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The 50 Best Movies on Peacock

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Photo: Focus Features
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This article is updated frequently as movies leave and enter Peacock. New titles are indicated with an asterisk.

Who’s ready for another streaming service? NBCUniversal has jumped into the crowded pool in 2020 with the launch of its long-awaited Peacock, a new destination for everything from classic monster movies to episodes of 30 Rock to original programming.

But as with all of these services, it can all be a little overwhelming. How do you dig through the hundreds of films in the Peacock library to find what’s best?

The truth is that Peacock’s film catalogue is a little thin and a little strange (there’s an amazing number of B-movies like Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus), but it does have some of the weight of the Universal brand and all its history, including classic franchises and recent hits (and the service will likely have more when licensing deals expire with other streaming platforms). But until the selection expands, you can’t go wrong with any of the following 50 films.

About a Boy

There’s been a bit of a reappraisal of Hugh Grant’s acting ability in the last few years with his great work in A Very English Scandal and The Undoing, but his career-best work may still be in his adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel about a man-child who learns how to grow up from his friendship with a kid. Minnie Driver is pretty delightful here too.

American Werewolf in London

John Landis is widely recognized as a comedy guy because of films like Animal House and The Blues Brothers, but he also pioneered horror with projects like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video and this make-up masterpiece, a movie that holds up today because of its emphasis on incredible practical effects. David Naughton and Griffin Dunner play a pair of American backpackers who travel to England and discover that werewolves are very real. The original tagline: “From the director of Animal House … a different kind of animal.”

Apollo 13

Ron Howard directed a beloved 1995 historical drama about the dangerous space mission that nearly killed three American astronauts. Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton star as the space travelers with a great cast joining them on the ground, including Oscar nominee Ed Harris. Nominated for a total of nine Oscars, including Best Picture, Apollo 13 is the movie people still watch over 25 years later.

*Arrival

Amy Adams stars in Denis Villeneuve’s 2016 critical smash hit about an alien visitation who have landed on Earth with no way to communicate with the people of our planet. Adams is a linguist who discovers what the aliens are saying and what they want, with great personal investment. Gorgeously shot and creatively ambitious, Arrival is one of the best sci-fi films of the ‘10s.

Away from Her

Sarah Polley’s 2006 directorial debut is a moving love story about two people who struggle through the pain of Alzheimer’s. Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent star as married couple who fall apart after she develops the disease and essentially forgets her husband, even developing a relationship with another nursing home resident. For her powerful performance, Christie landed an Oscar nomination.

Back to the Future trilogy

Robert Zemeckis directed all three movies in one of the most beloved trilogies of all time. The story of a teen who goes back in time turned Michael J. Fox into a household name and still serves as the template for how to do this kind of family/sci-fi adventure. The two sequels may not be as good, but they’re better than you remember.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Director Werner Herzog was an unexpected choice for an unexpected sequel to Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film Bad Lieutenant, but this isn’t your normal sequel. In fact, it has nothing really to do with that first film other than it also centering a corrupt cop. Nicolas Cage gives one of his most unhinged and impressive performances here, and that’s really saying something.

Being John Malkovich

Long before Charlie Kaufman wrote the excellent I’m Thinking of Ending Things for Netflix he really broke through with this clever 1999 comedy, a film that really put him and Spike Jonze on the movie map, and landed its writer an Oscar nomination. How does one even begin to describe this surreal comedy in a capsule description? It’s wonderfully impossible to do so.

Bernie

Richard Linklater directed this black comedy based on the true story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a man who befriended an elderly Texas woman named Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) and ended up murdering her. It’s a quirky little movie with one of Black’s best performances and a great supporting turn by Matthew McConaughey.

The Big Lebowski

Joel and Ethan Coen followed up the biggest hit of their careers, Fargo, with the story of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, unforgettably played by Jeff Bridges. In one of his most iconic roles, Bridges captures a kind of lazy L.A. style that turned this flick into a comedy classic, a movie that’s being quoted somewhere in the world on every minute of every day.

*The Birds

Often dismissed as lesser Hitchcock because of the relatively goofy plot, this 1963 smash hit is extremely underrated and entertaining. Tippi Hedren made her big-screen debut as a woman who stumbles into a series of unexplained bird attacks in Bodega Bay. It may not be the master’s best, but it’s still essential.

