18 of the Best Streaming-Only Movies That Skipped the Theaters

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Image for nonfiction  titled 18 of the Best Streaming-Only Movies That Skipped the Theaters

Let’s speech classical direct-to-video movies for a moment. American Psycho II: All American Girl (with Mila Kunis and Williams Shatner); Dollman vs. Demonic Toys; Bratz: Starrin’ & Stylin’; Hellraiser 5-10; Amityville 5-19(!), The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It; Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation—they’ve not needfully been each bad. 

There’s plentifulness of decent animated worldly (Barbie movies, a long-running DC superhero series, immoderate OK Disney sequels, Scooby-Doo, etc.), and the signifier has been a investigating crushed for low-budget fearfulness creators of each kinds. There’s also, of course, plentifulness of straight-up porn—all things that are niche, by definition, but that tin merchantability if marketed to the close audience. And had it been released successful theaters, audiences mightiness not person flocked to ticker the adventures of antecedently unseen relatives successful American Pie Presents: Band Camp, but it did precise good connected DVD, thanks, and no, I don’t person a transcript sitting astir somewhere, what are you talking about?

The emergence of streaming has had an absorbing effect connected the market: One mightiness person assumed the expanding request for contented would’ve led to a glut of inexpensive crap—and it has, to immoderate extent, but it’s besides created tremendous contention for viewers. The pandemic has people driven concern distant from movie theaters, but it lone accelerated a inclination of bully movies ne'er going adjacent your section movie theater. Direct-to-streaming is the astir caller improvement of the organisation exemplary that began with VHS tapes mode backmost successful the time and past exploded with DVDs. Even if movie theaters past the adjacent fewer years, it’ll ne'er again beryllium the lawsuit that a movie has to deed the cinema to beryllium considered worthy.

Though they whitethorn person seen immoderate movie festival screens, oregon saw constricted releases successful tiny venues (just capable to marque them eligible for the large awards), the pursuing movies each skipped wide merchandise wholly successful favour of going nonstop to the large streamers. The quality successful the benignant of worldly we’re seeing present is profound.

2 / 20

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

With its archetypal first film, Beasts of No Nation, Netflix attempted to pioneer a exemplary that fell isolated astir immediately. The Idris Elba-led movie astir a kid worker successful West Africa surely seemed similar a movie that could person done good successful theaters, truthful the streamer released the movie simultaneously successful theaters and what was past its on-demand service. The occupation was: Theaters hated that idea, and the ample chains boycotted the film. Nevertheless, it’s a searing representation of the quality outgo of war, 1 that deserved a amended thought-out release.

Where to stream: Netflix

His House (2020)

Good fearfulness scares us; large fearfulness stays with us, reminding america that the astir frightening worldly lives extracurricular the panels of the TV oregon movie screen. His House works some arsenic an effectual chiller astir a location haunted by evil, but besides arsenic a potent and disturbing communicative astir survivor’s guilt and the exile acquisition much generally.

Where to stream: Netflix

4 / 20

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

Based connected the August Wilson play, the enactment of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is mostly confined to a mates of rooms astatine the Paramount Recording Studios during the summertime of 1927. That standard suggests the movie wouldn’t person done gangbusters concern among the enactment spectaculars that person travel to predominate the movie theatre business, truthful streaming was astir apt ever the mode to go, COVID notwithstanding. That hint of staginess doesn’t detract from the film’s sultry brilliance, and lone serves to item the bonzer performances from everyone involved, led by Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman. It got 5 Academy Award nominations, and deserved a Best Picture nod, arsenic well.

Where to stream: Netflix

Roma (2018)

Despite the information that immoderate of our astir awesome filmmakers of the past fewer decades person worked successful oregon travel from Mexico (Iñárritu, del Toro, Escalante, etc.), Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma remains the lone Mexican movie to triumph an International Feature Oscar, and it was the archetypal streaming-original movie to beryllium nominated for Best Picture. Cuarón’s beautifully shot, semi-autobiographical communicative of beingness successful the Mexico City of the aboriginal 1970s manages to blend the profoundly idiosyncratic with the consciousness of an epic—an awesome combination.

Where to stream: Netflix

Blood Machines (2019)

Blood Machines wears its inspirations connected its sleeve, and overmuch of that has to bash with the benignant of 80s/90s-era sci-fi and fearfulness movies that mightiness have, backmost successful the day, made their mode nonstop to video. Narratively, this hour-long movie isn’t going to beryllium to each taste, but the Kickstarter-funded movie is arsenic ambitious and inventive arsenic they come.

Where to stream: Shudder

7 / 20

Selah and the Spades (2019)

Selah and the Spades (2019)

Debut writer/director Tayarisha Poe’s visually distinctive Selah and the Spades plays retired similar a Shakespearean (near) calamity astir precocious schoolhouse powerfulness structures. It’s a conceit that’s been tried before, much than once, but ne'er with rather the benignant of Selah—the coming-of-age communicative manages to seizure not conscionable the state of being a teenager, but besides the precise existent consciousness of information and play that it’s each wrapped up in.

Where to stream: Prime Video

The Vast of Night (2019)

There’s not each that overmuch caller narratively successful the communicative of a tiny municipality DJ and a switchboard relation who uncover what seems to beryllium an alien penetration successful the 1950s. The movie’s nevertheless profoundly memorable, with a benignant and assurance successful each azygous framework of the movie that belies its tiny budget. The pb performances, from Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz, are likewise revelatory.

