Fall is finally upon us, and with it comes a whole season of movies to choose from. Before we can get to those, though, we have to pick out the very best of what’s streaming in September before they float away like so many leaves.
We’ve got a fantastic crop of films to choose from in the form of David Prior’s 2020 breakout horror film The Empty Man, Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 1 and 2, and Michael Bay’s action heist thriller Ambulance, not to mention classics like Alain Resnais’ avant-garde masterpiece Last Year at Marienbad, 1999’s The Mummy, and more.
Without further ado, here are 19 of the best movies to watch before they leave streaming in September.
One of the best movies of 2022 is leaving streaming, so catch it while you can. Michael Bay is back at his leanest and meanest, with a tightly contained thriller high on car chases, groundbreaking drone camera work, and a deliciously unhinged performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. —Pete Volk
From our review:
Ambulance’s greatest strength is how quickly it builds tension. The plot and main characters are set up with brisk efficiency to get us to the action as quickly as possible, and the pace and pressure pile on steadily from there. The film’s structure has an inherent momentum that Bay supercharges with his relentless filmmaking energy. The middle third of the film, as the first stage of the chase and the tensions inside the ambulance reach a simultaneous climax, is truly breathless stuff. But it’s simply not possible to sustain that level of excitement over such a long running time, and the air goes out of the movie toward the end, especially after some overdeveloped plot mechanics require the ambulance to stop and start again more than once. Bay and screenwriter Chris Fedak didn’t learn Speed’s lesson: Never, ever stop rolling.
Ambulance leaves Peacock on Sept. 30.
Batman Begins and The Dark Knight
The first two entries in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy are generally considered the best, and they’re the ones leaving Hulu at the end of this month. For my money, Batman Begins is the best of the three: a rare superhero origin story that actually works. The scene where a young Bruce Wayne trains with the League of Shadows, hiding himself among a mass of ninja bodies, is an all-timer. The Dark Knight is also quite memorable, but you probably don’t need me to tell you that. —PV
Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 comedy-drama Boogie Nights charts the rise and fall of the “golden age” of pornography through the story of Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), a young porn star who rises through the industry under the alias “Dirk Diggler” only to be undone by drugs and egotism. Blending real-life historical accounts and fiction, Anderson’s fascinating period film catapulted his career into stardom and earned three Academy Award nominations. With scene-stealing performances by Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, and long-time collaborator Philip Seymour Hoffman, Boogie Nights inarguably ranks as one of Anderson’s best films to date. —Toussaint Egan
Boogie Nights leaves Netflix on Sept. 30.
John Constantine is reportedly coming back to the movies. Deadline reported earlier this week that star Keanu Reeves and director Francis Lawrence will return to make a Constantine sequel, with a script written by Akiva Goldsman. The first movie is a delightfully cheesy fun time, and the overdue reevaluation of Reeves as a leading man benefits his performance in Constantine quite well. But don’t overlook the supporting cast: Peter Stormare absolutely rules as Lucifer Morningstar, and Tilda Swinton, Djimon Hounsou, and Rachel Weisz build out a stellar ensemble. —PV
Constantine leaves Netflix on Sept. 30.
Dhoom 2, the follow-up to 2004 smash hit Dhoom, is one of the most exciting cinematic experiences to which you could treat yourself. Breaking Bollywood box office records upon release, it is a motorcycle-centric heist movie with terrific action set-pieces, jaw-dropping musical numbers, astonishing motorcycle stunts, and a little something for everybody.
A taste: The movie opens with a train heist, as Mr. A (Hrithik Roshan, impossibly attractive and charming as ever), disguises himself as Queen Elizabeth to rob the Queen’s crown in the middle of the Namib desert. Dhoom 2 then immediately moves to one of the most electric musical numbers of this century, with Roshan showing off why he is one of the great movie stars and dancers of his generation. —PV
Dhoom 2 leaves Prime Video on Sept. 30.
The Empty Man
Director David Prior’s feature debut is the scariest movie of 2020 and one of its best. The movie’s main story follows a man named James Lasombra (James Badge Dale) as he searches for a missing girl. While on the case, he hears about a legend of a shadowy figure called the Empty Man, who stalks anyone who’s seen him for three days before he strikes. While this premise alone might be good for a creepy-enough movie, Prior blows the concept up into something truly special, spanning the globe — in an outstanding 15-minute prologue — and finally bringing in a cult whose leader might actually have supernatural powers. Despite the fact that none of these make sense together on paper, Prior makes all three feel like part of one cohesive, terrifying story. —Austen Goslin
The Empty Man leaves HBO Max on Sept. 30.
A trendsetter for time loop movies, Groundhog Day is just as fun as it is influential. While it’s spawned many enjoyable knockoffs, like Palm Springs and the Happy Death Day franchise, it’s hard to beat the Bill Murray-led original. While primarily a comedy (and it sure is funny), this movie works in large part because of how it works with other genres: The situation Bill Murray’s Phil finds himself in is truly terrifying, and the movie recognizes this, able to play it for tension, laughs, and eventually, tender romance. —PV
Groundhog Day leaves Hulu on Sept. 30.
Kill Bill: Volume 1 and 2
Quentin Tarantino’s neo-Western martial arts revenge thriller cut a swath through action cinema when it first premiered back in 2003. Heavily inspired by 1973’s Lady Snowblood, the film stars frequent Tarantino collaborator Uma Thurman as the Bride, a former assassin who awakens from a coma four years after being ruthlessly attacked by her comrades on the day of her wedding. Swearing revenge, she embarks on a globe-trotting manhunt to track down and kill her assailants before exacting vengeance on her ultimate target: Bill (David Carradine), her former mentor and lover.
