The Best Movies & TV Shows to Watch on the Newly Launched Paramount+
There's a lot of good stuff to watch.
At this point, it seems like every couple months a new streaming service launches—this time, Paramount+ is the latest on the block. The platform from ViacomCBS is partially a rebrand of CBS All Access, but it also builds on All Access' former library that was limited to CBS network programming from the past and present. Similar to the way that Warner Media-owned HBO Max has access to Warner Bros.' library in addition to HBO programming, Paramount+ sees an exciting roster of everything from Paramount Pictures' iconic old releases and newer blockbusters, as well as classic and current series airing on each of ViacomCBS' channels including BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount, and Smithsonian Channel. Meaning, there's already lot to watch, plus a hefty list of already announced original new series and reboots. To help you sift through the new offerings, we've curated a list of the most must-watch movies and series, including everything from oldies-but-goodies, nostalgia favorites, and underrated gems.
Aeon Flux (1991-1995)
First aired on MTV's Liquid Television as an experimental sci-fi anime-inspired series, Aeon Flux quickly launched its own franchise, including a video game and a live-action movie starring Charlize Theron. But it's the original TV series that's the best part, combining elements of futuristic sci-fi, spy fiction, biopunk, German Expressionism, and social satire into a show that is as deeply weird as it is wholly original. Aeon, a tall, scantily clad spy from one side of a violent forever war, has been tasked with infiltrating the strongholds of the enemy, dispatching soldiers and collecting information before dying in nearly every episode. It's dense with symbolism—the Wikipedia page features words like "demiurge" and "syzygy"—and the violence and sexuality won't be for everyone, but we guarantee you've never seen anything like this before.
America's most apathetic teen, and her cool art friend Jane, brought sarcasm into fashion in the late '90s. Daria's acerbic commentary will strike a chord with anyone who's had to endure high school. (That's you.) Chill out to episodes of Sick Sad World with the gals before the Jodie-centric spinoff series hits MTV sometime in the near future.
If you loved Netflix's sketch series I Think You Should Leave, you need to watch the short-lived Detroiters ASAP. Created by and starring Tim Robinson and Sam Richardson, the same brains behind ITYSL, the two-season Comedy Central series has been notoriously difficult to stream before now. It's a shame for this underrated comedy, starring Robinson and Richardson as the ridiculously named Tim Cramblin and Sam Duvet, two Detroit ad creatives who make commercials for local businesses, which absolutely deserves a wider audience. Think of it like sort of this: What if Mad Men, but kind-hearted and dumb?
C'mon, you know you want to bang on a trash can. Arguably the most alt of all the '90s Nickelodeon comedies, Doug is the angsty tale of Doug Funnie, who crushes on Patti Mayonnaise, hangs out with his blue skater friend Skeeter (honk honk), gets bullied by the school greaser Roger Klotz, and loves the band The Beets.
Evil (2019– )
This CBS series—created by Robert and Michelle King, the shepherds of The Good Wife franchise—gained new life when it hit Netflix being a procedural with a supernatural bent and an addictive overarching narrative, and now you can watch it on its home streaming service. Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) is a forensic psychologist who gets a gig assisting a priest-in-training David Acosta (Mike Colter) tasked with figuring out whether people are experiencing religious phenomena or whether there is an earthly explanation for their possessions. The Kings manage to walk the line between funny and creepy extremely well, making this a must-watch.
The Good Wife/Fight (2009–2016; 2017– )
Look past the fact that this serialized drama is on CBS, home to NCIS, CSI, and other shows your parents adore. The Good Wife is potent, pressurized, and constantly zigzagging in new directions. The saga of Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) began with a wife reeling from her district attorney husband's affair and subsequent scandal. It ended as a full-blown opera, full of deception, moral quagmires, and vibrant friendships, which prompted a spinoff in The Good Fight. Its ensemble cast, led by Christine Baranski (as Diane Lockhart, who, along with Julianna Margulies' Alicia and Matt Czuchry's Cary Agos, is one of only three characters to have appeared in every episode of The Good Wife) and Delroy Lindo, and its surprisingly affecting storylines consistently provide solidly entertaining legal investigations with zeitgeisty interpersonal drama, such as an aggressive ICE deportation attempt and a case involving the pee tape, that leads Diane to microdosing.
