This post is updated regularly to reflect the latest movies to leave and enter Netflix. *New additions are indicated by an asterisk.
With thousands of movies to choose from, and a navigation system and algorithm that don’t always make the right choice easy to find, it can be difficult to know what to watch on Netflix. That’s why we’re here, breaking down the 100 best movies on the service at this minute, with regular updates for titles that have been removed and when new ones are added. We’ve done the hard work, so now the only thing you have to do is sit back and, uh, watch all 100 movies. (And if you’re more of a TV person, check out the 50 best TV shows on Netflix.)
Ava DuVernay’s documentary is named after the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which ended slavery. Her brilliant nonfiction work outlines the way that slavery has simply been reshaped and reformed into other societal elements, particularly imbalanced prison sentences and enforcement of laws that more directly impact minorities. It’s a searing, powerful piece of work.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Judd Apatow’s hit comedy helped turn Steve Carell into a household name and really reformed a brand of dad-bod comedy that is still influencing movies to this day (for better and for worse). As with all Apatovian productions, there are certainly elements here one could quibble with, but it remains rewatchable thanks to Carell’s genuinely sweet performance and memorable supporting turns from Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, and Catherine Keener.
Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar winner is one of the best films of the 2010s, a powerful examination of the impact of one couple’s separation on those around them, including their daughter and a caregiver hired by the man to watch over his father. It’s the first Iranian film to win the Oscar for Foreign Language Film, and a great introduction to that country’s excellent film industry.
About a Boy
Containing possibly Hugh Grant’s best performance, this delicate adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel tells the story of a grown man who learns how to behave in life through his friendship with a young boy. With great performances by Nicholas Hoult and Toni Collette, along with a script nominated for an Oscar, this is a movie that young viewers may not have caught up with yet but shouldn’t miss.
Across the Universe
Love it or hate it, you really need to see Julie Taymor’s romantic drama inspired by the music of the Beatles. There aren’t many big-screen musicals out there quite like this trippy, dreamy flick starring Jim Sturgess and Westworld’s Evan Rachel Wood, and Taymor’s theatrical background gives the whole film a larger-than-life magical quality, especially if you’re a fan of Paul, John, George, and Ringo.
All the President’s Men
Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford star in this retelling of the chain of events that led to the downfall of President Richard Nixon through the vantage point of the journalists who broke the story. More of an ode to the importance of journalism than anything else, this movie cast reporters in a light that made them feel like pioneers of justice. Think of the number of people who enrolled in journalism school because of it. And you have to love the tagline: “The most devastating detective story of this century.”
Andrea Arnold’s 2016 teen epic about a runaway (Sasha Lane) who finds herself a part of a crew of young people bouncing their way across the country — including Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough — is the best movie on Netflix that you probably haven’t seen. With propulsive energy, an amazing soundtrack, and beautiful cinematography of the heart of America, this is a fascinating movie that deserves a look.
The Oscar-winning documentary about Amy Winehouse not only details the rise and early death of its subject but confronts viewers with the way that tabloid culture impacts celebrities who may be prone to addiction. Winehouse was a generational talent, but this is a must-watch not only for chronicling her ability but also asking who let her down, depriving the music world of that talent today.
The public opinion of Woody Allen has certainly changed over the years, but this 1977 romantic comedy remains one of the most essential American films of its era, winning Oscars for Best Picture, Actress, Director, and Screenplay.
Just as First Man is celebrating an Oscar win and Apollo 11 is hitting theaters, Netflix drops the Best Picture–nominated Ron Howard movie about the harrowing Apollo 13 mission, starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris. It’s Howard’s best movie, a solid tale of the heroism required to do the seemingly impossible.
As Good As It Gets
Very few films have won Oscars for both Best Actor and Best Actress. In fact, this romantic comedy, for which stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt both took home the big trophies, is the last time it happened. It’s a great example of a film that plays perfectly to the strengths of both of its stars.
