February is coming to an end, Polygon readers. While it may be the shortest month of the year, it is not lacking in movies leaving streaming services. In fact, this is one of the busiest months for good movies leaving streaming in a while.
We’ve got thrillers on Netflix (and a strong entry from one of the best horror franchises ever), romantic classics on Hulu, Prime, and HBO Max, an under-the-radar action movie sure to delight and surprise you, an old hit from a new Oscar nominee, one of my all-time favorite movies, and so much more.
But act quick! These movies are leaving streaming services at the end of February. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Run time: 1h 51m
Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette
Scream 6 is due out later this year, which makes this an excellent time to catch up on the fourth entry in the series. Even better, fan favorite Kirby Reed (Hayden Panettiere) from Scream 4 is back in the latest entry for another run-in with Ghostface.
Scream 4’s Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is back in Woodsboro to promote her book, along with several new students at Woodsboro high, including Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts), Sidney’s cousin. As the first Scream movie of the 2010s, Scream 4 jumps headfirst into the power of the internet to create new, and worse, types of celebrities, and what Ghostface murders (either committing them or surviving them) could do for someone’s clout.
The online of it all made Scream 4 perhaps the most ahead of its time of the good Scream sequels (the first four), a movie that was way too online for audiences in 2010 to be totally onboard. But, with another 13 years of internet horror under our belts, Scream 4 ends up feeling like a much better reboot of the series than last year’s entry was. —Austen Goslin
Scream IV leaves Netflix March 1.
Run time: 2h 18m
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley
Martin Scorsese’s twisty asylum thriller remains one of his overlooked modern gems. Shutter Island follows Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), who has been sent to an island asylum with his partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), to investigate the disappearance of a patient. While he’s there, Teddy discovers that whatever’s going on with this asylum is far more complicated than he initially imagined.
This is the kind of thriller that grabs you by the collar and yanks you from one twist to the next every time you think you know what’s happening, exactly like a good thriller should. Just as importantly, the movie is punctuated with a tremendous cast of supporting characters who show up for their one big scene before calling it a day. Max von Sydow is a Nazi scientist, Jackie Earle Haley a particularly terrifying patient, Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson patients who know more than they say, Ben Kingsley a kindly doctor with a secret, and Ted Levine and John Carroll Lynch play the warden and deputy warden respectively.
All of these twists and characters are held together beautifully by Scorsese, who shoots Shutter Island with a gorgeous blown-out color palette that gives it the look of a ’50s Hollywood classic, which perfectly contrasts the darkness of the plot and serves to keep us even more off balance. —AG
Shutter Island leaves Netflix March 1.
Genre: Wall Street thriller
Run time: 1h 47m
Director: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto
J.C. Chandor’s 2011 film Margin Call takes place over the span of 24 hours, following the employees of a prestigious Wall Street investment bank as they struggle to understand and respond to what will eventually be known as the global financial crisis of 2008. While perhaps not as approachable or didactic as Adam McKay’s The Big Short, Chandor’s film nonetheless manages to transform financial esotericism into riveting drama through the strength of its casts’ performances.
Paul Bettany is terrific here, as are Zachary Quinto and Demi Moore, but the standout performance by far comes from Jeremy Irons, who delivers a remarkable scene during the film’s climax that’s as charismatic as it is disquietingly chilling. —Toussaint Egan
Margin Call leaves Netflix March 1.
Tucker: The Man and His Dream
Run time: 1h 50m
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Joan Allen, Martin Landau
Even in a career studded with such culture-defining works as the Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1988 biographical comedy-drama about the extraordinary (albeit exaggerated) story of Preston Tucker stands out as one of the director’s most fascinating films. Tucker: The Man and His Dream stars Jeff Bridges as the eponymous military contractor turned entrepreneur who, in the late ’40s, attempted to produce and sell his own proprietary “car of tomorrow” known as the Tucker Torpedo. His ambitions, however, draw the ire of both the government and the so-called Big Three manufacturers, the latter of whom conspire to undermine and ultimately destroy Tucker’s dream of establishing his own company.
Produced in the wake of the commercial and critical failure of Coppola’s 1982 romance-drama One From the Heart, Tucker: The Man and His Dream can be seen as both a work of nostalgic recalibration and a once-removed allegory vindicating Coppola’s own short-lived attempt to create a distribution company to compete against corporate-owned studios. Even set apart from this context, Coppola’s film is an exceptionally entertaining one, brimming with terrific supporting performances by Martin Landau, Elias Koteas, and the late great Mako, bold creative cinematography by frequent collaborator Vittorio Storaro, and resplendent halcyon gold lighting.
Another noteworthy aspect of Tucker is the way in which it is framed as a documentary commissioned on behalf of Tucker himself in order to sell stocks of his company, a clever way of lampshading the film’s divergences from actual history and Coppola’s own embellishments of artistic license. It’s a fun, free-wheeling “nonmusical musical” drama about the perils of earnest ambition crashing against the jagged rocks of orthodoxy and capitalism, and a movie that more than deserves your time and attention. —TE
Tucker: The Man and His Dream leaves Netflix March 1.
