Watching: The Best Things to Stream

On Netflix and other services

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

Eddie Murphy with his entourage in “Dolemite Is My Name.”François Duhamel/Netflix

‘Dolemite Is My Name’

This freewheeling biopic from the director Craig Brewer (“Hustle & Flow”) stars Eddie Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore, a middle-aged would-be entertainer who crafted a memorable stage persona of a rhyme-spouting hustler named “Dolemite,” which made him the unlikely center of a nightclub act and feature-film career. Moore was one of the dirtiest stand-ups on the circuit, but beyond the four-letter words is a genuine sweetness: Moore is supported by a loose family of friends, collaborators and fellow outsiders, and the film’s “follow your dreams” message is genuinely uplifting. A.O. Scott praised the picture’s “loose, friendly, house-party vibe.”


Here is one of the best TV shows on Netflix

In “The Queen’s Gambit” on Netflix, Anya Taylor-Joy stars as a chess prodigy fueled by copious amounts of alcohol and downers.Phil Bray/Netflix

‘The Queen’s Gambit’

Based on a 1983 novel by Walter Tevis — an eclectic writer best-known for “The Hustler” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth” — the seven-part mini-series “The Queen’s Gambit” is about a chess prodigy who struggles with addiction and self-doubt while rising through the international ranks in the 1960s. Anya Taylor-Joy plays the young master, who has a tough childhood she finds hard to shake, even as she’s clobbering her competition. The creators, including Scott Frank, bring just enough ornate visual style to frame Taylor-Joy’s outstanding performance as a woman who gets lost whenever she looks beyond an 8×8 grid. Our critic wrote, “Frank wraps it all up in a package that’s smart, smooth and snappy throughout, like finely tailored goods.”


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

Paul Reubens in “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.”Warner Bros.

‘Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure’

Paul Reubens became a pop culture sensation thanks to this 1985 comic adventure, which was also the debut feature of the director Tim Burton. Together, they build a wild and weird world for the childlike Pee-wee Herman, played by Reubens, who must leave the bubble of his comfortable small-town life (and the Rube Goldberg contraptions of his charming home) when his beloved bicycle is stolen. His “big adventure” takes him to truck stops and biker bars, to museums and rodeos, from Texas to Hollywood, in a series of gloriously goofy and slyly witty set pieces.


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

Shu Qi in “The Assassin.”SpotFilms

‘The Assassin’

The Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien directs what A.O. Scott called “a stately action movie, graceful and slow-moving,” concerning a female assassin (Shu Qi) and her quest to kill corrupt government officials in Tang Dynasty-era China. What sounds like a conventional martial arts epic is elevated into something far wider in scope and far grander in ambition by Hou, who emphasizes poetry over fighting and mood over broken bones. His exquisite compositions and magnificent production design elevates “The Assassin” from action to art; it’s one of those movies in which nearly every image could be printed, put on a frame and mounted on your wall.

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

Pedro Pascal in “The Mandalorian.”Lucasfilm/Disney

‘The Mandalorian’

Although “The Mandalorian” takes place between the events of “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens,” this thrilling sci-fi-adventure series makes a virtue of simplicity, casting off the dense mythology that has burdened the “Star Wars” brand. Most of the blessedly short episodes are about a Clint Eastwood-like bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) and his precious charge — popularly known as Baby Yoda but officially known as the Child — who square off against various galactic beasts and cutthroats. Mike Hale called it “well paced and reasonably clever, with enough style and visual panache to keep your eyes engaged.”

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