With Netflix’s recent emphasis on creating their own movies to fill up their vast digital library, there has been less importance placed on older, licensed films from other studios. But March’s slate of new Netflix movies is a potent mixture of Netflix original films and titles from elsewhere, making for a rich bouquet of springtime entertainment. (You heard us.)
Below are the very best new movies on Netflix this month – from horrifying nightmares to ace fighter pilots to “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (and everything in between).
Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Two “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies are making their debut on Netflix this month – both Wes Craven’s 1984 original and a widely derided 2010 remake starring Rooney Mara and Jackie Earle Haley. We suggest you stick with the original, which introduced the world to Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), the burnt, razor-fingered child predator who returns in dreams to seek his revenge. While Freddy wouldn’t become a full-on pop culture icon until the third film (that’s when he started spewing catchphrases and showing up on lunchboxes), he certainly made an impression. He’s the scariest in the original, which was based around a real-life phenomenon wherein people were dying in their sleep. (Seek out Rodney Ascher’s amazing documentary “The Nightmare” for more on this.) Craven’s movie maintains a keen mixture of philosophical depth and theme park thrills, and the game cast of young actors (including a baby-faced Johnny Depp) really sell the supernatural terror.
Arguably Christopher Nolan’s very best movie, his take on the famous Dunkirk evacuation during World War II, wherein Belgian, English and French soldiers fled a German bottleneck following the Battle of France. What made the operation (codenamed Dynamo) so miraculous was that it utilized a fleet of civilian ships to ferry soldiers away from the shore. (You might remember the super-long tracking “Dunkirk shot” from Joe Wright’s “Atonement.”) Of course, this being a Christopher Nolan film, there’s all sorts of timey-wimey business – in this case, the evacuation is told over three geographical points (land, sea, and air), with separate amounts of time for each of those points. (The ways they intersect and diverge is fascinating,) Featuring a top notch cast that includes Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and Nolan regulars Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy (as a lone fighter pilot providing cover for the boats), this is an endlessly gripping and beautifully staged wartime epic.
Based on Robert Heinlein’s 1959 novel of the same name, “Starship Troopers” served as a reunion between “RoboCop” director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Ed Neumeier. And like that earlier film, “Starship Troopers” liberally mixes social commentary and oversized action, this time centering on a batch of new recruits, led by Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien), who leave earth to fight an intergalactic war with a race of marauding insects. At the time of the film’s release, it was criticized for being fascist and jingoistic. But this was the point; the entire movie is a send up of rah-rah war films, even featuring warmongering interstitials, the kind of thing you’d see in the theater during World War II. (And yes the actors are purposefully wooden.) In the years since its release, “Starship Troopers” has become even more prescient and relatable, with layers of meaning and detail reliably revealing themselves after repeated viewings. Also the visual effects, overseen by the legendary monster man Phil Tippett, hold up remarkably well. Bloody, brilliant, and bloody brilliant.
The Adam Project
If you loved Ryan Reynolds and director Shawn Levy’s last project together, 2021’s “Free Guy,” especially its mixture of high concept action-comedy tropes with genuine heart, then you’ll probably love their follow-up, “The Adam Project.” Based on a script that has been kicking around Hollywood for years (at one point it was going to star Tom Cruise), Reynolds plays a time traveler who zaps himself back to the past, where he’s forced to interact with his younger self (a remarkable Walker Scobell) in an effort to save the world. With a soundtrack full of 70s classics and an emphasis on how cool giant winged spaceships can be, ‘The Adam Project” might remind you of James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, with Reynolds’ patented whip-fire line delivery and a surprising amount of emotional payoff. This one is fun for the whole family. Lots of movies are described like that. But this one is actually fun.
Who’s in the mood for a nasty little neo noir? Sounds good right? “Windfall” stars Jason Segel as a burglar who is robbing the house of a wealthy young couple (played by Jesse Plemons and Lily Collins). Of course, things go awry when the couple shows up in the middle of the burglary, significantly complicating matters. With a twisty screenplay co-written by Andrew Kevin Walker (“Seven”) and direction by Charlie McDowell (“The One I Love”), this “Hitchcockian” thriller is one of the must-watch new movies of the month.
With “Top Gun: Maverick” (finally) on the horizon, why not look back at the original? Directed with over-the-top stylishness by Tony Scott, “Top Gun” was the movie that took Tom Cruise from promising young newcomer to global superstar. Cruise stars as one of a squadron of new fighter jet recruits who get more than they bargained for while training for combat. Everything about the movie is perfect and in lockstep with the melodramatic emotional pitch (RIP Goose), Cruise’s forbidden romance with a professor (Kelly McGillis), the most ridiculously homoerotic volleyball sequence ever committed to film, Jeffrey Kimball’s smoky photography and Harold Faltermeyer’s twinkly synth score. As soon as it was released, everything from “Top Gun” became iconic, too. You can’t think of the movie without thinking about his aviator sunglasses, the soundtrack full of unforgettable hits (“Take My Breath Away” and “Danger Zone” anyone?), or the rivalry between Cruise and Val Kilmer. The new movie can’t come soon enough. But watching the original a few more times will make the wait shorter.
My Best Friend’s Wedding
It’s interesting to think of a time when Julia Roberts wasn’t the biggest female movie star in the world. But that’s where she found herself before “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” Her career had taken a hit thanks to a few very expensive misfires and America’s sweetheart needed a smash. Enter “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” which feels like it was almost engineered for the actress (and for maximum box office impact). Roberts plays a woman who has feelings for her best friend (Dermot Mulroney), who is getting married to the charismatic, bubbly Cameron Diaz (try getting someone to say know to her). With a sharp screenplay by Ron Bass (who collaborated with Roberts on the underrated 1991 thriller “Sleeping with the Enemy”) and just enough curveballs to keep things interesting, mostly thanks to the lively direction of Australian filmmaker P.J. Hogan (“Muriel’s Wedding”) and the supporting performance by a then-mostly-unknown Rupert Everett. Considering romantic comedies have been largely relegated to cheaply produced cuties that premiere exclusively on various streaming platforms, it’s fun to remember when they were actually handsomely produced studio fare that made big money too.