The Best Movies Streaming Right Now: Passing, Belly, And More

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

Has this ever happened to you? It's the weekend, you've just eaten some bagels, and you're thinking, "Gosh, I need something to watch!" You sit down and fire up the old smart TV and then freeze in terror as you realize there are just so many damn streaming services. How on earth can you be expected to choose something on your own? Don't worry, friend. Like Black Phillip, I will guide thy hand. So gather around and let me recommend some movies you can, and should, stream right now. 


Now Streaming on Netflix

Rebecca Hall's feature directorial debut "Passing" is a brilliant slow burn about identity, and all that it entails. Based on the novel by Nella Larsen, the film follows two friends: Irene (Tessa Thompson) and Claire (Ruth Negga). The two Black women grew up together, but they haven't seen each other in a while. That changes one hot summer day when the two reunite by chance in a restaurant. Irene discovers that Claire lives her life "passing" for white. In fact, she even has a white husband (Alexander Skarsgård), a bigot who has no idea his wife is Black. Irene can also occasionally pass for white, but she rarely chooses to do so. Instead, she lives a seemingly happy life in Harlem with her husband (André Holland). Over the next few months, Claire and Irene rekindle their friendship. But Irene remains conflicted about how Claire lives her life. So much of "Passing" is about things left unspoken, and the Thompson is particularly fantastic at saying so much while not uttering a word – it's all in her glances, and body language. This is an incredibly assured directorial debut from Hall, complete with stunning black and white cinematography that could've easily fallen into gimmicky territory, but instead only strengthens the film. 


Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Hype Williams' one and only feature film "Belly" is one of a kind. While it borrows freely from crime epics like "Scarface" and "GoodFellas," "Belly" also holds it own with a style that can only be described as stunning. Making use of shadowy cinematography punctuated by bursts of shocking color, "Belly" unfolds at a dreamy pace. There are long stretches of uncomfortable silence where characters inhabit dark, ominous rooms, like something out of a David Lynch film. The story follows two friends, Sincere (Nas) and Tommy (DMX), who strive to build their own criminal empire. But while Sincere breaks off to attempt to escape the criminal life, Tommy just gets in deeper, and deeper, and deeper. "Belly" is a total vibe movie, where you don't really worry about the plot and instead focus on the moments the characters inhabit. 

Jennifer's Body

Now Streaming on The Criterion Channel

Released in 2009, Karyn Kusama's "Jennifer's Body" was poorly marketed and promptly flopped. In the years since, though, the horror-comedy has developed a healthy following. And it's easy to see why: it's pretty darn good. Diablo Cody's script still has some clunky "hip" jargon here and there, and the tone of the film is occasionally wonky. But there's a lot to love about this film that opens by telling us "Hell is a teenage girl." When popular girl Jennifer (Megan Fox) is sacrificed by a band trying to sell their souls to Satan, she returns as a killer succubus. Only her best friend, the somewhat nerdy Needy (Amanda Seyfried), knows the truth. And she has to decide if she wants to save or kill her former BFF. Funny, bloody, and worthy of its cult status, "Jennifer's Body" is the perfect example of a film failed by its studio. 

The Swimmer

Now Streaming on The Criterion Channel

A boozy, bizarre portrait of a man on the edge, "The Swimmer" stars Burt Lancaster as Ned Merrill, who seemingly materializes in a swimming pool in a backyard somewhere in Connecticut. Looking out across the neighborhood yards, Ned realizes that he can "swim" all the way home, jumping from one neighbor's pool to the next. And so he does, arriving in yards of friends, all of whom seem a little perplexed to see him. Unfolding over the course of one hazy afternoon, "The Swimmer" has more than a few secrets, waiting to unleash them on you when you least expect them. My advice: go into this with as little knowledge as possible, and let the film wash over you. 

The Meaning of Hitler

Now Streaming on Hulu

Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein's documentary "The Meaning of Hitler" – inspired by, but not strictly adapted from Sebastian Haffner's book of the same name – examines the seemingly never-ending cultural fascination with the Nazi dictator, and how such obsessions reverberate in today's political landscape. It all makes for a fascinating, infuriating look at how Nazism still manages to flourish to this day, despite the horrors of the Holocaust – which many supporters try to explain away by stating that either Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust (not true) or that the Holocaust never happened (definitely not true). There's a lot to digest here, but the segment that most fascinated me was when the filmmakers take a trip to the US Army's Museum Support Center, which is like the real version of the giant warehouse at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" – a place where the government stores dangerous artifacts. We learn the army holds over 600 pieces of confiscated art classified as propaganda, or dangerously promoting Hitler and Nazism – including work by Hitler himself, such as four watercolors the dictator painted. I'd love an entire documentary about the Museum Support Center alone.