Netflix is clearly prepping subscribers for Martin Scorcese’s upcoming Netflix-exclusive film The Irishman by including several of his most beloved films (see: The Departed, also on this list). This one has slid a bit under the history’s radar, not being talked about as much as it should. It’s a technical marvel for the plane-crash scene alone and includes one of Scorsese’s best ensembles, including his old pal Leo alongside Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, and Jude Law, just to name a few.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Joel and Ethan Coen’s Western anthology series was a part of Netflix’s brand-redefining 2018. Sure, Netflix still has a bunch of junk, but it also landed the latest from Alfonso Cuaron, the Coens, and even Orson Welles. This brilliant Western works as comedy, drama, and even a commentary on the Coens themselves. Don’t miss it.
Take advantage of this opportunity before Disney+ guts all the Marvel and Disney movie options from every streaming service on the planet. The first MCU movie to win an Oscar is one of the best superhero movies of all time, and a movie that holds up incredibly well on repeat viewing. This isn’t just an action movie, it’s a cultural event — something that redefined and reshaped the superhero genre for the rest of time.
Bonnie and Clyde
Forget the bland Netflix Original The Highwaymen and go back to Arthur Penn’s 1967 masterpiece that helped define the legend of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. One of the most important films of its generation, this telling of one of crime’s most infamous duos stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. It was landmark in its violence in 1967 and it’s still powerful five decades later.
Filmed in pieces over a 12-year span, Boyhood is one of the most ambitious films of the ‘10s, and one of the few films to notch an almost-impossible 100 on Metacritic. When people start listing the essential films of the decade in a few months, this will be on it. Make sure you’ve seen it.
Joe Berlinger has been buzzed-about lately thanks to his Ted Bundy docuseries (Conversations With a Killer) and upcoming Netflix-obtained movie (Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile), but fans of his recent work should check out his brilliant 1992 feature debut, a true-crime hit from Sundance about the murder trial of Delbert Ward. If you’re a true-crime fan — and it feels like most Netflix subscribers are — don’t miss this one.
The best foreign-language film of 2018 is already on Netflix, hopefully indicating a deeper commitment by the company to present the best of international cinema to American audiences. Lee Chang-dong adapts a novella by Haruki Murakami into a riveting dissection of class and gender in modern Korea. Steven Yeun is mesmerizing as the mysterious Ben, someone who our protagonist starts to think might be a killer. Don’t miss this one.
Maybe you’ve seen FX’s amazing Fosse/Verdon and it made you intrigued about Fosse’s Oscar-winning masterpiece, a movie that an amazing eight Academy Awards, including Best Actress (Liza Minnelli), Best Supporting Actor (Joel Grey), and Best Director (Bob Fosse) — but actually holds the title of most awards without a win for Best Picture (it lost to a little movie called The Godfather). Proof that musicals don’t always have to be flashy, crowdpleasing affairs, Cabaret is an ambitious piece of work and the new show allows a deeper reading of it and how it reflected Fosse’s life. Take the chance to do so.
One of the most quotable comedies of all time makes its way to Netflix to encourage young subscribers to watch movies made before 1990. This one definitely has some funny dialogue and one-liners, but it’s also a phenomenal example of how far casting can go to make a classic comedy. Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Ted Knight, and Rodney Dangerfield weren’t just hysterical here, they were all perfectly cast to play off their comedy reputations. Most of all, it’s still damn funny.
Todd Haynes’s heartrending romance is one of the most lusciously beautiful films of the ‘10s, anchored by a pair of perfect performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Whether or not you are drawn to the doomed love affair at its center, this is a gorgeous film on a technical level. Watch it in HD and turn up that perfect score.
There aren’t a lot of Oscar-winning animated movies on Netflix. Sure, there are hours of options in the kids’ section of Netflix, but most of it is mindless garbage. So if you’re tired of letting your little ones watch nonsense, sit them down in front of one of the best animated movies of the last few years. This is a delicate, sweet, heartfelt movie about love and ancestry that would also be on a list of surefire tearjerkers now on Netflix.
The most notable horror franchise of the ‘10s (if you include massive spin-offs like Annabelle and The Nun) started here with the story of Ed and Lorraine Warren and a very haunted house. James Wan’s brilliant use of space and a great ensemble would really change the horror genre in ways reflected all across movies today.
