1. Cutie and the Boxer (2013)
Directed by: Zachary Heinzerling.
About: Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, two struggling artists in an unusual, charged, and charming marriage.
Typical review: “A movie that makes you feel less like a spectator than a guest, a friend welcomed into the home of an odd and fascinating couple.” —A.O. Scott, The New York Times.
Good if you like: Bill Cunningham New York, the comics section of the paper, Exit Through The Gift Shop, pigtails.
2. The Thing Called Love (1993)
Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich.
Starring: River Phoenix (in his last film), Samatha Mathis, a young Sandra Bullock, plus a bunch of awesome ’90s country stars like Pam Tillis and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
What it’s about: An aspiring country singer hits Nashville and finds love (x2) and a little less musical success. Seeing Mathis fall in love with Phoenix IRL captured on film is both sweet and heartbreaking.
Good if you like: Country radio, Crazy Heart, and pearl snap-up dress shirts.
3. The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1965)
Created by: Carl Reiner.
Starring: Dick Van Dyke himself, Mary Tyler Moore, Mary Tyler Moore’s capri pants.
What’s it about: This classic ’60s family and workplace sitcom in one is known for “bringing sex to TV.” The greatest joy of the edgy-at-the-time series is still in the chemistry, ease, and delight that Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke, as Laura and Rob Petrie, brought to their roles as a young married couple.
Good if you like: Lucille Ball, The Cosby Show, Zooey Deschanel, pretty dresses.
4. Saved! (2004)
Directed by: Brian Dannelly
Starring: Jena Malone, Macaulay Culkin, Susan Sarandon’s daughter (Eva Amurri Martino), the kid from Almost Famous who got foxy (Patrick Fugit), and MANDY MOORE.
What it’s about: A totally underrated satire with a heart of gold, Saved! tells the story of Mary, a senior at a super-religious school, who becomes pregnant by her gay boyfriend and has to cope with the escalating judgment that follows.
Good if you like: making fun of things but then hugging it out afterward, cute romantic gestures, Mean Girls.
5. Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
Directed by: Doug Atchison.
Starring: Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, and the cutest kid ever, Keke Palmer.
Netflix review: “I am 8 years old and I thought this was a great movie. There are some sad parts. There were also some parts I didn’t understand. I really liked what she did for others and what others did for her.”
Good if you like: watching inspiring kids on spelling bees, Little Man Tate, Disney Channel original movies, valuable life lessons.
6. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Directed by: Terry George (previously: In The Name Of The Father)
Starring: Don Cheadle, Don Cheadle, and Don Cheadle. Some other people too. Don Cheadle, though.
Netflix review: “Don’t be surprised if Don Cheadle burrows his gentle, soft-spoken way into your heart — and stays there long after the lights go up and your thoughts return to ‘ordinary’ things.”
Good if you like: Don Cheadle, learning more about the world and recent events around you, crying.
7. Drinking Buddies (2013)
Directed by: mumblecore’s finest, Joe Swanberg.
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, the cute guy from Office Space (Ron Livingston), and Nick from New Girl (Jake Johnson).
Typical review: “Not much happens in Drinking Buddies, which, frankly, is refreshing.” —Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail.
Good if you like: The Puffy Chair, Girls, pessimism, guys with beards, beer.
8. Escape From Alcatraz (1979)
Directed by: Don Siegel.
Starring: Clint Eastwood and some other dudes.
What’s it about: Really, the title sums this one up pretty nicely.
Good if you like: The Rock (the movie), The Rock (the actor), escape artists generally, Orange Is the New Black.
9. Juice (1992)
Directed by: Ernest R. Dickerson
Starring: Omar Epps, Tupac Shakur, and a perfect cameo by Samuel L. Jackson.
Netflix review: “This is a true hood classic that tells the story of what happens when you want the juice.”
Good if you like: End of Watch, Spike Lee, “I Ain’t Mad at Cha.”
10. American Psycho (2000)
Directed by: Mary Harron
Starring: Christian Bale, the spirits of Whitney Houston and Phil Collins via Patrick Bateman’s passionate speeches.
Netflix review: “Call me sick if you like, but I love this film.”
Good if you like: Satirizing the darkest corners of rich straight white male anger and privilege, Breaking Bad, reading about serial killers, ’80s pop music, blood.
11. The Apartment (1960)
Directed by: Billy Wilder.
Starring: Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine!
Typical review: “Directed by Wilder with attention to detail and emotional reticence that belie its inherent darkness and melodramatic core, it’s lifted considerably by the performances: the psychosomatic ticks and tropes of nebbish Lemmon balanced by the pathos of Shirley MacLaine’s put-upon ‘lift girl’.” —Wally Hammond, Time Out London
Good if you like: pixie cuts, Mindy Kaling, Charade, things that can’t be neatly defined as either comedy or drama because life’s not that simple.
12. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (2000)
Directed by: The wonderful Jim Jarmusch.
Starring: Forest Whitaker as Ghost Dog. Also RZA.
Netflix review: “One of my all time favorite movies but this is definitely an artistic movie, not some Michael Bay film. Its subtle.”
Good if you like: Martial arts movies, Law & Order, Forest Whitaker’s face, the Wu-Tang Clan.
13. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Directed by: Blake Edwards
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, a very handsome cat.
Netflix review: “Besides the Mickey Rooney’s caricature of a Japanese man, the movie is deliciously warm, charming, and infinitely likeable. The theme of the movie is that we can never have chance for happiness unless we belong to someone, and the committment which precedes such belonging takes courage and taking risks.”
Good if you like: Mansfield Park, ukuleles, cat videos, parties, and dressing up.
14. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993)
Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Starring: Baby Leonardo DiCaprio, Baby Johnny Depp, Juliette Lewis.
Typical review: “Movies like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape are not easily summarized; they don’t have that slick “high concept” one-sentence peg that makes them easy to sell. Maybe all I’ve said still leaves you wondering what the movie is about. But some of the best movies are like this: They show everyday life, carefully observed, and as we grow to know the people in the film, maybe we find out something about ourselves.” —Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun Times
Good if you like: Lars and the Real Girl, spending time with your family, faded old pictures, dusty small towns, the work of David Gordon Green.
Update: Two things: Right after this post went live, Amelie was taken off of the streaming site. Not sure why, but we replaced it with another excellent choice. Secondly, Whitney Houston and Phil Collins only star in the American Psycho of Patrick Bateman’s heart. That joke has been clarified.