This article is updated frequently as movies leave and enter Peacock, which you can sign up for here. New titles are indicated with an asterisk.
Who’s ready for another streaming service? NBCUniversal has jumped into the crowded pool in 2020 with the launch of its long-awaited Peacock, a new destination for everything from classic monster movies to episodes of 30 Rock to original programming.
But as with all of these services, it can all be a little overwhelming. How do you dig through the hundreds of films in the Peacock library to find what’s best?
The truth is that Peacock’s film catalogue is a little thin and a little strange (there’s an amazing number of B-movies like Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus), but it does have some of the weight of the Universal brand and all its history, including classic franchises and recent hits (and the service will likely have more when licensing deals expire with other streaming platforms). But until the selection expands, you can’t go wrong with any of the following 50 films.
James Mangold remade the 1957 Western classic a half-century later with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale in the lead roles as a notorious outlaw and the rancher who has to bring him in for justice, respectively. It’s a great ensemble piece that also includes Peter Fonda, Gretchen Mol, Ben Foster, Alan Tudyk, and Vinessa Shaw.
Away from Her
Sarah Polley’s 2006 directorial debut is a moving love story about two people who struggle through the pain of Alzheimer’s. Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent star as married couple who fall apart after she develops the disease and essentially forgets her husband, even developing a relationship with another nursing home resident. For her powerful performance, Christie landed an Oscar nomination.
Director Werner Herzog was an unexpected choice for an unexpected sequel to Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film Bad Lieutenant, but this isn’t your normal sequel. In fact, it has nothing really to do with that first film other than it also centering a corrupt cop. Nicolas Cage gives one of his most unhinged and impressive performances here, and that’s really saying something.
Long before Charlie Kaufman wrote the excellent I’m Thinking of Ending Things for Netflix he really broke through with this clever 1999 comedy, a film that really put him and Spike Jonze on the movie map, and landed its writer an Oscar nomination. How does one even begin to describe this surreal comedy in a capsule description? It’s wonderfully impossible to do so.
Richard Linklater directed this black comedy based on the true story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a man who befriended an elderly Texas woman named Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) and ended up murdering her. It’s a quirky little movie with one of Black’s best performances and a great supporting turn by Matthew McConaughey.
Patton Oswalt is phenomenal in the 2009 thriller about toxic fandom. The stand-up comedian plays Paul, an average New Yorker with an outsize love for the New York Giants. Paul randomly runs into a Giants player in Staten Island, setting off a sequence of events driven by Paul’s need for acceptance and attention.
Often dismissed as lesser Hitchcock because of the relatively goofy plot, the 1963 smash hit is extremely underrated and entertaining. Tippi Hedren made her big-screen debut as a woman who stumbles into a series of unexplained bird attacks in Bodega Bay. It may not be the master’s best, but it’s still essential.
Most people who love A Christmas Story probably don’t realize that the same director (Bob Clark) made another holiday classic with a very different tone. This is one of the most influential slasher pics of all time, the story of a group of sorority sisters who are cut down one by one over the holiday season. It was remade in 2019 with an interesting twist but the 1974 classic is the one on Peacock.
One of the most beloved comedies of its era, the 1980 musical classic stars John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as Jake and Elwood Blues, characters they developed together on Saturday Night Live. The humor in this John Landis classic has held up, but the music really holds it together, including appearances from James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, and Chaka Khan.
In 1986, Oliver Stone tackled what it was like to be in country in his personal Platoon, and only three years later he followed up with a story about what it was like to come home from Vietnam in the story of Ron Kovacs. Tom Cruise does arguably the best work of his career in a powerful deconstruction of patriotism and examination of the human cost of war.
The first three films featuring Matt Damon as amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne are on Peacock: 2002’s The Bourne Identity, 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy, and 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum. These three films make up one of the best action trilogies of the last two decades. Watch em all!
