April 2021 looks to be a great month on the world’s favorite streaming service, with an extensive collection of new movies and shows from some very big stars. It was hard to pick just six recommendations, and some exciting stuff just missed the cut, particularly Season 2 of last year’s unexpectedly addictive social media-inspired reality competition The Circle, which will release its first four episodes on April 14, followed by weekly drops until the finale on May 5.
Other great licensed titles (not Netflix Originals) coming to the service include Paul Thomas Anderson’s riveting character drama The Master with Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman on April 15, followed by the sci-fi horror cult hit in the making Synchronic on April 16.
If you need a little help curating your queue, read on for the most promising six picks for the month.
April 2 | Trailer
This Netflix/BBC collaboration is a limited series based on true events that happened in Asia in the mid-1970s. The Mauritanian’s Tahar Rahim stars as Charles Sobhraj, a French serial killer who robbed and murdered hippie travelers in Thailand and Nepal after seducing them with his exciting lifestyle, alongside his glamorous girlfriend Marie-Andree Leclerc (Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman). Authorities weren’t interested in investigating the disappearances of the tourists, except for a Dutch attaché named Herman Knippenberg (Dunkirk’s Billy Howle) and his wife Angela (Nocturnal Animals’ Ellie Bamber). The show has the gripping qualities of a British crime procedural, with the added visual interest provided by a globetrotting period setting. Unlike many other based-on-a-true-crime stories, The Serpent makes an effort to not glorify its murderous subject and treats his victims with respect.
April 2 | Trailer
Idris Elba and Stranger Things’ Caleb McLaughlin star in this coming-of-age drama about a 15-year-old boy named Cole who goes to live with his estranged father, Harp, in North Philadelphia. Harp is a member of a group of cowboys in the city who preserve the legacy of Black, urban horsemanship and try to help at-risk youth stay out of trouble by giving them something positive to do. Cole finds himself torn between his father’s way of life and the call of the streets, which leads to conflict between the two. It’s a classically uplifting story in a unique setting, with a great cast that also includes Emmy winner Jharrel Jerome, Lorraine Toussaint, and Method Man.
April 9 | Trailer
Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer are a dream team in this superhero comedy written and directed by McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone. The film is set in a world where there are no superheroes, only supervillains. McCarthy plays Lydia, an average woman who accidentally gets superpowers while visiting the lab of her former best friend Emily (Spencer), a scientist who has developed a secret formula that gives people special abilities. Now, they must unite and become the superhero team their city needs. Bobby Cannavale plays the most villainous of the supervillains, and the cast also includes Melissa Leo, Marvel’s Pom Klementieff, and Jason Bateman as a crustacean-armed baddie called “The Crab.” McCarthy and Spencer are two of America’s greatest comic actresses, and pairing them up in a Men In Black-style buddy action comedy is a brilliant idea.
Life in Color with David Attenborough
April 22 | Trailer
The latest nature documentary from legendary presenter David Attenborough is this three-parter focused on the world’s most colorful creatures, from birds of paradise to tree frogs to fish that producers developed special cameras to film. “To understand how these colors work, you’ll need to see them from an animal’s perspective,” Attenborough says in the trailer for the series, and the show’s ultraviolet beam-splitter cameras innovate a new way to do just that. It’s a gorgeous sensory experience that doubles as educational entertainment for the whole family. Attenborough is 94 years old, so every nature doc he’s involved in now qualifies as a special event.
Shadow and Bone
April 23 | Trailer
This buzzy fantasy series is basically guaranteed to be Netflix’s next massive hit in the vein of The Witcher or The Umbrella Academy. It’s another big-budget, teen-friendly adaptation of a popular book series, in this case the Grishaverse novels by Leigh Bardugo. Newcomer Jessie Mei Li stars as a chosen one called Alina Starkov. When Alina demonstrates tremendous powers, she’s selected to become a soldier in an elite magical army known as the Grisha, who protect Ravka, a magical land inspired by Russia. The leader of the Grisha, General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), takes Alina under his wing, and introduces her to a dangerous world where nothing is as it seems. It’s by far the biggest scripted series Netflix is releasing this month, and soon people who have never heard of the Grishaverse will be immersed in the series readers have been obsessed with for years.
Things Heard & Seen
April 29 | Trailer
The husband-and-wife directing team of Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman made this spooky supernatural thriller about a marriage gone wrong. The film stars Amanda Seyfried and James Norton as a couple who move from New York City to an old house in the Hudson Valley, an idyllic but very haunted region north of the city. Their new home has a darkness that emerges in tandem with the darkness in their hearts as their marriage falls apart. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the directors compared the film to scary crumbling marriage classics like Rosemary’s Baby and Don’t Look Now. It looks to be a showcase for current Oscar nominee Seyfried to go full psychological meltdown, and we think she’s going to be amazing in it. The cast is small but stacked, and includes Better Call Saul’s Rhea Seehorn, Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer, and Amadeus Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham.