It’s almost summer, and you know what that means: Some of last year’s best films are finally beginning to stream on Netflix! It means other things too, we suppose, but none of them could possibly be as important as the ability to watch Agnès Varda heart-bursting new documentary whenever the mood strikes (even die-hard defenders of the theatrical experience can appreciate the magic of being able to re-visit their favorite part of “Faces Places” anywhere they can find a cell phone signal).
Fingers crossed that the streaming giant will give a second life to the under-seen “God’s Own Country,” a beautiful 2017 release that never got the degree of attention — or the number of screens — that it deserved when it came stateside in October. These recent essentials highlight the strong crop of movies that are new on Netflix this month, as the service complements the best of 2017 with a variety of very re-watchable modern classics like “Amélie” and “The 40-Year-Old-Virgin.”
Here are the seven best movies that are new to Netflix in May 2018.
For a full list of what’s new on Netflix this month, click here.
7. “Bridge to Terabithia” (2007)
Do you ever feel like you don’t spend enough time crying alone on your couch? Well, have we got the movie for you! Adapted from Katherine Paterson’s beloved YA novel of the same name, Gábor Csupó’s devastating (and deceptively upbeat) adventure tells the story of two struggling 12-year-olds who invent a magical world for themselves because the real one is too upsetting. The friendship that forms between tiny Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb when they cross the “Bridge to Terabithia” is earned and alive in a genre where such bonds are often taken for granted, and the enchanted kingdom they invent for themselves is instantly familiar to anyone who grew up with an overactive imagination and a frequent need to use it. And then… the sad part. It may be a bit predictable to older viewers, but the film’s third act twist stings every time, and Csupó’s refusal to ease the pain only makes the rest of the movie feel that much sweeter.
Available to stream May 19th.
6. “Coco” (2017)
Famous for their creativity before they become infamous for their endless parade of “Cars” sequels, Pixar finds themselves at something of an inflection point in their young history: Are they going to recommit to the bold originality that made them such a powerhouse, or are they going to continue recycling old stories in order to maintain a steady diet of new product? Even with “The Incredibles 2” right around the corner, “Coco” gives us some very colorful reasons to hold out hope for the future.
The story of a young Mexican boy who’s whisked into the Land of the Dead, “Coco” follows its plucky hero as he searches the film’s luminous underworld for his great-great-grandfather, a revered musician who might be able to help the kid get back to where he belongs. The plot gets a great deal more complicated than that — threading a Pixar adventure through the rich tapestry of Día de Muertos requires a very nimble touch — but the spirit realm is quite well fleshed out for a place full of skeletons, and the music brings everything to life. While the adventure may sound a bit too macabre for small children, this is an inclusive film that’s ultimately more defined by wonder than worry, and more by love than by death. Kids need honest movies about the first stirrings of loss and the bittersweet gift of memory, even if this one builds to a heart-tugging finale that’s aimed squarely at their parents. Whatever your age, “Coco” proves that Pixar still has some life in its bones.
Available to stream May 29th.
5. “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (2008)
If the first “Hellboy” is a nice little appetizer for Mike Mignola’s comic book world, the sequel is a full-blown 10-course feast. Still the best and most beautiful movie that Guillermo del Toro has ever made, “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” ups the ante on the original in a way that superhero franchises no longer seem capable of doing. Not only is the motley crew at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense a lot richer and more detailed in this installment, but the supernatural world beneath New York City is absolutely teeming with unforgettable monsters. From the savage little tooth fairies that swarm around Hellboy’s team, to the forest god that sprouts along the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, to the mechanical Golden Army itself, the movie is like the pages of del Toro’s famous notebook come to life in living color. There’s more wicked imagination in that market scene alone than there is in most entire fantasy series. Yeah, it’s sad that del Toro was never able to make a third chapter, but where the hell could he possibly have gone from here?
Available to stream May 1st.
4. “God’s Own Country” (2017)
Often likened to a “British ‘Brokeback Mountain’” (a reductive description that should nevertheless help this marvelous film gain a much-needed foothold in the public imagination), Francis Lee’s debut feature is a tender and perceptive story about the furtive sexual relationship that erupts between two men on a remote Yorkshire farm. It begins with Johnny (Josh O’Connor), a closeted young man whose filial duties have cut him off from much of the outside world. How fortunate, then, that the outside world comes to him when his family hires a Romanian migrant worker named Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) as an extra hand during the busy lambing season. The terse relationship that develops between these two outsiders may not tread any new ground, but their bond is rendered with the rugged elementalism of the earth around them, Lee’s gray and unforgiving romance made urgent and real by how it struggles for every shred of warmth.
