This list was updated April 8, 2016 to reflect Netflix’s current offerings.
Winter is here, and with it, Peak Netflix Season. It’s time to make some hard choices about exactly how you’re going to Netflix and chill over the course of this bitter, unholy season. What movies are you going to watch as you attempt to stave off your SAD — and with whom?
That all depends on your winter #relationshipgoals. Are you single and trying to stay that way for the duration? We suggest tuning into some films that validate just how terrible and oft-unnecessary the opposite sex is. Looking to couple up ASAP, before it gets too cold to leave your house without bursting into deep sobs that freeze right on your cheeks? Maybe some tales of unlikely couples who found each other against all odds are in order. Just started dating somebody and exploring the exciting world of hooking up with the TV on (i.e., the OG Netflix and chill)? Screen some light and/or sexy flicks that require very little brain power to follow. In a long-term relationship that’s flailing in the face of months spent huddled near glowing screens, and need to either revive or end it? How about some tales of flames relit and sparks flying (or, alternately, of couples better off broken up)?
Whatever your status, be sure to choose your relationship-centric movies carefully. The movies you stream while holed up inside your home with (or without) a significant other will determine the very outcome of your wintry love life.
(If these don’t do the trick — we don’t know the intricacies of your weird relationship stuff — Vulture’s What to Stream guide should have you covered.)
You’re Purposefully Single and Trying to Netflix and Chill by Yourself for the Foreseeable Future
I Believe in Unicorns: If ever a movie existed solely to remind you why being single is better than being with a garbage person, it would be writer-director Leah Meyerhoff’s debut feature. When we first meet our youthful, naïve protagonist, Davina (Natalia Dyer), she’s not exactly living what Oprah would call her Best Life — Davina’s mom’s got MS, her dad’s gone, and she appears to have approximately one friend. But her inner life is vivid and rich, filled with fantasies about unicorns and learning to fly. That is, until she meets bad-boy-skater-punk Sterling (Peter Vack), who she thinks will help her escape her tedious reality. Sterling does end up spicing things up for Davina, albeit by ditching her at metal shows, driving her aimlessly around the West Coast for several days without showering, and, ultimately, breaking her heart and temporarily shattering her fragile fantasy life. As the old saying goes: Playing with unicorn dolls under a sheet with a flashlight by yourself always beats a bad date.
Drinking Buddies: Joe Swanberg’s boozy, rambling indie serves as a solid slap in the face for anyone considering acting on a work crush. Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are best friends who work at a Chicago brewery and engage in flirtatious banter over innumerable pints of craft beer. Both are involved in relationships with other people (Ron Livingston and Anna Kendrick, respectively), but a drunken weekend getaway confuses the foursome and they start smooching each other indiscriminately. Things then get awkward for Luke and Kate at work, and people start breaking up, and Luke’s hand starts bleeding, and he gets punched in the face, and everybody stops focusing on brewing beer. The lesson here is clear: Don’t let a work crush derail your life. Stick to your singlehood, and please keep brewing beer.
Your Sister’s Sister: Lynn Shelton’s 2011 rom-dram isn’t technically a cautionary tale, as it ends in a relatively happy fashion. But if you’re trying to step back from the dating scene for a bit, it couldn’t hurt to tune in to Your Sister’s Sister, in which a hot mess named Jack (Mark Duplass) falls in love with his best friend, Iris (Emily Blunt) — a girl who used to date his dead brother — then camps out at her family’s cabin, where he encounters and drunkenly sleeps with her lesbian sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), possibly impregnating her in the process. I’m pretty sure the takeaway here is that it’s better to drink a giant bottle of tequila with yourself rather than drink a giant bottle of tequila with a stranger and then possibly impregnate her.