The Constant Gardener
Fernando Meirelles’s adaptation of John le Carré’s novel won Rachel Weisz an Oscar as an activist murdered in Northern Kenya. Ralph Fiennes plays her husband, a man who learns more about his wife after her death than he did while she was alive and gets to the bottom of a deep political conspiracy.
We don’t deserve Laika. The company behind Kubo and the Two Strings and ParaNorman has never made a bad movie, but this is the only one on Netflix as of right now, a beautifully refined adaptation of a Neil Gaiman book. Lyrical, scary, and unforgettable, this is stop-motion animation for the whole family.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Ang Lee’s martial arts epic was an absolute phenomenon when it came out, domestically grossing more than any foreign language film in history on its way to ten Academy Award nominations. It’s held up marvelously, a cinematic explosion of color and passion for filmmaking. If you haven’t seen it since it took the world by storm, it’s time for a rewatch.
The Dark Crystal
An entire generation was scarred by this 1982 Jim Henson and Frank Oz vision, a world that is being revived for a Netflix series on August 30th, 2019. If you haven’t seen The Dark Crystal since it scarred you as a child, it’s time to revisit the land of Gelflings and Skeksis. In an era in which it feels like so much filmmaking aimed at children is safe and produced for mass enjoyment, this kind of creative, fascinating family entertainment feels even rarer than ever. It’s daring in terms of its visuals and pure in its storytelling. It’s not just a great family movie. It’s a great movie, period.
Some of the elements of this American classic have been diluted through parody in the years since its release but don’t let that dissuade those of you who haven’t seen it. Burt Reynolds does arguably his best film work as one of four men assaulted and traumatized by mountain men in a film that truly went places that major movies hadn’t done before. It’s a powerful, harrowing piece of work.
Sharlto Copley stars in Neill Blomkamp’s wildly successful sleeper hit, a movie that really came out of nowhere to become one of the biggest film stories of 2009. Sci-fi movies with no stars from debut directors don’t usually go on to become Best Picture nominees, but District 9 is not your typical sci-fi movie.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Julian Schnabel’s heartbreaking drama tells the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a magazine editor who suffered a stroke that was so debilitating that he could only move his left eye. He then wrote an entire book about being locked in his own body, using only eye movement on a screen to form the words. It’s a beautiful, poetic piece of work about the triumph of the human spirit.
East of Eden
Look, another classic! Elia Kazan’s 1955 adaptation of the John Steinbeck classic stars James Dean in a performance for which he was posthumously nominated for an Oscar. The Dean legend may center more on his persona from Rebel Without a Cause, but his work here displays the range that we never got to see fulfilled.
Alex Garland’s sci-fi masterpiece already feels like a classic. Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac star in an examination of the future of artificial intelligence, what it means to be a human being, and how often men seek to control that which they create. It’s a movie that gets better every time you see it.
David O. Russell’s dramatization of the true story of boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) won Oscars for both of its supporting players — Melissa Leo and a transformed Christian Bale. It’s got some beats that already make it feel older than just 2010 but the great cast holds it together.
*Four Weddings and a Funeral
Remember when romantic comedies weren’t basically the exclusive territory of Netflix Original movies? It’s hard to believe now, but Mike Newell’s Four Weddings and a Funeral was a legitimate phenomenon, grossing more than any U.K.-produced film in history at the time of its release and earning an Oscar nomination for Best Picture! Why was it such a hit? A lot of the success of great rom-coms comes down to casting, and Newell got Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell at their most absolutely charming.
Before there was Lady Bird, there was Frances Ha, another semi-autobiographical comedy starring and co-written by Greta Gerwig. The delightful actress plays a woman dealing with a quarter-life crisis in NYC in one of Noah Baumbach’s best films.
The Vulture choice for the Best Netflix Original Horror Movie has to be on this list too, right? Especially viewed in the wake of the phenomenon that was The Haunting of Hill House, this movie really works. It’s one of the best Stephen King adaptations on any platform, anchored by a phenomenal Carla Gugino performance.
