Best Netflix-only, streaming now, intelligent charming movies?
December 29, 2020 5:00 PM   Subscribe

I usually watch stuff on DVD, but right now I'm doing a single month of Netflix streaming so I can watch things that are ONLY available that way. What intelligent, charming - or just great - movies should I watch?

Currently on my list:

The Incredible Jessica James
Dolemite is My Name
Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened

I'm generally looking for light-but-not-shallow, smart-but-not-snarky, kind movies with likeable characters.

(I may also watch Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, because it sounds amazing, but in general I'm leaning much more toward happy and likeable.)

Things I've enjoyed a lot recently: Detectorists; Paterson; Brigsby Bear; Sometimes Always Never. I am a fan of British TV and movies. I like optimistic (Trek-like) sci fi. I'm mostly looking for fiction, but I do enjoy uplifting documentaries, too. (I've posted earlier similar AskMes - 1, 2 if they're of interest.)

Since I'm only planning to subscribe for a month (or two, tops), I am much more interested in movies than mini-series (although the shorter a mini-series, the better chance I'd be able to get through it in a month).

So: Netflix streaming only? Smart? Engaging? Please share!

Thank you!
posted by kristi to Media & Arts (40 answers total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh! If I find the time, Midnight Diner is definitely already on my list, although I probably won't get through all of it. And I have watched The Prom, which I liked pretty well.
posted by kristi at 5:01 PM on December 29, 2020

Best answer: My Octopus Teacher is the best thing I've watched this year. It's a documentary about a guy who goes free driving every day, literally makes an octopus friend and watches her do incredible things.

Roma would qualify as a just great option.
posted by carolr at 5:22 PM on December 29, 2020 [23 favorites]

Best answer: Enola Holmes. It's sweet and adorable (about Sherlock Holmes' sister), with some pretty decent high brow humor and a great watch that I wish was a series instead of a movie!
posted by AnneShirley at 5:23 PM on December 29, 2020 [16 favorites]

Captain Fantastic. I found it pleasant, smart, and fun. A character does commit suicide offscreen, but it is not a depressing movie or a movie about depression, really. It's more about surviving adversity, being an outsider, and learning to walk a middle path.
posted by unstrungharp at 5:24 PM on December 29, 2020

Best answer: Seconding My Octopus Teacher. When the diver states that he fell in love with the octopus, and when the octopus shows how she can imitate a circle of algae caught in a current, the documentary really becomes a work of art in my eyes.
posted by ponibrown at 5:42 PM on December 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Roma-dunno. We found it overwhelmingly depressing. Charming- hardly. YMMV of course!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:42 PM on December 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Hundred-Foot Journey and East Side Sushi.
posted by vers at 5:44 PM on December 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Dash & Lily
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:51 PM on December 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Bridgerton is a miniseries, not a movie, but I think you'll like it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:51 PM on December 29, 2020 [7 favorites]

Quartet? Billy Connolly, Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins.
posted by BoscosMom at 5:51 PM on December 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Floor is Lava isn’t a movie, but watch at least one episode because it’s very funny.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:52 PM on December 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Good Place is an extremely intelligent and engaging story packaged as a television show with 20 minute episodes. The first season is particularly beloved and is only 4.5 hours total.

If you like the first episode you'll like the first season at a minimum. It's worth your time to try.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:04 PM on December 29, 2020 [16 favorites]

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

It's a Norwegian series, but there are only 6 30-minute episodes in two seasons, so only a 6 hour total commitment - Home For Christmas.
posted by gudrun at 6:16 PM on December 29, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I enjoy the type of movies you describe (it's been awhile but The Incredible Jessica James was a big favorite of mine).

Mank should qualify as a great movie and is really engaging. One of those movies I kept thinking about and wanting to discuss after watching. It's not light but it's not heavy or depressing. Hopefully not spoiler but a warning in case it's a sensitive topic that there is a reference to suicide.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 6:30 PM on December 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Always Be My Maybe
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Smart and Engaging but not Fiction:
Jen Kirkman has two stand up specials and so does Hannah Gadsby. I remember Gadsby's having some dark spots but being uplifting overall. Kirkman is smart and also has dark moments, but I don't remember if these two in particular are generally positive or not.
posted by soelo at 6:32 PM on December 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You might enjoy Rose Island, which is a recent Netflix movie based on a true story of a micronation started by a small group of Italians in the 60s.
posted by mekily at 7:03 PM on December 29, 2020

Movie: Stardust

I know it's not on Netflix, but if you can find it the miniseries The 10th Kingdom.
posted by littlesq at 7:14 PM on December 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Coneheads are on Netflix
posted by Raybun at 7:18 PM on December 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Jingle Jangle!
posted by brook horse at 7:28 PM on December 29, 2020

Best answer: I loved The Artist when I saw it in the theater

Always Be My Maybe
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 7:39 PM on December 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Thirding Always Be My Maybe. A Very Famous Actor has a small part in it, creating perhaps the most awkwardly, charmingly hilarious dinner scene you'll ever see.

Also - Ma Rainey: it's very intense with some unexpected graphic violence. Not exactly charming, but it's an amazing last movie for the late Chadwick Boseman.
posted by scruss at 7:48 PM on December 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Agree on Always Be My Maybe, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and The Good Place. I found Hannah Gadsby too dark but many people adore her work. You might like Crip Camp which is uplifting in its own way but not in some "inspirational" aggravating way (it's about the disability rights movement). I also liked two very short series: Special (lead character gay and has CP, played by someone gay with CP, sweet and funny) and It's Bruno (adorable dog show, a little dark sometimes). Assume you've seen Booksmart already? Also Space Force is a kind of goofy Steve Carrel vehicle. If you like him, you'll like it, short series. Same with Eurovision Song Contest, the story of Fire Saga: amazing if you like Will Ferrell, otherwise no.
posted by jessamyn at 8:21 PM on December 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I highly recommend the short John Was Trying to Contact Aliens--lovely and unexpected. The Forty-Year-Old Version might be up your alley too.
posted by carrienation at 9:08 PM on December 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

I hate Will Ferrell but I absolutely adored Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. I'm not even super keen on Dan Stevens, but he plays the softest "villain" ever and the whole thing is so absurd and ridiculous and charming, and the music so fun, that I didn't even mind the stuff that usually pushes my embarrassment squick buttons really hard.

