The October Streaming Guide was originally written for CLTure.org.
Spooky season is upon us! As the temperatures and leaves begin to fall, it’s the perfect time to curl up inside and turn on your favorite scary shows or movies to get into the Halloween spirits. But don’t worry, if scary isn’t quite your speed, there are plenty of other options hitting streaming services this month.
If you’ve already binged your way through all our picks from September, do not fear – we’ve got you covered with another slate of movies, shows, and documentaries ready to keep you entertained all month long.
Here are all the best new watches hitting Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+ and Hulu in October.
* = Original streaming content
“Superbad” – Oct. 1 (Hulu)
Trying to fit in in high school is arguably scarier than anything else Halloween can bring, and no film better encapsulates the hormones, debauchery and all around social awkwardness than “Superbad.” Let’s be real, this is the high school party movie of all high school party movies. From Jonah Hill to Seth Rogen, Bill Hader to Emma Stone, “Superbad” served as a launching pad to help propel some of today’s biggest actors to stardom.
“A Beautiful Mind” – Oct. 1 (Hulu)
Inspired by the life of John Forbes Nash Jr., “A Beautiful Mind” follows the brilliant mathematician throughout his career, from groundbreaking discoveries and the highest of highs, to his battles with mental illness and their devastating and lasting effects. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ron Howard and starring Russell Crowe, this movie took home four Oscars in 2002, including Best Picture.
“Se7en” – Oct. 1 (HBO Max)
There’s no one better to tackle serial killers than director David Fincher. He’s given us “Zodiac,” “Gone Girl,” two seasons of “Mindhunter,” and of course, “Se7en,” the film that started it all. This time around, Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are playing two detectives hunting down a killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives to commit crimes. Despite turning 25 years old last month, this film still holds up incredibly well and is just as disturbing as it was back in 1995.
“Hubie Halloween”* – Oct. 7 (Netflix)
Adam Sandler warned us all last year when he said he would make the worst movie ever if “Uncut Gems” was snubbed at the Oscars. Well, it looks like he’s followed through on that promise with his latest Netflix film. Gone are the short-lived days of Sandler’s run as a prestige actor, as he is once again teaming up with longtime collaborators Kevin James and Rob Schneider for a low-brow Halloween comedy. Proceed with caution.
“Cats” – Oct. 10 (HBO Max)
Who said you need blood and guts to create a horror masterpiece? Just slap some “digital fur technology” onto human-shaped cats and adapt a Broadway musical. Despite a star-studded cast, last year’s big screen rendition of Cats was a disaster, and now you can finally check it out judgment free in the comfort of your own home. Forget Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, this is likely to be the scariest thing you watch this month.
“Moneyball” – Oct. 14 (Netflix)
The MLB season will come to a close in October, but if you’re in need of a little extra baseball drama, then “Moneyball” has you covered. Starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, this movie examines the true story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, the man who revolutionized baseball by using computer-generated analysis to build a new roster on a budget. “Moneyball” earned six Oscar nominations back in 2011 and cemented itself as an all-time classic sports movie.
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”* – Oct. 16 (Netflix)
With titles like “The West Wing,” “The Social Network,” “Moneyball” and “A Few Good Men” to his name, there’s no doubt Aaron Sorkin is one of the greatest film and TV writers ever. Now, he’s once again flexing his directorial skills, too, with “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” Chronicling the real-life events of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Chicago riots and the ensuing trials, the film takes courtroom drama to the next level with thrilling dialogue and storytelling. It’s no wonder “Chicago 7” is an early Best Picture contender for next year’s Oscars.
“David Byrne’s American Utopia”* – Oct. 17 (HBO Max)
Before Broadway shut down earlier this year, director Spike Lee was able to capture Talking Heads lead singer David Byrne’s critically acclaimed show on camera. Now, the HBO Special Event will give audiences a chance to experience the theatrical concert that features Byrne and an ensemble of 11 musicians, singers, and dancers from around the globe to deliver messages of human connection, self-evolution, and social justice. In between songs, Byrne delivers monologues addressing injustices from police brutality to climate change and more.
“Rebecca”* – Oct. 21 (Netflix)
Looking for some romance with still a few scares mixed in? Try this Netflix Original starring Lily James and Armie Hammer. Based on Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel, the psychological thriller follows a young newlywed woman as she moves into her husband’s lavish estate, only to discover that his deceased first wife’s memory is still haunting both him, and the mansion. The story was originally adapted by Alfred Hitchcock back in 1940 and the film won Best Picture at the Oscars, and now this remake hopes to earn the same high marks.
