If you're seeking a streaming service focused on movies, it's not Amazon Prime or Netflix that deserves your attention - it's Now TV.
Sky's cord-cutter service is far better-served with newer, bigger-name films than either of its main rivals, with at least one new movie being added every day to an already-huge collection.
The sheer size of that collection means it's not always easy to immediately find something to watch though (y'know, the paralysis of choice, and so on). Which is where we come in. The Stuff team has picked out a selection of must-see cinematic masterpieces, so the next time you're settling down for an evening on the sofa, you can conserve your brainpower for picking the right snacks rather than the right movie.
The Shape of Water
It’s not often a “genre picture” wins the Oscar for Best Picture, but Guillermo Del Toro’s 60s-set creature feature, in which a mute cleaner falls in love with a man-fish hybrid, is not your average sci-fi movie.
Romantic, fantastical, life-affirming, frightening, thrilling and ultimately moving, The Shape of Water is beautifully written, acted and shot – full of the sort of memorable moments, characters and themes that the Academy recognise and reward. So in the end, its two Oscars came as little surprise – even if its not your typical award-bait fare.
Avengers: Infinity War
Haven’t watched basically all of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe movies – or at least the first couple of Avengers films, the first couple of Guardians of the Galaxy films, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, and Captain America: Civil War? Then a lot about Infinity War might not make a whole lot of sense.
If, however, you’re fully clued-up on the goings-on in the world of Iron Man, Thanos et al, then this movie is basically the most expensive, most star-studded season finale of any TV show in history, packed with the sort of high stakes showdowns, visual splendour and winning humour that has become the series’ trademark. With spectacle galore and an ending that’s nigh-on impossible to see coming, Infinity War is of course not the final Avengers film: there’s a sequel, Endgame, coming in April 2019.
Forget the tedious discussion about whether Die Hard is or is not “a Christmas film” (spoiler: it is). What’s not up for debate is its place in the action movie canon, thanks to its killer combo of charismatic, relatable hero (Bruce Willis in a career-defining role, and a career-defining vest), memorable villain (the sorely missed Alan Rickman in full scenery-chewing beast mode) and assured, non-showy direction by John McTiernan.
For sub-rock dwellers out there who don’t already know the setup, the plot is as beautifully simple as this: Willis’ New York cop comes to Los Angeles to visit his estranged wife for Christmas, rocking up at her work party in a swanky hi-tech hi-rise just as the building is hijacked by Rickman and his gang of terrorists. Cut off from the outside world, outmanned and outgunned, Willis must use his wiles to save the day. Wonderful stuff to watch – any time of the year.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Writer and director Martin McDonagh’s followup to cult hits In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths comes with a similar mix of pathos, violence and pitch-black comedy, as Frances McDormand’s grieving mother challenges the cops of her small southern US town to step up and catch her daughter’s murderer.
Such direct action – she purchases space on the titular three advertising billboards to publicly shame the police – brings her into conflict with Woody Harrelson’s respected chief and his bigoted, immature and angry deputy Sam Rockwell, sparking off a unpredictable sequence of events and an unforgettable conclusion. We won’t spoil any of that, but suffice to say the Oscars won by McDormand and Rockwell for their roles were well-earned, and this movie will likely stay in your head for a long time after the credits roll.
Along with Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther is one of the very best recent movies of come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and a far cry from simply a place-setting prologue for Avengers: Infinity War. A mega-budget blockbuster with an almost entirely black cast, co-written and directed by an African-American, there’s an unmistakeable thread of “politics” running through it that’s more than woke window dressing – it’s a key part of the plot and the characters’ motivations.
It’s also a crowd-pleasing superhero flick in which Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, newly-crowned king of apparently third-world Wakanda, has to find his feet in the face of a ruthless would-be usurper (played with raging verve by Michael B. Jordan). Not to be missed.
A decade on from There Will Be Blood, director Paul Thomas Anderson and leading man Daniel Day-Lewis reunite for this gothic romance story – as immaculate and precisely made as the gowns created by Day-Lewis’ character, fastidious and pernickety fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock.
