Add these to your Netflix Queue NOW…

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5 Thought Provoking Netflix Picks For Summer Viewing

In case you haven’t noticed, Netflix has really stepped up its game – no matter what you’re in the mood for, chances are you’ll find it. This embarrassment of riches, however, means that it’s easy to overlook some real gems. If you’ve ever found yourself staring at all those choices but at a loss to pick one, consider a selection from this curated list; they’re all thought provoking, intelligent, and far from cookie cutter.

1. We Are What We Are – directed by Jim Mickle (2013)

Finding horror movies that seem fresh and different is a difficult task, but this one fits the bill. After the death of their mother, sisters Rose and Iris must capitulate to their father’s wishes and carry out a dark and ancient family tradition. Themes of extreme religiosity and fundamentalism are examined to chilling effect – the film’s dénouement, in particular, is not for the faint of heart. You probably shouldn’t be eating towards the end of this film, is what I’m saying.

2. Melancholia – directed by Lars von Trier (2011)

Von Trier is an acquired taste, for sure. This avant-garde Danish filmmaker has made me bawl my eyes out (see “Breaking the Waves” and “Dancer in the Dark”) and recoil in utter horror (if you want to see one of the most disturbing movies ever, stream his film “Antichrist”, but don’t say I didn’t warn you). Love him or hate him, though, his movies linger in the mind long after viewing, and “Melancholia” is no exception.

It stars Kristen Dunst as a character in the midst of a full-blown depression; her depression, however, is eclipsed by the literal end of the world. What follows is a dreamy, terrifyingly lovely countdown of a family’s last days on earth. It’s not an action-packed apocalyptic thriller, but rather an exploration of mortality on both a micro and macro scale. Watch it, and then pull your loved ones close.

3. Top of the Lake – directed by Jane Campion (2013)

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I’m always proselyting to everyone about this Sundance Originals miniseries, starring Holly Hunter and Peggy Olson herself, Elisabeth Moss. Detective Robin Griffin (Moss) gets pulled into the case of Tui Mitcham, a twelve year old girl who turns up pregnant and then disappears. As Griffin works the case, her own personal history intersects in compelling and disturbing ways.

Set against the haunting backdrop of New Zealand, the cast here is superb, including Holly Hunter as GJ, an esoteric guru “helping” a band of damaged women. As a whole, the series is dark and knotty; there’s a lot to unpack here about the power dynamic between men, women, and children. Moss truly shines, as a broken but strong character trying to save not only Tui, but herself.

Bonus: the soundtrack is excellent.

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4. Grizzly Man – directed by Werner Herzog (2005)

This documentary is no longer available on Netflix streaming (boo hiss) but you can order it via Netflix DVD. If you’re not familiar with Herzog’s oeuvre, you’re in for a real treat. He could basically make a documentary about dirt, and I’d totally watch it. “Grizzly Man” centers on Timothy Treadwell, a self-proclaimed bear expert who lived in the Alaskan wilderness among grizzlies. Now, think about this for a minute – grizzlies as in enormous, deadly, wild bears.

Treadwell camped among them and filmed his interactions accordingly; he gave the bears names, touched them, and bonded (arguably) with them. In fact, Treadwell appointed himself as the bear’s advocate and protector, until his dying day. I won’t reveal how that death occurred, but it’s the driving force behind the film – his actions and their eventual horrifying consequence. Herzog works in multiple layers – some focus upon modern day interviews with Treadwell’s friends and families – while the rest is actual footage that Treadwell himself filmed. The result is heartbreaking and unforgettable. Seriously, get your hands on this film.

5. Hit So Hard – directed by P. David Ebersole (2011)

Ah, this documentary makes me happy because it hits all my teenage nostalgia checkpoints: Generation X represent! It’s the story of Hole drummer Patty Schemel – both her rise to fame and her struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Schemel is insanely likeable, and her experiences shed new light on the ‘90s alternative scene, in all its problematic glory.

Courtney Love weighs in, of course, as do members of Luscious Jackson, and there’s heartbreaking archival footage of Kurt Cobain and Frances Bean. I love insider-y looks at musical culture, and “Hit So Hard” really delivers. It will basically make you want to pick up a drum kit.

Readers – Have you seen any of the picks on this list? And what are your best Netflix recs? Please share!

Amity writes and teaches in Central PA. Her obsessions include: Rodarte (she can’t afford any Rodarte, mind you, but a girl can dream), espresso, books, vintage/thrift fashion and fountain pens. She thinks you should dress like a weirdo once in a while, just to shake things up.
skin tone: NC15
skin type: Combination
favorite beauty product: felt-tipped eyeliners

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Written by amity


    1. Profile photo of amity

      Girl, I burned through OITNB 2 this weekend! And I’ll have to revisit Hemlock Grove–I watched a few episodes of Season 1 last year but had trouble getting into it.

  1. Profile photo of hao9703

    I am always looking for a good escape! Thanks for the rundown for the netflix cue. There is nothing like a good story to take your mind somewhere else for awhile. I hope this will be a regular feature at WHT every couple months.

  2. Proglamchick

    Wow! You are a fantastic writer! I am going to watch most to the selections of movies you recommend. I usually skim through articles,(unless their about makeup) but I read every word you wrote.
    Thank you for giving me these viewing options. I am a Netflix addict, never watch TV, haven’t in 3 years! Too many commercials & repetitive ones at that to further drive me insane! Netflix and iTunes is all I watch. I will pass on the first movie you recommended, but the others I will watch for sure! I tried to watch Top of the Lake and got bored. Maybe I need to give it more time & now because of you, I will!
    Thank you for this article!

