The Top 100 Movies on Netflix [September 2020]
It’s Friday night, but the weather’s bad and you refuse to leave your home. A couple of friends have come over to hang out and watch a movie, but your DVD collection is looking pretty sparse for new releases. You could watch You’ve Got Mail again for the dozenth time, but you really want to see something new that will hit hard, make you laugh, or stay in your mind for days. The last video store in your town closed down years ago, and rentals on iTunes are just too expensive to justify the purchase. Flipping your television over to Netflix is not just the best idea, it’s an obvious one. But as you scroll through your queue and your suggested recommendations, one thing becomes apparent: you have no idea which film to pick.
Netflix is overrun with television shows, but that doesn’t mean the service has lost out on some great films. It can actually be pretty tough to find classic films on the service among all the Netflix original shows now streaming on the platform, so we’ve done the hard work for you. We’ve rounded up fifty of the best films streaming on Netflix right now, so that you can skip the endless browsing and scrolling through films on your television and just get to watching the movie. We’ll update this list every month with new recommendations, and we’ll always make sure that the films listed here haven’t been taken off of Netflix’s offerings, so whether it’s a film you’ve never seen or a classic you want to revisit, you’ll always be ready to stream a great film.
So throw the popcorn in the microwave, kick your feet up, and relax with one of these incredible films. These are the top one hundred movies streaming on Netflix right now, in no particular order.
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.
In the directorial debut of screenwriter Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom, a stringer who records violent events in Los Angeles at night and sells them to local news networks to make a quick buck in the process. When he catches the eye of a news director who welcomes the chance to raise her station’s ratings, Louis begins going to increasingly greater lengths to catch criminal activity on camera, going as far to instigate and provoke the very same criminal activity he’s trying to film. Acclaimed for its screenplay and for Gyllenhaal’s performance, Nightcrawler is considered one of the best films of 2014 and a must-see for anyone interested in dirty, underground journalism.
Winner of the 2016 Oscar for Best Picture, Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight tells the story of a team of journalists at the Boston Globe in the early 2000s, nicknamed “Spotlight,” who come together to investigate cases of systemic and widespread child sex abuse by the Roman Catholic church in the Boston area. The film is, of course, based on the true story of the Spotlight team, and features an ensemble cast, including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, and Billy Crudup. The film was critically acclaimed and is considered one of the best dramas of the 2000s.
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.
In this new Netflix Original film, director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) follows a wolf expert named Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright), who is called to a village in Alaska to help hunt down wolves seemingly responsible for the deaths of three small children. When he arrives in Alaska, he meets with Medora Slone (Riley Keough), whose son was the third child to go missing. He learns that he husband, Vernon (Alexander Skarsgard, It), is away on military leave, while the father of the second child taken, she informs him, will not be speaking to Russell. As things begin to grow darker, Russell will have to hurry to figure out the mystery behind the disappearance of children, all while risking his own life in the process.
Based on the book of the same name, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before follows Lara-Jean, a half-Asian, half-Caucasian 16-year-old high school student who begins her first year of high school without her older, now-graduated sister, Margot. Lara-Jean has never had a boyfriend, but has had multiple crushes, including on her sister’s now-ex-boyfriend Josh and the popular boy at school, Peter. She keeps a series of five letters to her former crushes in her room, a method that allows her to clear out her love of these boys without having to worry about keeping her feelings bottled up. When her younger sister mails the letters, she’s forced to reconcile with her feelings now being out in the open.
This documentary from filmmaker Ava DuVernay promises to explore “the intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States,” and it sticks the landing. Taking its name from the 13th amendment, which freed the slaves in the United States and prohibited slavery unless as punishment for a crime, the film takes a long, hard look at how the prison system in the United States was built to continue the idea of slavery through the enablement of white police officers to more easily arrest black persons in the USA to force them to work under convict leasing. The result is a chilling documentary that covers Jim Crow laws, the suppression of African Americans by disenfranchisement, and the war on drugs created to target minority communities. The film won an Emmy, and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary.
The first of two Noah Baumbach films on this list, Frances Ha won’t please every reader of this list. The film has been criticized 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.
A quintessential entry in the catalogue of great American sports movies, Miracle tells the story of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team, from their formation through their training and, eventually, their victory against the Russian hockey team at the height of the Cold War. The story begins when University of Minnesota head coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) meets with the US Olympic Committee to discuss strategies for winning the 1980 Olympics. Brooks pitches the group on picking amateur players as opposed to pro-level athletes, leading to doubts that the American team will make it far in their quest for gold medals in any way. Even if you know the story, Miracle is a worthy retelling, an entertaining and fascinating story of training hard for the things you want and for sticking with the ideas you believe in.
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.
An action-horror hybrid for the ages, Green Room is the third film from acclaimed director Jeremy Saulnier. The film follows the members of a punk band, the Ain’t Rights, as they travel through the Pacific Northwest on a tour. After their gig is cancelled, a local radio host arranges a show through his cousin Daniel as a neo-Nazi skinhead bar in the woods outside Portland. After the show, Pat (Anton Yelchin) returns to the green room to retrieve Sam’s (Alia Shawkat) phone and sees the body of a young girl who was stabbed to death by one of the neo-Nazis. After calling the police, bar employee Gabe (Macon Blair, Blue Ruin) and Big Justin confiscate the bandmates’ phones and hold them hostage in the green room. When bar owner and skinhead leader Darcy (Patrick Stewart, in a haunting performance) decide to kill the band to eliminate witness, the group will have to fight their way out of the bar to survive the night.
Set in 1930s Foshan, Ip Man begins as the town is known as a popular hub for learning Southern Chinese Martial Arts, with numerous schools that often compete against one another. The film follows the titular Ip Man (Donnie Yen, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), a Wing Chun master whose wealth and skills have led him to keep a low profile, choosing to avoid working within the schools as a teacher and instead focusing on his training. This changes with the 1937 Japanese invasion, which cause Ip Man to lose his house and his wealth, forcing him into a rundown apartment and into working within coal mines. When Ip’s friend Lin fails to return from a fight, Ip begins a quest to destroy the Japanese army at any cost, even if it destroys himself in the process. The film is loosely based on the real life of Ip Man, the Wing Chun grandmaster and the man who trained Bruce Lee.
Directed and written by Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral), About Time is a romantic-comedy tinged with science-fiction elements, weaving together a charming story that delivers a great love story and a father/son tale. When Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is 21, his father (Bill Nighy) tells him a secret: The men in their family can travel through time. Although he can’t change history, Tim resolves to improve his life by getting a girlfriend. He meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), falls in love and finally wins her heart via time-travel and a little cunning. However, as his unusual life progresses, Tim finds that his special ability can’t shield him and those he loves from the problems of ordinary life.
A recent Netflix Original film, Mudbound tells the story of two World War II veterans living in rural Mississippi following the conclusion of the war. The film begins when Henry McAllen (Jason Clarke) and his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) purchase a farm alongside Henry’s brother Jamie and their father, Pappy (Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul). The Jackson family, led by Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) works the farm for the McAllens, until Ronsel and Jamie are pulled away to fight in the war. Upon returning, Jamie deals with PTSD and alcoholism, while Ronsel deals with readjusting to southern racism following his life in Europe. As Ronsel and Jamie begin to strike up a friendship, despite the objections of Pappy, the struggle to readjust to American life threatens to break apart both families. Mudbound is the first Netflix film nominated at the Academy Awards, up for eight awards at the 2018 Oscars.
