by Sean Axmaker
Here’s a short list of streaming possibilities that you may have missed when they came out or simply never gotten around to watching that are fine for family viewing, plus a few more grown-up titles for the adults in the room.
This is limited to the three major streaming services: Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016, PG-13), starring Felicity Jones a scruffy survivor who takes on the Empire with a team of outcasts and mavericks. It’s an action-packed, mission thriller that plays out in the margins of “Star Wars” with a darker portrait of rebellion and war.
A little less dark is “Beauty and the Beast” (2017, PG), Disney’s lavish, live-action remake of their animated musical starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens; and Tim Burton’s remake of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005, PG) with Johnny Depp as odd duck Willy Wonka.
Disney’s animated musical adventure “Moana” (2016, PG) sends a different kind of princess on a quest with a demigod in ancient Polynesia. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda co-wrote the original songs.
The animated odyssey “Kubo and the Two Strings” (2016, PG) from Portland’s Laika Entertainment is a family-friendly epic of imagination steeped in Japanese culture and mythology.
“Sing” (2017, PG) presents a cast of animated animals singing their hearts out with the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton and Tori Kelly.
Other animated options include Disney’s “Pocahontas” (1995, G) but why not expand your horizons and sample the steampunk imagination of “April and the Extraordinary World” (France, 2015, PG, in English), and the Oscar-nominated “My Life as a Zucchini” (France, 2016, PG-13, English and subtitled versions).
“Charlotte’s Web“ (2006, G), the second big screen version of the children’s classic, features Dakota Fanning and the voices of Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi and Sam Shepard.
There are now two seasons of Netflix’s binge-worthy “Stranger Things,” the wonderfully weird series about a group of school friends who face strange doings in their rural Indiana. The show is filled with ’80s nostalgia and grounded in childhood friendships and imagination — a little too intense for young kids, but adolescents and teens should love it; adults too.
“Anne with an E” offers a fresh take on “Anne of Green Gables” with Amybeth McNulty as the red-headed orphan in 19th century Canada. Season one with eight episodes is now available.
For a family-friendly superhero series, try “The Flash,” a show with a likable, spirited speedster hero, a loyal team of friends, and a colorful cast of villains — including a telepathic gorilla. Three seasons are available.
For the older crowd:
“Mudbound” (2017, not rated): Dee Rees’s drama of two families — one white, one black — living and farming in the poverty of the Mississippi Delta in the 1940s. It debuted at Sundance and won numerous awards on the film festival circuit. Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke and Mary J. Blige star.
The Oscar-nominated “Lion” (2016): Based on a true story, stars Dev Patel as a lost boy in Calcutta adopted by Australian parents (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) who goes searching for his lost family in India.
Todd Haynes directs “Carol” (2015, R): A touching and evocative love story between a society woman (Cate Blanchett) and a department store shopgirl and budding photographer (Rooney Mara) in 1950s New York City.
Meryl Streep is the worst singer who ever lived in “Florence Foster Jenkins” (2016, PG-13), an unexpectedly tender and compassionate comedy based on a true story.
And here are a few more suggestions:
- Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” (2017, not rated), with Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Dustin Hoffman
- “Our Souls at Night” (2017), which reunites Jane Fonda and Robert Redford
- “The Homesman” (2014, R), a frontier western directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones
- “42” (2013, PG-13) with Chadwick Boseman as baseball legend Jackie Robinson
- The sprawling “Cloud Atlas” (2012, R), from filmmakers Lana and Lilly Wachowski and Tom Tykwer
- “The Queen” (2006, PG-13) starring Helen Mirren in an Oscar-winning performance
It’s a great time to catch up with “The Crown,” the drama about the life of Queen Elizabeth created by Peter Morgan and starring Claire Foy as the young Queen. The second season begins in December.
“Alias Grace,” based on a historical novel by Margaret Atwood, dramatizes the true story of a servant girl (Sarah Gadon) convicted of murder in 19th-century Canada in a six-episode series.
The intimate and introspective drama “Rectify” follows the life a man (Aden Young) released into the world after spending 19 years — over half of his life — on death row for a crime he may not have committed. It’s powerful, moving and self-contained in 30 episodes over four seasons.
The superior Canadian crime drama “Intelligence: The Complete Series” (2006-07) explores the intersection between the Vancouver crime underworld and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The entire 20 episodes are available.
Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon star in Gillian Armstrong’s Oscar-nominated “Little Women” (1994, PG), held up as the best film version of the novel by many fans.
Once it was an annual TV event for the family, now the original “The Wizard of Oz” (1939, G), starring Judy Garland skipping down the yellow brick road, is streaming on Amazon.
