The Best Movies on Netflix Nobody Knows About – Fall 2018
Have you ever found yourself in a Netflix loop? You log onto the site, on your laptop or your television or even on your phone, to try to find a movie to watch at night, but Netflix keeps serving up the same content to you again and again. You’ve tried that, watched this, didn’t care for the other—all of the movies on your recommended list are old news, and you’re not sure what you should try next. Maybe all of this work even makes you give up on the hunt for a movie to watch, falling back on your old favorites instead of trying out new movies or shows.
One reason you might be struggling to find new movies to watch comes down to a shift in Netflix’s priorities. Loading up the main display on Netflix presents you with a whole list of content to choose from, some new and some not, but almost all of the featured content in 2018 will have a single thing in common: they all feature the Netflix logo on top of the poster. Netflix’s move into original programming started just five years ago, but it has since moved from a supplementary experiment into something far more substantial: Netflix’s future. Unfortunately, that can lead the company to often bury movies and other non-original content that might interest their subscribers. Worse, even some of their original shows and movies have been released in the past without fanfare.
So, we’re here to help. We’ve scoured the wilderness that makes up the Netflix library to try to find some of the best movies you haven’t seen yet. Whether it’s a cult-hit classic from a decade ago or a movie released by Netflix that you might have missed, we think we’ve found some of the best-kept secret titles on Netflix today. So, the next time you’re stuck in the dreaded Netflix loop, don’t run back to The Office or Gilmore Girls—just refer back to this list. These are the best movies on Netflix that you don’t know about.
Roxanne Roxanne tells the story of Roxanne Shanté, a rapper who grew up in Queens and began rapping in 1979 at the age of nine. Five years later, after changing her name from Lolita to Roxanne, has become a member of the Juice Crew and is working to forward her rap career. Learning that rap trio U.T.F.O. had recently recorded a hit with their B-side “Roxanne, Roxanne,” a song detailing a girl named Roxanne who won’t return their advances, Shanté records a response from the point of view of the song. Titled “Roxanne’s Revenge,” Shanté immediately becomes one of the first female MCs to find fame. As she learns to navigate the 1980s rap scene, Roxanne must also struggle to balance the feeling of the weight of the world on her shoulders, providing for her family while also defending herself from the dangers of the streets in the projects.
In Dan Mazer’s directorial debut, the film opens on the meet cute of Nat (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Rafe Spall), who fall in love at first sight while attending a party. Seven months later, they’re engaged—and within that first year of marriage, happen to undergo several ups and downs throughout their marriage that might just leave them off worse than they were before. The story is told through flashbacks, as the couple sits in marriage counseling, trying to figure out how to make things better and how things went so wrong in the first place. The film isn’t perfect, but it gets on by the energy and chemistry of the cast, which also includes Anna Faris, Simon Baker, Stephen Merchant, Minnie Driver, Olivia Colman, and many more.
Often praised as one of the best science-fiction character studies of the past decade, 2009’s Moon was directed by Duncan Jones (Source Code, Warcraft), son of David Bowie. Moon stars Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, a worker for Lunar Industries who resides alone in a lunar-based factory. Though the factory is almost entirely automated, Sam resides as a single human to ensure operations maintain at their standard pace. Two weeks before the end of his three-year contract, Sam falls unconscious after an accident involving his lunar rover. When Sam awakes, he has no memories of the crash, but overhearing the computer AI GERTY (Kevin Spacey) receive instructions to not let Sam out of the base, he fakes an accident and arrives at the scene of the lunar crash, only to find his doppelganger still unconscious. Together, the two Sams must figure out what this means for both of their lives, and resolve the truth behind their existence. Moon was followed by a spiritual successor in Mute, a 2018 film directed by Jones and released on Netflix.
In Drinking Buddies, Luke and Kate are best friends and coworkers, working together at a small beer brewing company. Together, they hang out both in and outside of work, spending much of their weekends and nights together as well. Kate is in a relationship with Chris while Luke is dating Jill, and the two couples often double date outside of work. When Jill decides she and Luke have been together long enough for marriage, Luke struggles to decide whether Jill is the right person for his future. Meanwhile, Chris finds that his relationship with Kate isn’t working, leading to a breakup. Directed by Joe Swanberg, the film is a realistic look at having friends of the opposite sex, and dealing with romantic feelings that might not always be returned by the other party.
Nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the 88th Oscars in 2016, Mustang is a Turkish film that follows the lives of five orphaned sisters as they grow up in a remote Turkish village governed by conservatism. The film begins when the five sisters stop at the beach on the way home from school, playing in the water with the classmates. One game, known well as “chicken” or “chicken fight,” involves teams of two where one player sits on top of the other’s shoulders in the water and attempts to knock the other team down. When the girls’ grandmother and uncle learn they sat on the boys’ shoulders in the game, the five girls are scolding for their bodily contact with the boys and banned from leaving the house again, even for school. As the girls’ family begins to prepare arranged marriages for the girls, the five attempt to live their lives and escape the tyranny of their extended relatives.
The directorial debut from writer Taylor Sheridan, the concluding chapter in his frontier trilogy that included films Sicario and Hell or High Water, three stories unconnected to each other but with similar themes about rural America. Wind River stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen as a US Fish and Wildlife Reserve officer and an FBI agent, respectively, whose paths cross on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming following the discovery of a body and questions surrounding whether it was a homicide. When the autopsy reveals the woman found dead was also raped, Jane Banner (Olsen) arrives to investigate, teaming with Officer Lambert (Renner) to find the culprit. Quickly, the two realize they may be in over their head while trying to solve the mystery of the woman’s death.
You need to be prepared to handle some graphic content with Raw, a 2016 critically-acclaimed French-Belgian horror film that garnered controversy from some critics for its unrelenting visceral gore. The film follows Justine, a lifelong vegetarian who is just beginning her first semester at veterinarian school as a legacy student. When brought to a hazing ceremony for new students, Justine feels uncomfortable until running into her older sister Alexia, another student at the school, who shows her photos of students—including her parents—covered in blood. As the hazing continues, Justine begins to experience cravings for meat after being forced to devour a rabbit kidney. Those cravings begin to push Justine further into grotesque experiments that will churn your stomach and leave you haunted for nights.
A film by the Wachowskis, Speed Racerwas the highly anticipated follow-up to the Matrix saga when it was released in 2008, originally seeing negative reviews and bombing at the box office. Nevermind all that—2008 was a lifetime ago, and plenty of the criticisms of that film at the time simply don’t match up with what we expect from modern filmmaking ten years later. Speed Racer is responsible for plenty of the visual design choices we seen in film today, from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World‘s video game-inspired fight scenes to Guardians of the Galaxy‘s comic book aspirations. An adaptation of the 1960s anime, Speed Racer tells the story of Speed, an 18-year-old racer who finds out that the top leagues aren’t quite what they were cracked up to be. From the dynamic, oversaturated visuals to the analogous message Speed Racer sells about filmmaking and art, the film is a must-see for any cinephile.
From the writer and director of horror-comedy cult-classic Tucker and Dale vs Evil comes this 2017 Netflix Original that premiered without much fanfare on the service. Little Evil stars Parks and Recreation‘s Adam Scott as Gary Bloom, who falls for Evangeline Lilly’s Samantha. They get married, and Gary becomes the stepfather of Lucas, Samantha’s five year old son. Something is a bit odd about Lucas, however; Gary has difficulty finding any sort of relationship with his new stepson, and becomes concerned when Lucas’ teacher violently dies after an interaction with him. Concerned that Lucas may have some evil within him, Gary goes about trying to find the cause for Lucas’ erratic behavior, and in the process, accidentally discovers a Satanic cult that may have a connection to his new stepson.
The first Netflix Original film to win an Oscar, Icarus is directed by filmmaker Bryan Fogel, following the director as he explores the option to compete in a cycling race while doping. While researching illegal doping, he becomes friends with the Russian doctor that is helping him take performance-enhancing drugs that will prevent him from being caught using them. The doctor, Dr. Rodchenkov, eventually grows to trust Fogel enough to let it slip that Russia is planning on using a state-sponsored Olympic doping program that will allow their athletes to compete at higher levels than other nations. When word slips out to the public about the program, Fogel realizes his friend is in danger, leading to Rodchenkov giving a testimony in the United States once he is flown outside of Russia. The film is thrilling and eye-opening at the world of doping, and is great for fans of documentaries and political thrillers alike.
Train to Busan may be unfamiliar to most Americans, but if you’re willing to dive into the world of South Korean films, this action-horror thriller is a great introduction. The film follows the passengers in a bullet train headed from Gwangmyeong Station to Busan in South Korea, with passengers including Seok-woo, a divorced fund manager taking his daughter to her mother’s house; a working-class man and his pregnant wife; a high school baseball team; and a homeless man suffering from PTSD. When the train departs, a convulsing young woman jumps on board suffering from a bite wound on her leg, and quickly becomes a zombie, transferring her virus to others on the train. The passengers will have to fight their way to safety to make it to Busan—but who will they lose along the way?
