It’s that time again. You know, the time where we gather around the list of movies leaving Netflix next month and start making desperate lists of what we need to see before it vanishes. With more and more movies leaving the world’s most popular streaming service than ever before, this ritual has become an imperative. Time is running out.
But before we get to the full list of what’s leaving Netflix, let’s run down the priorities. The stuff you have to see no matter what.
Alexander Payne has made his fair share of wonderful movies since Election, but none have been quite as funny or as vicious as this. In the overachieving Tracy Flick, who sets out to become president of her high school’s student government, Reese Witherspoon found her greatest character. As the teacher who decides to stop her by any means necessary, Matthew Broderick revealed in himself a capacity for morbid, pitch-black comedy. And Chris Klein, as the endearingly dumb jock Paul Metzler, found the one role that fit him like a glove. Election is a biting satire of our political system, a gloriously mean takedown of high school life, and one of the funniest movies of the ’90s.
The Ladykillers (2004)
The Ladykillers may be lesser Coen brothers, but even their weaker output deserves your time and attention. The jokes that do hit (and plenty of them do find their mark) make the whole thing worthwhile. Although based on the 1955 film of the same name, this whole thing feels like an excuse for the Coens and their cast to simply goof off, with brilliant thespians like Tom Hanks and J.K. Simmons cutting the ham nice and thick at every given opportunity. You can see bite marks on the set. While that freewheeling tone leads to an inconsistent film, the result is like sitting in on private brainstorming session between two geniuses. The Ladykillers lacks the polish of their best movies, but this feels exactly like a collection of the dumb jokes that made Joel and Ethan Coen laugh in private.
Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott’s second science fiction masterpiece (after 1979’s Alien) is required watching for all movie fans…and if you’ve seen it before, you may need to watch it again. Blade Runner stands alone as one of the great genre movies of all time, but it’s truly immortal because it has leaked into the cracks of the pop culture foundation. One part old school film noir and one part chilling examination of mankind’s relationship with technology, this is one of the most brilliantly designed future worlds ever devised, populated by unforgettable characters. Its many ambiguities make it endlessly rewatchable. Its tiny frustrations make it endlessly debatable. The fact that it has a sequel shooting this year means you no longer have any excuses to put this one off.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Speaking of Ridley Scott movies, Black Hawk Down is another visual stunner that deserves to give your television and your sound system a work-out before it departs the streaming pasture. Although not Blade Runner-good (what is?), this exacting recreation of what went down during a disastrous 1993 raid by the U.S. Army in Mogadishu is gripping sort-of-entertainment – it’s not a fun or easy watch, but you sure as hell don’t forget about it easily. War has rarely looked so un-sexy and Scott treats this material more like a horror movie than an action flick. Every frame is painful, every gunshot a little too loud, and every wound truly looks like it hurts. The film’s politics are messy and the characterizations thin, but this is a first-rate visceral experience. Crank up the volume and endure it.
Escape From Tomorrow (2013)
The making of Escape From Tomorrow nabbed all of the headlines, but the actual movie lives up to the stories of its production. Writer/director Randy Moore infamously shot the vast majority of his debut film on Disneyland and Walt Disney World property, using hidden microphones and guerrilla camerawork to tell the story of a father who has a mental breakdown while on a vacation at the Happiest Place on Earth. The resulting film looks rough-around-the-edges and often cobbled together, but it’s audacious stuff, a surreal and biting examination of manufactured happiness and mid-life anxieties. Even if the film’s dream-like, nearly plot-free storytelling doesn’t do it for you, seeing what Moore managed to pull off and where he pulled it off is something every adventurous film fan deserves to sample.
Everyone has an opinion on Kevin Smith’s more recent output and the mere mention of his name tends to lead to all kinds of shouting from both sides of the aisle. However, just about everyone can agree that his first film remains one of the most important films of the ’90s and a vital building block in the independent film foundation. Clerks is as cheap-looking as ever and its acting is still a little shaky, but it’s still funny, still weirdly charming, and still a breath of fresh air from a filmmaker who truly had something to say at that point in his life.