It might not be a normal Christmas this year, but that means there's plenty of time to sit down on the couch and delve into a good film.
You could make a very long list of things to watch from the seemingly ever growing choice of streaming services - but for today here are a few picks you can find on Netflix.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Even superhero skeptics should give this superb animated take on Spider-Man a spin. It’s a film of immense visual imagination and ambition, constantly dazzling with bright colours and thrilling movement. The script strikes the right balance between superhero origin story and joyfully silly comedy. And while Peter Parker gets plenty of good material, it’s also a welcome introduction to fan-favourite Miles Morales - another super-powered teenager bitten by a radioactive spider. It’s the best superhero film of recent years - and by a considerable distance.
The Truman Show
It seems strange to refer to a film from the late 90s as a classic, but Peter Weir’s The Truman Show has stood the test of time remarkably well. You know the score: Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, a man whose idyllic life is shattered as he starts to realise he’s the unsuspecting star of a TV show documenting every moment of his life. It has recently popped back up on Netflix, so it’s worth revisiting to see how spot on it was about reality television and surveillance culture to come. It’s still a delight to watch - a rare film that strikes a perfect blend between comedy and drama. Oh: and if I don’t see you - good afternoon, good evening and good night.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
George C Wolfe’s film is very clearly an adaptation of a stage play - a dialogue-heavy piece of work with only a few characters and locations. What gives it life, however, are the performances. The late Chadwick Boseman (the Black Panther star who passed away at just 43 earlier this year) turns in a blistering, twitchy performance that shows the sheer hypnotic screen presence the star had. He spars capably with the equally wonderful Viola Davis, who plays the eponymous blues singer Ma Rainey as a stubborn, brilliant force of nature. To watch such great actors given a chance to really shine is truly a pleasure.
Dick Johnson is Dead
Death's a tricky topic to handle in a documentary, but acclaimed documentary filmmaker Kirsten Johnson manages it with aplomb. The film focuses on her ageing father Richard (better known as Dick), who is nearing the end of his life. Kirsten has an unusual ideas: she'll persuade her father to take part in a series of bizarre and imaginative enactments of possible deaths. Dick, perhaps surprisingly, is totally game. What follows is a documentary that ranges from being uproariously funny to deeply poignant. Don't let the subject matter put you off: this is a playful and even heartwarming reflection on the inevitable.
For an under-the-radar pick, this east London set coming-of-age drama is a very solid bet. Released to deserved critical acclaim earlier this year, Sarah Gavron’s film focuses on a teenager Olushola (nicknamed ‘Rocks’) who finds herself caring for her young brother after they’re abandoned by their mother. The film is anchored by a phenomenal main performance from Bukky Bakray as Rocks - the young actress should be destined for very good things in the future. All-in-all, it’s an admirably fresh, lively and realistic piece of filmmaking.
You’ll completely understand the hype around Irish actress Jessie Buckley after watching this low-key charmer. Here she plays Rose-Lynn, a single mother in Glasgow who is determined to pursue a career in country music. The film admirably doesn’t shy away from some of the grittier, unromantic sides of the story being told. But don’t worry: this is also a perfect ‘sit back and relax’ crowd-pleaser for a chilly December or January evening. And you’d better believe Jessie Buckley can sing as well as act.
My Neighbour Totoro
The announcement earlier this year that (almost) all of Studio Ghibli’s films were arriving on Netflix was a cause for celebration - the beloved Japanese animation studio’s films have never been so readily available. You can’t go wrong with most of them. The likes of Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya are widely considered to be some of the all-time great animated films. If you want to start somewhere, however, My Neighbour Totoro is the one to pick: an endlessly charming and widely beloved fantasy that should appeal to all the family in the best possible way. More than 30 years after its initial release, it has lost none of its ability to bewitch. And if you like what you see, there are well over a dozen other gems just a few clicks away.
I mean, it’s Jurassic Park. Sit back and enjoy it once again. You've earned it.