Good Night, and Good Luck
Long before we had to deal with the concept of Fake News and attacks on journalists, George Clooney directed what is basically a tribute to one of the news industry’s most important figures: Edward R. Murrow. Clooney’s best directorial work earned him an Oscar nomination, along with a nod for star David Straithairn, a great performer never better than he is here as a man caught up in Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare and a changing industry.
Certain films transcend mere celluloid to become cultural benchmarks and Mike Nichols’s beloved 1967 sophomore outing is certainly one such film. It hasn’t held up as well as some of the works of its era, but few films are still as influential today as the story of a college graduate lost in life and love. You need to see it just so you can pick out its fingerprints on the half-century of comedies that followed.
Relive one of the best comedies of all time over and over again on Netflix. Believe it or not, this 1993 Bill Murray vehicle wasn’t rapturously received either critically or commercially when it came out, but it has become a beloved genre classic. Murray stars as a weatherman forced to repeat the same day over and over again until he gets it right. It’s not just the clever premise but how much Murray and director and co-writer Harold Ramis inject humanism and truth into it. And it holds up so much better than most early-’90s comedies.
The Hateful Eight
Debate among yourselves if this should be on the movie or TV list, but it’s still basically the same venture that was released in theaters, only slightly reedited by Quentin Tarantino into episodes, so we say it’s a movie. And it’s an underrated one, overshadowed by the way it deals with race and gender when it was released. Just a few years later, it looks almost prescient about how divided the country would become, and it contains some of the best performances in Q.T.’s entire filmography.
It may look quainter today than it did in the late ‘80s, but Michael Lehmann’s dark comedy felt revolutionary 30 years ago. Winona Ryder stars as a student at a school full of awful people who use their social status to bully those beneath them. Christian Slater does his best Jack Nicholson impression as the loner who teaches her how to kill them.
Before the reboot hits screens, go back to the source in Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 action classic, starring Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Blair, and Rupert Evans. Before GdT was winning Oscars and rocking Twitter, he brought Mike Mignola’s most famous comic character to the screen and lost none of his irascible charm along the way. You got big red shoes to fill, David Harbour.
Spike Jonze’s Oscar winner stars Joaquin Phoenix as a writer who falls in love with a daring new A.I., voiced by Scarlett Johansson. This is not only one of the best films on Netflix, but one of the best films of the ‘10s. Just see it.
High Flying Bird
Steven Soderbergh very rarely makes bad movies and he’s not about to start with Andre Holland and Zazie Beetz in his court. The two star in the first excellent Netflix movie of 2019, an analysis of the game on top of the game that makes the NBA work. The man who almost directed Moneyball crafts a razor-sharp, incredibly entertaining, and humane basketball/corporate-media/labor drama that will appeal to hoops fanatics and the sports-averse alike. And the entire thing was shot on an iPhone!
Young film lovers may not know why Sir Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson are so beloved in the film community. This is a good place to start. Both are at the top of their game (Thompson won an Oscar, as did Ruth Prawer Jhabvala for her screenplay) in this gorgeous Merchant/Ivory adaptation of the E.M. Forster classic.
While Disney works to get its upcoming streaming service off the ground, it’s still regularly releasing new hits to Netflix, including the beloved sequel to one of the most popular Pixar films of all time. Brad Bird’s long-awaited sequel is one of the top films of 2018, and arguably its best animated film (at least that’s not about Spider-man).
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
There’s a lot of Steven Spielberg on Netflix, but this is one of the best choices you could make from the filmography of one the best American filmmakers. Maybe you’ve heard of it? All four Indy films are actually still on Netflix. Do a marathon while you still can. Yes, you can skip the last one if you want.
Matt Damon stars in Steven Soderbergh’s telling of the true story of Mark Whitacre, a relatively mediocre employee who ended up being a spy for the FBI when his company started illegally price-fixing. It’s a quirky, odd, unforgettable movie with one of Damon’s best performances.
Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is currently dividing Film Twitter and making a fortune at the box office on the back of rave reviews. So naturally someone at Netflix realized this might be a good time to add a few QT films to the catalogue. As of this writing, you can check out one that’s widely considered to be among his best: the Oscar-winning Inglourious Basterds. If you somehow haven’t seen it, you really should before seeing Once, as it does a lot of the same melding of history and Tarantino’s vision.
One of Quentin Tarantino’s best movies — and a film whose melancholic tone is deeply reflected in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — is this adaptation of the Elmore Leonard book. The only time Tarantino explicitly worked from someone else’s material resulted in a film that beautifully blends his and Leonard’s voices. It’s anchored by great performances from Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Robert De Niro, Bridget Fonda, and Samuel L. Jackson.
Both parts of one of Quentin Tarantino’s best works are available on Netflix, a service that really knows how to play to the fan base of beloved American filmmakers like QT, Spielberg, Scorsese, et al. Tarantino has teased a third volume in this series someday, but the story of the Bride’s revenge will have to do for now.
It’s not surprising that Netflix plays to Spielberg fans, but it’s nice to see that it includes more than the crowd-pleasing blockbusters, also occasionally diving a bit deeper and adding his historical dramas. This is one of his best from that category, featuring an Oscar-winning performance from Daniel Day-Lewis.
There have been a dozen or so versions of the Louisa May Alcott classic novel that you probably read in high school, but this 1994 adaptation is easily one of the best, starring Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, and Susan Sarandon. Ignore the others, just watch this one.
The Lives of Others
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s 2006 film may have been released 16 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, but it was actually one of the first films from Germany to really deal with that subject matter. It’s a detailed, fascinating look at the monitoring of East Berlin residents by the secret police. The winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, it’s a complex, challenging look at how spying on your neighbors changes a society, and it may be about Germany in the ‘80s but feels relevant to governments around the world today.
Steven Soderbergh is often recognized for his dialogue-heavy films like the Netflix Original High Flying Bird, but he’s considered one of the most versatile directors alive for a reason. Just look at this vibrant, energetic character study about stripper culture that is often considered a guilty pleasure because of the male bodies on display, but is actually a very sharp look at the 2010s economy with excellent performances from Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey.
The Magnificent Ambersons
Perhaps to accompany the Netflix presentation of the completed version of one of the most infamously uncompleted films of all time, in Orson Welles’s The Other Side of the Wind, the company has added a few other beloved Welles films, including another one with a notorious production. This one was taken away from Welles and heavily edited, but remains a masterpiece nonetheless.
As Netflix subscribers get pumped up for the fall arrival of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, it only makes sense that the streaming service would help build anticipation by making more of the master filmmaker’s work available. This is his breakthrough film and remains one of his unqualified masterpieces, a stunning look at masculinity and friendship that also happens to contain one of the best performances of Harvey Keitel’s career. The hardest thing to believe is that it’s almost 50 years old.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Noah Baumbach’s latest didn’t premiere in theaters, going the Netflix route in 2017. Adam Sandler does arguably the best work of his career in this drama about how family can both connect and divide us, sometimes in the same moment. Sandler is joined by Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, and Emma Thompson in this must-see dramedy. Forget the Sandler Netflix Originals — watch this one instead.
Probably the most divisive choice on this list, Michael Mann’s adaptation of his TV hit may be too stylish for some, but that’s the exact reason so many people love it. Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell star in the only film version of Crockett and Tubbs that we’re likely to ever see.
Sean Penn’s last Oscar came for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, the slain activist for gay rights and California’s first openly gay elected official. It’s a movie that has lost none of its dramatic power a decade after its release.
There are so few great sports movies that audiences really embrace the ones that do come along like this underrated 2004 film from Gavin O’Connor. Kurt Russell gives a truly fantastic performance as Herb Brooks, the coach of the U.S. Men’s Hockey team that made everyone believe in miracles when they defeated their heavily favored Russian counterparts.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Movies don’t get much funnier than the best offering from the Monty Python troupe, a comedy that spawned a quoting fandom that still roams the hills saying, “Not dead yet,” and, “I fart in your general direction.” It’s possible there’s a young generation yet to appreciate the comedic brilliance of the men of Monty Python. Start here and then move on to the sketches and other movies, some of which are also on Netflix.
