The Top 100 Movies on Netflix [July 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.
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.
In the directorial debut of screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go, Sunshine), we’re introduced to Caleb Smith, a programmer for Blue Book, a Google-esque search engine led by mysterious, isolated CEO Nathan Bateman. When Smith wins a trip to meet the CEO of his company for a week, he finds out that Nathan lives alone, with the sole exception of his assistant, Kyoko, a robot powered by an artificial intelligence. Nathan introduces Caleb to Ava, a more-powerful robot that has passed a Turing test, with Nathan hoping Caleb will help him to understand whether Ava is thinking real thoughts and emotions. As Nathan’s narcissism and heavy drinking makes Caleb grow uncomfortable, he’ll slowly begin to turn on the CEO of the company. But when Ava turns out to be far more capable and self-sufficient than at first glance, Caleb must begin to ask: can he trust anyone, let alone himself?
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.
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Frank) and adapted from the novel of the same name, Room tells the story of 24-year-old Joy Newsome and her 5-year-old son Jack, who live in a locked shed called “room.” Unbeknownst to young Jack, they are held captive by “Old Nick,” a man who kidnapped Joy seven years prior and who is the biological father to Jack. Joy tries to balance her own mental health while being as much of a mother to Jack as she can be, though Jack believes the world consists of “room” and television, and not much else. When Joy manages to hatch a plan to get Jack to escape and alert the authorities, it sets off a chain reaction of events that will send Joy and Jack spiraling, as they attempt to adjust to a new world.
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.
And who says the romantic comedy is dead? One of the best films of 2014, Obvious Child is a fantastic, breezy indie rom-com from director Gillian Robespierre and star Jenny Slate. Based on Robespierre’s short film of the same name (which also starred Slate), Obvious Child follows Donna Stern, a comedian in New York who is dumped by her boyfriend in the bathroom of her usual comedy club. After confessing he’s leaving her for one of her best friends, Donna begins to tailspin, drinking heavily and bombing at her next set. When she meets Max (Jake Lacy), the two immediately have a connection, leading to a drunken hookup in which they fail to use protection. When Donna learns she’s pregnant, she decides to have an abortion. A chance run-in with Max leaves Donna struggling to tell him about the impending abortion, especially after he mentions his dream of being a grandfather someday.
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.
In Blue Valentine, Derek Cianfrance’s romantic drama film from 2010, viewers watch a romance fall from grace, told nonlinearly and with as much heartbreak as you might imagine. The film follows Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), a married couple that lives a modest life in a quiet neighborhood with their daughter Frankie and a dog. The film flashes back and forth between the early days of their relationship and the present, as their relationship slowly breaks down following a series of setbacks. The film is heartbreaking, a truly sad examination of a promising relationship dug down into the earth by the harshness of life, as both Dean and Cindy deal with the disappointments and hardships that leave them broken. The film was critically acclaimed, and can break your heart again and again now that it’s streaming on Netflix.
Growing up can be pretty difficult, and no one knows that more than high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld, in one of her best performances). Currently trapped in her junior year of high school, Nadine already feels incredibly awkward trapped in her life when her older brother, popular kid Darian (Blake Jenner) starts dating her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). All at once, Nadine feels more alone than ever, until an unexpected friendship with a thoughtful teen (Hayden Szeto) gives her a glimmer of hope that things just might not be so terrible after all. The film was produced by James L. Brooks, and was the directing debut of Kelly Fremon Craig (Post Grad).
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).
Directed by acclaimed visionary filmmaker Tim Burton and featuring Johnny Depp as the legendary chocolate maker Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a 2005 adaptation of the classic children’s book of the same name. Instead of working from the 1971 musical film that, while well-regarded, did change multiple aspects of the novel for the sake of the songs throughout the film, Charlie is more accurate to the book that the older title, while also making room to add an origin story for Mr. Wonka. The film was a massive box office success, and led to Tim Burton’s later adaptations of other classic fantasy literature, including Alice in Wonderland.
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.
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.
