Looking good, Matty
Video-streaming service Netflix gives you a vast number of films, TV shows and documentaries to choose from – and that can be a problem.
More often than not, you find yourself spending your entire evening shuffling through the selection trying to pick something to watch – before realising that you no longer have time to actually watch a film.
Never fear; we've rifled through the Netflix catalogue to bring you our top picks, from rom-coms to superhero movies to obscure documentaries. Let Stuff be your guide on your cinematic odyssey.
Better Call Saul
Everyone's favourite sleazy-yet-likeable lawyer Saul Goodman (well, Jimmy McGill) returns to Netflix, in a series which throws us back seven years before the explosive events of Breaking Bad.
Bob Odenkirk slips into his cheap suit with remarkable ease, and his superb performance allows his character's desperation, tenacity and humour to seep through the screen and grab our attention with both hands.
It's always fun to root for the underdog, and from the very first episode you're right there alongside Goodman, wanting him to fight to the top - all while being aware of the dark things to come. Congratulations, Netflix. You've done it again.
House of Cards
Netflix has amassed an impressive library of TV shows, but HBO – home of top-tier drama like Boardwalk Empire and Game Of Thrones – has always spurned its advances.
Netflix's solution? Level the playing field by throwing money at its own prestige series. House Of Cards is the jewel in its crown, with David Fincher behind the camera and Kevin Spacey in front of it as scheming Democratic Majority Whip Frank Underwood. Its depiction of the White House as a cesspool of self-interested career politicians is light years away from The West Wing – and seeing Spacey's Machiavellian plots unfold is a delight.
The third season was added in its entirety earlier this month, so if you haven't already checked it out, now's the time to start.
Once you've finished that, you might want to check out the 1990s BBC drama that it's (loosely) based on. Where Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood is all smooth Southern charm, Ian Richardson's Francis Urquhart is positively reptilian – a Shakespearian villain in a post-Thatcher Britain.
The Thin Blue Line
Errol Morris’ seminal documentary follows the story of one man’s wrongful imprisonment for the murder of a Texas police officer in 1976.
Although it’s best remembered as the film that saved a man from Death Row, The Thin Blue Line also pioneered many documentary techniques that are now commonplace, including reconstructions of the events leading up to the murder (recounted several times, from contradictory viewpoints) and avoiding narration.
One key shot, in which an interviewee reaches up to scratch his nose and reveals that he’s wearing handcuffs, brilliantly demonstrates how editing can be used to manipulate the viewer.
This classic crime thriller is a fascinating snapshot of a lost world: Soviet-era Moscow, complete with Cold War-tensions, KGB 'disappearings' and ramshackle cars.
It's based on the acclaimed novel of the same name, and that's evident from the taut, tight script, believable characterising and plentiful attention to detail.
William Hurt leads a fine cast which also includes Lee Marvin, Brian Dennehy and Joanna Pacula, but the real star of the show is the city and its environs: shrouded in snow, teeming with betrayal and easy to lose yourself in.
Zero Dark Thirty
Sometimes the truth really does live up to the fiction; the hunt for Osama Bin Laden was the stuff of Tom Clancy thrillers, with its stealth helicopters, Seal team raids and tense situation rooms.
For the majority of Zero Dark Thirty, though, director Kathryn Bigelow shifts the focus on to the CIA officers chasing down leads, conducting “enhanced interrogations” and working contacts in the world’s most protracted game of cat and mouse. Wisely, Bin Laden himself is kept off-screen throughout, as elusive a presence to us as he is to the analysts.
Instead, the heart of the film is Jessica Chastain’s steely CIA officer Maya, a composite of the real-life agents who worked to track down Al-Qaeda’s figurehead; her Terminator-like intensity would seem almost implausible were it not for the fact that she’s based on real people. Sadly, the film’s forced to unceremoniously sideline her for its denouement, a blow-by-blow account of Seal Team Six’s attack on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan that’s fraught with tension – despite the fact that the outcome isn’t in doubt.
The film also strays into controversial territory in its assertion that actionable intelligence was gained through the euphemistically-described “enhanced interrogations” – though it depicts them with unflinching, documentary-style realism, and doesn’t shy away from their lasting effects on both interrogators and captives.
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