10 Perfect Films to Watch While Stuck at Home

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As the days spent in social isolation drag on, the utility of all the subscription-based streaming services available online and through your TV only grows—and so does the difficulty of deciding how to use them. If you, like me, are having trouble figuring out what to watch during these overwhelming times, I’m here to help. There are troves of great films available on every app, even if some of them are buried by algorithms that hide them from the front page. Here are some choice options to match a variety of sheltering-in-place moods, available on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, or the Criterion Channel.


A24 / Everett Collection

If you’re feeling trapped at home: A Ghost Story

The protagonist of David Lowery’s meditative tale of love and loss is an unnamed man (played by Casey Affleck) who is killed in a car accident and begins to haunt his own house, wearing a white sheet and solemnly watching his wife (Rooney Mara) until she moves out. Since he’s tied to the building, the movie becomes a strange fairy tale about watching as things change, powerless to stop them. That may sound harrowing, but the film revels in the beauty of the passage of time as well as the tragedy, and has a great (if inadvertent) depiction of social distancing. (Netflix)

IFC Films

If you’re feeling nostalgic for human connection in the city: Frances Ha

Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s effervescent collaboration (he directed; she stars; they wrote together) might be the best movie in both of their storied careers. Following a 27-year-old dancer (Gerwig) trying to scrape out a life in New York, it perfectly captures the intense need for close friendship that people have in their post-college lives, and the pain and joy that comes with that. It’s also a terrific snapshot of New York in the early 2010s that will provide a bit of comfort for anyone missing the city’s busy streets. (Criterion Channel, Netflix)

Columbia Pictures / everett Collection

If you feel like you’re living the same day over and over: Groundhog Day

An obvious choice, perhaps, but no wonder—Harold Ramis’s film is one of the most reliable and delightful pieces of entertainment in Hollywood history. The plot’s template has been much-copied over the years: Bill Murray’s misanthropic newsman travels to a quaint town and gets stuck endlessly reliving the second of February, unable to break out of the loop. It’s not only a wonderful romantic comedy, but also a slyly spiritual tale, a parable of self-improvement that never feels preachy and that reveals more depth on every viewing. (Netflix)

Warner Bros. / Everett Collection

If you’re fantasizing about going on the road: Lost in America

Albert Brooks’s 1985 satire of an upper-middle-class couple buying an RV and trying to shed their bourgeois trappings is just as biting as it was upon release. Most of all, it’s an object lesson in looking before you leap—sure, the open highways and the great unknown might seem tempting, but even with a fully loaded Winnebago, problems will spring up sooner than you think. (HBO Now, Hulu)

Universal Studios / Getty

If you want to luxuriate in movie-star charm: Out of Sight

Steven Soderbergh’s sizzling neo-noir has long been one of my go-to films for summoning a good mood. Though it’s an expertly made work with a sharply funny screenplay, its real magic comes from its fantastic central couple, played by George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. Both are early in their careers, but they already sparkle with superstar appeal, particularly in what might be the best love scene ever filmed. (HBO Now, Hulu)

Everett collection

If you’re looking to indulge your paranoia: Pi

Darren Aronofsky’s debut thriller was made in 1998 for $60,000, featured a cast of total unknowns, and focused on mental illness, mysticism, and math. Even so, it became a cult hit because of Aronofsky’s deft but surreal storytelling. It’s a great portrayal of cabin fever, starring Sean Gullette as a shut-in who is either going slowly insane or has found a mathematical way to predict the future and communicate with God. Or both. (Hulu)

Magnolia Pictures / Everett Collection

If you’re looking for something meditative and satisfying: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

David Gelb’s 2011 documentary about the Japanese master chef Jiro Ono perfects many of the visual tropes that cooking documentaries rely on—montages of food being delicately assembled to orchestral music, and lush close-ups of individual meals. That this imagery is now ubiquitous doesn’t make it any less watchable, and the serenity of Jiro’s approach to sushi versus the bluntness of his relationship with his children remains totally transfixing to watch. As a bonus, Netflix is also currently streaming Documentary Now!’s perfect send-up of Jiro, an episode titled “Juan Likes Rice and Chicken.” (Hulu, Netflix)

Everett Collection

If you’re looking to broaden your horizons: Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project

Though Scorsese is a master of cinema in his own right, one of his most significant contributions to the medium is his film foundation, which restores and preserves some of the world’s best movies in order to bring them to a wider audience. Criterion currently has 17 of these from countries such as Senegal, Thailand, Turkey, Brazil, and Cuba, all gathered in one neat package. The service also has many other collections worth browsing, including retrospectives of the acting careers of such legends as Burt Lancaster, Wendy Hiller, and Max von Sydow, with more cycling in all the time. (Criterion Channel)

Paramount / Everett Collection

If you want to settle in for a long watch of one of the best movies of the century: Zodiac

David Fincher’s greatest film is two hours and 37 minutes long and better than any true-crime documentary. Its narrative of the Zodiac Killer’s crimes becomes a reckoning with America’s never-ending obsession with murder, and with the even more intoxicating fallacy that every problem—no matter how frightening or obscure—can be solved. Zodiac is always worth watching, but right now, it offers a cautionary tale of a government and its private citizens haphazardly coming together in a time of crisis. (Netflix)

Universal / Everett Collection

If you just want to laugh: Midnight Run

Martin Brest’s 1988 buddy comedy, starring Robert De Niro as an irascible bounty hunter and Charles Grodin as his curmudgeonly quarry, is, in my opinion, the most watchable film ever made. I defy you to turn on Midnight Run for even 30 seconds without getting instantly sucked in. Every scene is funny, the humor is never overplayed, and the lead actors unlock performances from one another that you might have thought impossible. If self-quarantining is getting you down, I recommend 126 minutes of Midnight Run, stat. (Hulu)