Sure, anyone can appreciate a good slapstick comedy, adrenaline-pumping action film, or a beautifully-executed fantasy flick, but what about the films that can make us laugh, cry, and ponder about things we don’t usually talk about?
While satire films and dark comedies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, they also make up some of the best and most outrageous works that manage to act as the bridge between the comfortable and the disturbing. The beauty of this form of art is when we as the audience can recognise that the creators are totally in on the joke – as inappropriate as they may be – but rather than submitting to “cancel culture”, we laugh at the outlandishness of it, or simply relate to it.
So the next time you’re in the mood for going off the deep end and watching something that’s a little more thought-provoking and out-of-the-box, here are some of our current favourite picks that you can find on Netflix.
The Art of Self Defense
After surviving an assault by a masked motorcycle gang, timid and socially awkward accountant Casey Davies decides to purchase a handgun for protection. However, after discovering the teachings of karate led by an “enigmatic” sensei, he is taught that handguns are only for the weak, and he decides to pursue karate. While his initial goal was to learn self defense and gain confidence, this film slowly delves into the dark, interweaving toxic masculinity issues and the male rage throughout as it comes full circle, and Casey becomes what intimidates him. If you enjoy slow burn or indie-style films, this one just might tickle your fancy.
Following the success of Get Out, Jordan Peele tackles humanity, oppression, and privilege through maniacal doppelgängers in Us. Years after encountering a doppelgänger of herself at an amusement park funhouse, Addy – portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o – finds herself and her family in danger as their own doubles come after them with murderous intent while on a family vacation. The twist at the end leaves room for plenty of debate amongst fans of the film, and if you’re looking for something to ponder about, Us is a choice pick.
In Jason Reitman’s Young Adult, the inimitable Charlize Theron plays a divorced alcoholic named Mavis who tries to relive her glory days as the popular prom queen by going on a trip to reclaim her high school boyfriend – despite knowing that he’s already married with a newborn daughter. And in typical reformer fashion, she encounters a former classmate who calls her out on her actions, but she ignores them until Mavis realises that even though she’s an adult, she’s still got a long of growing up to do.
If you’re familiar with Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, but somehow unaware of his previous films – you can get started with Okja. A South Korean and American co-production that follows a young girl named Mija who has been raising a genetically modified “super pig”, who also serves as the titular character. Okja is then taken away by the Mirando Corporation who breeds the super pigs, with Tilda Swinton as the charismatic CEO Lucy Mirando. Mirando and her company take on the face as an environmentalist – but unbeknownst to the public, their intentions are far more sinister in nature, leaving Mija to reveal the truth.
LOVE DEATH + ROBOTS
Those who enjoy Black Mirror but are looking for something more visually captivating can find their next weekend binge in the Love, Death + Robots anthology series. With different filmmaking styles and animations for every story, each episode is also under 20 minutes, making it a perfect watch if your partner or housemates don’t care much for lengthy, longwinded episodes. From overpopulation in a dystopian era and the dark downsides of an automated future – there’s a thought-provoking, gory, and creative story for everyone. Our top picks from Season 1 are Sonnie’s Edge, Beyond the Aquila Rift, Good Hunting and Zima Blue. As for the second season, definitely keep an eye out for Automated Customer Service, Ice, Pop Squad, Snow in the Desert, and The Drowned Giant.
Know someone who thinks Fine Art is boring? Try showing them a new take on “art horror” with Dan Gilroy’s Velvet Buzzsaw, which offers plenty of stunning imagery, cynicism, and a winning ensemble to boot. The film presents the supernatural repercussions of greed in the elite, cut-throat art world, when an art gallery owner and his friend decide to exhibit a series of paintings stolen from a dead man.
Depression, trauma, addiction, and the human condition are social issues that don’t horse around, and interestingly enough, BoJack Horseman presents these topics in a digestible and realistic way – through the titular character, an anthropomorphic horse. BoJack – voiced by Will Arnett – is a washed-up Hollywood star of a ‘90s sitcom, who struggles with addiction, depression, and the various relationships in his life, as he tries to find his way back to celebrity relevance with an autobiography written by ghostwriter Diane Nguyen. Despite its vulgar and cartoony presentation, BoJack stands out in the animated adult series genre by skilfully addressing many hot-button sociopolitical issues such as political correctness.