Netflix’s June lineup is all about old comforts and bold counterprogramming. As the summer movie season heats up and even the most casual theater-goers trek to the multiplex, Netflix is serving up one of its most robust slates in recent memory in order to convince people to stay home. With a little help from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Bob Fosse, and Miles Morales, it just might work.
On the blockbuster front, the streaming giant is getting into the spirit of the season by re-upping “The Dark Knight” and — more excitingly — offering the Oscar-minted “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” for the first time. But the real action can be found in less obvious places, as the company is complementing its well-chosen array of newish favorites with a diverse roster of Netflix Originals that includes a searing documentary about the democratic crisis in Brazil, a ruminative bit of sci-fi that delighted audiences at Sundance, and a brand new (and seemingly free-wheeling) Martin Scorsese film about Bob Dylan. We haven’t seen that last one quite yet, but it feels like a safe choice to add to your Watch List all the same.
Here are the seven best movies coming to Netflix in June 2019.
7. “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 June 1.
6. “Magic Mike” (2012)
“Magic Mike XXL” may be the unimpeachable masterpiece of the series, but the original is more than strong enough on its own merits. A beefy good time that doubles as a post-recessionary study of greed, Steven Soderbergh’s shirtless spectacular is such a deeply enjoyable movie because it never forgets that the heart is the strongest muscle in the human body.
…Okay, that’s not literally true, but it feels right. Likewise, it’s not literally true that Channing Tatum’s semi-autobiographical performance as an entrepreneurial male stripper is the height of all screen acting, but it feels right. Very right. He’s the eye of the storm in a movie that’s positively raining men. “Magic Mike” wants to be a bit more exuberant than Soderbergh’s antiseptic style allows for, and Cody Horn is too dull of a love interest for a movie in which every character is interesting enough to be a lead, but neither of those drawbacks are enough to hold this thing back from being a massive crowd-pleaser. The law says a film about jacked Florida bros shouldn’t be this touching, but it looks like there might be a lot of lawbreakers in your house tonight.
Available to stream June 1.
5. “Cabaret” (1972)
Every month, it feels like Netflix adds exactly one movie that was made before 1985. This month, that movie happens to be a masterpiece (and you can thank FX’s “Fosse/Verdon” series for this addition). Freely adapted from the 1966 stage hit of the same name — but different and sensational enough that all future productions of the show owe this film an unmistakable debt — Bob Fosse’s “Cabaret” forced the musical into the real world in order to add a crucial sense of danger to the story of Sally Bowles (an iconic Liza Minnelli) and her libertine misadventures across Weimar-era Germany. If only a clear-eyed and catchy epic about the slow rise of Nazism against the background of a decadent republic had any relevance in the streaming age! Oh well, it’s there between episodes of “The Office” if you want it.
Available to stream June 1.
4. “20th Century Women” (2016)
Mike Mills’ “Beginners” is a twee and tragicomic reflection on his father’s slow-motion death. Made six years later, his limpid, light, and beautifully remembered “20th Century Women” offers a profound summation of his mother’s life. Both of these autobiographical reveries are preoccupied with how difficult it can be for people to relate to their parents, particularly when the age gap is wide enough to swallow any cultural overlap — both of them splash around in what Mills’ “Beginners” stand-in describes as “the sadness that our parents didn’t have time for and the happiness that we never saw with them” — but this one is funny, and not just sweet; piercing, and not just true.
Set in a rickety Santa Barbara boarding house circa 1979, this wistful look back at that “one magic summer” tells the story of Dorothea Fields (a never-better Annette Bening), her teenage son (Lucas Jade Zumann), the sexually progressive girl next door (Elle Fanning), and the various people who come to stay in their place (including Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup). From the film’s unwieldy title to its boundless final shot, Mills invites us to wonder if people are defined by their times, or if the times are defined by their people. More than that, he creates a space for us to wonder at the trajectory of our own lives, to memorialize the places where they intersect, and to marvel obliviously at the thought of where they might take us next.
Available to stream June 28.
3. “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” (2001)
Released to mixed and somewhat befuddled reviews in the summer of 2001 (when this profound meditation on life and death was hilariously positioned as a Fourth of July blockbuster), Steven Spielberg’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” was destined for reappraisal and lasting reverence from the moment it arrived in theaters. A snapshot of humanity at the turn of the 21st century, a heart-crushing existentialist fairy tale, and still perhaps the only film that has ever convincingly argued for the idea of a ghost in the shell, “A.I.” found Spielberg picking up where original director Stanley Kubrick left off, and weaponizing his oft-derided sentimentality for a story about a child-sized android named David (peak Haley Joel Osment) who spends a very, very, very, very long time looking for the love he was programmed to offer.
There’s plenty of whiz-bang wizardry to go around, especially in a second act that hinges on a robot gigolo played by Jude Law, but “A.I.” never loses sight of its soul. The ending, which people dismissively credit to Spielberg despite its resonant echoes with the last act of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” is the most contrived coda the “War of the Worlds” auteur has ever made, and also the most honest. Even (or especially) if you wrote this off as an indulgent folly, it might be time for another look at a film that hasn’t aged a day.
Available to stream June 1.
2. “The End of Evangelion” (1997)
Netflix made a big deal about acquiring the streaming rights to the seminal anime series, “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” and there’s nothing wrong with that; the profound, troubled, and peerlessly influential series about Earth-destroying “angels” (and the anguished children who are forced to lead the fight against them) hasn’t been available to watch since the DVDs went out-of-print a few years ago, and a new generation of mythology-obsessed Redditors is about to be served a prime cut of red meat. It’s high time for the Dead Sea Scrolls to be relitigated, and the gifs alone could make this the animated event of the summer.
But Netflix isn’t stopping there — the company didn’t just lease the episodes, it got its hands on the whole “Evangelion” universe, and that’s very good news for anyone who remembers how ambivalent they felt when the series finale ended with a budget crisis and a nervous breakdown (both on-screen and off). In addition to the television show, Netflix is uploading Anno Hideaki’s utterly mind-blowing postscript of a movie, “The End of Evangelion,” which doesn’t resolve the story (ha!) so much as it sublimates the audience into the psychic field of the narrative itself, breaking down pesky barriers like screens and selves in order to reaffirm the big ideas that were always percolating beneath Tokyo-3. Few animated movies have ever required more from their viewers, and even fewer have ever given back so much in return.
Available to stream June 21.
1. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018)
Tragic news for anyone who’s sick of superhero movies: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” completely reinvigorates the genre, reaffirms why it’s resonating with a diverse modern audience that’s desperate to fight the power, and reiterates to us how these hyper-popular spandex myths are able to reinvent themselves on the fly whenever things get stale. An eye-popping and irreverent experience from the marvelous comic minds who brought you “21 Jump Street,” this year’s Oscar-winner for Best Animated Feature is somehow both the nerdiest and most inviting superhero film in a long time, as Miles Morales’ origin story is turned into the kind of delirious postmodern spectacle that reminds us why these movies will exist for as long as people need to see themselves reflected in them. Sometimes, that can feel like a threat. Watching “Into the Spider-Verse,” it’s more like a promise — a promise that Miles delivers with a little help from his friends Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, Penni Parker, and of course Spider-Ham. This is one of the most rewatchable movies in a long time, and now it’s yours to revisit whenever and wherever you want.
Available to stream June 26.