clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Ringer Guide to Streaming in May

A sampling of the best stuff hitting Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and more

Ringer illustration

As we creep ever closer to summer, it’s finally time to close the door on a profoundly weird Oscars season. Did you binge all of the nominees and now find yourself adrift with no idea what to watch? Fear not, there’s plenty of streaming options to fill the void.

New seasons of The Bad Batch, Shrill, and Mythic Quest are set to arrive, while heavy hitters such as Tenet and Nobody can whisk you off to the far corners of the globe or make you reconsider how mundane suburban life is. Check out everything that’s new on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and more below ...


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.

Tenet (HBO Max, May 1)

Adam Nayman: “Don’t try to understand it, just feel it,” advises a scientist early on in Tenet, a piece of advice that feels like a mission statement. Of all the turn-of-the-millennium indie featherweights who’ve become tentpole-movie titans, Christopher Nolan is the most prone to daredevil leaps of faith in his own showmanship, as well as his audience’s cognitive abilities. He hinges his epics on impossibly complex premises—teleportation; subconscious espionage; spelunking through black holes—and offers as compensation the kind of check-your-brains-at-the-door spectacle associated with less cerebral moviemakers.

Reservoir Dogs (Hulu, May 1)


Zombieland (Netflix, May 1)

Michael Baumann: One of this period’s totemic works of fiction is 2009’s Zombieland, which more than any other book or film captures the winking silliness of the whole genre. It is beautifully simple, with just six speaking parts, five of them played by actors who had been or would go on to be nominated for an Oscar.

I Am Legend (Hulu, May 1)

Rob Harvilla: Will Smith’s peak, as a steely everyman sprinting either toward or away from grave danger, is 2007’s I Am Legend. The shaky, dimly lit claustrophobia of this scene has stayed with me, the rare instance when he let his charisma fully dissolve into actual terror. Of course, in I Am Legend, he mostly bantered with a dog. Smith’s biggest movies tend to play out as buddy-cop romps no matter their actual genre; from DJ Jazzy Jeff and Uncle Phil forward, his true gift is banter, is adversarial horseplay, is witty repartee so broad Michael Bay could film it (or Andy Borowitz could cocreate it).

Back to the Future (Netflix, May 1)


Rush Hour (HBO Max, May 1)

Shea Serrano: Rush Hour, which was the first big American movie [Jackie Chan had] done, came out in 1998. Him deciding to do that movie to baby-step his way toward a non-fighting-based action movie career in his older age is just incredible foresight and a good peek into how someone who is arguably more beloved and revered now than maybe he’s ever been becomes so.

Scarface (Netflix, May 1)


Star Wars: The Bad Batch (Disney+, May 4)

Ben Lindbergh: Lucasfilm seems to be sticking within the periods bounded by the Star Wars movie trilogies: The Bad Batch, Kenobi, and Andor will take place between the prequels and the original trilogy ... But as The Mandalorian has demonstrated, there’s plenty of room to color within the trilogies’ lines. The Bad Batch, for instance, promises to flesh out the murky aftermath of Order 66, and Andor will explore the origins of the Rebellion.

Mythic Quest, Season 2 (Apple TV, May 7)

Lindbergh: Mythic Quest is funny, deliciously satirical and, at times, touching. It’s probably the best live-action TV series ever made about video games, but at its core, it’s a workplace comedy where the workplace is new but the comedy is time-tested. There may be a shovel, but this isn’t shovelware.

Shrill, Season 3 (Hulu, May 7)

Alison Herman: Shrill bears down on a specific aspect of its creators’ personal histories, turning them into stand-ins for much broader, if underexamined, realities. What Pen15 is to middle school sexuality and Ramy to millennial Muslim identity, Shrill is to having a body America’s thin-worshipping, fatphobic culture ignores at best and dehumanizes at worst. Aidy Bryant’s Annie Easton, a staffer at a Portland-based alt weekly, embarks on an unlearning process undergone by millions, if rarely centered in a TV show.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Season 2 (Disney+, May 14)

Herman: The most surprisingly fun show from Disney’s brand-new streaming service isn’t The Mandalorian, the mega-budget Star Wars show that is to this latest subscription offering what The Morning Show is to Apple TV+: a flashy marquee to drive interest and flex some corporate muscle. Instead, it’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, an über-meta sitcom that knows exactly how silly it is (check out all those colons). Rather than shell out for Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens or even reboot the saga of Troy and Gabriella, The Series is an Office-style mockumentary set in the (still-fictional) high school where the original High School Musical was shot, now staging its very own production of High School Musical. The setup is clever and offsets the tooth-aching earnestness of musical theater with a wry self-aware streak. It also acknowledges what anyone paying for, or even vaguely aware of, Disney+ already knows: People love their Disney properties, and they’ll do quite a lot—say, risk the humiliation of singing in public—to get their hands on them.

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.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney+)

Daniel Chin: It still remains to be seen where the mysterious Phase 4 is heading, and what majorly ambitious crossover event lies ahead. But wherever that future takes us, Sam Wilson—superpowers or not—will finally be leading the way.