One of the best films of 2013 arrived on Netflix in late July, and it’s well worth checking out. Her is the fourth film from acclaimed filmmaker/occasional Jackass star Spike Jonze, following his two collaborations with Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich and Adaptation) and his adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are in 2009. The film is set in a near-future Los Angeles and follows Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely introvert who is going through a divorce with his childhood sweetheart (Rooney Mara). Unhappy with his life, Twombly purchases a smart operating system upgrade for his computer, designed with artificial intelligence and able to adapt and evolve. Deciding to give her a female voice, the operating system nicknames itself Samantha, and Theodore begins bonding with her. The film follows Theodore as he develops a relationship with his AI, and as he learns to grow and adapt as a person himself.
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.
Blue is the Warmest Color tells the story of Adèle, an introverted, quiet French teenager who is unsatisfied with her life. She feels disappointed by her current relationship with Thomas, and upon passing by a woman with short blue hair on the street, feels an immediate sense of attraction. Troubled by her sense of sexual identity, her openly-gay friend Valentin takes her to a gay bar. At a lesbian bar the same night, Adèle meets Emma, the girl from the street with the short blue hair, an aspiring artist and grad student. The two slowly become friends and, eventually, lovers, and the film begins to track their relationship as Adèle grows from a girl into a woman. At three hours and with an NC-17 rating, the film isn’t an easy watch, but Blue is the Warmest Color is one of the best romance films of the past decade, and is absolutely worth watching in its entirety.
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.
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.
If you’ve loved the work of Jody Hill on his shows like Eastbound and Down, Vice Principles, and The Righteous Gemstones, you’ll love Observe and Report, Hill’s 2009 black comedy film starring Seth Rogen. The film follows Ronnie Barnhardt, the head of security at the Forest Ridge Mall. Ronnie takes his job very seriously, enforcing mall rules with an iron fist. When a flasher strikes Forest Ridge, Ronnie sees a chance to display his unappreciated cop skills and bring the felon to justice, and, at the same time, impress his dream girl (Anna Faris) and win a coveted spot at the police academy. The film’s tenth anniversary in 2019 also marked Rogen’s first time in finally admitting that the team behind Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a film that came out just months before, had ripped off Observe and Report after seeing the script.
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.
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.
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.
Often considered one of Tarantino’s best late-period works, Inglourious Basterds is a tense, comedic, and bloody alternate history of World War II, following two assassination attempts against Hitler. Allied officer Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) assembles a team of Jewish soldiers to commit violent acts of retribution against the Nazis, including the taking of their scalps. He and his men join forces with Bridget von Hammersmark, a German actress and undercover agent, to bring down the leaders of the Third Reich. Their fates converge with theater owner Shosanna Dreyfus, who seeks to avenge the Nazis’ execution of her family. The film is notable for the performance of Christoph Waltz as Hans Landa, which allowed for his career to absolutely skyrocket following the release of the film.
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.
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.
With Bad Boys for Life now continuing the saga, it seems like as good a time as any to return to the original film. Bad Boys didn’t just cement Will Smith as an action star—it also allowed director Michael Bay to jump from making music videos to creating some of the biggest, flashiest Hollywood blockbusters ever seen. Bad Boys follows Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith), two Miami detectives and lifelong friends, who are tasked with investigating $100 million of seized Mafia heroin, once held in a secure police vault, that has since been stolen. Internal Affairs suspects an inside job, and the entire narcotics department is threatened to be shut down unless the drugs are recovered within five days. They’ll have to rely on a call girl (Téa Leoni) in order to solve the case. The 2003 sequel, Bad Boys II, is also streaming.
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.
Perhaps the most famous film ever directed by acclaimed filmmaker Cameron Crowe, Jerry Maguire is, in many ways, a perfect film. Endlessly quotable, featuring incredible performances from its wide cast, and noteworthy for so many reasons, it’s an excellent sports romcom to throw on at any occasion. When Jerry Maguire, a sports agent at a popular firm, writes a memo that gets him fired, he is forced to start his own management firm on his own, with help from single mother Dorothy Boyd. With only a single client to their name—Rod Tidwell, an up and coming football star—Jerry and Dorothy work hard to get their business off the ground.
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.
