Our pick of the best 50 films you can access via your smart TV and set-top boxes in the UAE…

We’ve selected the best of Hollywood, Bollywood and world cinema for you to enjoy during self-isolation. So grab the popcorn, dim the lights and put your phone on silent, because it’s movie time.

If you fancy a little trivia-based plot twist: why not see if your bunker buddy can guess the film from our seven-second synopses.

Do you agree with our pick? Let us know in the Facebook comments.

Key : FF — family-friendly, NFF — not family-friendly.

Starzplay

Moana (2016), FF

This is the animated quest story of a young Polynesian girl (voiced by Auliʻi Cravalho), chosen by the ocean to reunite the earth spirit, Te Fiti, with an ancient relic and halt a devastating blight on her home island. The titular character teams up with a disgraced demi-power, voiced by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, and a wild-eyed scene-stealing pet chicken.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), NFF

Director Martin Scorsese deftly adapts the memoirs of Jordan Belfort, charting the rise and subsequent fall from grace of a Wall Street stockbroker (Leonardo DiCaprio). It’s a rags to private yachts, wild excess, amorality and Lamborghinis – and then back-again – story.

Bad Boys (1995), NFF

Two Miami cops, Marcus (Martin Lawrence) and Mike (Will Smith), investigate a Mafia drug ring. The police’s Internal Affairs unit uncovers a link to suggest that there’s an inside man within the force, and following a botched sting operation, Mike and Marcus are forced to turn rogue and follow the breadcrumbs to ultimately bring down the nefarious criminal organisation.

Wanted (2008), NFF

Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), a clerical worker who mistakes his superpowers for panic attacks, is recruited into a band of gifted assassins, by mysterious femme fatale, Fox (Angelina Jolie). Gibson is put through a gruelling training regime that largely ignores the established physics of ballistics. In the hunt for his father’s murderer, Gibson uncovers dark secrets about the true nature of the assassin agency he’s now part of.

Crank 2: High Voltage (2009), NFF

Utterly ridiculous and highly enjoyable, this humorous action movie literally hits the ground running and doesn’t offer a single moment of chill. Ex-hitman Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) must keep his artificial heart going with repeated electric shocks and adrenalin peaks, as he pieces together the series of events that lead to his cardiac conundrum.

Adjustment Bureau (2011), NFF

A cleverly penned sci-fi rom-com that sees a US Congressman (Matt Damon) battle against the physical manifestation of the architects of destiny (the Adjustment Bureau), in order to preserve a chance romantic connection with a dancer (Emily Blunt). The chemistry between the leading characters elevates this already brilliantly woven tale.

Coco (2017), FF

We’re not crying – you’re crying. In this tale of pure Pixar magic, a young musician crosses the bridge from the world of the living to the land of the dead. Along with his trusty street dog Dante, Miguel is in search of a long-passed ancestor who he hopes will provide answers about his own passion for music. An emotional score accompanies a screen filled with colourful feels.

Thor Ragnarok (2017), NFF 

Director Taika Waititi takes a beloved Avenger on a tongue-in-cheek ride across the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Only Thor (Chris Hemsworth) can defeat his evil sister, Hala (Cate Blanchett) and prevent Ragnarök, the prophesied fall of Asgard. This is a superhero movie that has plenty of time for comic relief and character development. Keep an eye out for director Waititi’s superbly executed appearance as the deadpan alien, Korg. 

Southpaw (2015), NFF

A successful boxer (Jake Gyllenhaal) falls into a desperate spiral following a tragic incident. And we mean tragic… we’re still haunted by it. Billy “The Great” Hope, must rebuild his life, his relationship with his daughter and career with spit, grit and the tutorage of ex-pro Titus “Tick” Wills (Forest Whitaker).

Inglorious B*sterds (2009), NFF

Set in occupied France during World War II, this Quentin Tarantino flick is a masterclass in character acting. American officer Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) recruits a band of rebels to begin a guerilla insurrection against the Nazis. The gang is joined by fellow freedom fighters German actress and undercover agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), and theatre owner Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent). Christoph Waltz’s performance as SS Colonel Hans Landa in the movie’s opening scene is one of cinema’s finest.

Inside Out (2015), FF

There are two ways you can watch this animated feature. On a philosophical level, it’s a narrative that deconstructs the ego, representing human emotions as individual entities. The movie asks big questions about the nature of identity and the pursuit of happiness. It’s also incredibly fun to watch without the ‘big brain time’ element. Disney’s trademark tight dialogue and characterisation make it just as enjoyable for the kiddlywinks.

