November has come and nearly gone, which means we have just one more month left in the year to look forward to before 2024 is upon. There’s still exciting new releases on the horizon, including the North American theatrical premiere of Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and The Heron, Zack Snyder's Rebel Moon Part 1: A Child of Fire, and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom starring Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson.
In the meantime, there’s still plenty of great movies to watch before they leave streaming at the end of the month. The best picks this November include a cult classic dystopian drama for fans of The Hunger Games, a laugh-out-loud comedy starring Emma Stone, an iconic non-narrative documentary, and more.
Here’s what you should watch this weekend before these titles leave their streaming services.
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Tarō Yamamoto
Leaving: Nov. 30 on Criterion Channel
With the recent debut of The Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, the fifth installment in the dystopian action series, now’s as good a time as any to look back at a spiritual predecessor to the series. Immensely controversial when it premiered in 2000, Kinji Fukasaku’s action thriller based on Koushun Takami’s novel is one of the most shocking and indelible Japanese films of its era.
Set in a future where an economic recession and a resulting surge in crime has transformed Japan’s government into a totalitarian regime, Battle Royale follows a class of junior high school students who are selected to fight to the death in order to strike fear in the heart of the country’s populace. Shackled with explosive collars, the children are sent out into the forest of a deserted island in search of weapons and supplies. Whoever is the last child standing is awarded their freedom. Like Suzanne Collins’ book series or Netflix’s Squid Game, Battle Royale is at its heart a study of the transformation of characters under life-or-death duress. It’s a heart wrenching and exhilarating drama, exploring which students are willing to stubbornly hold fast to their desire to survive the carnage without killing and which students succumb to either desperation or malice. With terrific performances by Tatsuya Fujiwara (Death Note), Chiaki Kuriyama (Kill Bill Vol. 1), and Beat Takeshi, Battle Royale is a film best experienced first-hand, not just through the many stories it has influenced. —Toussaint Egan
Movies to watch on Netflix
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Leaving Netflix: Nov. 30
For the better part of a decade, Denis Villeneuve has asserted himself as a confident director of sci-fi dramas defined by beautiful barren expanses and sweeping vistas. With Dune: Part Two coming up in 2024, the second half of Villeneuve’s ambitious adaptation of Frank Herbert’s iconic space opera, it’s worth looking back on the film that first established the director’s reputation as a sci-fi auteur.
Based on Ted Chiang’s novella “Story of Your Life,” a story which at the time was thought to be unadaptable, Arrival is a somber and philosophical drama about the nature of time, space, human relationships, and the power of language in mediated the divide between what is known and what is not. It was a critical success when it premiered, earning over eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, and eventually opening the way for Villeneuve to direct the sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. —TE
Movies to watch on Max
Director: Paul Schrader
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric Kyles
Leaving Max: Nov. 30
If I was asked to pick my favorite movies of the 21st century, I would spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out my top pick. But I know First Reformed would be in contention.
Paul Schrader is a filmmaker obsessed with contradiction, often pairing unlikely groups of themes or characters to wonderful effect. We saw it early on with Taxi Driver and more recently with Master Gardener (or movies like Hardcore, Auto Focus, and Patty Hearst), but to me, the pinnacle is First Reformed.
Anchored by a masterful performance from Ethan Hawke, First Reformed follows a minister (Hawke) of a tiny, old congregation in New York. His church is more a museum than a real congregation, and is funded by a local megachurch run by a celebrity pastor (Cedric the Entertainer). For many filmmakers, that conflict alone would be rich enough to dive into. But Paul Schrader is unlike many filmmakers.
Schrader delicately weaves a story of climate change, grief, and the challenges before us, both as individuals and as a society. What could easily just be a downer (and it is bleak at times) instead manifests a very human connection, even in despair. That’s something worth holding onto. —Pete Volk
Movies to watch on Hulu
Director: Will Gluck
Cast: Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Penn Badgley
Leaving Hulu: Nov. 30
Easy A belongs in the pantheon of the great high school movies, alongside Mean Girls and The Breakfast Club; it really is that good.
Riffing on The Scarlet Letter — the literary classic of which it’s a kind of inverted remake — it’s a sophisticated comedy of manners about bored, precocious teen Olive (Emma Stone), who agrees to pretend-bang her gay best friend to ward off the bullies. When others on the fringes of high school society find out and request the same service, she becomes a kind of imaginary prostitute, trading her new, falsely slutty reputation in for favors. The film walks the line of its illusory quandaries with a light, easy stride, and as a high school sex comedy in which no sex actually happens, it gets to be simultaneously scandalous and wholesome.
Stone is a knockout in her first lead role, the script is a firecracker, and there’s a hilarious Greek chorus of dissolute grownups who comment wryly on the action without really having a moral leg to stand on, including Lisa Kudrow, Thomas Haden Church, and the deliciously wry Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci as Olive’s liberal parents. —Oli Welsh
Movies to watch on Prime
Director: Godfrey Reggio
Leaving Prime: Nov. 30
Rockstar Games, the studio behind the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption series, is set to unveil the announcement trailer for the next Grand Theft Auto game early next month — presumably during this year’s annual Game Awards.
You might be wondering: “Toussaint, what does that have to do with Godfrey Reggio’s experimental non-narrative documentary?” Great rhetorical question, I’m happy to explain. Consisting primarily of time-lapsed footage of cities and natural environments, Koyaanisqatsi is a fascinating time-capsule of 20th century society on the verge of the new millennium, one which asks its audiences to consider the symbiotic relationship between human beings and Earth and whether or not, as the English translation of the film’s title suggests, life as we know it has been thrown out of balance.
The movie has gone on to be referenced and parodies countless time since its premiere in 1982, including in the 2007 announcement trailer for Grand Theft Auto 4, which features a track from Philip Glass’ iconic score for the film. There’s no guarantee Rockstar will include another sneaky nod to Reggio’s magnum opus in the next Grand Theft Auto trailer, but even if the studio doesn’t, you should still make the time to appreciate this monolith of majestic introspective filmmaking. —TE