Fall is on the horizon, school is back in somewhat full-force, and we’re all still trying to find the next great thing to watch on movie night. That’s where this list comes in, because even amidst uncertainty your movie watching doesn’t have to be boring.
Each month, I pick a short-list of under-the-radar titles waiting to be unearthed from the algorithms of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the like. If nothing else, it’ll save you from endlessly scrolling.
Here are a few films that will upgrade your “To-Watch” list this September.
American Honey (2016)
Andrea Arnold reinvented the coming-of-age genre for the 21st Century, and it never looked this viscerally compelling before. Also, we can be grateful for this title as it welcomed Shia LeBeouf back to the fold. Dude electrified the screen in this turn. Newcomer Sasha Lane is a force to be reckoned with carrying the film on her shoulders. American Honey is the most honest exploration of Americana we’ve seen in quite some time.
In an era of teen-films boasting mediocre adaptations of futuristic utopia or shimmering vampires — American Honey is a gritty, stripped-down, near three hour epic of filthy — yet — beautiful illumination of the misfits we often ignore. This one expresses more with a single look, or a faded sun beam, or a perfectly placed needle drop than most films fail to capture. An unkempt symphony of stunning chaos and deep truth. Watch the trailer and tell me you’re not utterly fascinated. A modern American masterpiece in every sense of the term.
Can we get a Criterion release on this already?
FOR FANS OF: 20th Century Women; The Florida Project; & Honey Boy
Juliet, Naked (2018)
Somewhere along the way I became a Chris O’Dowd season ticket holder. Not certain there was a tipping point in that journey; like most interesting things it just sort of happened. But the man consistently packs enjoyable, three-dimensional characters in a silly yet approachable manner; akin to the subtle, versatile likes of Bill Murray and Will Ferrel. All that said, if Mr. O’Dowd and his mustache are in a flick, I’m likely diving-in.
Riding the beautiful chemistry of the far too comically underrated Rose Byrne and the irresistible All-American indie charm of Ethan Hawke, Juliet, Naked represents the best of what cinema has lost in the age of streaming. A mid-level romantic genre piece with a wonderfully self-aware script and grade-A talent. This is what used to bring us to the cinemas with our Friday night dates. We’d laugh, we’d enjoy a few earned moments, and we’d relive the indelible energy a film of this accord provides. It’s When Harry Met Sally but with the internet and a deep affinity for singer-songwriters. And like most recent titles of its kind, Juliet, Naked went relatively unnoticed in the grand scheme of things. A shame. A gem like this one deserves to be enjoyed for what it is and rewatched as fun comfort viewing.
I mean, who doesn’t want an endearing online meet-cute between a deep-feeling but under appreciated everywoman and a down on his luck and out of his prime musician? Put O’Dowd in the cross hairs of the kinetic romance and what you have is a wonderful 21st Century rom com that delivers the familiar goods.
FOR FANS OF: Begin Again, When Harry Met Sally, & Yesterday
The Mighty Ducks Trilogy (1992 – 1996)
Earlier this summer I recommended everyone watch The Mighty Ducks. Why? Because nostalgia and it just might be a perfect sports movie.
But now Disney+ has upped the ante and it’s simply too fantastic to overlook.
As of this month the entire Mighty Ducks Trilogy is available to stream courtesy of the Mouse. So not only can we re-visit Lawyer turned Coach Gordon Bombay become the Minnesota Miracle Man (at least as far as pee-wee hockey is concerned), we can now thoroughly enjoy the complete arc of Gordon and his band of loyal hockey players. That’s right, we can venture back to the Junior Goodwill Games and watch Charlie Conway, the Bash Brothers, Julie the *best* goalkeeper of all-time, and company battle the treacherous Vikings from Iceland. And if that’s not enough, we’ve got the, perhaps needless but still underrated, third installment where we experience the throes of prep school with our beloved Ducks.
Yes, the quack attack is back, Jack, in full-force!
FOR FANS OF: Angels in the Outfield; Miracle; Remember the Titans
My Cousin Vinny (1992)
Marisa Tomei’s performance is nothing short of iconic. The perfectly sassy monologues, the hair, the jumpsuits, and the absolute refusal to settle for any bullshit — Mona Lisa Vito is more than a character, she is an energy; an unstoppable force; a lifestyle. Tomei earned her Oscar and cemented a legacy in the greater pop-culture landscape with impeccable timing and a somehow both refined and unrefined charm. In the pantheon of fun, memorable Hollywood characters, Tomei’s turn as MLV is one for the ages.
Oh, and of course, Joe Pesci, Ralph Macchio, Fred Gwynne, Lane Smith, Bruce McGill and company round out a perfectly zany cast of top-tier comedic chops. Believe it not, My Cousin Vinny had a moment in the early 90s. It was well-deserved, and if you ask me, deserves a fun resurgence into the collective conscience of American movie viewers.
I mean, who doesn’t want to watch Joe Pesci in all of his mob-laden, Brooklyn glory balance the hi-jinx of the southern sticks in the good ol’ U.S. of A.?
Re-visit this one. I’m willing to bet it’ll be funnier than you remember and prove to be a perfect title for a night of laughter and escapism. Gosh, remember when those movies existed?
Here’s to My Cousin Vinny for giving us attitude, grade-A humor, and years of quotable moments.
FOR FANS OF: Analyze This, City Slickers, & Lethal Weapon
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)
Look, I’m not suggesting this is the greatest zombie movie ever made. I’m merely saying any “best of zombie movies” list that doesn’t include this one can’t be trusted. Granted, I’m not exactly a horror aficionado — actually I’m kind of a weenie when it comes to this stuff — but I still contend Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is more than just a nostalgia pick.
For something in this genre to provide high entertainment value and a more surface-level approachability for movie watchers like myself matters. There are numerous reasons why Scooby-Doo remains wonderful no matter what, and one of them absolutely the fact that I can enjoy “horror” and mystery on my own terms. Or at least with the whole family for the most part.
All that being said, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island in a way marks a key turning point for the Mystery Machine’s legacy. By the time 1998 hit, most Scooby entertainment was largely confined to reruns on Cartoon Network. But Zombie Island gave us a fresh, fun, and grimy-for-all-the-right-reasons take on the famous gang. In addition to being a legitimately great straight to VHS installment, yes those were possible, it embraced the lineage of the original Scooby energy with wonderful appreciation. All the notes are there. And the animation, music, and narrative level-up a bit to make it feel uniquely late 90s.
Having this one on Netflix feels like another chance not only enjoy Scooby, Shaggy and the gang, but a great opportunity to bring a vibrant mystery caper to the family. I mean, isn’t that the fun parts of pop-culture? The sharing of generational entertainment carries weight and, silly as it may sound, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island does just that.
FOR FANS OF: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Despicable Me, & Scooby-Doo Where Are You?
Bloated queue? Don’t stress.
Fire up one of these titles and save your next movie night. If nothing else, you’ve no excuses on finding something to stream when all three Mighty Ducks flicks are right there. Now, go watch something!
What’s the best flick you’ve caught on a streaming platform recently? Share in the comments and help me expand the list!