The most underrated Netflix Original of 2018, Private Life is the heartbreaking tale of Richard and Rachel (Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn, respectively), a middle-aged couple desperately trying to have a child together. After multiple failed attempts at artificial insemination, they learn that Richard has a blockage preventing him from producing sperm, forcing him to undergo a surgery that puts him $10,000 in debt to his brother Charlie. While this is happening, the couple also learn that the child they were looking to adopt, after being matched with a pregnant teenager from Little Rock who was looking to give up her child has stopped contacting them. The film, the third feature by director Tamara Jenkins (The Savages, Slums of Beverly Hills) was critically-acclaimed upon its release.
Okja is another Netflix-exclusive film, and the second English-language film made by Bong Joon-ho, the director of South Korean films The Host, Mother (neither of which should be confused with the American films of the same name), and Snowpiercer. Like Snowpiercer, Okja is an action-adventure film that uses its plot as a major metaphor for a real-life lesson, this time concerning factory-farming and the concept of environmentalism. The film may not be subtle with its messaging, but that doesn’t stop it from being an excellent, spellbinding, and infinitely sad tale. The main character is played here by South Korean actress Ahn Seo-hyun, but don’t think you won’t see some recognizable faces. Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Lily Collins, Giancarlo Esposito, and Jake Gyllenhaal all turn up here among their South Korean counterparts.
A24 has made its name as a studio on the strength of its indie flair, but its division of horror films shouldn’t go unsung. With so many horror films being manufactured jump-scare machines, the studio has made a solid effort at crafting terrifying, slow-paced horror thrillers, and that all began with The Witch, the debut film from director Robert Eggers. Set in 1630 New England and spoken using period-accurate English, the film follows as panic and despair envelops a farmer, his wife, and their children when their youngest son Samuel disappears. The family blames his disappearance on Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy, in her major film debut), the oldest daughter who was supposed to be watching the boy at the time of his disappearance. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, twin siblings Mercy and Jonas suspect their older sister of witchcraft, testing the clan’s faith and loyalty along the way.
Though it was eventually rebooted into a Netflix Original series, A Series of Unfortunate Events started life as a major motion picture, covering the first three books in the critically-acclaimed children’s book series and starring Jim Carrey as the villainous Count Olaf. The film follows the three Baudelaire siblings, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, who are left orphaned after a fire burns their family’s mansion to the ground. After being forced to move in with their distant relative, Count Olaf, they soon discover he’s only after the inheritance Violet is set to receive. Though they manage to escape from Olaf’s clutches, he’s never far behind, as they move in with both their Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly) and their Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep).
Based on Leo Tolstoy’s 1877 novel of the same name, as well as the 1985 film adaptation, Anna Karenina is director Joe Wright’s take on the classic novel that many literary critics consider one of the greatest works of all time. The film depicts the tragedy of Russian aristocrat and socialite Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley), the wife of senior statesman Alexei Karenin (Jude Law), as she holds an affair with the affluent officer Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) which ultimately leads to her downfall and demise. The film received four Academy Award nominations for score, cinematography, and costume and production design, and the cast was praised for their performances.
Quentin Tarantino’s eighth and most recent film, The Hateful Eight is a full-blown western from the legendary director, set in the post-Civil War era of the United States during a harsh blizzard outside Red Rock, Wyoming. Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a bounty hunter, is transporting three dead fugitives to the town of Red Rock when he catches a ride to town from John Ruth (Kurt Russell), a similar bounty hunter bringing in Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). When the trio gets stuck in a blizzard, they make a beeline for Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach lodge, where they meet the other people staying at the house through the blizzard. While hostilities rise between the group, Daisy sees someone poison the coffee, leading to the death of two more characters. As a murder mystery begins to rise, the only question that remains is simple: is it more dangerous in the blizzard, or in Minnie’s Haberdashery? The film was also recently recut by Tarantino and his editor into a four-episode miniseries exclusive to Netflix, featuring all-new footage.
Before Children of Men and Gravity, before Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and 2018’s Roma, there was Y Tu Mama Tambien, the fourth film by Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron and his breakout project. The film follows Julio and Tenoch, two 17-year-old boys who find themselves beginning to flourish into adulthood. The two best friends spend their summer vacation heading out on a cross-country trip with each other, alongside an older woman whom they meet on the trip. Without the boys’ girlfriends around, the two live their lives as bachelors. Filled with sex, drug use, and plenty of joy in the road trip portion of the film, it’s the perfect time to catch up with Cuaron’s work prior to watching Roma on Netflix.
One of the most underrated films of this decade, Edgar Wright’s (Hot Fuzz, Baby Driver) Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a visual triumph, a funny and charming story that wears its heart on its sleeve. The film follows bass guitarist and 22-year-old Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera, in a pitch-perfect casting), who is floundering in his adulthood without a job after being crushed by his ex-girlfriend. Now dating a high schooler, he seems content in just letting his life pass him by, when he runs into Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a girl new to Toronto who seems to be, quite literally, the girl of Scott’s dreams. A visual triumph, pulling direct inspiration from video games, anime, and the graphic novel this series is based on, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a perfect action-comedy.
Gary Oldman stars in the adaptation of the 1974 novel of the same name. Set in 1970s England during the Cold War, the head of MI6 (John Hurt) dispatches an agent to meet with a Hungarian general who knows the identity of a Soviet spy in the organization’s ranks. However, the mission goes wrong, and the general dies before he can reveal the information. Undersecretary Oliver Lacon calls in a retired agent named George Smiley to help find the mole and stop the flow of British secrets to the Russians. The film was nominated for a number of awards, including three Academy Awards in 2012, and was generally critically acclaimed. If you’re in the mood for an old-fashioned spy thriller, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the film for you.
Though director David Gordon Green kicked off his career with acclaimed indie dramas like George Washington and All the Real Girls, the filmmaker has gone through a number of genre transitions throughout his filmography, and he kicked off a string of comedies with the classic stoner flick Pineapple Express. The film follows Dale Denton (Seth Rogan, who co-wrote the film with creative partner Evan Goldberg), a slacker and stoner who accidentally witnesses a murder while using a rare strain of marijuana. After learning that the weed he left behind can be traced back to both Dale and his dealer (James Franco), the two head out on the run, avoiding dangerous drug lords and crooked cops alike.
Before Adam McKay moved onto directing politically-charged comedy-dramas like The Big Short and Vice, he dipped his toes into social comedy with The Other Guys, his 2010 team-up with creative partner Will Ferrell. The Other Guys follows NYPD detectives Gamble (Ferrell) and Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg), who have been locked to desk duty for years, away from the fame and headlines their heroic counterparts on the force (Dwayne Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson) managed to grab. When a small case turns out to run a whole lot deeper than anyone expected, the two cops find themselves in over their head as they try to prove to their comrades that they’re the duo to get the job done. Set against the financial recession of the late 2000s, The Other Guys is a fantastic film no matter whether you prefer McKay’s early comedies or later dramas.
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.
Most true crime documentaries revolve around murder or other similarly-grim crimes. In the truest sense of that definition of the genre, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is not a true crime documentary. There’s no murder to solve, no kidnapping involved in the film. Yet from a certain sense, Fyre tells the story of a white collar crime often not shown in true crime documentaries. Following a scam-filled music festival that preyed on rich millennials on Instagram, the film follows the building of the Fyre Festival, from its induction to the nightmare of its downfall. It’s gained a ton of popularity on social media, and as a Netflix Original, you can catch it anytime streaming on Netflix.
A brand-new Netflix original film and a leading contender for the Best Picture nominations at the 2019 Oscars, Roma is Alfonso Cuaron’s first film since his 2013 acclaimed film Gravity. A semi-autobiographical film and Cuaron’s first Spanish-language film since Y Tu Mamá También in 2001, Roma follows the life of a live-in housekeeper to a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City. With a cast of mostly-unknown and up and coming actors, Cuaron uses his experience as an acclaimed filmmaker to make his most personal film to date. The title comes from the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City where the film is set.
In the hit sequel to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph and Vanellope return to set out on a brand-new adventure. Though Ralph has been having a great time since the events of the last film, things have gotten a bit stale for Vanellope. When the arcade Ralph and his friends find themselves living in gains access to a router, the pair of friends travel from the surge protector to the World Wide Web, making for a journey through memes, YouTube videos, and the world of Disney. A film about staying friends even when you’re becoming new people Ralph Breaks the Internet is funnier and more charming than its early trailers might have led you to believe.
The conclusion of the “Death trilogy,” Alejandro González Iñárritu’s collection of films from 2000 to 2006, Babel is an ensemble drama film starring, among many others, Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Elle Fanning, Adriana Barraza, and many more. Edited into segments, the film focuses on four groups of characters, with events being revealed out of chronological order. The film focuses on a single accident that connects groups from across three different continents: two young Moroccan goatherds, a vacationing American couple, a deaf Japanese teen and her father, and a Mexican nanny who takes her young charges across a border without parental permission.
In Steven Spielberg’s classic throwback to serials of the 1930s and 1940s, Raiders of the Lost Ark (later known as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) introduced viewers to the now-famous professor-turned-archaeologist-turned-adventurer. All four Jones films are streaming on Netflix, but if you only choose one, the original still stands as one of the best adventure films of the last fifty years. Harrison Ford stars as Indiana Jones, who finds himself in over his head when he’s up against a group of Nazis trying to find the Ark of the Covenant, a religious relic said to contain supernatural powers. Alongside his ex-girlfriend Marion, Jones will have to try to reach the Covenant before the Nazis in order to ensure its power doesn’t fall into the hands of evil.
Following the conclusion of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the group didn’t wait long to begin releasing theatrical films expanding on their now-legendary comedy chops. The first of three original films, Monty Python and the Holy Grail continues to be praised for being a groundbreaking film in the world of independent comedy. Though original reviews of the film were mixed upon release, the group’s loving parody of the legend of King Arthur has become beloved for its weird sense of humor, it’s ability to spin out of control at all times, the meta-awareness of the film, and its legendary ending. Though some viewers prefer the successor, Life of Brian, if you’ve never seen Holy Grail, now is the time to do it.
The newest film from legendary directing duo Joel and Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is in many ways both a return to form and a departure for the usual way the brothers make their films. Originally announced as a six-part miniseries for Netflix, the Coen brothers return to the western genre for the first time since True Grit to create an anthology film following six tales, all with similar themes of betrayal and death in the Old West. From the story of a singing, bloodthirsty Roy Rogers-type named Buster Scruggs to the tale of a young man with no arms or legs and his impresario friend, each of the six stories tells of tragedy from greed, lust, and murder.
A brand-new Netflix original film, Dumplin’ was released at the tail end of 2018 quietly onto Netflix. Unlike a film like Bird Box, which saw massive promotion during the holidays, Dumplin’ went more unnoticed by fans, and it’s time to correct that. Based on a young adult novel of the same name, Dumplin’ follows a plus-size teenage daughter (Danielle Macdonald) whose mother is a former beauty queen (Jennifer Aniston). When she signs up for her mother’s pageant as a protest against the idea of mainstream beauty contests. When other contestants follow in her footsteps, however, things escalate quickly, leading to a full-on revolution of the pageant in Dumpin’s small Texas town.
Tom Hooper has earned a pretty mixed reception throughout his filmography. The King’s Speech managed to win Best Picture at the Oscars just nine years before Cats “swept” the Razzies, winning six awards out of nine nominations, including Worst Picture and Worst Director. In terms of his output, Les Misérables is one of Hooper’s better films, and certainly his best musical. Adapted from the classic musical of the same name (itself adapted from the French novel), the film follows Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a prisoner in early 19th century France who is hunted for decades by Javert (Russell Crowe) after breaking his parole. The film was nominated for eight Oscars, and managed to earn Anne Hathaway her first for Best Supporting Actress.
Armando Iannucci is no stranger to political black comedy: his landmark British comedy series The Thick of It didn’t just bring In the Loop into existence—it was also developed by Iannucci himself into Veep in the United States. And while the director might focus primarily on television, 2017’s The Death of Stalin shows that the filmmaker continues to be a strong voice in feature films. The film presents a fictionalized account of the power struggle that took place in Russia following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. With an all-star cast including Steve Buscemi, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Paul Whitehouse, and Jeffrey Tambor, The Death of Stalin is Iannucci’s grimmest film yet.
Yorgos Lanthimos mastered the balance of absurdist humor and dystopian fiction in his 2015 film The Lobster, starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, after managing to grab the attention of critics and moviegoers alike with his 2010 film Dogtooth. The Lobster is set in a dystopian universe where single people are given just 45 days to find a romantic partner before being turned into animals. When David’s wife leaves him for another man, he attempts to form a relationship in his hotel to avoid being turned into a lobster, his animal of choice. At the hotel, he makes acquaintances who are also attempting to find love at the hotel, all while living in a society with byzantine rules. Anyone with a desert-dry sense of humor will enjoy this.
Directed by David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water), Outlaw King is a must-watch for any fans of Braveheart. Essentially taking place nearly directly after the conclusion of the 1990s Mel Gibson hit, the film follows Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine), as he, John Comyn, and other Scottish nobility surrender to the English outside of Stirling Castle. When King Edward I agrees to give the Scottish nobility their land back in exchange for homage, Bruce is wedded to the king’s granddaughter, Elizabeth de Burgh. Following years of unhappiness and unrest between the British and Scottish, however, Bruce is forced to lead another revolt—and pays dearly by being led into exile from England.
One of the most inventive animated films of the last decade, I Lost My Body is an acclaimed French-language fantasy film that managed to score a nomination for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2020 Academy Awards. The film follows a hand cut off from its body, that manages to escape from a dissection lab with a single goal: get back to the body to which it was previously attached. As the hand scrambles throughout the streets of Paris, it flashes back to the life it has with the young man it was once attached to, until the man met Gabrielle. The film wasn’t just critically acclaimed, but it also managed to win the Nespresso Grand Prize from the 2019 Cannes festival.
Beasts of No Nation is a Netflix Original directed by acclaimed filmmaker Cary Fukunaga, whose work on the first season of True Detective has been praised endlessly online. In his third feature-length film as director, Beasts of No Nation tells the story of a civil war in Africa, as a fierce warlord (Idris Elba) trains a young orphan named Agu (Abraham Attah) how to fight in order to join his group of guerrilla soldiers. The film is terrifyingly bleak, following Agu’s loss of innocence as his brother is taken from him. The film was praised by critics for its stark portrayals of the horrors of war, and though the film was ignored by the Oscars (largely thanks to their distaste for Netflix Original films), Idris Elba did receive a nomination at the Golden Globes for his role as the Commander. The next time you catch Fukunaga making a feature film, he’ll be behind the camera of Bond 25.
Yes, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a horror film, designed to be as bloody and graphic as possible. It’s also an incredibly funny film, a horror-comedy that’s just as focused on delivering frights as it is laughs. The film stars Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Tyler Labine (Reaper, Deadbeat) as two well-meaning hillbillies who purchased a lakefront cabin together in the woods. At a gas station outside of camp, the two run into several college students going camping for the weekend. Tucker (Tudyk) pushes Dale (Labine) to talk to Allison, one of the main girls, but ends up simply frightening her instead. While Tucker and Dale work on reconstructing their cabin, the nearby campers go skinny-dipping together, only for Allison to hit her head and be saved by Dale. While she’s recuperating with Tucker and Dale, the rest of the college students trick themselves into believing that she’s been kidnapped, and attempt to rescue her—only for everything to go wrong.
Directed by acclaimed South Korean film director Bong Joon-ho (Okja, The Host), Snowpiercer is a 2013 action film starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton. The film follows Curtis (Evans), a passenger aboard the Snowpiercer, a train riding throughout the now-frozen globe eternally. Curtis is pushed to his breaking point, and he, along with the others in the back of the train, plan a revolution to take out both Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton) and Wilford (Ed Harris), the inventor of the train. The film’s action is well-shot, and the class messaging is strong and delivers on clear themes. Of course, the real stars of the show here are both Evans and Swinton, who are at their best in their respective roles.
The winner of the Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Oscars, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is an absolute knock-out on both a technical level and a storytelling one. The film is set outside the traditional Marvel Universe, telling the story of Miles Morales, a teenager who is granted spider powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. After Morales’ universe’s own Peter Parker gets taken out in a battle, Miles will have to team up with Peter B. Parker, a Spider-Man from an alternate reality, along with Spider-Gwen, Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir, and Peni Parker and SP//dr to take down Kingpin as he attempts to use a supercollider to cross through reality. The film is funny, heartwarming, and feels fresher than most thought a new Spider-Man movie could be. Meanwhile, the visual style and animated makes Spiderverse one of the prettiest CGI films ever made.
Adapted from The Knight’s Tale from The Canterbury Tales, A Knight’s Tale is an irreverent take on the classic tale from Geoffrey Chaucer. The film follows William Thatcher (Heath Ledger), a peasant who sets off on a quest to raise his social status in life through a number of steps. From winning the heart of his crush to posing as a knight to compete in medieval tournaments, A Knight’s Tale follows Thatcher throughout his life as he becomes a legend, meeting historical figures like Edward the Black Prince and even Chaucer himself. The film uses a classic rock soundtrack to back the 14th-century setting.
From acclaimed director Mike Mills (Beginners), 20th Century Women tells the story of Jamie, a semi-autobiographical character based on Mills’ own childhood experiences with his mother. The film is set in 1979 Santa Barbara, California and follows Jamie(Lucas Jade Zumann), his mother Dorothea, and two younger women who exist in Jamie’s life—Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a free-spirited punk artist living as a boarder in the Fields’ home, and Julie (Elle Fanning), a savvy a provocative teenage neighbor who often shares a bed with Jamie. When Dorothea feels as though she can no longer connect with her now-teenage son, she asks both Abbie and Julie to help raise her son with her. Also on-board is another tenant in Dorothea’s household, William (Billy Crudup), a handyman who once lived on a commune. Following Beginners, which also told the semi-autobiographical story of Mills’ father coming out of the closet in his mid-70s, 20th Century Women is a great pairing and, arguably, an even better film.
When Steve Jobs passed away in 2011, the race was on to release a film based on Walter Isaacson’s acclaimed biography. Four years later, with a script from Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and direction from Danny Boyle (Trainspotting), Steve Jobs was released into theaters. And although the film was ignored by audiences, the film received critical acclaim, thanks in part due to Sorkin’s script and Michael Fassbender’s performance as Jobs. The film is set over fourteen years, set prior to three different keynotes held by Jobs, as he deals with personal issues related to his ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan and their daughter Lisa. The film also stars Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak and Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman.
One of the few film adaptations of a novel to be directed by the author, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of the best coming-of-age films ever made. The film follows Charlie (Logan Lerman), a socially awkward teen who has recently begun his freshman year of high school after being discharged from a mental health care institution. When he grabs the attention of Sam (Emma Watson), a free-spirited senior, and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller), the two help Charlie discover the joys of friendship, first love, music and more, all while Charlie’s English teacher (Paul Rudd) inspires the young student to become a writer. However, as Charlie’s friends begin to prepare to leave for college, his depression threatens to shatter his newfound confidence.
The surprise Best Picture winner for 2016, Moonlight is a film to be seen. The second film from director Barry Jenkins after 2008’s Medicine for Melancholy, Moonlight is based on the unpublished, semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The film follows Chiron Harris over three periods in his life—childhood, teenagehood, and adulthood, as he grapples with poverty, his mother’s drug abuse, and his own sexuality while growing up in Miami. Moonlight is a tough watch, but features acclaimed performances from Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Mahershala Ali, and the three actors playing Chiron over the three periods: Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, along with excellent cinematography from James Laxton and direction from Jenkins.
One of the best films of 2018, Burning is a South Korean psychological drama mystery adapted from “Barn Burning,” the short story by famed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Burning follows Lee Jong-soo, a young man working to perform odd jobs in order to make money in Paju. While working, he runs into Shin Hae-mi, a girl who used to live in his neighborhood when they were children. The two develop a connection, and Hae-mi asks Jong-soo to watch her cat while she’s out of town. When she returns from a trip to Africa, she introduces him to Ben (Steven Yeun, The Walking Dead), a man she met while on vacation. Ben seems like an average playboy at first, but slowly, a darker, mysterious nature reveals itself.
We’ve highlighted a couple of films by Noah Baumbach on this list, and as one of our favorite filmmakers working today, we’re eagerly awaiting his next film, Marriage Story, which focuses on a crumbling marriage on the brink of a divorce. Baumbach is no stranger to tackling divorce in his films, however, and in 2005, he released The Squid and the Whale, a semi-autobiographical film that tracks the divorce of Bernard (Jeff Daniels) and Joan (Laura Linney) through the eyes of their two children, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline). While Walt finds himself acting out at school and attracted to his dad’s new fling, younger brother Frank takes his mother’s side, as she begins seeing his tennis coach (William Baldwin). If you’re waiting for Baumbach’s newest take on how divorce can affect us all, it’s well worth revisiting his 2005 classic—it’s one of his best films.
