Five great films to watch on Netflix over the bank holiday weekend

Stuck for something to watch? Here's a mix of classics and recent gems well worth a look...

Five great films to watch on Netflix over the bank holiday weekend

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Only a fortnight after the Easter weekend, most workers around the country are enjoying another extended break for the bank holiday weekend.

Naturally, many will be looking for something interesting to watch over the course of the coming days. Here's a few more of the cinematic gems worth booting up your Netflix app for (our Easter recommendations still stand, of course).

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Taika Waititi's wacky comedy is exactly the sort of film that can get - and deserves - a second lease of life on Netflix. 

Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a young boy sent to live in rural New Zealand with foster parents Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hector (Sam Neill). The reluctant foster father is initially cold towards his new foster son, but after Bella dies suddenly he is reluctantly forced to communicate with Ricky.

Things don't work out, though, and the youngster eventually makes a run for it into the nearby wilderness. Hector pursues, and a series of escalating misunderstandings eventually results in a nationwide manhunt for the two 'fugitives'.

There's not much to say beyond this film being an absolute joy to watch. It's silly, funny and warm-hearted in the most delightful of ways.

Waititi - previously best known for his work on the Flight of the Concords TV show and vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows - is about to make his move to Hollywood with the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok. Let's hope he can bring some of this film's character and manic energy to the superhero genre.

Nashville

Even the most casual of film fans will be intimately familiar with many of the all-time great classics of 1970s Hollywood - whether that's Jaws, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver or even Star Wars.

The late Robert Altman's Nashville has never quite enjoyed the same pop cultural footprint (it didn't help that it was hard to come by in Ireland during the DVD era) but it is at least the equal of some of its better-known contemporaries.

Following two dozen central characters over the course of several days in Nashville, Tennessee, this is a sprawling and absolutely beguiling piece of cinema. It is, like the ongoing TV show with which it shares a name, focused on the country music industry - but the unashamedly meandering plot spirals off in all manner of directions, culminating in a surprisingly dramatic climax. 

It's a film to lose yourself in for a few hours - full of character and ambition, humour and warmth. And even country music skeptics will probably get hooked on a few of the songs...

Anomalisa

Back in 2008, acclaimed screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) released his directorial debut Synecdoche, New York. It instantly cemented itself as one of the most significant - if divisive - films of the decade.

There was only one problem: since Synecdoche was effectively an epic, all-encompassing artistic statement about life itself, it was hard to see where exactly Kaufman could go from there.

His solution? Scale it back. His second directorial effort (co-directed with stop animation expert Duke Johnson) Anomalisa is an animated film set almost entirely in few hotel rooms. Adapted from his own play and featuring only three actors, it becomes immediately clear why Kaufman chose animation to tell this story.

The main protagonist Michael (David Thewlis) is an author who is deeply depressed to the point where everyone looks and sounds identical (Tom Noonan voicing all but two characters in the film). Everything changes when he meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who stands out from the anonymous crowd. Inevitably, they hit it off.

This is, as is Kaufman's way, a deeply eccentric and yet genuinely moving piece of work. Constantly subverting expectations, it is as blackly comic as it is emotionally intense. Don't let the puppets put you off (although it's very much not for kids) as this is an utterly unique work of cinematic art. 

Hoop Dreams

Steve James' hugely influential documentary follows William Gates and Arthur Agee - two African-American teenagers who are prodigiously gifted basketball players.

The film opens when the two boys are in high school, and follows them for several years as they try to secure secure college basketball scholarships. Beyond that, they both dream of a future in the NBA - but life keeps throwing various hurdles in their way. 

One of the great American documentaries, Hoop Dreams may seem like its mostly for sports fans but everyone deserves to give it three hours. This is much more than a film about basketball - it grows into a complex, often devastating portrait of American racial and class inequality, as well as a critique of the country's education system.

It won't take long for new viewers to realise that Gates and Agee are brilliant, troubled and immensely likable subjects. The outrage that the film was never nominated for an Oscar was well justified - this is a 90s masterpiece that still feels as urgent and relevant as ever.

Son of Saul

László Nemes' Oscar winning drama tells the story of Jewish-Hungarian Auschwitz prisoner Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig). The camera never lets Röhrig out of its sights as it follows his attempts to protect the body of a boy killed in a gas chamber.

As Saul desperately works towards a proper burial for the dead boy, he finds himself embroiled in a plot by other prisoners to rebel against the camp's guards. As he witnesses a series of atrocities, Saul becomes only more determined to achieve his goal - by whatever means it takes.

If you're going to watch Son of Saul, be warned that is a grueling watch. It is a frighteningly intimate account of life in a concentration camp, and true to reality comes with no easy resolutions for its characters. But it is a powerful and provocative cinematic account of one of history's darkest chapters, shot with compassion and true artistic rigour.