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29 of September 2017's best streaming debuts on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, and more

Say goodbye to summer and hello to a bounty of streaming delights.

Top of the Lake: China Girl, Hidden Figures, Carol, and BoJack Horseman are among September’s streaming debuts.

September is somewhat of a transitional month in the realms of film and TV, the former of which is shifting from summer-blockbuster mode to awards-season mode, while the latter is returning from summer break. But it’s a great month for streaming, which offers an early fall bounty of home viewing options that range from thought-provoking to wildly entertaining to nostalgia-stoking.

In addition to the return of some great original streaming series (Netflix’s BoJack Horseman, Amazon’s Transparent), this month’s streaming spoils include film classics both recent (City of God, Carol, Wall-E) and less so (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Jaws); some of the last year’s overlooked gems (The Lost City of Z, The Edge of Seventeen); and a couple of excellent recent documentaries. But nostalgia-driven viewers are the real winners this month, with a bevy of riches to choose from, ranging from millennial favorites like My Girl and The Secret Garden to comfort viewing at its emptiest: the full runs of TGIF “classics” like Full House, Step By Step, Family Matters, and more.

Here are September’s best new-to-streaming options, broken down by premiere date and platform.

Premiering September 1

Boy, Amazon

Taika Waititi became a cult name in the US for his 2014 horror-comedy masterpiece What We Do In the Shadows, which led to his being named director of the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok. But before that, he wrote, directed, and starred in 2010’s Boy, the highest-grossing film in New Zealand history — at least until he broke his own record last year. By turns whimsical, hilarious, heartbreaking, and difficult, Boy is an extraordinarily poignant film about boyhood, adulthood, and the complicated relationship between sons and the fathers they look up to.

Set in 1984, when international worship of Michael Jackson was at its peak, the film juxtaposes an escapist love of modern pop culture against an unflinching look at the realities of life for the Maori working class and their struggle to keep their own indigenous culture intact. As a bonus, we see this inherent conflict unified in the single best ending movie credits ever made. —Aja Romano

City of God, Netflix

City of God is a kinetic, visually spectacular, brutal crime drama that tells the story of the rise of organized crime over several decades in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro. It’s both a heart-pounding film and a humanizing one, following the children who become part of the drug empire. When the Brazilian film released in the US in 2003 (after premiering at Cannes a year earlier), it was a hit, landing on many critics’ year-end lists and garnering four Oscar nominations, including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was an instant classic — and one well worth watching. —Alissa Wilkinson

Contact, Hulu

Director Robert Zemeckis’s adaptation of astrophysicist Carl Sagan’s novel was trapped in development hell for years before eventually making it to theaters, and it’s not hard to understand why. Sagan’s story of first contact with extraterrestrial life doubles as a philosophical musing on the nature of scientific exploration and its intersection with both religion and government — the sort of heady science fiction preoccupations that rarely make their way to big-budget blockbusters.

But Zemeckis’s film largely pulls off the story’s tricky balancing act, thanks in large part to Jodie Foster’s terrific portrayal of SETI scientist and religious skeptic Ellie Arroway, and a still up-and-coming Matthew McConaughey as her primary foil, a charismatic Christian philosopher. And true to Zemeckis’s reputation as an envelope-pusher when it comes to visual effects, Contact’s primitive CGI holds up remarkably well by contemporary standards. —Genevieve Koski

Dirty Dancing, Amazon Prime

When Dirty Dancing hit theaters in 1987, it was widely expected to be a flop; the distributors planned to let it run for a weekend, then release it to home video. But the film was a sensation, making bona fide stars out of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, who play a young woman and a dance instructor who fall in love. And with a confident, determined, and big-hearted woman at its center, the film holds up three decades later. —AW

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Hulu

Still the most influential “the conformists are the real monsters” sci-fi/horror tale, 1956’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers turns quietly “normal” 1950s American life into a terrifying exploration of the darkness underlying that seemingly sleepy facade. A man realizes that his little neighborhood is slowly being colonized by alien beings that recreate his friends and neighbors as bland, dull, horrifying versions of themselves. Things only get worse from there. (If you like this one, the 1978 remake is also quite good.) —Todd VanDerWerff

Jaws, Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, Jaws: The Revenge, Netflix

Jaws is a cinematic masterpiece, and you should watch it. Jaws 2 is no Jaws, but Jaws 2 is a pretty decent, often quite scary film in its own right — a perfectly respectable shark movie. While it leans on the “Amity Island takes a dump on Sheriff Brody” theme, it inevitably deepens your love for Brody and his entire family — a feeling immediately undermined by the two subsequent Jaws films.

