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29 of October’s best streaming debuts

This month is so much more than horror (but also some horror).

Spielberg, Stranger Things 2, and Curb Your Enthusiasm are among this month’s best streaming debuts.
HBO/Netflix

October is upon us, which means we here at Vox Culture easily could have populated this month’s streaming recommendations with nothing but horror movies and other Halloween-adjacent entertainment, like Stranger Things 2, which takes the title of “October’s most anticipated streaming release” in a walk. But while there are certainly several notable debuts of the thrills-and-chills variety — like recent horror favorites Lights Out and Raw, and the new Amazon series Lore — there are also loads of intriguing new releases that even the most scare-averse viewer can get excited for.

Documentary fans can look forward to cinematic portraits of four wildly different subjects: Ronald Reagan, Steven Spielberg, Joan Didion, and George Michael. For the auteurists in the crowd, there are hotly anticipated new projects ahead from David Fincher, Noah Baumbach, and Doug Liman. For comedy lovers, there’s the long-awaited return of Curb Your Enthusiasm and a new Patton Oswalt special. And for those freaking out about 30 Rock’s recent departure from Netflix, well, there’s good news for you too.

Point is, it’s a good month for streaming entertainment, scary or otherwise. Here are October’s best new-to-streaming options, broken down by premiere date and platform.

Premiering October 1

30 Rock seasons 1-7, Hulu

For all those who were desperately marathoning 30 Rock in preemptive mourning of Netflix dropping the series, fear not: Tina Fey’s gloriously weird comedy about the behind-the-scenes mess of making a sketch comedy show will make the leap straight from one streaming service to another, as Hulu swooped in to make a deal with NBCUniversal deal just days before the great 30 Rock blackout was set to happen. You are hereby free to keep enjoying all seven seasons of 30 Rock with your night cheese. Caroline Framke

Curb Your Enthusiasm season 9 premiere, HBO Now

Six years after Curb Your Enthusiasm wrapped its eighth season, Larry David’s master class in cringe comedy is back for a ninth season as of October 1. HBO promises that not only is Larry back but “nothing has changed,” with much of the original cast — including Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, and J.B. Smoove — coming back for more. The world might have changed dramatically since Larry was last on the air, but HBO and David are confident that the show’s depiction of oblivious wealth and cantankerous grievances will be timeless. —CF

Darkman, Showtime

This blast of pure pulp energy from director Sam Raimi (of Evil Dead and Spider-Man fame) marked the director’s crossover from indie horror to mainstream studio cult success when he made it in 1990. Liam Neeson stars as the titular self-made superhero, a character created by Raimi when he couldn’t get the rights to any of the pulp heroes of his youth. —Todd VanDerWerff

John Carpenter’s They Live, Starz

Director John Carpenter’s action-satire of 1980s yuppie America has become exemplary of anyone who can’t quite believe the out-of-whack priorities of all the idiots they’re forced to live near. In it, a man finds sunglasses that allow him to see that aliens have taken over the planet by disguising themselves as the rich and powerful — and he launches a one-man war to take it back. It’s also the movie that contains the famous line, “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubblegum.” —TV

Lights Out, HBO Now

Few horror films have had an idea as pure as this one, based on a YouTube short film. In it, there’s a horrifying, monstrous ghost — who can only attack when the lights are out. What sounds like a one-note premise instead provides for endless, inventive riffs on what does and doesn’t count as a light source. (It’s the rare horror movie where the story works overtime to incorporate cellphones.) As a bonus, the movie serves as a sneaky metaphor about mental illness, with a controversial ending that might leave you debating what you just saw. —TV

Little Shop of Horrors, Hulu

Frank Oz’s 1986 film adaptation of the off-Broadway Howard Ashman and Alan Menken musical comedy — itself an adaptation of a very different 1960 Roger Corman B-movie — earns its share of superlatives. It’s one of the best movie musicals of all time, featuring possibly the best large-scale puppet performance on film (that would be the villainous mean green mother from outer space, Audrey II). It’s a contender for best comedic “one-scene wonder” in Bill Murray’s gleefully deranged performance as a masochistic dental work enthusiast. And it holds claim to one of the most famous excised endings in film history. From its joyous doo-wop opening to its diluted but still epic climax, Little Shop of Horrors is a pure, unadulterated shot of movie musical magic, endlessly entertaining and supremely rewatchable. —Genevieve Koski