Netflix

The Two Popes (2019), NFF

This movie is a dramatisation of a 2012 meeting between the then Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (who went on to become Pope Francis, played by Jonathan Pryce). Following the announcement that Bergoglio intends to resign as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the critically acclaimed story wraps around discussions of duty and tradition between the two clergymen. Knowing the history of what happened IRL isn’t even that big of a spoiler, as the movie has a perfect final curtain that you probably won’t see coming.

Roma (2018), NFF

A heartfelt triple-Oscar-winning Mexican drama that puts the life of live-in housekeeper Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) under the microscope. Disclaimer: this beautifully realised movie scrubs at some pretty raw emotional nerves. Cleo must deal with the slowly unravelling fabric of the family she works for, as well as her own life-changing struggles. Fun film fact for you: The movie is a semi-autobiographical take on director Alfonso Cuarón’s own early family life.

The Ballard of Buster Scruggs (2018), NFF

First time? A compilation of six loosely connected mini Westerns directed by the inimitable Coen brothers. Dark humour and delicious twists star in tall tales of bank heists gone wrong, prospecting woes, travelling shows and singing gunslingers.

Annihilation (2018), NFF

This is one of those sci-fi movies that comes around every few years and breathes new life, and original ideas, into the genre. Lena (Natalie Portman) is a cellular-biology professor, who joins a team of scientists tasked with heading into a mysterious Earth-based phenomenon called ‘The Shimmer’. Lena is driven by desperation to save her husband, who fell sick during a previous mission into the void, but the deeper her unit gets, the more bizarre this mysterious world seems to become.

The Dark Knight (2008), NFF

Why not start with the first film of Christopher Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy you ask? Some people just want to watch the world burn. The Dark Knight isn’t your average caped-crusader comic book adaptation. It’s filled with suspense, drama, emotion and Heath Ledger’s posthumous Oscar-winning performance as The Joker.

Blade Runner (1982), NFF

Ridley Scott’s dystopian tale of rogue robots puts grizzled cop Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) on the trail of a group of fugitive replicants. It’s a futuristic film noir that includes references to many cinematic themes, and muses hard on the meaning and definition of life. In a time where we’re constantly warned of the potential danger down the AI development road, it’s a movie that probably hits a little harder now than when it was originally released.

Lagaan (2001), FF

Set during the time of the British Raj, a small town, Champaner, is struggling to pay taxes due to a prolonged drought. Ignoring their plight, Russell, an arrogant and greedy British commander, challenges farmer Bhuvan (played by Aamir Khan) and his town to a cricket match – a game the villagers know nothing about. The stakes? If the British Raj loses, the provinces taxes will be cancelled for three years, but they if they win, they will have to pay three times their current taxes.

Inception (2010), NFF

This film plays with the concept that you can implant ideas in people’s heads. All you need to do is enter their dream and convince them that it is, in fact, their own idea. Simple right? Nope. Leonardo DiCaprio leads an (inter) stellar cast through a mind-bending landscape of plot twists within plot twists. But was it all a dream? Guess we’ll never know.

The Lego Movie (2014), FF

Chris Pratt leads the voice cast for this movie adaptation of Denmark’s most famous export, Lego. To be fair the brand didn’t leap straight into a movie deal off the back of the toy’s popularity – this film came out nearly 90 years after the first bricks started rolling off the lego factory line. And it was worth the wait. It’s a superbly crafted family movie, with plenty of lols for parents, a genuinely original storyline with compelling arc, and some brilliant voice acting performances. Emmet (Chris Pratt) is the average Lego figure next door, who is mistakenly identified as the Lego world’s best hope of defeating the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) and his dastardly plans for a new world order.

Zombieland (2009), NFF

Shaun of the Dead proved you could make a comedy about a zombie apocalypse, but it was a feat that wasn’t successfully replicated in cinema until Zombieland. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin form a crew of survivors, in search of a safe haven and Twinkie bars.

The Irishman (2019), NFF

OK, you’ve seen the memes: yes, it’s three and a half hours long, but think of it as a mini-series – you’ve almost certainly binge-watched longer. And it’s worth it. The Irishman is pure Scorsese gold – deeply complicated characters, nuanced storylines, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, it’s artful big-screen storytelling. Loosely based around real events, the movie charts Frank Sheeran’s (De Niro) rise as a hitman, through a Philadelphia crime family. Sheeran is taken under the wings of mobster Russell Bufalino (Pesci), and charismatic Teamster, Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino).

