clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Ringer Guide to Streaming in May

A helpful list of movies and TV shows to watch on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime this month

Ringer illustration

It’s May, and we’re officially halfway through the final season of Game of Thrones. How do you feel about it? Are you upset that we may never know the true mysteries behind the Night King and his White Walker army? Is the show literally too dark to see? Do you feel like watching something else for a change of pace?

Thankfully, there are plenty of other entertainment options this month on the top streaming services—many of which should be much easier to decipher than a charging army of wights at Winterfell. Netflix is going to have the Best Picture winner Moonlight; Amazon Prime has the remake of Suspiria; Hulu has the first season of AMC’s brilliant horror series The Terror. It’s a really solid month for streaming. Below, you can peruse The Ringer’s streaming guide for the month of May, featuring the biggest new additions to the aforementioned streamers, some new-ish things that you might’ve missed, and some random recommendations from Ringer staffers a little more off the beaten path.

What’s New to Streaming in May

A selected list of movies and TV shows coming this month that The Ringer is very excited about.

Moonlight (coming to Netflix on May 21)

K. Austin Collins: Moonlight is the story of a young black man coming to terms with who he is and what he wants in a world unprepared to accept him. It is fundamentally a film about intimacy between people who are typically depicted as incapable or undeserving of it. But it’s also a film that emblematizes the intimacy of art-making between the kinds of people it’s about: black men or, to put a finer point on it, poor black men.

Fleabag, Season 2 (Amazon Prime, May 17)

Allison P. Davis: Fleabag is thus the rare show where breaking the fourth wall is not only tolerable, but also effective, because what female characters say when they speak directly to the audience — and they so rarely do — is often far more illuminating than what their male counterparts have to say.

Pose, Season 1 (Netflix, May 10)

Alison Herman: Pose can get a little cheesy sometimes. This isn’t entirely a criticism of the new FX series, an ensemble drama following several participants in the New York City ballroom scene during the late 1980s. Every show has its excesses, particularly in its early days, when writers and directors are still calibrating the tone. Rather, the brushes with sentimentality are what make Pose stand out—as a prestige cable series; as an entry in the oeuvre of cocreator Ryan Murphy, TV’s reigning camp maximalist; as a story about a vulnerable population weathering the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Suspiria (Amazon Prime, May 3)

Haley Mlotek: These are simple and superficial references to the depths of trauma, aesthetic understandings of the aftershocks to genocidal war in Europe. As a result, Suspiria is best watched not for the big picture but his devotion to small, perfect details. [Luca Guadagnino] is, delightfully, a director who thinks to answer the question of which witches will mop the floor after a bloodletting ritual; he knows how strange and soothing it is to observe the wicked women of the dance academy conduct a telepathic debate about who their new leader should be, while outwardly preparing the day’s breakfast in a handsomely rustic kitchen; he knows how much I like scenes of dancers in their opaque tights and knit sweaters warming up for the day’s rehearsals, how pleased I was to see that [Dakota] Johnson’s long-braided wig stayed on her head even during the most vigorous dance scenes, how much I loved to watch Mia Goth walk through the Berlin winter in her fur-trimmed coats and heeled boots, how much my feminism rests on the belief that women can be and often are evil. But then I am also very shallow.

The Terror, Season 1 (Hulu, May 31)

Miles Surrey: At times, watching The Terror just feels brutal. The frigidity of the Arctic is conveyed through scenes such as the one in which a telescope rips some skin off an officer’s eyelid (because it’s cold), or another in which the ship’s doctor removes purplish, frostbitten toes from his shipmates (because it’s REALLY cold). A suggestion based on personal experience: Watch The Terror with a blanket and fuzzy slippers.

She’s Gotta Have It, Season 2 (Netflix, May 24)

Herman: She’s Gotta Have It often excels at the larger-than-life parody one might expect from a filmmaker as stylized as [Spike] Lee, who directed all 10 episodes; this is the same director who opened Bamboozled with a literal dictionary definition of the term “satire,” and whose last feature was a sex farce told entirely in verse. That bombastic strain of humor peaks when Clorinda Bradford (Margot Bingham), curator and best friend of protagonist Nola Darling (DeWanda Wise), introduces a group exhibit that includes Nola’s work. “Welcome to the Diastopian,” she intones. “It is a movement of forward-thinking, Afro-centric artists reaching across boundaries to fabulate, deconstruct, redefine, assert, and expand the breadth and reach of the millennial voices of the people of the African diaspora.”