The Irishman arrived in theaters and on Netflix with a deluge of great reviews and even more controversy, as director Martin Scorsese found himself in the hot seat after delivering a critique on superhero films. Mixed press aside, nothing could stop The Irishman from becoming one of the best-reviewed films of the year, and now that it’s finally streaming on Netflix, those who didn’t get access to it in their local indie theater can finally stream it for themselves. The film follows truck driver Frank Sheeran starting in the 1950s, as he begins to work for Russell Bufalino and his crime family in Pennsylvania. Sheeran becomes one of their most reliable hitmen, and things get even more complicated when he goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa, the powerful, popular Teamster tied to organized crime. Scorsese teams up with Robert De Niro, his most frequent collaborator, along with Joe Pesci and Al Pacino.
Though Drive is, in our opinion, one of the best films of the 2010s, its theatrical release was marred by controversy. After a misleading trailer advertised the film towards an action-focused crowd coming hot off the heels of films like Fast Five, Drive opened to an audience that wasn’t ready for the film’s slow, methodical pacing and quiet protagonist. Of course, if you can accept the film for what it is—a drama with several moments of intense violence—Drive can be an incredibly rewarding watch. The film follows the unnamed Driver (Ryan Gosling), a Hollywood stuntman who also works as a getaway driver for criminals. When the Driver is enlisted in a heist gone wrong, he must risk his own life to protect the lives of his neighbor and her young son. With an all-star supporting cast including Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, and Albert Brooks, Drive is a must-see film.
From director Paul Verhoeven (RoboCop, Basic Instinct, Showgirls), Total Recall is one of those near-perfect science-fiction action films that simply doesn’t exist anymore. The film follows Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a bored construction worker in the year 2084 who dreams of visiting the colonized Mars. He visits “Rekall,” a company that plants false memories into people’s brains, in order to experience the thrill of Mars without having to travel there. But something goes wrong during the procedure; Quaid discovers that his entire life is actually a false memory and that the people who implanted it in his head now want him dead.
Guillermo Del Toro has had a hell of a few years, finally winning an Oscar for his most recent drama, The Shape of Water. Prior to that, however, Del Toro received praise for Pan’s Labyrinth, a film that used the same Spanish fairy tale setting as The Shape of Water, while telling a much darker story. Set in Spain during the summer of 1944, the story is intertwined between the real world and a mythical world centered within an overgrown and abandoned labyrinth. Ofelia, the 11-year-old protagonist follows a faun into the forest to escape from her evil stepfather Captain Vidal, and from her increasingly-sick mother. Though the story is fairly simple (as are most fairy tales), the makeup and special effects are to die for.
The second Monty Python film is great on its own—as hilarious as Holy Grail, if a bit less surreal—but what truly makes the film interesting is the amount of controversy surrounding its 1979 release. A religious comedy may (mostly) fly under the radar these days, but forty years ago, Life of Brian was accused of being blasphemous, with thirty-nine local authorities in the United Kingdom either banning the film or imposing an X rating that prevented the film from being shown. Countries like Ireland and Norway banned the film entirely, and many of those bans lasted far past the 1980s. The film follows Brian, a young man born on the same night as Jesus, one stable down. Trying to impress a young rebel named Judith, Brian joins the independence movement against Rome, using teachings he heard from Jesus in an attempt to hide from the Romans. When a crowd mistakes him for the Messiah, he’ll find himself drawing far more attention than he wanted.
Directed by Sofia Coppola, The Bling Ring is a 2013 satirical crime film and the second film ever released by studio A24. The film is based on the true story of the Bling Ring, a gang of young fame-obsessed teenagers living in Los Angeles, as told by Nancy Jo Sales in the 2010 Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins.” The film is also notable for helping Emma Watson escape the shadow of her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, cementing her as a serious actor who would go onto star in critically-acclaimed films like Noah and Little Women. When Marc Hall enters a new school, he’s quickly befriended by Rebecca Ahn. The two begin using social media to track the location of celebrities, before inviting their friends to empty houses owned by the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, where they party and steal in order to boost their status in high school.
Taxi Driver is a landmark film for a dozen or more reasons. It’s one of the best of Martin Scorsese’s storied career; it features Robert De Niro in one of his best roles of his life; the supporting cast is absolutely stacked, including Harvey Keitel, Albert Brooks, Cybil Shepard, and Peter Boyle; and the film established Jodie Foster as a child prodigy in Hollywood. The film follows a loner veteran, Travis Bickle, who was dishonorably discharged from the military following the Vietnam War, as he lives in a decaying and morally bankrupt New York City. Bickle picks up work as a taxi driver, working through the night as he struggles with insomnia. Slowly descending into insanity, Bickle plots to assassinate both a presidential candidate and the pimp of an underage prostitute he befriends at night.
The highest-profile snub for Best Picture in 2017, Sean Baker’s 2017 film The Florida Project is an excellent drama, a character study looking at both childhood and adulthood alike. The Florida Project follows six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her mother Halley (Bria Vinai) over the course of the summer, as Mooney is home for vacation. The two live week-to-week at “The Magic Castle,” a budget hotel managed by Bobby (Willem Dafoe, at his best and most light-hearted here), whose stern exterior hides a deep reservoir of kindness and compassion. The film is episodic for much of its runtime, following Moonee as she hangs out with her friends throughout endless afternoons and grand adventures, exploring the unique world set just outside Disney World. Unbeknownst to Mooney, Haley is forced into darker ways of making money, risking her daughter while nevertheless attempting to care for her.
With the success of Uncut Gems, audiences have finally found out what die hard indie fans have known for years: the Safdie Brothers are the next big thing. If you finally saw Uncut Gems, you owe it to yourself to head back to the Safdie’s 2017 film, Good Time. The film stars Robert Pattinson as Connie Nikas, who uses his mentally-handicapped brother to help get away with a bank robbery. After stealing $65,000, the two go on the run, but things go sound when Connie’s brother Nick (Benny Safdie) runs from the cops and is sent to jail. Desperate to find bail money for Nick, Connie finds himself in for a rough night.
A masterpiece of filmmaking and one of the best films of this century, Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is a must-watch, especially since it’s streaming on Netflix. Inspired by Oil!, the Upton Sinclair novel, and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood is a mystifying, addictive watch that will haunt you long after the credits roll. Once a silver miner now turned oil prospector, Plainview moves to oil-rich California to continue making money. Using his adopted son HW to project a trustworthy, family-man image, Plainview cons local landowners into selling him their properties for a pittance, unaware how valuable they are. When local preacher Eli Sunday suspects Plainview’s motives and intentions, he unintentionally starts a slow-burning feud that threatens both men’s lives.
David O. Russell found massive critical and commercial success with The Fighter, following years of smaller releases like I Heart Huckabees, and in 2012, he managed to outdo himself again with Silver Linings Playbook. Based on the novel of the same name, the film follows Pat (Bradley Cooper), a man who returns home to his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) following eight months of treatment in a mental health facility for bipolar disorder. While at home in Pennsylvania, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young widow and the sister of Pat’s friend Ronnie’s wife. The two hit it off in a diner while talking about their medication, and the two agree to help each other with their individual goals: reconnecting with Pat’s ex-wife Nikki, and entering a dance competition with Tiffany. The film received eight Oscar nominations, and Jennifer Lawrence won for Best Actress.
