10 Great 2017 Movies You Can Stream Right Now

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We’ve been doing this annual year-end list of runners-up for our best of lists – a bunch of narrative films and documentaries that, basically, tied for eleventh place on their respective lists – since 2012, and there’s a story to be told in how it’s evolved. Back in 2013, for example, it was a list of movies that were available for rental or purchase, with exactly one (1) streaming on Amazon Prime. The 2014 list had six on Netflix, one on Prime, and three for rental/purchase. By the following year, every film on it was available via a subscription streaming service, a tradition which continues through this year – and gives some idea of how much Netflix and Amazon Prime are dominating the film world, financing and distributing works of genuinely high quality. You can watch any of these great films, with a subscription, at the click of a button. Ain’t the future grand?

Five Came Back

Laurent Bouzreau’s three-part documentary adaptation of Mark Harris’s essential cinema-in-WWII chronicle offers up riches for film fans and history buffs alike – focusing on five big-time Hollywood directors who spent the war making movies for Uncle Sam, while walking through the story of that war (and the years immediately following it) through their lens. There’s a lot of material to wrestle with here, but the filmmakers do so with intelligence and emotional resonance, ingeniously telling each directors’ story primarily via a compassionate contemporary counterpart, and dispatching well-chosen clips and outtakes from the works in question. (Streaming on Netflix.)

I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore

Actor Macon Blair, best known for his lead and supporting turns (respectively) in Blue Ruin and Green Room, writes and directs this darkly comic thriller starring the great Melanie Lynskey as a nurse’s assistant who turns amateur detective (and vengeance-seeker) when her home is burglarized. But that’s just the set-up; it’s an insightful study of invisibility, of a person who’s used to not being seen or considered in common interactions and finally finds an outlet for her frustration over the tiny inconsiderations and irritations she chooses to overlook every day. Lynskey is, as usual, invaluable – her reactions to the increasingly escalating situation are marvelous, particularly when Blair descends into his magnificently messy, blood-and-vomit-spattered conclusion – and he writes his supporting characters with the detail and flavor of someone who’s spent years grinding it as one of those day players. He’s an exciting filmmaker, and his debut feature vibrates with an enviable anything-goes spirit. (Streaming on Netflix.)

It Comes at Night

Trey Edward Shults’s riveting sophomore feature is, by definition, a post-apocalyptic thriller, but only in the broadest sense of the term: the precise explanation of what exactly has become of mankind is left unclear, and the conflicts are less external than personal (and, to some degree, existential). Put another way, Shults is less interested in bloodshead than the dread that leads up to it – and often leads to it – making this a daringly unconventional and endlessly affecting bit of nightmare fuel. (Streaming on Amazon Prime.)

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

Joan Didion has a fascinating way of speaking in the contemporary interviews of this new biographical documentary – the pauses she takes and gestures she makes, some presumably brought on by age, some out of well-practiced dramatic effect. Sometimes she seems to search for the words, in a way we don’t expect from one of the single finest wordsmiths of our time, but then she zonks you; it was just a well-placed beat, or the ramp-up to a laugh line that she’s clearly thought out in advance, and it couldn’t matter less (“I wasn’t surprised that it was turned into a movie. [beat] I wish they’d turned it into a better movie”). The decades she’s spent defining that persona make The Center Will Not Hold all the more valuable; this is a very personal portrait, hand-crafted by her nephew, the actor/producer/director Griffin Dunne, and what begins is a tribute to a singular voice and enduring literary legacy becomes a snapshot not only of unimaginable grief, but coping with that grief. Raw, open, and witty – and it’ll make you want to run right out and read everything she’s ever written. (Streaming on Netflix.)

The Lovers

Writer/director Azazel Jacobs (Terri) drops into this story of a disintegrated married couple, and the affairs that are about to finally end their union, at the point in their story when most other films would end, and that’s part of its genius; it’s the old saw about every unhappy family’s differences, and there are telling contrasts between not only the marriage and the affairs, but between the affairs themselves. And then Jacobs flips the entire script, throwing their countdown to separation into an upheaval with the marvelous premise of a couple accidentally rediscovering their passion, and cheating on their lovers with their spouse. Yet even this isn’t played as the dopey comedy it could’ve been; Jacobs and his enviable cast (which includes Debra Winger, Tracy Letts, Melora Walters, and Aiden Gillen) play the humanity of the situation, its tenderness and its sadness, with an evenness and purpose that’s sort of astonishing. It’s a quiet little movie, but it lingers. (Streaming on Amazon Prime.)

