The 24 best movies to watch on Paramount Plus
The finest of one of the most comprehensive streaming libraries
What to Look Out For
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There are several possibilities for what to watch in the vast world of streaming services. In our ongoing mission to narrow down your prospective movie selections to only the greatest options, we’ve turned our focus to Paramount Plus.
Many of its streaming competitors do not have a substantial back library from one of Hollywood’s most historic production firms, having classics from nearly every era of American filmmaking.
We chose our favorites from their huge library of films, which includes both all-time classics and new discoveries from various eras. Take a walk through the history of outstanding films, listed in chronological sequence of release.
Zodiac, David Fincher’s 2007 mystery thriller, may be the famous director’s crowning achievement. The film, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr., follows the manhunt for the notorious Zodiac Killer, a serial killer known for terrorizing the San Francisco Bay Area with a string of gruesome killings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, all while taunting the police with a slew of esoteric ciphers and newspaper letters. Zodiac is David Fincher’s answer to Bong Joon-Memories ho’s of Murder; a brilliant murder thriller inspired by a real-life nightmare. It’s dark, sophisticated, and extremely captivating. —Egan, Toussaint
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Paul Thomas Anderson’s enthralling novel about the rise and fall of an oil billionaire was once best known for a disastrous milkshake meme. But it’s been 14 years, so surely we can let go of that specific joke and return to admiring Daniel Day-Lewis’ normally dramatic performance and the film’s unflinching harshness. It’s a harsh-looking film, with cracked, dry surfaces and seething desperation, and the conflict between Day-Lewis’ ruthlessly competitive oilman and a struggling young pastor (Paul Dano) is equally harsh. The ending is classic Grand Guignol, but it’s a heck of a journey to get there. Tamara Robinson
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
George A. Romero created the contemporary zombie picture in the United States by writing, directing, photographing, and editing this masterpiece on a low budget, which only contributes to the spooky atmosphere and grounded fear. At the onset of a zombie apocalypse, a group of survivors hide out in an abandoned house in western Pennsylvania. The gang, led by the calm Ben (Duane Jones), must cope not only with the battle of zombies trying to get in, but also with internal problems arising from debates over how to handle their hazardous situation.
The earliest example of Romero’s trademark combination of jaw-dropping, stomach-churning practical effects and perceptive societal satire is Night of the Living Dead. Fun fact: This picture was released a month before the MPAA film rating system, which caused quite a stir when children were permitted to view it in theaters. Another interesting fact: Night of the Living Dead was never copyrighted due to an error made by the original theatrical distributor (who unintentionally erased the copyright notice from the official copy of the film), resulting in it being released into the public domain. —Mr. Peter Volk
THE MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE MOVIES
The Tom Cruise-led Mission: Impossible franchise, perhaps the most consistent modern movie franchise, began with a bang, with the first chapter directed by the famous Brian de Palma. That first film became instantly famous, with unforgettable images carved in the memory of our popular culture (who can forget the scene in which Cruise’s Ethan Hunt hangs from a ceiling and has to collect his own perspiration to prevent an alarm from going off?).
The series has gone from strength to strength since then, with John Woo directing the unfairly criticised second installment and Christopher McQuarrie directing the two most recent chapters, Rogue Nation and Fallout (who previously worked with Cruise on Jack Reacher). All save the third film (directed by J.J. Abrams and basically a dud despite a renowned villain role by Philip Seymour Hoffman) are accessible to Paramount Plus members, while the third is only available to Paramount Plus subscribers who also have Showtime. —PV
Clueless is just legendary, with memorable quips (“Do you prefer ‘fashion victim’ or ‘ensembly challenged’?”), iconic lead performances (Paul Rudd’s smile! ), and iconic clothing. Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) wrote and directed this classic high school film set in Beverly Hills. The film, loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz, a wealthy and popular student who takes in the “tragically unhip” new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy).
To be honest, I doubt that many people reading this haven’t seen Clueless. This blog serves as a gentle reminder to watch Clueless again. You’re really welcome. —PV
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1970s films – The Godfather (now available on Paramount Plus! ), The Conversation, The Godfather Part 2, and Apocalypse Now — are among the best of any film director’s career. The least well-known of these four films may be the greatest. It is, without a doubt, the most disciplined and terrifying.