While Frasier Crane began as a character on the Boston-set Cheers, he truly flourished when he moved back to Seattle, started a radio show, and shacked up with his dad and his dad's Jack Russell Terrier, Eddie. (Remember when Eddie was on the cover of Entertainment Weekly?) It's also one of the most wonderfully acted sitcoms there ever was with the likes of John Mahoney and David Hyde Pierce. Excitingly, Paramount+ has already announced it's reviving this beloved series, with Kelsey Grammer returning to the role, for what is Frasier without Frasier?
I Love Lucy (1951–1957)
There's a reason this series is as iconic as it is. Essentially the foundational American sitcom, I Love Lucy is still very funny, even a half-century later. You know the deal: Ricky Ricardo is the suave bandleader; Lucy always wants to be in the show and always has some explaining to do. Fred and Ethel are constantly popping by. Relish in these old favorites like you're stuffing your mouth with chocolates coming down an assembly line.
MTV Cribs (2000–2009)
MTV Cribs, the flashy show where celebrities take the viewer inside their homes, remains a reality gold standard for a reason: It's a simple, repeatable premise that allows artists to highlight their personalities while also showing off all their ridiculous shit. Premiering in 2000, before VH1 established its "celeb-reality" style, the series could be ludicrously fake or surprisingly intimate depending on the episode. In an era where the famous try to appear relatable on Zoom or craft a careful public narrative on Instagram, the stunting of Cribs has a throwback charm.
Nathan For You (2013–2017)
Is "the thinking man's Punk'd" a reality show? A clever Shark Tank parody? A dark, existential narrative about an ambitious anti-hero who will do anything to get rich and find love? It's all of the above and more, with the most recent season (maybe series?) finale even revered by goddamn Errol Morris. Most episodes are about host Nathan Fielder meeting a small-business owner around Los Angeles who is struggling to get by. He makes them a pitch: Follow my proposed plan and I'll improve your business. (Remember Dumb Starbucks? That was a Nathan stunt.) The only problem is that the proposals are often overly elaborate and borderline insane. Cringe and learn, people.
Of all the MTV dating shows of the mid-'00s, including beloved programs like Date My Mom and Room Raiders, NeXt was the most addictive. You'd watch young men and women confidently walk off a bus, with an often hilarious graphic displaying bizarre details about their personality, and risk getting rejected by the main bachelor or bachelorette tasked with shouting "next" when they wanted the blind date to end. It's hard to think of another dating show that was so proudly superficial and yet perversely watchable.
Forrest MacNeil (a perfect Andy Daly) will try anything for Review, a woefully under-the-radar comedy series about rating suggested life experiences, from marrying a stranger (five stars) to leading a cult (two stars), even if it puts Forrest's life and relationships in peril. Over its three seasons, Review swings from gut-bustingly funny moments to gravely dark ones that make you absolutely confident that all of life is not worth living.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996–2003)
Before Sabrina Spellman from the Archie Comics was given a satanic Riverdale treatment by Netflix, in millennials' eyes, she was synonymous with '90s star Melissa Joan Hart’s spunky take on the sitcom witch from ABC's TGIF lineup. It's a show tailormade for weird kids of just about any variety, as it follows the half-mortal, half-witch as she learns how to use her magic from her two centuries-old aunts and talking black cat (who's really an evil warlock sentenced to cat servitude) all the while juggling everything from mean girls to science club. The teen show is probably stranger than you remember (see: episodes based entirely around a giant flan or a seasons-long arch about a troll trying to marry her), but that quirky sense of humor and creativity, as well as Hart’s spellbinding charm, are what make this Y2K show immortal.
