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Eleven Great Movies to Stream Over the Holidays

Leave going to the theater to the amateurs. Here are the movies you should stream this holiday season.

(Ringer illustration)
(Ringer illustration)

Sure, going to the movies on Christmas is a fun tradition. It’s also a total logistical nightmare. Instead, gather around the electronic hearth to stream these movies — a few of The Ringer’s favorites — all available at your fingertips.

‘Mustang’ (Netflix)

Lindsay Zoladz: One of my favorite movies of the past few years is Mustang, Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s 2015 film about five Turkish sisters trying to escape their conservative seaside hometown, where all they’re expected to do with their lives is wait around to get married. It’s heartbreaking, tense, and occasionally even darkly funny. A lot of people compared it to The Virgin Suicides, but it actually plays out more like a thriller, and when I interviewed Ergüven, she said the American film that most inspired her while writing was Escape From Alcatraz. A feminist coming-of-age story for the whole family!

‘Kickboxer: Vengeance’ (iTunes)

Shea Serrano: Kickboxer: Vengeance is a reimagining of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s 1989 film Kickboxer. Mostly all the main characters are the same (brothers Kurt and Eric, villain Tong Po), and the story line is generally the same (in the original version, Kurt vows revenge against Tong Po after Po cripples Eric in a fight; in the new version, Kurt vows revenge against Tong Po after Po kills Eric in a fight). But it just doesn’t work. It’s clunky (the new version involves a temple where Tong Po trains fighters, and also there’s a police corruption angle that eats up too much time), and the actors lack either the charm to convince you to invest in them or the intimidation to convince you to be afraid of them. There are some tiny nods to the original that are interesting, but those are the only moments the movie is any fun. (The best example: Kurt and his trainer, played by JCVD, have to escape from jail and on their way out, a prisoner in another cell asks JCVD, “Hey. Forgot about me?” and then you realize the prisoner is played by the guy who played the original Tong Po.) It’s really just bad all the way around. But watch it. It’s a Kickboxer movie. You kind of have to.

‘The Witch’ (Amazon Prime)

Alison Herman: The Witch — the Salem-era horror hit from earlier in the year — is the perfect hangover movie: engrossing and intense, but with minimal jump scares and cast almost entirely in muted grays. For obvious reasons, this also makes it a pretty good holiday movie! Add in some exploration of how strict Christianity’s repression and demonization of women’s sexuality leaves them with no choice but to embrace the monstrous feminine and you’ve got yourself the perfect Christmas flick. Your dysfunctional family has nothing on this one. Some additional persuasion: The period-accurate dialogue is strangely soothing, star Anya Taylor-Joy and director Robert Eggers are both ones to watch, and there’s a damn demonic goat.

‘5 Centimeters Per Second’ (YouTube)

Justin Charity: This year, the anime director Makoto Shinkai had a massive Japanese box office success on his hands with Your Name, a whimsical body-swap drama inspired by the March 2011 earthquake that devastated Fukushima. While that critically acclaimed film awaits its North American run early next year, I’ll likely revisit Shinkai’s gorgeous 2007 romance, 5 Centimeters Per Second, the foundational block of the director’s reputation and promise in the future of theatrical anime.

‘Slow TV: Train Ride Bergen to Oslo’ (Netflix)

Jason Concepcion: Here’s an understatement: The holidays can be stressful. Know what else can get the blood pressure pinging up into stroke territory? Stories — having to follow them, remember the names of the characters, knowing that you might have to discuss this newfound pop-culture information later with family, friends, and colleagues. Why not calm two birds with a single train ride?

Slow TV: Train Ride Bergen to Oslo is exactly what it sounds like — a minute-by-minute video, totaling 434 minutes in all, wordlessly documenting a journey by rail through Norway. Put it on and leave it on for as long as you want.

‘David Blaine: Street Magic’ (Netflix)

Sam Schube: Today, David Blaine is the guy who burps frogs into Drake’s champagne.