Directed by Norwegian filmmaker Roar Uthaug, The Wave is a 2015 disaster film that follows a future catastrophic weather-based event, an avalanche that causes an 250 foot tsunami to form off the coast near Møre og Romsdal. With the wave racing towards the country, everything in its path will be destroyed. The main plot follows a geologist named Kristian Eikjord and his family, as he has finished his final day on duty in Geiranger and is scheduled to move and relocate with his family to Stavanger. Despite the warnings of Christian to his superior officers, an alert is not issued to the civilians of the surrounding area until the avalanche has already occurred, creating the tsunami and threatening the lives of everyone in its path. With the wave inevitably about to hit the coast, all Kristian can do is attempt to rally his family together and survive.
A French drama from 2014, Girlhood happened to be released the same year Boyhood was released and eventually nominated for Best Picture. Despite the coincidence, Girlhood stands as its own film, following Marieme, a French-African teenager living in a poor suburb outside of Paris, France. Because of Marieme’s struggles in school, she is forced onto a vocational track in order to properly learn a trade. The same day she learns of her future in vocational school, she’s approached by a gang of girls wearing leather jackets and necklaces, who ask for her to join them into the city for a day trip. At first put off, Marieme follows when she sees the group attracting the attention of some local boys. Thrilled by the attention and the release of the extrovert side of her personality, Marieme falls deeper in with her new clique, but begins to make foolish decisions when things get out of hand.
This Netflix Original documentary follows Gloria Allred, an attorney known for her cases fighting for women’s rights and for taking on high-profile cases that often see her in the press. Her legal career is one for the ages, spreading across four decades that rose in publicity when she began fighting for abortion rights in the early 1980s. Since then, Allred has represented numerous clients in lawsuits against celebrities for all sorts of outrageous behavior, and this doc happens to follow two of her most high-profile cases yet—Bill Cosby and Donald Trump. The documentary, which premiered earlier this year at Sundance to rave reviews, also follows Gloria as she talks, albeit reluctantly, about aspects of her own personal life, including becoming pregnant with her daughter at 19. Allred has lived an incredible life and has used her power as a lawyer to fight for hundreds of underdogs, making this documentary incredibly timely in the wake of #metoo.
Acclaimed filmmaker Sean Baker’s 2015 film, Tangerine is worth watching not just for the story it tells, but for the filmmaking process put into the project. The film was shot entirely on three iPhone 5s smartphones, between 2013 and 2014, then the newest hardware Apple had launched. Although it’s pretty cool to watch for the technical aspect—you’d never guess the film was shot on an iPhone unless someone told you—but it is worth watching for the incredible, and very human, story told by Baker and his co-writer Chris Bergoch. Tangerine follows Sin-Dee Rella, a transgender sex worker who discovers upon leaving prison after a 28-day stay that her boyfriend and pimp Chester has been cheating on her with a cisgender woman. The film has been praised for its casting and for its unique and often-untold story.
Actor-turned-director Rob Reiner has spent his entire life in show business, first starring as Mike Stivic on All in the Family throughout the 1970s before becoming an established director in the 1980s and 1990s with films like The Princess Bride, Stand By Me, A Few Good Men, and his debut, This is Spinal Tap. Though Reiner has been making films since 1984, he’s had a few misses in his career, especially in the 2000s. Being Charlie isn’t a perfect film, but it is something of a comeback for Reiner, who directs here from a script co-written by his son Nick. The film is based on Nick Reiner’s own experiences and struggles in life, and follows Charlie, the song of a former A-list actor who breaks out of a drug treatment clinic for youth to return home to Los Angeles, before being forced to attend rehab by his parents. While there, Charlie (Nick Robinson) must learn to adapt to a drug-free life.
Mysteries and thrillers are perfect for dark and stormy nights, and The Invitation might be the ideal film to chill you to your core. The film stars Logan Marshall-Green as Will, a divorcee who drive his girlfriend Kira to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife at his old house in the Hollywood Hills. Will’s ex, Eden, alongside her new husband David, welcomes Will and Kira to the party, though immediately, something feels wrong. As Will continues to deal with the grief of his deceased son (the reason Eden and him split up), he begins to feel like something is wrong with his ex-wife and her husband’s motivations. The tale is dark and grim, and as the night advances, you’ll begin to put the pieces together in this thrilling tale of mystery and murder.
