Best Movies Streaming February 2018

(Welcome to Now Stream This, a column dedicated to the best movies streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and every other streaming service out there.) 

Welcome to another edition of Now Stream This. I’ve scoured the wild world of streaming services to bring you the best of the best of the best. It seems every day another new streaming service is popping up, making it nearly impossible to navigate this dangerous terrain. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. You’re welcome.

This edition of Now Stream This brings you a highly underrated and very recent Todd Haynes movie, a new Netflix horror flick, a gloriously over-the-top action movie, a cynical noir loaded with snappy dialogue, the first Hannibal Lecter film, a romantic horror movie, a Steven Spielberg adventure, a cringe-inducing social media comedy, and some good old fashioned body horror. It’s time to look at the best movies streaming right now. Let’s get streaming.

1. Wonderstruck
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Many critics were a bit cold towards Todd HaynesWonderstruck last year, and I’m honestly not sure why. This is a lovely, unique film, featuring a star-making performance from young Millicent Simmonds. The story is set in two timelines: the 1920s and the 1970s. In these respective timelines, two children run away from home, and find themselves in the same place. Haynes slowly draws these two storylines together, and the results are remarkable. Also remarkable: Carter Burwell’s gorgeous score.

For fans of: Hugo, The Secret Garden, The NeverEnding Story, Julianne Moore wearing a fake nose.

2. The Ritual
Streaming on Netflix February 9

Do you like to go camping? If so, what the hell is wrong with you? I, for one, am not a fan of the great outdoors, and horror movies seem to back me up here. Whenever characters in a horror film venture into the woods, bad stuff happens. Case in point: David Bruckner’s creepy new film The Ritual, which arrives on Netflix this month. After the tragic death of their friend, four old college pals get together to go hiking through Scandinavian wilderness. What starts off pleasantly enough soon turns terrifying after the four decide to take a shortcut. The shortcut just gets them lost, and after seeking shelter in a spooky old abandoned cabin, things go from bad to worse. This is a slow-burn, highly unsettling horror movie that does a masterful job building tension.

For fans of: The Descent, The Blair Witch Project, Kill List, avoiding the woods at all costs.

3. XXX: The Return of Xander Cage
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Listen, you want high art? You want sophistication? You want class? Then look elsewhere. But if you want a badass, over-the-top, joyous thrill ride, then you need to watch XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. Even if you’ve skipped the previous two XXX movies, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is this movie features a scene where Vin Diesel and Donnie Yen get into a dirt bike chase, and then end up riding their dirt bikes across the ocean. This is glorious, grade-A cheese that never disappoints because it’s never trying to be anything other than a dumb, fun, low-stakes action movie. Bonus: Toni Collette hams it up, big time.

For fans of: The Fast and the Furious series, Point Break, glorious nonsense.

4. Sweet Smell of Success
Streaming on FilmStruck February 7

An acidic, crackerjack story of gossip and exploiting the press, Alexander Mackendrick’s highly cynical yet highly entertaining Sweet Smell of Success stars Burt Lancaster as a Broadway gossip columnist, and Tony Curtis as the sycophant press agent Lancaster exploits for his cruel whims. The script, courtesy of Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, is not pleasant, yet Sweet Smell of Success is somehow a delight to watch – mostly thanks to the rat-a-tat dialogue and Lancaster’s killer performance.

For fans of: The Front Page, All About Eve, In a Lonely Place, dialogue like, “You’re dead, son. Get yourself buried.”

5. Manhunter
Streaming on Hulu February 1

Before Anthony Hopkins became Hannibal Lecter, Brian Cox took on the role of everyone’s favorite cannibal psychiatrist. Michael Mann’s sweaty, unnerving Manhunter adapts Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, the first Lecter novel, into a neon-drenched crime thriller. William Peterson is Will Graham, an FBI profiler who gets inside the head of a serial killer known as the Tooth Fairy (a very disturbing Tom Noonan). When not tracking the Tooth Fairy, Graham is seeking not very helpful advice from the incarcerated Dr. Lecter (technically, his name is spelled Lecktor here, for some reason). Cox’s take on Hannibal the Cannibal is very different than Hopkins’, just as Mads Mikkelsen’s take on the role is worlds removed from both Cox and Hopkins. Manhunter isn’t one of Mann’s best films, but it really does it hold up, and it has style to spare.

For fans of: Hannibal (the TV series), To Live and Die In L.A., Miami Vice, Iron Butterfly music blasting at full volume.

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