Culture Movies/TV

The 15 Best Spy Movies on Netflix (And A Few TV Shows As Well)

In a secret-filled world, spies can be hiding in every shadow. Whether secret agents are working for governments or acting as solo agents with their own positive or negative agendas, spies have become a backbone in both modern society and cinema. The Cold War in particular, with Americans constantly afraid of Communist agents hiding and operating in the United States, brought the world of espionage to the forefront of people’s minds and has become a go-to topic for filmmakers wanting to explore the world of undercover agents with hidden agendas. 

If your hobbies include spying on your passersby with binoculars or sticking your ear up against a wall to eavesdrop on your roommates, spy movies are right up your alley. I know from personal experience that being a secret agent for the government can be difficult (crap, did I just say that out loud?), and these movies and television shows elucidate different aspects of that tricky world. Read on to discover the 15 best Spy movies (and a few TV series) currently on Netflix!

1. ‘Casino Royale’ (2006)

Of course, the most iconic fictional spy of all time was going to kick off this list of spy films and television shows. In the 2006 remake of Casino Royale, Daniel Craig donned a tuxedo and drank shaken martinis for the first time as James Bond.

In this film, Bond is still closer to the beginning of his storied career, and he is assigned with learning more about the financial exploits of terrorist financier Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen). With his newly assigned license to kill, Bond has to learn more about Chiffre’s organization and enter a high-stakes poker game to hopefully thwart their newest attempts to bring in massive amounts of money.
2. ‘The Coldest Game’ (2019)

Like I mentioned in the intro, The Cold War is where the world of espionage and secret agents first entered the mainstream imagination. The 2019 film The Coldest Game follows Joshua Mansky (Bill Pullman), an American mathematician who is forced to become a spy for the government during one of the Cold War’s most dangerous eras.

Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the movie follows the alcoholic Mansky as he prepares and competes in a chess tournament in Warsaw while simultaneously trying to discreetly take in as much information about the Soviets as possible.

watch here,a%20deadly%20game%20of%20espionage.
3. ‘The Spy’ (2019)

Sacha Baron Cohen is best known for outrageous comedic roles like Borat and Bruno, but in The Spy, a miniseries co-produced by Netflix, Cohen’s dramatic abilities are on full display.

In The Spy, Cohen plays Eli Cohen (no relation), a Mossad agent who was tasked with carrying out important tasks for the Israeli government in the buildup to the Six-Day War between Israel and Syria in 1967. Based on real-life events, the crux of the story follows Cohen as he disguises himself as a man named Kamel Amin Thaabet and integrates himself into Syrian society, eventually gaining the title of Deputy Defense Minister, in the hopes that the knowledge he gains and actions he takes will all benefit Israel in the long run. 

watch here
4. ‘Inception’ (2010)

Director Christopher Nolan is known for larger-than-life film concepts, and films don’t get much bigger than Inception. The film follows a team of individuals, led by Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), as they embark on a mission inside a businessman’s mind to implant (incept) an idea in his head.

As the squad goes deeper in Robert Fischer’s (Cillian Murphy) subconscious, the settings continually evolve and get more dangerous, forcing the dream team to adapt and constantly tweak their plans to get to the next level unnoticed.

An action-packed film, Inception is emotionally charged and ambiguous as hell, meaning audiences will have to pay attention if they want to pick up on everything Nolan is trying to throw at them.  

watch here
5. ‘The Departed’ (2005)

Martin Scorsese focuses on a different kind of gangster in The Departed: Corrupt police officers and federal agents. Starring a who’s who of Hollywood A-listers like Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed follows certain individuals who work as moles within the Massachusetts state police as well as the Irish mob in Boston. Without spoiling the numerous twists, I’ll say that this Best Picture Oscar-winning film is incredibly tense and makes the audience question every individual and their true intentions at all times.

Not only does it have a lot of iconic dramatic moments, but The Departed also has some incredible action to keep viewers hooked throughout the two-and-a-half-hour film.

watch here
6. ‘Quantum of Solace’ (2008)

There are literally dozens of James Bond films out there, but Netflix only has Daniel Craig’s first two outings available for U.S. customers. Picking up literally an hour after Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace sees Bond seek revenge for the loss of a loved one. While on the trail of the killer, 007 discovers a shadowy organization called Quantum. It falls to Bond to diffuse Quantum and Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), one of its shadow members, from plotting a coup in Bolivia in order to gain control over its water supply.  Keeping with the gritty spirit of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace is an action-packed, bloody film that shows James Bond going MUCH further in fight scenes than he had in the past as he embarks on a personal rather than fully professional mission. 

watch here
7. ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ (2011)

After the success of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book series and subsequent Swedish film adaptation, David Fincher released an American adaptation of the series first chapter in 2011. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is investigating the mysterious disappearance of a teenage girl 40 years earlier. To help him get to the bottom of things, Blomkvist turns to the complex yet matter-of-fact hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Together, the two of them embark on a dark journey to discover the truth that ends up nearly contradicting everything they first assumed about the situation when they started their mission. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a slick, incredibly well-acted film that will leave audiences both intrigued and entertained from start to finish.

watch here
8. ‘The Angel’ (2018)

The Angel, distributed by Netflix in 2018, tells the story of Ashraf Marwan (Marwan Kenzari), an Egyptian diplomat who was married to Egyptian President Nasser’s daughter and ended up working as a secret agent for the Israeli Mossad. Based on Israeli professor Url Bar-Joseph’s book The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, The Angel, explores Marwan’s time working as a spy for Israel and the emotional struggles he went through in an effort to maintain peace between the two countries. Set in the aftermath of the Six-Day War between the two countries in 1967, the film is full of double-crossings, and loose ends that make it clear just how logistically and morally complicated being a spy can be.

watch here
9. ‘The Spy Next Door’ (2010)

Bob Ho (Jackie Chan) is affiliated with the CIA and used to taking down terrorists and saving the day, but now he has a dangerous mission he may not be qualified for: babysitting his neighbor’s kids. The Spy Next Door follows Ho as he deals with the trouble-making kids, but his old job quickly rears its ugly head as he has to reveal his identity to the kids and work with them to take down a group of bad guys threatening the world’s oil supply. Directed by Brian Levant, the director who brought family-friendly films like Beethoven and Jingle All The Way to the big-screen, The Spy Next Door is a silly, action-packed film perfect for everyone in the fam.

watch here
10. ‘The Spy Who Fell to Earth’ (2019)

Directed by Thomas Meadmore, The Spy Who Fell to Earth is a documentary all about Ashraf Marwan (the subject of the previously mentioned The Angel), an Egyptian billionaire who worked as a secret agent for the Israeli government. Based on a book with the same name, the film tracks Marwan’s life, touching on everything from his life in the UK before becoming a full-fledged spy to his mysterious death. Including archival footage of everyone from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Nikita Khrushchev, a former Premier of the Soviet Union, The Spy Who Fell to Earth is an interesting, time-spanning story that shows the importance and historical context of Marwan’s time as a spy.

watch here,Egyptian%20billionaire%20and%20Israeli%20spy.
11. ‘Spycraft’ (2021)

Based on the book Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA’s Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda, Spycraft is a Netflix original docu-series that takes viewers through different key components of espionage and how they have evolved over the years. Released in late January 2021 to limited fanfare (potentially because the powers at be don’t want individuals to know the truth about American spycraft), the eight-episode series has entries on everything from the power of “sexpionage” to how agencies go about recruiting the individuals to become spies.  

watch here
12. ‘A Very Secret Service’ (2015)

The final television series on this list, A Very Secret Service, looks at the world of espionage through a more satirical, comedic lens. A French production, A Very Secret Service, follows André Merlaux (Hugo Becker) after he is called in to be a trainee with the French Secret Services. Set in 1960 during the early days of the Cold War, the French are dealing with calls for independence in their then African colonies, especially Algeria, and a domestic populace growing more liberal every day that makes the government increasingly worried about Communist interference.

watch here
13. ‘Snowden’ (2016)

Few recent American figures are as divisive as Edward Snowden, and that’s exactly why the overtly political director Oliver Stone decided to make Snowden. The film explores Edward Snowden’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) life preceding his time as a subcontractor with the National Security Agency and, most importantly, his decision to leak classified documents that revealed espionage and data tracking operations carried out by the American government on its own citizens to a team of journalists. Even though the movie is based on two Snowden-focused books, Stone met with the real Snowden multiple times in an attempt to better understand him as well as a pick-up on some personality traits he could incorporate into the movie. 

watch here,exposing%20vast%20U.S.%20surveillance%20programs.
14. ‘All The Devil’s Men’ (2018)

Jack Collins (Milo Gibson) is a former Navy SEAL and bounty hunter who is sent off to London to assist the CIA on a critical mission. All the Devil’s Men, written and directed by Matthew Hope, follows Jack as he becomes a part of a small team of operatives tasked with hunting down a former CIA agent intent on buying a nuclear warhead from Russian gangsters. Full of action and double-crossings, All The Devil’s Men will keep viewers on the edge of their seats as they try to put all the pieces together and watch Jack try to save the day and spare the world from a nuclear conflict. 

watch here
15. ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ (2016)

Based on a true-story, Smoke & Mirrors follows the exploits of Francisco Pasea (Eduard Fernández), a Spanish agent who assisted the government fight a Basque separatist organization before ultimately being framed and exiled by the Spanish government. Years later, Pasea is allowed back in the country to assist Luis Roldán (Carlos Santos), the former Police commissioner, with a massive cash cover-up scheme. Still bitter about his past betrayal, Pasea plots how to take the money for himself in a manner that will hopefully leave him free from blame and flush with cash. Directed by Alberto Rodriguez, Smoke & Mirrors is incredibly entertaining as well as illuminating expose on how corrupt governmental institutions can be.

watch here
Culture Movies/TV

The 18 Best Horror Anime Movies and TV Shows

So much horror cinema made in the United States is firmly rooted in a Western tradition, meaning that Judeo-Christian imagery and morality still dominate the genre — and with every generation, these movies become more and more self-referential. But other cultures have entirely different ideas about the afterlife and what demons lurk in the great beyond. That’s probably why so many horror die-hards are so obsessed with Japanese media.

Ever since The Ring, J-horror has deeply influenced Hollywood, but few American fans do a real deep dive on more obscure offerings. To help guide you through the cursed world of haunted cartoons, we’ve curated this (unranked!) list of the 18 best horror anime TV shows and films. Good luck sleeping after you’ve made it through.

18. ‘Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack!’

Haunting images of giant sharks crawling on land with insect legs protruding violently from their stomachs became a grotesque meme on a handful of imageboards. The strange iconography of Gyo, one of horror legend Junji Ito’s most bizarre masterpieces, seems silly at first, but the film (based on the manga of the same name) is actually deeply unsettling. The mythos behind how the sea creatures became terrestrial is complicated and obscure, but Gyo’s story evolves into something much more gruesome and nauseating before it concludes.

watch on crunchyroll
17. ‘Perfect Blue’

The late Satoshi Kon, an anime director known for his dreamlike mise-en-scene and intellectual, postmodern twists, was widely celebrated as a visionary before his death. Perfect Blue is often considered his greatest work — and it’s gone on to influence a handful of award-winning Western films like Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. 

