With so many titles to choose from, Netflix Instant's library can be overwhelming. And so we offer this bi-weekly column as a tool to cut through the clutter by highlighting some now streaming titles that pair nicely with the latest theatrical releases.
This week, inspired by Lincoln, Anna Karenina and Breaking Dawn – Part 2,, we suggest a selection of historical epics, steamy costume dramas, and supernatural romances.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
The final chapter of the Twilight saga draws to a close as Bella must use her newfound vampire powers to protect her daughter from the Volturi. Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner star; Bill Condon directs.
I'm sorry to report that none of the Twilight series is currently streaming. But if your preferred romantic fantasy demands a touch of the supernatural, we've got trio of titles that should appeal featuring, vampires, werewolves, and even some ghosts.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997) Before Bella, there was Buffy, a seemingly typical high school student who moonlights as mankind's protector against the bloodthirsty forces of evil. But now not all bloodsuckers are bad, and Buffy falls for not one but two sexy vampires over the course of this beloved Joss Whedon series that blends action, comedy, romance and drama. Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Marsters, and David Boreanaz star. All seven seasons are now streaming.
Being Human (2009) This BBC series centers on a trio of paranormal roommates facing the challenge of fitting in to modern society. For fretful werewolf George, this means keeping his animal side at bay. For brooding vampire Mitchell, it means keeping his blood lust in check. And for perplexed poltergeist Annie, it means uncovering what has made her a wondering spirit. Despite a premise that sounds to the opening line of a goofy joke, this series is a darkly realized drama. Lenora Crichlow, Russell Tovey and Aidan Turner co-star. Seasons 1-3 are now streaming; season 4 will be made available on November 26th.
Ghost (1990) This '90s classic stars Patrick Swayze as Sam, a New Yorker whose life is unexpectedly cut short after a violent confrontation with a mugger. But this is only the beginning of Sam's story. Now a ghost, he seeks a way to communicate with his shattered widow. To save her from a lurking danger, he speaks to a con artist clairvoyant and together they strive to bring his killer to justice before it's too late! Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg co-star. Jerry Zucker directs.
Daniel Day-Lewis stars as our 16th president in a poignant portrait of Abraham Lincoln's battle to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which officially outlawed slavery in the United States, as the Civil War raged on. Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader and David Strathairn co-star; Steven Spielberg directs a screenplay by celebrated playwright Tony Kushner.
A clear favorite in American cinema narratives is the tale of a single strong-willed man fighting the good fight for the betterment of others. For Lincoln, this meant risking his reputation and life to bring an end to slavery in America. The heroes of the historical-inspired dramas below fought against fear and tyranny, be it in 1962 Salem, Massachusetts, 1890s British Empire, or 1937 Nanking, China.
The Crucible (1996) Daniel Day Lewis costars with Winona Ryder in this sizzling adaptation of Arthur Miller's award-winning play that explored the Salem witch trials. She plays Abigail Williams, a teen girl who wields incredible power of persuasion when she convinces the puritanical and fearful community that witches are among them. He plays a married farmer harboring a secret shame who is the only one who can bring a stop to the hysteria she's spurred. Nicholas Hytner directs.
Gandhi (1982) Ben Kingsley stars as Mahatma Gandhi, the icon of passive resistance. Beginning with Gandhi's political awakening in 1893 South Africa, this eight-time Oscar winner charts his life-long battle—albeit a decidedly non-violent one—to topple the British Empire's hold over India. John Gielgud, Candace Bergen and Edward Fox co-star; Richard Attenborough directs.
The Flowers of War (2011) Christian Bale headlines the most expensive film production China has ever mounted, playing brash American who becomes the reluctant defender of a church filled with schoolgirls and refugee courtesans during the Rape of Nanking, when Japanese forces overtook the Chinese city during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and wrought shocking violence against the place and its people. Based on the novel 13 Flowers of Nanjing, this drama explores the traumas those trapped within the city's borders faced, and the bravery that emerged from the horror. Yimou Zhang directs.
Keira Knightley reteams with her Pride & Prejudice director Joe Wright to bring Leo Tolstoy's controversial heroine to the big screen in a bold, brilliant and beautiful adaptation. The story follows a married high society woman's fall from grace when she engages in an affair with an affluent and handsome young Count in late-19th-century Russia.
A bold woman who refused to live by the sexual double standards her society thrust upon her, Anna Karenina became an outcast, but in doing so found a sense of freedom and joy, at least for a little while. It's a common theme of heroines who dare to defy gender norms, and one that often results in powerful costume dramas like those below.
Doctor Zhivago (2002) Before she was Anna Karenina, Keira Knightley starred in another classic Russian love story, the PBS miniseries adaptation of Boris Pasternak's Nobel Prize-winning novel. Here she plays a young beauty called Lara, whose rule-breaking romances with three very different men (a fiery activist, a slippery businessman, and a noble doctor) shape the lives of each as revolution overtakes the nation. Kris Marshall, Sam Neill, and Hans Matheson co-star.
Shakespeare in Love (1998) Co-written byAnna Karenina scribe Tom Stoppard, this seven-time Oscar winner constructs a fun though fictional love story, inspired by the works and history of William Shakespeare. Gwyneth Paltrow stars as Viola De Lesseps, a noble woman who defies gender conventions by dressing as a young man so she might perform on the stage. Like many a Shakespeare play, her ruse gets complicated when she falls in love, in this case with the show's smoldering author (Joseph Fiennes). Tom Wilkinson, Geoffrey Rush and Judi Dench co-star; John Madden directs.
The Piano (1993) Set in 1850s New Zealand, this three-time Academy Award-winning drama centers on the passion that builds into unstoppable love between a mute Scottish woman (Holly Hunter) sold off to be the bride of a affluent landowner (Sam Neill), and a gruff laborer with a tender soul (Harvey Keitel). While the sexual tension that burns between Hunter and Keitel is white hot, writer-director Jane Campion interlaces a message about the absurdity of classism, racism, and sexism that makes this film both a sensual and intellectual treat.