Following on from Brian Smith’s article with recommended items to watch on Netflix UK, we have put our heads together to bring you ten more Netflix gems you may have overlooked:
1. The Babadook (2014)
Australian director Jennifer Kent’s debut is a genuinely terrifying psychological horror based on her 2005 short Monster. The Babadook is at least three steps ahead of horrors based on similar marvellous monsters; it doesn’t rely on easy jump scares, the film is genuinely scary. The premise of the film is based around single mother and widow Amelia (Essie Davis) and her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) who, like most children, has a perpetual fear of things that go bump in the night. When the mother and son read a book about a monster called the Babadook (which is Serbian for Boogeyman) who creeps in the shadows, Amelia herself even starts to sense the presence of the Babadook in the house. Though they attempt to destroy the book, the Babadook remains with them.
You might know the TV show of the same name that spawned from this documentary, but you may have missed the unnerving original instalment. We live in a world ruled by the internet; we post our lives on it, we do our work on it, we even meet people through it and that’s what photographer Nev Schulman did. When a little girl named Abby sent him an incredible painting of one of his pictures, Nev befriended her and her entire family, in particular her older sister Megan. Nev’s brother and filmmaker Ariel Schulman, and friend Henry Joost, direct the documentary that follows the entire relationship between Abby’s family and Nev, and the romance that ensues with Megan, right to the road trip that unearths a few worrying secrets that have been kept hidden behind the computer screen.
Roman Polanski certainly knows how to pack a punch, but nothing can prepare you for this neo-noir mystery. With a somewhat slow pace, the film focuses on a troublesome case for private investigator Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), and the suspiciously private life of Evelyn Cross Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), both of which soon intertwine to unveil shocking secrets. Though the vast majority of the film requires a certain level of dedication, it’s very much used as a platform to execute the dramatic, jaw dropping conclusion that will stay with you long after the credits. Adding colour to noir, along with helping to define the acting careers of Nicholson and Dunaway, it’s easy to understand the critical acclamation for this masterpiece.
Though not biological, Cinema Paradiso provides one of the most beautiful father and son relationships in cinematic history, very much on par with The Bicycle Thief (1948) and Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). Much like Fellini’s use of the character Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) in 8½ (1963), director Giuseppe Tornatore’s love for cinema is demonstrated through the passion shared by the young Salvatore Di Vita (Salvatore Cascio) and Alfredo (Philippe Noiret). As we watch Salvatore grow into the man we see at the beginning of the film, our investment forces us to be happy with every smile and sad with every tear, making the film a stunningly emotional venture.
A Cannes Jury Prize winner, Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank is a slice of gritty realism that, despite its name, is nothing to do with a fish tank! Mia (portrayed by Katie Jarvis who was scouted by the casting director at a train station while having an argument with her boyfriend and had never acted before her role in the film) is an aggressive, misbehaving fifteen year old who has been kicked out of her school. She lives with her mother (Kierston Wareing) who seems to care more about partying than the wellbeing of her two daughters. With nothing better to do as she aimlessly spends her days waiting for a referral to a behavioural unit, Mia starts a secretive romance with her mother’s boyfriend Conor (Michael Fassbender). Despite the nature of the relationship, it seems to be doing some good as Conor encourages Mia to pursue her talent in dancing.
6. Harold and Maude (1971)
Three years after her Academy Award winning performance in Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Ruth Gordon brought Maude to our screens, developing an unlikely romantic relationship with a young, rich, death-obsessed Harold (Bud Cort). With a similar playful tone to Mike Nichols’ The Graduate (1967), Harold and Maude is the ultimate feel-good film and is highly deserving of its cult status. Despite a set of famous stills commonly associated with the film putting a younger generation off with a blatant seventies vibe, the film is incredibly forward-thinking and innovative for its time, showing off a new style of Hollywood film that is quite simply spectacular.
This 1989 cult classic has been hailed by many as the original Mean Girls (2004) and they’re not wrong. This black comedy is the film that spawned the high school comedies about the popular girls and their wrongdoings, but arguably being superior to all of them. Veronica (Winona Ryder) is at the top of the social ladder in high school as she chooses to hang out with the schools meanest yet coolest clique, the Heathers: Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty) and Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk). However, Veronica doesn’t necessarily enjoy their company, and until she meets the sociopathic new kid in school JD (Christian Slater) and befriends him, she just about puts up with them. Soon, JD (Christian Slater) takes Veronica on his Bonnie and Clyde-esque revenge murder spree, and as Veronica puts it perfectly, her “teenage angst bulls**t has a body count”.
Produced by Parks and Recreation star Rashida Jones, Hot Girls Wanted is a documentary about the young adult porn industry and follows the lives of a group of young girls (all aged between eighteen and nineteen) who all believe they are ready to become pornographic actresses. The film follows the trials and tribulations of the girls who are all recruited into the agency of amateur porn agent Riley Reynolds and live together in his Miami home, almost like a college sorority. Hot Girls Wanted covers everything from their shoots to their partying, and gives a harrowing insight into the psychological and physical effects that the porn industry has on its stars. It also highlights how easy it is for young girls to leave their normal lives to live a life full of dollar bills and stripper heels that seems so much easier and lucrative for them than the typical college-marriage-children route, but is ultimately harrowing and worrying.
Long before E. L. James corrupted the representation of a sexual culture with 50 shades of brown, Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke shared a respectful sadomasochistic relationship in Adrian Lyne’s Nine ½ Weeks (1986), ultimately leading to Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader sharing something very similar in Secretary. Dark and sad yet terribly funny, the film beautifully depicts two lost souls exploring a subset of BDSM, creating a sexual and emotional release which eventually becomes a loving relationship. Artistically, Secretary is one of the most pleasing films of the early noughties with the realisation seamlessly illustrating Erin Cressida Wilson’s brilliant screenplay.
Favouring mainstream cinema following the successes of Hairspray (1988) and Cry Baby (1990) as opposed to his earlier independent work with notoriously filthy films such as Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974), John Waters released cult favourite Serial Mom in 1994 with its camp hilarity as equally quotable and brilliant today as it was 21 years ago. Fooling people into believing that it’s based on true events, the film follows Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) as she mixes domesticity with murder to have the perfect life. Starring an unestablished Matthew Lillard in one of his earliest roles, Serial Mom is the perfect black comedy whether you’re wanting a film to invest yourself in or something to have on whilst you catch-up with emails.
Do you agree with this list? Would you add a few titles or take a couple out?
Comment with your thoughts.
– Daniel Sheppard Chinatown, Cinema Paradiso, Harold and Maude, Secretary & Serial Mom
– Heather Thornton The Babadook, Catfish, Fish Tank, Heathers & Hot Girls Wanted