Perfect Blue tells the story of Mima Kirigoe, a fictional pop singer stalked by an increasingly threatening doppelganger. Are Mima’s nightmares coming true, or has she totally lost her grip on reality? Kon’s lovingly detailed and deeply empathetic animations juxtapose horrendously against scenes of sexual violence that slip between waking life and dreams until the audience can no longer tell what a psychotic delusion is and what’s actually happening — reflecting both the young idol’s nervous breakdown and our schizophrenic media culture.

watch on Prime Video
16. ‘Jujutsu Kaisen’

Jujutsu Kaisen has garnered an impressive cult following since episodes began airing on Crunchyroll in late 2020. The series has already achieved a perfect balance between horror aesthetics and traditional shonen plotting. Ostensibly about a school for young sorcerers, the ultra-violent art direction and stomach-churning monster design keeps this new show from being yet another by-the-books adventure story about a plucky young fighter battling both literal and figurative demons. It’s got exciting action scenes and real heart, but it’s not for the squeamish.

15. ‘Paranoia Agent’

A staple of [adult swim] in the early ’00s, Paranoia Agent is another Satoshi Kon classic which deals with many of the same themes and motifs as the aforementioned Perfect Blue. This 13-episode TV series is a complicated story about the pressures of the animation industry, told from a cartoonist’s perspective driven increasingly mad by her own creation. It’s a self-referential warning about the psychological perils of late capitalism and the flattening of our emotional lives by information technology — expressed through a story about a serial murderer who escaped from a nightmare.

watch on funimation
14. ‘Hellsing’

A steampunk update of the Dracula mythos, Hellsing uses perverted Christian imagery to tell a story equal parts bloody and campy. It’s not the highest quality animation, but the transgressive pleasures of this frequently juvenile show remain endearing, as does its early 00’s goth aesthetic. Spotting Hellsing’s influence on a plethora of contemporary anime (see: Castlevania) isn’t hard to do once you’ve seen the original show.

watch on hulu
13. ‘Devilman: Crybaby’

Artist Go Nagai created the Devilman character in the early 1970s, and he’s been endlessly reinvented ever since. Crybaby is the latest iteration of this iconic anti-hero, and Netflix’s high-budget adaptation is a great entry point for new fans, even if it is a bit abstract. Ultra-fashionable character design compliments the show’s slick techno soundtrack for an extremely stylish and gorgeously animated adventure that vacillates from sublime beauty to Oedipal terror. 

watch on netflix
12. ‘Promised Neverland’

A serene schoolhouse in the countryside filled with adorable kids belies some truly terrible dark secrets: When the children discover they’re being harvested as meat for demons, they begin to hatch an elaborate escape plan, but their every move is being watched! Emotional drama and psychological fear take center stage in this deceptively cute series with extremely morbid themes. 

watch on hulu
11. ‘Dorohedoro’

A battle between sorcerers and the slums rages in this highly stylized horror/action hybrid series. A citizen of a whimsical skid row one day wakes up with the head of a lizard and no memory of his past, leading him to embark on a grisly quest for both answers and revenge. Each episode gets stranger as more details of the surreal, magical world they inhabit are revealed. Although the show is rendered in CGI, the 3D models are very stylized and extremely expressive in ways reminiscent of more old-school anime.

watch on netflix
10. ‘Berserk’

Berserk is a traditionally gothic fairytale about an orphaned knight betrayed by his impossibly beautiful commander. The Western medieval setting is fairly traditional, and the story is almost Shakespearean in structure — until the last few episodes when the plot suddenly takes an unexpectedly hellish twist. Maybe it’s the nostalgia speaking, but there’s something really special about late 90’s anime, and Berserk is a classic of that era — rife with overt queer overtones and filled with wistfully melancholy. 

The show’s first run lasted 25 episodes and told only a fraction of the original manga’s story. (The series was rebooted in 2016, but the poorly done CGI animation style in this latest iteration is nearly unwatchable. Stick with the original and seek out the books if you get hooked.)

watch on crunchyroll
9. ‘Serial Experiments Lain’

Serial Experiments Lain is a cyberpunk anime from 1998 which uncannily predicted the rise of cyberspace as the defining feature of the new Millenium. Lain is a young student whose interest in hacking slowly takes over her life until she’s no longer able to tell what’s happening online or in reality. Lain’s psychotic break has philosophical ramifications, as she encounters a series of unhinged conspiracy theories on message boards, leading her to an entity that claims to be God — or is she just going insane? The show was way ahead of its time in its predictions about the Internet and its depiction of a mass shooting only a year before Columbine. This is slow burn horror at its best, but the social implications are what is really disturbing.

watch on funimation
8. ‘Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust’

Fans of Final Fantasy might recognize the baroque and ornate art design of Yoshitaka Amano in Vampire Hunter D, yet another Japanese twist on the mythology of Dracula. In this breathtaking movie from 2000, the eponymous warrior D battles Carmilla, a sapphic demon based on the real-life murderess Elizabeth Bathory. It’s admittedly thin on a storyline, but the hand-animated action sequences and melodramatic imagery are stunning nonetheless.

buy on amazon
7. ‘X/1999 AKA X: The Movie’

Manga studio CLAMP is best known for dainty romance stories and cutesy magical girl adventures, but their apocalyptic sci-fi book series X is a frightening depiction of a cosmic battle for humanity. They produced a standalone movie of X in 1996, and while it’s nearly impossible to condense an 18 volume manga into a 1.5-hour film, they did a pretty good job of distilling the graphic novel down to its essence. Secret factions of psychic warriors fight to save or destroy civilization unbeknownst to regular people in this shockingly violent and stunningly delicate doomsday tale.

buy on amazon
6. ‘The Short Films of Kago Shintaro’

You may have happened upon artist Kago Shintaro’s images while scrolling through the darker sectors of social media: his fetishistic portraits of schoolgirls with their intestines hanging out and sexy paintings of nude women with their brains exposed garnered a kind of viral popularity amongst goths and otaku. Described as “fashionable paranoia,” Shintaro’s satirical humor clashes extreme gore with erotica in fascinating ways. His short films, many of which are available on YouTube, are much more humorous in nature but are often deeply unnerving in a Lynchian way. Shintaro’s fascinations with human viscera remain the most notable motif, but he plays more with the mundane in his animations.

watch on youtube
5. ‘Dororo’

Osamu Tezuka, often considered the Godfather of Manga, is best known for creating lovable cartoons like Astro Boy and emotionally compelling stories like Budha. One of his lesser-known works is Dororo, a brutal Japanese fairytale about a cursed prince born without limbs or skin. Although the original manga was drawn in Tezuka’s signature Disney-influenced aesthetic, the 2019 reboot adapted the novels into a more adult animation style that showcased the monstrous aspects of the source material — it’s a pretty faithful update otherwise. Hyakkimaru must battle the undead to wrest back his body parts from the underworld, but he’s unaware his unholy quest imperils all of Japan. There’s a lot of emotional depth in these 24 episodes, considering how vicious the actual plot is.

watch on prime video
4. ‘Witch Hunter Robin’

In the near future, witches are a secret criminal scourge hunted by a covert government agency known as the STNJ. Robin Sena is the branch’s newest recruit, hired for pyrokinetic magical abilities. Robin confronts her enemies and herself in this moody and dreamy gothic thriller. It’s not exactly fast-paced, but the story’s unfolding is filled with dark surprises and a fair amount of violence. This series was also part of [adult swim]’s lineup back in the day, meaning older anime fans probably remember encountering it late at night.

watch on funimation
3. ‘Puella Magi Madoka Magica’

From the first few episodes of Madoka, it would be ludicrous to describe this short series as horror, but a major twist in the plot about halfway through casts a different light on the show’s opening moments.

What appears at first as a Sailor Moon ripoff — frilly rainbow transformation sequences and all! — quickly turns into something much darker when it’s revealed that (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!) an alien entity disguised as a cute animal companion has actually been parasitically feeding off the magical energies expended by the girls. The extraterrestrial creature is planning on harvesting all of planet Earth as food, forcing the children into a time loop where their ill-fated destiny repeats eternally. This postmodern horror story is filled with experimental animation techniques and a truly devastating existential message: humanity is at the whim of vast and indifferent cosmic forces with a ferocity beyond our comprehension.

watch on netflix
2. ‘Seoul Station’

Seoul Station is an animated film coming out of South Korea intended as a prequel to the cult hit Train to Busan. The film made its way around the European indie cinema circuit in 2016 before landing on a few streaming services. Like its source material, Seoul Station traces the frightening rise of a zombie pandemic that threatens to destroy the world. Train to Busan was praised for its not-so-subtle social commentary that depicted the ramifications of the devastating wealth gap in Korea — Seoul Station is a little less obviously political but is thrilling nonetheless.

watch on prime video
1. ‘Junji Ito Collection’

Although it would be impossible to capture the precise and hideous drawings or intellectually sophisticated plots from horror master Junji Ito’s manga in animated form, this collection of shorts does a pretty amazing job of reducing the major themes and motifs into short, digestible segments. Ito’s stories have little in common with Western horror, so each episode is hauntingly fresh and original compared to the formulaic scares we get on this side of the world. The Tomie OVAs are particularly dismal.

watch on crunchyroll
Culture News

Manga vs. Anime: A Brief History of the Two Mediums

Following an explosion in popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s, both anime and manga have become a beloved niche hobby in the West amongst pop-culture nerds, avant-gardists, and fashionistas alike. On TV, anime for both kids and adults have become more commonplace; in the high art world, Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara have spun anime’s popular tropes into existentially challenging, postmodern masterpieces. 

That being said, both anime and manga are still pretty specialized interests, so we’re here to walk you through the basics. What defines anime? What’s the difference between manga and comic books? How did they get popular, and what artists are making these works?

What is Manga?

The short answer: Manga is the Japanese analog of comic books and graphic novels in the West. The art form uses illustrated images and text on a page to tell a coherent narrative. The subject matter of manga is so diverse in themes, style, and content that it’s difficult to provide a much more comprehensive answer beyond this simplistic description. Although comic books in the States have been traditionally thought of as media made for kids and teens (this has less so been the case in the 21st century), manga for both children and adults has existed since the medium’s inception, and — like any form of literature — there isn’t really a limit on what can or can’t be included.

There are a handful of popular genres of manga. Shonen manga is usually geared towards teenage boys and often features plucky heroes fighting off oversized enemies while learning new abilities throughout their journey. Shojo manga is usually geared towards teenage girls and frequently features stories about young women finding romance. Seinen and Josei manga are the more adult styles and feature more emotionally complicated storylines and sometimes include graphic depictions of violence and sex (Seinen is usually read by men, women more often read Josei). Kodomomuke is manga geared towards children: like media for kids in the West, these are more simplistic stories featuring bright and colorful characters learning simple life lessons. Manga stories draw from a wide range of genres and subgenres, including sci-fi, romance, adventure, horror, and realism. There’s also a sizable erotica sector of manga that has maintained steady popularity over time.

Japanese manga, in its original (non-adapted) form, is usually read from right to left. There are now manga produced outside of Japan — manga produced in the West is sometimes condescendingly referred to as “Amerimanga.”

Origins of Manga
Getty Images

Narrative visual art in Japan had existed in the 12th and 13th centuries, according to Widewalls. Books of sequential drawings, influenced by the traditional ukiyo-e style, date back to Japan’s Edo period (1603-1867) have been considered early examples of manga’s origins.

Manga, as its own distinct art form, really rose to popularity in the wake of World War II, as Japanese art became more influenced by occidental cultural products under American occupation. Western superhero stories and cartoons from Disney began influencing Japanese artists, who explored new styles that combined more traditional imagery and themes with poppier aesthetics. Magazines and newspapers dedicated to publishing serialized stories began popping up around this time. Artist Osamu Tezuka garnered massive popularity for his stories which explored both spiritual and science-fictional themes in tales told for both adults and children.

What is Anime?