A common mistake made by pop-culture junkies is thinking that the diminishing returns of the Jaws franchise reach their apotheosis in Jaws: The Revenge, in which a shark kills Sean Brody (Sheriff Brody’s younger son and one of the main characters of both Jaws 2 and Jaws 3-D) and then follows Lorraine Gary to the Caribbean seeking revenge for all shark-kind.

But while it’s true that Jaws 4 has a threadbare script, clunky Michael Caine one-liners, Mario Van Peebles sporting a terrible Jamaican accent, and shark revenge, Jaws 3-D also has, in addition to a threadbare script, a bevy of frolicking teenagers, an evil corporate conspiracy, an evil showboating scientist, obnoxious happy dolphins, and, oh yes, a shark terrorizing Sea World because Sea World killed its baby. This is some Deep Blue Sea-level sharknanigans, and if you have not watched the entire Jaws quadrilogy lately, or ever, there’s no better time than the waning moments of summer to break out a bottle of something strong and prepare to root, root, root for the sharks. —AR

My Girl, Hulu

Has there ever been a more significant film about death and bees than My Girl? Starring a very young Anna Chlumsky and Macaulay Culkin riding his recent Home Alone fame, My Girl was the movie that crushed the teenage hearts of a generation of millennials, but also taught them about life, death, bees, and that none of those things are really fair. —Alex Abad-Santos

The Secret Garden, Netflix

Based on the beloved novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, this dreamy 1993 classic tells the story of how sour, unpleasant Mary Lennox transforms into a sweet and rosy-cheeked delight via the simple expedient of being turned out of doors and forced to fend for herself in the good, wholesome English air. Maggie Smith’s turn as the strict, shrewd housekeeper is iconic, but it’s the shots of Mary’s secret garden awakening and coming into flower that are most evocative and thrilling. —Constance Grady

Stick It, HBO Now

Stick It is the movie that tries to do for gymnastics what Bring It On did for cheerleading (they share a writer). It doesn’t quite succeed, but it’s still enormously fun to spend a rainy Saturday on the couch watching Haley, the bad girl of gymnastics, try to singlehandedly remake her notoriously perfectionist sport — and to rehabilitate her reputation a year after she threw in the towel at Nationals. Throw in Jeff Bridges as Haley’s gruff but fatherly coach, and you’ve got an immensely enjoyable piece of disposable fluff for your long holiday weekend. —CG

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Showtime

The musicals of Stephen Sondheim have thus far resisted easy cinematic translation. Indeed, this 2007 Tim Burton movie is probably the best Sondheim adaptation so far, turning the composer’s great potboiler of a show, about a barber who cuts a murderous swath through 1800s London in the name of revenge, into a lean and mean film. However, the movie has one fatal flaw: Stars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter can’t really sing, which is a problem with such an operatic score (though less of one than you’d expect, surprisingly). —TV

Premiering September 2

Adventure Time season eight, Hulu

Cartoon Network’s long-running coming-of-age story has quietly become the Harry Potter of the 2010s for its emotional depth, wide range of interesting characters, and beautiful use of metaphor to explore the pain of reaching maturity. In its penultimate season, the series dug deep into its post-apocalyptic mythology and pushed characters closer to self-realization and their own breaking points. The ninth and final season began airing in April and will end sometime in 2018. —TV

Freaky Friday (1976) and Freaky Friday (2003), Hulu

Body swap stories are generally awful, which makes it all the more surprising that two different big-screen versions of Mary Rodgers’s novel of the same name have been pretty darn good. The 1976 original has Jodie Foster at her child-star best, but the 2003 version boasts one of Jamie Lee Curtis’s best performances (as both a mom and then the teen daughter who swaps places with that mom) and the very best performance of a young Lindsay Lohan as the daughter, then mom-as-daughter. (Sorry, Mean Girls fans.) —TV

Premiering September 5

Newsies: The Broadway Musical, Netflix

Newsies is one of the rare Disney musicals that fully justifies Disney’s Broadway takeover, because it’s so much better onstage than in its beloved but ultimately lackluster film counterpart. The live taping, which was filmed in September of 2016 during the national Newsies tour at Pasadena, features Jeremy Jordan and Andrew Keenan-Bolger returning to the roles that made them famous. Longtime Disney composer Alan Menken’s music has never been brighter, and the time has never been righter for a bubbly story about a labor-rights uprising told by a bevy of singing, dancing, working-class underdogs. —AR

