If you’re at all familiar with this website, surely you’re aware of our “Right Now” series, in which our team of entertainment experts tells you the best movies to watch on Netflix or Amazon or Hulu or Disney+, or one of any number of streaming services. But today’s list is a little bit different, because you don’t have to subscribe to any of those streaming services to access these titles. No, all you need is money.
You remember money, right? It’s that green paper in your wallet that is probably crawling with the coronavirus. Or maybe you’re like me, and you hardly ever have any cash on you. Either way, money sure does come in handy at times like these, as it can be used to buy or rent new movies on digital platforms, aka, VOD, where prices range from $19.99 for super-new releases like News of the World and Promising Young Woman, which would still be in theaters right now if they were open, to $5.99 for smaller films like Don’t Tell a Soul and The Empty Man.
I haven’t seen every single movie available on VOD, but I’ve seen enough to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff with a fair amount of confidence. I’ll be updating this list periodically throughout the year, so we’ll see if Another Round or Honest Thief make the cut in the coming days. If something isn’t on here, like, say, Kajillionaire or The Nest, it’s because I’m not recommending those films — or I just haven’t seen them yet, such is the case with Ammonite, Black Bear and the documentary MLK/FBI.
So have a look below, and remember that your mileage may vary, seeing as my personal taste is a bit peculiar. Then again, how many articles have you read about Ryan White‘s gripping documentary Assassins? You’ll be thanking me for that recommendation, trust me. Picking the right movie to watch on any given night is a fine art, so good luck, stay safe, and God bless. Just remember, there are no refunds!
And for those of you who are paying for every streaming service under the sun and don’t want to shell out extra money for VOD-only titles, you can find our curated streaming recommendations by checking out our lists of the Best Movies on Netflix Right Now and Best TV Shows on Netflix Right Now and Best Movies on Amazon Prime Right Now and Best Horror Movies on Netflix Right Now and Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now and Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime Right Now.
Director/Writer: Nate Parker
Cast: Nate Parker, Omari Hardwick, Shane Paul McGhie, Beau Knapp, Theo Rossi, Milauna Jackson, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Tony Espinosa, Mo McRae, AnnaLynne McCord
This may be the boldest choice on this list, but so be it. Writer-director Nate Parker, who has been cancelled by a certain segment of Film Twitter, returns with this timely drama in which he plays a Marine veteran whose son is killed by a police officer (Beau Knapp, channeling huge That Guy energy) during what should’ve been a routine traffic stop. When the DA declines to pursue charges against the officer, Parker decides to take the law into his own hands, ultimately taking the entire police station hostage, and holding an impromptu trial that will decide the cop’s fate. That is an incredible premise for a film, especially given today’s political climate, and even though the execution isn’t perfect, it’s hard to deny the sheer power and authenticity of American Skin. Sure, it can be a bit preachy and predictable, and some may roll their eyes at the way Parker presents both sides of the conflict, but I think he’s an interesting filmmaker with something to say. I won’t blame you if you don’t want to listen, but I think he deserves to be heard.
Director: Ryan White
This was the best movie that I saw at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The story is so incredible, I don’t even think you could write it. Then again, truth is stranger than fiction. This documentary from director Ryan White follows two young women who are tricked into assassinating Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Basically, the girls thought it was all part of a prank show, but despite having a very capable legal team, their pleas seem to fall on deaf ears. This weird, wild and somewhat controversial film points an accusatory finger at Kim Jong-un, and I promise it’s as gripping as any thriller that has come out since this pandemic started. Don’t miss it!
Director: Deon Taylor
Writer: David Loughery
Cast: Hilary Swank, Michael Ealy, Mike Colter, Damaris Lewis, Tyrin Turner, Danny Pino, Geoffrey Owens
This movie is something of a trashy delight, which is exactly what its trailer promised. Michael Ealy plays a very successful married man who has a one-night stand with Hilary Swank. Shortly after, an intruder breaks into his home, and when he calls the police, she ends up being the detective assigned to the investigation. Fatale won’t win any points for originality, as we’ve seen this kind of movie before, but Swank gives it her all here, and keeps this movie strangely watchable. If you’re renting this movie, you’re renting it with certain racy elements in mind, and I think Fatale delivers on that front. It won’t haunt you long after the credits roll like Fatal Attraction, but it’s a decent B-movie that delivers exactly what you’d expect from a sexy thriller like this one, which plays like a ’90s throwback.
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Writer: Chris Sparling
Cast: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn, David Denman, Andrew Bachelor, Hope Davis, Merrin Dungey, Holt McCallany
Listen, you either like Gerard Butler movies or you don’t. There’s not a lot of in-between when it comes to Gerry B. He’s not a man who invites fence-sitters. Fans of the Scottish badass will dig his new movie Greenland, even if it hits a little close to home in the middle of a pandemic. Butler plays a grizzled architect who must protect his family when a giant comet threatens to wipe out all of mankind. To do that, he must get them to supposed safety in Greenland, where the government plans to rebuild humanity inside of huge underground bunkers. Butler won’t win an Oscar anytime soon, but he’s his usual sturdy self, and Morena Baccarin is quite good as a worried mom, especially when her son is abducted by strangers. That’s right! It’s not just the comet Butler has to compete with. As long as you know Greenland is an action drama, not just a mindless disaster movie, I think you’ll dig it.