Anime refers to a stylized (and usually Japanese) form of two and three-dimensional illustration and animation. Anime was officially recognized by the Japanese Ministry of Education as an important Japanese form of artistic expression in the year 2000, according to The Anime Art Museum

The term “anime” comes from a shortening of the word “アニメーション” (animēshon), which is itself a loan word from the English “animation.” In the West, the phrase “anime” had for a while been used as a way to distinguish Japanese cartoons from products made in the USA but has more recently been used to more broadly describe a certain style of hyper-expressive animation rather than to denote its country of origin. 

It wouldn’t be entirely correct to say that “anime” and “cartoons” are the same thing: “cartoons” implies a certain thematic and stylistic simplicity, whereas anime ranges vastly in its subject matter and sophistication.

Anime as its own distinct style has some notable features: people are usually not drawn in realistic proportions, characters usually have oversized eyes and exaggerated hairstyles and facial features. Anime stories are often (but not always!) fantastical, romantic, and over-the-top.

Anime is often separated into the same sub-genres as manga, like the aforementioned shojo and shonen genres. Like with manga, there is anime geared towards adults and children that spans aesthetics ranging from horror to sci-fi to action to romance. Like with manga, there is also a robust erotic subindustry.

Origins of Anime
Getty Images

The first recognized example of anime, titled Katsudō Shashin, is from 1907, according to The Milford Public Library. Around 1917, artists began working with cutouts in experimental animation techniques inspired by American and French cartoons, according to  These were originally described as “manga-film.” Toei Animation, considered the first anime studio, formed in 1958 with the goal of becoming “the Disney of the East” — Japanese animation up until that point had been prohibitively time-consuming and expensive to make, meaning that it was far less popular than products created in Europe and the Americas. Toei would eventually go on to produce several influential series that would garner massive international popularity in the 1980s and 90s. This included classics like Sailor Moon, Digimon, and Dragon Ball, and One Piece — most of which were based on manga. However, it was Osamu Tezuka’s TV series Astro Boy, which debuted on January 1, 1963, that really catalyzed an anime boom and led to anime becoming recognized as its own distinct and legitimate art form.

Manga vs. Anime

Although the comparison is overly simplistic, the easiest way to explain the difference between anime and manga is to compare it to the difference between comic books and cartoons. Anime is animated, manga is drawn on a page. A lot of anime shows and movies are adaptations of manga in the same way that a lot of movies and TV shows are adaptations of books — although, of course, some anime is entirely original.

These days, anime is frequently funded by Westerners with a specific interest in idiosyncratic Japanese aesthetics; manga is much more what actual Japanese people consume (although both art forms have garnered global audiences in the 21st century). 

Because it’s possible to explore subjects in far more depth in literature than in cinema, manga is often (but not always!) more detailed and emotionally sophisticated than anime.

Popularity Today
Getty Images

Both anime and manga experienced a major boom in popularity in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Cartoon Network began airing chunks of anime for kids and teens on their “Toonami” programming block starting in 1997, while their late-night [adult swim] showcase premiered programs aimed at young adults. A sub-culture of tape traders, cosplayers, and convention-goers sprang up around these imports. It was through Cartoon Network that an American audience was exposed to both fun action and adventure stories (Cowboy Bebop, Inuyasha) alongside avant-garde masterpieces (Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL, Paranoia Agent). These shows’ popularity led to fans investigating the manga on which many of these programs were based — suddenly, major bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders were investing in hearty manga and graphic novel sections.

In both Japan and America, anime and manga in the mid-’90s were thought of as a bit of a shameful habit for socially reclusive nerds. In the 2000s, the recognition of the artistry of anime masters like Satoshi Kon and the Oscar-winning director Hayoa Miyazaki from Western reviewers and highbrow critics alike helped elevate both anime and manga in the eyes of the mainstream. Meanwhile, postmodernist Takashi Murakami helped legitimize anime and manga to the high art and fashion world through his superflat movement. Murakami’s collaborations with Kanye West and the Louis Vuitton label solidified anime and manga as major cultural influences. Nowadays, anime and manga remain popular across socioeconomic classes and subcultures, often appearing alongside superhero media at pop culture conventions like Comic-Con. Hugely popular rappers and streetwear hypebeasts can often be seen sporting anime-influenced clothes or dropping bars about their favorite ninja warriors — Megan Thee Stallion, for example, is famously obsessed with My Hero Academia. The LGBTQ+ community has embraced hyper-colorful anime aesthetics and the nostalgia around the medium’s queer coded characters — many drag queens cite anime as a stylistic influence and anime-themed drag shows have become commonplace.

Culture Movies/TV

30 Feel-Good Movies On Netflix To Watch When You Need A Pick Me Up

Whether you’re stuck sitting inside a home office all day or dealing with bumper-to-bumper traffic on a commute to work, everyone could use a feel good movie right about now. From fairytales to grounded family dramas, anything can be a feel good movie as long as it makes the audience smile and feel some kind of joy as the credits start rolling.

Everything from animated adventures to touching documentaries appears on this list, but it’s up to you to decide which movie you want to watch first when you need a good pick me up. Whenever you’re feeling down, check out one of these fantastic 30 Feel-Good Movies on Netflix!

1. ‘Hook’

Peter Pan, the boy who never ages, finally grows up in Hook. Peter (Robin Williams), now a workaholic who ends up being too busy for his own kids most of the time, is thrust back into Neverland when the dastardly Captain Hook kidnaps his kids. An overwhelmingly silly and heartwarming flick, Hook reminds its viewers to never stray too far from the innocent joy of childhood. With an amazing ensemble- Dustin Hoffman hams it up as Captain Hook- and a touching story, Hook is a must-watch for anyone who needs a dose of wonder.

2. ‘Okja’

Before Bong Joon-ho swept the Oscars for his capitalist-skewering Parasite, he released Okja, a fairy tale-esque story that also slams the modern capitalist consumer culture. A Netflix original, the story follows Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun), a young woman who has an intense bond with a genetically modified super-pig called Okja. When Okja is recalled by the multinational corporation that first created it, Mija is thrust into a world-wide journey to reunite with her friend that sees her teaming up with an animal rights organization. Full of satire, Okja is incredibly charming and will make you smile long after you finish it.

3. ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’

In 2009, writer-director duo Chris Lord and Phil Miller burst onto the scene with the release of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Loosely adapted from a children’s book with the same name, the film sees scientist Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) create a device that turns water into food. Unfortunately, Lockwood quickly loses control as tumultuous food weather (think spaghetti and meatball tornadoes) poses a huge risk to the city of Swallow Falls and its inhabitants. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is an entertaining film full of puns and heart that also has a poignant message for its viewers: don’t mess with the climate! 

4. ‘Lady Bird’

Growing up in a small-ish city and arguing with your parents can be tough. Still, Christine, a.k.a. Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan), isn’t willing to let her current situation define her existence or what is possible in the future. A comedic coming-of-age story that sees Lady Bird try to discover what she wants from life; this Greta Gerwig helmed movie perfectly balances its charming and heartbreaking moments. Like any family drama (or real family squabble), there are moments that lower the characters and make them question their world views. However, Lady Bird still excels at making its audience feel good and empowered in their own decisions as things progress.

5. ‘Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget For the Rest of Your Life’

When old friends Steve Martin and Martin Short are together, it’s impossible for viewers not to smile. These two titans of comedy join each other on-stage for a comedy-palooza filled with personal stories, banjo music, and contagiously big smiles. The only comedy special on the list, An Evening You Will Forget, feels like you’re spending some time with old friends who are razor-focused on making you laugh and feel good.

6. ‘Hugo’

Director Martin Scorsese is best known for gritty gangster films, but his adaptation of Hugo proves the maestro can excel in any genre.  Set in 1931 Paris, Hugo follows a young boy named Hugo (Asa Butterfield) who goes to great lengths to unlock a mysterious automated toy after his father passes away. A story about the power of family and friendship, Hugo is a lovely journey about both self-discovery and understanding/empathizing with those around you.

7. ‘Crimp Camp: A Disability Revolution’

A Netflix documentary produced by the Obamas’ new production company, Crimp Camp: A Disability Revolution, is a story about the power of grassroots activism during the disability rights movement. The film opens on Camp Jened, an alternative summer camp that was designed to uplift and care for teenagers who felt ostracized from daily life due to their disabilities. Focusing on the journey of certain individuals who attended the camp, Crimp Camp tracks how they outgrew the ostracization society placed on them and became key activists in the fight for new legislation. A touching and motivating film, Crimp Camp reminds us that everyone is worthy of respect and that anyone is capable of creating real change in the world.

8. ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’

Whether he’s creating films about Norse gods or reformed Hitler youth, writer-director Taika Waititi has an incredible knack for bringing delightful stories to the big screen. Hunt for the Wilderpeople, adapted from a book called Wild Pork and Watercress, sees an unlikely duo—a 13-year-old named Ricky (Julian Dennison) and a grizzled, older man named Hec (Sam Neill)—bond and hide out in the middle of the New Zealand wilderness while Ricky is being searched for by child services. A film chopped full of laughs and misunderstandings, Hunt for the Wilder People will leave you feeling happy to be alive and extra appreciative of the people who bring love into your life.

9. ‘Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey’

Christmas might have been a few months ago, but that doesn’t mean Netflix’s new original holiday film Jingle Jangle isn’t worth watching any time of year. Written and directed by David E. Talbert, Jingle Jangle was originally designated to be a stage production. Still, Talbert’s vision jumps off the screen thanks to an amazing ensemble and wonderful choreography from Ashley Wallen. Without spoiling too much, the film follows Journey (Madalen Mills) as she tries to help her grandfather Jeronicus Jangle (played by Forest Whitaker for most of the film) preserve his toy factory and protect his newest invention. A fantastical journey full of whimsy and wonder, Jingle Jangle is a new Christmas classic that will leave you wishing it was already December.

10. ‘Miracle’

Few sports stories are as inspirational as Miracle, a 2004 movie about the U.S. Olympic men’s ice hockey team that competed in the 1980 games. Under the leadership of coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), a group of collegiate athletes came together and did the impossible—defeated the most dominant hockey team in the world: the Soviet Olympic team. A touching and thoroughly entertaining film all about pushing oneself to the limit and not letting other people’s opinions impact one’s abilities, Miracle will leave you feeling inspired and ready to take on the world.

11. ‘The Naked Gun’

Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn’t make comedy movies like The Naked Gun anymore. Starring Leslie Nielson as Detective Frank Drebin, The Naked Gun parodies police films with both massive gags and smaller jokes that may fly right over the audience’s head. In this film, the first of a trilogy, Frank is tasked with defending Queen Elizabeth II from a hypnosis-related assassination attempt. The film isn’t overwhelmingly emotional, but it’s hard to walk away from The Naked Gun feeling anything but overjoyed due to how silly it is.

12. ‘Always Be My Maybe’

Romantic comedies can be a bit of a mixed bag, but the Netflix original Always Be My Maybe is incredibly charming and silly in all the best ways. Sasha (Ali Wong) and Marcus (Randall Park) are old friends who grew distant from each other after one intimate night together as teenagers. Years later, the two bump into each other as Sasha returns to San Francisco to open a new restaurant, and the two become friends once again. Park and Wong, who both have writing and producing credits on the film, have fantastic chemistry together and do a wonderful job of grounding this touching story all about escaping your comfort zone and pursuing life (and love) to the fullest.

13. ‘Chef’

After directing massive blockbusters like Iron Man and Cowboys & Aliens, writer-director Jon Favreau was ready to ground his filmmaking in smaller, more intimate stories again. In 2014, Favreau released (and starred in) Chef, a story about a Los Angeles chef who loses his job after a public argument with a food critic and decides to operate his own food truck where he can let his own cooking style shine through. A story about defining your own path, Chef is the perfect film for anyone hungry to take control of their own life.