Often considered one of the best comedies of all time, Groundhog Day is absolutely a must-see for film lovers, fans of Bill Murray, or anyone who loves a good comedy. In the film, Murray plays Phil Connors, a local weatherman who is persuaded by his producer Rita (Andie MacDonald) to head out to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania from their home station in Pittsburgh to report on the groundhog day celebrations. Once there, he finds himself trapped in a snowstorm he himself said would miss the area, and after being forced to spend another night in the “hick town” of Punxsutawney, wakes up to find that he’s stuck to repeat Groundhog Day forever. Directed and written by friend and collaborator Harold Ramis, Murray’s deadpan schtick never got better than it did in this masterpiece.
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.
Based on a story by famed science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, Minority Report is an action-detective thriller set in Washington D.C. in 2054, where police utilize a psychic technology to arrest and convict murderers before they commit their crime. Tom Cruise plays the head of this PreCrime unit, but is forced to reckon with the power of PreCrime when he himself accused of the future murder of a man he hasn’t even met. Minority Report was one of the best-reviewed films of 2002 and was nominated for several awards, grossing over $350 million worldwide. Both a sci-fi action crowd pleaser and a film that truly brings up some fascinating questions.
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.
James L. Brooks has had a prolific career, from his work on television shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Simpsons to his debut feature Terms of Endearment and the landmark Broadcast News, but one of Brooks’ best films came in 1997 with the release of As Good as It Gets. Paired yet again with Jack Nicholson, one of Brooks’ most common collaborators, the film follows Melvin Udall (Nicholson), an obsessive-compulsive writer of romantic fiction who’s rude to everyone he meets, including his gay neighbor Simon (Greg Kinnear), but when he has to look after Simon’s dog, he begins to soften and, if still not completely over his problems, finds he can conduct a relationship with the only waitress (Helen Hunt) at the local diner who’ll serve him.
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 confident 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.
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 Steven Spielberg’s most beloved films, E.T. follows a gentle alien who, after being stranded on Earth, befriends a young boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas). Bringing the extraterrestrial into his suburban California house, Elliott introduces E.T., as the alien is dubbed, to his brother and his little sister, Gertie (Drew Barrymore), and the children decide to keep its existence a secret. Soon, however, E.T. falls ill, resulting in government intervention and a dire situation for both Elliott and the alien. With some incredible special effects, it should be no wonder this film is considered one of the best of the 1980s and of all time.
Loosely based on Jane Austin’s classic novel Emma, Clueless is a 1995 coming-of-age comedy and one of the best teen films of all time. Clueless follows Cher (Alicia Silverstone), a shallow, rich, and popular teenager living in Beverly Hills and enjoying the peak of her popularity at high school. Seeing herself as a matchmaker, Cher manages to get two of her teachers together, before deciding to help a new student at her school, Tai (Brittany Murphy). After giving Tai a makeover, it doesn’t take long before Tai becomes more popular than Cher, causing the once-queen of the school to reconsider her entire life’s philosophy—all while falling for her ex-stepbrother Josh (Paul Rudd).
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.
Based on the limited run of comics of the same name and written by the Wachowskis, V for Vendetta is a dystopian political thriller set in a terrifying alternate future, where a Nordic supremacist class and neo-fascist regime has subjugated the United Kingdom, oppressing the people and turning the state into a nightmare for many. The rise of a mysterious anarchist freedom fighter named V (Hugo Weaving) begins to ignite a revolution through elaborate, flashy-yet-violent terrorist acts. Meanwhile, a young working-class woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) gets caught up in V’s mission, causing her to lose everything in her life in pursuit of freedom, all while a detective (Stephen Rea) works towards stopping V on behalf of the government.
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.
It’s hard to remember a time when the Oscars actually honored comedies for Best Picture, but Tootsie—directed by Sydney Pollack and featuring a screenplay with uncredited additions from Barry Levinson and Elaine May—managed to make it on the list. Tootsie follows New York actor Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman), a talented perfectionist who is so hard on himself and others that his agent (Sydney Pollack) can no longer find work for him. After a soap opera audition goes poorly, Michael reinvents himself as actress Dorothy Michaels and wins the part. What was supposed to be a short-lived role turns into a long-term contract, but when Michael falls for his castmate Julie (Jessica Lange), complications develop that could wreck everything.
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.
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).