Reportedly Day-Lewis’ final performance, his Woodcock is a fussy genius with an explosive temper, no less obsessive than There Will Be Blood’s monstrous capitalist Daniel Plainview, but instead driven by a desire to create – and possess – pure beauty. He finds his latest muse in the shape of waitress Alma – excellently played by Vicky Krieps – but rather than bend to his will, she pushes back in her own fashion.
The direction and camera work, Jonny Greenwood’s wonderful score and the central performances make this a worthy swan song for Day-Lewis – but don’t be surprised if Anderson manages to coax him out of retirement for another stellar movie in another ten years’ time…
The mould from which all other films with a silent, seemingly unstoppable masked killer are cast, Halloween’s creepily “normal” suburban setting, chilling synth soundtrack (written and performed by director John Carpenter himself) and knife-edge tension make it a great watch a full 40 years after it was made.
Jamie Lee Curtis became a star off the back of her debut performance as babysitter-turned-serial-runner-away here, Donald Pleasance provides gravitas as obsessed psychiatrist Dr Loomis, and the apparently motiveless Michael Myers, an impassive, invulnerable “shape” clad in his expressionless white mask, makes for a truly iconic expression of pure evil.
Is Thor: Ragnarok the best movie in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe line-up?
It’s certainly got more vim and verve than most, with Taika Waititi bringing his skills as an indie comedy movie director to a genre where visual spectacle usually takes centre stage, and the script investing characters both old and new with memorable spark and wit. Oh, and it’s definitely not lacking in that visual spectacle thing either.
The plot sees Asgard attacked by Hela, the goddess of death (an excellent Cate Blanchett), who destroys Thor’s hammer and sends him off into deep space. Imprisoned on the decadent, dangerous world of Sakaar, Thor must somehow assemble a team, escape the clutches of Jeff Goldblum’s preening Grandmaster and race back to save his homeland.
The Disaster Artist
James Franco directs and stars in this retelling of the making of the best bad movie ever committed to film: Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
Franco’s turn as the enigmatic, vampire-esque Wiseau (Where is he really from? How old is he? Where does all his money come from?) is frightening accurate, while his real-life brother Dave plays Greg Sestero, the naive, wide-eyed wannabe who somehow becomes embroiled in Wiseau’s opus of awful acting, bizarre plotlines and cringe-worthy love scenes.
While Franco has wisely made The Disaster Artist accessible for everyone, those who have seen The Room will likely get much more of a kick out of it. It’s also an incredible piece of work in its own right, somehow transcending its all-round dreadfulness to become something almost magical. Seek it out if you can.
The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club should be the worst film ever made: five of the most broad-brush-stereotyped high school kids get put in the same detention. They’re all radically different. But they find common ground. Puke. And yet it's more than a mush of obvious heartstring-tugging, rite-of-passage nonsense. Or, if it is, The Breakfast Club did it before it was a mechanical format trick pulled from the script template drawer for Hollywood high school flicks. That is to say this movie defined – if not invented – the teen genre as a journey of discovery. No Breakfast Club, no Dead Poet’s Society. No Superbad. You get the picture.
Yes, it’s dated, corny and the hairstyles are reason enough to pull all research grants for time travel. But The Breakfast Club is a bona fide gem that spawned a million imitators. And the original is still the best.
Napoleon Dynamite is a lad of many talents: dancer extraordinaire, time machine builder, friend to llamas and all-round poster boy for the semi-mythical 1980s.
In case you missed the t-shirts that are still knocking about 14 years after this movie was released, the plot (such as it is) revolves around Napoleon’s new pal Pedro running for class president, with obligatory indie teen comedy staples like girl trouble and dysfunctional family thrown in to season the mix.
Like a lot of low budget indie comedies, Napoleon Dynamite is carried along more by its tone (heavily ironic) and characters (deadpan and deluded) than its story. Just hop on and enjoy the ride.
John Wick: Chapter Two
If you thought Keanu Reeves’ perfect casting was Neo in The Matrix, his performance as taciturn, principled hitman John Wick will make you think again. Wick is the role Reeves was born to play, a ruthless death-dealer with few words but many, many moves. Just as in the first movie, Chapter Two seasons its superb action sequences with great little character moments and just enough self-awareness that it doesn’t feel like a total guilty pleasure. Roll on Chapter Three.