Mare of Easttown (HBO and HBO Max)

Herman: Mare of Easttown marks the triumphant return of star Kate Winslet to television. Specifically, she’s returning to the kind of performer-driven, prestige miniseries that’s become awards fodder since the last time Winslet headlined one.

Top Chef: Portland (Bravo)


Rutherford Falls (Peacock)

Herman: By spotlighting Native writers, directors, actors, and more, Rutherford Falls will rightly receive attention for its existence alone. Just as noteworthy as the show’s raw elements, however, are the questions it chooses to pose with them. The Good Place got into plenty of heady, hard questions, but it also had the luxury of abstraction in a magical afterlife. Rutherford Falls has to deal with the messy, flesh-and-blood reality of how people share resources, managing to up the difficulty even further from “NBC show about ethics.” How history gets enshrined as fact, and by whom, may not be an intuitive fit for a sitcom. It’s still a fascinating premise for a TV show, even one that hasn’t quite found its footing yet.

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (Disney+)


Nobody (On Demand)

Michael Tedder: Nobody is a B movie that knows what it is and hits its marks; it pretends to be serious on the surface but ultimately revels in its absurdity. (Any film that uses a kitty cat bracelet as an excuse for the protagonist’s vengeance binge knows what it is.) It isn’t a grounded film, per se, but it’s grounded and progressive in its own way.

Mortal Kombat (HBO Max)

Miles Surrey: All in all, the movie does a good job of sticking to Mortal Kombat’s hokey lore—which historically involves a lot of timeline-resetting in the spirit of staging more interdimensional fighting tournaments—while not digging into the mythology in a way that alienates a wider audience. Sit through a few scenes of ridiculous exposition, including photos of ancient hieroglyphics with the words “Mortal Kombat” strewn across them despite English being thousands of years from invention, and eventually the film begins to honor its video game roots in a manner that is more broadly palatable: a bunch of superpowered fighters quite literally tearing each other apart.

The New Mutants (HBO Max)


Sound of Metal (Amazon)

Harvilla: Sound of Metal—directed by Darius Marder, who cowrote the screenplay with his brother, Abraham—is not quite greater than the sum of its parts, which is no slight to the parts. As nearly all the near-entirely glowing reviews note, the sound design—which plunges us into Ruben’s head with a harrowing mix of piercing feedback, muffled voices, total silence, and even more upsetting noise collages once doctors get involved—is extraordinary, and perhaps the Oscar this movie is most likely to win

Bonus Watching

A random collection of movies and TV shows that are a little more off the beaten path.

What to watch if you need some childlike joy back in your life: Remember the days when you would come home from school, throw on Cartoon Network and vegetate in front of your TV for hours while demolishing a box of Reese’s Puffs? Well, you can recapture that feeling by throwing on a random episode of Regular Show. (Bonus: The show doesn’t really follow any specific story lines, so you can pick it up wherever you want.) The main characters are an anthropomorphic bluejay and raccoon duo who hate work—who can’t relate?—and their shenanigans in a park with a gumball machine, a yeti, and a humanoid lollipop. Is it weird? Yes. Is it also perfect, especially when you might need something that allows you to turn your brain off? Yes. Toss on a couple of these 12-minute episodes and you’ll be whooping “Ohhhhhh!” in no time. —Kellen Becoats

What to watch if you need someone to laugh at: Stand-up comedy is in a precarious position these days. Increasing social awareness and (completely good and reasonable) calls for more empathy have winnowed the pool of acceptable joke subjects, while also inadvertently creating a horrible, reactionary cottage industry for disgruntled comics angry at the changing times. Nate Bargatze, whose latest special The Greatest Average American, hit Netflix in March, navigates these tricky waters simply by only making fun of himself. Jokes range from his realization that he’s not smart enough to help his daughter with her math homework to turning 40 to dealing with his aging parents—all delivered with a casual, Tennessee drawl that only elevates the funny factor. It’s good, clean fun, and completely guilt-free too, because the only person getting hurt is Nate Bargatze. —Andrew Gruttadaro

What to watch if you like House Hunters but don’t want to watch alone. Forget Marvel, forget DC, forget the Monsterverse—download Discovery+ and gaze at the stars of the House Hunters Extended Universe. House Hunters: Comedians on Couches is a quarantine adaptation of the long-running HGTV reality show hosted by comedians Natasha Leggero and Dan Levy. (Not that Dan Levy, but fret not: this Dan Levy is also funny and has trustworthy taste in everything from floor plans to kitchen backsplashes.) Along with a rotating cast of comedian guests including John Mulaney, Whitney Cummings, J.B. Smoove, and even Blake Griffin, the hosts watch House Hunters from their couches while roasting the often-poor decision-making of the prospective home buyers and saying what we’re all thinking, only funnier. The Zoom format is intimate, the hosts are hilarious, and you won’t feel alone when you sit up to yell, “YOU CAN CHANGE THE CABINETS!” Best of all, after you binge both seasons, the 24-hour House Hunters channel is just one click away. —Isaac Levy-Rubinett