The Best Movies New to Every Major Streaming Platform in May 2024 (2024)

Netflix may get most of the attention, but it’s hardly a one-stop shop for cinephiles looking to stream essential classic and contemporary films. Each of the prominent streaming platforms caters to its own niche of film obsessives.

From the boundless wonders of the Criterion Channel to the new frontiers of streaming offered by the likes of Ovid and Paramount Plus, IndieWire’s monthly guide highlights the best of what’s coming to every major streamer, with an eye toward exclusive titles that may help readers decide which of these services is right for them.

Here is your guide for May 2024.

  • “The Breaking Ice” (dir. Anthony Chen, 2023)

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    Even by the Criterion Channel’s own sky-high standards, the streamer’s May lineup is an absolute bonanza. The fun starts with an expertly curated tribute to the most popular year in movies, as a retro on the glory days of 1999 brings you everything from “Beau Travail” and “Bringing out the Dead” to Spike Lee’s underappreciated “Summer of Sam” and Sofia Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides.” Meanwhile, anyone looking to dive a bit deeper into the past need look no further than a series called “Hollywood Crack-Up: The Decade American Cinema Lost its Mind,” which pays homage to the finest on-screen freakouts of the 1960s with “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Seconds,” “Targets,” and a whole lot more.

    And now that Venice is making tourists pay to visit during the summer, the most cost-effective way to enjoy the city might be the Channel’s retrospective of the best movies that have been set there; David Lean’s “Summertime” is a lovely place to start, but don’t leave before catching Luchino Visconti’s “Death in Venice” and Paul Schrader’s “The Comfort of Strangers,” which Criterion’s physical media brand has rightfully helped to reclaim from its unearned reputation.

    And that’s it… if you don’t count a classic-laden tribute to Columbia’s Golden Era (“From Here to Eternity,” “On the Waterfront,” “Bonjour Tristesse,” etc.), Nobuhiko Obayashi’s “Antiwar Trilogy” (a must for anyone who only thinks of him as the “Hausu” guy), a Shirley MacLaine retro that spans from “The Trouble with Harry” in 1955 to “Bernie” in 2011, films by Michael Roemer (“Vengeance Is Mine”) and Ayoka Chenzira (“Alma’s Rainbow”), and more and more and more. I’m only singling out Anthony Chen’s exquisite “The Breaking Ice” because it flew too far under the radar when it was released earlier this year, and this frigid love triangle deserves a second chance now that “Challengers” has sparked a new interest in such things.

    All titles available to stream May 1.

  • “The Sales Girl” (dir. Janchivdorj Sengedorj, 2022)

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    Janchivdorj Sengedorj’s “The Sales Girl” is a wise and winsome coming-of-age story about a shy, virginal nuclear engineering student named Saruul (wonderful newcomer Bayartsetseg Bayangerel) who finds herself subbing in for the sales clerk at a Mongolian sex shop after her friend slips on a banana peel and breaks her leg — Saruul naturally tells her parents that she’s taken a part-time job in “the organ trade.”

    Comically ill-equipped for the job of selling dild*s and delivering lubes to hotel rooms after hours, Saruul soon strikes up an unexpected friendship with the store’s middle-aged owner, Katya (Enkhtuul Oidovjamts), a larger-than-life primadonna who thinks of her business as a pharmacy for people in desperate need of pleasure. What starts as a muted fish-out-of-water comedy gradually matures into something more profound, as Katya’s carpe diem attitude toward life teases Saruul out of her shell. But Sengedorj has little interest in broad punchlines or tear-jerking sentimentality. On the contrary, his film balances out its giggly subject with a movingly contemplative approach to growing up.

    “The Sales Girl” stays true to its wry sensibilities from start to finish, with several endearing scenes devoted to Saruul’s silly-sweet exploration of her own sexuality, but any tawdriness is leveraged into a searching and heartfelt meditation on the nature of happiness in a world that seldom has much of it to offer. Throw in rich cinematography and a gorgeous indie pop soundtrack by Dulguun Bayasgalan, who occasionally performs his songs on-screen during Saruul’s daydreams, and you have a memorably wistful tale about the feeling that “life will pass you by while you’re walking around staring at your boots.”

    Available to stream May 24

    Other highlights:

    – “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” (5/3)
    – “Banu” (5/3)
    – “Silent Land” (5/31)

  • “The Contestant” (dir. Clair Titley, 2023)

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    It takes chutzpah to open your documentary with archival footage of a news anchor saying “If you put what we’re about to show you in a movie, I doubt anyone would believe it,” but Clair Titley’s “The Contestant” has the goods to back it up. If the story told here were the subject of a scripted biopic, it would smack of exaggeration or gross dramatic license; if it were told in a narrative film, it would seem about as realistic as Park Chan-wook’s “Oldboy,” which might be the work of fiction that it most closely resembles. In Titley’s hands, however, the harrowing tale of the cruelest reality show ever conceived — in which a man known as Nasubi was stripped naked, left in a bare apartment, and told that he would only be released once he won $8,000 worth of prizes from magazine contests —is all too believable. Dusting off a story from the late ’90s, Titley’s film is made all the more unsettling for how accurately Nasubi’s ordeal predicted the torturous mind games that reality television programs have inflicted upon their contestants ever since. And how eagerly the rest of us still are to watch along.

    Available to stream May 2

    Other highlights:

    – “Eileen” (5/10)
    – “The Sweet East” (5/17)
    – “Ferrari” (5/24)

  • “Sunset Song” (dir. Terence Davies, 2016)

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    Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 novel “Sunset Song” had been swelling inside the late Terence Davies for more than 40 years, and the sensitive British filmmaker — who suffered an almost religious torment in the process of bringing his projects to the screen — had been trying to adapt the book for almost as long. Some things are worth the wait.

    “Sunset Song” offers a plaintive World War I-era story of a tall Aberdeenshire farm girl named Chris Guthrie (a magnificent Agyness Deyn) who feels closer to her family’s land than she does any of the men who try to reap it with her, and gorgeous 65mm cinematography makes it easy to appreciate that attachment. The film accumulates a tender beauty as the narrative slowly melts into myth, and — as the war takes hold — Chris becomes less of an individual woman than an undying symbol of femininity and forgiveness.

    It was a natural progression for Davies, who sculpted by omission and tells impossibly wistful stories in the time between time. His films are rooted in memory and swaddled by nostalgia, suspended between an acutely remembered past and the unbearably painful present that it left in its wake. With Chris, he found a character who feels that dislocation in her bones, and the ache of it would be too much to bear if not for the strength of her roots. “Nothing endured but the land,” she says, sublimating herself into the earth itself. “Sea, sky, and the folk who lived there were but a breath. But the land endured. And she felt in the moment that she was the land.”

    Available to stream May 14

    Other highlights:

    – “Sushi Girl” (5/1)
    – “Barking Dogs Never Bite” (5/15)
    – “Sound of Noise” (5/15)

  • “The Iron Claw” (dir. Sean Durkin, 2023)

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    A true-life American tragedy that leverages the summery Texas idyll of “Dazed & Confused” into a larger than life — but heartbreakingly sincere — re-telling of “King Lear,” “The Iron Claw” is a wrestling epic inspired by a legend so sad that writer-director Sean Durkin felt like he had to sand it down in order for it to seem believable on screen. Inverting the fake-it-so-real ethos of a sport that’s long been enjoyed as a form of steroidal theater (its operatic melodrama sustained by the exaggerated nature of its spectacle and vice-versa), Durkin’s film dials back the body count so that the scale of its loss doesn’t make it impossible for audiences to accept that it actually happened, or to exalt in the love that it ultimately left behind.

    No matter: Just as a “fake” wrestling punch could probably knock you unconscious, even this “watered down” story about the curse that Fritz Von Erich passed down to his sons like a self-fulfilling prophecy is still powerful enough to pile-drive you with the force of a WWE World Champion. You can call it “‘The Virgin Suicides’ for boys,” you can call it “Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little He-Men,’” you can even call it an insult to Chris Von Erich’s memory if you want. However you choose to think of it, “The Iron Claw” deserves at least one title that simply cannot be contested: This is the undisputed heavyweight tear-jerker of the last few years.

