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.)
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.
The most ambitious film work of Will Smith’s career remains this unique biopic of Muhammad Ali, directed by Michael Mann (Heat). The approach isn’t what you’d expect from a traditional biopic but Mann draws something deeper out of Smith than what we usually get from one of the biggest stars in the world. It’s a complex look at one of the most famous athletes in history.
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.
As Good As It Gets
Believe it or not, this is the last movie to win both the Oscar for Best Actor (Jack Nicholson) and Best Actress (Helen Hunt). James L. Brooks’ romantic comedy is a perfect example of a movie that caught its cast at just the right moment, getting one of the last Nicholson performances that could be called charming and supporting it with great work from Hunt and Greg Kinnear. Some of it is a bit dated, but it catches just enough lightning in a bottle in terms of casting to justify another look.
Mati Diop’s directorial debut is a tender, mesmerizing study of life on the coast of Senegal, where men often venture out for more prosperous shores, leaving the women behind. It’s a delicate, beautiful film that plays like a romance, ghost story, and study of inequality all at the same time. See it before someone recommends it to you.
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.
On the Mount Rushmore of influential sci-fi movies next to the Lucasverse and Alien, there needs to be a space for Deckard and the replicants of Ridley Scott’s other masterpiece, a movie people still talk about four decades after its release. So many filmmakers have tried to put their own spin on this movie, and most have fallen short. See where so much of modern genre filmmaking got its start.
The Bling Ring
Sofia Coppola directed this 2013 true story about a group of young people in Los Angeles who decided to start robbing celebrities. It’s an underrated dramedy about privilege and desire, filtered through the vibrant viewpoint of its filmmaker and talented young cast, including Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga.
Ted Demme’s drug drama was dismissed on its release as being too derivative of other crime epics of the era, but it has developed a pretty loyal following over the years. One of the reasons for that is that it contains one of Johnny Depp’s last great performances, a totally committed turn as George Yung, a man caught up in the deadliest drug cartel in the world.
Jeremy Saulnier wrote and directed this 2013 breakthrough, a great little thriller that’s reminiscent of the Coen Brothers’ classic Blood Simple in its blunt, darkly humorous approach. Macon Blair plays Dwight, a vagrant who learns that the man who murdered his parents is about to be released from prison. Dwight takes action – that’s all you need to know. This is a vicious thrill ride of a movie.
Michelle Williams just won her first Emmy, but so far, her deserved Oscar remains just out of reach. One of her best performances on the big screen is in this intimate, devastating dissection of the dissolution of a marriage, which also just so happens to contain arguably Ryan Gosling’s best performance to date. They’re both masterful here. You won’t forget it.
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.
Kevin Smith’s best film is also one of his most personal, the story of a man who falls in love with a lesbian and destroys his friendship in the process. Smith has never been better than he is here at capturing believable, funny human relationships, and he gets his best acting work of his career as well from Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, and Jason Lee. It won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay for a reason.
City of God
Fernando Meirelles burst onto the scene with this 2002 drama about the brutality of trying to grow up in the violent favelas of Brazil. Loosely based on real events, City of God details the rise of crime in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro from the ‘60s to ‘80s, but people mostly remember it for its daring visual style and unforgettable child performers. It was a worldwide success, landing four nominations at the Oscars, including Cinematography, Director, Editing, and Screenplay.
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 Knight
Maybe you’ve heard of this one? Christian Bale? Heath Ledger? Arguably the most influential movie of the current millennium. So much of pop culture cinema of the last decade wears the influence of Christopher Nolan’s best film like a badge of honor. You’ve probably seen this, but we thought you should know that you can see it again right now (and you can watch Batman Begins as a warm-up on Netflix too). Our job is done here.