Where to stream: Prime Video

9 / 20

Dolemite is My Name (2019)

Dolemite is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy earned himself a perpetual spot connected the A-list decades ago, but his vocation has ever been a roller coaster that’s gone from awesome heights to ill-conceived lows—chasing his Oscar-nominated show successful Dreamgirls with Norbit was a choice. Dolemite’s Rudy Ray Moore is simply a cleanable lucifer for Murphy’s talents, allowing him to play the real-life filmmaker’s brash absurdities with tremendous heart. It’s 1 of our occasional reminders of Murphy’s genius—that helium of course followed up with the dorky, disappointing Coming 2 America.

Where to stream: Netflix

Happiest Season (2020)

Hulu’s Happiest Season is, perhaps, not connected anyone’s database of cinematic masterpieces. Very fewer (if any) films of the modern, Hallmark-style coming-home-for-Christmas genre would wide that benignant of bar. Still, there’s a crushed we emotion these things, and this 1 adds a spot of prestige to its charms successful some formed (Kristen Stewart, Aubrey Plaza, Victor Garber, etc.) and directing (Clea DuVall). What’s more, the movie served arsenic a high-profile torchbearer for queer practice successful 2020, the twelvemonth seeing a grounds (i.e., not zero) fig of LGBTQ+ -friendly vacation household films.

Where to stream: Hulu

Blood Quantum (2019)

Inspired, successful part, by the 1981 Listuguj raids successful Quebec during which hundreds of provincial constabulary officers stormed the First Nations assemblage successful bid to halt sportfishing (to sphere stocks for adjacent commercialized outfits), Blood Quantum depicts a zombie outbreak connected the Red Crow Indian Reservation—succeeding, similar with each the champion fearfulness movies, as, first, a proficiently scary and convulsive thriller, but besides arsenic a communicative of larger, real-world horrors. The film’s director, cast, and behind-the-scenes creatives are astir wholly made up of First Nations and Native American talents.

Where to stream: Shudder

Mank (2020)

David Fincher’s look astatine the making of 1 of the greatest, and astir fraught, films ever made is some a love-letter to classical Hollywood, arsenic good arsenic a warts-and-all look astatine however the sausage gets made. Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried some earned Oscar nominations for their performances.

Where to stream: Netflix

Host (2020)

It would beryllium casual to place this 1 (I did for rather a while), astatine slightest successful portion due to the fact that the premise seems truthful akin to Unfriended, a not-at-all-bad Skype-themed thriller from a fewer years ago. I’m besides mostly reluctant to ticker thing that deals with COVID excessively directly, arsenic I get capable of that successful existent life, thank-you-very-much. Nevertheless, done sheer benignant and intelligence, Host manages to beryllium 1 of the astir effectual fearfulness films of the past mates of years, going successful clever directions with its “Zoom seance” concept.

Where to stream: Shudder

Class Action Park (2020)

Lordy. This one’s perfectly wild. The existent communicative of New Jersey’s Action Park, a fixture for a mates of decades, contempt virtually nonexistent information standards and thrust plan with a large accent connected whimsy and nary respect for physics. Though it does marque for a jarring modulation from the “holy crap tin you judge this?” feeling successful the earlier portion of the documentary, it’s to the film’s recognition that it yet doesn’t shy distant from the existent tragedies astatine the park.

Where to stream: HBO Max

15 / 20

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (2020)

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (2020)

Has determination ever been a bigger, much flamboyant TV property than Walter Mercado? For decades, the (self-identified) androgynous Puerto Rican astrologer commanded millions of viewers (and vigor listeners) passim Latin America and the United States via section channels, and past arsenic a fixture connected Univision. With his elephantine capes, colorful outfits, and changeless accent connected the value of “mucho, mucho amor,” determination was conscionable nary similar him, and the documentary gives him his due—particularly for non-Spanish speakers who mightiness beryllium little acquainted with his amusement empire.

Where to stream: Netflix

The Beach House (2019)

Sounds pleasant, doesn’t it? Director Jeffrey A. Brown’s debut movie kicks disconnected with a gait that could beryllium viewed arsenic either deliberate oregon a spot lackadaisical, but builds toward thing acold much cosmically ambitious. By blending 50s-style carnal thrills with threads of infection-related assemblage horror, The Beach House feels uncomfortably timely, adjacent if it was made anterior to our existent crappiness.

Where to stream: Shudder

The Old Guard (2020)

As A-list arsenic A-list gets, determination was perfectly a clip erstwhile Charlize Theron’s quality successful a theater-skipping merchandise would person been a large origin for concern. Like, a devastating crook for a career. Instead, the large-ish fund enactment movie astir immortal mercenaries was a large capable deed for Netflix to animate a coming sequel, and surely didn’t wounded the careers of anyone involved. As superhero films go, it’s besides beauteous astute and impressively queer-friendly. Win for everyone.

Where to stream: Netflix

The Square (2013)

Netflix’s archetypal first documentary, The Square, did the festival circuit earlier landing connected the (then) on-demand service. It’s inactive a almighty portion of filmmaking, chronicling the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 done the lens of the demonstrations successful Tahrir Square. Though clip has moved connected successful Egypt, and the committedness of the Arab Spring remains mostly unfulfilled, the movie makes wide that heady ideals often springiness mode to governmental realities, giving it a timeless quality.

Where to stream: Netflix

Purple Violets (2007)

Though mostly forgotten, Purple Violets represents an important infinitesimal successful direct-to-streaming history: In the direct-to-DVD era, the movie skipped some theaters and DVD (initially) successful favour of a merchandise connected the iTunes Store—something unheard of backmost successful the day. It’s a bully romanticist comedy, if not a large one, directed by Ed Burns and with an all-star formed including Selma Blair, Patrick Wilson, Debra Messing, and a wee Bill Hader successful his movie debut.

Where to stream: Digital rental