The temperature keeps rising as we head into summer, and the quality of movies leaving streaming services is going up with it. This month sees a truckload of great movies departing Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max, and other services, with something for every kind of movie fan.
From all-time classics like Billy Wilder’s The Apartment and Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory to new gems like Lady Bird and the Blade movies, there’s plenty to dig into before the end of the month. There’s also Ernst Lubitsch’s delightful 1933 thruple comedy Design for Living as well as Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse, one of our favorite horror movies of all time.
Here are our picks for the 17 best movies you should watch before they leave streaming services at the end of May. If you watch one of them and enjoy it, let us know in the comments!
Billy Wilder’s 1960 rom-com is often considered one of the greatest films ever made. That reputation is well earned.
The movie follows Bud Baxter (Jack Lemmon), a solitary office worker who lets executives at his company use his apartment for their extramarital affairs. He thinks this will help him move up in the massive insurance firm he works at. While he does get some material gains at work, the result is his superiors take more and more advantage of his time and space, leaving Bud unable to sleep in his own bed or access his own home.
When Bud falls for an elevator operator in the building (Shirley MacLaine), his desire to forge a relationship with her gives him the confidence to try to take control of his life back. But when Bud discovers she’s been having an affair in The Apartment with his boss (Fred MacMurray), things get even more complicated.
A heartfelt and hilarious romantic comedy, Wilder deftly balances the combination of corporate fatigue and newfound love with the outstanding comedic abilities of the cast. The Apartment is one of those movies everyone should see at least once. —Pete Volk
The Apartment leaves Prime Video on May 30.
Army of Darkness
The third movie in Sam Raimi’s delirious Evil Dead trilogy is by far the most ridiculous of the group, veering much further into the “comedy” part of “horror comedy.” After series protagonist Ash (Bruce Campbell) is accidentally sent back in time to the Middle Ages, he is imprisoned by King Arthur’s men, who think he is a spy. A spy with a chainsaw for an arm and a shotgun in his hand.
Featuring extended slapstick sequences, silly time travel gags, and extensive effects work (including an army of skeletons), Army of Darkness is a deranged 90 minutes of horror comedy fun times. —Pete Volk
Army of Darkness leaves HBO Max on May 31.
Blade and Blade II
Superhero movies take up a disproportionate amount of box office space these days, but that’s a relatively recent phenomenon. Arguably the first true massive hit for the genre was 1998’s Blade, the sleek vampire horror thriller with the coolest leading man in the game at the time in Wesley Snipes. Directed by former special effects artist Stephen Norrington (who worked on Aliens) and written by superhero movie staple David S. Goyer (the Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel), the first movie introduces us to the vampire-hunter Blade, a human-vampire hybrid. The movie’s opening vampire rave scene is an all-timer, dropping you instantly into the movie’s universe and delivering an unforgettable action sequence. The second movie is directed by Guillermo del Toro and brings in Ron Perlman, Norman Reedus, and Donnie Yen to the fun. With a new version of Blade coming to the MCU, what better time to revisit one of the all-time superhero movie greats? —PV
Blade and Blade II leave Netflix on June 1.
With iconic quotes (“Do you prefer ‘fashion victim’ or ‘ensembly challenged’?”), iconic lead performances (Paul Rudd’s smile!), and iconic fashions, Clueless is simply that: iconic. Writer-director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) delivered this all-timer high school movie set in Beverly Hills. Loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, the movie stars Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz, a rich and popular student who takes the “tragically unhip” new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy) under her wing.
To be honest, I really doubt there’s anyone reading this who has not seen Clueless. This entry is more of a reminder that you should watch Clueless again. Thank you. —PV
Clueless leaves HBO Max on May 31.
Design for Living
From 1934 until the 1960s, movies made in the United States abided by what was commonly known as the Hays Code, a set of conservative moral guidelines meant to restrict what people, stories, and events movies were allowed to depict on screen (examples of things that weren’t allowed include interracial relationships, gay people, and criticism of laws and people in power). If you’ve ever wondered why many old Hollywood movies have couples sleeping in separate beds, the Hays Code is why!
Between when “talkies” fully burst onto the scene in 1929 and when the code was first widely enforced in 1934 (also known as the pre-Code era), there was a lot more freedom in terms of what Hollywood was allowed to depict. One of the best examples is Ernst Lubitsch’s 1933 romantic comedy Design for Living, adapted from the Noël Coward play.
The movie follows an artist (Miriam Hopkins) who meets two men (Gary Cooper and Fredric March) on a train to Paris. She falls for both of them, and they fall for her — a classic love triangle situation. Where this pre-Code movie differs from even modern versions of that story is what happens next: They try to make it work as a three-person relationship.
A clever comedy with charismatic and attractive movie stars in the leading roles, Design for Living is a romp of a time from one of the all-time great directors. —PV
Design for Living leaves Criterion Channel on May 31.
John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars
An all-star cast of movie stars (including Ice Cube, Pam Grier, and Jason Statham) shine in John Carpenter’s pseudo-Western set on Mars. It absolutely flipping rules.
The year is 2176 and 640,000 humans live in a matriarchal society on Mars, which has been nearly completely terraformed. When a freight train on a mission to pick up a prisoner with the fantastic name Desolation Williams (Ice Cube) returns with only one survivor (Natasha Henstridge), she is interrogated about the series of events, unfolding through a series of interweaving flashbacks.
Ghosts of Mars sees Carpenter leaning into his B-movie instincts in all the best ways for this fun genre mashup, with a stellar cast, gorgeous red Martian scenery, dual-wielding Ice Cube, spooky ghosts, and plenty more to sink your teeth into. —PV
John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars leaves Hulu on May 31.
Saoirse Ronan stars in Greta Gerwig’s directorial 2017 debut as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, an artsy, angst-ridden teenager eager to escape her obsessive mother and repressive Catholic high school in search of opportunity and adventure in college. Set during her senior year, Lady Bird follows her first romance with her classmate Kyle (Timothée Chalamet), her role in the school play, and her evolving relationship and begrudging appreciation for her mother. Touching, hilarious, and beautifully written and shot, Lady Bird is a modern coming-of-age classic. —TE
Lady Bird leaves Netflix on June 1.
Land of the Dead
Horror master George Romero may be better known for his earlier zombie movies like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, but don’t sleep on this excellent 2005 entry to his filmography and the zombie subgenre of horror.
The fourth movie in the Night of the Living Dead series, Land of the Dead takes place in a version of Pittsburgh well after the zombie apocalypse, now organized as a feudal society run by a tyrannical Dennis Hopper in a high-rise apartment building.
In Land of the Dead, the zombies are different. The first we see of them, they’re gathered in a gazebo and playing musical instruments (although not very well). The first two lines spoken by human characters are “They’re trying to be us” followed by “They used to be us, learning be us again.” These zombies have evolved to communicate with each other and are organizing an assault on the city. Like Romero’s other films, Land of the Dead isn’t satisfied with just using that as a scare device; instead, it’s an opportunity to further engage with what makes us human, and what divides us. —PV
Land of the Dead leaves Hulu on May 31.
Paths of Glory
This early Stanley Kubrick movie is one of the most powerful anti-war movies ever made. Kirk Douglas stars as Colonel Dax, a French officer in World War I who refuses to send his soldiers into a hopeless attack that will surely lead to their demise. When the group is court martialed, Dax attempts to defend their decision to the callous members of the court.
Although sometimes underdiscussed when compared with the rest of his filmography, Paths of Glory is one of Kubrick’s finest films, featuring unforgettable performances by the lead actors and stunning use of long takes, wide shots, and close-ups. Just be sure to have some tissues handy for the emotional end of the movie. —PV
Paths of Glory leaves Prime Video on May 30.