Run Time: 2h 1m
Director: Kornél Mundruczó
Cast: Zsófia Psotta, Sándor Zsótér
Have you ever heard of Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, the 1993 family comedy drama about a trio of talking pets who trek across San Francisco to reunite with their beloved masters? Well, imagine that but sadder and more Hungarian, and you’ve got the gist of White God.
Kornél Mundruczó’s 2014 drama centers the story of Lili (Zsófia Psotta), a 13-year-old girl who is left to stay with her estranged, petty, and emotionally unstable father (Sándor Zsótér) and Hagen, a mixed-breed street dog whom Lili adopts and loves unconditionally. When her father abandons Hagen by the roadside in a fit of anger and jealousy for his daughter’s attention, Hagen and Lili embark on their own respective quests to reunite with each other.
Aside from my previous Homeward Bound comparison, Roger Ebert critic Matt Zoller Seitz summed up White God in his review of the film as an “R-rated Lassie by way of Spartacus.” It’s an apt description, especially given that Hagen’s journey back to Lili involves a harrowing (and completely fake) detour through an underground dogfighting ring, and Lili’s eventual reunion with Hagen is precluded by a fraught run-in with the cops after being implicated in selling drugs.
It only gets crazier from there, as White God eventually builds to a climactic, fantastical, and thoroughly awe-inspiring crescendo that, albeit foreshadowed in the film’s opening moments, I will not risk spoiling here. If any of this sounds enticing to you, then you should totally give White God a watch. —TE
White God leaves Hulu Feb. 28.
Ever After: A Cinderella Story
Genre: Romantic comedy
Run time: 2h 1m
Director: Andy Tennant
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott
If you want a Cinderella retelling that deconstructs the story, gives the heroine agency and motivation without just slapping on a bunch of girl power hobbies, and fleshes out the relationship between Cinderella and the Prince, Ever After is the perfect fit for you. Drew Barrymore plays Danielle, the Cinderella equivalent in this story, who meets Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) after he flees from an arranged marriage. He mistakes her for a noblewoman and is impressed by the way she stands up to some guards, which makes him begin to examine his life of privilege and the effect royals have on the common folk. It’s an electric love story that also plays around with fairy tale conventions (Cinderella’s fairy godmother in this version is none other than artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci). —Petrana Radulovic
Ever After: A Cinderella Story leaves Hulu Feb. 28.
Leaving Prime Video
Genre: Romantic comedy
Run time: 2h 15m
Director: Richard Curtis
Cast: Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson
Is Love Actually actually good? That’s definitely up for debate. (And boy, has that been debated.) Debates aside, it is a Christmas classic. If you’re on the “Well actually, Love Actually is just a product of its time that I can still enjoy” side, it’s easy to get swept away in the holiday magic — just look at all these bumbling British people falling in love! And during the Christmas season! Sure, there’s a ton of questionable workplace dynamics and a lot of fat jokes but look — it’s Hugh Grant dancing around 10 Downing Street! Mr. Bean extravagantly wrapping an adulterous present for Alan Rickman, who is planning to cheat on Emma Thompson! (No, I don’t remember the character names). —PR
Love Actually leaves Prime Video Feb. 28.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Genre: Sci-fi action
Run time: 2h 26m
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
I did not enjoy The Hunger Games when I saw it back in 2012. I mention this not because I have an interest in relitigating that film (I don’t — find someone else to argue with) but to emphasize a point: When I saw the sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, in theaters for the first time a decade ago, not only was I taken aback by how much I enjoyed it compared to my experience with the first film, I was wholly unprepared for how it managed to elicit that rarest of aesthetic reactions in me: It actually brought me to tears.
The first of the three Francis Lawrence-directed sequels to Gary Ross’ adaptation feels like a consummate corrective to nearly every issue I had with the original film. Jennifer Lawrence delivers a compelling, believable performance of a woman haunted by PTSD and survivor’s guilt; Jo Willems’ cinematography manages to conjure some genuinely striking and memorable shots. The action scenes in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire are better staged and more appropriately gnarly than those of its predecessor, and the dialogue on a whole is just better written and more interesting.
I remember the scene of Katniss and Peeta visiting District 11 to pay respects to Thresh and Rue. I remember seeing a crowd of Black and brown faces amassed in stoic, heartbroken remembrance of two children whose lives were taken too soon. I remember the feeling that welled up in my chest at the sight of an elderly man being dragged before that crowd and executed for a minor act of defiance born out of the grief of that moment, at once visibly frightened yet resolute in the irreproachable righteousness of that simple act. It’s the same feeling I felt when I rewatched the movie for the first time in over a decade. It is a feeling that I have, unfortunately, grown all too familiar with at this point in my life.
