Are you looking for a Saturday night movie? A show that will consume your entire weekend? Regardless of what streaming service you subscribe to, we’re here to help. We’ve gone through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus to find the best movies and TV shows on each service.
Mati Diop’s Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix winner is set in Senegal, where a young woman named Ava (Mama Sané) loses the boy she loves to the sea, just days before her arranged marriage to another man. What begins as a story of love lost moves, with the ease and imagination of a particularly satisfying dream, into something far stranger, as Diop savvily works elements of genre cinema into the fabric of a story that wouldn’t seem to accommodate them. A.O. Scott called it “a suspenseful, sensual, exciting movie, and therefore a deeply haunting one as well.”
Want a more immersive experience? Here is one of the best TV shows on Netflix.
Aunjanue Ellis and Ethan Herisse in “When They See Us.”Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix
‘When They See Us’
As a producer and director, Ava DuVernay has tackled the Civil Rights Movement, in her Oscar-nominated film “Selma,” and racial bias in the American criminal justice system, in her Emmy-winning documentary “13TH.” Now, in her four-part mini-series “When They See Us,” she dramatizes the story of the Central Park Five, who were convicted of raping and almost killing a jogger in New York City in 1989, then exonerated in 2002. Salamishah Tillet wrote in The Times that the Five “emerge as the heroes of their own story — and if we pay heed to the series’s urgent message about criminal justice reform, ours too.”
Have a Hulu subscription? It’s a lot to wade through. We can help!
Aretha Franklin in “Amazing Grace.”Amazing Grace Film LLC
Over two nights in January of 1971, Aretha Franklin, a gospel choir and a live audience gathered at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts to record “Amazing Grace,” her soul-stirring, best-selling, widely acclaimed gospel album. A film crew was there as well, led by director Sidney Pollack, but because of a combination of technical snafus and objections by the Queen of Soul, that footage remained unseen for nearly 50 years – until the 2018 release of this stunning documentary. That delay, if anything, lends it fresh power and electricity; it plays like a vibrant time capsule of a unique moment in African-American music and American culture. Wesley Morris called it, simply, “one of the great music films.”
Amazon Prime doesn’t make it easy to find stuff. Luckily, we have done the work for you.
James Baldwin (center), as seen in “I Am Not Your Negro.”Dan Budnik/Magnolia Pictures
I Am Not Your Negro’
This stunning documentary concerns the life and writings of James Baldwin, but it’s less focused on tracing the arc of its subject’s life than on the potency of his words. Director Raoul Peck uses as his framework the notes of Baldwin’s unfinished book “Remember This House,” in which Baldwin was attempting to reckon with the legacies of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers; guided by Baldwin’s passages, Peck constructs an urgent and audacious essay about our past and our present. Our critic called it “a concise, roughly 90-minute movie with the scope and impact of a 10-hour mini-series.”
Disney Plus is full of the obvious classics. But there are also great, newer classics, like this one.
Tiana and Prince Naveen in a scene from “The Princess and the Frog.”Disney
‘The Princess and the Frog’
“The Princess and the Frog” represented two milestones at once: a brief return to the gorgeous hand-drawn style of classic Disney and the studio’s first animated feature with an African-American princess. With catchy original songs and a teeming gumbo of New Orleans cuisine, music and mythology, the film ties the aspirational story of a waitress who dreams of starting her own restaurant to the fairy tale of a frog in need of a smooch. Manohla Dargis called the film “gorgeously animated,” even if it “strenuously avoids” issues of race.