Watch ‘Em While You Can: Must-See Movies Leaving Streaming Platforms in May
As April comes to a close, some notable films and shows are leaving both Netflix and Hulu. In the wake of social distancing and shelter-in-place directives, streaming platforms have certainly seen an uptick in the amount of time subscribers are spending with their programming. Even though many of us have more time to marathon a few movies or seasons of TV, it’s still downright impossible to consume all the entertainment we want to, thanks to the near-unlimited offerings.
However, if you’ve been putting off watching some classic films from the ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s, our list might have you second-guessing your watchlist, especially since these bonafide classics will be leaving popular streaming services in May. Grab some popcorn and get ready to watch while you can!
My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
When Julianne Potter (Julia Roberts) discovers that her best friend, Michael (Dermot Mulroney), with whom she had a backup marriage pact, is on track to marry another woman (Cameron Diaz), she decides to break up the wedding and win over her pal. But things take an uncomfortable turn in this rom-com as old as time when Julianne’s actions become more and more heinous.
Why’s It Worth Watching? Throughout the film, Julianne’s best bud, George (Rupert Everett), urges her to just tell Michael how she feels. Like any good rom-com, this one follows the "too little, too late," unrequited love track, but it eschews last-ditch grand gestures of romance for hand-wringing and a kind of messiness that subverts the typical comedic fare and cements this one’s status as a classic. My Best Friend’s Wedding doesn’t seem interested in excusing those actions, but as Vanity Fair states, it’s "brave enough to depict an unvarnished love story about three deeply messed-up people." Watch it on Hulu.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Based on Stephen King’s classic novel of the same name, The Shawshank Redemption chronicles the experiences of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a successful banker who is wrongfully imprisoned in Shawshank after being charged with a crime he didn’t commit. While there, he befriends his fellow inmates, namely Red (Morgan Freeman), and curries favor with the prison’s dastardly guards — all of which adds to Andy’s slow-burn, long-game plan to leave Shawshank behind.
Why’s It Worth Watching? When it comes to successful adaptations of King’s work, Shawshank is up there with the likes of Carrie (1976), The Shining (1980) and Stand by Me (1986). Moreover, it’s directed by horror icon Frank Darabont, who adapted King’s The Green Mile (1999) and The Mist (2007) and was responsible for executive producing early seasons of AMC’s The Walking Dead — you know, back when that show was great. While Shawshank has its flaws — a lack of women, for starters — it has certainly had a lasting impact on filmmakers and audiences alike for many good reasons. Watch it on Netflix.
28 Days Later (2003)
Directed by Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Trainspotting’s (1996) Danny Boyle, the post-apocalyptic 28 Days Later depicts the breakdown of society following the accidental release of a highly contagious virus. Four survivors — played by Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Megan Burns and Brendan Gleeson — try to cope with the downfall of literally everything and evade the virus and the zombie-like victims in this blockbuster.
Why’s It Worth Watching? Often, this film is credited with reinvigorating the zombie subset of the horror genre, in part for its depiction of terrifyingly fast-moving zombies. (Nope.) If you’ve recently marathoned FX’s slow-burn sci-fi miniseries Devs, which was written and directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation), you’ll be happy to know that 28 Days Later’s screenplay bears his signature marks. For some folks, a film like this signifies a fun, escapist romp, but if you balk at watching apocalyptic horror right now, we don’t blame you for skipping this classic. Watch it on Hulu.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)
Feeling supremely let down by Amazon’s finale to The Man in the High Castle? Check out some classic Philip K. Dick fare instead. Based on Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner is set in a dystopian Los Angeles — what filmmakers imagined 2019 would look like — in which synthetic humans, or replicants, are created by the shady Tyrell Corporation to work on off-world colonies. At the film’s onset, we meet Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a cop/"blade runner" whose job is to track and "retire" rogue replicants. After some light blackmail, a reluctant Deckard is brought back into the fold to retire fugitive replicants who have illegally returned to Earth.
