Greetings, Polygon readers!
December is nearly behind us and the New Year is almost here, which means there’s a plethora of exciting new releases in terms of movies, games, and television to look forward to. Before we jump too far ahead, though, there’s plenty of excellent movies to watch on streaming before they leave their respective platforms at the end of the month. We’ve got an understated classic by Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning historical epic starring Russell Crowe, a hilarious comedy starring the late great Robin Williams, and much more.
Here’s what you should watch this weekend before these titles leave their streaming services.
The Age of Innocence
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder
Leaving Criterion Channel: Dec. 31
With the recent release of Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese's Western crime drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone, the discourse regarding which of the director’s films ranks among his best has been rekindled. The Age of Innocence, based on Edith Wharton’s 1920 romance novel, is often conspicuously absent from most of these discussions, which is a shame because the film is incredible.
Set in late-19th-century New York, the film follows the story of an illicit love affair between Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis), a wealthy attorney betrothed to a fellow member of New York high society, and the Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), the cousin of Newland’s fiancée who has fled to America following her disastrous marriage to a Polish count. Newland and Ellen are immediately drawn to one another, but the unspoken protocols of New York aristocracy and the social rigidity of the times forbid them from following their hearts.
A sumptuous portrait of Gilded Age-era excess, frustrated yearning, and barely suppressed emotion, The Age of Innocence is a truly heartbreaking movie in the truest sense of the word. The chemistry between Day-Lewis and Pfeiffer is electrifying, as is the lavish production design, evocative lighting, and pitch-perfect narration by Joanne Woodward. Fans of Scorsese’s works or early-20th-century American literature will have a delightful time. —Toussaint Egan
Movies to watch on Netflix
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen
Leaving Netflix: Dec. 31
Ridley Scott is set to release the long-awaited sequel to his Oscar-winning epic Gladiator next November, with Paul Mescal (Aftersun) set to star as an adult version of Lucius, the nephew of the villainous patricidal emperor Commodus played by Joaquin Phoenix in the original film. If you somehow haven’t watched Gladiator yet, now’s as perfect time as any to catch up before the sequel hits theaters next year.
Starring Russell Crowe, the film follows the story of Maximus Decimus Meridius, a Roman general who is betrayed and sentenced to die as a slave by the aforementioned Commodus. Forced to fight for his life as a gladiator, Maximus rises through the ranks and inadvertently becomes a symbol of hope among Rome’s underclass, who yearn to cast off the yoke of the patrician rule. A historical “sword-and-sandal” epic in the vein of Ben-Hur and Spartacus, Gladiator is widely considered one of the defining movies of the 2000s for its breathtaking cinematography, brutal fight sequences, and captivating performances. —TE
Movies to watch on Hulu
Alita: Battle Angel
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly
Leaving Hulu: Dec. 31
This live-action adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s cyberpunk action manga has amassed a sizeable cult following since it premiered in 2019. According to executive producer James Cameron, a sequel to the film is currently being developed. In the meantime, why not see what all the fuss is about and watched a big-eyed cyborg girl with an even bigger heart beat the shit out of some evil robots?
Rosa Salazar stars as Alita, an amnesic cyborg rescued from a landfill by a kindly scientist named Ido (Christoph Waltz) in the year 2536. After being fitted with a new body, Alita embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she attempts to regain her lost memory, meeting new friends and adversaries and awakening her latent martial arts prowess. Alita: Battle Angel is a sci-fi action film bursting at the seams with big ideas: Ancient interstellar wars and floating cities loom over questions of identity, love, and destiny realized through spectacular action sequences and huge set-pieces. If you’re looking for a fun and thrilling action drama with a terrific lead performance, Alita: Battle Angel is a must-watch. —TE
Movies to watch on Max
So I Married an Axe Murderer
Director: Thomas Schlamme
Cast: Mike Myers, Nancy Travis, Anthony LaPaglia
Leaving Max: Dec. 31
This dark romantic comedy might have one of the most aggressively ’90s premises ever: A San Francisco beat poet named Charlie (Mike Myers) falls head over heels for Harriet (Nancy Travis), a lovely local butcher, following a string of demoralizing breakups. Things seem OK, right? Wrong: Charlie’s parents (played by Brenda Fricker and Myers himself) suspect Harriet is a deadly serial killer known for murdering her husbands, a suspicion that only fuels Charlie’s self-sabotaging fear of commitment. Can these two lovebirds find a way to make their relationship work? And what exactly is the deal with all of Harriet’s exes being murdered? Hmmm. You’ll have to watch this hilarious underrated comedy to find out for yourself! —TE
Movies to watch on Prime Video
Director: Mike Nichols
Cast: Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane
Leaving Prime Video: Dec. 31
Mike Nichols’ classic adaptation of La Cage aux Folles is a hilarious subversion of your typical “two wildly different families have to get along when their children fall in love” romantic comedy. Nathan Lane, Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, and Dianne Wiest are all hilarious in this sendup of culture clashes and the moral panic of American conservatism.
As Polygon’s Maddy Myers put it in our list of the best LGBTQ comedies you can watch at home:
It’s hard to even imagine Nathan Lane as unconfident about anything in his life, especially when it comes to his melodramatic, hilarious portrayal of drag queen Starina (and her alter-ego, the not-so-mild-mannered Albert) in The Birdcage — but Lane was still in the closet at the time. It’s all the more impressive that the central joke of the 1996 movie is that Albert can’t manage to pass as straight, not even for the benefit of his son’s fiancée’s extremely conservative family. The Birdcage shows all the ways that gender is a performance through its rapid-fire wit and absurd situations, shying away from the preachiness you might expect of a comedy about conservatives forced to face their fears of all things queer. The best part of The Birdcage isn’t the drag performances, although those remain a delight — instead it’s the movie’s portrayal of the middle-aged mundanities of two gay dads existing in the ’90s. They’re normal, and at the time, that felt radical.
To quote a bird (albeit one typically not found in a cage): It’s an absolute hoot. —Pete Volk