Black Christmas

Most people who love A Christmas Story probably don’t realize that the same director (Bob Clark) made another holiday classic with a very different tone. This is one of the most influential slasher pics of all time, the story of a group of sorority sisters who are cut down one by one over the holiday season. It was remade in 2019 with an interesting twist but the 1974 classic is the one on Peacock.

*Brokeback Mountain

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal star in a romantic drama that ended up being one of the best films of the ‘00s. Adapted from the short story by Annie Proulx, Ang Lee’s film is tender and heartbreaking, the story of unaccepted love between two men in the American West. It features some of the career-best work from Ledger, Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and Michelle Williams.

The Cabin in the Woods

Drew Goddard’s dissection of the entire horror genre works so well because it’s also a wonderful scary movie on its own terms. With a great cast that includes a pre-huge Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford, The Cabin in the Woods is endlessly rewatchable thanks in large part to a razor-sharp script from Goddard and Joss Whedon, bringing some of the wit that we saw in their collaborations together on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel to the big screen.

Carlito’s Way

Arguably Brian De Palma’s last masterpiece, the 1993 film stars Al Pacino as the unforgettable Carlito Brigante, a Puerto Rican career criminal who wants out of the life, planning to go straight and retire. Of course, his past won’t let him do that. One of Pacino’s best performances is supported by great work from Sean Penn too.

*Charlie Wilson’s War

Aaron Sorkin wrote this great Mike Nichols film starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. It’s the true story of Charlie Wilson and a covert operation to support the Afghan militia against the Soviets. It’s smart, scathing, and very funny, and Hoffman earned an Oscar nomination for his work here.

*Crooklyn

One of Spike Lee’s most personal films, this semi-autobiographical dramedy was considered something of a disappointment when it came out but has been critically reappraised over the years. Taking place in the summer of 1973, it tells the story of Troy (Zelda Harris) and her Brooklyn family, including wonderful performances from Alfre Woodard and Delroy Lindo.

*Dances With Wolves

It’s hard to believe there was a time when a historical drama like Dances With Wolves could be such a phenomenon, but it shows you how much our times have changed in the three decades since its release. The movie made over $400 million worldwide (!!!) on its way to seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Director. Known more now as the movie that stole deserving Oscars from GoodFellas, it’s still better than its reputation.

Darkman

It’s funny how much Universal didn’t know what they were in for when they gave the director of Army of Darkness enough money to make his own superhero movie. The result is one of the most twisted superhero flicks of all time, the story of a disfigured scientist seeking revenge, played by Liam Neeson. It’s a film that owes more to classic Universal flicks than Marvel comics, and it’s unforgettable because of it.

*Die Hard

The first four films are finally all on Peacock. Die Hard With a Vengeance is underrated and Live Free or Die Hard has its moments, but the original is still the masterpiece, a film that truly rewrote the rules for the genre, shifting it more to everyman characters like Willis and away from muscular stars like Sly and Ah-nuld.

*Drag Me to Hell

Sam Raimi left the Spider-man franchise aside to return to his horror roots with an intense story of possession and evil. Alison Lohman stars as a woman who chooses not to extend the mortgage of an elderly woman and learns that hard way that curses are real. One of the best horror movies of the ‘00s, it’s a film that will make you wish Raimi still made genre flicks.

Erin Brockovich

Steven Soderbergh directed Julia Roberts to an Oscar for her work in this 2000 dramatization of the life of Erin Brockovich, an attorney who fought Goliath and won, tackling Pacific Gas and Electric Company after the poisoned a community. Smart and tightly made (like all Soderbergh), it’s one of the better biopics, thanks in large part to Roberts’s driven performance (and Albert Finney’s amazing supporting one).

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Michel Gondry directed Charlie Kaufman’s script into one of the best films of the ‘00s, a story of romance and regret. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are breathtaking as an estranged couple who have decided to erase the memory of their relationship from their minds. Would you remove a formative part of your life because the heartbreak was too painful? This is a straight-up masterpiece.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Sometimes there’s just a perfect, blissful balance between director and source material, which is the case when Terry Gilliam met Hunter S. Thompson in this 1998 adaptation of Thompson’s most popular book. A lot of filmmakers would have tried to alter this crazy, semi-true story, but Gilliam leans into its insanity and adds some of his own. It also contains one of Johnny Depp’s best performances.

Field of Dreams

If you build it, he will come. One of the best baseball movies ever made is really a story about fathers and sons. Phil Alden Robinson directed Kevin Costner to one of the most beloved performances of his career as an average Iowan who hears a voice that tells him to build a baseball field. Redemption, U.S. history, and, of course, a love of America’s pastime intertwine in this moving drama with an incredibly loyal fan base.

