Watching: The Best Things to Watch

On Netflix, Amazon and Disney+

By The Watching Team

The weekend is here. Maybe you’ll spend some time outside, maybe you’ll hole up and watch a movie or TV series. Regardless of what streaming service you subscribe to, we’re here to help. We’ve gone through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ to find the best titles on each service.

Here’s one of the 50 best movies on Netflix

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in the Jeff Nichols film “Loving.”Ben Rothstein/Focus Features

‘Loving’

Mildred and Richard Loving never saw themselves as heroes: As far as the Virginia couple were concerned, they were merely two regular people who wanted to spend their lives together. So the writer-director Jeff Nichols (“Mud”) makes “Loving” a personal tale, trusting that the politics will be apparent. The Australian actor Joel Edgerton and the Ethiopian-Irish actress Ruth Negga are wholly convincing as these rural Southerners, creating a relationship so unstaged and lived-in that the emotional stakes are as important as the historical ramifications. Manohla Dargis raved, “There are few movies that speak to the American moment as movingly — and with as much idealism.”

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Here is one of the best TV shows on Netflix

Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan in “Outlander.”Starz

‘Outlander’

“Game of Thrones” gets more attention, but “Outlander” has been just as successful at adapting a sprawling book series — and at mixing political intrigue with high fantasy. Based on Diana Gabaldon’s novels about a time traveling 20th century English doctor (Caitriona Balfe) and her romance with an 18th century Scottish rebel (Sam Heughan), the show offers big battles, wilderness adventure and frank sexuality. It has a rare historical scope as well, covering the changing times in Europe and the Americas across centuries. Our critic wrote that it should appeal to viewers who “have a weakness for muskets, accents and the occasional roll in the heather.”

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

Michael Fassbender, left, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in a scene from “12 Years a  Slave.”Francois Duhamel/Fox Searchlight Pictures

‘12 Years a Slave’

This Academy Award winner for best picture (as well as best supporting actress and best adapted screenplay) is a tough, often harrowing viewing experience, yet a richly rewarding one. Chiwetel Ejiofor (a nominee for best actor) stars as Solomon Northrup, a free Black man in the pre-Civil War North who is abducted and sold into slavery — and vows to regain his freedom, no matter what the cost. Steve McQueen’s direction is honest but merciless, dramatizing the horrors of the antebellum South in detail. But the film, like its hero, never succumbs to despair. Manohla Dargis called it “a story that seizes you almost immediately with a visceral force.”

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

Leonardo DiCaprio in “Inception.”Melissa Moseley/Warner Bros. Pictures

‘Inception’

Between his second and third Batman outings, the director and co-writer Christopher Nolan crafted one of his twistiest and most satisfying entertainments, a mystery/thriller that delves into nothing less ambitious than the human dreamscape. Leonardo DiCaprio is in fine, tortured form as a high-tech dream manipulator on a high-stakes caper inside the head of a slumbering CEO; Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard are among the stacked supporting cast. Our critic praised “Mr. Nolan’s virtuosity as a conjurer of brilliant scenes and stunning set pieces.”

Disney+ is full of older classics. But there are a lot of newer things to watch as well.

Howard Ashman, in a striped shirt, with his collaborator, Alan Menken, at left. Disney

‘Howard’

Alongside his creative partner, the composer Alan Menken, the lyricist Howard Ashman helped usher Disney’s floundering animation department into a creative renaissance, writing songs for “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.” The touching documentary “Howard” showcases his knack for integrating storytelling with song craft and the path that led him from Off Broadway musicals like “Little Shop of Horrors” to the Mouse House. It also reveals the private battle with H.I.V.-AIDS that led to his death in 1991. Jeannette Catsoulis called the film’s tone “the opposite of mournful.”

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