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.
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.
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.
Before Christian Bale became Batman or won an Oscar, he was Patrick Bateman in Mary Harron’s 2000 adaptation of the controversial novel by Bret Easton Ellis. People often meme and gif American Psycho without really digging into why this movie is so good. It’s not just another serial-killer story, but also a dark vision of privilege and ‘80s narcissism. It’s funny and scary in equal measure, with a totally fearless performance from one of the best actors of his generation.
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.
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.
Black Hawk Down
Ridley Scott directed this 2001 Hollywood version of Mark Bowden’s non-fiction book of the same name, which tells the story of a 1993 incident in Mogadishu that became known around the world. Members of the U.S. Military (including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, and Tom Hardy) are pinned down in the city as they try to capture a faction leader. This is a technical marvel, winning Oscars for Best Editing and Sound Mixing.
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.
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.
*Bonnie and Clyde
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway redefined two of the most iconic characters in history with this film, a movie that still influences tales of bullet-crossed lovers decades later. Forget the claims that this is revisionist history that glorifies violence. Those people haven’t actually seen the movie, a film that stands as a commentary on how this kind of behavior can only lead to a bloody end.
Long before he divided the world with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson directed this brilliant teen noir, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, then known primarily as the kid from 3rd Rock From the Sun. It may take place in an ordinary California suburb, but the teens in this movie speak like their words were written by Dashiell Hammett or Jim Thompson. It’s a riveting experiment in genre, and an announcement of a major writer/director talent.
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.
It’s amazing that a studio ever gave a movie this unabashedly bizarre a huge budget but that’s what happened for the Wachowskis’ 2012 adaptation of David Mitchell’s masterful book. When it was released, the film barely made a dent at the box office domestically and polarized critics, but it has built a loyal following over the years since. Don’t be surprised if it shows up on a few “best of the decade” lists. People who love this movie, really love this movie. See if you’re one of them.
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.
*Cool Hand Luke
Paul Newman is one of the best actors in history, and this remains one of his most beloved and iconic roles for a reason. He plays Luke, a prisoner in a Florida prison system who develops an antagonistic relationship with his warden. Balancing gritty realism with Newman’s blinding star power, this is a great movie to show to anyone wondering how the man became one of the biggest stars in the world.
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.
Netflix has been cycling Martin Scorsese movies in and out of the service all year, likely to build buzz for their priciest venture to date, The Irishman. Right now, the director’s Best Picture winner is on the service. Many seem to have written this off as lesser Scorsese, but they’re wrong. It’s a film that holds up incredibly well on repeated viewing. Like most Marty movies, it’s cinema.
There aren’t nearly enough true classics on Netflix, so you should take every chance you can to catch the movies that really defined cinema, including this 1965 David Lean classic, a winner of five Oscars and a movie that came to be the first that comes to mind for many when they hear the word ‘epic’. Omar Sharif plays Yuri Zhivago and Julie Christie the married woman with whom he falls in love. At over three hours, this may not be a film designed for the Netflix attention span, but it is truly worth the effort.
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.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Vince Gilligan and Aaron Paul returned to the world of Breaking Bad, one of the most beloved dramas of all time, in this beautiful epilogue to the story of Jesse Pinkman. Picking up right after the end of the series, El Camino details what happened to Jesse after Walter White saved his life. With a cinematic eye that recalls classic Westerns, this is one of the most visually striking Netflix Originals, but it works because of how easily Paul steps back into the shoes of his most famous character.
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.
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.
Gangs of New York
There’s an incredible number of films by Martin Scorsese on Netflix in a move designed to get you even more excited for this Fall’s The Irishman. This is one of the director’s more underrated modern movies, especially surprising given it’s also one of his biggest hits at the box office. Over the years people have dismissed this period action-drama, but it features a stunning performance from Daniel Day-Lewis and incredible design detail.
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.
Movies really miss Robert Altman. There’s no one now really doing the brilliant character studies that defined his career, largely improvised works that intertwined dozens of people in fascinating ways. This is one of his most beloved films, a 2001 murder mystery about the class struggle that so shaped pop culture that Downton Abbey was originally planned as an adaptation of it. It earned Altman his sixth and final Oscar nomination for Best Director.