John Singleton’s searing debut looks a little dated three decades later, but it’s a sharp time capsule of its era, a film that announced its young creator as a major talent. Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Laurence Fishburne, and Regina King star in the story of young life in South Central Los Angeles and its dangerous gang culture. It made Singleton the first Black man nominated for the Oscar for Best Director.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a decade since Bridesmaids shattered all expectations, making a fortune and turning Melissa McCarthy into a household name (especially after she landed an Oscar nomination). Smart and heartfelt, it’s the story of a woman (Kristen Wiig) who struggles in her role as Maid of Honor to a friend played by Rose Byrne. It’s still very, very funny.
Drew Goddard’s dissection of the entire horror genre works so well because it’s also a wonderful scary movie on its own terms. With a great cast that includes a pre-huge Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford, The Cabin in the Woods is endlessly rewatchable thanks in large part to a razor-sharp script from Goddard and Joss Whedon, bringing some of the wit that we saw in their collaborations together on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel to the big screen.
Children of Men
The adoration for this 2006 sci-fi thriller seems to grow with each passing year. Clive Owen stars in the story of a society on the edge of collapse because of worldwide infertility and how everything changes when a sign of hope for the future appears.
There aren’t enough action movies with the pure momentum of 2006’s Crank, directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, and the 2009 sequel, also on Peacock. Jason Statham plays a hitman who has to keep his adrenaline up to stay alive. It’s like Speed with a human heart instead of a bus.
Richard Linklater’s masterful comedy about teenage life is almost thirty years old, yet the story of the final day of high school in 1976 has lost none of its heart or humor, thanks in large part to an incredible ensemble that includes future stars Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Parker Posey, Joey Lauren Adams, and Matthew McConaughey.
David Cronenberg co-wrote and directed the terrifying story of identical twin gynecologists played unforgettably by Jeremy Irons, giving one of the best performances of his career. Irons plays Elliot and Beverly Mantle, infertility experts with a twisted practice of seducing clients and passing them off to one another. And then it gets really weird.
Robert Zemeckis directed this twisted horror comedy way back in 1992 and its themes of superficiality and wealth have kept it current, along with fearless performances from Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, and Bruce Willis. The two actresses play rivals who drink a potion that promises eternal youth. It doesn’t go well.
Over 30 years after its release, Spike Lee’s 1989 masterpiece feels as urgent and current as the day it was released. After the social uprising in 2020, many people seemed to revisit this classic and it’s lost none of its power. In fact, every viewing of Do the Right Thing feels fresh and new again. It’s one of the best films ever made.
Sam Raimi left the Spider-man franchise aside to return to his horror roots with this intense story of possession and evil from 2009. Alison Lohman stars as a woman who chooses not to extend the mortgage of an elderly woman and learns that hard way that curses are real. One of the best horror movies of the ‘00s, it’s a film that will make you wish Raimi still made genre flicks.
Steven Soderbergh directed Julia Roberts to an Oscar for her work in the 2000 dramatization of the life of Erin Brockovich, an attorney who fought Goliath and won, tackling Pacific Gas and Electric Company after the poisoned a community. Smart and tightly made (like all Soderbergh), it’s one of the better biopics, thanks in large part to Roberts’s driven performance (and Albert Finney’s amazing supporting one).
2021’s F9 has been credited with saving the blockbuster, but Peacock is the place to go see exactly how viewers got here. There’s a weird inconsistently to what’s available where when it comes to the series about Dom and his “family” but Peacock, as of this writing, has the mid-section of the biggest franchise in the world: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, and the series-best Fast Five.
*Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Sometimes there’s just a perfect, blissful balance between director and source material, which is the case when Terry Gilliam met Hunter S. Thompson in this 1998 adaptation of Thompson’s most popular book. A lot of filmmakers would have tried to alter this crazy, semi-true story, but Gilliam leans into its insanity and adds some of his own. It also contains one of Johnny Depp’s best performances.
With Ron Howard directing, Peter Morgan adapted his own play into this Best Picture nominee that also earned an Oscar nod for its star, Frank Langella. Along with co-star Michael Sheen, the actors who originated the roles in London and on Broadway stepped into the characters of David Frost and Richard Nixon, using their legendary interview as an analysis of image and power.