Dolemite Is My Name
Eddie Murphy is back! It’s been a long time since we saw this version of Eddie, who reminds us how funny and charismatic he can be with the right part. That part is the flashy personality that was Rudy Ray Moore, a washed-up musician who transformed himself into the character of Dolemite. Like The Disaster Artist and Ed Wood, this is an ode to DIY filmmaking with not just a great performance from Murphy, but Wesley Snipes and Keegan Michael Key too.
Mike Newell’s telling of this fascinating true story contains two of the best performances in the careers of Johnny Depp and Al Pacino. Depp plays Joseph D. Pistone, an FBI agent who went undercover in the New York City mafia, calling himself Donnie Brasco. There, he meets Lefty Ruggiero, played perfectly by Pacino, and realizes that to take down the crime syndicate, he will have to take down someone with whom he’s become friends.
Remember when no one was cooler than Ryan Gosling in his bad-ass scorpion jacket? Dripping with macho style, Nicolas Winding Refn’s best film stars Gosling as a stunt driver who gets caught up in the problems of a single mother, played by Carey Mulligan. Albert Brooks almost steals the movie, but this Refn’s movie through and through, and one of the best L.A. Movies of the ‘10s.
*End of Watch
Jake Gyllenhaal gives one of his best performances in this gritty cop drama from David Ayer. He co-stars with Michael Peña in an intense story of two partner police officers in modern-day Los Angeles. With a visceral style and grounded performances from its leads, this is the rare cop drama that feels like it’s doing more than recycling tropes.
*Escape From New York
The master John Carpenter directed Kurt Russell to one of his most iconic roles in this action/sci-fi film about the seemingly impending day in which Manhattan is just converted into a prison. And then the President of the United States ends up there and the unforgettable Snake Plissken has to go in and rescue him.
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.
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.
A Ghost Story
David Lowery’s experimental film is one of the most unusual movies you could watch on Netflix tonight. It stars Rooney Mara as a grieving widow after her husband, played by Casey Affleck, suddenly dies, but it becomes something much stranger and more ambitious when it becomes a decades-spanning look at a lost soul in a world filled with grief and trauma. It’s a beautiful movie about loss.
Joel Edgerton wrote, directed, and co-stars in this creepy thriller about a man whose old friend worms his way back into his life with unclear motives. Jason Bateman is spectacular as the friend who may actually be the true villain of the piece. Clever and twisting, this is a thriller for adults that works.
If you loved Uncut Gems like most people (or even if you hated it, you monster), then you should check out the Safdie brothers’ previous venture, this crime drama starring Robert Pattinson. The actor plays a guy whose brother gets caught after a bank robbery and so he spends the rest of the night trying to get the money together to bust him out. Like Sandler, Pattinson has a nervous energy that fits the Safdie aesthetic perfectly. It’s stressful and exhilarating in equal measure.
After you’re done watching the brilliance of The Irishman, go back and check out one of the films that influenced it greatly, Martin Scorsese’s 1990 masterpiece about Henry Hill. Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, and Lorraine Bracco star in a film that really changed the entire landscape of how we tell stories about the mob. So much of GoodFellas has been copied by inferior films and TV shows that followed, that you owe it to yourself to see one of the most important (and best) movies ever made.
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 that rapturously received critically or commercially when it came out, but it’s become a beloved genre classic. Murray stars as a weatherman forced to relive the same day over and over again until he gets it right. It’s not just the clever premise but how much co-writer/director Harold Ramis and Murray inject humanism and truth into it. And it’s held up so much better than most early ‘90s comedies.
*Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
It looks a bit culturally dated now, but Stanley Kramer’s 1967 drama was a major cultural force, making a fortune at the box office and becoming a touchstone in American film history. Katherine Houghton plays a woman who brings home her new fiancé to meet her parents, played by legendary couple Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, who passed just days after filming shooting. Sidney Poitier gives a game-changing performance as the fiancé, whose race rattles his progressive future in-laws. Keep in mind, when this film was released, interracial marriage was still illegal in 17 states, and this film shocked all of them.
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.
