Happy May, Polygon readers. Each month, the major streaming services add a bevy of new movies and shows to their platforms. Sometimes they are titles rotated from other platforms, sometimes they are titles making long-anticipated debuts (or returns) on streaming generally. Each month, we round up the best movies for you to watch that are new to Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Hulu, and other streaming platforms.
This month is a particularly strong month, with great movies premiering across most of the major platforms. There’s an all-time great Jackie Chan movie returning to Paramount Plus, a cult classic comedy coming to Hulu, one of the best comedies ever made coming to HBO Max, and an all-timer superhero story on Netflix. Oh, and Parasite comes to HBO Max. It’s quite a month.
Let’s get to it!
New on Netflix
Run time: 1h 53m
Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker
Cliffhanger is a blast of a 1990s action movie, with all the sincere commitment to a ridiculous premise you’d expect. Sylvester Stallone and Michael Rooker (since reunited in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies) are mountain rescue rangers who find themselves stuck as unwilling participants in a major heist. The leader of the criminal crew (a delightfully unhinged John Lithgow) and his crew of sadistic henchmen attempted a mid-air heist on a Treasury plane, only for the money to fall across the Rocky Mountains. Stallone and Rooker are tasked with helping them retrieve it, at gunpoint.
Most of the movie was shot in the gorgeous Dolomite mountains in Italy, and legendary professional climbers Ron Kauk and Wolfgang Güllich handled most of the climbing scenes because of Stallone’s fear of heights (which, yes, is very funny, considering the role). The stunts are terrific, including a jaw-dropping moment where somebody transfers from one airplane to another in mid-air on a climbing rope. And even the Stallone scenes filmed on a soundstage are beautiful, because of the matte paintings used to create the backgrounds.
A reboot, starring Stallone and directed by former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh, is reportedly in the works, so the time is right to watch the original Cliffhanger. —Pete Volk
Cliffhanger is streaming on Netflix.
Justice League Unlimited
Run time: 39 episodes
Directors: Joaquim Dos Santos and Dan Riba
Cast: Kevin Conroy, George Newbern, Phil LaMarr
Okay, I’m cheating a bit. Justice League Unlimited is not a movie, it’s a TV show. But it’s one of the best pieces of superhero media ever produced, and it’s now on Netflix, so you have no excuse not to watch this all-time classic.
A direct sequel to the animated Justice League series (also now on Netflix, and worth watching, especially the three-part premiere, even if it doesn’t match Unlimited’s highs), JLU aired from 2004 to 2006 and benefited greatly from the increased role of the legendary Dwayne McDuffie, who was promoted from staff writer on Justice League to story editor and producer on Unlimited. —PV
Justice League Unlimited is streaming on Netflix.
New on Hulu
Genre: Blaxploitation action comedy
Run time: 1h 24m
Director: Scott Sanders
Cast: Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Arsenio Hall
Black Dynamite has rightly grown into a cult favorite. The modern take on the blaxploitation action comedy is both a parody of the genre and an homage to it. It’s also one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and it all works because of the unique skills of Michael Jai White.
A rare talent, White is a world-class martial artist and actor, who has plied his trade in the action and romantic comedy genres throughout his storied career. White not only starred as Black Dynamite — he also co-wrote the script, along with director Scott Sanders and collaborator Byron Minns.
The long-awaited follow-up from White and Minns, The Outlaw Johnny Black, finally got a trailer this week. The Western has been years in the making, including some fan-funding, and looks absolutely hilarious. While you’re waiting, go ahead and watch Black Dynamite to your heart’s content. —PV
Black Dynamite is streaming on Hulu.
The Book of Eli
Genre: Post-apocalyptic action
Run time: 1h 58m
Directors: Allen and Albert Hughes
Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis
Denzel Washington stars in the Hughes Brothers’ 2010 apocalyptic thriller as Eli, a mysterious wanderer trekking through the wasteland of America thirty years after a nuclear war has devastated the planet. Journeying to the West Coast on a mission to deliver a rare book, Eli runs afoul of the henchmen of Bill Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a warlord who happens to be searching for that same book. With the aid of Solara (Mila Kunis), the daughter of Carnegie’s blind mistress, Eli attempts to complete his mission and stop Carnegie from obtaining the book at all costs.
As expected, Denzel Washington is as intimidating as he is effortlessly charismatic in the role of Eli, while Gary Oldman’s performance as Carnegie feels like a more relaxed though no less menacing reprise of his role as villainous Norman Stansfield from 1994’s Léon: The Professional. As dark as it is exhilarating, The Book of Eli is a solid post-apocalyptic action thriller with a memorable climax. —Toussaint Egan
The Book of Eli is streaming on Hulu.
