Because of the recent pandemic, the idea of watching or going out to the movies certainly has changed. While theatres have or will be opening back up to normal soon (depending on when you read this), there might still be a shortage of acclaimed or amazing movies, due to production schedules being affected. Furthermore, many people might not exactly be comfortable with going out yet.
Fortunately, there are plenty of amazing movies available on demand. There is a tradition of amazing films going back for more than 100 years now, and we know that there are plenty of amazing options that you haven’t seen yet. And you can change that just about any time you’d like. Between all the streaming platforms as well as cable options, there are many ways to enjoy just about any film on earth. Therefore, the problem isn’t how to watch but what to watch.
To help you answer that question, here are 20 of the best critically acclaimed movies that are available on-demand, in no particular order:
If you were to meet a sentient AI, would you trust it, how would you interact with it, and what would you do? These are the questions at the heart of Ex Machina, a 2014 film from director Alex Garland that received many awards and nominations for this intriguing story and one of the best science fiction films to come out of the last decade. The entire film manages to take a relatively smaller production and make a masterpiece out of it.
Driven by three amazing performances by Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander, the film explores the nature of humanity, what AI might look like, the potential dangers of our obsession with technology and technological growth poses, and the human ego. It’s something you simply have to see for yourself, and it will have you on the edge of your seat with tension the entire time.
Available on: Hulu, Sling TV, Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, Apple TV, and FuboTV
A relatively recent release from Christian Petzold, Undine is a relatively short (90 minute) German-French piece that concerns itself with a water spirit and romance, though it might not appear as though that is the case early on. Undine is a topic of old folklore, and while we wish not to spoil it, things can take a turn for the dramatic. And yet Undine and bridge-repairer Christoph feel made for each other, and the direction takes advantage of this and creates something like a dream.
In short, Undine is a beautiful film that deserves more attention and deserves your attention. It will be something you can brag about having watched and better yet you will feel richer for having watched it. There is an intimacy to the film that is hard to express and better seen for yourself.
Available on: Spectrum, Google Play, Apple TV, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube
In Lady Bird, a nurse and mother works as hard as she can to keep her relationship with her daughter, especially after her husband loses his job. Meanwhile, the titular Lady Bird is trying to find herself and dealing with being a senior at a Catholic high school in California, with all that entails.
Lady Bird is a drama that is more about the characters than the plot, and while some of these types of films flounder, Lady Bird soars on the amazing writing and performances of its cast, making you sympathetic to the characters while still being a step away, letting you take in the time and the conflicts involved. It is one of the most well-reviewed films of all time and has an average of 94 on Metacritic. It’s hard to find someone who didn’t like Lady Bird
To summarize, Lady Bird is about parenthood, gratitude, relationships in general, and the coming of age of a young woman. Different people will find different meanings and lessons from it, but we can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.
Available on: Cox, Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, and Apple TV
The Paper Tigers is one of the best types of comedy action movies, and that is because it takes itself just seriously enough for the premise. In the film, a bunch of middle-aged men who were friends as teenagers seek vengeance for their kung-fu master. The problem is that these men are just a little past their prime and need to compensate for that, poor knees and bad backs included. They need to get back into fighting shape. There’s also a fair bit of baggage to unravel, and the responsibilities of jobs and children to contend with. Not every revenge story can be so simple.
However, despite the premise, there is plenty of great action to be had in the film. The Paper Tigers also doesn’t overstay its welcome like many modern films, with a runtime of only 108 minutes. If you ever liked Kung-fu Hustle or the mixture of action and comedy of many Jackie Chan films, you owe it to yourself to check out The Paper Tigers.
Available on: Spectrum, Fandango, Fios/Verizon, Google Play, Amazon Prime Video, and DirecTV
According to many, the best science fiction movies ever made, and one that still brings terror to audiences to this day, Ridley Scott’s Alien might have inspired many sequels (including the incredible Aliens), but there is something special about the original that deserves your full attention and makes it a must-watch. The sets are iconic, the film’s silence is just as important as its dialogue, and the performances are terrific. Sigourney Weaver might still be best known for her portrayal of Ripley, which is saying a lot considering her career.