Muriel’s Wedding: Recently ended a marriage of convenience with a surly South African swimmer? Validate that decision by watching Muriel’s Wedding. Despite its title, romantic entanglements are only tertiary in P.J. Hogan’s 1990s heartfelt comedy. Though misfit Muriel (Toni Collette) wants nothing more than to escape the doldrums of Porpoise Spit by marrying the faceless Man of Her Dreams, the relationship that ends up rescuing her is the one she shares with her equally quirky best friend, Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths). As Muriel gushes to Rhonda, “Since I’ve met you and moved to Sydney, I haven’t listened to one ABBA song. That’s because my life is as good as an ABBA song.” In your moments of doubt, remember: When you’re single, the world is your ABBA song. (Update: Not currently available.)
Walking and Talking: Walking And Talking is another loving homage to the female best-friendship, a paean to the principle of uteruses before duderuses. Nicole Holofcener writes and directs Catherine Keener and Anne Heche as Amelia and Laura, who support each other unconditionally as men float in and out of their lives. Much of its plot hinges on a doomed and stressful romantic relationship between Amelia and the strange man who works at her local video store (Kevin Corrigan). In today’s world, Amelia would have stayed at home watching Netflix and never met Kevin and would have saved herself a lot of time and energy. See what I’m saying? (Update: Not currently available.)
You’re Single As Hell and Need Help Wooing Someone IRL Before It’s Too Cold to Go Outside
Beginners: Do you tend to push away everyone who loves you, even though deep down all you want is someone to roller-skate through a hotel lobby with? You’ve got kindred spirits in Oliver (Ewan McGregor) and Anna (Melanie Laurent), who both have a penchant for running wildly in the opposite direction of love, but try to forge a relationship anyway. Sure, Beginners is twee as fuck, but what new relationship isn’t? The key is that Oliver and Anna commit to the tweeness — they talk very seriously to dogs, they dress up like old men, they roller-skate in inappropriate places. You might try doing one or all of the above to find your wintertime companion.
Silver Linings Playbook: So you’ve recently left a mental institution and are having trouble proving to your friends and family that you’re clearheaded enough to court the equally unstable girl next door. It’s important, then, that you take a page or two from David O. Russell’s Oscar-winning Silver Linings Playbook. Step 1: Bond over a panoply of psych meds at a friendly dinner. Step 2: Join forces for a dance competition. Step 3: Offend each other multiple times in various ways; bonus points if one of you hurls a bowl of cereal. Step 4: Make out in the street.
While You Were Sleeping: If we’ve learned anything from the cinematic repertoire of Sandra Bullock, it’s that ill-conceived, wildly inappropriate romantic relationships are often the most successful. Take While You Were Sleeping, for instance, in which Bullock — playing a lonely CTA fare collector — falls in love with a stranger (Peter Gallagher), saves him from a speeding train, tells his family she’s his fiancé while he’s in a coma, then falls in love with his brother (Bill Pullman). So don’t beat yourself up for being in love with your boss, or your best friend’s wife, or your lonely CTA fare collector. Instead, falsely attach yourself to one of their unconscious family members — then go for it!
Moonrise Kingdom: Perhaps you’re a 12-year-old orphan with little means with which to woo your would-be love interest, and/or simply paying off college loans. Wes Anderson is here to remind you that nothing is more romantically persuasive — and cheap — than a stealth camping trip, especially one that involves dancing on a beach in one’s underwear to the sounds of Françoise Hardy. If two itinerant children named Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) can find creative ways to have fun on a budget while they’ve got a cadre of Boy Scouts, social services, and Bruce Willis hunting them down, so too can you.
Greenberg: Florence (Greta Gerwig) and Roger (Ben Stiller) are two of the least compatible people on the entire planet. She’s shy, sweet, and strange; he’s an insecure asshole who’s just suffered a nervous breakdown. But over the course of Noah Baumbach’s 2010 dramedy, the two connect and fall for each other, basically because Roger stops being an insecure asshole long enough to realize how sweet and strange Florence is. My point here is that you might be an insecure asshole who’s totally overlooking that sweet, strange person in your life who loves you.
You’re a Few Dates in and Need a Movie to Hook Up To
Bridget Jones’s Diary: Bridget Jones’s Diary is the perfect movie for you and your new love interest to smooch to, because you have both seen this movie one million times (either because you love it or because it’s always on TV). Here’s a quick refresher: Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) falls for her douchebag boss (Hugh Grant). He cheats on her. She realizes she’s actually in love with quietly sexy barrister Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), who makes all other men appear ridiculous and inconsequential. After a series of misunderstandings, the two make blue soup and love in short order. Now stop reading this and go make out. Just make sure to pause for the fight scene. (Update: Not currently available.)
