After going all out during an awards season in which the company was uniquely well-situated to run the table, Netflix is rolling into March with a release slate that doesn’t suggest the dawn of spring so much as it does a garage sale (no disrespect to “The Dark Knight,” but it’s never a great sign when this critic is putting it at the top of this list). Which isn’t to say that there aren’t any good movies dropping on the platform this month, only that few of them seem poised to make a big splash, and the ones that might (the Eric Andre prank comedy “Bad Trip” comes to mind) haven’t been made available to critics yet. That’s also true of the many international titles that will be made available to stream over the next few weeks, some of which seem promising (we have our eyes on the Olga Kurylenko “Taken” riff “Sentinelle”), but none of which have made an impression on the festival circuit.
Other Netflix Originals of note include Amy Poehler’s feminist teen comedy “Moxie” and the Notorious B.I.G. documentary “Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell,” while animation fans should keep an eye out for the gorgeous “Bombay Rose.” Older standouts — and it hurts to think of them as such — are limited to “Training Day” and the under-appreciated Clive Owen vehicle “Croupier.”
Here are the seven best movies coming to Netflix this March.
7. “Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell” (2021)
At this point, anyone with even a casual awareness of hip-hop knows this stuff inside and out. It’s become a foundational text for the world we live in today — the kind of thing they should teach in schools even though most kids probably wind up learning about it on their own. Christopher George Latore Wallace a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G. a.k.a. Biggie Smalls has already been the subject of several documentaries, a semi-decent Hollywood biopic, and even a season of the Slate podcast “Slow Burn.” Emmett Malloy’s broadly unenlightening “Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell” can’t really slip around the simple fact that we’ve all heard it before in one form or another, but the film — laced with intimate and never-before-seen camcorder footage shot by Damien “D-Roc” Butler — is worth watching for how bluntly it reaffirms that Wallace was real, even if he always seemed larger than life.
Best of all is the interview footage with Voletta Wallace, whose tenacity and pride and enduring sense of loss make her an extraordinary character worthy of her own documentary and then some. Listening to the way she talks about her late son and reflects on his legacy is more illuminating than any of the film’s well-annotated Wikipedia flashpoints and factoids, which have little to offer anyone who can hear the R&B influence in Biggie’s songs for themselves, and even less to anyone who can actually remember the day he died. The only other aspect of the movie that feels so urgent comes from the confessionals the rapper recorded when he sat down with Butler and spoke his mind to the camera. Wallace had a real story to tell, and Malloy’s film serves as a harsh reminder that no one will ever be able to tell it better than he did.
Available to stream March 1.
6. “Step Up Revolution” (2012)
No Channing Tatum, no problem. Okay, that’s not entirely true — the “Step Up” franchise may have peaked in both the quality of both its films and their titles with the Tatum-light “Step Up 2 the Streets,” but it definitely lost something when he stepped away after that — but the Miami-set fourth installment is so endearingly high on its own supply of cheesy flash mobs and “how did they do that?” break-dancing battles that you can’t help but smile. If nothing else, “Step Up: Revolution” is almost objectively the best film ever made that features both Peter Gallagher and a dubstep remix of Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song,” and that’s not nothing.
Available to stream March 1.
5. “Moxie” (2021)
Amy Poehler’s second movie as a director (Netflix also debuted “Wine Country” in 2019) finds her dipping into the world of high school comedies with a riot grrrl twist, though a certain contingent of the streaming audience might be most excited about Poehler’s decision to cast multi-talented “Terrace House” alum Lauren Tsai in the first of what will hopefully be many film roles.
IndieWire’s Kate Erbland was mixed-positive on “Moxie,” in which Poehler co-stars as a Bikini Kill super-fan turned mellow suburban mom who inspires her sweet-natured daughter (Hadley Robinson) to rock out and get into some good trouble, but she vibed with certain aspects of it in a way that makes the movie easy to recommend for anyone who’s in the mood for some teenage rebellion. Maybe even more so for anyone who’s trying to remember what it’s all about. Erbland writes that “Moxie” is “frequently charming and zippy, even without big laughs. Mostly, it may prove enlightening to older generations who don’t remember what it felt like to be young and suddenly clued into the ways of the world.”
Available to stream March 3.
4. “Croupier” (1998)
Clive Owen may have missed his window to play James Bond, but the sharp and surly Brit is so well-suited (or tuxedoed) to the role that actually casting him in it may have been redundant; the dude brings a little 007 with him wherever he goes, whether that’s a post-apocalyptic future without babies, or an early 20th century New York hospital without penicillin.
And yet, it’s no coincidence that Owen’s breakthrough came as a result of the most Bond-adjacent role he ever played, at least in milieu if not in status (if the poker scenes in “Casino Royale” were your favorite parts, this is the movie for you). As seductive and semi-dangerous as the movie around him, Owen embodies the title character of Mike Hodges’ smoky little thriller as if he’s trying to keep a low profile while waiting for the world to notice him all the same. It’s an addictively laconic performance in an atmospheric film so transporting that it feels like you should have to ante up at the start of each new scene.
Available to stream March 26.
3. “Training Day” (2001)
Alonzo Harris’ defiant insistence that “King Kong ain’t got nothing on” hits a lot harder now that King Kong is back on screens to battle all of his challengers, so that’s something to look forward to once the streaming wars get really desperate. In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for one of the most electrifying movie performances of the last 25 years, as Denzel Washington plays a dirty L.A. cop as a human tornado of leather and poisoned charisma while his ride-along buddy Ethan Hawke just tries to keep his feet on the ground. “Training Day” may not be the most nuanced or sensitive thing in the world, but two decades later it still lands with enough raw force to blow you away.
Available to stream March 1.
2. “At Eternity’s Gate” (2018)
Julian Schnabel’s Vincent Van Gogh biopic “At Eternity’s Gate” has — like most of the director’s cinematic work — proven to be a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, but there’s no denying the unleashed strength of Willem Dafoe’s lead performance or Oscar Isaac’s supporting turn as Van Gogh contemporary Paul Gauguin, and even the most avowed non-fans of Schnabel’s previous films might find themselves enraptured by the extent to which he paints outside the lines in this one.
As former IndieWire editor Michael Nordine wrote from the film’s Venice premiere: “Schnabel seems intent on honoring Van Gogh by eschewing convention even if it means his film is similarly misunderstood. He’s hardly the first to make a movie about the one-eared painter — the animated film “Loving Vincent” earned an Oscar nod just last year, and both Maurice Pialat and Robert Altman went the biopic route in the early 1990s — but none of his predecessors were this daring. Schnabel fuses form and content in a way that’s rarely attempted and even more rarely achieved; in risking the same derision with which Van Gogh was sometimes met, he transcends the limitations of the conventional biopic and creates something that feels genuinely new.”
Available to stream March 31.
1. “The Dark Knight” (2008)
While “The Dark Knight” is the movie that made Christopher Nolan a household name, a huge chunk of the credit belongs to Heath Ledger. His monumental performance as the Joker doesn’t transcend the superhero genre, but leverages it. Much like how Nolan used superhero tropes to find a home for his natural tendencies, Ledger took full advantage of the wild pathos, unchecked volume, and outsized grandiosity that have always been baked into the genre and leaned into them with Shakespearian relish. Does any modern Hollywood image define today’s world better than the sight of Ledger sticking his head out of a car, his painted cheeks flapping in the wind? 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 March 1.