Inimitably stylish and ruthlessly violent, Kill Bill combines influences as far-flung as Hong Kong kung fu flicks, Western revenge dramas, and anime to create a film that confidently stands among Tarantino’s best. —TE
Last Year at Marienbad
Alain Resnais’ 1961 avant-garde romance mystery stars Giorgio Albertazzi and Delphine Seyrig as man and woman who, upon meeting one another at mysterious and isolated chateau somewhere in the French countryside, retrace their memories in order to discern the truth of whether or not they met each years before and fell in love. Brazen in its non-sequential experimentation and dreamlike visuals, Last Year at Marienbad is a complex cinematic mystery about the unreliability of objective truth when it comes to matters of the heart and a dazzling cinematic mystery of ornate beauty. —TE
Last Year at Marienbad leaves Criterion Channel on Sept. 30.
Excited for Andor? Showrunner Tony Gilroy, who co-wrote Rogue One, wrote and directed one of the best legal thrillers of the 21st century in his directorial debut. George Clooney is Michael Clayton, a corporate fixer who is sent to straighten out a lawyer suffering from an episode. When Clayton discovers a much deeper scheme at play, it threatens everything he knows.
One of Clooney’s best performances, the movie also features great supporting turns by Tom Wilkinson (playing the aforementioned troubled lawyer), Tilda Swinton, and the great Sydney Pollack. It’s a tight, tense conspiracy thriller, reminiscent of the work of Alan J. Pakula and other titans of the genre. —PV
Michael Clayton leaves HBO Max on Sept. 30.
Based on a true story, this tightly crafted war thriller follows soldiers at an American army outpost in Afghanistan that is essentially a death trap, surrounded on all sides by mountains, with little strategic reason to be there. The movie is just as much about the futility of war and the obliviousness of those who make decisions as it is about camaraderie and tense action. With excellent performances by Scott Eastwood and Caleb Landry Jones (and even Orlando Bloom!), and a moving moral center about people put in an unjustifiable position (like, literally, physically) and faced with impossible odds, The Outpost is one of the best war movies released this decade. —PV
The Outpost leaves Netflix on Oct. 1.
From our list of the best sports movies to watch at home:
Why you should watch: Because, according to the American Film Institute, it’s the fourth-greatest American film of all time. Because it’s one of De Niro’s greatest performances, with a terrifying physicality. Because it’s a searing, tragic deconstruction of toxic masculinity. And because Scorsese’s filmmaking, powered by Michael Chapman’s black-and-white photography and Thelma Schoonmaker’s impressionistic editing, reaches a delirious intensity that will take your breath away, especially in the dumbfounding boxing scenes. —Oli Welsh
Raging Bull leaves Prime Video and the Criterion Channel on Sept. 30.
Jonathan Glazer had a breakout hit with 2013’s Under the Skin, but more than a decade earlier he delivered an unforgettable feature debut with the 2000 black comedy Sexy Beast. Ray Winstone stars as a retired criminal living the sweet life in a Spanish villa. He must deal with an old, violent acquaintance (Ben Kingsley) who shows up for a surprise visit and attempts to entice him back into his old way of life. Closer in tone and structure to a horror movie than the “one last job” heist flick the plot synopsis hints at, Sexy Beast excels through its terrific leading performances and the totality of Glazer’s vision. —PV
Sexy Beast leaves Hulu on Sept. 30.
Sorry to Bother You
Boots Riley’s 2018 black comedy Sorry to Bother You follows Cassius Green (LaKeith Stanfield), a telemarketer from Oakland dispirited by his thankless job pitching products to predominantly white customers over the phone. Things quickly take a turn for what at first seems the better when Cassius learns to use his “white voice,” propelling him to success as he shoots up the corporate ladder to the venerated position of “Power Caller.” Absurd, hilarious, and unapologetically political, Sorry to Bother You is an unabashedly unique film filled with twists that’ll have you scratching your head as frequently as you’ll be shouting at the screen. —TE
Sorry to Bother You leaves Hulu on Sept. 30, but will still be available on Netflix.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Matt Damon’s lead performance in Anthony Minghella’s psychological thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley is inarguably one of the actor’s best: engrossing, shocking, and perversely sympathetic in equal measures. Damon plays Tom Ripley, an underachiever with an unsettling knack for deceiving others, who is hired by a shipping magnate to retrieve his son Dickie (Jude Law) from Italy for $1,000 after being mistaken for one of his old classmates. Befriending Dickie and his fiancée Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), Tom’s ever-evolving grift morphs into a twisted love-hate obsession with Dickie and his lifestyle, a life which Tom will resort to anything — anything — to possess.
With a brilliant performance by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as Dickie’s lewd, boisterous, and perceptive friend Freddie and terrific supporting performances by Cate Blanchett and Jack Davenport, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a tense, emotional thriller whose labyrinthine twists and turns will have you rooting for a monster. —TE
The Talented Mr. Ripley leaves Netflix on Oct. 1.
Robert De Niro delivers one of the defining performances of his entire career in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver as Travis Bickle, a Vietnam War veteran and taxi driver suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Sleep-deprived and increasingly isolated, Travis’ idle observations on the corruption and vice of New York City quickly manifest into violent ideation, prompting him to become a vigilante as he grasps for power and uncertainty in an uncertain world. Even apart from the film’s tangential role in John Hinckley Jr.’s attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981, Taxi Driver earns its distinction as a culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant film on the strength of De Niro’s aforementioned performance, Paul Schrader’s sharp and sorrowful script, and Michael Chapman’s beautiful cinematography. —TE
Taxi Driver leaves Netflix on Oct. 1.