For movie lovers, October is the gloriously ghoulish time of year when we celebrate one kind of film above all others. That’s right: Biting comedies about dysfunctional New York Jews who finally decide to air their grievances after decades of resentment! Um… well, maybe Netflix didn’t get the memo. It’s not as though the streaming service isn’t scaring up some choice horror titles in time for Halloween (don’t miss “Raw” or “The Cult of Chucky”), but most of the month’s big new additions aren’t exactly in season.
Case in point: The splashiest arrival is a Noah Baumbach film, and it’s safe to say that “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” is considerably less frightening than any of the Adam Sandler comedies that Netflix has brought to you before. On the other hand, it’s true that movies can terrify you in a ton of different ways; for anyone who’s ever been in a long-term relationship, there might be parts of “Eyes Wide Shut” that are scarier than anything in “The Shining.”
Here are the seven best films coming to Netflix this October.
7. “The Reaping” (2007)
Okay, so this isn’t a good movie. In fact, this rusted Hillary Swank vehicle about a faithless ex-missionary roaming the world and debunking religious phenomena is a terrible movie. If Netflix only added seven new titles to their service this month, “The Reaping” still wouldn’t really deserve a place on this list. And yet, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t inform you that you can FINALLY watch the immortal “Are you gonna kill my baby girl?” scene (embedded above) anywhere you have a phone signal. Okay, sure, this post is proof that you can also watch it without Netflix’s help, but now you can enjoy this beautiful moment in cinematic history — once the backbone of this film’s entire marketing campaign — in its proper context. Swank assumes that woman is going to be horrified at the thought of someone killing her baby girl, but then: “Why not??” BOOM. You didn’t think she was going to say that! This movie is so twisted!
…Oh, forget it, just watch “Raw” instead. Available on Netflix October 1.
6. “Donnie Darko” (2001)
It’s probably been a while since you’ve sat down and watched “Donnie Darko.” We’re still processing the influence of Richard Kelly’s cult classic (one of the few 21st century movies that truly deserves that designation), and now that it’s been so thoroughly reprocessed into stuff like “Stranger Things,” there might be a sense that the film has served its purpose. That sense would be wrong — this thing holds up. Marrying ’80s nostalgia with fatalistic head fakes and a thoroughly Lynchian sense of doom, Kelly’s self-possessed debut still sparkles with a unique flavor all its own. Few movies, either before or since, have so vividly (or so explicitly) captured the apocalyptic feelings of adolescence. Even fewer have nailed how the white-fenced world of suburbia can make kids feel like the universe is no bigger than their town, and that it hangs in the balance every day. It’s perfect Halloween viewing, this and every year. Available on Netflix October 11.
5. “Sleeping with Other People” (2015)
The romantic comedy — or “rom-com,” as the elders once called it — may be a dying art, but that just makes it easier to appreciate when it shows signs of life. Both charmingly traditional and effortlessly modern, “Sleeping with Other People” doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but Leslye Headland’s delightful love story would rather just take it for a spin, anyway. It’s a classic tale of girl (a winsome Alison Brie) meets boy (a disarmingly suave Jason Sudeikis), girl loses her virginity to boy, girl runs into boy at a meeting for sex addicts 13 years later and they agree to become platonic best friends. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before they realize they’re meant to be together, but the journey is a lot more important than the destination. Between Headland’s caustic screenplay and her actors’ atomic-grade chemistry, there’s a good chance you’ll fall for these characters even faster than they fall for each other. Available on Netflix October 2.
4. “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” (2017)
A noticeable improvement over Adam Sandler’s previous three Netflix originals — in much the same way that a glass of Manischewitz is a noticeable improvement over drinking one of those ominous puddles that forms in the groove of a New York City subway seat — “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” isn’t the wittiest or most exciting movie that Noah Baumbach has ever made, but it might just be the most humane. Starring (a brilliant) Adam Sandler as a newly divorced Manhattanite who’s forced to confront his disappointments and deal with his siblings when their dad (Dustin Hoffman) falls ill, “The Meyerowitz Stories” harkens back to the more savage and sprawling comedies that Baumbach made before he teamed up with Greta Gerwig (whose ebullient influence is noticeably absent from this material, if not always missing from it).
Still, this even-handed, mutually destructively, and inextricably Jewish-American family saga marks a major departure for Baumbach in one crucial respect: While all of his films have a cutting sense of humor, this is the first that would rather tend to its wounds than watch them bleed. Oh, and it’s also the first of his films to feature a reference to the Jason Segel / Cameron Diaz classic “Sex Tape,” so that’s something. Available on Netflix October 13.
3. “Before Midnight” (2013)
The latest (and possibly last) chapter of Richard Linklater’s singular trilogy is the most difficult of the three movies to love, but also perhaps the most rewarding. Both of the previous two films were buffeted by a romantic velocity, “Before Sunrise” capturing the magic of a first encounter and “Before Sunset” the absolute perfection of a second chance. “Before Midnight” doesn’t have things so easy — in this chapter, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) have graduated from an idea to a reality, and that reality comes with a whole mess of real problems. Given that we’ve been involved in this relationship for as long as they have, “Before Midnight” can be an extremely painful thing to watch. But that last scene, in which Jesse digs himself out of a hole he built with his own two hands, is such an unshakably touching reminder of why people need each other that getting there (and getting through it) makes up for all the hurt along the way. Available on Netflix October 1.
2. “Boogie Nights” (1998)
What more is there really left to say about “Boogie Nights” at this point? Well, probably a lot (that’s the thing about great movies), but you know what I mean. We get older, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s first bonafide masterpiece never ages a day. One of the most endlessly re-watchable epics ever made, this snaking portrait of the porn industry during its first true rise and refraction period contains more great moments and indelible characters than many filmmakers could hope to conjure in a lifetime. Dirk Diggler is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s Burt Reynolds giving the performance of a lifetime, even if it’s one the actor never really got. There’s the great Philip Baker Hall smothering his signature gravitas all over golden nuggets of dialogue such as “I like simple pleasures, like butter in my ass, lollipops in my mouth. That’s just me.” There’s Julianne Moore and Don Cheadle and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who’s already busy living forever. John C. Reilly inadvertently paving the way towards “Step Brothers.” Alfred Molina hopped up on coke in a silk bathrobe! Some movies really have everything. This is one of them. Available on Netflix October 1.
1. “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999)
The last — and arguably the best — movie that Stanley Kubrick ever made, “Eyes Wide Shut” is a sexed up long night of the soul, a kinky riff on “The Gift of the Magi” that revolves around a married couple whose relationship is a lot like the massive Christmas tree that’s been hunched into the living room of their uptown Manhattan apartment: gorgeously ornamented and completely severed from its roots. In the broadest of strokes, this is the story of a jealous man who thinks that he’s trying to step out on his wife, only to discover (after nearly having sex with a half-dozen women and barely surviving the most hypnotic orgy ever committed to the screen) that he’s actually trying to find his way back to her, instead. As beguiling as cinema gets, “Eyes Wide Shut” may not be a Halloween viewing staple, but it’ll scare you straight into the arms of someone you love. Available on Netflix October 1.