October’s expiring Netflix recommendations include two brainy sci-fi movies from overseas, two Seth Rogen comedies and three adaptations of beloved children’s books. So while it’s a bummer that these titles are disappearing, at least they’ve made your double- and triple-features easy to program.
‘The Green Hornet’ (Oct. 17)
Seth Rogen’s 2011 shot at superhero stardom (based on the 1930s radio serial and its subsequent, “Batman”-style TV series adaptation) mostly fizzled with critics and audiences, and it is now considered one of the lesser entries in the spandex-centric subgenre. But this one has a good deal more style than the blockbuster template typically allows, thanks primarily to the eccentricities of the director Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), who eschews much of the usual computer-generated effects work in favor of his own, handmade aesthetic. And Rogen resists the urge to tamp down his comic sensibility, penning a script (with his regular collaborator Evan Goldberg) that’s thankfully, winkingly aware that it’s a little nutty for a guy like him to play a role like this.
‘While We’re Young’ (Oct. 22)
Noah Baumbach received some of the best reviews of his career (at that point, at least) for his 2013 indie hit “Frances Ha,” which with uncommon sympathy and sensitivity showcased the emotional and financial woes of New York millennials. This 2015 follow-up takes a far more cynical approach, as a Brooklyn couple well on their way to middle age (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) find themselves freshly invigorated by their interactions with a much younger pair (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). Generation-gap hilarity ensues, but Baumbach goes deeper, asking tough questions about ambition, inspiration and artistry.
‘Charlotte’s Web’ (Oct. 31)
The first attempt to bring E.B. White’s perennial favorite of children’s literature came in the form of an ill-advised 1973 animated musical (about which the less said, the better). Luckily, filmmakers were able to use computer-animated technology — most pointedly, that which had made the chattering animals of “Babe” possible — to create this far superior 2006 adaptation with little Dakota Fanning as the farm girl Fern and all-star cast voicing the barnyard animals (including Oprah Winfrey, Steve Buscemi, Robert Redford, André Benjamin and Julia Roberts as the web-spinning spider of the title). It’s delightful family entertainment, full of laughs and whimsy and plenty of pathos.
‘District 9’ (Oct. 31)
The director Neill Blomkamp made his feature film debut with this 2009 nominee for the best picture Oscar. Set in an alternate timeline in which extraterrestrials landed in Johannesburg in 1982 (significantly, the year “E.T.” was released), the film makes clever use of faked “found footage” — surveillance videos, news reports and interviews — while following a government bureaucrat’s attempt to relocate an alien encampment. The effects dazzle, but Blomkamp has more on his mind than mere spectacle, using the conventions of science fiction as a cloak for smuggling in his pointed commentary on xenophobia, segregation and apartheid-era South Africa.
‘The Firm’ (Oct. 31)
For a time in the mid-1990s, you could barely visit an American multiplex without stumbling into a film adaptation of one of John Grisham’s best-selling legal thrillers. The director Sydney Pollack (“Tootsie,” “Three Days of the Condor”) kicked off that cycle with this 1993 take on Grisham’s breakthrough book, starring Tom Cruise as a hot-shot young lawyer who is aggressively recruited by a big-deal Memphis firm — only to discover that their main clients are mobsters. Pollack executes several tense set pieces with panache (and Cruise does a lot of his signature running) while filling out the picture with an enviable supporting cast, including Gene Hackman, Holly Hunter, Hal Holbrook, Ed Harris, Jeanne Tripplehorn, David Strathairn, Gary Busey and a shockingly menacing Wilford Brimley.
‘The Girl With All the Gifts’ (Oct. 31)
This 2017 British zombie film (adapted from the Mike Carey novel) similarly uses the standbys of genre filmmaking to tell a story that is about far more than jump-scares and oozing gore. Sennia Nanua (in her feature debut) plays the title character, one of a generation of children who could hold the key to the survival of the human race. She lives and learns on an army base, and when that seemingly impenetrable fortress is attacked by zombies, she and a handful of other survivors attempt a perilous escape. Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and Glenn Close round out the stellar ensemble.
‘The Interview’ (Oct. 31)
The release of this 2014 action-comedy from Seth Rogen and James Franco became such an outsized news story — which included international hacking, terrorist threats and a boycott by major theatrical chains — that it’s stunning, in retrospect, that it was all because of such a goofy, irreverent and barely political picture. Franco stars as a proudly vapid television personality who scores an unlikely interview with Kim Jong-un (Randall Park, hilarious); Rogen is his producer, who becomes his accomplice when they’re called upon by their government to use the interview as an opportunity for a political assassination.
