The holidays are a great time to be around dozens of family members you only see a couple of times a year, attend packed office parties and travel on sold-out flights to the far ends of the country.
It’s basically every introvert’s nightmare scenario.
Thankfully, we have Netflix for those few hours you need to put earbuds in, start up a new show and lay low for awhile.
Just in case you’re looking for a few solid recommendations to add to your queue over the holiday weekend, we’ve put together this list of movies and shows for no matter what level of escapism your days off are calling for.
Undefeated has all the drama of a Hollywood sports blockbuster, but unlike adapted-for-film football stories like The Blindside and Friday Night Lights, the tension and heartbreak of Undefeated is unscripted. The documentary follows the always-colorful Bill Courtney as he coaches the once-lowly Manassas Tigers, the football team of one of Memphis’ poorest high schools. The games that unfold during the 2009 season are exciting, but like all great sports stories, the real drama happens off the field. The film introduces viewers to kids from impoverished neighborhoods, some facing nearly unimaginable challenges, as they come together under Courtney’s leadership. The movie is at times tragic, but is also one of the most inspiring documentaries you’ll find on Netflix.
For its handful of Netflix originals—Daredevil, Jessica Jones and the upcoming Luke Cage—Marvel took their brand in a new direction. Instead of the glossy, wisecracking polished tone they established in their Avengers movies, the shows offer gritty, dark looks at flawed characters that are barely super or heroes. But the commitment to a flawed protagonist—who is engaged in spiritual battles as fierce as any physical ones he’s in with criminals—makes Daredevil extra compelling. As star Charlie Cox explained to RELEVANT about his character,
He’s religious. He comes from a religious background. He’s Catholic. So he’s dealing with this always in the back of his mind, this idea of morality and original sin, and also God’s will. What is God’s will? I don’t think he would be in any doubt as to whether going out and beating people up is God’s will or not.
Even if you’re not a superhero fan, Daredevil offers gripping drama, intense action and a character you can actually relate to.
Making a Murderer
Coming on the heels of prestige true crime series like Serial and HBO’s The Jinx, the Netflix’s documentary series offers an astonishing look at the criminal justice system through the bizarre case of Steven Avery. After being wrongfully convicted of a sexual assault and serving two decades behind bars, Avery is exonerated. But after he sues local officials for millions, he’s convicted of yet another crime: A murder he says he didn’t commit. The series isn’t exactly easy to watch—these are real violent crimes, after all—but the show gives a look at the failings of the justice system while also offering a somewhat unsettling character study.
Moonrise Kingdom is arguably Wes Anderson’s most immediately accessible movie. Sure, it still features his signature, stylized storybook flare, but the movie isn’t just a dark comedic family drama. Unlike Royal Tenenbaums or Rushmore (though both great films), Moonrise Kingdom is an actual adventure. With its Tom Sawyer-esque themes of youthful rebellion and plot about innocent romance, the movie is both about simpler times (in this case, a mid-60s picturesque New England beach town), but also a simpler time in life, where youthful adventures lay around every corner. It’s both breezy and heavy; funny and sad; but most of all, a lot of fun.
The Gospel According to Mac
The story of Bill McCartney has all of the makings of an American epic: Football, addiction, celebrity, race relations, scandal and, most of all, faith. Part of ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series, the film—which has become somewhat controversial—takes a look at the complicated life of legendary college football coach and Promise Keepers ministry founder Bill McCartney. Much of the movie plays out like a thrilling—and tragic—underdog sports story, but its surprise third act shows that the real story of Bill McCartney isn’t just about faith and success: It’s about personal redemption.
Freaks and Geeks
Despite lasting for just 18 episodes, Freaks and Geeks is widely regarded as one of the best TV shows of all time. Watch a couple episodes and you’ll see why. Created by Judd Apatow and Paul Feig—who are now two of comedy’s biggest names—the series follows a group of outcast high school friends making their way in the world of 1980s America. Since the show first aired, much of the cast has gone on to become superstars—including James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and Busy Philipps—but Freaks and Geeks offers a look at their early talent as misfit teens trying to make sense of life, purpose and relationships. Unlike many great modern TV comedies that rely on cynicism and irony, the show is super funny without ever being cynical or mean-spirited.
Warning: If you start binge-watching this drama from Friday Night Lights mastermind Jason Katims and Ron Howard, you will likely need to stock up on some Kleenex. The six-season drama follows the ups and downs of the Braverman family as they navigate raising kids and becoming the adults they want to be. The show never veered away from difficult and complex topics—including infidelity, Aspergers, heartbreak, death—but always managed to do it with grace. At the end of the day, Parenthood isn’t just about tough topics—it’s about the love that bonds a family. Also, as a bonus, as the Bob Dylan theme song shows, the music selection is really great.
Philomena isn’t exactly a feel-good film (you’ll probably want to keep some tissues handy), but it’s well worth your time. The true story of a former nun looking for the child she was forced to put up for adoption nearly 50 years before, the plot itself is powerful, but it’s made even more compelling with the ever-wonderful Judi Dench playing Philomena and Steve Coogan as Martin Sixsmith, the journalist trying to help her find her son. Philomena deals head-on with the wounds self-righteous religion can inflict, but it ultimately lands at a place of redemption as Philomena chooses to forgive and make peace with her past.