Strangers with Candy (1999–2000)
Comedy Central used to be weird. Evidence: Strangers with Candy, created by Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, and two friends from Chicago's Second City theatre. What would happen if a "junkie whore" went back to high school at age 46? Sedaris found out, transforming herself into Jerri Blank, one of the most tender, zany, and heinous characters ever to hit American television.
You'll quickly fall in love with the weirdos at the Sunshine Cab Company, the setting of this essential sitcom from the late 1970s created, in part, by James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, etc, etc, etc.). The success of the series hinges on the incredible performances from the likes of Judd Hirsch, Marilu Henner, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, and, of course, Andy Kaufman, as Latka Gravas, possibly one of the most wonderful creations to ever hit television screens.
The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)
Every lauded sci-fi movie or television show owes Rod Serling residuals. Over 156 episodes, Serling speculated and dreamed, refracting his present day through the trippiest scenarios to ever beam through mild-mannered American homes. The Twilight Zone’s visual prose took us to jungles, to space, to 20,000 feet, and to the sunny block from every person’s childhood, where the worst existential revelations tended to lurk. The Twilight Zone still speaks volumes. Buckle up and fly into a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind.
Twin Peaks (1990–1991)
David Lynch and Mark Frost's detective series is often credited with instilling television with artful potential. Without Twin Peaks, there'd likely be no Mad Men or Breaking Bad (and both shows nodded to the ABC series). And yet, the show's dreamy, saturated look is really the whipped cream on top of a nice slice of cherry pie from the Double R Diner. Twin Peaks is a steady stream of oddball characters and fantastical twists, encountered by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), always ready for a damn fine cup of coffee, as he hunts for the murder of a small-town teenager. Your weird friends love this show. You should, too. It's finally time to understand those Log Lady Halloween costumes.
The Wild Thornberrys (1998–2004)
If you watched The Wild Thornberrys growing up, chances are you attempted at least once or twice to get your household pet, a squirrel on the lawn, or maybe an animal at the zoo behind glass to talk to you. There's no way you didn't! The show about 11-year-old Eliza who has the Dr. Dolittle-like ability to talk to animals is a Nick Toon gem, hitching a ride on her documentarian parents' van and learning about whatever wildlife across the globe wherever they travel next. Rewatch it not only for Tim Curry's voice work as Nigel Thornberry or to revisit the surly, outdoors-hating teenage icon that is Debbie, but for the fun animation. And, hey, you'll learn a thing or two about elephants in Kenya or Tasmanian devils in the outback!
Wonder Showzen (2005–2006)
Parodying children's programming can feel cheap and easy: How hard is it to make fun of something that's designed to be consumed and enjoyed by literal babies? There's very little risk involved in most "dirty" puppet humor, but Wonder Showzen, which aired for two brief seasons on MTV2, is the glorious exception, a show that pushed its limited concept to the breaking point in almost every episode, playing like a frenzied mash-up of Sesame Street and Jackass. Clips like the Beat Kidz segment "Who did you exploit today?," which finds a young girl asking tough questions of Wall Street workers, regularly make the rounds on Twitter and still pack a punch.
The Aviator (2004)
The Aviator is a tour-de-force historical epic that hinges on Leonardo DiCaprio as American aviator Howard Hughes, whose mental state stymies grandiose ambitions. DiCaprio loves a good man tormented by internal and external demons, but in this three-hour masterpiece, Martin Scorsese pushes the 30-year-old Leo to bring all of Hughes' many contradictions to life: the swaggering young playboy billionaire, the starlet romancer, the daredevil innovator, and the shrunken madman, unshorn, guzzling milk, pissing in bottles, and muttering "the way of the future" over and over again. It's one of the most harrowing on-screen depictions of how mental illness can wrench a life apart, and one of Leo's unobjectionable triumphs.
Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)
Before Justin Lin was the go-to guy for the Fast and Furious franchise, he made this thrilling independent high school-set film, which serves as both an electric teen drama about kids making bad choices and a groundbreaking exploration of Asian American identity. The film stars, among others, a young John Cho and Sung Kang, the latter of whom Lin brought onto the Fast movies.
Robert Towne's Chinatown script is often cited as one of, if not the greatest of all time. (And not just because of that iconic line at the very end of the movie.) As a struggling private eye, Jack Nicholson dives headfirst into a mystery that turns into a maelstrom of LA corruption. The result is a well-paced noir tale, equal parts frustrating and fascinating, that still lives up to its reputation.
Citizen Ruth (1996)
Alexander Payne's feature directorial debut Citizen Ruth remains (depressingly) just as relevant and boundary pushing as it was in 1996. The film stars Laura Dern, in one of her best performances, as Ruth Stoops, a drug addict who unwittingly becomes the face of an abortion debate.
The Godfather & The Godfather Part II (1972, 1974)
What's left to say about Francis Ford Coppola's organized crime odyssey? The original, revered as one of the greatest films of all time, and the sequel, right up there (and probably even better than the first, if we're being honest), adapt the murderous tenor of Mario Puzo's book with shadows, chilly grandiosity, and prosciutto dialogue that the cast can chew and chew and chew. And hey, if you want to watch Part III, it's streaming, too.
The Indiana Jones series (1981, 1984, 1989, 2008)
So what if you've seen the original trilogy a million times? The Indiana Jones movies are never disappointing, from Harrison Ford barreling through a booby-trapped temple opening Raiders of the Lost Ark, ripping the heart out of someone's chest in Temple of Doom, and watching a guy shrivel to nothing but ash in The Last Crusade. It's hard to find a flaw in Steven Spielberg's action trifecta, though the reboot, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, doesn't land with the same force, even with Karen Allen's Marion Ravenwood back for the wild ride.
Jackie Brown (1997)
For all their blood, guts, and mayhem, the best Quentin Tarantino movies are love stories. Functioning as both a savvy Blaxploitation riff and a tender tribute to QT’s literary hero Elmore Leonard, Jackie Brown follows Pam Grier’s flight attendant title character and a weary bondsman, played with a knowing twinkle in his eye by Robert Forster, as they slowly fall for each other while outsmarting an endless barrage of con men, wise guys, and dumbasses. While it may lack the flash and formal audacity of some of his bigger hits, it’s undoubtedly Tarantino’s most human movie, an empathetic character portrait from an artist who often gets unfairly pegged as a sadist. And, damn, is there a movie with a better final shot?
The least-loved Guillermo del Toro film is by no means bad, and we heartily recommend this horror-sci-fi about an army of deadly shape-shifting giant cockroaches living in the bowels of Manhattan. The movie stars Mira Sorvino as a doctor who bites off more than she can chew when she encounters the "Judas breed" of cockroach, which expertly evolves within just a few generations to mimic its prey—and this time, the prey is human.
Minority Report (2002)
When Steven Spielberg's Minority Report came out, the technology looked cool as hell. Luckily, that's still basically the case. Tom Cruise stars here as a police chief running a futuristic pre-crime unit that arrests murderers before they kill. Based on the Philip K. Dick short story of the same name, the film takes an unsettling turn when the prophetic system Cruise's character endorses turns against him, marking him as an eventual killer, and sends him to extreme lengths—like swapping out his eyes—to evade the system.
Mission: Impossible 1–3 (1996, 2000, 2006)
Tom Cruise's pet property grew into a spy franchise worthy of the Ringling Bros.—the first three of which are available on Paramount+. Brian De Palma's introduction to IMF superstar Ethan Hunt keeps the action and intrigue at a constant high. John Woo's followup is better background-watching fodder, lest you're forced to hear Cruise say "chimera," the deadly virus Hunt must destroy, over and over in a convoluted plot that's still full of big stunts and explosions. J.J. Abrams' trilogy-capper isn't as potboiler-y as Brian de Palma's 1996 original, but boasts more brains than the blustering Mission: Impossible II, making it the streaming-ready action-thriller we can safely recommend. Focusing back on the original series' spycraft, Abrams' installment pits Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the Impossible Mission Force against Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the most sinister blockbuster villains in recent memory.
