Happy new year, Polygon readers! The holiday season is behind us, and 2024 beckons.
The new year has already given us a banger action movie, and many more exciting upcoming movies wait around the corner. But the new year also means a shuffling of movies on streaming services, with exciting new titles on Netflix, Hulu, Max, and Prime Video.
We went through the very long lists of new titles on each platform and picked out the best of the best for you to enjoy at home this month. There are award-winning films from directors with new movies out, hidden gems from beloved stars, and much more.
Let’s dive in and see what this month has in store!
Where to watch: Hulu
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Cast: Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Mayu Matsuoka
The masterful Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda was responsible for two of the best movies of 2023: The found-family crime drama Broker and the beguiling mystery thriller Monster.
While many attuned to the international film scene were fans of Kore-eda’s before his drama Shoplifters, the movie’s Palme d’Or win and Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film helped introduce a whole new audience to his work.
Like many of Kore-eda’s movies, Shoplifters is concerned with the nature of what family is, and the lengths we have to go to survive. It follows a found family living in poverty who work odd jobs and shoplift to make ends meet. The family encounters a young girl and takes her in, growing their circle despite the difficulty that comes with one more mouth to feed.
Gorgeously shot on 35mm film, and with deeply felt performances that immerse you completely in its story, Shoplifters is a master work from one of our most thoughtful and empathetic filmmakers. —Pete Volk
New on Netflix
The First Purge
Genre: Dystopian action horror
Director: Gerard McMurray
Cast: Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade
The Purge series has undergone one of the most fascinating creative trajectories of any horror series of the past decade. What began as a dystopian twist on the home invasion subgenre anchored by a strong performance by Ethan Hawke has transformed into a dark funhouse mirror of American carnage, an anthology of semi-stand-alone films that unpack the horror of watching a society take part in an annual celebration of its own destruction. 2024 is an election year, so obviously you’d think I would recommend The Purge: Election Year, right? Nope, that’s predictable; instead, you should watch Gerard McMurray’s 2018 prequel, which drills right down to the explicit root of the motivations behind the Purge.
Set in 2014, the film follows Nya (Lex Scott Davis), a young community activist; Isaiah (Joivan Wade), Nya’s younger brother; and Dmitri (Y’lan Noel), Nya’s ex-lover and a prominent drug dealer, who all must survive the first annual Purge being held in their home of Staten Island. Though conducted under the pretense of allowing the population to vent their pent-up rage, the true motive becomes clear: to inspire fear among the populace and eradicate the poorest and most marginalized members of society. It’s ironic that in circling back to the Purge’s in-universe origins, The First Purge exemplifies the fullest maturation of the series’ concept and themes to date. Equal parts horror, action, and social commentary, the film is as smart as it is chilling. —Toussaint Egan
New on Hulu
The King of Comedy
Genre: Black comedy
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard
Did you enjoy Joker, Todd Phillips’ controversial hit starring Joaquin Phoenix as the Clown Prince of Crime? Are you looking forward to Joker: Folie à Deux, the upcoming sequel set to star Phoenix opposite Lady Gaga? Then you ought to watch The King of Comedy, one of the two Martin Scorsese movies that directly inspired Phillips’ film.
The King of Comedy follows Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro), a troubled aspiring stand-up comedian. After crossing paths with his idol, Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis), a successful talk show host, Rupert becomes obsessed with breaking into show business to the point of delusion, culminating in a scheme that just might catapult him into stardom… that is, if he doesn’t get himself killed first. A darkly satirical take on celebrity culture and the perils of fandom, The King of Comedy is one of Scorsese’s most underappreciated masterpieces and highly recommended for anyone looking for a deeper understanding of the creative inspirations behind Joker. —TE
New on Max
Genre: Dark crime thriller
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T
Highlander and Resident Evil: Extinction director Russell Mulcahy, an unhinged John Lithgow, and a baby-faced Denzel Washington combine for this singular crime thriller that’s one of the strangest and most fascinating movies in Denzel’s career.
Ricochet is a revenge story of a sociopathic killer (Lithgow) who goes to extreme lengths to destroy the life of the now celebrity ex-cop (Washington) who busted him years ago. When I say extreme lengths, I mean it — Ricochet is about as dark as dark thrillers get, so be ready for that.
The grimy affair is boosted by an all-time bad guy performance from Lithgow, who gets to have a prison cafeteria sword fight with the Aryan Brotherhood in full DIY body armor. But Denzel also delivers a typically charming performance, and Mulcahy’s bold direction, with clever transitions, multiple split diopters, and other touches of flair, helps give the movie life.
Ricochet is a messy movie with dark themes and subject matter. But it’s also a surprisingly effective movie about white resentment of Black class ascension, an all-too-relevant topic. —PV
New on Prime Video
Return to Seoul
Director: Davy Chou
Cast: Ji-Min Park, Oh Kwang-rok, Guka Han
Return to Seoul was one of my favorite movies I watched last year, so I would be remiss not to recommend it now that it’s on streaming. Written and directed by Davy Chou, the film follows Freddie (Ji-Min Park), an impulsive 25-year-old woman who arrives in Seoul “accidentally” after her flight to Tokyo is canceled. Adopted by French parents, Freddie attempts to reconnect with her biological parents to gain a better sense of peace and closure with her past.
The film’s strength is primarily concentrated on Park’s magnetic and mercurial performance, which paints a fascinating portrait of a woman at odds with her own sense of identity and belonging in a country both familiar yet foreign. If you’re looking for a deeply affecting, beautifully shot, and captivatingly performed drama, Return to Seoul is all that and more. —TE