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25 Big Movies That Skipped Theaters and Are Streaming at Home Right Now

Your Oscar research can be done at home this year!

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Amanda Bell

In many cities, for some reason, you can actually go back inside of an enclosed movie theater during a global pandemic. Theaters are opening back up, films are on the marquee, and the butter substitute that was created in a lab is glooping over freshly popped popcorn just as the scientists designed it to! Or you can just stay at home and watch most of these movies from the comfort of your living room. See, movie production studios are actually in this business for the money, and the best way for them to make money is to make sure everyone has a chance to see their films, whether their customers prefer to ride out the pandemic until it's absolutely safe to return to normal or wish to roll the dice and bump up regular life before it's ready. 

And it's not just a black-and-white arthouse film from Germany starring a clown in a tutu that we're talking about. Major blockbuster movies are getting their big opening nights on TVs as the industry reconsiders the way we watch films, with one of the biggest studios, Warner Bros., already deciding to stream its entire 2021 slate on HBO Max. So cook your own popcorn for a fraction of the price and stay at home to watch the biggest movies of the year.



An American Pickle


Where to watch: HBO Max

Seth Rogen, An American Pickle

Seth Rogen, An American Pickle

Hopper Stone

Seth Rogen finds himself in a... predicament in this HBO Max exclusive film in which he plays an Eastern European immigrant to America who gets perfectly preserved in pickle brine for 100 years and must adjust to life in 2020 Brooklyn. Rogen also plays his great grandson, a loner with no direction in life who learns a thing or two about hard work and pickles from his great grandpa. It's certainly watchable thanks to its odd sense of charm. And with a premise like that, of course this is based on a short story by Simon Rich (Man Seeking WomanMiracle Workers), who also wrote the film. -Tim Surette [An American Pickle Review]



Bill & Ted Face the Music


Where to watch: Available for rent ($20) or purchase ($25) at FandangoNow, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, Apple, YouTube

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, Bill & Ted Face the Music

  Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, Bill & Ted Face the Music

Orion

It's an odd choice to finish a trilogy 29 years after the second film, but William S. Preston and Theodore Logan are wrapping up their excellent time-traveling adventures in Bill & Ted Face the Music, the first movie in the series since 1991. But in this case, it's better late than never as the crowd-pleasing film sees Bill & Ted (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) asked to write a song that will save the universe, and the now middle-aged rockers team up with their teenage daughters to help them out. In addition to the options to rent or buy the film, all three films in the trilogy are available for $35.  



Borat Subsequent Moviefilm


Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Jagshemash! Borat, number one reporter of Kazakhstan is back and ready to dupe even more political figures and extremists into admitting how horrible they are on camera for everyone to see. The surprise sequel to the cult hit film finds Borat and his daughter coming to America to deliver a gift to Mike Pence, but it's really a highlight of how self-destructive the country has become because of politics and idiocy. Sacha Baron Cohen is his usual great self, but it's Maria Bakalova, who plays Borat's daughter, who steals the show. -Tim Surette [Borat Subsequent Moviefilm Review]



Coming 2 America


Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Eddie Murphy, Coming 2 America

Eddie Murphy, Coming 2 America

Amazon Studios

One of the late-1980s films that doesn't get enough respect is Eddie Murphy's Coming to America, a culture-clash comedy with spectacular performances from Murphy and co-star Arsenio Hall. Sometimes respect takes a while to develop, and there's no greater form of respect than the sequel, which comes more than three decades later via Amazon Prime Video. The movie -- in which Murphy's Akeem returns to America to find the son he didn't know he had -- is getting mixed reviews, but that's probably because it sticks to the lovably flawed blueprint of '80s movies, and we can't really fault it for that.



Da 5 Bloods


Where to watch: Netflix

Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters, Delroy Lindo, and Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods

Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters, Delroy Lindo, and Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods

David Lee/Netflix

Spike Lee's latest joint, Da 5 Bloods, hit Netflix smack dab in the middle of nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd, and, as with most of his filmography, the movie offers a timely, scathing rebuke of the history of America's treatment of Black people -- this time, through the lens of the "bloods," Black soldiers who fought on the front lines in Vietnam. The story's action is carried forward by the decades-later reunion of one platoon, as they journey back to recover their lost leader's remains and the pile of gold they found and stowed away on the battlefield. But the takeaway from the pic -- apart from the fact that Delroy Lindo delivers a tour-de-force performance -- is that it sheds light on another oft-unrecognized sacrifice and segment of our nation's history. [Da 5 Bloods Review] [7 Movies to Watch if You Liked Da 5 Bloods]



