Though the song is nearly 30 years old, Bruce Springsteen’s “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” encapsulates the struggle viewers face today. With hundreds of cable channels, dozens of streaming services, and countless on-demand titles, trying to decide what to watch can feel like an endless ordeal.
That’s where we come in. Each month, Boston.com recommends 10 must-watch movies and TV shows available on streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Max, and more.
Many recommendations are for new shows, while others are for under-the-radar releases you might have missed, or classics that are about to depart a streaming service at the end of the month.
Have a new favorite movie or show you think we should know about? Let us know in the comments, or email me at [email protected].
Fans of Shonda Rhimes likely expected her Netflix historical drama “Bridgerton” to be a cross between “Pride and Prejudice” and “Scandal,” a soapy costume drama for contemporary audiences. Most of that holds true as the plot follows the young women and men of the Bridgerton family as they are thrust into the marriage market of Regency-era London. Less expected is the “Outlander” level of nudity in the series, with the longing stares and chaste propositions of a Jane Austen novel punctuated by bodice-ripping stairway sex. It’s not for all ages, but “Bridgerton,” like most Shonda shows, is a pulpy, guilty pleasure.
How to watch: “Bridgerton” is streaming on Netflix.
“Catch Me If You Can”
Watching Leonardo DiCaprio film “Don’t Look Up” in Boston over the last couple of months left us in the mood to stream “Catch Me If You Can,” the light-hearted drama from Steven Spielberg which pits talented young forger and con man Frank Abagnale, Jr. (DiCaprio) against the FBI agent hot on his tail (Tom Hanks). Based on a true story, The Oscar-nominated caper departs Netflix at the start of February, so you’ll have to catch it while you can.
How to watch: “Catch Me If You Can” is streaming on Netflix until the end of the month.
“How To with John Wilson”
When listing things that you miss doing during the pandemic, people-watching and making small talk with strangers might not be high on your list. But “How To with John Wilson,” a comedy/documentary from HBO, may change your mind. Wilson’s show is ostensibly about answering questions: “How to make small talk,” “How to put up scaffolding,” and “How to split a check.” But the six-episode show is really a series of vignettes of everyday New Yorkers, with Wilson giving viewers a small window into their lives. It’s tough to describe, but well worth a watch.
How to watch: “How To with John Wilson” is streaming on HBO Max and available for HBO subscribers.
Netflix has released content in nearly every genre in some way over the years. With “Lupin,” the streamer has successfully built a heist series, following the exploits of “gentleman thief” Assane Diop (Omar Sy), whose elaborate disguises and daring schemes serve to expose the evil deeds of a fiendish French tycoon (Hervé Pierre). Sy is so magnetic in the lead role, it’s a little tough to believe he could ever slip into the Louvre undetected. But setting that implausibility aside, “Lupin” is an enjoyable five-episode ride.
How to watch: “Lupin” is streaming on Netflix.
Another limited series worthy of your attention is “Mrs. America,” the FX drama that examines the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and the culture war that resulted. While elements of the story are fictionalized, the show is based on real-life women, including feminists like Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne, “Bridesmaids”), Jill Ruckelshaus (Pittsfield native Elizabeth Banks, “The Hunger Games”), and Brenda Feigen (Boston native Ari Graynor, “Whip It”) who face off against movement conservative Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett, “Carol”). No fewer than four members of the main cast have local roots, with Boston natives Uzo Aduba (“Orange is the New Black”) and John Slattery (“Mad Men”) joining Banks and Graynor.
How to watch: “Mrs. America” is streaming on Hulu.
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
We’ve recommended “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” once before, but given that it never received a proper theatrical release and recently landed 7 Independent Spirit award nominations — the most of any movie this year — it’s worth revisiting. When Autumn (newcomer Sidney Flanigan) discovers she’s pregnant, she knows she wants an abortion. Pennsylvania doesn’t allow her to get one without parental consent, so she travels to New York City with her cousin (newcomer Talia Ryder) in order to get one. A powerful drama about weighty issues, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is a tough but rewarding watch.
“News of the World”
Few actors are more comforting than Tom Hanks, as the actor proved once again in 2019 by playing Mr. Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” In his newest, “News of the World,” Hanks plays a Civil War-era version of Walter Cronkite named Jefferson Kidd, traveling from one isolated Texas town to the next delivering the latest news for 10 cents a head. Kidd’s life changes thanks to 10-year-old Johanna (Helena Zengel), who has spent most of her life in captivity with the Kiowa tribe. The duo make an engaging road-trip pair, and director Paul Greengrass (“Captain Phillips”) doesn’t rush their chemistry, making “News of the World” an enjoyable slow burner.
How to watch: “News of the World” is available to rent on Google, Amazon, and other on-demand platforms.
“One Night in Miami”
Based on the 2013 play by the same name, “One Night in Miami” is a fictionalized account of a real-life meeting in a Miami hotel room between four Black American icons: Boxer Cassius Clay (Eli Goree, “Race”), civil rights leader Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir, “The OA”), NFL running back Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge, “City on a Hill”), and singer-songwriter Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr., “Hamilton”). The film already made history earlier this year when it became the first movie to premiere at the Venice Film Festival directed by a Black woman (Regina King, “Watchmen”). Early reviews are positive, with many tapping it as an Academy Awards contender.
How to watch: “One Night in Miami” is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
With very few exceptions, every new Pixar movie is a must-see cinematic event. This time, the movie magic will have to be experienced in your own home for “Soul.” A middle-school band teacher (Jamie Foxx, “Ray”) is about to land his big musical break when he dies. But that’s only the beginning of his journey: He ends up in the Great Before, Pixar’s imaginary place for souls who haven’t yet arrived on Earth. There, Foxx’s character must become a mentor for a soul (Tina Fey, “Saturday Night Live”) that prefers to stay in the Great Before rather than ascend to Earth. “Soul” is directed by Pete Docter, and it shares quite a bit of DNA with 2015’s “Inside Out,” another must-watch from the Pixar canon. “Soul” tackles big questions about existence, purpose, and the human condition, all while providing enough laughs to keep the younger set entertained, a magic trick that nearly every Pixar movie seems to execute effortlessly.
How to watch: “Soul” is streaming on Disney+.
“Thank You For Smoking”
Tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is good at his job, which means by definition he’s a slick-talking glad-hander with a wayward moral compass. When things begin to unravel for Naylor, he’s forced to decide whether he wants to slink off into obscurity or talk his way back into business in a congressional hearing. Director Jason Reitman has an ear for memorable dialogue, and with a stellar supporting cast including Katie Holmes, William H. Macy, and Robert Duvall, “Thank You For Smoking” is well worth the watch before it leaves Amazon Prime at the end of January.
How to Watch: “Thank You for Smoking” is streaming on Amazon Prime Video until the end of the month.
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