We’re more than a third of a way through the summer and nearly halfway through 2021 — how ... did that happen? So many entertaining films have released in just the past few weeks alone, from F9 and Rurouni Kenshin: The Final to Janicza Bravo’s Zola. There are loads of stuff to do (and see!) outside, but if you prefer the comfort of your couch and the proximity to your air conditioner, there’s tons of great films coming to streaming this month.
For July, We’ve got everything from Don Hertzfeldt’s transcendent animated feature It’s Such a Beautiful Day, Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express, and a number of modern genre highlights.
Read on for 20 of the best movies new to streaming services in July. There’s something for everyone.
30 Days of Night is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest
Michael Rapaport’s 2011 documentary Beats, Rhymes and Life recounts the legendary career of New York hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, charting the story of the quartet’s humble beginnings and meteoric success in the wake of such classics as The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders to the group’s fallout and reconciliation. The question of, “Will A Tribe Called Quest ever release another album?” would not be answered for another five years with We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, released only a few months following the death of founding member Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor. But Beats, Rhymes and Life is a fascinating and revelatory snapshot into the human dynamic behind one of the most versatile and influential hip hop acts to ever grace the mic. —TE
Romance and romantic thinking can sound twee, but I assure you, they can still be cool in the right hands. Evidence: Wong Kar-Wai’s effervescent drama Chungking Express, which tells two stories — one starring Takeshi Kaneshiro and Faye Wong, the other with Tony Leung and Brigitte Lin — but mostly luxuriates in the feelings conjured by neon lights, bar food, broken hearts, and pop music. While the minor chords and eye-popping colors of his 2000 In the Mood for Love are cited as his masterpiece, this lower-key effort, and the spontaneous swagger of both camera and performance, put most of American indie romances to shame. It’s all intoxicating. —MP
Chungking Express is streaming on Criterion Channel.
Marco Brambilla’s 1993 sci-fi action film Demolition Man stars Sylvester Stallone as LAPD Sergeant John Spartan, a risk-taking cop with a reputation for highly unorthodox methods and excessive collateral damage. Early on, Spartan’s framed by his criminal nemesis Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) and sentenced to cryogenically frozen incarceration for over 30 years. Awakening into the strange new world of 2036, where Taco Bell reigns Nacho Supreme and toilet paper has been inexplicably replaced with uh, three seashells, Spartan must rally the San Angeles Police Department to thwart the newly-escaped Phoenix and bring him to justice. —TE
Demolition Man is streaming on HBO Max.
Fear Street Part One: 1984
A generation of readers knows R.L. Stine for his bestselling Goosebumps series, the children’s horror novels published throughout the early-to-late ’90s that spawned dozens of spinoff series, a television series, and two live-action feature films starring Jack Black as Stine himself. By contrast, Stine’s young-adult Fear Street horror series, which predates Goosebumps, never amassed quite the same degree of mainstream recognition, even though it sold more than 80 million copies as of 2010. That might change with Fear Street Part One: 1994, the retro, light-on-its feet first entry in a trilogy of horror films loosely inspired by Stine’s original stories and set to release over the next few weeks. From our review:
One twist on the conventional slasher formula that Fear Street: 1994 introduces, and which will likely serve as the throughline connecting all three of the films, is the element of the occult in the form of Sara Feir, the film’s antagonist. Hanged as a witch several hundred years before the events of the film, Feir left behind a legacy — and a mysterious generation-spanning vendetta for one of the characters — that may be the source of much of the misfortune and horror plaguing Shadyside. Feir has possessed several otherwise innocent townspeople across history and twisted them to commit acts of gruesome violence for some unknown purpose. The twists that spring from out of this revelation make for some entertaining and shocking scenes in the latter half of the movie, culminating in several shocking kills where the brutality stands out from the otherwise chaste violence of the rest of the film.
Fear Street Part One: 1984 is streaming on Netflix
Admonished by critics in 2009 for being garish and hyperactive, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s Gamer deserves a second look with everything we’ve learned about mass culture in the last 12 years. Here’s what contributor Ryan Broderick said about it in a big Polygon piece earlier this year:
[Neveldine and Taylor] bring the frenetic energy of their Jason Statham action movie Crank to Gamer without any of the camp. It’s a splatterpunk mess of a film that, perhaps more so than any other movie of its time, manages to capture the unceasing nightmare of today. The same movie in which Gerard Butler infamously pees and vomits into a car’s gas tank is also a scathing indictment of capitalism and a shockingly on-point prediction of how, left unchecked, corporate monopolies will use the internet to take away our bodily autonomy.
