Streaming

5 must-watch movies and TV shows streaming right now

The best of what's new on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney Plus, and more.

Brendan Gleeson sitting in the foreground and Colin Farrell looking at him through a window in "The Banshees of Inisherin."
Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in "The Banshees of Inisherin." Searchlight Pictures

Welcome to Boston.com’s weekly streaming guide. Each week, we recommend five must-watch movies and TV shows available on streaming platforms like NetflixHuluAmazon PrimeDisney+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 [email protected] Looking for even more great streaming options? Check out previous editions of our must-watch list here.

Movies

“Ambulance”

After decades of critics trashing director Michael Bay (“The Rock,” “Armageddon,” “Transformers”) for his gargantuan, bombastic, and often brainless action movies, there’s been a quiet reappraisal of his work in recent years — no doubt spurred by Marvel subsuming the summer blockbuster season that used to be Bay’s playground. His most recent film, “Ambulance,” is a small-budget picture by Bay’s standards, yet packs just as much propulsive action into two hours as anything he’s directed. When his wife can’t get the life-saving surgery she needs, a soldier played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen (“Watchmen”) agrees to help his bank-robbing brother (Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler”) with a job that goes horribly wrong. The duo spends most of the film racing through the streets of Los Angeles in a stolen ambulance, all while a paramedic (Eiza González, “Baby Driver”) tries to keep a fallen cop alive in the back. If you’re anything like my friend who left the room 20 minutes in, you’re already rolling your eyes reading that plot synopsis. But “Ambulance” succeeds because the action simply Does. Not. Stop. It’s Bay’s best work since “The Rock,” a “Mad Max: Fury Road” set on The 101 during rush hour.

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How to watch: “Ambulance” is streaming on Prime Video.

“Avatar”

Because this is a column for streaming recommendations, I can’t directly write about “Avatar: The Way of Water,” which hits theaters this weekend. But consider this entry on “Avatar” a full-throated endorsement of James Cameron’s years-in-waiting sequel, which is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on the big screen. Over the years, “Avatar” has faced growing ridicule, with people scoffing at its plot similarities to “Dances With Wolves” or “Fern Gully” and its lack of memorable characters despite being the highest-grossing film of all time. “Avatar: The Way of Water” quite frankly blows “Avatar” out of the water, but that doesn’t mean the original isn’t worth revisiting. The world was obsessed with Pandora back in 2009 for a reason: Cameron created an immersive universe so beautiful that it left some viewers unable to cope with the real world afterward. My recommendation: Watch “Avatar” on Friday or Saturday, then head out to see “The Way of Water” the next day. James Cameron should only be consumed in manageable doses.

How to watch: “Avatar” is streaming on Disney+.

“The Banshees of Inisherin”

What would you do if your best friend decided one day that they didn’t like you anymore? It’s a depressing hypothetical to consider, and it plays out in tragicomic fashion in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” a tightly wound new film from Martin McDonagh (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”). The friends in question are played by Brendan Gleeson (“Braveheart”) and Colin Farrell (“The Batman”), who exhibited a similar chemistry in McDonagh’s black comedy “In Bruges.” The pair live on a remote island off the coast of Ireland in 1923. On the mainland, a civil war rages, but on the island, it’s the pair’s inexplicable fight that interests the villagers. Gleeson hasn’t scowled this much since “Paddington 2,” and Farrell looks like a puppy left out in the rain. “Banshees” is one of the best movies of the year, and is a near-lock to get a lot of Oscar love come January’s nominations, so go watch it now before the awards season hype really revs up.

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How to watch: “The Banshees of Inisherin” is streaming on HBO Max.

TV Shows

“The Recruit”

Noah Centineo is one of Netflix’s true in-house stars, rising to fame thanks to his leading man roles in the “Too All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” film series. This time around, Centineo is playing against type as a nebbish lawyer in his first week working at the CIA who is thrust into a web of espionage and intrigue he’s not quite prepared for. The show doesn’t always strike a proper balance between action setpieces and quippy one-liners, but Centineo has a leading-man charm that holds things in place. For fans of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” who are biding their time until Season 3 debuts next week, “The Recruit” is an effective, albeit somewhat diminished substitute.

How to watch: “The Recruit” is streaming on Netflix.

“Who Killed Santa? A Murderville Murder Mystery”

Earlier this year, Netflix debuted the improvised murder mystery comedy “Murderville,” in which a celebrity guest paired with Will Arnett’s gruff detective attempt to solve a mystery with no script and no clue. For the show’s holiday special, the guest detective is none other than his “Arrested Development” pal Jason Bateman, who must “yes-and” his way to solving who stabbed Santa Claus while everyone on set except for him has a script. This time around, the detective power is multiplied by two, as Bateman is joined partway through by Maya Rudolph (“Bridesmaids”). The show can feel a little wonky at times, but when Bateman and Rudolph seize on an especially amusing way to maneuver through a scene (or break down laughing thanks to Arnett’s antics), the payoff is worth it.

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How to watch: “Who Killed Santa? A Murderville Murder Mystery” is streaming on Netflix.

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