across the streaming-verse

The Best Movies to Watch With Your Family on Netflix This Memorial Day

Photo: Paramount Pictures; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; DreamWorks Animation

It’s Memorial Day weekend, a time for elaborate getaways, family reunions, excursions to local sunny spots, and/or three-day staycations. As with every stretch of non-work bliss, gaps of downtime are inevitable. If you find yourself hopping over to Netflix to pass the time (and satisfy whomever’s around), here are few scenario-specific options:

You want to see X-Men: Days of Future Past this weekend, but the opening-weekend hordes are scaring you off.
Tracking down the original X-Men movies will cost you (find them all on iTunes), but superhero alternatives are readily available. If you’re dying for mutant action, try the animated X-Men: Evolution from the late ‘90s and its follow-up, Wolverine and the X-Men. For live-action, there’s the original Spider-Man, Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy, and the gold standard of comic book movies, The Avengers. Interested in how the X-Men started in the first place? Check out the origin story documentary With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story.

You want some high-fructose blockbuster mayhem in your life, but need a break from the superhero movies.
J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek Into Darkness recently beamed itself to Netflix, along with another 2013 sequel: G.I. Joe Retaliation. Hiding under the shadow of ol’ faithful The Hunger Games, you’ll find Serenity, Avengers director Joss Whedon’s foray into the big screen, Roland Emmerich’s Stargate, and the bloodier affair, Dredd.

Okay, but the people I’m hanging out with this weekend “don’t do sci-fi.”
For a taste of down-to-earth bombast, see three underrated shoot-em-ups: Tom Cruise’s Jack ReacherGerard Butler’s Olympus Has Fallen, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand. If your couch-slumped audience seeks a more epic scale, take in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl or Gladiator.

You want a blockbuster from the time when they did it right (whatever that means).
Netflix caters to all your nostalgic needs. Children of the ‘80s may be the happiest, with Big Trouble in Little China, Ghostbusters, Battle Beyond the Stars, and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. For those who want to drift back a little further in time, there’s From Russia With Love (and a heap of new Bond updates), The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Fantastic Voyage, and The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart.

You want something to watch with the kids that won’t put you to sleep/drive you to the brink of insanity.
Netflix’s recent deal with Disney means its streaming service is chock-full of Disney animated movies, everything from Sword and the Stone to Treasure Planet. If you’re looking for laughs, try Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, The Croods, or the TV movie Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension. The final episodes of The Clone Wars, a series that erased a tiny bit of the bad taste left over from the Star Wars prequels, are hot out of the oven. Or maybe it’s time for the young ones to learn what you were watching as a kid? Escape to Witch Mountain remains goofy and good fun.

You don’t want to go to the beach, you just want to feel like you’re at the beach.
Nothing beats fun-in-the-sun duo Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello’s first seaside musical outing, Beach Party. For a Porky’s-like trip to the shore, try the 1988’s so-bad-it’s-good romp Beach Balls. To live vicariously through the chillest surfers ever to walk the Earth, hop on board the legendary documentary Endless Summer.

You want to actually do Memorial Day proper and pay your respects to those who lost their lives in military service.
A noble effort easily supplemented by Netflix. The streaming service offers a heavy collection of World War II–themed films, including Time Limit, Lost Battalion, Twelve O’Clock High, and Tora! Tora! Tora!. National Geographic documentaries paint a more realistic picture, portraits ranging from WWII battles to life in Vietnam during the war. Go here for a selection of more modern war films.

You want to catch up on the last year of movies.
For the culturalist trying to stay up to speed, there’s the Cannes-approved French gay murder thriller Stranger by the Lake, the Calvin & Hobbes love letter Dear Mr. Watterson, the hybrid concert film/psychological thriller Metallica: Through the Never, God Loves Uganda, a heartbreaking documentary on the African nation’s homophobia crisis, and the outlandish Michael Bay crime drama Pain & Gain.

You want to prepare for the summer ahead.
Do a bit of summer-schooling by taking in Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn’s other superhero movie Super, the likely irrelevant Expendables 2, The Host, Snowpiercer director Joon-ho Bong’s wild monster movie, and The Pallbearer, the romantic comedy Matt Reeves made before becoming a major tentpole director capable of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And if you have time, cram in all 98 episodes of the ‘80s Transformers cartoon — if only to know what a “Grimlock” is.

You want to watch Congo.
Amy love Congo.

Best Movies on Netflix This Memorial Day