Last year marked the tenth anniversary of one of Christopher Nolan’s best films, the story of a team of agents who can infiltrate dreams, led by Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s part heist movie, part Bond movie, and mostly something that only the director of The Prestige and Tenet could possibly make.
If you’ve fallen in love with Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods on Netflix last year, take the time to check out when the master director put his spin on the heist film with this great 2006 Denzel Washington vehicle. The regular collaborator plays an NYPD hostage negotiator, called in when a bank heist goes down on Wall Street. Tight and effective, this is just further evidence that Spike Lee can nail any kind of movie he chooses to make.
The great Christopher Abbott broke through in this 2015 drama, which premiered at that year’s Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Josh Mond, Abbott plays an irresponsible, self-destructed young man with almost no focus in his life until his mother (a moving Cynthia Nixon) comes down with terminal cancer. It’s an emotional story of an isolated loner forced to grow up by the sheer force of mortality.
The movie that ushered in the blockbuster era is often viewed more in terms of how it changed the industry than the fact that it’s, well, perfect. Seriously, you don’t need to change a single frame, line reading, or edit in Jaws, a film that works to raise tension from its very first scene.
The Golden Globe winner for Best Comedy and Oscar nominee for Best Picture and Actress, The Kids Are All Right is a tender, personal story that was one of the first mainstream films to center same-sex parents. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening are phenomenal as the parents of two teenagers, dealing with everything that comes with those roles. Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, and Josh Hutcherson co-star.
Monster movies would never be the same after this 1933 classic debuted. Remade over and over again, there’s still something so powerful about the original. Sure, it’s lost some of the horrific power it must have had when it first came out, but it’s still a wonderfully creative film, one that completely set the foundation for an entire genre that’s still being made to this day.
Land of the Dead
Two decades after it appeared George A. Romero’s Dead series of films had ended, the master director returned with a stunner, one of the best horror films of the 2000s. Just as the other films intertwined social issues with zombie horror, Land of the Dead skewered the division on the country in a way that makes it feel ahead of its time already. All of the Dead films have been.
Sofia Coppola exploded onto the filmmaking scene with her second film, this 2003 dramedy about a fading movie star who meets an American girl in Tokyo and both of their lives change. Bill Murray does career-best work in the film (and should have won an Oscar), and he’s matched by Scarlett Johnansson, but this really is Coppola’s film, a tender, brilliant character study with personal resonance.
J.C. Chandor’s 2011 dramatic retelling of how the 2007-08 financial crisis impacted a Wall Street investment bank is a wonderful example of ensemble drama. There are so many familiar faces here, including Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci. The cast is great but it’s Chandor’s smart script that elevates the drama.
Just over 20 years after the premiere of the hit series that introduced the world to Crockett and Tubbs, Michael Mann returned to Florida for this stylized adaptation starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx. Divisive on its release because it’s not exactly a traditional blockbuster, Miami Vice has developed a loyal following over the years for its gorgeous cinematography and intoxicating style.
The Motorcycle Diaries
Walter Salles approached the legacy of Che Guevara in an unexpected manner by telling the story of his days as a young man in this 2004 biopic. Gael Garcia Bernal gives one of his best performances as Guevara in the chapter of his life wherein he traveled across South America in 1952. It’s a smart, visually striking film that feels overdue for a reappreciation.
The rap on documentaries is that they’re not as much fun as action movies or blockbusters. Disprove that to your friends by making them watch Murderball, an amazing 2005 doc about wheelchair rugby. It charts the rivalry between teams of wheelchair rugby players leading up to the 2004 Paralympic Games; it’s inspiring and riveting nonfiction storytelling.
Clive Barker wrote and directed an adaptation of his Cabal and released it to a much more muted response than greeted his hit Hellraiser. Over the years, Nightbreed has developed a loyal following, in part due to the various versions of it now available. The one on Amazon is the theatrical, in which Craig Sheffer plays a man who becomes convinced his therapist is a serial killer, and his own investigation leads him to a tribe of monsters. Good times.
