Watching: The Best Movies and Shows

On Netflix, Amazon and Disney+

By The Watching Team

It’s a new year and the weekend is here. Perhaps you’re looking to watch a movie or binge a show. 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

From left, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning and Annette Bening in “20th Century Women.”Gunther Gampine/A24

‘20th Century Women’

A young man’s coming of age becomes a group project when his single mother (Annette Bening) reaches out to their housemates and friends for help, resulting in a slightly more complicated education than she envisioned. This touching and personal dramedy from the writer-director Mike Mills (“Beginners”) deftly conveys the period without relying on caricature, and resists resorting to cheap villainy or soapboxing. Every character is brought to life with humor and sensitivity, and Bening’s work is among her very best. Manohla Dargis deemed it “a funny, emotionally piercing story.”

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Here is one of the best TV shows on Netflix

Aang, Katara and Sokka attempt to defeat the megalomaniacal fire lord.Nickelodeon

‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’

One of the more satisfying fantasy adventure sagas of the 21st century is this TV cartoon, which originally aired on the kids’ channel Nickelodeon for three seasons. The 61 episodes of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” tell the story of four rival nations — each devoted to one of the elements — and of the reluctant young peacemaker who travels through various magical regions, training to master his powers while also trying to keep his world from descending into chaos and oppression. Our critic called the show “a loving pastiche of allusions and inspirations: anime, Kung Fu flicks, world mythologies, Native tribes, Studio Ghibli films.”

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

From left, Joel McHale, Yvette Nicole Brown, Donald Glover and Danny Pudi in “Community.”Justin Lubin/NBC

‘Community’

Loners at a subpar community college join in a study group to muddle through their joke of a Spanish class and end up forging unexpected bonds from their shared misery. It sounds like the set-up for a crushingly typical TV sitcom, but “Community” is anything but; over its six tempestuous seasons, the creator, Dan Harmon, and his inventive writers, turned the classroom laugher into a “bracingly funny” and slyly surreal blend of sketch comedy, science fiction and metatelevision — while simultaneously creating the kind of complicated but sympathetic characters and delicate relationships it seemed too cool to indulge.

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

From left, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Morris Chestnut in “Boyz N the Hood.”Columbia Pictures

‘Boyz N the Hood’

John Singleton’s debut film burned with the kind of energy and intensity that only a first-timer can produce — the feeling that they may not get another shot, so they’re making this one count. Singleton’s heartfelt story of growing up in the Crenshaw section of Los Angeles netted him two Academy Award nominations, one for best director — he was the youngest person and the first African-American nominated in that category — and the other for best original screenplay. The movie launched not only his career but those of several members of the cast, including Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Angela Bassett, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long and Regina King. Our critic praised Singleton for “saying something familiar with new dramatic force, and in ways that a wide and varied audience will understand.”

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

Jamie Foxx voices the character Joe Gardner, right, in “Soul.”Disney/Pixar

‘Soul’

Death isn’t usually negotiable, but when Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a middle-school music teacher, falls down a manhole shortly after booking his first big gig as a jazz pianist, he is willing to defy the laws of heaven to realize his dream. Although this touching and whimsical Pixar movie gets into the bureaucratic intricacies of the afterlife, “Soul” is most affecting as a tribute to the small, myriad pleasures of New York City. A.O. Scott called it “a new chapter in Pixar’s expansion of realism.”

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