Netflix movies

Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman star in "The Shawshank Redemption." 

With practically all sporting events and major film releases postponed worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, popular culture finds itself in a bit of a holding pattern. By taking the responsible step of social distancing through this international health crisis, Americans may be finding themselves with an abundance of free time and few ways to spend it.

Luckily, Netflix has film fans covered with an overflowing library of choices. Here are 10 films on Netflix to watch while at home.

“Zodiac”

Netflix has exploited the boom in true crime content for over a decade, but of all the true crime options on its platforms, none are as rewarding as David Fincher’s 2007 Paramount film, “Zodiac.” Often hailed as one ofthe best films of the2000s, “Zodiac” explores the unending investigation into the Zodiac killer. Starring Jake Gylenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo, “Zodiac” may be Fincher’s greatest achievement, combining the precision of his Netflix series “Mindhunter” with the emphatic energy of “Se7en” and “Gone Girl.” Fincher may be the best crime film director of the last 30 years, and with “Zodiac,” he crafted a masterpiece of tension and procedure.

 

“Okja”

American audiences are likely most aware of Bong Joon Ho for his most recent film, 2019’s Best Picture-winning “Parasite.” Bong, however, has been exploring the depths of capitalist angst for years, including in his 2017 Netflix original, “Okja.” Starring Seo-hyun Ahn, Paul Dano and Tilda Swinton, “Okja” tells the story of Mija, a young girl who will stop at nothing to rescue her pet, a genetically enhanced pig, from the hands of a multinational corporation. With “Okja,” Bong is at his crowd-pleasing best, designing kinetic setpieces and heartwarming tenderness in a compact package, creating a softhearted thriller reminiscent of Stephen Speilberg’s “E.T.”

“The Shawshank Redemption”

One of the most beloved American films of the last 30 years, “The Shawshank Redemption” is a brilliant tale of hardship and friendship as the wrongfully convicted Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) attempts to survive life in prison with the help of fellow inmate Red (Morgan Freeman). Given its lofty goals and outsized reputation, “The Shawshank Redemption” has taken on an almost mythical place in the culture, but with a remarkable cast and director Frank Darabont’s accessible style, “The Shawshank Redemption” has earned its reputation.

“Jerry Maguire”

From director Cameron Crowe, “Jerry Maguire” is the kind of earnest, heartfelt story that no longer exists in Hollywood. Featuring Tom Cruise, Reneé Zellwegger and Cuba Gooding Jr. — who all give fantastic performances — “Jerry Maguire” follows the titular sports agent as he seeks to redefine his career by using a foundation of honesty and understanding. Succeeding as both a sports story and a romantic comedy, “Jerry Maguire” displays the kind of detailed warmth that Crowe was always known for, capturing his characters’ charisma and telling an adult story with breezy confidence.

“The Dark Knight”

“Batman” fans are in luck, as Netflix currently has easily one of the greatest superhero films of all time, 2007’s “The Dark Knight.” Following Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) as he attempts to stop the Joker (Heath Ledger) from tearing Gotham apart, “The Dark Knight” revolutionized the superhero genre, setting a new standard for what these stories can be. With “The Dark Knight,” director Christopher Nolan maximizes his sense of visual flare and penchant for plot twists, making “The Dark Knight” one of the most successful blockbusters of all time.

“Fyre”

For documentary fans, 2019’s “Fyre” serves as a remarkably watchable chronicle of pop culture history. Telling the story of the doomed 2017 Fyre Festival, “Fyre” follows the downward spiral of con man Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule as their dream of creating a high-end music festival goes bust. Netflix has scores of award-winning documentaries, including 2019’s Oscar winning “American Factory,” but if a viewer wants a more lighthearted tale of narcissism and impending disaster, “Fyre” is an exceptional choice.

“Inglourious Basterds”

From director Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds” is an electrifying tale of allied soldiers and spies in Nazi-occupied France as they battle German forces and plot an assassination of Adolf Hitler. Starring Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz and Melanie Laurent, “Inglourious Basterds” is one of the most audacious war films in recent memory, bending history to its will to capture the excitement of 1960s World War II romps like “The Great Escape” and “The Dirty Dozen.” Misunderstood at the time of its release, “Inglourious Basterds” warrants multiple viewings, if only for the jaw-dropping visuals and miraculous production design alone.

“Groundhog Day”

Given the repetitiveness of social distancing and endless hours inside, viewers may find a bit of extra meaning in 1993’s “Groundhog Day.” Allegorical projections aside, “Groundhog Day” remains one of the greatest American studio comedies ever made. Starring Bill Murray as Phil, a narcissistic weather man doomed to forever repeat the same day over and over again, “Groundhog Day” explores every facet of its concept for maximum comedic and psychological effect. With Murray giving one of his best performances and Harold Ramis’ masterful script, “Groundhog Day” delivers on every bit of its premise, making it a preeminent pop culture touchstone.

“Frances Ha”

One of the most underrated films of the 2010s, “Frances Ha” follows Frances (Greta Gerwig), a New York-based dancer attempting to live her dreams while coming to grips with reality. Co-written by Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach, “Frances Ha” is a loving portrait of the eccentricities and excitement that make Gerwig such a special entertainer. As a platonic love story detailing the demise of Frances’ relationship with her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner), “Frances Ha” has the complexity and agility that accompanies each of Gerwig’s masteful scripts, making it a depiction of a full, energetic life.

“Goodfellas”

From director Martin Scorsese, “Goodfellas” is the kind of movie that leaves a viewer at a near loss for words given its sheer amount of energy and momentum. One of the greatest films of the 1990s, “Goodfellas” tells the story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), an up-and-coming figure in the Italian mafia, as he traverses the New York criminal underground. With a seemingly endless supply of memorable moments and perfect performances, “Goodfellas” is Scorsese at his best, crafting a dynamic, thrilling tale of greed, violence and excess that consistently leaves a viewer wanting more.

With the COVID-19 pandemic looming in the back of most Americans’ minds, movies aren’t of the utmost importance. However, given all of the stress and anxiety over the past few weeks and upcoming months, everyone deserves the opportunity to decompress and relax and this list may be a good place to start.

Contact Chris Carr at carrtc@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.