As IndieWire’s Jude Dry put it in their rave review: “Nature rules in ‘God’s Own Country,’ human and other kinds. Lee supplements the more shocking images, like Johnny’s gloved arm plunging into a protesting cow’s backside, with the small beauties of butterflies and beetles. What could have tread familiar ground instead knits a vérité pastiche out of the rigors of farm life, artfully binding Johnny’s quiet drama with the drama of the landscape that entraps him.”
Available to stream May 1st.
3. “Amélie” (2001)
The rare foreign film that actually found the American audience it deserved, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amélie” has become a bonafide sensation for a good reason (it even inspired a short-lived Broadway musical). Of course the popularity and the sheer charm of this endlessly inventive 2001 rom-com have made it tempting to assume that the movie isn’t as much of an accomplishment as it might have seemed at the time, but a revisit confirms that it holds up and then some.
The sweetest and most sure-handed thing that Jeunet has ever made, “Amélie” is more than just the dazzling, stylish story of a pixie-like Montmartre waitress (or the breakout role of a lifetime for Audrey Tautou). It’s a humane and enduringly relevant portrait of a person who loves people but can’t quite bring herself to join them. She’s the perfect heroine for the internet age that she just barely anticipated, a woman who gets involved in everyone else’s business but lives her own life from a safe distance. Her journey from fantasy to reality is as full and heartwarming and brave as ever. Not for nothing, “Amélie” is also perfect comfort viewing, especially for hungover mornings or lazy weekend afternoons. Feel free to live vicariously through Tautou’s elfin do-gooder from the comfort of your own couch — it’s what she would want.
Available to stream on May 1st.
2. “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (2005)
Indisputably one of the most influential films of the 21st century, Judd Apatow’s directorial debut ushered in the golden age of the bromantic-comedy, pivoting away from the toxic masculinity typified by movies like “Wedding Crashers” and inviting the men of America to grow the hell up and get in touch with their feelings. Using the multiplexes to reach an audience that “Freaks and Geeks” never could, “The 40 Year-Old-Virgin” anointed a new generation of comedy stars en masse: It introduced the world to the likes of Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, it cemented Steve Carrell as a leading man, and it allowed everyone from Elizabeth Banks to Paul Rudd to reassert control over their images and take their careers to hilarious new places. It also anticipated a dark future where Stormy Daniels would become a lightning rod for men who don’t know how to handle their sexual frustration, but that’s neither here nor there.
Even now that Apatow has become an empire unto himself, this good-natured story about a sexually stunted tech salesman and his moron co-workers is still one of the funniest things that he’s ever made. Or that anyone has ever made. By this point, just about every line of dialogue has made its way into our collective vernacular (rare is the movie powerful enough to turn a pop star’s name into a bonafide expletive), in large part because “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” has aired on cable TV almost as many times as that infernal Kars-4-Kids commercial. Now that this epochal masterpiece is on Netflix, you can finally watch it on an endless loop without the VH1 logo taking up half the screen.
Available to stream May 16th.
1. “Faces Places” (2017)
A moving, funny, life-affirming, and altogether wonderful dispatch from the original queen of the French New Wave, Agnès Varda’s “Faces Places” was not only one of 2017’s very best films, it’s also a killer gateway drug into a vital body of work that will make your life a better place. Eighty-nine years old and still as imaginative as ever, Varda’s latest — but apparently not last – documentary finds her teaming up with street photographer JR and touring the French countryside in a van that doubles as a massive Polaroid camera. The strange pair make for a perfect duo, bickering with each other as they drive around the country and restore a sense of visibility and wonder to some working class people who are often overlooked. It’s a silly premise, rife with potential for condescension, but Varda and JR’s charm and wisdom elevate the journey into a poignant meditation on time, cinema history, and the bittersweet fullness of passing through a world that’s too far too big to see in one lifetime.
Available to stream May 5th.