Gamer is streaming on Tubi.
No one has made or may ever make a better Hellboy movie than Guillermo del Toro. Based on Mike Mignola’s cult success comic series, Ron Pearlman stars as the eponymous paranormal investigator from Hell as defends humanity from the forces of darkness. With several notable performances including John Hurt as Hellboy’s adoptive father Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm and frequent del Toro collaborator Doug Jones as the amphibious Abe Sapien, Hellboy is stands apart from other superhero action movies of its ilk as a film that’s as emotionally impactful as it is gorgeous to watch. —TE
Hellboy is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
The House That Jack Built
Lars Von Trier is not one to shy away from controversy. The provocateur’s 2018 film The House That Jack Built stars Matt Dillon as Jack, a serial killer and failed architect who recounts his sordid life and career of misogynistic brutality to an unknown audience. It’s a darkly comedic horror film, emphasis on dark, both for Jack’s ghoulish deadpan delivery and the comical ineptitude of any and all those charged with bringing him to justice. It’s certainly not a film for the faint of heart, but rest assured; Jack absolutely gets his in the end, and when it happens, you will be thoroughly satisfied. —TE
The House That Jack Built is streaming on Hulu.
It’s Such a Beautiful Day
Don Hertzfeldt is one of the greatest animators of his generation, renowned for his inventive and idiosyncratic films like Rejected, The Animation Show, his World of Tomorrow series. It’s Such a Beautiful Day, Hertzfeldt’s first feature film, is an outstanding work of creativity following the tragicomic life of a stick figure named Bill through a kaleidoscopic deluge of surreal vignettes and breathtaking sequences chronicling his failing memory and his subsequent transformation as a person. It’s Such a Beautiful Day is such a beautiful movie and you absolutely must make time to see it. —TE
It’s Such a Beautiful Day is streaming on Criterion Channel.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Inspired by true events, Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah stars Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton, the late Black Panther Chairman and civil rights activist, and LaKeith Stanfield as his bodyguard (and FBI informant) William O’Neil. The film depicts the final months, days, and moments of Hampton’s life, his tragic death, and the essential role O’Neil played in the plot to destroy him. With supporting performances from Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons, Ashton Sanders, and Martin Sheen, King’s biopic is sure to be one of the most talked-about films of 2021. From our review,
It’s impossible to tell the entire story of a revolutionary movement in two hours, and Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah tries and fails. It discusses the Black Panther Party’s efforts to unite dispossessed people and exact an overthrow of American capitalism and imperialism solely in the broadest terms, while the BPP’s unlikely alliances, including with the Confederate-flag-flying Young Patriots Organization, are depicted only briefly. King is less interested in the BPP’s ascent than in white America’s obsessive need to destroy it, making for a film that too often seems like it’s spending unnecessary time with the same white oppressors BPP Chairman Fred Hampton (Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya) is trying to separate from.
Judas and the Black Messiah is streaming on HBO Max.
Kung Fu Panda
Come for this Dreamworks Animation comedy’s all-star voice cast (Jack Black! Angelina Jolie! Jackie Chan!) and stay for the heartwarming message and neat chosen one subversion. Kung Fu Panda follows a panda fanboy named Po, who finds himself training to be a kung fu warrior in order to defeat a villainous snow leopard. With fun action sequences that really make full use of the animal cast, gorgeous music (try not to tear up during “Oogway Ascends”), and unexpected friendships, Kung Fu Panda is a good time for all. —Petrana Radulovic
Kung Fu Panda is streaming on Netflix.