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, HBO Now

Like the series of Patrick O’Brian novels on which it’s based — about a British naval commander and his enterprising onboard medical officer, sailing the seas during the Napoleonic Wars — Master and Commander is historically meticulous. Its ships, sets, and battle scenes are top-notch, and the inimitable Peter Weir’s studious and subtle direction perfectly captures the peaceful limbo of life on a 19th-century sea voyage with literally explosive interruptions. But the biggest draw is the warm camaraderie of Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany as Captain Aubrey and Dr. Maturin, sparring and cantankerous best friends. It’s not often that a dramatic war movie also proves oddly soothing, making you want to have a cup of tea and listen to string music while imagining yourself aloft a gently choppy sea. —Aja Romano

Pet Sematary, Hulu

One of the rare horror films by a female director to achieve cult status, Mary Lambert’s adaptation of one of Stephen King’s scariest novels has an uneven tone and a creepy, unhinged atmosphere that permeates one of King’s harshest stories. The film doesn’t skimp on the dark themes, which include everything from child death to zombie animals and the trauma of in-home hospice care. Yet it’s also a film for which the Ramones wrote an original song to play during a scene where a kid gets killed by a semi, and a film where Herman Munster is the politely cryptic next-door neighbor warning you not to fuck with mystical burial grounds. That is, it’s brutal, but also a little random, and deeply weird. All of which makes it a perennial Halloween favorite and an enduring classic. —AR

The Purge: Election Year, HBO Now

The third entry in the Purge franchise came out the summer before the 2016 election, and though it’s a little more heavy-handed than its predecessors about what it’s trying to do, it’s still a strong (and disturbing) entry into the social-realist horror genre. The film pits the creepy white supremacist “New Founding Fathers” (and their ghoulish plans to ensure their souls are “cleansed”) against ordinary people trying to protect their homes and care for the wounded, and against a morally upright female senator who wants to take down their regime. —Alissa Wilkinson

Premiering October 2

Sleeping With Other People, Netflix

When Sleeping With Other People first came out in 2015, it was billed as the “two sex addicts try not to date each other” comedy — which is sort of true, but also shortchanges the nuances of this movie’s sharp take on what romance even means. Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis are awesome as a pair of people learning to respect both themselves and others, and as written and directed by Leslye Headland (Bachelorette), the script is equal parts wickedly funny and downright filthy. —CF

Premiering October 4

Colossal, Hulu

Director Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal isn’t necessarily one of the best movies of 2017, but it’s definitely one of the most interesting, representing the lone point on the Venn diagram overlap of “addiction drama” and “kaiju movie.” Starring an excellent Anne Hathaway as Gloria, a writer named who’s approaching rock bottom, and Jason Sudeikis as her hometown friend who represents an even rockier bottom, Colossal centers on a series of appearances in Seoul, South Korea, by a building-size monster — one that happens to share some distinct mannerisms with Gloria. As far as externalized representations of internal struggles go, it doesn’t get much more pointed than that, but Colossal plays its central metaphor straight — yes, the monster is very real, and no, there’s no explanation for it — and finds unexpected resonance in the resulting chaos. —GK

Raw, Netflix

Raw is the cannibal teen horror movie of the moment, a tangled mass of social and sexual awkwardness featuring a furious love-hate rivalry between two sisters (Garance Marillier and Ella Rumpf). When younger Justine (Marillier) starts her first year at a veterinary college, her older sister, also in attendance, attempts with varying success to help her adjust to the ways of the school — which include, for them, eating meat. Justine, a vegetarian, wants no part of it — until a first taste sets her on a violent and rapid spiral toward a craving for human flesh. Featuring stunning cinematography, visceral body horror, and excellent acting, Raw is a bag of mixed messages about social maladjustment, consent, and awakenings, but it’s so stylish that you’ll take the bag and be hungry for more. —AR