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (Netflix, May 28)

Surrey: In The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, [Keira Knightley] plays the Sugar Plum Fairy, one of four regents presiding over the four realms of this wacky parallel universe. Knightley’s performance is one of the most surprising, strangest, horniest (really) things I’ve seen in a major blockbuster this year, a mixture of Tom Hardy’s go-for-broke approach to Venom and Vanessa Kirby’s arousal for all things dangerous in Mission: Impossible — Fallout. Knightley’s performance is truly incredible, and if Disney had to spend more than $130 million on The Nutcracker and the Four Realms for it to exist, it was money well spent.

Easy, Season 3 (Netflix, May 10)

Lindsay Zoladz: As a whole, Easy makes a strong case for independent filmmakers shifting their attentions to streaming TV and reaching audiences that their art-house features never could. Which is something that [series creator Joe] Swanberg, ever the indie kid, seems acutely self-aware about.

Claws, Season 2 (Hulu, May 12)

Herman: Claws was initially developed as a half-hour comedy at HBO before TNT picked the show up and doubled its running time. The premium roots show, mostly in the aesthetic — it looks fantastic. (The pilot is directed by Nicole Kassell, lately of visual stunners like The Americans, The Leftovers, and Better Call Saul.) Every frame is saturated with a sensibility best described as “Florida-core,” reminiscent of Spring Breakers, American Honey, and Magic Mike. It’s the telos of tacky: half-empty McMansions and all-neon everything. You can practically smell the heady mix of stale, fetid swamp fumes and freshly printed money. This is the kind of show that, had it stayed at HBO, might get accused of looking like a music video — all style, no substance. On blue-skies basic cable, that’s a compliment. Claws has all of HBO’s glamour and none of its pretension.

Some New-ish Things You Might’ve Missed

Because it’s hard to keep up with everything, here are a few things that have premiered somewhat recently that may be worth catching up on.

Homecoming (on Netflix)

Rob Harvilla: Please discard all your malware-infested bootleg links and janky YouTube footage: Homecoming is a full-blown and painstakingly lush concert film dropping quick bursts of backstage footage amid the glamour and grandiosity of the instantly beloved show itself. And while the documentary is relatively stingy with crowd shots, there are more than enough to confirm that everyone physically present—for the performances on both Coachella weekends, meaning The Yellow One and The Pink One—was as shocked and awed then as your average Netflix viewer will likely still be now.

Guava Island (on Amazon Prime)

Harvilla: Guava Island is a rom-com about the ravages of capitalism. At less than an hour, it feels more like a too-short movie than a too-long TV episode, which is the vastly preferable option, even if it leaves its deceptively heavy themes underexplored, and its alluring characters (and actors) underserved.

Our Planet (on Netflix)

Herman: Shot over four years in 50 countries, Our Planet can’t resist the occasional humblebrag about just how difficult and rare it is to capture an Arabian leopard in the wild, or a concentration of cheetahs hunting as a group. Episodes are organized into biomes like “Frozen Worlds” and “Fresh Water,” hopscotching continents to spotlight nature’s recurring patterns. Scoring and narration help anthropomorphize the animals onscreen, turning courtship rituals into full-blown relationships and the everyday work of survival into an epic struggle. But Our Planet distinguishes itself by emphasizing nature’s fragility as much as its beauty.

The Legend of Cocaine Island (on Netflix)

Brian Phillips: The Legend of Cocaine Island, the documentary directed by Theo Love ... is the sound subtlety makes as it plummets through the awning of the burger joint downstairs. It’s not a bad movie; it’s just that on a “deserves the name The Legend of Cocaine Island” scale of 1 to 10, it is a 47,000. Make no mistake: The Legend of Cocaine Island is extremely called The Legend of Cocaine Island. In the history of movies, there has probably never been a film more befitting of the title The Legend of Cocaine Island than this one. I imagine that was true even when it was called White Tide: The Legend of Culebra, which was the documentary’s name before it was acquired by Netflix (the film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year). The new title might not make the movie seem more tasteful—if tasteful is a word we can invoke here—but it’s scrupulously accurate. This is a movie about some cocaine on an island, and the legend that cocaine generates. Hamlet is called Hamlet because it is about Hamlet.