“The Witches”* – Oct. 22 (HBO Max)
After originally planning to hit theaters on Oct. 9, this classic Roald Dahl adaptation has pivoted to a release on HBO Max in the U.S. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, this iteration of “The Witches” is said to be a modern reimagining of the 1983 children’s novel, and stars Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Chris Rock and Stanley Tucci.
“Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm” – Oct. 23 (Amazon Prime)
Technically this one is on Amazon Prime, but it’s impossible to talk about October releases and not mention the long-awaited “Borat” sequel. Sacha Baron Cohen is back, but this time he can’t operate the same way he did back in 2006. Now that everyone recognizes the mustachioed prankster, he must go undercover to pull his tricks, and that can mean anything from a paper bag on his head to a Donald Trump costume. Shot during the midst of the coronavirus lockdowns, “Borat 2” will dive into the pandemic, quarantining, and of course, the upcoming presidential election. Very nice!
“Emma.” – Oct. 24 (HBO Max)
Before the world shut down, “Emma.” was one of the few 2020 releases to hit the big screen, and the Jane Austen adaptation did so to rave reviews. The period dramedy tells the coming of age story of Anya Taylor-Joy’s Emma Woodhouse as she navigates a series of romantic matches in search of love. The film was one of the first to make the jump to offering on-demand rentals when the pandemic hit, but now you can catch it for free on HBO Max.
“IT: Chapter 2″ – Oct. 27 (HBO Max)
Just in time for Halloween, catch up with the latest adventures of the Losers Club and Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Twenty seven years after the events of the first film, a grown up cast of Losers is returning to Derry to finish what they started and rid the town of the demented clown once and for all. This Stephen King adaptation alternates between the past and present, using the same child actors from the first film and adding stars like Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and Bill Hader to play their adult counterparts.
“Monsterland”* – Oct. 2 (Hulu)
From fallen angels to werewolves, each episode of this Hulu Original explores chilling new terrors as it seeks to show the thin line between man and monsters. The anthology series is based on the novel “North America Lake Monsters: Stories,” and each episode is titled after a different location in the U.S. where new beasts are encountered. All eight episodes drop on October 2, so you can make the choice to binge everything, or make the series last all spooky season long.
“Schitt’s Creek” (Season 6) – Oct. 7 (Netflix)
There’s a reason “Schitt’s Creek” swept the Emmys last month – it’s just that good. Now you can finally see why there was so much hype surrounding the comedy’s sixth and final season, in case you haven’t already splurged to buy the episodes on another streaming site. If you don’t know why “Schitt’s Creek” is so popular, don’t worry – there’s still plenty of time to binge seasons one through five of the series on Netflix.
“The Haunting of Bly Manor”* – Oct. 9 (Netflix)
Back in 2018, Netflix debuted “The Haunting of Hill House” and the show quickly became one of the year’s best series delivering tons of terrifying onscreen thrills. After the success of the first installment, Netflix and creator Mike Flanagan announced the “Haunting” franchise will be an anthology series, pivoting to a whole new story each season, but with the same cast members returning to play new characters. “The Haunting of Bly Manor” dives into the works of Henry James, mainly inspired by his 1898 gothic romance novella, “The Turn of the Screw.” While it may be a whole new story, “Bly Manor” channels the same terrifying haunts and excitement.
“A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote”* – Oct. 15 (HBO Max)
This really is the month of Aaron Sorkin. Once again the screenwriter is on our list for this special reunion episode of his Emmy-winning series, “The West Wing.” The special will center around the return of the show’s original cast to perform a staged reenactment of the season three episode “Hartsfield’s Landing,” as well as breaks featuring guests like Michelle Obama, President Bill Clinton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and a performance by North Carolina’s own The Avett Brothers. The event benefits When We All Vote, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that works to encourage voter turnout.
“My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” (Season 3)* – Oct. 21 (Netflix)
David Letterman’s talk show revival is back for a third season with another slate of A-List celebrities to interview. The late-night legend will have laid back, one-on-one conversations with four guests this year: Kim Kardashian West, Robert Downey Jr., Dave Chappelle and Lizzo. If you’re looking for something to pass the time before the new season arrives, the show’s first two seasons are also on Netflix, featuring the likes of President Barack Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Jay-Z and more.
“The Undoing”* – Weekly beginning Oct. 25 (HBO Max)
From 11-time Emmy-award-winning writer David E. Kelley (“Big Little Lies”) comes your next prestige HBO drama obsession. The six-episode limited series follows Nicole Kidman as a successful therapist on the cusp of publishing her first book, until her life begins to unravel due to a violent death, a missing spouse and a chain of terrible revelations. “The Undoing” also stars Hugh Grant, Donald Sutherland, and budding young star Noah Jupe, who turned heads last year in “Honey Boy” and “Ford v. Ferrari.”