14. ‘Wine Country’

A group of old friends decides to embark on a weekend getaway in Napa Valley to celebrate Rebecca’s (Rachel Dratch) birthday. A Netflix original directed by Amy Poehler, who is also a member of the film’s ensemble, Wine Country is a funny, sweet film all about rekindling the important relationships in your life and learning to go with the flow. With lockdowns still ongoing, Wine Country is a sweet distraction that reminds viewers how important friendship is in all of our lives.

15. ‘The Muppets’

Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy are two of the most iconic characters of all time, and the 2011 film The Muppets, fortunately, put the two of them and all their puppet friends back in the spotlight where they deserve. Co-written by Jason Segel, whose love of puppet musicals is evident for anyone who has seen Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the film sees The Muppets reunite in order to save the Muppet Theater from an evil businessman. Stacked with a great ensemble and some of the best working puppeteers, The Muppets is the joyous, goof-filled movie everyone needs about now. As a bonus, if anyone is a fan of Flight of the Conchords, series co-creator James Bobin directs the film, while Bret McKenzie served as the music supervisor and even wrote four of the original songs in the movie.

16. ‘Stranger Than Fiction’

Will Ferrell movies are normally full of over-the-top humor, but Marc Forster’s Stranger Than Fiction is markedly different. When Harold Crick (Ferrell) suddenly hears a narrator guiding him through his life like a character in a novel, he starts to panic. Things only worsen for Harold when he discovers that the narrator is apparently aware of how Harold will die and guide him right to his end. A story that deals with heavy themes like fate and the inevitability of death, Stranger Than Fiction is an incredibly powerful story that reminds us all to take charge of our own lives and not allow other individuals or institutions to dictate how we should perceive our own existence.

17. ‘Julie and Julia’

If overwhelming amounts of butter and baked goods make you happy, then Julie & Julia will leave you feeling full and delighted. Based on the real-life exploits of food blogger Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams, the film follows Powell as she endeavors to cook every recipe from Julia Child’s cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year as a distraction from her own angst living in post-9/11 New York City. At the same time, the film is interwoven with flashbacks that showcase the iconic Child (Meryl Streep) as she attends a French culinary institute and tries to publish her iconic cookbook.

18. ‘Yes, God, Yes’

Normally, stories set in a Catholic school aren’t all about sex, but Yes, God, Yes is a clever, comedic look at how the religion’s strict rules impact the sexual development of its young adherents. It is written and directed by Karen Maine, who makes her feature directorial debut here with a story loosely based on her own experiences as a teenager. Yes, God, Yes is an extremely charming film about self-discovery. Alice (Natalia Dyer) has to maneuver her own sexual appetites, something she is constantly told to feel ashamed about, and survive a stuffy school retreat in this swift and funny tale.

19. ‘Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday’

Few live-action characters are as iconic as Paul Reuben’s Pee-Wee Herman, so when the Netflix original Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday hit in 2016, there was a reason to celebrate. Pee Wee is happy with his life in the town of Fairville, but when actor Joe Manganiello pops up in town and convinces Pee Wee that he should come to New York for his birthday party, Pee Wee sets off on a wacky road trip full of twists and turns to attend the celebration. Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday isn’t the character’s first (nor most iconic) film, but it’s incredibly satisfying and will leave you grinning from ear-to-ear.

20. ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

Mary Poppins is one of the most iconic characters ever put on the silver screen, but before Julie Andrews brought her to life, she existed only in the pages of P.L. Travers’ children’s books. Saving Mr. Banks, directed by John Lee Hancock, tells the silly, stressful and emotional story of how the notorious Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) persuaded Travers (Emma Thompson) to adapt her work. A Disney movie about an older Disney movie, Saving Mr. Banks, is a must-see for any fans of Hollywood history that leaves audiences appreciative of the things that made their own childhoods so special.

21. ‘Ocean’s Eleven’

In 2001, director Steven Soderbergh released a remake of the 1960s classic Ocean’s Eleven. Stacked with one of the best ensembles ever assembled—including icons like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Bernie Mac—Ocean’s Eleven sees a crew of thieves come together to pull off a massive heist in Las Vegas worth $160 million. Danny Ocean (Clooney) gets out of prison and decides to assemble a crew for one more heist, a decision that leads Danny to come in contact with numerous eccentric and entertaining individuals who all have a particular set of skills. An entertaining and sharp story, Ocean’s Eleven is both hilarious and bewildering as audience members have to pay attention to all the wonderful activity taking place on the screen to grasp the full picture.

22. ‘The Half of It’

Another Netflix original, writer-director Alice Wu’s The Half of It, is a cheeky coming of age story that focuses on two introverted friends falling for the same girl. Ellie (Leah Lewis) is a shy high school student who makes a bit of money by helping her peers write essays, but after Paul (Daniel Diemer) asks her to help him write letters to his crush Aster (Alexxis Lemire), everything changes. Not only do Ellie and Aster develop a close friendship, something that helps the two nervous individuals feel more comfortable in their own skin, but they end up both developing feelings for the same girl. A sweet film about accepting yourself and others, this is the perfect film for anyone ready for some sweet laughs and motivation to start a new chapter in their life.

23. ’17 Again’

I personally NEVER want to go back to high school, but for those who sometimes pine after a second chance at their younger days, 17 Again is the perfect movie to watch. When Mike O’Donnel (played by both Matthew Perry and Zac Efron depending on his age) magically transforms into a 17-year-old after hitting a rough patch with his professional and personal life, he decides to make the best of it and go back to high school for a second chance at greatness. Directed by Burr Steers, 17 Again is an incredibly funny story that reminds audiences not to take their life and loved ones for granted even when they may be feeling unworthy of love or success.

24. ‘Into the Wild’

Written and directed by Sean Penn, Into the Wild is an emotionally charged film about self-discovery and determining one’s own path in life. Adapted from Jon Krakauer’s book about the life of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), Into the Wild sees the recent college graduate walk away from the life he thought he would embark on in favor of a solo cross-country trip to Alaska. As he journeys across the country, he meets new people and pushes through both his physical and emotional limits in order to reach his destination. The film certainly has darker moments as McCandless’s journey becomes more harrowing, but the film’s positive, adventurous spirit is infectious from start to finish.

25. ‘Four Christmases’

The holiday season is the gift that keeps on giving on this list, and Seth Gordon’s Four Christmases is one of the funniest, most delightful Christmas movies I’ve ever seen. Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Reese Witherspoon) are a couple who try to avoid their families on the holidays, but after their travel plans are canceled, they give-in and decide to visit their families. Brad and Kate both come from divorced households, making the idea of marriage and kids harder for them to swallow. That also means they have four very separate and very different holiday gatherings to attend. Family drama and crude humor aside, Four Christmases is a love-filled movie that leaves the viewer with a big smile on their face.

26. ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

A movie about mental illness may not be the first thing someone thinks about when they want to find a feel-good flick, but David O Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook is full of joy. The film follows Patrick (Bradley Cooper), a bipolar individual after he is released from a psychiatric hospital and readjusting to life with his parents. As Patrick fixates on regaining his old life by hopefully winning back his old wife, he gets closer to another mentally distinguished individual named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawerence). A touching yet smile-filled film about vulnerability and letting new relationships blossom, Silver Linings Playbook is a must-watch for anyone struggling to accept the wrinkles in their own life.

27. ’50 First Dates’

Many Happy Madison films are actually rather mean-spirited, but 50 First Dates strikes a different tone entirely. After Henry (Adam Sandler) meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore), he’s immediately smitten. Unfortunately, Henry doesn’t realize that Lucy has a rare form of amnesia that resets her memory back to right before she was in a bad car accident a few years prior. Although Lucy’s family warns Henry to stay away from her, he commits himself to making her fall in love with him every day so they could have some type of relationship. There are definitely some creepy elements to their relationship, but if viewers can put those things aside and just enjoy the romantic ride, they are in for a treat.

28. ‘Paul Blart Mall Cop’

Starring and co-written by Kevin James, Paul Blart Mall Cop is a heartwarmingly silly movie about a schlubby mall security guard who takes his job – and responsibilities as a single father- incredibly seriously. When a group of criminals infiltrates the mall on Black Friday, Paul has to think creatively and save the day. Paul Blart is big on slapstick comedy, but more importantly, for the sake of this list, it’s a heartfelt movie that shows anyone is capable of accomplishing great things.

29. ‘Tall Girl’

No one makes it through high school without being made fun of a few times, but Jody (Ava Michelle) unfortunately deals with more bullies than most. A 6.5 foot tall junior, Jody has always been taller than her peers- something that has unfortunately made her self-conscious and desperate to blend in. The film has some cute high school romantic elements as Jody juggles her feelings for a tall foreign exchange student and her short best friend, but at its core, Tall Girl is all about accepting yourself no matter how other people perceive you, and nothing makes an audience feel better than watching a movie’s protagonist finally learn to love themself.

30. ‘Death to 2020’

2020 was a challenging year for everyone, but we can all breathe a sigh of relief and say that 2020 is OVER! This Netflix original mockumentary, written by Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker, sees stacked ensemble parodies and breaks down the tumultuous year’s biggest stories. If saying goodbye to 2020 (and watching Samuel Jackson) doesn’t make you feel good, nothing will.

Culture Movies/TV

The 16 Best 80s Movies to Stream on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Beyond

I’ve always been a little jealous that I didn’t grow up in the 80s.  It might have been the oversized sweatshirts and leg warmers, Rob Lowe in everything, MTV being the premiere channel for music videos or those cool transparent telephones with the color inside.  Or it could be that my parents always made it seem like such a cool decade with classics that we still watch today. 

With a million different streaming services to choose from, there are endless 80’s movies you can watch, but here are 16 gems to get you started. 

Warning: there’s going to be a lot of John Hughes.

1. ‘Big’

Think of this movie as the original 13 Going on 30. When 12-year-old Josh wishes that he was no longer a kid and finally “big,” he wakes the next day to find his wish has come true.  He gets an apartment, finds success at his job, and even holds down a romance before he finds himself longing to be a kid again. As someone who has been a full-fledged adult for a while, let me say: I feel you, Tom Hanks. I feel you.

watch now
2. ‘Dirty Dancing’

I sing “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” at least once a week, and this movie is the reason.  Taking place in a resort in the Catskills, young Frances “Baby” Houseman, and her family vacation during the summer as she learns how to dance by a super cool Patrick Swayze. This movie is the classic of all classics, and while the budget was only $5M, it made a cool $215M at the box office. It also led to a prequel and a made-for-TV remake in 2017 (which my boyfriend was in, so check it out), but the original is such a joy and full of lines you’re still quoting in 2021. 

watch now
3. ‘The Breakfast Club’

Often referred to as the blueprint of the coming-of-age movie, John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club introduced the world to the Brat Pack, a group of good-looking young actors who played in a series of similar movies in the ’80s. Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, and Ally Sheedy comprised the core of the group, with The Breakfast Club being one of two movies this five actors starred in together. The movie takes course over an afternoon when five very different students are forced to spend Saturday detention together. As they share stories and bond, they discover that “a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal” have more in common than they initially thought. 

watch now
4. ‘Risky Business’

The movie that launched thousands of college girls wearing button-up shirts and long socks as a Halloween costume! When rich kid Joel’s parents go away for the weekend, he treats himself to a prostitute who ends up robbing him.  Hilarity ensues! Okay, maybe not hilarity but shenanigans that involve a pimp, a Porsche that sinks into a lake, Tom Cruise turning his parents’ home into a brothel, and displays of white privilege at every turn! Risky Business is considered one of the best films of the 80s and holds a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 

watch now
5. ‘Beetlejuiice’

A fantastical cult favorite, Beetlejuice’s cast is full of stars you’ll recognize… but 33 years younger. Alec Baldwin (you might know him as Former Spanish Person Hilaria Baldin’s husband) and Geena Davis play a deceased couple who find themselves haunting their house after the Deetz family (Winona Ryder, Jeffrey Jones, and Catherine O’Hara) move in. In an attempt to get them out, they summon Beetlejuice, a sneaky poltergeist who has a different idea of what help looks like. 

watch now
6. ‘Stand By Me’

Arguably the quintessential kids-going-on-a-quest movie, this Stephen King film revolves around four young boys looking for the body of a recently deceased child somewhere in town. Yeah, that’s kind of a gruesome plot, but what else could you expect from Stephen King? What makes this movie unique is how it goes one step further into each of the boys’ traumas, grappling with some pretty heavy adult stuff, but always comes back to the strong friendship that carries the story. 

watch now
7. ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’

Another classic starring a different configuration of the Brat Pack (take out Ringwald and Hall, add dreamboat Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy, and Mare Winningham), we meet a  group of recent college grads figuring out adulthood. Yeah, this is a pretty common trope, but did I mention a super attractive Rob Lowe is in it?

