What to stream when you’re self-isolating during this panic quarantine
Coronavirus got you down? We got you, baby.
The COVID-19 pandemic has you stuck at home combating boredom and frustration. Cabin fever. I get it. We’ll have to make the best of it. There’s one upside: Social distancing is a great opportunity to knock some movies off your to-watch list, rediscover something you love, or even uncover an under-the-radar new favorite.
We’re not gonna recommend the film Cabin Fever. We don’t play like that.
Your newly-minted movie editor (me, Abby, hello!) is here to help. I’ve gone through four major streaming services (Amazon Prime, HBO, Hulu, and Netflix) and picked out a selection of films to help fit whatever your isolation-fueled needs may be. I picked a few easy-to-scan categories, but you’re equally welcome to just plow through an AFI all-timer list or a backlog of junk TV.
Let Us Bathe in the Ashes of Society:
Train to Busan (Netflix)
Ex Machina (Netflix)
It’s a Disaster (Hulu)
Maybe you’re feeling less than optimistic about the world right now. While I wouldn’t recommend going on a post-apocalyptic movie bender, if you really want to lean into the “end of the world” vibes, there are plenty of quality options.
Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise turns a luxury condo tower into ground zero for a class war. Snowpiercer doubles down on encapsulated class struggle, and catches you up on director Bong Joon-Ho’s pre-Parasite filmography with his multilingual tale of a train that circles the globe following a climate disaster. The all-star cast includes Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer, and Parasite’s Song Kang-Ho. The Korean Train to Busan is set in the present, and switches out climate change for zombies in its train-based tale. If you think humanity was a mistake, Alex Garland’s chilly tech thriller Ex Machina will validate your thoughts. Looking for something a little closer to reality? The indie comedy It’s a Disaster follows a group of frenemies stuck in quarantine after a dirty bomb goes off during their couples brunch.
Gimmie Those Old Fashioned Scares:
Crimson Peak (HBO)
Overlord (Hulu, Amazon)
Mom and Dad (Hulu)
The Invitation (Netflix)
The Endless (Netflix)
Sometimes the best way to break through the gloom and cabin fever is to get a shock to the system. Guillermo del Toro’s lush, gothic Crimson Peak provides supernatural spooks and period drama escapism. The World War II-set Overlord offers viral infection anxiety and Nazi-killing catharsis. Mom and Dad is trashy goodness of the kind that only a collaboration between Nic Cage and Brian Taylor (one half of the team that brought you the Crank movies) can provide. If you’d prefer to go the indie route, there’s Karyn Kusama’s slow-burn masterpiece The Invitation, and H.P. Lovecraft fanboys Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead’s UFO cult thriller The Endless.
Get Me Off This Rock:
Jupiter Ascending (Netflix)
John Carter (Netflix)
The Abyss (HBO)
You wish you could just get out of here and leave the Earth in your dust. Friend, this is what the kids call a Big Mood, and I feel you. There aren’t any shuttles leaving the planet anytime soon, but you can try watching something that takes place outside the realm of reality. Prospect is an indie sci-fi movie in which a teenage girl must decide whether she’ll trust shifty stranger Pedro Pascal to help her out of a nasty situation. Jupiter Ascending and John Carter are underappreciated big-budget space operas that are fun and well worth your time. The version of James Cameron’s undersea thriller The Abyss that’s currently on HBO is a very nice digital transfer, if you’re into that. Border is earthbound, but involves a fascinating take on magical creatures from the same writer behind Let the Right One In.
If the Kids Aren’t Distracted, I Will Combust Into Flames:
Chicken Run (Hulu)
Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (HBO)
Missing Link (Hulu)
Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse (Netflix)
Babe Pig in the City (HBO)
The Kid Who Would Be King (HBO)
You’re stuck at home with small children, and you’ve already run through all your options on Disney +. What else is there to keep your kids occupied that you, an adult, can also enjoy? Lots! Aardman animation classics Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit offer plenty of jokes and artistic detail that appeal to all ages. If you’re still in a stop-motion animation mood after those, try Laika’s Missing Link, one of their most artistically impressive releases to date. Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse has visuals that are nothing short of stunning, and some welcome diversity to boot. Babe and the sequel Babe: Pig in the City stand up incredibly well. Babe: Pig in the City is both better and weirder than you remember. Also, don’t sleep on 2019’s The Kid Who Would Be King, which is full of hope, heart, and scrappy action.
Okay, I Can’t Do Any More Junk. Give Me an Excuse to Feel Refined.