Hell or High Water
David Mackenzie’s 2016 modern western is feeling more and more like a definitive film of the last decade with each passing year. There aren’t many films that one could consider better at capturing the lengths people will go to hold on to what’s theirs than this story of two brothers (Chris Pine & Ben Foster) who become bank robbers to save their family land. The cast is uniformly great, but it’s Taylor Sheridan’s excellent script that really makes this a special movie.
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!
Alison Brie co-wrote and stars in this tense drama about a woman who is mentally unraveling at the seams. Sarah is a shy, sweet young woman who doesn’t have many friends or hobbies, but she starts to slide into something more dangerous a year after her mother’s death. Sleepwalking and ripped apart by anxiety, she starts to be unable to separate reality from her fears. Brie is legitimately great in a fearless, personal performance.
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.
Netflix keeps cycling Martin Scorsese movies in and out of its collection, and one of the latest additions is this 2011 adaptation of Brian Selznick’s novel that was originally released in 3-D. Nominated for 11 Oscars (and winning five), this is one of Scorsese’s most acclaimed and beloved films, which should further put to rest any of those dumb insinuations that the legendary director only knows how to make mob movies. This is a whimsical, delightful film that you can watch with the entire family. It may not be in 3-D on Netflix, but you can still enjoy its endless visual glory.
There aren’t many writer-directors who can make big-budget, original blockbusters like Christopher Nolan. One of his best remains this 2010 sci-fi thriller about people who can literally implant ideas in someone’s subconscious or steal information held within. Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt lead one of Nolan’s best ensembles.
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.
Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood recently divided Film Twitter and made 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.
Netflix’s most ambitious and expensive project to date is this 3.5-hour epic based on the life of Frank Sheeran, errand boy for the Mafia and friend of Jimmy Hoffa. Martin Scorsese directs living legends like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci to some of the best work of their career. It is epic, elegiac, and unforgettable — a commentary on a violent life and, really, the filmmaker’s entire body of work.
One of Cameron Crowe’s best films became something of a punchline with its heavily quoted lines (“Show me the money,” “You had me at hello,” everything that cute kid says), but it’s actually a wonderful romantic comedy that has held up incredibly well in the quarter-century since its release. Tom Cruise plays the title character, a sports agent who is pushed into starting his own agency while he falls in love with a single mother, played by Renee Zellweger. It’s sweet, smart, and funny.
We will still have to wait for the long-promised full cut of the two Kill Bill films into one epic movie (and the long-rumored third volume of this tale), but that shouldn’t stop you from revisiting two of Quentin Tarantino’s best films. In a catalog that includes a lot of great performances (and a few Oscar winners), one of QT’s best is Uma Thurman as The Bride, a legendary action character seeking vengeance on the man who betrayed her.
He may have won awards for Green Book, but Peter Farrelly’s best film remains this 1996 comedy starring Woody Harrelson as a grifting bowler and Randy Quaid as the Amish prodigy he exploits and then befriends. All you need to know about this movie is that it’s laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end, and also features one of Bill Murray’s best supporting performances.
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 Knight wrote and directed this 2013 drama that contains one of Tom Hardy’s career-best performances. It’s an actor’s showcase in that it contains no one else on-screen other than Hardy, who plays the title character, someone juggling various issues in his life as he drives through the night to reach his in-labor girlfriend. Hardy is charismatic and brilliant, proving he’s one of the few actors of his generation who could carry a one-man show like this.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers & Return of the King
It’s kind of amazing that what was once one of the biggest theatrical events of all time can now be watched on your phone – well, two-thirds of it. In a truly bizarre bit of programming, the first film in the LOTR saga isn’t on Netflix, but it’s two excellent sequels are. These films have held up beautifully, still a great example of how movie magic can transport to fantasy worlds. If you haven’t seen them since they ruled the cinematic ring, it’s time to rejoin the fellowship.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 character study is one of the beloved auteur’s best works, a study of the interconnectivity of modern life and the fallibility of human relationships. Coming not long after Boogie Nights, this is the film that really affirmed PTA’s status as one of America’s best filmmakers, and contains some of the career-best work of Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, Jason Robards, Julianne Moore, Philip Baker Hall, and more.
