If I'm Being Honest

Know What to Watch Next with These 7 Easy Tips


By McKinley Barber

You browsed through a few streaming sites, gave a newly released movie a try, and wow… 

…it was boring. 

You ran out into the middle of the road, knelt on the ground, and cried, “Whyyyy?!” into the night sky as the rain came falling on your face and a bolt of lightning crashed in the background.

Okay, I know that’s a bit dramatic, but I understand your plight. That’s why I created this guide for you, so you’ll surely know what to watch next. 

Don’t worry. There won’t be any strict rules involved here – you’re not buying a Gremlin anyway. (Are you old enough to get that reference?)

Have you recently found yourself facepalming in utter disappointment because you just want the last two hours of your life back? 

Don’t let a movie or TV show ruin your day (or night) anymore. Check out these seven helpful tips to ensure you have an optimal watching experience.

1. Know the Vibes

Narrow down your options by understanding what you and your fellow movie/series watchers feel like watching. Throwing “you pick” back and forth can easily kill the vibe. Whether it’s with the family, a date night, or even if you’re just trying to entertain yourself, knowing the vibe is a must. 

Family night in the house with middle schoolers or teenagers? Better ask the young audience if you’re choosing between movies like “The Lion King” or “Avengers Assemble.” Both are under the Disney umbrella, but each would give two different experiences. 

Maybe it’s a date night. Are you more in the “Netflix” stage of dating or the “chill” part? If you want to do more “chilling,” you don’t want to pick something that’s too entertaining. And never pick a series.

Don’t try hard to impress your date with your movie selection acumen if they’re not into movies. They’re not there to be a film critic. That’s not the vibe. 

A good way to figure out the vibes is knowing your target audience. Even if you’re having a viewing party for one, you should know what you’re into at the moment. 

If you’re feeling adventurous, then go explore. You can check out iTunes movie sections like “New & Noteworthy,” “Notable Indies,” and “Recent Discoveries.” 

But if you don’t feel like wasting time exploring and just want to have a good time, follow what you feel. For example, when my family is away, and I’m left to entertain myself, I normally choose a foreign movie or something with more bullets shot than spoken dialogue. 

If my wife and I are just looking to chill, I try to find some really good streaming shows to binge-watch. (A series is great for us. I have enough kids.)

If you’re chilling, this is not the time to bring out your favorite movie or anything that’s going to make you think very hard. A perfect film for these occasions would be any of the “Fast & Furious” films. They drive off a cliff, through a building, Vin Diesel says “family,” and it’s over. You don’t need to see the end. Be safe. Have fun. Goodnight.

2. Go with What You Know

In uncertain times, you must do your best to find stability. And nothing is more stable than an oldie but a goodie, otherwise known as the “classics.” 

Now the “classics” are something that can be considered subjective, so it would be to your discretion to determine what a “classic” is. Take this tip seriously. 

If I’m watching with other people, I often show them things they’ve never seen before. This is also a great chance to let my teenager know I’m not completely lame. 

At this point, I realize I’m not just responsible for entertainment but also for broadening the horizons and keeping the movie culture alive with new eyes on older movies. I will leave you with a few recommendations that I personally go to and shared with my family to help you get going.

Disclaimer: Not all of these are PG so view at your own discretion.

3. Treat Yo’ Self

In uncertain times, you must “treat yo’ self” to something that makes you feel good. Now more than ever, we get caught up in everyday life, and we forget to decompress and do things that not only entertain us but also uplift us. 

So, from time to time, you must watch things that you know will fulfill you. Maybe it’s your favorite show that you know will get you laughing. For example, a lot of people like “The Office.” I would also suggest “Parks and Recreation” or “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Maybe you need to recharge your battery and give yourself a bit of motivation to help you tackle your goals. I personally watch the “Creed” movies when I feel I need to get off my butt and work out.

Another way to “treat yo’ self” during uncertain times is to grab your favorite snack or food while enjoying a movie. I don’t do this often, but my go-to meal is a Chick-fil-A number 2 combo with bacon, large fries, and frosted lemonade. I really have to watch one of the “Creed” films after that meal – I usually end up in a food coma. 

Whatever you decide to watch to uplift yourself, just know you need no reason other than it’s time to treat yo’ self!

4. Learn from the Mistakes of Others

An uncertain time may call you to go outside of your comfort zone. It might be time to follow those who might be more certain. 

Your mother or father might have told you to learn from the mistakes of others when you were young. So why not learn from critics?

Nowadays, when a new show is released on a streaming platform, professional and amateur film and TV show reviewers don’t only watch the show, but they also post their reviews within the hour. You can read reviews to your advantage to see whether a film or show is worth your time. These brave souls have sacrificed their eyes and their bodies by putting butt to cushion for possible hours just to tell you, “Naw, this wasn’t good.” 

On the flip side, you will also find plenty of critics on shows and movies that may be to your liking. Here are a few links to pages you can check out so you can have an idea of what movies and series to watch and potentially stay away from:

5. Break Glass in Case of Emergency

Finding land in the dark blue sea of continuous content can be tough without a lighthouse to help you find your way. This tip can be your lighthouse, giving you five recommended actors that can help you be surer on what to watch in uncertain times. 

Russell Crowe

Crowe brings a level of gravitas (yes, I used a fancy word there because he’s a fancy man) to any role he plays. He made us all cheer and cry during his iconic role in the classic “Gladiator.” The mental drama “A Beautiful Mind” made us all think and marvel at the human mind. 

Listen, the guy was Superman’s dad, and he was so good that they made a spinoff TV series called “Krypton” that did not work out as well. But he wasn’t in it, so that’s not his fault. If you find Crowe in a movie, you can count on this guy for a great performance!

