The best history movies streaming right now.
This Eddie Murphy comedy had all the ingredients to be both a famous movie and an award-winner, but neither happened. It tells the true story of Rudy Ray Moore, a comedian who became famous for creating a character called Dolemite, a pimp, and who later attempted to make his own movie based on the same character. Murphy plays Rudy, but there are also other recognizable faces in supporting roles: Chris Rock, Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Snoop Dogg, and many others. It's above all a funny movie, but being Eddie Murphy's first R-rated movie since 1999, it's also a realistic portrayal of both 1970s L.A. and the struggles of being a black filmmaker at the time.
Narrated by the familiar voice of Jack Black, Apollo 10 ½ is a throwback story told with admirable specificity and imagination. Black plays a grown-up Stan, who looks back on his younger years with a mix of fondness and wonder: how did they get away with the things they did then? American suburbia in the 1960s was both loose and conservative, caught between a generation holding on to the reins of the earlier century and one eager to launch into the next.
Stan, as the youngest child of a big, rowdy family, gives us a charming look into the times, as well as a projection of his own fascination: Apollo 11 and the space age. He inserts himself in this monumental narrative and generously brings us along in his fantasy. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether Stan’s recruitment by NASA is actually fact or fiction, but that’s part of the fun, especially since Stan himself doesn’t seem to mind at all.
This movie is different from a Netflix release about the same events. Actually, it's different from any movie you've probably seen before. Depicting the terrorist attack that took 77 lives in 2011 in an island near Oslo, Norway, it's made to make you feel as if you were part of the attack. It's shot to resemble one take, and the time of the movie is the time it took the attack to unfold (so you're witnessing it in real-time). While closely based on the accounts of two survivors, it follows a fictional character called Kaja who looks for her sister during the attacks. Utøya: July 22 pushes the limits of what you can watch in a movie but serves as a terrifying testament to the atrocity of a terrorist attack of such nature.
From The Babadook director Jennifer Kent comes another horror, although this one is more about the horrors of humanity. Set in 1825 Tasmania, The Nightingale follows Irish settler Clare as she seeks bloody revenge on the monsters who wronged her and her family. She teams up with an Aboriginal guide named Billy to accomplish her goal.
Because of its often violent and disturbing tone (the film is rated R for its potentially triggering scenes), The Nightingale understandably polarized audiences upon its release. But it's also an excellent conversation piece, best watched with friends or anyone up for a discussion-filled movie night.
Shattered Glass tells the unbelievably true story of Stephen Glass, a popular and promising young journalist at The New Republic. Stephen's storytelling skills are sought out not just by his admiring colleagues but by other publications as well, so when a rival journalist from Forbes finds holes in one of Stephen's stories, no one takes the accusation seriously at first—except perhaps for Charles Lane, Stephen's editor. Immune to Stephen's charms, Charles digs for the truth and tries, despite an alarming lack of support, to pursue what's right.
Set in the '90s, Shattered Glass may be a throwback to old-school journalism, but its ideas about the integrity of facts still hold water, especially in an age fraught with rampant disinformation.
Though it paints in overly broad strokes and takes a while to get going, this tale of broken people finding each other eventually reaches an irresistibly feel-good conclusion. Like many good sports movies, Seabiscuit isn't really dependent on the final outcome of a matchup between underdog and high-profile contender. What becomes important, then, is the perseverance of a handful of individuals in doing something just to prove they can beat the odds. And while there aren't actually as many racing sequences in Seabiscuit as you might be led to believe, they're well worth the wait—punctuating the drama with sharp editing and beautiful, period-specific production design.
There are two ways to sum up this documentary. One will make you decide against watching it. Here’s that pitch: This is the story of a homeless woman who was found dead.
Here’s the better pitch: That woman was highly educated and generally lived a happy life. But she also left behind a detailed journal that recounts her final days in one of the coldest winters on record. She lived on apples and rainwater and fought off insanity.
Her heartbreaking story is one of disappointment and betrayal by society at a time when she was most vulnerable. A haunting and compelling documentary that is sure to stay with you for a long time and, in a way, might help you take on adversity.
This Swedish movie is the story of Astrid Lindgren, one of the most translated children book writers of all time. Her work of over 100 books includes Pippi Longstocking and The Brothers Lionheart.
Away from the quiet existence of the characters she would later create, Astrid had a turbulent life. Her troubles start when she falls for the editor of the paper she worked at when she was young, a man 30 years her senior. This results in an unwanted pregnancy and Astrid is pushed to immigrate.
From the creators of Downton Abbey comes another period drama about social climbers and too-big homes. The Gilded Age, set in 1880s New York, follows Marian Brook as she arrives in the big city from a small town in Pennsylvania. Here, in her new home, she navigates her place among the old and new rich, as well as the upper and lower classes.
It's not the most exciting thing on TV, but its pleasant pace, witty dialogue, and relatively low stakes make it a soothing but still stimulating watch. The grand costume and production design also make The Gilded Age a visual delight; all in all, a good period drama to lose yourself into.
The Dig is a reliable telling of an archaeological expedition. The setting is Britain in World War II, and a widow (played by Carey Mulligan) hires an archaeologist (played by Ralph Fiennes) to dig through her estate where a historic discovery is waiting to be found. The biggest thrills are a conflict regarding control of the land and its treasures, and an affair that blossoms within the archaeological team.
The film’s cadence is akin to that of a weary traveler sharing a fascinating tale, with each frame lit softly and beautifully. No twist or surprise appears as you turn the corner — you’re merely beckoned to uncover the past amidst a tumultuous, wartime present. Director Simon Stone has capable hands and Mulligan and Fiennes as the leads — supported by a cast that includes the charming Lily James — tick all the British, repressed, stiff upper lip boxes. All, in varying juicy degrees, exhibit an emotional undercurrent befitting the film’s subtle dramatic tension. Those seeking more insight into those undercurrents will come away sorely disappointed, however, as the well-tempered nature of the film keeps it mild and tasteful.
Though it’s not as compelling as it could have been, The Dig is, by all accounts, a lovely film.
An uplifting and inspiring movie with Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer. Jones stars as Supreme Court Justice Associate Ruth Bader Ginsburg in this biopic centered around her hallmark case against sex-based discrimination. While it doesn't feel like it truly conveys the power of Ginsburg's story, her determination, or all the odds that were stacked against her, it serves as a mellowed-down preview of her remarkable story. Watch this if you're in need of a good dose of inspiration.