Not content with providing just tension, the film is filled with character and a whole host of ideas both in terms of writing and effects. The alien itself has an iconic design, and it remains a work of terrifying imagination. Whether it will be a first watch or a rewatch for you, we hope you give it some time.
Available on: Tubi, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV, and Vudu
Who has not at least seen references to Jaws, or heard the iconic theme by John Williams in one place or another? Another classic film that does with ease what lesser films of today do with tens of millions of dollars of CGI effects, Jaws is a film that everyone knows, but have you seen it? Do you know the context behind the references?
Originally released in 1975, Jaws is directed by Stephen Spielberg and is about a shark terrorizing the waters near Amity Island. Since the mayor does not want to close the beaches, it eventually comes down to a bounty on the shark, which leads to an adventure with the main characters hoping to take down the maneater. The movie is filled with exciting scenes and to this day thrills audiences who might not know what comes next.
Jaws is about man versus nature, and just how powerless we can be in the face of nature unless we work together and put forth our best effort. It’s frightening, funny at points, and a film every person should watch at least once in their life.
Available on: Cox, Tubi, fuboTV, Amazon Prime Video, Philo, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV, and Vudu
One of the Cohen Brothers’ greatest films (and there’s a fantastic selection of them), The Big Lebowski is a cult film in the truest sense, and well-loved to this day by audiences and critics alike. In it, Jeffrey Lebowski (aka "The Dude") is mistaken for another Jeffrey Lebowski, which leads to situations involving a kidnapped millionaire's wife, ransom money, and some German nihilists.
Yet that description doesn’t do the film justice. The Big Lebowski is more of a mood than anything else. It may feel like the film doesn’t have much of a plot to it, but that’s sort of the point. The movie, much like The Dude, is all about living life, going bowling, and trying not to worry about it too much. He’s a slacker, sure, but he is an iconic character that many people find inspiration in.
Jeff Bridges was perfect for the role, as were Steve Buscemi and John Goodman. Even the slowest of scenes tell us something. There’s something about this film that makes it timeless. This is great, as it is available on-demand now.
Available on: Spectrum, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube, and Cinemax
One of the best science fiction films to come out this century, Snowpiercer might sound like an absurd premise to the uninitiated. The premise is that the world has effectively ended, and the remnants of the human race are living on a large, perpetually moving train. By all accounts, living on the outside is impossible. This train is divided into compartments, with the rich in the nicer cars up front and the poor in cars in the back with armed guards and bad conditions. This in itself leads to conflict and the back passengers start revolting.
There are some strong allusions to class struggle and inequality throughout the entire film, and there are plenty of good ideas and portrayals to be had. It won numerous awards from both film and science fiction circles and deserves every one of them. It certainly is creative and brings a different touch to film, and this is a great one to watch if you’re looking for something a little different.
Available on: Spectrum, Pluto TV, Netflix, YouTube, Apple TV, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video
Funny, classic, and irreverent, The Life of Brian might be one of the most hilarious films ever made, and it has aged perfectly. From Monty Python, in The Life of Brian, a man named Brian was born next door and on the same day as Jesus, which leads to him being mistaken for the Messiah. This works as the setup for many hilarious jokes and situations, as only Monty Python can do. If you’ve ever seen their other work, you know what you’re in for, and likely are getting the film up right now.
The film was controversial for its time to do religious satire (its quainter now compared to what else you can find), and banned in quite a few places, leading to the famous “So funny, it was banned in Norway” tagline. And if it’s that funny, nothing should stop you from giving it a watch.
