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13 movies to stream for architecture and design lovers

For when all you want to do is Netflix and ... you know the drill

A woman with her back turned to the sink in front of a large window in a beautiful rustic kitchen.
Nothing would ever be complicated if you had a kitchen like this. Meryl Streep in Nancy Meyers’s It’s Complicated.
Screengrab via Hooked on Houses

Aside from the festivities, time spent with your loved ones, and all that rich, sweet food, the holidays are also great for something else: doing a whole lot of nothing. In honor of the (purportedly) most wonderful time of year, when it’s perfectly acceptable to while away the hours in front of a roaring, flickering television screen, we’ve put together a list of our favorite architecture and design-adjacent movies and shows that you can stream right now—or next week, when you’ll undoubtedly be recovering from an overdose of cheer.

Though you can stream most of these films—broken up into categories of “Best Interiors” and “Best Fictional Architects”—for free with a subscription to services like Netflix, HBO GO/NOW, and Amazon Prime, some are only available as a digital rental or purchase for a few bucks.

Bonus: Thanks to Netflix’s new download feature, you can even watch a few offline—great for those long flights and public transit rides. One more thing: To whom should we speak about getting Trading Spaces online?

Best Interiors

For those who have ever drooled over a Nancy Meyers kitchen or Don Draper’s conversation pit, here are seven movies (plus one show) whose interiors will you turn you into ravenous, green-eyed monsters.

A Single Man, dir. Tom Ford, 2009 (Netflix download)

Southern California in the 1960s. Need we say more?

I Am Love, dir. Luca Guadagnino, 2009 (Netflix download)

A case study in Milanese Glam.

Mad Men, created by Matthew Weiner, 2007-2015 (Netflix download)

For smoldering 1960s architecture, style, and attitude.

A Trip to the Moon, dir. Georges Méliès, 1902 (Netflix download)

The pioneering film’s imaginative sets inspired the Smashing Pumpkins’ famous “Tonight, Tonight” video.

High-Rise, dir. Ben Wheatley, 2015 (Netflix download)

Though the film version of J.G. Ballard’s dystopian novel is by no means subtle, it helps that the hulking Brutalist building is so alluringly sinister.

Interiors, dir. Woody Allen, 1978 (Amazon Prime streaming)

Not exactly a feel-good movie, Interiors’ interiors reflect the agony of Eve, an interior designer suffering form clinical depression whose husband wants a divorce. Nice Manhattan real estate, though.

Nightcrawler, dir. Dan Gilroy, 2014 (Netflix download)

Yes, the movies takes place mostly on the streets, but it makes Los Angeles look so beautiful (and seedy) that it hardly matters.

It’s Complicated, dir. Nancy Meyers, 2009 (Amazon digital rental)

It’s also nearly impossible to stream any of Nancy Meyers gorgeously-designed films, making it that much harder to ogle the director’s magazine-worthy homes whenever the urge hits. Meryl Streep’s character’s kitchen is simply marvelous. Bonus points for Steve Martin’s character, who happens to be an architect. Which brings us to our next category ...

Best Movie Architects

Architects are popular movie characters because they’re thought of as, smart, stylish, and sexy, we guess?

The Fountainhead, dir. King Vidor, 1949 (Amazon digital rental)

Gary Cooper plays Howard Roark, perhaps the most famous (and ruthless) fictional architect ever created.

Sleepless in Seattle, dir. Nora Ephron, 1993 (Amazon digital rental)

As far as romantic comedies go, this one’s a true charmer, and not just because Tom Hanks plays a widowed architect, and Meg Ryan, a reporter and hopeless romantic.

Indecent Proposal, dir. Adrian Lyne, 1993 (Amazon Prime streaming)

Woody Harrelson plays a hard-up, out-of-work architect who lets a billionaire (Robert Redford) buy his wife (Demi Moore), a realtor, for one night for one million dollars. They need the money for, among other things, the dream house he’s building.

The Towering Inferno, dir. John Guillermin, 1974 (Amazon digital rental)

This blockbuster’s got it all: big-name actors doing heroic stuff, like putting out a massive fire and saving people’s lives. Paul Newman plays the architect of the Glass Tower, the world’s tallest building, which goes up in flames, and Steve McQueen, the fire chief. Other stars include Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, and O.J. Simpson.

Love Actually, dir. Richard Curtis, 2003 (Netflix download)

This movie does not hold up—actually, it’s terrible—but it’s on this list because, a) it’s got Liam Neeson playing an architect who also happens to be a widower with a lovelorn stepson (hey, wait a minute!) and b) it’s a holiday favorite.