So, you’ve watched all of the holiday fare on Netflix—and even the pure joy of making fun of, say, The Christmas Wedding Planner (a movie so bad, it’s dystopian!) is getting old. This leaves the only possible, if not somewhat daunting task of watching something good. More specifically, something good that feels like a gentle but stimulating brain massage because it’s cold outside and dark too early, and watching a film that’s too jarring might lead you to getting out your daylight lamp sooner than you anticipated.
Whether you need something actually good to watch with your family or a film to shake you out of your winter lethargy, the seven films options below, from Marie Antoinette (how could we not!) to Sunset Boulevard, are among Netflix’s more visually stunning fare
Marie Antoinette—By default, Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film ends up on every list of this sort thanks to its completely decadent, sugary-sweet prettiness. The movie bought macarons to the mid-2000s, and scenes of Kirsten Dunst reclining on a chaise lounge surrounded by pounds of pink cake still appear on inspiration boards today.
Marie Antoinette got unfairly panned when it came out as having not much more substance than a bonbon. As a series of great essays have argued recently in praise of the film, that assessment actually completely misses the point.
Ouran High School Host Club—The anime series started out as a manga series by Bisco Hatori about a young woman who’s mistaken for a boy and quickly becomes popular with her school’s female students. It’s a fun show that parodies the stereotypes and cliches often found in shōjo manga (manga targeted towards young women), but it’s also beautiful to watch, with lots of cotton candy pink, roses, and prep school blazers.
Certain Women—Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women will make you want to hop on a plane to Montana immediately. Not that the film is a rosy portrayal of Big Sky Country, but the scenery is exquisite in this hauntingly quiet portrayal of three women who carve out their lives in the American Northwest plains. The scenery, with its rocky landscapes and huge skies, serves as an expansive background onto which restrained feelings are pinned.
Sex and the City—We’re going from quiet and literary in Montana to the big, bad streets of New York City with your GALS. Yes, Sex and the City may be an obvious choice but, particularly around the holidays, films gain extra points for frivolity, fashion and escapism. Sure, the movie turned its four protagonists into less interesting counterparts of their HBO selves, but if you need some white noise in the background, this is good screensaver fodder. It’s worth watching just for Carrie’s crazy Patricia Field bird headpiece!
Sunset Boulevard—Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard is one of those perfect winter weather movies to watch, wrapped in blankets and letting the flickering black and white wash over you. The character of Norma Desmond, the aging silent film star, is awash in tragic, old-school glamour, from her Art Deco beads and feathers to the sumptuous fabrics she’s draped in. Wilder once said that his formula for success was “sex, sets, and costumes” (amen!), and Norma Desmond’s endless leopard print fixation is a character onto itself—there’s even a leopard-print upholstered Italian car.
Swingers—This may seem like an odd choice for a “pretty thing to watch,” but there’s something visually pleasing about Swingers. It’s 1990s LA meets 1920s speakeasy with low lighting and lots of neon. It’s also funny in that dumb older brother way, making it a great movie, in fact, to watch with family when you’re home for the holidays. And, it still holds up today because there will always be young guys in coffee shops talking about how they’re very close to making it.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—You may have watched this film in middle school/high school, when it was the movie to watch if you were a certain kind of person. In the spirit of seasonal nostalgia, maybe it’s time to rewatch the 2004 Michel Gondry classic featuring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as two young, quirky lovers who attempt to erase their memories of each other. If anything, it’ll be interesting to see how your older self—and not your high school self—perceives the heartbreak and sci-fi dreamscape.