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.

Dear Watchers:

In fall 2016, The New York Times debuted Watching, a website and newsletter designed to help readers navigate the overwhelming streaming movie and TV landscape. The idea was to highlight only the best things worth watching on major services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

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Here we are four years later, and HBO Max, Disney+, Apple TV+, Peacock, CBS All Access and the like have come into the picture, fracturing our viewing habits even more. By necessity, service-driven coverage of streaming film and television has moved from the edge of what we do in the Arts section to its center.

Which is why we have decided to cease publication of the Watching site and move all recommendation-based coverage into our core report — to our Movie and TV sections, to our What to Watch page and to this very well-read newsletter, which will continue to bear the Watching name.

Thank you for being such loyal Watchers these many years. We look forward to being with you for many more.

Gilbert Cruz, Culture Editor

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Here’s one of the 50 best movies on Netflix

From left, Marwan Kenzari, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlize Theron, Luca Marinelli and KiKi Layne in “The Old Guard.”Aimee Spinks/Netflix

‘The Old Guard’

Gina Prince-Blythewood’s adaptation of Greg Rucka’s comic book series delivers the expected goods: The action beats are crisply executed, the mythology is clearly defined and the pieces are carefully placed for future installments. But that’s not what makes it special. Prince-Blythewood’s background is in character-driven drama (her credits include “Love and Basketball” and “Beyond the Lights”), and the film is driven by its relationships rather than its effects — and by a thoughtful attentiveness to the morality of its conflicts. A.O. Scott deemed it a “fresh take on the superhero genre,” and he’s right; though based on a comic book, it’s far from cartoonish.

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Here is one of the best TV shows on Netflix

Zooey Deschanel in “New Girl.”Fox

‘New Girl’

“New Girl” was initially promoted as a fish-out-of-water sitcom about a quirky young Los Angeles elementary school teacher named Jess (Zooey Deschanel) who is forced by circumstances to move into a cheap loft apartment with three bickering bros. But the show evolved into something sweeter and funnier as Jess became a more mature character, trying to coax her arrested adolescent roommates into adulthood. Our critic noted that after a shaky first season, the show became “one of the most reliable and reliably affecting sitcoms on television.” The seven-year run features a wealth of inspired comic moments and heartbreaking on-again-off-again relationships on a level with “Friends.”

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

Julia Garner in “The Assistant.”Bleecker Street Media

‘The Assistant’

Julia Garner is “magnificent” as the personal assistant to a TriBeCa-based film executive whose sexual harassment of hopeful young starlets is an open secret. The name “Weinstein” is never once uttered, and it doesn’t have to be; the writer and director, Kitty Green, uses what we already know to fill in the blanks. We don’t even see the monster in question — he’s just a presence and a voice, in snatches of overheard dialogue and muffled fits of rage, and Green’s beautifully controlled film captures, with brutal, pinpoint accuracy, how that presence infects a workplace, and what happens when someone decides not to play along.

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

Teyonah Parris in “Chi-Raq.”Parrish Lewis/Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions

‘Chi-Raq’

Spike Lee adapts and updates Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” to the streets of contemporary Chicago in this wildly funny, vividly theatrical mashup of gangland drama, musical comedy and surrealist fantasy. Teyonah Parris shines as the determined young woman who leads a sex strike to stop the city’s violence, while Samuel L. Jackson struts and rhymes as “Dolmedes,” the picture’s one-man Greek chorus. His Dolemite-style interludes push the premise to its bawdy extremes, but Lee isn’t just playing for laughs. He’s swinging for the fences, and the result, according to Manohla Dargis, “entertains, engages and, at times, enrages.”

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

Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) in “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”Twentieth Century Fox

‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’

Wes Anderson’s first foray into animation applies the visual precision, melancholy and wit of his live-action features to a Roald Dahl novel about a sophisticated fox (voiced by George Clooney) who nonetheless taps his primitive nature to raid the poultry farms of Boggis, Bunce and Bean. If he and his family were humans, they could exist comfortably in the world of Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums.” A.O. Scott called it “in some ways Anderson’s most fully realized and satisfying film.”

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