The best movies and TV shows for every quarantine mood

historical photo of drive-in movie theater with cars
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Need a break from the news and bored of books? Here are some quality screen time suggestions of movies and TV shows that will (hopefully) take your mind off the pandemic.

I'd like to say I've read the entire works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy during these trying times of isolation and social-distancing. Or at least made a dent in my stack of New Yorkers collecting dust in a corner of my room. But in truth, I've been watching a lot of movies and TV shows. It's a way for my parents and I (my fellow quarantine partners) to escape reality, at least for a couple of hours, at the end of the day. My taste tends to be a bit bleak and melancholy, while my parents push for lighter comedies, so sharing the remote is a balancing act.

However, it's challenged us to watch films or TV shows that we wouldn't normally, and I thought I'd share a few that have a Treehugger-ish vibe. Of course, as with most pleasurable things in life, moderation is key. Obviously, excessive screen time (especially if it's a dark, depressing movie) probably isn't the best way to unwind. And streaming online content endlessly is not conducive to a low-carbon lifestyle. But I'd like to think my zeal for tearing through five seasons of "Better Call Saul" is balanced by the daily 2-3 outdoor walks with my two dogs, a sit-down dinner every evening with my family, and at least thirty minutes of book-reading before bed (no screens allowed!).

Yes, yes, I know William Shakespeare supposedly wrote King Lear while in plague quarantine in the summer of 1606, and that Isaac Newton came up with calculus while practicing social distancing during the Great Plague of London in 1665. Do I occasionally feel guilty for not Marie Kondo-ing my spring wardrobe or scrubbing every tile in my bathroom with a toothbrush or making beautiful homemade pasta? Sure. But I refuse to let so-called "productivity pressure" take over during this pandemic. Not every waking hour in one's day needs to be optimized.

Practicing self-care, whether that's with a book, a DIY face mask, or planting a vegetable garden makes all of us more patient and compassionate citizens. Oftentimes my most creative moments happen when I'm letting my brain wander, whether that's staring out the window or taking a shower or picking up dog poop. So without further adieu, here's some of my favorite TV shows and films that have helped me escape 2020 for a couple hours — some have an environmental edge or are eerily prescient, while others are simply beautiful, thought-provoking, or superbly acted.

TV shows

If you like ... inept politicians, adventure, costume changes, government intrigue, spies

"Killing Eve" (2018)

"Mr. Robot" (2015)

"Occupied" (2015)

"The Americans" (2013)

"Homeland" (2011)

If you like ... exploring other cultures, thought-provoking themes, women-in-charge

"Unorthodox" (2020)

"Unbelievable" (2019)

"The Crown" (2016)

"The Honourable Woman" (2014)

"Top of the Lake" (2013)

"Veep" (2012)

If you like ... female-centered stories, interpersonal relationships, everyday life

"Better Things" (2016)

"Fleabag" (2016)

"Insecure" (2016)

"Broad City" (2014)

If you like ... intelligent comedy, great casting, and/or costume design

"Schitt's Creek" (2015)

"The Mindy Project" (2012)

"Party Down" (2009)

"Extras" (2005)

Movies

If you like ... existential dread, climate crisis, man v. nature

"First Reformed" (2018)

"Annihilation" (2018)

"Okja" (2017)

"Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015)

"Snowpiercer" (2013)

"The Road" (2009)

"Children of Men" (2006)

"12 Monkeys" (1995)

If you like ... David v. Goliath, systemic change, sticking it to The Man

"Dark Waters" (2019)

"Winter's Bone" (2010)

"Silkwood" (1983)

"Norma Rae" (1979)

"Network" (1976)

If you like ... design candy, cinematography, melodrama

"I Am Love" (2009)

"Before Sunrise" / "Before Sunset" (1995, 2004)

"All That Heaven Allows" (1955)

"Roman Holiday" (1953)

"The Philadelphia Story" (1940)

If you like ... satire, mental breaks

"Isle of Dogs" (2018)

"WALL-E" (2008)

"Idiocracy" (2006)

"Wet Hot American Summer" (2001)

"Best in Show" (2000)

I'm sure some people will have strong feelings about this list; I would love to hear in the comments what others are watching, reading, or listening to these days!

The best movies and TV shows for every quarantine mood
Need a break from the news and bored of books? Here are some quality screen time suggestions of movies and TV shows that will (hopefully) take your mind off the pandemic.

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