Why’s It Worth Watching? Directed by Ridley Scott of Alien (1979) and Thelma & Louise (1991) fame, this film is neo-noir cinema at its finest — and it helped inspire and popularize elements of the cyberpunk genre. Despite its engrossing aesthetics and world-building, Blade Runner was misunderstood when it first hit theaters, but it has since been hailed as a sci-fi classic for its deep, Greek tragedy-esque interrogation of human nature. Already seen it? Well, like replicant Rachael, you probably "can’t rely on [your] memories," so it’s certainly worth a rewatch. Watch it on Netflix.
The Craft (1996)
Troubled teen Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney) moves from San Francisco to Los Angeles and strikes up a quick friendship with a group of outcast girls — Bonnie Harper (Neve Campbell), Rochelle Zimmerman (Rachel True) and Nancy Downs (Fairuza Balk). The rest of the school deems the young women "witches," mostly because the other students are bullies — though it’s also true that Bonnie, Rochelle and Nancy worship a deity named Manon. Sarah falls for the popular boy, but that typical teen storyline is thrown off course when she and her new pals dabble in witchcraft for their own gain, only to discover some…negative repercussions.
Why’s It Worth Watching? When it was released in the mid-90s, The Craft was a surprise hit, grossing $55.6 million worldwide — impressive for a film with a $15 million budget. Despite some initial mixed reviews, the movie ultimately gained quite the cult following, which seems extremely appropriate given the subject matter. For horror enthusiasts and fans of teen dramas alike, this one is a must-see, especially ahead of the reboot, which was announced in 2019 by the prolific horror production company Blumhouse. Watch it on Netflix.
The West Wing (1999-2006)
President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) isn’t afraid to speak his mind — and his cutthroat advisors aren’t afraid to mix their personal and professional lives. This Aaron Sorkin classic may feel too politics-heavy for some right now, but it’s also TV comfort food at its best. Apart from Sheen, the ensemble cast included a staggering number of acting greats like Allison Janney, John Spencer, Rob Lowe, Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff, Janel Moloney and Stockard Channing.
Why’s It Worth Watching? Praised by poli-sci professors and former White House staffers, The West Wing won two Peabody Awards and a whopping 26 Emmys. Also, it gave us the "walk-and-talk." What more could we ask for, really? Admittedly, West Wing’s departure from Netflix is still a bit nebulous, but it seems likely that it will get yanked this month when HBO Max debuts. The new streaming service has very openly nabbed the rights to The West Wing and quite a few other classics, like Friends and Gossip Girl. Watch it on Netflix.
Strictly Ballroom (1992)
Scott Hastings, the frustrated son in a family of ballroom dancers, struggles to establish his own style of dance when his steps are deemed not "strictly ballroom." (Yup, we said the thing.) After losing a competition due to his originality, Scott finds himself without a dance partner — well, that is until Fran, an overlooked beginner at Scott’s mom’s studio, approaches him, intrigued by his inventive steps.
Why’s It Worth Watching? Baz Luhrmann’s directorial debut, Strictly Ballroom, also launched his "Red Curtain Trilogy," which went on to contain Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge! (2001), both decidedly more popular than the film in question. Nonetheless, this Aussie rom-com is worth your time, especially if you're a fan of Luhrmann’s signature bombastic style, which both embraces and mocks tropes and gives the artist a heightened world in which to create their work. Watch it on Netflix.
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Eager to spend more time with his family, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) plots a cross-country expedition from their home in Chicago’s suburbs to a So-Cal amusement park known as Walley World — "America’s Favorite Family Fun Park." Although Clark’s wife, Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), wants to fly, Clark insists that the trip is about bonding with her and their kids, Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron). Needless to say, hilarious road trip antics (and spits of bad luck) ensue.
Why’s It Worth Watching? Written by John Hughes — and based on his short story "Vacation ‘58," which appeared in the National Lampoon magazine — Vacation was a box-office hit that earned $60 million in the U.S. against its $15 million budget. It also spawned a well-loved series of Vacation films, all starring the affable Griswold family, and it continues to be a staple on "best of" comedy lists. Whether you love a good send up, Chase’s signature comedic rants or you just want a reason to not pine for the unfortunate events that can plague a family vacation, this classic is worth the watch. Watch it on Netflix — along with European Vacation (1985) and Christmas Vacation (1989), both of which are also leaving the platform in May.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Based on the masterful Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name, The Talented Mr. Ripley stars Matt Damon as Tom Ripley, a man who plays the piano at fancy parties and, in a twist of fate, is approached by a shipping magnate who swears Ripley attended Princeton with his son, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) — probably because Ripley is wearing a borrowed Princeton jacket. The magnate enlists Ripley to travel to Italy and persuade Dickie to return home, but once abroad, Ripley finds himself so drawn to Dickie’s extravagant lifestyle that he becomes obsessed with the man — so much so that he even dresses as Dickie in private — only to find himself replaced as Dickie’s go-to best pal.