Premiering September 8

BoJack Horseman season four, Netflix

TV’s best current answer to Mad Men is this animated Hollywood satire about a depressive horse and his friends and lovers. Season three ended with the title character heading off into the great American empty, and season four picks up with nobody knowing (or really caring) where he is. Meanwhile, charismatic dog Mr. Peanutbutter is running for governor, and BoJack’s manager Princess Caroline is contemplating parenthood. The result is a deeply funny show that hits you with deeply emotional left hooks from out of nowhere. —TV

One Mississippi season two, Amazon Prime

In its first season, One Mississippi was charming and warm, even as it took far too long to get to the place viewers knew it was heading all along. Season two, then, will hopefully be even better, as Tig (played by comedian Tig Notaro) settles into the tiny Southern town she grew up in and tries to reconnect with her stepfather and brother. There’s a really sweet show about finding your way back to your family later in life somewhere inside One Mississippi. Here’s hoping season two teases it out. —TV

Premiering September 9

Hidden Figures, HBO Now

Hidden Figures was a hit with audiences and critics alike last winter, an inspirational, family-friendly historical drama about three black women whose work at NASA was instrumental in putting John Glenn into orbit around Earth. That could have been the recipe for a much hokier film, but the story — based on a book by Margot Lee Shetterly — is just Hollywood enough to stay entertaining, while smart enough to know how important its story is. Hidden Figures blends contemporary conversations about race, gender, diversity in STEM fields, and patriotism, and presents them in a thought-provoking historical package. And most of all, the film boasts three terrific leading ladies (and a few great supporting actors, too). —AW

Premiering September 11

Top of the Lake: China Girl, Hulu

Top of the Lake, a 2013 miniseries about a New Zealand detective who unravels a complicated case involving sexual abuse and entrenched misogyny in a tiny town, was both one of that year’s best TV series and part of the first big wave of film auteurs trying their hand at TV (in this case The Piano’s Jane Campion). China Girl — which will premiere on Sundance over three consecutive nights and, thus, become completely available on Hulu as of September 13 — reunites Campion with star Elisabeth Moss and Top of the Lake newcomers Nicole Kidman (a previous Campion collaborator) and Gwendoline Christie. —TV

Premiering September 15

Strong Island, Netflix

More memoir than “documentary,” Strong Island is a searing personal account of filmmaker Yance Ford’s grief, frustration, and struggle in the wake of the death of his brother, William. The film, which premiered to strong reviews at Sundance this past year, is both emotional and pointed, with Ford trying on camera to find out what really happened and determine what it means for self, family, and country when justice is so frequently crossed with prejudice. —AW

The Lost City of Z, Amazon Prime

The Lost City of Z is a story of obsession, specifically that of real-life British explorer and military man Percy Fawcett, who spent the latter half of his life fixated on an ancient lost Amazonian civilization he found evidence of during a mapping expedition in Bolivia. In the hands of writer-director James Gray (the remarkable talent behind 2013’s The Immigrant), this adaptation of a 2009 nonfiction book transforms what could have been a mere quest narrative into something bigger and more lyrical. Charlie Hunnam’s fabulous lead performance brings soulfulness and nuance to Fawcett’s life-altering preoccupation, but Gray’s sumptuous direction is the real star here, turning Lost City of Z from a pretty period biopic into an epic poem. —GK

Premiering September 16

The Edge of Seventeen, Showtime

Coming-of-age dramedy The Edge of Seventeen is the sort of smart, savvy teen movie that’s all too rare. Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig’s feature debut falls into the same class as films like Mean Girls, Easy A, and even Clueless, approaching the inner lives of its teenage protagonists with respect, nuance, and just the right amount of 20/20 hindsight.

An excellent Hailee Steinfeld anchors the film as proudly misanthropic black sheep Nadine; newcomer Hayden Szeto provides a perfect foil as Nadine’s heartbreakingly genuine classmate Edwin; and a couple of adult ringers — namely Woody Harrelson as Nadine’s long-suffering teacher/confidante and Kyra Sedgwick as her mother — keep the whole thing from spinning out into a teen-angst parade. It’s about as deft and delightful as this kind of movie gets. —GK

Premiering September 18

Call the Midwife season six, Netflix

Call the Midwife — a British series about young women acting as midwives in 1950s and ’60s England — isn’t a great TV show, but it’s definitely a cozy TV show. Characters care about each other, and storylines often resolve with great warmth. Even the obligatory dips into social-issues storytelling offer a kind of gauzy nostalgia for an era when women were struggling to escape the societal bonds placed on them. Above all, it’s a show to watch over a long weekend with anyone in your life who complains TV has gotten too sensationalist or filthy. —TV