Bird People: Not a lot happens in Bird People. There are a lot of aerial shots of Paris, a lot of scenes starring Josh Charles as an asshole who deserts his entire family, and a lot of scenes in which a maid named Audrey (Anaïs Demoustier) cleans hotel rooms fastidiously. If Bird People were about an hour shorter than its two-hour runtime, it would be a compelling and ambitious film about human nature (we get it: We are just like birds). The good news, though, is that if you just check in on Bird People every few minutes as you’re macking on your couch, you’ll get a general sense of the film, probably be less frustrated by its repetitiveness, and focus only on its subtle, idiosyncratic beauty.
Weekend: In the universe of Andrew Haigh’s Weekend (and the actual universe), a one-night stand can sometimes give way to something much more meaningful. That’s what happens between Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), two men who happen to be some of the most fully drawn characters ever to grace the silver screen, and who meet at a club, go home together, and forge a strange and immediate connection. Though both are afraid of committing to a real relationship for various reasons, they can’t seem to let go of one another, and spend — you guessed it — a weekend having cathartic late-night chats and a fair bit of sex. Should you desire to parlay your own casual hookup into something serious, this might be a good way to start the conversation (and, you know, the fair bit of sex). (Update: Not currently available.)
Me and You and Everyone We Know: Miranda July’s eccentric indie might seem like a strange choice for this category, but bear with me. Underneath all the time-bending and performance art and the “pooping back and forth forever,” this is an earnest, heartfelt story about human connection. By the time the film wraps, even the most off-putting of humans can find someone to love or to provide them with comfort and companionship — including an odd little boy who types the aforementioned phrase to a stranger online, an “Eldercab”-driver-cum-amateur-video-artist (July), and John Hawkes. No matter how isolated or offbeat or awkward you feel trying to connect with your would-be paramour, remember that Miranda July hung socks on her ears and still landed John Hawkes.
You’re a Bored Long-term Couple That Needs Some Serious Inspiration
Shakespeare in Love: When the honeymoon phase ends, it can be easy to take one another for granted. Rectify this immediately by watching Shakespeare in Love. Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Shake-fucking-speare himself (Joseph Fiennes) are having the best sex of their natural lives, and want nothing more than to lock it up for life. The only problem is that Viola’s engaged to be wed to some other dude, and she can’t get out of it, especially because the Queen decides not to do her a solid by giving her a pass. I mean, can you imagine being forcibly separated from your one true love by the QUEEN? Or how about by Judi Dench? Seriously, imagine it. This should help.
The Duke of Burgundy: Everybody’s got their idiosyncrasies. Maybe your girlfriend’s insisting that you arrange your cereal boxes alphabetically, or your boyfriend wants you to wear a full beekeeper suit to bed. Well, in Peter Strickland’s lush, lovely The Duke of Burgundy, Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) insists that her girlfriend, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen), don a wig and heels, pretend that Evelyn is her insouciant maid, and act out scenes of domination and “punishment” for hours on end. Every. Single. Day. The Duke of Burgundy is a stunningly shot, sexy film that’s worth watching no matter what your relationship status may be, but it’ll also make you deeply grateful that you don’t have to end each evening by locking your partner in a wooden chest.
The Wood: Your nuptials are on the horizon, and you’re terrified. Before making any sudden movements — like drunkenly wandering into the home of your ex-girlfriend, for instance — sit down with Rick Famuyiwa’s The Wood. Roland (Taye Diggs, dripping in abs, as usual) has deserted his bride on his wedding day, and his best pals (Richard T. Jones and Omar Epps) are charged with finding him. When they locate Roland — who’s drunkenly wandered into the home of his ex-girlfriend, blaming cold feet — rather than dragging him back to the venue, they take him out for pizza and reminisce about their days growing up in Inglewood. This serves to both calm Roland down and remind him that it’s incredible that somebody loves him, considering what a tool he was as a youngster — two important pieces of wisdom for any man (or woman) on their wedding day and beyond.
