Watching: The Best Things to Watch

On Netflix and more

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 movies and TV shows on each service.

Here’s one of the 50 best movies on Netflix

Angela Davis, scholar and activist, in “13TH.”Netflix

‘13TH’

Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) directs this wide-ranging deep dive into mass incarceration, tracing the advent of America’s modern prison system — overcrowded and disproportionately populated by Black inmates — back to the 13th Amendment. It’s a giant topic to take on in 100 minutes, and DuVernay understandably has to do some skimming and slicing. But that necessity engenders its style: “13TH” tears through history with a palpable urgency that pairs nicely with its righteous fury. Our critic called it “powerful, infuriating and at times overwhelming.”

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Here is one of the best TV shows on Netflix

Meet the new crew: from left, Xochitl Gomez, Malia Baker, Sophie Grace, Momona Tamada and Shay Rudolph in “The Baby-Sitters Club.”Kailey Schwerman/Netflix

‘The Baby-Sitters Club’

Too often, when a new creative team revives an old favorite from pop culture’s past, it tries to update the material by making it more edgy. That’s not the case with the latest TV adaptation of Ann M. Martin’s “The Baby-Sitters Club” book series, which retains the easygoing charm and engaging plotting of the novels. The show’s creator, Rachel Shukert, doesn’t shy away from the unique modern pressures on teenage girls and the younger kids they look after; but the episodic stories here are bright and breezy, first and foremost. Our critic called the show “sweet but not cloying, smart but not cynical, full-hearted and funny enough to please both grown readers of the original books and the young target audience of the new series.”

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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

‘Tangerine’

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.

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

Michelle Williams, left, and Shirley Henderson in “Meek’s Cutoff.”Oscilloscope Laboratories

‘Meek’s Cutoff’

Frontier tales have filled our books and movie screens for centuries, but few are as bleak and unforgiving as this one. Three pairs of settlers find themselves lost on the Oregon Trail, led by a guide (Bruce Greenwood) who doesn’t seem to have the foggiest idea what he’s doing. This is a sparse film, both in plotting and approach; director Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy and Lucy,” “Old Joy”) lets her story play out in long, uninterrupted takes that may test the patience of some, but which force the viewer to ease into the rhythms of the period. A.O. Scott called it “bracingly original.”

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

Ivan, voiced by Sam Rockwell, with Bryan Cranston as Mack in “The One and Only Ivan.”Walt Disney Studios

‘The One and Only Ivan’

Based on the illustrated children’s novel by K.A. Applegate, “The One and Only Ivan” softens the darker realities of wild animals under confinement, but it’s a sweet and gentle-humored Disney fantasy. Sam Rockwell, Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito and Helen Mirren are among the big names voicing the impeccably animated creatures. And Bryan Cranston stars as the human owner and ringleader of Big Top Circus, a floundering strip-mall operation that picks up after it is discovered that its mighty, chest-thumping gorilla can paint. The critic Ben Kenigsberg wrote that it “brings a fair amount of heart to a generic story line.”

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