New on Prime Video
Run time: 2h 18m
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley
Martin Scorsese’s twisty asylum thriller remains one of his overlooked modern gems. Shutter Island follows Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), who has been sent to an island asylum with his partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), to investigate the disappearance of a patient. While he’s there, Teddy discovers that whatever’s going on with this asylum is far more complicated than he initially imagined.
This is the kind of thriller that grabs you by the collar and yanks you from one twist to the next every time you think you know what’s happening, exactly like a good thriller should. Just as importantly, the movie is punctuated with a tremendous cast of supporting characters who show up for their one big scene before calling it a day. Max von Sydow is a Nazi scientist, Jackie Earle Haley a particularly terrifying patient, Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson patients who know more than they say, Ben Kingsley a kindly doctor with a secret, and Ted Levine and John Carroll Lynch play the warden and deputy warden respectively.
All of these twists and characters are held together beautifully by Scorsese, who shoots Shutter Island with a gorgeous blown-out color palette that gives it the look of a ’50s Hollywood classic, which perfectly contrasts with the darkness of the plot and serves to keep us even more off balance. —Austen Goslin
Shutter Island is streaming on Prime Video.
Genre: Sci-fi thriller
Run time: 1h 56m
Director: Lisa Joy
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton
Hugh Jackman stars in Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy’s neo-noir feature debut as Nick Bannister, a private detective living in a post-apocalyptic Miami that’s been flooded due to climate change. Employing a specialized machine to navigate through his client’s memories as 3D projections, Nick embarks on a personal journey to solve the mysterious disappearance of his client and former lover Mae (Rebecca Ferguson). Diving into the depths of the city’s criminal underbelly, Nick will be confronted with difficult questions and inconvenient truths that threaten to engulf him — that is, unless his partner Emily “Watts” Sanders (Thandiwe Newton) can find a way to halt his obsessive spiral into self-destruction.
One of the most striking aspects of Reminiscence is its portrayal of a post-climate-change Miami not as a problem to solve, but as a plainspoken reality to be confronted. It’s a decent sci-fi mystery that understands one of the quintessential principles of any noir story: You can’t save the world and you might not even be able to save the truth, but if you’re lucky, you just might be able to save yourself. —TE
Reminiscence is streaming on Prime Video.
New on HBO Max
Run time: 2h 12m
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong
Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning film Parasite is a many-featured organism as terrifying as it is darkly hilarious. Song Kang-ho (Memories of Murder) stars as Kim Ki-taek, the patriarch of an impoverished family just barely making a living out of the basement apartment they live in. When his son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) gets a job as an English tutor for a wealthy family living in an extravagant modern home, the two families slowly yet surely intertwine in a symbiotic spiral of greed, exploitation, and class before exploding into a shockingly unpredictable finale.
Trenchant social commentary combined with a breadth of memorable performances culminate in a remarkable film that’s more than the sum of its parts. Parasite was the first non English-language movie to win Best Picture at the Oscars, and is one of only three movies ever to win the Cannes Palme d’Or and Best Picture, joining The Lost Weekend (1945) and Marty (1955). —TE
Parasite is streaming on HBO Max.
Some Like It Hot
Run time: 2h 1m
Director: Billy Wilder
Cast: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe
One of the funniest, most groundbreaking, and most influential comedies of all time, Some Like It Hot’s runaway success is broadly considered one of the main factors for the dissolution of the Hays Code, which censored content in the movie industry.
Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon play jazz musicians who witness a mafia murder and disguise themselves as women to escape with their lives. An uproarious, transgressive masterpiece, Some Like It Hot has an unmatched lead trio in Curtis, Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe, and it all ends with one of the funniest lines of dialogue ever uttered. If you haven’t seen it, I implore you to check it out. —PV
Some Like It Hot is streaming on HBO Max.
New on Paramount Plus
Genre: Action comedy
Run time: 1h 45m
Directors: Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung
Cast: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao
If I’m looking for a guaranteed good time, there’s no better bet than putting on a Jackie Chan movie from this era. In the 1980s and ’90s, he was working with childhood friends Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, consistently putting out electric action comedies that tested the bounds of action cinema as much as they did the bodies of Jackie and his fellow performers.
A historical martial arts comedy, Project A is set in 19th-century Hong Kong and follows Jackie as an eager Marine Police Sergeant who wants to stop a group of pirates.
Besides being an absolute blast, it’s a landmark movie for a number of reasons. Project A was the start of the legendary Jackie Chan Stunt Team, as Jackie honed his action further into the stunt-heavy, comedic style he became known for. It was the first time Jackie, Sammo, and Yuen Biao co-starred in a movie together. And the clock tower stunt (you’ll know it when you see it) remains one of the most famous from a career filled with memorable ones. —PV
Project A is streaming on Paramount Plus.