Now that we’ve discussed the best movies leaving Netflix next month, it’s only appropriate that we dive into the best movies arriving in May. If you enjoy revisionist westerns, silly cheerleading comedies, and romantic caper films directed by master filmmakers, this is the line-up for you.
Bring It On (2000)
Long before he directed Marvel’s Ant-Man, Peyton Reed broke into feature filmmaking with Bring It On, the kind of breezy and silly comedy that is so well assembled that it looks like it was easy. It may be a predictable high school comedy, but it’s a predictable high school comedy told with wit and style and just enough nerve, showcasing its cheerleader characters as genuinely talented athletes and allowing them to shine on camera. This was Pitch Perfect over a decade before Pitch Perfect existed. Heck, that’s a double feature you should program ASAP.
The technology that made Pleasantville visually astonishing back in 1998 is now commonplace, but the film still holds up in an age where relatively simple TV commercials can replicate its beautiful use of color. Gary Ross’ initially funny and eventually moving fantasy is a smart dissection of American life, using a fantastical high concept first act (two modern kids get sucked into an old black and white sitcom) to explore revolution and feminism and how the America of the ’50s became the America of the ’60s. Pleasantville wears its heart on its sleeve and is proudly sentimental, but it’s also genuine and irony-free. Like the best fantasies, it never sneers at the world it has created.
To Catch a Thief (1955)
To Catch a Thief is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s fluffier films. It’s a bubbly glass of champagne after the shot of whiskey that was Rear Window, a fine example of a genuine master filmmaker focusing his talents on crafting something joyful and fun after wallowing in darkness. Like several of Hitchock’s more lighthearted adventures, this one stars Cary Grant, playing an expert thief who comes out of retirement after someone with comparable skills starts committing robberies. Naturally, that means tracking down the actual thief and romancing the daughter of a wealthy jeweler (played by Grace Kelly in her third and final Hitchock movie). To Catch a Thief doesn’t even belong in the top ten Hitchcock movies, but it’s still rousing entertainment. Plus, it’s the rare movie made before 1990 to get added to Netflix these days.
The Keeping Room (2015)
Daniel Barber’s The Keeping Room is as politically and emotionally charged as any western in recent memory. Julia Hart’s screenplay is elegant in its simplicity: during the tail end of the American Civil War, three southern women, two sisters and their slave, are besieged in their home by two rogue Union soldiers. But that simple framework allows for the stirring of a piping hot pot filled with feminism, violence, and crises of identity. The Keeping Room is practically a post-apocalyptic film, set in a time and place where all law and order have gone out the window and violence rules the land. And through that violence, new bond are formed and society is made anew, but it is one ugly process. This isn’t the easiest watch in the world, but it’s gripping filmmaking.