Sicario (2015), NFF

A promising FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is drafted into a government task force that’s tackling the narcotics trade on the Mexican border. The team is headed up by a pair of emotionally battle-scarred lieutenants, government official Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and mission operative Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). Blunt’s character begins to realise that in order to achieve their goal, certain sacrifices must be made, and good guys sometimes have to be bad guys (and girls).

Goodfellas (1990), NFF

Young New Yorker Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) joins the mob and climbs the ranks of organised crime, in what is arguably Scorsese’s greatest contribution to cinema. Hill develops a taste for the high life and, with the encouragement of Mafia bestie James Conway (Robert De Niro) and terrifying sociopath Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), gets lost in a world where the only honour is honour within the family. But even that has a price.

Lion (2016), NFF 

Nothing to do with Joe Exotic. This tear-jerker is based on the true story of Saroo (Dev Patel), a young Indian boy who gets lost on a train and ends up all alone in Kolkata. Saroo is eventually adopted by an Australian couple and moves to Hobart, Tasmania. Many years later, as a young man, haunted by a desire to reconnect with his birth mother, Saroo embarks on a journey to find his family in India. Popcorn and tissues required.

The Matrix (1999), NFF 

Intense action, groundbreaking cinematography, profound philosophical musing, and Keanu Reeves, what more could you possibly want in a film. Computer programmer Thomas Anderson (Reeves), hacker name ‘Neo’, is going through a bit of an existential crisis, and his online life frequently brings up references to ‘The Matrix’. As he searches for answers, Neo is introduced to a mysterious man named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who offers him a choice: take the blue pill, you wake up in your bed and the story ends; or, take the red pill and stay in Wonderland to see how deep the rabbit-hole goes. But what is The Matrix? Guess you’ll have to take that red pill.

Forrest Gump (1994), NFF

Tom Hanks plays Forest, Forest Gump, a man who shares his life story and a box of chocolates from a bench at a provincial bus station. As a child, Gump is classified as being of sub-average intelligence, a fact that certainly doesn’t hamper his achievements. Gump goes on to play for the All-American football team, is awarded the Medal of Honour for his bravery in the Vietnam War, makes shroud business investments and does multiple coast-to-coast runs across the US – but can he ever get his crush, Jenny (Robin Right) to love him back? The What’s On Magic 8 ball says “looks unlikely”.

The Hangover (2009), NFF

The comedy that spawned a dynasty, kick-started Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianaki’s career and taught us to never, ever, under any circumstances – hold your stag party in Vegas. Following an epic bachelor party, none of them can remember, three friends wake in their Caesar’s Palace penthouse to find boxer, Mike Tyson, a tiger, a chicken and a human baby, but no sign of the groom. As they try to piece together the events of the night before, they realise, what they experienced was no normal sesh on the town, and what happens in vegas, might not night necessarily stay in Vegas…

 

Apple TV+

Hala (2019), NFF

Apple TV+ is the tech giant’s new on-demand streaming service. It doesn’t have a huge variety of cinema on offer just yet, but this little gem is definitely worth a watch. The story follows Hala (Geraldine Viswanathan), a young Muslim girl coming-of-age in America, dealing with strained family life and the challenges of navigating the complex social structures of US high schools.

 

Wavo

Avengers: Infinity War (2018), NFF

Again, we’re kinda leaping into the middle of a franchise here; this film is actually the third of four movies in the Avenger saga, but it has enough substance to dip into as a stand-alone. Thanos, the mad titan (Josh Brolin) seems pretty intent on his ambition to obliterate half of all life in the universe. To do it, he’s got to collect six infinity stones. All hopes of stopping him are pinned on a ragtag superhero alliance between the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers. And we don’t know who needs to hear this, but aim for the head.

Wayne’s World (1992), NFF

Party time, excellent. This comedy has held up pretty well, given the fact it’s nearly three decades old. It evolved from a Saturday Night Live skit and follows a pair of friends, Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey), as their public-access TV show ‘Wayne’s World‘ gets picked up by a big network. Wayne struggles with newfound fame and is forced to battle for the affections of Cassandra Wong (Tia Carrere), his rockstar crush. High points include carpool headbanging to Bohemian Rhapsody and so many quotable catchphrases, it’ll make you want to spew. And if you’re going to spew, spew into this.

