We live in scary times. Across the United States, infection rates are soaring. Canada's borders remain closed, and non-citizens barred from entry. Europe is starting to reopen, but with thousands mourning unfathomable loss. In that context, the very idea of being bored, let alone debating which of the millions of movies or TV shows currently streaming, may come off as naively trivial, a luxury that we might all look back on with disbelief. Who cares about entertainment when thousands are suffering? And yet, movies provide a respite, a window into a better time to come, or a challenge we’ve overcome. They’re an escape, and a way to confront the worst. They provide a sense of possibility, and a window onto a world that’s become elusive.
Like so many, I am currently in self-isolation in my tiny New York City apartment for the foreseeable future. I’m following the advice of medical professionals, doing my part to stem the spread of COVID-19. I know that this is the right thing to do.
But my feelings about quarantine are complicated, and change pretty much every hour. I’ve experienced giddy euphoria at being allowed — nay ordered — to stay home in my lounge clothes, cook meals that involve more than three steps, and take time for myself without feeling guilty about performing all sorts of tedious tasks. From there, the pendulum often swings to major anxiety, and I start spiraling down the rabbit hole of toxic thoughts. In between those two extremes come more random and privileged thoughts: Wishing I could take advantage of the warm summer weather, worrying about whether I will still remember how to put on makeup when this is all over, weighing the pros and cons of an online workout versus a walk outside. I worry about my family, my friends, my city, and others. I feel guilty about lots of things, but mostly about being safe when others aren’t. And finally, I think about what movies I’m going to watch.
What I watch often depends on what mood I’m in. And since “sad,” “angry,” “happy,” or “scared” are not nearly complex enough for what we’re all experiencing, I’ve narrowed it down to more specific states of mind. Click through for a sampling of suggestions, all available to stream from home.
Don’t see your mood represented? We’ll be updating for as long as we’re in this.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.
Life finds a way!Streaming on: Netflix
Steven Spielberg's sci-fi classic holds up remarkably well more than 25 years after its 1994 release. Feeling down about the state of the world? Wrap yourself in a cozy knit, grab some popcorn and enjoy one of the greatest blockbusters ever about the resilience of the human spirit, and the joys of scientific wonderment.
Can the 2020 news cycle...not?Streaming on: Netflix
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom, an LA cameraman with questionable ethics. His bread and butter? Capturing the most gory details of crime scenes across the city to sell to the highest bidder. But as Louis gets more and more of a taste for his job, he goes to greater — and ethically questionable — lengths to get the grizzly shot of all.
Constantly snacking. (If you know, you know
.)Streaming on: HBO Max
Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is fresh out of jail and ready for his next heist: Robbing the MGM Grand, the Bellagio and the Mirage, all at the same time. But to pull it off the crime of the, he'll need to get some old pals involved. Eleven pals, to be exact.
The Wedding PlannerMood:
Wrestling with how to decline a mid-pandemic wedding invite
Streaming on: Hulu
Try and stretch your imagination to a place where Jennifer Lopez
can't get a date. Hard, I know, but that suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy The Wedding Planner
, which stars the singer and actress as Mary, an unlucky at love professional who makes a living planning other people's wedding. Only this time, she might be in love with her client (Matthew McConaughey).
The Old GuardMood:
Think 2020 feels endless? Try living forever. Streaming on: NetflixGina Prince-Bythewood
's film broke a Netflix record in its first week of streaming, becoming one of the top 10 most watched films on the platform — a first for a movie directed by a Black woman. Charlize Theron plays Andy, the leader of a group of immortal fighters. Tired of watching humanity make the same mistakes again, she's ready to give up. That is, until she meets Nile (KiKi Layne), a former marine and new immortal, who's ready to shake things up.
90s nostalgia but with a killer twistStreaming on: NetflixDouble Jeopardy
is the answer to the question: What if The Fugitive
was about a woman with amazing taste in Armani evening wear?
Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd) has the perfect life, with a perfect husband (Bruce Greenwood) and a perfect child (Benjamin Weir). That is, until her perfect husband frames her for murder and disappears with their son in tow. After six years inside, Libby is released with a new and sinister purpose: Having been convicted of killing her husband, she can't be retried if she actually does it.
Sleepless In SeattleMood:
Sleepless at 3am after an anxiety dream. Streaming on: Netflix
Is there anything more soothing than watching Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan falls in love from 2,700 miles apart? Nora Ephron's movie is like mmmmagic
: Teenage ambition, but make it FrenchStreaming on: Netflix
Houda Benyamina's 2016 movie earned the director the prestigious Camera D'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival, which celebrates an outstanding first feature. Divines follows teenage hustler Dounia (Oulaya Amamra), who, along with her best friend Maimouna (Déborah Lukumuena), teams up with a local female drug dealer to wrack up enough cash to pursue her dreams.
