The 10 Best Quirky/Whimsical Movies on Netflix

The 10 Best Quirky/Whimsical Movies on Netflix

March 4, 2024

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The 2010s were the decade of “indie” movies, in reference not to studio types but to a style of storytelling that started in the late 2000s. In comedy-dramas, especially coming-of-age stories, this style can best be described as quirky or whimsical.

 

Here are the best quirky movies streaming on Netflix right now.

1. Once Upon a Star (2023)

best

8.5

Country

Thailand

Director

Nonzee Nimibutr

Actors

Jirayu La-ongmani, Kongkiat Khomsiri, Nat Sakdatorn, Nuengthida Sophon

Moods

Easy, Emotional, Feel-Good

When reminiscing about the film industry, most period films focus on the big names – the stars, the directors, and the producers that back them – as they’re more likely to have plenty of source material. Once Upon a Star is interested in the little people, the small town distributors that bring the movie magic to the locals. Centered on a cinema projection troupe, the film celebrates the old way of distribution, who, unlike today’s streaming, travel from place to place to set up outdoor cinemas with live dubbing. And through each projection of classic Thai masterpieces, the connection they have with each other, between both the troupe and the audience, recalls the intimate nostalgia of watching a movie together. It’s a unique take from director Nonzee Nimibutr, one that’s a stunning love letter to the film industry he hails from.

2. The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)

best

8.4

Country

United States of America

Director

Rob Burnett, Robert Meyer Burnett

Actors

Alan Boell, Alex Huff, Ashley White, Bill Murphey

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Funny

The Fundamentals of Caring is an offbeat comedy/drama starring Paul Rudd as a man attempting to overcome his looming divorce by becoming the caretaker for a teenager with muscular dystrophy (Craig Roberts, Submarine). The two develop an unconventional relationship based largely on sarcasm and profanity, delivering many laugh-out-loud moments, while also slowly exposing the pain each is carrying inside.

Together, at Ben’s urging, they embark on a road trip across the western United States for Craig to see the world. It’s somewhat formulaic but fun and touching road movie that covers much familiar ground, but also offers a fine illustration of caregiving, personal growth, and emotional healing. Paul Rudd is as good ever, and Roberts is utterly superb. One of the best movies on the Netflix Originals catalog, and an undeniable winner, all-in-all.

3. Bo Burnham: Inside (2021)

best

8.4

Country

United States of America

Director

Bo Burnham

Actors

Bo Burnham

Moods

Funny, Grown-up Comedy, Original

A healthy mix of despair and self-deprecation has always been Bo Burnham’s signature, but Inside takes it to the next level. It’s a deconstructed film, rather than a simple one-night special; a one-man-show that constantly undercuts itself. Even more so, it sabotages its own immersive qualities and explores the depths of self-loathing by turning oneself into comedy material. Some may say, it’s a classic move, but the pandemic reality and Burnham’s unkempt look predispose us to embrace all the cringe (YouTube reactions), quirkiness, (the sock puppet), and frightening angst (suicide jokes) he puts forward. Emotional rawness and a polished DIY look fits the Netflix bill, but as far as the content goes, this one goes straight to the world heritage lockdown archives.

4. Chronicle of a Disappearance (1996)

best

8.4

Country

France, Germany, Israel USA Germany France Palestine

Director

Elia Suleiman

Actors

Ali Suliman, Elia Suleiman, Fawaz Eilemi, Fuad Suleiman

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Funny, Original

The debut feature by Palestine’s most well-known director, Chronicle of a Disappearance is an unusual movie about the decades-long Israel-Palestine conflict in that it’s closer to absurdist comedy than anything else. The only physical violence we see here are men cat-fighting in the street or arm-wrestling each other in cafes, and Israeli presence is limited to a couple of bumbling police officers. Chronicle is full of slapstick cinema touches — right down to the Buster Keaton-esque eyes of director Elia Suleiman, who appears here as a silent wanderer — and yet we feel the bitter reality of the occupation framing every deadpan gag. 

Structured as a series of vignettes, Chronicle’s loose form is both a way to depict the stagnation and dry repetition in which Palestinians are stuck and a wry metaphor for all this listlessness. Suleiman speaks plainly in some chapters — such as the one following a woman who is repeatedly turned down from renting an apartment in Jerusalem because she’s Arab — and more obliquely in others, forcing you to recall the movie’s setting to understand his often-understated commentary. A singular film from an utterly unique director, Chronicle of a Disappearance is both a portrait of a country’s erosion and a quietly defiant act of resistance.

5. Paddleton (2019)

best

8.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Alex Lehmann, Alexandre Lehmann

Actors

Alana Carithers, Alexandra Billings, Bjorn Johnson, Carlos A. Salazar

Moods

Character-driven, Depressing, Dramatic

There are three big reasons to watch Paddleton. The first two are Ray Romano and Mark Duplass, who play the two neighbors at the center of the story. And the third is Alexandre Lehmann, the director, who also is responsible for Blue Jay (on Netflix as well).

