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 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.
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.