Though certainly not one of the Coen Brothers most-accessible films, A Serious Man is often lauded for its balance of black comedy and razor-sharp wit. The film stars well-known actor Michael Stuhlbarg as a Minnesota Jewish man whose life begins to crumble both professionally and personally, as his wife asks for a divorce and he faces a vote on his tenure at a local university, leading him to question his faith and his religion. The film is bleak, dry, and in some cases, absolutely absurd—all comments meant as compliments. This is an odd film that won’t please everyone, but the Coen Brother completionists, it’s a must-see film.
From acclaimed director Olivier Assayas, Clouds of Sils Maria is an English-language French film that takes place in Switzerland, following the struggles of an older adult female actress. Juliette Binoche stars as Maria Enders, an international film and stage actress who gained her big break twenty years prior when she starred as a young girl in the stage and film versions of a play entitled Majola Snake. The film begins when Enders, accompanied by her assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) is travelling to visit the playwright of Majola Snake, Wilhelm Melchior, and to accept an award on his part when she learns he’s died. During this time, she’s approached by a young new director wishing for her to take part in a new revival of the play, but in the role of the older woman opposite the young girl. Throughout the film, Enders must come to terms with a reflection of herself and what her life has been, as she prepares to start this new role.
Don’t Think Twice is the second and most-recent film from director, comedian, and actor Mike Birbiglia, who is best-known for his unique brand of stand-up that combines jokes with one-man shows to tell stories from his life revolving around single themes. Don’t Think Twice pulls from Birbiglia’s comedy background, following an improv group in New York called The Commune headed by Miles (Birbiglia) and featuring his friends Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), Sam (Gillian Jacobs), Allison (Kate Micucci), Lindsay (Tami Sagher), and Bill (Chris Gethard). When Jack receives a call from a representative with Weekend Live, an SNL-style show, inviting him to audition, the group dynamic is forced to change and face reality when he leaves to join television.
Directed by So Yong Kim, Lovesong follows Sarah (Riley Keough), a stay at home mother whose husband is often absent for work and dismissive of Sarah’s concerns about his absences. When she contacts an old friend, Mindy (Jena Malone), following feelings of isolation and loneliness, the two embark on a road trip together after years apart, bringing Sarah’s toddler daughter along for the ride. The two rekindle their friendship over stories of their past, as Mindy’s carefree and untroubled lifestyle and outlook begin to win over Sarah’s own heart. The film follows the relationship that grows between these two friends.
Frances Ha won’t please every reader of this list, but in our eyes, it’s well worth watching. Some have criticized the film as aimless, but for those it connects with, Frances Ha represents a modernization of the principles and ideas first shown in films from the French New Wave era of the 1960s. From the black and white film aesthetic to the impromptu trip to Paris halfway through the film, the inspiration from titles like Breathless and The 400 Blows is all over this title, co-written by director Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig (who later brought her wit and talent for writing to 2017’s critically acclaimed Lady Bird). It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the films topped several year-end lists and found critical acclaim with the film community. Baumbach’s films are generally fairly bleak, and it makes for a great mixture with Gerwig’s brightness and sense of joy found within dark.
Based on the moon-landing conspiracy theories that have perpetuated in American culture for decades, Moonwalkers stars Ron Perlman as CIA agent Tom Kidman and Rupert Grint (Harry Potter) as a struggling band promoter. When Kidman is tasked with hiring filmmaker Stanley Kubrick to film a fake moonwalk in case something goes wrong with the actual space mission, he files to England to meet with Kubrick’s agent. When plans get mixed up, he accidentally meets the agent’s cousin Jonny (Grint), who agrees to arrange a meet-up between Kidman and Kubrick, only to bring his stoner roommate Leon disguised as Kubrick to the meeting instead. After realizing he’s been fooled, Kidman and Jonny must work together to create the film for the US government to save both of their skins.