My parents love St.Elmo’s Fire. Ask your parents. They probably love it, too.

watch now
8. ‘Footloose’

Sometimes you’ve got this feeling that time’s just been holding you down. You’ll hit the ceiling or else you’ll tear up this town. Now you gotta cut loose.

No movie from the 80s used music quite so efficiently as Footloose.  Kenny Loggin’s “Footloose”, Deniece William’s “Let’s Hear It For the Boy”, Foreign’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You”, Moving Picture’s “Never” and Mike Reno and Ann Wilson’s “Almost Paradise’” (you know the song from Bachelor in Paradise, and I’m embarrassed for you.) 

The premise: Ren, a teenager from the big city, moves to a small town where dancing and rock music have been banned. Watch to see how he turns things around.

watch now
9. ‘Eddie Murphy: Raw’

My dad hates watching movies with me that include any raunchy behavior or language. He still views me as his little girl, and I can feel his body cringe when there’s even something SLIGHTLY uncomfortable on the screen. However, my father made an exception for Eddie Murphy’s Raw because it’s that good. This 1987 blockbuster shows Murphy at his best, nailing impression after impression and securing his place in comedy history.

watch now
10. ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’

A whole generation was reintroduced to Fast Times at Ridgemont High last year when Dane Cook pulled together an impressive amount of stars to do a table reading for COVID relief efforts. The actual movie is a coming-of-age (I know, I know, another one) film about a group of high schoolers in Southern California and is probably best remembered for Sean Penn’s performance. 

watch now
11. ‘Heathers’

Heathers, like many other movies of this era, is about high schoolers and their daily lives, but that’s where the similarities end.  Intended to be the antithesis of the popular John Hughes coming-of-age films, this movie centers around a popular clique of girls who attend a school where people start dying.  

watch now
12. ‘School Daze’

One of the most iconic movies to shed light on Greek life in historically black colleges, Spike Lee based some of this movie on his own collegiate days at Morehouse University. Featuring a very young Lawrence Fishburne and Tisha Campbell, School Daze grappled with race, colorism, college politics, beauty standards, and identity (to name a few.) Even in 2020, this movie doesn’t feel dated. 

watch now
13. ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’

Another John Hughes classic, Matthew Broderick plays an unmotivated high schooler Ferris who skips school one day by playing sick. The Vice-President of his school does not believe him and spends the majority of the movie trying to catch him, which in hindsight, seems like a lot of effort to bust one kid. The movie’s charm comes from the unique breaking of the 4th wall to hear Ferris’ thoughts; it went on to be one of the top-grossing movies of the year.

watch now
14. ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’

The movie that launched a thousand sequels (okay, it was just a few) is one of those sweet and warm films that you watch years later, and somehow, it still manages to hold up. When an inventor shrinks his kids, as well as the neighbor’s kids, they have to navigate the much larger world in hopes of getting back to normal size.

watch now
15. ‘The Goonies’

Something about the ’80s bred groups of misfit kids going on adventures. The children in The Goonies find themselves in possession of an old map that leads to a treasure hunt, complete with pirates, caves, monsters, and skeletons. 

watch now
16. ‘Princess Bride’

If you like fairy tales (especially modern takes), The Princess Bride will quickly be a favorite. The story is told through the narrative stylings of a grandfather telling his grandson a bedtime story; the bedtime story revolves around a farmhand and the hurdles he must go through to be with the one he loves

watch now
Culture Movies/TV

The 20 Best Indie Horror Movies to Watch When You Need a Good Scare

The days may be stretching a bit longer now as the sun finally starts to set a bit later every night, but there is still plenty to be scared about right now. With armed riots and COVID potentially around every corner, horror is still an ever-present part of all our lives. Fortunately, horror movies provide a safe platform for all thrill-seekers to get their shrieks and screams in without actually having to put themselves in harm’s way.

Thanks to production companies like Blumhouse and A24, independent horror is currently undergoing a bit of a renaissance. Filmmakers who grew up watching some of the earliest independent horror films are now out there creating their own grim worlds for audiences to lose themselves in. Whether it’s supernatural or psychological horrors that tickle your fancy, read on to learn more about 20 of the Best Indie Horror Movies if you dare!

1. ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’

The granddaddy of slasher films, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, released in 1974, is one of the infamous horror movies ever released. Directed and co-written by Tobe Hooper, the film follows a group of traveling friends who fall prey to a family of torturous cannibals. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre has so much going for it, but it’s impossible to mention this film without mentioning the granddaddy cannibal of them all: Leatherface. This chainsaw wielding madman has become one of the most iconic figures in horror and his first appearance perfectly displays why he is still such a creepy, terrifying force today. Texas Chainsaw Massacre made its mark as a violent and messy film, but it also deserves praise for its realistic feel and solid ensemble performances. 

watch now
2. ‘Night of the Living Dead’

George A. Romero isn’t the first director to utilize zombies in his films, but he certainly popularized and enshrined the brain-eating creatures in modern pop culture. With 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, Romero’s first foray into zombie film-making, he follows what happens when a group of seven individuals are stranded and locked inside a farm together while being attacked by mindless monsters. Loosely inspired from Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Night of the Living Dead is both tense and creepy but also comical and excellently paced.

watch now
3. ‘Martyrs’

If you like horror movies to make you feel incredibly uncomfortable, then Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs might be for you. A French film that follows two young women as they try to seek revenge for a past crime, a decision that leads them straight into the torturous and sadistic hands of a cult-like organization that believes pain brings people closer to god. Tense and incredibly bloody, Martyrs has a spiritual and philosophical throughline that adds a interesting layer of depth to the project. Even though Saw predates Martyrs by four years, Martyrs doesn’t hesitate to show people being mutilated and tortured in a much more severe and squirmish way than its American rival; in fact, it revels in the misery that it inflicts upon its characters.

watch now
4. ‘Climax’

After being quarantined for what feels like an eternity, a psychedelic dance party sounds pretty damn good right about now. Climax, an ensemble film that features a lot of improvisation and interesting motion, sees a group of dancers come together for a good-old-fashioned 90s warehouse afterparty. Unfortunately, the night takes a turn for the worse when everyone starts acting angry and confused as it becomes clear that the party punch was spiked with acid. Written, directed and co-edited by Gaspar Noé, the film is highly technical, featuring a lot of long, jarring takes, and isn’t afraid to put the camera right in the middle of incredibly uncomfortable, sometimes violently shocking moments.

watch now
5. ‘Eraserhead’

Anyone who has seen Twin Peaks knows David Lynch is no stranger to creepy, atmospheric film-making, but this quality dates all the way back to Lynch’s feature-film debut Eraserhead. A twisted metaphor about the horrors of parenthood, Eraserhead follows a man named Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) as his life is turned upside down upon learning that his “girlfriend” gave birth to a grotesque baby. Silly at moments due to the uncomfortable tension hanging over everything, the film is both surreal and disturbingly sexual in a way that makes it hard to stop watching. The character work and industrial setting are certainly alarming, but Lynch also excels at creating ghastly soundscapes that make everything creepier and harder to comprehend in the best way.

watch now
6. ‘Green Room’

Writer and director Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room doesn’t deal with supernatural entities or grotesque body-horror, but it is still an incredibly tense, horrifying watch. A touring punk band takes a last-second gig without realizing they accidentally agreed to perform at a neo-Nazi club. Instead of avoiding a hostile scene, the punk rockers escalate the situation during their performance and find themselves locked in the green room scared for their lives. The film has a lot of fantastic performances, but Patrick Stewart’s turn as Darcy Banker, the intimidating and loyalty-demanding neo-Nazi leader, proves the classical thespian still has a hard edge. In 2021, the thought of being locked in a room with a bunch of angry skinheads is more relevant and terrifying than ever, and Green Room is an adrenaline-fueled ride about this group’s desperate struggle to escape with their lives.

watch now
7. ‘Get Out’

When comedian Jordan Peele made the transition to mainstream writer and director with Get Out, he took the cinematic world by storm. Structurally, the film is a romantic-comedy gone very wrong, but the racially-charged satire and tense conversations make it feel more like a psychological thriller. Full of fantastic performances, the most memorable being Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington, someone who is understandably nervous to meet his girlfriend’s family who gradually realizes things aren’t as they appear, Get Out is both charming and funny while also being intensely dark and dripping in poignant societal criticism.

watch now
8. ‘Hereditary’

Writer-director Ari Aster’s debut feature film, Hereditary, is the perfect blend of psychological and supernatural horror. After the secretive matriarch of the Graham family dies, things slowly start to unfold for everyone else in the family. As the Grahams lose their grip and start to grasp their grandmother’s dark secrets, things quickly spiral out of control. This is definitely a situation where the less scare-seeking viewers know going into the movie the better, but just know that Hereditary knows how to take its time and get under the viewer’s skin. Full of incredible performances, Toni Collete in-particular was sorely overlooked at the 2019 Academy Awards for her work in this movie.

watch now
9. ‘Train to Busan’

Zombies have evolved a lot since Romero re-introduced them in Night of the Living Dead, and no movie ups the zombie-ante quite like Train to Busan. A Korean film mostly set on a singular train that is making the journey to the port city of Busan, Train to Busan is set in the earliest moments of a zombie outbreak. As the passengers travel, the country slowly starts breaking down and the outbreak becomes present on the sealed train. Hectic and claustrophobic at the same time, the film is heavy on emotions, effective jump scares and action packed moments that make it one of the most entertaining twists on the undead genre in a while. 

watch now
10. ‘The Witch’

Part period piece and part supernatural horror, Robert Egger’s feature-film debut, The Witch (also known as The VVItch), is best described as an incredibly detailed nightmare. Set in a New England settlement in the 1630s, the film focuses on a Puritan family who are trying to build a successful life while they come into contact with demonic forces. Inspired by Eggers’ own fascination with witches, the film doesn’t deliver direct scares per se, instead it makes the viewer sit in the unknown and uncomfortability of each moment as the family is slowly torn apart. Heads up for anyone who may not be aware though, part of why this film can be described as “incredibly detailed” is due to Eggers decision to use painstakingly accurate dialogue and dialects, something that can take a moment to get used to.

watch now
11. ‘Goodnight Mommy’

Goodnight Mommy, a psychological horror from Austria, knows how to make its viewers stir in their chair. Co-Directed and co-written by filmmaking team Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, the film follows two boys (brothers Elias and Lukas Schwarz) after their mother returns home from a surgery. Since she is adorned with full facial bandages that make it impossible for her kids to confirm whether or not it’s really their mother under there, the two begin to suspect that it’s actually an imposter in their home. A tense and bloody ride, Goodnight Mommy turns into a full out war between the young boys and their “mother” as they struggle to learn the truth and survive being trapped inside with her.   