Noah Baumbach returns to Netflix with his best film to date, the story of the dissolution of a marriage between a theatre director (Adam Driver) and his lead actress (Scarlett Johannson). The two leads also do the best work of their careers in a smart, moving piece of work about how divorce turns you into a person you never thought you’d become, and how you have to move on as that new person. It’s one of the best films of 2019.
One of P.T. Anderson’s best films, and one of the best films of the 2010s by anybody, is this drama starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. Originally seen as a dissection of the creation of Scientology, The Master is a lot more than that, breaking down leader/follower relationships, trauma, and doubt in ways that only one of our best filmmakers could. It’s a masterpiece.
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
This Noah Baumbach film didn’t premiere in theaters, instead 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.
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.
Sam Rockwell went from an underrated actor to an Oscar winner in the last couple years, but this was arguably his most beloved and possibly best performance before his career took off. The new love affair with Rockwell should lead people to Duncan Jones’ best work, the story of a man working a solitary job on the lunar surface who learns a terrifying truth about his existence. It’s a brilliant piece of intellectual science fiction that shows how great genre movies don’t always need huge budgets to be effective.
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.
Dennis Lehane’s novel gets an incredible adaptation in this 2003 Oscar winner starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon, directed by Clint Eastwood. It’s a fascinating ensemble piece about how past trauma and resentment resurfaces in a group of friends after one of their daughters is murdered. Both Penn and Robbins won well-deserved Oscars for their work here.
Believe it or not, young people, Nicolas Cage was once one of the biggest action stars in the world. And this is one of his biggest hits, a family adventure film about a historian looking for a treasure trove hidden by the founders of this country. Case does the Indiana Jones thing well enough that this produced a huge sequel and is being rebooted soon by Disney.
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.
Once Upon a Time in the West
Sergio Leone’s films with Clint Eastwood are rightfully famous, but his best work may be without Clint in this 1968 epic starring Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, and Jason Robards. Collaborating with Dario Argento, Ennio Morricone and Bernardo Bertolucci, Leone delivered a timeless, influential masterpiece that just may be the best work of one his genre’s best filmmakers.
*The Other Guys
Is this Will Ferrell’s last great comedy? Capping off a decade that included Anchorman, Old School, Step Brothers, and Talladega Nights, the SNL alum co-stars with Mark Wahlberg as two cops forced to step into the spotlight after the hysterical death of the two most popular officers on the force. Ferrell and Wahlberg are great in one of Adam McKay’s funnier comedies. He should reunite with his best leading man and make another one.
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.
Arguably more fantasy than horror, Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece has just enough nightmare fuel to qualify, and that’s not even including the incredibly dark “real-world” themes with which GDT is playing here. Del Toro’s first Oscar winner blends the fantasy world of a girl named Ofelia and the abject cruelty of her stepfather, a Captain during the Spanish Civil War. Even in a movie that features a child-eating creature called the Pale Man, the real monster may be human.
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 really realized 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.
Adrien Brody won the Oscar for Roman Polanski’s true story of the life of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish-Jewish pianist who survived the Holocaust. Moving and gripping, The Pianist captures something rarely seen in historical documents — how much survival was often dictated by chance encounters and downright luck. Polanski also won the Oscar for Best Director.
The Place Beyond the Pines
Derek Cianfrance’s 2013 crime drama divided audiences when it was released but it’s definitely worth a reappreciation now. Anchored by a great ensemble, including Ryan Gosling, Ben Mendelsohn, Mahershala Ali, and Bradley Cooper, this is a story of the ripple effect of criminal behavior, and how it can impact across the generations. It’s smarter and better in every way than it got credit for when it was released.
