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 original – and still the best. Forget the recent series reboot which, despite its encouraging roots (writer/director Shane Black is actually in the cast of the original movie), chose to ditch the necessarily serious tone in favour of dumb jokes and a silly twist – it’s the 1987 straight-up action-thriller you want to put in your eyes and ears.
It’s got it all: a testosterone-sweating cast including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura; CIA-sponsored black ops hijinks in Central America; macho jokes that would not be acceptable in today’s workplace; a sweltering, claustrophobic jungle setting; a tension-ramping soundtrack; and, of course, the titular alien trophy hunter, armed with an array of bizarre weaponry with which to eviscerate Arnie’s team. A classic.
Spike Lee’s Oscar-winning true story of a black detective who goes undercover – by way of a white Jewish detective surrogate – within a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan feels considered and timely, despite its 1970s setting.
Sometimes hilarious, sometimes chilling, sometimes hopeful, this is Lee’s most accomplished, cogent “joint” in years, and one of 2018’s movie highlights.
Even when boiled right down to its most basic concept – Jason Statham versus a giant killer prehistoric shark – The Meg sounds like a winner. And it is, despite an ocean’s worth of silliness, scant regard for the foundations of marine biology and, well, relying on Jason Statham to sell it all.
If you think the finned antagonist in Jaws was a monster, this blockbuster action extravaganza is proof positive that there’s plenty of bigger fish in the sea.
In the first few minutes of Lady Bird, the titular character (played by Saoirse Ronan in Oscar-nominated form) chucks herself out of a moving car – but this isn’t a film that’ll wow you with its stunts and special effects.
Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age tale is sharply written, very funny (particularly Timothée Chalamet’s try-hard outsider), and brilliantly observed, even if you didn’t grow up in California in the early noughties. If you’re in the mood for a quirky dramedy with believable characters and an unforced slice-of-life plot line, Lady Bird should be top of your watch list.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
James Cameron is renowned for pushing special effects technology – we essentially have him to “thank” for the ongoing 3D movie “craze” – and in Terminator 2 he conjured up the most advanced computer-generated character then seen on the big screen in the form of the T-1000. The liquid-metal assassin, sent back in time to murder tearaway teenager John Connor, used every CGI trick in the book to help sell the reality of the character. And it doesn’t look half bad almost 30 years later.
Audiences in 1991 were wowed by the digital creation as it morphed from one character to another, emerged from a tiled floor and formed knives from its hands, but ultimately this movie succeeds for other reasons, namely Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic performance as the “good” T-800 sent to protect Connor, the equally impressive practical SFX and blockbuster-worthy, fast-moving story.
The film that put an entire generation off skinny dipping, Jaws remains one of the most iconic, most influential and best-loved summer blockbusters of all time. Even if you haven’t dived into its murky, dread-filled yet, you’re likely aware of the beautifully simple premise: a New Jersey seaside resort is being terrorised by a killer Great White shark, and the local police chief decides to hunt it down.
But it’s Jaws’ script, direction and iconic John Williams score that make it so effective. Steven Spielberg cranks up the tension through his use of perspective and sound – very little violence happens on-screen – keeping the viewer constantly on edge, but he isn’t afraid to season the scares with lighter moments. More than four decades on, it’s still a must watch – but do yourself a favour and swim well clear of the dodgy sequels.
Alien: The Director’s Cut
The best space-set horror movie ever made (not to mention one of the best horror movies full stop) and the film that spawned a sprawling franchise based around its iconic titular “xenomorph”, Alien is a masterpiece of tension and visuals, with director Ridley Scott at the very top of his game.
When the crew of commercial space ship the Nostromo (a fantastic cast of “normal”, highly relatable characters rather than exaggerated, OTT personalities) detect a transmission from a moon out in deep space, they land to investigate and discover a strange derelict craft full of large eggs. When one of these hatches, it sparks off a deadly sequence of events that we wouldn’t dream of spoiling here but, yes, involves a murderous, predatory alien stalking its prey through the corridors and vents of the ship. It’s fantastic cat-and-mouse sci-fi stuff, and – courtesy of Scott’s mastery of lighting and the stellar production design, looks so, so good for a 40 year-old movie.
Quentin Tarantino’s western (or, more accurately “southern”) takes its cues both from Sergio Leone and the blaxploitation genre. Set mostly in the Deep South, Django Unchained pits Jamie Foxx’s titular freed slave against the plantation owners, traders and overseers who’ve separated him from his wife.
He’s joined on his quest by German bounty hunter Dr King Schultz (an Oscar-nominated Christoph Waltz) but equally impressive are Leonardo Dicaprio as Calvin Candie, who cloaks the barbarity of his gladiatorial slave fights beneath a veneer of civilisation, and Samuel L Jackson as Candie’s house slave (and éminence grise) Stephen.
Foxx plays Django as a modern Man With No Name – though in his case his silence is more the result of tightly-wound righteous fury than stoicism, and when he eventually unleashes bloody vengeance on his oppressors it’s spectacularly cathartic.
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.