watch now
12. ‘Funny Games’ (2007)

It’s rare that people truly get second opportunities in life, but writer-director Michael Haneke completely remade his own 1997 movie Funny Games in 2007 with brand new performers like Tim Roth and Naomi Watts. Pretty much a shot-for-shot remake of the original except for the fact that it’s in English, the film is the perfect meta encapsulation of why you don’t talk to strangers. When the Farber family visits their lake house, they come into contact with two young men who quickly turn from awkward conversations to sadistic games. Rather than simply rob the family and escape quickly, the two young men- played wonderfully by Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet- take their time embarrassing and torturing the family, making it clear that sometimes normal people are worse than monsters. 

watch now
13. ‘The Lighthouse’

Spending time with Willem Dafoe alone on a lighthouse sounds terrifying by itself, but Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse turns that uncomfortable scenario into a manic nightmare when a new lighthouse keeper (Robert Pattinson) comes aboard right before a powerful storm. Like Eggers’ other entry on this list, The Witch, the film pays careful attention to details, making sure everything from dialects to set decoration is as authentic as possible as the two men spiral out of control in the isolated setting. Shot in black and white with a squared, 1:1 aspect ratio, the old-school aesthetic adds to the film rather than serve as flashy techniques that muddle or distract the audience. 

watch now
14. ‘Halloween’

Directed and co-written by horror legend John Carpenter, Halloween sees a deranged serial killer escape from an “insane asylum” and return to his hometown to wreak havoc on Halloween night. Six-year old Michael Myers killed his sister, and now, 15 years later, he’s ready to kill some more. A classic slasher film full of tense moments, Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance in the movie as high school student Laurie Strode, proves exactly why she has earned the title scream queen. At this point Michael Myers is one of the most infamous Halloween costumes, but the original movie is definitely still worth seeing for anyone who wants to know why he’s such an iconic killer.

watch now
15. ‘Enter the Void’

Life can be strange, but it can be even STRANGERwhen you’re on psychedelics. Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void, structured after the infamous Tibetan Book of the Dead, sees Oscar have an out-of-body experience after being shot by the police during a drug sale. Heavy on neon lights and flowing camera movements, the film excels at making the audience also feel like they are in the middle of an uncomfortable, world shattering trip. Enter the Void is more of an avante garde art film than pure horror, but it is still incredibly unsettling and takes the audience on a wild, memorable ride. 

watch now
16. ‘Bone Tomahawk’

A horror-western set in the 1890s, Bone Tomahawk is writer S. Craig Zahler’s directorial debut feature-film. Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russel) has to put together a group in order to rescue some individuals who have been kidnapped. The only problem is, they weren’t kidnapped by outlaws looking for quick cash, they were taken by cannibals. Unafraid to get grotesque, Bone Tomahawk is truly one of the most brutal films I’ve ever seen as Sheriff Hunt and his gang struggle both physically and mentally to survive and get the job done. Despite its B-movie qualities, the film is actually stacked with an amazing ensemble of actors like Richard Jenkins, Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox whose performances elevate the entire thing.

watch now
17. ‘Let the Right One In’

When people think of vampires, adult figures like Dracula and Lestat are probably the first thing that pop to mind. Let the Right One In, a Swedish film written by the man who wrote the 2004 novel it’s based on, inverts things by having the central vampire be a young girl. Equal parts comedic, kiddy romance and dreadful exploration of how dark people can be, Let the Right One In is both shockingly violent and heart-achingly sweet that sticks with viewers for a long time. While the film did have an entertaining American remake hit theaters in 2010, the original is far superior at creating both tense and loving atmospheres. 

watch now
18. ‘Little Monsters’

Sometimes, horror movies need a shot of cuteness and positivity to really land, and Little Monsters has both of those qualities in spades. Written and directed by Abe Forsythe, the group follows a group of quirky characters, led by Lupita Nyong’o and Josh Gad, as they try to protect a group of young students from a hectic zombie outbreak taking place around them. The zombies in Little Monsters are deadly and terrifying, but the way the film blends in comedy makes it a unique, must-watch. 

watch now
19. ‘The Human Centipede’

The two-girls-one-cup of the horror world, 2009s The Human Centipede is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. A Dutch film that follows Lindsay (Ashley Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie), two American tourists on a European vacation, things quickly turn south when the tourists are kidnapped by a good-old-fashioned mad scientist who is working on a comical yet extremely dangerous torture method that sees people sewed together anus-to-mouth. It’s hard to call Human Centipede a good movie with a completely straight face, but the way it excels at making viewers uncomfortable makes it a one-of-a-kind horror experience that everyone needs to see at least once.

watch now
20. ‘The Invitation’

With Covid still ripping through people’s homes, a big, group dinner sounds terrifying for a lot of reasons right now, but director Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, which focuses on a group of old friends reuniting over dinner two years after a traumatic experience, makes it a terrifying get-together for a whole different kind of reason. Unafraid to take its time and make people second guess all of the confusing, tense actions taking place on the screen, The Invitation is an explosive film that also does a wonderful job at exploring the emotional and psychological damage trauma can have on one’s life.

watch now
Culture Movies/TV

The 8 Best Marvel Movies and Shows Still on Netflix

Netflix subscribers who are fans of Marvel’s television series and movies may feel a bit left out in the cold since the launch of the ever-popular Disney+ streaming service back in November of 2019. But fear not, we come bearing good news! What if we told you that you could scratch your Marvel itch without adding another subscription service to your seemingly never-ending list of monthly expenses? That’s right! There are still plenty of ways for you to tap into the Marvel Universe without the need for a Disney+ membership.

Netflix continues to feature a variety of original shows and movies for viewers of all ages to enjoy. In this article, we will explore all that remains of Marvel on Netflix so that you don’t have to go another day without some serious superhero satisfaction in your life. So, let’s put on our masks and capes and figure out which kick-butt shows you’ll be adding to your Netflix “My List” today!

1. ‘Ghost Rider’ (2007)

We’ll be honest with you; this is the only Marvel movie that remains on Netflix after the recent migration of all their movies to Disney+. While that may not be the news you were hoping to hear, it gets better as we go down the list, we promise!

Ghost Rider follows Johnny Blaze (Nicholas Cage), who is a daredevil biker and stuntman by day, and a walking, talking, motorcycle riding, flaming-skulled bounty hunter of the damned by night. How did he get into this mess, you may ask? Good question! In exchange for his soul, a demon named Mephistopheles promises to cure Johnny’s father of cancer. Well, he ends up dying due to significant burns all over his body, but the demon considers his end of the bargain upheld and now has Johnny’s soul and services forever. What a rip-off!

Johnny, aka Ghost Rider, is then called upon by Mephistopheles to defeat his demon son Blackheart. If he does this, Johnny gets his soul back. I won’t spoil it for you, but it has a crazy plot twist in the end and is worth at least one watch if you haven’t seen it yet. As the only Marvel movie on the board, you’re not left with many options, so do what must be done and give it a chance if you’re a fan of action, adventure, sci-fi, or fantasy. Plus, it’s Nick Cage! You know you’re tempted…

2. ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ (2013-2020)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is, by far, the Marvel television series with the most episodes on Netflix. Spanning seven seasons, the show is based on the Marvel Comics organization S.H.I.E.L.D., which stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division.

That’s a mouthful! Thank goodness for acronyms, huh? Basically, this group is a spy agency that was put together to keep the peace in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The series was the first-ever in the MCU and is considered canon, meaning that it is officially a part of the MCU you know and love from the movies and other media. So, if you enjoyed the Avengers movies, this ties right in and helps to broaden and expand that world. We would say it’s worth checking out if you’re ready to commit to seven seasons of superhero fun!

3. ‘Daredevil’ (2015-2018)

Continuing the chronological timeline of Marvel movies and shows on Netflix, our next stop is the series Daredevil. This show is certainly more on the dark and gritty side, as is indicated by its rating of TV-MA. If you’re looking for more of a mature Marvel experience, look no further.

For three seasons, we follow Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), aka Daredevil, a blind lawyer from 9-5, but a masked, crime-fighting vigilante at night. Daredevil possesses heightened senses due to being blinded as a young boy and combines this with extensive martial arts training to take down New York City’s worst of the worst. This is the first in a series of shows that tie into The Defenders miniseries, but more on that later!

4. ‘Jessica Jones’ (2015-2019)

Another Marvel Netflix series to take the dark and gritty approach, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), is a private eye with a haunting, traumatic past. The show touches on topics such as rape, assault, and PTSD, to name a few, so this one is definitely intended for an older audience. Jones is a former superhero who uses her superhuman strength, healing factor, and flight powers to aid her in her everyday work as a detective. She gave up her life as a superhero after an incident where a villain named Killgrave caused her to kill someone against her will. Let’s say that Killgrave is back, and Jessica Jones will have to stop him. Start with Daredevil, then watch this, as this show is the second of four that tie into The Defenders miniseries. This brings us to the next show…

5. ‘Luke Cage’ (2016-2018)

As part of the Netflix Black Lives Matter Collection, Luke Cage tells the story of an ex-con who is fighting to clear his name while saving his neighborhood in Harlem, New York. Luke Cage (Mike Colter) has some badass abilities to back up his 6’6 hulking physique as well. Among them are bulletproof skin, damage immunity, superdense body mass, healing factor, superhuman strength, hand-to-hand combat skills, and superhuman durability! Whew, what a list! Good luck stopping this guy!

Will Luke Cage get the redemption story that he seeks? Does he use his powers for good to save Harlem from the crime and corruption that’s been plaguing it? Well, you know I can’t tell you all that, so you’re going to have to tune in to find out! Luke Cage is the third series in the lead-up to The Defenders, so make sure to watch them in order. You’ll thank us later.

6. ‘Iron Fist’ (2017-2018)

Can you imagine being presumed dead for 15 years, only to resurface with incredible powers? That’s exactly what happens to Danny Rand (Finn Jones) in the Marvel series Iron Fist. It took us a minute to place Finn Jones, but we finally figured it out. You may know him from Game of Thrones, where he played Loras Tyrell, brother of Margaery. Anyway, he’s a great actor and doesn’t disappoint in this role either.

Rand shows up out of nowhere like Schwarzenneger in The Terminator-looking to reclaim the family business from Harold Meachum and his kids. But as always, a threat emerges, and Rand is torn between securing the family legacy and his duties as the Iron Fist. I have a funny feeling that he’ll be using his martial arts training, pyrokinesis, healing factor, and ability to harness spiritual energy in this two-season series. If you watch the three shows before this one, well, you had better watch this one too. It all leads to the crossover show we’ll be talking about next.

7. ‘The Defenders’ (2017)

Finally! The moment you’ve all been waiting for. The hype is real, folks, but when Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist squad up, how can you not get excited? The events of this miniseries are set a few months after Daredevil season two and a month after the first season of Iron Fist. The group of superhero vigilantes team up in New York City to fight the Hand. That’s right, the antagonist’s name is the Hand. We know what our heroes can do, but what about the Hand? It turns out that the Hand isn’t just a singular person or thing; it’s an order of evil mystical ninjas involved in organized crime and assassination plots. *Gulp* Business is about to pick up y’all! 

It’s a shame we may never see another season of The Defenders, but as I mentioned before, if you’re planning on taking the journey through Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, you better add this on to your Netflix “My List” as well.

8. ‘The Punisher’ (2017-2019)

And last, but by no means least, we have everyone’s favorite ex-Marine turned arbiter of pain, Frank Castle. Yes, the man better known as The Punisher has been a favorite amongst Marvel fans for quite some time now due to his creative techniques to get people to spill the beans among other things. He doesn’t have glowing fists, the power of flight, or the ability to heal himself, but he does possess peak strength for a human, skills in unarmed combat, superior marksmanship, and immunity to pain.

