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43 movies to stream on Netflix, Amazon, or HBO while quarantined, depending on your mood

Our definitive guide to which films to watch—and where to find them—according to what your quarantine-brain wants at the moment.

43 movies to stream on Netflix, Amazon, or HBO while quarantined, depending on your mood
[Photos: rawpixel; The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: courtesy of Netflix; Us: Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures; The Farewell: courtesy of A24]

There’s a famous Twilight Zone episode that feels particularly resonant right now. You probably know the one, or at least how it ended.

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A bookworm (Rocky’s Burgess Meredith) never seems to have enough time to read books. When he finally does find the time, though, it’s in the wake of an apocalyptic disaster—and just before he breaks his eyeglasses.

“Time Enough at Last” is a prophetic parable about the cost of finally lounging in ultimate leisure, and the paradoxic conditions in which it might arrive.

Who’d ever have thought the reason you finally get to watch more movies at home would be a global pandemic, and that your viewing would be broken up by frequent phone checks to find out which beloved celebrity now has Covid-19 and which city has graduated from “social distancing” to “sheltering in place.”

Yes, there is time enough at last for all the movies you ever wanted to watch, but it doesn’t feel how you hoped it would.

Emotions run a wide gamut during self-quarantine. There may be bouts of manic stir-craziness, pockets of supreme coziness, or a persistent feeling of being on the verge of tears. Watching the kinds of movies that match your emotional state may not make you any safer—in fact, I can guarantee it won’t—but it will deliver some momentary satisfaction at a time when it’s at a high premium.

Since life at coronavirus o’clock in the year 2020 is hard enough already without being paralyzed by indecision, Fast Company has scoured the streaming services for movies that service specific moods you might be experiencing right now. Have a look below at our guide to what to watch, and where, according to what your quarantine-brain might want at any moment.

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Confronting claustrophobia (playfully)

Quarantines are a great way to get to know the contours of your home extremely well while wishing you were anywhere but inside of them. If you’re already feeling claustrophobic, you just might have a morbid curiosity to watch movies about people who are also in claustrophobic situations. These movies are divided here into three different categories, with the first being the playful ones.

The Favourite (available on Amazon) is a deliciously nasty little romp that takes place mostly within one castle, frequently shot with disorienting fish-eye lenses.

Clue (available on Amazon) is a classic, wacky murder mystery that unfolds over the course of one long night, anchored by a strong performance from Tim Curry.

Groundhog Day (available on Netflix) is about a different kind of claustrophobic situation, the kind where Bill Murray is stuck repeating the same day, in the same rinky-dink town, over and over again.

Confronting claustrophobia (with mindf—ery)

The second batch of claustrophobic flicks are the ones that mess with your head a little.

Moon (available on Netflix) finds Sam Rockwell finishing out his time all alone in a space station after three years, when things suddenly start to go a little hinky.

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Coherence (available on Amazon) is a trippy microbudget indie that takes place on one suburban block and challenges viewers to keep up with it to the point where it may demand an immediate rewatch. (And hey, it’s not as if you don’t have the time for that.)

Ex Machina (available on Netflix) is a film about an inventor who has built a possibly Turing test-passing robot at a location that is extremely remote, in a way that is not very comforting by the end.

Confronting claustrophobia (nightmarishly)

Finally, these close-quartered flusterclucks will make you appreciate that at least you’re spending your time in a cushy apartment where nobody is actively trying to kill you.

Hush (available on Netflix) sees a deaf author being stalked by a highly motivated killer in her country house.

The Descent (available on Amazon) plunges a group of besties into a series of caves filled with cave-dwelling creatures. Their friendships deteriorate just as fast as their situation does.

Green Room (available on Netflix) is a tense, gruesome thriller about a punk band trying to escape from killer Nazis who run a remote concert venue and are led by an awesomely evil Patrick Stewart.

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If you need to see wide open spaces

Okay, enough with the claustrophobia. How about the exact opposite? Here is a handful of films that feature people outdoors doing things, so you can live through them vicariously. (Well, in some cases. In others, you definitely wouldn’t want to.)

Kon-Tiki (available on Netflix) is about a Norwegian seafaring voyage that takes place largely on a raft.

The Aeronauts (available on Amazon) is an adventure tale set mostly in old-timey hot air balloons.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (available on Prime) is a meditative film about two best friends that just happens to include a beautiful depiction of the grandeur of the city by the bay.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (available on Netflix) and True Grit (also available on Netflix) are two Westerns made by the Coen brothers, each one delightful in different ways—and both feature plenty of frontier scenery.

