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The 7 Best Movies New to Netflix in January 2019

From "The Dark Knight" to the complete "Indiana Jones" series, Netflix is entering the new year with a bang.

Heath Ledger The joker the dark knight

Heath Ledger

DC Comics/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Fresh off the biggest fall season of Netflix’s brief history — a span defined by “Roma,” “Private Life,” and several more of the best original movies the streaming giant has released thus far — the monolithic content provider is heading into 2019 with the wind at its back and swagger in its step. The company’s January lineup may be light on much-anticipated new titles (though it includes tantalizing prospects like a documentary about the Fyre Festival, and Lukas Dhont’s controversial Cannes holdover, “Girl”), but it’s heavy on major Hollywood fare.

Some recent blockbusters, like 2018’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” are looking for a second life on streaming. Others, like “The Dark Knight,” are perennial favorites that should be offered by any web platform worth its subscription cost. And all of them will be joining one of the most beloved movie franchises of all time, as the complete “Indiana Jones” series finally makes it way to Netflix, arriving just in time for you to sit on the couch and plow through the whole thing — even “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” — on a sleepy New Year’s Day.

Here are the seven best movies new to Netflix in January 2019.

7.  “The Strangers” (2008)

One of the most underrated horror movies of the 21st century, Bryan Bertino’s directorial debut is a simple little movie, but its simplicity is also its greatest virtue. The premise is so unnerving because it could happen to anyone. And in “The Strangers” it does. Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman play a very ordinary couple whose very ordinary relationship drama is interrupted by a knock at the door. Three masked villains, empowered by nothing but some knives and their sadistic desires, have dropped by to ruin their night. The wicked games they play are carried out with vivid rage and raw brutality, but this is the rare horror movie that only gets scarier with its final reveal. Why did these maniacs target this particular couple? The answer continues to keep us awake at night.

Available to stream on January 1.

6. “The Incredibles 2” (2018)

A clever pastiche that played like Norman Rockwell’s “Watchmen,” Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles” may have exploited familiar tropes, and even flirted with some light Randian thinking in its family-driven story about the difficulties of finding a balance between the ordinary and the exceptional, but the film was animated by the inimitable confidence of a fresh creative vision. “Incredibles 2,” which gets off to a rocky start before growing into one of the great movies of its kind, was never going to have the same advantage. If anything, starting the sequel with a continuation of the same action sequence that ended its predecessor only helps to underline how much times have changed.

And yet, after a sloppy first act, the rest of “Incredibles 2” fires on all cylinders, jumping between Elastigirl’s euphoric efforts to save the world and Bob’s exasperated attempts to put out fires at home (often literally, as one of baby Jack-Jack’s uncontrollable powers includes transforming into a flame-covered demon child). Both plot threads work on their own, and knot into something even stronger — and often exhilarating — as Bird ties them together. Once the menacing and mysterious Screenslaver is introduced, inciting a Spielberg-level monorail chase that reaffirms Bird’s lucid gift for kinetic and character-driven action filmmaking, the movie blasts off and never looks back.

Available to stream on January 30.

5. “City of God” (2002)

There are any number of marvels in Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund’s “City of God,” but nothing about this ferocious gang epic leaves a greater impression than the body count. Based on real events in the favelas of Rio de Janiero, Meirelles and Lund’s relentless crime saga makes it clear that life has little value in the City of God. People are shot out of revenge, they’re shot by accident, and they’re shot for mildly inconveniencing the wrong guy. As the movie barrels through the decades in its desperate bid to keep pace with a sociopathic drug dealer named Li’l Ze, the corpses stack like trash on the sidewalk. By the time the favelas explode into all-out civil war, the film has been consumed by the feeling that death is the natural state of things — as simple as sneezing — and life is the exception. “City of God” crackles like a roaring fire, but that’s ultimately only because Meirelles and Lund create such a palpable vision of hell.

Available to stream on January 1.