I've always found the film selection on streaming Netflix to be light on movies with kindness. TV series seem to fare better. Something you might be able to watch fairly quickly is the show Kim's Convenience, which has four seasons of 13 less-than-half-hour episodes. It's a Canadian show about a Korean family who run a store in Toronto, and I'm really enjoying how gentle it is.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 9:33 PM on December 29, 2020 [4 favorites]

Another TV series: French TV series Call My Agent/Dix pour cent. - a show about a top Parisian talent agency (produced by somebody who used to run one).
posted by rongorongo at 10:36 PM on December 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also Set it Up.
posted by mark k at 12:11 AM on December 30, 2020

Best answer: The Half of It is a gentle and warm movie disguised under some teen rom com tropes. There is so much empathy for the characters in this one.

Never Have I Ever is a series, but only one season so far and only ten episodes. It’s a funny series about a charming try-hard girl going back to high school after a rough year.
posted by creepygirl at 1:11 AM on December 30, 2020 [7 favorites]

This is on AppleTV, not Netflix, but if you get a chance, please watch Ted Lasso—it's very much a soul-hugging piece similar to The Detectorists. I LOVE this show, and Hannah Waddingham and Juno Temple are fantastic in it! (and it’s not about sports)
posted by blueberry at 2:01 AM on December 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm surprised no one's mentioned The Queen's Gambit, as it seems to match most of your criteria and it's a Netflix original. Two intensive evenings of it.
posted by Grangousier at 2:19 AM on December 30, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: (In case it's useful: theoretically complete lists of every Netflix original movie from this year and the last five, with genre, language, and runtime information.)
posted by trig at 4:52 AM on December 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding/nth-ing

The Half of It
East Side Sushi
Crip Camp

This made me think of Fighting with My Family (about relationships and family waaay more than wrestling, and is great for t/weens), but that was likely Amazon Prime
posted by childofTethys at 5:41 AM on December 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding "It's Bruno", though I do think there is an added layer of humor if you are a New Yorker or a dog owner.
posted by Julnyes at 7:58 AM on December 30, 2020

Best answer: I highly recommend The 40 Year Old Version (not the Steve Carrell movie). I checked it out after raves from the PCHH podcast crew and was delighted. It's fresh and funny and a great way to spend a few hours.
posted by thatquietgirl at 8:16 AM on December 30, 2020

I loved the movie "Chef".
A real gentle, feelgood story about a father and son bonding while running a food truck. Excellent sound track. Make sure you have plenty of snacks handy when watching, multiple luscious food preparation scenes.
posted by Zumbador at 9:41 AM on December 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The French comedy-drama Bad Seeds (Mauvaises Herbes) is quite charming. It’s the story of a scam artist who ends up having to teach a group of kids in a last-chance school detention program. Be aware the first few minutes feature scenes of villagers being killed by armed soldiers. However, this is to give context for the protagonist’s childhood and the next scene fast forwards to his adulthood.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:35 AM on December 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Last Tango in Halifax
posted by scorpia22 at 8:23 PM on December 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding movie and series recs for:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Bridgerton (8 hr series)
Dash & Lily (4 hr series)
Enola Holmes
Guernsey Literary and Potato-Peel Pie Society
The Good Place (longer series)
posted by verbminx at 12:54 AM on January 1, 2021

Best answer: The Breaker Upperers is a hilarious and weird NZ movie that I can’t believe hasn’t already got a huge cult following. Orrr maybe it does and I’m just not cool enough to know about the midnight showings.
posted by exceptinsects at 10:38 PM on January 2, 2021

Response by poster: These are all such fantastic answers - thank you!

trig: extra special huge thanks for those Wikipedia lists. I had found a similar but much less useful page at Wikipedia; I will definitely be exploring the two you shared.

I mostly marked as Best Answer things that (a) are movies and not series, and (b) are not things I've already seen on DVD. (I do not expect you all to know off the top of your heads what might or might not be available on DVD.)


So far, I have watched My Octopus Teacher and The Forty-Year-Old Version, and loved them both
, and I'm pretty sure I would never have discovered either one on my own, so THANK YOU for recommending those!

The top of my list now includes

Enola Holmes
The Half of It
Crip Camp
Always Be My Maybe
Guernsey Literary and Potato-Peel Pie Society

which all sound fantastic.

As for series: Dash and Lily, Home for Christmas, Special, It's Bruno, Never Have I Ever, and Bridgerton sound great, but I might not have enough time to watch them. However, if I decide to do another short streaming subscription next year, I'll have them ready in the wings, so thank you for the recommendations!

I have already seen and thoroughly enjoyed Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Stardust, and Chef on DVD; I recommend them to other folks who share my tastes.

I also LOVED The Good Place (well, seasons 1-3; it's on DVD and I hope to watch season 4 soon).

Thanks to this thread, I may, indeed, have enough great stuff on the list that I'll end up using the streaming service for two months. ( ... which might give me enough time for the shorter mini-series, after all.)

Thank you all so much - there is nothing like AskMe for finding just the right fit.
posted by kristi at 12:37 PM on January 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

Wonderful, enjoy!
posted by trig at 2:48 PM on January 4, 2021

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