May is the start of the summer movie season which means Netflix—along with the other streamers—will have to up their game to keep you at home and not overpaying for a movie ticket ... and a babysitter ... and popcorn. But, man, they’ve sure been irritating subscribers lately by instituting new fees, deep-sixing their DVD-by-mail service, and cracking down on password sharing. That said, Netflix still knows how to bring the hits and their May lineup looks especially couch-worthy. We’ve got action spectaculars directed by Ridley Scott, Renny Harlin, and Paul Verhoeven and worthwhile dramas starring Brie Larson and Shirley MacLaine. So while you wait for Peter Quill, Indiana Jones, and Dominic Toretto to supercharge your summer, microwave that popcorn instead and check out these Netflix offerings.
Chicken Run (Available May 1)
The amazing claymation geniuses at Aardman Studios had already become cult faves with their wonderful Wallace And Gromit short films when they decided to enter the mainstream by having a bunch of chickens break out of a barnyard in 2000's outstanding Chicken Run. The aforementioned “they” are Aardman co-founder Peter Lord and Wallace And Gromit creator Nick Park who made a not-so-subtle ode to 1963's all-time great Steve McQueen film, The Great Escape. Chicken Run is thrilling family fun for all ages.
Black Hawk Down (Available May 1)
Back in 2002 when Ridley Scott’s ripped-from-the-headlines action film Black Hawk Down hit the big screen, it had a lot of cinematography that, for the time, rattled audiences to their core. The mixture of seemingly handheld Cinéma vérité shots which mixed seamlessly with special effects and CGI gave moviegoers a sense that they were in the action, something that had slipped away as CGI became better and more prevalent, This obviously begs the question, how does Black Hawk Down fare some 20 years on? Looks like we can all find out this May.
Léon: The Professional (Available May 1)
An all-time cult classic and Natalie Portman’s film debut, 1994's Luc Besson-directed Léon: The Professional is a fantastic “hitman with a heart of gold” story that earns its keep due to terrific performances by Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, and then barely 12-year-old Portman. While there is clearly some gross sexualization of young Portman, the film still has plenty of great scenes as beleaguered hitman Léon gets saddled with young Matilda (Portman) after the latter’s parents are murdered by corrupt (and psychotic) DEA Agent Norman Stansfield (an unhinged Oldman). If you can get past the creepiness, Léon: The Professional is a great film.
Cliffhanger (Available May 1)
After directing the excellent late 80s hits A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and Die Hard 2, Finnish director Renny Harlin was so in demand that he was to helm Alien 3 but bailed due to creative differences. Instead of that film, he turned his attention to Cliffhanger, a 1993 actioner starring Sylvester Stallone as a recently traumatized mountain climber who gets caught up in a heist involving a U.S. Treasury plane. Also starring John Lithgow, Michael Rooker, and Janine Turner, Cliffhanger is a pretty fun little early ’90s action film.
Paranormal Activity (Available May 1)
Featuring a cast of unknown actors and a lo-fi, DIY aesthetic, 2007's Paranormal Activity took found footage horror in a new direction, for better or worse. The creepy film employs a sleight-of-hand style in which a couple (Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat) start seeing strange things around their house. Seeking to capture said weirdness on film, they use video cameras to capture what seems to be a haunting. The film is an effective one and is also notable for being made for around $15,000 and grossing over $194 million. Not too shabby.
Steel Magnolias (Available May 1)
If you’re in need of a good old-fashioned cry, Netflix has what you need to get those tear ducts flowing. That’s right, it’s the 1989 tearjerker Steel Magnolias starring Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis, Daryl Hannah, and of course, Shirley MacLaine. After the death of one of their besties, women in a small town in Northwestern Louisiana find ways to put their issues aside and bond for the greater good of their community.
Girl, Interrupted (Available May 1)
As the world awaits the arrival of James Mangold’s Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny, you can revisit his star-studded film Girl, Interrupted featuring Winona Ryder, Whoopie Goldberg, Brittany Murphy, Elizabeth Moss and, of course, Angelina Jolie who won the 2000 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. An acting tour-de-force by all the aforementioned, Girl, Interrupted focuses on Susanna Kaysen (Ryder) who, after surviving a suicide attempt, finds herself in a psychiatric hospital between 1967 and 1968. Based on Kaysen’s memoir of the same name, Girl, Interrupted is a solid film that shows Mangold’s gift for getting the most out of his actors.