Classics: Billy Wilder’s “Some Like it Hot” (1959, not rated), starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as musicians in female drag and Marilyn Monroe as an unlucky-in-love singer, was voted the best American comedy of all time in a poll conducted by the American Film Institute; and William Powell and Carole Lombard star in the sparkling screwball comedy “My Man Godfrey” (1936).
For the older crowd:
Charlie Hunnam and Robert Pattinson star in James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z” (2016, PG-13), which dramatizes the true story of British explorers in the uncharted jungles of Bolivia. A grand adventure of early 20th-century exploration and a savvy portrait of western arrogance, it is vivid and dreamy and mesmerizing.
“20th Century Women” (2016, R) stars Annette Bening as a single mother of a teenage boy determined to give him good life lessons with the help of actors Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup.
“Paterson” (2016, R), Jim Jarmusch’s meandering tour through a week with Adam Driver’s bus driver-poet, is a warmly eccentric character piece that celebrates everyday American dreamers.
Cynthia Nixon is Emily Dickinson in “A Quiet Passion” (2017, PG-13), an intimate drama from Terence Davies.
The documentary “Obit.” (2016, not rated) profiles the staff obituary writers of The New York Times and the increasingly rare art form they keep alive (so to speak) on a daily basis.
Foreign affairs: The sexy South Korean drama “The Handmaiden” (2016) spins a compelling tale of con artists, forbidden love, pornography, and poetic justice (not rated, with subtitles).
A few more suggestions:
- “Denial” (2016, PG-13) stars Rachel Weisz in the true story of a historian sued by a Holocaust denier.
- Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning Jane Austen adaptation “Sense and Sensibility” (1995) features Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet.
- Oscar-nominated baby boomer classic “The Big Chill” (1983, R) with Kevin Kline, Glenn Close and William Hurt
- Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning “The Departed” (2006, R) with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson
Amazon now has all five seasons of “The Americans,” the drama of two Soviet spies posing as ordinary suburban parents living under a toll of stress that affects the whole family. It’s one of the best shows on American TV today.
There are also two seasons of “Mercy Street,” the PBS drama set in an army hospital in Union-occupied Virginia during the American Civil War.
Amazon Prime and Hulu
“Star Trek: Beyond” (2016), the third film in the “when they were young” reboot, delivers a warp-speed adventure that leans on the youth, energy, and chemistry of the cast (PG-13) (Amazon Prime and Hulu).
For the older crowd:
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are beautiful spies in love in “Allied” (2016, R), a lush, old-fashioned romantic thriller from director Robert Zemeckis set in World War II. It’s a gorgeous film for adult viewers who like grown-up stories (Amazon Prime and Hulu).
“Arrival” (2016, PG-13), starring Amy Adams as a linguist making first contact with an alien race with no spoken language, is both a brainy science fiction drama and a touching human story. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards (Amazon Prime and Hulu).
“Tuck Everlasting” (2002, PG), based on Natalie Babbitt’s classic young adult novel, stars Alexis Bledel as the sheltered teenager who discovers a family both blessed and cursed with eternal life.
“The Rocketeer” (1991, PG) is a charming comic book movie with the nostalgic charge of an old Hollywood adventure.
You can always spend your day off seeing how someone else does it with “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off“ (1986, PG-13).
Disney classics in the Hulu library include “The Sword in the Stone” (1963, G), “The Aristocats” (1970, G), “Robin Hood” (1973, G), featuring the songs of Roger Miller, “The Rescuers” (1977, G), and “The Fox and the Hound” (1981, G).
For the older crowd:
“Winter’s Bone” (2010, R), a coming-of-age survival story set in the crime and poverty of the Ozark Mountains, features a superb break-out performance by Jennifer Lawrence. It won the Grand Jury Prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival.
Foreign affairs: Olivier Assayas’s delicate “Summer Hours” (France, 2008, not rated, with subtitles) stars Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, and Jérémie Renier in a touching story of family, and Marion Cotillard earned an Oscar nomination for her raw performance in “Two Days, One Night” (Belgium, 2014, with subtitles, PG-13), directed by the Dardennes Brothers.
Hulu’s original series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” based on the novel by Margaret Atwood, stars Elisabeth Moss as an enslaved women struggling to retain her identity in an oppressive dystopian dictatorship. It’s one of the best new shows of the year.
Jane Campion’s original 2013 New Zealand mini-series “Top of the Lake” with Elisabeth Moss and Holly Hunter and the 2017 follow-up mini-series “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” with Nicole Kidman and Gwendoline Christie joining Moss in the cast, are both smart, compelling crime dramas with strong women in charge.
Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. His reviews of streaming movies and TV can be found at http://streamondemandathome.com.