Barry Jenkins’ 2016 drama might be the most shocking Best Picture winner of all time, and not just for the way it went down on Oscar night. Envelope-gate somewhat overshadowed how crazy it is that such a small, gentle, personal film won the biggest prize in movies. If you have somehow never seen it, correct that oversight now. And, if you have, watch it again. It’s a movie that grows richer with each viewing.
A Most Violent Year
One of the most underrated flicks of the ‘10s, J.C. Chandor’s period crime drama stars Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, and David Oyelowo. Awash in the dread surrounding the most violent year in New York history, this is a crime epic for viewers who like characters more than action in their sagas of men who work both sides of the law.
Arguably Netflix’s first masterpiece, Dee Rees’s period drama is an epic portrait of racism, trauma, and injustice in the post-WWII South. You won’t find a better ensemble in a Netflix Original, anchored by Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, and the amazing Dee Rees.
Netflix isn’t exactly great at showcasing the best cinema from around the world (oh, they have a lot of foreign films, but most of them are bad) as those were once the territory of FilmStruck and likely will be on the Criterion Channel. So take this chance to watch one of the best non-English films of the decade, Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s poignant look at repressed youth in northern Turkey.
No Country for Old Men
Joel and Ethan Coen’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s crime novel is one of their best movies, and won them three Oscars — directing, writing, and Best Picture — during arguably the best movie year of the ‘00s. If you haven’t seen it since 2007, you may be surprised at how well it’s held up. The exact same film could be released today and it would have the same cultural impact. It already feels timeless.
If you’re not a fan of Jenny Slate, you probably have yet to see how charming and relatable she is in this Sundance comedy hit. She plays a stand-up comedian whose life is rattled by an unplanned pregnancy. It’s a great comedy — funny, empathetic, and daring.
God bless Bong Joon-ho. The director of The Host, The Mother, and Snowpiercer — all of which you owe it to yourself to see — brought arguably his weirdest movie yet to Netflix in this sci-fi dramedy about a giant pig. Say what you will about the film’s flights of fancy — or Jake Gyllenhaal’s truly committed performance — there ain’t nothing else like it on Netflix.
The Other Side of the Wind
It took almost a half-century to complete Orson Welles’s final film, this meta work that blends documentary style, fictional filmmaking, and even the reputation and life of its own creator into something that feels defiantly new — even though most of it was shot before you were born. It took the efforts of dozens over decades to get this out. You can spare two hours to see what all the work was for.
David Fincher followed his cult hit Fight Club with a movie that still doesn’t get enough attention in his filmography, this 2002 thriller starring Jodie Foster and a young Kristen Stewart. Not only is this a tight, well-crafted flick, it’s also unavailable on Blu-ray — so streaming is the only way to watch it in HD right now.
Olivier Assayas’s ghost story is not your typical tale of the supernatural. The French filmmaker, working in perfect conjunction with star Kristen Stewart, who has never been better, crafts a film about loss, fear, and longing. It’s not an easy film to dissect or understand, but you won’t forget it.
Tom Hanks may be America’s Favorite Dad now, but there was a time when it was difficult to see the star of things like Bosom Buddies and Big transitioning into being one of the most acclaimed actors of all time. This was the film that truly began to realize that potential. Before Forrest Gump and Saving Private Ryan, Hanks starred in Jonathan Demme’s true story of a lawyer fired because of his HIV diagnosis, and the system-changing lawsuit that followed.
Pretty in Pink
Netflix programmers are keenly aware that most of their subscribers are children of the ‘80s, which is why you get so much Steven Spielberg and John Hughes at any given moment. Here’s a film written by Hughes that you may have to stretch to call “great” but it is “iconic,” a great snapshot of ‘80s fashion and suburban adolescence.
Tamara Jenkins returned to filmmaking for the first time since The Savages with this personal portrait of the struggle faced by people going through fertility procedures. With an amazingly truthful performance by Kathryn Hahn, this is the kind of film that feels both delicately specific and universal to the struggle of so many couples.