Available on: Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Google Play
One of the first films by Hayao Miyazaki and a film that is still a masterpiece of animation, The Castle of Cagliostro is a classic animated film from Japan about Lupin III trying to save a runaway princess from a corrupt count and his men. Lupin III is a master thief who works with his sharpshooter partner Daisuke Jigen and Goemon Ishikawa XIII, a swordsman who can cut through almost anything. They are pursued by Inspector Zenigata and the lovely but tricky Fujiko Mine always makes things more complicated for the bunch. All of the characters lead to fun interactions and it feels like you’ve known the cast for years.
Lupin III is something of an institution, being of the longest-running media franchises going on to this day in one form or another. And no matter which version of the film you watch (dubbed for subbed), the film comes to life and everyone gets their time to shine, including the animators and director.
The animation and creativity in practically every scene hold up to this day, and younger and older audiences alike will be thrilled during the action sequences and find a lot of fun in the plot.
Available on: YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and Netflix
One of the greatest legal dramas that have ever been written and nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, A Few Good Men is a film about the military trial or court Marshal of two marines for the murder of another at Guantanamo Bay. And while it seems like a simple enough plot, the characters, and circumstances surrounding the trial make it far more complex.
Aaron Sorkin wrote both the original play the film was based on and the film’s screenplay, so the dialogue is excellent and the writing is perfect for the story being told. The setting and themes are different from the normal court but universal in their concerns.
A Few Good Men was a major critical success when it came out. It continues to be held in high regard, especially for the performances of the cast, including some monologues and lines which are remembered to this day.
Available on: Spectrum, AMC, fuboTV, Amazon Prime Video, Philo, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV, Vudu, and Sling TV
David Fincher has directed some fantastic films over the years, and 2007’s Zodiac is a fantastic take on the story of the Zodiac Killer, a serial killer which we only recently knew a little more about. It is about more than just the killer, as the people surrounding the investigation and the events have to worry about more philosophical matters as well. It is more than just a standard crime film.
That being said, the tension never lets up, with the killer sending letters, ciphers, and other deliberate clues to keep law enforcement on their toes. Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downy Jr. all put in great performances, and you’ll wonder where the time went by the credits.
Available on: Spectrum, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video
Bacurau is a weird film. We do not mean this in a bad way whatsoever, but we do find it important to let you know this. While it may appear to be something else, Bacurau is a film that is more about the conflict between man and nature and man versus a society he does not know. In it, a documentary filmmaker is thinking they are going to be filming a documentary in heavily rural Brazil. In truth, though, the village visited is hiding a lot more.
And while you think you’ve seen this kind of film before with the standard tropes, don’t be fooled. Bacurau is willing to twist ideas for its audiences, and you might not know what to believe by the film’s end.
The film thrives on the unexpected, so we do not wish to spoil too much of the film for you. Just be prepared for something of a ride, and also be prepared for some amazing performances from Udo Kier, Sônia Braga, and others.
Available on: Vudu, Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video
Sure, you have probably seen The Shawshank Redemption playing on cable half a dozen times by now, but when have you properly sat down and watched the film in the way that it was intended, without interruptions and without any cuts to the film? Because of on-demand programming, you can do just that.
Starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in unforgettable performances, the film might be one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King story (and we only say maybe because The Shining exists). The film is hopeful and showcases friendship in different circumstances than usual, as well as some of the more creative ways people adapt to their surroundings, whether they deserve to be in them or not.
Available on: Spectrum, fuboTV, Philo, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Max
While Christopher Nolan has his huge fans and a few detractors, his latest film Tenet mostly made headlines by being one of the first films in theatres during the pandemic, meaning that the content and quality of the film itself were somewhat ignored in the process. This is a shame, because the film is classic Nolan, potentially confusing the viewer while drawing them into another world.
Tenet is something of a time travel thriller, in which the protagonist learns how to control time to ensure an attack from the future doesn’t wipe out the world. Given the concept, Nolan took his time to create the screenplay and also took his time with the film in general. What follows is a fun film with amazing effects that try to touch on some scientific concepts, with debate over accuracy. Nonetheless, it’s a fun watch that makes for a great night in.
