The October crush of horror movies is over, and the nation’s finest streaming services are pivoting toward adding lots of movies the whole family can watch together while digesting gigantic holiday meals.
Some feature Santa. Some feature Batman. Sadly, none feature Batman v. Santa: Dawn of Christmas (though Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is coming to HBO Now, should you want to see it for some stupid reason).
Idiotic jokes aside, it’s a great month for movies on the four biggest streaming services. If you’re looking for new TV it’s … less great, but Netflix at least has the long-hoped-for, heavily hyped new Gilmore Girls miniseries (which consists of four 90-minute movies about the characters), as well as a terrific new biographical series about Queen Elizabeth II, The Crown.
So load up your plate and settle into your recliner. Here’s a list of great movies and shows to half-watch while you sleep off your meal.
New in November on Netflix
The African Queen (available November 1)
The 1951 movie that won Humphrey Bogart his Oscar is also one of the best big-screen adventures ever made. Bogart plays a Canadian steamboat captain in World War I-era German East Africa, who helps a British missionary (Katherine Hepburn) outrun the Germans after they beat her brother nearly to death. (A fever finishes him off.) Director John Huston largely filmed this on location in Uganda and the Congo, and its success kept both Bogart and Hepburn box office stars.
Pervert Park (Available November 1)
The Florida Justice Transitions trailer park near St. Petersburg, Florida, houses convicted sex offenders who have been released from prison but who, by nature of their conviction, aren't allowed to live near schools or other similar institutions. In Pervert Park, filmmakers Frida and Lasse Barkfors let the residents tell their stories. The result is a heartbreaking chronicle that's not easy to watch, but tells an important tale about the cycle of sexual abuse and crimes in America, and how we integrate (or, more often, fail to integrate) offenders into the broader community after rehabilitation.
The Crown (available November 4)
This new series is the most expensive show Netflix has ever produced (with a rumored price tag of around 100 million pounds for the first season, or just over $120 million). And, as you’d expect, it’s sumptuous, featuring beautiful sets and costumes as well as a tremendous, pitch-perfect cast. But most impressively, it’s also really involving, even if you’re not particularly interested in the British royal family, thanks to Claire Foy’s tremendous work as a young Queen Elizabeth II.
Boyhood (available November 25)
Richard Linklater's magnum opus took the world by storm in 2014, mostly because few people knew he'd been working on it for 12 years. Boyhood was shot a few days at a time, year after year, for more than a decade. There isn't a plot, exactly — Mason Evans (Ellar Coltrane) grows up, and his parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) do as too, after a fashion. Boyhood casts its spell by letting us see the actors age with their characters and experience the sentiment, heartbreak, and joy of growing up alongside them.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (Netflix, November 25)
First, Netflix came for Full House; now, the streaming network’s nostalgia sequel machine has sunk its claws into Gilmore Girls, the former WB darling about mothers, daughters, the complex politics of small town America, and the superiority of diner coffee. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life will follow Lorelei (Lauren Graham), her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel), and Gilmore matriarch Emily (Kelly Bishop) through four seasons, giving each one a standalone episode. For Gilmore Girls fans, the revisiting promises plenty of cameos from fan favorites — including all of Rory’s controversial boyfriends — and the show’s signature lightning fast banter. Plan accordingly; this miniseries drops on the day after Thanksgiving.
New in November on Hulu
The Conversation (available November 1)
In today’s NSA-saturated world, with decades of shocking twist endings under our belts, it could be easy for The Conversation to feel dated. Instead, this movie about a spy who comes to believe the subjects he’s bugged are in danger is as sharp and riveting as it was in 1974. This is primarily thanks to the mastery of Francis Ford Coppola’s superb direction and Gene Hackman’s passionate acting. Coppola allows the surreal, abstract rhythm of disembodied, wiretapped voices to weave themselves throughout Hackman’s advancing psychological breakdown like lost characters from a Beckett play. The effect is eerie and lingering.
From Russia With Love (available November 1)
In the holiday tradition of James Bond TV marathons, both Hulu and Amazon have released nearly all of the pre-Daniel-Craig-era Bond films just in time for Thanksgiving. While it’s hard to pick just one, From Russia With Love, the second Bond film, stands out. Deftly plotted, with a real kicker of an ending, the film’s greatest strength is its pair of ice-cold Soviet villains, Rosa Klebb and pre-Terminator robot-like Grant.
Brilliantly portrayed by the legendary Lotte Lenya and Robert Shaw, Klebb and Grant embody Hollywood’s preferred vision of Cold-War Russian spies: powerful, yet coldly asexual extensions of the state. They’re the perfect foils for an oversexed, rogue British superspy.
Mad Max (available November 1)
The very first iteration of Mad Max is also one of its most peculiar, acting as a more direct prequel to the rest than first movies in film series usually do. In this 1979 opener, Max (Mel Gibson) is a cop trying to stop motorcycle gangs — or “glory roaders” — from taking over the streets. So if you want to get a grip on what exactly led to the explosive kind of apocalyptic chaos that director George Miller embraced in the later movies, including 2015’s highly acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road, start here.
Punch-Drunk Love (available November 1)
Probably the strangest of Paul Thomas Anderson's films, Punch-Drunk Love stars Adam Sandler as Barry Egan, a lonely man rendered insecure by his emotionally abusive older sisters (seven of them!). He meets Lena (Emily Watson) and is immediately attracted to her, but he’s also embroiled in an extortion plot related to a phone-sex line he had the bad fortune to patronize. Punch-Drunk Love occasionally spins off into the surreal, but is mostly just very funny, a cult favorite since its release in 2002.
