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What to Watch When You Don't Know What to Watch

Sarah Aswell is a freelance humor writer who lives in Missoula, Montana, with her husband and two kids. Her words have appeared in places like The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Hairpin, and more.

#1/16:

Stop mindlessly browsing

Netflix
#1/16:

Stop mindlessly browsing

We get it. You’re tired after work, or you're facing a rainy Sunday afternoon, or maybe you just finished a totally amazing show and don’t know where to turn next. So naturally, you find yourself browsing Netflix, but let’s face it. It’s still hard to browse on Netflix when it feels like you've already seen all the good stuff.

It feels like there are so many choices, but at the same time, nothing looks good. So what do you watch when you don’t know what to watch? Never fear. We have some good ideas for you. Fifteen good ideas in fact. If none of these sound good to you, well, you may just want to go outside and get some fresh air instead.

#3/16:

'Forensic Files'

Medstar Television
#3/16:

'Forensic Files'

Sometimes when we don’t know what we want to watch on television, what we really feel like is watching an endless stream of 21-minute true-crime stories courtesy of Forensic Files. These gems are a bit dated, and we’ve seen them all, but we still love them all the same for their speedy plots, weird murders and slight cheesiness. There have been many a sick day (or hungover weekend) when we’ve watched until Netflix asks, "Are you still watching?"

 Where to watch: Netflix

#4/16:

'Bill & Ted'

De Laurentiis Entertainment Group
#4/16:

'Bill & Ted'

Let’s take a time machine back to 1989, when Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) take a time machine back into the past to pass a high school history class in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. This movie and its sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, are utterly ridiculous and also ridiculously fun, even if you’re too young for nostalgia to be a factor. Bake a pan of brownies, settle in for a double feature and party on, dude. 

Where to watch: Hulu

#5/16:

'The Incredible Jessica James'

Beachside Films
#5/16:

'The Incredible Jessica James'

We love absolutely everything that Daily Show correspondent and 2 Dope Queens podcaster Jessica Williams is a part of. Her latest project, the romantic comedy The Incredible Jessica James, is no different. This quirky, funny movie lets Williams shine in her first starring role, and watching her relationship develop with romantic interest Boone (Chris O’Dowd) is a joy. It’s also a quick 85-minute watch if you don’t want to be a couch potato for too long. 

Where to watch: Netflix

#6/16:

'Adaptation'

Propaganda Films
#6/16:

'Adaptation'

In what some might consider Nick Cage’s best acting role ever, Adaptation is an odd meta-film from 2002 written by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and directed by Spike Jones. It’s a movie about a screenwriter (a fictionalized version of Kaufman, played by Cage) trying to write an adaptation of Susan Orlean’s book, The Orchid Thief. Did we mention it's really weird but that we really love it? Pick this one if you are feeling bored of everything and you’re looking for something really different. 

Where to watch: HBO 

#7/16:

'GLOW'

Netflix
#7/16:

'GLOW'

Oh, my God, have you seen GLOW yet? If not, stop clicking through this slideshow and go watch it. This new Netflix series is based on the real 1980s TV show Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Not only is this comedy-drama very funny and impactful, it’s also created, produced, written and directed by hordes of talented women (and just a few token men here and there). It's worth noting that stars Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin kill it in and out of the ring playing friends who find themselves in opposition when one of them betrays the other. 

Where to watch: Netflix

#8/16:

'Clueless'

Paramount Pictures
#8/16:

'Clueless'

This is the queen of all teen movies. A 1995 flick starring Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd, it’s a rewrite of Jane Austen’s Emma that takes place in LA among a group of privileged Beverly Hills high schoolers. Not only does it beautifully celebrate every mid-90s thing you can think of, it is also funny, endearing and insanely rewatchable. Oh! It also has a perfect soundtrack. 

Where to watch: Hulu

#9/16:

'The Matrix'

Warner Brothers
#9/16:

'The Matrix'

The Matrix is much cornier than when we first watched it in 1999, and the franchise’s two sequels are even cornier. Also, the special effects, which were totally amazing before the turn of the century, are now pretty old hat. And yet… there’s something magical about Neo (Keanu Reeves) and this sci-fi series of the ages. This series is perfect for putting on in the background while you get some cleaning done, fold laundry or play on your phone. 

Where to watch: Netflix

#10/16:

'Terrace House'

East
#10/16:

'Terrace House'

At some point, American reality television jumped the shark. Our shows feel overly scripted and too dependent on drama, conflict and sex. But a new Netflix show imported from Japan is the opposite of all that. Meet Terrace House, the anti-reality reality show that lets people be themselves. The premise is simple: a group of young people live together in a house and share their lives. They are allowed to leave, to have their own lives and to move off the show whenever they are ready. And for some reason, it is extremely soothing, fun and compelling. 

Where to watch: Netflix

#11/16:

'Drugs Inc.'

Wall to Wall Television
#11/16:

'Drugs Inc.'

If you’re in the mood for a documentary series, consider Drugs, Inc. on Netflix, which originally aired on National Geographic. There are 71 episodes, each of which focus on some aspect of the illegal drug trade, such as a certain drug, a certain location or a certain profession. We love the complex world it creates over seven seasons and the balanced look it takes on illicit drugs. 

Where to watch: Netflix

#12/16:

'Cloud Atlas'

Cloud Atlas Productions
#12/16:

'Cloud Atlas'

Based on the award-winning David Mitchell novel of the same name, Cloud Atlas was released in 2012 to mixed reviews and didn't have a great run at the box office. But we love this movie. It consists of six interconnected stories and stars Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, who take on multiple roles throughout the story. It’s odd and pretty and touching, and we think it’s really under-appreciated. 

Where to watch: Netflix

#13/16:

'Baskets'

Pig Newton
#13/16:

'Baskets'

How about a new-ish dark comedy airing on FX and available on Hulu? Baskets, if you haven’t heard of it, is about Chip Baskets, a newly educated clown who is having trouble finding work in his field. Played by the very funny Zach Galifianakis, Baskets tries to find a way forward with the help of his eccentric mom (played by Louie Anderson) and the local rodeo scene. The second season is even better than the first.

Where to watch: Hulu

#14/16:

'S is for Stanley'

Kinethica
#14/16:

'S is for Stanley'

This is a super-interesting, surprisingly touching documentary on Netflix. It might seem like it’s a straightforward biopic of famed director Stanley Kubrick, but really, it’s a close look at Emilio D’Alessandro, the directors longtime (and at times, long-suffering) driver and odd-job man. Following the two men through over 30 years together, the movie focuses on Kubrick’s career as much as D’Alessandro's life, family and dreams. We cried. 

Where to watch: Netflix

#15/16:

'Ozark'

Zero Gravity Management
#15/16:

'Ozark'

If you’re in the mood for a crime drama/thriller, try on Ozark for size. Starring Jason Bateman as our classic antihero, it’s kind of like Breaking Bad except it takes place in the woods and involves a lot of money laundering. Also like Breaking Bad, the female lead, played by Laura Linney, is one of the best parts of the show with her amazing performance and character development. 

Where to watch: Netflix

#16/16:

'Tickled'

A Ticklish Tale
#16/16:

'Tickled'

If you want to be creeped out but by something that happened in real life, try the utterly bizarre documentary Tickled, available on HBO Go. This super-odd story only increases in oddness over time as a documentary filmmaker tries to get to the bottom of a strange tickling ring. Someone is paying a lot of money to watch people get tickled, and no one knows why. The answer is as weird as the premise. 

Where to watch: HBO

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