Streaming films and shows that unpack the hard work of building and preserving our nation

Da 5 Bloods
Photo: Netflix / Courtesy

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s celebrated musical Hamilton makes its broadcast debut on the Disney+ streaming service on July 3. This filmed version of the Broadway show, shot over the course of three June 2016 performances at New York City’s Richard Rodgers Theatre (and augmented with a series of close-ups filmed without an audience present), features much of the show’s original cast, including Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Phillipa Soo, Daveed Diggs and Jonathan Groff. It was originally intended to bow in movie theaters in October 2021, but higher-ups at Disney, reeling from coronavirus-incurred losses, probably recognized two opportunities—to capture the audience that can’t attend Broadway shows right now, and to bolster subscriptions to their streaming service—and they made the decision to move up its release by more than a year.

It may prove a fateful choice. It’s always a sound idea for Americans to examine our shared history, but at this moment in time—with peaceful protests in every major city, and a make-or-break election only a few months away—it’s absolutely vital that we learn where we’ve been and understand what’s at stake. The best way to do that is to hit the books, but in the short term, streaming services are packed with films, series and documentaries about the tough and oftentimes thankless work of keeping America glued together.

Netflix is screening Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, the story of four Black Vietnam veterans who return to that country years after the war to reconcile with their consciences and to tie up some loose ends. It’s part of a Black Lives Matter collection that also includes such vital viewing as Lee’s Malcolm X and Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us. The service also recognizes Pride Month with David France’s documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight and many more, divided by subcategories that include “LGBTQ Directors.”

HBO Max offers Band of Brothers, a Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks-produced series that follows the paratroopers of Easy Company through World War II; it’s closely based on true events and bookended by interviews with the real members of that unit. Here you’ll also find Deadwood, perhaps the least glorified consideration of the early American West—with its racism and misogyny—ever to air, and John Adams, featuring Paul Giamatti’s Emmy-winning turn as America’s second president. Hulu presents Apollo 11, a stunning account of the July 1969 moon landing featuring previously unseen 70 mm footage, and FX’s Mrs. America, a Cate Blanchett-starring dramatization of the cultural battleground that formed around the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. And to bring things full circle, Disney+ has two patriotic crowd-pleasers: Miracle, which follows the 1980 Olympic hockey team to a legendary game against the then-USSR, and Red Tails, a fictionalized account of World War II’s boundary-busting Tuskegee Airmen.

Photo of Geoff Carter

Geoff Carter

Experts in paleoanthropology believe that Geoff Carter began his career in journalism sometime in the early Grunge period, when he ...

Get more Geoff Carter
Edit Story Top of Story