This two-season series follows the tortured soul that is Mr. Castle as he seeks revenge against those who killed his family. He quickly earns the moniker “The Punisher” in the city of New York while uncovering a larger conspiracy in motion. It’s a wild and violent ride showcasing a man on a mission who takes on the criminal underworld by any means necessary, with no regard for human life. If you like the John Wick movies, then this should be right up your alley. The Punisher and popcorn: it has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Culture Movies/TV

40 Hidden Gems on Netflix You Should Watch Immediately

At this point in the pandemic, we’ve probably all exhausted our Netflix watch lists a few times over.  It gets dark early, nights are long, and there’s nothing to do but be bored in the house. How many rewatches of Stranger Things can one person truly handle?

Luckily, Netflix’s expensive offerings go beyond reruns of mediocre sitcoms: the streaming service actually seems to have a near-endless amount of content despite much of it being hidden by the company’s algorithm.

We’ve picked out 40 films and TV shows that might not pop up on your “Recommended” list if you haven’t been searching specifically for them. From unexpected reality competitions to obscure anime to underground LGBTQ+ cinema, here’s our (unranked!) list of Netflix’s best-hidden gems.

40. Ip Man 1-4

An impeccably choreographed martial arts tetralogy that traces the legendary career of Bruce Lee’s master as he defeats Westerners and Japanese foes alike. Sure, the whole series is not-so-subtle Chinese propaganda, but it’s worth watching for the exciting action sequences.

39. Dark Crystal

Forget Game of Thrones. Dark Crystal is the high fantasy series worth watching. The Jim Henson Company’s high-concept puppet show is a dazzling example of a dying medium. The content is more adult than you’d expect from literal muppets, and the Tolkienesque world’s lore is both dense and allegorical. 

38. Love, Death, Robots

Black Mirror became a viral hit with its prescient predictions about the panoptic power of social media. The short animated film collection Love, Death + Robots covers a lot of the same territory as Charlie Booker’s infamous sci-fi series, but with a bit more humor. Although it’s occasionally juvenile and sometimes overtly sexist, each episode takes on a different aspect of our nightmarish future with a totally different visual aesthetic.

37. Lady Dynamite

Comedian Maria Bamford uses surreal humor to explore a recent nervous breakdown in this honest, creative, and self-reflexive series about living with bipolar disorder. Your average comedy aficionado might find Bamford’s aesthetic too off-beat, but there’s a lot of smart commentaries and earnest emotionality in this show.

36. Cuties

Cuties faced a bizarre media cycle after receiving backlash from American conservative critics who objected to the sexual content of the film, and then it faded into semi-obscurity. That being said, it’s easily one of the best films of 2020 — dealing with the complex emotional lives of teenage girls navigating a deeply misogynistic world.

35. Little Miss Sumo

A beautifully shot short documentary film about female Sumo wrestlers and their commitment to their sport. It’s only about 20 minutes long, but it’s impossible not to form an immediate attachment to the impossibly strong and impossibly adorable protagonist.

34. Shot in the Dark

Although the content is extremely disturbing, Shot in the Dark is a fascinating delve into the lives of stringers: videographers who capture footage of car crashes and violent crimes to sell to news stations at frighteningly high prices. The rogues gallery of people featured are patently deplorable, yet absurdly compelling. 

33. Disclosure

Laverne Cox is a heavily featured talking head in this exhaustive and insightful exploration of the history of transgender people in Western cinema. The movie traces specific tropes of anti-trans violence and how they developed within a culture that is largely intolerant of sexual difference — but it also shows how there’s hope for the future as more trans people take to the big screen.

32. The Platform

This ultra-violent, dystopian thriller serves as a poignant metaphor for the inhumanity of capitalism. A student voluntarily enters a near-future disciplinary complex, but it seems likely he won’t survive the impossible cruelty of this system. It’s a frightening allegory and a warning about the power of unchecked greed.

31. The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Emma Roberts and Kiernan Shipka play students at a private Catholic school becoming increasingly oppressed by Satanic forces. It’s a bit on the nose for the two starlets — both have played devil-worshipping witches in other franchises — but their acting here is surprisingly subtle and the plot structure is fascinatingly poetic.

30. Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado

The ebullient and colorful Walter Mercado was the most beloved astrologer in Latin America before disappearing from the public eye. This earnest documentary traces his career with deep love and respect, positioning the fortune-teller as a queer legend and a beacon of kindness.

29. Circus of Books

How, exactly, did a married heterosexual couple come to own one of the most infamous gay porn shops in the entire United States? Circus of Books tells the story of unlikely homosexual icons, Barry and Karen Mason, at the final moments of the eponymous adult shop’s closing. The story shows the conflicted morality of the Masons and is directed by the duo’s daughter as she explores the psychology of her parents who stunningly rejected their own gay child before seeing the error of their ways.

28. Blown Away

It would be easy to dismiss glass sculpture as a kind of decorative kitsch but Blown Away, a competition reality show about glass blowing, showcases the artistry, talent, and intellectual thought put into this misunderstood art form. 

27. Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts

Trixie Mattel is the second most popular drag queen in the world — right behind Mother RuPaul — who forged her own path as a country singer after snatching Drag Race’s giant bejeweled crown. This documentary follows her post-show career and investigates fans’ deep attachments to their unlikely hero. It’s a shockingly humanizing film that explains the power of gender performance as a kind of emotional healing.

26. What Did Jack Do?

David Lynch interviews a very creepy monkey in this 17 minute, black and white, non-narrative short. It’s exactly what you’d expect from the beloved auteur, whose noir-influenced surreal works have spawned a cult following amongst arthouse cinephiles. Don’t expect a coherent story, just spooky vibes.

25. The Perfectionist

A twist-filled horror-thriller, The Perfectionist is a very strange revenge story filled with deeply unexpected moments and extremely bizarre celebrations of bloodshed. It somehow feels like eight movies are packed tightly into this 90-minute nightmare, and the ending is sure to leave you both nauseated and satisfied. 

24. Velvet Buzzsaw

What begins as an extremely caustic critique of the high art world devolves into an unsettling supernatural thriller. Starring an inexplicably buff Jake Gyllenhaal as a bisexual art dealer haunted by murderous painting, Velvet Buzzsaw combines smart satire with campy thrills.

23. Behind The Curve

Oddly endearing and only somewhat condescending, Behind The Curve follows the friendships forged between Flat Earthers — yes, people who believe (despite the entire history of science) that the earth is flat. It’s an interesting thesis on the dangers of misinformation and demonstrates how communities are formed through shared delusions.

22. Food Wars!

Shonen anime (Japanese cartoons meant for teenage boys about plucky fighters learning new skills to defeat outsized foes) can be somewhat predictable — Food Wars! switches up the formula by using cooking battles instead of samurai sword fights as its main set piece. Many scenes are absurdly sexual (sometimes misogynistically so) but the culinary combat is both exciting and mouth-watering. 

21. Catwalk: Tails from the Cat Show Circuit

A few clips from this eccentric documentary went viral — who could resist a very mannered old man brought to tears by the beauty of an absurd looking cat! — and the film itself is actually quite sweet and sincere. The heartwarming bonds made at cat shows are matched only by the cut-throat competitiveness of the feline-obsessed protagonists. 

20. Cam

A young sex worker’s life begins to unravel when she spots her doppelganger gaining popularity on cam shows. Is she losing or mind, or is someone trying to destroy her life? Both erotic and extremely frightening, Cam is intelligent feminist horror for the 21st century. 

19. Lupin The 3rd: The Castle of Cagliostro

Legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki made his directorial debut with this jaw-droppingly gorgeous adventure anime from 1979. Beyond charming characters chase each other through lush fantasy steampunk scenery in hand-animated action sequences. Castle of Cagliostro is quite possibly one of the greatest animated movies ever made.

18. Ares

When a struggling student accidentally finds herself accepted into a secret society, she begins unfurling a series of mysteries about the cult’s practices and her own lineage. This Dutch horror series is masterfully suspenseful and beautifully shot. You don’t need to pick up on the social criticism pertaining to the villainies of colonialism to be enthralled by the show’s dark story.

17. Tokyo Idols

Japan is known for its abundance of micro-subcultures that exist nowhere else. This includes the vibrant — and somewhat problematic — world of teenage idols: young female pop stars with rabid male fanbases. Tokyo Idols is a documentary that looks into the obsession with these cute singers and treats the fans who adore them with both curiosity and humanity.

16. Big Flower Fight

It’s hard to imagine that the frivolous world of flower arranging could be even remotely exciting, but The Big Flower Fight uses the formula of The Great British Baking Show to display the immense skills and aesthetic power of landscaping and floristry. The diverse cast are imminently lovable and you’ll absolutely have a favorite by the finale — even if you don’t care about plants at all.

15. Gerald’s Game

One of Stephen King’s lesser-known works was transformed into a deeply eerie horror movie by director Mike Flanagan in 2017. In it, a married couple’s experiments in BDSM are interrupted when the husband suddenly dies, leaving the wife handcuffed to her bed. As she struggles to escape, she is visited in the night by wolves and giants: Is she going insane or is she being stalked?

14. The Great British Baking Show: Holidays

The Great British Baking Show became a viral sensation in the USA: the kind and gentle approach to reality competition was so starkly different from the bitchy, drama-filled spectacles we have on this side of the pond. Beloved contestants return for one-off Holiday-themed episodes in this spinoff showcase. Even viewers who vehemently oppose Christmas cheer can’t help but be charmed.

13. Casting JonBenet

The true crime genre is often mind-numbingly violent and thoughtlessly sensationalist, but Casting JonBenet provides a sensitive and intelligent, postmodern twist on the standard formula. This documentary about the actors who play victims and murderers in true crime reenactments hits on the human element of crime stories in ways few other movies really can manage.

12. Pee Wee’s Big Holiday

We all remember the cultural shunning of Paul Reubens following a series of overblown non-scandals, but Pee-Wee gets the last laugh with this triumphant return. The wacky world of perpetual childhood remains heartwarmingly innocent even decades after the eponymous hero’s Big Adventure.

11. Gothika

Widely considered one of the worst horror movies ever made, Gothika is pure camp: a so-bad-it’s-actually-good classic that succeeds because it’s a total failure. Halle Berry does her best at playing a psychiatrist who one day wakes up to the realization that perhaps she was beyond sanity all along. Absurd dialogue and nonsense plot twists abound.

10. Snowpiercer

Bong Joon-ho’s masterpiece Parasite rightfully snatched Oscars in 2019, inviting a rewatch of some of the auteur’s earlier works. Snowpiercer definitely holds up as social commentary despite the film’s absurd premise: as the world freezes over following an attempt to regulate the planet’s temperature, the only survivors are trapped on a train in which occupants are separated by economic class — that is, until an ill-fated uprising.

9. Enter The Dragon

Considered by many to be the greatest martial arts film ever made, Enter The Dragon was Bruce Lee’s final film before his untimely death. Both extremely exciting and intellectually sophisticated, it’s fine to watch this movie for the action or for its implicit critique of post-World War II colonialism.

8. Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is best comparable to Howl’s Moving Castle, and although it’s probably not quite as culturally important as Miyazaki’s high fantasy, it’s a welcome escape into a brightly colored steampunk kingdom. 

7. I Am Divine

The drag queen Divine was punk before punk was invented: as the Filthiest Person Alive she attracted an international cult following through her raunchy performance art and iconic anti-fashion. This documentary showcases the life of Harris Glenn Milstead and the ragtag group of rebels that helped him become, well, Divine. 