Enola Holmes


Where to watchNetflix

Millie Bobby Brown, Enola Holmes

Millie Bobby Brown, Enola Holmes

Netflix

Stranger Things' Millie Bobby Brown puts down the Eggos and, as Sherlock's younger sister Enola Holmes, picks up the scent of her missing mother in this fun adventure film that was going to be Brown's big movie break before the film was pushed to streaming because of the pandemic. It's set in Victorian England and shows that detective work runs in the family, with the free-spirited Enola donning disguises and dishing out knuckle sandwiches, all while speaking directly to the audience with screen-busting asides. Bonus: The Witcher's Henry Cavill plays Sherlock. -Tim Surette [Enola Holmes Review]



Extraction


Where to watch: Netflix

Chris Hemsworth, Extraction

Chris Hemsworth, Extraction

Jasin Boland/Netflix

If not a Netflix Original by design, Sam Hargrave's Extraction, a Chris Hemsworth-led action pic, would've easily made the marquee of the local cineplex in a normal year. Not since The Haunting of Hill House have we seen such an impressive extended single-take shot, and Hemsworth's turn as a disillusioned mercenary who reluctantly accepts an assignment to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned drug lord from a vicious rival is extremely watchable if you're looking to dig into a tub of popcorn and have a good time. Chances are, you'll be left wanting much more after the credits roll, and the good news is that Extraction 2 is already in the works[Extraction Review] [8 Action Movies to Watch on Netflix if You Liked Extraction]



Greyhound


Where to watch: Apple TV+

Tom Hanks, Greyhound

Tom Hanks, Greyhound

Apple

Don't let the tight runtime fool you; Greyhound is still very much a war epic at just 1 hour and 31 minutes. The film -- which Tom Hanks adapted from C.S. Forester's The Good Shepherd and which was directed by Aaron Schneider -- features Hanks as the fictional commanding officer of a U.S. Navy vessel who must lead a convoy of Allied ships through the perilous Black Pit, a stretch of sea inaccessible to air support during the Battle of the Atlantic. For that three-day period, Hanks' Commander Ernest Krause is relentlessly tested and taunted by a "wolfpack" of U-boats, and it's on him to shepherd the ships across the Atlantic. There's little fluff to be found in this film, but the action is, to borrow an oft-used phrase in the film, "steady as you go." [Greyhound Review]



Hamilton: An American Musical


Where to watch: Disney+

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

For anyone who wasn't lucky enough to see the celebrated Broadway musical Hamilton live, especially when show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda still led the original cast, director Thomas Kail captured a stunning 2016 performance of the show, with plans for the film to release wide in 2021. Once the coronavirus pandemic put all of Hollywood on hold, though, the pic -- a musical biography of Alexander Hamilton told with a soundtrack of hip-hop, R&B, and soul -- was redirected to a pre-Fourth of July release on Disney+ and gave audiences at home plenty of reasons to sing this Independence Day. 



Happiest Season


Where to watch: Hulu

Daniel Levy, Kristen Stewart, and Mackenzie Davis, Happiest Season

Daniel Levy, Kristen Stewart, and Mackenzie Davis, Happiest Season

Lacey Terrell/Hulu

Ring in the holidays with Clea DuVall's Happiest Season, a cozy lesbian rom-com that takes its cues from the classics. Kristen Stewart stars as Abby, whose plan to propose to her girlfriend, Harper (Mackenzie Davis), over Christmas is derailed when she learns Harper still isn't out to her family. It's a sweet, vulnerable story brought to life by a dream cast. Mary Steenburgen and Dan Levy steal the show. -Kelly Connolly



The Lovebirds


Where to watch: Netflix

Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, The Lovebirds

Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, The Lovebirds

Skip Bolen/NETFLIX

An anticipated romance movie smuggled inside of an action comedy, The Lovebirds was supposed to premiere at SXSW in March 2020 before everything shut down. That allowed Netflix to gobble it up, so nearly all the world could still see Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae play a couple on the rocks who learn to love each other again after accidentally becoming involved in a murder the same day they were going to break up. It's full of the kind of raucous humor that sees Nanjiani kicked in the face by a horse, all the while bringing Rae's and Nanjiani's characters closer together for a happy ending. -Tim Surette [The Lovebirds Review]