Kill Bill (2003), NFF

Our second Quentin Tarantino-directed inclusion on the list is an electric blend of cinematic themes. The revenge story of an assassin, left for dead on her wedding day, is rich with homages to kung fu movies, anime, samurai cinema, spaghetti westerns and blacksploitation flicks. The bride (Uma Thurman) embarks on a mission to track down the members of her old assassin squad that betrayed her, getting ever closer to the man who took everything from her… Bill.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), NFF

This is Jim Carrey at his most Jim Carrey. Alrighty then, when Snowflake–- the dolphin and mascot for the Miami Dolphins NFL team – gets kidnapped, Ace Ventura (Carrey) is put on the case. Ventura’s investigation takes a dark twist when the Miami Dolphins coach dies in suspicious circumstances falling from his apartment balcony. Fingers begin to point at one of the team’s old players, Ray Finkle, who has unfinished business with the club. Does he fit the crime? Like a glove.

Platoon (1986), NFF

Oliver Stone’s four-Oscar-winning epic shows the human side as well as the dehumanising aspects of America’s war in Vietnam. The story is told through the eyes of young recruit Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen), who joins a platoon divided over the ethics of warfare. Sgt. Elias (William Dafoe) abhors the darker side of humanity and frequently butts heads with the morally compromised Platoon Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger). It becomes clear that even if they manage to escape the conflict, the shadows of deeds done in battle may live with them forever.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), FF

The third Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) film, finally introduces us to Indy’s father (played by Sean Connery). It’s everything you could wish from a Spielberg-Lucas collaboration: tight humorous scripts, swashbuckling action sequences, double-crosses, villainous Nazis, suspense, plot twists and snakes. Indy and his dad are on the hunt for an important ancient relic, but their success depends on them getting along.

Clerks (1994), NFF

Kevin Smith wrote, directed and featured (as Silent Bob) in this low-budget indie movie cult classic. The genius of the film is found in its dry, deadpan comedic dialogue. Almost all of the production unfolds, much like a play, in a single location – a convenience shop. Store clerks Dante Hicks (Biran O’Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) trade witty barbs and anecdotes, as a parade of eccentric characters pass through. Additional flavour is given by Dante’s romantic dilemma.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), NFF

This movie pretty well sums up everything that’s great about British cinema. Sure it’s a little rough around the edges – but as a whole, this Guy Ritchie crime comedy is a beautiful thing to behold. It’s a delicately layered farce, a series of highly quotable interwoven storylines – the main thread of which chronicles a group of men who find themselves in debt to a dangerous mobster. Their desperation to raise funds puts them into increasingly precarious positions. Action movie fans will delight in the fact it features a very young-looking Jason Statham. It’s a deal, it’s a steal, it’s the sale of the century. In fact you know what, we think we’ll watch it now.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999), NFF

There’s something about this late-90s high school rom-com that elevates it to the top of its class. On the surface, it offers the same sort of tropes, motifs and cliches you find in many of its coming-of-age cinematic alumni… it’s just somehow much better. Maybe it’s the fact it’s (very loosely) based on Shakepeare’s Taming of the Shrew, maybe it’s the chemistry of its exceptional cast (led by Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Larisa Oleynik), maybe it’s that house party scene. We’re not sure. All we know is, we hate admitting how much we love it.

Last of the Mohicans (1992), NFF

British forces clash with native American tribes in this cinematic game of chess. Mohican chief Chingachgook (Russell Means), his son Uncas, and adopted caucasian son, ‘Hawkeye’ (Daniel Day-Lewis) find themselves escorting an envoy of British soldiers, along with two daughters of an army colonel, through the lawless landscape of colonial America. Romantic feelings develop between the young Mohicans and the colonel’s daughters. What price for love? Blood feuds, jealousy, and a brutal fight for survival bring this story of 18th century America vividly to life.

The Green Mile (1999), NFF

Full disclosure, this wouldn’t be our first choice for a Stephen King adaptation about prison life (Shawshank doesn’t appear to be available to stream at the moment in the UAE), but it’s a remarkably worthy silver medal. Tom Hanks plays a 1930s death row prison officer, whose entire life is abruptly shaken when a new inmate arrives on The Green Mile. John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) is accused of terrible crimes that we, the viewer, can be pretty sure he didn’t commit. We learn that Coffey has a gift of certain supernatural powers, but will they be enough to stop an innocent man going to the chair?

