The best movies leaving streaming at the end of February

Jesse Eisenberg looks solemn and stares at the camera while standing in what looks like a restaurant in The Double
Image: StudioCanal

Doppelgangers, Oscar-nominated dramas, and bovine bromances

February is coming to a close, and while the leap year makes it a slightly longer one, there’s still just barely enough time to watch all the great movies leaving streaming services at the end of the month.

This month’s streaming lineup is a strong one, with recent Oscar contenders, critical darlings, and oddball entries from the filmographies of established filmmakers. Maybe you’re in the mood for a contemplative drama about art and love, that was also the first Japanese film to get nominated for Best Picture (Drive My Car). Maybe you’d like a drama that understands the joys and complexities of family (The Farewell). Maybe you just want a weird comedy (Be Kind Rewind, The Double).

Whatever you’re looking for, there are options for you, with the added urgency of “you won’t be able to watch this here next month.”

Here are the best movies you should watch before they leave streaming this February.

Editor’s pick

Drive My Car

Two hands on the roof of a car holding cigarettes against the night sky. Image: Janus Films

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Cast: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tōko Miura, Reika Kirishima
Leaving Max: Feb. 29

Drive My Car does several things miraculously well, among them transforming a 179-minute run time into an experience that feels like no time at all, weaving together a multi-layered drama about grief, love, art, hope, and the confounding complexities of human intimacy powered by a moving lead performance.

Based on Haruki Murakami’s short story of the same name, Drive My Car tells the story of Yūsuke (Hidetoshi Nishijima), a renowned stage actor and director who accepts a residency in Hiroshima to direct a multilingual production of Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Grieving the loss of his wife Oto (Reika Kirishima), with whom he shared a complicated yet loving relationship marred by a shocking secret, Yūsuke forms a bond with Misaki (Tōko Miura), his reserved driver, and Kōji (Masaki Okada), a brash young actor who knew Oto earlier in his life.

Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s film is built from complex emotional stakes, brilliant and patient cinematography, and masterful editing. But what really sticks out to me the most in hindsight is the film’s elegiac score by Eiko Ishibashi. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to “Drive My Car (Kafuku)” while cooking, writing, reading, and yes, driving my car down the highway. Drive My Car is a honest-to-god masterpiece and a film you owe it to yourself to embrace with your full attention. —Toussaint Egan

Movies to watch on Netflix

The Farewell

The gathered family in The Farewell. Image: A24

Director: Lulu Wang
Cast: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin
Leaving Netflix: Feb. 29

Lulu Wang’s new Prime Video miniseries Expats explores the intersecting stories of three women from different backgrounds as they navigate the challenges of living as expatriates in a Hong Kong teetering on the cusp of societal upheaval. The core point of belonging “nowhere and everywhere all at once,” as the filmmaker put it in a recent interview with NPR, lines up well with her previous film, 2019’s The Farewell.

Inspired by the story of Wang’s own family, the film stars Awkwafina as Billi, a Chinese-American writer who learns her grandmother has unknowingly been diagnosed with a terminal illness. While Billi’s first instinct is to tell her grandmother, her family has something else in mind: Arrange a family gathering under the pretense of celebrating the wedding of one of her cousins in order to visit Billi’s grandmother one last time. The tension between these two perspectives serves as the film’s emotional core, as Billi must confront how her Western sensibilities of death and mourning as a first-generation immigrant conflict with the traditions of Chinese culture, all while coming to grips with what is truly in her grandmother’s best interests. A moving, well-acted drama about identity, love, and mortality, The Farewell is a dimensional multi-generational story about finding one’s place in the world. —TE

Movies to watch on Hulu

The Double

Two Jesses Eisenberg stand together in an elevator in The Double Image: StudioCanal

Director: Richard Ayoade
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn
Leaving Hulu: Feb. 28

Between his run on Zombieland, The Social Network, and Now You See Me but before his turn as Lex Luthor, Jesse Eisenberg starred in a double role in this underrated black comedy directed by comedian Richard Ayoade.

Adapted from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella, Eisenberg plays quiet office worker Simon James, whose world is turned upside down when a new employee who looks exactly like him, James Simon, gets hired. This new employee is charming, confident, and makes connections at work — things Simon could only ever dream of. Meanwhile, Simon has fallen for a neighbor (Mia Wasikowska), and hopes James can help him overcome his awkwardness. Absolute chaos ensues.

The Double is a great showcase for Eisenberg’s talents — most double roles offer that opportunity, but the sharp distinctions between his two characters really brings that into focus. It’s also a strong showing for Ayoade as a director, making the most out of a small budget to create a visually arresting experience. —Pete Volk

Movies to watch on Max

Be Kind Rewind

A man in suit of armor made out of various appliances holding a blow dryer. Image: Partizan Films/New Line Cinema

Director: Michel Gondry
Cast: Jack Black, Yasiin Bey, Danny Glover
Leaving Max: Feb. 29

Back in 2008, my dad and I went to the theater to go see Roland Emmerich’s prehistoric action film 10,000 BC. Through some wild fluke of fate, our tickets were misprinted and we were instead seated for a screening of Michel Gondry’s buddy comedy starring Jack Black and Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def). To this day, I couldn’t be more thankful for the mixup.

Be Kind Rewind stars Bey as Mike Coolwell, the sole employee of a struggling VHS rental store in New Jersey who enlists the help of his eccentric conspiracy theorist friend Jerry (Jack Black) to help him run the store. Through a series of hilariously bad choices that are better off witnessed than described, the pair accidentally magnetize every tape in store, erasing all the movies in the process. Desperate for a solution, Mike and Jerry hatch a scheme: Recreate each of the movies by memory and rent out these “Sweded” versions to unsuspecting customers in order to raise funds for the store.

What ensues is a mad-capped, light-hearted comedy about the communal power of moviemaking and the enduring virtues of brick and mortar video shops. The bitter irony of recommending someone watch such a film on a streaming service is not lost on me, but Be Kind Rewind is an underappreciated and charming comedy that deserves to be seen whether it’s on VHS, DVD, streaming, or yes, even “Sweded.” —TE

Movies to watch on Prime Video

First Cow

John Magaro wears 19th century Pacific Northwest garb while petting a very sweet cow in First Cow. Image: A24

Director: Kelly Reichardt
Cast: John Magaro, Orion Lee, Toby Jones
Leaving Prime Video: Feb. 28

One of my favorite movies of the decade, First Cow is a tender bromance about two men trying to make it in 1820s Oregon, the unlikely friendship they strike up, and a very sweet cow they meet and steal milk from (in a friendly way). They use that milk to bake some treats, with their eyes on a life of comfort and security. —PV

From our glowing review back in 2020:

The way Cookie and King-Lu’s story fits into a larger picture of American history isn’t as important, or as touching, as the way their relationship blooms onscreen. They’re both odd ducks in Fort Tillicum, where the ability to throw a punch and get rowdy is a dominant force in securing social status. King-Lu is more of a dreamer, while Cookie is more practical, but they’re kindred spirits, in spite of their occasional arguments. [...]

It’s the little things that make life worth living. Key to that rise is just how well Magaro and Lee suit each other. Magaro’s sad eyes and faintly scratchy voice convey a softness and warmth, as he politely chats with the cow as he milks it. His faint sense of uncertainty is offset by Lee’s self-assurance. Even when King-Lu experiences moments of doubt, Lee speaks with a reassuring timbre, and expertly turns the dial between King-Lu’s professional sharpness and his genuine affection for Cookie as their situation becomes more complicated.

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