As we slog through a second full month of Coronavirus-inspired lockdowns, it’s time to suggest some good escapist films on Netflix this month. Watch any of these to find a fun couple of hours that will take your mind far away from the boring surroundings of home and give you a much-needed jolt of energy and enjoyment.
First up, Netflix just added the “Back to the Future” trilogy this month. Robert Zemeckis directed all three movies in one of the most beloved trilogies of all time. The story of a teen who goes back in time turned Michael J. Fox into a household name and still serves as the template for how to do this kind of sci-fi adventure that’s also enormously funny and perfect for the whole family to enjoy together.
The two sequels may not be as good but they’re better than you remember, with “Part II” showing an alternate reality in which Fox’s Marty McFly has to save the day again in a world where his dad George didn’t heroically defeat the buffoonish villain Biff and “Part III” taking Marty and Christopher Lloyd’s immortal Doc Brown on an Old West adventure.
Harrison Ford’s terrific 1980s trilogy of Indiana Jones films (and their pretty bad 2008 followup, the skippable “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”) are all on Netflix now, and the first – 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – is one of the best choices you could make from the filmography of one the best American filmmakers. Fast-paced, witty, and endlessly exciting, it was a rare action-driven movie to score a Best Picture Oscar nomination and helped make Ford a superstar beyond his Han Solo turns in the “Star Wars” films.
1984’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” was a lot darker, including a scene in which an evil cult priest removes a beating heart from a man, and became the movie that caused the PG-13 rating to be invented, so be prepared to cover young eyes on that scene if you watch with the family. 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” brought the legendary Sean Connery into the mix as Indy’s long-lost father, and the two formed one of the best duos in movie history on their quest to beat the Nazis from capturing the Holy Grail while making this the wittiest of the three movies to boot.
“Minority Report” is another awesome Spielberg flick having a current run, with the 2002 adaptation of legendary sci-fi author Philip K. Dick serving as one of his best films, in a brilliant hybrid of noir and science fiction. Tom Cruise plays the head of a future police division called PreCrime, which can predict crimes before they happen, but then he ends up the target of his own operation. It’s a perfectly calibrated film with great performances from Cruise, Samantha Morton and Max von Sydow, and served as a star-making role for Colin Farrell. The scariest thing about it is that it’s a fairly prescient movie, as some advanced police departments have gone on to adapt similar efforts to predict crime in ways that can wind up endangering civil rights.
“Tremors” stars Kevin Bacon in a 1990 low-budget action B-movie that became such a cult hit that it spawned an entire franchise (the seventh film in the series is currently in production). There’s something wonderfully simple about it – average people trying to survive an attack by creatures under the sand. It’s a funny, terrific mix of sci-fi and action comedy that’s quickly paced, and easy to revisit if you haven’t seen it in thirty years or rewatch even if you have.
“Inception” is our final choice of the week, and there aren’t many writer-directors who can make big-budget, original blockbusters like Christopher Nolan. One of his best remains this 2010 sci-fi thriller about people who can literally implant ideas in someone’s subconscious or steal information held within. Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt lead one of Nolan’s best ensembles. Watch closely because it’s a real mind trip, but your concentration will be richly rewarded.