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The Movies You Have To Watch Before They Leave Netflix In February 2020

Every movie has its season on Netflix, and for a selection of films, their time is coming to an end in February 2020.

It's not a particularly massive list of departing titles (though the stuff arriving on Netflix to replace them is a flood of original content), but the ones we've selected for you to re-watch or catch up on represent quite a gamut: horror; sci-fi flicks both uplifting and depressing; thrillers and comedies; the storied and the niche. All of them have been out there in the cinematic world for some time, but they each have made an imprint on the landscape of film in their own profound way. There's something for everybody and every mood here, no matter if your Netflix and Chill vibes are fueled by romcoms or slashers. 

Let's take a look at the best stuff making its cyclical bow on Netflix in February 2020.

District 9 is leaving Netflix's orbit

Released in 2009 by then-totally-unknown filmmaker Neill Blomkamp, District 9 is a social commentary film in the trappings of a sci-fi action story. In an alternate timeline of Earth, aliens arrive to Johannesburg, South Africa in 1982 — but they're starving and weak, so the frightened human population sequesters them in a segregated internment camp: the titular District 9. 

Decades later, an alien named Christopher (Jason Cope) begins a fraught attempt to repair and restart one of the dropships to venture to the empty mothership left hovering over Earth, all in hopes of returning to his home planet for help. A human named Wikus (Sharlto Copley), who works for a private military contractor tasked with relocating the alien population, stumbles upon Christopher's plan and accidentally becomes contaminated by the fuel meant to power the dropship. Wikus begins a metamorphosis to become one of the alien "prawns," and in the ensuing struggle to cure himself, discovers the cruel intentions of the contractor he works for and finds new empathy for Christopher's desperate gamble to save his people.

District 9 opened as a sleeper hit and was regarded as a fresh and unique take within the sci-fi film genre. To this day, it has a terrific rating on Rotten Tomatoes. District 9 departs Netflix on February 14.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is slashing its way off Netflix

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out in 1974 to mixed reviews and many complaints about its extreme violence, but none understood at the time how profoundly horror films had been changed forever. The entire slasher sub-genre can thank this film as the OG of the tropes we take for granted today. 

In the film, a cadre of friends are drawn to an old family homestead after a series of grave robberies and vandalism, only to find (as they are picked off one by one) that it's been claimed by a family of cannibals with the iconic, chainsaw-toting mute giant Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) as its leader. 

Almost 50 years on, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which was produced on a shoestring budget and went on to make an astounding $30 million in contemporary dollars) still ranks competitively amongst its slicker, more expensive, stylized horror descendants. If you haven't taken the opportunity to see the purest distillation of the horror style that grew to dominate the '80s and '90s, your time is running out – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre departs from Netflix on February 21.

Primal Fear will be released from Netflix (on bond)

The 1996 legal thriller Primal Fear is notable for being Edward Norton's first major film role, but it also co-stars '90s heavy hitters Richard Gere, Laura Linney, John Mahoney, and Frances McDormand. At the center of the film, adapted from William Diehl's novel of the same name, is Norton's teenaged altar boy Aaron Stampler, who has been accused of murdering an archbishop. The young man is caught on camera covered in blood, fleeing the scene, and everything appears open-and-shut for this murder trial. Gere portrays showy defense attorney Martin Vail, who takes the seemingly hopeless case pro bono (for publicity's sake) and hopes to win an acquittal on legal technicalities, as is his usual MO. Instead, Vail is drawn into a complex story of corruption and sexual misconduct that tests his sense of justice to its core. 

Norton was nominated for (but didn't win) an Academy Award for his performance in Primal Fear – quite a testament to the immediate recognition of his talent that's so celebrated today. 

Primal Fear leaves Netflix on February 28.

Trainspotting is leaving Netflix and hitting the tracks

Before Star Wars and Velvet Goldmine, Ewan McGregor had Trainspotting. This gritty dark dramedy about heroin addiction stars the Scottish actor in his breakout performance from 1996. McGregor plays Mark "Rent Boy" Renton, the story's eyes into a small group of heroin addicts struggling to survive in Edinburgh, Scotland. Elementary fans can also catch Jonny Lee Miller co-starring in the film as Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson. 