Director/Writer: Shawn Linden
Cast: Devon Sawa, Camille Sullivan, Summer H. Howell, Nick Stahl, Gabriel Daniels, Lauren Cochrane
I really liked this indie movie from writer-director Shawn Linden, if only because it kept me on my toes. Former teen heartthrob Devon Sawa is all grown up now, and playing a hunter who who lives with his family in the remote wilderness. Their tranquility is threatened when a rogue wolf reappears near their home, putting everyone in danger. To be honest, I didn’t know if Hunter Hunter would be a crazy wolf movie like The Grey, or a werewolf movie, or something else entirely, and in fact, it turned out to be the latter. About halfway through the movie, I started wondering when Nick Stahl would appear, and sure enough, this film takes a wild turn in its final reel. The ending left my jaw on the floor. I don’t think I will ever forget it, and it totally redeemed this movie in my eyes. Just make sure you have a strong stomach before you rent this one. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Director: Andrea Di Stefano
Writers: Matt Cook, Rowan Joffe, Andrea Di Stefano
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Rosamund Pike, Clive Owen, Common, Ana de Armas, Arturo Castro, Sam Spruell
This is what I call a guilty pleasure kind of movie. Joel Kinnaman plays an ex-con who is forced to go undercover inside a maximum security prison in order to infiltrate the Polish mob. The movie features a dizzying number of twists and turns, but it’s not too hard to follow, and it’s much better than the typical VOD movie “starring” Bruce Willis or Nicolas Cage. If you like violent crime dramas, this one features an above-average cast and enough macho intrigue to keep you entertained for a couple hours — no more, no less.
News of the World
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writers: Paul Greengrass, Luke Davies
Cast: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Bill Camp, Elizabeth Marvel, Fred Hechinger, Michael Angelo Covino, Ray McKinnon, Mare Winningham
OK, so this isn’t the most exciting movie ever made, but it’s still a solid film featuring a strong turn from Tom Hanks and some truly thrilling set pieces courtesy of director Paul Greengrass. Hanks plays a Civil War veteran who agrees to deliver a stubborn young girl (Helena Zengel) to her aunt and uncle hundreds of miles away, making stops along the way for him to read newspapers from all over the world to interested townsfolk. Together, the two of them face grave dangers as they search for a place to call home. I prefer a grittier Greengrass, and his earlier film with Hanks, Captain Phillips, but there’s no denying the artistry on display in News of the World, which boasts lush cinematography as well as a beautiful score from James Newton Howard.
Promising Young Woman
Director/Writer: Emerald Fennell
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Alfred Molina, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Sam Richardson, Max Greenfield, Chris Lowell, Laverne Cox,Molly Shannon, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge
Carey Mulligan is rightly winning accolades for her terrifying turn as a young woman out for vengeance against those she holds responsible for a tragic event from her past. Writer-director Emerald Fennell (Killing Eve) delivers one of the best films of the year — one that may very well be a dark horse for Best Picture. Yes, the film has proven to be divisive since its Sundance debut, but that’s the whole point of art, and I don’t think there’s another movie this year that has provoked more post-screening conversations than this one. Right now, this movie will cost you $19.99 to rent, but I bet if you wait a couple more weeks, the price will drop. Then again, I’ve been waiting for the price of Freaky to come down because I wanted to watch that movie again, and it’s still $19.99, so you may have to be patient! I promise it’ll be worth the wait…
Shadow in the Cloud
Director: Roseanne Liang
Writers: Max Landis and Roseanne Liang
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Beulah Koale, Taylor John Smith, Callan Mulvey, Benedict Wall, Byron Coll, Joe Witkowski
I kind of loved this movie, which is an absolute blast that announces Roseanne Liang as a major director to watch. Chloe Grace Moretz plays a WWII pilot escorting a top secret package aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress when she encounters a gremlin on the wing of the plane. Yes, a gremlin! It’s all spelled out in a cheeky animated prologue that opens the film. Moretz is quite good here, and Liang keeps the action moving, aided by a synth score that enhances the mood of this midnight movie. Yes, Max Landis wrote the script, and if you’re no longer interested, that’s entirely your right, but you’re missing out on a hell of a fun flick that serves as quite the calling card for Liang.
Directors: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead
Writer: Justin Benson
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Jamie Dornan, Katie Aselton, Ally Ioannides
This is how you do sci-fi on a budget, folks! Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan play a couple of New Orleans paramedics whose lives are ripped apart after they encounter a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug that has bizarre, otherworldly effects. Mackie gives a committed lead performance in a movie that has a surprising amount of heart. The premise here is pretty interesting, and the execution was good enough that Marvel hired Benson and Moorhead to direct episodes of its upcoming Oscar Isaac series Moon Knight.
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