There are certain tentpoles of American film history that changed the form forever, and this is undeniably one. Heck, we’re still getting Tarantino riffs over 20 years later, as everyone wants to make a movie as effortlessly cool as his masterpiece.
Look, another Adam Sandler movie on this list that’s not one of his Netflix Originals! P.T. Anderson’s delicate Sandler vehicle could kind of be called a rom-com, but it’s not like any rom-com you’ve ever seen. It’s one of PTA’s best movies, a funny, strange, unforgettable story of two outsiders finding a way to be inside together.
Robert Redford’s best film as a director is the story of the investigation by a young attorney (Rob Morrow) into the possibility that the country’s most popular quiz-show winner, Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes), cheated. It’s a fantastic drama with a razor-sharp script by Paul Attanasio and a true story that you probably didn’t know much about beforehand.
Barry Levinson directs Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in the story of a man who learns after the death of his father that he has a brother who is an autistic savant. Both gentlemen are fantastic in a movie that’s arguably a little manipulative, but that should be watched or rewatched purely for the strength of its performances. The movie won four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Hoffman.
Take this as one entry for an entire franchise: Netflix is making available not just the Oscar-winning first film but the entire Rocky series (minus the Creed movies, if you think those count). Given that Sylvester Stallone is actually talking about returning to one of film’s most iconic characters for yet another sequel, it’s time to remember why the story of America’s favorite underdog boxer has resonated for over four decades.
Alfonso Cuaron’s deeply personal story of the domestic worker who really helped raise him is Netflix’s first nominee for Best Picture and a movie that has really altered the way the streaming service will be seen on the film landscape. It’s also a masterpiece, a heartbreaking, mesmerizing piece of filmmaking that really operates on Roger Ebert’s belief that great cinema is an “empathy machine,” a way to experience lives that you otherwise never would.
More Spielberg! Arguably his best historical drama, this Best Picture winner stars Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, a man who saved numerous Jewish lives during World War II. Everyone here is working at the top of their game, including Spielberg, Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes. It’s the kind of movie you see once and never forget.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Sure, we all know how much fun Edgar Wright’s adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novels is, but has anyone else noticed how many careers this movie helped launch? It’s amazing to watch it nearly a decade after it was released and consider how much people like Anna Kendrick, Alison Pill, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Mae Whitman, and Jason Schwartzman have done since then.
A Serious Man
More Coen brothers! When Netflix added Buster Scruggs, they dropped a few earlier films as well, including this underrated comedy about a man dealing with the inequity of life after his wife leaves him. With a great performance by Michael Stuhlbarg, this one has some of the Coens’ best darkly comic bits in the back half of their career.
She’s Gotta Have It
Spike Lee had “it” from the beginning, as you can see in his 1986 debut comedy, recently loosely adapted into a Netflix Original series. It’s incredible to see how much of Lee’s voice as a filmmaker was already there in this passionate, daring independent flick that really announced one of American cinema’s most important filmmakers.
Documentaries that aren’t about serial killers can be a tough sell to a Netflix audience, but just trust us on this one. Sandi Tan’s story of a film she made with some friends in Singapore back in the ‘90s seems at first like just another document of creative young people but becomes something much more complicated as it comments on ownership, toxic masculinity, and the need for closure.
*Short Term 12
Destin Daniel Cretton’s 2013 drama was a great piece of filmmaking when it was released but has become something even more special over the years. We’ve watched its incredible young cast develop into some of the best actors working today: Two of them (Brie Larson and Rami Malek) already have Oscars, and it wouldn’t be too hard to envision Kaitlyn Dever and Lakeith Stanfield joining them one day. Check out this early gem in all their careers, a story of empathy at a group home for troubled teens.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The Best Animated Film Oscar for 2018 went to this unexpected treat, one of the best superhero movies of the modern era. It’s got a little bit of everything. First, it replicates the comic-book aesthetic in ways we’ve never seen before. Second, it is a leap forward in terms of representation in superhero movies. Third, it is just an unbelievable amount of fun, the kind of movie that you can watch again and again. It will hold up for generations to come.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Before Disney+ runs off with all of the MCU and Lucasfilm movies that they can grab, you should take the chance to watch the few that are just sitting there on Netflix waiting for you to enjoy them. One of the most divisive films of the ‘10s, The Last Jedi spawned an entire industry of online hatred and petitions, but it’s a movie that you should A) See for yourself and B) Revisit away from all the hype. You may be surprised.
