If you always seem to find yourself with nothing to watch, this guide is for you. This is a comprehensive (meaning it includes Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime) list of suggestions I can personally vouch for, and let me tell you, I’m picky.
- For when you need a good laugh
Swiss Army Man (Netflix)
This movie is straight-up weird, but that’s part of why I like it so much. It’s something I definitely haven’t seen before. You wouldn’t expect a story about a suicidal man stranded on an island who finds a magical dead body to be very funny, but there are so many elements that are absolutely ridiculous you can’t help but laugh. It’s also surprisingly heartwarming.
Another thing I really like about this movie is the soundtrack. It takes place in the wilderness (where there are obviously no instruments) and all of the songs are fittingly bare-bones and/or acapella.
I’d consider this one pretty Mean Girls-esque in the sense that it over-dramatizes high school to no end. The difference is that there are three rival cliques which means triple the Regina George’s. The Cady of G.B.F. is a shy wallflower who is in the closet until he is outed by a competition between the girls in his high school to have a gay best friend. It’s one of those dry comedies that blatantly calls society out for ignorance and absurdities like treating the LGBTQIA+ community like animals in a zoo.
This is another early-2000s high school movie, except this one calls out a more specific sect of society. The director of this movie is an openly gay man who has experienced firsthand that not everyone who goes to church abides by “love thy neighbor.”
Through the story of a Catholic girl who gets pregnant when she tries to turn her gay boyfriend straight, he emphasizes the importance of accepting everyone for who they are while also clearly poking fun at the hypocrisy that he himself is well aware of.
- For when you need a good cry
One Day (Netflix)
When you’ve had a hard day or week (or month) and you feel like you need to let it all out somehow, you may find yourself circling back to that one movie that always gets the tears flowing. This is that movie. It really does a number with emotional investment because it follows the main characters for most of their lives, showing snippets as they meet on the same day every year.
A Walk to Remember (Hulu)
A lot of movies from 2002 follow very similar plotlines and have extremely cliché characters, and this is no exception. It is, however, very sad, and readily available on Hulu. Sometimes all you need is an ultra-cheesy high school drama to open the floodgates, especially one that stirs up some nostalgia for the good old days when life was simple and you spent your time channel-surfing and watching whatever was on.
Beautiful Boy (Prime)
This one’s a tearjerker but not a romance. It focuses on a family dealing with the tragedy of addiction. In particular, it highlights the strain on the relationship between a father and his son, a heroin addict and the strength of a parent’s love for their children. Beautiful Boy helps to invalidate the notion that addiction is the fault of the addict, showing how easy it is to develop a dependence on drugs from one mistake and how difficult it is to stop using.
- For when you want to think
The Stanford Prison Experiment (Netflix)
Most movies and shows that make me think are science fiction or technology-based (think Ex Machina, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Black Mirror), but the ones that have the biggest impact are those rooted in reality. This was a real experiment conducted at Stanford University by Philip Zimbardo, an American psychologist, in which regular college students were placed in a simulation of a prison. Some were guards, and some were prisoners.
Over time, they became very invested in their roles, to say the least. There is also a documentary made by Zimbardo, but the dramatization and aesthetic of the film make it easier to pay attention and fully understand the significance.
Critics tore this movie apart, but I love it. People don’t like it because they think it’s having an identity crisis. I think the different tones create really interesting tragic irony. Behind the facade and lightheartedness,(which I feel is symbolized by the humor that so many critics take issue with) of this “perfect” town is a lot of darkness and crime.
This is a powerful statement in itself, but even more so is the fact that while all of this goes on in one household, the black family who has just moved in next door experiencing hate crimes and prejudice simply for living in a predominantly white community in the 1950s. You can argue that the themes are mismatched, but the subtlety of the movie’s message is what makes it so compelling.
- For when you need some cheese
Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging (Netflix)
If you liked Eighth Grade, you’ll love this movie. It has cringey, unfortunately relatable parts for sure, but it’s not enough to make you physically grimace. I can always count on One Day to make me cry, and this movie has the same effect for cheesiness. I may be biased, though, because I was in love with Aaron Taylor-Johnson when I was 15. Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging is disgustingly cute, eye-rollingly cliché, and very dumb, but that’s why it’s so great!
I mean, come on. This is the ultimate stupid movie, and everyone knows it. Vampires? Werewolves? Sparkling in the sunlight? What could be more perfect to watch on gal’s night? Entertainment peaked at Twilight. Hulu has the entire saga from the heroic car crash scene to the CGI baby.
- For when you’re in your feels
Good Will Hunting (Netflix)
I had this one on my list for a while, but I always skipped over it because I didn’t actually know what it was about; I just knew it was supposed to be good. When I actually watched it, I realized that it wasn’t the kind of movie you had to watch with all your focus that drains your brain as I had assumed. Will Hunting’s character arc is really heartwarming and sweet, and it’s good to watch when you want to smile.
Little Miss Sunshine (Hulu)
This is another sweet movie with a lot of moving character development especially with the familial bonds between the main characters. It deals with some tough themes and can be really sad at times in that coming-of-age, learning-about-oneself kind of way. It’s also pretty funny, so it really hits all the marks that make a movie entertaining and worth watching.
This movie is based on a fairly recently published book, and it’s used in a lot of elementary schools because it teaches a good lesson about treating other people kindly. Even though it’s meant for kids, it applies to everyone. Wonder shows the hardships that people, especially kids, face when they are “different”, and how it’s important to treat everyone with kindness no matter what they look like.
- For when you want to be inspired
The Theory of Everything (Netflix)
Stephen Hawking’s life story is not sad: despite a debilitating disease he was supposed to die from within two years, he became an incredibly influential physicist and is widely regarded as one of the smartest men to ever live. I absolutely love this movie because of how well it portrays Hawking’s life, which proves that there are no boundaries to what you can achieve when you are passionate and driven. On top of that, even Stephen Hawking himself liked it, and that’s the sweetest thing ever.