The 20 best movies on Neon New Zealand


Tony Stamp has perused the Neon catalogue for the best films currently available to stream. We’ll update this post each month as films come and go.

UPDATED OCTOBER 9

1917

Sam Mendes’ WW1 pulse-pounder follows soldier George MacKay on a perilous mission through the trenches, unfolding in one continuous take. Detractors grumbled that it was an empty technical exercise, but it’s hard to argue with the power of many of moments, or the air of legitimacy that comes from basing the script on real stories from Mendes’ grandfather (not to mention the stunning images courtesy of legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins).

Ad Astra

There was a lot of grumbling over Brad Pitt’s murmured voiceover, but if you can get past that there’s so much to enjoy here. An epic, mythological journey into distant space that yes, tips over into the absurd but is all the better for it. When the opening scene is the lead character falling from outside earth’s atmosphere to the ground below and then basically shrugging it off, you have my attention.

See also:
* Everything new to Neon next month
Films and shows now streaming on Neon
All new streaming movies & series

Eastern Promises

Viggo Mortensen teamed with David Cronenberg for a second time in this twisty tale of Russian gangsters in London, the Canadian director taking his trademark ‘body horror’ to new places in the scene where a nude Mortensen fights a bunch of dudes in a sauna. Truly eye watering.

Edge Of Tomorrow

A Tom Cruise alien invasion Groundhog Day riff doesn’t sound that promising, but boy this thing hums. Greatly helped by Cruise’s newfound willingness to be unlikeable, director Doug Liman’s sense of humour, and Emily Blunt’s expert glowering.

Ex Machina

Alex Garland’s first directorial outing saw him exploring Artificial Intelligence and its impact on very human foibles like lust. A movie where you’re never quite sure where any of the three main characters are coming from, until the very end. Oscar Isaac in particular is great, not least of all because he does this.

The Farewell

A modest, bittersweet story about a family spread between countries, this sees Awkwafina heading to Shanghai to see her terminally ill grandma, who has no idea her days are numbered. It’s a gentle film, roiling with emotion just under a placid surface.

John Wick

The sequels are superb but the original is still the best, a compact actioner that remade Keanu into a grizzled killing machine and provided tantalizing hints of the worldbuilding to come. He’d been practicing martial arts onscreen for years but this really upped the ante, combining his lanky athleticism with about a million perfectly executed headshots.

Haywire

Sure the plot is nigh incomprehensible, but that’s beside the point when you have Gina Carano laying waste to every famous dude in her path. Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender and Ewan MacGregor all queue up to get their asses kicked, under the fleet direction of Steven Soderbergh, who wisely understands that the real drawcard here is those wonderful fights.

If Beale Street Could Talk

Barry Jenkins followed up Moonlight with an adaptation of James Baldwin—no easy feat, but one filled with all the warmth, melancholy and Demme closeups you might expect.

Inception / The Dark Knight

Nolan’s big dreamscape heist vs his superhero smasheroo/Michael Mann tribute. Seriously, who can pick. Both sport whoppingly grand cinematography, reasonably heady concepts and old Hans Zimmer doing his damnedest to make you feel all the feelings. Two modern day classics from the increasingly rare kind of blockbuster filmmaker who gets to do whatever he wants.

Inglourious Basterds

Everyone has their different favourite Tarantino flick, and this is still mine. A series of vignettes that slowly turns up the heat, simmering all the way to an explosively cathartic ending. A movie about war movies that manages to honour the real thing, it crosses over into the sublime when you realise how audacious QT is willing to get, leaving you to grapple with the moral repercussions later. It really is his masterpiece, and given the unfathomable global reemergence of fascism, always worth chucking on to see nazis getting shot in the face.

Manchester by the Sea

If you know the details of this film you’re probably picturing something pretty gruelling. A pleasant surprise then to find writer-director Kenneth Lonegan delivers it with such lightness of touch it never feels like a slog. In fact for a film about terrible events, it’s pretty funny throughout, negotiating tricky emotional territory with plenty of wit.

Midsommar: Director’s Cut

This movie is so weird, in such a particular way, it’s hard to believe it exists. A dark, daaaaark comedy that knows you know its cast is doomed before they do, the Director’s Cut extends an already long film to good effect, cramming in more Scandinavian weirdness, and some crystal clarity about how much of an asshole a certain character really is.

Ocean’s Eleven

There might be some eye-rolling at this one, but come on. Soderbergh broke into the big leagues with a throwback heist movie full of Hollywood charm (ok maybe smarm if you’re feeling cynical), that is the definition of an easy watch. Great score by David Holmes too.

Ready Or Not

Haves-vs-have-nots is an evergreen topic in the world of horror—Us and Cheap Thrills spring to mind as two recent entries in the category, not to mention The Purge franchise, or a personal favourite of mine from the ‘90s, The People Under the Stairs. Ready Or Not makes the subtext explicit (“Fucking rich people” exclaims heroine Samara Weaving in disgust at one point), and aside from that it’s just a rollicking good time, a well-crafted hide n’ seek romp that’s funny and exciting in equal measures, and certainly doesn’t skimp on the gore.

Shaun of the Dead

Strange that a film with so much guts and gore could be considered comfort viewing, but this zombie rom-com is just so damn delightful, hinging of course on the expert comic timing and screen-translatable friendship of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

The Souvenir

Another one that might sound like a slog on paper but is much more fleet-footed in practice. A semi-biographical account of director Joanna Hogg’s relationship with an upper-class junkie, it features a magnetic performance from Tom Burke as the man in question, with Tilda Swinton’s daughter Honor Swinton Byrne channeling empathy aplenty in the lead role.

Speed Racer

The Wachowskis’ foray into kids films was largely ignored on release but has gone on to be deafeningly championed by critics. Worth a watch if for no other reason than the directors’ willingness to break every cinematic rule involving time and space in their effort to make you feel something. It’s like watching a movie made of candy.

US

Not as immediately appealing as Jordan Peele’s first film Get Out, this has the same blend of laughter mixed with scares, but it’s a much thornier, layered effort. Its central concept is surreal, and Peele deliberately avoids spelling things out too clearly, leaving viewers with plenty to chew over. Lupita N’yongo really deserved an Oscar nomination for her dual role.

The Wolf Of Wall Street

Scorsese’s three-hour orgy of excess prompted controversy with suggestions the film was endorsing its leads’ despicable behaviour. The depths that Jordan Belfort plumbs run contrary to that, but this is one of Marty’s loosest, funniest films, always entertaining and sporting a top-tier ensemble, including Margot Robbie in her breakout role.