There are a lot of big blockbusters at the multiplex right now, but if you don’t want to leave your apartment to go to a theater, there are still a few days left in the month to catch up on the great films that will soon be leaving the Netflix library. If you’ve never seen these tales of bank heists, prolific controversial authors, and triumphant sports teams, make sure to catch up before the calendar turns to August.
Vampire In Brooklyn (1995), The Nutty Professor (1996), and Bowfinger (1999)
None of these movies are Peak Eddie Murphy, but there’s more to enjoy about Murphy as a mainstream actor than Coming to America, Beverly Hills Cop, and Trading Places. If you’re going to watch only one of them, make it Vampire in Brooklyn, if only for the pairing of Murphy and horror veteran Wes Craven. (Fun fact: It also has a script co-written by future Chappelle’s Show Hollywood storyteller, and Brother of Eddie, Charlie Murphy.)
The Sandlot (1993)
There’s really no better time for The Sandlot than the dog days of summer, as it follows Scotty Smalls (Tom Guiry) as he befriends a group of baseball-obsessed kids in the San Fernando Valley in 1962. It’s a largely silly and pastoral view of the sport and childhood—the pool CPR scene hasn’t aged well—but everything involving the retrieval of a Babe Ruth autographed baseball from the yard of a fearsome dog called the Beast demonstrates why this has endured as a cult classic.
The Replacements (2000)
NFL training camps are just beginning, but the regular season won’t start for over a month. If you still need a football fix, consider this underrated sports comedy. A fictional football league undergoes a players’ strike, so teams seek out scabs to cross picket lines and play games. Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman), coach of the Washington Sentinels, recruits Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves), an Ohio State quarterback who flamed out as a pro, for one last shot at glory. Sure, that plot is ludicrous and at times too crude, but the rowdy roster—including Orlando Jones, Jon Favreau, and Rhys Ifans—makes it worthwhile.
As a biography of the Marquis de Sade, Quills is wildly inaccurate. But as an entertaining adaptation of a play about censorship, pornography, and art, it’s a magnificently cast historical drama. In the film, the Marquis (Geoffrey Rush) is living in an asylum under the guidance of Abbe du Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix), a deeply religious man tasked with silencing de Sade’s salacious writings. Laundress Maddy LeClerc (Kate Winslet) secretly shepherds the Marquis’ words out of the asylum to his publishers. It’s a grimy and grotesque film buoyed by three excellent leads, particularly Rush, who goes to greater and greater lengths to continue his writing as his resources are taken away.
The Mummy (1999)
Before National Treasure, the Mummy series boasted some of the best lighthearted action blockbuster material around. It’s not a hornet’s nest of complex themes with anything to say about the world at large, but The Mummy is fun and littered with dated CGI that only heightens the laughter it wanted to inspire. Evie Carnahan (Rachel Weisz), a young Egyptologist, employs Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) to travel to Hamunaptra (the City of the Dead), where expeditions accidentally cause the revival of ancient High Priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo). It’s one of the best films Fraser ever made, channeling Harrison Ford’s blockbuster talents to bring maximum charm and tons of great quips.
The Aviator (2004)
Forget Leonardo DiCaprio’s Best Actor win for The Revenant. Of his five Academy Award nominations, the most glaring oversight is The Aviator (he lost to Jamie Foxx in Ray). As mercurial billionaire Howard Hughes, DiCaprio delivers not only his best performance over the course of his collaborations with director Martin Scorsese, but the best performance of his career. DiCaprio rides through many eras of Hughes’ life, from playboy filmmaker and tinkering aviation engineer to ruthless businessman and towering presence testifying before Congress. Mark it down—DiCaprio will never be better than he is in The Aviator.
Charlie’s Angels (2000)
The original television series is too dated, and the modern attempt to revive the television series too bumbling. But this feature film adaptation directed by McG might be the best encapsulation of why Charlie’s Angels endures as a recognizable property. Natalie Cook (Cameron Diaz), Dylan Sander (Drew Barrymore), and Alex Munday (Lucy Liu) play the angels, who work as private investigators for Charlie (voiced by John Forsythe), with Bosley (Bill Murray) as an assistant. It’s not the high espionage of a James Bond film, nor the slapstick comedy of Austin Powers. But it has a certain turn-of-the-century wit that hasn’t carried over to modern blockbusters and still fits nicely with a lazy summer day.
Inside Man (2006)
After 25th Hour, this is director Spike Lee’s best film of the 21st century, and the highest-grossing of his career. Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) opens the film directly addressing the audience, claiming to have committed the perfect bank heist. The film flashes back to depict the high-stakes robbery, bringing in detectives Keith Frazier (Denzel Washginton) and Bill Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor), bank owner Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer), and fixer Madeleine White (Jodie Foster). This was part of a banner year for Owen, including notable turns in Sin City and Children of Men, that established him as an action star who could deliver a compelling monologue. And it’s a killer script that gives every major character dynamite lines while keeping the plot extremely tense.