Frost/Nixon

With Ron Howard directing, Peter Morgan adapted his own play into this Best Picture nominee that also earned an Oscar nod for its star, Frank Langella. Along with co-star Michael Sheen, the actors who originated the roles in London and on Broadway stepped into the characters of David Frost and Richard Nixon, using their legendary interview as an analysis of image and power.

James White

The great Christopher Abbott broke through in this 2015 drama, which premiered at that year’s Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Josh Mond, Abbott plays an irresponsible, self-destructed young man with almost no focus in his life until his mother (a moving Cynthia Nixon) comes down with terminal cancer. It’s an emotional story of an isolated loner forced to grow up by the sheer force of mortality.

MacGruber

Peacock is currently finalizing the return of MacGruber in a long-awaited original comedy series. Catch up with the 2010 cult classic, now on the streaming service too. Will Forte gives his all to this adaptation of his SNL sketch comedy character, a spoof of the ridiculous tone of shows like MacGyver. It’s even funnier than you remember.

Margin Call

J.C. Chandor’s 2011 dramatic retelling of how the 2007-08 financial crisis impacted a Wall Street investment bank is a wonderful example of ensemble drama. There are so many familiar faces here, including Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci. The cast is great but it’s Chandor’s smart script that elevates the drama.

*A Midnight Clear

Keith Gordon wrote and directed the 1992 war drama with one of the best casts of its kind. Featuring Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise, Peter Berg, and Kevin Dillon, this adaptation of the novel of the same name by William Wharton details an incident near the end of World War II wherein an American unit encounters a German one that’s hoping to surrender.

The Motorcycle Diaries

Walter Salles approached the legacy of Che Guevara in an unexpected manner by telling the story of his days as a young man in this 2004 biopic. Gael Garcia Bernal gives one of his best performances as Guevara in the chapter of his life wherein he traveled across South America in 1952. It’s a smart, visually striking film that feels overdue for a reappreciation.

Munich

Steven Spielberg will always be best remembered for how he shaped the modern blockbuster but there’s an underreported truth about the impact he has had on historical epics with films like Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, and this, one of the best films of the ‘00s. Munich is the story of Operation Wrath of God, a retaliation by the Israeli government against the PLO after they massacred their athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

Night of the Living Dead

Clive Barker wrote and directed an adaptation of his Cabal and released it to a much more muted response than greeted his hit Hellraiser. Over the years, Nightbreed has developed a loyal following, in part due to the various versions of it now available. The one on Amazon is the theatrical, in which Craig Sheffer plays a man who becomes convinced his therapist is a serial killer, and his own investigation leads him to a tribe of monsters. Good times.

Nightbreed

It’s really hard to overstate the impact that George A. Romero’s classic black-and-white masterpiece had on not just the zombie genre but DIY microbudget horror filmmaking. So many people have been chasing that game-changing impact of Night of the Living Dead in the half-century since it came out, but it’s the original that’s passed the test of time.

Nosferatu the Vampyre

In 1979, Werner Herzog released his daring vision of the classic F.W. Murnau film Nosferatu. Klaus Kinski plays Count Dracula, Isabelle Adjani is Lucy Harker, and Bruno Ganz is Jonathan Harker in this unforgettable mood piece, a movie that’s so unsettling that one wonders if Kinski might actually be a bloodsucker. It remains one of Herzog’s most popular films for a reason.

Out of Sight

Steven Soderbergh only makes good movies, and one of his best remains Out of Sight, the 1998 crime dramedy that features George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez at the peak of their blinding star powers. An ode to old-fashioned noir/crime films with a modern twist, Soderbergh’s adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel of the same name is one of the most purely entertaining films ever made.

Parenthood

Long before the NBC series of the same name (also on Peacock), Ron Howard directed a family comedy inspired by the massive families of the producers, director, and writers. There’s really not much more to it than that simple premise, but it gets by on the likability of its large ensemble, which includes Steve Martin, Tom Hulce, Rick Moranis, Martha Plimpton, Joaquin Phoenix, Jason Robards, and a young Keanu Reeves.

Phantasm

The movies in this franchise seem to bounce around the streaming services like the murderous silver ball within them, but the Don Coscarelli original (and still best) is on Peacock now. The 1979 horror classic that introduced the world to the Tall Man was reportedly made for around $300k and spawned a multi-million-dollar franchise that’s still going.