    Pro Glam Chick

    1. Profile photo of amity

      Aw, thanks so much! Top of the Lake takes a while to get going, for sure, but once you get sucked in, you can’t stop watching!

  3. Profile photo of lyssachelle

    Top of the Lake IS SO GOOD. UGH!! SO GOOD. (That was an ugh of pleasure, it’s just that good.)

    Netflix tends to be my go-to for TV shows, especially British ones like IT Crowd and Being Human (which is SO much better than the US version…)
    I also like to use it to look up comedy specials; it’s great to discover new comedians and since Comedy Central and HBO don’t show stand-up like they used to, this is usually the only way I see it! I like to pick comedians I know, like Eddie Izzard or Russell Peters, and then see what Netflix recommends!

    1. Profile photo of amity

      Haha, UGH SO GOOD totally sums up Top of the Lake. And yeah, the Netflix recs are usually spot on. Can I also say that UGH SO GOOD applies to Eddie Izzard? Love him…

  4. Profile photo of Tyna Werner
    Tyna Werner

    Confession: I don’t have Netflix! I really need to get it soon however, cause I want to watch ALL of these! I’ve heard about Grizzly Man before – not sure why I never watched that doc. And “Hit So Hard” look awesome!

    Thanks for including a series in the list – there’s nothing better than binge watching a new (to you) show. And if I can make a rec – if you haven’t watched Orphan Black yet, get your hands on the first season and burn through it. If you are a Buffy fan, (or like similar shows) I think it is for you. A little sci-fi, a little mystery, a little humor, kick ass good and bad guys, lots of character development – just a fab show!
    Tyna Werner recently posted..Summer 2014 Swimsuit Trends

  5. Profile photo of sherrishera

    I’m torn with these recommendations…yet I’m always in need of some (I can’t be the only one who feels like watching a movie, then scrolls for hours until bedtime because I can’t decide).
    I’m torn because of the two on this list I’ve seen, I didn’t much care for either of them. I felt We Are What We Are was bizarre but (strangely) not surprising…well acted but rather boring. Grizzly Man was so hyped and talked about that the documentary fell flat for me.
    Top of the Lake looks good to me, though! I love Joan Campion. @amity, I love your taste,so if anyone can convince me, you can.
    I really should start watching Orange is the New Black. That and Newsroom are the two series I intend on busting through on Netflix/ITunes.

    1. Profile photo of amity

      No worries–time is too short to waste it on stuff you don’t like! I’m not sure quite what your taste is, but would be happy to offer other recs for ya. Another series on Netflix is “The Returned”–a French series about dead people coming back to life, but not at all in a trite zombie way. I’ve also been very into “Carnivale”–an older HBO series about circus folk–so dark, so good. And OITNB is phenomenal–big thumbs up there. What are some of your favorite shows?

  6. Profile photo of sherrishera

    Hmmm… I like period crime, mystery or family saga. But I don’t care much for fantasy (please no thrones or hobbits). Newsy, political stuff is great. I LOVE House of Cards…I was obsessed with Breaking Bad…I can’t get enough of Downton Abby. Of course there is Mad Men. I like Lilyhammer (but I don’t feel like I can’t wait for the next episode). Boardwalk Empire had me fixated until Michael Pitt was killed off–now I think I was just fixated on Michael Pitt. Bios, WWII, and Depression-era Dramas are high on my list, too. I love movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age, so anything dealing with that is great, too.

    1. Profile photo of amity

      The Carnivale show I mentioned is set in the ’30’s, so there’s all this great period detail, but it does definitely veer into mysticism territory. I LOVED Breaking Bad, too, and HBO’s “True Detective” struck some of the same notes for me as a viewer–really engrossing mash-up of philosophy, psychology, crime, etc. It’s super misogynistic, though, and flunks the Bechdel test on myriad levels. As for Netflix, did you see the series “The Fall” or the documentary “Of Dolls and Murder”?

  7. Melissa

    I keep looking at We Are What We Are. I added it to my queue a few days ago. I may check that out today. I cannot ever watch Grizzly Man again. I think I might have shed a tear or two at the end the first time. I caught some of Top of the Lake when it first came out. It seemed interesting. I love Hole. So, Hit So Hard is being added as I type.

    1. Profile photo of amity

      I kinda can’t help but adore Courtney Love, and she is pretty damn funny in her “Hit So Hard” interview clips–enjoy!

  8. Profile photo of turboterp

    I saw Melancholia a few days ago. Visually beautiful film, but that Lars von Trier sure can mess up your weekend, can’t he?

    I want to see all your other picks, starting with Hit So Hard.

    I’m not sure if it’s on Netflix yet, but I’m giving a shout out to Ping Pong Summer, set in 1980s Ocean City, Maryland and filmed on location. Fun!

    1. Profile photo of amity

      von Trier is something else, that’s for sure. I make it a point to see everything he does–that said, I think I’m gonna skip his newest one, which just looks completely out of control. And I’ll keep an eye out for Ping Pong Summer!

  9. Profile photo of krista

    “Top of the Lake” was awesomely good. I’ve been contemplating watching “We Are What We Are”, but every time I think about selecting it, I just don’t. I have to admit that I’m less of a person who watches movies that make me think and more of a person that watches mindless entertainment for escape. Right now, my Netflix is working overtime while I binge on Magnum PI and dream of being in Hawaii. :)

    1. Profile photo of amity

      So glad you liked “Top of the Lake.” And there’s nothing wrong with pure brain candy–I mean, I watch True Blood, and I stayed with Weeds until the bitter end. “We are what we are” isn’t terribly highbrow or anything, though, just a little bit different than an average horror movie.

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