The Social Network isn’t just David Fincher’s best film—it’s also one of the best movies of the 2010s, a truly resonant film that continues to take on deeper meanings nearly a full decade after its release. The film follows the creation of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) throughout 2003 and 2004, beginning with the controversial creation of a Harvard-exclusive Hot or Not site and leading up to the expansion of Facebook throughout colleges around the world. Meanwhile, the film flashes forward in time to two different lawsuits Zuckerberg is involved with: one with fellow Harvard students Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer), who accuse him of stealing the website, and one with his former best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), who accuses Zuckerberg of unfairly diluting his shares in the company after he was pushed out.
Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the premiere filmmakers of the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s, with each of his films acclaimed to some extent. From epics like Magnolia or There Will Be Blood to critical darlings like Boogie Nights and Phantom Thread, Anderson has surprised and delighted at every turn. The Master, his 2012 film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a troubled, boozy drifter struggling with the trauma of World War II and whatever inner demons ruled his life before that. On a fateful night in 1950, Freddie boards a passing boat and meets Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the charismatic leader of a religious movement called the Cause. Freddie tries hard to adhere to Dodd’s weird teachings and forms a close bond with his mentor, even as other members of Dodd’s inner circle see him as a threat.
After burning out at the turn of the century, a new take on Bond seemed necessary to carry the long-running series into a new millennium. Casino Royale serves as a soft reboot to the series, with Daniel Craig filling the shoes of the legendary spy. The film follows James Bond, an agent for the British Secret Service, who heads to Montenegro after discovering a link to Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a terrorist financier. After discovering Le Chiffre plans to raise money during a high-stakes poker game, Bond is sent to play against him. The film’s direct sequel, Quantum of Solace, is also streaming on Netflix, with the fifth and final film following Craig’s Bond, No Time to Die, planned for a November 2020 release.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, fear grips the city of San Francisco as a serial killer known only as the Zodiac Killer stalks its residents. Investigators (Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards) and reporters (Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr.) alike become obsessed with learning the killer’s identity and bringing him to justice. Meanwhile, the Zodiac Killer claims victim after victim and taunts the authorities with cryptic messages, cyphers and menacing phone calls. Directed by David Fincher, Zodiac is one of the best films of 2007, often considered one of the best years of recent cinema, and while its length may scare some off from checking it out, it’s absolutely worth it.
A direct parody of the musical biopic film that Hollywood has become overpowering over the last two decades, it’s truly a wonder that Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story didn’t kill biopics for good. The film follows the titular character from childhood to old age, with his “life story” influenced by dozens of actual musicians, including Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, John Lennon and more. Of course, at its core, the film is a parody of Walk the Line, the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix. Despite bombing at the box office, the film has become a cult-classic, and is now considered one of the best comedies of the 2000s. From its celebrity cameos to its infamous drug scenes, Walk Hard is a can’t-miss on Netflix.
Directed by and starring James Franco, The Disaster Artist is an adaptation of the bestselling book of the same name. The film tells the story of Tommy Wiseau, a mysterious and secretive man who moves from San Francisco to Los Angeles with friend and fellow wannabe actor Greg Sestero to attempt to hit it big. When Tommy fails to pick up any major auditions, he chooses to become a director himself, writing his own film and financing it with his savings. Hiring a film crew and casting Greg as one of the main characters, the film goes off the rails immediately as Wiseau reveals himself to be completely inadequate in artistic direction and leadership, straining his friendship with Greg and leading to the creation of one of the worst films of all time: The Room. With an all-star comedic cast and a go-for-broke performance from Franco as Wiseau, The Disaster Artist is the perfect film for fans of The Room and newcomers alike.
One of 2017’s best films and a magnificent debut film from actor-turned-director Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), a senior at a Catholic high school in 2002 who is in the process of applying to colleges. Due to her family’s financial struggles, Lady Bird is told by her mother (Laurie Metcalf) to select a state school in California, while Lady Bird pines for the freedom to attend a school on the East Coast. The film follows Lady Bird through her final year in high school, as she goes behind her mother’s back to apply for schools along the East Coast, begins to go out on dates, and attempts to build out both her extracurriculars and her friend group. The film also stars Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, and Beanie Feldstein.
Another film from Paul Verhoeven, Starship Troopers was an unqualified disaster upon its release in 1997, panned by critics and absolutely flopping at the box office. Slowly but surely, however, a critical reappraisal began to take hold, as critics and film scholars began to dissect and understand what Verhoeven was doing with Starship Troopers. Based on a novel that is, at its core, a jingoistic, semi-fascist look at war, Verhoeven took Starship Troopers and made it a satire of itself, looking at the film as a work of art that spoke against itself. In the film, the plot follows a war between Earth and a race of giant alien insects that seem to be intent on destroying human life. As the government pushes for soldiers to enlist in the war, the crewmen begin to find joy in the war, instead of struggle.
Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI’s training academy. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist who is also a violent psychopath, serving life behind bars for various acts of murder and cannibalism. Crawford believes that Lecter may have insight into a case and that Starling, as an attractive young woman, may be just the bait to draw him out. The film was the second time Lecter appeared on film, following Michael Mann’s Manhunter five years prior, though in that film, he was portrayed by Brian Cox. The film became the third film to win all five major awards at the Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay), preceded only by It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In addition, it’s still the only film considered horror to win Best Picture.
A Spike Lee film, Inside Man is a film focused around an elaborate bank heist that takes place over a full twenty-four hour period. The film stars Denzel Washington as Detective Keith Frazier, a NYPD cop assigned to negotiate and communicate with the leader of the bank heist, played by Clive Owen. With one of the best openings to a heist movie we’ve ever seen (including a legendary fourth-wall break), an all-star cast including Washington and Owen, Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Christopher Plummer, and solid reviews. Lee tried to get a sequel to the film made after it became his most successful film commercially, but plans for the sequel fell through in 2011.
Not only is Uncut Gems one of the best films of 2019, it’s also one of Adam Sandler’s best on-screen performances of his career. After wowing audiences with his turn in Punch-Drunk Love back in 2002, Sandler returns to drama for the first time since The Meyerowitz Stories. In the film, directed by the Safdie Brothers (Heaven Knows What, Good Time), Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a jeweler in New York who is addicted to gambling and has found himself under a pile of debts he can’t pay. After scoring a rare Ethiopian black opal that promises to sell for millions of dollars at auction, Ratner loses control of the situation after lending the gem to NBA star Kevin Garnett. As the tension rises, Ratner has to make a series of high-risk bets to get back on top of the situation.
