Lambs and a number of other would-be Oscar favorites (Philadelphia, Beloved, etc.), Jonathan Demme was the man you turned to for elaborate comedic contraptions. One of his finest is this 1988 film about a woman whose gangster husband is murdered, and the FBI agent who tries to investigate her ties to the mob.
Louder Than Bombs (available October 17)
Basically nothing happens in this deeply sad movie about a family trying to come to grips with the death of its matriarch, but it’s exquisitely acted (by a cast that features Gabriel Byrne and Jesse Eisenberg), with beautiful direction and writing from Norwegian Joachim Trier, making his English-language debut.
Good Girls Revolt (available October 28)
If you’re missing Mad Men, this ’60s-set period drama will ... well, it won’t fill that void in your life. (What could?) But it is a reasonably entertaining series about the real-life women who forced Newsweek (portrayed here as the fictional News of the Week) to give them credit on stories they had helped report, rather than reserving all the recognition for men. The show boasts a great cast, too, led by newcomer Genevieve Angelson.
New on HBO in October
Cop Car (available October 1)
Jon Watts, the director of this stripped-down thriller about two kids who find an abandoned police car in the wilds of rural Colorado and find themselves at the center of a criminal conspiracy, impressed Sony so much that he’ll be directing the next Spider-Man movie. Also, Kevin Bacon is in it!
Eastern Promises (available October 1)
In Eastern Promises, Viggo Mortensen is a fixer for the Russian mob, so you can guess where this film is headed. It also has Naomi Watts and the greatest naked-knife-fight-in-a-bathhouse scene of all time. Buckle up.
Poltergeist (October 1)
There’s no better time to enjoy director Tobe Hooper and producer Steven Spielberg’s suburban haunted house. The glories of this ’80s classic come from Hooper’s ability to craft true terror from the everyday mundanity of your own bedroom. The family bonds, magical realism (remember the ghost chairs?), and authentic performances from Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Heather O'Rourke, and Zelda Rubinstein still have us running to the light to this day.
Romancing the Stone (October 1)
Robert Zemeckis’s zany 1984 rom-com/road trip/caper movie (with a top-notch screenplay by Diane Thomas) has retained its hold on our hearts. Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas ooze chemistry as a neurotic romance novelist and an expat poacher who find themselves woefully out of their depth when they become embroiled in a kidnapping and the jewel heist of the century. All the while, Danny DeVito runs around the Mexican countryside like a lost Marx brother, providing the final dollop of comedy icing on a cake that’s made of jungle shenanigans, jocular drug dealers, and crocodiles.
Insecure (available October 9)
HBO’s new comedy landed at the top of our fall TV list for a reason. With writer and star Issa Rae at the helm, the show is immediately self-assured, different from anything HBO’s tried before, and funny as hell. Rae stars as a fictionalized version of herself who’s grappling with a static relationship and the realities of being a self-proclaimed awkward black woman. (This premise was also the basis for Rae’s popular web series from a few years ago, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.) Every episode of Insecure is better than the one before, and director Melina Matsoukas — who’s also responsible for making Beyoncé’s “Formation” video so unforgettable — makes sure every frame of Insecure’s South Los Angeles setting shines.