The Ring (2002)
Horror remakes are rarely worth their weight in disembodied heads, but this Japanese translation of 1998's Ringu, made over in the most slick and perverse way imaginable by Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean), is worth revisiting. Filled with creepy imagery—the “Ring video” is only the beginning, as Naomi Watts’ Rachel uncovers the true story of Samara, unwanted and tortured in psychoanalysis—this is one to revisit whether it’s “the season” for horror movies or not.
Roman Holiday (1953)
Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck: A duo doesn't get more classic than that. With its international setting, princess-looking-for-something-more narrative, and clever banter, Roman Holiday helped establish the template for the next 50 years of romantic comedies to follow. What do most of the imitators lack? Mostly actors as charming, playful, and committed as Hepburn and Peck, who make screen chemistry look easy. Trust us, this is a vacation you'll want to go on more than once.
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Perhaps the best Star Trek movie (sorry, Wrath of Khan), Star Trek: First Contact, directed by erstwhile Star Trek star Jonathan Frakes in his feature debut, sends the crew of the USS Enterprise-E (the Enterprise of Star Trek: The Next Generation) back in time to when the people of Earth first met our extraterrestrial Vulcan allies, to stop the cybernetic Borg from changing the past and assimilating humanity into their gruesome ranks. It's a great Star Trek film, but it's also a beautiful self-contained time travel story, with one of the best human-vs-cyborg fistfights on the surface of a ship in the middle of outer space you'll ever see.
To Catch a Thief (1955)
Can a master cat burglar uncover the identity of... a master cat burglar? The mystery pushes Cary Grant and Grace Kelly down the rabbit hole, across beautiful French Riviera landscapes, and into one another's arms in Alfred Hitchcock's suspenseful romance. "Lush" and "elegant" don't normally pair with "crime movie," but Hitchcock's hand ensures To Catch a Thief can fill a date night with appropriate intrigue.
Sin City (2005)
Frank Miller enlisted Robert Rodriguez (Machete, Alita: Battle Angel) as co-director to translate the former's wildly popular series of the same name to the big screen, and with some added directorial work from Quentin Tarantino, the result became a watershed moment in the visual history of film. The signature black-and-white palette with splashes of color provided a grim backdrop to the sensational violence of the miniaturized plotlines, which provides one of the most comic book-like comic book adaptations around.
If you're looking for lessons from Danny Boyle's heroin opus: Drugs can be fun, but sometimes they kill you. With that in mind, the film offers a great look into degenerate Scottish party culture and the way opiates can ravage the mind. You'll laugh! You'll cry! But, again, don't try this at home.
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Sofia Coppola's adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides' novel of the same name will put you in a daze; it's a cinematic representation of feeling 16, with all the attendant desire and melodrama. The voyeuristic film tells the story of several young boys' obsession over understanding the mythos behind the sheltered but painfully beautiful Lisbon sisters, who live under the domineering veil of their strict, devout parents. As the tantalizing Lux Lisbon, Kirsten Dunst seduces with a bite, and while the girls gasp for release, Coppola validates their youthful pain in the way that only her unapologetically feminine lens can.
David Fincher's period drama is for obsessives. In telling the story of the Zodiac Killer, a serial murderer who captured the public imagination by sending letters and puzzles to the Bay Area press, the famously meticulous director zeroes in on the cops, journalists, and amateur code-breakers who made identifying the criminal their life's work. With Jake Gyllenhaal's cartoonist-turned-gumshoe Robert Graysmith at the center, and Robert Downey Jr.'s barfly reporter Paul Avery stumbling around the margins, the film stretches across time and space, becoming a rich study of how people search for meaning in life. Zodiac is a procedural thriller that makes digging through old manilla folders feel like a cosmic quest.
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