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.
We’re still mourning the loss of the musical genius that was Prince, but we’ll always have Purple Rain, a perfect document of a time when he was on top of the world of pop culture. Part film, part accompaniment to a masterpiece of an album, it’s fun to watch Purple Rain now as a snapshot of one of the most important chapters in music history.
One of the best films of all time, Martin Scorsese’s drama won Robert De Niro his second Oscar (and should have won Scorsese his first Oscar as well as Best Picture) for playing Jake LaMotta, a famous boxer in the ‘40s whose life unraveled in the ‘50s in large part due to his rage, jealousy, and violent behavior. It’s a riveting character study that has lost none of its power in the nearly 40 years since its release.
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.
Everyone talking about the arrival of elevated horror on the scene as if Midsommar and The Lighthouse were the first of the genre to be taken seriously must not remember the ‘70s when movies as dark and vicious as Rosemary’s Baby won Oscars and made millions. Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel has lost none of its terrifying power, thanks in large part to the phenomenal work by Mia Farrow, who makes Rosemary’s predicament palpable.
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.
*A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
There aren’t a lot of great kids movies on Netflix, especially as so many family subscribers are moving over to Disney+, so we should take the chance to watch the best ones as much as possible. And maybe if you watch this very funny, clever Aardman movie over and over again, they’ll make more of them. The great silent comedy of Shaun the Sheep meets science fiction in this riff on E.T. that’s very sweet and very funny.
*The Shawshank Redemption
Who doesn’t love this movie? One of the most popular films around actually wasn’t all that successful when it was released in 1994 but has since gone on to regularly rank on lists of people’s favorite movies ever made. People identify with the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and his time in the titular institution, where he meets the beloved Red (Morgan Freeman), another character that fans just adore. Based on a short story by Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption feels like a classic movie already, something that people will watch for generations.
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.
*Silver Linings Playbook
Sometimes a director finds a cast at just the right time and that’s exactly what happened when David O. Russell tapped Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Jacki Weaver in this romantic dramedy. They’re all perfect, making this one of the more likable and easy-to-watch movies you could possibly bring up on Netflix.
Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino adapted this stylish version of Miller’s beloved graphic novel about violent men and femme fatales. The star power here is one draw (including Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Benicio del Toro, and Elijah Wood), but the best reason to watch this is that there’s never been anything else quite like it.
Bong Joon-ho is about to have a major cultural moment with the release of his Palme d’Or-winning Parasite. Why not go back and check out what is arguably his most popular movie to date, this 2013 adaptation of a groundbreaking French graphic novel? The concept is wonderfully simple — an always-moving train is divided into class with the 1% at the front and the poorest people in the back. Those in the caboose, including Chris Evans and Song Kang-ho, plan to move up a few train cars. It’s smart, action-packed, memorable sci-fi action, and it’s the kind that also has something to say.
The Spectacular Now
James Ponsoldt’s 2013 adaptation of Tim Tharp’s 2008 novel was one of the biggest hits to come out of that year’s Sundance Film Festival, and helped launch the careers of Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, and Brie Larson. On paper, it’s another romantic dramedy about two very different teenagers who find themselves falling in love, but Ponsoldt and his cast imbue the film with a truth that’s so often missing from this genre. It’s a legitimately great movie. A bit of trivia: this film was the last one reviewed by Roger Ebert, who gave it four stars.
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.
Harmony Korine’s 2013 dark comedy is one of the most divisive movies of the ‘10s. Some people just see excess, but there’s more to this movie than the many GIFs that sprung from it may lead you to believe. Not only is it a mesmerizing blend of music video composition and cautionary drama, but it contains arguably the best performance of James Franco’s career. Spriiiinnnnnng breaaaakkkkkkk!