The Conversation, released in 1974, is a paranoid conspiracy thriller that is more concerned with the shape and repercussions of the protagonist’s paranoia than with the machinations of the conspiracy he finds. Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a disillusioned surveillance specialist hired to record a chat between a young couple in San Francisco’s busy Union Square. Caul becomes obsessed with the ambiguous, fragmented tape he produces, worried that he is endangering the couple’s — or someone’s — lives, and his perfectly compartmentalized existence begins to crumble.
The film has a strong narrative pull and revels in the oddly mundane realm of professional spying. But what sticks with you is the film’s ambiguous, aloof, melancholy mood, which is created by Hackman’s ferociously internalized performance, David Shire’s delicate piano theme (recently prominently imitated by Apple TV’s Severance), and the eerie, endless loops of the recorded audio. —Welsh, Oli
Charlie Chaplin’s debut feature picture as a director was a huge success, establishing Jackie Coogan (later known as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family) as one of Hollywood’s first child stars.
In the film, Chaplin’s character, The Tramp, rescues an abandoned youngster and cares for him despite a string of terrible luck and unfortunate situations. It’s one of the best movies from one of the best filmmakers to ever grace our planet, filled with Chaplin’s trademark combination of uproarious slapstick gigs (at one point, Coogan’s Kid gets into a scuffle with another child, evolving into a sequence straight out of a boxing movie, with Chaplin as his ring man) and a deep, pervasive sense of humanity’s trials and tribulations. You’ll laugh, weep, and fall in love with it. —PV
John Woo’s third Hollywood film (after Hard Target and Broken Arrow) is the first of his American films that seems like John Woo. Face/Off is a gloriously over-the-top ’90s action film that feeds on Woo’s directing and the two major performances, with enormous gun battles, strained representations of masculinity, and, of course, doves.
Sean Archer (John Travolta) is an FBI agent whose kid was slain by Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage), a terrorist who planned to assassinate the older Archer. Archer resolves to undergo experimental face transplant surgery in order to “become” Troy in his quest for revenge. Of course, Troy reciprocates by “becoming” Archer. Although Cage has joked that Travolta got the better end of the deal, spending the most of the running time portraying the considerably more eccentric of the two characters, the set-up is a wonderful setting for both performers to have fun in this playground.
Fun fact: When Mike Werb and Michael Colleary penned the script for Face/Off, they had Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in mind. I get what you mean, but I’m delighted we got this one. —PV
The 1990 psychological horror thriller Jacob’s Ladder stars Tim Robbins as Jacob Singer, a former US Infantryman working as a postal clerk in New York. It is perhaps best recognized by current audiences as one of the films that inspired Silent Hill. When he finds himself pursued by writhing demonic phantoms and horrific images of his time in Vietnam, Singer begins to doubt the nature of his past. As his search for the truth grows increasingly perilous, Jacob slips into a phantasmagorical hell of his own misdeeds, where the only way out is through. Inspired by Francis Bacon’s and Henry R.Jacob’s Ladder, directed by H.R. Giger and featuring startling fast motion in-camera special effects, is a hallucinogenic body-horror thriller that will have you hooked to your seat. —TE
ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES
We previously called Addams Family Values “the Borscht belt comic equivalent of Fatal Attraction,” and it’s a very concise and accurate description of Barry Sonnenfeld’s 1993 follow-up to his 1991 dark comedy picture The Addams Family. The Addams have a new addition to the family in the shape of baby Pubert, and Uncle Fester has been romantically entangled in the schemes of the baby’s new nanny (Joan Cusack). Addams Family Values is a fantastically naughty film and deserving follow-up to Sonnenfeld’s original, filled with inventively horrific one-liners, excellent comedy performances, and even more deliciously macabre humor. —TE
Everything else in the Wachowskis’ oeuvre pales in comparison to their feature debut. Bound is a sensual sexual thriller about two women who are inexorably drawn to each other (Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon, both excellent in this). They devise a plan to achieve some form of financial stability and to avoid a mafioso partner (frequent Wachowski collaborator Joe Pantoliano). When you’re through, make sure to read this fantastic 2019 essay that revisits the film with the two stars. —PV
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
Don Siegel’s classic sci-fi film noir story about a California town whose residents are gradually taken over by emotionless copies of themselves has been remade numerous times (including the also-excellent 1978 version starring Donald Sutherland), but few have the tension and emotional heart of the spine-chilling original. A local doctor (Kevin McCarthy) and his ex-girlfriend (Dana Wynter) are among the first to suspect what is going on, but convincing anybody else of the craziness is difficult (or to know who to trust). You’ll have a terrific time in 80 minutes, but watch out for the pod people! — PV
When it was first released in 2002, Gore Verbinski’s American remake of Hideo Nakata’s 1998 supernatural horror classic The Ring was a runaway pop culture phenomenon, introducing Western audiences to the wonderful world of J-horror cinema and going on to be parodied in everything from Scary Movie 3 to Family Guy. Naomi Watts plays Rachel Keller, a journalist who goes undercover to investigate the bizarre connection between her niece’s and three friends’ unexplained deaths and a weird DVD they saw one week previously. However, when Rachel watches the tape herself, she finds herself in a race against time to solve the riddle and lay to rest the angry spirit that is now intent on taking the lives of her and everyone else who watches.
PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES
Mario Bava, an Italian horror expert, created numerous memorable low-budget genre films, including the renowned Black Sunday and the heist film Danger: Diabolik.
Planet of the Vampires, made on a $200,000 budget, follows a group of space explorers who crash land on… well, you know. It strikes almost every aesthetic note you might hope from such an endeavor. Bava stated the planet’s set was made from two plastic rocks and a lot of smoke, which is incredible when you consider how tangible the planet seems – the image above gives you a hint, but nothing beats witnessing it in action. —PV
“Is it secure?”
With his 1976 film Marathon Man, director John Schlesinger pounded this simple yet menacing question into the minds of moviegoers all around the world. The film is based on William Goldman’s 1974 novel of the same name and stars Dustin Hoffman as Thomas “Babe” Levy, a history Ph.D student at Columbia University working on a dissertation on McCarthyism in order to exonerate his disgraced father.
When Babe’s brother Henry (Roy Scheider), a government operative acting as an oil businessman, is found dead on his doorstep one night, he is lured into a web of intrigues built by Dr. Christian Szell, a Nazi war criminal eager to do everything to recover a hidden trove of diamonds. Marathon Man is a thriller par excellence, electrifying in its intensity and startling in its violence. —TE
The late, great Philip Baker Hall starred in Paul Thomas Anderson’s feature film debut, a crime picture about a professional gambler (Hall) who takes in a down-on-his-luck vagabond (John C. Reilly). It’s a peek of part of what made Anderson one of the most unique filmmakers of his time, adapted from a short film he did with Hall. More than anything, it’s a demonstration of Hall’s exceptional excellence as a performer. —PV
In the Classic Hollywood era, Edgar G. Ulmer was a prolific filmmaker who directed The Black Cat, starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. It was the first film to use both horror legends, and it is regarded as one of the first instances of the psychological horror film. Universal had a big success with it. Unfortunately, Ulmer was banned from the company (and the other major Hollywood studios) shortly after, after his romance with Universal studio chief Carl Laemmle’s nephew’s wife resulted in a divorce and remarriage.
All of this serves as backdrop for Detour, one of Ulmer’s many micro-budget films for Producers Releasing Corporation, the smallest of the Hollywood studios at the time. It’s also a notable example of low-budget filmmaking and film noir aesthetics.
Detour tells the story of a down-on-his-luck young guy travelling from New York to Los Angeles to meet up with his love, who has come to Hollywood in the hopes of making it big. Along the way, he encounters a mystery man who turns everything upside down.
Detour’s low budget lends the 66-minute picture a strange air, with limited sets and unreliable back projection. But the film works – it’s a disturbing film about the unluckiest guy in the universe, and Ulmer’s beautiful pictures (and a memorable performance by Ann Savage) build a harsh picture of an uncaring world through his evocative use of lighting. —PV
From our selection of the top streaming comedies:
Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen play as a group of closest friends who have been members of a long-running book club in this fun and irreverent romantic comedy. Despite their professional achievements, each of them is coping with personal or romantic issues. When one of them chooses Fifty Shades of Grey as the next book they’ll all read together, it immerses the group in a magnificent narrative of personal acceptance and self-realization, regardless of your stage of life.
WRATH OF MAN
Guy Ritchie’s new film with Jason Statham is equal parts heist film and vengeance thriller. H (Statham), a rookie security guard for a cash truck firm in Los Angeles, astounds his coworkers with an efficient and effective display of brutality during a theft attempt. As H becomes more visible to viewers and coworkers alike, we understand why he has chosen to work at this specific establishment. Wrath of Man is a fantastic two-hour action adventure with a supporting ensemble that includes Holt McCallany, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Hartnett (as “Boy Sweat”), and Scott Eastwood. —PV