Tom Cruise

Stability is this guy’s middle name – but seriously, it’s actually Cruise. This guy has been a star since before I was born and shows no signs of slowing down. Have you seen him in “Mission Impossible: Fallout”? That’s a lot of running. 

If a movie comes out and Cruise is a part of it in any way, you should watch it. Among many other qualities, he brings energy to his roles that exude confidence and entertainment – going all the way back to “Top Gun,” the “Mission Impossible” films, and everything in between.

Michael B. Jordan

If you’re looking for charisma, energy, and emotion wrapped in a great-looking package, then Jordan is your guy. Though he doesn’t stay wrapped very often, they always find a way to get this guy out of his shirt. 

His ability has been noted in movies in many different genres. He gave us drama in “Fruitvale Station” and “Just Mercy.” He showcased his ability to be in a sci-fi early in his career with “Chronicle.” 

Jordan has also given iconic performances. Look no further than the “Creed” films or his role as the villain in “Black Panther.” He can do it all, except in being the fourth member of the “Fantastic Four.” That movie was terrible – but not because of him. 

If you see his face, which was voted the sexiest face in the world (People Magazine’s words – please don’t kill the messenger), you’ll definitely want to stop and watch because it’s guaranteed to be great!

Emily Blunt

There isn’t a screen in the world that can contain Emily Blunt’s greatness. Her on-screen presence commands your attention whether it’s a small comedic part or a big action, sci-fi flick. She can be incredibly endearing like in the film “The Adjustment Bureau” or believably kicking ass in the “Edge of Tomorrow.”

One thing Blunt has shown for certain is that she is the toughest mom on the planet. Whether she is protecting her telepathic son from a guy who comes back to the past from the future to save his future (sounds like another movie I’ve seen) or protecting her children from invading eyeless aliens (she has a baby in a tub with an alien getting ready to attack her!), she is consistently amazing to watch!

Mahershala Ali

This guy is so good that he didn’t wait for Marvel to call. He called Marvel and told them that he was Blade and they said, “Yes, yes you are.” 

When Ali shows up and graces the screen with his presence, get ready for an amazing show. This guy is so good that even as the villain, they made sure to kill him off prematurely so he’s not in part two. (That’s the only thing that makes sense to me, just check “Alita: Battle Angel” or “Marvel’s Luke Cage”).

Ali has a way of digging deep into the soul of the character and displaying that soul on screen. As a voice actor for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” it was said that he was so good that after he read some lines, they went in and did rewrites to match his greatness. When you see this man on the screen, get ready to not only watch but feel greatness!

6. Keep It Real 100%

Peer pressure is tough for most to deal with, and nowadays, it can extend all the way to your television. 

How many times have you been pressured to watch something because of cultural or social reasons? Then you end up forcing yourself to lie, telling your friends, “Yeah, it’s on my list.” or “Imma watch it, I promise.” 

I know I personally had a queue full of films or shows that as a connoisseur of on-screen entertainment others feel I should watch. Honestly, I guilted myself for not watching some films or TV series, causing me to question my own taste in entertainment. 

I will be the first to tell you: this way of consuming content just isn’t enjoyable. If you’re not enjoying what you’re watching, abandon ship and go find something you enjoy. If you do not enjoy period pieces, then don’t feel pressured to watch them. 

I am a big Christopher Nolan fan and when “Dunkirk” was released, people kept asking me, “You gonna go see it?” Then when it was starting to gain some acclaim people would say, “This movie is a must-watch!” just because it was going to win some awards. 

Here’s the thing, I usually am first in line for a Christopher Nolan film, but I am not really entertained by period pieces, especially the ones about war. This movie took up so much space on my conscience for so long that I finally ended up watching it. 

And yep, you guessed it: I wasn’t into it! 

From that unsatisfied moment on, I told myself I wouldn’t allow the pressure to dictate my habits that way. Keeping it real with myself has allowed me to have a far more enjoyable watching experience. I’m sure it will for you too!

7. Be Spontaneous if You Feel Like It

There will be times when you want to go out on a limb and shake things up a bit. That’s perfectly normal. 

I know I have these moments when I just want to find and experience something outside of my norm. One of my biggest problems was going finding new things, but all the streaming services have algorithms that send me more of the same content. 

I know when I have branched out and didn’t like what I watched, the algorithm would send me more of the same things that I now know I didn’t like. So, I developed a couple of ninja tricks to find things I might like. 

The first ninja tip might exclude some people because I personally have Apple products, and I know some don’t. (I could make an Android joke here, but no. I’m here to help.)

Ninja Tip if You’re Using Apple TV

In the iTunes store movie section, specifically look for the sections titled “New & Noteworthy,” “Notable Indies,” and “Recent Discoveries.” Any one of these sections can have a hidden gem waiting to be unearthed. 

Also, I “happen” to have an Apple TV, and they send a weekly email titled “What to Watch This Week” that gives me options on what to watch that are on different streaming platforms. Not many platforms would do that, so that’s pretty noble of Apple TV. 

Ninja Tip Using the Just Watch App

An app that I use from time to time to find something outside of my norm is called the “Just Watch.” 

The app allows you to add the streaming services you have to a list. Then, the app will tell you when those streaming services add new shows and movies. 

Some sections let you know what’s popular on all the services. They break everything down into different genres that range from the old to the new, allowing for so many different options, so it’s important to refer back to the first rule: know the vibes.

Choose What to Watch Wisely

And don’t forget to enjoy the process. If you fail to get it right on the first try – and the next several tries – it’s all okay. 

Watching unexpectedly bad movies and TV shows can help you figure out what you, your friends, your family, your date, and even your cat don’t like to watch. This actually helps you understand each viewer’s taste and realize what you should and shouldn’t play next time.

Happy binge-watching!

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