Or he’s the guy who electrocutes himself, or lives in a plexiglass box. But back in 1997, when he released David Blaine: Street Magic, Blaine was just a T-shirt-wearing bro with a weirdly flat affect. It’s great fun: Here’s a baby-faced Leo DiCaprio interrogating his pal Blaine about craft. Here’s Emmitt Smith, wearing gigantic khakis, a mock turtleneck, and a vest, all in shades of beige, getting his mind blown in the Cowboys locker room. But Street Magic is most interesting as a nearly 20-year-old time capsule. It’s proto-reality TV, proto-meme, proto-viral video: one dude doing crazy things and regular folks going nuts over it. Keep your belched frogs. I’m here for the card tricks.

‘McConkey’ (iTunes)

Katie Baker: McConkey is a meditation on the lure of extreme sports, for better and then for worse, and a character study of a man who needed to throw his body around the way you or I need to breathe. But the best part of this documentary about the late extreme-athlete Shane McConkey isn’t even about his fearless stunts, pranks, and tricks, though they all make for wild viewing. No, it’s watching the evolution of the equipment he used over the course of his life, from skinny skis and enormous camcorders to flying-squirrel suits and helmet cams. (There’s even some great vintage footage of his parents tooling around Whistler in the ’60s.) Past holidays flash before your eyes, all the unwrapping of wonders that would soon be obsolete. McConkey was a guy who innovated relentlessly while maintaining a healthy respect for the analog. (How else to describe all his nakey ski-streaking?) And that’s what the holiday season is all about.

‘Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events’ (iTunes)

Micah Peters: You might’ve heard that there’s a new Netflix original series coming in 2017 that is a remake of a film adaptation of a young adult fiction series called A Series of Unfortunate Events. You also might’ve heard — from the trailer, because so far it’s all we have to go on — that it’s faithful to its source text, from Klaus’s need to continually repeat that the Baudelaires are just children (not stupid), right down to Count Olaf’s faded and poorly drawn ankle tat. The only problem: Jude Law’s dulcet tones in the original made for the best narration, Timothy Spall was a better and more hilariously clueless Mr. Poe than anyone else will ever be, and Neil Patrick Harris IS NOT JIM CARREY. So watch the 2004 film now before this eight-part series ruins everything, probably.

‘White Girl’ (Amazon Video)

Ryan O’Hanlon: Is this the best “movie in which a Puerto Rican drug dealer lovingly tickles the inches-long armpit hair of a red-headed New York co-ed” I’ve seen this year?

Yes — and you should watch it so you can say the same.

‘The Nice Guys’ (iTunes)

Rob Harvilla: I loved this silly, coarse, deeply uncouth movie, precisely for its silliness/coarseness/couthlessness. It’s a Shane Black joint, his Lethal Weapon mismatched-buddy action-comedy blueprint reapplied to Russell Crowe (surly, charming) and Ryan Gosling (wimpy, more charming) as hapless private detectives in ’70s Los Angeles. You get “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” for the opening credits and everything. R-rated hijinx ensue: It’s dumb but not stupid, violent but not garish. The shootout scene where Gosling attempts to take cover behind a rotating showroom car made me laugh like an idiot, which is a distinct and far-preferable sensation to being treated like an idiot. Watch it with an idiot you love.

‘Don’t Think Twice’ (iTunes)

Robert Mays: If you’re like me, the last few weeks of the calendar are spent cramming in the great movies released that year. As most people spend these final days enjoying family, I’ll be sequestered in my room making sure I get A Bigger Splash in before the gun.

Even with a ton left on my plate, though, I’m going to make time for a second viewing of Don’t Think Twice. The second film directed by stand-up Mike Birbiglia was released this summer, and even as the Oscar-worthy stuff rolls out, it’s still the most affecting trip I took to the movies this year. It’s a simple premise: An improv troupe in New York City starts to come apart at the seams when one of its members hits the big time. But on an easy-to-explain backdrop, Birbiglia lays out some hard-to-parse questions that lingered with me for a while. At its core, it’s a story about why friendships endure and how far we’ll go for a dream. And as 2016 rolls to a close, both those sentiments seem worth considering again.