Group chats and remote movie nights have abruptly entered the mainstream. For a country on lockdown, virtual get-togethers are the best and safest source for gossip, sympathy, and shared frustrations. To help rev your group-chat engine and keep these remote conversations lively, we’ve put together a list of the best movies and shows to watch and discuss online together. These are our recommendations for collective viewing that will help you forget about the outside world for a little while, and fuel some lively debates and discussions.
Errol Morris’ documentaries are all incredible, but one of my favorites is Wormwood, a six-part docudrama miniseries focused on the life of scientist Frank Olson, and the effect on his son Eric after Frank dies under mysterious circumstances. The investigation into what happened to Frank (told through re-creations starring Peter Sarsgaard) is fascinating, but Eric’s struggle is more compelling — he fully realizes that his search for the truth has consumed his entire life. The gradual unraveling of exactly what happened to the Olson family — if there even is a clear answer — is incredible, and so is Morris’ direction, which emphasizes the difficult nature of the truth through multiple cameras and interstitial collages. —Karen Han
Wormwood is streaming on Netflix.
Whether you love or hate it, you’ll probably have a lot to say about Jupiter Ascending. Directed by the Wachowski sisters, the movie is packed full of ridiculous characters and story beats, from Channing Tatum playing a half-dog, half-man soldier, to the fact that space royalty can control bees. Mila Kunis stars as Jupiter, a woman whose normal life on Earth is upended when she’s sucked into a conspiracy involving the aforementioned space royalty. In case that isn’t enough to get the group chat flowing, here’s another potential point of debate: Is Eddie Redmayne’s whisper-acting genius, or just terrible? —KH
Jupiter Ascending is streaming on Netflix.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl
If you’ve ever had a toddler explain a dream to you in meticulous detail, you have a good sense of what watching The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is like. It’s the rare live-action kids’ movie that’s primarily made for kids, the kind of story that sums up Spy Kids Energy. I was first introduced to this film by my younger cousin, who made our whole family watch it every day of Thanksgiving break in 2005. The fever-dream aesthetic and absurd plot points (a young Taylor Lautner singing an aggressive song about dreaming is a highlight) are perfect for deep discussion. Sometimes, the best way to tie a group chat together is with mutual bewilderment. —Brian Gilbert
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is streaming on Netflix.
God’s Not Dead and God’s Not Dead 2
There’s no pastime more satisfyingly cringeworthy than watching evangelical Christian movies with your friends, especially if some of you grew up going to church, and some didn’t. Bonus points if a given movie is based on 1) a Contemporary Christian song or 2) a semi-true story that your grandma forwarded to you in an email. God’s Not Dead manages to check both boxes. It stars Kevin Sorbo as a smug college professor/atheist strawman who requires students to sign a paper declaring “God is dead” in order to pass his class. The story is just as ham-fisted and persecutory as it sounds. God’s Not Dead 2 stars Melissa Joan Hart as a science teacher who is prosecuted for answering a student’s question about Jesus, and it’s equally ridiculous. I’d recommend skipping the third movie, God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness. It tries way too hard to present a “both sides” argument, which it spectacularly fails at, but not in a funny way. —Emily Heller
Tickled is a journalistic expose on a underground sport called “competitive endurance tickling” that is probably a fetish, and not a sport like I just claimed it was. If that doesn’t already hook you, this may not be the documentary for you, but if you’re on board, you’re in for an absolutely wild ride. The documentary starts light, because it’s about tickling, a subject that traditionally provokes laughs. But it goes places you couldn’t possibly anticipate.
In general, I love watching documentaries with friends, especially the outlandishly weird ones, because it always opens up interesting avenues of dialogue. I usually end up learning as much about my friends as I do about the people in the doc. Tickled makes especially great remote viewing because of the bizarre, slow descent into madness — but it’s a fun, distracting madness, from a simpler time when you could have a tickle-fight with a friend in total innocence. —Jenna Stoeber
Tickled is streaming on Hulu.
Sometimes a headache is good. Darren Aronofsky’s aggressive marital drama is a thinly veiled metaphor for your choice of topics, from climate change to the perils of fame. It’s also a retelling of the high points of the Bible, executed with the head-banging energy of a metal concert. Shot in long sequences on gritty 16mm film, Jennifer Lawrence turns the story of a soon-to-be-mother into her version of The Revenant. The twists are impossible to predict, and the Brechtian ploys make this an instant classic that, of course, very few people saw or entertained. (Selling it as a horror movie was the wrong move.) People who catch it today will have hours of discussion ahead of them, just as soon as they peel themselves off the crater formed in their couch. Just deciding which of Aronofsky’s many metaphors stands out is an evening unto itself. —Matt Patches
mother! is streaming on DirecTV.
The Book of Henry
After the billion-dollar success of Jurassic World (and before his now-notorious departure from Star Wars Episode 9), writer-director Colin Trevorrow made his passion project, an Amblin Entertainment-esque family story that involves boy geniuses, terminal illness, assassins, Rube Goldberg machines, ballet dancing, and child abuse. The movie is absolutely wild and straight-faced, a burst of creativity that doesn’t come together, but can’t be denied. Digging more into the plot would do a disservice to the quirks. You’ll want to stand up and shout about every choice as soon as the credits are over. More movies should be as bold as the well-intentioned Book of Henry. —MP
The Book of Henry is available for digital rental from a variety of services.
The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski is a classic, and if you haven’t seen it yet — or if you have an unfortunate friend who isn’t in on the hype — now is a fantastic time to share it with friends. This movie isn’t as over-the-top as some of the other picks on this list; it is, at times, quite chill. But there are a lot of hilarious or memorable moments, and the quieter parts of the movie are a fantastic time to talk about the best moments and big twists. Also, literally all of the characters are funny in some way, even (or especially) when they’re making truly terrible decisions. —Cass Marshall
The Big Lebowski is streaming on Starz.
Hitoshi Matsumoto Presents Documental
Ten comedians enter a room. Each comedian chips in 1 million yen. Anyone who laughs at another person’s jokes is eliminated. The last man standing walks away with all 10 million yen and the satisfaction of outlasting and outjaping their peers. Documental gets very weird, very fast. Most of us played “you laugh, you lose” games as kids, but the professionals going at it with high stakes elevates the challenge to a whole new level. —CM
Hitoshi Matsumoto Presents Documental is streaming on Amazon.
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