Pure comfort food (classics)

Being in a scary, uncertain situation makes a lot of people search for the familiar, the comfortable, the dependable, and that’s what this next batch of movies brings to the table.

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (available on Netflix)
Tootsie (available on Netflix)
Out of Sight (available on HBO)
Working Girl (available on HBO)
Moonstruck (available on Amazon)

Pure comfort food (the new stuff)

These are some movies that may not be as familiar but offer a similar dosage of good vibes.

Hearts Beat Loud (available on Hulu) finds Nick Offerman connecting with his daughter to make a fluke hit single, and having trouble deciding what to do next.

Fighting with My Family (available on Amazon) is the lesser-known film from Florence Pugh’s breakout year, but it has a lot of heart and charm and a few laughs as well, along with a smidgeon of The Rock.

Home Again (available on Amazon) is the debut film from Nancy Meyers’s daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, and it takes place in a universe where just about everybody is well-intentioned and nice.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (available on Netflix) is just wall-to-wall excellence on every level: imaginative visuals, breathless storytelling, surprising humor, and comic book faithfulness. Just an instant pick-me-up.

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When you need to cry

There is no shortage of reasons to cry right now. However, some people tend to tamp down their feelings to avoid dealing with them and then go about their day with a nagging sense of extra weight. Here are some options that can help you shed that extra weight through your tear ducts.

The Florida Project (available on Amazon) takes a panoramic view of a particular kind of poverty in Orlando, Florida.

The Farewell (available on Amazon) is a showcase for the dramatic talents of star Awkwafina, but it’s also a cathartic ode to family, togetherness, and apartness.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (available on HBO) comes from rising superstar director Marielle Heller, who also gave us last year’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and features a memorable depiction of friendship (among other things) from Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant.

If Beale Street Could Talk (available on Hulu) is Barry Jenkins’s follow-up to Moonlight, an adaptation of James Baldwin’s beloved novel.

Shoplifters (available on Hulu) follows a group of petty thieves whose loyalty to each other is tested.

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Philadelphia (available on Netflix) won Tom Hanks his first of two back-to-back Oscars, and you’ll see why as you find yourself feeling for his character, an HIV-positive lawyer who sues the firm that just fired him.

What to watch when everything feels just so incredibly dumb

When everything feels so stupid that you just want to cry but you aren’t quite in the mood for that, sometimes it’s best to put on a bad movie on purpose just so you can make fun of it. If all you want to know about your current situation is “How the hell could this have happened?” here are some movies that will make you ask that exact same question.

We Are Your Friends (available on Netflix) answers the question, “What if somebody exactly as hot as Zac Efron also fell ass-backwards into being a famous DJ?”

The Wicker Man (available on Netflix) sets a record for Most Women Punched in the Face by a Screaming Nic Cage, but don’t let that fact scare you out of all the other questionable madness on hand in this mess.

Jobs (available on HBO) is like if you imagine the Mr. Show sketch parody of a movie about Steve Jobs, but worse than that.

Gotti (available on Amazon) is a hilariously misguided mob movie featuring a criminally hammy John Travolta performance and the world’s worst Pet Shop Boys needle drop of all time.

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When you truly just need a laugh right now

One of these movies should get the job done.

Bridesmaids (available on HBO)
Step Brothers (available on Netflix)
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (available on Netflix)
Kingpin (available on Netflix)

If you’re feeling masochistic

Sure, watching claustrophobic movies because you feel claustrophobic might provide a dark feeling of identification for some people in a somber moment, but others need more than that. Darker, edgier, more like this specific quarantine situation but way worse. And for those lost souls who have already watched Contagion and are still hungry for more, we’ve got you covered, too.

It Comes at Night (available on Netflix) is all about radical social distancing during a viral outbreak that is (thankfully!) a few huge steps further along toward oblivion than we are.

28 Days Later (available on Hulu) puts you even closer to oblivion, and with zombies.

Zodiac (available on Netflix) has no zombies or viruses to speak of, but it is about the terror of lingering uncertainty and waiting way too long for a happy ending or any resolution at all, which may hit a little too close to home right now.

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If you just need to see someone save the day

The opposite of that Zodiac cloud of darkness is embodied by the films below, which feature the threat of world-destroying calamity that is (spoiler alert) thwarted by hard-working heroes. Watch them and pray that our own Ellen Ripley is somehow coming to save us all soon!

Armageddon (available on HBO)
Aliens (available on HBO)
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (available on Amazon)

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