Happy November, Polygon readers!
Halloween season is over, and now we move deeper into autumn and toward winter. The leaves are changing, the weather is getting colder, and great new movies keep getting added to new streaming platforms.
We’ve highlighted the best of the best of new movies on Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Hulu, and other streaming platforms in November 2022. It includes outrageous action comedies, gripping thrillers, spooky horror movies, and more — if there’s a mood you’re looking for, we’ve got a movie for you.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Run time: 1h 47m
Director: Kerry Conran
Cast: Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie
I have an avowed affinity for retro sci-fi throwbacks and modern homages to pulp adventure serials — as is evidenced in my enduring love for shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, and films like Gattaca and Dark City. So it’s a wonder to me how I let a gem like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, director Kerry Conran’s 2004 debut, slip past me when it was first released.
Conceived with his brother, production designer Kevin Conran, the film takes place in a technologically advanced 1939 and follows an intrepid mercenary aviator (Law) and his journalist ex-flame (Paltrow) as they gallivant across the globe in a race to stop a nefarious scientist from terrorizing the planet with his army of giant flying robots.
Everything about this movie feels like an anomaly of its time. It sounds impossible, in the year 2022, that a first-time director-producer duo could convince a wealthy Italian film producer to bankroll an original sci-fi property for $70 million. It sounds even more preposterous that the film would star three A-list actors at the arguable peak of their respective popularity, or that Sky Captain’s innovative use of “virtual backlot” filmmaking would go on to inspire similar movies, like 300, Sin City, Casshern, and Tarsem Singh’s Immortals. And yet, all of this and more is true. Wonders never cease in the world of tomorrow.
If you’re feeling up for a rollicking fun sci-fi throwback à la Buck Rogers meets Indiana Jones, consider Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow your ticket to ride. —Toussaint Egan
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is available to stream on Prime Video.
New on Netflix
Run time: 2h 15m
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko
Nine years before he soared to the heights of the box office with Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise starred in his first collaboration with director Joseph Kosinski: a sci-fi action mystery set on a postapocalyptic Earth.
Set in the year 2077, Oblivion centers on Jack Harper (Cruise), a technician sent on a mission to secure resources for humanity’s successful colonization of the moon Titan and to fend off a horde of scavenger aliens picking through the remnants of civilization. When Harper discovers a woman (Olga Kurylenko) who mysteriously crash-lands in an escape pod, he defies the concerns of his partner Vika (Andrea Riseborough) to search for answers to not only Earth’s long-buried past, but the mystery of his own restless dreams.
Though far from an example of revolutionary storytelling, sci-fi or otherwise, Kosinski’s postapocalyptic action-adventure is a sparse yet nonetheless crowd-pleasing spectacle. As was the case with his previous film — 2010’s Tron: Legacy — Kosinski’s background as an architecture graduate results in a film that boasts a breathtaking vista shots and stunning technical art design that feels like a marriage of concept artist Ron Cobb and the epic romantic paintings of Caspar David Friedrich.
Vehicle designer Daniel Simon, who collaborated with Kosinski previously on the Tron sequel, returns to once again knock it out of the park with the design of Harper’s “Bubble Ship” — to this day one of my favorite ship designs of all-time. If you’re looking for a gorgeous, melancholy sci-fi adventure that’s light on story but heavy on vibes and orchestral synthwave music, Oblivion is a sound choice. —TE
Oblivion is available to stream on Netflix.
New on HBO Max
Genre: Shakespeare adaptation
Run time: 1h 45m
Director: Richard Loncraine
Cast: Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent
Who better to incarnate the Bard’s most infamous villain on the silver screen than Ian McKellen, one of the greatest living thespians? The 1995 film adaptation of Richard III transposes the setting of the tragic historical stage play from 1471 to the 1930s, reinventing the film’s namesake into an aspiring fascist vying to usurp the throne of England for his own gain. McKellen’s performance, as can be expected, is phenomenal, breathing new life into one of the most heavily quoted and frequently portrayed characters in Shakespeare’s oeuvre with a sly magnetism and devilish glee all his own.