The Reagan Show, Hulu

Was Ronald Reagan the consummate performer? The Reagan Show makes the case that the former actor’s onscreen experience was a perfect training ground for his presidency, chronicling the Reagan administration entirely through news reports and footage shot by the administration itself. It uses Reagan’s work as an actor and one of his common nicknames — “the Great Communicator” — as its jumping-off point, opening with a very prescient-seeming clip of Reagan telling newscaster David Brinkley, at the end of his time in office, that “there have been times in this office when I wonder how you could do the job without having been an actor.” —AW

Premiering October 5

The Americans season 5, Amazon

The next-to-last season of the spy drama The Americans, about Soviet agents living undercover in 1980s Washington, DC, was a more challenging sit than many of the series’ best seasons. But it seems likely its flaws will be minimized by a binge watch. In addition, if you’re going to tune in for the show’s final season (debuting in early 2018), now’s your chance to watch the first five seasons and get caught up. —TV

Rillington Place, Sundance Now

Tim Roth and Samantha Morton star in the true story of a British serial killer and the wrongful conviction that led to the end of the death penalty in the United Kingdom. Two couples living in the same building see their lives intertwine in devastating fashion when one couple becomes pregnant with a child they can’t care for. The three-part miniseries debuted in the UK in 2016 but is making its American debut on Sundance Now. —TV

Schitt's Creek season 3, Netflix

If you are someone who hasn’t seen Schitt’s Creek and/or is wrinkling your nose at the name, let us assure you that this is a very funny show well worth giving a shot. Created by Eugene Levy and his son Dan (who also writes and stars on the show), Schitt’s Creek follows the myopic stumblings of the Rose family trying to make something of their lives in the tiny town they forgot they bought years before their finances collapsed. Featuring both Levys, the incomparable Catherine O’Hara as the Rose matriarch, and Annie Murphy as the vapid but well-meaning daughter, Schitt’s Creek is as strange as it is hilarious. —CF

Premiering October 7

Spielberg, HBO Now

Few directors are as integral to the past half-century of Hollywood moviemaking as Steven Spielberg, whose career as a director, producer, and occasional writer has largely shaped blockbuster filmmaking as we know it. At 70, Spielberg is still as prolific as ever — his mysterious historical drama The Post is out in December, followed a few months later by the hotly anticipated Ready Player One — but he still found time to give roughly 30 hours of interviews to director Susan Lacy for her new retrospective on him and his work. Somewhat surprisingly for such a famously exacting director, Spielberg himself was otherwise uninvolved with the making of the doc, which also taps a small army of collaborators (ranging from Leonardo DiCaprio and Oprah Winfrey to fellow “Movie Brats” Francis Ford Coppola and Brian De Palma) to help speak to his unparalleled cinematic legacy. —GK

Premiering October 13

Lore season 1, Amazon

Podcaster Aaron Mahnke scored a huge hit with Lore, his posh series examining creepy folklore, urban legends, and other mysteries both human and non-human. Amazon’s highly anticipated series based on the podcast looks to blend dramatic fictional reenactments with actual history, as the series covers everything from the horrifying history of lobotomies to the tale of Robert the Cursed Doll. —AR

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Netflix

One of two movies that kicked up a controversy around Netflix at the Cannes Film Festival this summer, The Meyerowitz Stories is set up as a series of chapters about its title family, led by patriarch and moderately successful sculptor Harold (Dustin Hoffman). The film boasts an all-around knockout cast, but its most notable — and maybe surprising — performance comes from Adam Sandler, who carries the proceedings as Danny, Harold’s oldest and least professionally successful spawn. Written and directed by Noah Baumbach (Mistress America, The Squid and the Whale), The Meyerowitz Stories is a tale of a family that still hasn’t quite figured out how to live with each other's deficiencies. But at least they’re trying. —AW

Mindhunter season 1, Netflix

We don’t know much about this new series, except that it’s from director David Fincher (Seven and Zodiac) and involves FBI agents hunting serial killers in 1979. (It’s based on a nonfiction book of the same name.) With Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany playing the agents, there’s plenty of opportunity here for a terrific, tense, creepy thriller. —TV

Premiering October 15

Tokyo Project, HBO

Richard Shepard, who directed many of the best installments of Girls, brings this short film to HBO, which follows a businessman and a mystery woman (newly minted Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss) through a visit to Tokyo. Would you believe the two have a connection they’ll only just begin to understand? Sounds like an agreeably pretentious way to kill 32 minutes. —TV

Premiering October 17

Patton Oswalt: Annihilation, Netflix

Netflix

Comedian Patton Oswalt has been releasing standup specials at a steady clip for years, but his new Annihilation is particularly notable for the worst of reasons: It captures Oswalt’s first full set following the 2016 death of his wife, true crime writer Michelle McNamara, who died unexpectedly the day before the release of Oswalt’s last Netflix special, Talking for Clapping (which would go on to win an Emmy).