*Point Break

Whether one considers it a guilty pleasure or a legitimately great action movie, everyone kind of likes Point Break. That’s in no small part due to the charisma of stars Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, who plays an undercover FBI agent trying to break up a ring of surfing bank robbers. Kathryn Bigelow is one of our best action directors, even if this one is a bit cheesier than her best work.

*Pretty Woman

Once upon a time, a story of a rich man and a prostitute became one of the most beloved rom-coms of all time. This is a classic case of blinding star power as then-newcomer Julia Roberts became a household name after starring in this film, where she was matched perfectly with Richard Gere at his most charismatic. Some of it is dated, but it’s also got a nostalgic power that’s hard to deny.

*The Proposition

There aren’t a lot of great Westerns on any streaming service, but this more modern one is worth your time. John Hillcoat directs a gritty, vicious script by Nick Cave (of The Bad Seeds fame) and draws excellent performances from a cast that includes Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Emily Watson, John Hurt, and a movie-stealing Danny Huston. With riveting cinematography by Benoit Delhomme, The Proposition is a Western that looks phenomenal, unfolding like a visualization of one of Cave’s albums.

*Psycho

Often on lists of the best movies ever made, Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller undeniably changed the genre forever. With its drastic POV shift and stunning mid-film murder, no one had ever seen a movie that played with structure like this one before. It’s still a riveting piece of work, a movie in which one can find new tricks and joys with every single viewing.

Scent of a Woman

It would be hard to find a person who believes that the best performance of Al Pacino’s career was in this 1992 drama, but it is the only one that won the legendary actor an Oscar (which just proves how silly awards can be). Why did the Academy take to this role of a blind Army officer? It’s showy in a way that has influenced Pacino impressions, but it’s better than its reputation, revealing how even when Pacino goes for the broad strokes, he can make it more interesting than most other actors could even dream.

Short Term 12

Long before she would be Captain Marvel, Brie Larson played a worker at a group home for troubled teenagers in this powerful drama. Based on his own experience, Destin Daniel Cretton wrote and directed this critical darling that now looks like a launchpad for a generation of stars including Larson, Lakeith Stanfield, Rami Malek, Stephanie Beatriz, John Gallagher Jr., and Kaitlyn Dever.

Starred Up

Everyone seems to love Ben Mendelsohn now, but the actor wasn’t really known at all when he appeared in this searing 2013 drama, a film that also introduced the world to Jack O’Connell. The younger star plays a boy who “graduates” from the juvenile detention program to the adult one, where his dad, played by Mendelsohn, happens to also be an inmate. It’s a great character piece for both actors.

They Live

John Carpenter adapted the short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” into one of the master filmmaker’s best works. Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster star in the story of a pair of sunglasses that reveal that the people in power in this country aren’t human. A movie that works as social satire and sheer horror, it’s remained powerful and felt current while other films of its era have entirely disappeared from memory.

Train to Busan

A legitimate phenomenon that has grossed almost $100 million worldwide, this 2016 South Korean movie is one of the best zombie flicks of its era. It’s simple – zombies on a train – but that’s one of the reasons it works so well. It has a propulsive, non-stop energy and it feels like its legacy is just getting started.

Transsiberian

Peacock may have lost their collection of the master’s actual films, but this 2008 Brad Anderson thriller could fit the bill if you’re looking for a Hitchcock fix. It owes a great deal to the master of suspence in the way it captures average people caught up in a very not-average situation. Woody Harrelson, Kate Mara, and Emily Mortimer star in a movie for which it’s truly best if you know as little as possible going in. International train travel and mystery – what more do you want to know?

*Twister

June 2020 brought the news that Jan de Bont’s 1996 blockbuster is going to be remade for a new generation, leading fans of the original to reminisce about a simpler time, a time when a cow flying through the air seemed like the peak of special effects. Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz, and Cary Elwes star as a group of storm chasers who get more than they can handle as a series of tornadoes unleash their fury on Oklahoma.

Warrior

Gavin O’Connor directed Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton to two of the best performances of their careers in this 2011 sports drama that takes place in the world of mixed martial arts. Hardy and Edgerton are perfect as brothers who are forced to deal with their estrangement and their alcoholic father (Nick Nolte, Oscar-nominated for his work here) both inside and outside of the ring.

The 50 Best Movies on Peacock