    Available to stream May 10

    Other highlights:

    – “All About My Mother”
    – “The Florida Project” (5/1)
    – “Stop Making Sense” (5/3)

  • “A Night of Knowing Nothing” (dir. Payal Kapadia, 2021)

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    Indian filmmaker Payal Kapadia is about to become a major name in world cinema, as her much-anticipated new feature “All We Imagine As Light” is due to premiere in Competition at Cannes next week. Those who can’t make it to the festival would do well to catch up with Kapadia’s breakthrough documentary on Metrograph at Home, which teed her up for international success. Here is an excerpt from the rave review of “A Night of Knowing Nothing” that Siddhant Adlakha wrote for IndieWire in the fall of 2021:

    “A dreamlike documentary that magnifies the personal until it reveals a lucid political collage, Payal Kapadia’s feature debut ‘A Night of Knowing Nothing’ is composed of archival footage, student chronicles of contemporary protests, and letters whispered aloud to an absent lover. Co-written by Kapadia and Himanshu Prajapati, its fictitious framing device — a box discovered in a room at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), containing lost film reels and a diary written by a student known only as ‘L’ — creates several floating layers of dramatic reality, which gently fall atop each other to create a vivid portrait of revolt and oppression, love and pain, and philosophical thought threatened by nationalist agenda.

    The central thesis of this New York Film Festival Currents selection can be boiled down to a single question: What is the purpose of a university in modern India? However, its approach to this seemingly simple idea is boldly multifaceted, from its ghostly depiction of young love that blossoms in the absence of parents (and curdles when they re-enter the picture), to its exploration of the modern Indian film school — using decades-old student reels to create an artistic continuum — to the vital role of the student protest within India’s political milieu, and its self-reflexive goal of using socialized education to level the playing field.”

    Available to stream May 1

    Other highlights:

    – “Girlhood” (5/1)
    – “Pamfir” (5/3)
    – “Three Crowns of the Sailor” (5/10)

  • “Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World” (dir. Radu Jude, 2023)

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    MUBI is one of several prominent streamers that tends to celebrate Cannes each May, but this year it’s come up with a very different approach: “Le Booing,” a series devoted to movies that were jeered on the Croisette. Olivier Dahan’s Nicole Kidman vehicle “Grace of Monaco” may not have that “so bad it’s good” magic when you’re not watching it from the third balcony of a massive theater while wearing a tuxedo you bought online for $60, but there’s really only way to find out (ditto Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver” and Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives”). On a slightly less trollish note, MUBI has also chosen to stream two of the best films that have ever premiered at Cannes, Lee Chang-dong’s “Secret Sunshine” and “Burning.” What’s more, subscribers will also get first crack at one of the best films the festival missed out on last year, Radu Jude’s electric and utterly essential “Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World,” a postmodern masterpiece of “cinema and economics” that happens to feature the greatest Uwe Boll performance you could ever hope to see —even if he’s outshined by the unfiltered genius of “Bobita” at every turn.

    Available to stream May 3

    Other highlights:

    – “Burning” (5/1)
    – “Secret Sunshine” (5/1)
    – “Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry” (5/14)

  • “A Simple Favor” (dir. Paul Feig, 2018)

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    Netflix’s May slate represents the steamer’s usual grab bag of newish library titles (“Starship Troopers,” “Upgrade,” “The Matrix Resurrections”), orphaned blockbusters that nobody else was all that eager to snap up (“Madame Web”), and Originals that range from hard-hitting Netflix premieres (Yance Ford’s anti-policing doc “Power”) and would-be crowd-pleasers (see: “Atlas,” which stars Jennifer Lopez as an AI-skeptical data scientist who runs into some computer trouble in deep space). I’m mostly highlighting Paul Feig’s “A Simple Plan” because this is a great opportunity to remind yourself why this criminally enjoyable wine-drunk delight is a lot more fun during a group trip to the movie theater than it is when you watch it alone on your couch, a difference that I would really love to impress upon the good folks over at Amazon MGM Studios before they foolishly release their upcoming sequel straight into the streaming void.

