Greetings, Polygon readers!
It’s February, so you know what that means. That’s right — time for an update on the best movies available to stream on Netflix, Hulu, Max, Prime Video, and more!
From beloved cult classics to Oscar-nominated dramas, we’ve pored over this month’s latest additions to bring you the very best films streaming this month. We’ve got mecha, romance, sci-fi horror, animated family films, and more to watch this February. Not to mention a cult favorite action comedy that’ll have you laughing out loud during every other scene, guaranteed.
Let’s dive in and see what this month has in store!
Where to watch: Paramount Plus w/ Showtime
Genre: Romantic drama
Director: Celine Song
Cast: Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, John Magaro
Celine Song’s Oscar-nominated feature debut is a bittersweet reverie about the what-ifs of life. Loosely based on her own life, Past Lives follows Nora (Greta Lee), a Korean woman who immigrated to Canada as a young girl and reconnects with her childhood sweetheart, Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), during college. But while their reconciliation is sweet at first, the distance between them takes its toll, and Nora cuts things off before they can resent each other.
Fast forward 12 years, and Nora is married to an American man when Hae Sung reaches out while visiting New York. The two meet up, the connection between them still strong, if faded by the realities of their lives. Nora muses about her life, the way she’s caught between cultures, and how different things might have been if she had never left Korea as a child. Song takes great care not to villainize anyone, especially not Nora’s husband, who even outright admits that if this was a movie, he’d be the bad guy keeping two childhood sweethearts from reconnecting. It’s a tender film that aches in the best sort of way. —Petrana Radulovic
New on Netflix
Genre: Sci-fi action
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi
Among the biggest, silliest, and most fun movies of the last few decades, Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim remains a masterpiece of ridiculous action spectacle.
The movie, for those that don’t know, follows the pilots of massive robots called Jaegers that were created to fight the equally massive kaiju that have been invading Earth for seven years via an interdimensional portal hidden deep in the Pacific Ocean. There couldn’t possibly be a more cut-and-dried premise for a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters, but del Toro makes every second of the movie a blast.
The music, from Game of Thrones and Westworld vet Ramin Djawadi, is stirring and epic on a level that flirts with parody. Idris Elba, whose character has the brilliant name Stacker Pentecost, gives a rousing speech about canceling the apocalypse. Ron Perlman plays a villain that feels like a cartoon character come to life. And if that weren’t enough, a giant robot uses a shipping barge as a sword. It’s all incredible, and if it’s been a while since you last watched it, you owe it to yourself to return to Pacific Rim. —Austen Goslin
Modest Heroes: Ponoc Short Films Theatre
Genre: Animated anthology
Directors: Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Yoshiyuki Momose, Akihiko Yamashita
Cast: Fumino Kimura, Sōta Shinohara, Joe Odagiri
Studio Ponoc, the Japanese animation house founded by former Studio Ghibli producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, has a new movie coming to Netflix later this year. While most anime-savvy audiences know Ponoc best for its 2017 film Mary and the Witch’s Flower, I would argue this anthology film is a superior showcase of Ponoc’s talents and vision. The first (and so far only) installment in the Ponoc Short Films Theatre series, Modest Heroes boasts a trio of animated shorts directed by the studio’s leading talents: Hiromasa Yonebayashi (director of the Oscar-nominated When Marnie Was There), Yoshiyuki Momose (director of Ponoc’s upcoming film The Imaginary), and Akihiko Yamashita (an animator on Howl’s Moving Castle).
Each of the three shorts is a fun and unique take on the anthology’s loose theme of everyday heroes, but if I were asked to pick one to recommend, I would choose Yamashita’s “Invisible.” It follows the story of an unknown salaryman who struggles with not being noticed — literally because he’s invisible. The world depicted in the short balances on the knife’s edge between being whimsical and grimy, with sprawling highways and a drab gray color palette that’s nonetheless stunning to look at. What’s really impressive, however, is the animation of the invisible man himself, especially during the short’s climactic chase sequence. You really can’t go wrong with any of the shorts, though! —Toussaint Egan
New on Hulu
(500) Days of Summer
Genre: Romantic comedy-drama
Director: Marc Webb
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Chloë Grace Moretz
In the 15 years since it came out, audiences have tended to flatten (500) Days of Summer into a movie about a manic pixie dream girl who broke a lonely guy’s heart. But it’s actually a fabulous deconstruction of that all-too-common trope that, much like many John Green novels, got popularly misinterpreted because the outward aesthetics reinforce the tropes. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Tom, a mild-mannered guy who works at a greeting card company and falls head over heels for a woman named Summer (Zooey Deschanel). The two start a casual relationship, which eventually falls apart because Summer doesn’t feel as intensely about Tom as he does about her.