“The Mandalorian” (Season 2)* – Weekly beginning Oct. 30 (Disney+)
Get ready for more Baby Yoda memes! Last year’s breakout success is back for Season 2, as Disney+ kicks off the first installment of its weekly “Star Wars” series. This season has promised to dive deeper into the unknown corners of the “Star Wars” universe, adding both new and familiar faces, places and plot lines to the show – and yes, we’ll be learning more about Baby Yoda’s mysterious origins. The new season picks up right where the first left off, so make sure you’re all caught up on the Western-style adventures of Mando and The Child by binging Season 1.
“Song Exploder”* – Oct. 2 (Netflix)
Ever wonder what goes into making the next chart topper? This Netflix docuseries will explain just that, as it dives into songs layer by layer, using artist interviews, archival footage and exclusive studio sessions to take listeners every step of the way. Featuring names like Alicia Keys, Ty Dolla $ign, Lin-Manuel Miranda, R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe and composer Hrishikesh Hirway, it’s safe to say the show will span a wide variety of genres.
“Dick Johnson Is Dead”* – Oct. 2 (Netflix)
You’re going to have to hear me out on this one… Written and directed by Kirsten Johnson, this film imagines a number of different ways her real-life father who suffers from dementia, Dick Johnson, could kick the bucket – and Dick is the one acting them all out. They may sound dark, and it most certainly is, but the family affair celebrates life with good humor and love in the face of death and sorrow. Back in January, “Dick Johnson Is Dead” took home the Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-fiction Storytelling at 2020’s Sundance Film Festival.
“Dolly Parton: Here I Am” – Oct. 6 (Netflix)
Everyone knows the voice and spunk of the five-foot-tall country music singer, but this documentary takes viewers behind the scenes throughout the career of Dolly Parton. Director Francis Whately explores both the onstage persona and who Parton really is when the lights are off through interviews with friends, companions and Dolly herself, as well as clips from legendary performances.
“John Lewis: Good Trouble” – Oct. 27 (HBO Max)
With Election Day just a month away, now is the perfect time to revisit the long list of accomplishments by the late great congressman John Lewis. This doc explores Lewis’s 60-plus year career fighting to implement social and legislative action to advance civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health care reform, and immigration. “Good Trouble” features interviews and archival footage with some of the biggest names in politics and social justice from today and decades past, like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Stacey Abrams and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“The Invisible Man” – HBO Max
Back in February “The Invisible Man” cemented itself as one of the best movies of the year, and it hasn’t let go of that title yet. Even if new releases were coming out right and left, Leigh Whannell’s horror-thriller would still be up there– it’s just that good. Elisabeth Moss delivers one of the year’s best performances as a woman desperate to escape the abuse and gaslighting of her seemingly deceased husband. But only she knows the truth– or at least she thinks she does– that he’s not really dead, and he’s using invisible technology to drive her insane. This is the perfect blend of suspense, mystery and flat-out terror to get you in the Halloween spirit.
“The Social Dilemma”* – Netflix
Talk about scary… Now more than ever people are depending on social media to stay connected with friends and loved ones around the world, but what’s the cost of this dependency on technology? This documentary explores the downside of too much social media, straight from the Silicon Valley insiders who work to create it every day.
“Woke”* – Hulu
This is an incredibly timely show for Hulu to release right now. Starring Lamorne Morris (“New Girl”), Woke follows an African-American cartoonist on the verge of mainstream success until a run in with the cops sends him off course. Morris’ character, Keef, is racially profiled and incorrectly targeted by the police, held at gunpoint and arrested before the cops realize their own mistake. The trauma of the event causes Keef to begin suffering hallucinations, but the visions lead him on a transformation from someone who used to “stay out of politics” into a man who is now “woke.”
“Enola Holmes”* – Netflix
“Enola Holmes” hit Netflix at the end of September, so you may have missed it, but it’s definitely worth going back to check out. “Stranger Things” lead Millie Bobby Brown gets a chance to break out on her own in “Enola Holmes” as Sherlock Holmes’ lesser-known teen sister. Enola is an accomplished detective in her own right, and this time she’s off investigating the disappearance of her mother. Featuring Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin and Helena Bonham Carter as the rest of the Holmes family, this Netflix Original delivers action, adventure, mystery, and a good bit of comedy, too.
“Mulan” – Disney+
Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan” hit Disney+ last month, and despite a hefty price tag, tons of people opted to check it out. This iteration of the Disney classic trades in musical numbers for more hardcore action sequences and thrilling stunts, so at least you know you’ll be getting something new. If you’re not willing to pay up the $29.99 for “Premier Access,” then just hold tight and catch the movie when it has its general release on the platform on Dec. 4th.
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Charlotte, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.