All of the supporting performances are fantastic, though special mention is warranted for Robert Downey Jr.’s turn as Queen Elizabeth’s short-lived brother Rivers, as well as Jim Broadbent’s role as Richard’s conniving ally the Duke of Buckingham. If for no other reason, you should watch this version of Richard III because it opens with a tank demolishing the office of King Henry VI and ends with an artillery battle outside a ruined Battersea Power Station. —TE
Richard III is available to stream on HBO Max.
New on Hulu
Run time: 2h 5m
Director: Christophe Gans
Cast: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden
An underrated gem of a video game adaptation, the Silent Hill movie takes some of the best parts of the game and adds a blunt, but effective, central metaphor as well as a constantly shifting sense of its own horror dynamics. As my colleague Austen Goslin puts it, it rules.
None of this makes for a subtle metaphor, but in a movie that includes monsters like Pyramid Head, it probably shouldn’t be. Nonetheless, it is an effective one — and it’s one that was still largely lost on audience when the movie came out in 2006, an era dominated by post-Saw-sequel “torture porn.” Combine that with the fact that the movie took a few creative liberties at a time when the game series was still in its heyday, and it’s no surprise that this remains one of the hidden video game movie gems.
And with a new Silent Hill game on the way, what better time to revisit this than now? —PV
Silent Hill is available to stream on Hulu.
New on Prime Video
The Manchurian Candidate
Genre: Conspiracy thriller
Run time: 2h 10m
Director: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, Meryl Streep
Next Tuesday, Nov. 8, is election day here in the United States, so what better time than now to watch a paranoid political thriller about the machinations of multinational corporations and the coopting of American democracy?
Denzel Washington stars in the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate as Bennett “Ben” Marco, a U.S. Army major plagued by disturbing recurring visions of time serving in the Gulf War. When Ben begins to suspect that Raymond Shaw (Schreiber), his former comrade and a vice presidential candidate, is being manipulated in a nefarious plot to take over America, his suspicions draw the ire of Shaw’s mother, Eleanor (Streep), a powerful senator who will stop at nothing to ensure her son’s ascent to power.
Composed of capable performances, skillful cinematography, and visuals soaked in psychological dread, The Manchurian Candidate is a gripping thriller that will linger with you long after it’s over. —TE
The Manchurian Candidate is available to stream on Prime Video.
The best of the rest
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance & Lady Vengeance
Run time: 2h 9m (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance); 1h 54m (Lady Vengeance)
Director: Park Chan-wook
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Shin Ha-kyun, Bae Doona (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance); Lee Young-ae, Choi Min-sik, Kim Si-hoo (Lady Vengeance)
The second movie in Park’s vengeance trilogy, Oldboy, is the most widely known and celebrated, but the other entries are just as worthy of your time. The first, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, is my personal favorite of the three, about a young factory worker who embarks on a dangerous scheme to try and pay for a lifesaving medical procedure for his sister. They’re both streaming via the New York Metrograph’s at-home offerings (and Park’s newest movie, my favorite of the year, is now out in theaters). —PV
Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance are available to stream on Metrograph.
Run time: 1h 28m
Director: Rodrigo Reyes
Cast: Eduardo San Juan Breña
The year is 2021, nearly 500 years since Hernán Cortés’ conquest of the Aztec Empire. A ghostly conquistador (Breña) washes ashore on the coast of Veracruz, displaced out of time. Retracing Cortés’ route from Veracruz to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, now present-day Mexico City, the conquistador is forced to reckon with the legacy of colonialism beyond his lifetime, a legacy of real-life tragedies wrought by the failed war on drugs, ongoing humanitarian crises, and the harbinger of greater horrors to come. —TE
499 is available to stream on Criterion Channel.