Best Movies Streaming Right Now August 16

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

The weekend is almost here, which means you’re likely going to be scrolling through streaming services, asking yourself: “What the heck should I watch?” That’s where Now Stream This comes in. Below, you’ll find 10 great options to stream, including a bonafide masterpiece, a A.I. love story, a forgotten sequel, a bombastic action movie, an underrated sci-fi drama, a creepy documentary, and more.

These are the best movies streaming right now. Let’s get streaming.

The Best Movies Streaming Right Now

1. Barry Lyndon
Now Streaming on FilmStruck

Release Date: 1975

Genre: Historical epic

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Leonard Rossiter and Hardy Krüger

There are ordinary movies, and then there’s Barry Lyndon. Every film nerd has their own personal favorite Stanley Kubrick picture. Mine is Barry Lyndon. A sprawling, painterly epic that’s less a work of entertainment and more a time machine, transporting the viewer wholly back to the 1700s. Kubrick isn’t making a costume drama, where people are playing dress-up. He’s somehow taking us back to the era in question – everything looks, and feels, wholly authentic. The story concerns Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal), a young man who somehow schemes his way into high society. That’s the brief version, anyway.

But Barry Lyndon is about more than that. It’s the story of a man navigating through a fully-realized world, going through trials and tribulations, suffering heartache and loss. And for what? “It was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarreled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor they are all equal now,” the title card at the end reads, summing it all up. Kubrick employs extremely wide-shots that slowly zoom in to find focus, and cinematographer John Alcott uses natural light throughout the whole film, bathing the movie in an earthy, warm glow. The term “masterpiece” gets thrown around a bit too much, but I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say Barry Lyndon is a masterpiece.

For fans of: Dangerous Liaisons, AmadeusMarie Antoinette, snide, slightly catty narrators.

 

2. Her
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 2013

Genre: Sci-fi Romance

Director: Spike Jonze

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Scarlett Johansson

When Her was first announced, it sounded like a joke – a movie about a guy who falls in love with his smart phone. Then the film arrived, and Spike Jonze showed us he had a lot more on his mind than a simple boy-meets-tech story. Her is achingly lovely, lit by city lights and glowing screens, and beating with a real heart. It’s romantic, and melancholy, and beautiful. It has poetry running through its veins. It’s everything we go to the movies for.

Set in a not-too-distant future, Her finds somber Joaquin Phoenix falling hard for the OS on his phone, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Right away you might think there’s no way this premise can sustain an entire film, but it does, and more. Jonze carries us along through Phoenix and Johansson’s relationship, and we accept it entirely. There’s no adjustment period. No moment of silliness. We buy what we’re seeing, because Jonze is selling it so well. Phoenix, one of the best actors of our current era, is predictably strong, playing his character with just the right mix of sorrow and bemusement. Also great: Amy Adams, playing Phoenix’s friend and neighbor. “We are only here briefly,” Adams says at one point, as Jonze focuses in on her pale face, her curled hair, her large eyes, “and in this moment I want to allow myself joy.”

For fans of: Where the Wild Things AreLost in TranslationEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, high-waisted pants.

 

3. The Rock
Now Streaming on Hulu

Release Date: 1996

Genre: Crazy, Swirling Action

Director: Michael Bay

Cast: Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, Michael Biehn, John Spencer

While I can appreciate Michael Bay‘s hyper-stylized, uber-macho style of filmmaking, I also can’t get beyond the fact that most of his movies are bad. One of his few genuinely good movies, though, is The Rock. The film came at the start of Bay’s feature filmmaking career, so he had yet to morph into to the incoherent sentient energy drink he would eventually become. The Rock has just enough over-the-top style, and balances it out with humor and heart. Bay’s movies would become increasingly cruel going forward, but The Rock has a good head on its shoulders.

The premise: angry military man Ed Harris takes over Alcatraz Island and holds a whole bunch of people hostage. Harris is demanding money, but unlike other movie terrorists, he doesn’t want to get rich. Instead, he wants to distribute the money to the families of the men who died under his command during covert operations. Since these operations were off the books, the families of these fallen soldiers were not compensated by Uncle Sam, and Harris is pissed. If Harris doesn’t get his money, he’ll launch rockets loaded with chemical weapons into San Francisco. To stop him, the authorities bring in Nicolas Cage, playing an weird, nerdy chemical weapons specialist. They also spring Sean Connery from a secret lock-up. Connery is the only man who ever successfully escaped from Alcatraz, and the theory is that he can help Cage and a bunch of Marines break back into the prison to stop the bad guys. Yes: all of this is really ludicrous. But who cares! The Rock never slows down for a second, and Connery and Cage have an amusing adversarial  chemistry with one another. Sometimes you need to see high art, and sometimes you need to see slow-motion shots of people looking intense as the camera rotates around them 360 degrees.

For fans of: Con AirFace/OffBroken Arrow, utter ridiculousness.

 

4. 2010: The Year We Make Contact
Now Streaming on FilmStruck

Release Date: 1984

Genre: Sci-fi

Director: Peter Hyams

Cast: Roy Scheider, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban and John Lithgow, Keir Dullea and Douglas Rain

Hey, did you know someone made a sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey? It’s true! And it’s actually pretty good. Is it as good as Kubrick’s film? Oh, heavens no. But 2010: The Year We Make Contact is still an engrossing science fiction film. It also does the complete opposite of 2001: it answers questions. So if 2001 left you slightly confused, 2010 might be just what you need. The film picks up 9 years after the original, and finds Dr. Heywood Floyd (played by William Sylvester in Kubrick’s film, and played here by Roy Scheider), as part of a team sent to find out just what the hell happened to the Discovery One mission to Jupiter. In case you forgot, that’s the mission where HAL 9000 killed all the astronauts, save Dave Bowman – who mysteriously vanished. Director Peter Hyams is no Kubrick, but he brings a down-to-earth practicality to all the strangeness that’s a bit refreshing. 2001‘s mysteries are, in my humble opinion, better left as mysteries. But as far as explanations go, 2010 is worthwhile.

For fans of: 2001: A Space OdysseySolaris, answers.

 

5. Frequency
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Release Date: 2000

Genre: Sci-fi mystery

Director: Gregory Hoblit

Cast: Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, Andre Braugher, Elizabeth Mitchell, Noah Emmerich

Frequency is the story of a father and son communicating across a great distance via ham radio. Sounds normal, right? Well, I forgot to mention: the “great distance” is actually time itself, and the father is technically dead. This is a neat, mid-budget studio film – the likes of which don’t really get made anymore. Jim Caviezel is a modern-day cop with emotional issues. Caviezel finds his father’s old ham radio, and is shocked to hear his old man communicating through it – because the father, played by Dennis Quaid, died in 1969. Somehow, Quaid in the past is able to talk to Caviezel in the present. The two bond, and it’s sweet. The two also learn they’re able to change the course of history – Caviezel warns Quaid about something in the past, Quaid changes it, the timeline shifts. This could’ve been enough of a story for one film, but Frequency decides to throw in a murder mystery as well, just to keep the audience alert. No one really talks about Frequency anymore – it feels forgotten. And that’s a damn shame, because the film is tightly wound and constantly clever. I wish they still made movies like this.

For fans of: The Sixth SenseTime After TimeSource Code, Dennis Quaid using an unconvincing New Yawk accent.

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