Y Tu Mamá También: Sometimes all you need to reignite the dying spark of your lust is to watch a straight-up well-done sex scene or two. In which case, I present to you Y Tu Mamá También. Alfonso Cuarón’s coming-of-age-on-a-road-trip movie is full of sex scenes, some of them surprising and strange, and almost all of them awkward. But each feels real, relatable, raw — and most important, drives the narrative, expressing feelings and desires left unspoken between the three main characters (Gael García Bernal, Maribel Verdú, and Diego Luna). The seduction scene in the hotel in particular stands out as one of the most talked-about sex scenes in cinematic history; perhaps it will also be helpful to you.
You’re a Bored Long-term Couple That Needs That Final Push to Break Up
Sliding Doors: In Sliding Doors, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Helen Quilley catches a train just before it leaves, finds her boyfriend cheating on her, dumps him, falls in love with her soul mate, gets hit by a van, and (spoiler alert) dies. In an alternate reality, she doesn’t catch the train or her boyfriend, and instead is strung along by him for months as he cheats on her unrepentantly. But she doesn’t die (and though she meets the same soul mate at the end, it’s unclear whether they get together).This movie poses a very real question: Would you rather live happily and truthfully and die in a van accident? Or would you rather stay in a bad relationship and have terrible hair? I think you know the answer (but just try to steer clear of vans for a while either way).
Take This Waltz: Sarah Polley’s pensive, bittersweet Take This Waltz follows Michelle Williams as Margot, a woman who’s so bored being married to a sweet, jolly Seth Rogen that she starts up a love affair with her neighbor (Luke Kirby). Soon, she’s leaving her husband for her new man. At first, she’s pretty happy — there’s a long, crazy montage of her and her new lover having all manner of sexual relations — but later feels the same emptiness she did with good old, reliable Seth. Sarah Silverman, as Seth’s sister, shows up in a later scene to share her disapproval with Margot, explaining that “life has a gap” that no romantic partner can fill. Should you find yourself in a dysfunctional relationship that purports to do just that, this might be the film that convinces you it’s time to step away (or stay because everything is hopeless anyway, whatever).
The One I Love: This film is a trippy marriage of sci-fi and romantic drama — Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? meets Coherence. Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass star as a troubled married couple who head to a cushy retreat to fix their relationship. Jealousy, betrayal, and utter mindfuckery ensue. Ultimately, the film offers a dark take on long-term relationships, suggesting that old wounds can’t ever really heal and that familiarity breeds contempt, or at the very least, total boredom. If you’re ready to break up with your boo but not sure whether they feel the same way, screen this one and see where the post-movie conversation goes. (Update: Not currently available.)
Save the Date: Sometimes one relationship needs to end horribly so that another one can start and not end horribly. This is exactly what happens in Save the Date: Kevin (Geoffrey Arend) proposes to his girlfriend, Sarah (Lizzy Caplan), in a public setting, even after warnings from his friends that Sarah, who has staunchly expressed her distaste for marriage, will say no. It’s true — Sarah promptly leaves him. But this paves the way for Sarah to meet Jonathan, who is adorable, because he’s played by Mark Webber. Some of the same commitment-phobic issues plague her, but the difference is that she’s with a dude who understands her, who won’t push her to do things before she’s ready.
The English Patient: Basically everybody is dead and/or miserable at the end of The English Patient, with a few exceptions. This is mostly because Katharine Clifton (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Laszlo de Almásy (Ralph Fiennes) decide to have a torrid affair rather than just wait for Katharine to extract herself from her crap marriage to Geoffrey (Colin Firth). If the two had just chilled for a second so Katharine and Geoffrey could work shit out amicably, everybody would still be alive — maybe a little salty, but alive. There’d be no plane crash, no cave, nobody bursting into flames. This is truly one of the most depressing movies on earth. Remember, kids: Don’t have an affair; just get a divorce.