The Squid and the Whale
Noah Baumbach’s personal 2005 drama dissects the impact of divorce on an average family and offers the suggestion that the flaws of parents will only be amplified in their children. Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, and Jesse Eisenberg all give excellent performances in a film that feels both specifically revealing and universal in its themes.
The pinnacle of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s comedy career remains this modern classic, a movie that’s as rewatchable as anything you could possibly find on any streaming service. One of the reasons for that is the fearless joy with which Ferrell and John C. Reilly literally throw themselves into the roles of step brothers who start as enemies and end as family.
The deeply romantic tone of films like Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby can be seen in Baz Luhrmann’s first work, the unabashedly beautiful story of a family of ballroom dancers competing in the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship. Delightful and sweet, Luhrmann’s film is based on his own play and features some of the best dancing scenes of its era. This is actually the first of what became known as The Red Curtain Trilogy with Romeo + Juliet and Moulin.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
One of Matt Damon’s career-best performances is in this 1999 thriller based on the Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name. Damon plays Tom Ripley, a charming young man who cons himself into the life of a wealthy friend named Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), whose identity he essentially steals. With great performances from Damon, Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, against the backdrop of beautiful European settings, this is a must-see.
*There Will Be Blood
One of the best films of the ‘00s, Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s Oil! won Daniel Day-Lewis his second Oscar as the unforgettable Daniel Plainview. As detailed and epic as great fiction, Anderson’s movie is one of the most acclaimed of its era, a film in which it’s hard to find a single flaw. Even if you think you’ve seen it enough, watch it again. You’ll find a new reason to admire it.
*Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Gary Oldman stars in one of the best adaptations of the master of literary espionage, John le Carré. It’s a period piece – with incredible ‘70s detail – about the hunt for a Soviet double agent. It’s a film that works because of its incredible attention to the little things, and an amazing ensemble that also includes Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Mark Strong, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
It may not be accepted in 2020, but Sydney Pollack’s comedy about a man who dresses as a woman to finally make it in his career was a blockbuster hit when it was released almost four decades ago. Watch it now for the incredible comic timing of Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, and Bill Murray, among others. It’s one of those ‘80s comedies that really shattered all expectations, making over $175 million (in 1982 movie) and even winning an Oscar for Lange. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards! That just doesn’t happen for comedies anymore.
Kevin Bacon stars in this 1990 low-budget action B-movie that became such a cult hit that it spawned an entire franchise (the seventh film in the series is currently in production). There’s something so wonderfully simple about Tremors – average people trying to survive an attack by creatures under the sand. It’s funny, quickly paced, and easy to revisit if you haven’t seen it in thirty years or rewatch even if you have.
Wolfgang Petersen rode his fame as an action director to make a massive, big-budget version of Homer’s Iliad, and it ended up being one of the highest grossing films of 2004. Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, and Orlando Bloom lead a massively talented ensemble in an old-fashioned epic film that recalls the era of Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments. It’s better than you remember, a great example of action-adventure filmmaking.
The Two Popes
Fernando Meirelles (City of God) directs this fascinating two-hander starring Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins as the last and current Popes. The majority of Anthony McCarten’s script is a conversation between the two in the days when Pope Benedict handed off papal duties to Pope Francis, using that context to examine modern faith and how it has to change in the new century. Hopkins is very good but the real draw here is arguably the best performance of Jonathan Pryce’s remarkable career.
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.
*The Vengeance Trilogy
The massive success of Parasite will lead more people to South Korean cinema and that will quickly get them into the filmography of Park Chan-wook, one of the best directors from any country in the last two decades. His most famous film remains Oldboy but that’s only the middle chapter in a masterful trilogy led by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and closed by Lady Vengeance. Watch all three.
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.
David Fincher’s 2007 masterpiece has only grown in esteem with each year since its release. A perfect blend of obsession and mystery, Zodiac is more about how crime impacts the world around it than the crime itself. Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo star in the story of people who became a part of a madman’s twisted plan, and the questions that remain about his identity only make this film stronger.