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Though the song is nearly 30 years old, Bruce Springsteen’s “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” encapsulates the struggle viewers face today. With hundreds of cable channels, dozens of streaming services, and countless on-demand titles, trying to decide what to watch can feel like an endless ordeal.
That’s where we come in. Each month, Boston.com recommends 10 must-watch movies and TV shows available on streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Max, and more.
Many recommendations are for new shows, while others are for under-the-radar releases you might have missed, or classics that are about to depart a streaming service at the end of the month.
Have a new favorite movie or show you think we should know about? Let us know in the comments, or email me at [email protected]. Looking for even more great streaming options? Check out previous editions of our must-see list here.
Prior to the pandemic, stories about academic freedom of speech facing off against a new generation of students worried about “safe spaces” and “cancel culture” were a dime a dozen. More important issues tend to dominate headlines these days, but the new Netflix drama “The Chair” still manages to feel relevant in the age of virtual classrooms. Sandra Oh (“Grey’s Anatomy”) plays the recently promoted head of the fictional Pembroke College’s English department who has to balance stodgy academics, smartphone-wielding students, and a disaffected professor (Mark Duplass) on the verge of being fired with whom she strikes up an ill-advised romance.
How to watch: “The Chair” is streaming on Netflix.
A Sundance smash subject to a fierce bidding war earlier this year, “CODA” stars Emilia Jones (“Locke and Key”) as a 17-year-old CODA (child of deaf adults) living in Gloucester. When her choir director suggests she pursue music school for college, she must decide between pursuing her dreams and helping her deaf parents and brother run the family fishing business. Filmed in Massachusetts in 2019, Apple paid a Sundance-record $25 million for the worldwide rights to “CODA,” and as a result, the movie was released simultaneously in theaters and on its Apple TV+ streaming platform Aug. 13.
How to watch: “CODA” is streaming on Apple TV+.
When documentary filmmaker Peter Nicks began filming a group of Oakland High School students in the fall of 2019, there’s no way he could have known he would end up bearing witness to a generation of students coming to terms with a deadly pandemic and a national racism reckoning. The first half of “Homeroom” will make you ache for the earnest, politically engaged students who have no idea what’s to come, while the second half will leave you heartened and assured that — as the saying goes — the kids are alright.
How to watch: “Homeroom” is streaming on Hulu.
Looking to turn your brain off for an evening? Emily Blunt and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson happily provide two hours of entertainment in “Jungle Cruise,” which landed on Disney Plus July 30. The former wrestler plays a boat captain hired to transport Lily (Blunt) and her brother (Jack Whitehall) down the Amazon River in search of a mythical tree of life. There’s magic, an evil villain (Jesse Plemons, “Friday Night Lights”), and a simple storyline that requires little thought to achieve maximum enjoyment.
How to watch: “Jungle Cruise” is streaming on Disney+ Premier Access.
“Outer Banks” is not a show that’s going to win Emmys. It’s also a show that knows exactly what it is: a soapy, suspenseful teen drama that’s a cross between “The Goonies” and “The OC.” It’s also one of Netflix’s biggest hits, and has sat firmly in the streamer’s Top 10 most-watched list since season two’s debut earlier this month. The second season finds the same group of teens in the idyllic Outer Banks in North Carolina searching for a $500 million lost treasure hidden by the teen ringleader’s recently deceased dad. In short, “Outer Banks” is an implausible guilty pleasure, one that teens and adults alike can enjoy.
How to watch: “Outer Banks” is streaming on Netflix.
Fans of Nicolas Cage who watched the trailer for “Pig” may expect a “John Wick” clone mixed with one of the Oscar winner’s characteristic bug-eyed, manic, over-the-top performances. The plot — a reclusive chef vows revenge after someone kidnaps his best friend, a truffle-hunting pig — certainly suggests madcap action will ensue. While the plot certainly veers into “Wick” territory, Cage only offers the briefest glimpses of his usual on-screen persona, reminding us of why he has an Oscar.
How to watch: “Pig” is streaming and available to rent/purchase on Apple TV+, Amazon, Google Play, and other on-demand platforms.
“Reservation Dogs” offers a story never before seen on television: Created by and starring mostly Indigenous actors, “Reservation Dogs” follows a group of teenagers who long to scrape together enough money to leave their Oklahoma reservation. While the experiences of the characters may be foreign to many Americans, “Reservation Dogs” doesn’t try to hand-hold white audiences through unfamiliar references, instead offering a darkly humorous and fully realized story.
How to watch: The first three episodes of”Reservation Dogs” are streaming on Hulu. New episodes air Monday nights on FX.
You’re not imagining things: Warner Bros. is really releasing a movie called “The Suicide Squad” only five years after the poorly received “Suicide Squad.” The studio has added more than just a “The,” casting Idris Elba (“The Wire”), Sylvester Stallone (Rocky”) and West Newbury native John Cena (“Bumblebee”) to join holdover Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”). This time, the imprisoned convicts turned heroes are headed to a Nazi-era prison and laboratory that was once home to political prisoners subject to unspeakable experiments.
How to watch: “The Suicide Squad” is streaming on HBO Max.
A TV show based on a commercial does not sound like a recipe for success, with the short-lived show “Cavemen” based on those Geico ads being the most memorably bad example. But “Ted Lasso,” an Apple TV+ series based on a Jason Sudeikis character created to advertise the English Premier League on NBC Sports, is a heartwarming exception. As an American football coach who knows nothing about the sport of soccer, the (fictional) football club AFC Richmond he’s hired to coach, or the British way of life in general, Sudeikis’ Ted Lasso works overtime to win over his skeptics. His relentlessly sunny attitude not only rubs off on his co-stars, but it reaches audiences as well, with the show earning 20 Emmy nominations for its first season, and keeping the momentum going for its second season, which is currently in progress on Apple TV+.
How to watch: “Ted Lasso” is streaming on Apple TV+.
You’re not going to find a lot of characters to root for on Mike White’s cringe-worthy satire “The White Lotus,” but that’s what makes the show such a wickedly delightful watch. The show follows an eclectic group of loathsome limousine liberals who are vacationing at the ultra-posh Hawaiian resort that gives the series its name. Along the way, there’s a cancer scare, psychological warfare, and plot lines that lay bare the class and race stratification present on the tropical island.
How to watch: “White Lotus” is streaming on HBO Max.
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