Wall-E, Starz

Pixar’s stealth environmentalist parable Wall-E is nearly a decade old, but its vision of an Earth that’s been destroyed by unbridled consumerism feels as relevant and haunting as ever; luckily, there are some really cute robots in the mix to keep things from getting mired in existential crisis. Despite its dystopian undertones, Wall-E is both a feat of animation and a ton of fun, a largely dialogue-free underdog-savior narrative that strikes a near-perfect balance of madcap hijinks, dramatic tension, and emotional catharsis. Relevant or not, it’s never a bad time to rewatch one of Pixar’s absolute best films. —GK

Premiering September 19

Beauty and the Beast, Netflix

A tale as old as time is currently the year’s No. 1 film, and it’s easy to see why. Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast ports over many of the beloved songs and characters from the 1991 animated musical, but adds some fresh faces (especially Emma Watson as Belle) and a few new songs. But the best part is seeing old favorites restaged, especially the opening song “Belle” and the dinner extravaganza “Be Our Guest.” Some of the new additions don’t work, but it doesn’t really matter; if you loved the animated original, you’ll want to relive it through this one, too. —AW

Premiering September 20

Carol, Netflix

Few films are as pristine and indelible as Carol, Todd Haynes’s 2015 film based on Patricia Highsmith’s novella The Price of Salt. Cate Blanchett plays Carol Aird, a 1950s housewife who becomes bewitched by a wide-eyed shopgirl named Therese (Rooney Mara). Their furtive romance is captured in a film that flawlessly draws on the visual elements of cinema to serve up a sharp, unforgettable meditation on the ways we gaze upon the things — and people — that we desire. —AW

Premiering September 22

Transparent season four, Amazon Prime

Transparent’s third season was a messy but probably necessary transitional season, with all of the Pfeffermans making some painful progress, shedding baggage, and finding their way back to each other. Season four is going to send them to Israel to explore their Jewish heritage. With one of the best ensemble casts on television and great writing and direction, the show should avoid many of the “vacation episode” pitfalls. —TV

Premiering September 26

Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan, Netflix

When Wendy Whelan left New York City Ballet in 2014, it was a watershed moment: She was one of classical ballet’s oldest and most revered principal dancers, with more than 30 years at NYCB and a repertoire of more than 50 ballets under her belt. Restless Creature is a documentary of the months in which she grappled with her next steps, especially as she struggled with injury.

As a film, it’s also a cut above most dance documentaries — a frank, close, and sometimes uncomfortable look at the difficult psychological toll a career on the stage takes on its performers, even those who have successful and healthy careers. Whelan’s misgivings and fears about the future make for a riveting film, of interest to audiences far beyond dance nerds. —AW

Premiering September 27

The ABCs of Death, Hulu

The ABCs of Death is among the most notable of a slew of recent horror anthology films — and it illustrates why the trend is so popular. Comprising shorts ranging from black comedy to experimental, from ghost stories to extreme horror, 26 horror directors do their best to tell a story about death through a frame of their choice. Highlights include the creepy "M Is for Miscarriage” by the brilliant Ti West, “Q Is for Quack" by Adam Wingard (back when he was still exciting), and Jorge Michel Grau’s “I is for Ingrown.” —AR

Premiering September 29

Our Souls at Night, Netflix

We have yet to see this new film from Indian director Ritesh Batra, but it’s got a great cast (Robert Redford and Jane Fonda!) and great source material, in writer Kent Haruf’s final novel. Two lonely older neighbors strike up a romantic relationship, mostly to have somebody to talk to during their long evenings. On the page, it’s beautiful and spare. And with Redford and Fonda involved, we have every reason to believe those qualities will translate to the screen. —TV

TGIHulu! (a.k.a. the complete series of Family Matters, Full House, Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, Perfect Strangers, and Step by Step), Hulu

ABC’s legendary TGIF programming block was home to a number of different shows throughout its original run, which anchored the network’s Friday nights for over a decade, from 1989 through 2000. But Family Matters, Full House, Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, Perfect Strangers, and Step by Step were some of its most beloved family-friendly offerings, and on the heels of Full House’s 30th anniversary, Hulu has licensed all five shows in their entirety in an effort to recapture some of the TGIF magic.

Combined, they amount to over 800 episodes of TV that’s not necessarily good, but sure to rouse pangs of nostalgia in former ’90s kids everywhere. It’s a rare condition, in this day and age, to read any good news on the newspaper page — but if you’re in need an escape by way of wholesome TV comedy, Hulu’s got you covered, with Steve Urkel, Balky Bartokomous, and the Tanner family everywhere you look. —Jen Trolio