It feels like some community theater somewhere in the country is probably always doing an adaptation of Grease. Why has this musical persisted in pop culture while others have disappeared? Part of the reason is the blinding star power in the movie from John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. They defined the roles and musical forever to such a degree that all of those community actors are really just doing impressions 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.
This 2004 Guillermo del Toro action classic stars 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.
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.
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 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.
If you like Daniel Craig as James Bond, you owe it to yourself to check out this Matthew Vaughn 2004 crime/action flick that helped get him the part. The director who would go on to make his own superspy franchise in The Kingman directed the future 007 in a wildly entertaining movie about very bad people that co-stars Tom Hardy, Colm Meaney, and Sienna Miller. It’s stylish, gritty fun.
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.
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.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Guy Ritchie’s breakthrough is over two decades old now, making it the perfect time to look back on one of the biggest indie hits of its era. With its tough-talking characters, clever plotting, and charismatic ensemble (this is the movie that gave us Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham), some people wrote off Lock as a Tarantino riff but it’s interesting now to consider how many films were influenced by this one too.
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.
Spike Lee used the clout from the acclaim garnered by Do the Right Thing to make his most ambitious film, this biopic of the legendary civil rights leader, Malcolm X. Denzel Washington is riveting (and should have won an Oscar) as the complex man behind the legend of Malcolm X. Don’t miss this one. It’s unforgettable.
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.
*The Matrix Trilogy
Sometimes a film’s influence sneaks up on pop culture. Sometimes it’s instant. This is the latter. It feels like there were movies before Neo and after Neo. The minute we saw it, we knew that action and sci-fi would never be the same. All three films are on Netflix, sitting there so you can prepare for the rumored fourth installment.
As Netflix subscribers pore over Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, it only makes sense that the streaming service would help build on that interest 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.
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.
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 Oscar for their work here.
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 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.
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.
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.
Rachel Getting Married
Jonathan Demme’s character drama contains arguably Anne Hathaway’s best performance as Kym, a recovering alcoholic dealing with trauma over the course of her sister Rachel’s wedding weekend. This is a beautiful film, full of both joy and regret, and anchored by Demme’s deep humanism and skill with performers. It’s one of the best films of the ‘00s.
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.
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.
Rebel Without a Cause
Nicholas Ray’s 1955 drama is most remembered for James Dean’s most definitive role, but there’s a great film around that performance too, a brilliant dissection of changes morals and culture after World War II. By the time Rebel was released, Dean had already died in a car accident, adding a level of poignancy to the entire film that helped elevate it to an instant classic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We still miss John Candy. His co-starring work here is only one of the great things about this near-perfect comedy, a flick that caught Candy, Bill Murray, and Harold Ramis at their charismatic peaks. Murray is at his sad sack best as a man who gets knocked down by life and decides to join the Army. Comedy hijinks ensue. A lot of comedies from the early ‘80s have not aged well. This one has.
Tell Me Who I Am
Heartbreaking and fascinating, this Netflix original documentary is about a pair of twin brothers, one of whom loses his memory after an accident. All he can remember is his twin, who then fills him in on the details of his life, family, friends, and even girlfriend. But he leaves something out. How we deal with trauma and how difficult it would be to give that trauma to someone you love is the theme of this unforgettable film. You will cry.
Danny Boyle really broke through with his second film, this beloved adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel about addiction. Ewan McGregor plays Mark Renton, the most charismatic member of a group of friends who became instantly iconic, including Spud (Ewan Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Tommy (Kevin McKidd), and the sociopathic Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Propelled by one of the best soundtracks of the ‘90s, this movie has more energy than nearly anything else on Netflix.
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.
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.
Jennifer Lawrence’s breakthrough role came in this resonant drama from writer/director Debra Granik about a teenager in the Ozarks forced to deal with the seedy, underground world of meth dealers in this poor part of the country. Lawrence is so believable that she earned an Oscar nomination alongside nods for John Hawkes, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture.
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.