Watching: Only the Best Things

On Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu

By The Watching Team

Happy Fourth of July! Are you looking for a movie or TV show to watch this holiday weekend? Regardless of what streaming service you subscribe to, we’re here to help. We’ve gone through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus to find the best movies and TV shows on each service.


Here’s one of the 50 best movies on Netflix

Grainger Hines in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”Netflix

‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’

The latest from Joel and Ethan Coen is an anthology film set in the Old West, a series of tales of varying length and style, some as brief and simple as jokes, others with the richness and depth of a great short story. Our critic wrote, “It swerves from goofy to ghastly so deftly and so often that you can’t always tell which is which,” and what seems at first like a filmed notebook of ideas and orphans instead becomes something of a workshop; it’s a place for the Coens to try things, experimenting with new styles and moods, while also delivering the kind of dark humor and deliciously ornate dialogue that we’ve come to expect.


Want a more immersive experience? Here is one of the best TV shows on Netflix.

From left, Lee Rodriguez, Ramona Young and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan in “Never Have I Ever.”Lara Solanki/Netflix © 2020

‘Never Have I Ever’

For “Never Have I Ever,” the creator of “The Mindy Project,” Mindy Kaling, draws on her own teenage experiences as a first-generation Indian-American who very much wanted to be part of the popular crowd. This clever and heartfelt sitcom is set in the modern day, but it should still be relatable to anyone who can remember the family pressures, personal traumas and unrealistic expectations that keep some kids from ever feeling “cool.” Our critic said this show “moves like a teen comedy and has a sort of ‘Mean Girls’ gloss on high school in terms of its anthropology of teendom and its school aesthetic.”


Have a Hulu subscription? It’s a lot to wade through. We can help!

Mya Taylor, left, and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in “Tangerine.”Magnolia Pictures


Shot on the fly in real locations with smartphones and a cast of mostly first-time actors, this “fast, raucously funny comedy about love and other misadventures” from the director Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”) is a vibrant and heartfelt story of life on the fringe. The plot concerns two transgender sex workers (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor) and their various fortunes and misfortunes over a 24-hour period in the sketchier stretches of Hollywood. Played differently, the material could have been sensationalistic, but it isn’t; Baker is, above all, a humanist, and he loves his characters no matter what kind of trouble they’re causing.

Amazon Prime Video doesn’t make it easy to find stuff. Luckily, we have done the work for you.

Sierra McCormick as a switchboard operator in 1950s New Mexico in “The Vast of Night.”Amazon Studios

‘The Vast of Night’

This debut film from the director Andrew Patterson wears its “Twilight Zone” influence right on its sleeve, opening (on a vintage television, no less) with the spooky intro to an anthology series called “Paradox Theater,” and presenting this story as “tonight’s episode.” The throwback framework is key; this is a film that bursts with affection for analog, with the look, feel and (above all) sound of black-and-white tube TVs, reel-to-reel tape recorders, telephone switchboards and the distant voices of a radio disc jockey and his mysterious callers. Patterson orchestrates it all with the grinning giddiness of a campfire storyteller – he’s having a great time freaking us out. Manohla Dargis called it “a small-scale movie that flexes plenty of filmmaking muscle.”

Disney Plus is full of the obvious classics. But there are also other worthwhile movies and TV shows.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, left, as Alexander Hamilton and Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr in the filmed version of the show.Disney


The original production of this audacious pop musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda was a near-impossible ticket on Broadway, but now it comes to streaming as a vital and stubbornly optimistic ode to the American experiment. Leading a cast of mostly Black and Latino actors, Miranda plays Alexander Hamilton as an immigrant made good, a “young, scrappy and hungry” embodiment of an emerging nation. “Hamilton” has been described as a hip-hop history, but the music is as varied as the history is idealized and thorny. A.O. Scott wrote that the film is “motivated, above all, by a faith in the self-correcting potential of the American experiment.

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