After a recent rewatch of this pop riff on French history, I’m convinced Sofia Coppola is the reason Instagram exists. Starring Kirsten Dunst as the young queen and Jason Schwartzman as her husband, Louis XVI, the movie chronicles the rise and fall of a queen swept up in regal activity and the pressure of life in the spotlight. Coppola was granted access to the actual Versailles grounds to shoot her intoxicating drama, but it’s the way she plays with pastel colors, contemporary music tracks, and modern visual flourishes that allow Marie’s bursting personality to bleed into every ounce of the frame. Though it’s a construct of fiction, the biopic feels like the ultimate overshare, casting the audience as voyeurs who, in today’s language, basically scroll through every picturesque (or tragic) moment in a massive celebrity’s life.
Marie Antoinette is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway
Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway is the first of a trilogy of films set 12 years after the events of Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack. The film tells the story of Hathaway Noa as he attempts to terrorist organization bent on defying the Earth Federation and preventing the further privatization of the planet. Directed by Shuko Murase (Witch Hunter Robin) and based on series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino’s novel series of the same name, Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway is one of the most highly anticipated anime films of 2021. (And if you aren’t familiar with Gundam, Netflix has you covered with all the old compilation movies, too.) —TE
Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway is streaming on Netflix.
Only Lovers Left Alive
One of the few non-Marvel projects Tom Hiddleston’s made time since rising to fame in the Thor series, Jim Jarmusch’s vampire flick is another movie that defines cool. Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are two bloodsucking ex-lovers who reconnect after years apart. Adam is in Detroit. Eve is Tangier. As they draw closer together, Jarmusch sinks his teeth into the every form of culture, from lavish clothes to pristine soundtrack curation. It’s style as substance, through the worldview of two supernatural beings who’ve been around for centuries. Don’t expect too much plot — this is all about luxuriating in the picture, and sucking down every ounce of blood Jarmusch has drawn from his obsessions. —MP
Only Lovers Left Alive is streaming on Amazon Prime.
Set in a speculative future not far off from our present, Paprika tells the story of Dr. Atsuko Chiba, a research psychologist who employs an experimental device known as the DC Mini that allows her to delve into the minds of her patients to reconcile their lingering traumas. When several of the DC Mini prototypes are stolen and a wave of hysteria begins to wash across Japan, It falls to Atsuko and her alternate persona Paprika to get to the bottom of the theft and save reality as we know it. Satoshi Kon’s final film is not only one of his finest, but one of the most exhilarating and memorable pieces of Japanese animation ever produced. —TE
Paprika is streaming on Criterion Channel.
Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop is not only one of the most thoroughly entertaining quotable action movies of its era but a powerful satire of Reagan-era social policies that explicates the dehumanizing force of rote bureaucracy and policing on the individual. Peter Weller is Alex Murphy, a Detroit city police officer murdered in the line of duty who is resurrected by an unscrupulous mega-corporation with hopes of privatizing law enforcement. Murphy’s personal journey from an unfeeling implement of state-sponsored violence into a conscious being who rediscovers his humanity and exacts justice on the apparatus of crime and exploitation that created him is one of the best sci-fi movies of the late 20th century. Plus, it’s got a scene of a guy getting shot in the dick and another of a man being transformed into a goopy mutant before being mowed over by a van. I’d buy that for a dollar! —TE
Robocop is streaming on Hulu.
The Sandlot is my favorite sports film because its creators understand what sports actually are for the majority of kids: an excuse to hang out. Sure, some kids care about winning and losing. A few kids dream of going pro. But for most of us, meeting up with friends to play baseball, soccer, or even Mario Kart had little to do with the final score. We played because it was a chance to get away from our parents, to talk trash, to catch up on the neighborhood gossip, and to flex our deep-cut knowledge of meaningless trivia. The Sandlot is a classic because so much of the film focuses on time spent off the field. It’s not a movie about baseball players, it’s a movie about kids who happen to play baseball. —Chris Plante
The Sandlot is streaming on Disney Plus.
Son of the White Mare
In Marcell Jankovics’ Son of the White Mare, psychedelic visuals and exquisite animation render a larger than life epic in stunning clarity and dimension. Inspired by Hungarian myth, the film follows the story of a horse goddess who gives birth to three powerful brothers in the hopes of defeating a foul trio of dragons and reclaiming their ancestral homeland. Son of the White Mare is one of the great works of one late masters of animation and a must-see for anyone passionate or even faintly interested in the history of the medium. —TE
Son of the White Mare is streaming on Criterion Channel.