Happy July, Polygon readers.
The summer is in full swing, and it’s the perfect time to have an outdoor barbecue, go to the beach, or stay at home and watch the Tour de France. But in between all those fun activities, there are plenty of terrific options for you to watch great summer movies at home.
Each month, we pick five thrillers from Netflix’s catalog to highlight as particularly good viewing selections that month. Maybe they’re new releases, maybe they’re seasonally appropriate, maybe they’re in conversation with what’s going on in the world right now, or maybe they’re just plain good.
Here are our five selections for this month. Enjoy!
Run time: 2h 2m
Director: Sam Hargrave
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Golshifteh Farahani, Adam Bessa
Chris Hemsworth’s partnership with stuntman turned director Sam Hargrave has been fruitful for both collaborators and for Netflix. Extraction was one of the biggest successes in the streaming platform’s history of original productions, and Extraction 2 followed up by being a far superior movie.
Gone is the piss-yellow filter meant to signal the first movie took place in South Asia. Instead, Extraction 2 is an action-filled stunt spectacular, featuring Chris Hemsworth punching guys with his fists on fire, shooting a helicopter with a minigun while standing on top of a moving train, and so, so much more. It’s pretty much 122 minutes of nonstop action, including a breathtaking 21-minute one-take action sequence that was incredibly difficult to film.
Extraction 2 also gives a bigger role to breakout star Golshifteh Farahani, who plays one half of a dynamic sibling duo (along with Adam Bessa) that provides an additional dimension to this new group of action stars. It’s one of the standout action movies of the year, and the ending sets up quite the intriguing premise for a potential Extraction 3. —Pete Volk
Run Rabbit Run
Run time: 1h 40m
Director: Daina Reid
Cast: Sarah Snook, Lily LaTorre, Neil Melville
If you’re looking for a psychological horror concerned with maternal dread and barely repressed familial trauma à la The Babadook, this new film from director Daina Reid (The Handmaid’s Tale) is sure to be up your alley.
Run Rabbit Run stars Sarah Snook (Succession) as Sarah, a fertility doctor and single mother grieving the recent loss of her father. When Sarah’s daughter Mia (Lily LaTorre) begins exhibiting strange behaviors identical to her late sister Alice, who disappeared years prior, Sarah’s mental and emotional state rapidly begins to unravel as she attempts to understand her daughter and reconcile her own conflicted past. While fairly boilerplate in its adherence to the tried-and-tired tropes of trauma-focused horror, Run Rabbit Run certainly stands out as one of the better recent entries in the subgenre wholly on part of the strength of Snook’s performance, with haunted expressions and piercing dialogue delivered with quivering affectation that draws the audience in and holds them right up to the film’s heart-sinking conclusion. —Toussaint Egan
Run time: 1h 55m
Director: Alex Garland
Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez
Alex Garland’s adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s critically acclaimed Southern Reach trilogy is an engrossing work of psychological horror that forces the viewer to not only ponder the limits of love (and human biology) but the future of a species potentially facing its own imminent extinction. Natalie Portman stars as Lena, a biologist whose soldier husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) has been missing for over a year due to some undisclosed mission. Upon his miraculous return, Lena learns that Kane’s mission involved exploring the Shimmer, an anomalous zone in Florida filled with hostile entities mutated by the radiation of a nearby meteor. Fearing for her husband’s life, Lena volunteers to explore the Shimmer alongside a new expedition team in search of answers, only to be brought face to face with a world beyond her wildest fears.
Like the meteor that strikes the lighthouse in the opening moments of the film, Garland’s Annihilation transforms the source text into a cinematic experience rife with phantasmagorical wonder and existential dread. It’s a horror film that exists squarely within the territory of thrillers, one that will keep you on your toes and drawn to the screen throughout every minute. —TE
Run time: 1h 46m
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden
Is Christopher Nolan’s 2017 war drama the best movie of his career? Perhaps. Is it one of the best thrillers on Netflix? Without question. With Nolan’s historical drama Oppenheimer set to debut later this month, what better time than now to watch Dunkirk?
The film depicts the true story of the evacuations of thousands of British soldiers attempting to escape the French beaches of Dunkirk during the beginning of World War II. With resources dwindling and the Nazi forces closing in, Dunkirk follows the point of view of several soldiers as they attempt to survive one of the most consequential battles of the 20th century.
Even if you don’t count yourself as a history buff, Nolan’s film is an exhilarating watch. With brilliant set-pieces conveyed through deft cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema, a tense and immersive score by Hans Zimmer that brilliantly iterates on the leitmotif of a ticking clock to convey the desperation of the film’s characters as they race against time, and excellent performance by an ensemble of actors including Fionn Whitehead, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Hardy, Dunkirk is an exquisite war drama that finds hope amid despair and triumph through the simple act of survival. —TE
Run time: 1h 56m
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne
Clint Eastwood’s recent movies have been among his most empathetic and thoughtful, often unfairly dismissed based on perceptions of Eastwood or his age. Loosely based on a true story, The Mule is a deft and nuanced portrayal of humanity, aware of our prejudices but refusing to give into them.
In The Mule, Eastwood is a famous horticulturist forced to retire when his business goes under. With his home foreclosed on and his family no longer speaking to him after years of prioritizing his work over them, he gets recruited to be a drug mule by a cartel — they reason an 80-something white man without a criminal record is among the least likely candidates to be pulled over by police.
The Mule is a standout example in a strong run that has extended from 2014’s Jersey Boys to 2021’s Cry Macho — for my money, it’s right behind Sully and Richard Jewell as the strongest movies from this period of Eastwood’s career. The legend is currently working on Juror #2, which is set to be the final movie of his illustrious career, so there’s no better time than now to catch up with some of his great recent work. —PV