Ma Rainey's Black Bottom


Where to watch: Netflix

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Netflix

One look at Viola Davis' fiery performance as blues legend Ma Rainey, and you'll be running to get her a Coke just like she demands in a particularly tense scene in this film about the music industry, power struggles, and race relations in 1920s Chicago. The drama stars Chadwick Boseman, in his final performance, as a trumpet player looking to make a name for himself and trying to get out from underneath the thumb of Ma, and because most of the movie is set in a single rehearsal room during a sweltering day in the Windy City, you'll smell the sweat of hard-working musicians from the many incredible performances. -Tim Surette [Ma Rainey's Black Bottom review]



Mank


Where to watch: Netflix

Gary Oldman, Arliss Howard, and Tom Pelphrey, Mank

Gary Oldman, Arliss Howard, and Tom Pelphrey, Mank

Netflix

David Fincher's latest was seemingly made to win Oscars. The film was shot in stunning black and white by one of the industry's greatest directors, the plot revolves around one of the most famous movies of all time, and Academy Award-winner Gary Oldman is front-and-center ready to receive another statue -- yeah, there's buzz. Oldman plays Herman J. Mankiewicz, the screenwriter of Citizen Kane, as he wrestles with Orson Welles over the film, the script, and credit. It's a meticulously produced masterpiece of filmmaking, honoring Old Hollywood by submerging itself in it. -Tim Surette [Mank review]



Mulan


Where to watch: Disney+ ($29.99)

Yifei Liu, Mulan

Yifei Liu, Mulan

Film Frame/Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Disney's latest live-action reboot of one of its classic animated films has skipped theaters and dropped on Disney+ due to the pandemic, which is a nice thing, but there's a catch: It costs an additional on-demand fee of $30 on top of the usual Disney+ monthly subscription. It's a steep price for an on-demand movie, but Disney spent a lot of money on this (it's the most expensive movie ever made by a female director, with Niki Caro given a budget of $200 million, approximately $197 million more than she had for Whale Rider). However, if you can wait, it will be included with a Disney+ subscription in early December. The movie itself looks really good, with beautiful visuals and an updated, action-packed, Mushu the Dragon-free take on the 1998 film.  



Nomadland


Where to watch: Hulu

Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Frances McDormand, Nomadland

Sometimes, you only watch a movie because you know it will win a bunch of awards and you don't want to be that person who hasn't seen it when your smart friends are having a conversation about it. Nomadland, a movie that otherwise might have ducked your radar, is going to win a bunch of awards this spring, so you better check it out. The bonus here is that it is actually great, with Frances McDormand as a widow who cruises the country in her camper looking for work, something that many older Americans were forced to do after the last recession. It's a reevaluation of life as we live it, offering looks at the unique culture of "houseless" nomads and the beauty of simply existing without the restrictions of standardized employment. -Tim Surette



The Old Guard


Where to watch: Netflix

Charlize Theron, The Old Guard

Charlize Theron, The Old Guard

Aimee Spinks/NETFLIX

Gina Prince-Bythewood's action thriller The Old Guard is more than just your ordinary shoot-'em-up-bang-bang-style popcorn flick. The pic stars Charlize Theron as Andy, the ancient leader of a race of semi-immortals who secretly work to save the world, one fight at a time, and take on a reluctant new member in KiKi Layne's Nile. Although The Old Guard does offer plenty of high-octane sequences, the characters also deliver some thoughtful commentary about the heroes' burden of watching the world continue to self-destruct no matter how many bad guys they vanquish, along with some sublime LGBTQ representation. [The Old Guard Review]



One Night in Miami


Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

One Night in Miami

Amazon

If you thought Regina King was a good actress, you should see her work behind the camera in her directorial debut, the fantastic One Night in Miami. King gets behind the camera to tell the story of a night when four legends in their fields -- boxer Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), football great Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and activist Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) -- hung out together after Ali's title fight against Sonny Liston and contemplated the power and responsibility that they have. It's one of the most well-reviewed movies of the year, with praise for King and her direction, as well as being a fantastic adaptation of the play it's based on. -Tim Surette



Palm Springs


Where to watch: Hulu

Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg, Palm Springs

Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg, Palm Springs

Hulu

The less you know about Palm Springs going into it, the better, but it's probably no secret at this point that this delightful comedy features Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti as a pair of wedding goers who find themselves trapped in a time loop. Their performances are at once goofy and grounded, and there are plenty of surprises packed into every precious minute of this wild, incredibly fun rom-com with touches of sci-fi. [Palm Springs Review]  



Raya and the Last Dragon


Where to watch: Disney+ ($30 with premiere access; free for subscribers beginning June 4)

Raya and the Last Dragon

Raya and the Last Dragon

Disney

Disney's first animated feature since Frozen II was going to be a summer tentpole back when normalcy was on the menu, but it instead becomes Disney+'s first major animated feature film to premiere day-and-date online with its (limited) theatrical release. The fantasy movie follows a warrior princess who must unite her realm when evil forces threaten it, but first, she'll need to find a dragon to help her out.



