1. The Intouchables: Depending on what metric you use, this movie is either a hit (75% on the Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer,” 93% audience approval, with Omar Sy receiving the César Award for Best Actor) or a dud (two-and-a-half out of five stars on The New York Times). Either way, you deserve to make the decision for yourself whether the film deserves its praise for imbuing the “typical” Driving Miss Daisy cliché of rich, uptight white person and poor, exuberant black person becoming best pals in spite of their differences with humor and humanity or just that, an unaware cliché. I’ll spare where my feelings lie although in making my “best of” list, I’m sure you can make your own assumptions.
2. Friday Night Lights series: After a book and a film of the same title arrives the television series, whose format truly allows for the in-depth look into Texas high school football where the expectations are unrelenting, and the stakes are high. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to look at Coach Taylor, Tim Riggins and Lyla Garrity, played by Kyle Chandler, Taylor Kitsch and Minka Kelly, respectively.
3. American Psycho: Meet Patrick Bateman. Ivy League educated, Wall Street-employed, Upper West Side inhabitant who manages to be a serial killer on the side. Fueled by a culture of conspicuous consumption and materialism, Bateman provides satirical fodder for those critical of the one percent. The most seemingly inconsequential things set him off, namely a colleague’s superior business card. If you haven’t seen this dark, cult-classic, you owe it to yourself. At the least, you’ll pick up a diligent workout and skincare regimen in the process.
4. Blue is the Warmest Color: Ignore all you’ve heard about this simply being a salacious lesbian porno (unless that’s what initially attracted you anyways) because Blue is the Warmest Color is one of the best coming of age stories I’ve ever seen. It captures the highs and lows of first love, its passion, desperation and ephemerality expertly, its unanimous Palme d’Or at Cannes a testament. At 179 minutes, this isn’t your standard Netflix-before-bed film, but trust me, carve out the time and you’ll be rewarded with powerful performances by Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos that earned each of them a Palme d’Or of their own, the first ever awarded to both the director and the lead actresses in the history of the award.
5. Capote: Capote, a biographical film about the author of In Cold Blood Truman Capote, marks a turning point in the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s film career, catapulting him to the top of lists of today’s “greats” and earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor. Nominations for Charlie Wilson’s War, Doubt and The Master would follow, but Capote continues to rank among his best all-time performances.
6. Clueless: In an attempt to lighten the mood of the this list, somehow I tend to find myself watching my fair share of emotionally charged films, I’m including a classic. Clueless includes all of the parts key to the formula of making a successful romantic comedy: a makeover scene, a budding relationship, albeit somewhat incestual, and quip one-liners (You don’t understand. This is an Alaia!).
7. 20 Feet from Stardom: My twin brother named this his favorite movie of last summer, a blockbuster season that included Mud, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and my personal favorites Fruitvale Station and Blue Jasmine. This Academy Award-winning documentary tells the untold story of backup singers, the voices behind some of the most recognized music legends like Mick Jagger, Bruce Springstein and Stevie Wonder. “Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others,” reads the film’s website.
8. Girl, Interrupted: Next to The Changeling, Girl, Interrupted, ranks among my favorite performances by Angelina Jolie. Perhaps the role of an institutionalized patient suits her given this performance earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and The Changeling earned her a nomination for Best Actress. Here, you can expect a female Band of Brothers meets mental institution with Winona Ryder the new girl in the ward.
9. Midnight in Paris: Say what you will about Woody Allen, and deservingly so, but here, he provides romantic, whimsical charm in a plot that travels back in time to the “golden age” of Paris, which for our protagonist Gil means the 1920s, an era full of art and enthusiasm with a cast of characters including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso.
In the off chance that none of these movies strike your fancy, I suggest you figure out a way to rewire your IP address so that Netflix assumes you're in the Bahamas because their licensing agreements are much more liberal. Translation: you get actual blockbusters -movies you've heard of and are dying to see (e.g. #8 Girl, Interrupted; #9 Midnight in Paris). Just ask my older brother, who after less than two minutes using Netflix in the Bahamas, happily declared, "Netflix down here is way better!"
Or you could go to Instant Watcher, which helps you find good streaming titles.
**Other Notables: The Queen of Versailles, The Parent Trap, Undefeated, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The September Issue, My Week with Marilyn, Side Effects, Hoop Dreams