‘Magic Mike’ (Oct. 31)
The story goes that while the director Steven Soderbergh was making “Haywire” (also streaming, and recommended, on Netflix), he was so entertained by Channing Tatum’s stories of his early years dancing in an all-male revue that he realized there might a movie there. And there certainly is — something of a gender-flipped “Flashdance,” with Tatum as a likable guy who uses his enviable abs and bump-and-grind skills to make his dreams come true. Soderbergh takes this tale with the right amount of seriousness (which is to say, not much), and Matthew McConaughey steals the show in the role he was born to play: one that never, ever requires a shirt.
‘The Neverending Story’ (Oct. 31)
Children of the ’80s had their hearts broken and dreams haunted by this 1984 fantasy adventure, which was the English-language debut of the German director Wolfgang Petersen (“Outbreak,” “Air Force One”). Based on the novel by Michael Ende, it tells the story of a typical young boy who stumbles upon a magical book set in a faraway world on the brink of collapse. Soon he finds himself drawn into it in ways he could never expect. The music and effects are undeniably dated, but the central story of escape into youthful imagination remains timeless.
‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (Oct. 31)
Only three motion pictures have won all of the “big five” Academy Awards (best picture, best director, best screenplay, best actor and best actress): “It Happened One Night,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and this 1991 adaptation of Thomas Harris’s best-seller from the director Jonathan Demme. Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, an F.B.I. agent-in-training tasked with interviewing and analyzing the serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). It’s a fast-moving, busy thriller, blessed with several memorable sequences (including a shocking escape scene and a heart-stopping climax). But the heart of the film lies in the dialogue duets between its stars, as both the actors and characters push each other to their psychological limits.
‘Sleepless in Seattle’ (Oct. 31)
Tom Hanks is a sensitive widower who pours out his heart in a searching monologue on a radio call-in show; Meg Ryan, listening in, is so smitten that she travels across the country to track him down. That’s the premise of this sparkling 1993 romantic comedy from the writer and director Nora Ephron, who infuses her tale of love lost and found with plentiful homages to the classic tear-jerker “An Affair to Remember,” including a climactic meet-up atop the Empire State Building. This was Hanks and Ryan’s second onscreen collaboration (after “Joe Versus the Volcano”), though they spend most of it apart — amusingly so, as their near-misses prove both funny and poignant.
‘Sleepy Hollow’ (Oct. 31)
Johnny Depp and the director Tim Burton teamed for the third time for this 1999 take on the classic Washington Irving story, with Depp’s Ichabod Crane reimagined as a police constable who visits the titular village to investigate a serial-killing Headless Horseman (played by Christopher Walken — that is, in his scenes with a head). Burton unapologetically ladles on the Gothic atmosphere and supernatural overtones, drawing much inspiration from the classic Hammer horror movies of the 1960s, while Depp finds exactly the right note of self-important bluster and barely-concealed cowardice for his Crane.
‘Spaceballs’ (Oct. 31)
In 1987, Mel Brooks focused the satirical laser he had previously aimed at Westerns (“Blazing Saddles”) and horror (“Young Frankenstein”) on the only logical target: the “Star Wars” franchise. The gag-happy writer and director shrewdly spoofs the story beats of George Lucas’s space saga, as Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his sidekick, Barf (John Candy), help Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) battle the evil Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis). But Brooks’s sharpest barbs are saved for the series’s tie-in products, which now play as a prescient prediction of the inescapable ubiquity of blockbuster marketing.
‘The Taking of Pelham 123’ (2009) (Oct. 31)
The mere idea of remaking “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three,” a film so tied to its time and place (the grimy New York City of the mid-1970s), was a big swing, particularly considering how much the city had changed between debuts of the 1974 original and this 2009 remake. The director Tony Scott certainly doesn’t top that picture, but his “Pelham” offers pleasures of its own, particularly from its cast: a typically workmanlike and engaging Denzel Washington; a wildly unhinged John Travolta; and James Gandolfini, proving his range as a meek, ineffectual New York City mayor, a character miles removed from Tony Soprano.
‘Zathura’ (Oct. 31)
The director Jon Favreau started his career making chatty indies like “Swingers” and is now the go-to guy for Marvel (“Iron Man”) and Disney (“The Lion King”). This 2005 family adventure was the bridge he built between those worlds. Based on a 2002 novel by the “Jumanji” author Chris Van Allsburg, it tells a similar story in which children are drawn into the world of a board game that is perhaps too immersive. The special effects are jaw-dropping, and the adventure elements are enthralling (particularly for young audiences), but Favreau’s background in small-scale, character-driven narratives shines through in the sweet and surprisingly moving conclusion.