Recorded in Chicago this June, Annihilation marks the fastest turnaround to date for a new Oswalt special, but he has more than enough new material to justify it. In addition to featuring legitimately heartrending (and yes, quite funny) stuff concerning McNamara’s death and the toll it took on him and his young daughter, plus some of Oswalt’s always-sharp crowd work, Annihilation also marks the first special in which the outspoken comic will take on the ever-rich subject of President Donald Trump. —GK

Premiering October 20

1922, Netflix

It’s no secret we’re in a Stephen King renaissance moment, and this new Netflix film, based on a King story originally collected in Full Dark, No Stars, has been garnering rave reviews for its sumptuous Southern gothic tone and its sparse but gripping storytelling. The story of a man (Thomas Jane) who kills his wife and then is plagued by a host of psychosomatic horrors, 1922 is King at his grimmest. —AR

One of Us, Netflix

Jesus Camp directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady spent years following three young people — Etty, Ari, and Luzer — as they navigate life after leaving Hasidic Judaism. The result is an unnerving portrait of life in a community that endeavors to keep itself closed off to outsiders, partly by making life outside its borders unthinkable. Ewing and Grady stay offscreen, letting their subjects speak for themselves. One of Us isn’t just about Hasidic Judaism; it’s an empathetic look at the difficulties that come when we start to question the very commitments that form our identity. —Alissa Wilkinson

The Wall, Amazon

The Wall (directed by The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow's Doug Liman) feels almost like a play, with only a few characters and just one location. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays an American soldier who's trying to save his wounded buddy (John Cena) and finds himself in a desperate game of cat-and-mouse with an interlocutor he can hear but not see. It's more psychological thriller than war film, and it’s both grim and gripping. —AW

Premiering October 21

George Michael: Freedom, Showtime

George Michael’s long-overdue cultural reassessment may have arrived too late for him to witness, but in true genius fashion, he was already preparing for it when he died on Christmas Day last year — through his work on this documentary. Michael himself narrates Freedom, which looks back at his life, his music, and the “truth” about who he was as a musician, a cultural icon, and a queer man who was penalized for it his entire career. Even if you never paid much attention to Wham or Michael before this, Freedom should prove enlightening. —AR

John Wick: Chapter 2, HBO Now

The second entry in the John Wick series once again stars Keanu Reeves as a mourning but merciless assassin who’s just trying to live a normal life but keeps getting interrupted by people trying to off him. It sounds like the setup for a terribly derivative movie, but somehow John Wick: Chapter 2 is a completely fantastic action film, a stylishly shot thrill ride with a star who’s just plain fun to watch. —AW

Premiering October 27

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, Netflix

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold
Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold comes to Netflix this month.
Netflix

The famously reserved Joan Didion is 82, and has spent her life chronicling the disintegrating center of American life. In novels and screenplays, personal essays and first-person reporting, her unsparing eye for detail cracks open surfaces to show what’s going on underneath. Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, directed (and Kickstarted) by her nephew, the actor Griffin Dunne, doesn’t pull off the same feat with its subject, though; those familiar with Didion’s life won’t find much in the way of new information here. But it functions as a good introduction to her work, and rare, personal on-camera interviews with Didion — and especially her reactions to questions — reveal a bit more of what’s going on beneath the pristine prose. —AW

Stranger Things 2, Netflix

The boys are back. Dustin, Lucas, Mike, Will, and their nearest and dearest (presumably Eleven too) are all here for the second season of 2016’s hit series Stranger Things. As we saw at the end of last season, everything is not quite right with Will since he returned from the Upside Down. The question now is just how long it’ll take the boys to figure it out, and what kind of twisted adventure they’re in for when they come to realize something dark is haunting their best friend. —Alex Abad-Santos