These two misfit neighbors find themselves together when one of them is diagnosed with cancer. They embark on a trip to the nearest pharmacy (a six-hour drive) which turns into an adventure.

This premise gives Paddleton a lot to play on: it’s a comedy, but it’s also a drama about a fatal disease. It’s a bromance, but it’s about a fragile friendship. All these contradictions make Paddleton a great slice-of-life movie. And again, both actors are amazing. Watching it just for them is worth it.

6. Paddington (2014)

best

8.1

Country

France, UK, United Kingdom

Director

Paul King

Actors

Alexander Bracq, Alice Lowe, Ancuta Breaban, Asim Chaudhry

Moods

A-list actors, Easy, Feel-Good

In a global movie industry of children’s entertainment that often feels like it isn’t even trying, this little Peruvian bear coming to England is a wonderful reminder that films aimed at younger audiences aren’t inherently limited. If anything, Paddington challenges itself to come up with a far more creative (and effective) way to talk about the lingering scars of colonialism manifesting as discrimination in everyday “civil” society. It sounds like heavy stuff, but Paddington approaches its fish-out-of-water story with the exact counterbalance of silliness, and a riotous cast that’s far funnier than anyone would have expected them to be.

7. The Young Offenders (2016)

8.0

Country

Ireland, United Kingdom

Director

Peter Foott

Actors

Alex Murphy, Chris Walley, Ciaran Bermingham, Dominic MacHale

Moods

Funny, No-brainer, Quirky

The Young Offenders is a comedy about two Irish teenagers who go on a 160km bicycle trip to salvage 7 million euros worth of lost cocaine. As they sit on a hill overlooking their city, they imagine what they would do with that money. The answer is building a house that has lava lamps, “big gold walls”, Spanish girls, and an English butler to wake them up every morning with the phrase “what’s happenin’?”. You get the vibe. It’s is a silly movie, although the premise is actually based on a real-life event where cocaine from a capsized smuggling boat washed up on the Irish coast. The Young Offenders wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s a sweet funny movie, half slapstick and half plot, which sports an infinity of highly quotable one-liners.

8. 20th Century Women (2016)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Mike Mills

Actors

Alex Wexo, Alia Shawkat, Alison Elliott, Annette Bening

Moods

A-list actors, Lighthearted, Lovely

Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and many other big names star in this comedy-drama directed by Mike Mills (Beginners, Thumbsucker.) The story spans multiple generations but starts in 1979, where Dorothea Fields (Bening) is finding it increasingly difficult to raise her son alone. She enlists the help of two other women, one her son’s age and the other a New Yorker in her twenties who is very active in the punk scene. The three women, of three different generations and personalities as well as takes on the concept of “only a man can raise a man,” play different roles in this kid’s life. 20th Century Women is based on director Mike Mill’s own upbringing in Southern California.

9. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Dean Fleischer-Camp

Actors

Andy Richter, Avan Jogia, Blake Hottle, Brian Williams

Moods

Dramatic, Easy, Emotional

There’s a lot of good to be found in the charming, poignant, and endlessly quotable Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. It follows a documentarian named Dean, who has as his subject the one-inch talking shell that is Marcel. Marcel looks after an empty house along with his grandma Connie, and together they run a delightfully intricate system subsisting on electric mixers, tennis balls, and the occasional human hair.

Despite his small size, Marcel unwittingly makes big observations about life and the world around him, often moving Dean (and this writer) close to tears. It’s a simple film with a grand message, with lots to say about the importance of participating in life as opposed to merely observing it. But ultimately this is a movie with a precocious talking shell at the heart of it all, so really, what’s not to like?

10. She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Spike Lee

Actors

Bill Lee, Cheryl Burr, Eric Payne, Erik Dellums

Moods

Character-driven, Discussion-sparking, Lighthearted

Spike Lee burst onto the filmmaking scene with this, his groundbreaking debut feature. Low in budget but high in confidence, She’s Gotta Have It fizzes with unadulterated energy and style, from its kaleidoscopic opening montage of stills depicting life in Brooklyn (where the film is set) to the joyous direct addresses of its credits sequence.

The film helped to kick off the independent movie movement in the US, and it’s not hard to see why: Lee and his collaborators (including members of his own family) do so much with so little here. Along with its visual and formal inventiveness — including ample fourth wall breaks and cinematographer Ernest Dickerson’s momentary, audacious switch from black-and-white to vibrant color — She’s Gotta Have It also broke new ground with Nola (Tracy Camilla Johns), the young, Black, unapologetically polyamorous artist whom the film’s forthright exploration of sexuality and feminism is centered on. Lee has since expressed regret about one scene in the film — an ill-judged moment that unavoidably dilutes some of its brilliance — but this aside, She’s Gotta Have It stands overall as a radical, exuberant, and impressively assertive lightning bolt of an entry into the medium that Lee changed forever.

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