Strangers on a Train
You can pretty much count on most Alfred Hitchcock films that are added to Netflix finding their way to this list, and they just added one of his most purely enjoyable thrillers. The plot is so devilishly simple that it’s been copied 100 times: two men decide to solve each other’s problems with murder. There aren’t enough classic thrillers on Netflix, so watch the ones that are.
As Cory Booker prepares his run for the White House, take a look at this fascinating documentary about his run for mayor in Newark, New Jersey, way back in 2002. It’s an insightful piece about how politics were already shifting and changing at the turn of the millennium, and, who knows, it may be the prologue to a presidency.
Synecdoche, New York
Charlie Kaufman’s dramedy is an impossible film to sum up in a brief entry, which is one of the reasons a lot of people still haven’t seen it. Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as a theatre director working on his most ambitious project to date, which then blurs with his reality and the film itself. It’s daring, moving, and like nothing else you could watch on Netflix.
By the time The Irishman debuts, expect there to be a dozen or so movies on the service by Martin Scorsese, one of the best directors of all time. This is one of his early masterpieces, a wildly influential story of a man pushed off the edge of sanity, featuring a fearless performance from a young Robert De Niro. Few movies from this era are cited more than this one, and it’s not just because it touches on themes that remain timeless, but that it does so in such a riveting, harrowing way.
Under the Skin
A trippy, sci-fi masterpiece, this flick stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien being exploring the world around her and, well, doing some terrifying things to the men she comes into contact with. Although that only scratches the surface of why this is a special movie, a terrifying tone piece that has more in common with Twin Peaks than Species. It’s unforgettable and brilliant.
We the Animals
Jeremiah Zagar’s adaptation of the hit Justin Torres book is a major player at the 2019 Independent Spirit Awards and the kind of film that a streaming service like Netflix could really help bring to a wider audience. It’s a story of adolescence, a tough upbringing through the eyes of three brothers. It’s somehow poetic and genuine at the same time.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Mike Nichols’s 1966 adaptation of the brilliant Edward Albee play is an amazing drama that plays even more powerfully if one knows the story of stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, a real-life couple that could politely be called tumultuous. They give two of the best performances of their careers in this story of a married couple that has moved past bitterness and resentment to outright hatred. It’s a master class in acting, right there on Netflix.
West Side Story
As the high-profile remake of this gets into production, do yourself a favor and check out one of the most beloved musicals of all time. The 1961 adaptation of the 1957 Broadway hit won an amazing 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. A riff on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, this is a joyous, vibrant film that really helped shape the form of the movie musical in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It’s a must-see.
Robert Eggers’s Sundance hit is a master class in sound design and limited perspective. Using testimony from the Salem witch trials, the concept of Eggers’s script is beautifully simple — what if one of those trials was about a legitimate witch? The sound of branches hitting each other from the wind, the sound of footsteps on the leafy ground — this is a movie that understands that horror is often sensory more than purely conveyed through storytelling. It’s a modern genre masterpiece.
Y Tu Mama También
Likely added to accompany Roma, this is a great piece of work to watch after that one as it’s another obviously personal film from Alfonso Cuarón. Two teenage boys — Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna — fall for an older woman who has a secret. It’s a sweet, moving film from a modern master.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo star in David Fincher’s 2007 masterpiece about the search for the infamous Zodiac killer who terrorized San Francisco. However, this is no mere murder mystery. It’s more about the price we pay for obsession, and it’s one of the most chilling, unforgettable films of the ‘00s. Fincher’s craftsman level of detail turns out to be the perfect partner for a film about trying to grab something that is always just out of reach.