I can’t say whether that scene, let alone the film as a whole, will affect you in the way it affected me. We don’t choose what art moves us and why; it just does. With that said, I ask you — no, I challenge you — to engage with this film in the same way as you would (and should) with any piece of art: With a present mind, an attentive eye, a discerning conscience, and an open heart. —TE
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire leaves Prime Video Feb. 28.
Genre: Crime drama
Run time: 1h 41m
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow
Paul Thomas Anderson’s feature directorial debut Hard Eight isn’t just essential viewing for PTA fans, it’s also a movie tailor-made for fans of early Coen brothers crime movies or Paul Schrader’s films. Philip Baker Hall gives a terrific performance as a professional gambler who takes on John C. Reilly as a protege, for reasons that seem altruistic and generous but really aren’t. The resulting twists involve Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson in surprising roles, but while everybody here is doing excellent work, the real star of this movie is the texture Anderson brings to it, and the distinctively melancholy and emotionally complicated layers he puts on what starts as a character study and turns into a psychological crime story. The scale here is small, claustrophobic, and intense, and everyone involved puts their all into it. It’s a real hidden gem for neo-noir fans. —Tasha Robinson
Hard Eight leaves Prime Video Feb. 28.
Leaving HBO Max
Crazy Rich Asians
Genre: Romantic comedy
Run time: 2h
Director: Jon M. Chu
Cast: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh
Michelle Yeoh is in the zeitgeist right now. In Crazy Rich Asians, she plays domineering matriarch Eleanor, who is not so pleased that her son Nick (Henry Golding) is dating a regular ol’ girl named Rachel (Constance Wu). She’s not the main attraction of this spunky romantic comedy, but she’s definitely a highlight. The movie mostly centers on Rachel, who accompanies Nick to a wedding in Singapore — and then finds out that he’s not just rich, he’s wealthy beyond her wildest imagination. Rachel struggles to impress Nick’s judgmental family, which all comes to head in an intense mahjong scene against Eleanor. —PR
Crazy Rich Asians leaves HBO Max Feb. 28.
Genre: Romantic psychological drama
Run time: 2h 17m
Director: Todd Field
Cast: Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, Patrick Wilson
If you’re looking for a pitch-dark psychological drama with a keen focus on the devastating consequences of unresolved frustrations present in an otherwise idyllic suburban community à la Todd Solondz’ Happiness or Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, Todd Field’s 2006 drama starring Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, and Patrick Wilson might be just what you’re looking for.
Based on Tom Perrotta’s 2004 novel, with a script co-written by Field and Perrotta himself, the film centers on the disintegrating marriages of Sarah (Kate Winslet) and Brad (Patrick Wilson), two lovelorn people who inadvertently find themselves drawn together after a chance encounter in the park with their kids. The drama of their nascent tryst unexpectedly overlaps and collides with the life of a registered sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley) who, shortly after moving into the neighborhood and being subsequently ostracized by the community, struggles with a masochistic sense of guilt and and an intense self-hatred for his past actions and while fighting against his still-lingering predilections.
As you can likely gather from that cursory synopsis, Little Children is not exactly what one would describe as a “happy” movie. It is messy, it is shocking, and it is uncomfortable; it is a film that unflinchingly grapples with the complicated tangle of contradictory emotions, temptations, and regrets inherent to the lived experiences of all too fallible human beings trying as best as they can to do as little harm unto those around them while still remaining true to themselves.
If there is a discernible “message” to take away from the film, I’d argue it could be summed up by the apocryphal quote: “Be kind; everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” It’s a damn good movie and one that I recommend, though with a word of caution that you’ll want to be sure you’re in a stable emotional place before watching it. —TE
Little Children leaves HBO Max Feb. 28.
Leaving Criterion Channel
The Long Goodbye
Genre: Crime drama
Run time: 1h 52m
Director: Robert Altman
Cast: Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden
Movie detectives have rarely ever been as charming as Elliott Gould’s mumbly, clever, and easygoing Philip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye. Robert Altman’s 1973 masterpiece follows Marlowe as he investigates the disappearance of a famous author and wonders whether it’s connected to the death of his own friend. Of course, as with all great PI stories, everything’s connected and there are no coincidences, just a web of lies, mischief, and crime for Marlowe to sort out.
For all the things that make this movie great, Gould’s ability to float through it so effortlessly might be the most fun. He has a witty comeback for everything, whether it’s a hungry cat, a kick in the teeth, a death threat, or a mostly naked Arnold Schwarzenegger. Marlowe’s the kind of breezy, malleable character that smokes incessantly and can strike a match on any surface the world offers him.
All of this flexibility is set up perfectly by the movie’s score, too, for which John Williams wrote one perfect song, then endlessly modified it, changing its genre and style to fit the mood — sometimes deciding on one approach at the beginning of a scene, then swapping halfway through when the vibes are off, just like Marlowe himself. — AG
The Long Goodbye leaves The Criterion Channel Feb. 28.
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