Film and television can provide great ways to fill blocks of time when you’re unable to do other things like, say, going out and enjoying life thanks to an unrelenting global pandemic. Sometimes, though, you don’t have all day to watch a movie. Thankfully, if you’re trying to fill a pretty tight block of time, there are still plenty of great titles on services like Netflix to choose from.
Short movies are wonderful not just because of the convenient hole they can fill in your schedule, but because they typically tell relatively tight, compact stories. Staring at beautiful vistas and long lingering shots can be great, but shorter movies tend to be more propulsive and purposeful. Each of the titles listed below ⏤ all of which are available on Netflix and under 100 minutes long ⏤ manages to offer a complete experience, even in its relatively compact runtime.
If you’re looking for shorter titles, one of the best genres to peruse is definitely horror, where you can get plenty of thrills in a short amount of time. The Ritual follows a group of friends as they set out into the Scandinavian wilderness following the death of one of their friends. Predictably, they come across plenty of terrifying, unexplainable things, including a demon monster that is both horrifying and exhilarating. Ultimately, though, the film is thrilling in part because it’s about a coward who finds himself in a terrifying situation and has to really figure out what kind of man he is.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
What needs to be said about Monty Python and the Holy Grail? What is perhaps the most famous of Monty Python’s feature films, Grail is exactly as hilarious as everyone says it is. Telling the story of Camelot and King Arthur’s court, but with plenty of iconic jokes that only get funnier with age, Grail is the perfect thing to turn to whether you’re seeing it for the first time or the hundredth.
Stand By Me
A quintessential coming-of-age story, Stand By Me is both dark and nostalgic, and those two tones never feel like they’re conflicting with one another. Instead, this story of four boys who set out to see a dead body is all about what it means to grow up and to grow apart from the people you once spent all your time with. It’s a sad, wistful story, but one that is sweet without feeling overly sentimental.
A sentimental, hilarious road trip movie, Bad Trip follows Eric Andre and Lil Rel Howery as they travel across the country and pull pranks on unsuspecting strangers. Those pranks can get pretty elaborate at times, but Bad Trip is really just an exercise in pure joy. The movie is as much about the fun of having a great friend as it is about the pranks, although there is certainly plenty of hilarity throughout its fairly lean runtime.
An explicit class metaphor that is akin to something like Snowpiercer, The Platform is a Spanish-language thriller set at a vertical prison where the upper levels get fed first and the lower levels are left with just scraps. In the wake of a phenomenon like Squid Game, The Platform is a great combination of smart class critique and inventive genre trappings. It’s one of the best undersung gems you can find on Netflix.
Greta Gerwig’s first directorial effort felt so fully-formed that it was hard to believe she’d never done it before. Lady Bird tells the story of a young woman living in Sacramento who dreams of moving to New York and ultimately comes to realize how much she loves her home. The film doesn’t try to be an extraordinary coming-of-age tale, but it’s so finely crafted that it has quickly become a classic of the genre.
Mike Flanagan has garnered a reputation for being one of the most original voices in horror, and Hush may actually be his most straightforward film, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great. The movie follows a deaf writer who retreats into the woods only to find herself trying to avoid a masked killer that appears at her window. It’s a tense and thrilling genre exercise, and one that ends in wonderfully satisfying fashion.
A Taylor Swift documentary might not feel like something you need, but Miss Americana catches the pop sensation at exactly the right time in her career. She’s touring what is widely regarded as her least successful album and also gaining a political conscience. The movie chronicles her rise to stardom, but it’s also remarkably revealing as it explores what super stardom has done to the way that its subject sees the world.
Every Sofia Coppola movie is worth watching, and The Beguiled is one of her best efforts. The film tells the story of an all-girls school in the South that is discovered by a wounded Union soldier during the Civil War. It might seem high-minded and political, but it’s actually a smutty thriller about a bunch of women who all find themselves attracted to the same man. The results are surprising, and every performance is pitch-perfect, especially Nicole Kidman’s.
I Am Not Your Negro
Even decades after his death, James Baldwin is still a towering figure on questions of race. I Am Not Your Negro tells Baldwin’s story using his own words, highlighting not just Baldwin’s life but the lives of his contemporaries and friends Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers. The movie is also a scathing critique of an America that cannot overcome its original sin and may be doomed as a result.
Horror movies don’t need a big idea to be great, but it doesn’t hurt. In His House, we follow a pair of refugees from South Sudan as they resettle in the United Kingdom and find themselves haunted by memories of their journey. The horror of the movie, and of the house they find themselves in, unfold steadily, but the brilliance of His House is that when things inevitable go sideways, everyone knows that it’s not because of anything the couple at the center of the story did ⏤ it’s because of a system that has set them up to fail.
Shot entirely on an iPhone, Tangerine firmly announced the arrival of a brilliant new filmmaker in Sean Baker. The film, which tells the story of two best friends who have one wild night in L.A., is beautiful in addition to being dynamic and totally alive. In the end, it’s a story about two people who fight and say terrible things to one another, but ultimately come back together because they pretty much can’t help it.