Starship Troopers (Available May 1)
When Starship Troopers hit the big screen back in 1997, it was sorely misunderstood. At once a satire on warmongering and fear as well as a big-budget actioner, director Paul Verhoeven pretty much outsmarted audiences who found the film, about a war on giant bugs, weird and silly. And it is weird and silly but it’s also pretty prescient in terms of America’s invasions in the Middle East. Starship Troopers also features some terrific battle sequences as well as cool-looking giant bugs. Give it another shot if you weren’t impressed the first time.
Airport ’77 (Available May 1)
What was it about the 1970s that had people all amped up to see spectacular domestic accidents on the big screen? Perhaps it was the runaway success of 1970's Airport which gave way to a sequel, Airport 1975. There was also 1972’s cruise ship disaster film The Poseidon Adventure as well as 1974's high-rise on fire hit The Towering Inferno which then gave way to the third in the Airport saga, Airport ’77 starring Jack Lemon as an airplane captain on the wrong shift at the wrong time. These films were fun for their time and featured a formula of a brewing disaster plus an all-star cast desperate to stop it from happening. In addition to Lemon, Airport ’77 featured Joseph Cotten, James Stewart, Brenda Vaccaro, Lee Grant, and Christopher Lee.
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Available May 1)
Director David Fincher has a darn near flawless record when it comes to making great films but The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button seems to be the one that people point to as a misstep (okay, there’s also Alien 3, but that’s not 100% his fault). The question is: is it really that bad or is it just too un-Fincher-like? The film stars Brad Pitt as the titular character who is born an old man and proceeds to age backward. It’s a weird premise—loosely based on a 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald— that was also the subject of an episode of Mork & Mindy but, we digress. The cast also includes Jared Harris, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Mahershala Ali, and Elle Fanning. Why not check it out and see if the film is really as bad as they say?
The Glass Castle (Available May 1)
Before he was scooped up by Marvel to direct the awesome Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, Destin Daniel Cretton was working in the family-dynamic realm with his outstanding Short Term 12 and 2017’s adaptation of the beloved book The Glass Castle which was written by Jeanette Walls. The film adaptation stars Brie Larson as Walls, who, as a child, lived with some pretty loosey-goosey hippy parents who were big fans of the free-roaming-child style of parenting. This doesn’t jive with social services who thinks her mom Rose (Naomi Watts) and dad Rex (Woody Harrelson) should try, you know, keeping an eye on their kids. The Glass Castle is a good film that showcases Cretton’s deep well of empathy.
Vampires (Available May 1)
John Carpenter’s 1998 horror-action film Vampires is some good old-fashioned cornball fun. As he is prone to do because he adores Howard Hawks and John Ford, Carpenter grafts Western film tropes onto a horror film as we meet Jack Crow (James Woods), head honcho of a group of vampire hunters trying to keep a centuries-old cross from falling into the hands of big, bad vamp Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith). Sheryl Lee and Daniel Baldwin round out the cast in this bloody fun film.
Traffic (Available May 1)
Steven Soderbergh completely owned the turn of the century when he dropped both Erin Brockovich and Traffic in 2000. The two films were so different, great, and Oscar-baity that they almost canceled themselves out during awards season. Indeed, Soderbergh received Best Director Oscar noms for both films and took home the gold for Traffic. While not the first director to be nominated twice in the same year, he’s the most recent. Not that you need an obscure piece of Oscar trivia to convince you to re-watch—or watch for the first time—this sprawling and heartbreaking masterpiece about the drug trade that stars Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, and Benicio del Toro, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance.
American Gangster (Available May 1)
Ridley Scott is a director who really can do it all as was evidenced in 2007's underrated American Gangster. Denzel Washington stars as ’70s-era drug dealer Frank Lucas (Lucas is a real-life drug smuggler but American Gangster is a fictional story) who gets Newark detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) on his case. The multilayered film also stars Josh Brolin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cuba Gooding Jr., and John Hawkes.
Last Action Hero (Available May 1)
In 1993, when action director supreme John McTiernan (Die Hard, Predator) was set to direct a script co-written by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon) starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, there was absolutely zero reason to believe the movie wouldn’t kick ass. However, the end result, Last Action Hero, left audiences wanting, to say the least. Perhaps misunderstood as a satire of action movies, the film stars Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater, the star of a popular action film franchise. When young Danny (Austin O’Brien) is given a golden movie ticket, he’s transported into a magical movie world where the bullets are real—and so is Jack Slater. Last Action Hero went on to achieve cult status so feel free to tune in without guilt.