Why’s It Worth Watching? In this psychological thriller, everyone has secrets to hide — and everyone has a penchant for manipulation. Tense and troubling, The Talented Mr. Ripley explores the horrors that charming people are able to hide, as well as how their "power," in part, comes from those around them. Not to mention, Damon’s dark, subtly unsettling performance and Law’s manic, manipulating smugness imbue the film with such intrigue. The five-time Oscar nominated film’s impressive cast is rounded out by the likes of Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. Watch it on Netflix.
Space Jam (1996)
"Here’s your chance, do your dance at the Space Jam — " well, for a limited time only. Soon enough, this ‘90s hit will be dribbling right off Netflix’s servers. Co-starring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny, the film showcases a fictionalized account (we hope) of what happened between Jordan’s initial NBA retirement in ‘93 and his legendary ‘95 comeback. According to Space Jam, he was drafted by the Looney Tunes characters to help them win their freedom from a ruthless amusement park owner, Mr. Swackhammer, by beating the magnate’s Monstars — a villainous group of toons who stole the talent of other real-life NBA players — in a basketball match.
Why’s It Worth Watching? When it premiered, Space Jam was panned by critics, but the film proved to be a slam dunk with audiences — and at the box office. It reeled in a whopping $230 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing basketball film of all time. The slapstick Looney Tunes humor bolsters the film and makes its outlandish premise all the more charming and fun. Needless to say, Space Jam feels like something that only the ‘90s could give us — in the very best way — so embrace the nostalgia sooner rather than later. Watch it on Netflix.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Directed by Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is set during China’s Qing Dynasty. At the film’s onset, accomplished Wudang swordsman Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) decides to give up his legendary sword, Green Destiny, due to the fact that it holds too many memories of a past he would rather forget. He entrusts fellow warrior (and would-be-lover) Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) with the sword, so that she can present it as a gift to benefactor Sir Te (Sihung Lung). When a masked thief sneaks into Sir Te’s estate and steals the Green Destiny, Shu Lien teams up with Master Bo (Xian Gao), who serves Sir Te, to retrieve the fabled sword.
Why’s It Worth Watching? Some prominent martial arts styles are believed to have been originated by women and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon does right by this history by centering Yeoh’s Yu Shu Lien. The film had a successful box office run, cemented Lee’s place as one of Hollywood’s most impressive and masterful filmmakers and nabbed four of its 10 Academy Award nominations. By deftly mixing martial arts, beautiful scenery and dramatic, sweeping storylines, the film is a bonafide masterpiece. Watch it on Netflix.
Other Noteworthy Departures
Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly popcorn movie or a comedy that will take your mind off things, these soon-to-be-gone titles shouldn’t be missed either.
Good Burger (1997): Kenan and Kel, alums of Nickelodeon sketch-comedy series All That, star in this hit comedy about two competing burger joints. (Netflix)
Scream 2 (1997) & Scream 3 (2000): Fan of smart horror-comedy? Check out these sequels to the 1996 meta slasher film classic. (Netflix)
Spy Kids (2001): In this fun family fare, a sister and brother discover that their parents are spies, and they have to take up the family business in order to save mom and dad. (Netflix)
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001): Determined to improve herself, a woman keeps a diary for a year, only to find herself caught up in a laugh-out-loud, classic rom-com predicament. (Hulu)
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004): In this first installment of the stoner comedy series, titular best pals try to satisfy their post-pot-smoking munchies by hitting up White Castle, but they are plagued by a series of misadventures along the way. (Netflix)
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004): Before the Netflix original series, there was a film adaptation of the beloved kids’ books. It’s full of wit, fun and Jim Carey. (Netflix)
American Experience: The Circus (2018): This compelling documentary tells the story of the rise and fall of this unique brand of American entertainment. (Netflix)