Steven Spielberg is, perhaps, one of the most famous filmmakers in the world, and though his resume isn’t perfect, no one has made as many incredible, jaw-dropping films as he has. From crafting the original blockbuster with Jaws to recreating dinosaurs with Jurassic Park, it’s obvious that the man has more movie magic in his body than any living director. Schindler’s List isn’t one of his feel-good films, but it is an incredible document to the life of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman and member of the Nazi party who is credited with saving the life of 1,200 Jewish men and women during the Holocaust by employing them. Liam Neeson portrays Schindler in a spellbinding performance, with Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, and Caroline Goodall all appearing in supporting roles. At 195 minutes, it’s one of the longest films on our list (beaten only by The Godfather Part II below), but it’s a must-see for any and all film completionists or historical buffs.
Nora Ephron didn’t work exclusively in the realm of the romantic comedy, but between When Harry Met Sally…, You’ve Got Mail, and of course, Sleepless in Seattle, she proved herself to be the master of the meet-cute. Sleepless in Seattle was Ephron’s second time behind the camera, reuniting with Meg Ryan after working together on When Harry Met Sally… Ryan plays Annie Reed, a reported in Baltimore, who tunes into a talk-radio program offering advice on love. Meanwhile, Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) is a grieving widower who recently moved to Seattle with his son Jonah. Jonah places a call to that same radio show asking to help find his father a new wife, and when Sam begrudgingly gets on the line to discuss his feelings, Annie finds herself falling for him—despite her recent engagement.
Ben Affleck managed to rejuvenate his career with Gone Baby Gone, his 2005 directorial debut, and with his 2010 follow-up The Town, he cemented himself as a filmmaker to watch. The Town is based on the Chuck Hogan novel Prince of Thieves, the film follows Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), a criminal who leads a band of ruthless bank robbers and has no real attachments with one exception: James (Jeremy Renner), who—despite his dangerous temper—is like a brother. Everything changes for Doug when James briefly takes a hostage, bank employee Claire Keesey. Learning that she lives in the gang’s neighborhood, Doug seeks her out to discover what she knows, and he falls in love. As the romance deepens, he wants out of his criminal life, but that could threaten Claire’s wellbeing.
Ocean’s Eleven was an undisputed hit when it arrived in theaters in 2001, bringing together a massive cast of the biggest names in Hollywood at the time. A sequel seemed inevitable, so when director Steven Soderbergh got the gang back together, he did what only Soderbergh can do: he made a complicated, complex film that features several twists and intertwining narratives, not to mention Julia Roberts playing Tess Ocean playing Julia Roberts. It’s a mess, and a masterpiece—a mess-terpiece, if you will. The film follows Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who tracks down each of Danny Ocean’s (George Clooney) guys in order to make his money back (plus interest) after the first movie’s heist.
The Muppets have had a rough time in pop culture since the passing of Jim Henson, but this 2011 reboot managed to capture much of the spirit of the original films. Working from a script by Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segal, who had previously worked with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop on Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the film stars Segal as Gary, a fan of the Muppets and the brother to Walter, who happens to be a Muppet himself. After heading out on vacation with Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), the three stumble on oil magnate Tex Richman’s plan to destroy Muppet Studios for the oil underneath. Together, the group joins forces with the Muppets as they work to put on one last show in order to raise the $10 million needed to save the studio.
Scorsese’s third narrative film, Mean Streets represents the first time the director worked with one of his most frequent collaborators, Robert De Niro. The film is a slice of street life in Little Italy among lower echelon Mafiosos, unbalanced punks, and petty criminals. A young man named Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) gets in over his head with a vicious loan shark. In an attempt to free himself from the dangers of his debt, he gets help from his friend Charlie (Harvey Keitel, another Scorsese regular) who is also involved in criminal activities.
Directed by late horror filmmaker Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), 1982’s Poltergeist is considered a landmark film in the horror genre. The film follows the Freelings, an average Californian family who begin experiencing nightmarish, creepy happenings in their house. The entire family—Steve (Craig T. Nelson), Diane (JoBeth Williams), teenaged Dana (Dominique Dunne), eight-year-old Robbie (Oliver Robins), and five-year-old Carol Ann (Heather O’Rourke)—slowly grow more concerned when ghosts start to communicate with them through the television set. Initially friendly and playful, the spirits turn unexpectedly menacing, and, when Carol Ann goes missing, Steve and Diane turn to both a parapsychologist and an exorcist for help.
It’s rare to see a film described as an epic road drama, but that’s exactly what American Honey is. Released in 2016 to critical acclaim by indie studio A24, American Honey follows Star (Sasha Lane), an adolescent girl from a troubled home, who runs away with a traveling sales crew making their way across the American Midwest, selling subscriptions door-to-door. Mixed up in a group of young adults just trying to find their way in life, she finds herself enjoying the gang’s lifestyle of partying, lawbreaking, and young love. The film, directed by Andrea Arnold (Wuthering Heights, Wasp), also stars Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough.
Spike Lee is one of the most prominent Black directors in Hollywood, with both his own films and his production company helping to push for diversity in the film sphere. His newest film was originally slated to have a theatrical run before coming to Netflix, but with 2020 what it is, the film skipped right to the streaming service. That’s likely for the best though, since the film has become one of the most acclaimed new releases of 2020. The film follows four African American veterans from the Vietnam war, who battle both the forces of man and nature after returning to Vietnam to seek the remains of their fallen squad leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide. The film stars Delroy Lindo (The Good Fight), Jonathan Majors, and Chadwick Boseman.
Before Steven Spielberg’s remake premieres this holiday season, now is a perfect time to catch up or revisit the 1961 adaptation of the Broadway original. West Side Story is a classic musical from the team-up of Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim. A retelling of Romeo and Juliet, the film follows two gangs battling for control on the harsh streets of the upper west side. Things get complicated when a gang member falls in love with a rival’s sister. The film features an all-star cast of young actors and actresses, but it’s probably best remembered for the performance of Rita Moreno as Anita. Moreno won an Oscar for her performance, which eventually led to her to becoming one of the only actors to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony (or an EGOT).
Allow Netflix to take you back to a simpler time, when law dramas ruled the box office and Tom Cruise was one of Hollywood’s most reliable, bankable stars. The Firm is based on John Grisham’s book of the same name, and follows Mitch McDeere, a hotshot lawyer fresh out of Harvard Law. When Mitch joins a small but highly-regarded law firm, he’s shocked to learn most of their clients are white collar criminals whose tracks are covered up. When the FBI begins investigating the firm, Mitch is forced to make a decision between keeping his freedom and keeping his life—and the lives of those around him—safe from the same people he’s helping to keep secret.
Marking the feature film debuts of both director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, Being John Malkovich is one of the quirkiest, most inventive films of the 1990s. Featuring an all-star cast including John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, Charlie Sheen, and of course, John Malkovich as himself, Being John Malkovich is a trip into the mind of the Academy Award-nominated actor. The film follows Craig Schwartz, an unemployed puppeter who takes up a temp job to make ends meet. While at work, Craig discovers a portal that allows anyone who climbs through to take control of John Malkovich in his daily life. When Maxine, Craig’s co-worker, gets in on the secret, the two begin working together as business partners—all while Craig’s wife Lotte begins an even odder affair.