Available on: Spectrum, HBO Max, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, and Apple TV
Next up is Django Unchained, which won two academy awards and a lot of praise from viewers. In it, a slave who becomes a bounty hunter seeks to free his wife from a sadistic plantation owner, leading to many confrontations and quite a bit of stylized violence. Striking a line between realism and movie magic, the film got a lot of press on its release, some for its filmmaking and some for its controversy.
The direction is excellent as you’d expect from Tarantino, and the mark of the director is found everywhere here, from the script to every single scene.
Speaking of controversy, note that this film will not be for everyone, and features some brutal violence and themes that aren’t for everyone, not even thinking about the children. Still, fans of Tarantino’s other films or anyone who wants something stylish and action-packed will find it hard to beat Django Unchained. There isn't anything else like it in film, and for that alone, many people will want to watch it.
Available on: Spectrum, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video
A nominee for best picture in 2012, Silver Linings Playbook is the movie to watch if you want just a little bit more hope in your life. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, it is about a man who wants to get his estranged wife back after spending eight months in a psychiatric hospital. After moving home, he meets a young widow with her own problems and she agrees to help him if he partners with her in an upcoming dance competition. In doing so, they grow close and the film explores their relationship.
It draws the line between drama and romantic comedy, and we think it’s a good film that could be for anyone. It may feel a bit too feel-good at points for some, but the pros far outweigh the cons. The performances are great, and the story moves in ways you do and don’t expect. You should absolutely give it a bit of your time. It also happens to be available everywhere for free in most cases.
Available on: Cox, YouTube, Pluto TV, Peacock, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, fuboTV, Showtime, Google Play, and Apple TV
Next up is one of Clint Eastwood’s greatest works, Gran Torino is about a retired factory worker and war veteran Walt Kowalski, who is nearing the end of his days. Over time he comes to grow begrudgingly close to a Hmong American teen, and the two help each other in different ways.
There is a lot more than what is on the surface in Gran Torino. It also happens to be far more emotionally fulfilling than many other films that can be found on demand. It also happens to be one of the first popular films to feature Hmong Americans and features their struggles (though some may note a few inaccuracies.
However, with Clint Eastwood starring in the film, there is naturally a certain air and danger to it, which is appropriate to the film. The drama is intense, and the film contains some heavy themes. It doesn’t pull its punches, but it deserves its acclaim and will be a great watch for many people.
Available on: Xfinity, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube, Philo, and fuboTV
One of the best gangster films ever made and a masterwork by Martin Scorsese, Goodfellas is a classic that must be watched by every fan of the genre, and we would be surprised if you haven’t seen it already and are a fan. While different from works like The Godfather, it gives a different perspective of life and that direction drives every moment in the film. Your mind will never take a break, and you won’t want it to.
Coming out in 1990, it feels like it's still further of a different time. It stars Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, and so many more fantastic actors. It doesn't shy away from anything, and many consider it Scorsese's best film, though that is a debate for a much longer article.
Available on: Spectrum, HBO Max, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video
Did you ever want to go back to high school at perhaps a different time, or the same time from a different perspective? The film Mean Girls is a way to do so. It stars Lindsey Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, Lizzy Caplan, and Amana Seyfried. It is also written by Tina Fey with several notable credits, and she also plays a role in the film. Mean Girls is the film you want to watch when you want something a little fun, but not too mindless.
While it might not have the pedigree of The Godfather or Casablanca, it does have a cult following for a reason, and the film is quite quotable almost to a fault. Based on a non-fiction book in part, it has something to say about the problems of female bullying and cliques in high school. You’ll never look at plastic the same way again.
Available on: Xfinity, Vudu, Google Play, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and YouTube
There are enough movies available on demand to keep you busy for years. Whether you want action, drama, or something to draw you into another world, we know there is something for you. We hope that you enjoy some of the movies listed above and that you start planning out a few relaxing evenings for yourself. Not everything will be perfect for you, and the critics aren’t always right where personal taste is involved, but there is sure to be a new favorite here. Happy watching and may your popcorn be delicious!