Da 5 BloodsMood:
Delroy Lindo for Best Actor 2021!!!!Streaming on: Netflix
Spike Lee's latest joint might be his most ambitious yet. Da 5 Bloods
takes the traditional Vietnam movie format and blows it up, focusing on the experience of four Black veterans
who return to the country nearly forty years later. They're there to retrieve the body of one of their fallen brothers (and recover the gold they buried alongside him), but to do that, they'll have to battle ghosts, severe PTSD and the legacy of imperialism.
I want to educate myself.Streaming on: Netflix
Named for the 13th amendment of the Constitution ("Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States"), Ava DuVernay's groundbreaking documentary
traces the history of Black oppression in the United States, and draws a line between slavery and mass incarceration.
I can't talk about sourdough anymore, give me a new Zoom conversation starter.Streaming on: Hulu
Now's the perfect time to catch up on one of the best, most under-seen movies of 2019
. Kelvin Harrison Jr. is mind-blowingly good in Julius Onah's movie about a model student and athlete whose adopted parents (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) begin to doubt him after teacher (Octavia Spencer) flags a disturbing response to an assignment.
The Half Of It Mood:
I want to write sexy letters to my crush.Streaming on: Netflix
It took 15 years for Saving Face filmmaker Alice Wu
to return with her follow-up film — but it was worth the wait. A modern spin on Cyrano de Bergerac, The Half Of It
centers around teenage loner Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), who's asked to help schoolmate Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) woo his crush by ghost-writing letters for him. The problem is? Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire) is also Ellie's crush.
Embracing the ghosts of the pastStreaming on: Netflix
Mati Diop's movie is beautiful and haunting — literally. When 17-year-old Ada says goodbye to lover Suleiman after a day spent kissing at the beach, she doesn't know it's forever. Soon, she learns that he and a group of others have drowned off the coast of Dakar while trying to reach Europe, where economic opportunities beckon. So, who's texting her claiming to be Suleiman's ghost?
The Social NetworkMood:
Chaotic Armie Hammer (x 2) Streaming on: Netflix
In the past couple of days, Hammer has embraced that pandemic life, shaving his heartthrob hair into a faux-hawk
, complete with a mustache-goatee combo a la
Joe Exotic. It's an energy that can only be matched by the time he played not one, but two people in the same movie, David Fincher's The Social Network
. The movie tracks the rise of Facebook from Mark Zuckerberg's (Jesse Eisenberg) Harvard dorm room to billion dollar company, and his conflicts with former best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), and the Winkelvoss twins (Hammer). (Oh, and be sure to spot Dakota Johnson in one of her first roles
Bored at homeStreaming on: Hulu
Florence Pugh's weekly Instagram cooking sessions are one of the few things that bring me joy right now. But Lady Macbeth, her breakout film role
from 2016, shows another side to her altogether. Pugh plays teenage bride Katherine, married off to a man her father's age who leaves her alone on his remote estate for weeks at a time. Bored, and unhappy, she passes the time listlessly — until she meets Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), a servant her own age who sparks her violent passions.
If Beale Street Could TalkMood:
I just need to cry it out. Streaming on: Hulu
Directed by Barry Jenkins and based on James Baldwin's 1974 novel by the same name, If Beale Street Could Talk
is the kind of movie that makes your heart soar and then tears it to shreds. KiKi Layne and Stephan James play Tish Rivers and Fonny Hunt, a young couple who fall in love only to be torn apart by a violent criminal accusation. With powerful supporting performances by the likes of Regina King (who won an Oscar for her role as Tish's mom),
Colman Domingo, Teyonah Paris and Brian Tyree Henry, this movie doesn't fuck around when it comes to emotional resonance. Everything, down to Nicholas Brittell's tender, haunting score, is designed to make you feel. Lean into it.
I need a drink. Streaming on: Netflix
Written and directed by Prentice Penny, Uncorked
centers around Elijah (Mamadou Athie) a young man working in his parents' (Courtney B. Vance and Niecy Nash) barbecue restaurant, who dreams of becoming a master sommelier. Pour yourself a big glass and get ready to learn some things!
Remember when morning shows were about frittata drama?Streaming on: Hulu
Directed by Roger Michell and written by The Devil Wears Prada
's Aline Brosh McKenna, Morning Glory
stars Rachel McAdams as Becky Fuller, a young producer hoping to make a big splash in news. When she's handed a failing morning show broadcast, she fires lecherous anchor (Ty Burrell), and replaces him with veteran news curmudgeon Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford. If only she could get him to actually do his job.
Zoom party!Streaming on: HuluWho
allowed you to be this gorgeous in loungewear?
Olivia Wilde's directorial debut is the perfect movie to watch in a virtual group (stay home). After all, it's all about high school seniors Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy's (Kaitlyn Dever) quest to fit in one big blowout night before graduation, after years spent studying rather than hanging out with their peers. Are your friends double booked? No worries. There are more than enough vibrant characters in here to keep you company.