Directed by Francis Lee in his feature debut, God’s Own Country is a haunting tale of love and loss in the English countryside. The film follows Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor), a young man who lives on his family farm with his father Martin, and his grandmother Deidre. Johnny takes care of most of the farm by himself, his father unable to assist after experiencing a stroke and his grandmother aged out of the farm life. Johnny’s life is a mess, drinking heavily and having sexual encounters with men in his spare time. When Johnny’s actions result in the loss of a calf, Martin hires help in the form of Gheorghe (Alec Secăreanu), a Romanian farm hand who is initially treated harshly by Johnny. When Johnny refers to Gheorghe by a slur, the two men find themselves in a fight that quickly turns sexual. With the nature of their relationship, Johnny must learn quickly who he is, less he face the consequences of a broken heart. The film was critically-acclaimed upon its release last year.
Based on three short stories by Maile Meloy’s collections of writing, Certain Women is Kelly Reichardt’s 2016 drama, following her 2013 film Night Moves. The film, which was critically acclaimed for both its direction and its acting, stars Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, and Michelle Williams as three strong-willed women living in the plains of the American Northwest, each dealing with her own personal setbacks and frustrations. Kristen Stewart portrays Beth Travis, a young law student who forms a bond with a ranch hand; Laura Dern plays a lawyer who finds herself dealing with office sexism and a toxic client; and Michelle Williams plays a wife and mother who finds her determination to build her dream home places her between a rock and a hard place with her husband.
Michel Gondry’s second feature-length film also happens to be his best, as he paired with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman to produce one of the best films of the 2000s. The film is, at once, a romantic comedy, a heartbreaking drama, and a science-fiction tale that features heavy doses of the dream logic Kaufman has become known for throughout his career of crafting films like Being John Malkovichor Synecdoche, New York. The film follows Joel (Jim Carrey, in a career-best performance), who meets Clementine (Kate Winslet) on a train from Montauk to Rockville Center. The two quickly become connected to each other, and the truth slowly unveils itself: the two are former lovers, having both used a controversial procedure to forget each other after a fight days earlier. The film follows Joel forgetting Clementine through this procedure, as she’s erased from his life altogether.
Orson Welles had no shortage of long-lost projects, including Don Quixote and The Merchant of Venice, among other projects. One of the most famous unfinished projects was The Other Side of the Wind, originally slated to come out in the 1970s after six years of starts and stops in production. The film acts as a parody of old Hollywood filmmaking and the New Hollywood style of the 70s, shot as a mockumentary and in black and white—both uncommon traits for that decade. After sitting on a shelf for over forty years, the film has arrived as a new project from Welles distributed by Netflix, and by all accounts, the long-lost project is an excellent final marking on the late director. The film, which follows a director returning to Hollywood from Europe to finish his comeback movie, is delightfully meta and well-worth a watch.
The sixth film by director Alfonso Cuaron continues the director’s trend of creating intimate pieces of work, content that is crafted around long-takes, incredible performances, and thoughtful scripts. Children of Men is the director’s follow-up to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the best of the Harry Potter films, and the director uses that clout to create a film set in a dystopian universe. Children of Men follows a near-future where global infertility has taken place, with humanity slowly facing extinction. In the United Kingdom, one of the final countries with a functioning (albeit restricted) government, a police state has been enacted. When Theo Faron, a former activist and government employee, discovers an immigrant woman is pregnant with the first child in eighteen years, he takes it upon himself to get her to safety.
Our second Noah Baumbach tale is also his newest film, and a Netflix original. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) tells the story of three children: Danny, Matthew, and Jean Meyerowitz, played here by Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Elizabeth Marvel, respectively. Danny and Jean are siblings, with Matthew as their half-brother, all tied together by their rocky relationship with their father Harold (Dustin Hoffman). Though the three children are relatively estranged from each other, their father’s upcoming career retrospective brings all three to New York City to reunite, bicker, and deal with their life’s problems. Despite the prominence of Sandler and Stiller, don’t expect this to be a laugh-riot; like Baumbach’s other tales, this is drama first, comedy second, though critics have praised Sandler’s dramatic turn here as his best since Punch Drunk Love.
A difficult film to explain, Under the Skin is a film from Jonathan Glazer (Birth), loosely based on the novel of the same name. It stars Scarlett Johansson as a being from somewhere else, who arrives to Earth and prays on men in Scotland. The film effectively works as a portrait of an alien attempting to collect data about humankind, causing an identity crisis in the alien which ends with her spinning out of control. The idea of men being punished for desiring women that appear vulnerable can also be attributed to the science-fiction ideals in the film, though as always, the film is up to a certain amount of reading into by the viewer. Under the Skin is a tough watch, a box office bomb that nevertheless has received critical acclaim. If you love hard sci-fi, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.