    Available to stream May 19

    Other highlights:

    – “Starship Troopers” (5/1)
    – “Power” (5/17)
    – “Atlas” (5/24)

  • “Midnight Traveler” (dir. Hassan Fazili, 2019)

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    Over the course of 1,000 days and as many miles, Hassan Fazili used three cell phones to record almost every step of his family’s perilous journey from their native Afghanistan (where the progressive director was targeted by the Taliban) to their current home in Central Europe, capturing a contemporary migrant experience from the most immediate and ground-level of perspectives. It’s a project that was made to restore a certain way of seeing; to punch a hole through the screen that separates people from the reality of what’s happening in their world. But in trying to get so close to the truth without touching it, Hassan almost fell into the same gap that he was trying to bridge; the most harrowing moments of his bracing and essential film find him perilously close to losing the same perspective that he’s trying to share with the world. Those personal missteps perversely make for an even stronger movie, as “Midnight Traveler” resolves into a riveting portrait of a crisis with no end in sight.

    Available to stream May 30

    Other highlights:

    – “Deserted Station” (5/3)
    – “Robe of Gems” (5/10)
    – “Aberdeen” (5/23)

  • “Mourning in Lod” (dir. Hilla Medalia, 2023)

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    “Mourning in Lod,” made by the Israeli director Hilla Medalia, was originally conceived as a documentary short about a murdered Israeli man whose kidney was donated to a Palestinian woman in East Jerusalem who would have died without the organ transplant. That feel-good story of grace and humanity amid the violence of the 2021 Israel-Palestine crisis is still on the surface of the potent, if scattershot, 71-minute feature that Medalia cut together in the end, but it’s almost completely overshadowed by the parallel — and far more ambivalent — story it tells about the value of personal charity in the face of systemic oppression.

    Concise and knowingly, regrettably unresolved, “Mourning in Lod” does what it can to weave a single episode of hope and civility into a tortured history of sectarian violence, and Medalia makes a commendable effort to root the feel-good story she first intended to shoot in the awful context of the political and humanitarian crises that surround it. Her film is not, as some might fear, a hagiographic portrait of an Israeli man’s posthumous gift to his Palestinian neighbor. Instead, she turns her attention to the Israeli organ donor, whose murder was instigated by the murder of a Palestinian neighbor the previous night. What good is a drop of kindness in an ocean of cruelty and killing? “Mourning in Lod” refuses to settle for easy answers, but it soberly crystallizes the anger and heartache that hovered in the air in the days leading up to October 7, 2023.

    Available to stream May 17

    Other highlights:

    – “Annihilation” (5/1)
    – “Days of Heaven” (5/1)
    – “In the Cut” (5/1)

  • “Rolling Thunder” (dir. John Flynn, 1974)

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    Quentin Tarantino’s job is making movies, but his passion —as anyone who’s read his book, listened to his podcast, attended his secret screening at Cannes, or simply paid any degree of attention to him at all over the last 30 years could tell you —is raving about John Flynn’s 1977 revenge thriller “Rolling Thunder.” And for good reason: This A-grade B-picture, about a traumatized Vietnam vet (William Devane) who returns home from seven years as a POW only for some local goons to murder his wife and child, is as lean and mean and deeply satisfying as it gets (the script was co-written by Paul Schrader, and it shows). Throw in a young Tommy Lee Jones as the hero’s best friend/brother-in-arms, a climactic shootout for the ages, and a lethal dose of renegade justice and you’ve got an exploitation classic for the ages.

    Available to stream May 1

    Other highlights:

    – “On the Waterfront” (5/1)
    – “American Fiction” (5/2)
    – “Creed” (5/15/)

  • “Blood and Black Lace” (dir. Mario Bava, 1964)

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    Shudder’s May slate includes a handful of new streaming exclusives, including the creepy “Stopmotion” and the long-awaited sequel to 1997’s “Nightwatch,” but our pick of the month belongs to Mario Bava, whose giallo delights are always a highlight whenever they make their way to the streaming world. Here is what IndieWire’s Wilson Chapman had to say about the immaculately titled “Blood and Black Lace” when he included it on our list of the best giallo films: “Set in the world of Rome’s fashion industry, the movie stars Eva Bartok and Cameron Mitchell as the co-owners of a successful fashion house that is plagued by scandal and later by a mysterious murderer preying upon the models. A visual feast, Bava’s masterpiece is best remembered today for its iconic bathtub murder scene, which directors like Martin Scorsese and Pedro Almodóvar would later imitate.”

    Available to stream May 1

    Other highlights:

    – “Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever” (5/17)
    – “The Lift” (5/20)
    – “Stopmotion” (5/31)

The Best Movies New to Every Major Streaming Platform in May 2024 (2024)
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