Creed (available November 19)
One of the best movies of 2015 was also one that proved to be one of the biggest surprises of 2015: this Rocky spinoff about the son of that film series’ Apollo Creed. Played by Michael B. Jordan, Adonis Creed attempts to simultaneously escape and live up to his father’s legacy while pursuing his own boxing career — and his trainer is none other than Rocky Balboa himself, played once again by Sylvester Stallone.
New on Amazon Prime in November
Mermaids (available November 1)
This 1990 coming-of-age dramedy has an awkward subplot involving a mother and a daughter fooling around with the same man, but if you can get past that cringey cliché, there’s plenty to love about Mermaids. Winona Ryder was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role as a high schooler struggling to rein in her freewheeling mom before the local gossip forces them to pack their bags. Cher shines as the manic pixie dream mom who will obviously never leave the ’60s. Mermaids has plenty of great familial chemistry between Cher and Ryder (as well as a wee Christina Ricci). All in all, it’s a moving portrait of family affection and dysfunction, landing on Amazon just in time for Thanksgiving.
Up in the Air (available November 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 videoconferences. 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.
The Night Manager (available November 5)
One of the handful of 2016 Emmys The People v O.J. Simpson was up for and lost at September’s ceremony was for direction — and it went to this smart, stylish spy thriller from director Susanne Bier. The Night Manager is based on a John le Carre novel about a hotel manager who gets drawn into an international arms ring, and it stars Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie as the cat and mouse, respectively.
Red Oaks, season two (available November 11)
If you’re not sick of ‘80s teen movie nostalgia, Amazon’s original series Red Oaks is ready to welcome you with open arms and a stacked soundtrack. Season two offers much the same as season one, namely the aimless exploits of David (Craig Roberts) and his friends as they spend another summer working at a fancy country club. Other actors involved include Richard Kind as David’s hapless dad, Jennifer Grey as his determined mother, and Paul Reiser as the wealthy country club benefactor who alternates between rolling his eyes at David and accidentally-on-purpose mentoring him.
Green Room (available November 12)
Green Room was an instant cult hit among horror fans when it landed in theaters earlier this year, just before talented lead Anton Yelchin’s untimely death. Fast-paced and taut, its standard “dumb teens versus terrifying rednecks” fare offers modern political overtones when a band gig in a remote northwestern honky-tonk becomes a nightmare of drug-fueled white supremacy. The unpredictable tension between the film’s characters owes a lot to its own weird ensemble cast, featuring Yelchin, Patrick Stewart, Alia Shawkat, and Imogen Poots. Read our review and an interview with director Jeremy Saulnier.
New in November on HBO Now
All the President’s Men (available November 1)
As we near the end of a trying election season fraught with scandal and increased cultural distrust of journalism, there’s no better time to check out Alan Pakula’s ever-relevant All the President’s Men. Based on Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s 1974 book about their famous investigation of the Watergate scandal, the film stars Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the mismatched pair of Washington Post reporters who broke the story behind the 1972 burglary of the DNC headquarters in the Watergate complex. All the President’s Men is a tribute to the ongoing relevance of the Fourth Estate, yes, but beyond that, it’s also a top-notch thriller, thanks to Pakula’s skillful direction.
Batman (available November 1)
Given the subsequent trajectories of both Batman and director Tim Burton, it can be easy to forget how gloriously strange and subversive the first installment in Warner Bros’ initial Batman film series is. Burton’s first outing with the Caped Crusader is worth revisiting for Jack Nicholson’s unhinged performance as the Joker, as well as Anton Furst’s noir-inflected production design, which influenced many subsequent Batman iterations. But perhaps most importantly of all, it was Batman that gave us “Batdance.”
Being There (Available November 1)
Chance (Peter Sellers) is raised in a fine house in Washington, DC, to be a gardener. His only contact with the outside world is through TV — but then, one day, he has to leave. Through a series of happy accidents and willful mis-hearings, Chance becomes a confidant and adviser to the president, who along with the rest of the country adores his “simple brand of wisdom.” Being There is both a dark comedy and an ominous fable about how rank ignorance can pass for genius in a mediated age. It's safe to say the movie is as relevant now as ever.
The Color of Money (available November 1)
One of Paul Newman’s early breakthrough roles was as a billiards genius in 1961’s The Hustler. When he finally won his Oscar, it was 25 years later, for this sequel in which his Hustler character, Fast Eddie Felson, faced off against a young pool shark played by Tom Cruise — who was, at the time, seen as the inheritor of Newman’s “good looking with unflappable grace” throne. And it’s directed by Martin Scorsese!
Miracle on 34th Street (available November 1)
Now that Halloween is behind us, it’s time to start calibrating your holiday viewing for the impending Christmas season. (Sorry, Thanksgiving. You know you’re just a warm-up for the main event.) There’s no shortage of Christmas movie classics to choose from this time of year, but you’d be hard-pressed to do better than the original 1947 Miracle on 34th Street. A perfect rebuke to holiday cynicism, the George Seaton film about a department-store Santa and the Christmas naysayers he inspires is a great option for those who need a little pragmatism mixed in with their holiday cheer.