Steven Spielberg’s classic 1993 film adaptation of the book by Michael Crichton only gets better with age (and frankly, with every somewhat-disappointing sequel). The film, a whimsical action-adventure set piece about an island populated by dinosaurs, is one of Spielberg’s best films, featuring cutting edge special effects that still hold up twenty-five years later. Jurassic Park begins when Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) are invited by John Hammond, the billionaire behind InGen, a bioengineering company, to his island, Isla Nublar, to see his latest findings. When they arrive, accompanied by Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), they’re shocked to find the island filled with real living dinosaurs. While Hammon is convinced his island is safe, his assumptions couldn’t be farther from the truth, and they soon find themselves running for their lives from the escaped dinosaur predators.
The parody film that kickstarted four decades of slapstick crossed with cinema mockery, Airplane! is one of the funniest films ever made, and now you can catch up with all the laughs, gags, and classic catchphrases that Jim Abrahams and brothers Jerry and David Zucker created. A direct parody of the disaster film genre—and more specifically, the airplane genre that had seen a boom in the 1970s with Airplane 1975—Airplane! follows the passengers and crew of a jetliner, who find themselves incapacitated due to food poisoning. With the hopes of recovering the plane’s captains seemingly lost, an alcoholic pilot on board the flight must come together with his ex-girlfriend—a stewardess herself—to bring the plane to safety.
Though it was originally developed as a direct-to-video feature, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm ended up being theatrically released in 1993, and while the film failed to develop much of a following at the box office, it did draw the attention of critics and box-office fans alike. The film follows Batman (Kevin Conroy), who is pitted against a mysterious figure known as the Phantasm, who continues to take out Gotham City’s most dangerous criminals, and whom many believe is the Caped Crusader himself. Meanwhile, Batman’s alter-ego Bruce Wayne reunites with an old flame, leaving him wondering if it’s time to finally hang up the cape and cowl.
Tragically slept on after its limited release in 2018, Wildlife has finally arrived on Netflix, and hopefully it’ll manage to find the audience it deserves. Written by Paul Dano (There Might Be Blood) and Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) and directed by Dano, Wildlife is the quiet, heartbreaking tale of a marriage in crisis based on the 1990 novel of the same name. The film follows Joe (Ed Oxenbould), the only child of Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal). The three live in a small town in 1960s Montana, where an uncontrolled forest fire breaks out along the Canadian border. When Jerry loses his job, he leaves the family to fight the fire, forcing the two to make new lives for themselves. As Jeanette struggles with her new life, Joe finds himself forced to care for both himself and his mother.
Jane Austen adaptations happen so often, they could nearly count as their own genre of cinema themselves. Pride and Prejudice leads the way in adaptations, ranging from classic films to acclaimed miniseries (including the 1995 BBC adaptation featuring a young Colin Firth) and a number of inspirations and twists on the novel, like Bridget Jones’ Diary (also starring Colin Firth as a character named Darcy). 2005 saw director Joe Wright try his hand at a shorter adaptation, with some truly gorgeous cinematography and some great star-making performances along the way. The film follows Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightly), who faces mounting pressure to marry in order to care for her family financially. Despite being drawn to Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFayden, Succession), his reservedness threatens to split them apart for good.
George Miller was as unlikely as anyone to become a major Hollywood director. Despite attending medical school to become a doctor, he took up an interest with film early on, crafting his early student film Violence in Cinema: Part I in 1971. It wasn’t until 1979 that Miller would release his first feature-length film, Mad Max. Shot in Miller’s home country of Australia and starring then-unknown Mel Gibson, Mad Max is a much smaller film than those who’ve only seen Max’s later adventures may assume. Set in a dystopian future without oil, Max, a Main Force Patrol officer, finds himself plunged into the world of vengence when his wife and son are hunted down and murdered by a local biking gang.
In this live-action film adaptation of the classic cartoon and 1960s television show, Gomez Addams has a loving family, but finds himself missing his estranged brother, Fester. When a man (Christopher Lloyd) who claims to be Fester arrives to the Addams house, the family is relieved to know their uncle has come home after more than two decades. But when Morticia realizes “Fester” can’t recall major moments of Uncle Fester’s life, she begins to believe that an imposter has invaded their life. When Fester gets the Addams clan evicted from their house, Gomez and Morticia realize that a plot to steal the Addams fortune has been enacted, and its up to the whole family to stop them. Though the film doesn’t hold up to the sequel, Addams Family Values, there’s something charming about this 1991 remake.
The Best Picture winner of 2004, Million Dollar Baby is one of the best boxing movies ever made, ranking with Rocky, Creed, Raging Bull, and The Fighter. Million Dollar Baby follows Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood, also directing), a veteran Los Angeles boxing trainer who keeps as many people as he can at arm’s length, with the sole exception of fellow retiree Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupris (Morgan Freeman). When a young Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) arrives at the gym, Dunn is reluctant to train her, but when he relents and lets his guard down, the two change each others’ lives forever. The film was stuck in development hell for years before Eastwood agreed to shoot and star in the film, and fifteen years later, it remains one of his best projects to date.
Django Unchained is Quentin Tarantino’s seventh film, made just three years after one of his most beloved films, Inglourious Basterds. At 2 hours and 45 minutes, Tarantino continues his trend of creating unapologetically-long cinematic blockbusters, and it resulted in his most financially successful film yet. The film follows a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) two years prior to the civil war, who finds himself accompanying an unorthodox German bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) on a mission to capture the Brittle brothers. After being freed, the two start a business together, hunting down rebels throughout the land and working to save Django’s long-lost wife (Kerry Washington) from Calvin Candie’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) plantation.
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett impressed with their 2011 film You’re Next, and when they got to make a follow-up just three years later, they crafted one of the best horror-thriller hybrids of the 2010s. The Guest follows a mysterious US soldier named David, who brings it upon himself to visit the mourning Peterson family. David introduces himself as a friend of their late son Caleb, who died in combat in Afghanistan. Invited into the family home, David slowly improves the lives of each member of the family, but when a series of unexplained deaths occur, daughter Anna (Maika Monroe, It Follows) begins to suspect David is connected.
From 1967’s The Producers to 1995’s Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Mel Brooks made his career as a director out of lovingly skewering Hollywood, cinema, and the world of the arts as a whole. Whether he was mocking Frankenstein’s monster or crafting one of the best Hollywood comedies ever made in Blazing Saddles, Brooks made it his job to poke fun at all aspects of our society through the lens of film. Spaceballs is perhaps his most direct parody, aimed squarely at the world of Star Wars. The film follows the evil Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis), as he attempts to kidnap Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) in order to steal oxygen from her home planet. When space pilot Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) arrives to save the day along side his half-man, half-dog co-pilot Barf (John Candy), they’ll set off into a galaxy of unknowns.
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 Malkovich Or 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.
In this all-time science-fiction adventure classic, Robert Zemeckis brings one of the best scripts every written in Hollywood to the big screen. Michael J. Fox stars as Marty McFly, a wannabe rocker who feels out of place at both his school and home. Besides his girlfriend, his closest confidant is Doc (Christopher Lloyd), a scientist who many in the town consider to be dangerous and loony. When Doc demos his time machine for Marty in the mall parking lot late at night, Marty is astounded to see it works. After being sent back to 1955, he’ll have to find a way to power the time machine to return to his present day, all while correcting history and making sure his parents end up together. The film was followed by two sequels, both of which are also streaming on Netflix.