Netflix

Helix, 2014

If you’re no longer freaked out by the 2014 Ebola outbreak, try watching Helix, a sci-fi thriller series released in early 2014. Centering around a mysterious viral outbreak on an Arctic research base, it is equally creepy and compelling, with cheery, almost tropical-sounding music playing over its most disturbing scenes. Though only the first season is available on Netflix, the TV series’ second season just began airing in mid-January. Each episode clocks in at just under 40 minutes, so there’s plenty of time to catch up. Warning: not for the faint of stomach.

Rabbit-Proof Fence, 2002

In the early 1900s, the Australian government initiated the abduction of aboriginal children from their homes, to be institutionalized and often forced into lives of servitude afterwards. The practice continued well into the 1960s, and its victims are now referred to as the Stolen Generations. Rabbit-Proof Fence presents the heart-wrenching story of three girls taken from their families and placed in an internment camp, only to escape, evade trackers and make their journey home across the Australian continent on foot. Have tissues on hand.

Casa de mi Padre, 2012

Billed as “an overly-dramatic telenovela,” Casa de mi Padre is every bit as ridiculous as one would imagine a Spanish-language Will Ferrell movie might be. This movie is more dramatic than any of my grandma’s favorite soaps. Characters include ranchers, drug lords, DEA agents, and a very fake stuffed white tiger, and while the movie may not be a cinematic masterpiece, it’s a good choice if you’re in the mood to laugh.

Phoebe in Wonderland, 2008

At first glance, Phoebe in Wonderland’s movie poster may make it look like a kids’ movie, but don’t be deceived. In her first lead role, actress Elle Fanning plays the titular Phoebe, a nine-year-old with OCD and Tourette Syndrome who finds a sense of purpose when she is cast as Alice in her school’s production of Alice in Wonderland. However, the play also enables her to slip deeply into a fantasy world. Not only is this a visually beautiful and emotionally stirring film, but it also depicts Tourette Syndrome in a very sympathetic and realistic way, as it avoids using the trope of the individual whose only symptom is coprolalia, or uncontrollable swearing.

Bottle Shock¸ 2008

Though a movie centering around wine and wine-tasting may come off as a little too highbrow for a casual Netflix binge, Bottle Shock is more than enjoyable enough to watch anytime. Set in 1970s Napa Valley, the movie portrays more than just the relationship between a bottle of wine and a professional critic. There are relationships between fathers and sons, men and women, and friends and coworkers, all written in a very relatable way. Chiefly, the movie charts the often rocky dynamic between a hardworking winery owner and his slacker hippie son (played by a long-haired Chris Pine) as they struggle to keep their winery open and their reputation for quality wine intact. Still not sold? Alan Rickman (of Severus Snape fame) plays a British, Francophilic wine snob to comedic perfection. Seeing his character’s horror at his exposure to popular American foods like fried chicken in a bucket and guacamole provides reason enough to give this movie a try.

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, 1985

You may have seen this movie as a kid, but it’s just as entertaining if not more so as an adult. Directed by Tim Burton, it features a man who is basically the human version of Spongebob Squarepants with a cross-country quest to find his missing bike. Bonus: his journey even brings him to San Antonio, where he gets to explore the Alamo, but tragically, not the Alamo’s basement.

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