6. The Babysitter

In this wild horror-comedy, a sexy babysitter is revealed as the leader of a Satan-worshipping crew of ghouls. The only hope for their defeat is a pre-teen boy who must outsmart the demonic gang — but can he overcome his crush on his governess to thwart the devil? Director McG’s penchant for eye-popping visuals and Tarantino-esque hyper-stylization help uplift the movie’s extremely silly story.

5. Ainori: Love Wagon

Japanese reality dating shows are far quirkier than the endless slog of Western romantic travesties like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. In Love Wagon, singles have their phones taken away during weeks of international travel. The socially awkward men and women navigate competing crushes while visiting tourist attractions, complete with over-the-top narration and absurd commentary.

4. Carol

Slow-paced lesbian dramas aren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea, but if that is what you’re seeking, Carol is probably the pinnacle of that sub-genre. Starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara dealing with sapphic sexual awakenings, the movie considers the emotional destruction a culture of homophobia left in its wake. 

3. Good Burger

At this point there’s probably nothing more tired and expected than 90’s nostalgia — and quite frankly a lot of the things we loved as kids don’t hold up. Good Burger is an exception: Keenan Thompson and Kell Mitchell are iconic in their roles as good-natured fry cooks caught up in various fast food hijinks.

2. Dorohedoro

Anime purists might balk at the 3D CG animation of this science fantasy series but the fight scenes and endearing characters make a few questionable stylistic decisions forgivable. It’d be impossible to explain the show’s absurd and whimsical story in this summary. Suffice it to say, the main plot point is a magical battle between high-class sorcerers and the slums.

1. The Bling Ring

Sofia Coppola returns to her favorite themes and motifs (opulence, decadence, depression) in this slept-on excoriation of the morality of reality TV. Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga play a pair of sisters whose endless quest for glamor turns them into petty criminals who bungle their way into robbing the home of Paris Hilton. Based on the real-life crimes of Alexis Neiers and Tess Taylor, Coppola uses the thievery to show just how corrupting fame really can be.

Culture Movies/TV

10 Best Christmas Movies on Netflix You Can Watch This Holiday Season

‘Tis the season! It’s hard to believe, but Christmas is slowly creeping upon us. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to celebrate traditionally this year, but there are still little things we can do inside to make the holidays memorable.

Most of us have been relying heavily on Netflix for entertainment this year, so why not check out some of the best Christmas/holiday-themed movies the platform has to offer? While Netflix may not have all the tried and true classics that we all know and love, there are still plenty of quality films that provide great entertainment. Below is a list of ten holiday-themed movies you and your family can watch to get into the jolly spirit. So, get comfy and grab some peppermint hot chocolate!

1. ‘Klaus’

This 2019 film follows the story of a selfish reclusive postman so unlikeable that he is considered the worst postman at the academy. After being posted to a frozen town in the north, he meets a woodsman (who may or may not be Santa) and forms an unlikely friendship along the way. Klaus is a touching story and received an Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Animated Feature Film.’

Watch Now
2. ‘Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey’

With a star-studded cast featuring Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, and Phylicia Rashad, Jingle Jangle is a musical focusing on the journey of a wary toymaker who finds joy in his life when his curious granddaughter randomly shows up on his doorstep. A feel-good movie for the entire family, the film is a perfect blend of music and drama with a strong message of perseverance.

Watch Now
3. ‘This Christmas’

This 2007 film is a tale of a family gathering together for the first time in four years. Sometimes family reunions can bring out the drama, and the Whitfield family uses this opportunity to air out dirty laundry, family secrets, and qualms with one another. Even if you have already seen This Christmas, it never hurts to relive a classic.

Watch Now
4. ‘The Christmas Chronicles’

Instead of making a wish list like normal children, siblings Kate and Teddy Pierce decide they are going to take things a step further by kidnapping Santa on Christmas Eve. What ensues next is an absolute disaster as they somehow manage to crash Santa’s sleigh in the process of trying to capture him. Kate and Teddy are left with no other choice but to join forces with ‘Mr. Clause’ in an effort to save the holiday before it’s too late. A true adventure, The Christmas Chronicles is a film that fully captures the magic of Christmas. 

Watch Now
5. ‘A Bad Mom’s Christmas’

This one right here is for all the stressed out moms that could use a rebellious getaway. In this film, under-appreciated moms Amy, Kiki, and Carla fight back against the pressure that we all unintentionally put on mothers during Christmas time. As if the holiday stress wasn’t bad enough, the ladies also have to deal with the headache of their own mothers—which we all know can sometimes be stressful. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, be sure to get a Zoom party together for a virtual girls’ night.

Watch Now
6. ‘The Knight Before Christmas’

If you are a hopeless romantic, The Knight Before Christmas is a sappy romantic comedy that you can enjoy this holiday season. In the film, a medieval knight gets transported into the present time, where he meets a beautiful high school teacher disgruntled with relationships after struggling to find true love. The film stars Vanessa Hudgens and provides a different take than what we usually see with a traditional rom-com.

Watch Now
7. ‘Get Santa’

Could you imagine Santa Claus getting arrested? Well in this film, Santa is in the slammer after being hit with a trespassing violation while crashing his sleigh. With Santa stuck there at the worst possible time, it’s now up to a father-son duo to get him out of jail so that Christmas isn’t ruined for everybody.

Watch Now
8. ‘Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square’

Anything with Dolly Parton is sure to be wildly entertaining. Christmas on the Square follows the story of Christine Baranski (portrayed by Parton), a rich woman who has inherited her hometown with new plans to evict everyone right before Christmas. The bratty millionaire then experiences a change of heart as she gets to know everybody in this magical little town. With a cool storyline and original music, Dolly Parton is sure to bring you some additional holiday joy.

Watch Now
9. ‘Angela’s Christmas’

After a Christmas Eve church outing with her family, little Angela just wants to make sure everyone has the best Christmas ever. A heart-tugging film complete with beautifully designed animations and excellent singing, Angela’s Christmas is a gentle reminder that sometimes it’s the simple things in life that matter the most.

Watch Now
10. ‘Holiday Rush’

After being fired from his Radio DJ gig, a widowed father of four is faced with the task of making Christmas a special occasion for his spoiled children, who had previously been living a luxurious lifestyle. Things change pretty quickly, and Holiday Rush shows us that family and love are the most important gifts of all. 

Watch Now

While there are a lot of other great holiday-themed films to watch on Netflix, these are just a few to help get you started. Whether you choose these movies, or something else, we hope the holidays are a merry one for you and your family.

Culture Movies/TV

Meet the People Who Created Spider-Man

When you think about superheroes, a certain few stand above all the rest in terms of popularity and impact on pop culture; one of those heroes is undoubtedly the wall-crawler himself, Spider-Man. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1962, Spider-Man came about when Lee was trying to think of new ideas for superheroes following the success of another Marvel Comics franchise, the Fantastic Four. 

Ditko dedicated his life to illustrating and creating comics and did so right up until his death in 2018 at the age of 90. After a long and storied career in not just the comics industry but film and TV, Stan Lee passed away in 2018 at the age of 95. 

Though they have since passed away, Ditko and Lee’s legacy will continue to live on through Spider-Man as well as the dozens of other comic book characters they have helped create.

Spider-Man and Marvel
The Daily Beast/Marvel
Steve Ditko at work

The two men behind Spider-Man, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko began writing and illustrating for Atlas Comics (the precursor to Marvel Comics) in the 1950s, with Lee mainly writing for genres like Westerns and Science Fiction. Ditko would work closely with Lee throughout the decade, and despite achieving some success, it had become clear that Lee was not satisfied with the creative direction he was heading in. 

By the early 1960s, thanks to the efforts of companies like DC Comics, Marvel’s future rival, the superhero genre was becoming popular again after a fall off during the 1950s. Lee and fellow artist Jack Kirby teamed up to create the Fantastic Four, who became known as ‘Marvel’s First Family,’ comprised of Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch, and The Thing.

The Fantastic Four was a huge success, and from there, Lee began thinking about what his next character should be. There had been a recent surge in comic book sales by teenagers and young adults, so Lee had the idea of creating a superhero that not only resonated with that audience but was also a part of it as well. 

Thus the idea of Spider-Man was born.

Getty Images
Stan Lee

Taking influence from a pulp-fiction hero of the 1930s and 40s named The Spider, Lee began toying around with the idea of a superhero that had the powers of a spider. Peter Parker, an average teenager from Queens, New York, was bitten by a radioactive spider, imbuing him with all the powers of a wall-crawling arachnid such as super strength, a spider-sense, superhuman reflexes, and speed. He also created a special web fluid that he could shoot from his wrists to stick to surfaces.

While coming up with the ideas for potential stories, Lee had originally approached his previous collaborator Kirby for help on the project. Still, the two didn’t see eye to eye on things, with Lee once quoted as saying, “I hated the way he was doing it! Not that he did it badly—it just wasn’t the character I wanted; it was too heroic,” he said in The Steve Ditko Reader.

Lee turned to Ditko, and he would serve as the primary artist on Spider-Man, while Lee was the main editor and writer of the character.

Spider-Man was and continues to be a massive success for Marvel, with readers almost immediately falling in love with the character, with a lot of the success being owed to Lee’s idea of making the hero a teenager. Peter Parker not only fought off his Rogues Gallery of supervillains like the Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus, but he also dealt with problems that the reader did: He struggled to pay the bills, he grieved over the death of loved ones, and dealt with the fact that “with great power, comes great responsibility.” 

Who Owns The Rights to Spider-Man Now?
Sony Pictures

In 2018, we touched a little bit on this exact topic, at least when it comes to Spider-Man’s film rights. As of right now, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios both have a piece of the Spidey pie, with Sony getting all revenue from Spider-Man solo projects, while Marvel maintains creative control over the character, ensuring he (and she, if potential Spider-Woman rumors are to be believed) fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s overall narrative.

Despite some bumps in the road (Disney/Marvel actually lost the rights to Spider-Man in 2019 briefly, after a dispute with Sony), the deal has worked out great for both sides.

Marvel Comics still owns the rights to any Spider-Man comics and all publishing rights to the artwork, audiobooks, etc. Given that this is one of Marvel’s best and highest-selling properties, that is not likely to change any time soon. 

Until a few years ago, Activision held the exclusive rights to Spider-Man video games, but this became murkier when a few years ago, Insomniac Games announced a new Spider-Man video game. Given that Sony owns Insomniac, the game was an exclusive release for the Playstation 4. However, neither Sony nor Insomniac owns the character’s rights in video game form, which belongs to Marvel. So, in theory, Spider-Man can appear on all video game platforms, but as of now, he’s stuck with Sony.

How Much Is the Spider-Man Brand Worth?

According to a variety of sources, including The Licensing Letter, Box Office Mojo, and Comichron, when adding up the revenue earned from all the iterations of Spider-Man such as film, comic sales, video games, TV shows, etc., it has been estimated that the brand is worth around $30 billion. Yes, that’s billion with ‘B.’ 

The Spider-Man films alone have earned over $7 Billion at the box office, a truly astounding feat that is only surpassed by merchandise sales, which total over $15 Billion. 

In fact, Spider-Man is the most profitable superhero, besting The Dark Knight himself, Batman, by a billion dollars (estimated.)

Spider-Man is (thankfully) not going anywhere. The third movie in Tom Holland’s Spider-Man film trilogy has been swirling with rumors about a possible live-action Spider-Verse movie that would bring back Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s versions of the characters. With villains from those movies, including Jamie Foxx’s Electro and Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus, confirmed as joining the cast, the possibilities are truly endless. 

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to play a little more Spider-Man: Miles Morales.