It’s a doomed story from the start, and as the movie’s opening narration reminds us, not a love story. Tom is the main character, and through his eyes Summer is the one who wronged him. But the movie is actually about Tom slowly learning that maybe he projected his ideal version of a romantic partner onto Summer, and put her on an unfair pedestal that she could never live up to.
It can best be summed up by what Tom’s little sister tells him: “Just because she likes the same bizzaro crap you do doesn’t mean she’s your soulmate.” —PR
Genre: Sci-fi action
Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke
Despite the Predator’s place among the elite, all-time great movie monsters, his first movie might still be a little underappreciated. The action pedigree in the movie alone is staggering. There’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, and Jesse Ventura, all directed by Die Hard’s John McTiernan.
Predator is a veritable action-horror classic. The movie spends its first third with guns blazing as Schwarzenegger’s team tears its way through the jungle. The rest is filled with terrifying paranoia as they get picked off one by one. But the strange miracle of the movie is that McTiernan never loses track of the kick-ass action at Predator’s core, right up to and including Schwarzenegger’s terrific final confrontation.
If you only know the Predator by his reputation, then now’s the perfect time to find out what he’s really about, and watch the movie that instantly put him in the movie creature hall of fame. —AG
New on Max
The Lego Movie
Genre: Adventure comedy
Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Cast: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks
At first glance, The Lego Movie seems like a cash grab — it’s about popular toys designed to sell even more of those popular toys. (Also, it was Chris Pratt’s first voice-over gig, so maybe we can indirectly blame it for him now being the “default guy” voice for animated adventures.) But let us remember that the first Lego movie came from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and they know a thing or two about making an engaging animated movie that transcends typical expectations.
For one, the Lego movie is lovingly crafted by people who clearly understand the tactile appeal of Legos. And beneath the plastic veneer is an incredibly funny story about the power of play and imagination, which also has one of the best plot twists in modern cinema (I stand by this!). And that’s not even mentioning the absolutely infectious “Everything is AWESOME!!!” —PR
Genre: Crime thriller
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow
Se7en follows two detectives, the young hothead Brad Pitt and the one-case-from-retirement Morgan Freeman, as they uncover the secrets of a serial killer who seems to be patterning his murders off of the Seven Deadly Sins. Of course, hunting down the killer and finding his identity is only part of the game.
One of the best serial killer thrillers of all time, Se7en is also among the creepiest and goriest movies you’ll find on Netflix. Every single one of John Doe’s victims winds up in a horrifying puddle of blood, all shown with the careful, meticulous, and often beautiful eye that only director David Fincher has. While the movie is nearly three decades old at this point, Fincher’s serial killer classic is just as disturbing and riveting now as it was on release in 1995. —AG
New on Prime Video
Fist of the Condor
Genre: Martial arts drama
Run time: 1h 20m
Director: Ernesto Díaz Espinoza
Cast: Marko Zaror, Eyal Meyer, Gina Aguad
If you like old-school martial arts movies with gorgeous cinematography and balletic choreography, you’re going to love Fist of the Condor. The latest collaboration from Chilean director and star duo Ernesto Díaz Espinoza and Marko Zaror (John Wick: Chapter 4), Fist of the Condor is a vehicle for one of the most underrated martial arts stars working today. And at only 80 minutes, it’s a light commitment for one of my favorite movies of 2023. —Pete Volk
Genre: Buddy cop action comedy
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent
Edgar Wright’s follow-up to his 2004 breakout hit Shaun of the Dead may not have been the as much of a smash hit as that film, but in my humble opinion, it’s actually better than Shaun of the Dead as well as one of the funniest comedies of the 2010s.
Simon Pegg stars as Nicholas Angel, a hyper-vigilant London police officer who is forcibly reassigned to the rural town of Sandford to prevent him from further embarrassing his peers. The transfer only achieves the exact opposite, as Nicholas and his new slacker partner Danny (Nick Frost) inadvertently stumble upon a deadly conspiracy linked to a bizarre rash of murders that no one (and I mean no one) in town seems particularly disturbed by.
Hot Fuzz boasts one of the tightest scripts of any movie I’ve ever seen, with nearly every line circling back in one way or another to punchline that’s more hilarious than the last. Top that off with an explosive gunfight finale that pays homage to John Woo’s Hard Boiled and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and you’ve got a parody that easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the very films it so lovingly riffs on. —TE