The Princess Bride
Rob Reiner’s fantasy comedy romance The Princess Bride remains as captivating as when it first premiered back in 1987. Framed as story read to a sick boy by his affable grandfather (played masterfully by Peter Falk), the film follows the story of Westley (Cary Elwes), a farmboy turned pirate who embarks on an epic quest to rescue and reunite with his one true love, Buttercup (Robin Wright). Featuring a host of memorable supporting characters such as the flamboyant sword fighter Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), the gentle giant Fezzik (André the Giant), and the loquacious schemer Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), The Princess Bride is both a timeless testament to the transformative power of storytelling and thoroughly entertaining film to boot. —TE
In Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2001 horror film Pulse, the past is never truly dead. It lingers and torments the living, not in the form of cringe-inducing AO3 accounts and abandoned Myspace profiles but as ghostly apparitions physically intruding on our waking lives through the ever-present medium of technology. Telling two parallel stories of inscrutable otherworldly malice, Pulse is a film that remains as terrifying in its concept and execution as when it premiered over two decades ago. —TE
Pulse leaves HBO Max on May 31.
What if someone wrote a whole movie that revolves around a high-speed chase? Director Jan de Bont and screenwriter Graham Yost took this kernel of an idea and transformed it into Speed, a high-octane action vehicle for Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Reeves stars as a young police officer who matches wits with a disgruntled bomber (Dennis Hopper) who arms a bus with an explosive set to go off if it decelerates below 50 miles per hour. What follows is a pulse-pounding and extremely ’90s action thriller that confidently secures its place in the canon of dumb movie ideas executed brilliantly. —TE
Speed leaves HBO Max on May 31.
Park Chan-wook’s 2013 film Stoker stars Mia Wasikowska as India, an 18-year-old girl whose plain appearance belies a darker nature roiling beneath the surface. Left in the care of her unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) in the wake of her father’s death, India is unsettled by the sudden arrival of her estranged uncle, Charlie (Matthew Goode), whom she never knew of and who proceeds to seduce his way into their household. Park’s English-language debut unfolds much in the same way as the director’s previous psychological thriller, coiling around the audience like a serpent with an aura of menace and intrigue before pouncing in a show of violent catharsis and revelation. It’s a masterful film that’s too often forgotten when talking about Park’s work and absolutely deserves appreciation. —TE
Stoker leaves HBO Max on May 31.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie
Cab Passenger: [after Raphael jumps over the cab hood] What the heck was that?
Cab Driver: Looked like sort of a big turtle in a trench coat.
Cab Driver: You’re going to LaGuardia, right?
Delightfully silly and overwhelmingly ’90s (for better and worse), the original TMNT is a fun time for all ages. The movie follows intrepid TV reporter April O’Neil (Judith Hoag) as she works with the turtles to stop a crime ring from taking over New York City. The suits — designed by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, one of the Muppet master’s last projects — look incredible and bring a real tangibility to this appropriately comic book-like adaptation. The use of real suits also allowed for talent specialization (different performers were used for puppetry, voice acting, martial arts scenes, and skateboarding stunts), allowing the production to swap in different people under the suit without breaking audience immersion. Produced by legendary Hong Kong studio Golden Harvest and distributed by New Line Cinema, TMNT was a surprise box office smash hit, holding the record for highest-grossing independent film until The Blair Witch Project. It’s also got a very young Sam Rockwell in a minor role! —PV
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie leaves Netflix on June 1 but will remain on HBO Max.
Quality sports dramas are a rare thing in Hollywood. In Warrior, two estranged brothers — one a former Marine and one-time wrestling prodigy (Tom Hardy), the other a former MMA pro turned high school physics teacher (Joel Edgerton) — compete in a massive MMA tournament with more at stake than just the big cash prize. Gavin O’Connor’s heartfelt siblings-destined-to-collide story features terrific central performances, terrific MMA fight scenes (second unit director J.J. Perry is a modern action legend), and a strong tournament narrative structure that holds the whole thing together. —PV
Warrior leaves Netflix on June 1.
Walter Hill’s 1979 action crime thriller The Warriors is a film whose status as a cult classic touchstone of late-’70s cinema is matched only by the controversy of its release. The story centers on a fictional New York City street gang who, framed for the murder of a respected gang leader, are forced to trek 30 miles from the north end of the Bronx to their home turf of Coney Island while evading a swath of rival gangs eager to collect the bounty on their heads. Like Sol Yurick’s original novel, Hill’s film taps inspiration from the war chronicles of Xenophon of Athens and transplants it into a seedy exaggeration of late-20th-century New York. Violent, suspenseful, and remarkably memorable, The Warriors is a must-watch. —TE
The Warriors leaves Prime Video on May 31.