It’s really hard to overstate the impact that George A. Romero’s classic black-and-white masterpiece had on not just the zombie genre but DIY microbudget horror filmmaking. So many people have been chasing that game-changing impact of Night of the Living Dead in the half-century since it came out, but it’s the original that’s passed the test of time.
Nosferatu the Vampyre
In 1979, Werner Herzog released his daring vision of the classic F.W. Murnau film Nosferatu. Klaus Kinski plays Count Dracula, Isabelle Adjani is Lucy Harker, and Bruno Ganz is Jonathan Harker in this unforgettable mood piece, a movie that’s so unsettling that one wonders if Kinski might actually be a bloodsucker. It remains one of Herzog’s most popular films for a reason.
Paul King’s 2014 adaptation of the lovable bear is a delight, a film that appeals to both children and their parents, and it’s only on Peacock. (Sadly, no sequel yet, but that could change). Ben Whishaw voices the marmalade-loving title character as he’s thrust into the life of a London family and tries to avoid a vicious taxidermist, played by Nicole Kidman. It’s sweet, funny, and even moving.
The movies in this franchise seem to bounce around the streaming services like the murderous silver ball within them, but the Don Coscarelli original (and still best) is on Peacock now. The 1979 horror classic that introduced the world to the Tall Man was reportedly made for around $300k and spawned a multi-million-dollar franchise that’s still going.
Often on lists of the best movies ever made, Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller undeniably changed the genre forever. With its drastic POV shift and stunning mid-film murder, no one had ever seen a movie that played with structure like this one before. It’s still a riveting piece of work, a movie in which one can find new tricks and joys with every single viewing.
Michael Mann directed Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Christian Bale as the FBI Agent who pursued him, Melvin Purvis. Shot in Chicago on digital film, it’s a riveting piece of work visually and contains an incredible supporting cast that includes Marion Cotillard, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Graham, Billy Crudup, Jason Clarke, Bill Camp, and many more. It’s an epic portrait of the end of a gangster era.
Short Term 12
Long before she would be Captain Marvel, Brie Larson played a worker at a group home for troubled teenagers in this powerful drama. Based on his own experience, Destin Daniel Cretton wrote and directed this critical darling that now looks like a launchpad for a generation of stars including Larson, Lakeith Stanfield, Rami Malek, Stephanie Beatriz, John Gallagher Jr., and Kaitlyn Dever.
No, not the Hitchcock classic about spies but the 2002 Oscar nominee that’s about spelling. Jeffrey Blitz directed this funny and heartwarming study of eight contestants during the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Come to think of it, this movie is perfect for a follow-up. Wouldn’t you love to know where these kids are two decades later?
Everyone seems to love Ben Mendelsohn now, but the actor wasn’t really known at all when he appeared in this searing 2013 drama, a film that also introduced the world to Jack O’Connell. The younger star plays a boy who “graduates” from the juvenile detention program to the adult one, where his dad, played by Mendelsohn, happens to also be an inmate. It’s a great character piece for both actors.
John Carpenter adapted the short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” into one of the master filmmaker’s best works. Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster star in the story of a pair of sunglasses that reveal that the people in power in this country aren’t human. A movie that works as social satire and sheer horror, it’s remained powerful and felt current while other films of its era have entirely disappeared from memory.
Peacock may have lost their collection of the master’s actual films, but this 2008 Brad Anderson thriller could fit the bill if you’re looking for a Hitchcock fix. It owes a great deal to the master of suspence in the way it captures average people caught up in a very not-average situation. Woody Harrelson, Kate Mara, and Emily Mortimer star in a movie for which it’s truly best if you know as little as possible going in. International train travel and mystery – what more do you want to know?
David Wain’s ode to teen camp movies didn’t find much of an audience at all when it was released and critics mostly hated it, but it became a definite word-of-mouth cult classic over the years. Audiences took to it so much on DVD and cable that it even returned for a revival series on Netflix. See where it all began at Camp Firewood way back in 2001.