4. “Godzilla” (2014)

Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla” threw some people for a loop when it stomped into theaters in the summer of 2014. For one thing, it’s rather glacially paced compared to the average modern blockbuster, and the script prioritizes a probing sense of intrigue over a more immediate kind of spectacle (although the film’s majestic third act provides spectacle in spades). For another, the titular monster is seldom on screen, while the human characters — an admittedly dry group, once Juliette Binoche gets killed in the opening scenes — are never treated as anything more than ciphers for a crisis that was much bigger than all of them combined. Strangest of all, Godzilla’s inevitable victory isn’t treated as a triumph, but rather an urgent warning to humankind, who need to realize that they aren’t necessarily the protagonist’s of this planet’s story. It was — and remains — one of the most haunting and unusual studio movies of the 21st century, and its themes of stewardship only grows more timely by the day. If you weren’t sold on what Edwards was doing the first time around, now is the perfect time to double back and see what you missed, as his “Godzilla” will finally be getting a proper sequel this May.

Available to stream on January 1.

3. “The Dark Knight” (2008)

Every IMDb user’s favorite movie of all time, “The Dark Knight” is an absolute freight train of pop gravitas. It doesn’t really matter that the script is a lumpy mishmash of isolated character beats, or that Nolan’s symphonic style — his preference for narrative movements rather than acts — results in a superhero epic that has a couple of memorable set pieces but very few actual scenes. It doesn’t really matter that the film’s IMAX-sized action is often incoherently pieced together, or that Nolan’s preference for generic empty spaces zaps the life straight out of Gotham City (no disrespect to Chicago, but this movie has no idea how to shoot it). It doesn’t matter that the Bat surveillance stuff in the last 20 minutes is a total chore, or that Harvey Dent is so inert, his character’s purpose far too transparent for him to ever feel like it actually matters.

But that’s okay — you don’t need to believe in Harvey Dent because “The Dark Knight” so believes in itself. Nolan’s sequel is so much more than the sum of its parts because it’s powered by a nearly peerless degree of conviction. From its gripping first scene to the semi-cliffhanger of its final line, the film blows through Batman’s story as though the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s script is convinced that its epic story of symbols has the power to crack the 21st century right open. And, when the film balances the power of chaos against the perils of compassion, it almost does. Before we all started living in a grim comic book reality with cartoon villains, “The Dark Knight” showed us what it would feel like.

Available to stream on January 1.

2. “Pulp Fiction” (1994)

If you’re on IndieWire, you’ve probably already seen “Pulp Fiction.” Hell, if you’re on Earth you’ve probably already seen “Pulp Fiction” (and committed most of it to memory). But that’s the thing about Quentin Tarantino’s magnum opus: It never gets old. It hardly even ages. This star-crossed story of criminals, boxers, and one very unsanitary watch quickly came to define an entire generation of independent filmmaking and inspire enough third-rate knockoffs to fill an entire streaming service unto themselves, but “Pulp Fiction” was so perfectly sublimated into pop culture that it was able to survive the end of the era it epitomized. To that point, the movie totally thrives in the digital age. Don’t tell Tarantino, but “Pulp Fiction” is great to watch in bits and pieces (it’s become a cable TV staple for a reason), and buffering around at your leisure will only deepen your appreciation for how well it was first put together. Plus, there’s no better way to brace yourself for a year during which Tarantino is sure to be making waves.

Available to stream on January 1.

1. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)
“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984)
“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989)
“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008)

Netflix’s biggest score for the month of January, the “Indiana Jones” quadrilogy is the perfect thing to marathon on a hungover New Year’s Day (especially if you jumped the gun and plowed through “Lord of the Rings” over Christmas). Endlessly re-watchable — and always a bit deeper and more resonant than you remember, especially if you binge them all at once — Spielberg’s crackling throwbacks to the serials he loved as a child are now old enough to be seen as objects of nostalgia unto themselves, as contemporary viewers might revisit them to remember a time when big summer blockbusters were forged by a real sense of adventure.

Of course, the best thing about the “Indiana Jones” franchise coming to Netflix is that it might force people to re-evaluate the oft-maligned “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” — Shia LaBeouf awaits anyone who doesn’t hit the “menu” button fast enough at the end of “The Last Crusade.” While the fourth chapter of the franchise may not reach the lofty heights of the first three, it features a wonderful heel turn from Cate Blanchett, a handful of the most electric action sequences that Spielberg has ever shot, and a necessary passing of the torch that plunges far deeper into Indy’s psyche than these movies have before. It may not be the best “Indiana Jones” movie, but it’s a more necessary one than you may care to admit. Make 2019 the year that you let Mutt Williams into your heart.

Available to stream on January 1.

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