Ramy (on Hulu)

Herman: Despite the genuine novelty of its representation in the context of American television, Ramy fits into a recognizable template. Like Seinfeld before it, Ramy is named after and led by a performer who pulls inspiration from his own life. Like Louie, Ramy augments the model with highbrow touches: bisexual lighting, moments of surrealism, naturalistic staging. Ramy is produced by the television department of the widely admired film studio A24; its writers’ room includes Sundance darling Minhal Baig and Transparent alumna Bridget Bedard. There’s no shortage of easy comparisons across a television landscape that’s found individual perspectives a worthwhile—and replicable—investment.

You Vs. Wild (on Netflix)

Surrey: It’s an inspired idea with fascinating possibilities, showcasing all of the life-threatening decisions [Bear] Grylls has to make whenever he goes on one of these excursions. As the great German filmmaker Werner Herzog understands: Nature is indifferent to anyone who explores it, and danger is inherent to its scope. And yet if you’re like me, you’ll probably get the most enjoyment out of trying to make Bear Grylls drink pee or eat weird stuff—or maybe even pushing the man to his death.

Special (on Netflix)

Herman: Special, the new eight-episode series from writer and performer Ryan O’Connell, looks and feels like a web series of the old school. A semi-autobiographical account of life in Los Angeles as a gay man with cerebral palsy, Special is a self-made vehicle for its architect and star. The sets are bare bones, the budget not particularly lavish. And at just 12 to 17 minutes, the run times are positively skimpy. Viewers can run through the entire season in a lazy weekend afternoon, which is precisely what this writer did.

Bonus Watching

A random collection of movies and TV shows, for when you’re in a certain kind of mood.

What to Watch If You Want a Stirring Tribute to a Tragic, Legendary Athlete: Ayrton Senna was widely recognized as one of the greatest race car drivers in history, until his life tragically ended when he wrecked at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. But knowing his story, and how it ended, doesn’t even hurt the film about his life, aptly titled Senna and now streaming on Netflix. The tension of his rapidly approaching death, the risks inherent to driving at ridiculous speeds around tight corners, and the bizarre paradox between his ultra-competitive behavior on the track and serene demeanor off of it make Senna one of the most captivating documentaries about racing ever made. It helps that director Asif Kapadia never cuts away from archival footage for a customary “person sitting in an interview room” shot, keeping a propulsive pace befitting the film’s subject matter. If you already know about Senna, the documentary is a moving tribute to the sportsman; if not, you’ll be charmed by his quiet charisma and on-track swagger. — Surrey

What to Watch If You Love The Karate Kid: The pitch for Cobra Kai, admittedly, was not great: Get this, it’s a Karate Kid sequel … but it’s a television series … on YouTube’s new streaming service. And yet, Johnny Lawrence’s redemption story is nostalgic, complex, and funny as hell. Season 2, now streaming, picks up with the return of Johnny Lawrence’s old Cobra Kai sensei, John Kreese, and with Johnny’s star pupil, neighbor, and surrogate son, Miguel Diaz, as the newly crowned All-Valley champ. The Cobra Kai dojo is all the way back, and to counter it, Daniel LaRusso has opened his own shop, Miyagi-Do. Yes, this is all ridiculous, and the show knows it. Everybody involved understands that the idea of warring karate dojos taking over Southern California is ridiculous. It doesn’t matter. Throw on “Thunderstruck” and enjoy the ride. —Chris Almeida

What to Watch If You Need a Classic Dance Movie to Lift Your Spirits: A mix of Save the Last Dance and the non-creepy parts of Black Swan, Center Stage—on Hulu—is the triumphant ballet story of Jody (pre-Suits Amanda Schull), whose lack of formal technique makes her feel like the weakest link in the academy until, ultimately, she rises to … center stage (sorry). As a special treat, you’ll witness Zoe Saldana in her first film role. (Of course she plays the token minority rebel and snaps lines like, “What, you went to a special bitch academy or something?”) Center Stage allows you to tap into that secret fantasy you had of being a ballerina—love triangle included—and to live by the motto, “Whatever you feel, just dance it.” I will, male ballerina No. 2. I will. —Jordan Ligons