If you're looking for a tale of doe-eyed, sympathetic drug users finding redemption in serene, sterile group therapy, let us assure you that Trainspotting isn't that kind of story in the least. It's grim, filthy, rough, unflinching, and at times even a little psychedelic as Renton navigates a long and complicated road to recovery. 

Trainspotting was ranked 10th on a 100 best British films list and has been regarded in its native country of Scotland as the best film it has ever produced, period. This one comes with a bunch of triggering content (drug use, domestic violence, regular violence, child death), as you can imagine, but it all ends with a bruised kind of optimism distilled into its tagline: choose life. 

Trainspotting is available to stream on Netflix until February 28.

American Beauty is bowing out from Netflix's library

Sam Mendes has been in the news for his World War I drama 1917 racking up award nominations for the 2019 season, so now's the best time ever to catch his directorial debut, American Beauty, before it disappears from Netflix. 

You might recall that this drama did pretty well in the 1999 awards season, and you'll likely be at least peripherally familiar with its flower-petal-laden iconography that became a pop culture symbol in its own right. In American Beauty, Kevin Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, a suburban everyman living on the edge of despair in the face of his own mediocrity. His particular mid-life crisis — despite the typical beginnings it has in lusting over nubile teenagers and smoking pot secured from the neighborhood weird kid — ends in a place far from the ordinary outcome one would usually anticipate, all to tell a complicated story about what Americans find beautiful and where we can find meaning in our lives. 

American Beauty departs Netflix on February 29 — it's a leap year in 2020, remember?

The Matrix trilogy is unplugging from Netflix

It seems a bit unfair that Netflix's license for The Matrix trilogy is expiring now, when hype is starting to kick into gear for the coming fourth installment from Lana Wachowski, but alas, this is the way the cookie crumbles. 

The Matrix and its sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, defined the sci-fi genre for over a decade in terms of style and theming when they were released in 1999 and 2003 (Reloaded and Revolutions were six months apart the same year). The trilogy focuses on Neo (Keanu Reeves), the fabled Chosen One who will free humanity from where they are unknowingly kept in a near-future simulation of Earth known as the Matrix. In truth, however, they're actually in the far future, and Earth has been destroyed by a global war between man and sentient machine. 

With epic, first-of-its-kind slow-mo action sequences and mind-bending interpretations on the relativistic experience that is life, The Matrix trilogy is one of the best cyberpunk collections the Western world has ever created, often likened to films like Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. The sequel films received mixed reviews in their contemporary age, but the story is one to be consumed as a complete thought: if you don't want to watch the John Wick films for the 10th time, this will certainly appeal to those senses if you passed up the trilogy the first time around. 

The Matrix trilogy leaves Netflix on February 29.

Up in the Air is taking off from Netflix's digital shelves

Up in the Air was released over 10 years ago and might be a lesser-known title in George Clooney's impressive filmography, but this drama about travel and personal philosophy is a good choice for an evening off the beaten franchise path. It boasts an impressive Rotten Tomatoes rating and racked up a host of nominations from the Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTAs alike in 2009, though it only won its awards for screenplay at the Globes and BAFTAs. 

In the film, directed by Ghostbusters: Afterlife helmer Jason Reitman, Clooney portrays Ryan Bingham, a nomadic business man who splits his time between work as a corporate downsize contractor and a motivational speaker. With no wife, kids, or even a permanent address, Bingham feels perfectly at ease with his lifestyle forever in transit... until he begins mentoring a young upstart in the company, Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who finds his vagabond nature upsetting. When he also seems to find a traveling kindred spirit in another business executive named Alex (Vera Farmiga), Bingham is forced to confront the emotional reality of a life lived too much alone and unmoored. 

Up in the Air is available to stream on Netflix until February 29.