Good Will Hunting (1997), NFF

The screenplay for Good Will Hunting was co-written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, way back before they were Hollywood big shots. It’s the story of young maths prodigy Will Hunting (Damon), who is content living an unremarkable life. His talents are uncovered by a math’s professor, Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård), who pleads with Hunting to not squander his gift. After an altercation with a police officer, Will goes to court and is directed to attend therapy sessions with Dr Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), an old college buddy of Lambeau. Can they turn Will’s life around? Should they even try? This movie is filled with heartwarming moments, like the completely ad-libbed anecdote Maguire tells Hunting about his wife’s wind issues.

The Proposal (2009), NFF

If your ingredients list includes Ryan Reynolds, you’re already halfway to delicious cinematic souffle. This quirky comedy sees a ‘marriage proposal of convenience’ between Margret Tate, the ferocious editor-in-chief of a New York publishing company and her assistant, Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds). When Tate’s Canadian nationality leads to her being pushed into deportation proceedings, she decides to arrange a sham wedding to Paxton (ironically, Reynolds himself is Canadian IRL) to avoid exile. Despite deep initial animosity, the pair begin to discover they might just be one another’s lobster.

Cold Mountain (2003), NFF

An all-star cast is on board to portray this powerful American Civil War epic, which illuminates the resilient spirit of those who lived in America’s wild frontiers. It’s a story of female empowerment, of the futility of war and greed, and an ode to enduring love. After being injured in battle, Inman (Jude Law) receives a letter from his beloved Ada (Nicole Kidman), and he decides to desert the Confederate forces and head home to Cold Mountain. After Ada’s father dies, she faces her own fight for survival – for the nights in Cold Mountain are long, and full of terrors.

Pretty Woman (1990), NFF

On paper, at least initially, this romantic comedy doesn’t sound particularly romantic. A wealthy businessman (Edward Lewis) engages the services of a lady (played by Julia Roberts), and an unlikely friendship develops. Pretty Woman makes the list by virtue of one of the best retail revenge scenes ever put to celluloid — The Rodeo Drive boutique where a shopping assistant makes a big mistake! Big! Huge!

 

Prime

Gladiator (2000), NFF

He’s General Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe), Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, a loyal servant to the true emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. The story of man, stripped of all he holds dear, rising up as a gladiator through the brutality of the ancient Roman Colosseum, to challenge an evil despot and claim his vengeance, in this life, or the next.

The Godfather (1972), NFF

We’re going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. It involves you, the sofa and this cinematic classic directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino take the leads in what is probably ‘the archetypal mob movie’. A legacy is forged when a man learns he cannot outrun the shadow of his family, betrayals never go unpunished, and the only way to stay on top in organised crime is to rule with an iron fist.

Jurassic Park (1993), FF

What could possibly go wrong with populating an island full of aggressive man-eating dinosaurs, and then shipping in some inquisitive tourists? Jurassic Park represented a huge CGI milestone when it was first released, with stunningly rendered giant lizards marching straight out of extinction and onto the big screen. An eccentric businessman, John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) discovers a way to clone dinosaurs, and places them into safari park-esque enclosures on a tropical island. Hammond invites a group of experts to visit the park and marvel at his creation. A series of unfortunate events lead to the dinosaurs having an access-all-areas pass to the park, and the visitors must escape before they themselves, become extinct.

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Man on Fire (2004), NFF

John Creasy (Denzel Washington) is a bodyguard with an impressive CV, but has fallen into some bad habits. While protecting a family in Mexico, the young daughter (Dakota Fanning) is kidnapped. Creasy then embarks on a one-man rescue mission that features some of the best action sequences seen in modern cinema. No squad, no Bat Cave, no Q, no superpowers: just one man against the mob.

Oblivion (2013), NFF

Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman shine in this dystopian feature. The human race was forced to retreat to one of Saturn’s moons following an alien invasion on earth. Jack Harper (Cruise) is sent back to earth to help maintain the drones that are carrying out the resistance on behalf of the humans. After witnessing a spaceship crashland, Harper investigates — is captured and learns some hand-over-mouth **gasps** home truths about his mission.

Fight Club (1999), NFF

We are Jack’s broken heart. The danger, when talking about this movie, is giving too much away – which would be a crime. Edward Norton plays a guy-next-door type, stuck in a dead-end job that he hates, whose life is changed beyond recognition when he meets charismatic soap salesman Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). Norton’s character finds inspiration in Durden’s contempt for authority and lust for chaos, and sets up a ‘Fight Club’ – a bare-knuckle boxing group, that eventually develops loftier goals.