I want to dress up for a wild party! Streaming on: HBOMax
Bars, clubs, and restaurants are closed around much of the United States, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live the bohemian revolution from the comfort of your couch. Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 musical extravaganza takes you back to 1899, when young English writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) falls hard for cabaret singer and courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman), the “sparkling diamond” of the Moulin Rouge. Unfortunately, her affections have already been bought by the Duke of Monroth (Richard Roxburgh), who expects to get what he paid for. If you can get past the whole consumption thing, your reward is Kylie Minogue as Absinthe Green Fairy, an unbeatable medley of popular songs, and the most spectacular spectacular
costumes and dance numbers of all time.
I want to have a passionate love affair that’s the stuff of legend.Streaming on: Netflix
In 1936, American divorcée Wallis Simpson became infamous when British King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in order to be with her. Their story comes to life in the Madonna-directed W/E
, which interweaves the lives of Wallis (Andrea Riseborough) and Edward (James D’Arcy) and bored socialite Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), who becomes obsessed with the royal scandal when she finds some of their belongings for sale at an auction. It’s beautiful, it’s glamorous, it’s the opposite of sitting home alone in your pjs.
A Simple FavorMood:
I’ve been staring at the wall for 37 minutes straight. I need drama! Gimme some intrigue!Streaming on: Hulu
This movie, directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids)
, is crazy in the absolute best way. Anna Kendrick plays single mom Stephanie
, a mommy vlogger who befriends the mysterious and seductive Emily (Blake Lively). But when the latter suddenly vanishes into thin air, Stephanie starts to dig into her friend’s past — and finds out there’s more to Emily than chic suits and a penchant for very dry martinis. She’s downright sinister. If you — like me — have not worn anything other than sweatpants for nearly a week, let this film remind you that better sartorial times lay ahead. Enjoy the loungewear while you can.
I want to be sad, but also glamorous.Streaming on: Netflix
Let me rephrase. You should absolutely prioritize reading the Leo Tolstoy classic that this Keira Knightley starrer
is based on. It’s got just the right amount of sweeping drama to make you briefly forget that we live in end times. (P.S. Take my advice and skip the wheat parts. It’s called editing, Leo!) But if you’re just not feeling up to a bajillion page Russian novel and still want to experience doomed love in the cruel Russian winter, with the added bonus of fabulous jewels, a blonde Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vronsky, and Matthew Mcfadyen’s excellent handlebar mustache, then go right for Joe Wright’s imperfect, but oh-so-escapist adaptation.
I want to fall in love!Streaming on: Amazon Prime Moonstruck
is an absolutely perfect movie. I dare you to find a flaw. Directed by Norman Jewison, it stars Cher (who won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance) as Loretta Castrioni, a widow who falls for her new fiance’s younger brother Ronny (Nicholas Cage), just as she’s about to invite him to her wedding. This is Nicholas Cage at his peak, folks, wooden hand and all! He plays a baker! A baker who bakes bread! Bread is life.
The Bling RingMood:
I miss my friends. Streaming on: Netflix
Sofia Coppola’s reimagining of the real-life tale of a group of friends charged with breaking into celebrity houses
and stealing from them is the original summer scam movie. Paris Hilton, one of the celebrities who was most impacted, even makes a cameo. Come for Emma Watson’s perfect line delivery
of “I just wanna rob!”, stay for the pure thrill of watching people go through the trouble of stealing Juicy Couture tracksuits and rainbow baby Louis Vuitton bags.
This feels like a world-altering moment. Who gets me?Streaming on: Amazon Prime
Based on the true story of American journalist John Reed, who documented the sweeping and turbulent early days of the Russian Revolution, Reds
captures the fear, anxiety, and excitement of watching history unfold. And — I hear you. Do we really want to waste precious hours watching a man explain events to us? Well, let me introduce you to Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton), Reed’s on-and-off partner and wife, and real-life feminist writer, thinker, and political activist, who is more than a match for his privileged idealism.
I still have big dreams!Streaming on: Hulu
Who says you can’t be inspired while working from home? This is the movie that made me a ride-or-die Elle Fanning stan
. She plays Violet Valensi, a teenager of Polish descent living on the Isle of Man with dreams of pop stardom, who joins a singing competition a la American Idol
. It’s just the right amount of earnest, and the dreamy, colorful cinematography perfectly complements creative covers of Ariana Grande, Ellie Goulding and Annie Lennox, among many others.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr StoryMood:
I want to hear inspiring true stories about fearless women!Streaming on: Netflix
Hedy Lamarr has only recently gotten the credit she deserves as the woman whose World War II invention made WiFi possible
. For years, she was simply famous for her looks, best-known as Hollywood’s most beautiful actress. Her story, which begins in Austria and includes a true story about how she escaped her Nazi-sympathizing husband by posing as a maid, is riveting. And though the ending isn’t exactly a happy one, it might be enough to inspire you to take on a challenge you’ve been avoiding.