Small Axe


Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

John Boyega, Small Axe

John Boyega, Small Axe

Amazon

Not one movie, but a series of films from Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Small Axe is a passion project detailing McQueen's Caribbean community in London growing up. The five-film anthology covers different decades and genres -- Lovers Rock is a romance set in 1980, Mangrove is a political drama about the 1971 trial of the Mangrove Nine, for example -- but each film shares something in common: critics loved them. -Tim Surette [Small Axe Review]  



Soul


Where to watch: Disney+

Soul

Disney

Pixar's latest was supposed to be a big Christmas blockbuster, as all Pixar films usually are, but it skipped theaters because of the pandemic, ensuring every parent could have a relaxing evening by letting the kids watch it at home. Turns out it's a pretty good movie for grown-ups, too, as it follows Joe, a music teacher and jazz musician (Jamie Foxx) who gets another chance at life after a fatal fall in a manhole. Of course, it's a Pixar movie, so there's a talking cat thrown in there as well, as Joe's soul tries to reunite with his body. -Tim Surette



Sound of Metal


Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal

Amazon

Riz Ahmed (The Night Of) gives one heck of a performance as Ruben Stone, a heavy metal drummer who starts to lose his hearing in Sound of Metal, another Oscar contender. Caught between his passion and his new physical limitations, Ruben embeds with the Deaf community to control his anger and give him perspective. I'd give Ahmed even odds to take home the Academy Award, and the wardrobe designer to win my personal Timmy Award for giving Ruben authentic metal band t-shirts. -Tim Surette



Spenser Confidential


Where to watch: Netflix

Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke, Spenser Confidential

Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke, Spenser Confidential

Netflix

Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg have teamed up for a lot of action dramas over the years (see also: Lone Survivor, Patriots Day, Deepwater Horizon, and Mile 22), but Spenser Confidential marks their first film which even flirts with comedy -- and it's all the better for it. The premise of the movie is simple enough; Wahlberg stars as an ex-cop who did his time for beating up his crooked boss and returns to find that his department is enmeshed a very sordid scandal that only he, his mentor Henry (Alan Arkin), his gentle giant roommate Hawk (Winston Duke), and his on-and-off-again girlfriend Cissy (Iliza Schlesinger) can untangle. But what might otherwise be a rote cop drama is immediately elevated by the movie's commitment to being a very Boston drama with a lot of sharp humor sprinkled in at just the right moments. 



The Vast of Night


Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

thevastofnight-2070.jpg

Amazon

OK, maybe this one wouldn't have been a major blockbuster, but it's already destined to be an indie sci-fi classic talked about by elite cinephiles for years to come. The winner of Sundance's 2019 Best Narrative Feature Audience Award is set in 1950s New Mexico and follows a young woman and a man who investigate mysterious audio that appears to be coming from space, but skips special effects for mounting mood and incredible filmmaking. Andrew Patterson's directorial debut is a stunner, showing off his unique eye with what are sure to be his trademark one-take shots involving hundreds of extras, multiple locations, and a camera that never wants to turn off. There's a mesmerizing scene involving the young woman operating a switchboard that's already become one of my favorite scenes in film history, and I can't wait to see what Patterson comes at us with next. -Tim Surette



Wolfwalkers


Where to watch: Apple TV+

Wolfwalkers

Wolfwalkers

Apple TV+

The beautifully animated film Wolfwalkers came out in theaters in December, but there's about a 99% chance you didn't see it because of, well, obvious reasons. It's the third in a series of films based on Irish folklore from the studio Cartoon Saloon, following the critically acclaimed The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, and tells the story of a young girl who heads to Ireland with her dad to kill off the last wolf pack but ends up befriending a young girl who is part of a tribe of humans who become wolves at night. It's less Disney and Pixar and more Hayao Miyazaki, and it drew rave reviews when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. It's between this and Soul for the Best Animated Film Academy Award this year. -Tim Surette

Looking for more recommendations of what to watch next? We have a ton of them! And if you're looking for more hand-picked recommendations based on shows you love, we have those too.