20th Century Women (Netflix)
Good Time (Netflix)
The Square (Hulu)
Force Majeure (Hulu)
A Ghost Story (Netflix)
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Amazon)
Maybe watching something artistically ambitious will help you feel less like you’re wasting time, and more like cultural enrichment. If it helps, sure! 20th Century Women features excellent performances by Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and Elle Fanning, and it’s also got a great soundtrack. If you liked Uncut Gems, try Josh and Benny Safdie’s 2018 festival breakout Good Time. Ruben Östlund’s films The Square and Force Majeure take a dry, funny, unsparing look at the selfishness of the human condition. David Lowery’s A Ghost Story will get you feeling all existential about the connections between place, relationship, and identity. The Last Black Man in San Francisco was one of last year’s best movies that somehow slipped through the cracks. Check it out now while you have the chance.
Ugh, I Guess I Could Learn Something
American Factory (Netflix)
Oasis: Supersonic (Netflix)
Apollo 11 (Hulu)
The Inventor (HBO)
Three Identical Strangers (Hulu)
There’s no time like the present to get caught up on great nonfiction filmmaking. American Factory won the Best Documentary Oscar this year. Judge for yourself if the Academy was right to award this movie about Chinese and American factory workers. Oasis: Supersonic tells the story of the beloved (but prickly) 90s Britpop band. It’s full of insane tales of infighting and drinking binges that shouldn’t be physically possible. Apollo 11 tells the story of the moon landing completely through archival footage. It’s a very different look at who made the event happen, and how it felt to be there. With The Inventor, documentarian Alex Gibney digs into the story of Elizabeth Holmes, whose blood-testing startup, Theranos, was built completely on lies. Three Identical Strangers is a wild-but-true story of triplets separated at birth who found each other as adults.
Just Let Me Have Fun; I Beg of You
Return of the Living Dead (Amazon)
A Simple Favor (Hulu, Amazon)
Dolemite is my Name (Netflix)
Raising Arizona (HBO)
If you’re being honest, you don’t feel like checking off a bucket list of important cinema, and you don’t want to watch anything too serious or grim. You need a good time, and you need it now. Return of the Living Dead may not be the smartest zombie movie ever, but without a doubt it’s the most fun. It’s got everything: oversexed teens, punks, bumbling janitors, graveyards, Clu Gulager. Like I said, everything. A Simple Favor is a satisfying, trashy thriller dressed up in great clothes. Dolemite is my Name is a biopic of trash-talking comic Rudy Ray Moore that’ll make you laugh and lift your spirits. Booksmart is so funny and satisfying, and loves its characters so much that watching it is an act of self-care. Raising Arizona is my favorite comfort movie. The Coen brothers’ second feature is wild and funny, with lovably over-the-top characters and an endless list of quotable lines.
Pandemic Backward and In Heels
Amazing Grace (Hulu)
Stop Making Sense (Amazon)
Wild Rose (Hulu)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (HBO)
If you’re tired of sitting down, try these music-based movies to get up off the couch and have your own dance party. The miraculous Aretha Franklin concert doc Amazing Grace will take you to church—literally, it was filmed in a church. If you haven’t seen the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, now’s the time to watch it before your friends find out and tease you. Wild Rose isn’t a concert movie, but the drama about a Scottish single mom who dreams of country stardom is full of great music. Hedwig and the Angry Inch will give you Rocky Horror vibes, excellent tunes and lots of wigs (so many wigs). Finally, there’s Quadrophenia, The Who’s classic rock musical that isn’t Tommy. You can’t grab a parka and ride a scooter out to a party currently, but maybe watching someone else do it will help.
LOUD SOUNDS AND BIG GUNS
Hell or High Water (Netflix)
The Night Comes for Us (Netflix)
The Art of Self-Defense (Hulu)
The Spy Who Dumped Me (Hulu)
You’re angry. I’m angry. We’re all angry right now. Let’s watch an action movie and let someone else take out our anger for us! Hell or High Water is a character-driven heist film about a pair of brothers (Chris Pine, noble, and Ben Foster, impulsive) who rob banks, while on the run from a lawman (Jeff Bridges, endearingly tired). Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade is pure bloody fun and features incredible stunts. It’s best with a crowd, but it’ll still work if it’s just you and your cats watching. The Night Comes for Us, on the other hand, is just incredible stunts from beginning to end. There’s a plot, but that doesn’t matter, really. The Art of Self-Defense is a good choice if you prefer your violence deconstructed and analyzed hilariously. The Spy Who Dumped Me is a perfect “night in” movie to enjoy with the chocolate and bottle of wine from Trader Joe’s that you’ve stockpiled.