Marjorie Prime

The ever-idiosyncratic Michael Almereyda scripts and directs this adaptation of Jordan Harrison’s play, a (mostly) effects-free science fiction story of a few-minutes-ahead future wherein our departed loved ones can stay with us via A.I. holograms. It’s a good concept, one that allows discussions of thoughts on memory, perception, death, and mourning. Marjorie is perhaps a colder film than some moviegoers like – Almereyda keeps his camera at a respectful distance, and the storytelling is purposefully elliptical, with the big events happening off-screen, leaving us to piece them together from dialogue context and visual hints. It’s for a very specific kind of moviegoer, in other words. But it asks big questions, about the nature of memory, how we choose to consider those we love, how we choose to handle our own grief; those who can tune in to its wavelength will find it strangely satisfying. (Streaming on Amazon Prime.)

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Harold Meyerowitz, the sculptor and father at the center of Noah Baumbach’s latest comedy/drama, bears a more-than-passing resemblance to the patriarch of his 2005 Oscar nominee The Squid and the Whale, from his unsolicited cultural critiques (“I find Maugham to be skillful without being an artist…”) to his questionable parenting techniques to the manner in which both can be traced to his own status as an also-ran (and the resentments that breeds). But Meyerowitz doesn’t just find Baumbach retracing his steps; he moves beyond dramatization of familial passive-aggression and into maturity and analysis, telling a story about getting older, coming to terms with who these people are, and figuring out how to be your own person anyway. It’s an uproariously funny movie, and a genuinely tender and moving one as well. (Streaming on Netflix.)

My Happy Family

Family guilt and passive-aggression are bound by no language, and this keenly observed Georgian drama from directors Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groß concerns mother Manana (Ia Shugliashvili) who has finally had enough of her clan and the tiny apartment they inhabit (it’s stressful to even watch people move through it), so she rents an apartment, packs a bag, and takes off. Unsurprisingly, they don’t take it well, though the filmmakers subtly convey that the family’s response is less about Manana’s absence than the fact that she’s puncturing the presumptive order of things. After she goes, the camera sits with her in leisurely scenes of drinking tea, playing music, and gazing across her balcony – putting across the sheer pleasure of solitude and quiet, after years of the opposite. But they also understand the complexity of her decision, of what she’s leaving behind, and the closing shots have a quiet urgency rarely glimpsed in contemporary drama. (Streaming on Netflix.)

Landline

Star Jenny Slate and director Gillian Robespierre previously collaborated on the wonderful 2014 comedy Obvious Child, and if that was their Annie Hall, this is their Hannah and Her Sisters – maintaining that film’s sense of humor and truth while expanding its canvas. It’s not as funny as the earlier film, nor does it try to be; Robespierre is working with more serious themes and tones this time around, and proves just as adroit painting with those colors. Her movie is full of moments that ring with endless truth and tenderness, and of scenes where people try desperately to make things right, to do what they believe is expected of them, and can’t pull it off. She gives them the room to be full, complicated, flawed characters, and I can’t wait to see what she does next. (Streaming on Amazon Prime.)

Win It All

The latest from co-writer/director Joe Swanberg and co-writer/actor Jake Johnson works its California Split vibe like a part-time job, adopting a loose, shambling, semi-improvisational style to tell the story of an unlucky young(ish) gambler — a guy who, as his Gamblers Anonymous sorta-sponsor (Keegan-Michael Key) puts it, is “addicted to losing.” So he’s not the kind of dude with whom a criminal associate should entrust with a bag full of money for safekeeping; when, after more than one scene of hilariously battling with himself not to see what’s inside, he begins pulling stacks of bills out, there’s a little symphony in the different spins he puts on the half-dozen or so “Oh no”s that follow. Johnson is just the right performer for this role; thanks to his baked-in charisma and likability, you’re with him even when he’s fucking up. And he continues to bring out the best in his director; Swanberg’s filmmaking has never been more confident, from his smooth transitioning of tones (it’s both funny and tense, often at the same time) to the palpable affection he holds for his characters, and the lives they choose to lead. (Streaming on Netflix.)